They Enjoy Their Own Cleverness

OpenBible John 1How many times have people ridiculed you for believing the Bible? Have they questioned your sanity or acted surprised that you believe serpents  speak and messiahs rise from the dead? Yeah, and you’re probably already bracing for such uncomfortable conversations at Thanksgiving gatherings. So maybe I can offer a little perspective to help prepare you for conflicts around the adult table.

Ladies, we’ll resume our Monday Bible Studies on 1 Corinthians 15 pretty soon. Before you accuse me of a non sequitur, hear me out. I started working through verse 35 this morning, and I had some immediate thoughts on it that made me think about the ways some non-Christians (particularly those who are openly belligerent) try to derail us when we share the Gospel with them. Look at the verse with me.

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” (ESV) 

Okay, I didn’t get very far into my study today (I had a stressful situation last night that kept me from getting adequate sleep), so I don’t have as much of a handle on the verse as I will when we actually work through it. But the small amount of study I did reminded me that often people who raise objections to our beliefs honestly think they’re helping us understand why Christianity is intellectually untenable.

You’ll recall that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 in response to those who denied the doctrine of bodily resurrection. In the first 34 verses, the apostle provided legal evidence that Christ rose from the dead. Then he argued that Christ’s resurrection ensures the resurrection of believers. Verse 35 transitions to the rather childish challenge to prove the doctrine by giving specific details.

In other words, these skeptics think they’ve poked holes in Paul’s theology. They remind me of neighborhood kids who tried to prove that I was intellectually disabled by peppering me with impossible arithmetic questions that they themselves couldn’t answer.

“What’s 97,043 plus 32,017?” they ask.

I’d admit I didn’t know, and watch their smug grins steal over their little faces. With perhaps a little sadistic pleasure, I’d give them a minute to savor their cleverness before asking, “So what is 97,043 plus 32,017?”

Though I in no way recommend such a smart alec retort to non-Christians who fancy that their arguments blow holes in our Christian faith, I do want you to realize that they trust in their own cleverness. We must pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes the truth before they face the Lord in judgment. At that time, they won’t feel quite so clever.

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Throwback Thursday: The Gospel, Pure And Simple

In light of current events within evangelicalism, I believe this article from March 17, 2017 is an important reminder of the Gospel message. Let’s not obscure it.
3D Cross Mother of PearlProfessing Christians use the word “gospel” all the time, but sometimes we get so caught up in tangential matters that we forget the Gospel itself. I’ve been guilty of this type of spiritual amnesia many times. As I’ve confessed before, for example, my involvement in so-called Christian psychology led me to consider the possibility that anyone who espoused the principles of pop-psychology (whether they confessed Jesus Christ openly or not) might be saved. Obviously, at that point in time, I’d forgotten the Gospel.

In recent years, the Lord has graciously used a variety of Christian preachers, teachers and bloggers to help me appreciate the importance of preaching the Gospel to myself. Doing so reminds me that, apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ, I’m a vile sinner deserving of nothing but eternity in hell.

Simply put, the Gospel proclaims that Jesus Christ died as the substitute for all who believe in Him, bearing the wrath of God that our sins incur. He was buried, and three days later God raised Him from the dead as evidence that He accepted His sacrifice. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we respond to this grace by repenting of sin and believing in Him.

Now, the Gospel definitely has ramifications. True believers can’t remain in sinful lifestyles, for instance, because we understand what our sin cost the Lord. Titus 2:11-14 makes it clear that the Lord saved us with the purpose of making us holy.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (ESV)

Throughout this blog, I write about various aspects of walking in holiness as redeemed women. And that’s definitely fitting. But all week, I’ve felt convicted that I needed to remind my readers (and myself) of the basic Gospel. If we allow anything to obscure the fundamental truth that Jesus Christ died and rose again on our behalf and for His glory, we risk embracing a false gospel that, left unchecked will inevitability bring us to damnation.

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Prone To Wander And Grateful For Grace

I doubt that my struggles with sin are unique. There have been far too many times that I’ve told God I wanted out — I wanted to live on my terms rather than His. The fool’s gold of the world seemed so much more attractive than the eternal promises of His kingdom.

