Three ways to live

Which is your way?

1 Corinthians 15:1-34 – summary of study

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 9:32 am on Monday, November 19, 2007

Unlike my typical summaries, this time I want to simply highlight an important lesson that this passage offered to me personally. The lesson can be summarized as follows: Christ’s resurrection is an integral part of the gospel, just as the fact that he died as the sacrifice for our sins. I realized that in all of my gospel definitions and presentations I barely mention the resurrection part. And many Christians make the same mistake. We often think it is the Christ’s atonement for our sins that makes us right with God, and the resurrection is just there to prove that we will also be resurrected.

Of course, it is true that Christ’s resurrection is the firstfruits of all who has fallen asleep (1 Cor 15:20) and through him we will be resurrected on the last day (1 Cor 15:23). But according to v.17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins”, it appears that the resurrection is important not only to our future life but also the present condition of our sins. And this is not the only place where this idea is conveyed; for example, Romans 4:25 says “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification“.

Now, there is no universal agreement on how to understand this statement. The most common interpretation is that by raising Jesus from the dead God confirmed that His sacrifice was acceptable. I am not really convinced; after all, there is no Biblical pattern that would confirm this practice. Others suggested a parallel between “in your sins” and “in Jesus”, meaning that we are saved from our sins not into nothingness but into the relationship with the living Christ. Unless we are brought into Jesus, we are still in our sins. Again, I do not find this interpretation very convincing.

For now, the best interpretation I can provide is that resurrection was the proof that Jesus is the Messiah and that we can believe every other word he said. The disciples of Jesus knew that his death was sacrifice for our sins yet were scattered in fear because of His execution. It is only after Jesus reappeared in the new bodily form, that they were ready to take courage and proclaim the gospel. So, the Old Testament scripture predicting Christ’s sacrifice, John the Baptist testimony, Jesus’ own teachings and miracles were not sufficient for them to believe. What had changed them was the proof that Jesus was raised to life.

No matter what interpretation you prefer, one thing should be clear – Jesus’ death for our sins and resurrection are two equally important parts of the gospel. Hence if we seek to live a gospel-centered life, resurrection should have equally strong impact on what we do.

4 Comments

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Comment by gummie

November 20, 2007 @ 2:00 am

Hi,

I think equally important would be Christ’s ascension which doesn’t feature much as well. Although it is not understandable how Christ really ascended, the fact that it is a bodily ascension is noteworthy i.e. Christ is not alive now as an disembodied soul.

And it should be important to note that Peter, John and the rest did not obtain courage from the resurrection event alone. The Pentecost featured is quite important as well.

Of course, the problem is not really that we do not emphasize this or that event enough. We should think of all the events in a connected fashion. Death -> resurrection -> ascension -> pentecost. Maybe the really problem is our itsy bitsiness.

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Comment by Vitali

November 20, 2007 @ 2:12 am

Yes, I think the ascension and Pentecost are also important, but at least they are no included in Paul’s (or anybody else’s) definition of the gospel. Yet the resurrection is right there and missing it means misunderstanding of the gospel.

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Comment by gummie

November 20, 2007 @ 3:48 am

Well, I do not mean to add/redefine the gospel. I definitely agree with you that to miss the resurrection is to misunderstand the gospel. I was trying to interact with the explanation you gave for the resurrection, saying that the resurrection vindicated all things that Christ said and done (and even this reason doesn’t seem to answer the original question – how does the resurrection saves us/affects in the present condition). The reason seems to be a tad reductionistic. Maybe I am misunderstanding you.

I was trying to point out that from the gospel-acts narrative, the resurrection, when considered alone did not give them the courage and power. So, it seems to me to be reductionistic to attribute the courage to proclaim the gospel merely to the resurrection.

Another interesting question to ask would be: yes, Paul did only mention the death and resurrection of Christ as first importance, as the gospel. But then are we to say then that the incarnation and perfect obedience of Jesus as not part of the gospel? Surely, Paul by asking the Corinthians to recall the death and resurrection, he is reminding them of the historical story of Jesus for whom his death and resurrection is central.

Perhaps the main problem I have is that Paul wasn’t mentioning the death and resurrection merely in terms of abstract, theological categories (though there are certainly theological implications!)

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Comment by Vitali

November 20, 2007 @ 4:20 am

No, sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest that you were trying to add to/redefine the gospel. What I was trying to say is that I am guilty of neglecting (or deemphasizing) resurrection, ascension and Pentecost, but my guilt of neglecting resurrection is much more serious than neglecting the other two, since resurrection is the part of the core of gospel.

As for my explanation of why resurrection is important – I don’t like it also. But it’s the best I got so far. Do hope to find a better one though. My problem was that until I realized that resurrection was a part of the gospel, I didn’t even try hard enough to understand it better.

Regarding your last point, I absolutely agree that the death and resurrection are not the whole gospel – there are so many other implications that can be considered the gospel. If we limit it to death and resurrection, then why did Paul criticize Peter in Galatians 2:14, You are not acting in line with the truth of the gospel. What does forcing Gentiles to obey Jewish customs have to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus? Well, these might not be related directly, but they are related through implications of the death and resurrection. These implications do constitute the gospel, of which death and resurrection is the core.

A good question would be if the Pentecost and ascension can also be considered a part or implication of the gospel, even though they are not explicitly mentioned as such.

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