Forming Faith Blog

Resurrection of the Body (1 Cor 15)

Paul argues that belief in resurrection—both Jesus’ and ours—is at the core of Christian faith. It is the result of God’s unending love for us and reason for hope in a time of fear.

Red roses on a cross-shaped tombstone. Death will not have the final victory; God will bring resurrection to us all.

Last week, in the famous words of 1 Corinthians 13, we read Paul’s poetic description of godly love. This week, we continue that thought through to death and beyond. As 1 Corinthians 13:8 states: “Love never ends.”

No Resurrection?

Some in the Corinthian congregation have been arguing against the general resurrection of the dead. Now, the teaching of the general resurrection isn’t something we talk much about in the modern church, at least in my experience. But it is a part of our creeds (both Nicene and Apostles’) as it was the belief of many of the Jews in Paul’s time. At the end of the age, God would raise all the dead back to life. One of the theological problems the Pharisees had with Jesus’ resurrection was that this wasn’t what resurrection was supposed to be like. One person doesn’t get raised from the dead; everyone does.

But, in Corinth—likely through Greek influence—some people here did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Or, worse, they believed that the resurrection had already occurred and they were living in the post-resurrection reality.

The Proclamation

Paul begins his response by going over the most basic core of the Christian faith:

  1. The Messiah came (implied).
  2. The Messiah died and was buried (like, he was really dead).
  3. The Messiah rose again (there were lots of witnesses).

All of this was in accordance with the Scriptures and had cosmic and salvific significance. But all three points are critical and intertwined. If the Messiah didn’t come, then he clearly couldn’t have died and risen again. If the Messiah didn’t die, then “rising again” doesn’t even make sense. If the Messiah didn’t rise again, then we have a martyr, not a Messiah. Jesus’ cosmic significance to every person in the universe comes from the facts of his death and resurrection.

The Critical Point

So, if you didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus, then you rejected the Christian faith. Paul continues: Jesus’ resurrection proves that resurrection is possible. And Scripture and teachings tell us that all will be raised at the end. If you accepted Jesus’ resurrection, you must accept your own (and everyone else’s). It is not just the cross that is foolishness to outsiders but also the resurrection. See the Athenians’ reaction to Paul’s message in Acts 17:32.

Completely Different

Paul then goes on to assure them (and us), that this resurrection is not just a do-over, a revival, or resuscitation like Jesus gave Lazarus and others. Resurrection is a game-changer. The physical bodies God will create for us will be recognizably us but will also be unrecognizably different. There will be no death, decay, age, sickness, pain, etc. Death is a one-time thing, but life in God is forever.

Victory Not Just in Death

Our passage ends with a great declaration from Paul:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:57

The victory he’s talking about is Jesus’ defeat of death. This victory will be enjoyed by us as well. However, this eternal life, as the Gospel of John likes to call it, is not just significant in the moment of death. It starts now. In this victory, we no longer need to fear death. All our fears arise in one way or another from the fear of death. As some have said, a fear of heights is not so much a fear of falling, it’s the landing that’s the problem. If there were no injury, pain, or death, there would be nothing to fear.

Now, of course, there is injury, pain, suffering, oppression, and death… for now. And it’s not a reasonable expectation that everyone should trade all of their fears for faith, all of the time. That would be a state of blessed enlightenment. But, as with many things, the small steps are as important as the destination.

Victory, Self-care, and Grief

Proclaiming Christ’s victory over death is as important now as it has always been. However, there are some important things that need to be understood. Victory over death does not mean we seek out death. Even with the greatest faith in Christ’s victory, God still doesn’t want us to run out into traffic, nose-dive into the Grand Canyon, or drink cyanide. Not only that, but we are charged with taking care of ourselves so that we serve others.

Also, our victory over death does not mean we should not grieve over death. Jesus wept over the death of his friend, Lazarus, moments before he raised the man from the dead. Paul even instructs the Thessalonians:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13

Paul doesn’t tell the Thessalonians not to grieve but to grieve with hope in the resurrection.

Hope in the Resurrection

Hope. That’s the point here. Hope, like faith and love, is a powerful force. In fact, hope arises from our faith in God’s love. Hope is a light in the darkness and a burst of color in the dreary landscape of despair.

In God’s love,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

This post is adapted from a post written for May 24, 2020.

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: September 10 to May 19), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download the “Hope Acrostic” activity from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education (NL Year 3) curriculum. This activity can be done with older children, youth, intergenerational groups, and even adults!

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Introducing our newest Learning Together unit: Created to Care! Wonder at God’s creation and learn about what we can do to protect and heal it in these five lessons, intended for children and intergenerational groups, family or churchwide events, or Vacation Bible School. This curriculum is published in collaboration with BibleWorm, a weekly Narrative Lectionary podcast, to accompany their summer series on Creation Care.

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