For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Ideas have consequences. Over the years I have heard a growing number of people who express the feeling that you are free to believe anything you want and that very belief is a valid belief. We live in a world that readily embraces the idea of spirituality, but often that sense of spirituality is so vague that it excludes the idea of objective reality. The truth is that every religious belief system accepts some truths and rejects others, otherwise, there is no reason to hold to any particular belief. In the passage above, Paul begins his defense of the objective truth of the Gospel with the words of “first importance.”
- Scripture points to the observable fact that Christ died, was buried and was resurrected on the third day.
- The facts were observed by many witnesses: Peter, the Twelve, five hundred others, James, other apostles and Paul. At the time of his writing, many, if not most of the eyewitnesses were still alive.
- Paul is stressing that Jesus quite literally fulfilled Scripture by literally dying and resurrecting on that third day.
Outside of Paul, the Corinthians may have never met any of the other witnesses, but that doesn’t minimize the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection. Likewise, our faith is based on this objective fact of first importance although no original eyewitness is still alive. At Easter services we will sing songs that reflect this thought if not this song – “Forever He is risen, He is alive. He is alive.”
These cannot be just lyrics to a catchy tune. And if these words are literally true they should change the tune of our “spiritual” discussions.