Pastor Nathan Lewis has been preaching through Paul’s First Epistle to the Church at Corinth. In celebration of Resurrection Sunday 2008, he has preached the following sermons from I Corinthians 15 at Evergreen Presbyterian Church in Beaverton and Chehalem Valley Presbyterian Church in Newberg.
“The Delivery and Results of the Gospel”
I Corinthians 15: 1-11
Resurrection Sunday seems to be early this year, scheduled for March 23. From today until March 30, the Sunday after Resurrection Sunday, I will be preaching the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as it is presented in I Corinthians 15. The final problem Paul addresses in the Church at Corinth is the struggle to believe in resurrection. Do you find the resurrection difficult to believe? If so, you will not be the first member or congregation of the church to do so. This particular problem returns us to Paul’s initial remarks in the letter concerning the Corinthians’ view of knowledge acquisition as a purely ultra-rational process informed by the Hellenistic philosophies. In Chapter One, Paul addresses the death of Christ writing, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The Corinthians struggled to embrace the cross of Christ. They found it difficult to fit the death of the Son of God into their system of rationalism. And so Paul writes, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” At the opening of his letter Paul addresses the Corinthians’ problem with the death of Christ and now at the conclusion he addresses their problem with the resurrection of Christ. Both the death and the resurrection of Christ are parts of the Gospel, the central message of the Church, connecting the Church to Christ Jesus.
In Chapter Two Paul wrote, “We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages of our glory….These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything even the depths of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given to us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned….But we have the mind of Christ.” These words of Paul have the Gospel in mind, particularly the cross of Christ as he opens his letter, and particularly the resurrection of Jesus as he closes his letter.
The Corinthians’ struggle to believe in the resurrection is noted in (12) just beyond our text for this morning: “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 answer to Paul’s question is sadly, “Because we have embraced Hellenistic philosophies that deny anything like the resurrection on the basis of its irrational nature.” And so, Paul returns to his focus upon the Gospel reminding the Corinthians as he did at the opening of his letter, now in its conclusion, that the Gospel is central in the Word of God which places it at the center of the Church, connecting the Church to Christ.
Paul writes in (1-2) “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.” In this powerful and enlightening sentence Paul presents the past, present, and future of Gospel living. In the Past Paul preached the gospel and the Corinthians received it. This reception of the gospel happens as God grants faith. By faith we receive the gospel. This faith is not stuck in the past but continues through the life of the Christian. In the Present the Corinthian Church stands in the gospel. This standing is the sure position every Christian enjoys having been justified by the work of Christ in his death. Our sin has been imputed to Christ who bore it on the cross for us. His righteousness has been imputed to us making our standing before God innocent and sure. This justified standing before God is our present position in Christ and it continues through the life of the Christian, for all eternity. From the Present and through the Future we are being saved through the grace of perseverance. As the Corinthians hold fast to the Gospel they are experiencing the perseverance of the saints of God. This is a perseverance of the faith by which they received the Gospel and thus they did not exercise their faith in vain. The same is true for our Present and Future. The grace of God includes his preserving of our faith so that we persevere in it for a lifetime and forevermore.
The Gospel is of first importance to Paul. What a gracious statement this is in (3). Paul has hammered the Corinthian Church on a number of significant problems including disunity, sexual immorality, and disorderly worship. More important than all of his good instruction and correction of these problems is the Gospel, which is the key to our freedom from these problems and many more! Paul delivers this Gospel once again to the Church at Corinth but he makes it clear that he is not the author of it. He received it just as all of us have received it – graciously from God himself. In this particular presentation of the Gospel, Paul outlines the work of Christ. Notice that for Paul the parts of the Gospel are historic events. The cross, the grave, the empty tomb are not symbols to help us grasp unexplainable spiritual truth. I encourage the use of symbols today. A burnished cross around the neck or prominently placed in a house of worship aids us in remembering that in space and in time Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead. Jesus of Nazareth, the very Son of God was actually crucified on a Roman cross where he actually died. He was truly buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea by Joseph himself along with Nicodemus, both reputable members of the two parties of rulers in Judaism. These two laid aside all of their differences at the foot of the cross to devote themselves to their one Lord Jesus. Joseph, a Sadducee and Nicodemus, a Pharisee, were not unlike an Episcopalian and a Baptist joining together before Jesus both attesting among the 120 disciples that he died, was buried in the tomb, and rose from the grave on the first day. Notice that for Paul the parts of the Gospel occur according to the revealed and preserved Word of God. Every act Jesus completed for our salvation is “according to the scriptures.” God had planned and announced this gracious work in advance. These saving acts of Christ are the end and fulfillment of all the Holy Scriptures. As we receive this Gospel standing firm in it, allowing it to preserve us for a lifetime and eternity, we are entering into the very center of redemptive history and into the very center of prophecy.
Notice that for Paul a sufficient number of witnesses have attested to this Gospel. Early on Sunday morning, the women were the first to discover the empty tomb. They told the disciples sending Peter and John running to the tomb. Peter lost the race to the younger disciple John, who records this event in his Gospel, referring to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” John won the race but he did not go into the tomb. Peter was the first to go inside and to discover that it was empty but for the burial shroud and the angels. Jesus first appeared Mary Magdalene, but of the 12 disciples, Peter was the first. The Resurrected Christ appeared not only to Peter but to all of the disciples turned apostles. Judas committed suicide and so there were only eleven disciples appointed apostles at the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. However, directly following the ascension, these 11 chose Matthias to replace Judas. Matthias did not apply for the position out of thin air. Rather, as Luke records in Acts One, he was one of the 120 disciples of Jesus, men and women, who were eyewitnesses of the work of Christ. Then, several years later, Christ appeared to Saul, persecutor of the Church, transformed him into Paul, humble servant of the Gospel, appointing him apostle. The very definition of apostle begins with being an “eye-witness of Christ.” In the blinding light on the road to Damascus, Paul, saw the very Lord Jesus Christ, with his own eyes. The second part of the definition of apostle is “the founding officers of the Church in these last days, those who join the Old Covenant prophets as the foundation of the Church of all ages.” One of the disappointing weaknesses of the present day Church is that we do not submit to the apostolic authority ordained by Christ Jesus, Head of the Church. At one extreme the Church denies all historicity of the Apostles dismissing their authority reducing their words to personal opinions offered among many in the community of saints. At another extreme the Church insists that Apostolic authority is not confined to these first twelve or thirteen men, but instead continues, passed on to more and more men as these last days unfold. These additional apostles add to the prophecy and dogma of the Church. Both these extremes meet each other as they undermine the special authority God has granted to these few men for the good of us all.
