1 Corinthians 15
“1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as the first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” The Gospel of Salvation (also called the Gospel of Christ) is a message about salvation and how we are to receive eternal life. Paul just said here that if you’re not holding fast to the gospel message, you’re not saved. What is the simple Gospel of Christ, Salvation? 1) Jesus died according to the Scriptures, and he died for our sins, to pay the penalty for them. 2) He was buried for three days and three nights, as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish. (Modern theologians are now saying the Jonah incident never really happened. They’d better be careful, their salvation is in definite jeopardy, according to what Paul said in verses 1-3 of 1st Corinthians 15, and Jesus said in Matthew 12:38-40.) 3) Jesus was raised to life bodily in a resurrection. This is the gospel message. This is the Gospel of Christ, or alternately called, the Gospel of Salvation. This is the Gospel by which we are saved. If you confess from your mouth that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day, you will be saved. Salvation is by faith and not of our own making. (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/2ndcoming_4.htm and scroll to the bolded paragraph title “How To Become A Christian” and read from there to the end of the document.)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ had eye-witnesses
History does validate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Verses 3-8, “For what I received I passed on to you as of the first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” See http://www.unityinchrist.com/john/John20-1-23.htm for a full account of this.
Know your calling
Next Paul shows he knows what he is in Christ, as we all should know. We should all know our calling. Verses 9-11, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God [the Biblical name of the early Christian Church]. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them---yet know I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.”
Purpose of the chapter: Paul wrote this because some were preaching heresy about the resurrection, endangering their own spiritual lives and those of others
Verses 12-20, “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? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 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. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” In this chapter Paul is addressing a problem being caused by some people who had come into the Church and were saying and teaching that there is no resurrection of the dead, similar to the teaching of the Sadducees, and quite similar to “modern” teachings in some Christian churches which have gone very “liberal”. As we just read, Paul addresses this false teaching in verses 12-20. Paul brings out three basic points to counter this false teaching that there isn’t a resurrection of the dead. If you don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, this applies to you.
1. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, our preaching and our faith is useless. If this is so, we’re false teachers and foolish for what we’re doing.
2. Secondly, you’re still in your sins.
3. Thirdly, those that have died in the Lord are lost if there’s no resurrection of the dead.
So if the resurrection of Jesus didn’t occur, what are we doing here? It’s a nice day, we should be at the beach! What did Jesus teach about the two major resurrections of the dead? John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this: for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come forth---those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” So Jesus teaches that there are two basic major resurrections of man which are prophecied in Scripture to occur. The Old Testament counterpart to these two verses is found in Daniel 12:1-3. What is meant by this word “condemned” (“damned” in the King James Version]? We have to cross-reference it to the old King James Version so we can use Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to trace the original Greek word used for “condemnation” in John 5:28-29. From the old King James Version we get, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” Now that word “damnation” is not a good translation either. It is the word translators used for the Greek word krisis. Strongs #2920, krisis; decision, (subjectively or objectively for or against)…That is the literal interpretation for the word “damnation” without any connotation one way or the other. The word itself indicates that a person’s judgment in this particular resurrection could go in one of two directions, for or against him. Strong’s tacks a negative connotation onto this word, but that is not what the first part of the definition indicates, which is taken from the literal Greek. So we find that Jesus taught that there would be two resurrections, one to a resurrection of “life”, meaning eternal life, and another major resurrection which in all honesty we don’t know much about. So verses 28-29 should read, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of decision (for or against).” Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The resurrection to eternal life is for those who are in Christ, those who by faith believe the simple Gospel of Christ, also called the Gospel of Salvation. That’s what Jesus taught about the two major resurrections. What about the subject of “hell” and the “unsaved dead”. The various different parts of the body of Christ all have differing interpretations. To view them, log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/plaintruth/battle.htm. That is as much as I will discuss here, since the subject of this chapter concerns the first resurrection of the dead, to immortality, and not the second resurrection.
The order of the resurrections and main prophetic events
Verses 20-28, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he ‘has put everything under his feet [Psalm 8:6].’ Now when it says ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 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 in all.” We see here Paul then goes on to explain the order of the resurrections (ie Jesus Christ’s resurrection, and then the resurrection of believers to immortality at his second coming). Then he jumps the Revelation 21 in time sequence, when the New Jerusalem comes down, and all authority, including Christ’s is placed under God the Father. He kind of skips over the 2nd resurrection mentioned in Revelation 20:5, 1-13 and goes straight to the complete end of God’s plan of salvation. In this Paul is placing the main focus on the first resurrection, which is for believers in Jesus Christ, and is to immortality. That’s the whole focus of this chapter, as we will see.
