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1 Corinthians 15:29-34

1 Corinthians 15:29-34

 

29.) Otherwise, what would they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?

30.) And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour?

31.) I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

32.) If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beast at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

33.) Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

34.) Awake to righteousness and do not sin: for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

 

Continuing our study in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, Paul returns to his argument for the resurrection of the dead.  In verses 20 to 28 he took a brief departure to share about the ultimate victory through Christ’s resurrection, but here in verse 29 he pushes his resurrection argument further.  This is begun by referring to an action that in its very nature is heretical: being baptized for the dead.  This action was one that many scholars cannot agree on regarding what Paul may have been talking about. Through the centuries many articles and even books have been written on this verse alone.  Gordon D. Fee, whose commentary may be the most comprehensive study on I Corinthians, offers almost 16 different takes with twice as many proponents.

 

One of the biggest drawbacks to trying to explain this away is the Greek language itself.  The translation of this 29th verse is spot on.  One cannot say,  “Well, this word means this, and that word really means that, and this preposition can be used in a different way.”  Paul is really saying the words we read as is.  The translation of verse 29 is truly what verse 29 is saying, i.e., it is really talking about people baptizing other people for those who have died.

 

Now, because this is truly heretical theology, it makes one wonder why Paul doesn’t go off on a tangent, why doesn’t he devote a couple of chapters to it as he did for Tongues and the Lord’s Supper.  The reason it is heretical is that it assumes the belief of the one who is being baptized for, without a personal profession of that person’s faith.  Christianity is not a religion.  It is a personal relationship with the living and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.  A person has to receive this relationship and the salvation that comes with it through faith.  I cannot receive it for you, and you cannot receive it for me.  The same is true for baptism.  Through the sacrament of baptism, you and I proclaim both His and our death and His and our resurrection.  I cannot be baptized for you, and you cannot be baptized for me.

 

Interestingly, this subject is not mentioned anywhere else in  the  New Testament, not  even  in II Corinthians.  The only other places it is mentioned in church history is in two heretical sects from the second and third century known as the Marcionites and the Montanists.  What they practiced is:  If a person had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but for some reason had died before they were baptized, someone in their family could be baptized in their place.  Of course, they were considered heretics and not part of the church.  This practice was not the only reason they were considered heretics, just one of many.  This practice never was and is not part of church canon today. Today, this is a practice adopted from the Marcionites by the cult of Mormon.

 

Yet Paul lets it slide and actually uses it as part of his argument. This leads me to believe two things: 1) this practice was not very prevalent in the church at this time, and 2) the same few practicing it were part of the few proclaiming there was no resurrection from the dead for the believer!  Thus, Paul is asking them that if they don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, why were they baptizing for the dead. What good does that do the dead?

 

But Paul does not stop asking questions there. The next three verses he basically asks in different ways, “Why would I continue to do what I am doing if there is no resurrection of the dead?” In a backdoor way, he asks the Corinthians why they are dealing with the persecution and trials they are undergoing if there is no resurrection of the dead.  In verse 30 he asks, “And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour?”  While persecution of the church is not a factor in this letter, he recognizes and want them to recognize that it is a part of their lives.  While not all of them do appreciate Paul as much as they should, they know about all the trials, tribulations, and persecutions he has endured.  (Look for yourselves and read in II Corithians 11: 22-28.  You will marvel that Paul ever made it to Rome to be beheaded.)  Paul tells them in verse 30 that he dies daily because of their lack of faith, because of the spiritual responsibility Christ has given him as their church father to mentor, lead, and teach.

 

Understand, Paul is writing this letter to them from Ephesus.  He suffered much in his 1-1/2 years dwelling there.  Acts 19:23-40 tells about the craftsmen of the city causing a riot over the temple of Dianna.  II Corinthians 1:8 tells us that he was threatened with death almost the whole time in Asia, where the center of his ministry in Asia was Ephesus.  He metaphorically referred to his enemies there as beasts.  Paul faced death but not from beasts.  It would be much later that Christians were thrown among the beasts in the coliseum games, and Paul, being a Roman citizen, would have faced what he faced, beheading.

He again asks the question, “What is the advantage to me if the dead do not rise?”  What is the advantage to Paul or the Corinthians if there is no resurrection of the dead? Paul answers this question by quoting Isaiah 22:13, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”  In other words, NONE!  NO ADVANTAGE AT ALL/  And then for the Greeks, he quotes a line from a popular Greek play written by Menander which had become so popular it was a proverb, “Do not be deceived, evil companions corrupt good habits.” Basically, Paul was calling those who reject the resurrection of the dead corrupters of the promises of God.  You see, the resurrection is a promise of God the Father, first fulfilled in Christ and promised to all believers.

 

Paul challenges them to WAKE UP!  Wake up not to the righteousness of humanity but to the strict justice and the proper right of God the Father; to do away with their Hellenistic unbelief in the resurrection of the body and grasp the proper right belief in God the Father’s promised bodily resurrection.  Paul challenges them to STOP SINNING!  Do away with their Greek bias against the resurrection of the body, because if they continue, they will not only miss the mark (which is literally what the Greek word translated sin means.), but they will also fail to share in the promised prize.  The last part of verse 34, unlike verse 29, is completely mis-translated.  It should read, “For some of you are ignorant of God’s breathed word and this is to your shame.” The word shame in the Greek is entropay. This is the basis of the English word entropy which means lack of order or predictability, gradual decline into disorder.  Paul rebukes their unbelief in the resurrection by telling them that they are not as smart as they think they are. Their willfulness in their unbelief and rebellion about the bodily resurrection shows their ignorance and failure to understand God’s breathed word.  Their shame is that by their unbelief they bring disorder out of order.

 

You see, the problem with not believing in the bodily resurrection of the believer is that it is also a denial of God’s word and God’s promises.  Some people may say that good works and moral lifestyle should not be based on rewards.  The Sadducee in Jesus’ and Paul’s day believed that.  The Sadducee believed in the law and in the keeping of the law. Yet if we go back to the books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, there was always a reward for keeping the law.  (i.e., if Israel did this, then God promised to do that. In Deuteronomy it was usually stated as, “that you may prosper in the land that you go into possess.”)

 

Paul’s point was that even if the Corinthians did believe in Christ’s resurrection and His resurrection alone (already previously established that they did), they missed out on many promises, for many of Christ’s promises are eternal in nature.  Reference Matthew 10:39, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” or Luke 1:32-33, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end” or Luke 18:29-30, “Assuredly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, who shall not receive many time more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life” or Luke 23:43,”Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” or John 3:15-16,”…that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” or John 4:14, “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst.  But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” or John 14:2-3, “In My Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” All of these promises and many more are eternal in nature.  For the believer to receive them,  there must be a resurrection of the dead for the believer.

 

But it not just a reward conscientiousness.  No.  This goes all the way back to Genesis and why humanity was created in the first place.  Why God choose Abraham and his seed.  Why God delivered the nation of Israel from the Egyptians.  Why God set the tabernacle in the midst of their camp.  Why God choose Zion for His messianic covenant.  Why God sent His Son to die on the cross and at the point of death split the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.  Why God raised Jesus from the dead for our justification.  It is because God created us to be in relationship with Him.  Not just in this world or this age but throughout eternity.  Paul saw those Christians in Corinth who did not believe in the resurrection for the believer as not only missing the mark but missing the true prize: an eternal relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit which is why They, the Three In One, did their work through the cross in the first place.

 

Brothers and sisters, doesn’t that get you excited?  I know none of us has this particular problem that some in the Corinthian church had.  Isn’t it comforting to know that the God of all creation loved you and me so much that He sent His Son to die for us on the cross!  That in the blood of that that cross we have been redeemed from all our sins – past, present and future!  Purchased from our sins by the precious blood of Jesus!  That by Jesus’s death on the cross, we are eternally forgiven!  That through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been justified forever, not just in this life but throughout eternity!  That the empty tomb is not just a symbol for us, but a promise to us of the Father’s desire to always have us with Him!

 

AMEN!

 

Remember to read Psalm 91 in the first person every day. Claim those wonderful promises.

 

Now may God the Father who raised His Son Jesus Christ from the dead, through His resurrection power resurrect your life, your joy, your strength, and your faith. May you walk with Him through your faith in His Son and His finished work, and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Amen

PSALM 91  

 1st Person

 

 I have written this Psalm out in the first person in hopes that it will help you to stand on His Word during this season of unknowns.  The one thing we do know is the power and faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ and that of God the Father.

 

{The first 13 verses are what I call a Statement of Faith.}

 

1)  I, who dwell in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

2)  I will say of the Covenant-keeping God, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God of Power and Creation; in Him I will trust.”

3)  Surely, He shall deliver me from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence.

4)  He shall cover me with His feathers, and under His wings I shall take refuge; His truth shall be my shield and buckler.

5)  I shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day,

6)  Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

7)  A thousand may fall at my side, and ten thousand at my right hand; but it shall not come near me.

8)  Only with my eyes shall I look and see the reward of the wicked.

9)  Because I have made the Covenant-keeping God, who is my refuge, even the Most High, my dwelling place,

10)  No evil shall befall me, nor shall any plague come near my dwelling;

11)  For He shall give His angels charge over me, to keep me in all my ways.

12)  In their hands they shall bear me up, lest I dash my foot against a stone.

13)  I shall tread upon the lion and the cobra; the young lion and the serpent I shall trample underfoot.

 

 {Verses 14-16 change from a Statement of Faith to a PromiseGod’s response to David’s statement of faith.   In these final verses, where you see an underlined space, insert your own name.}

 

14)  Because _____ has set their love upon Me, therefore I, God, will deliver _____; I will set _____ on high because _____ has known My name.

15)  _____ shall call upon Me, and I, God, will answer _____; I will be with _____in trouble; I will deliver _____ and honor _____.

16) With long life I, God, will satisfy _____ and show _____ My salvation.

 

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I pray this helps you claim and proclaim His health, wholeness, and protection during these days.

 

Ric

 

 

 

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