According To Scripture: Study #5 On The Resurrection

He Is Risen

Taking a two-week break from our Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15 couldn’t have been avoided, but I hope my truancy hasn’t caused any of you ladies to lose interest. We’ve still got over 40 verses to work through, and today we can only make it through four. So, rather than prolong this introduction, let’s quote our new section and then discuss verses 12-15.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. ~~1 Corinthians 1:12-19 (ESV)

As you’ll recall from the studies we’ve done so far, Paul began his defense of the doctrine of resurrection by listing all the eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection. Now, in verse 12, he pivots his argument, drawing a connection between His resurrection (which the Corinthian believers affirmed) and the general resurrection of believers (which some of them denied).

In light of the eyewitnesses who proclaimed Christ’s resurrection, Paul in fact finds it strange that some of the Corinthians denied the whole possibility of general resurrection. Indeed, the initial preaching of the apostles centered on the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, as evidenced by Acts 4:2.

As Gentiles, however, the Corinthians depended on human reason, and therefore had trouble believing the concept of the dead being raised (Acts 17:32; Acts 26:8). Greek philosophies that paved the way for Gnosticism, which taught that matter was evil, separate from anything spiritual. For that reason , the idea of physical resurrection would have been repulsive to them.

As a consequence of the Greek philosophies, some Corinthian Christians openly denied that the dead would be resurrected. Though it’s possible that Jews from the Sadducee party may have influenced the Corinthians, I doubt this theory based on 1 Corinthians 1:19-2:8, in which the apostle rebukes their infatuation with human wisdom. Thus Paul began his refutation of their unbelief by appealing to the eyewitnesses, who established Christ’s resurrection as demonstrable fact (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)

Now, in verse 13, Paul moves his defense of the resurrection from the eyewitnesses evidence to the reasoning skills that so enamored the Corinthians in earnest. By reasoning that the impossibility of bodily resurrection leads to the conclusion that Christ couldn’t have been raised, Paul establishes the connection between Christ’s resurrection and general resurrection. He will demonstrate that connection more fully in verses 20-22 (also see John 14:19).

Observe Paul’s method of argumentation: If the dead in general could not be raised, how then did Jesus experience resurrection? Wasn’t His corpse buried and already rotting? Paul challenges the Corinthians to use the very reason that they prided themselves on having, convinced that it would lead them to acknowledge the general resurrection.

Paul intensifies his case in verse 14 by reminding them of the preaching they received from him as an apostle of Christ. The apostles appealed to Christ’s resurrection as validation for Christianity (Acts 4:33). Therefore, teaching Christ’s resurrection would have been teaching falsehood if the dead aren’t raised, making the preaching of the resurrection a false teaching. As a false teaching, the Gospel couldn’t offer any real salvation. Without Christ’s resurrection, the entire Gospel collapses, showing Jesus to be fraudulent and the apostles to be false teachers.

Because of this, if He really wasn’t raised, their preaching had no substance and the Corinthians believed for nothing. Since the Gospel depends on the resurrection, eliminating that element made believing in the Lord useless and absurd. If the foundational premise of Christ’s resurrection was false, how could anything the apostles preached be trusted? What was the point of believing a Gospel based on a fabricated event?

Verse 15 continues this train of thought by demonstrating that proclaiming Christ’s resurrection would have actually dishonored God. If the dead aren’t raised, the apostles lied about God’s actions, claiming He did something that He really didn’t. If they testified falsely that God raised Jesus from the dead, they consequently gave an erroneous representation of God. Doing so would indirectly dishonor Him. It would have been lying about Him, as well as accusing Him of raising up an impostor (Jesus).

If the dead aren’t raised, Paul reasons, Christ certainly wouldn’t have been raised either. Again, Paul emphasizes that the entire Gospel rests on the doctrine of resurrection.

Next Monday we’ll see Paul strengthen the connection between Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of believers. For now, however, I want to leave you with the thought that the Gospel absolutely depends on the resurrection. Although we tend to focus on Jesus dying for our sin when we proclaim the Gospel, writing this Bible Study has helped me see how foundational the resurrection is to that Gospel.