‘Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die, if the dead are not raised.’
Verses 29-34, “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?” This is the only place in the Bible that mentions baptism for the dead. A Bible doctrine can never really be given justification based on one Scriptural reference or verse. This sort of falls into the area of importance that having long or short hair does in the Bible. “And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day---I mean that, brothers---just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die [Isaiah 22:13].’ Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ 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.” In this evil world we live in there is this “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die---there is no hope---no hope of life after death” mentality widely extant on earth today, as well as in Paul’s day, and even going back to the time of Isaiah. It is a common attitude of those in Satan’s world who don’t have a proper understanding of God and his plan for mankind. And here we find a body of believers that are buying into this attitude. They’re being lied to by some in their midst that there isn’t a resurrection of the dead. What is your hope? Is it eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die? Paul is saying that Christ has become the firstfruits of those who have died in Christ. (And this would be going all the way back to righteous Abel. For a short list, see Hebrews 11, the faith chapter of the Bible.) Paul is saying Jesus Christ is being called “the firstfruits.” That means there is more to follow Christ in his glorious resurrection. In these verses Paul uses the term “fallen asleep” instead of “died” because death is not a permanent extinction or cessation of life for the believer and nonbeliever as well (remember John 5:28-29 and Daniel 12:1-3). It is very clearly taught in the Bible there’s more to come later, for all of mankind. Paul goes on in these verses to talk about how sin and death entered the world through Adam. [Some like to say that this verse proves the dinosaurs couldn’t have died in the distant past 65 million years ago, because sin hadn’t entered the world. But this is clearly a misplaced application of Scripture. This Scripture is talking about all human life coming from Adam and going onward through the written history of mankind, not animals or anything that existed in any prior creations of God which the Bible does not cover. Use a little common sense. What happened in earth’s distant past is not explained, and we’ll find out all that stuff at Jesus’ second coming, so we must not worry out little heads about that stuff.] Romans 6:23 as we read says that in Christ (the second Adam) we are given eternal life. Death is the curse of man which came through the first Adam. Eternal life comes to us through Jesus Christ because he became the curse for us on the cross so we can have eternal life in the resurrection of the just. But Paul is also making the supreme point that the pagans are right about ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die’, if indeed we don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, or if there isn’t a resurrection of the dead to immortality.
Paul to the best of his ability explains what the resurrection to immortality will be like
Verses 35-49, “But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: men have one flesh, birds another, fish another. There are also heavenly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body [ie, Paul appears to be indicating our immortal bodies will be composed of ‘spirit’, not human flesh]. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth [ie, physical matter], the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall be bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” [cf. 1st John 3:1-2; Revelation 1:13-18, read it for yourself.] Amazing, Paul is demonstrating an astronomical knowledge of the differing magnitudes and colors of stars here. He obviously knew a little bit about astronomy. As we have seen there is a certain order in the resurrection of the dead (verses 23-28). Christ rose first, then the just rise at his 2nd coming. the Bible teaches there is victory over death. From this point on in 1st Corinthians 15 Paul begins to explain in the best terms he can the resurrection to immortality, 1) plant-life, 2) differences in species, 3) differences in heavenly bodies.
1. In going from our physical bodies to spirit bodies or spiritual bodies, look at the seeds and how they being dead in appearance, germinate and grow into a beautiful plant. Today people are afraid of death, but to Paul a Christian’s death is a doorway, a portal, into eternity.
2. Look at the caterpillar and the butterfly, one an ugly worm that eats leaves, which is then transformed into a beautiful butterfly that drinks nectar. Nature is full of these patterns which point to a greater glory for man.
