I’ve been in 1 Corinthians this week. This book challenges me every time I read it. Paul loved the church in Corinth. He lived there for over a year, preaching and building the church. Once he moved on, reports started coming back that there were some disputes in the church, so he wrote this letter to remind the Corinthians of his teachings and clear up a few things.
Corinth was a port city with a lot of temples to Greek and Roman gods, so the Christians there were influenced by all the faiths in their culture. It was unavoidable. Paul calls them away from things that could get in the way of their holiness or hurt their witness. He talks about some of the division that was happening in the church already. He addressed what they should do with their bodies, what’s okay to eat, and how they should conduct their gatherings. He gets pretty specific because he’s addressing very specific problems with specific people.
And then he addresses what he sees as the biggest problem. The people in the church were divided the significance or even the truth of the resurrection. And about this, Paul is pretty severe. Look at chapter 15, verse 6.
"After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep."
Paul’s saying, “You guys. This really can’t be disputed. Jesus appeared to more than 500 people. Most of them are still living. Go talk to them and they’ll testify that they saw his brutal crucification and then later, he was very much alive.”
Then Paul, brings it home in this section of chapter 15. This isn't like whether or not to eat meat that was offered to a foreign god. If you don't get behind this truth, your faith is useless.
"12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
When I was teaching English, we had these days where we'd discuss a book the class should have finished reading. I could always tell who hadn't finished the book because certain kids would try to join in the discussion, but they were talking about things like character traits or setting, and I was like, "But did you finish the book? Because if you actually finished it, all you'd want to talk about would be the ending." Sometimes I wonder if God thinks this about me. As I'm living my comfortable life, attending church, and writing things from the safety of my computer, I imagine Him saying, "But Shannon. Did you finish the book? Why isn't that all you can talk about?"
Paul was a man who lived like he had finished the book. In fact, he made it pretty clear that all of what we believe hangs on this one question:
Did he resurrect from the dead?
If he didn’t raise from the dead:
The prophesies were wrong.
We aren’t forgiven.
The baby in the manger is just a baby.
Sin hasn’t been defeated.
We don’t have everlasting life with the Father.
As Easter approaches, it’s important to really think about what happened on the cross. Are we living like people who understand it? They way we live and the way we approach Easter shows our answer to that question. Some of us are like, “Christmas is fun and Easter is a great excuse to get a new outfit and I love a good egg hunt, but I’m not really into the resurrection.” And Paul would say that if this is our attitude, then OUR FAITH IS USELESS. We are simply doing rituals and we haven’t bought into the linchpin of Christianity.
Easter’s tough. Not because many people celebrate spring instead of Easter. That’s to be expected, but I'm troubled by Christians who stop at the "eggs and baskets" of Easter. This lesson from Paul could have been written today. He would say, for those of you looking forward to eating some jelly bellies and moving on to summer, you’re missing the point and your faith is useless.
The crucifixion is really hard to think about. I remember the one time I made it though The Passion of the Christ and it messed me up for years. It’s a tougher conversation with your kids than Christmas. One is a perfect baby born with a chorus of angels. The other is a man beat within an inch of his life and then nailed to a cross to suffocate in front of an angry crowd. That’s not the kind of bedtime story I look for to tell my toddlers.
But the resurrection. Honestly, everything changes with those three words.
Fill in the blank.
________ But the resurrection _________.
I was lost, but the resurrection made it so I could be found.
I was a sinner, but the resurrection made me a daughter of God.
We were hopeless, but the resurrection gave us all the hope we will ever need.
This Easter, let’s eat some jelly beans and hide some eggs. Let’s also remember that without the resurrection, our faith is useless. Let’s live like we understand the end of the book. Imagine all the hearts God can change if we do.