Jesus appearing to the apostles is sufficient witness to attest to his saving acts. Nevertheless, Jesus appeared to many more. He appeared to more than five hundred people at one time. These five hundred attested to the work of Christ as long as God gave them life. They did not change their story under pressure or adjust what they saw as time progressed, as they had more time to think about what actually happened. From Christ’s appearance to them until they died they stuck with their story that he died, was buried, that he rose from the dead and then appeared in their presence the risen Lord of glory! He appeared to James, the head of the Jerusalem Church. This James also happened to be the half-brother of Jesus, one of the sons of Mary, who had disbelieved the Messianic identity and mission of Jesus! After the resurrection Jesus appeared to his brother, James, and his brother acknowledged that this was indeed his brother in the flesh, raised from the dead! What a testimony! This one would stick in any court. The naysayer who is a blood relative admits against all of his beliefs and hardened positions, against his emotions and his carnal desires, against every fiber in his body, that this scorned brother of his is actually the Christ, the Son of the Living God! Paul writes that by divine grace all of these witnesses have worked together, he working harder than any of the rest, to attest to the facts of the Gospel and the result is the Church believing the Gospel. All the glory belongs to God both now and forevermore. Amen.
“The Fact of the Resurrection of Christ”
I Corinthians 15: 12-19
On Easter Sunday, April 23, 1905, Geerhardus Vos preached his sermon, “The Joy of Resurrection Life,” based on I Corinthians 15:14, in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary. You may read this sermon in its entirety in a volume of Vos’ sermons published by Banner of Truth under the title, Grace and Glory. Allow me to read his opening paragraphs as they reinforce the main message of this sermon series helping us to receive the Gospel from Paul’s First Epistle to the Church at Corinth:
“Among the evils which threatened the life of the church at Corinth (and to correct which was Paul’s chief end in writing this epistle) were certain doubts and errors on the subject of the resurrection. Evidently Paul attributed very great importance to these. You can infer this from the fact that in dealing with the various abnormal conditions in the church, he reserves the treatment of this particular evil for the close of the epistle. He wanted the impression of what he had to say on this point to be the final and most lasting impression left upon the minds of the Corinthians. All the other problems concerning such matters as divisions and partisanship, the relapse into pagan modes of living, marriages between believers and unbelievers – important though they were in themselves – belonged after all to the periphery, the outcome, not the root and centre of Christianity.
But with the resurrection, it was a totally different matter. Here the heart, the core, the very foundation and substance of the Christian faith were at stake. Paul felt that if on this vital point a serious departure from the truth were allowed to develop unhindered, then sooner or later, by the inexorable law of organic disease, the whole body was doomed to destruction. This is the only way in which we can explain the intensely earnest, careful, thorough-going manner in which the apostle conducts the battle for this part of the Christian position. Paul was so profoundly impressed with the vital character of this truth that no other method of vindicating it could satisfy him than one by which it was placed in the centre of the Christian religion and all the light that streamed from its highest experiences and convictions focused upon it.”
In (12-13) Paul uses the language and structure of Hellenistic logic. He uses the “If, then” language and the “A,B,B,A,” structure. But his syllogism of sorts does not prove the resurrection of Christ by Logic, by the rules of reason. Rather, he uses it to establish the resurrection of Christ as a known, historical fact, the starting point for all conclusions.
Up front Paul reminds the Church that the apostles, have widely proclaimed the resurrection of Christ. Paul does not say, “Now IF Christ,” to suggest that there is a possibility that the resurrection of Christ has not been proclaimed clearly or centrally. Paul uses the “If” so that the Church would acknowledge that this proclamation of the resurrection has beyond a shadow of a doubt been front and center in the apostolic presentation. In writing in this way, Paul focuses the Church upon the Gospel of the resurrection so that all who read his letter in the Church would agree, “Yes! Christ has been powerfully proclaimed as raised from the dead!”
Secondly, Paul uses this clear proclamation of Christ’s resurrection to correct the Corinthian’s worldview. According to their Hellenistic philosophy, their Classic Logic, and system of reason, the Corinthians had categorically dismissed the possibility of resurrection. Their World view, one of the most beautifully crafted world views of all history, founded in the ground-breaking teaching of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, denied the possibility of a dead corpse resuscitated. We should not rashly dismiss this worldview concluding that Paul is anti-reason or anti-science. Science is a sound tool and school of thought teaching us that when a human being’s heart stops and his brain waves flatten, then he is dead. There is no medical, scientific, manipulative technique to return the corpse to vitality. As Christians we believe this to be true. This reliable science is part of our Christian worldview. However, our Christian worldview also includes our belief in miracle. We believe that God has the power and ability to do that which goes beyond the laws of Science he established to govern our world. We believe in divine miracle. The resurrection of any human being is a miracle. The fact of the resurrection is that a divine miracle has occurred in history.
Thirdly, Paul tells the Church that the resurrection of Christ is essential to the Gospel and to faith. (14) “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” Paul has most recently in the preceding paragraph presented the Gospel succinctly as Christ’s fulfillment of the Scriptures in his death and resurrection: “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. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time…” Geerhardus Vos in his sermon said, “I am sure we shall not have meditated upon the words in vain if our meditation leads us to realize in some greater measure how entirely our holy religion stands or falls with the resurrection of Christ.”
