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First Corinthians

Resurrection:  Argument

1 Corinthians 15:12-34

Paul now deals with those who say there is no resurrection. We need first to hear his words, then his argument.

(1 Cor 15:12-34 NIV) But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? {13} If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. {14} And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. {15} More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. {16} For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. {17} And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. {18} Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. {19} If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. {20} But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. {21} For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. {22} For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. {23} But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. {24} Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. {25} For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. {26} The last enemy to be destroyed is death. {27} For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. {28} When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. {29} Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? {30} And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? {31} I die every day--I mean that, brothers--just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. {32} If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." {33} Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." {34} Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God--I say this to your shame.


Paul has left out something here: the argument he’s facing. It’s a pretty simple one, but we need to see it to understand this passage. “Does the resurrection of Christ really imply the resurrection of the dead?” Just because Christ was raised from the dead, does that mean that I will be?

The popular answer to this is , “no.” We see this in cartoons every day; how often has a cartoonist used the metaphor of clouds and harps to picture heaven? The image is that the soul goes to heaven – by which we mean clouds and harps – passing through a gate manned by St. Peter. The logical conclusion of this: if you’re “good enough” and “sincere”, you get in.

There is only one real problem with this image. It’s false. It is nowhere to be found in the Scripture. The Bible talks only of the resurrection of the dead – then the new heaven and new earth. Let us see, then, how Paul deals with the problem.

Argument: if man does not rise, Christ did not

We forget how important it is: Jesus is fully human, like us. If it is impossible for a human being to rise from the grave, it is impossible for Jesus to rise from the grave – for he is human. If this were so, says Paul:

· Why are you bothering with our preaching? Isn’t this the core of the matter? No matter what else we may have in the way of fine words and comfort, the core of our thought would be false.

· If that were so, your faith would be useless. You may believe the earth is flat, but that’s not why you don’t fall off the edge.

· Worse: you had a problem with sin when you came to Christ. If he did not rise from the dead, you still have a problem with your sin. And you’re in denial.

· And still worse: you have some hope – you can see your therapist, or guru, or whatever. The dead in Christ have none.

But – Christ is risen. Therefore these are not problems to you – rather (the process is reductio ad absurdum) they are arguments for your faith.

Argument: Hope only in this life?

If there is no resurrection, then how can God be just? How can he be honest? For he has promised you reward in the next life for your good works in this. If only the soul survives, how does he provide “houses or brethren…” as a reward? And if the soul does not survive, then how does he provide any reward at all?

Argument: death and life

Paul also uses a very Jewish argument here: death came by one man, life comes by one man. The “one man” is Adam, of course. Taken however you like, the story of Genesis clearly indicates the connection of sin and death. You sin; you die. It’s a fallen world. God pins that on Adam – and in so doing, makes it clear that each of us is just like him.

But if we are “just like Adam” – natural born sinners - we can become “just like Christ” – natural reborn saints. If we have Adam’s nature, we can take on Christ’s nature. But that implies that Jesus must reverse Adam’s work – he must reverse death. Which is the resurrection of the dead.

Argument: our actions

“Put your money where your mouth is,” we say. Very well, says Paul – look and see that I’ve done just that. Here are two ways:

· Remember when you were baptized? You were “baptized for the dead” – or as we would say it today, “you were buried with Christ.” For you were dead in your sins, but in baptism you were raised. You went through the ceremony; you understood it – so you yourself are witness to the resurrection.

· If that’s not enough, says Paul, why do I go through all these hardships? Would a man do that for a fraud – even a nice one?

But Christ is Risen

Paul’s argument: how could all these things be so, if Christ were not risen? But since Christ is, he proceeds, you should know how things are going to work out. So he informs us of the order of resurrection.

Please note: many theorists on the book of Revelation will tell you that there are some particular number of resurrections. Hal Lindsey, for example, posits six. That number, however, depends upon his particular interpretation. The Scripture as interpreted by most Christians of most times recognizes only these three.

The Resurrection of Christ

Christ must come first. Why?

· First, because it is fitting with his preeminence in all things. He is Lord of all; he should come first.

· Because death came through one man, life must come through one man. That man must be first – and could only be Christ, for only he could pay for our sins.

· Perhaps most important for us – he is a guarantee for our resurrection. He’s “been there and done that.”

The resurrection of the faithful

Please release from your mind all question of the millennium. When Christ returns, the faithful will arise. We shall amplify this quite a bit in the next lesson.

The end

Everybody else waits – until the time of the end. What do we know about this time? If we do not adhere to a particular theory of the book of Revelation, the answer is, “not much – but enough.”

· We know that Christ will destroy all dominion, power and authority – for all authority is his – which certainly means the destruction of all in rebellion against him. In short, Satan, his allies and all who follow him.

· He will then hand the kingdom (that’s us) over to the Father.

· Finally, there will come the destruction of death. Which, by the way, implies the resurrection itself.

Do not be misled

OK – all this is nice, but what do I do about it? The Corinthians might have asked that question too – because they had been misled into thinking there would be no resurrection, or that it would not really matter. It is of the first importance. How is it then that the Corinthians – and us – got sidetracked in this?

Bad company

Let me ask you some simple questions:

· Are you suave, sophisticated and sinning on Saturday night – and then pious and holy Sunday morning? Then you’re keeping the wrong company, and it shows. Your mind cannot resolve the fear of judgment and the pleasures of this world – so you reject the judgment without thinking.

· Of which speaking: who do you think with? Are your Christian friends just too much of the mental midget? When you do your serious thinking, who is your counselor and sounding board? Or do you ever have a serious thought? Did you really want to leave this to chance in the hospital corridors?

· How close are you, really, to other Christian friends? In whose company can you be found? Maybe you really are a sheep – and astray!

Sinful habits

Most of us are creatures of habit. We find some of them difficult to break. Consider some of the difficulties with our sinful habits:

· Most of us are quite well aware that only those who believe, obey. But did you know that God permits faith only to the obedient? If you cannot break the habit, perhaps you need to look to your obedience first.

· Some of us talk to God regularly – but not about certain subjects. Did you think he does not know? Did you think he does not care? Will he really let sleeping worms lie?

· Worst of all: some of us are too proud to admit that our habit controls us – not the other way around. Pride is a terrible barrier to God.

Ignorance of God

Ignorance is not bliss; nor is it an excuse. How is it that we could be ignorant of God? It is by our “not doing”:

· First, if we will not study his word, we will be ignorant of him. Are you engaged in a regular Bible study?

· Next, if we will not speak with him in prayer, we will be ignorant of him. Have you a set time of prayer every day?

· Finally, if you know God, you know how awesome and great he is. Therefore you will worship him. Do you, on a regular basis?

We often come to God with our excuses. “It’s the other guy’s fault – I was following him.” “It wasn’t a habit – it’s genetic.” “I didn’t know.” You wouldn’t offer those to the judge or the policeman; how well do you think they will serve you when you face God Almighty?

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