1st Corinthians 15: 12-19
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
5) Paul’s making a logical argument here. What’s the point and how does he argue it?
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.6) What does this passage have to do with Harry Potter?
7) What does he mean here? What does it have to do with the resurrection of the body?
29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God - I say this to your shame.8) “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die,” is a famous phrase and oft quoted. Is that what Paul is recommending? Do you agree with his point about associating with bad people?
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man. 50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
9) Is Paul explaining by analogy or constructing an argument? What does the idea of an incorruptible body mean to you?
51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, 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.
The scripture Paul refers to is possibly Isaiah 25:8 “He will swallow up death forever, and he will remove the disgrace of his people from the whole earth. The Lord has spoken.” in addition to Hosea 13:14 ““I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?”
N. T. Wright writes: “Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who sleep; and we who celebrate him as our contemporary are charged to work with him on his kingdom-project in the present time. 1 Corinthians 15 is a spectacular chapter, but one of the most remarkable verses in it is the last (verse 58), where Paul doesn’t say ‘therefore enjoy the presence of Christ’, though he might have done, or ‘therefore look forward to your glorious future’, though he might have said that as well. He says ‘therefore get on with your work in the present, because in the Lord your labour is not in vain.’ That is at the heart of the meaning of the resurrection. Because God is already making his new creation, all that you do in Christ and by the Spirit is part of that new world. Every cup of cold water, every tiny prayer, every confrontation with the bullies who oppress the poor, every song of praise or dance of joy, every work of art and music – nothing is wasted. The resurrection will reaffirm it, in ways we cannot begin to imagine, as part of God’s new world. Resurrection isn’t just about a glorious future. It is about a meaningful present. That is what it means that Jesus, our contemporary, is raised from the dead as the first fruits of those who slept.”
10) What do you think about this connection of resurrection with commission? How does it connect to the gospel passages we read? (Or other scripture.) Was that part of what Paul was saying here?
11) I will freely admit that this is the part of my faith I least understand. Yet I believe it on the authority of the Bible. Is it okay to believe something of which you haven’t made sense?
To close out, how about a Johnny Cash hymn of the most poetic verse?
Christ is Risen from the Dead by N. T. Wright