One of the most moving chapters in scripture is 1 Corinthians 15. Paul writes of the absolute certainty that the resurrection of Christ really happened. It is the foundation of “the gospel in which you stand and by which you are being saved” (verses 1,2). He reminds these former idol worshippers that “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins … that he was raised the third day …” (verses 3,4). This gave real meaning to their lives, as it does to ours. If we are convinced of this event, that conviction becomes the engine that transforms the meaning of life. How well that ‘engine’ is functioning is evidenced by the priorities we have in daily life.
The people of Corinth had formerly believed they had a soul that was immortal and that it was a blessing when it escaped from their body at death. Some people today believe this, rather like the Islamic belief from the Qur’an, that the souls of martyrs go directly to paradise – possibly a factor in the minds of those who commit terrorist acts.
Paul goes on to list those who saw Christ after he rose from the dead; on one occasion “he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive” (verse 6). We thought about the Roman centurions. Their thinking was challenged through contact with Jesus, and some were convinced of his divine powers (see Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 3:3-6). A centurion saw what took place (at the crucifixion) and they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:54).
Then Acts 10 has the account of the conversion of the Roman centurion Cornelius, and many with him. Surely the impact of these experiences was the reason why there were so many followers of Christ in Rome in AD 63 whom the Emperor Nero sought to put to death. They saw the events of Calvary as “of first importance” – it transformed their thinking, as it did all those who had witnessed him alive after his resurrection – creating the conviction of their own hope of resurrection!
Those alive at his return who believe these things are “of first importance” and are baptized. Paul says they “shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet … and put on immortality” (verses 51,53). All with this conviction of belief and expectation, will “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord …”.