As Christians, we might understand why Jesus rose from the dead, but the idea that WE will also rise from the dead is perhaps a bit more confusing. Paul answers more questions about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49.

1 Corinthians 15:35-49, “More Questions about the Resurrection”

Sometimes, we come across things that don’t make sense…at least, to us. Other people get it straight away, but we have a difficult time seeing it. Like certain optical illusions, when there are supposed to be two different images represented but we only see one while everyone else sees two, it gets confusing. At least, it’s confusing until someone points it out to us, at which it becomes impossible not to see it.

If we’re being honest, there are certain theological concepts that are the same way. We know what we’re supposed to believe and we want to believe it…we just have a difficult time understanding how it all works. It doesn’t make sense at first glance and we need a bit of help putting it together to see it from a different perspective. 

For some, the resurrection might fit into that category, especially our own resurrection. We might somewhat understand Jesus’ resurrection, being able to take it as a matter of faith knowing that it is part of His declaration and identity as the Son of God. But we have an easier time believing it because Jesus is God. As for us…well, perhaps our future resurrection is a bit more difficult to understand. After all, we’ve all seen people die; we haven’t seen regular people raised from the dead. We know the Bible tells us that it will happen one day, but that day seems so far off in the future. To that end, it seems more like a storybook or fairy tale, rather than a matter of fact.

Moreover, some people even try to explain it away. Because it seems difficult to understand it becomes easy to write off. They spiritualize it, talking about a symbolic resurrection rather than a physical one. They look at the supernatural aspects and claim that it isn’t possible. To them, it isn’t even logical, so why would God do it? Why would anyone expect it?

Yet this is the plain teaching of the Bible. Everyday men and women will rise again. God’s plan for mankind was always for us to live eternally…that was how our bodies were designed. This changed during the Fall, which makes it one more thing that Jesus restores in His work of redemption. Our future resurrection is not a fairy tale myth; it is an essential part of the fulfillment of our salvation!

Our questions about the resurrection are not unique. The same issues arose among the church in Corinth. These are the questions Paul was answering in his letter. On the one hand, the Christians claimed to believe the gospel; on the other hand, some among them doubted a key element of it. The resurrection seemed foolish to them, rather than crucial, making the whole gospel of God to be foolishness rather than being the wisdom of God with the power to save. This was no minor problem; the resurrection is foundational to our faith. Perhaps this was why Paul ensured he gave this subject special attention towards the end of his letter, after he was able to address all the other issues and controversies.

He began at the logical starting place: the gospel. If he was to address concerns about the resurrection, he needed first to establish its place within the fundamentals of the Christian faith. It was part and parcel of the good news of Jesus, which Paul had previously preached to Corinth and which Paul himself had received from others. It was the news that Jesus died for their sins, was buried, and rose from the grave, all according to the Scriptures. This gospel (specifically the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ) was not merely recited as religious dogma; it was verified by literally hundreds of eyewitnesses, including those who were inclined to be the most skeptical. Jesus is risen from the dead. It is a matter of historical fact.

Moreover, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is essential. Paul demonstrated this by asking and answering a series of questions, all logically connected to one another. What if the resurrection were not true? If no one is ever raised from the dead, how could Jesus be raised from the dead? What would that mean for the future plans of God regarding the Millennial Kingdom and eternity? How would it affect multitudes of Christians today, if they had no resurrection hope? To all these questions Paul demonstrated that it is futile to believe in a resurrection-less Christianity. Without a literal resurrection, we have no proven Christ, no reason to believe, and no reason to live righteously. To remove the resurrection is to gut the gospel, leading to terrible results.

Thankfully, Jesus is risen from the dead! Again, this is a matter of historical record and need not be doubted. We can hold by faith to the gospel message knowing that it is true – it is the very word of God and He does not lie.

That said, we might still have some questions. Perhaps the Corinthians believed Paul regarding Jesus, having faith in the basics of the good news of Jesus Himself. Even so, there might still exist questions regarding how it applies to us. How will we as born-again Christians experience our own resurrection? Does it even make sense? What is involved with it? These are the issues Paul addresses as he continues Chapter 15. Clearing up any remaining confusion about the resurrection, Paul makes four points:

  1. The resurrection is logical.
  2. The resurrection is visible.
  3. The resurrection is practical.
  4. The resurrection is vital.

There may be many things about the resurrection that are mysterious, but we can know this much: our resurrection is a vital part of God’s redemptive plan for us, and it is accomplished through His omnipotent power.

1 Corinthians 15:35–49

  • The resurrection is logical (35-38). The premise.

35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?”

  1. As Paul does so often in his letters (particularly his letter to the Romans), he anticipated the questions of skeptics – and not just people outright skeptical to the gospel itself, but also that of real Christians with hesitations and doubts. It is neither unusual nor sinful for real Christians to have real questions. Sincere believers in Jesus sometimes have sincere issues and misunderstandings. Consider Martha’s and Mary’s questions for Jesus at the grave of their brother Lazarus (Jn 11). They couldn’t understand why Jesus wasn’t there when it seemed they needed Him most. If He had been in Bethany a few days earlier, Lazarus would never have died. Even at the gravesite in Jesus’ presence, they couldn’t grasp Jesus’ instructions to roll away the stone. Martha hesitated, telling Jesus that because Lazarus had been dead four days, there would be the stench of rot. Jesus reminded her that if she would believe, she would see the glory of God (Jn 11:40). As glorious as the miracle was, we can understand Martha’s hesitancy. Emotionally, she did believe Jesus, wanting everything He said to be true. Yet intellectually, she stumbled. She couldn’t see how it would be true. – Sometimes, born-again believers stumble. We might want something to be true Biblically, but when we cannot immediately nor easily explain it, we might inadvertently dismiss it. Be careful! Just because we might not personally have or understand the answer does not mean that answers do not exist. There is nothing wrong with having the questions; just be sure to believe Biblical truth by faith as you seek to understand the answers.
  2. Of course, there are others who are not There are some skeptics who try to look for holes in the Christian faith, trying to discredit the gospel. The Bible has answers for them, too…though it might not be the answers they want. Everything the Bible teaches about Jesus is true, but it will remain foolishness to the stubborn and hardhearted. God resists the proud while giving grace to the humble. To those who want to shake their fists at God, you might do so today, but be assured that you will one day answer for your rebellion. God does not owe you answers but you do owe Him your worship as your Creator. Beware that you do not hide behind your questions simply as an excuse to maintain your sin.
  3. As for the questions themselves, what Paul lists is straightforward. It boils down to this: how. How is it done? By what power are dead people raised from the dead? Once someone is dead and decomposing, what body is raised up if it is all true? Does the Bible promote the idea of a bunch of zombies? How are the bodies fit back together? It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, which makes it fodder for those who want to try to poke holes in the Bible.

36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.

  1. With the answer comes a bit of chastisement. It seems that Paul thinks more of the rebellious skeptics here than the sincere Christians with questions. The New Testament never shows the word used for “foolish one” in a complimentary sense. And yes, the skeptic should be chastised on this. The kinds of questions raised are questions that put human limitations on the omnipotent God. Do we really think that Almighty God is limited by method? Do we truly believe that God ever sits back and wonders how He might accomplish something, as if He got stumped by a problem? We get stumped, not God. (Not that it takes much. Some of us get stumped just trying to put together furniture from Ikea!) God has no such limitations. Making the impossible possible is simply what God does. Speaking to the prophet Jeremiah about His plan to both judge Jerusalem via Babylonian conquest as well as His ultimate plan to bring Israel back into the land, God says: Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” The question is rhetorical because the answer is obvious: No…nothing is too hard for the Lord God! How foolish it is to believe otherwise. If God says it, God can and will do it. We might not know how, but God does. And what God says He will do is the only thing that matters.
  2. As for the answer itself, Paul starts with a basic premise: “what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.” At first glance, this might seem contradictory. How can something live if it first dies? We need to be careful not to jump too far ahead in our assumptions. Notice that Paul does not start with the idea of death, but with sowing. Paul is not writing of some grand Frankenstein experiment where dead things find life coming out of nowhere; he writes of the process of sowing seed. Even to our modern 21st century minds, this is relatable. We may not have as much experience with agriculture as the average person of the 1st century (or 1st through 19th centuries, and ongoing for much of the rest of the world!), but even the most “city-fied” person living in a downtown apartment knows what happens when a seed is planted. What appears to be dead (a seed) quickly comes to life when buried. Death does not inherently lead to life; sowing/planting does. Thus, this isn’t contradictory at all; it is something we witness on a regular basis.

37 And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.

  1. Again, the idea is that of a seed. The type of seed doesn’t really matter, be it “wheat,” rice, corn, “some other grain,” or even some kind of flower, fruit, or vegetable. Any seed that is put into the ground under the right conditions undergoes a change. Genetically, it is still the same. An apple tree is not genetically different than its fruit, which itself is not genetically different than its seed. Each aspect of the “apple” looks drastically different, but it all had the same origination and same basic genetic code. What makes the difference between the forms (or the “bodies”)? The will and design of God. As verse 38 says, “God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.” God makes an apple seed into an apple tree and an apple fruit, according to His will. Likewise with wheat, barley, oats, or any other horticultural product we can imagine. Whatever seed is sown into the ground bears life and grows into the body that God wills for it. In fact, it might be said that this is God’s whole purpose for the seed from the start. Each plant starts as a seed, but God’s ultimate will for that plant is not for it to remain a seed, but to grow into a fully-grown plant that produces fruit in a kind of new life.
  2. The application ought to be obvious. The human body buried into the ground is a sown seed, and God has a will and a purpose for that body. There will be a fundamental change, and what comes up will have major differences from that which is planted, but it is all the same person. Moreover, that new body was God’s ultimate will for that person from the beginning. The first body was merely a seed; the raised body is God’s end-goal. This is all done according to God’s pleasure and God’s design.
    1. That is a big truth and Paul has much to say on this subject as he goes through the passage. For now, consider this much: our future resurrection is a key part of the eternal plan of God. It is part of His design for us, having conceived of our future resurrection body before we are ever given any physical body. God knit us together one way knowing that our current bodies will one day change. These bodies are important, but ultimately, they are little more than seeds. Our current bodies are used in the future resurrection, but God has a design and plan to change them into something far greater. And imagine the benefits: if it is possible for us to glorify God with our current bodies today (which we can, per 1 Cor 6:10), imagine how we will be able to glorify God in the resurrection! 
  3. As an aside: What does this mean for cremation? The picture of a sown seed obviously refers to burial. What happens with bodies that are burned instead of buried? Cremation used to be uncommon among Christians but is now practiced on a regular basis, if for no other reason than the less expensive cost. But it raises some concerns for people. Are cremated bodies not truly “sown” into the ground? Is there nothing left for God to raise in resurrection? – To this, we need to remember the almighty power of the Creator God. God originally formed Adam from the dust; it is no problem for Him to re-form cremated Christians from the dust. Besides, it has been nearly 2000 years since Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Most of the Christians who have died in the past two millennia have already turned to dust, even though they were buried. Their bodies decomposed, with even the bones decaying into the basic elements. Other Christians were buried at sea, or were tragically thrown to wild beasts to be eaten, etc. None of this poses any difficulty for God. God will raise each and every born-again Christian from the dead, exactly according to His promise. He does not limit His grace only to those who were buried in impenetrable caskets. Just like God knit each of our bodies in the wombs of our mothers, so will He give us new restored bodies in the resurrection, regardless of burial, organ donation, cremation, or the like.

This is the basic premise, and it makes logical sense. God can do anything, and because God’s design is to use the seeds of our current bodies to bring forth renewed resurrection bodies, that is exactly what He will do. It makes sense…as well it should! Although there are many theological truths we hold by faith, there is none of which we hold without reason. Biblical Christianity is a logical, reasonable faith. We serve the God who created logic and reason, so why would the truths He gives us to believe about His design be any different?

Consider for a moment how different this is from other religions throughout history. We don’t believe in a bunch of gods and goddesses who bicker with each other on Mount Olympus in Greece. Nor do we believe in a god who demands you tell the truth to him but permits you to lie to infidels or who promises dozens of virgins to men who commit mass murder. Not only do those false religions contain inherent contradictions, some of their basic premises don’t even make logical sense. To be sure, Biblical Christianity is founded on supernatural miracles, such as Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead, but at its core, it still makes sense. Our sin broke God’s law – God sent His Son to pay our fine – those who receive Jesus as Lord and as the sacrifice for our sin are saved. This is reasonable – it is logical. Moreover, it is true.

