We’ve been studying 1 Corinthians 15, the great resurrection chapter of the Bible. Paul wrote this chapter because some of the Christians in the Corinthian church had gotten the idea that, while Christ may have been raised from the dead, Christians themselves would not be.
In response, Paul argued that, if there was no resurrection of the dead, then Christ would not have been raised from the dead.
And if Christ be not risen, that would mean that our faith and our preaching would be empty and vain.
In the last passage, we learned about God’s Resurrection Program, which began with the Fall of man and will end someday with Christ victorious over every enemy of God. Included in the resurrection program is the resurrection of believers from every age.
In this passage, verses 29-34, Paul is going to show us how the promise of a resurrection can affect the way we live today.
29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? 31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. 34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. (1 Corinthians 15:29–34)
The Promise Of A Resurrection
1. PROMOTES SEEKING SALVATION
1 Corinthians 15:29
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead,
if the dead rise not at all?
why are they then baptized for the dead?
This verse is hard to understand. It sounds a lot like the Mormon practice of being baptized on behalf of someone else who is deceased. But we know that it cannot be that because there is absolutely no other indication in the Bible of a baptism for the dead.
Besides that, the Bible clearly tells us that salvation is by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Being baptized cannot save you yourself, so how could you being baptized for someone else help them be saved?
If that’s not what Paul means by being “baptized for the dead,” then what does he mean?
I think the key to understanding what this verse means is to understand what the word “for” in the phrase “baptized for the dead” means. Does “for” mean “on behalf of the dead” or does “for” mean “because of the dead”? I think the phrase should read “baptized for, because of, the dead.”
In other words, there were those in Corinth who were becoming Christians and were being baptized because of the influence of another Christian who was now dead.
One possibility is that there were those in Corinth who had lost Christian loved ones. They were so distraught over their loss that they themselves became Christians and were baptized so that when they died, they would be able to see their loved ones again.
Obviously, you cannot be saved merely by wanting to be with someone you loved after you die. You need to understand that you are a sinner and that Jesus has paid for your sin.
But this person wanted to be with their loved one again, to be resurrected together, and that prompted them to seek salvation.
One pastor wrote:
I have seen a husband who would not come to Christ until his wife died. Because he could not bear the thought of not seeing her again, committing his own life and eternity into the hands of the One he knew was her Lord was made more attractive.
[This pastor also said] I have seen children come to Christ after their mother’s death, motivated in part by the desire one day to be united with her. What her pleading and praying could not do, her death accomplished. (MacArthur, 426-27)
What Paul is saying here is that if there is no resurrection, then they are becoming Christians and being baptized will be disappointed—they won’t see their loved ones again anyway.
But Christ has risen from the dead, and we will also. The time is coming when,
16 …the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)
How about you?Is there someone who is in Heaven right now that you loved and want to see again? Then seek your salvation in Jesus.
Admit that you are a rebel against God. Believe that God has provided salvation for you through the death and resurrection of His Son. Confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior today, and not only will you see your Christian loved ones in Heaven one day, you will be with Jesus forever.
The Promise Of A Resurrection Promotes Seeking Salvation and,
The Promise Of A Resurrection
2. PROMOTES SELF-SACRIFICE
2.1. Dying Daily For Jesus
1 Corinthians 15:30
And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
How was Paul’s life in “jeopardy”? Maybe the better question would be “How was Paul’s life NOT in jeopardy?”! The man lived in constant danger of some sort. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he gave a list of dangers that he endured for Christ’s sake—here’s a sample:
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; (2 Corinthians 11:25–26)
Paul goes on to say something incredible:
1 Corinthians 15:31
I protest [affirm] by your rejoicing
which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord,
I die daily.
I die daily. Wow. What did Paul mean by “I die daily”? Obviously, it’s not literal. But Paul was often in risk of dying because of various dangers and enemies. That’s what he means in the next verse:
1 Corinthians 15:32a
If after the manner of men
I have fought with beasts at Ephesus,
Nowhere does the New Testament describe Paul fighting wild animals. But he was on the wrong end of a riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-20:1).
So perhaps Paul was describing the behavior of people who were involved in riots. Rioters are often like “beasts,” not caring what gets damaged or who gets hurt.
But Paul means more by saying, “I die daily.” Paul also meant that he was constantly willing to sacrifice himself for the cause of Christ each day of his life. Or, to put it another way, he lived each day as though he had already died.
Imagine if we could have the faith to live as though we were already dead! Nothing could stop us from being bold witnesses for Christ! We would not be afraid of ridicule or rejection because, hey, we’re dead!
