1 Corinthians 15: 12-34

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

Observation

  • If Christ is raised from the dead, it is illogical to say there is no resurrection of the dead.
  • If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ did not raise.
  • If Christ is not raised from the dead all the preaching is useless.
  • If Christ is not raised our faith is worthless.
  • If Christ is not raised we are blasphemers against God because we said God did something he did not do.
  • If Christ is not raised we are still in our sins.
  • If Christ did not raise those who died believing in Christ have perished.
  • If our only hope is in the present age, we are to be pitied.
  • Christ has been raised from the dead.
  • Christ is the first fruits of all who have died.
  • Death came into the world by one man.
  • Resurrection from the dead has come into the world by one man.
  • Everyone dies in Adam
  • In Christ everyone is made alive but according to an assigned order.
    • Christ
    • Those who belong to Christ
  • After the resurrection comes the end when Christ delivers His kingdom to God the Father.
  • Christ will deliver His Kingdom to the Father once Christ destroys all other authority and power.
  • Christ reign until all His enemies are destroyed.
  • Christ is the exception to the all powers being destroyed.
  • When all things are subjected to Christ, then the Jesus will be subject to the Father
  • Jesus will be subject to the Father so everything will be under on rule.
  • If the dead are not raised there is no reason to be baptized for them.
  • If the dead are not raised then there was no reason for the Corinthians and Paul to constantly be in danger.
  • If all there is, is today then we should just party on.
  • Hanging out with bad company corrupts you.
  • We are not to go on sinning.
  • Even though they were in the church some of the Corinthians had no knowledge of God.

Interpretation

Paul sets off to prove the resurrection of us all from the resurrection of Christ. Paul uses a very tight logical argument. He starts with the assumption the Corinthians were making, there is no resurrection. If there is no resurrection, Christ is not raised. If there are none there cannot be one. Christ’s resurrection is the foundation of Christianity. If Christ did not rise from the dead then all of Christianity is bunk! There is no forgiveness of sins. All of the preaching and teaching and witnessing will have been lies. And even worse we will have blasphemed against God, taken His name in vain, by saying He did something He did not do. The bottom line is, not only is our faith worthless, it is actually harmful because it causes us to sin even more.

Paul then takes his argument even further to expose the absurdity of denying the resurrection. If there is no resurrection there is no point to the suffering of this life. Our pains and losses do not bear any fruit. Everything we have done, accomplished, worked toward, hoped in, all dies when we die. If there is no resurrection then Paul would agree with Jean Paul Sartre who said, life is a useless passion. If the fruit of our faith is limited to this life, there is no meaning to anything. Christians are the worse of the lot because we keep trying to claim there is meaning. No resurrection, no ultimate meaning. Paul did not dream of Elysian field or fables but realized the entire hope of Christianity is looking forward to the final Day of Judgment.

If there is no resurrection, there are three reasons Paul says, “We are of all people most to be pitied.” Two of which apply to all Christians are all times. The third reason was peculiar to first century Christians.

Christians have in all ages fared worse for two reasons. First, while the Lord does chastise the wicked, He at the same time particularly chastises His own. He chastises us so that He may train us to be patient and obedient. He is preparing us for a true renovation. Second, even though some believers may have great earthly wealth and blessings, they do not go to excess i.e. they do not enjoy the world. Unbelievers on the other hand intend to take full advantage of their wealth and gorge themselves with every luxury.

There is a third reason Paul mentions they were to be pitied above all others that is peculiar to His time. At the time Paul wrote Christians were so hated and thought of as such an abomination, no one would take the title Christian without placing their life in jeopardy.

Paul only talks briefly about the judgment. He says there is an order to the resurrection. First Christ will rise. Then, those who belong to Christ will rise. Then will the end will come, and Christ will deliver the Kingdom to the Father.

Because of Adam’s sin we all must die, just as Adam died. It follows then that Christ, who is the anti-type of Adam, came that He might restore everything that Adam ruined. Christ did not simply set an example but lived a sinless life died and paid the price for sin. Death could not hold Him as He had no sin. So too we, who are in Christ, will rise from the dead, for we have no sin. The righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us. Therefore death has no claim on those who are in Christ.

Well if death has no claim on the Christian just as it had no claim on Jesus. Why are all these Christian bodies rotting in the ground? Paul’s answer is that God has appointed an order to things. We can be satisfied that now we have Christ and His coming will be the time of our resurrection. Our life is still in His. So even though death resides in us it does not reign.

Being baptized for the dead is difficult to understand. Some believe what is referring to a practice which the early Church fathers condemned. The Corinthians held a custom that when someone suddenly died and was not baptized a living person could stand in for them and be baptized in their place at their grave. The belief is Paul was saying doing this makes no since if there is no resurrection. This is activity admittedly was a corruption of baptism and superstitious practice. These that hold this view will claim Paul is not addressing being baptized for the dead but resurrection. I believe this is an incorrect understanding.

Paul would have sharply condemned a sacrilege which polluted baptism and converted it into a magical ritual. He has not been shy about correcting the Corinthians in other areas. It is completely out of character for Paul.

From the writings of the early church fathers they condemned a superstition which crept into the church. People delayed baptism until the time of their death. This came from the idea that baptism was the instrumental cause of justification. That is, justification happened at the time of baptism. In order to be sure they would not sin and loose that justification they asked to be baptized just before they died. They were therefore, baptized for the dead since their baptism was of no value in this life. Paul asks if there is no resurrection what value does this or any baptism have, answer, none.

If all there is, is the present, there is no value in life. There is no purpose. This is not a philosophical argument. This has practical ramifications. The resurrection has impact for the here and now. It is not future pie in the sky. Paul asks why put up with all the misery of this world? Why should I struggle? If there is no resurrection there is no meaning to life. But the good news is there is a resurrection because Christ rose.

An Application

If you belong to Christ rejoice there is meaning to your life. If you belong to Christ though you die yet may you live.

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