Text for the Week: Hope Brings Changes

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:12-34

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,
    for tomorrow we die.”

33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.

Theme- Love always hopes

Questions

  1. How is Resurrection different from other ideas about life after death? Why is it so important to Paul that the Christian idea of Resurrection is true?
  2. What hope is there in Jesus in this life and why would Paul bring it up (v19)?
  3. What is baptism for the dead and how does it relate to our hope in Jesus (v29)?
  4. Is “Let us eat, drink…” in verse 29 as fatalistic as it sounds?

Helpful Information

Hope can be defined as either a desire, wish or as a reality of the future.

Resurrection is not simply a belief in an afterlife but a transformation of this world into the creation God intended in Genesis 1 & 2.

Reflection

               Hope can be a very difficult word in the English language because at one level “hope” can be defined as a “wish” or “desire”. A child might say “I hope there will be horse rides at the party”, why because a horse ride sounds fun and parties are places where fun things can happen. But it does not seem right for Paul to write to the Corinthians about our “hope” in Jesus’ resurrection if all he means is a pipe dream. No Paul writes of hope as a concrete reality; his belief in the future resurrection of all those who believe in Jesus is not a pipe dream, Paul sees this as an established future. For us in modern America we think to ourselves “of course Paul, after all what’s the point of all this if we don’t live for eternity?” But that misses the point of this passage and the reality of Paul’s hope. In our modern world we are confronted with two mindsets for the reality of death, one believes in an afterlife and one does not; but for many in Paul’s time an afterlife was simply assumed. Paul is not telling the Corinthians that what separates them from pagans is a belief in an afterlife, what separates them is what the afterlife means. Paul is anticipating a new heaven and earth, a physical world similar to this one which we inhabit bodily. This is a world remade, where sin has been removed, and creation can become what God initially intended. What Paul doesn’t expect is some non-physical dreamland, much like the modern depictions of heaven. Paul is not saying that Christians believe in heaven and no one else does, he is saying that Christians hold to a very specific view of the future and that view is our hope.

               What is even more important for Paul is that this hope is grounded, his belief about a future where we are raised from the dead and given new bodies is grounded in the fact that this happened to Jesus. Paul recognizes that Jesus’ resurrection is a historical fact and that historical fact points to God’s desire to give life. Because we know God desires to give life to the world and has done so in the person of Jesus, we can trust that God will continue to live out this character and raise us. What Paul is exercising in 1 Corinthians 15 is the same kind of hope that the prophet has in Jeremiah 32. In that passage everything looks bleak for the prophet who is imprisoned as his nation is about to be conquered. And yet God tells the prophet to buy a field because God will ensure that the field is eventually Jeremiah’s, buy the field because Judah will be restored. Jeremiah listens and buys the field, because he knows God’s character and that God has a history of rescuing Israel from danger.

               Hope for Jeremiah and for Paul is not merely a desired outcome or a possible outcome of events, hope is the ability to trust in the promise of someone who has proved faithful in the past. For each of them hope is the ability to look into the past and see God at work, then to hear God’s plans for the future and to trust that the same God who worked in the past will ultimately bring about the promised future. The ability to hope is directly tied to the ability to trust, the more we can trust a person the more we can place hope in their plan for the future. Jeremiah trusted God had rescued Israel from Egypt and so understood God would deliver Israel from captivity and make his deed to the land valid. Paul trusted that God raised Jesus from the dead and so will raise us at some point in the future. Yet in both cases the immediate circumstances make hope difficult. It can be difficult to trust someone so much that you give your all to their idea of the future. This can be especially true with our relationship with God, it can be very tempting to hedge our bets the way the Corinthians were.

               Paul reminds us that to love someone is to actively have hope for and in them. Last week I considered what it means that love always trusts, this week we are meditating on trust in action. To hope in someone is to place trust in them and acting out that trust. Loving God is living a life in the anticipation of a bodily resurrection in Jesus; anticipating that day as the concrete reality our lives are moving toward. The hope of Jesus is more than a pipe-dream, it id the fruition of God’s eternal promises.

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