Elon, North Carolina
We are doing a study of I Corinthians. For several weeks we have been in chapter 15 studying the topic of resurrection, not the resurrection of Jesus (although Paul deals with that too in the first eleven verses) but our resurrection. It is the only doctrinal chapter in the whole book. The rest of the book deals with practical or moral questions. We have learned several things about our resurrection and will learn more things in the next few weeks.
Is this a major or minor doctrine? Apparently, this is a major doctrine. It is the longest chapter in the book. Paul spent almost sixty verses talking about it. Paul did not write sixty verses on a minor topic. Why did Paul write the chapter?
He wrote it because there were some in the Corinthian Church who had some false ideas about the resurrection. They believed in the afterlife. They did not deny the immortality of the soul but they denied the resurrection of the body because they were Greeks and that was a common Greek view of the time. They believed in the resurrection of Jesus but they did not believe they would be raised from the dead and Paul corrects those errors.
How does Paul refute this error? He gives the Corinthians three different kinds of arguments. First, he gives LOGICAL ARGUMENTS for the resurrection of Christians (15:12-19). What does he say here?
He said that they are inconsistent. You cannot say that resurrection is not possible and yet say that Jesus was raised from the dead. That is a contradiction. Second, he gives THEOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS for the resurrection of believers (15:20-28).
Paul points out here that Jesus is the first fruits of those who sleep. He was the first person to be raised from the dead in a glorified body and his resurrection guaranteed our resurrection. He is the first fruits and we are the later fruits.
Third, he gives PRACTICAL ARGUMENTS for the resurrection (15:29-34). That is what we will look at today. Paul gives us the MORAL VALUE of the resurrection in these verses. There is a great application for us in this section. Let’s read I Corinthians 15:29-34.
Paul gives three practical arguments to the Corinthians for the resurrection. The first reason has to do with the baptism for the dead (15:29). Paul refutes a heresy about the resurrection by an appeal to water baptism. If there is no resurrection from the dead, why should you undergo a bunch of meaningless religious rituals?
We looked at this verse last week. We looked at how Mormons today misinterpret this passage. What is the baptism for the dead? No one knows. It could refer to people who are on their sickbed and are about to die and want to get baptized.
Paul’s point would be why go to the trouble to get baptized if there is no resurrection from the dead. It may refer to people who received the gospel and were baptized hoping one day to reunite with saved loved ones who passed away or were martyred. Paul’s point would be, why do this if there is no hope of being rejoined with loved ones in the next life?
No one knows for sure what the passage means. It is an obscure verse. Paul knew what he was talking about. The Corinthians knew what the baptism for the dead was but two thousand years later it has become a complete mystery.
The second reason he gives for the resurrection has to do with persecution and martyrdom (15:30-32a). If there is no resurrection, what is the point in risking your life for Christ to preach the gospel? Why risk your neck to get the gospel out? What’s the point in being thrown to the lions? What’s the point of being burned at the stake? In America, we do not suffer a lot of persecution for our faith.
Not too many Christians are martyred here. We have freedom of religion guaranteed in our Constitution. It is protected by the First Amendment. We live in the Bible belt and Christianity is quite popular but Paul did say, “EVERYONE who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus WILL BE PERSECUTED” (II Timothy 3:12; cf. John 15:20). Now not everyone will be martyred. Persecution can take many different forms. The point is that if you do not have any persecution in your life of any kind, you must not be living godly.
Christians in many countries (e.g., Muslim) do suffer intense persecution. Paul suffered all kinds of persecution. He says that he stood in jeopardy “every hour” (cf. II Corinthians 11:23-27). His life was constantly on the line. People were trying to kill him. He never knew when he would take his last breath. That is something that we don’t worry about in America.
Most of us do not wake up in the morning and wonder if someone is going to kill us today. Very few of us face danger and if we do it is not every hour. There are many who have very dangerous jobs and never know when it is their last day (soldiers, police officers, airplane pilots, firefighters) but they are not worried about dying for their faith.
Paul says “I die daily”. This is not a command but I have a question for you to think about from this verse. Are Christians supposed to die daily? We are to die daily in a figurative sense.
