Do you remember making up for things when you were a kid? Once my sister snitched a piece of my Trick or Treat candy, and my parents had her make up for it by buying me a bigger candy bar.
I mention this matter because last Monday I only covered one verse in our study of 1 Corinthians 15. Today I will make it up to you by taking you through the remaining five verses of the passage. Are you ready? Okay, then fasten your seatbelts and we’ll begin by reading the entire six verses:
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? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. ~~1 Corinthians 15:29-34 (ESV)
Last week we saw that, despite false teaching that denied the general resurrection, people lived as if something really did happen after death. The baptism for the dead, whatever that was, evidenced faith in resurrection. As we progress to verse 30, we see that the doctrine of resurrection radically impacted the apostles.
In asking “Why are we in danger…?” Paul refers specifically to himself and the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9, 1 Corinthians 4:9), who constantly risked their lives proclaiming a Gospel hated by Jews and Gentiles alike. In a human sense, the apostles effectively invited persecution by insisting that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Paul therefore asks why he and the other apostles would deliberately place themselves in constant danger for something that they knew to be untrue. Indeed, 1 Peter 1:3-4 answers this question; Paul’s hope lay in the eternal life promised in the resurrection.
Paul continues this vein of thought in verse 31 by focusing on his own sacrifices. The phrase “I protest” indicates a solemn affirmation, almost like swearing an oath in a court of law. Paul wants the Corinthian Christians to understand that he isn’t speaking flippantly by saying he dies daily. Moreover, he makes this pseudo oath based on his pride in their spiritual development.
Obviously Paul didn’t physically die every day, but he certainly did live with the constant threat of death (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 and 2 Corinthians 1:8-9). He willingly faced persecution and death both because he preached the resurrection and because he anticipated experiencing it personally.
Verse 32 opens with a puzzling statement about fighting wild beasts, which (if literal) Luke never recorded in Acts. The reference to beasts in Ephesus is almost assuredly metaphoric, possibly borrowed from an Ephesian poet named Heraclitus. Four hundred years prior to Paul’s writing of 1 Corinthians, Heraclitus called his fellow Ephesians “wild beasts.” Certainly the riot against Paul and his companions in Ephesus bears that out, as shown in Acts 19:29-34.
Paul could have avoided the conflict, and indeed enjoyed the self-indulgent lifestyle of Ephesus, had it not been for his firm belief in Christ’s resurrection and the consequent resurrection of believers. If we cease to exist after death, he reasons, why shouldn’t we “party like there’s no tomorrow?” It’s precisely because of the resurrection that Paul willingly subjected himself to suffering and persecution.
Finally, Paul gets to the heart of the matter in verse 33 with a warning against being influenced by those who didn’t believe the resurrection is literal. Early Gnostics made distinctions between soul (or spirit) and body, insisting that any resurrection that occurs is merely spiritual. That being the case, indulging fleshly lusts had no moral implications.
Paul warns the Corinthians that too much exposure to this line of thinking risked their moral purity. He quotes a popular saying to underscore his point. Believers Bible Commentary states that “it is impossible to associate with evil people or evil teachings without being corrupted by them. Evil doctrine inevitably has an effect on one’s life. False teachings do not lead to holiness.” 2 Timothy 2:16-18 provides a specific example of this corruption playing out in Ephesus.
He concludes this passage with some sobering remarks in verse 34. This verse gives the practical application of everything Paul has written up to this point. He entreats the Corinthians to wake up from the false teaching that denies bodily resurrection, calling their acceptance of it a drunken stupor. He wants them to awaken to righteousness. He said something similar to the Christians in Rome (Romans 13:11).
Because their bodies will rise to eternal life, he commands them to stop sinning. Again, this present life isn’t all there is. Thus, the denial of resurrection would naturally result in sinful living.
Paul ends this verse by shaming them for not administering correct teaching to everyone. The very fact that some of them (much like the Sadducees Jesus rebuked in Matthew 22:29) habitually ignored clear teaching on the resurrection exhibited their lack of knowledge.
I pray that these eleven Bible Studies on the doctrine of resurrection have increased your knowledge and strengthened your love for the Lord. I’ve definitely learned a lot! But as wonderful as this study has been, I need to take a couple months off before we study the remaining 24 verses. I’ve been using my personal Bible study time to prepare each lesson, and I really need to read other portions of Scripture.
When we resume this study (probably in October), we’ll learn about our resurrection bodies. Join me then.