The faith of a Christian is an informed faith. Much of what we believe is founded in the natural law and truth of God’s world. Christian faith is not anti-Science. It does not deny what can be gleaned from research and reason. Nevertheless, the focus of Christian faith is upon Christ and his historic acts of redemption. Christian faith includes an unwavering belief that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. This faith is not a result of research and reason but it is a gift from God. The source of this faith is not found within us, but flows to us from God outside of ourselves. Without this gift of faith we cannot believe in the miracle of the resurrection of Christ, without doing violence to the best of humanly acquired knowledge. Without an unwavering belief in the resurrection of Christ, we have not Christian faith.
Fourthly, Paul tells the Church that the resurrection of Christ is a revealed act of God. If we deny the resurrection of Christ, we are not merely denying the historicity of it, but we are denying a divine act revealed to us by God through his apostles. Paul says that the denial of the resurrection of Christ is a “misrepresentation” of God. We cannot have God without the resurrection of Christ. Too many good and religious people have tried to have God without the resurrection but this is not an option. Communion with the God of the Bible is communion with the God of the resurrection.
Finally, Paul lists the dire consequences of denying the resurrection of Christ. In (17) Paul says that if Christ has not been raised from the dead then we are “still in our sins.” The Gospel is the message of God liberating us from the bondage of our sins. The work of Christ Jesus has removed our guilt and our shame. The work of the God of Justice has removed the ultimate consequences of our sins. The resurrection of Christ blazes the trail of new and eternal life for those of us who have faith in Christ. But if Christ did not rise from the dead, then we are abandoned to life under the common curse and the just condemnation of God. There is no freedom from our sins apart from the resurrection of Christ.
In (18) Paul lists another consequence of denying the resurrection. All of the saints who have died before us have eternally perished. There is no hope for their resurrection if Christ has not been raised from the dead. If there is no resurrection, Adam and Eve shall not escape the grave. Noah and his family would have escaped the flood in vain. Abraham and Sarah will remain in their cave. Joseph’s bones would have been retrieved in vain. The courage of Esther and Ruth would be for naught. God’s forgiveness of Rahab and Bathsheba would fall flat. The glory of David and Solomon would darken to despair. The prophets would be proved wrong. John the Baptizer would have baptized in vain. Christ would be dead, his remains in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
In (19) Paul, who lived his earthly life to its fullest, reminds us that the Christian hope casts our eyes upon an eternal life that begins in this age, spans the chasm of death and ushers us into the heavenly presence of God forever. The resurrection of Christ is the bridge over the chasm of death. It is our path from this life to the next. Christians sing, “Jesus lives and so shall I; death thy sting is gone forever!” If Christ has not been raised from the dead then this earthly life is all that there is for us. Upon death we would cease to exist. While many world religions believe this to be the truth, this is not part of the Christian worldview informed by the Gospel of the resurrection. To be a Christian is to have the certain hope of life beyond the grave. This is the fact of the resurrection of Christ: “Death is but our entrance into glory.” Amen.
“The Gospel of the Lord”
I Corinthians 15: 20-28
Resurrection Sunday is two weeks ahead and we anticipate it by studying I Corinthians 15. Prior to his conversion, Paul was Saul the Pharisee. As a Pharisee, Saul believed in miracle, including the miracle of resurrection. The other major school in Judaism belonged to the Sadducees, who denied the possibility of resurrection. Paul and Christianity, both with deep roots in the Old Covenant of Israel, retained this belief in resurrection. As a Pharisee Paul would have defended this belief against the Sadducees. Paul also lived in the enlightened Hellenistic world of the first century, rich in philosophy and reason. The Grecian worldview considered the human body to be the prison house of the soul. The bodily resurrection of Jesus seemed absurd to the Greek, who viewed the body to be vile and the soul to be spiritually pure. If God had raised his perfect Son from the dead, then he would have raised his soul, extracting it not only from this cursed world but also from its tainted body. But then, the resurrection as first century Christians were proclaiming it would be unnecessary. At the death of Jesus, God could have snatched up his soul abandoning the fleshly body to death and to the grave. On every front Paul discovered opposition to the resurrection of Jesus and so it did not surprise him that denials of resurrection arose in the young church at Corinth.
The Church has encountered in every century opposition to the resurrection of Christ. In the second century, Justin Martyr combated those in the church who asserted that Jesus did not rise from the dead body and soul, but instead rose as a heavenly spirit, an ethereal resurrection. In the third century Tertullian combated those in the church who excluded all flesh and blood from heaven. In this third century after Christ, Origen played to the popular views of the day claiming the risen Christ to be ethereal. In the fifth century Augustine was able to freely and convincingly confess the bodily resurrection of Christ incredible though it is!
Today, many in the Church, including those who hold office deny the bodily resurrection of Christ. Bishop Spong, has written, “Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.” On the fringes of the organized church, as a missionary to India, Leslie Newbigin, in his book, Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth, published in 1991, agreed with Paul against modern and postmodern sensibilities to view the resurrection as the central historical fact around which all other facts, and all other claims of truth, must be arranged. He wrote, “Indeed, the simple truth is that the resurrection cannot be accommodated in any way of understanding the world except one of which it is the starting point.” As a powerful and surprising announcement, the resurrection of Christ is the starting point of the resurrection of all who have died in the Lord. His resurrection is the break in the dam of death. Once the dam has been burst, the floodwaters of the saints gushes forth unstoppable – a flood of God’s grace, and love, his power over the final enemy death.
Paul describes the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the first event in a mass resurrection. The fact of the resurrection of Christ announces the resurrection of every child of God who has died. The fact of the resurrection is that “death is but our entrance into glory.” If you have difficulty believing in the resurrection of Christ, then you will find it all the more difficult to believe in the resurrection of every single child of God! “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of all who have fallen asleep.”
