1 Corinthians 15:20-34 – That’s Weird

“Nonsense” by Wanidaem, 2016

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every 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 “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

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?

And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,
    for tomorrow we die.”

Do not be deceived:

“Bad company ruins good morals.”

Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. (New Revised Standard Version)

There was a lot of goofiness going on with the Corinthian church.

That’s why the Apostle Paul’s first letter is long and filled with addressing a variety of problems. Some of those issues we can understand and relate to, and some we don’t have much of a clue what’s really going on. I tend to think that because the Corinthian believers tended to keep some bad company, a lot of weird stuff pops up, like vicarious baptisms for the dead. Where the heck did that come from?

“Weird Blue Painting” by Matthew Freese

Well, what we do know is that when Jesus told good old Peter the fisherman to leave his nets behind and become a fisher of people, catching them was only half the work. Cleaning them takes a lot of work, too.

I have done my share of fishing in life (both real fish and real people), and I can say that cleaning fish is a messy affair. Just as a fish gets gutted, so a person, caught for Jesus, needs to be eviscerated of all the worldly entrails of sin. And that didn’t completely happen with the Corinthians.

Rather than hanging out with the goofy weird dudes who are saying and doing only God knows what, Paul brought the Corinthians back to the center of the gospel. He reeled them into Christ’s resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from death is the penultimate event of securing victory from sin’s guilt and shame, as well as death’s sting. It’s the resurrection which enables every Christian to realize the power of cutting out the weird and goofy stuff of worldly sin for the meat of Christ’s words and ways.

Because Christ arose with a real physical body, we, too, will experience a bodily resurrection. This means, as believers in Jesus, we are not to have a goofy approach that resurrection is all spiritual with nothing physical going on, as if the body were just some weird container for the soul that we have to put up with here on earth.

Whenever that weird thinking takes place, people do goofy things, believing they can do whatever the heck they want, since the body is like a paper plate that we’ll just toss in the garbage when we’re done with it. Christ’s kingdom ethics and physical morality ends up taking a back seat to ethereal philosophical musings. Leave it to the Greek Corinthians to do mental gymnastics in order to live however they want. Sometimes, when I read Paul’s letter, it feels like I’m watching an old “Leave It to Beaver” episode where Beaver is having all kinds of goofy thinking and doing weird stuff because of Whitey and Larry’s bad advice.

Jerry Mathers as the Beaver

Coming back again and again to the redemptive events of Jesus helps preserve us from the esoteric bunny trails of theological goofiness. Yet, if we continue to keep company with a bunch of folks who are into power and control through the ungodly means of mistreating the body (and other people), making comparisons between the physical and the spiritual, (as if they were two completing separate identities), obsessing over their weird and unintelligible philosophies, and refusing to take responsibility for their physical actions – then, we’re going to turn goofy, just like them.

Come to your senses, Paul would say, and get your head screwed on straight. Fill the space between your two ears with proper knowledge of Christ’s resurrection, and pay attention to your hands and feet, because they are the tangible means of putting the will of God into practice.

There’s a goofy and weird “ha, ha,” and then there’s a goofy and weird “uh, oh.” Keep the “ha, ha,” avoid the “uh, oh,” and you’ll be just fine.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy on us, your people, and grant us your wisdom and peace. Amen.

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