One commentator said 1 Corinthians 15:29 has been called the most difficult and obscure verse in the entire Bible. Here’s a Bible trivia question for you: how many verses in the Bible? There are 31102 verses in the Bible, and this is most obscure of all? Really? If so, why? Keep reading, you’ll learn why and it just might change your life!
Scholars don’t know for certain what this verse is referring to, and none of the options I reviewed are totally satisfying. The reason is that in the verse Paul talks about baptism for the dead. It is the only place in the NT that something like this is mentioned, and church historians tell us that whatever baptism for the dead was in Corinth, it didn’t continue beyond them, except in one cult-like expression called Marcionism, and 1800 years later in Mormonism. It could simply be that the Corinthians believed that living people could get baptized additional times for people who were already dead, thus hoping the dead people could be saved after death.
Here’s why it matters, and here is why I bring it up: Paul’s point is that whatever baptism for the dead was going on in the church at Corinth, it is futile if there is no resurrection of the dead.
Basically he is saying, “You Corinthians practice baptism. Do you realize that baptism is based totally on faith in the belief that resurrection is true?” Look at the symbolism in baptism, and you see it. You go under the water to symbolize Jesus’ death. Baptism would be pretty terrible if all it did was symbolize Christ’s death. (How long can you hold your breath?) What makes baptism so meaningful is that after you go under, you also come back up, symbolizing new life in Christ because of his resurrection!
As Paul continues to show the Corinthians why resurrection is so vital, in verses 30-32 he gives an example from his own life. Because he believes resurrection is true, he gives himself fully to cause of Christ. Look at how intense he is in verse 31. When he says “just as surely as a I glory over you in Christ” he is basically giving to them, as commentator Alan Johnson notes, “an affirmation based on something of ultimate importance to them: ‘I swear by all that I hold dear’ that this is true.”
Because Jesus has been raised, for Paul it is a game changer. We often talk about how, because of 9/11, the world changed. Paul is saying something like that. Jesus’ resurrection was so momentous an event that it not only changed the world but it should change our lives as well. Paul shows how it changed his. He now knew the meaning of life, that Jesus was God, that Jesus won the victory and thus we should give ourselves fully to him and his kingdom because we, and the hopefully many, many more who will follow him because of us, will experience both the abundant life of Jesus now and eternal life in heaven. Resurrection motivates us to mission!
Last week (verses 3-8) Paul said Jesus really did die, but he rose again. The miracle happened! There were plenty of people who had a strong interest in stopping this new Christian movement. Primarily the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem. All they had to do to stop the movement was produce Jesus’ body. The movement was entirely dependent on that one claim, resurrection. And Paul is right, as he says in verses 13-16, if Jesus didn’t rise, our faith falls apart. So if you want to destroy Christianity, like those religious leaders did, then produce the body. They never did. And in fact there were many people Paul says who Jesus appeared to who were still alive and could affirm that he really did rise again. That’s world-changing!
Because he did rise again, then we have a mission! A mission to holiness and a mission for God’s Kingdom to make disciples.
Because resurrection as a concept is true, it is vital that we believe that Jesus rose again, and because he did, our response should be a vigorous pursuit of holiness and discipleship.
If resurrection as a concept is not possible, then truly we should close up shop. Sell the church, disband, and go on a crusade to tell people to stop believing a lie.
But if the resurrection is true, well, that truly changes everything, and we should put aside everything for the cause of Christ.
So is the resurrection truly true?
If you want a scientific answer, with insurmountable proof, I’m sorry but I’m not able to give that. Having said that, Paul gives us some strong evidence for the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. People who had very, very good reason to kill the Christian movement only had to produce a body, and they didn’t. People who said there were eyewitness accounts gave their lives to die for it.
But scientific proof? No. Instead we must place our faith in the resurrection. As Paul said in Romans 10:9,10, “believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.” If God is all-powerful, it’s not hard to envision the possibility that God could do this. But it is still a matter of faith.
I urge you to place your faith in Christ, that he died and rose again, and that in him we can all be made new. Because of his death and resurrection for our sins, we can experience his abundant life now and eternal life in heaven.
Will you answer the call the discipleship? I’m not talking about just showing up for church, I’m talking about fully embracing the resurrection life that Jesus has to offer. If you want to follow the pathway to discipleship, let’s talk about it!