Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians

How the most obscure verse in the Bible can change your life – 1st Corinthians 15:12-34

24 Sep

ChangeOne 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!

The difficulty of finding wisdom

13 Feb

Have you found wisdom?  Have you asked for it? Lucille Ball thought it was hard to come by.

2 Kings 3 tells the story, in the days after Solomon ascended to the throne of his father David, of the Lord coming to Solomon in dream telling Solomon he would give Solomon whatever he wished.  He could have chosen riches or power, but Solomon famously chose wisdom.  So God gave him wisdom, and the riches, power and fame followed abundantly.

God tells us in James 1:5 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

How many of us wish God would answer our James 1:5 prayers like he answered Solomon’s?

Wisdom is a confusing thing.  Does it come by experience?  Age?  Failure?  Or maybe some people just have a larger dose of wisdom?  Is it IQ?  Is it education?  Is it intellectual giftedness?  A combination of all these?  Perhaps wisdom comes in different forms and different means.

I googled “examples of wisdom” just for kicks, and on a Yahoo Answers page I found the following:

  • Knowing that a tomato is a fruit, yet having the wisdom not to put it into a fruit salad.
  • Bhudda’s teachings.
  • Submission to Allah’s Will.
  • Read the book of Proverbs! and what Proverbs says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
  • Hindsight is 20/20.
  • Many other options, including one that is good for the snowy weather we had today: “Don’t eat yellow snow.”

Seems there’s many pathways to wisdom.  In our ongoing study of 1st Corinthians, we’re going to study 2:6-16 in which Paul discusses how we find wisdom, as well as the various kinds of wisdom.

How have you found wisdom?

On Being Holy – 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

7 Jan

Two days ago we started a series teaching through the book of 1st Corinthians.  It’s actually not a book, but a letter.  As I mentioned last week here, Paul is writing to a church that is struggling to maintain it’s discipleship to Jesus in the midst of the wealthy overly-sexualized culture.

In other words, he’s writing to us, American church.

How should he start?  How would you start?  What do you want to say to the American church?  If you could have a voice to the many millions of Christians across our land, what would you say?  I’d be interested in your thoughts in the comment section below!

What does Paul say?  He reminds them that they are holy in union with Christ, called to be holy.  What does it mean to be holy?

Perfect?  Maybe.

Holier than thou?  Not so much.

You can listen to sermon here, if you want a longer treatment.  Basically Paul is reminding the Christians in the city of Corinth, and he is reminding us as well, that we are holy in Christ, consecrated into a special relationship with our Lord.  We are called to become like him.

Our denomination has a history of focusing on holiness as vital to a disciple of Jesus, and based on 1 Corinthians 1:1-3, Paul is in agreement.  Jesus himself said in Matthew 5:42, “Be holy, as your heavenly father is holy.”  We are to pursue holiness in our lives.

We do this first and foremost through an attitude that believes Jesus lived a holy life, and that he offers to us, as his disciples, a renewal, a change, a new life.  He called it the abundant life, and said he came to give it to us. Do we really believe that his offer of abundant life is better than the options for life that our society and culture has to offer?  Our culture really promotes a version of the good life that seems so wonderful.  And yet Jesus said that he came that we might have abundant life.  Who do we believe?

If we believe Jesus, then we pursue becoming holy as he is holy.  It might be a lifelong journey.  Frankly, for the vast majority of us, it will be a lifelong journey.  There will be struggles, failures, victory and growth.  Praise the Lord for his empowerment and grace offered to us in the journey of holiness.

The pursuit of holiness, then, is not about a program, but about desiring with all your heart to be more like Jesus.

So what is Jesus like?  Check out this classic:


How do you write a letter to a church in a hyper-sexualized culture?

3 Jan

How do you start a letter to a church that is out of control?  What would you say?

Imagine you’re a leader of a group of churches.  Maybe a denominational CEO, a bishop, a district superintendent, a conference minister.  You are responsible for the spiritual health and vitality of the many pastors and congregations under your care.  To stay in touch, you visit them once each year or so.

You start hearing some strange stories from one particular church.  Apparently their worship services are wild.  People are interrupting one another, pushing each other out of the limelight.  And at communion, one group is gobbling up the food and drink, leaving nothing but crumbs for the rest.  But it’s not just wacky worship.  You hear stories of incest, inappropriate sexuality, and people suing one another in court. There are stories that some of them might be saying that your central teaching is being denied.  Resurrection is impossible, they say.  There are factions in the church.  You love these people, but you have to admit, they’re a mess.

You know you need to write them a letter.  Well, better yet, you know you need to visit, but a letter will get there quicker.  So you get a scribe and begin.

But you stall, not sure what to say.  These people are dealing with intense pressures.  They live in a town where the pressure to conform is great.  They number maybe 25-50 in a town of half a million or so. It’s a very religious town, with multiple temples, but it is an ungodly place, where the religion is basically sexual expression.  No wonder this church is struggling.  Following Jesus is so different from their culture, especially in the area of sexuality.  How can you help them without just saying “Stop it, you idiots?”

What would you say?  How would you start your letter to actually get their attention, so they would take you seriously?

That’s our task this Sunday.  We start a series studying Paul’s letter to the Christians in Corinth.  It was a tough place to be a new church, but the descriptions of Corinth are eerily similar to American culture in our day.  With all the twerking, sexting, porn at our fingertips, and just plain old regular TV, it is hard to be a faithful follower of Jesus in our day.  Especially in the area of sexuality.  As a father of teenagers I think about what to tell them, how to lead them.  I want them to be pure, but I admit I hardly know what to say sometimes.  “Just be pure!”  I just want them to get it, to buy into it, to see the emptiness of our hyper-sexualized culture easily.  But it isn’t easy.   It is deceptively difficult.  I don’t have it all figured out, but I see Paul begin his letter to the Corinthian church is a very thought-provoking way.  We’ll take a look at his intro 1 Cor 1:1-3 to see how he starts his letter to a very troubled church.