Archive for February, 2020

1 Corinthians 15:25-29

In 1 Corinthians 15:25-29 Paul continues to describe the power of Jesus’ resurrection. “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” Paul refers to the one-thousand-year reign of Jesus described in Revelation 20:1-6. After that time, there will be a final, Satan inspired rebellion in  which Jesus will crush and finally and forever put all enemies under His feet. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Death will be present during the millennial reign of Jesus but afterward, death will be abolished. It is truly the last enemy that will be destroyed by Jesus that sets up eternity for ever.

Paul reminds us that Jesus the Son will not someday be superior to the Father. The relationship of Father to Son will be eternal: the Son Himself will always be subject to Him. “For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.” The submission of Jesus to the Father doesn’t come from any inferiority; instead, it comes from the normal order of the Godhead. A son is always in submission to his father, even if both are “equal” in substance. Thus Jesus will always be subject to God the Father.

Paul refers to God the Son’s desire to glorify God the Father through all eternity. “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” Each person of the Trinity desires to glorify another person of the Trinity. Throughout scripture the Son glorifies the Father, the Father glorifies the Son, and the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son. This aspect of the nature of God is something God wants us to walk in, having a concern for the glory of others, and not our own. We are told to think of others as more that ourselves.

This next verse is difficult to explain, although there have been many attempts to do so. Mare wrote “Paul simply mentions the superstitious custom without approving it and uses it to fortify his argument that there is a resurrection from the dead.” Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?” Paul’s point is that the pagans even believe in the resurrection because they baptize for the dead. The pagans have the sense to believe in resurrection, but some of the Corinthian Christians did not!

1 Corinthians 15:21-24

In 1 Corinthians 15:21-24 Paul reminds us that our current condition was caused by one man. Adam (by a man) is one “head” of the human race, and all mankind was brought under death by Adam. The second Adam, Jesus Christ (by a Man) is the other head of the human race, and Jesus brings resurrection to all that are “under” His headship. “For as by a man came death, by a Man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” Christ is the first who returned from the jaws of death to tell of immortality and light. It is His resurrection that truly is the foundation of the Christian faith and the basis of eternal life with the Father.

Paul is clear that all of us will die. It is 100% certain (unless Christ returns) that we’ll experience death. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” But Paul is equally as clear that everyone will be alive and have eternal life. All will be resurrected in the sense that they will receive a resurrection body and live forever. So, all are resurrected, but not all will receive the resurrection of life. Some will receive the resurrection of condemnation, and live forever in a resurrected body in hell. These are completely opposite outcomes determined by how we respond to God’s offer of grace through Christ!

Christ was the first to receive resurrection, which is what He deserved as the Son of God. And because He has created a way for all the rest of mankind, it was His firstfruits. We will receive it at the Second Coming if we belong to Him through faith. “But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” The resurrection of Jesus leads to the resolution of all things. “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.” Paul reveals God’s eternal purpose in history – to deliver those who receive His grace to eternal life.

But more than that, Jesus squares everything when He comes again. For now, God has granted a measure of rule and authority and power to men, to Satan, even death itself. But all that is temporary. Jesus will take His rightful place as the blessed and only Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords. After the resurrection, God will resolve all of history according to His will. Jesus takes His place at the right hand of God and will reign with Him. Fee wrote “In raising Christ from the dead God has set in motion a chain of events that culminates in the final destruction of death and thus of God’s being once again, as in eternity past, ‘all in all.’”

1 Corinthians 15:16-20

In 1 Corinthians 15:16-20 Paul continues teaching us about the truth of the gospel. The reality is that all of Christianity hinges on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. If He was not raised from the dead, the Christian faith is a hoax. “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.” If there is no principle of resurrection, then the whole Christian life is a pitiful joke! If we don’t have something beyond this life to look forward to, why hassle with the problems in being a Christian? Sure, the Christian life solves some problems but without the resurrection sin remains. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” And those sins create eternal separation if not dealt with.

Guzik writes “See how important the truth of the resurrection is! This is not some side doctrine, to be believed if one likes it. If you do not believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead in a resurrection body the way the Bible says He did, then you have no right to call yourself a Christian. This is one of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.” The Gospel is the foundational truth of Christianity. And Paul wants the church in Corinth, as well as you and me, to know it and believe it and live it. Without the resurrection, we have nothing to base our faith on. So just what does it really entail?

The resurrection matters because:

  1. The divinity of Jesus rests on the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 1:4).
  2. The sovereignty of Jesus rests on the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 14:9).
  • Our justification rests on the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 4:25).
  1. Our regeneration rests on the resurrection of Jesus (1 Peter 1:3).
  2. Our ultimate resurrection rests on the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 8:11).

Spurgeon summarized it this way: “The fact is, that the silver thread of resurrection runs through all the blessings, from regeneration onward to our eternal glory, and binds them together.”

