First Corinthians

1 Corinthians (2013) - Lesson 15D

Chapter 15:29:42

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  • The reality of Resurrection is so important to the church, that Paul reserved his longest and most detailed defense in the letter to this topic

    • Up to v.28 Paul has argued three points:

      • The hope of resurrection lies at the heart of the Gospel, which the church believed by Paul’s testimony

      • Christ Himself was raised, proving the reality of resurrection

      • Finally, Christ’s very purpose in leaving Heaven to be born as a man was to conquer death by making a way for men to receive new, eternal bodies through resurrection

    • Certainly, these arguments are powerful evidence of the reality of resurrection, but Paul isn’t done arguing his case

      • Next, Paul points out two examples where the actions of the Corinthian church were in contradiction with their beliefs against resurrection

      • The first example is found in v.29

1Cor. 15:29  Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?
    • Paul begins with the word otherwise, meaning “If resurrection isn’t true, then…”

      • If it isn’t true, why are you baptizing for the dead?

    • This phrase is potentially confusing

      • In fact, the Mormon religion has misunderstood this phrase to the point of creating a bizarre, false doctrine

      • Joseph Smith and his followers invented the practice of researching family genealogies to discover the names of family members who died without believing in the Mormon religion

      • Then in secret rituals, the Mormons perform a “baptism” on behalf of these dead relatives, thinking they have given them eligibility to enter the Mormon version of heaven

      • They came to this ridiculous practice from this one verse, thinking that Paul was advocating for baptisms for the dead

  • We don’t have to be Bible scholars to recognize the errors in the Mormon heresy

    • First, we know the Bible teaches that following death comes judgment without the possibility of second chances

      • Hebrews says:

Heb. 9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
    • God has appointed that men die and He has appointed that our physical death is followed by eternal judgment

      • Therefore, there are no backup plans or escape clauses

    • Secondly, we know every man or woman will be judged according to their own faith and decisions

Ezek. 18:20 “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
Ezek. 18:21  “But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die.
Ezek. 18:22 “All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live.
    • We each stand or fall on the basis of our own righteousness

      • A righteousness we receive by faith in Christ

      • No one can be saved by the decisions of another person

      • I can’t save you and you can’t save me, whether before or after I die

        • A parent can’t save an infant by baptizing them

        • Nor can a child save a dead parent by some silly Mormon ritual

  • So if v.29 isn’t talking about baptizing dead people, what is Paul talking about and how does it reinforce the truth of resurrection?

    • Let’s take a second look at the text again

      • Paul asks, what will those do who are baptized for the dead?

      • Paul is speaking of water baptism that every believer undergoes following their profession of faith

      • Water baptism was given to the Church by Christ to communicate a picture concerning death and resurrection

      • When we enter the water and someone submerges our body, we are testifying to our belief that our sinful nature was put to death with Christ through our faith

      • And when that person lifts us out of the water, we are testifying to our hope that one day Christ will raise our dead bodies to eternal life

        • Baptism always requires a second person to conduct the ritual to illustrate that we cannot save ourselves

        • We depend on the Lord to lay in our grave in our place

        • And we rely on the Spirit to raise us into a new body

    • So Paul asks, why is this church practicing baptism for the dead if they don’t believe in resurrection?

      • Paul’s question makes more sense when we add a missing phrase that’s implied but unstated in Paul’s wording

1Cor. 15:29  Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the [resurrection of the] dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?
    • Paul is asking why this church continues to practice water baptism if they don’t believe in the resurrection from the dead

      • If they don’t believe in resurrection, then why do they perform a water baptism that illustrates a belief in resurrection?

  • Paul’s second example of their behavior contradicting their beliefs is vs.30-32

1Cor. 15:30 Why are we also in danger every hour?
1Cor. 15:31 I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
1Cor. 15:32 If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE.
  • Paul asks why are he and the other apostles – indeed all Christians – placing themselves in harm's way for the sake of the Gospel if resurrection isn’t true?

    • The apostles remained in danger every hour of their lives

      • They were hunted down, imprisoned, beaten, starved

      • They were never at ease and always at risk

      • In fact, Paul says in v.31 that because of his work in founding the church in Corinth, he received even more persecution

    • So then Paul asks why would he choose to live this way if his body in this life were all any man was to receive?

      • It must mean that he was working for human motives, for certainly there would be no spiritual reason to persevere so much

      • Paul says in v.32 that if working for the Gospel only produced rewards in this lifetime, then why would he have risked his neck?

        • The phrase “wild beasts” doesn’t mean animals

        • It’s a euphemistic reference to the enemies of the Gospel in Ephesus, where Paul was as he wrote this letter

      • So why take these risks if resurrection is a lie?

