This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
1 Corinthians 15:29-57
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
29 Were it otherwise, what would the people accomplish who are immersed on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not actually raised, why are people immersed for them? 30 For that matter, we ourselves — why do we keep facing danger hour by hour? 31 Brothers, by the right to be proud which the Messiah Yeshua our Lord gives me, I solemnly tell you that I die every day. 32 If my fighting with “wild beasts” in Ephesus was done merely on a human basis, what do I gain by it? If dead people are not raised, we might as well live by the saying, “Let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”[a]33 Don’t be fooled. “Bad company ruins good character.” 34 Come to your senses! Live righteously and stop sinning! There are some people who lack knowledge of God — I say this to your shame.
35 But someone will ask, “In what manner are the dead raised? What sort of body do they have?”36 Stupid! When you sow a seed, it doesn’t come alive unless it first dies. 37 Also, what you sow is not the body that will be, but a bare seed of, say, wheat or something else; 38 but God gives it the body he intended for it; and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all living matter is the same living matter; on the contrary, there is one kind for human beings, another kind of living matter for animals, another for birds and another for fish. 40 Further, there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies; but the beauty of heavenly bodies is one thing, while the beauty of earthly bodies is something else. 41 The sun has one kind of beauty, the moon another, the stars yet another; indeed, each star has its own individual kind of beauty.
42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. When the body is “sown,” it decays; when it is raised, it cannot decay. 43 When sown, it is without dignity; when raised, it will be beautiful. When sown, it is weak; when raised, it will be strong. 44 When sown, it is an ordinary human body; when raised, it will be a Spiritual body. If there is an ordinary human body, there is also a body controlled by the Spirit. 45 In fact, the Bible says that Adam, the first man, became a living human being;[b]but the last “Adam” has become a life-giving Spirit. 46 Note, however, that the body from the Spirit did not come first, but the ordinary human one; the one from the Spirit comes afterwards. 47 The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 People born of dust are like the man of dust, and people born from heaven are like the man from heaven; 49 and just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, so also we will bear the image of the man from heaven.
50 Let me say this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot share in the Kingdom of God, nor can something that decays share in what does not decay. 51 Look, I will tell you a secret — not all of us will die! But we will all be changed! 52 It will take but a moment, the blink of an eye, at the final trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised to live forever, and we too will be changed. 53 For this material which can decay must be clothed with imperishability, this which is mortal must be clothed with immortality. 54 When what decays puts on imperishability and what is mortal puts on immortality, then this passage in the Bible will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.[c]
55 “Death, where is your victory?
Death, where is your sting?”[d]
56 The sting of death is sin; and sin draws its power from the Torah; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus the Messiah!
Paul is dealing with two issues:
1. The argument that faith in Jesus doesn’t imply faith in resurrection. Paul points out that the practice of baptism on behalf of the dead implies that the dead are going to be raised and either included in the world to come or not. He also points out to these comfy believers that his own dangerous vocation would be absurd if there were nothing beyond death. If there’s nothing to be gained by discipleship, why put yourself about?
2. The argument that bodily resurrection is inconceivable and therefore a daft idea. Paul argues that it can easily be conceived through the metaphor of the seed and the plant, which points to a process of change (or death) in which the original body (the seed) is utterly different from the final body (the plant). Nevertheless , there is a continuing identity throughout this process. Paul is aware that the terms he uses in contrast to mortality are matters of faith: the dignity, strength and spirituality of the resurrection body are envisaged by an imagination which has been stimulated by faith in Jesus Messiah, whom he characterises as a life-giving spirit. Paul uses here a symbolic connection between Adam and Jesus Messiah. Adam is the first man whose arrogance brought death into the world; Jesus is the last man, the man of the end times, whose humility brought liberation from death. Paul asserts the bi-polarity of human beings who share the mortality of the man of dust but can also choose to share the immortality of the man from heaven. Paul is not trying to prove the reality of bodily resurrection but rather making it comprehensible to his readers.
Having dealt with these issues Paul is free to compose a spectacular riff on the theme of resurrection. It does not attempt an explanation but simply affirms that we shall be changed into eternal beings; and that the imprisonment of humanity by sin, religion (/ Torah/ Religious Law) and death will be broken.
This material is central to Christian faith. Because of secularist arguments on the one hand, and fundamentalist nonsense on the other, faithful interpreters of Christian faith have been shy of dealing with death, judgement, eternal life and God’s kingdom. I have no embarrassment in declaring my hope of resurrection, my fear of God’s judgement, and my desire for God’s kingdom in heaven and on earth. St. Paul helps me to have some vision of what these concepts mean.