If the resurrection isn’t true, “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” The faith is just a hoax and has no power. It would make the apostles the most pitiful of all. “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” But there is more to the resurrection story – Jesus is alive! “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” He has risen from the grave and is alive. Christianity is real and true, and through faith in Christ we can be set free from sin and spend eternity with the Father.  It’s only possible because of the Gospel and what Christ did on the Cross!

1 Corinthians 15:12-15

In 1 Corinthians 15:12-15 Paul continues to teach about the gospel. The Corinthians didn’t dispute Christ rose from the tomb. “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” The Corinthian Christians denied our resurrection as believers. They believed we lived forever, but not in resurrected bodies. Remember that resurrection is not merely life after death; it is the continuation of life after death in glorified bodies, which are our present bodies in a glorified state. Eternity will not be a place where our feeble earthly bodies will spend forever, but a place where we receive new bodies.

Paul’s argument was that if any believer did not get a new body, then Christ would not have either. “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.” We will experience the same resurrection as Jesus whe that day comes. Paul shows how the resurrection of Jesus not only proves His own resurrection, but it proves the principle of resurrection. If these few Corinthians were right about their definition of the resurrection, then Jesus was still dead! But we know that is not the case, as Paul has proven throughout this chapter. Jesus is alive and so we will be too!

If there is no resurrection, then Jesus is not risen, and Paul and the other apostles have preached in vain. There is no real, resurrected Jesus whom they serve. “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” But it goes much further. If Jesus (and ultimately us) are not resurrected, the apostles are liars and preaching fake news. “We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.” They weren’t, because Jesus did in fact raise from the tomb and we will do likewise.

Guzik walks through Paul’s logic point-by-point:

  • If there is no principle of resurrection, then Jesus did not rise from the dead
  • If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then death has power over Him and defeated Him
  • If death has power over Jesus, He is not God
  • If Jesus is not God, He cannot offer a complete sacrifice for sins
  • If Jesus cannot offer a complete sacrifice for sins, our sins are not completely paid for before God
  • If my sins are not completely paid for before God, then I am still in my sins
  • Therefore, if Jesus is not risen, He is unable to save

If there is no principle of resurrection, then the dead in Christ are gone forever.

1 Corinthians 15:9-11

In 1 Corinthians 15:9-11 Paul continues talking about the gospel story and Jesus’ appearance to many after He rose from the tomb. Paul writes that he was the least of those to be called an apostle. Remember that he wasn’t part of Jesus ministry the last three years of His life like the Twelve were. And the Corinthian church had some misconceived ideas about Paul and his leadership and place in the church. “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” They actually called him a paulus (“little”) apostle. None of that matters, because Paul definitely was an apostle and follower of Christ in ways that few men ever achieved.

Paul would argue in some situations very hard for his apostolic credentials, because he knew he had to be respected as an apostle. But he had no desire to compete with other apostles for the “Most Valuable Apostle” award. He would gladly say, I am the least of the apostles. In fact, Paul believed he was not worthy to be called an apostle. For some, this would just be spiritual sounding talk, which showed more pride than humility. But Paul meant it. He regarded himself as the least of the apostles because he persecuted the church openly. Paul always remembered how he had sinned against Jesus’ church. He knew that he was forgiven; yet he remembered his sin.

Paul gave the grace of God all the credit for the change in His life. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”  He was a changed man, forgiven, cleansed, and full of love when he used to be full of hate. He knew this was not his own accomplishment, but it was the work of the grace of God in him. The grace that saves us also changes us. Grace changed Paul. You can’t receive the grace of God without being changed by it. The changes don’t come all at once but God will complete His good work in us over time.

Paul compares himself to the other apostles. He was not shy about saying he worked harder than any of the other apostles did. “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” Conceivably, if Paul had not worked as hard as he did, the grace of God would still have been given to him, but in some measure it would be given in vain. Grace, by definition, is given freely. But how we receive grace will help to determine how effective the gift of grace is. Grace isn’t given because of any works, past, present or promised; yet it is given to encourage work, not to say work is not necessary. God doesn’t want us to receive His grace and become passive. Paul knew that God gives His grace to us, we work hard, and the work of God is done. We work in a partnership with God, not because He needs us, but because He wants us to share in His work.

1 Corinthians 15:6-8

In 1 Corinthians 15:6-8 Paul is telling the church what happened as part of the gospel story. Just to be sure we understand the gospel, it is not insightful teaching or good advice. At the core of the gospel are things that happened – actual, real, historical events. The gospel isn’t a matter of religious opinions, stories, or fairy tales; it is about real historical events. The most important event of all is that Jesus died on the Cross. Dead. Real dead. And his body was removed from that Cross and put into a tomb where it stayed for three days before being resurrected and returning to life.

