In 1. Cor 15:17, we read this: if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost!
In Romans 10:9-10, we read this: if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
How do we receive forgiveness from God for our sins?
The standard Christian answer would be: Believe Jesus died to pay for your forgiveness. But here in 1. Cor 15:17 and Rom 10:9-10, the Bible says it is the resurrection of Christ that provides forgiveness for our sins.
So what is it then? Is it the resurrection or the death of Christ?
In 1. Cor 15:3-5, we read this: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.
According to Paul, it is both the death AND the resurrection of Christ.
Then we run into an issue because if we compare 1. Cor 13:3-5 with Romans 10:9-10 and 1. Cor 15:17, it seems as if Paul is contradicting himself. In Romans 9-10 and 1. Cor 5:17, he says we are saved if we believe God raised Christ from the dead. In 1. Cor 5:17, he even goes as far as to say we are forgiven for our sins because of the resurrection of Christ. In 1. Cor 15:3, he says Christ died for our sins. So which is it, Paul? Is it the death or the resurrection of Christ?
In Romans 10:9-10, Paul says, “believe that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved.”
In 1. Cor 15:3-5 Paul never says, “believe He died for our sins you will be saved.” Instead, we see Paul telling the Corinthians Jesus died for your sins and was raised from the dead, and this is the Gospel by which they are saved if and only if they hold firm to the word He preached to them. (15:2)
So the Gospel according to Paul is: Jesus died for our sins AND was raised from the dead. But Paul also tells us the Gospel can only save us if we hold firmly to the word he preached to the corinthians. (15:2). If they do not hold firmly to the word he preached to them, the Corinthians have “believed in vain.” So it is the Gospel + the word Paul preached.
The question then gives itself, what did Paul preach to the Corinthians?
Throughout the Acts of the Apostles and Pauls’s letters, we see his message was: obey the Torah (the written law of Moses). This is identical to the message of Jesus; he preached repentance from lawlessness to law and taught us how to obey the Torah.
So when Paul in 1. Cor 15:1-3 says: “Now, brothers and sister, I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel, you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” He says here: Jesus died for your sins; he was raised from the dead. If you obey Jesus’s teachings, you will be saved. This is identical to what Paul says in Roman 10:9-10, if you believe Jesus is raised from the dead and you show you believe by obeying His teachings, you will be saved.
How can obedience to the teachings of Jesus give us forgiveness of sins? Let us break this down for a moment:
What do you do when you obey Jesus’s teachings?
You choose to live by the law of Moses. The law of Moses is the standard for righteous living and the opposite of lawlessness. According to John, lawlessness is a sin. This choice to obey Jesus’s teachings is called repentance; you repent from doing what is wrong and start doing what is right.
In 1. John 1:9 and Romans 6, the Bible teaches us repentance is how we are forgiven for our sins. You decide to quit living the way you want to live your life and start living the way Jesus told you to live your life. This is repentance, and this gives us forgiveness of sins.
In Rom 2:13, 10:9-10, 1. Cor 15:1-4 Paul says we can only atone for our sins by faith in the Blood of Jesus after repented. So the way to salvation and forgiveness of sins is first repentance, then atonement by the Blood of Jesus in that order.
This is one of the reasons why Paul says we are forgiven for our sins by the resurrection of Christ, not by the death of Christ.