3. Then thirdly, Paul points to the stars, and he demonstrates an amazing understanding for his time back then. In Daniel 12 God prophecied through Daniel that the righteous would shine as the stars. In Revelation 1:13-18 we find a description of how Jesus looks right now, in his immortal state, glowing with the brilliance of the sun in its full strength! Someday we will be given eternal spirit bodies. [Comment: It says we will be like the angels in another passage in the Bible, and I believe that refers to composition of our immortal bodies in the resurrection, which could indicate we will be created of spirit composition. People often think of spirit as a nebulous, invisible kind of thing. But when the angel appeared to Balaam and his donkey with a flaming sword, it was evident to both Balaam and his donkey that the flaming spirit sword in the angel’s hand was real enough to cut them asunder. Spirit is probably stronger and more dense than physical matter. In Matthew 8 the demons inside the two demoniacs had the strength to break strong chains asunder like they were made of warm butter. Truly we do not understand what we’re dealing with as far as the strengths and qualities of those who are composed of spirit, like the angels. God at this point, has made sure all spirit is invisible, because it suits his plan of salvation for all of mankind. Some think that we will be resurrected back to flesh and bone (no blood), and teach that as part of their doctrinal teaching concerning 1st Corinthians 15. The truth of the matter is we just don’t know. They may be correct, or they may not be. I tend to lean to the belief we will be composed of spirit, just as the angels are. Like Jesus, both after his resurrection, and in his pre-incarnate state as Yahweh, such as in Genesis 18, he had the ability to transform himself into flesh and blood, and just as easily, to disappear and revert back to his spirit composition. But flesh and blood is not his normal composition, as Moses knew. This is an area, as far as doctrine is concerned, where we just don’t know, but we will be finding out in the resurrection to immortality.] Our bodies are weak, sown in corruption, and yet we will end up in these glorious spirit bodies, glowing like the very sun, for John states in 1st John 3:1-2, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” John had Jesus revealed to him on the Isle of Patmos and in Revelation 1:13-18 we have a written description of what Jesus looks like right now. John here is saying we will be like Jesus, glowing as the very sun in its’ full strength! Paul’s analogies fit the Scriptures. We are sown from Adam, the first Adam, we will become like the second Adam, Jesus Christ, as he appeared to John in Revelation 1. We will not be God, for only God can be God. But we will be like Jesus as he appeared to John on the Isle of Patmos in vision. Paul also brings out that not everyone is going to die, but some Christians, who are alive at the time of Christ’s 2nd coming will be changed in an instant, into their immortal bodies, whatever form that will take. Some believe into spirit composition like the angels, and some believe into some kind of immortal flesh and bone that cannot die. We’ll find out, and that little doctrinal difference of opinion is not important at this time, it only serves to be divisive to the body of Christ. But rest assured, we’ll be transformed into new bodies of brilliance and power, just like the angels. But we will retain our exact appearance, so that we will recognize each other, of course.
The first resurrection to immortality described by Paul in stunning detail
Verses 50-58, “I declare to you brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” I just want to make the comment about this one verse, and that is this, the Kingdom of God lives in us through the Holy Spirit who dwells within believers---in a limited spiritual sense--- but we don’t actually inherit the Kingdom until we are actually resurrected into immortal beings in this 1st resurrection Paul is describing. “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed---in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet...” Let’s stop right here and see when this event occurs, cf. Revelation 11:15-18, “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God, saying: ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead [by context with Revelation 20:4-5, this appears to be referring to the righteous dead], and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great---and for destroying those who destroy the earth.’” Now let’s resume where we left off on verse 52a, “For the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must clothe itself with imperishable, and this mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory [Isaiah 25:8].’ ‘Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? [Hosea 13:14]’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord [and that would be evangelism, and nourishing the body of Christ, cf. Matthew 28:18-20; 24:14], because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Complementary Scriptures backing up 1st Corinthians 15
What other Scriptures complement 1st Corinthians 15? Paul wrote a similar passage in his letter to the Thessalonians in 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep [die in the Lord], or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep [died in Christ]. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first [rising out of their graves!]. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
What occurs next in time sequence, after the 1st resurrection to immortality?