  • The resurrection is visible (39-41). Illustrations and examples.

39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.

  1. Again, the issue is fairly straightforward. Paul describes the variety of flesh among animal life. Be it humans, animals, flesh, or birds, it’s all different from one another even as it is all created by the same God. Even among humans, we are each unique. Although we all have the same basic shape and the same color of blood, we all have different fingerprints. Our DNA is individual to each of the 6 billion+ people on the planet. Our God gives incredible variety among various kinds of flesh.
  2. What does any of this have to do with the resurrection? Look back at verse 38: “But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.” Each one of these kinds of flesh is an example of the various bodies that come from different seeds. These are the different bodies chosen by God for each kind/type of “seed.”

40 There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.

  1. Just as there is variety on this planet, there is variety beyond our planet. There is a great difference among the many planets and stars throughout our solar system and beyond. There are the relatively tiny, rocky planets like Mercury closest to the Sun; there are the massive gas giants like Jupiter, in which 1300 Earths could fit. Not only are there different kinds of flesh, but there are also different kinds of glories (lights or appearances). The Sun looks different from the Moon, for good reason. Although both shine, the Sun generates its own light while the Moon reflects the light of the Sun. Likewise, certain stars shine brighter in the sky than others.
  2. The point? God designed this universe in a certain way. While there are many similarities and commonalities that point to common Designer, there is also a great amount of variety according to the creative will of God.

The illustrations may be simple, but they make sense. These are all the varieties of ways God has worked in creation already. We can see with our own eyes the manifold works of God. Why then, would we object to an additional kind of flesh or glory in the resurrection body? Why would we think it to be unusual? It is just one more example of what God has already done.

  • The resurrection is practical (42-45). The method.

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.

  1. Just in case the point wasn’t clear, Paul spells out the meaning of the various examples: “So also is the resurrection of the dead.” The variety seen among the different lifeforms and planetary bodies and lights ought to give us the same expectation of seeing something different in the resurrection. That the resurrection body might be physically different than our current body, while still being the same stuff as our current body is not something that is impossible or illogical. Does it require God’s miraculous power? Of course…but so does every other form of life or body. Unless God puts it together, it doesn’t exist. Likewise with our resurrection bodies. It goes into the ground one way; it comes up another. Paul gives several contrasts showing the transformation differences…
  2. Corruption vs. incorruption. That our current bodies are corruptible ought to come as no surprise. Bodies decay…sometimes breaking down even before we’re ready! The physical strength a person has at 70 years old is nowhere close to what he/she had at 20. And of course, when the physical body is put into the grave, it decomposes. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But that is not how it will be in the resurrection! In the resurrection, our bodies will be incorruptible. When we are raised, we will be raised forever. Our bodies will last, not breaking down, not failing in middle age (because we will not have a middle age!).
  3. Dishonor vs. glory. If the first contrasts speaks to physicality, the second speaks more to morality. Consider the reason our bodies fail: sin. The wages of sin is death. Because we all sin individually (and because we have all inherited a sinful nature from Adam), all die. Thus, our bodies are “sown in dishonor.” Even when we consider a person to have died honorably as with a great military sacrifice, death is inherently dishonorable because death would not exist without sin. But praise God for the contrast, for our resurrection bodies will be “raised in glory.” The glory had by Jesus is the glory we will receive as His followers and co-heirs. We will be raised in bodies without a sinful nature and thus we will never again be tempted to sin. This is the final ‘phase’ of salvation, which will only be experienced in eternity. Today, we can know justification (our forgiveness) and sanctification (our being set apart for Jesus and conformed to Jesus’ image), but we cannot know glorification. In the resurrection, we will.
  4. Weakness vs. power. As with the idea of corruption, it comes as no surprise that Paul describes our current physical bodies as weak. Relatively speaking, even the biggest powerlifters among us have weak and frail bodies. Even if you can bench-press twice your bodyweight, you can still be killed by a microscopic blood clot. Today, our bodies are frail; in the resurrection they will be powerful. Not that we look for the kind of Hollywood superpower strength; rather, they will be bodies that will never grow weak nor die. The book of Revelation speaks of how we will no longer experience death, sorrow, crying, or pain (Rev 21:4). The tiny things that can wreak havoc upon us today will be unable to touch us in the resurrection.

44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

  1. Natural vs. spiritual. The terminology is interesting and perhaps a bit difficult to translate. The word rendered “natural” and “being” (v45) is psuchikos/psyche (ψυχικός/ψυχή), and it does pertain to the things of the natural world, but the noun form can also refer to the soul. Some might paraphrase Paul as referring to a “soulish” body. That perhaps forms a more distinct contrast with the “spiritual body,” of which Paul uses a word he has repeated much through the letter of 1 Corinthians: pneumatikos/pneuma (πνευματικός/πνεῦμα) for “spiritual” and “spirit.” This is the same word Paul used back in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 referring the spiritual gifts, technically calling them “spirituals,” as in, “spiritual things.” This is the same word used earlier in the letter to refer to spiritual maturity (which the Corinthians did not have).
  2. What is the contrast? What goes into the ground is natural and soulish; what comes up is spiritual. What goes into the ground is tainted by sin; what comes up is not. Where is this best seen? It is the difference between Adam and Jesus. The first man in all creation, formed by God Himself from the dust of the earth was named Adam. That man “became a living being.” In other words, that man was nothing but dust until God breathed life into him. At that point, he became a living soul. Jesus, however, is different. Jesus (labeled here as “the last Adam”) does not receive life; He gives it. The first Adam had to receive of the work of God; the last Adam is God. The last Adam gives the things of the spirit because He and the Spirit are one just like He and the Father are one.
  3. This has amazing theological ramifications (as Paul will demonstrate in a moment), but it is this aspect about the resurrection that makes all of the difference in the world when it comes down to how this works out, practically. How is it that our bodies will be raised in incorruption, in glory, and in power? Because our bodies will be raised according to God’s Spirit, just as Jesus’ own body was raised. Our current bodies follow the pattern of Adam, with all the corruption and dishonor and weakness. In the resurrection, all of that is gone. Our bodies will be like Jesus’ body. What was Jesus able to do in His resurrection? Everything the disciples were able to do and much more. He had a physical body that could be seen and touched. He had a mouth and stomach that could eat and drink. But He also had a body for which locked doors were no problem. He had a body that death could not hold. Somehow, in some way, our bodies will be like His. No, we will not be made omnipotent little “gods”…but we will have physical bodies that are spiritually and supernaturally transformed. Those bodies will still be our bodies, just like Jesus’. When He wanted to be recognized, Jesus was readily recognized. In the resurrection, you will still be you and I will still be me. We will be able to know and recognize each other, as the bodies that go into the ground will rise from the ground. But our bodies will be spiritually transformed and remade from the inside-out. Remember that Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead (v20). Our resurrection will follow in the same example as His.

To say that the resurrection is practical is to say that it works. There are certain results that are accomplished through the miraculous transformation of our physical bodies by Almighty God. The things He does will be amazing, and the practical aspect of it makes the idea of heaven so much better. I don’t know about you, but the common idea of heaven as people floating around like disembodied ghosts playing harps doesn’t sound very appealing. Our general culture (and even our church culture) tends to promote the picture of heaven as monochromatic white nothingness, with people going from place to place acting like they’re on Valium or some other psychotropic drug. To borrow a term from the British: rubbish! That isn’t the picture painted by the Bible at all. The Bible writes of a new heaven and a new earth, with gardens and rivers and fruits. It tells us that we will have real bodies with real experiences. We will have conversations, sing songs, eat at feasts, and more. All of what we experience as good in this world will be in eternity…only much better. That ought to give us something to look forward to…as well as want other people to experience with us.

  • The resurrection is vital (46-49). The theology.

46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.

  1. There is a necessary chronological order of bodies. We don’t get the spiritual body first; we get the natural (soulish). Why? Because we certainly wouldn’t want it in the opposite order! Think again about the picture of a seed. We expect a seed to grow into a tree; not a tree shrinking back down into a seed. A mature tree produces seeds; it does not regress into one. For us to go from the spiritual to the natural would be a regression, backwards. God designed us to grow into something glorious, which is what the natural comes first, then the spiritual.
  2. This too, is seen in the contrast between Adam and Jesus. Adam shows the natural, whereas Jesus shows the spiritual. Adam was formed from natural stuff. Jesus was not formed (being that He is the eternally begotten Son of God), but His ‘origin’ (for lack of a better word) is from heaven. The issue is their composition. The “first man” is of “dust;” the “second Man” is “from heaven.” 

48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

  1. As seen earlier in Chapter 15, this is the idea of federal headship. Look again at verses 21-22: “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” By way of review, this is the concise way of Paul saying everything he said to the Romans in the 5th chapter, when he described how both Adam and Jesus are representatives of all those who are under their headship and example. Romans 5:12–14, “(12) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—(13) (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (14) Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” Because Adam is the first of mankind, he serves as the progenitor and representative of mankind. And the consequences that fell upon Adam fell upon all who followed in his lineage, having his sinful nature passed to us via his seed. Yet things changed with the Second Man, the Last Adam, Jesus (of whom the original Adam was a type/picture). In Jesus, we receive grace and life because of Jesus’ victorious work at the cross and resurrection. Romans 5:18–19, “(18) Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. (19) For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” This is what is described by the term “federal headship.” As men and women, we are either grouped under one federal head or the other. By default, we are already under the headship of Adam which results in judgment and condemnation due to sin. But by faith, we can be placed under the headship of Jesus, by which we are justified unto life and are made righteous.
  2. This same concept applies to what takes place with our physical bodies, both before and after the resurrection. Because Adam is our default federal head, we are born with bodies made from dust just like his body was formed from the dust. But when we have faith in Jesus Christ, our resurrection bodies bear His heavenly likeness. In Adam, we are naturally soulish and doomed to decay back into the dust from whence we came. Yet in Christ, those who have been saved by His grace have the promise of a glorious transformation. Our resurrection bodies will be made of the same stuff and substance as Jesus’ resurrection body. We will no longer be of earthy dust, but of heavenly spirit. We will have the same image as that of Jesus – not the darkness of earth but reflecting the glory of God. (Which gives an interesting parallel to the illustrations in vss. 39-41 of the varieties of flesh and glories among the universe.)

It is a bit of deep theology, but the theology is important. What difference does it make to us for our bodies to be remade in the resurrection? It makes all the difference for us to experience eternity! How else are we to live eternally, unless we have bodies that are equipped to do so? People today often look to add years to their lives, which is great up to a certain point. If you remain healthy and active all the way to 100 years old, praise God…but not everyone does. Some people might add a few years to their lives, but those years aren’t exactly glorious. Certain drugs might keep our hearts beating, but they don’t necessarily keep us from being bedridden, unable to walk, or otherwise frail. What good would it be to live to 150 years old, if we couldn’t function?

But that is the wonderful promise we have because of all of this theology. Because Jesus is our federal head, our resurrection bodies will be like His own. Because we will bear His heavenly image, being made of the same stuff as Jesus’ own resurrection body, living 150 years is no longer a problem…or 1000 years, or 10,000 years, or 10 billion years. It won’t be eon after eon of weakness and infirmity, but of health and strength and power and joy. The “seed” of our lives on this earth will pass away, but that which God brings forth will be better than we can imagine. It will truly be life to the fullest and it will always be that way.

Understand that this is the culmination of our redemption. When Jesus died for us and rose again from the dead, it was not for us to have a temporary or imaginary hope; it was for us to be guaranteed a permanent everlasting reconciliation with our Creator God. We will always be in His presence, always in joyful fellowship with Him, always living as He designed us to live. We often talk about the promise of heaven…this is what it will be like! In terms of books, heaven isn’t designed to be “the end;” it is “happily ever after.” Life goes on (and on, and on). The way we will experience it is through our glorified, resurrected bodies, made possible through the redemption of Jesus Christ. And that is why this mysterious theology is so very, very good.

