"If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." (1 Corinthians 15:14,17). Everything depends upon this one central fact: a risen Christ.
His Claims Unfulfilled
If Jesus Christ had not risen, what would it have meant so far as He Himself was concerned? It would have proved that the greatest claims He ever made were valueless, and that in dying He failed to do all that His own teaching said He would accomplish. He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). The interpretation of His meaning came by way of the resurrection. For a sign to cynical seekers, He said: "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40). To the critical multitudes He said: "I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:17,18). None of these things were true unless He rose again.
His Work Unfinished
If He had not risen, what would it have meant concerning His work? When He was crucified, one disciple betrayed Him, another denied Him, and then at the end of three years of public ministry we have the whole tragic story in this one sentence: "They all forsook Him, and fled" (Mark 14:50). With the death of Jesus, the whole movement was at an end—unless He came back.
Where is the Atonement if this man has gone down to death to abide in death? How can He break my bond, or set me free, or blot out my transgressions? If He rose not, preaching is empty. If He rose not, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins, held by them, bound by them, mastered by them, damned by them. If He rose not, His was an ordinary death, and the doctrine of justification is unutterable nonsense.
The Glorious Truth
"But now is Christ risen from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:20). What glorious truth! The testimony of the disciples is our first line of proof. Their record of the Lord's various appearances, their unwavering testimony despite their own previous unbelief and the intense persecution they faced—that is the first line of proof. The testimony of Paul himself is also proof. What made Saul the persecutor into Paul the missionary? He saw Jesus and heard Him, and found out that He whom he had thought of as dead was alive, and so forevermore the motto of his thinking and preaching was, "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God" (Romans 8:34).
Not Vain at All
The Apostle says if Christ did not rise, then "preaching is vain," but for nearly two thousand years the preaching of Christ has not been vain. Pardon follows it. Peace comes after it. Power results from it. The final line of evidence of actual and positive resurrection from the dead is the church, that holy company of men and women and children, gathered from all nations—gathered as the result of the preaching of Christ crucified and risen. Individuals who trust Him share His life, and that life is manifest as it masters them and changes them. Christ is risen!
—G. Campbell Morgan (adapted)