Friday, April 27, 2018

1 Corinthians 15:1-58

Brothers and sisters, I know that you have all heard this so many times before but I want to go over the core of the good news message that I preached to you -- that which you embraced as your own and on which you are taking your stand. 2 For if you continue forward with this message that I gave to you, you will continue to experience salvation. If you abandon this message, any kind of faith you had will become null and void -- useless. 3 The message that I received and which I delivered to you focuses on the essentials:

  • Christ died for our sins just as the scriptures said he would,
  • he was buried,
  • and on the third day after he died, he rose from the dead. This resurrection also lines up with what the scriptures say.
  • 5 He appeared to Cephas (aka Peter) --
  • then to the twelve core apprentices of Jesus.
  • 6 Afterward, the risen Jesus appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once. And if you want to fact check that, most of the five hundred are still alive -- although some have died.
  • 7 Then he appeared to James,
  • then to all the apostles,
8-9 and last of all he appeared to me -- the late bloomer and least important of the apostles.

Actually, I don’t even deserve to be called an apostle, because I harassed God’s church. 10 That makes me the poster child for God’s grace -- and that grace has paid off. In fact, I’m the hardest working apostle of all -- although it’s not really me at work but God’s grace working through me.

11 So then, it doesn’t really matter whether you heard the message from me, the other apostles, or another follower of Jesus, what I’ve outlined above is the essential message we’ve been delivering and it’s what you have believed.

12 So think about it a minute, if the message that we’ve been pushing has the resurrection of Christ from the dead at the core, does it make sense when some among you say, “The idea of a future resurrection is a grand metaphor for spiritual enlightenment and there’s not going to be an actual literal resurrection of dead bodies”? 13 Are you seeing the disconnect? If the physical resurrection of dead bodies is an impossibility, then Christ’s body hasn’t really been raised either. 14 And if Christ’s body hasn’t been raised, then our message is useless and your faith is good-for-nothing. 15 Of course, that makes us into perjuring liars about God. For our whole testimony is about God raising Christ Jesus from the dead.

16 So, if the dead can’t be raised then Jesus wasn’t really raised from the dead. 17 And if Christ hasn’t been raised, then your faith is as worthless as our preaching -- and you’re still stuck in the compulsory-sin zone. 18 On top of that, even more tragic is that those Christ-trusting people who have already gone to the grave are forever gone. 19 If our hope in Christ only has some kind of inspirational value in this life, then we are the most pathetic victims of the greatest April Fools joke of all -- totally worthy of all the ridicule that people heap on us.

20 But the truth is that Christ, corpse and all, has been raised from the dead. He’s the trailblazer of the many dead whose bodies will permanently kiss their crypts and cemetery plots goodbye.

21 Death was introduced through the actions of one person. Likewise, resurrection from death to life is introduced through the actions of one person. 22 Just as everyone dies because of our connection with Adam, so also is everyone with the Christ-connection raised out of that death and back to life.

23 Notice that there is a proper order to this resurrection movement. So be patient, your turn will come. First, Christ experiences resurrection. He is like the first gift offered up to God at the beginning of a harvest -- demonstrating faith that there will be a full and complete harvest. Secondly, when he comes again, those who belong to Christ will experience resurrection. 24 Then, thirdly, with the Christ-defined resurrection life firmly established, will come the grand finale. Christ will destroy every anti-God custom and rule -- every anti-God authority and power. Finally, there will be the change of command ceremony where Christ will hand over his resurrection-charged kingdom to God the Father.

25 Meanwhile, until all this happens and as the Psalmist says in Psalm 110:1, “his enemies are knocked down and he walks over them,” Christ rules over a kingdom at war. 26 He won’t let up until all his enemies are destroyed -- the last of which will be death itself. 27 As it says in Psalm 8:6, “He controls everything. Since he is the authority everything is below him.” (Of course, this doesn’t mean that God the Father is under the authority of Christ. Christ derives his authority from God!) 28 Once all these things happen and everything is under the control of Christ, then he, the Son, will remain under the authority of God. And God the Father will make sure that everyone submits to Christ. God’s rule will be total and complete.

29 So, if the dead aren’t actually raised, why do some of you engage in that strange ritual of getting baptized on behalf of people who have already died? Regardless of whether such is a legitimate practice, it does illustrate the inconsistency of those who do that, while at the same time claiming that the dead are not literally raised. Why bother doing baptism for people whom you don’t think will see the light of day again?

30-31 And, then, what about apostles? We put our lives on the line 24/7, 365 days a year. Why would we do such a thing merely to inspire people with a quaint notion of resurrected life? Dearest brothers and sisters, because I’m proud of you and that we are intimately connected through Christ Jesus our Lord, I solemnly swear that I look death in the face every single day.

