May 15, 2005




I Corinthians15, esp. vv. 29-58


Sermon Notes


1.   The BACKGROUND I Cor. 15:1-28

2.   FILLING UP THE RANKS I Cor. 15:29

3.   LIVING LIKE IT I Cor. 15:30-34





1.     Paul first, in I Cor. 15:12-19, deals with those who say ‘I believe’ and being chained to culture, yet want to say there is no resurrection of the dead. If not, says Paul, he is an imposter, sin still rules, destruction awaits, the Gospel is bogus, so let us be clear. Christ has risen from the dead, what was buried (1-4) DID rise and was seen by apostle and crowd of the saints alike, even by Paul as one born out of due time, whose labours for Him have followed as day from night.


 Then comes I Cor. 15: 20-28. Man was the instrument of the entire horror of mortality, death and corruption, and man, albeit God AS man, is the instrument of the entire remission and restoration, and this ? by the resurrection of the dead in that here is the dynamic over death without which there is no real contact with God, hope or glory.


2.    Why otherwise, asks Paul, are people being baptised for the dead! (v. 29). This means that there is such a passion and a zeal for the powerful overcoming in the disciples of Christ, thrusting like an army into the darkness of this world with the light of the power of Christ, that seeing people die or become martyrs as they very often did, they fill up the vacant place in the ranks, volunteering to live for Christ so that there should be no lack. The point: to take their now vacant places, but the purpose, it was to impel a rising army, not be spectators of a declining group! This means passion now as then, and there is no way anyone can pretend to be Christian who merely observes and puts family, friends, job, future or past, race or clan above Christ. You are devoted disciple or none, and even smoking flax is to burst into flame. If ANYTHING conditions your love of Christ, whose is truth and purity, honesty and integrity, then Christ has TOLD you that you are no disciple of His (Luke 14:27ff.). Fall you may, but not into fiasco (Romans 6-8)!



3.    In fact, declares Paul, if there were no resurrection, why would I be in acute danger of my life continually! In fact, not only the risk, but the realities of his sufferings as he suffered false accusation, betrayal, beatings, these would be nonsense if the dead do not rise. It is perfectly hideous and useless to seek to conform to or have the pleasures of this world if Christ is in your heart; and as for association in deep and intimate terms with what are just evil persons, without Christ, remember: Evil company corrupts your life! (I Cor. 15:33). Put your life where your faith is! “Awake to righteousness and do not sin!” he proclaims, deeming it necessary since some of the gathering even at that point, simply did not know God! (I Corinthians 15:30-34).


4.    In I Cor. 15: 35-49, Paul deals with the nature of the resurrection, and the two Heads, one God, the other sin and its exponents.


What sort of body is to be mine ? one asks, at the resurrection. Is this not shown even in nature ? Paul exclaims. Seeds lose one format to gain another, dying into a life which they never knew before their germination. Bodies, stars and grain, all differ, and there is a glory or wonder attached to each according to its kind. As to OUR KIND, it is sown a ‘natural body’, the word here not meaning ‘physical’ but ‘carnal, fleshly or sin-stricken’, the sort fallen man possesses, liable to rotting, failing and fever of mind or heart, as well as being vulnerable in texture and working. It is however transformed when it ‘germinates’, that is, when it is resurrected, raised a ‘spiritual body’, a clothing put on (II Cor. 5:1-4) to replace the fallen and temporary vehicle of flesh with the eternal cover that never fails.


Here Paul proceeds to contrast Adam, the fleshly, the earthy with the Christ, the spiritual, ‘the Lord from heaven’. Adam is the first man and Christ the last; Adam the type of the fall, Christ of the resurrection. That is where it ends, to become the eternal beginning that is immortal. Dust is the first clothing (chemicals in it are the stuff for our bodies); but Christ is the criterion for the last clothing for us. As HE is so we are to be in body (I John 3). If we are first dust-covered, we are at last Christ-covered, and there lies our immortality as believers, participants in His resurrection. Through Him, we are entrants where flesh could not come (I Corinthians 15:49).


5. In fact, I Cor. 15:50-57 declares the ‘mystery’ or secret thing now revealed, that resurrection comes in two phases. When Christ returns amid the end of the Age scenario, the trumpet resounds, and the Christians already departed from our ranks arise first, to be followed by those still living when He comes (cf. I Thessalonians 4) – and that time is soon, its criteria being met as if a train were covering the last stations on the line (Matthew 24, Luke 21). The Jews are back, the nations are in turmoil, rage and murder mount internationally, fear and immorality flourish as if they were bread and butter, many churches formerly sound and strong, grind to dust, international horrors come like Autumn leaves dipped in tar and putridity: not clad in beauty, they now fall foul.


This corruptible flesh must put on, like new clothes, incorruption, a garment, cover or body which is not even related to death and pain; and so to this mortal body, ready to die, is granted immortality, so fulfilling the scripture,


“Death is swallowed up in victory!” (Isaiah 25:8, Ephesians 4:18). 


So too is applied the word of Hosea 13:14, where God Himself undertook to be the destruction of death by personally ransoming His children who believe.

"I will ransom them from the power of the grave;

I will redeem them from death.

O Death, I will be your plagues!

O Grave, I will be your destruction!

                           Pity is hidden from My eyes."


Thus has He removed for His own that shocking sting otherwise awaiting man at his earthly terminus, Himself the divine exit from the condemnation of hell, the dire and duly deserved prospect. By the resurrection of His condemned body He has acted, replacing ours and granting life beyond death, triumphant over it.


So was it to be from the word of the prophets, and so as always God has brought it to pass, now in the perfect life and power of Christ. And this, it is not for indulgence but duty in love. Sin it was which has betrayed us, and the law of God shows up just what sin is; but here is the deliverance, wrought by Christ, patterned in Him and provided for believing man, in very body, just as we in spirit are now thrust in His truth in life.



6.   Corrupted lives, where sin has bitten and patterned itself, thus become agents of steadfast,  immovable service in Christ, suffering, fearless, featuring and focussing their divine Master, knowing that their labours, however little valued by man, are of great value with God. Now are they directed to securing for those to be found among men, deliverance from the corruption and mortality which is man’s sin-ridden lot. Such is not in vain, but the very life of Christ at work.


Is THIS your passion, or self-indulgence, life-immersion in the earthy, the soul's own choice for its own fulfilment, glory or will ? Is it tittivation or activation, virtue or a world
of flesh, vanities and moralities that please yourself, as if you were god and God your vassal ?


Awake, says Paul, to righteousness!


Tepidity is horrific to God as you see in Revelation 3, a thing to be spat out. Let truth be your passion, love your dynamic and grace your garment, integrity a delight, not in poetical dream but practical action! Such is the charge to us all from this letter to Corinth, and wise the one who heeds.