Does chapter 15 seem out of place to you? Try this…go back a read the last chapter and then continue reading and see if it seems out of place. I think for some it does seem out of place because the resurrection isn’t central enough in our minds. It is common among many Christians to leave out this most important reality in the gospel we share. Maybe that’s why we do not live and love differently in the present.
It seems essential to go ahead and state what the purpose of chapter 15 is. How do we figure that out? Context and sometimes the author just simply states the purpose. Of course the context and the statement work together but sometime all we have is the context and flow of what was written. In this case, Paul has been trying to stamp out selfishness among these believers and the gospel was their only hope and ours.
A sneaky and subtle fear of death will cause you to live a very selfish life. That fear of death will greatly hinder the mission to make disciples of all nations. Self-preservation of our life and our identity will extinguish the work that needs to be done. I’m pretty sure chapter 15 was written to keep that from happening. Take note of how the chapter ends: Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58
This follows the realization that an enemy remains. Though death is defeated, it hasn’t yet been abolished. But…..someday…..
54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, *then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:54-57
Victory is certain! There’s no need to live selfishly now. Let us be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, now, knowing that our toil is not in vain in the Lord.
There’s so much I’d like to write about concerning this chapter but I’m afraid we might miss the point and purpose of this amazing reality—our resurrection. I will end with this: But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:23. The OT celebration at the harvest in bringing their firstfruits was a test to see if they trusted that more fruit would come. If Christ’s resurrection was the firstfruits then more is expected to come.
It’s like if we planted a garden and it was the only means by which we would have food for the year, we would have a decision to make when those first ripe tomatoes were glowing red among the green vines. We could selfishly take them for ourselves or offer them freely because we trusted that the Lord would cause more to come. Dear beloved of the Lord, you can give this mortal body of yours over to the Lord to do with as He pleases for one day you will be clothed in immortality! Let’s forget self. Let us take risks. Let us labor! We have work to do.
We have some repenting to do because the same problem among the Corinthians exists in us too. Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. – 1 Corinthians 15:34