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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 15:11-14 The illogic of Greek logic

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, July 12, 2023

11 So then, whether it was me preaching or them, that is what we preached, and that is what you believed.

Paul is confident that where Christ is preached, the full message is proclaimed no matter who is preaching: the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus for the atoning satisfaction to pay for our sins and to make our own resurrection certain. Just as Moses did not mind who else prophesied in the name of the Lord (Numbers 11:26-28), so also Paul said: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). In our time, godly men have left churches such as the ELCA, sadly admitting that they were taught there in their seminary not to believe in the resurrection or the Bible’s miracles, but to preach in such a way that a believer and an unbeliever could hear the same words and be happy about it. But such a church no longer preaches the Jesus Christ, the Son of God, of the Gospels. Their Jesus is their own invention, but he does not lead anyone to heaven. Their preachers do not believe in heaven, so why lead anyone there?

12 Now if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is for nothing and your faith has been for nothing.

Some of the Corinthians were claiming that there is no resurrection of the dead. Greek philosophy taught that death resulted in the final release of the soul from the corrupt flesh, and that this itself was true happiness and bliss. It was a shock to a Greek philosopher, or to a Greek citizen who bought into Greek philosophy, that the spirit and the flesh might be rejoined at some point and the person would be whole once again. When the scholars of Athens heard Paul mention the resurrection of Jesus, some of them sneered at the apostle (Acts 17:32). But this is the teaching of the resurrection of the flesh. This is what Abraham believed (Genesis 22:5). It is also what Job believed, saying, “My Redeemer lives… in my flesh I will see him” (Job 19:25-27). It is what Martha believed, who said about her dead brother, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24). But, oh, those Corinthians and their superior knowledge and wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:19-20)!

Paul shows them with a little string of “If this is true” statements that brings their mixed up theology out into the light. You haven’t thought this through, you Corinthians! Here is Paul’s simple logic, guided by faith:

  1. If it’s preached that Christ is raised and remains risen, how can you say that there is no resurrection?
  2. If there is no resurrection, then Christ is not raised.
  3. If Christ is not raised, then our preaching is good for nothing.
  4. If Christ is not raised, then your own faith is good for nothing.

For us, this would be the end of the argument. Of course, we were mistaken. Of course Paul is right. The Bible says Jesus was raised, and that is all there is to it. There is a physical resurrection from the dead. That’s what faith says.

But Greeks like certain Corinthians were stubborn. Paul warned Timothy about the teachers Hymenaeus and Philetus, whose teaching was spreading like gangrene, and who “wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place” (2 Timothy 2:17). What could they possibly mean, that the resurrection had already happened? Their idea, so similar to certain preachers in our own time, was that coming to faith is identical to the resurrection. This idea “destroys the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:18). How can someone say that the resurrection is merely conversion or coming to faith in Jesus and apply that to all of the passages that describe the resurrection of Jesus? Do they mean that Jesus Christ didn’t think he believed in God until three days after he died? Will they try to claim that it’s the apostles’ faith that is being talked about when they describe the raising of Jesus? Why, then, don’t we say that Easter Sunday was the resurrection day for Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the others? If my resurrection is only my coming to faith, then what, if anything, is the resurrection of Jesus? Now we see, as this Corinthian (and modern European) logic comes crashing down like so much falling rubble, why Paul began the chapter with the simple Gospel message and a number of eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. Those were people who saw Jesus alive, in the flesh, after he rose from the dead. This also explains why Paul didn’t include the women and others who would not be available to the Corinthians to question, but the Apostles and others would. Even James, the powerful pastor of the Jerusalem church, would be known. Travelers would have heard him and seen him and could ask him: Did you see Jesus?

Paul uses reason and logic as servants, but he relies more on the word of God to make his point. Believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ is not an invitation to pick this or that from a buffet of doctrines. The whole meal, the entire Scripture, including the resurrection, is ours to be embraced, treasured, and relied upon for eternal life. The Holy Spirit invites us to trust in Jesus the way Abraham did, the way Job did, the way Martha did. We will rise. We will live. We will be with God and with one another forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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