Wednesday 11 March 2015

Bible Book:
1 Corinthians

“Otherwise, what will those people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?” (v. 29)

1 Corinthians 15:27-34 Wednesday 11 March 2015

Psalm: Psalm 119:145-160


Oh dear! Some difficult verses today.

Verses 27-28 caused a great deal of controversy in the first fewcenturies as people argued through the implications relating to thedivinity of Jesus as part of the Trinity. If we take a simpleapproach based on Philippians 2:8 ("he humbled himself and becameobedient to the point of death - even death on a cross"), then whenJesus became human (and "humbled himself") he surrendered himselfto God's authority. Perhaps Paul is challenging the Corinthians todo the same in the form of "If it is good enough for Jesus then itis good enough for you".

Next the passage includes a practice that we probably considervery weird. Receiving Baptism on behalf of the dead is not part ofnormal Christian worship today! Described as the most hotlydisputed verse in the epistle there have been over 30 differentinterpretations. Here is one from the 19th-century Wesley scholar GG Findlay: "Paul is referring rather to a much commoner, indeednormal experience, that the death of Christians leads to theconversion of survivors, who in the first instance 'for the sake ofthe dead' (their beloved dead) and in the hope of reunion, turn toChrist - eg when a dying mother wins her son by the appeal 'Meet mein heaven!' Such appeals, and their frequent salutary effect givestrong and touching evidence of faith in the resurrection."

From verse 30 to the first half of verse 32 we see a perspectivebased on it being dangerous to be a follower of Christ. Paul saysthat as it is dangerous and could easily lead to death we wouldn'tchoose to follow Christ if there were no resurrection.

The last part of the passage presents the moral outcome ofdenying resurrection that is "the end of hope, which is aninvitation to the permissive morality of despair" (Eerdman'sCommentary on the Bible) and finishes with a challenge to theCorinthians that because resurrection is true and hope is real theyshould wake up and get on with living out the gospel and tellingothers of it.

To Ponder

  • How do you think should we approach difficult verses in a worldwhere the authority of Scripture is often attacked?
  • How do you feel about the idea of converting to Christian faithin order to be reunited with Christians who have died beforeyou?
  • How important is resurrection to hope for you? What impact doeshope in resurrection have on the way you want to live?
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