I’d love hearing what the Study taught you. Please feel free to use the Comments Section or The Outspoken TULIP  Facebook Page to tell me what stands out to you, to ask questions and to interact with each other. Together, we can rejoice that Jesus Christ has indeed risen from the dead. Hallelujah!

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Saturday Sampler: June 10 — June 16

Flower SamplerAnswering a question from one of her readers, Michelle Lesley writes The Mailbag: How can I grow to love Jesus more? As she says, more Christians should ask that question.

If you’ve ever tried raising questions about certain popular Christian teachers, you’ll quickly learn that they are The Untouchables. Criticism of them is simply not tolerated by their followers, as Leslie A of Growing 4 Life testifies. She also has an important caution for those who follow Biblically sound teachers.

The purveyor of Biblical Beginnings writes Twisted Tuesday – Cosmic Child Abuse in defense of the doctrine of penal substantiation. I love her passion for the Gospel in this piece, and I wish more Christians would exhibit this kind of passion!

Writing for Unlocking the Bible, Brittany suggests 10 Practical Ways to Treasure Christ based on Psalm 119. Since John and I are currently going through this psalm together in our morning devotions, this blog post particularly interests me. Perhaps the Lord will also encourage you through her insights and ideas.

Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace absolutely nails in his piece, Why Electing a Woman as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention is a Bad Idea. It didn’t happen this year. Let’s pray it never does.

I must recommend a second Michelle Lesley post this week. In Basic Training: The Great Commission, Michelle walks us through a familiar Scripture passage to remind us of Christ’s command to His Church after He rose from the dead. Sadly, many 21st Century evangelicals don’t know what The Great Commission is. Take her poll and then refresh your memory by reading the rest of her article.

On the Ligonier blog, Sinclair Ferguson answers the question, What Is Discernment? I believe more people (particularly those who claim to be in discernment ministry) ought to read his words and give serious thought to them. As I’ve said numerous times, Biblical discernment extends far beyond exposing false teachers.

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Not One Tiny Bit Of Credit

Ephesians 2 8&9Christians, even genuinely born-again Christians who love God’s Word and have a commitment to discernment, often struggle with the teaching that God takes complete responsibility for their salvation. We desperately want to believe we’ve played even a teeny tiny microscopic part in receiving His grace. In fact, a major reason people despise Reformed Theology (or Calvinism) stems from an unwillingness to relinquish the idea of human participation in salvation.

Believe it or not, I understand that objection. Until very recently, I told my testimony in a way that afforded me the dignity of having “accepted” Jesus. Sure, I conceded, He did all the heavy lifting, but I believed I made the final decision to become a Christian.

As a result of my years of embracing the doctrine of free will, I can’t dismiss Arminians as false converts. None of us should. Unless taken to the extreme of Pelagianism, we should give the benefit of the doubt to brothers and sisters in Christ who have been taught that they chose the Lord. After all, none of us has absolutely perfect theology. While right doctrine is essential, all of us are growing towards it a step at a time.

Having voiced my understanding of those who believe in free will, let me now challenge their belief that God won’t save anyone against their will. I have to question the presupposition that anyone, prior to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, would even desire the God of the Bible. Someone might desire a god who conforms to their notion of spirituality, but Scripture clearly states that no one (apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit) has the slightest interest in the true God.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ~~Romans 3:9-18 (ESV)

Notice verse 11, ladies. Despite popular rhetoric about so-called seekers, Paul asserts that no one seeks for God. Free will seeks for a spirituality that feeds the ego, always ending in making us feel good about ourselves, but it cannot choose the Lord Who rightly deserves all the glory. We can’t choose the God Who demands our repentance because we don’t really want to live without our pet sins.

In fact, our natural inclination toward sin deadened us to the Lord, rendering us incapable of voluntarily seeking Him. We needed the Holy Spirit to fill us with life, thereby giving us the faith to receive His grace.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~~Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)

I wish time permitted me to quote all the Scripture passages that God used to convince me that I played no part in coming to Christ. The realization of my utter dependence on His grace humbles me. I liked believing that I could take some credit for choosing to follow Him. But the more I read His Word, the more I understand that He saved me by His grace. He alone deserves the praise.

