18 The Power of Resurrection (2)

“…….Frank was my roommate and classmate in Med School. He was a very smart guy, fervent for the Lord, loved man and cared much about friends. I still remembered it was our last year during exam time, my girlfriend ran away with one of my friends, I was very emotional and got depression. He cared less about studying and exams, but accompanied me through numerous sleepless nights; comforting, encouraging, and listening to my grumbles, he also prayed earnestly for me….I was deeply touched. However, I was also a very stubborn and proud man, and was greatly against Christianity. Not only that, I considered myself a very good person, helping out the needy and volunteered all the time, even better than many Christians, therefore, although I treasured my friendship with Frank, I did not accept Christ…. 

We both joined the Médecins Sans Frontères (MSF) (Doctors without borders) as volunteers after graduation. It was an international medical humanitarian organization that provided emergency medical assistance to populations in danger. Twenty years ago we were sent to work in the Palawan Island in the Philippines. It was politically unstable and many violent crashes took place between the Muslim minority and the Catholic government, because the former wanted to fight for independence. One day, when Frank and I finished our duty and returned to the head-quarter from the village, we were astonished to discover that the place was in chaos and one co-worker was bleeding heavily in the office. Suddenly a few masked guys armed with machine guns came out from the room and commanded us to hand over all our possessions, then they kidnapped us. They were a Muslim terrorist group, holding us hostages in order to negotiate with the government…..It was not easy to live a life of fugitive, Frank and I supported each other in those helpless days. My melancholic temperament made me extremely pessimistic; on the contrary, Frank optimistically relied and trusted his God with faith. As usual, he prayed with passion…….

The Embassy and the Philippines government negotiated with them unceasingly. One night, while we were staying in the jungle, the military besieged us, persuading the terrorists to surrender. This enraged their leader. They finally decided to release one of us as bait, it was understood that the remaining one would have a slim chance to survive. 

I was so frightened that the whole body was shaking. Frank said, ‘Joe, leave now before they change their mind, hurry up, there is not much time left. Everyone has to die eventually; for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain! In fact, I will not die forever, I am just going to a better and brighter place to see my Heavenly Father; but you are different, I don’t want you to perish forever, I want to save your life so that one day you will come to Christ and when I resurrect like Christ, I will be able to meet you again. Don’t feel bad and do not be afraid, you should have the eternal hope like me to live the rest of your life. You are always my buddy and comrade, unto death….’ Frank pushed me away. While I was running for my life, a few gunshots were heard behind me, I knew instantly that I would never be able to meet him again on earth ….” At this point, Dr Cooper could not continue anymore, he held tightly to Frank’s picture and cried uncontrollably. Brandon embraced his father and cried out loud… (To be continued)

Your Initial Response

Compare those that possess the hope of resurrection with those do not, is there any difference in their perspective of life?

1 Corinthians 15:12–34

12But 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? 

13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 

14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 

15More 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. 

16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 

17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 

18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 

19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 

20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 

21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 

22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 

23But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 

24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 

25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 

26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

27For 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. 

28When 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. 

29Now 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? 

30And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 

31I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

32If 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.” 

33Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 

34Come 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. (1 Corinthians 15:12–34 NIV) 

1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.

2 Circle all the words that are related with “Christ” and “the dead.”

3 Underline all the nouns and verbs that described resurrection.

4 Highlight the consequence of if Christians has not risen from the dead.

5 Use an arrow to connect all “the firstfruits” (15:20, 23).

6 Refer to other translations and come up with some new insights.

2) “Expound” (E)

iEXP Bible Study Method

If the dead didn’t have the possibility of being resurrected, thus the message about the resurrection of Christ was meaningless. There were people in the Corinthian church who didn’t want to believe the resurrection of the dead; therefore, the Apostle Paul used his skill in apology to explain the truth to the believers.

1 Do you think it is all right for Christians not to believe the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:12)?

