We now come to verse 20 where Paul wrote, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." Christ really has been raised from the dead, and the very fact of that is proof that we ourselves will be raised if we are joined to him in saving faith. He is talking about Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection. As we look at that from the perspective in which he was writing, he is talking about a relatively small span of years.

What are the qualifications of an apostle? First, an apostle had to have seen the risen Lord; and second, an apostle had to have been commissioned by the risen Lord. In the case of the early disciples, they had been with the Lord during the three years of his public ministry, and then he had appeared to them after his resurrection. In Paul's case, he had not been among that band of disciples, but Jesus had appeared to him on the road to Damascus to commission Paul as an apostle.

The second consequence of denying the resurrection is found in verse 14. If Christ has not been raised, then preaching the Gospel is meaningless, and faith is futile. The Greek word Paul used here in verse 14 is translated as "useless" in the New International Version. This is the same Greek word that has been used for what has been called the "kenosis theory" of the incarnation. It means an "emptying." The theory is based on Philippians 2, where Paul said that Jesus emptied himself, not considering equality with God something to be grasped (v. 6). Rather, he emptied himself and became like us, a man, and died on the cross.

Our study has brought us to the great chapter of the New Testament on the Resurrection, the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. In the first eleven verses of the chapter Paul reminded the believers at Corinth what they had been taught; namely, that the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins. Then, according to the Scriptures, he was buried and raised again on the third day, and he was observed by up to five hundred people, most of whom were still living at the time of his letter. So, anyone in doubt about the truth of the Resurrection needed only to go and talk to those who were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ.

I think it is interesting that, although Paul’s concern in this chapter is to talk about the Resurrection, when he mentions the fact that Jesus Christ appeared to him last of all, Paul's mind immediately thinks of the grace of God. Before he met the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul was a proud man. He had come from centuries of Jewish tradition. And he believed that if anybody had any right to stand before God, it was he.