Conclusion:

Praise God for the resurrection! Not only for the glorious and fundamental resurrection of Jesus Christ which makes our salvation possible, but for our future resurrection as well. Though certainly mysterious and supernatural, it is logical (reasonable with a sound premise) – it is visible (being already illustrated through various examples on earth) – it is practical (having real benefits to us in heaven) – and it is a vital part of our theology (being the culmination of our redemption in Jesus).

Is it a lot to absorb and comprehend? Yes. Might we still have questions? Sure. But how glorious to know that God has answers for our questions and has plans for our future resurrection, even if we do not fully understand it. God has reasons for all He does because He is the all-wise God.

“Okay, I get it. Even if I don’t totally understand all the details, I get that God has all of it worked out. That’s all well and good for eternity, but how does this help me today? What does this matter to me now, as I try to put bread on the table for my family and get through daily life?” Simple: it’s a matter of perspective. All of these day-to-day issues we worry about today, we won’t always worry about. All of the pains and struggles we have today, we will not always have. In the grand scheme of things, this life is a blip – it is the blink of an eye. What are 70-80 years, in comparison with 10 billion years+ of eternity? It is for that time that we live, to which we look forward, and for which we prepare. Certainly, we want to enjoy every day as God gives it today, for every day from Him is itself a gift. But even the best of the days of this life are mere shadows of what lays ahead for those of us in Jesus. To know what awaits us in eternity…that is the perspective that will help us endure the trials we face now.

Is it being too heavenly minded to be any earthly good? With due respect to Oliver Wendell Holmes, such a thing isn’t possible. The better a vision we have of heaven, the more we desire to live as citizens of it today. The more we long for eternal glory with God, fellowshipping with Him, the more we want other people to experience it with us. We need a right idea of what awaits us in our resurrection if we are to rightly serve our resurrected Jesus today. It gives us the right perspective and helps us maintain our joy, even when it otherwise appears we have no reason to rejoice.

How about you? Have you lost sight of the eternal perspective – have you gotten distracted by the trials of this life to the point that you’ve lost sight of what we are guaranteed in Jesus? Consider again our future resurrection! Because of Christ, you will always be with the Lord. That is His very promise to you and to me. John 14:1–3, “(1) “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (2) In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” We are going to be with Jesus! And not only will we be with Him, we will be with Him forever. That is glorious! And that is a reason to rejoice, even through our temporary tears and troubles.

What do you do when you have griefs and tragedies? As a Christian, you can take them to the Lord in prayer. God wants us to pray and invites us to pray, always ready to hear the prayers of His people. We see this principle in the life of Hannah, as the book of 1 Samuel begins.

Hannah’s Passionate Prayer

Posted: April 15, 2021 in 1 Samuel

1 Samuel 1, “Hannah’s Passionate Prayer”

Prayer is one of those things that many Christians know we ought to know, yet don’t actually do…at least, we don’t do it much. Sure, we pray before meals and we pray along with other people when we’re at church. Maybe we even pray for other people when we come across various requests. And all of this is good and God-honoring, when it is done with the right heart and Biblical desire. But it is all very brief. These prayers last anywhere from a few seconds to maybe a couple of minutes at best, then often forgotten. Yet some needs can’t be met by a 10-second prayer. Sometimes we need to pour out our hearts to God. We need to express our griefs and sorrows – we need to tell Him our fears – we need to cast our cares upon Him, trusting Him to give us the strength we need.

And He will do it! All we need to do is ask. When was the last time you asked?

It is this that we’ll see as we begin our study of the book of 1 Samuel. But before we begin the book, we need a bit of background…

It was the time of the judges, following the events described in the book of Ruth. The people of Israel were by and large being inconsistent with the Lord, with every man doing what was right in his own eyes. The previous judge in the Biblical record was Samson, thought it is uncertain how much time had elapsed since his battles with the Philistines, as well as his imprisonment and death. What was certain is that there was no king in Israel, which led to spiritual apostasy and general lawlessness, something which God would soon address by raising up a king.

It is the ascent of the monarchy which is the primary subject of the book of Samuel (1-2 Samuel being originally unified as one complete book). Specifically, the book looks at the origination of the Davidic dynasty and God’s covenant with him. To this end, the book of Ruth wonderfully prepares the reader, although Ruth is placed toward the end of the Hebrew canon of Scripture among the “writings,” rather than among the previous books of the “prophets,” in which Samuel is placed. The English Bible follows a different order of canon, placing the two books in their general chronological sequence.

Who wrote the book? Traditionally, the Jewish Talmud attributed it to Samuel himself, though this seems unlikely. The majority of the book deals with events long after Samuel’s death. Although it is theoretically possible that God gave Samuel prophetic insight into the days following his own death, it is highly improbable that such prophecy would (1) not be discovered by those at the time, and (2) not publicized in some form, but remaining hidden until after the much later death of David. It is far more likely that an unknown author wrote the book, which was attributed to Samuel due to his early mention and status in the lives of the two main kings (Saul and David).

Because we do not know who wrote the book, we also cannot say with certainty when the book was written, although it was almost certainly a contemporary of David or around that general timeframe. We do know the timeframe of the book, as this can be seen in the various genealogies and other events. The narrative begins roughly 300 years after the original exodus out of Egypt, putting Samuel’s birth around 1105BC. There was yet 1000 years till the incarnation of Christ, but the idea of God’s anointed one (i.e. “Messiah”) is a constant theme in the lives of Saul and David, with David even being told by God of the fulfillment of the messianic promise through David’s own family tree.

But all of that is yet to come. The book opens not with either of the two kings, but with the last of the judges – with the birth of the man who would eventually anoint both of these kings as God’s chosen leaders of Israel. This man was Samuel, and as is the case with so many people in the Bible, his account does not begin with his career, but with his birth…and a miraculous one, at that. Like the mothers of Isaac and John the Baptist, Samuel’s mother also struggled with infertility for much of her life. Yet what seemed tragic at the time was part of the sovereign plan of God. When the time was right, she cried out to God in prayer, and the gracious God heard her prayer and answered, resulting in the glorious gift of a son.

There are times in each of our lives that we struggle with hardships and tragedies. We don’t always see what God’s purpose might be for them, but we know we can cry out to God in the midst of them. And God in His grace, answers. It will be according to His will and because of the promise of His Son, but He does answer. God hears the prayers of His people, inviting us to call out to Him in our times of need.

What are your griefs? Give them to God…He hears you.

1 Samuel 1

  • Background: Elkanah and Hannah (1-8). A desperate need.

1 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

  1. Introduced to a man named Elkanah. He came from the town of “Ramathaim Zophim,” normally called “Ramah” through the rest of the book, particularly regarding Samuel who made it his home later in life. Interestingly, the general region is the same as the home of the Levite in Judges 19, whose terrible treatment of his concubine set off the events of the civil war that closed out the book of Judges. Although we don’t know the author, it seems probable that the Holy Spirit is demonstrating a contrast between two similar people: one was a Levite living in the mountains of Ephraim who was disobedient to God and callous towards his family; the other was a Levite living in the mountains of Ephraim who loved God and his family.
  2. Question: Was Elkanah a Levite? From the text of verse 1, it would appear he was an Ephraimite. Yet we have to balance this with the fact that Samuel later serves as a priest, able to offer and oversee sacrifices to God. The book of Chronicles gives us some additional information about Elkanah’s family, showing that he was indeed a Levite of the lineage of Kohath (1 Chr 6). Apparently, like the Levite of Judges 19, Elkanah was a Levite dwelling among the people of Ephraim. Ramah is not listed as one of the specific Levitical cities, but it is not improbable that some Levites spread beyond those cities into the rest of the tribal regions in which they lived.
  3. Although polygamy is nowhere commanded nor recommended in the Scripture, it was not uncommon among the ancient Hebrews, Elkanah being among its practitioners. We are told he had two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Considering that Hannah is listed first, it is probable that she was the first woman wed by Elkanah. Perhaps her childlessness was one of the reasons Elkanah sought an additional wife in Peninnah. He seems to have been a man of wealth and thus, an inheritance. He would require an heir and found children in his second wife.
  4. Although not every name in 1 Samuel is significant (unlike the book of Ruth), Hannah’s name is interesting. “Hannah” roughly translates to “Grace” (חַנָּה ~ חֵן). Grace perhaps felt as if she hadn’t experienced the grace or favor of God. She had no children, which became a source of heartache in her life.

3 This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. Also the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there. 4 And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters.

  1. We get a glimpse of the heart of Elkanah. First, he was a man devoted to God, making at least one annual trip to the tabernacle for worship. Technically, there were three required trips; here, the text is not specifically limiting Elkanah to one; it simply shows him doing it regularly. He was a faithful Israelite, someone who was devoted to God. Second, he was man devoted to his family, ensuring that his family was likewise equipped to worship God. He led them in the things of the Lord, being a godly example for his wives and children. Elkanah understood that if he wanted his family to worship the Lord, he needed to do it himself. Thus, he set the example, and took every obstacle out of their way that might prevent them from doing it.
    1. The focus of this passage isn’t Christian parenting, but there is much that can be learned from Elkanah’s example! We cannot expect our kids to know how to worship God if we do not model it for them. We cannot expect more from them than what we are willing to live.
  2. Whom did Elkanah worship? “The LORD of hosts” = YHWH Sabaoth. This is the first mention of this title for God in all the Scripture. God’s covenant name of YHWH has been used abundantly, but never in combination with the term translated “” The Hebrew word is derived from a term for “warfare” or “army,” sometimes used to refer to the heavenly bodies in the sky such as stars and planets, but more often referring to war itself. To call God the “LORD of hosts” is to understand Him as the God of the heavenly armies, the Almighty Commander-in-Chief, the omnipotent Warrior-God. This is the God who can move heaven and earth because He created heaven and earth. 
  3. A couple of other notes are introduced: (1) The family of Eli is introduced. Later in the book, we learn that Eli was the current judge of Israel (4:18), who was also a priest, being that his sons served as “priests of the LORD,” with his own priesthood mentioned in verse 9. These are soon described as wicked men, although that isn’t the primary subject of Chapter 1. (2) The tabernacle of the Lord was semi-permanently set up at “” Shiloh had been mentioned earlier in the book of Judges as one of the sites of the tabernacle (Jdg 18,21). It is notable in the book of Samuel, in that the tabernacle will eventually leave Shiloh and be brought to Jerusalem under the direction of David. For now, we see the tabernacle as things in the status-quo, being as it had been for decades.

5 But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the LORD had closed her womb. 6 And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the LORD had closed her womb. 7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.

  1. First, there was a physical problem: infertility/barrenness. This was not (nor is today) uncommon, but it is always difficult. It is heartbreaking enough for men and women today who desperately want children, but it was even more difficult for women in ancient times. As demonstrated in the book of Ruth, a lack of a son meant the lack of an heir and a lack of provision for the surviving mother. Not only was Elkanah unable to have an heir through his beloved Hannah, she had no future security of her own past Elkanah’s death (and husbands were typically older than their wives). It was hard on Hannah both physically and emotionally.
    1. How did this come? Surprisingly to many, via the Lord God. Twice the text tells us, “the LORD had closed her womb.” All children are ultimately gifts from the Lord, as God is sovereign over every birth among His creation. But here, we are specifically told that God closed up the womb of Hannah. Was this purposeful according to God’s prescribed will, or was it general due to the fall of mankind (still being overseen by the sovereign will of God)? Considering its double listing, this seems specific and purposeful. Of course, that begs the question: why? We aren’t told. We might reasonably speculate that God waited for the specific time in Hannah’s life that she might cry out to Him in prayer and He would answer through the gift of Samuel, who would be given back to Him, which set the scene for the rise of the Davidic monarchy. Such a thing is not unreasonable and would rightly glorify the Lord God. But ultimately, that is speculation. God surely had reasons, even if we might not ever know what they are.
    2. God has reasons for all His sovereign actions. Some things God allows (such as the affliction of Job); other things God prescribes (such as the death of David and Bathsheba’s firstborn son); in all things, God has His reasons and is to be praised. We don’t always understand why God allows the things He does, and if we’re being honest, we might not understand God’s reasons even if He told us. What can we do? Trust Him. Instead of fighting against God and the things He has allowed in our lives (or prescribed for our lives), we remember that God is God and we’re not. We remember that God is good, all the time – and all the time, God is good…because that is just who God is. Is it a step of faith? Yes. And it is a Biblical one.
  2. Second, there was a spiritual problem: sinful provocation. Perhaps Peninnah was jealous of Elkanah’s love for Hannah. Perhaps she was just petty, wanting to rub Hannah’s nose in her affliction. Whatever the case, instead of being a friend to Hannah, Peninnah repeatedly “provoked” her, making a bad situation worse. What was the result? Even when the household travelled to Shiloh for the worship of the Lord at one of the feasts, Hannah did not participate. She went with the home and surely worshipped God, but she did not personally feast. She did not eat at all. Rather, she fasted in her grief and wept.