2 What is the consequence of not believing the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:12)?

3 What are ‘the first fruits’ (1 Cor. 15:20)?

4 Why did Paul address Christ as ‘the first fruits’ (1 Cor. 15:23)?

5 Is that true that the dead were being baptised (1 Cor. 15:29)?

There are four distinct sections in 1 Corinthians 15: 1) the Resurrection of Christ was a vital truth proclaimed by the apostles (15:1–11); 2) the dead Christians will be resurrected is God’s important plan (15:12-34); 3) the nature of the resurrection of believers (15:35-50); 4) the future and present events (15:51–58).

In the passage of 15:12-14, there are three different crucial points, namely: 1) the consequences of the denial of Christ’s Resurrection (15:12–19); 2) the consequences of accepting the resurrection of Christ (15:20–28); 3) Paul used the believers’ experience and his own experience to defend the truth of resurrection (15:29–34).

15:1213

The Apostle Paul earnestly stated that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a historical fact and the core of Christianity. Strangely, there were people in the Corinthian church refuting the teaching of resurrection. By following this deduction, the teaching about the resurrection of Christ was overturned imperceptibly. In order to become a Christian, one must accept the truth that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead (Jn. 6:44; 11:25; Acts 4:12; 2 Cor. 4:14; 1 Thess. 4:16). Nevertheless, the Corinthians still had difficulties in accepting the truth of resurrection. Maybe this is due to the influence of the philosophy and the pagan religions. Ancient Greek philosophers believed in dualism. They considered all physical things were evil, thus influenced the believers of not accepting the idea of a resurrected body (Acts 17:32). In addition, since the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and some Jews in the Corinthian church may have been influenced by the above group before they were converted to Christ (Acts 23:8). (Note: Sadducees were a group of Jewish religious leaders.)

15:13–19

Concerning the Christians who did not believe in resurrection, Paul had the following comments:

1 Preaching and Believing in Vain

‘Useless,’ means without result, vain, without effect. In short, without believing the resurrected truth, the preaching of the gospel would be in vain. Resurrection is one of the key foundations to the gospel truth, declining it is equivalent to declining the gospel (15:13–14). Furthermore, those who refused to accept resurrection would indirectly accuse the apostles in preaching the gospel, and wrongly acclaimed that Jesus Christ is the resurrected Lord (15:15–16).

2 A Worthless Faith

‘Futile,’ means worthless, useless. Paul stated firmly that those believers who did not accept the resurrection, their faith was worthless; since they did not accept the fact that Christ had risen from the dead, they could not solve their problems of sins (15:17–18).

3 No Present and Future Well-being

Paul supplemented that those who did not accept resurrection, not only had no hope and value in this life; for those who died, they were destined to perish (15:18).

4 More Pitiful than the Non-believers

Paul stated that if only believing in Christ have hope in this life, then, the believers will be more pitiable than all non-believers.

15:20

The first fruits were the beginning of the harvest in Palestine, thus guaranteeing the imminent ingathering of the remainder of the harvest. Jesus Christ became the pioneer of all dead Christians. Since he overcame death, he became the firstfruits of all dead Christians.

15:2122

The Apostle Paul compared Adam the ancestor of humankind with the Head of the Church. Adam was the representative of all humankind, and Christ was the representative of all Christians. Owing to the fact that Adam sinned, the whole human race was under the sinful power and influence, and all of us would have to experience physical death. On the contrary, all those who believed Him as Saviour would resurrect from the dead owing to the gospel of Christ.

15:23

If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, those who believed in Him could not be resurrected, for the Lord was the head of the resurrection of the believers (Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 15:23). The dead Christians in the church age will rise first at the rapture of the church (1 Thess. 4:16). At the end of the Tribulation, the Old Testament saints and those who martyred in the Tribulation will be resurrected (Dan. 12:2; Lk. 14:14). The Apostle John called the two categories of resurrection above “the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:6; cf. John 5:29; Lk. 14:14). All non-believers will be resurrected at the end of the Millennium, which we called “the second death” (Rev. 20:14).

15:24

After the seven years of Tribulation, Jesus Christ will return and commence the rule of thousand years on the earth. Theologians called this period “Millennium,” and the Messiah will rule the nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 19:15).

15:25

Paul used the ancient practice of a king’s victory over his enemies as an illustration. The victorious conqueror would put his foot on the neck of a conquered ruler, symbolizing the enemy’s total submission before him. In the millennial kingdom, Jesus Christ will appear victoriously and all humankind will have to submit to Him.