In (21-23) Paul explains why such a large number will be resurrected in Christ. The entire human race has fallen under the control of death. Our first father, Adam, made in the image of God, left to the freedom of his own will, sinned against God and so received the due consequence of death. Not only did he and his wife, Eve, who sinned alongside of him, fall into death, but all of their progeny came under the power of death. Try to calculate the total human population of all epochs of history, from Adam to the present. This is indeed a great number. How many members of the human race have been united to Christ by faith? From Adam and Eve, the first recipients of God’s grace, until the present, this number of those united to Christ must be a great number indeed. For these children of God, the promise of resurrection shall release them from the control of death and land them eternally into the new creation.
Paul instructs us concerning the order, the space and time of this resurrection promise fulfilled. Christ is the firstfruits, meaning that he is the first to be raised from the dead. The bodies of the children of God who have lived by faith prior to Christ’s resurrection remain in their graves until the final day of the Lord yet to come. The faithful ones who have lived and died after the resurrection of Christ, shall also rest secure in their graves until the final day of mass resurrection. Those of us who are presently living, shall undoubtedly die in the future and our bodies shall remain in our graves until the final day of the Lord yet to come. All of our bodies shall be raised to new and eternal life on the final day of the Lord. We shall be the great resurrection harvest of the Lord who has raised his Son, Jesus Christ, the first of many, from the dead.
Since the dawn of time until the present day, miracle, has been the exception, the rare display of God. Usually and daily, God operates and delivers his guidance, protection, and provision through the natural means of his ordered universe, all according to scientific law he has established. In such an ordered world, the resurrection of Christ is difficult for many to believe. But on the final day of the Lord yet to come, the mass resurrection of a countless number, will replace the natural order with miracle on such a massive scale that this earthly realm will be shaken to its core and set afire, giving way to God’s new heavens and earth where miracle will be as commonplace as the blessed face of our risen Lord Jesus.
Finally, Paul describes the supreme authority of the risen Lord Jesus over all worldly powers and authorities. This is truly the Gospel of the Lord. On the final day of this world as we know it, Jesus Christ, the risen Lord will deliver to God the Father the kingdom. In his preaching ministry Jesus announced the coming of the kingdom of God to earth. From his death until his return upon the final day, Christ is the active authority rolling back the kingdom of darkness and promoting the kingdom of heaven on earth. At his death Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” By this Jesus identified the kingdom of heaven as a spiritual enterprise under his control. This kingdom is distinct from the nations and empires of Humanity. It knows no boundaries and begins in the hearts of individuals who then work to establish its divine rule and fruitfulness in every sphere of this world. When Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” he did not mean that his kingdom would not operate in this world. Rather, he viewed it as a heavenly force and enterprise that would invade this present world, infiltrating all systems, organizations and establishments constraining in the end all powers, authorities, every living being to submit to his supreme authority.
This is the Gospel of the Lord. In these last days, Christ liberates a growing number of us from the oppressive and destructive forces of darkness. He frees us not only by cleansing us from all sin and making us strong to withstand temptation and to do good deeds, but he also frees us by destroying his and our enemies. In (24) the risen Lord Jesus destroys “every rule and every authority and power.” As the kingdom comes in my life, all competing and rogue rulers are destroyed and only Christ remains as the supreme authority. The same is true for a group of people, a community, and a nation. The kingdom of God is established as Christ, the risen Lord destroys all competing powers and authorities freeing an entire nation to submit to his rule.
In his death upon the cross Jesus fulfilled the ancient prophecy made to our mother, Eve: He crushed the head of the serpent, destroying the first arch-enemy of God and his people. In his resurrection, Jesus conquered death so that death can no longer claim any of us for an eternity. At the command of Christ, the grave must give up her dead releasing them to the pure freedom of resurrection life. “Death is but our entrance into glory!” As the ascended King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ now advances the kingdom of heaven toward the final day when death shall no longer have any power. Presently, death still sends us to our graves, but on the final day, this temporary power will also be stripped away from death.
In (27-28) Paul teaches us that God the Father has conferred this supreme authority upon his risen Son. The purpose of this supreme authority is to bring the entire world in subjection to God. Christ, the supreme authority who will free the entire creation from the curse of sin and death, is one who is also under authority. When he has completed his final work of redeeming the creation, Christ will continue in his subjection to his heavenly Father. This relationship of authority and subjection does not do violence to the equality enjoyed among the Persons of the Godhead. Rather, it defines the relationship of the Father to the Son. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in power and glory and yet the Son is the Son by virtue of his subjection to the Father. The Father is the Father by virtue of his Son subjecting himself to his authority. God the Father has never ever subjected himself to the Son, who equally shares with him power and glory. This equality with distinction of roles is at the heart of Trinitarian theology and it becomes the starting point for all created order and relationships.
The execution of divine authority and the subjection to it both serve the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel of the Lord, “so that God may be all in all.” This means that in every relationship, in every institution, in every epoch, and in every sphere of life, God is clearly displayed as God alone. Jesus rose from the dead not to display the glory of humanity, but to proclaim the glory of God who has redeemed humanity. The risen Lord assures our resurrection, not so that humanity might be showcased as the new pantheon of the eternal age, but for the purpose of providing for God in heaven an eternal choir of praise and thanksgiving singing, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive honor, and glory, riches and power!” The risen Lord Jesus wields supreme authority in these last days not as the Superman but as the God-Man. God our Savior has successfully transformed us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible the only wise God, be honor and glory forever, and ever. Amen.”
“The Resurrection Gives Purpose to Life”
I Corinthians 15: 29-34
In Chapter 15 of his letter, Paul is refuting the denial of the resurrection held by some of the members of the Church at Corinth. These members were persuaded by the rational systems and philosophies of their day and thus found it difficult to reconcile divine miracle with natural order and process. Paul’s sole purpose in this chapter is to present the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the starting point in our understanding of this world: God operates his created world according to his natural, scientific law and from time to time he works miracle to display his glory and to accomplish his redemptive purposes. Paul insists that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the break in the dam of death, causing the whole to burst open, the floodwaters nothing less than the mass resurrection of all of us who have been united to Christ in his death and resurrection.