Jesus died once but we are to die daily in some sense. How do we die daily? We are to take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). We should be willing to give up our lives at any moment. We are to die daily to the desires of the flesh. We are to mortify sin (Colossians 3).
The third reason he gives for the resurrection has to do with godly living (15:32b-34). It is based on the philosophy “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (15:32)? If there is no resurrection from the dead, then what motive is there to live a moral life on earth? If that is the case, there would be absolutely NO reason to live a godly life. Why don’t we all become hedonists?
Why don’t we all live for pleasure and make that our aim in life? if this is all there is, you might as well have some fun before you die? Why don’t we all just live like animals? Live for today. There is no tomorrow. Life is too short not to. The problem with that argument is that it is foolish. God does exist and one day everyone individually will stand before him. Death is not the end. We all will be resurrected. This life is not all there is.
Paul ends this section with a solemn warning. The warning says, Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character” (15:33). It is a very interesting quote. It is NOT a quote from the OT. It is NOT a quote from Jesus or any of the Apostles.
It is a quote from a secular writer who lived three hundred years before Paul. It is a quote from an unbeliever, a pagan Greek poet named Menander. He said something true and Paul quoted him (cf. Philippians 4:8). This was something that even unbelievers understood.
“Bad company corrupts good character”. What does that mean? Just as diseases are contagious, evil is contagious. Throw a good apple into a bucket of bad apples and the only thing that happens is that the good apple turns rotten. There are two powerful applications from this principle here. There are two ways this principle can be applied.
Application One – False Teachers
The first application has to do with false teachers. Evil company in the context refers to false teachers. People who believed that there was no future resurrection were false teachers (II Timothy 2:16-18). False teaching corrupts good morals.
If you listen to false teachers, they will not only corrupt the way you THINK, they will affect the way you LIVE, because evil company corrupts good morals. False teaching leads to false living. If you think wrong, you will live wrong. If there is no resurrection, there is no judgment and if there is no judgment, I might as well live anyway I want.
Application Two – Immoral People
The application has to do with immoral people. Evil company can also mean wicked, ungodly people. Remember in I Corinthians 5, Paul deals with the case of a man who was living in incest and the church tolerated it.
What does Paul say about it? He told the Corinthians to exercise church discipline on the man and said “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?” (5:6). I don’t know if Paul knew how to cook but he used a cooking illustration.
In biblical times, when people made bread, they included an ingredient called leaven. Leaven is yeast that makes bread rise. When you put leaven in dough, it affects the whole loaf. It doesn’t take much yeast to make a loaf of bread (two teaspoons).
Paul compares sin in the church to leaven or yeast in bread. When public sin is tolerated in the church, it will spread throughout the body. One church member who is allowed by the church leaders to live in open rebellion can infect the whole congregation.
Evil company corrupts good morals. The wrong kinds of friends can get you into serious trouble. This is a big deal for kids in school (e.g., high school or college). Friends are important. Of course, there are different levels of friendship (casual, close and intimate). We all need friends.
We need to be with other people but we need to choose our close friends wisely (Proverbs 12:26). One of the worst important decisions you will make is who your friends will be, because we often become like the people we hang out with. It is far worse to have the wrong sort of friends than to have no friends at all.
Paul is not the only one to say this. The OT says the same thing. The Book of Proverbs says that there are some people that you should avoid and that there are some people you should not associate with. Who are they?
People You Should Not Associate With
1. We are to not make friends with GOSSIPS (20:19).
People who gossip talk about other people. They spread unsubstantiated rumors about other people. You hang around people that gossip all of the time and you will be just like them. This group has no control over their tongue.
2. We are to not make friends with SUBSTANCE ABUSERS (23:20-21; 28:7). This group has no control over their appetites.
3. We are to not make friends with ANGRY people (22:24-25). This group has no control over their emotions.
4. We are to not make friends with the SEXUALLY IMMORAL (5:3-8; 9:13-18). This group has no control over their body.
5. We are to not make friends with THE WICKED (24:1-2; 22:5).
This group has no control over their actions. Cf. II Chronicles 19:2. This seems like a strange verse. Aren’t we supposed to live the wicked? There is a right and wrong kind of love that we should have for the wicked. The Greek word that is used here in the LXX is φιλέω (the love of friendship).