This is only part of the prophetic picture. Some reading only these short verses think they’re going to heaven and will “ever be with the Lord” right there in heaven. Jesus is coming back, to rule the earth from Jerusalem. So we have to follow the prophetic progression of events, and not just stop with that one single verse. So where are we now? We are in the air, the upper atmosphere with Jesus Christ (no-where’s near the third heaven of God’s throne). What then? Jesus shows us through a prophecy that was given by Yahweh [actually himself as the pre-incarnate Christ] to the prophet Zechariah. Zechariah 14:1-11, “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished [raped]. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. And in that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east.” [Comment: Jesus has come, with us, down from the upper atmosphere, to stand on the Mount of Olives! What next? What occurs as a direct result of his touching down on top of the Mount of Olives? Let’s see. This is exciting stuff.] “And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee [the prophet addressing the Jews who are living in Jerusalem at this time] as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You.” That’s us folks!---risen up in the first resurrection with glorious glowing bodies, and coming immediately down to the Mount of Olives with Jesus Christ our Lord to rule the nations with a rod of iron, as it talks about in Revelation 2 and 3. As other prophecies point out, this is the beginning of the Millennial rule of Jesus Christ and the saints over the entire world for a thousand years of peace and prosperity. See http://www.unityinchrist.com/kingdomofgod/mkg1.htm or the pdf version at http://www.unityinchrist.com/kingdomofgod/MillennialKingdomofGod.pdf . “It shall come to pass in that day that there will be no light; the lights will diminish. It shall be one day which is known to the Lord---neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen that it will be light. And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem. Half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur.” In Ezekiel 47:1-12 God inspired a prophecy about these two rivers, which will give Israel it’s first major river system (other than the erratic Jordan River), bringing life-giving water to Israel and to heal the oceans with! Look it up and read about it. “And the Lord shall be King over all the earth.” verse 9a, “In that day it shall be---‘the Lord is one’ and his name one. And all the land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be raised up and inhabited in her place from Benjamin’s Gate to the place of the First Gate, and from the Tower of Hananeel to the king’s winepresses.” This is a description of how Jesus will supernaturally reshape Jerusalem into a ten mile wide by forty mile long plain raised up on top of the mountain chain Jerusalem sits upon. The fact that Jerusalem will be light at night is caused by Jesus and our presence, glowing as the very sun in brilliance, in the dark! (cf. Daniel 12:1-3 and Revelation 1:13-18 and 1st John 3:1-2) Although I think we and Jesus may have to tone our luminosity down a bit so we don’t fry the poor Israelis living in Jerusalem during the Millennium. This reshaping of Jerusalem will be brought about as a result of the massive earthquake which will occur when Jesus touches down on the Mount of Olives, splitting the Mount of Olives in two and making a massive plain on top of the mountain chain Jerusalem sits upon. Jerusalem will become Jesus’ capital city which will then govern all the nations of the world [cf. Isaiah 2:2-4]! And we will be governing with him, right alongside of him! “The people shall dwell in it; and no longer shall there be utter destruction. But Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited” (verses 1-11)
The supernatural battle-scene in Jerusalem
Zechariah 14:12-15, “And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths.” In his graphic book Heroshima John Hershey describes a man in an anti-aircraft gun emplacement on the mountain range facing Heroshima. He was looking toward the city of Hiroshima when the atomic bomb detonated. His eyes melted in their sockets from the brilliance of the flash of light from the core of the detonation. Looking upon Jesus and the resurrected saints will obviously have a similar effect upon the enemies of our Lord and his resurrected saints. The Lord obviously protects the Jews caught in the middle of all this, as they are innocent, and he’s coming back to save them. It would be senseless to wipe out those you’re coming back to save alive, wouldn’t it? Let’s continue. “It shall come to pass in that day a great panic from the Lord will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbor, and raise his hand against his neighbor’s hand;” [utter confusion as a result of Jesus Christ’s supernatural warfare.] “Judah also will fight at Jerusalem.” [on the side of the Lord, obviously, when Zechariah 12 and 13 are put together with this passage] “And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be gathered together: gold, silver, and apparel in great abundance. Such also shall be the plague on the horse and the mule, on the camel and the donkey, and on all the cattle that will be in those camps. So shall this plague be.” What happens next. Log onto that link about the Millennial Kingdom of God, either in html version or pdf version. Read also Ezekiel 36:1-38, where it shows the Lord also bestows his Holy Spirit on all of Israel. But of course, in Zechariah 12 and 13 it shows the surviving Jews come to recognize “the one whom they’ve pierced” as their Messiah, Jesus Christ, Yeshua haMeshiach.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Various beliefs about “the other” resurrection and hell:
The Millennial Kingdom of God, after the 2nd coming:
How to become a Christian: log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/2ndcoming_4.htm and scroll to “How to Become a Christian” and read from there to the end.
