This congregation had many problems. There were divided over leaders. Arguments ensued regarding proper worship. Spirituals gifts were being misused. People were abusing the privileges of communion. One man was even sleeping with his stepmother. The list could go on.
The biggest problem, however, was not relational. It was theological. It seems many church members were denying the resurrection (15:12). They weren’t denying Christ’s resurrection. They were denying that believers would be raised. Their answer to Job’s question would have been a resounding “No!” To think that men live after they die was laughable in first century Corinth, especially to the educated. In their minds, once you’re dead, you’re dead.
But, in Orthodox Christian thinking this notion of non-existence doesn’t fit. In Paul’s mind, one cannot separate the resurrection of Christ from the resurrection of believers (15:13). Indeed, the entirety of the Christian faith rests upon the fact that Christ’s resurrection ensures our own (15:14-19).
The Corinthians couldn’t understand how our corruptible and decaying bodies could enter into God’s incorruptible, glorious Kingdom. Therefore, Paul sets them straight on this issue too. When Christ’s Kingdom is finally and fully established, we won’t enter into it with “flesh and blood” (15:50). In other words, the bodies we have now will not be the ones with which we will enter God’s Kingdom. Believers will undergo a radical transformation. Those who are alive when Christ returns will be transformed, and those who have died will be raised and their spirits will be reunited to their new glorified body (15:51-53; see also 15:42-49). What a great hope believers have to enjoy. If the Lord tarries, our bodies will die. They will put us into the ground, but thank be to God we will be raised to new life just as Christ was raised from the grave. Death is not the end for us.
In fact, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (15:54). One day, death will be no more (15:26). Like a predator devours its prey, Christ will swallow up death when He returns.
Last summer I performed a funeral for a 27-year-old girl who lost her life suddenly. I will never forget standing near the casket at the end of the service. Everyone had exited the funeral home except the family. One by one they said their goodbyes. The last people to approach the deceased was the husband and his two little boys. They stood over their mother and wife sobbing. With permission from the husband, the funeral director slowly lowered the lid. The husband and his boys looked upon their loved one for the last time.
With those who have no hope, death is final. It has the last word. No one can escape its grasp. One day it will find us all. But, as Christians, we place our hope in the one man who conquered death. Jesus Christ our Lord got up from the grave; consequently, He defeated death, and the good news is that He offers this victory to all who trust in Him.
Christians can be so confident that Christ’s victory is our own, that death should not feared but taunted: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” If you’re in Christ, death has no more power over you than it does our Lord. The grave could not hold Him and neither can it hold His followers. For the believer, death is no longer the end, but a passage way to life.
Christ has removed death’s power by His death on the cross (15:56-57). This gives us hope in the life to come, but it also gives us reason to press on now. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (15:58).
This week’s devotional was written by Brandon Sutton. He is married to Sherrie and they have a baby daughter, Emma. He is also the lead pastor at Blue Ridge Christian Union Church outside of Shelbyville, Indiana and executive director of The Grace House, a men’s recovery home. He is currently pursuing his Master of Divinity degree at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.