 

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Saturday Sampler: May 27 — June 2

balloon-turtle-samplerElizabeth Prata certainly hasn’t “unhitched” from the Old Testament. Her essay, The Man of God and the old prophet (and don’t forget the shriveled hand!) in The End Time, shows how delightful it is to discover lessons from Old Testament history that apply to Christian life today.

In The Upward Call, Kim Shay pleads, Older woman, don’t be a trope. Being officially an older woman, I greatly appreciate her admonition.

Even Beth Moore the Broken Clock can come up with correct ideas once in a while. Okay, her solutions lack Biblical integrity, but occasionally she actually identifies a problem accurately, as Jason Marianna reveals in his thought-provoking post in Things Above Us. Don’t worry — he’s not endorsing Beth Moore. But he acknowledges that the Lord may, in one rare instance, have used her to shed light on a real problem within the church. Who knew?

Catholicism teaches that the concept of Purgatory comes from Scripture. Tom, blogging at excatholic4christ, refutes that error with Does 2 Timothy 1:16-18 teach Purgatory? This entire issue gives one more example of practicing discernment by understanding the Word of God in its proper context.

I’ve never thought of self-control as the linchpin for the fruit of the Spirit. But in her article for Biblical Woman, Courtney McLean celebrates The Gritty, Grace-Filled Virtue of Self-Control by showing how this attribute activates love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness and gentleness.

Oh boy, do we despise being told that we can’t do something! But Kristen Wetherell rightly contends that The Only Way You Can Do God’s Will requires first acknowledging your absolute inability to do God’s will. Intrigued?  Then check out her blog post on Unlocking The Bible.

I once taught that same sex attractions were only sinful if a person acted on them. In his latest Pyromaniacs post, Regarding “Sexual Orientation,” Evil Desire, and the Question of Moral Neutrality, Phil Johnson corrects my erroneous thinking by appealing to the teachings of Scripture. Praise God for Christians who stand firmly on God’s truth, even when doing so contradicts popular opinion!

Appealing to the writings of Martin Luther, Stephen Nicholas of Ligonier answers the question, Is Sola Scriptura a Rejection of Teachers and Tradition? This essay gives a wonderful response to both critics of Reformation principles and people who misuse those principles.

Writing on the Phylicia Masonheimer blog, Anatasis Faith explains How to Avoid the Bible Journaling Mentality that adversely affects so many Christian women. If you only read one blog post featured in this Sampler, make it this one!

We end Saturday Sampler with another Elizabeth Prata essay, this one responding to Kim Shay’s piece above. Act Your Age expands on Kim’s points, drawing from a wider variety of Scriptures to demonstrate how God calls older women (like me) to behave. She beautifully rounds out Kim’s thoughts, adding her own touch of wit.

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One Important Reason I Probably Won’t Blog About Butterflies On Subway Cars

Subway Butterfly

Because John and I met online,  we hold a special fondness for the movie, You’ve Got Mail. Meg Ryan plays a woman who carries on an email correspondence with Tom Hanks, not knowing that he’s the same man who put the children’s bookshop she owned out of business.

Throughout the movie, Ryan and Hanks do voice-overs of the emails they write to one another. Ryan’s early emails particularly interest me, as she reflects on an inconsequential thing (like a butterfly fluttering on and then off of a subway car) in a way that reveals so much of who she is. Her lines make me wish I could write as lyrically.

In another email, she comments on the strangeness of typing words into a computer, not knowing where they’ll go our who will read them. Since that movie was written long before blogs, Facebook and Twitter, I can’t help wondering if online communication has become even stranger now.

As a blogger, I sometimes wonder how my tenuous words have amassed the modest but growing following that The Outspoken TULIP  has developed in slightly less than three years. And would I have a larger or smaller following if I wrote about butterflies on subway cars and such?

Not that I can imagine anything as poetic as a butterfly fluttering on a Boston subway car. A dirty pigeon, perhaps. Though a pigeon would flap violently rather than delicately fluttering. Not the same.