8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”

  1. Hannah’s husband was not blind to her pain, but he wasn’t exactly wise regarding her problem. As much as he loved her, he wasn’t helpful to her in his words. Yes, he loved her and demonstrated his love by giving her the equivalent of what would have been the portion assigned to his firstborn son. No doubt, she realized that he loved her, which may have been one of the only things helping her get out of bed every morning. But Elkanah was not a replacement for a son. Elkanah was not so involved in Hannah’s life that he stopped the provocation from Peninnah. Elkanah wanted an easy fix, and for this, there was none.
    1. Sometimes, there is no easy fix. Sometimes, no matter how much we say to someone, “But you have the joy of the Lord!” it does not make them happy. Instead, it only imparts guilt, being a legalistic application of what is otherwise a wonderful promise. Keep in mind, there is no indication that Hannah gave up her faith in God – in fact, the text goes on to show the opposite. It was just that Hannah was grieved even in her faith. She had a terrible problem for which there was no easy answers and for which the appropriate response was weeping, tears, and fasting.
    2. What should Elkanah have done? The same thing Paul told the Romans: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep,” (Rom 12:15). Far better for Elkanah to accompany Hannah in her sorrow than to make her feel guilty for experiencing it. Remember the friends of Job: the very best thing they did was to weep at the sight of their friend, tear their clothes in grief, and sit on the ground in dust and ashes (Job 2:12-13). It was when they opened their mouths that they got into trouble. 

Hannah had a desperate need. She had no son at home, no true comfort from her husband, and no friend in Elkanah’s other wife. She was afflicted physically and spiritually, facing a terrible situation. Where was Hannah’s help? The Lord! Thankfully, she soon received an opportunity to take her request to God…

  • At the tabernacle: Hannah and Eli (9-18). A passionate prayer.

9 So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the LORD. 10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.

  1. Remember that verse 7 described the family at one of the feasts of the Lord in Shiloh, with Hannah weeping and refusing to eat. That verse 9 speaks of the family finishing “eating and drinking” does not imply a contradiction. Rather, Hannah fasted while the others ate and drank. She sat there grieving while the others rejoiced. Yet when she had the opportunity, she went to the one place she knew she could find comfort: the house of God, symbolized through the tabernacle. Technically, the text speaks of Eli sitting on the seat in the “temple of the LORD,” rather than “tabernacle,” but this might be an anachronistic term indicating an author who lived during the days of Solomon. It also might indicate that there were some semi-permanent structures built around the centuries-old tabernacle.
  2. More importantly than the terminology of the tabernacle was the activity going on around it. Hannah was in the area open to worshippers, crying out to God. The text says that “she was in bitterness of soul…and wept in anguish.” The word used for “bitterness” is the same from which Naomi got her secondary name of “Mara,” regarding her own bitterness after losing her husband and both her sons (Ruth 1:20). There was no doubt that Hannah was deeply pained, and she put it all in her prayer.
    1. It is okay to pray with weeping. In fact, based on Hannah’s experience, we might describe it as Biblical. A large percentage of the psalms are laments, where the various authors (including David) pour out their complaints and sorrows to the Lord. Nehemiah is nicknamed the “weeping prophet” for all his tears – he even penned a book titled “Lamentations.” For those who claim that Christians need to always paste a smile on their faces when praying or worshipping, they ought to read their Bibles! God created us and knows our sorrows. Jesus knows them so well that the Bible calls Him the “Man of Sorrows.” So yes, it is normal and okay to weep in prayer. If you have griefs, the very best thing to do is to give them to the Lord in prayer. God wants us to do so. We can cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us (1 Pt 5:7).

11 Then she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

  1. Hannah “made a vow.” Vows are not demanded by the Lord, but they are not uncommon in the Old Testament. Jesus actually counsels us away from making vows, saying that we ought to let our yes be “yes,” and our no be “no,” (Mt 5:37). Even so, there were occasions for a Hebrew man or woman to make a vow (as even seen in the life of the apostle Paul – Acts 18:18). For Hannah, this was one of those times. Granted, it doesn’t look like a vow at first. It is far more of a prayer. Break it down…
  2. She had the right audience: Appealed to the “LORD of hosts.” Remember that this refers to YHWH of the heavenly armies, the Omnipotent Warrior God. Hannah had an impossible problem. She required the God for whom nothing is impossible. She did not go to the false gods of the pagans around her; she went to the God of her covenant appealing to Him in His strength.
  3. She had the right attitude: Appealed as a “maidservant.” She was not demanding anything of YWHW Sabaoth; she was just a humble maidservant. She understood her place as a slave in the house of the great King…something we all need to remember! God does not grant us any request based on how boldly we pray or how loud we shout. We are humble servants of the Most High God – we are His douloi slaves / bondservants. Yes, Jesus calls us His friends, but we dare not forget that He is still the King of kings!
  4. She had the right request: Asked that God would “look” and “remember.” Had God gone blind? Had He lost His memory? This is a request for favor, that her King might look upon her with grace. How might God remember Hannah’s need? By remembering His covenant with Israel. Barrenness was one of the curses to be brought upon Israel when they disobeyed the covenant (Dt 28:18); one of the promised blessings of God to obedient Israel was the fruitfulness of their bodies (Dt 28:4). Granted, Israel as a whole was guilty of breaking the covenant and Hannah could justly be counted among their number, even if her own household (led by Elkanah) was faithful to God. Even so, Hannah was appealing to God based on God’s own word. This was His promise and she asked that God would honor it.
    1. We can pray to God based on His word and promise, asking Him to remember it and keep it, and we can be sure that He will. There is no better guarantee of being in the will of God in our prayers, than when we pray according to the word of God basing our prayers on the promises of God. Obviously, it is not something that we can abuse and claim as some kind of power over God (as do those who “name it and claim it,” thinking that God is somehow obligated to answer them according to their own interpretation of the Scripture. This is nothing more than spiritual blackmail and sinful!). Rather, it is something that helps us as we pray, guiding us to God’s already revealed will, helping us pray accordingly. Remember that Jesus instructed us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done as it is in heaven.” When we pray according to God’s written word and promise, we can be certain we are praying according to God’s will. And that is a prayer God will answer (even if we are not entirely sure what the specifics of God’s will might be).
  5. She spoke of her immediate need: “a male child.” Was this bold? Perhaps, but this was her need. Jesus told us to pray for our “daily bread.” For Hannah, this was it. She needed a son for her husband and her old age. Furthermore, this was the desire of her heart. Why would she hide this from the Lord (as if it were possible to hide anything from Him)? She simply let her request be made known and trusted God to meet it according to His will.
  6. She spoke of her intended response: she would “give him to the LORD all the days of his life.” This was where her vow came into play. Understanding that Hannah had the right heart about her request and that it came from a legitimate need, it is important not to look at her vow so much as a “this for that / tit for tat” kind of bribe; rather, it is her desire that God’s provision be honored by dedicating His provision back to Him for God’s service.
    1. Too many people make vows to God for precisely the wrong reasons. Although they wouldn’t use the term, they do attempt to bribe God for answered prayer. This is why it is so important for us to examine our hearts as we pray! May God help us pray from pure motives – and thank God for the Holy Spirit, who interprets our prayers rightly even when we can’t word them appropriately!
  7. The kind of service described by Hannah seems to refer to the vow of the Nazirite (re: Samson). Although there was more to being a Nazirite than not shaving one’s head (the person who made the vow was restricted from touching anything dealing with grapes as well as any dead body), the restriction against razors likely summed up the rest of the vow. It is different from the normal Nazirite vow in two ways: (1) It was made by the parent; not the child; (2) it was life-long, rather than a limited period of time. In these respects, it was very similar to the Samson’s vow, which was made by his parents prior to pregnancy rather than himself when he was of age. Perhaps Hannah had this very example in mind as she prayed to God.

12 And it happened, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli watched her mouth. 13 Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!”

  1. Sadly, Eli jumped to conclusions. He saw her lips moving without her voice speaking and he assumed that she was delirious and drunk. It turned out to be a false accusation, and Eli would have been better off to investigate the situation before handing out a condemnation of the woman.
  2. Perhaps the question is: Why was Eli so quick to jump to the conclusion of drunkenness? Was it common for people to be drunk when they came to worship? (Not unlikely, considering the overall spiritual state of the people of Israel at the time.) Had it been that long since Eli saw anyone that overwhelmed in prayer? (Also, not unlikely.)
    1. As an aside, it needs to be said that passionate Spirit-filled prayer is not drunkenness, nor does it look like drunkenness. Despite some of the extreme charismatics who claim that they get “drunk on the Spirit,” or “high on the Holy Ghost,” the Bible exhorts none of that sinful disorderliness. That the apostles were accused by some in Jerusalem on Pentecost to be drunk, that was merely their way of explaining away the supernatural outpouring of tongues; not an accurate description of a bunch of drunk people. We can get swept up in prayer, but we do not collapse into unruliness and irreverence.

15 But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. 16 Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.”

  1. It wasn’t alcohol that caused her problem; it was anguish. Hannah had not poured out any wine; she poured out her “soul” to God. She was filled with anguish and sorrow, the word “sorrowful” referring to that which was severe or hard. Life was not easy for this Hebrew woman. It felt like she was between a rock and a hard place, and the only thing she knew to do was to pray (and it was the right thing). The bottom line: Hannah was not “a wicked woman,” or literally, “a daughter of Belial.” This was not a pagan practice or a demonic act of idolatry. Rather, this was a daughter of Israel crying out to her covenant God according to God’s own word.

17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.” 18 And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

  1. To Eli’s credit, he quickly changed his tune. Gone were the false accusations; now he blessed Hannah speaking prophetically in his roles as both the priest and judge of Israel. Eli assured her that she could “go in peace” (shalom) in the assurance that God heard her and that God desired His best for her and her wholeness. Eli also prayed/prophesied that God would answer her prayer by granting her “” IOW, Eli prophetically promised that God’s answer to Hannah’s prayer for a son was “yes.” (Keep in mind, Eli had no idea what Hannah’s prayer had been. If he had known, he might not ever have made such a guarantee!)
  2. As for Hannah, her whole life and emotions changed in a moment. Whereas before, she was weeping and fasting, now she was “no longer sad” and joining in the worship feasts in joy. Why? Because Hannah had found “favor.” That word for “favor” is the same word elsewhere translated “grace,” (ḥen – חֵן), the same word from which Hannah’s own name is derived. It might be said that Grace found grace in the graciousness of God.

Hannah prayed passionately, and for good reason. Her heart was overwhelmed. So what did she do? Exactly what David later wrote: Psalm 61:1–2, “(1) Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer. (2) From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Hannah went to the Rock of her salvation to find strength and grace in her time of need.

When was the last time you poured out your soul like this to the Lord? We don’t have to wait until we can travel to a tabernacle or temple – we don’t have to wait until a Sunday morning or Wednesday night at church. Any day, any time, we can go to the Lord God in prayer and pour out either our sorrowful hearts or a joyful praise. Don’t wait! Wherever you are, in whatever situation you find yourself, pray to God passionately! We can go boldly before the throne of grace and find grace in our time of need (Heb 4:16).

  • The result: Hannah and her son (19-28). A gracious answer.

19 Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD.”