      • Instead, it would have been far more sensible to adopt Solomon’s perspective that we wring every last ounce of physical enjoyment out of earthly lives for as long as we can

      • For when we die it all comes to an end

  • But that’s not what Paul and the other apostles did

    • Instead, they fought hard against the Gospel’s enemies in Ephesus and elsewhere to ensure they pleased the Lord and served Him well

      • And they took their risks with their earthly lives because they understood that the abundant life Christ promises is the life that follows resurrection, not the one that precedes it

      • It’s the only explanation for why Paul would place himself in harm’s way time and time again for the Gospel

    • The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a beautiful testimony of saint after saint who sacrificed their earthly life in faith to God’s promises of resurrection

      • As the writer summarizes

Heb. 11:35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection;
Heb. 11:36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.
Heb. 11:37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated
Heb. 11:38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
Heb. 11:39  And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised,
Heb. 11:40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.
  • The writer says these Old Testament saints accepted even greater persecution for the sake of a “better” resurrection

    • How can a resurrection be made better?

    • The writer is referring to a better reward in the resurrected life

    • We may receive greater rewards in the Kingdom because of greater obedience, sacrifice and faithfulness now

    • But if the Corinthian church truly believed that resurrection was a lie, then they should have been living according to that belief

      • They shouldn’t sacrifice for the Gospel

      • They should have been using their one life to live it up, since there was no future life, no future body, no future reward to earn

      • But they weren’t doing that

      • They were preaching no resurrection, but they were attempting to live in obedience in the hope of a reward

      • Once again, their behavior and beliefs were in opposition

  • Paul asks these questions to highlight the contradictions in Corinth, but in the process Paul has exposed an even bigger problem in the church

    • He’s exposed the spiritual immaturity of the church

      • The church didn’t understand the meaning of the rituals they performed or the rewards they sought

      • And by their ignorance, they contradicted their own beliefs

      • They proved the adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing

    • While it’s easy for us to chuckle at the ignorance of the Corinthian church, we need to be careful about pointing fingers too quickly

      • The Lord ensured Paul’s letter found its way into the canon of scripture for good reason

      • Because today’s church is not that much different from the one Paul founded in Corinth

    • We can still find plenty of examples of belief and behavior contradicting in Christian practice today

      • Some churches practice baptism by sprinkling, proving they don’t understand how baptism pictures the death and resurrection of the body

      • Some churches feature altars in the sanctuary, even though altars imply sacrifices which Christians maintain are no longer needed

      • Some churches tell believers to seek for a filling of the Holy Spirit after coming to faith, yet the Bible teaches that faith itself comes as a result of the indwelling of the Spirit

    • The list goes on, but the root cause is always the same in every case

      • Any time our church practices are disconnected from the authority and instruction of scripture, we’re going in the wrong direction

      • Sooner or later, our behaviors will come into conflict with the beliefs we claim to hold

      • Before we know it, we’re wise in our own estimation

      • Instead following the Lord by His word, we’re in danger of becoming followers of denominations, signs and wonders, styles of worship or worse – cults, heresies and the like

  • Paul calls the church to seek for better influences and better theology

1Cor. 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
1Cor. 15:34 Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
  • Paul warns don’t be led astray by this kind of false teaching

    • And Paul quotes a popular phrase of his day

    • Bad company corrupts good morals

    • The quote comes from a stage comedy by the Greek playwright Euripides, and it was so popular in Paul’s day that it had become a proverb

    • It’s still well known today because of Paul’s quotation

    • When we associate with the wrong people, we’ll find ourselves adopting their bad thinking and practices

      • If we associate with bad teachers, we’re going to fill our heads with false teaching

      • If we associate with immature and misled congregations, we’re going to become spiritually immature and misled ourselves

      • If we associate with corrupt and fleshly Christians, we’re likely to be pulled into sinful choices

      • No one remains immune from these influences once we place ourself under their influence

  • Paul admonishes the church in the severest terms yet in v.34 tells them to start thinking in spiritually mature ways and stop sinning

    • What was their sin in this case?

      • Well, among other things, clinging to unbiblical theology in the light of better teaching is a sin

      • When the Lord brings us the truth by His word and we stubbornly choose to hold on to contrary views we’re sinning

        • We’re demonstrating self-importance, pride and disobedience to the word of God

        • We can get away with protecting our pride for only so long

        • For one day, the Lord will expose us at the judgment

      • But we don’t have to choose spiritual ruin

      • Instead, we can humble ourselves, concede to the truth and become sober-minded

    • Paul says there were those in the church who had no knowledge of God and it was to their shame

      • He’s not saying they didn’t know the Lord, as in were unbelieving

      • He’s saying they were utterly ignorant of the Lord’s teaching…of scripture

      • They were professing to teach the truth, but they were fools

      • They were proving James’ teaching true, that not many should desire to be teachers

      • Educating others concerning the Lord and His word is an unforgiving, demanding task in the church, and nothing is more important

      • This poor church was being led by fools without a clue, and they were bringing many others down with them