In the paragraph before us, Paul serves his main purpose and argument by communicating that there is a significant difference in the worldview of the person who disbelieves resurrection and the person who embraces the resurrection. Our personal opinions and convictions on this issue of the divine miracle of resurrection are critical to our entire view of God and life. Of this issue none of us can say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something.” We cannot say concerning the resurrection, “There are a number of legitimate views you may hold,” or “There is insufficient revelation concerning the resurrection and so we must be silent where scripture is silent.” If you do not believe in the resurrection then your worldview cannot consistently include any idea or hope of life after death. If you believe in resurrection then you can consistently hold to the idea and hope of the afterlife.
Paul does not write for people who do not wish to think. When I say that Paul clearly puts forth his main purposes and points, I do not mean that he usually writes in a simple style or that his concepts are presented as a primer for beginning students. If we wish to benefit from Paul’s writing then we must think. We must be willing to ponder, to wrestle, to discuss, to make mistakes, to tenaciously pursue the truth he powerfully presents yet at many turns in a complicated manner. I make these comments today as Paul drops a bomb in (29). Like a good debater, Paul has his main argument in mind and he has written proofs for his argument on 3×5 cards. Not all of his proofs are simply and apparently helpful. Some of them for us readers separated from the immediate context are difficult to unravel. (29) is one illustrative proof Paul presents for his main argument and it is one that has caused no small amount of befuddlement in the Church at large.
As Gordon Fee has written, there are at least 40 possible explanations for Paul’s (29): “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?” Allow me to tell you up front what I believe Paul is saying before I assure you that Gordon Fee is correct in reminding us that this is a most difficult verse to nail down with absolute certainty. Paul, arguing for the centrality and primacy of the resurrection, shows the inconsistency of the worldview held by those church members at Corinth who denied the resurrection. In their supposed rational system, which rendered miracle absurd, they nonetheless engaged in certain rituals inconsistent with the system. This particular 3×5 debate card is not an argument from scripture but from the present and inconsistent practice of the primary audience. The bottom line of Paul’s proof card is this: “You can’t have it both ways. If you are going to continue this baptism ritual, then you must stop denying resurrection.
Paul in no way endorses being baptized on behalf of the dead. He does not mention it in any way to lead us to believe that this is a ritual commanded by God. Instead, I believe that Paul is trying to show the inconsistency of those who view resurrection as absurd yet are willing to be baptized on behalf of the dead. If there is no resurrection, then there is no afterlife and so why on earth would we baptize ourselves on behalf of the dead? I am happy to say that Chrysostom and Ambrose agree with me – or is it that I agree with them? John Calvin, one of the greatest exegetes of the Bible of all time (regardless of what you think of his views, his brilliance in undeniable) disagrees with these Church fathers, whom he holds in high regard. I encourage you to read Calvin’s commentary at this point so that you can see how one of the most brilliant exegetes of all time gets it wrong every once in a while. (Let us remember what Gordon Fee said before we start calling other positions wrong – there may be at least 40 possibilities in the sound interpretation of this verse.) What I have learned from Calvin at this point in his commentary is what steps he takes in trying to solve a complicated bit of scripture. To get into his mind, to discover how it is he thinks, or for that matter how anyone thinks, is fascinating and edifying. But I must say that I cannot swallow his conclusion, namely that there was some legitimate practice to which Paul referred. Calvin grants that this practice became abused as the church continued to practice it. He writes that the “dead” may be those “who are looked upon as already dead, and who have altogether despaired of life.” In light of the main argument for resurrection as the raising of a corpse to new life, Calvin’s thought seems implausible.
The esteemed Scottish Reverend Dr. Thomas Dick, (1774-1857) suggests that baptism on behalf of the dead refers to our regular practice of baptism as “earnest of good things to come,” and the “type of the future resurrection.” Our regular practice of baptism presents sign and seal of the reality of the resurrection of the final day. I do not disagree with his connection of sign to reality but this hardly seems to fit what Paul has written in (29). Most of us today read (29) and think of the practice of our Mormon neighbors, who trace their family trees to discover every ancestor who was not baptized into the Church of the Latter Day Saints. They are then baptized on behalf of their dead family members assuring their improved position in the afterlife. Such thought and practice goes against the Gospel Paul has clearly preached. And so, I stick to the apologetic answer viewing Paul’s engaging of his reader’s erroneous worldview, showing to them their inconsistency between belief and practice.
This fits nicely with (30-32) in which Paul hints to the Gospel. It is God’s work alone that ushers us from this life into the life to come. He asks the question, “Why are we in danger every hour?” The answer for the Christian is “We are not in danger every hour but instead we are kept safe in Christ.” The Christian belief in the resurrection destroys our fears of death sneaking up and ending our lives. This practice of baptizing on behalf of the dead is founded upon fears of death separating us and our loved ones from God and the life to come. Paul makes us think once again by complicating his language saying, “I die every day!” Once again he makes us think about the Gospel. Daily we die to self and live unto Christ.” We are able to do so as Christians who have been “crucified with Christ and also raised with him to new life.” As Paul wrote to the Church at Galatia, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.” Therefore, why should we fear death? If we believe in the resurrection, then we welcome death to self and new life unto righteousness. “Death is but our entrance into glory!” Paul offers one additional and pithy hint to the Gospel: “What do I gain, if humanly speaking, I fought with the beasts at Ephesus?” The answer is “I would gain nothing!” As Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain!” Our union with Christ is all that matters in our passage from this life to the afterlife. In this present life we belong to Christ. In death we belong to Christ. In the life to come we belong to Christ. “Death is but our entrance into glory!”