Praise God that His Holy Spirit has sealed me for salvation! The Lord, being exceedingly gracious, keeps reminding me of His goodness. I remember that only He has the words of eternal life.

How I praise Him for faithfully keeping me for Himself! I know that, apart from His goodness, I certainly would have forsaken Him years ago, so I praise Him for not allowing me to leave Him. And, with tremendous joy, I look forward to an eternity of worshiping Him.

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According To Scripture: Study #11 On The Resurrection

According to ScriptureDo 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.

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According To Scripture: Study #10 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

We could have ended our Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15 and the resurrection at verse 28. Nobody would have noticed my clever avoidance of verse 29.  At least,  if they did notice, they hardly would have blamed me. I mean, just look at it:

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? (ESV)

Goodness gracious!  Has the apostle Paul just validated a Mormon ritual? I certainly see how people might scratch their heads in bewilderment over this verse. My scalp has a few fingernail marks on it from reading it over the past 47 years. Continue reading

According To Scripture: Study #9 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

You’ll probably think I’m off my rocker (if you haven’t thought so already), but I can’t decide whether this week’s study of 1 Corinthians 15:25-20 was difficult and demanding or exhilarating and fun. I can tell you, however, that the Lord used it to give me greater clarity into eschatology. Even better: He left me with a sense of wonder as I anticipate an eternity of worshiping Him!

To give some context, I want to quote today’s verses within their passage. Anyway, a reminder of what we studied last Monday wouldn’t hurt, right?

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every 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 “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. ~~1 Corinthians 15:20-20 (ESV)

As we approach verse 25, we discover that Jesus must reign as mediator of God’s kingdom in accordance with Scripture. Psalm 2:6-10 and Psalm 110:1 clearly show that God commissioned the Messiah with the task of destroying His enemies. Jesus, in fact, quoted the latter in reference to Himself in Matthew 22:44-45. This reign reaches its completion, as Paul just explained in verse 24, when Christ fully dominates His enemies (Ephesians 1:22).

MacArthur explains that conquering kings often put their feet on the necks of enemies they subdued as a symbolic gesture of victory. Paul means, then, that Christ will ultimately show Himself to be victorious over all entities — human and demonic — that dared to rebel against Him. See Hebrews 10:12-13.

Although verse 26 is pretty straightforward, let’s unpack it just a bit. The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows that, although death exercises power over all creation, the Lord has power over death itself. Therefore, our own resurrection defeats death. In the case of believers, death loses its power because we will enjoy eternal life in His presence, gladly worshiping Him. In that sense, death has, even now, lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

Christ will conquer even death itself. In other words, He will do away with it (Revelation 20:14). This final defeat of defeat will take place at the end of Christ’s Millennial reign, as Paul already demonstrated in verse 24.

Commentators offer some fairly complex explanations of verse 27, much of which goes well beyond the limitations of this blog post. But let me offer a couple observations I’ve made from studying this verse.

In declaring that “God has put all things in subjection under His feet,” Paul indicates that its as good as done (see Matthew 28:18, John 17:2 and Ephesians 1:22).

Barnes suggests three possible reasons that Paul might clarify that God the Father will not be in subjection to the Son. Firstly, to distinguish Christian truth from pagan myths of gods overthrowing their fathers. Secondly, to dispel any notions that Jesus is greater than the Father. And thirdly, to exalt God’s absolute dominion. We must remember that the Son has authority because the Father gave it to Him (John 5:26-27).

I love the way Paul ties this passage together in verse 28! The Son, unlike created beings who will bow the knee at that time (Philippians 2:10), voluntarily subjects Himself to the Father. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown correctly point out that in His subjection Christ retains equal honor to the Father (John 5:22-23, Hebrews 1:6). Notice Paul’s reciprocal writing in saying that “the Son Himself will be subjected to Him Who put all things in subjection to Him.”