1st Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Now what is “the work of the Lord”? It would be fulfilling the commission or job Jesus gave all Christians to do until he returns. Look up and read Matthew 28:18-20. He prophecied we would accomplish that job as believers in Matthew 24:14. (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/missionstatement.htm, which basically describes the two elements of that Great Commission, put into practical application by this website. It might give you some helpful ideas about how you can do this in your personal life as a Christian.) As Paul says about the information in 1st Corinthians 15, we have a great motivation---the promise of being in that first resurrection to immortality! Also, as he just said, not one effort of ours will be in vain, so abound in the work of the Lord. This verse (58) is an introduction into 1st Corinthians 16. The timing of this letter, and what Paul refers to now, is a time of great famine in the known Roman world. We found that God prophecied about this famine in Acts 11:27-30, which states, “And in those days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius [41-54AD]. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul [Saul is Paul].” This puts 1st Corinthians 16 in perspective in the historic time-line, somewhere between 41 and 54 AD. The Church of God in Jerusalem was still struggling due to this famine. Paul goes on to say in chapter 16, ‘Give according to what you have every week.’ There are people today who use guilt to get people to give, but Paul brings out in 2 Corinthians that God loves a cheerful giver. There are also those who try to fleece the sheep of God, but Paul said that they should choose out some people from amongst themselves to accompany him in taking the money to Jerusalem, thus setting an example for all time of Christian financial accountability. Televangelists should take heed to that one. This, as I’ve said, brought accountability so they would know he wasn’t just running off with the money.
Principles of giving
1st Corinthians 16:1-4, “Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.” Our particular fellowship gives about two-thirds of their total income (tithes and offerings) to missions which serve people [most of this text excerpted from a sermon from a local Calvary Chapel]. Abounding in the work of the Lord includes giving. Paul says ‘Give for the Kingdom.’ As a church our philosophy is not to ask for money. God isn’t broke Begging for money for the Church is an insult to God. God desires a cheerful giver because it is good for the giver. Christianity is the Way of Give, while man’s way is the Way of Get. God states through David in Psalm 50:9-12, “I will not take a bull from your house, nor goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is mine, and all it’s fullness.” We very seldom teach on tithing because so many groups beat people over the head on the subject of tithing. [For on interesting discussion on Christian giving, log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/gifts.htm which explains the subject of tithing, both from the Old Testament laws to the principles of it in the Church age.] But the right of the Church, the ministry of Melchisidek, to receive the tithes and offerings the Levites originally received was transferred over at the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to the Church, the body of Christ as a whole. The biggest reason the Jews wanted Paul dead after he wrote the book of Hebrews was probably because of what he said in chapter 7:1-12 of Hebrews. In verse 12 which law is Paul speaking of being changed? The law of who receives the tithes of course! By the law of Moses the Levites were supposed to receive the tithes of the people, and Paul here is saying that upon Christ’s sacrifice, the priesthood of Melchisidek has superceded the Levitical priesthood of Aaron. When you read the context of Hebrews chapter 7, verse 12 is pretty clear. It’s about tithing. Why would Paul’s statement here in chapter 7 of Hebrews be so offensive to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem? It is estimated that ‘the Sect of the Nazarenes’ (early Judeo-Christians) in Jerusalem and Judea could have been over 100,000 strong in number (that’s an estimate, it could have been a half to a quarter of that, but still a large number). Before 70AD many of these Judeo-Christians still went to the Temple in Jerusalem and worshipped there, and many of them probably still tithed to the Temple priesthood. Paul was showing that the right to levy tithes had been taken from the Levitical priesthood and now resided with the priesthood of Melchisidek, ie the apostolic Church of God. For the Temple in Jerusalem to lose the ability to levy tithes on a hundred thousand individuals, or even 25 thousand individuals because of the letter of one man, Paul, must have angered the high priest like poking a stick into a hornet’s nest. Remember the motive of the high priest who conspired to have Jesus killed. He was stirred to anger and action when Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers on the Temple grounds the week before he was killed. The high priest, Caiaphus, and Annus his father in law, had a big side business going on right on Temple grounds. All these money-changing and sacrificial animal sales concessions were rented out by the high priest, and he was probably taking in a healthy percentage of the profits these vendors and money changers were making. Nothing changed in Paul’s day. Why would it have? So back to the import of Hebrews 7. Any minister of Jesus Christ who truly is of Christ is part of the priesthood of Melchisidek. Sounds pretty awesome doesn’t it? And being in this priesthood carries a big responsibility and accountability to the Lord when all is said and done. But tithing is an act of worship, and should be looked upon that way. Remember, you can’t outgive God. Paul is saying, ‘abound in the work of the Lord, your labor is not in vain.’ How can we abound in the work of the Lord? We can support the Christian churches and fellowships we belong to financially as well as in our prayers and service. This financial support then should go out to the world in Christian service, outreach programs and direct support of evangelism. God says this type of labor is not in vain. The whole context of chapter 16 is about financial giving and Christian service, and is set by verse 58 of chapter 15, where Paul says our giving, our service, our labor is not in vain. (btw, there were no chapter breaks in the original Greek manuscripts.)