In the second part of (32) Paul insists that the resurrection changes our entire idea about the meaning and purpose of life. Without the resurrection, hedonism makes sense. But to deny the resurrection is deception. What is the source of this deception? (33) “Bad company ruins good morals.” Paul quotes not from the Holy Scriptures, but once again from the worldview these Corinthians have adopted from their enlightened world. The Hellenistic world was not only rational but it was also moral to the degree that proverbs and adages for right behavior were commonly known. Paul quotes one of these non-Christian morals. It is a very good one: “Bad company ruins good morals.” This is a direct quote from the poet Menander, a celebrated comic poet of Athens. His writings were replete with elegance, refined wit, and judicious observations. Of one hundred and eight comedies, which he wrote, nothing remains but a few fragments. He is said to have drowned himself’ in the fifty-second year of his age, B. C. 293, because the compositions of his rival Philemon obtained more applause than his own.” I am always humored when someone says to me, “Just like the Good Book says,” and then they quote a moral platitude of a pagan. “Just like the Good Book says, ‘God helps those who helps themselves.” Paul expertly quotes Menander, whom the Corinthians had latched onto as brilliant, insightful and moral, and yet without hope of the resurrection. The meaning and purpose of his life were skewed and greatly discounted by his myopic lust for popularity dashed to pieces by a better poet. Nevertheless, thanks to Common Grace, Menander got one thing right: “Bad company ruins good morals.” We rub off on each other. It is commanded of us by God to spend time with non-Christians and to present our Christian worldview in friendly apologetics, giving an answer for the hope we possess when anyone inquires. But Paul is addressing a slightly different concern: Who informs our worldview? Who reinforces for us the Gospel of the resurrection? At whose wells are we sipping?
Where do we go to recharge our faith and to re-fuel our apologetic engines? The Church at Corinth included some who had fallen into a stupor and thus had diminished in their knowledge of God. To know God is to know the powerful reality of resurrection. To be a Christian is to believe that Christ has risen from the dead and that all of us who are in Christ shall also be raised to eternal life.
“The Man of Dust and the Man of Heaven”
I Corinthians 15: 35-49
From the dawn of time a man of dust lies in his grave. He is the father of our race. “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” But at the culmination of his creative acts, God formed our first father, Adam, from the “dust of the ground and he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” This man of dust bearing the image of God, by the freedom of his own will, sinned against God and thus fell into death. From the beginning death has been part of the human experience. All of us who are members of the human race, children of the man of dust, return to the dust.
Two weeks ago some of us gathered at Finley Sunset Hills Memorial Park to memorialize our mother in the faith, Harriet Beers, who slipped into death at the age of 93. At her graveside I had the privilege of speaking the beautiful words of the Book of Common Prayer, “Forasmuch as Almighty God hath taken unto Himself the soul of our sister, we therefore commit her body to the grave, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust….” From the knoll of her grave beside her husband, the Judge Beers, I was able to look across to the tree nearby the grave of Luella, Pam Golden-Collum’s mother, at whose service I had spoken the same words, “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” I turned in the opposite direction to see the place where Evergreen member, Michele McGuire is buried, her body returned to the earth from whence it came, a member of the human race, a daughter of the man of dust.
Death, a common human experience, has brought death to the entire creation. Under the common curse, death is part of the natural order. Therefore, resurrection is difficult for us to understand and to accept. The members of the Church at Corinth were struggling to embrace the resurrection. Out of curiosity and disbelieve they were asking questions we still ask today: “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” John Calvin wrote, “There is nothing that is more at variance with human reason than this article of faith. For who but God alone could persuade us that bodies, which are now liable to corruption, after having rotted away, or after they have been consumed by fire, or torn in pieces by wild beasts, will not merely be restored entire, but in a greatly better condition. Do not all our apprehensions of things straightway reject this as a thing fabulous, nay, most absurd?” Paul shows his frustration with the church at Corinth and initially responds to the unbelief of any of them by saying, “You foolish person!” He then offers some help toward a belief in the resurrection. Paul lends three illustrations that are scientific in perspective to help us to understand the miracle of resurrection.
The first illustration is given in (36-38) to make the point that in our present natural order, life springs from death. “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.” A seed planted rots in the soil and the sprout breaks open. It develops into a plant bearing a whole ear of corn, many seeds, or a whole head of wheat, many kernels, juicy, life-giving jewels. Life springs from death!
This argument from natural order is not merely offered from the Christian perspective. Olivia Judson, an evolutionary biologist, reporter for The Economist, published in The Atlantic, and Natural History, is a research fellow in biology at Imperial College London. She has written on her blog, “Yesterday, I discussed how natural selection can sometimes drive populations extinct. Today, I want to present a series of nine short meditations on the evolution of death. As you read these, you might reflect on two questions: Why do we grow old and die? And what is the role that death plays in evolution? Meditation One: Death Sustains Life. We tend to think of death as the end of life — and indeed, for every individual, it is. But it is also essential for life. Without death, there would be no evolution (or at least, it would have to proceed rather differently from the way it does today). More important still, without death, there would be little life.” And so, Paul has chosen an illustration that seems to be helpful to a wide variety of perspectives, helping a good number of us to understand the resurrection in the realm of the man of dust. Paul’s point is thus well-accepted: life springs from death.
Paul’s final two illustrations in (39-41) work together to make the one point that there is another man besides the man of dust. The other man is the Man of Heaven and his glory is brighter than the glory of the man of dust. Paul writes in (39) “For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.” Paul is more scientifically accurate here than some give him credit. At first glance we would say, “Actually all flesh is essentially the same.” From my Mexican friends I have learned to say, “Carne es Carne,” “Meat is meat.” If we were to place samples of muscle tissue underneath the microscope, we could learn to recognize muscle tissue as muscle tissue, but we could also learn to recognize the difference between human muscle tissue, rat muscle tissue and frog muscle tissue. Paul is not commenting on this micro-level. Instead, he is simply and scientifically referring to the observable differences in form between a human being, other mammals, birds, and fish. However, there is one human being who has lived among us, who is radically different. The Man of Heaven is different than the man of dust.