Anyway, I once did operate a blog in which I wrote simply for the sake of writing. Yes, I enjoyed that freedom.  At times I regret giving it up in favor of this more focused blog. What harm could there be, I ask myself, if I occasionally departed from the main themes of this blog to have a little fun with writing? Although I seriously doubt I’d ever see a butterfly on a Boston subway car, I could easily find other interesting moments to develop into essays of little consequence.

A couple of verses I read in Ephesians yesterday stops me from allowing myself such liberties.

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. ~~Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

Indeed, the days are evil. Outside the church, abortion and homosexuality are celebrated as human rights, not decried as murder and perversion. Truck commercials on TV assume that dating couples will move in together before (or without) getting married. Christian bakers and florists lose their businesses for declining to cater gay weddings. Public schools offer yoga classes, denying yoga’s connection to Hinduism. Christians receive warnings not to pray in public, and sometimes get banned from social media for proclaiming the Gospel.

Many of us anticipate much more severe persecution in the near future.

Inside the visible church, professing Christians compromise in numerous respects, from so-called “Holy Yoga” to advocating for women pastors. For all our talk about believing God’s Word, our fondness for mysticism and psychology betray our confidence in human philosophies. False teachers infiltrate evangelical circles in droves.

The Outspoken TULIP exists precisely because the Church faces so many external and internal threats. Christian women need encouragement to study Scripture so we can withstand the overwhelming pressure to compromise with the world. While writing about butterflies on subway cars and such would certainly be a lot more fun, I don’t have time for that. Rather, it wouldn’t be the best use of my time.

Do I have a big enough following to make a significant difference?  Of course not. But the scope of my blog doesn’t matter. My faithfulness does. And faithfulness demands using my time for His glory, not for floating inconsequential musings across the Internet.

My blog may not be widely read, but I still have a responsibility to use my writing for the Lord. Although writing fun pieces every so often wouldn’t necessarily be bad, I have to ask myself if it would be the best use of my blogging time. When I consider how rapidly Western society is hurling itself into rebellion against God, and how greater numbers of professing Christians compromise with worldly values, I can’t help concluding that writing about the Lord and encouraging women in their walks with Him is the best use of my blogging time.

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According To Scripture: Study #4 On The Resurrection

He Is Risen

Okay, sisters in Christ, we lost last week in terms of this Bible Study series, so let’s not waste any more time in our study of 1 Corinthians 15. To refresh our memories and maintain a sense of context, I’ll once again quote the first eleven verses of the chapter in preparation of discussing verses 8-11.

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.

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, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (ESV)

Last time, we looked at Paul’s impressive catalogue of eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection, but now we turn to a final witness: Paul himself. Immediately in verse 8, the apostle shows his humility by emphasizing that he hadn’t walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry as all the other eyewitnesses had. For this reason, he compares himself to an aborted child.

I’m going to be really honest here and admit that I don’t understand why he uses a word that means an aborted child. Every commentary I read spent time highlighting the definition of the Greek word in this verse, but none of them adequately explained its significance beyond the concept that it demonstrates Paul’s humility. He acknowledges that he didn’t spend time with Jesus in the way the others had, and that fact makes him feel awkward about claiming to be an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ.

He maintains, however, that the risen Lord did in fact appear to him (Acts 9:3-18, 2 Corinthians 12:1-6).  As awkward as he feels in numbering himself among men who followed the Lord throughout His earthly ministry, Paul refuses to waver from his testimony that, just like the others, he qualifies as an eyewitness to Christ’s resurrection.

His awkward feelings become compounded in verse 9 as he confesses that, prior to his conversion, he actually persecuted Christians. He accepts God’s grace in calling him to be an apostle, but he readily admits that he doesn’t deserve such an honor. His humble attitude serves as a powerful example to those of us who might boast about our salvations. Paul remembers his past and therefore has an acute awareness of God’s grace toward him.

His past convinces him of his unworthiness to be called an apostle (one qualification of apostleship was being an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ). He resolutely remembers what he’d done against God’s church before receiving God’s gracious gift of salvation.