Jehoshaphat was saved. Ahab was a wicked king. He worshiped a false god and persecuted and even killed those who worshiped the true God. The two became close friends. They went to war together. They planned it so their kids got married to each other.
6. We are to not make friends FOOLISH people (13:20; 14:7).
Not all fools are openly immoral people. There are some moral fools. Many are even religious. Do you know any fools? What exactly is a fool? What are some characteristics of fools? Let me list five characteristics.
Characteristics of a Fool
That is one sign. When we think of fools, we may think of people who are not very smart. Some may not be but other fools are highly educated. There are some fools who have PhDs (“wise fools”). Being a fool has nothing to do with IQ or intelligence. You may be at the top of your class. Many people who are very smart do stupid things (Anthony Weiner).
It is like teenagers who are foolish for dropping out of school in their senior year but I have seen kids do it. Fools have poor judgment, like building your house on sand (Matthew 7:24) or bowing down and worshiping insects, ants (Romans 1:22).
The fool is someone who is arrogant. They think they know it all (26:12; 12:15). They are not open to any type of criticism or feedback (17:10) because they think they are always right. By the way, they also do not listen to their parents (15:5)
They despise wisdom and instruction (1:7) and hate knowledge (1:22). This is not talking about someone who hates school. Wisdom here has to do with the Word of God. People who despise God’s Word and have no interest in learning and studying it are fools.
The fool says in his heart that there is no God (Psalm 14:1). That is not a sign of being open to other view points. It is the sign of being a fool. God calls the atheist a fool. Atheism is foolish. It is the philosophy that nothing made everything. These are the kind of people what you do not want to make your close friends.
If all of this is true, it raises this question for application. Who are the people you hang out with and spend the most time with? What kind of character do they have? Are they the kind of people you want to be like?
Didn’t Jesus eat with sinners? Didn’t he hang around many disreputable people? Didn’t Jesus hang out with all sorts of bad people (tax collectors and sinners (prostitutes, homosexuals)? Didn’t Jesus shock the religious establishment of the day by the people he associated with? Wasn’t he the friend of sinners? Aren’t we supposed to be like Jesus?
This is one of the most common myths that people have about Jesus. Jesus was the friend of sinners. Hymns have been written about this. Liberals love this idea. They argue from this that Jesus was completely inclusive and open. He accepted everyone as they were and ate with them.
Was Jesus the Friend of Sinners?
It is true that Jesus reached out to everyone. He reached out to all kinds of people, no matter how bad they were and no matter what the rest of society felt about them. It is true that he loved them and had compassion for people but this has been greatly misunderstood.
1) Jesus’ compassion for sinners does not mean that he endorsed their behavior.
Nowhere does Jesus ever condone sin (John 8:11). Jesus said “those that are SICK need a physician.” Healthy people don’t need a doctor. Jesus is not giving medical advice here.
He is not saying that you cannot go to the doctor for a check-up when you are well. He is just making a generalization based on daily experience. You go to the doctor when you are sick. He never denied that they were sick or had a problem.
2) Jesus’ ministered to sinners as their physician, not their friend.
Jesus hung out with sinners and even ate with them but why did he do it? Mark 2:17 tells us why. Jesus didn’t hang out with sinners and eat with them just to have fun. We don’t go to the doctor just to hang out and have a good time. Sickness requires a doctor. Sin also requires a doctor. If you have a sick body, you go to a doctor. If you have a sick soul, you need a Savior.
3) The Bible does not actually say that Jesus was the friend of sinners.
This is a common myth. The Pharisees said this and they meant it as in insult. “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” (Matthew 11:18-19).
This is very clear from the context. When the Pharisees called Jesus the friend of sinners, it was on par to being a drunkard and a glutton. Jesus was the friend TO sinners but not the friend OF sinners, anymore than He was a drunkard or a glutton.