  1. What a wonderful answer to prayer! But before God gave any visible answer in the form of pregnancy, notice what Elkanah and Hannah did: worship – “they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD.” Before leaving for their home in Ephraim, they wanted to worship the Lord one last time. God was worthy of their praise, regardless of what His answer might be. To be sure, they had hope and faith for a positive response (based on the word of Eli), but God was to be worshiped, period.
    1. Whatever our prayers might be, we need to prioritize our worship of God above our hoped-for answers. He is always worthy of our praise!
  2. That said, God did answer Hannah’s prayer. How so? Without getting graphic, it was through normal means. This was not a supernatural implantation of a baby in her womb (as when the Holy Spirit would come upon Mary to make her pregnant with Jesus); it was through normal marital relations with her husband. Although they had likely given up hope after many years of trying to have children, Hannah and Elkanah now had revived hope through the prophetic word given by Eli. Thus, they did what married couples do. Even so, this was still miraculous. It was natural means but supernatural origin. Remember that YHWH God was the one who had closed Hannah’s womb. Now, YHWH God “remembered” Hannah according to her prayer, opened her womb, and gave her a male child (also according to her prayer). This was the work and grace of God.
  3. That this son was of the Lord was acknowledged by Hannah in the boy’s name: “” Perhaps the best translation of the name is something like, “The name of El/God,” although some translate it to “heard by God.” Either translation fits Hannah’s expressed intent. She called upon the name of the Lord God and God heard and answered her.
    1. How often do we remember the Lord’s answers to our prayers and thank Him? Do we remember to thank Him? Consider the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus (Lk 17). Ten were healed; only one returned to give thanks. May we be like the one!

21 Now the man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice and his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “Not until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the LORD and remain there forever.” 23 So Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the LORD establish His word.” Then the woman stayed and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

  1. Sooner or later, the time came for Elkanah to return to Shiloh and offer his worship. There were three commanded national assemblies of Israel: Passover, the feast of Weeks, and the feast of Tabernacles. Which this was is not mentioned, although it was likely the same feast as whatever had been the previous time Hannah was in Shiloh, giving her prayer to God and receiving the word from Eli. A year had passed, a son had been given, and Elkanah was well aware of the vow made by his wife (which he would have had the right to void, if he desired…obviously, he agreed with it). Elkanah approached his wife with the tender issue of surrendering her prayed-for son to the Lord God.
  2. Her response might have initially surprised him, but it was not unreasonable. Provided that the couple had conceived immediately upon their return from Shiloh, after a nine-month pregnancy this baby boy was barely 3 months old…still an infant. It was impossible for her to deliver this baby to Eli at the tabernacle, as Eli would have no way of caring for him. Additionally, Hannah asked for a bit more time than we might expect, as children were often 2-3 years old by the time they were weaned in that culture. Essentially, Hannah asked for a 3-year reprieve, after which time she would give Samuel to the Lord “”
  3. Elkanah did not disagree with his wife, seeing it to be in the best interest of his son. Even so, there was a bit of a warning: the vow must be kept. “Only let the LORD establish His word.” God’s word must stand; it cannot and will not fall void. God had kept His promise to Hannah; Hannah needed to keep her promise to the Lord.
    1. Does God command us to make vows as seemingly extreme as Hannah’s regarding her son? Extra vows are not commanded, but life-surrendering service is. This is the point behind Paul’s statement to the Romans: Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” In light of everything Christ has done for us – how He has forgiven us of every sin, justifying us in the sight of God and continually sanctifying us by His grace – in light of all of the glories that await us in heaven and how that promise will not be ripped from us as nothing will separate us from His love… In light of all of that, what is our logical response back to God? Full surrender – laying ourselves down on the altar and becoming living sacrifices unto God. Jesus has given everything for us, so we give everything to Him. This is how we love God with all our heart, soul, and strength. We love Him with everything we are, being fully dedicated to Christ all our days.
    2. With that in mind, how is that any different than the vow Hannah made on behalf of Samuel? It isn’t, not in the grand scheme of things. A lifelong vow of service to God is not “extreme;” it is rational and reasonable. Because of what Christ has done for us, and because of how Christ equips us through the Holy Spirit, we can serve God wholeheartedly. And because we can, we should. It doesn’t require an “extra” vow; it is the bare minimum of our walk with Christ.

24 Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli.

  1. When Hannah did eventually bring the boy, she and Elkanah brought quite an extravagant amount with which to worship. There is a bit of textual debate whether “three bulls” were brought or a single bull that was “three years old,” but the general picture is clear. This was the offering to be given to God at the fulfillment of a vow (Num 15). This was Hannah’s and Elkanah’s acknowledgement that God had kept His word, so they were honoring their own promise to Him.

26 And she said, “O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the LORD. 27 For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” So they worshiped the LORD there.

  1. Hannah presented herself and her testimony to Eli. Just in case Eli had forgotten her (remember a minimum of three years had passed since he last saw her), she reminded him of her prayer and her vow. (Graciously, she did not remind Eli of his false accusation!) Not only did she remind Eli of what her own prayer had been, she gave her testimony of how God had answered her prayer. God had “granted [her] petition” exactly as Eli had prophesied (v17). Hannah’s testimony not only affirmed the work of God in her life, but also in Eli’s. (Hopefully providing a bit of comfort, encouragement, and maybe even rebuke to the man!)
  2. In response, and in fulfillment of her vow, Hannah “lent” Samuel to the Lord in service. Depending on the context, the word used for “lent” might normally be translated “ask.” This was the son she had asked of the Lord; now she asked God’s priest that her son might be used for the Lord.
  3. Wrapping it all up was worship. Hannah, Elkanah, Eli, and even young Samuel all “worshiped the LORD” in thankfulness for answered prayer and in praise for what was yet to come.

It was a wonderful answer to prayer! God met the desperate need of Hannah’s heart, giving a grace-filled response to the passionate prayer of His servant.

Conclusion:

How long has it been since you’ve poured out your heart to God in prayer? Perhaps it’s been too long. But pouring out our hearts to the Lord is Biblical. Moreover, it comes with a promise: Philippians 4:6–7, “(6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (7) and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We are not guaranteed of every answer to every specific item we might request. We are welcome (and even commanded) to request them, but we don’t always get the things for which we ask because we don’t always ask according to the will of God. Sometimes we ask with wrong motives; other times we ask for things that lead to wrong ends…things other than what God desires for us. Whatever the specific answers to our prayers, we are guaranteed this much: when we give those things over to the Lord in prayer, He gives us His peace in return. Consider that at least part of Hannah’s prayer was answered the very day she prayed, when Eli said, “Go in peace.” Go in the shalom peace of God, because God knows you and has given you His grace.

Christian, this is our guarantee! Because we belong to Christ Jesus – because we have been born of the Holy Spirit, having received Jesus as our Lord and Savior – because of all these things, we can know that God hears us when we pray. We do not pray, fearing that God doesn’t know us or pay attention to us. He is our heavenly Father and we are His children, having been bought with the precious blood of His Son. He knows us by name, having the hairs on our heads counted. Yes, He knows us – yes, He hears us – and yes, He gives us His peace. We are already granted peace with God through the cross and resurrection of Jesus, but we are also promised peace from God when we pour out our hearts to Him in prayer.

So pray. Don’t wait until you’re in the “right” place or feel pressured to have the “right” words; just talk to God from your heart. Pour out your soul, even if it is filled with tears. When you are a child of God through Christ, God wants to hear all of those things. He even stores our tears in a bottle (Ps 56:8), such is its value to Him. 

As Paul continues in Chapter 15, he answers questions about the resurrection. What if it isn’t true? What will we expect in the future? What does it mean for today? The answers are found in the Bible.

1 Corinthians 15:12-34, “Questions about the Resurrection”

Questions can be wonderful when asked honestly. They can be annoying, when they are not. There is a difference between telling your child how much you love him or why you love her when asked, and just answering the repeated question “why?” when asked a thousand times from the back seat of the car. Likewise, there is a difference between engaging in a conversation with a nonbeliever about the gospel of Jesus, and getting into an online debate with a confirmed skeptic who just wants to argue.

It ought not to come as a surprise that people have questions about the Christian faith. After all, when we speak of the gospel, we inherently speak of supernatural miracles – things that cannot be duplicated in everyday life. We tell of how Jesus was born of a virgin and is the incarnate God, how He lived among men and women healing the sick and raising the dead, how He died on the cross as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, was buried, and how He rose again to life on the third day, never to die again being fully and physically ascended into heaven. And that’s just the news about Jesus – we haven’t even begun to get into how this living Jesus interacts with men and women today, forgiving us of our sins, filling us with the Holy Spirit, empowering us to do His work, etc. Yes, there are many things about the gospel that is supernatural, and it is only logical that some of those things are difficult for some people to believe.

They might even be difficult for some Christians to believe. Sure, they know the right words to say in church and the right doctrine to affirm. And maybe they even believe it on some level, perhaps out of only a desire to believe what the Bible teaches. But they still struggle with doubts. They aren’t sure how it all works together and wonder at times if they really believe what is true.

It is true. It is real and can/should be believed. How and what we believe about these things has a massive impact on our own walk with Christ, even indicating if we walk with Christ. This is what Paul deals with in 1 Corinthians 15.

After addressing many important issues with the Corinthian Christians such as division, discipline, marriage, divorce, worship, spiritual gifts, and more, Paul turned to that which is most important: the gospel. After all, if we get the gospel wrong, we get everything wrong. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the foundation of our faith. So, Paul reminded them of its importance, its details, and its trustworthiness. It is the good news by which we are saved, to which we should cling and hold fast. It is the news about Jesus Christ who died for our sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead all according to the Scriptures. And it was news that could be verified through literally hundreds of credible witnesses, including Paul himself who was personally transformed by the living resurrected Christ.

It is amazing news! But is all of it necessary? After all, the gospel includes some fantastic supernatural doctrine such as the resurrection of the dead. Can the good news still be good if we strip out the supernatural elements? For those who have difficulty believing in miracles, can we still value everything else the Bible tells us about Jesus and the cross, while ignoring the more difficult-to-believe stuff?

This seems to have been the issue in Corinth. In that ancient church, like in many parts of what is known as “Christendom” today, there were people who were skeptical about certain doctrinal truths like the resurrection. Specifically, they had difficulty believing that men and women other than Jesus would be one day raised from the dead. God just doesn’t do that sort of thing, so they thought. (Which seems more than a bit ironic, considering how plentiful the expression of various spiritual gifts were among the church!) They thought themselves too “intellectual” to be caught up with that sort of thing…a problem which had manifested in other ways in the congregation and which Paul already addressed earlier in the letter. They wanted to be wise by the standards of their age, rather than be considered a fool for God (3:18).

The same thing happens today. There are men and women with Ph.D.’s in theology who teach at some of the most famous theological seminaries today, who do not believe basic Biblical truth. They do not believe in the supernatural and thus, do not believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead. They still label themselves as “Christian,” but they deny the foundations of the gospel.

It is not only foolishness; it is tragic. It guts the Christian faith, harms immature Christians, and does damage to the witness of the church as a whole. It turns the good news of Christ into a make-believe fairy tale, good for nothing except patting ourselves on the backs for how “wise” we believe we are.

This is what Paul tackles head-on in Chapter 15. He shows how the doctrine of the resurrection is essential to the gospel itself, to the overall redemptive plan of God, and to the individual lives of Christians. This is no imaginary belief; it is fact and it is essential truth – without which no one is saved.

Do you believe that God can raise the dead? Only then can you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and only when you believe that can you be saved. Believe!

There is a lot of Scripture to work through in this section. The arguments flow together, making it difficult to break apart without losing the overall context. There are three primary sections, which might be divided according to three questions: What if? What then? What now?

The resurrection is true, which makes the gospel true. Believe and be saved!

1 Corinthians 15:12–34

  • What if? (12-19) The logical results of the resurrection being false.

12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.

