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Don’t be deceived (1 Corinthians 15:12-34)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au
  1. Essential things

There are always some things that are essential and necessary. These are things that you can’t do without or that you  can’t leave out without it changing the nature of what you have. Leave it out and you don’t end up with what you started with.

You can’t really have a chocolate brownie without the chocolate or the  cocoa. You leave out the chocolate  and all you have is what they sometimes call a “blondie”. I don’t think that I have eaten a blondie or even seen one and that’s probably because they are not the same thing as  a chocolate brownie.  They are something different. Without the chocolate it’s not worth having.

Some things are essential while others might be important but are not regarded as essential. Things don’t completely fall apart without them. Some brownie recipes say that a pinch of salt will enhance the flavours of the other ingredients. But if you leave out the pinch of salt you still essentially have a brownie. I would eat it because it is still a chocolate brownie.

In the passage today the apostle Paul explains to the Corinthians just how important believing in the resurrection of the dead is to the Christian faith. It is essential. He argues that faith is meaningless without out.

Christianity makes no sense if people aren’t raised to life. Without the resurrection you’re left with nothing of real value, nothing of worth, nothing that would be worth living for now as a believer in this life and definitely nothing worth suffering on behalf of if this life is all there is. But sadly there were some among the Corinthians who were saying that there would be no resurrection of the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:12-13

12 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? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.

In the first 11 verses of chapter15 the apostle has made it clear that the gospel he had preached not only proclaimed the death of Christ for our sins but also his resurrection from the dead. Here in these verses Paul argues that for people to say that there is no resurrection of the dead is for them to deny that Christ has been raised from the dead. And faith without the resurrection is like a chocolate brownie without chocolate. It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t worth having. You wouldn’t bother picking it up and eating it.
In these verses Paul argues that the bodily resurrection is essential to our faith and that the Corinthians were to be careful that they weren’t deceived about this. He does this by first looking at what faith without the resurrection would look like (verses 14 to 19) arguing that it doesn’t make sense. He then looks at faith with the resurrection (verses 20 to 28) and why it is essential to our faith and ultimately for the restoration of all things in creation. Lastly in verses 29 to 34 he calls on the believers to not be deceived and to come to their senses.

  1. Faith without the resurrection (v14-19)

In verses 14 to 19 Paul goes down the rabbit hole of faith without a resurrection showing where you end up if you choose to go down that dark hole and deny the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The headline is found in verse 14 which gets expanded in the verses which follows.

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

Paul makes two basic points in verse 14 that he builds upon in the following verses. If Christ has not been raised from the dead then their preaching is useless/empty and so was their faith. It doesn’t have any value. It has no utility. There is no useful benefit to believing.

a. Our preaching useless

Paul’s preaching would be useless because they would be preaching something that just wasn’t true. Paul explained that if Christ had not been raised from the dead that they would be false witnesses.

1 Corinthians 15:15-16

15 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. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.

If Christ had not been raised from the dead, Paul says that their preaching would be false and empty. They would be no better than snake oil salesmen selling something that promises to remedy sin and give life, but doesn’t do it. If the resurrection wasn’t true then what they were preaching was empty and meaningless. It doesn’t help anyone. As he explains later in verses 32…

“If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”

This is a direct quote of the prophet Isaiah who reports what the people said when they knew that their end was coming. their destruction, their end

b. Your faith useless

Paul wrote that not only was their preaching useless, so was your (the Corinthians) faith.

1 Corinthians 15:17-19

17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

The faith of Corinthians would have been built on a whopping lie if Christ had not been raised. And so it would be meaningless for it would also be false. If Jesus had not been raised, then Jesus wouldn’t be who he said he was and what he said he would do didn’t happen. Multiple times the Lord Jesus told the disciples that he would rise from the dead on the third day[1].  If he isn’t who he said he was then we haven’t been forgiven and death hasn’t been defeated. As Paul has written we would still be in our sins and those who have fallen asleep are actually lost. They are just no more. We would just be like the rest of humanity who have no hope. If our hope in Christ extends only as far as this life, Paul says that of all the people in this world that we are the most to be pitied. We would have believed a lie and that hardship and the suffering that comes to believers on account of Jesus’ name would be all for nothing. We would be just fooling ourselves.  Faith without the resurrection doesn’t make sense.

  1. Faith with the resurrection (20-28)

But fortunately, said Paul, Christ did rise from the dead. And that makes all the difference for the apostle and for all of us if we hold firmly to the message. For what we have in Christ far outweighs anything that we might have here. It makes life worth living even in the midst of hardship and suffering.

As Paul will make clear in the last verse in this chapter it makes what we do in the Lord meaningful. He writes that your work in the Lord is never in vain. Everything else you do won’t last. It isn’t remembered. But because Jesus rose from the dead our work in him is never in vain. It counts. We know that what we go through here and now isn’t where it all ends and what awaits us far outweighs what we have to go through here and now. The best is yet to come.

The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee of so much more. In his second letter to the Corinthians the apostle can write that despite what he was going through that they didn’t lose heart…

2 Corinthians 4:17

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us and eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee of what is to come. The apostle Paul describes the Lord as the “firstfruits” in verse 20 of chapter 15 . When a farmer planted a crop the first of the fruit that ripened out there in the field was the promise of more to come. It was just the beginning of a greater harvest. The apostle  wrote that the resurrection of Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. His resurrection is just the beginning of things for us and our world. He wrote that firstly all will be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:21-23

21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

a. All will be made alive – Christ is just the firstfruits (v20-23).

