Father, thank You for giving me victory over sin and death through Christ’s death and resurrection. And thank You for the hope I now have, knowing You will one day raise me from the dead. But until that day, help my faith be steadfast and my hope unshakable. Help me serve You with all of my life, because I know any sacrifice I make or suffering I endure will be worth it. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read 1 Corinthians 15-16
DOES YOUR SINFUL PAST MAKE YOU FEEL UNWORTHY TO TELL OTHERS ABOUT JESUS?
Here’s good news! (13 min)
By John Piper. © Desiring God Foundation. Source: desiringGod.org. Used by permission.
1 Corinthians 15:1–11 As Paul neared the end of his letter to the Corinthians, he directed their focus back to the heart of their faith—the gospel itself, as passed on to them by the apostles.
His summary of the good news was short and simple: In the exact fulfillment of everything promised in the Old Testament, Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead—a fact supported by many eyewitnesses.
1 Corinthians 15:12–34 Though the Corinthians all claimed to believe the gospel, Paul had heard some of them didn’t believe people could be raised from the dead. What was Paul’s response? He pushed these supposed believers to follow this stated belief all the way to its logical conclusion. If they didn’t believe God raised people from the dead, then they couldn’t believe that God raised Christ—and if they denied Christ’s resurrection, then they denied the gospel itself. In 15:20–28, Paul explained the link between Christ’s resurrection and the future resurrection of believers. Just as Adam’s sin made death inevitable for mankind, Christ’s death and resurrection brought eternal life for those who believe. Those “in Christ” will be raised when He returns.
Paul pointed out a few more logical implications of their false belief regarding the resurrection. If there’s no resurrection, then our faith and teaching are pointless. In fact, if there’s no resurrection, then we’re guilty of misrepresenting God, we’re still dead in our sin, and we face eternal condemnation. What’s more, if the Christian’s hope is limited to what we get out of this lifetime, then we’re the most pathetic people in the world!
Paul said if Christians have no hope beyond this life, then they may as well live for today, getting all the pleasure they can out of life. Apparently, as a result of their false belief and the bad influence of unbelieving friends, this is exactly what some of the Corinthians were doing. Paul called these misguided believers to “wake up” and stop acting like drunken fools.
1 Corinthians 15:35–58 Paul recognized some would not respond to his correction with repentance and faith. Instead, they would demand proof: “How exactly will God raise our bodies after they’ve decayed?” Paul’s response helps us recognize these questions as less than genuine: “Don’t be foolish,” he says. “Surely the Creator of the universe can figure it out. We can trust the details to him.”
Paul then addressed those who actually had genuine questions. He said God has provided two clues concerning our resurrection bodies:
- Our current body. This “natural” body, bound by the “natural laws” of this fallen world, points forward to what will come. Like a simple seed that grows into an amazing plant, so our present bodies will die and one day be transformed into bodies that are incomparably more amazing—eternal, glorious, and powerful.
- Christ’s resurrection body. Our natural bodies bear the mortal image of Adam, but our resurrection bodies will bear the immortal image of Christ. His glorified body after the resurrection gives us a taste of what’s to come.
In conclusion, Paul argued our glorified bodies are a necessary part of Christ’s final victory over death. Not only is the resurrection essential to the gospel; it also empowers Christians with the hope they need to persevere in times of suffering.
1 Corinthians 16:1–24 Paul’s final remarks demonstrate practical ways to “do church” beyond weekly worship services:
- Generous giving and financial integrity. Believers in another city needed financial help. Paul instructed the Corinthians to prayerfully and individually set aside money for a period of time. They should then collect the money before Paul arrived and choose two trusted members of the congregation to deliver it. Note that Paul distanced himself from the actual collection and distribution, guarding against accusations of profiting personally.
- Valuing people the way God does. Instead of focusing on talent or success (as defined by the world), Paul instructed the church to serve and practice hospitality. He affirmed individual believers who use their spiritual gifts for the good of the body. He even told the Corinthians to “recognize” those who encourage others and “be subject to” those who devote themselves to serving the church.
- Humble leadership. Paul’s exercise of authority over the Corinthians resembled a loving father, not an arrogant despot. He’d written to them with authority and at times forcefulness, correcting sin and false belief. In this portion of the letter, he humbly communicated his need for them and a genuine desire to spend time with them. He closed with expressions of genuine fatherly affection.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that for Christians, belief in the resurrection is not optional. It’s the heart of the gospel and the reason for our hope.
1 Corinthians 15:54-58
54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
- Notice how Paul’s mention of Old Testament prophecy provided a big-picture context for Christ’s death and resurrection. In terms of a timeline, Paul positioned this as the event to which all of Scripture and history had pointed. Also notice his emphasis on eyewitness accounts, and the fact that those eyewitnesses were still alive. In both cases, Paul invited his readers to actively face their doubts: “Don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.” When you tell others about Jesus, how can you follow Paul’s example? How can you give the big picture and invite others to investigate for themselves?
- Take a few minutes to reflect again on Christ’s resurrection and the hope we have that one day we will be changed, and the mortal will be clothed with immortality. Death has been swallowed up in victory!
- Encourage another believer this week with truths from 1 Corinthians, especially 15:50–58 and 16:13–14: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”