MacArthur clarifies that Christ will continue His eternal reign (Revelation 11:15) in His place within the Trinity. He will not eclipse either the Father or the Holy Spirit as He will (from our perspective) in the Millennial kingdom. Thus, His subjection to the Father by no means should be conflated as meaning that His reign will end.

Paul reaches the climax of this passage with the idea of God being all in all. Zechariah 14:9 intimates that the Lord has always purposed to reign as one King. I don’t know about you, but this absolutely thrills me! Although my limited human mind can’t quite comprehend an environment totally given over to the undistracted worship of God, I long for that blessing. Don’t you?

Next Monday we’ll attempt to tackle one of the toughest verses in the Bible.  I’ve been dreading this verse until recently, when I bought a commentary that shed light on Paul’s writing. Now I actually look forward to taking you ladies through it. Who would have thought?

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According To Scripture: Study #8 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

I’ll let you in on a secret.  Don’t tell anyone, but I had real trouble preparing today’s Bible Study, and only managed to get through two verses.  Maybe, if you don’t say anything, people won’t notice and they’ll think I deliberately limited this week’s discussion to verses 23 and 24 of 1 Corinthians 15 for dramatic emphasis. I’m sure my secret is safe with you!

Despite my struggles preparing today’s Bible Study, I’m excited by the connection the apostle Paul makes between the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection and His Second Corning. Although eschatology isn’t my strongest area, studying verses 23 and 24 over the last seven days has sparked my interest in the subject. So, ladies, let’s get some context and then see how these two verses bridge the gap between Christ’s resurrection and the last things.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every 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 “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. ~~1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (ESV)

Please bear in mind that I believe verses 23 and (especially) 24 support  the teaching of Christ’s 1,000 year reign on earth before His final destruction of Satan (Revelation 20:7-10). So I will approach this study with that presupposition, apologizing that time doesn’t permit me to go into an explanation of the Millennial kingdom.

Verse 23 tells us that resurrection occurs in a specific order. The Greek word translated as “order” denotes the idea of ranks, as in the military. Each rank, therefore, experiences resurrection at its appointed time. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown believe those ranks are as follows:

In this chapter, of course, Paul confines the discussion to Christ and those who belong to Him. Christ rose three days after His crucifixion, and believers will be resurrected when He returns. You’ll remember from our discussion of verse 12 (Study #5) that a faction of the Corinthian church, while apparently confessing that Christ rose from the dead, denied that anybody else would experience physical resurrection. Verse 23 reinforces Paul’s assurances that Christians will  indeed share His resurrection.

The phrase, “at His coming,” must not be overlooked. Christ’s Second Coming completes the Gospel message as it points to His eternal kingdom. The resurrection assures believers that life extends beyond the grave; Christ’s Second Corning ensures the full realization of that life.

Moving to verse 24, Paul gives us a glimpse into eschatology. After the resurrection of believers, the end will come. This “end” includes the general resurrection, the final judgment, and the consummation of God’s kingdom. Barnes explains that this “end” completes Christ’s work of redeeming His Church. I hasten to add that we mustn’t confuse this idea of completion with Christ’s finished work of atoning for sin (John 19:30). Rather, redemption will be fully realized when He returns and our physical bodies become reunited with our spirits.

Paul goes on to say that Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father. Commentators give very complex explanations of this clause, which I think is best understood by comparing it with Matthew 11:27. As the Father handed authority to His Son, so at the end the Son will present His Kingdom back to His Father.

Christ will deliver the kingdom to the Father after He destroys the rule of His enemies. By this, according to Barnes, Paul means anything opposed to God. “They include, of course, the kingdoms of this world; the sins, pride, and corruption of the human heart; the powers of darkness – the spiritual dominions that oppose God on earth, and in hell; and death and the grave.”

Again, Revelation 20:7-10 describes the destruction of Christ’s enemies, and I highly recommend reading that passage. Next Monday, we’ll look at the final enemy to be destroyed, as well as the reason Christ will hand the kingdom over to the Father. In the meantime, I’d love to receive your comments and/or questions in the Comments Section, on The Outspoken TULIP Facebook page or even on Twitter.

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