Paul wrote that all will be made alive and by “all” it is clear that he is referring to those who “belong to him” for he qualifies this in verse 23. We who have made our stand on the gospel will be resurrected to share in his glorious life. We get to share in his victory over death. Death is the last enemy to be destroyed.. Later in the chapter the apostle will go into more detail. He will tell the Corinthians that the dead in Christ will be raised and those who are still alive at his coming will be changed or transformed (v51). The perishable will be clothed with the imperishable and  the mortal with immortality (v52).

Jesus is the father of a new humanity. Just as in Adam we all die because like Adam we all sin (see Romans 5:12), in Christ we will all be made alive because he died and rose again so that we all might be forgiven and set free from sin and death (see Romans 5:18-19). But our resurrection is only the first of a series of things that will happen when Jesus returns. The apostle has explained the order of things in verses 23 to 28.

1 Corinthians 15:23-28

23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, 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 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. 28 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 all in all.

The apostle Paul describes the sequence of events beginning with the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead and he was given all authority in heaven and earth and he is coming again. When that happens the dead in Christ will be raised to life, the end will come when Jesus will hand the kingdom over to God the Father after Jesus has destroyed all opposition to God’s rule (every rule, authority and power). It will be a new creation in which evil and death will be no more and which God the Father will be all in all.

b. God will be all in all

God will rule over all the cosmos and he will be in all. The creation will be what it should be for people will no longer serve their own selfish interests but, we will live for the glory of our Heavenly Father. God the Father will be all to us and he will be with all of us. He will reign supreme over all things.

In the end all things will be put right in this world but without the resurrection of Jesus none of these things would be possible. He is the firstfruits of a new creation which involves not only those who belong to him being raised to life but the whole of creation being renewed so that all things will acknowledge God.

  1. Don’t be deceived

Faith without the resurrection doesn’t make sense. Again Paul returns to the absurdity of not believing in the resurrection in verses 29 to 32 before calling them to not be deceived in verses 33 to 34.  He illustrates the absurdity by arguing that on the one hand it makes no sense for him to go through all the suffering that he had experienced for the sake of the gospel if the dead are not raised. But it also did not make sense for his opponents to be doing what they were doing if there was no resurrection. He doesn’t align himself with what they were doing, but he just points out the fact that it doesn’t make sense.

a. It doesn’t makes sense

Firstly, he said that it didn’t make sense for those who were being baptised for the dead. Now this is the only place in Scripture that this gets a mention. Paul doesn’t say that he was doing this or even the Corinthians as whole were doing this and so we are left with the question who were doing this? There are lots of opinions but I believe one possible explanation would be that he is talking about those who were misleading them denying the resurrection of the dead. It could be that Paul is simply saying that if they don’t believe in the resurrection why did they bother doing what they were doing being baptised for the dead. It doesn’t make sense even for them.

He then goes on to say that as for us (the apostle and his gospel partners)  why would we endanger ourselves and face death everyday if there wasn’t a resurrection? Paul writes in verse 31 and 32…

1 Corinthians 15:31-32

31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If 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.”

Why would he do what he was doing if Christ had not been raised? He’d be better off just doing what most people do, just making the most of the time that they have because it will be soon over.

b. Come to your senses

Paul called the believers in Corinth to come to their senses.

33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 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.

They weren’t to be misled by those who denied the resurrection. He told them, “Don’t be deceived.” Instead of letting these people corrupt them, they were to live as people who had taken their stand on the gospel. They were to not go on sinning like those who don’t know God. Sadly, to their shame, that was how at least some of them were living. They were living as though they had nothing more than human hopes. They were to come back to their senses and stop sinning.

When you take your stand on the gospel it should change the way that we live here and now. It should mean that we don’t go on sinning for we believe Christ died for our sins. It should mean that we no longer live just for what we can have here and now because we know that he was raised on the third day and he was just the firstfruit of what is to come. In Christ all will be made alive and one God will be all in all. For us there is more to life than just eating and drinking for tomorrow we die. There is more to life than just working  and earning or travelling and spending. That is how those who are ignorant of God spend their lives. We have more than just human hopes. Our hope is more than just for this life. If you believe in the gospel it doesn’t make sense to live  for just what you can have here and now. Our hope goes beyond what we can see. We are to fix our eyes not on what we see but what is unseen for what is seen is temporary. It is passing away. It’s passing away. It’s soon over and done with. But, what is unseen is forever. It is eternal. It lasts and because it does Paul writes that what you know for your work Lord is not in vain for kingdom work is never in vain for his kingdom is like the kingdoms of this world, it is eternal. It goes on forever.

Come to senses, wrote the apostle. We are to be different and that difference should be evident in the way we live. We might NOT deny the resurrection of Jesus in what we say, but we can deny it in the way that we live. We deny it if we live like those around us who have nothing more than human hopes to go on and who live merely for what they can have here and now

Does the life you are living make sense of what you say that you believe in or does it not? Is there sin that you need to repent of that you are holding on to? Paul told the Corinthians to stop sinning. Christ died for our sin. He died not so that we could go on in them but so that we might be forgiven and set free from them to live for him. What are you holding on to that you need to turn from?

What is it that you are living for? What are you putting your hope in? Do you live like the others around us who have merely human hopes as though all your hopes are bound up with what you can have or make for yourself here and now? Do you hold onto things that you should be giving up as though they are what give your life meaning and significance? Are you putting first his kingdom and his righteousness or are you like the pagans (those who don’t know God) who run after things worrying merely about what they can eat and drink and wear (see Matthew 6:32-33).

We are to remember the gospel on which we have taken our stand. This is what we are to hold on to. Paul told the brothers and sisters at the end of this chapter that they were to stand firm and let nothing move them and always give themselves fully to the work of the Lord.












[1] Matthew 16:21;17:23; 20:19.