Paul’s second illustration from science lifts our attention into space. The glory of the sun is the light energy that it produces. The sun is the source of its light energy while the moon is not the source of its light energy. The moon reflects the light of the sun. Thus the glory of the sun is different than the glory of the moon.
The glory of the Man of Heaven has its source in the Man of Heaven. The glory of the man of dust is reflective, waxing and waning. Paul says that the stars have a different glory still and we quickly jump to correct Paul saying, “But the sun is a star and so how can its glory be different than other stars who are the sources of their own glory?” But we must read Paul’s complete thought including his final sentence, “for star differs from star in glory.” With our feet on the ground, looking upward on a starry night, the closer stars appear greater in light energy than those further away from earth. This is a sound scientific observation. While Paul is not concerned with measuring the distances of the stars at this point, he is interested in illustrating that some stars display more glory than others from our vantage point. He uses this illustration to communicate that the Man of Heaven appears with a greater glory than the man of dust.
Finally, Paul preaches the gospel out of these illustrations. In (42-49) he announces that we are not only related to the man of dust but we are also related to the Man of Heaven! This is the gospel of the resurrection. Paul writes, “What is sown is perishable.” Just like the seed buried in the ground, so we who are children of the man of dust experience death. “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.” Just like the sprout with potential to bear fruit, so we who are related to the Man of Heaven shall be resurrected to new and eternal life. Paul says, “It is sown in weakness,” describing our union to the man of dust. “It is raised in power,” refers to our union to the Man of Heaven. “It is sown a natural body,” describes the fallen, corrupt body of the man of dust and all of his children. “It is raised a spiritual body,” describes a true, fleshy body that is renewed, a result of the glorious resurrection of the Man of Heaven. The order of our relations is important. We are first related to the man of dust and thus share his experience of death first. We are secondly related to the Man of Heaven and thus in due time experience his new life. “The first man was from earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.” We are related to both of them!
The gospel of the resurrection is that the Man of Heaven is not some ethereal being that hovers just beyond our natural world. Rather, the Man of Heaven, is a true Man who has a body of dust just like we do except for one important difference. The body of dust of the Man of Heaven is free from sin. Nevertheless, his body was not free from the corruption of death. Indeed the Man of Heaven was nailed to the Roman Cross and there his actual lungs collapsed and his real blood was spilled for our salvation. The Man of Heaven experienced death, his body committed to the grave. “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Early Sunday morning God raised the Man of Heaven from the dead unto new life. The promise of the gospel of the resurrection is that all of us who are related to the Man of Heaven shall also be raised to new life on the final day. All of us who are related to the man of dust shall die, our bodies returning to the dust from which they were created. But on the final day, our bodies shall be raised to new life, and they shall be reunited to our souls that have immediately upon death passed into God’s loving presence, and we shall enjoy new and eternal life, body and soul, glorious creatures made in the image of the Man of Heaven.
Without the gospel of the resurrection, the Madi Gras poem makes sense: “Ashes to ashes/ Dust to dust/ Life is short/ So party we must.” This is precisely what Paul has written in (32) of this argument: “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” If there is no resurrection then hedonism makes sense. But if there is a resurrection and we are in fact, not only related to the man of dust but also to the Man of Heaven, then a life of moral purity and holy rest in the heavenly realms makes sense.
At the gravesides of Harriet, Luella, and Michelle, I was able to speak more than “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” I was able to continue the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer: “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; looking for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our mortal body, that it may be made like unto his own glorious body; according to the mighty working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself.” This liturgy also includes the words of Jesus spoken to his dear friend Martha and to all of us who share the faith of Harriet, Luella and Michelle: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”
“We Shall All Be Changed!”
I Corinthians 15: 50-58
In (35) Paul writes two questions: ““How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” In (50-53) he answers the second question for us: What will our resurrected bodies be like? The answer is one of continuity and discontinuity; of similarities and differences. The whole of scripture including the whole of Paul’s teaching clearly presents Jesus Christ risen and ascended body and soul, a whole person, a human being in heaven. The biblical teaching also clearly presents us united to Christ, body and soul for all eternity in heaven. The risen Lord Jesus appeared to his disciples and to more than 500 people as a whole human being, body and soul. His resurrected body had the wounds of the cross and spear. He ate fish on the shore of the lake. He had a true human body. Yet it was a body different than his pre-resurrection body. He was able to pass through a wall and immediately appear before his disciples, then disappear.
Consider Paul’s answer to the question, “What will our resurrected bodies be like?” Firstly, in (50) he tells us that our resurrected bodies will not be identical to our mortal bodies of this present age. “Flesh and blood,” describes our present bodies subject to the disease and decay of the common curse. We are mortals in need of radical transformation between this world and the world to come. Yet more profoundly Paul is saying that we are not assured a place in heaven by virtue of being human. Rather, we shall inherit the kingdom of God as we are spiritually transformed, no longer children of darkness, but children of light. All of us who are heirs of heaven have been radically changed in our bodies and souls. David Jackman reminds us of Paul’s teaching to the Church at Rome: God’s redemption of his entire creation includes the transformation of us body and soul. No mere human being graduates to heaven. Only human beings who have experienced the life changing work of the Spirit of Christ graduate to heaven. God has given to each of us members of the human race “souls that will never die,” just as the catechism echoes the Holy Scriptures for our children. At our resurrection on the final day, God shall change our mortal bodies to immortal bodies, so that our bodies will match our souls that will never die.
Secondly in (51-52) Paul tells us that our resurrected bodies will be completely free of death. Those of us who are living at the dawn of the final day will escape death altogether! “We shall not all sleep.” Some of us will immediately pass from this world to the world to come without our hearts stopping and without our brain waves going flat! At the resurrection, we shall be completely free of death! If we are among the majority group who have tasted death, on the final day, we shall be resurrected to eternal life and thus be completely free of death. This resurrection of our bodies will happen instantly, in the time it takes to blink. It will happen immediately upon the final trumpet blast. The resurrection of the final day spells the instant death of Death. On that day, we shall be completely free of death.