Paul says he intends to travel through southern Greece and Corinth again, God willing
As Paul closes his letter he says he intends to come through southern Greece and Corinth again, God willing. James brings out in James 4:13-15, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year or two there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. [Now that’s pretty accurate, considering what modern physicists have come to know about physical matter, that it is in fact shimmering energy in a different form than raw energy, per se, very hollow, mostly empty space. And realizing this as I was typing this out, the concept came to me that “spirit” in God’s realm is probably more solid than matter. We think of spirits phasing through walls, as Jesus did right after his resurrection. We’ve always had the concept of spirit being a nebulous cloudy kind of being, when in fact it may be quite the opposite. Physicists are saying it is we and all matter which is the nebulous cloudy material, like smoke in a room. A spirit-being like an angel or God passes through us like we’d walk through a cloud or fog or a holographic image. How is it that the demoniacs Jesus drove the demons out of could snap chains asunder like they were warm butter, as Matthew 8 clearly states? Obviously, those spirit-beings, called demons (and also God’s holy angels who guard us, thank heaven) are much more solid than physical matter, and much stronger too. My educated guess is the spirit composition of the angels and God is far more solid than physical matter.] So back to James’ point, that we are but ‘a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.’ “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.” If you take the attitude of letting God lead you, planning to be disrupted by God through circumstances, this is God’s way of guiding your steps. Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” verses 5-9, “After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you---for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has been opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” [Comment: Paul mentions the Hebrew Old Testament day of Pentecost, called Shevuot in Hebrew, the Feast of Weeks mentioned in Leviticus 23. There is no mention of Gentile holidays here or anywhere in the Book of Acts. The early Judeo-Christian Church was made up of Jews and a special group of people called “God-fearers” who were Gentiles that had been attending services with the Jews in their synagogues. Most do not realize it, but the Hebrew Holy Days mentioned throughout the Book of Acts are historic proof of the days of worship the early Christian Church were observing, albeit in a non-Torah observant manner. See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm for more historic proofs about that subject. Most Gentile Christian churches or denominations don’t necessarily believe that, but the mention of these days speaks for itself. Now back to the subject.] We also have an open door before us, just as Paul did. But just like Paul, we also face opposition. Revelation 3:7-8, “To the angel of the church of Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” There is a strong indication that these letters are actually addressed to the seven Church Era’s that go from the early Church to the 2nd coming. Philadelphia, in this case would be right about where we are now in Church history. It may be we---in the Christian Church today---that have been given the “open door” to evangelize the whole world, through the tools of modern media coupled to courageous missionaries and evangelists traveling the world over, coupled to powerful international evangelistic organizations. Check out those various organizations linked on the mission statement of this site at: http://www.unityinchrist.com/missionstatement.htm. There is a battle raging and there is adversity. We are living in the final days of man’s evil age whose unseen ruler is Satan. We are far closer to the coming Kingdom age of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will usher in that age when he returns. What is Satan’s attitude just before that event? Revelation 12:12, “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Why is his time short? Read Revelation 20:1-3 which occurs in time order just after the description of Jesus Christ’s 2nd coming in Revelation 19. This event where Satan is cast back down to earth for the 2nd time occurs just before the tribulation starts (the first time occurring way back before the age of man described in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14). The tribulation (World War III) starts in the end time, which we live in right now, a time where mankind can kill every living creature on earth multiple times over with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Satan must be getting a little nervous right now, a little angrier as time grows shorter, and God’s evangelistic goals get closer to being accomplished. So we have opposition, don’t kid yourselves. [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/Satan/satan.htm] Peter says Satan is as a roaring lion, lurking about, seeing who he may devour. Stand fast in your faith. Think of Noah, he stood fast in faith for 120 years, constructing an ark as people laughed at him. We may be in the times of Noah that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24. So be brave and strong, there