Reading for Friday, Sept 14: 1 Cor 15
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve,” (v3-5). With these verses, Paul distills the Gospel down to the essential truths: atonement, forgiveness, death, and resurrection. These are matters of “first importance”. Other Christian teachings, important as they might be, orbit around these core truths. We would do well to keep these elemental principles at the forefront of our minds, along with Jesus’ emphasis on the importance of loving God and loving others.
Paul shifts the teaching toward the resurrection, offering up a lengthy discourse on the significance of the empty tomb. “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith,” (v14). The resurrection confirms Christ’s victory over sin and death. But there is something more here as well: “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep,” (v20). This means that Christ’s resurrection stands as God’s promise to us as well. He is the firstfruits of an eternal harvest, a forerunner of the transformed, glorified selves we are becoming.
Paul elaborates on this body in the final 25 verses of the chapter. Just as seeds must be planted in the ground in order to fully grow, our physical bodies undergo the same metamorphosis in the resurrection. But this means we have to die first in order to receive the glory God is promising. “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body,” (v42-44).
Paul’s final words need no commentary: “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—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. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 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.
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, 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.”