32 Even those looking at this issue from a shallow and simplistic perspective have to wonder, what do I gain by wrestling with these crazy animals here in Ephesus? Is wrangling with these people the best use of my time -- that is, if the dead aren’t really raised?

If there is no resurrection we should party on like those accused by the prophet in Isaiah 22:13 -- They said, “Gorge yourselves on food and wine because tomorrow we’re all dead. That’s it. There is nothing more.” 33 Don’t buy into that nonsense by hanging out with bad actors. Even solid people are dragged down when they keep company with those of questionable character. 34 So sober up and start acting like people who believe in an actual resurrection. Stay away from sin -- and the shabby thinking which leads us down that dark rabbit hole. Frankly, some of you know nothing at all about God. Quit pretending. Shut down your racket and own up to the shame of your con job!

35 Now, some infidel will certainly ask, “How does this whole resurrection thing work? If people are raised from the dead what kind of bodies will they have? What will they look like?”

36 Don’t be such a moron! When you plant a seed in the ground it’s “dead” before it springs to life. 37 And obviously, the bare grain or seed that you plant doesn’t have the form that it will develop once it sprouts to life.

38-39 God, who has a rich imagination, casts things as he chooses. He gives each barely visible seed its own unique shape. So even at that level, there isn’t so much uniformity. And then when it comes to bodies there is a lot of variance. Human beings have one type of body. But animal bodies are different, and bird bodies are even more distinct from that of humans. And then what about the fish? The flesh of a fish is different from that of a bird or an animal or a human. 40-41 Even the galaxy illustrates the diversity in God’s imagination. The stars in the sky are wondrous in one way (although even each star has its own unique beauty) and the planet earth where we live has a wonder all its own. Consider the peculiar glory of the sun -- or that of the moon. All these bodies are different from each other.

42 It’s the same with the resurrection of the dead. The rotting body that is put into the ground is different in substance from the body when it’s raised from the dead -- never to decay. 43 The body is at its worst, without a hint of honor, when it’s planted in the ground. But when it’s raised, the body is at its best -- full of glory. It’s weak and pathetic when it’s buried, but it’s awesome and powerful when it’s raised. 44 When a dead body is put into the ground it is defined by its physical limitations. But when it is raised from the dead the body doesn’t have those physical limitations and is defined by the spiritual transformation it has undergone. That is, physical bodies and spiritual bodies are different from one another.

45 Of course, you are familiar with the biblical passage in Genesis 2:7 where the first human, Adam, received the life-giving breath of God. Now, the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. 46-47 Note the sequence. The physical body (not the spiritual body) was the starting point. The spiritually upgraded body comes afterward. And while that first human, Adam, has his origins in the dust of the earth, the second Adam, Christ Jesus, comes from heaven. 48 We share in the dusty nature of the first man until we are resurrected to share in the nature of the heavenly man. 49 That is, we will share in the image of Christ Jesus the heavenly person in the same way that we have shared in the image of Adam, the person made from the dust of the earth.

50 I know that this sounds a bit complicated, so let me rephrase it for you my dear brothers and sisters: Bodies made of flesh and blood can’t possibly inherit God’s kingdom. Something that rots away can’t inherit something that never decays.

51 Listen up and I’ll reveal the mystery of the resurrection. Not everyone will undergo death -- although we will all undergo the transformation. 52 The final trumpet will sound -- calling us to attention -- and instantly -- in the blink of an eye -- all of those who are dead will be raised. We will exit our graves with transformed bodies that are immortal and immune to decay. 53 It’s essential that our rotting bodies be upgraded with flesh that can’t decay -- that our dying bodies be upgraded to flesh that can’t die. 54-55 And once that happens -- once we are clothed in the new flesh -- then -- and only then -- these prophecies in scripture will be fulfilled: 

  • “Life is victorious -- swallowing death.” [Isaiah 25:8] 
  • “So, Death, you aggressive little bee, you’ve stung once; but now the stinger has been yanked from your abdomen and that’s the end of you. You will sting no more.” [Hosea 13:14] 
(56 Think of Death’s stinger as sin and the religious code -- the Law -- as the allergic reaction which makes the sting feel even worse.) 57 But now, through the decisive action of our Lord Jesus Christ, the religious code, sin, and death have all been disarmed in one fell swoop. Thanks be to God!

58 So, dearly loved brothers and sisters in Christ, you can see why it is important that you persist with him. Don’t let anyone throw you off course by scaring you with fake news about a diminished resurrection. Instead, continue to excel, without interruption, in the work given to you by the Lord. You can be certain that the work you do in partnership with him will never go to waste.