Thirdly, in (53-54) with the emphasis upon the radical change between our mortal bodies and our resurrected, immortal bodies, Paul tells us that we shall, nonetheless, possess our present bodies upon our resurrection and for eternity. He writes, “the perishable body shall put on the imperishable body,” speaking of our bodies. It is not that Paul thinks of the soul as imperishable and the body as perishable. Paul teaches the same as David and Christ: Upon death, our imperishable souls immediately rise to God in heaven while our perishable bodies rest in their graves until the final day. But on the final day, which Paul now addresses in our text, God shall add an imperishable feature to our perishable bodies raised from their graves. “The perishable body shall put on the imperishable body, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” It is not as if God will add to us extra appendages or some missing vital organ that will allow us to live forever. He will not infuse us with some new chemical called “eternitas,” or fine-tune our nervous systems so that we can live forever. Instead, God shall immediately end the influence of the common curse whose ultimate threat is Death and thus, immortality shall replace the mortality of our bodies. These perishable bodies shall miraculously and instantly be made suitable to live for an eternity.
Paul’s writing smoothly flows from answering the question, “What will our resurrected bodies be like?” to describing our response to our resurrection. What is the Church’s response to the resurrection? Firstly, we agree with Hosea, a prophet of the Old Covenant, adding his words to our praise in corporate worship. We sing, declaring the destruction of Death as the victorious work of God. Hosea describes Death and the grave as the destructive forces used to punish God’s disobedient children. But then this prophet of divine grace promises that God is stronger than these destructive forces ready at his appointed time to rescue his disobedient children from the clutches of death and the grave. Paul borrows the poetry of Hosea to create a hymn for the church, a new song based upon ancient words to assure the continuity of praise to the glory of the resurrected Lord.
The primary and enduring response of the Church is exuberant praise. At the center of our corporate worship is God’s victory over Death through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul has the Gospel ever on his mind and our living according to it is the end goal of all his teaching and so he explains in more detail this personified enemy Death. “The sting of death is sin.” Death in not only the consequence of our sin, but also, sin is the poison of death killing us! Death uses our own sin to destroy our very own lives! Christ’s victory over Death is thus his victory over sin. The result is our freedom from sin right now! Now our praise-filled response in worship is all the greater than before. Our worship is an anticipation of the redemption of the final day, but it is also a response to the redemption of this present day. We are free today in Christ Jesus, our Redeemer. Are you truly interested beyond curiosity to know what our resurrection bodies will be like? Stop sinning today! Living today free of sin is a preview of what it will be like to live in our resurrected bodies. Today we cannot preview the walking through walls, the transporting of our bodies immediately from one location to another as if we were members of the Starship Enterprise beaming up. But we can by the grace and strength of Christ’s Spirit know in a small and imperfect way today what it means to be free from all that entangles us in this world.
Paul continues to briefly describe this enemy Death, to enhance our praise of God who has conquered Death once for all. He writes, “The power of sin is the law.” Just as his first description, “The sting of death is sin,” points us to the Gospel of freedom, so this second sentence directs us to the Gospel of freedom. The law, with its many demands unto perfection and its many statements of God’s just punishment of sin, drives us, forces us to embrace Christ Jesus, the fulfillment of the law. The law brings death to us by condemning us. But Jesus has destroyed its power over us by perfectly obeying it on our behalf. As we realize this about Death, our praise of Christ increases and thus our worship heightens and endures. For who could ever exhaust the praise of the One who has saved us from eternal destruction? This is what keeps us from trite expressions in our worship – from trite music, trite words, trite postures, and trite venues. Why would we purposely use trite expressions to praise the Risen Lord Jesus Christ who has conquered Death so that we might rise on the final day to enjoy eternity with Almighty God?
Our second response is to faithfully continue the work of Christ in this present world. How easily we could become excited about our new resurrection bodies to the point that we would cease doing anything good in this present age, completely taken up with dreaming about walking through walls and beaming up from one planet to another. Paul says that our response to the sure promise of our resurrection bodies is to use our perishable, mortal bodies today to do the work of Christ. N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, writes about the connection between the resurrection of Jesus and the work of Jesus in this present world:
“The message of the resurrection is that this world matters! That the injustices and the pains of this present world must now be addressed with the news that healing, justice, and love have won…. If Easter means Jesus Christ is only raised in a spiritual sense – then it is only about me, and finding a new dimension in my personal spiritual life. But if Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead, Christianity becomes good news for the whole world – news which warms our hearts precisely because it isn’t just about warming hearts. Easter means that in a world where injustices, violence and degradation are endemic, God is not prepared to tolerate such things – and that we will work and plan, with all the energy of God, to implement the victory of Jesus over them all.”
The work we do in the name of Christ is not in vain. When we build a home as square and plumb as possible, we are displaying a bit of heaven here on earth. When we teach a child to read a few more rays of glory is revealed. When we sell goods and turn a profit, using money toward productive and wholesome ends, we are displaying the providential care of God. When we feed the hungry, we do the same. When we rescue the addict we do it all the more. When we reconcile parent to child, we taste the sweetness of heaven. When we cover the sins of our brother and sister, we offer them a foretaste of heaven. When we turn a brother from the error of his way, we share the love of heaven. When we undertake spiritual disciplines we enter into the business of heaven. When we explain to a person how it is that he/she might live in the love of God, we open the gates so that heaven might flood earth. When we enjoy the fellowship of the saints we bask for a moment in the life to come. When we speak the words of God to the encouragement of another person, we share Christ risen from the dead. When we associate with the lowly and share our food with the sinners, we do the work of Christ in this world. Paul told the Church at Galatia, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Paul told the Church at Thessalonica, “Do not grow weary of doing good.” Paul told the Church at Colossa, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Paul told the Church at Corinth, “abound in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.”