15:26

Not only did Jesus Christ have to overcome the world and His enemies, but also gained ultimate victory over death. This shows that the Lord has sovereign power over life and all.

15:27

This quote was from Ps 8:6, and the content would be fulfilled during the beginning of the Millennium Kingdom (Rev 20:1–10).

15:28

God’s Son Jesus Christ handed over the kingdom to the God and Father (1 Cor. 15:24), giving everything and Himself under the control of the Father, thus the Heavenly Father could be the Lord of everything. This is not saying, Jesus Christ was lower in status than the Heavenly Father, but it was a way to express the spiritual order that it ought to be. By doing so, God’s Son fully manifested the Trinitarian glory.

15:29

Did the Corinthians really baptise for the “dead”? Up to now, Biblical scholars could not come to a decisive interpretation, and they had provided at least thirty different explanations. Even up to 200 explanations have been given of this verse, but most of these interpretations are absurd. A large number of both ancient and modern commentators considered many dead Christians were unbaptised, therefore baptism were performed for these dead saints. If the above viewpoints were Paul’s teaching, then there are some questions that we cannot answer: 1) although baptism can exemplify the truth of union with Christ (Rom 6:1-14), it cannot save us from sin (Eph 2:8-9). 2) If for some reasons the dead Christians could not be baptised, and in order to follow their will, baptism were performed for them. This kind of practice is contrary to the teaching of the Bible: first of all, there has no teaching of baptism of the dead in the New Testament; secondly, Paul was very familiar with the truth of “justification by faith”, and knew that baptism had nothing to do with an unbeliever or a dead person. If the Corinthians were baptizing for the dead, why did Paul not point out their wrong? 3) If we think that it is permissible to baptise for the dead, this is very dangerous, because historically there were people misunderstood this as a biblical teaching. The Marcionites, one the cults of the early church, and the nowadays Mormons, both accept baptism for the dead.

In the original language, the word “for” has various meanings. Although it can be interpreted as “for,” it also has the meaning of ‘‘because of.” Based on the usage of preposition, a scholar interpreted it as “those who baptised because of the dead,” that is to say, owing to the conduct and testimony of the Christians who had died, people believed the Word of truth, thus they were baptised in Christ. Though it was another speculation, but this view did not contradict the overall teaching of the Bible. It was the most appropriate answer among all answers.

15:3031

Paul wanted to point out that if there was no resurrection, why did the apostles risk their lives to preach the gospel?

15:32

Paul was a Roman citizen and he would not be sent to fight with beasts in a Roman arena, thus this was a metaphor (cf. 1 Cor. 4:9; 2 Tim. 4:17; Titus 1:12). A scholar suggested that it was the incident that the fierce crowd of Ephesians provoked against him by Demetrius the silversmith (Acts 19: 23–24).

15:33

The Corinthian believers had a high opinion of themselves, thus they were dangerously trapped. A common saying, “People are influenced by the surroundings.” Perhaps, many Corinthian believers thought they could stand firm; however, they were heavily influenced by the pagans, deviating them from the pure faith.

15:34

As the non-believers in the church did not know God, thus their mind and behavior were always contrary to the truth. Paul truthfully reminded the believers to pay attention in dealing with the non-believers.

3) “Exercise” (X)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 The people in the Corinthian church did not believe the truth of resurrection, that is, they were a group of unsaved people. Do we really believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact and truth?

2 Christ was the firstfruits of all believers; let’s firmly believe and fervently proclaim this truth (15:23).

3 Memorise 15:2223.

22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (1 Corinthians 15:22–23)

4 Resolve to read more apologetic books about the resurrection of Christ, as means of strengthening one’s own faith and able to testify to other people more effectively.

5 Owing to the fact that the Lord’s Day is a day to remember Christ’s victory over death, we must have a higher regard on Sunday worship.

6 Let’s face our daily life with hope; wholeheartedly believe that we will be with our gracious Lord and reunite with our saved relatives and friends in heaven.

4) “Proclaim” (P)

By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.

iEXP Bible Study Method

After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.

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