It is important to remember that our sins were responsible for the death of Jesus. He did not die for a political cause, or as an enemy of the state, or for someone’s envy. Jesus died for our sins. Jesus did not die as a mere martyr for a cause. He took our sin and carried it into death that we might be able to be set free from the penalty of sin which is eternal separation from God. So this is a big deal and the very foundation of our salvation through Christ. Jesus took our punishment for sin on the cross, and remained a perfect Savior through the whole ordeal – proven by His resurrection. That is the foundation of the gospel. His death, burial and resurrection created a way for you and me to be set free from our sin.

Yesterday we saw that Jesus appeared to a few, primarily His Apostles. That would have been plenty to validate His resurrection. But it wasn’t a small group that experienced the risen Christ. “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” Jesus’ work for us didn’t just come out of thin air; it was planned from all eternity and described prophetically in the Scriptures. The resurrection fulfilled what had been prophesied long before.

No one saw the actual resurrection of Jesus. No one was present in the tomb with Him when His body transformed into a resurrection body. However, many people saw the resurrected Jesus. And after Peter and then the Twelve, Jesus shows up in front of over 500 people to validate the gospel story. This wasn’t something made up. Jesus rose from the grave and showed Himself to over five hundred folks. And it went further as he appeared to all the apostles. Jesus met with many groups of apostles after the resurrection. These meetings were important in proving to the disciples that Jesus was who He said He was. And finally Paul gives his own testimony to the gospel and Jesus resurrection. Lots of people experienced the risen Christ!

1 Corinthians 15:1-5

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 Paul reminds the Corinthian church of the gospel he preached to them. As a result of his preaching, it has impacted them:

  • They received it
  • They stand on it
  • They are being saved by it

But there is a big ‘if’ Paul gives them – they need to hold fast to that gospel for the impact to occur. “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.”

Remember that the word gospel means “good news.” The best news ever is that we can be saved from the punishment we deserve from God because of what Jesus did for us. But the message of the gospel must first be believed and embraced. It had to be received, which the Corinthians had done. Once received we have to deal with the truth of the gospel and take a stand which the Corinthian church had done. In spite of all their problems and sinful ways, they stood on the gospel Paul preached to them. The Corinthian Christians had done well in that they received the gospel. They were doing well in that they did stand in the gospel. But they had to continue to do well, and hold fast to the gospel even as the world tries to rip it away.

If the Corinthian Christians did not continue to hold fast, one day they might let go of the gospel. And if one lets go of the gospel, all their previous belief won’t do them any good. It was as if they had believed in vain. The idea that we must hold fast to the gospel indicates that the world around us wants to snatch it from us. There are many who don’t want the gospel of Christ to be proclaimed and certainly not be received. But at this point, Paul is pleased with how the Corinthian church is taking care of what he has entrusted to them – receiving, standing on and holding fast to the gospel.

Paul continues and reminds them of what he has taught them. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” The gospel message is really pretty simple. Jesus was crucified on the Cross, was buried, rose from the grave on the third day fulfilling scripture, and appeared to many. That death, burial and resurrection is what gives us forgiveness of our sin through faith in Christ. We sometimes complicate what happened far too much. Jesus conquered death, and if we receive his grace and believe in Him, our sins will be wiped away and we’ll be saved for eternity. That’s the simplicity of the gospel!

1 Corinthians 14:36-40

In 1 Corinthians 14:36-40 Paul wraps up this chapter primarily focused on spiritual gifts and how they are demonstrated in the church. As he wraps up this chapter he begins to lay down the law for the Corinthians. “Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?” Paul wonders if some of the Corinthian Christians want to contend with him on these topics. If so, he will have none of it. The word of God did not come from the Corinthian Christians; it came to them from Paul. They need to sit and listen and be teachable instead of contending with the apostle Paul.

Paul heads the church off about his authority as an Apostle. “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.” We might imagine at the next meeting among some of the Corinthian Christians, someone standing up with a “word from the Lord,” saying, “Paul is all wrong!” Paul forewarns them, saying that if anyone is really a prophet or spiritual, they will agree with Paul. It wasn’t negotiable. Paul knew his standing with God and the church, and there is no room for interpretation. “If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.” It was his way, or the highway, because he was sent as a messenger of truth by God.

Some people think that if they are really spiritual, they don’t have to obey God’s word on these matters. In their own minds, they are so spiritual that the rules don’t apply to them. But if we are really spiritual, we will stick to the Word of God, and not go “beyond” it. Paul reminds them to seek the Spirit and let Him share the appropriate gifts at the right time. “So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.” He continues to remind them that prophesy, or a word from God, edifies the Body far more than tongues. But he doesn’t shut the door on tongues being of value for the church either.

