Monday, March 26, 2012

Common Sense Resurrection

Common Sense Resurrection

Paul’s epistles are known to give off a sarcastic flare. God often works through these inspired letters to let Christians see their predicaments as they really are, ridiculous. This brings back the tone of Isaiah 40:21, “Do you not know? Do you not hear?” Some facts, to God, must seem painfully obvious while, to man, they appear incoherent.

In 1 Corinthians 15, the concept of the resurrection is explained. Paul makes it obvious that if a Christian does not believe in the resurrection then he does not truly believe the Gospel. His life is in vain. But, if a Christian does believe in the resurrection, then he knows the Gospel. His life is not in vain. Paul’s argument attempts to relay that the idea of the resurrection should, in a way, be common sense to a Christian. He explains that the very Gospel itself which unites us is founded on the fact that Christ has risen. God even gave us proof with many witnesses and people willing to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection. It follows that since Christ has been resurrected, we too may be resurrected. Even though our bodies are perishable, we now become imperishable through Christ.

To start out, Paul points out to the Corinthians that they already know the basic message of the Gospel, a message received by him to pass along to others. He reminds them that Christ died for our sins, Christ was buried, and Christ rose again in order to fulfill the Scriptures. If the Corinthians did not believe this message then all of Paul’s preaching was in vain and they surely would not be able to follow the rest of his argument.

Paul reminds his brothers that what we believe as Christ’s resurrection is based on even more than just faith alone. There was also empiric proof and eye-witness accounts showing that Christ was truly alive. He was able to relate his message with both the Corinthian’s accounts and his own.[1] A crowd of over five hundred witnesses saw Jesus Christ alive after his crucifixion. Not only did Christ appear to this group of men, but he also revealed himself to the church leader, his half-brother, James. He appeared to all of the other apostles. Finally, Christ revealed himself to Paul. Paul emphasizes the fact that Christ had appeared to him last, not first. In his eyes, he was the most unworthy to see Jesus and yet Jesus had come for him. Paul declares himself to be a still-birth due to his deeds of Christian persecution, yet Christ’s revelation to him had finally brought him to life. Yet, even in all of these pieces of evidence and accounts, Paul acknowledges that it is only due to God that we may ever know such facts. It is only by the grace of God that he might have ever known Him. And, Paul knew that whether the Corinthians had heard the Gospel from these other witnesses or from Paul himself that they had believed. If they had believed these accounts then surely they must believe in a resurrection: the Christ’s.

Now, if this one resurrection is true and if Christ truly rose from the dead, a fact that the Corinthians already claimed to believe and a fact backed by various eye-witness accounts, then it should not be too hard to understand that all man may also rise from the dead. W. Harold Mare states, “The Gospel assures them [the Corinthians] of salvation unless the supposed faith they had was actually empty and worthless.”[2] If the Corinthians assumed that there can be no resurrection of the dead, then they deny their Gospel, that Christ himself had really raised from the dead. Their beliefs, their faith, and their lives would all be in vain.  H. Alford is frank enough to say that, “With the resurrection of Jesus Christ the whole gospel stands or falls.”[3] If no man could be raised from the dead, including the Christ, then there would be no way for the Gospel to remain intact. There would be no victory over sin, death, and the Devil. Even Romans 6 would be a farce; we could not die and rise with Christ because he had never truly risen. Paul claims that the Corinthians would be misrepresenting God if they did not believe in human resurrection. They would be claiming that God raised Christ, but that cannot be true if the dead are not raised.

But, both Paul and the Corinthians already knew that Christ had been raised from the dead. It follows that man may also be raised. Ever since the Fall, man has suffered death. But, now because of the resurrection, all can enjoy life. Even though one man (Adam) had brought death by tasting sin, one man (Jesus) brought life by living again. As Mare states in a different commentary, “All who are represented in Adam—i.e., the whole human race—died. All who are in Christ—i.e., God’s redeemed people—will be made alive at the resurrection.”[4] Through Christ’s resurrection, everything had now become subject to God, even death itself. Even Paul, who was chosen as an apostle last, would be risen again in Christ.

