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.

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 – Do You Know?

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord
    so as to instruct him?”

But we have the mind of Christ. (New International Version)

Knowledge can be a tricky thing. There is so much to the topic of knowing that we have an entire branch of philosophy, epistemology, which theorizes on how we know ourselves and our world.

The Enlightenment era (18th-century) focused on empirical data, that is, what can be known becomes knowable through the verification of our senses and a scientific process of systematic observation, measurement, and experimentation. In other words, knowledge has to do with the natural, not supernatural, because knowing involves our five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

The Enlightenment project, I believe, severely truncated our personhood. It left us as mere brains on a stick – valuing dispassionate empiricism to the point of devaluing the heart and the gut. For, when all is said and done, there is an immaterial way of knowing, a kind of sixth sense, which can discern truth and reality in a manner that sheer natural evidence cannot.

If we are unaware of this other sense, the spirit, then there is an entire dimension of ourselves and our world that we are unable to discern and know. Grounding our ideas and theories in evidence-based practices is quite important. We need rigorous processes of going beyond opinions and hypotheses to actual tangible evidence. Our world has benefited immensely from the scientific process. And yet, all this is insufficient.

Without a focus on the spiritual, we limit our knowledge and our perceptions of others and the world. And if we ignore our internal epistemic assumptions which are coming from other places than our brain, we can talk and act without knowing why we say and do some things. We can be unsure why we react in particular ways or cannot quite make sense of why we keep overeating or drinking too much or avoiding certain people and places.

In many ways, a major task our earthly life is to keep knowing ourselves better and better. There is a vast inner world that needs exploration, just as much as we need to explore the vastness of our earth and the immense space of the universe.

In science fiction, Star Trek has a way of knowing the seemingly unknowable within us. Vulcans (ironically the most empirical and dispassionate beings in the universe) have a unique ability to perform a “mind meld” which is a technique for the psychic fusion of two minds, permitting unrestricted communication or deep understanding. It is a way of accessing and sharing thoughts and feelings which are obscured or hidden. It is an epistemology that, in actuality, isn’t far from reality.

Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, so that somehow I also may be raised to life.

Philippians 3:8-11, CEV

That’s because the people of God, believers and followers of Jesus, have been given the Spirit of God. An unusual, unscientific, and mystical union has taken place in which God’s Spirit joins with our spirit and opens a whole new world to us.

There are some things which can only be known, understood, and verified by the spiritual. Incredibly, Christians are given the very mind of Christ. We enjoy an amazing melding, enabling us to become the people we were always meant to be – forgiving, loving, encouraging people who live and love just like Christ – who is in both our hearts and our heads. This supernatural epistemic way of knowing allows us to see beyond the five senses to a multiverse of senses within ourselves and others.

We can only know what God has freely given us if we have God’s Spirit within us and the mind of Jesus Christ testifying what is good, just, and true. This is a knowing beyond language and explanation. It is knowledge requiring a mind meld between the individual and Christ.

Rather than crucifying and putting to death things (and, God forbid, people) we don’t understand, there is a better way. Explore a different way of knowing. Discover the spirit within. Seek to understand the invisible God. Experience a fuller and richer way of life in Jesus Christ through the enlightening of the Holy Spirit.

Soli Deo Gloria

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – Will Our Ministry Have More Love?…

Love is enduringly patient with the quirkiness of others. Love is infinitely kind and generous to everyone it encounters. Love does not envy or resent another person’s gifts or abilities; it does not place oneself on a pedestal as a braggart. Love is not puffed-up like a peacock looking for constant attention and believing that life is all about my-way-or-the-highway. Love is never snarky toward others and does not seek a selfish conniving agenda at all costs.

Love does not fly-off the handle with limited information, and it absolutely never keeps a scorecard of other people’s offenses. Love does not cheer when other people screw-up, but, instead, throws a party when someone embraces gospel truth. Love always looks out for others, always gives the other person the benefit of the doubt, always sees the potential in others, and always believes what God can do in the most stubborn of hearts. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, My own translation)

Love Is Eternal

Love will forever endure. There is never a time when being un-loving is required or acceptable – that somehow we need to withhold love from someone so that they will get the clue they are doing something we don’t like.  In other words, love does not hate people who are different from us. Hate is temporary. Love is permanent and ageless.

As humans, we simply do not have the full picture to everything happening in the world. We don’t see all the angles or have a complete understanding of everything. Because of our limitations, we are to avoid being so quick to evaluate and judge. 

Love makes God’s interests in other people our interests. Love is to be our guiding and overarching principle for living. Love is to be our way of life. Love cannot be manufactured or synthesized. That’s because God is love, and God cannot be reproduced into our own image of how we think life ought to operate.

Many people are unloving and unkind in this often cruel and calloused world because they don’t know God loves them. If we don’t believe God loves us, then our words and our actions will reflect more of hate than love.  God really truly does love you and me. This is crucial. Do not forget this. Believe it. Live it. Enjoy it. Know it in your heart and deep in your gut. Tell it to yourselves until you are thoroughly bathed in it because it is more wonderful than any 70’s love song could ever describe it.

The Lord your God is with you.
    He is like a powerful soldier.
    He will save you.
He will show how much he loves you
    and how happy he is with you.
He will laugh and be happy about you. (Zephaniah 3:17, ERV)

Christianity does not simply happen by knowing some belief statements about God and Jesus. Christianity happens when people experience the white hot burning love of God in Jesus Christ for them. 

Jesus came not only for those who skip church and only occasionally read their Bibles, but also came for the hard-hearted thief, prostitute, adulterer, addict, terrorist, murderer, and for all those caught up in bad choices and failed relationships.

God’s love is never based on our performance, or how good we look to others; it is never conditioned by our moods. The love of God only looks longingly at you and me with the potential of what we can become in Christ, loving us as we are. This is a world-altering revolutionary reality:

God loves me as I am and not as I should be. 

Mit Tdrahrhe

But Christ died for us while we were still sinners, and by this God showed how much he loves us. (Romans 5:8, ERV)

Despite the decline of institutional religion in the Western world, the vast majority of people still believe God exists. Conversely, however, the majority of people do not believe God truly loves them. We are in a crisis of love. People need to know the God who is Love. 

Christianity never begins with what we do for God so as to make ourselves lovely and presentable to the Divine.  No! Christianity always starts with what God has done for us, the great and wonderful Love that exists for us in Christ Jesus.

God our Savior showed us
    how good and kind he is.
He saved us because
    of his mercy,
and not because
of any good things
    that we have done.

God washed us by the power
    of the Holy Spirit.
He gave us new birth
    and a fresh beginning. (Titus 3:4-5, CEV)

All the wrong turns in the past, the mistakes, the moral lapses, everything that is ugly or painful, it all melts in the light of God’s acceptance and love for us. Amen.

Will Our Ministry Have Love?

Welcome, friends! Our help is in the name and with the love of the Lord who made heaven and earth. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 13 is the great love chapter of the New Testament. All Christian ministry and mission is to be thoroughly grounded and bathed in love. Love is a deliberate and intentional decision to meet the need of another person without showing favoritism or discrimination – because that’s what God does.

Click the videos below, and let’s consider together the essential, effective, and eternal nature of love…

Pastor Tim Ehrhardt, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Life is short and we have too little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind….and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and always. Amen.