He does remind them of one very important principle related to spiritual gifts. There will always be order in how the Spirit gives gifts to people. God wants order when the church comes together. When the gifts of the Spirit are given an unscriptural focus, it discredits the true work of the Holy Spirit, and often leads people to deny the gifts because they see unbiblical excess. “But all things should be done decently and in order.” When the human control takes over, the focus moves to self rather than obeying the Spirit and things can rapidly spiral out of control and order. That’s not God. He will never create an environment of chaos in the church!

1 Corinthians 14:30-35

In 1 Corinthians 14:30-35 Paul is still teaching about spiritual gifts, now with a focus on prophecy. Paul makes it plain that no one is “overwhelmed” by prophecy. They are still in control of the exercise of the gift, even when the Holy Spirit is moving upon them. “If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent.” If the Spirit gives a word to another it is important for the person currently speaking to hold their tongue. When we are using spiritual gifts, we don’t lose control of who we are and what we do. Paul makes that clear here – that the person prophesying may need to stop quickly if God moves in another way.

Order is a big part of how God intends spiritual gifts to be exercised in the church. It should never be the wild west with chaos and confusion running free. “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.” Anything beside order will cause the outcome to miss God’s intent – to build up and encourage those in the Body of Christ. Gifts are not the main event. Not ever. The gifts are merely servants to this purpose of edification of the Body. The purpose of meeting is never to have a tongue or a prophecy as the purpose. You can have a hundred tongues, or a thousand prophecies, but if no one learns or is encouraged, there is no point to it.

And Paul again drives home the truth that God is all about using gifts in an orderly manner to create an atmosphere of peace and worship. “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” If there is confusion and disorder at a church meeting, it isn’t from God. God may do things we don’t understand, and things that seem strange or unpredictable to us, but there will not be a general atmosphere of confusion or weirdness. This is the very nature of God and who He is. He won’t waver from that, and if we see activity that creates the opposite of God’s peace, we can be assured it is not from God. He never moves.

So Paul has been addressing primarily the use of tongues and prophecy in the church. Now he takes a big turn and addresses the place or men and women in the church. This was based on the norms of his day, and we must be careful in how we apply it today. “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” Paul probably means that women do not have the right to judge prophecy, something restricted to the male leadership of the church. He has already said that women have the right to pray or prophecy publicly back in 1 Corinthians 11.

In the ancient world, just as in some modern cultures, women and men sat in different groups at church. Among the Christians in Corinth, there seems to have been the problem of women chattering or disrupting the meetings with questions. Paul is saying, “Don’t disrupt the meeting. Ask your questions at home.” “If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” This is definitely not the way most churches function today, but the idea that a spouse or kids should learn from their husband or father would certainly change the dynamics of many homes. Men do need to step up and be the educators and teachers of their families. They shouldn’t have to ask at church because their spiritual leader of the house – the father – should be training and educating them in God’s Word!

1 Corinthians 14:27-29

In 1 Corinthians 14:27-29 Paul continues educating the Corinthian church on the spiritual gifts. He doesn’t close the door on speaking in tongues in church, but he does make it clear that there are definite rules that need to be followed. “If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.” The first consideration is that everyone should come to church with a heart to build up someone else, not to be focused on what they can get out of the Body. Secondly, tongues are not the main event and need to be limited, and if they are allowed, need to be orderly and done with interpretation so the entire church can benefit.

So Paul does not prohibit speaking in tongues in a church meeting, though we remember he primarily has in mind the meeting of house churches. He will not prohibit it, because if the tongue has an interpretation, there is a potential for blessing others. Yet, he will not encourage it either. If it happens there are strict guidelines for how it must be done. It’s not driven by the individual but by the availability of an interpreter. “But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.” Speaking in tongues in a church meeting that does not observe these Scriptural guidelines is wrong. It might be well motivated, it might be done with a good heart, but it is still wrong, because it goes against the plain teaching of the Bible.

Paul shifts to prophecy and also has some specific guidelines as to how that needs to be handled. Paul is more favorable to prophecy being part of what happens in church, but even then it needs regulation. The whole meeting should not be given over to prophecy, but only two or three should speak at any given meeting. “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.” And somewhat like tongues where an interpretation is key to it being of value to the Body, the gifts of the Spirit are never to be made the focus of congregational life. Worship and the Word are the focus, and the gifts flow under God’s direction around the focus of worship and the Word.

So it is critical that the words of prophecy be evaluated and measured by others. No “word from the Lord” should to be received without careful consideration by the leadership of the church present at the meeting. Even if an angel from heaven came with a message, it must be tested and judged. Everything has to go through the filter of God’s Word, as that is never changed. It should be judged according to God’s established, revealed word. God will never contradict Himself. It is wrong to assume anyone perfectly hears God, so it is also wrong to put too much trust and faith in a prophecy. Any word of prophecy is never intended to replace God’s written Word.

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