In fact, he points directly to the grace God has shown him in verse 10. Having just confessed his unworthiness, he firmly acknowledges that God’s grace has indeed made him an apostle (Ephesians 3:7). His unworthiness doesn’t negate God’s calling on his life. To the contrary, his untimely spiritual birth coupled with his history of persecuting Christians increase his appreciation of God’s grace.

Notice, in verse 10, that Paul has responded to the grace he’s been shown by working more extensively than the other apostles. His youth (relative to theirs) and the broader scope of his missionary journeys naturally resulted in a heftier resume. Therefore, God’s grace had enabled him to work harder. He presents this fact simply.

Yet he quickly adds that his work comes, not from himself, but as a  consequence of God’s grace. He insists that the Corinthians look to Christ rather than to him. Recall, if you please, that Paul opened this passage by emphasizing the primary importance of the Gospel. The last thing he wants is to shift attention back to himself! God’s grace, and only God’s grace, permitted Paul to see the resurrected Christ.

Verse 11 strengthens his resolve to direct attention away from himself and back to the Gospel that he outlines in verses 3 and 4. As helpful as eyewitnesses are, they mustn’t distract us from the Gospel itself. And because the Gospel requires center stage, Paul considers it immaterial to care about the pedigree of who preaches it. Whether the original disciples preach or he does, he wants people to hear the Gospel and believe it.

This point brings us to our next section: a detailed discussion on why the doctrine of resurrection matters. As I mentioned last week, we’ll take a two-week break before tackling that section, but I wouldn’t mind if you read the whole of Chapter 15 between now and then, paying particular heed to verses 12-19. Please use the Comments Section here or on The Outspoken TULIP  Facebook page to ask questions or raise issues in these eight verses that you’d like me to address.

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Saturday Sampler: May 20 — May 26

Boston July 26 2010 005

Custom Tower & Old State House

Did you watch the Royal Wedding? What did you think of Bishop Curry’s sermon? Garrett Kell, in All Things for Good, asks a more accurate question with What Would Jesus Say About Bishop Curry’s Royal Wedding Sermon? I heartily agree.

Unbelievers sure love discounting the veracity of the Bible, don’t they? SlimJim, who blogs at The Domain for Truth, writes Bible Contradiction? Did Jesus perform many signs and wonders? He has a running series responding to alleged contradictions in Scripture; this is the first installment I’ve read, and it’s an excellent example of why context matters.

The apostle Paul, says Jordan Standridge, was Obsessed with the Gospel. His piece, appearing in The Cripplegate, draws from Paul’s letter to the Philippians to challenge us in our response to persecution.

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Swan Boat at Boston’s Public Garden

The sister in Christ who blogs at Biblical  Beginnings takes on the popular false teaching associated with John 10:10 in her essay, Twisted Tuesday — The Abundant Life. I appreciate her encouragement to study God’s Word carefully and with discernment.

How could the doctrine of total depravity possibly encourage Christians?  In his post for Parking Space 23, Zach Putthoff answers that question. You might find yourself rejoicing as you read Total Depravity & the Christian Life.

Boston Adventure July 25 2012 013

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

I never expected to read The Master’s Seminary Blog, but The Wretched Art of Loveless Discernment by Reagan Rose caught my eye. His points convict me to continue discernment blogging, but to make sure I do so from right motives and with a godly attitude. Anyone interested in discernment ministry needs to take this article to heart.

Like Michelle Lesley, I belong to a church within the Southern Baptist Convention. And like her  church, the church I belong to has strong leanings toward Reformed Theology, for which I praise God! Yet, as I read about the denomination as a whole, I must agree with her that It’s Time for a Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right.

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Massachusetts State House

Praise the Lord that Phil Johnson has revived Pyromaniacs, one of the blogs God used to bring me to Reformed Theology a decade ago. His post, The Root of the Matter, identifies the serious problems creeping into Reformed circles lately. Again, praise the Lord for Johnson’s faithfulness to stand against worldly compromise for the sake of the Gospel.

Photos of downtown Boston sites taken by John Kespert

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