  1. Recall from the earlier part of the chapter, Paul had declared to the church what he had already preached to the church: the gospel. It was this gospel by which they were saved, and to which they were to hold fast. It was a gospel that could be believed, since Jesus’ physical resurrection was witnessed by so many people: His closest friends, hundreds of people in His wider circle, and even people who were initially skeptics or outright enemies (such as His half-brother James or the apostle Paul as he used to be in his life as a Pharisee). What did that gospel say? That Jesus had “been raised from the dead.
  2. Yet there is more to the doctrine of resurrection than only Jesus’ resurrection. There is the resurrection of the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15). There was a general resurrection when all people would eventually stand before God. This was something Jesus taught on many occasions. There was the resurrection for those who had done good and those who had done evil (Jn 5:28-29). There is Jesus’ response to the Sadducees about the resurrection in which people neither marry nor are given in marriage (Mt 22:30-31). There was Jesus’ comfort to Martha about being the resurrection, after her affirmation that there will be a resurrection in the last day (Jn 11:24-25). The idea that people would physically live after death was a doctrine that Jesus taught regularly. To be sure, not all people would participate in the same resurrection, but all people would face some resurrection.
  3. It was this general resurrection that was doubted by some in Corinth. Yet there was one problem…a big problem: to refute the resurrection is to refute the gospel. Without any resurrection, there is no initial resurrection. If God does not ever raise the dead, it means that He did not raise Jesus. That one bit of skepticism is no minor thing. It guts the gospel itself, having many ramifications which Paul lists…

14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise.

  1. Ramification #1: Without a risen Christ, we have an “empty” Christianity. “Our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” What is the point of preaching Christ when there is no Christ to preach? If Jesus did not literally rise from the grave, then there is no point in going to church, nor any reason to respond to a gospel invitation. It is an empty message, void of substance, preached in vain. It has nothing to offer because it offers no proven Christ.
    1. Objection: “Surely there is value in Jesus’ moral teaching! He was the greatest teacher who ever lived, regardless if He rose from the grave.” Every single teaching uttered by Jesus is worthless without His literal resurrection. Why? Because He prophesied it no less than three times (and arguably more!). He repeatedly claimed that the Son of Man (referring to Himself) would be delivered to the Jews, killed, and raised up on the third day. If Jesus got the prophecy of His resurrection wrong, it makes Him a false prophet. False prophets are not to be trusted. In fact, if Jesus got the prophecy of His resurrection wrong, it guts His credibility. CS Lewis famously made this point in his seminal work, Mere Christianity. “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.”[1] Without the resurrection, Jesus is no good moral teacher; He would be someone not worth remembering at all.
  2. Ramification #2: Without a risen Jesus, the apostolic witness is a testimony of lies. Understand that the issue of Jesus’ resurrection was no minor thing to the apostles. It was their primary Jesus’ resurrection is explicitly referenced no less than 13 times in the book of Acts, and implied countless more. Without a resurrection, the apostles have nothing of which to testify. Everything they said of Him would have been a lie. Thus, not only would Jesus’ credibility be worthless, so would be the apostles.
    1. Simply the fact that the apostles consistently agreed on Jesus’ resurrection is a marvelous testimony to its factual truth. When police arrest a group of criminals for a crime, what is the first thing they do to get to the bottom of what happened? Separate them. At some point, someone is going to change his/her story and the whole supposed alibi will fall apart. Yet this never happened with the apostles. They each consistently testified to the real resurrection of Jesus Christ, never once changing their story even in the face of torture and death. They went to their graves proclaiming His resurrected life, verifying that the message is true.

16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!

  1. Ramification #3: Without a risen Jesus, we have a “futile” faith. First, Paul called it “empty;” now he calls it “futile.” What makes the difference? The difference in the words is only slight; we need to look at the context. In verse 13-14, the issue was that Christ was not personally risen from the dead, meaning that there was no Christ to preach. This time, the lack of a Christ to preach has a direct effect on those who believe. How so? We have no forgiveness, “you are still in your sins.” To the Roman church, Paul wrote that Jesus “was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification,” (Rom 4:25). Our forgiveness is directly tied to Jesus’ resurrection. Yes, it is tied to the cross in that Jesus died as our substitutionary sacrifice. But we only know His substitution was sufficient in Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead. We only have assurance of our justification because Jesus is risen. Think of it: the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). If Jesus remained dead, then the price He paid wasn’t enough to satisfy the wage. If Jesus remained dead, we still have an outstanding fine. The only way we know it was paid in full is through His resurrection. Yes, Jesus declared it from the cross (“Tetelestai! ~ It is finished!” Jn 19:30), but the only way we know His declaration was valid is through His resurrected life.
    1. Note what this means for those who do not have faith in the risen Jesus: you too, are still in your sins. Only faith in the risen Christ guarantees us forgiveness from sin and eternal life; without faith in the true risen Jesus, you have no such guarantee.

18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

  1. Ramification #4: Without a risen Jesus, there is no hope for those who are dead. Think of all the funerals of our loved ones. Granted, in the cases of those who die without faith, we must sadly admit that they “have perished.” Yes, they will rise for the final judgment, but it is only for them to be forever damned. It is tragic, but it is true. (Which underscores the importance for each of us to settle the question of our salvation now!) But when we attend memorial services for Christians, we have marvelous hope that they are in the presence of God, being absent from the body yet present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8). Yet without God raising the dead, and specifically without Jesus’ own resurrection, that hope is dashed – it’s gone. It means that every funeral should be mourned as those who die in their sins and all hope is gone.
  2. Ramification #5: Without a risen Jesus, Christians are “pitiable” fools. How sad and pathetic it would be for us to live out our days deluded, believing in a powerless Christ! If all we held so was some philosophical theory about Christ without any tie to reality, then we are no different from those who believe in leprechauns and unicorns and the Easter Bunny. Moreover, what use is there to suffer for Christ, if Christ is not raised from the dead? Paul will expand on this idea later in the passage, but he alludes to it here. How pathetic it would be for so many people around the world to suffer and die for the sake of Christ, if everything we know about Jesus is a lie.

Those are a bunch of hypothetical questions from Paul, but they need to be asked. What if it isn’t real? What if the resurrection of Jesus didn’t happen? Is there still something to gain from Christianity? No. Without a real resurrected Jesus, we have nothing to believe and no reason to believe. We have no hope for eternity and no reason for current suffering. We might as well all go home, for otherwise we’re just wasting our time.

Lest this seem to be a bunch of ancient hypotheticals with no bearing on our present-day church, think again! This is the issue still presented by liberal theologians who wear the label of Christianity but deny its doctrine. This is the issue presented by the social justice warriors, who want to see what people can squeeze out of the morality of the New Testament while gutting it of its main message of redemption through Jesus. Just this past week, the newest senator for Georgia, the “Rev.” Raphael Warnock posted a tweet saying “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are a Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”[2] He since deleted the tweet, but the message was clear: in his mind, the resurrection of Jesus does not matter. Let us not mince words: he is a heretic and a false teacher. Without the resurrection of Jesus, there is no Christianity nor is there any salvation.

We do need to ask the questions of “what if,” and we also need to examine their answers. Simply put, “what if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?” means that we have no hope in Christ nor any reason to believe anything the Bible says about Him. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we have no gospel and no faith. 

But Jesus did rise from the dead and it makes all the difference in the world!

  • What then? (20-28) The plans of God regarding the resurrection.

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

  1. After all the hypothetical questions of “what if,” it is so refreshing to get Paul’s resounding answer. “Christ is risen from the dead!” Jesus is alive, which was the consistent testimony of Paul throughout his ministry. More than a statement of faith, Paul was a personal eyewitness to the resurrected Jesus and could say without hesitation that yes, Jesus is risen from the dead, and yes, it truly matters that He did!
  2. Additionally, Jesus’ personal resurrection is also the guarantee of our own individual resurrections. Remember that this was at the heart of the Corinthians’ skepticism. Some among them claimed “that there is no resurrection of the dead,” (15:12) and this was the issue that kicked off Paul’s discussion. His answer is: yes, God raises the dead; yes, Jesus is risen from the dead, and yes, we will also rise from the dead. These things go together. Jesus’ resurrection shows Him to be “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The idea of “firstfruits” goes back to the Hebrew harvest offerings to God. They were commanded to bring their firstfruits (the initial parts of their harvests) to the Lord, giving Him the first and the best in their worship and acknowledging God as the one who gave them their crops. Here, Paul says that Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection. (“Those have fallen asleep” is simply a euphemism to refer to death; nothing more.) In other words, Jesus is the first of many to come. Our resurrection is tied to His own.

21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.

  1. The doctrine is view is that of federal headship, something with Paul explores in detail in Romans 5. Time forbids a thorough examination, but we can summarize it as this: When Adam sinned, his spiritual nature died exactly according to God’s warning. God had told Adam that if he ate of the forbidden fruit, that “in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die,” (Gen 2:17). Adam did and Adam died. Not physically (though his physical death did eventually come), but spiritually speaking, Adam died that very day. That nature of death was passed to each of us, for we are all born of Adam’s lineage. He is our federal head. Yet Jesus came as the second Adam, serving as another federal head. Whereas Adam brought sin and death, Jesus brings the gift of life to all who believe.
  2. Don’t lose sight of the overall point. Paul has been addressing the skepticism of those who doubted the general resurrection of the saints. Here, he shows that because Jesus is risen from the dead, it serves as proof that all will be risen from the dead. After all, death spread to all men through Adam. Likewise, “in Christ all shall be made alive.” Again, it is the issue of federal headship. Our federal head passes on what can be given to those who are under him and in him.
    1. It comes down to this: Who is your federal head? Are you still in Adam, or are you in Christ? That Jesus’ resurrection guarantees that “all shall be made alive” does not guarantee that all people will be saved. It just means that all will be raised. Only those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus in faith as our God and Head are those who know we are saved. 
  3. To emphasize the point, every single man and woman will be raised from the dead. Again, Jesus spoke clearly about two resurrections: the resurrection of life and of condemnation (Jn 5:29). The book of Revelation shows the same thing. There is the first resurrection (which lasts a long period of time, beginning with Jesus’ own resurrection, the resurrection/rapture of the church, and the resurrection of the tribulation saints), and then the second resurrection of the unjust, taking place after the 1000 years of the Millennial Kingdom concluding with the Great White Throne judgment. 

24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

  1. What Paul summarizes in a few verses is described in detail by John in Revelation 20. At Jesus’ return, Satan is cast into the bottomless pit and chained for a thousand years, preventing him from deceiving the nations. Jesus will rule the world in righteousness and all the promises regarding the future kingdom seen in all the psalms and prophets will come to fruition. It will be a glorious time during which wolves will lay down with lambs and the nations will flow to Jerusalem to give glory to Jesus. Yet at the end of the thousand years, Satan is released from his bonds and he deceives the nations one final time to rise in rebellion against God. Fire comes from heaven to destroy the enemy armies, over which Jesus has complete victory and Satan is himself cast into the lake of fire to be tormented forever. After that comes the resurrection of the unjust and the final judgment at the Great White Throne when anyone whose name is not found written in the Book of Life is cast into the lake of fire, along with Death and Hades itself. Truly, “the last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” Between the literal destruction of death and the resurrection to life for all who believe in Jesus, it is no wonder Paul can declare at the end of Chapter 15: “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (15:55) Jesus conquers all!

27 For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

  1. The quotation is from Psalm 8:6, which at first glance might seem out of context. Psalm 8:4–8, “(4) What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? (5) For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. (6) You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, (7) All sheep and oxen— Even the beasts of the field, (8) The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas.” After writing of the glories of God and how God created the infinite universe, David wondered why God would pay any attention to human men at all. Men and women are a little lower in the order of creation than the angels, even as we (through Adam) have been given dominion over the animal kingdom. – How does Paul relate that to Christ? Through the inspiration of the Spirit, Paul saw (like the writer of Hebrews) that Jesus in His incarnation was made a little lower than the angels when He was made a man (Heb 2:7-9), so if this humility applies to Christ, so does this exaltation. Although the immediate picture of the psalm speaks of mankind, the prophetic picture is that of Jesus, who truly has been given dominion over all things. In fact, Jesus affirmed this Himself just before He ascended to the Father: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth,” (Mt 28:18). Jesus has all authority today in name and by right; He will exercise it in fulfillment during the Millennial Kingdom.
  2. As for Paul’s point in quoting the psalm, he simply affirms Jesus’ ultimate authority and exaltation. Jesus is not one who has been put under anything or anyone; He is the one under Whom all things have been put. The only Being in all the universe to whom Jesus subjects Himself to is God the Father, and that through His gracious humility. Jesus is Himself the Almighty God, but willingly submits Himself to the righteous order being under the headship of the Father (11:3).