may be tough times coming. Do everything with agape love. Read 1st Corinthians 13 regularly, pray Jesus places this love in you richly. Verses 13-14, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” That’s not only Paul’s advice to those of his time, but to us upon whom the ends of the world are come. The mission of this church and the denomination it hails from is to be a hospital---a spiritual hospital---to teach people the Word and love them. True love comes from God---agape love. That is also the mission of this website, and should the Lord start up Internet Churches of God that will be their combined mission, promoting spiritual health and thus spiritual unity throughout the various parts of the body of Christ as well as contributing to international evangelism. That is why I take a somewhat neutral stance on the secondary issues and doctrines, being willing to briefly explain some of the various beliefs and stances different denominational groups may take in explaining the same set of verses, while leaving the final judgment up to the individual reader. The various beliefs and views we have about the secondary doctrines found in the Bible do not effect our salvation in Jesus one single bit. What’s secondary, and what is primary in doctrine? That’s an entirely different subject, which is covered in http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/whyorthodoxy.html.
Paul commends the family of Stephanas---Honor those who serve you in the Lord
Next Paul commends the family of Stephanas who are addicted to serving the Lord. This family was being looked down upon by the Corinthians. Paul is telling them to honor those who serve you in the Lord. Verses 15-18, “You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work, and labors at it. I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.” Paul here was pointing out the household of Stephanas for the quiet, tireless service he had rendered, and is making the point that we should note those in our local congregations that do the same thing. Paul commends the family of Stephanas who are addicted to serving the Lord. Paul is telling them to honor those who serve you in the Lord. In the Worldwide Church of God, which I was a member of for over 27 years, there was this deacon named Jim, and his wife Fran and son Mark. The whole family was a prime example of a servant family. For years he and his wife tirelessly served the local congregation and was the pastor’s right hand man to get things done like set up and taking down of chairs, and every other activity associated with running the church. He was the behind-the- scenes prime moving force to accomplish almost everything that was done in our local congregation. But he and his family were quiet, serving often unnoticed. His son Mark ran the sound system for the local congregation and spent long hours of his own time repairing cables, amplifiers and whatnot. Jim spent over 25 years never having been given any further rank in the church, even though he was the right-hand man for every pastor who came to serve in our local congregation. Finally in his later life he became a pastor in northern Maine on a 6 church circuit of local congregations (in another Sabbatarian Church of God denomination, who did come to recognize his real value). His wife Fran (now deceased) drove with him as his loyal companion and supporter on that grueling 6-church circuit that went from northern Maine into Canada. Jim (way above the age for retirement) and his son Mark still serve a local congregation tirelessly back in my home state. Wherever there was a church function or activity in all my memory in the local Worldwide Church of God congregation I was a part of, there would be Jim, Fran and Mark quietly serving away, arriving early and the last ones out the door. That is a modern day example of the Stephanas family. They’re the ones who set the example of what service is in the local congregation. They are the backbone and mainstay of our local congregations.
Greetings and a farewell
“Verses 19-24, “The churches in the province of Asia [Asia Minor, there were a lot of them up there] send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets in their house. All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. If anyone does not love the Lord---a curse be on him. Come, O Lord! [Aramaic: Maranatha] The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.” Paul said in verse 22 “If anyone does not love the Lord, a curse on him.” Christ is the way of salvation. Jesus is the “door”, “the Way.” He said this himself. John 10:1-11, “‘I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact they will run away from him because they do not know his voice.’ Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand him. Therefore Jesus said again, ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’” Without Jesus Christ there is no other way to salvation. Apart from Jesus there is no hope. [the full sermon on John 10:1-11 is at http://www.unityinchrist.com/john/John10-1-42.htm.]
The early Christian Church, what it was like:
“The open door” Christ set before the Philadelphian Era of the body of Christ, international evangelistic Organizations. Check them out: http://www.unityinchrist.com/missionstatement.htm
Satan is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour:
Secondary vs. primary doctrines, and heresy, what it is and isn’t: