The Resurrection is Practical (1 Corinthians 15:29-34)

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Easter this year will certainly be strange. Stay-at-home orders, prohibitions against gathering in groups, and a heightened awareness of how viruses spread are nixing holiday traditions like attending church, hosting family dinners, and participating in Easter egg hunts.

As far as I know, my family doesn’t have COVID-19. But it’s amazing how much this virus is affecting our lives! We’re more diligent than ever about practicing good hygiene and maintaining social distance. Since everywhere except parks are closed, we’re saving money. And now our holiday plans are limited.

This would be understandable if my family was infected, but so far we aren’t. How can a virus affect us so much if we don’t even have it?! This just shows that COVID-19 is a practical virus. In other words, it affects our daily lifestyles – even those of the uninfected!

Our Easter plans may be hindered, but the true meaning of the holiday stands firm. Easter is still about Jesus’ resurrection. As practical as COVID-19 may be, the Christian doctrine of resurrection is even more so.

1 Corinthians 15 is Paul’s major treatment of the resurrection. He has reassured us the world will not end with COVID-19 or any other earthly catastrophe, but when Jesus returns to raise the dead (vv 23-28). Now he explains how this future hope affects our way of life in the present.

Reason to Remember

First, the resurrection gives us a reason to remember the dead: “Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?” (1 Corinthians 15:29).

This is a strange verse. It isn’t clear exactly what Paul is referring to. What is clear is that Scripture never endorses baptism for the dead. It’s also clear that some of the Corinthians doubted the resurrection. Paul seems to be pointing out an inconsistency. If they didn’t believe in the resurrection, why are they showing concern for the dead?

Perhaps this is the first holiday your family is celebrating since the death of a loved one. As Christians, we “do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Thanks to the resurrection, we remember our dead with joy because we hope to see them again.

Reason to Endure

Second, the resurrection gives us a reason to endure suffering: “And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day – yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained?” (1 Corinthians 15:30-32).

Paul put himself in harm’s way to tell others about Jesus. He was constantly in danger and persecuted relentlessly (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). He asks, “Why would I risk my life for no reason? If there’s no resurrection, what am I suffering for?”

He isn’t alone. More than 100 million Christians in over 70 countries suffer persecution today. They face discrimination and harassment from their families, communities, and local authorities. Some are imprisoned, tortured, and killed – with government sanction!

The resurrection gives us a reason to stay faithful. We submit to suffering and hardship now because we will be rewarded later. We know that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Reason to Resist

Third, the resurrection gives us a reason to resist temptation: “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God – I say this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:32-34).

If there is no resurrection, there is no afterlife. That means this life is all there is. So why not live it up and enjoy all the pleasure we can? That is apparently what some of the Corinthians thought. Those who doubted the resurrection stopped pursuing godliness. They began indulging their sinful desires and kept company with sinful people.

The resurrection gives us a sense of accountability. Paul reminds us, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Jesus will put each of us on trial someday. Are you living in such a way as to approach His bench with confidence?

Happy Easter! Feel free to share this post!

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