Don’t lose sight of the overall theme. Paul was asking how any Christian could reject the doctrine of resurrection. Without God raising the dead, Jesus wouldn’t be raised from the dead and our faith would be in vain. (The question of “what if.”) Similarly, the removal of the resurrection dramatically impacts the overall redemptive plan of God. Jesus’ resurrection proves our own future resurrection, which is directly tied into Jesus’ Millennial Kingdom and His ultimate victory over death. It is because Jesus is risen from the dead that we have hope in the future victory of Christ!

Question: Does someone have to understand all this deep theology regarding the end-times to be saved? No. Salvation is a matter of faith in Christ, according to the gospel. To the Romans, Paul put it as simply as it comes: Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”That is what is required for salvation; not a certain eschatological viewpoint. But the more we understand about the future plan of God, the more we will hold to the basic truths of Jesus. The more we know about what Jesus will do, the tighter we will hold to Him right now. 

  • What now? (29-34) What the resurrection means for current ministry and action.

29 Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?

  1. What exactly does Paul mean by the baptism of the dead? No one knows. Some have counted over 200 various interpretations of this verse, with certain theories being better than others. One idea is that Christians underwent baptism for some believers who died before they had the chance to be baptized themselves. Another is that it is a reference to a pagan practice, which would itself be illogical if there was no real resurrection of the dead. Another idea is that Paul refers to death symbolically, as baptism signifies our death to sin & to our old self, while we rise out of the water to new life in Jesus’ resurrection. Theories abound, with no common consensus.
  2. One thing we can say from this passage is that there is no commendation from Paul regarding the practice. Paul does not even include himself in the number that participates. (“What will they do… Why then are they baptized…”) Although certain cultic groups like the Mormons use this verse as justification for the baptism of the dead, it is a misuse of the verse and a violation of the principle of not allowing any Scripture to be of any private interpretation (2 Pt 1:20). We may not know what this verse says exactly, but we do know Paul did not recommend it.

30 And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? 31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

  1. Paul alluded to this earlier in verse 19, regarding how Christians without a resurrected Christ are pathetic and to be pitied. He fleshes it out a bit more. Why would he (or anyone else) endure constant persecution? Paul was under no illusion of the cost of being a disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ. He bore in his own body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal 6:17), referring to his many scars and physical infirmities. As he wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul had received whippings (“stripes”), beatings with rods, imprisonment, stoning, and more (2 Cor 11:23-25). He put himself in constant “jeopardy” for the sake of the gospel. Even in “Ephesus,” the city to which Paul went after his initial ministry in Corinth, he faced the “beasts” in the form of a city riot which erupted due to his preaching against idolatry (Acts 19). Paul could write back to Corinth that all of those things were pointless, if Jesus Christ was not truly risen from the dead.
  2. Without a real resurrection confirming a real Jesus as the Christ and a real gospel, all the suffering was pointless. Paul may as well have been a hedonist. The motto “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” makes a lot of sense for those who have no faith in Christ and do not fear any judgment from God. Why not live it up in the present day? Why not experience all the pleasures of the flesh, if there is no judgment to face, nor any hope for salvation? Without a real resurrected Jesus, neither Paul nor any other Christian has any reason to willingly endure persecution and suffering.
    1. Consider how many Christians suffer around the world today? And not only in the eastern hemisphere, but here also in the west. Gracelife Church near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada has not only had its pastor jailed for preaching the gospel, but the local police set up fencing around the church to prevent anyone from attending.[3] Why would they take those kinds of risks, if Jesus was not really risen from the dead? Why would going to church matter at all, if Jesus’ resurrection was not real? – But it IS real! And because Jesus is risen from the dead, all of the risk and potential suffering is worth it. Consider what Jesus endured for us? Surely we can endure for Him (and we can trust Him to equip us for it through the Holy Spirit).

33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

  1. A lack of belief in the resurrection meant that the Corinthians were being deceived by false teachers. They were hanging around the wrong people, which led to some very bad results. Paul quoted a Greek poet rather than an Old Testament Scripture, but the proverb is no less true. “Evil company corrupts good habits.” When we associate with sinful people, we adopt their sinful practices. When we sit under bad teachers, we believe bad doctrine. Just because a person is nice or charismatic or engaging when he/she teaches, it doesn’t mean that the person is a qualified Biblical teacher. We need to examine the person’s doctrine. Do the things they teach demonstrate a knowledge of God? Not everyone does. Interestingly, the phrase “some do not have the knowledge of God” might better be translated, “some have ignorance of God,” with the word “ignorance” being the same word from which we get our “agnostic.” Apparently, the Corinthians had allowed ignorant agnostic teachers to influence some of their number away from the Biblical doctrine of resurrection, something that was shameful.
  2. How careful we need to be to avoid doctrinal corruption! Especially on matters of first importance like the resurrection or the overall gospel. These are non-negotiables for Christians. We expect people of the world to cast doubt on issues like the physical resurrection, the deity of Christ, or the historicity of the Bible; it should be abhorrent when seen among people who claim to be of the church. Whenever you see a theological expert or pastor interviewed on the news or in a documentary, pay attention to his/her doctrine. The moment they violate essential issues of the faith is the moment you can know they have lost all credibility. In fact, the moment they cast doubt on any Biblical text is the moment you turn them off. It is far too common for professing believers to have their faith rocked by a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses who knocked on their door, claiming that Jesus did not really rise from the dead. Or, for that matter, Mormons who claim that the Bible is not the complete, sufficient word of God. These are not secondary issues – these are not things over which we can find compromise. Beware of what kind of company you keep, that your good doctrine (which is the basis for all your actions) is not corrupted.

Doubt in the resurrection was not a mere academic debate. This wasn’t something like arguing over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. It wasn’t a minor issue over which theologians obsessed but didn’t matter to the bulk of the church. On the contrary – it was a primary issue that had major present-day ramifications for Paul and everyone in the Corinthian church. It affected whether Paul had a reason to endure the things he did – it was a sign of the kind of associations and influences that the Corinthians were allowing into their church. To waver on fundamental doctrine was to get a look at the health of the church…and it wasn’t good.

Doctrine does matter. There are many issues within Biblical Christianity over which we can disagree, even when we have good Scriptural arguments. What kind of government should a local church have? How might a church use spiritual gifts, or should a church look for them at all? What is the timing of the rapture within the overall plan of God? These are all important issues, but they are secondary ones. Other things are not. Who Jesus is, is a doctrine that matters. What Jesus does, is a doctrine that matters. How Jesus saves, is a doctrine that matters. These are things that, if we veer from the truth, leads to sinful corruption, perhaps even becoming stumbling blocks from other people getting saved. These are things we need to guard, and the truth of which, to which we should cling.

Conclusion:

Paul answered a lot of questions! Sure, he asked most of them himself (being that he wrote the letter!), but these were the questions that were on the minds of many in Corinth. Some within the church had descended into skepticism, doubting even the primary doctrine of resurrection. Paul answered “what if,” showing that no resurrection meant no resurrected Jesus, and thus, no faith. He answered “what then,” showing the overall plan that God has for Jesus because of the resurrection. He answered “what now,” showing that this doctrinal discussion had a direct impact on their everyday lives.

The resurrection matters. Doctrine matters. The fundamentals of the gospel are not up for negotiation. They are not minor issues, debated only by people with academic degrees, having no bearing on the normal people in the pews. These issues go straight to the heart of our faith, determining if we have faith in the true God.

Some of you have dealt with ongoing doubt. Yes, you believe…or, at least you want to believe. Although there is much about Jesus that you might not understand, you do want to believe the truth. It’s just that some of it is so fantastic that you don’t know what to do with it. Guess what? You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last. Prior to the 1949 crusades in Los Angeles, Billy Graham struggled with doubts of his own. His best friend and ministry partner Charles Templeton had become an apostate, forsaking the Lord, choosing atheism (or agnosticism) instead. Billy’s mind struggled to wrap around the questions that Templeton were raising. One night, Billy held his Bible and fell to his knees, praying, “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word – by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word!”[4] Maybe you need to draw your own line in the sand, making a similar declaration by faith.

It isn’t that there aren’t answers to the intellectual questions (there are!), but at some point we need to choose to believe. Especially when it comes to primary, fundamental, gospel issues. There are some debates we might never fully resolve (predestination vs. freewill, etc.) and that is okay. But we need solid faith on the issues that matter. On those things, we need to be firm. That is what will keep us holding fast to Jesus when attacks from the enemy come. And they will come. Skeptics will assail us – TV and movies will attempt to show how “intellectual” people reject the Bible – other wolves in sheep’s clothing will come looking like Christian believers while getting us to compromise on the gospel. How will we endure those things? When we hold fast to Jesus – when we hold fast to His truth.

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 1996. 56.

[2] https://www.foxnews.com/politics/warnock-deletes-easter-tweet-amid-backlash

[3] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/gracelife-church-edmonton-covid-1.5977931

[4] https://billygraham.org/story/the-tree-stump-prayer-where-billy-graham-overcame-doubt/

The whole book of Ruth has pointed to the need for Ruth’s and Naomi’s redemption. In Chapter 4, they are redeemed! Is there anything better than redemption? Absolutely not!

Redeemed!

Posted: April 8, 2021 in Ruth

Ruth 4, “Redeemed!”

Is there anything better than redemption? To be purchased out of slavery – to be ransomed away from death – to be bought with a price, knowing without doubt that we truly belong to the Lord God – such a thought is almost too wonderful for words! Apart from Jesus, we are enslaved to death, being hopeless in our sinful state, destined to face the wrath of God due our sins. But then Jesus intervened! He went to the cross, shedding His blood for us, paying our debt on our behalf and ransoming us from the grave. This is the glory of redemption!

Normally, when crafting a sermon, we might start with an illustration or some other lighter idea to help prepare us for something with more theological heft, like the idea of redemption. Why start with it right out of the gate? Because that is the subject of final chapter of the book of Ruth. Whereas Chapter 1 began with repentance, Chapter 2 focused on providence, and Chapter 3 focused on surrender, Chapter 4 is all about redemption. It is here that we see the fulfillment of all of the hopes that had been laid out since the book’s beginning. It is no understatement to say that if we miss the idea of redemption, we miss the main meaning of the book of Ruth. Two women were lost, but through the merciful intervention of a righteous man they were redeemed, having been given a home, a life, and a future.

This is what happens to each of us with Jesus. In ourselves, we are lost having no hope of forgiveness or eternal life. In ourselves, we are naught but sinners, treasonous rebels against the God who gave us life and who daily sustains us. But through the intervention of a righteous Man – the Righteous Man – we are redeemed, given everything for which we hope yet can never gain on our own. We are purchased by our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is what is seen in the book of Ruth. It all began with tragedy, the sad result from the judgment of an Israelite man leading his family in rebellion against God as he abandoned the land of the covenant for what he believed were greener pastures. The man Elimelech, along with his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, eventually died in the land of Moab leaving behind three women as widows to mourn them. Although one of the Moabite daughters-in-law returned to the family of her birth, the other loved her mother-in-law Naomi and joined herself to Naomi’s people and the family of faith. Together, Naomi and Ruth returned to Israel childless and impoverished, with nothing to eat other than what Ruth would be able to glean from the fields of Bethlehem.

Undeterred, Ruth went to the fields and God providentially guided her to a worthy and wealthy relative of Elimelech’s who had heard of Ruth’s kindness toward Naomi. The man Boaz was more than willing to help Ruth, ensuring that she took home far more than a gleaning of food, but several weeks’ worth of groceries. This continued throughout the barley and wheat harvests, of which Naomi noticed as a sign of their possible redemption.

At the end of the harvest, Naomi counseled Ruth to go to Boaz privately and present herself for the kindness of redemption, which according to Hebrew law and custom meant that Boaz would pay off the debts of Elimelech and take his dead relative’s household to himself, providing for them as his own family and giving an heir to the man who had died. Boaz understood the custom well and when Ruth presented herself in such godly humility, he showed himself more than willing to help. Ruth could have had any husband in Israel: young, old, rich, handsome, etc. But she surrendered herself willingly to Boaz because this was Naomi’s only hope for redemption. Ruth loved Naomi too much to leave her and was willing to set any of her own comforts aside for her.

