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A Little Church in Corinth
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In Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth, he takes a message straight to the people...and straight into the heart of the matter:

 

     1 Corinthians begins with Paul giving a greeting to the people of the Christian church in Corinth, in which he offers thanks for the faith and strength of the Corinthian church (1:2). He immediately begins, however, to list and address the problems that plague that church. One of these, which chapter 15 features, addresses the serious question of the resurrection of the dead. He reminds the Corinthians of the core Christian doctrine. The resurrection of Jesus, he insists, is a very important part of the Christian faith- "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures (15:3)." Because this idea is so important, Paul repeats it twice in these two verses. He seems to imply that Jesus’ work didn’t just come out of thin air; it was planned from all eternity and described prophetically in the Scriptures (the plan for His death is described in places like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, where the plan for His resurrection is described in places like Hosea 6:2, Jonah 1:17, Psalm 16:10, as well as Genesis 22). In verses three and four, Paul describes the content of the gospel. Here, he describes how the gospel can be of benefit to man. The gospel can only be of benefit if it is received and if one will stand in it. The Corinthian Christians also did stand in the gospel. Despite all their problems with carnality, lack of understanding, strife, divisions, immorality, and weird spirituality, they still stood for the gospel. This is in contrast to the Galatian church, who was quickly being moved away to another gospel (Galatians 1:6).

     The word gospel means, "good news." As the word was used in ancient times, it didn’t have to describe the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. It could be used of any good news. But the best news ever for the people of Cornith is that they can be saved from the punishment they "deserve" from God because of what Jesus did for them. With this iconic idea layed out for the Corinthians, Paul raises the direct question, asking rhetorically"...if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of [them] say there is no resurrection of the dead? (15:12)" He then uses a little reverse cause/effect modeling to explain why this must be so. He justifies that if the dead are not ressurected, then Christ was not raised, and all of the faith and tradition involved in and depending on that idea is and has been in vain (15:14). Going even further with this reverse process, Paul points out that in claiming this, the people are "misrepresenting God (15:15)" and that all of them are still in their sins. Of course, he is only providing this perspective as a way of showing the people how silly it really seems.

     He continues to write in sarcastic orator's fashion, pointing out that the future resurrection of all the dead stems from Jesus’ own resurrection, and it is the future resurrection—the promise of eternal life—that makes Christian sacrifice meaningful: "If the dead are not raised, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (15:33). Paul explains the nature of resurrection, noting that the physical body will not be resurrected. Rather, it is the spiritual body that is immortal. The immortality of the spiritual body signifies the true victory of faith over death. The figurative question comes from the people of Corinth, who theoretically ask: "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come? (15:35)" In his answer, Paul uses a seed to represent life: "You do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed.....God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body (15:37-38)." Paul concludes with uplifting words for the people of the Christian church in Corinth, writing: "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (15:57)" and "in the Lord your labor is not in vain (15:58)." This last sentiment is meant as encouragement to the people of Corinth, in hopes that his words and examples will lead them on a more Christian path.

Katherine Kennon (2005)