In the midst of this argument, Paul reminds the Corinthians of their baptisms. He sarcastically states that they must have been baptized into death if they do not believe in a resurrection. If there was no resurrection then there would have been nothing else for them to have been baptized into. In reality, the Corinthians understood themselves to be baptized into a new life. Even through the water and the word they have been born again, resurrected in a way. They have not been brought again through their mother’s wombs like Nicodemus would have implied, but they have been reborn into a relationship with Christ. Paul continues with saying that every day we are to remember that we deserve death, and every day we are to remember that Christ has brought us back life. He himself had been brought back to life more than most as he had started out as a pharisaical still-born.

After Paul reminds the Corinthians of their baptism, one can almost see him trying to shake them awake shouting, “Sober up!!” The Corinthians truly knew better than to disbelieve in a resurrection. Paul hoped that his brothers could remember what they had already believed. They knew that Christ had been raised and it only makes sense that they too may be raised. They should not continue in doubting or disbelief, but instead they should refocus themselves on God and spreading his Gospel.

Still, some Corinthians remained confounded. Once would begin to stabilize themselves and go back into the world, Paul knew that some unbelievers would confront them, not understanding how it is possible for the dead to be raised. Particularly, these people would not be able to understand how their mortality could become something immortal. In a Martin Luther-like manner, Paul cries out something like, “How foolish!!” Can the Corinthians not understand that the body must first die so that it may once again come to life? Paul uses the analogy of a kernel. Does not the kernel first give way for the plant to grow? It truly does. This is the same thing that happens with our bodies. First, we live a life that is perishable so that one day we may live a life that is imperishable. We live a dishonorable life while one day we will be raised to an honorable life. We start out as a man from the dust so that one day we may be a man of heaven.

In man’s eyes, there is no way for flesh and blood to achieve immortality or the perishable to merit the imperishable. This is why, in a way, the resurrection is still a riddle. As man, we cannot wholly understand how we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. We cannot grasp how the mortal can put on the immortal. But, we must be able to trust that God is the one who makes the connection letting us grow; this is explained in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9. He takes our kernels of natural bodies and makes them whole as spiritual bodies.

Even though we know that our natural bodies only deserve the sting of death, through Christ’s victory and his resurrection death has no sting. Our natural bodies may pass away, but in a flash we will rise again. This proves that our lives are not in vain. This mortal realm is not all there is. We are not just wasting away, biding time until one day we will all eternally sleep. We can be steadfast in our faith and working for the Lord knowing that there is a reason behind all that we do. We will rise again.

Paul has tried to explain to his brothers in Corinth that there is a common sense resurrection of the dead. Through faith and eye-witness accounts they believed in the Gospel of Christ dying and rising again. It follows that we also die and rise again. Simply enough, since he can do it, it has opened the door for us to do it too. If the Corinthians did not believe in the resurrection then no man may have been resurrected, including Christ, so then their belief system and their Gospel would be in vain. Yet, because Christ had truly risen from the dead, we will also be resurrected. The Gospel remains intact and our lives truly do bear meaning.

"For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
Saint Francis of Assisi

[1] David K. Lowry, “1 Corinthians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John F. Walroord and Roy B. Zuck (Colorado Springs, CO: SP Publications, Inc., 1983), 544.
[2] W. Harold Mare, “1 Corinthians,” in Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary: Volume 2: New Testament, ed. Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 650.
[3] H. Alford, “Quebec Chapel Sermons,” in The Sermon Bible: Acts VII.—I Corinthians XVI (New York, NY: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 362.
[4] W. Harold Mare, “1 Corinthians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 285.

1 comment:

  1. You have a very interesting site. I was searching for pictures of the resurrection when I acccidentally found your site. It is very well done. I was encouraged by your article as well. Inspiring! God bless you!