Having established his expectations for the church at Corinth with regard to speaking in tongues, prophecy, and proper order in worship, Paul now begins to sum up his letter by clarifying certain heresies that were swirling within the church concerning the resurrection of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the resurrection of the body:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor 15:1-2).
There is tension here. It feels like the church has factions of disunity that put forth objections to certain things Paul has taught. But Paul believes down to his toes that these things related to resurrection are the heart of the gospel of Jesus that he has labored so long to develop in the church, in perfect unity:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (1 Cor 15:3-7).
Living today in a culture of cancel where all things are being challenged, we can appreciate how Paul was feeling more than any other time in our lives. So as Paul asks the Corinthians where they stand and how they are being saved – is it truly in the Word of God in the Bible, or have we believed in vain? Do you feel that you are standing alone right now? I hope not.
“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the disciples, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is within me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (1 Cor 15:8-11).
Don’t you wish that you could have seen the risen Jesus in person as did all these witnesses?
You have! And I have! That is, as Paul says, unless we believed in vain.
We have seen him in a different form, because he is one-third of the Trinity: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and what?
The Holy Spirit, who is within us, closer to us than our own breathing!
So the question is not whether we have witnessed the resurrection of Christ – we live the resurrection of Christ.
But the question is whether we allow the Spirit, the very resurrection of Jesus, to flow outward to others in perfect unity, or whether we block that flow, especially when it is needed in a tempted culture, either in Corinth a very long time ago, or in our communities today.
Have we believed, as witnessed by the flow of the Holy Spirit outward from all of us in perfect unity, or have we believed in vain disunity and fear?
In cartoons long ago, Popeye the Sailor Man said, “I am what I am,” Even longer ago, Paul the Apostle said the same thing.
Be who you are, allowing the resurrection to flow from you in perfect unity!
He is risen!
He is risen indeed!