Scripture Reading: I Corinthians 15 - 16 …
Scripture Reading: I Corinthians 15 - 16 …
"If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (15:17-19).
As a Pharisee, Paul had believed in the resurrection of the dead, but now, as an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul knew that there was only one way to have hope of eternal life in God's presence: through faith in Jesus, who died on the cross to pay the penalty for sins and who rose again victorious over death! He makes it clear that this was not something that he dreamed up, but rather, that this is what the Scriptures that he had learned and studied taught. "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 …" (15:3-4).
Paul was a student of the Old Testament, and when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and the Spirit opened his eyes, his mind and his heart, he saw clearly that Jesus was the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament prophecies and he devoted his life to proclaiming the Gospel that Jesus had entrusted to His disciples. We need to remember that the New Testament is the testimony of those who were eyewitnesses of these things and who were empowered and sent by the Spirit of God to take this message to the world. We who believe today are part of God's plan to spread this message until Jesus returns. We must not take these things lightly!
As Paul speaks of the resurrection of Jesus, he connects it to the resurrection of believers so closely that one cannot be true without the other being true. "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised" (15:13), and "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost!" (15:17-18). In fact, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (15:19).
Some make the mistake of thinking only of eternal life and just getting through this life. Many more make the mistake of thinking little of eternal life and living only for this life. God brings the two together. We long for our heavenly home, but we have a purpose HERE, in this life, to testify to the truth of the Gospel revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus will reign, the dead will be raised … some to everlasting life and some to everlasting death … and eternity will begin.
Paul speaks at some length about the resurrection body to help us understand that it will be different than our physical body. As you read the Gospel accounts of the appearances of Jesus to His disciples and others following His resurrection, you get some idea of what our new bodies will be like. Some spend too much time trying to go beyond Scripture in describing what we will be like, but it is enough to say with John: "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2).
The purpose of Paul's teaching on the resurrection is to encourage believers to stand firm in their faith. Those to whom Paul was writing were enduring persecution and many would die for their faith in Jesus. Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted …" (II Timothy 3:12). The "American church" knows little of suffering for the name of Christ, yet this is part of our calling. As many cry out for their "rights," Jesus calls us to be willing to suffer for doing good and Paul writes at the end of chapter 15, "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (15:58).
What are you doing in your life that will endure, that will last? What is the legacy that you will leave behind to your children and grandchildren and those after them, until Jesus comes and into eternity? Only faith in Jesus Christ and service to Him produces a firm foundation upon which to build your life and the lives of those who follow after you. At the end of his letter Paul commends those who are serving him and serving the church as it begins to grow. He encourages the Corinthians to set aside an offering for the church in Jerusalem and to respect those who are laboring among them in the Word.
"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love" (16:13). So much has changed since Paul walked this earth and preached the Gospel … yet, so little has changed. People are still the same … sinners in need of forgiveness and regeneration and reconciliation with God. Death continues to claim every person who has ever lived. Even as you read this, the words of James ring true, "You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14).
How do you and I make sense out of this life? Paul declares, "If the dead are not raised, 'let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die'" (15:32). But we know there's MORE to life than that! There's serving the King until He returns with the trumpet call of God and gathers us to be with Him. "The trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we (who are left) will be changed! … then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.' 'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting?' … Thanks be to GOD! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!!" (15:54-55, 57).
"Father, You have revealed all I need to know about the future that is mine through faith in Jesus Christ. You have given me a reason to live and hope even in death. I want to live my life for You, in the morning, throughout every day and in the night. Fill me with Your Spirit, O Lord, my God, and help me to stand firm in my faith, knowing that the resurrection is true and that someday soon, all who believe will rise from the dead and enter into Your eternal glory, to praise Your name forever, and ever … and ever!! In Jesus' name, Amen"