2.2. Faith Enough To Die Daily?
But, and here comes the theological problem of if there was no resurrection of the dead, if Paul is willing to die daily then…
1 Corinthians 15:32b
what advantageth it me,
if the dead rise not?
let us eat and drink;
for to morrow wedie.
Why would Paul bother risking his life for Christ if death is the end of it? It would be better to “eat and drink,” which means, to live life as fun and comfortably as you can.
This is how most non-believers live. Be safe, have fun, and hope that you wake up tomorrow to do it all over again.
But many Christians also live this way. We refuse to risk our health or life for Christ. We focus on living as quietly and peaceably as we can. We don’t speak up for Christ because we’re afraid of leaving our comfort zone. And why?
I believe our theology determines our actions. Why are we unwilling to risk our comfort, health, or lives for Christ? Because something is wrong with our theology. Perhaps we aren’t really assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead. Perhaps we are trying to hedge our bets and live both sides of the fence.
So we try to have a just enough faith in Christ to be saved and go to Heaven, but “eat and drink” and be merry with our lives so that, just in case Heaven isn’t real, we’ve lived a life of pleasure. Our faith often stretches only as far as our comfort zone.
Have you ever refused to do a ministry for Christ because you were afraid of your personal safety or health?
Please repent of that and, if the opportunitycomes up again, pray that God would give you the faith to participate.
If you believe that you will be resurrected from the dead, and believe it strongly enough, then you will be able to die daily for Jesus Christ.
The Promise Of A Resurrection
1. Promotes Seeking Salvation
2. Promotes Self-Sacrifice and…
The Promise Of A Resurrection
3. PROMOTES STRIVING AGAINST SIN
In these last two verses, Paul gives three, seemingly unrelated commands. What ties them together is the promise of a resurrection.
3.1. Be Wise About The Company You Keep
1 Corinthians 15:33
Be not deceived:
evil communications corrupt good manners.
The word “communications” refers to associates. You could say, “Bad company or associations corrupt good behavior.” Keeping bad company will erode your own morals and your doctrine.
Now, we must be careful to clarify that Paul doesn’t mean that you can’t ever associate with bad people. Earlier in this letter, he explained this very point:
9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. (1 Corinthians 5:9–10)
So we must associate with bad people so they can see a witness to Christ, but we must be wise with our associations. Are we finding ourselves becoming “corrupt” (Φθείρουσιν, φθείρω, VPAI3P, destroy; corrupt; ruin)? Do we find ourselves sinning or enjoying sinful things that these other people do? Then it’s time that we break off the relationship, or at least be more cautious with how we relate to them.
The point is: be aware of the influence that others have in your life. Make sure that you are spending enough time with godly people to offset the ungodly influence of others. Guard your heart.
The next two commands that Paul gives are…
3.2. Live Righteously And Avoid Sin
1 Corinthians 15:34
Awake to righteousness,
and sin not;
for some have not the knowledge of God:
I speak this to your shame.
The word “Awake” (ἐκνήψατε, ἐκνήφω, VAAM2P, sober; sober up) is from a Greek word that means to “sober up.” It’s the word the ancient Greeks may have used when they came in and dumped a pail of water on someone who was passed out drunk. “Wake up! Sober up!”
That’s what he is saying to Christians. Sober up! Stop sinning! Why?Because there are those who do not know God who are watching you. It’s a “shame” for Christians to act in sinful ways when the world is watching (and they are always watching).
Now, why does he give these three commands: be wise about the company you keep, live righteously, and avoid sin? What do they have to do with the resurrection of the dead?
The answer, or part of the answer, is that how we live on this earth is determined by our theology. Our behavior is determined by our beliefs. Our actions flow from our faith.
If death is the end of it, and that’s what you believe, then how should you live? You should live in the most comfortable and most pleasurable manner possible.
There are those Christians who believe in Christ for salvation, but their belief is so clouded by the world, that they live in the world’s manner. Eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die.
For the Christian, what we are supposed to believe is that life continues beyond the grave. Earthly life here is a preparation for eternal life. So to sin here is foolish.
Your belief in the resurrection, your resurrection, will not only affect your view of the future, it should also affect how you live now. Does it?
As we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Supper together, let me ask you some self-examination questions. These are for you personally, not for you to think about someone else. You might want to close your eyes and pray for God to assist you in searching your heart.
1. Are you a believer in Jesus? Do you trust Jesus alone for your salvation, and nothing of your good works?
2. Has your lack of faith kept you from serving the Lord in places where you thought it might risk your health, your safety, or your pride?
3. Does your theology determine your behavior? Do you say that you believe what the Bible says and yet do another?
4. Are your words and actions and thoughts such, that you would not be embarrassed if Christ was sitting next to you when you said them, did them, or thought them?
MacArthur, John F., Jr., 1 Corinthians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984).