Boaz brought up only one potential wrinkle: there was another relative who was next in line. That man had the first right of refusal when it came to redemption before Boaz could step in and do it. Yet even then, the mercy of redemption was going to be granted. By the end of the day, one way or another, Ruth and Naomi would be bought back from hopeless poverty. The only question was who the redeemer was going to be.

Chapter 4 picks up at that point. Boaz does not waste any time but goes straight to resolve the matter. And resolve it, he does! First, we see the act of redemption itself, followed by its wonderful results.

We have our wonderful redemption in Christ Jesus, who gave everything for us…and the results He brings into our lives are glorious!

Ruth 4

  • Redemption (1-12).

1 Now Boaz went up to the gate and sat down there; and behold, the close relative of whom Boaz had spoken came by. So Boaz said, “Come aside, friend, sit down here.” So he came aside and sat down. 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down.

  1. If verse 1 sounds like it is picking up in the middle of the story, that’s because it is. In Chapter 3, we saw the nighttime meeting of Boaz and Ruth when he promised to see to her redemption in the morning, and that was exactly what happened. Naomi had assured Ruth that Boaz would not rest until he had concluded the matter and she was right. Although it was not necessarily first light, Boaz was purposeful with his day. Once the town started going about the business of the day, Boaz went straight “up to the gate and sat down.” This was the ancient equivalent of going to city hall. Boaz went to the place where official business was conducted and sat himself there awaiting his turn to be heard. As it turns out, he didn’t have to wait long. The other “close relative” (the other go’el, kinsman-redeemer) just ‘happened’ to come along at the right moment. Boaz didn’t miss a beat and asked the man to take a seat so they could discuss business in front of the city elders.
    1. Question: Was this providence or planning? Boaz had a definite plan for the day but there is no record of him sending word to this relative asking for a city meeting. Certainly, Boaz could have done so (via one of his servants), and perhaps planned to do exactly that once he arranged the city elders to be present. Yet as it turned out, God brought the man along at exactly the right time.
    2. For the Christian, careful planning is wisdom in action. The proverbs tell us that “the plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty,” (Pro 21:5) and that “plans are established by counsel,” (Pro 20:18). The key is to remember that even our most carefully laid plans ought to be submitted to the will of God. Proverbs 16:9 tells us “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” By all means, be diligent to plan ahead; just be also flexible to the superior plans of Almighty God. He knows what is best and He can redirect us to something better than what we imagined for ourselves. We can trust and rejoice in His providence!
  2. Who was this relative? We don’t know. In a book in which nearly every name is meaningful, it is interesting that there is no name given for the other close relative. Many Bible versions paraphrase it as “friend,” a more accurate translation that communicates the meaning would be closer to “So and So.” The Hebrew terms are what writers would use if they were referring to someone generic but unnamed, like an ancient “John Doe.” It might be better translated, “So Boaz said, ‘Come aside certain someone, sit down here.’” Did Boaz know the man’s name? Of course…he was a relative. The man’s name was purposefully not recorded.
    1. Is this an indication of the man’s disgrace? We know from later in the chapter that he did not follow through on his covenant and family duty, and for selfish reasons at that. That alone is shameful. But there is mercy in his anonymity. This man would have lived with the personal knowledge of having neglected his duty, but his posterity was not forever branded with his shame. His name was not recorded either for good or bad; he simply passed unknown into history.
    2. That said, God knew, just like God knows each of us. God knows our hearts, knowing us better than we know ourselves. He knows our thoughts and our motives. He knows who has faith and who does not. Just like this unnamed man had to eventually answer to God for his sins (both sins of commission and omission), so will each of us. For us, there is one book in which we do want our names recorded: the Lamb’s book of Life. Our inclusion in that book is the only way we are saved from God’s judgment (and it is available to all!).
  3. FYI: Why did Boaz call 10 elders specifically? We don’t know. Later in Jewish history, this was the number necessary as witnesses to a Jewish marriage or to have quorum for a synagogue. Perhaps the custom dates back to this event in Ruth 4.

3 Then he said to the close relative, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, sold the piece of land which belonged to our brother Elimelech. 4 And I thought to inform you, saying, ‘Buy it back in the presence of the inhabitants and the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.’ ” And he said, “I will redeem it.”

  1. He got straight to the point, describing the situation and speaking of the need and the opportunity for redemption. Everyone in town had known of Naomi’s situation as her return to Bethlehem caused quite a stir. They knew she came back husbandless and childless, with only her daughter-in-law Ruth by her side. She also came back penniless and somehow estranged from her husband’s covenant inheritance of land. Although Boaz mentioned that Naomi “sold the piece of land” that was originally Elimelech’s, we aren’t told the details. We don’t know how it happened or when it occurred. We don’t know if Elimelech sold the land prior to leaving Bethlehem on his way to Moab, or if Naomi lost the land due to the death of her husband and sons, or if somehow the land was sold to provide at least a bit of food for the two women. Whatever had happened, it left Naomi destitute and the land in need of redemption.
  2. And redemption is the main point. Notice the repeated use of the word “redeem”: 5x in one verse. It is the exact same root as the word often translated “close relative” or “kinsman redeemer.” It was technical legal term that related specifically to this kind of situation, when something needed to be purchased back for the family inheritance. – Why did it matter? Remember why anyone in Israel had land in the first place: God. This was not real estate that anyone in Israel earned on their own or was inherently theirs; this was land that belonged to Almighty God and God gave it as a gift to His people. And God distributed it out to His people according to His will, as seen in the latter chapters of the book of Joshua. Thus, the physical land of Israel was not something that the people of Israel could randomly buy, sell, or trade. It needed to stay within the tribes and the clans to whom God gave it. Israelites could make temporary real estate deals, but every 50 years it had to go back according to God’s original distribution.
  3. What did that mean for Boaz and this situation? Redemption was required. The inheritance of Elimelech was required by God to stay within the overall clan to which Elimelech, Boaz, and Cousin So-and-So belonged. Someone had to make this purchase on Elimelech’s behalf. Of course, Boaz was happy to do it, but he couldn’t yet move on it. He spoke openly of his desire to redeem but knew it needed to first be offered it to his relative according to the law. Boaz certainly had his preferences, but he understood that even his preferences needed to be submitted to the word of God. The only way he would proceed was if he could do it the right way.
    1. Don’t miss the point for us: redemption is still required. There is only one way any of us goes to eternal life in heaven: if we have been redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ. Just like the land of Israel belonged to God, so do all of our lives. And just like the land of Israel was sold to someone else, so do our lives belong to death because we have sold ourselves into death through our sin. And there is no buying our own way out. There is no work any of us can do that would purchase our own freedom. The wages of sin is death and we have been sinning since before we can remember. We have an unfathomable number of sins, not even counting our inherent sinful fallen nature. Yet we only have one life to live. This is why we must be redeemed. This is why it is essential we surrender ourselves to our Redeemer, Jesus!
  4. As for the land redemption, Cousin So-and-So initially wanted it. And why not? There would be a bit of expense involved, but it would be worth it as he would grow his own inheritance. After all, although he would have to give a home to Naomi, Naomi was past the age of childbearing. Any land he purchased from the widow of Elimelech would surely go to his own children. As far as land deals go, this one seemed to be a great return on his investment. That was when Boaz hit him with the catch…

5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance.”

  1. There it was: the land came with a bride. Not only would Cousin So-and-So bring Naomi into his home, he would also have Ruth…someone who was of childbearing age. Now there was a responsibility along with the real estate. By law, he would have to try to give a son to Ruth and the inheritance that he purchased through redemption would to that child rather than one bearing his name.

6 And the close relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”

  1. Once he thought of the ramifications, the man refused to be the redeemer. Why? Because he cared more about his land than either the law of Moses or the loving principle behind the law. He did not want to dilute any inheritance that his own sons might receive with a newcomer from another wife. It didn’t matter that it was commanded by God in His word, nor did it matter that the reason God commanded it was for compassion and mercy to be shown to a widow in desperate need. This man looked only to his own needs and acted in selfishness.
    1. Remember what Jesus declared to be the two greatest commandments: (1) to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength, and (2) to love our neighbors as ourselves. Through this man’s selfishness, he broke both He had no respect for the word of God, nor did he have any compassion on those among his own relatives who were in need.
    2. We don’t need to be in this man’s position in ancient Israel to commit the same sort of selfishness. Any time we put ourselves over the word of God, especially in the areas where God’s word instructs us how to relate to other people, we commit the same sin breaking the two greatest commandments. When we refuse to forgive as Jesus instructs us to forgive, we break the commandments. When we refuse to love as Jesus tells us to love, we break the commandments. When we harbor hatred in our hearts towards others (especially other Christian brothers and sisters), we break the commandments. How often we can break the two greatest commandments before we even get out of the house in the morning!
    3. Don’t forget: although we do break many commands of God every day, we need break only one to be guilty of the whole law (Jas 2:10). Again, we require Jesus’ redemption!

7 Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging, to confirm anything: one man took off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was a confirmation in Israel. 8 Therefore the close relative said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself.” So he took off his sandal.

  1. There is some disagreement about the custom. On one hand, there is a specific instruction in Deuteronomy 25 regarding the relative who refused to act as a redeemer. Deuteronomy 25:9–10, “(9) then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ (10) And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’” If it seems harsh and disgraceful, that is because it was. To refuse to provide for one’s own family showed how particularly cruel the individual was, and this rightly deserved condemnation. (FYI: The principle still applies today. Paul wrote that the person who refuses to provide for his family through a willingness to work is worse than an unbeliever. ~ 1 Tim 5:8.)
  2. On the other hand, for as much as the law of Moses is in view on the issue of land and family redemption, this particular interaction does not seem to have the atmosphere of disgrace. It isn’t Ruth who removes the man’s sandal – no one spits in the man’s face – he is not publicly humiliated among the townspeople. Instead, this is said to have been a “custom in former times,” indicating something that took place on a regular basis – something that would not describe the rite of redemption.
  3. Some have suggested that the exchange of a sandal does not indicate a disgrace, so much as it symbolized the right to walk on the land as one’s own property. Deuteronomy also speaks of God giving the Hebrews the land from every place their feet had trod, i.e., anywhere they walked in the Promised Land belonged to them. It is possible that the custom seen in Ruth 4 reflects the same kind of idea.

9 And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. 10 Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day.”

  1. Remember that Boaz had gathered 10 elders at the city gate before the transaction took place. They served as public witnesses for the purchase. Should any question arise in the future over to whom Elimelech’s land belonged, any one of the ten elders could verify the purchase.
  2. Was money exchanged? Was a title deed composed? None of that is said, but none of that is the main point. The main point is simple: the redemption was now complete! All of Elimelech’s house now belonged to Boaz. More than the land of Elimelech now belonging to Boaz, the surviving women in his home now were under Boaz’s care. Naomi and Ruth were saved, with Ruth becoming the new bride of Boaz.
  3. Notice that Boaz did it for the right reason. Unlike Cousin So-and-So who feared what might happen to his own inheritance, Boaz spoke clearly of his intent: “I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dad through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren.” Even at a personal cost, Boaz was willing to do the right thing. Remember that Boaz was not a young man. He probably already had children. Now he was starting all over again. Additionally, now the inheritance of his other children might decrease a bit with the birth of any future children that would come from Ruth. We are told of one son that she bore, but it seems possible that she would have had several children. Only one would have inherited the land of Elimelech; all the others would share in whatever inheritance Boaz passed to the rest. So yes, this cost Boaz…but it was worth it. Doing the right thing for the glory of God is always worth it!
    1. Our redemption came at great cost, without question. The only begotten beloved Son of God was whipped, beaten, bruised, pierced, and tortured for our sakes when He hung on the cross. There is no doubt that when the wrath of God fell on Jesus, it cost. But gloriously, to God, the cost was worth it! Isaiah prophesied that “it pleased the LORD to bruise Him,” (Isa 53:10), being that it fulfilled the will and plan of God. The apostle John saw how the future multitudes in heaven sing of Jesus, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom,” (Rev 5:12). Our redemption came at great cost, but it also gives great glory to God. He determined that the cost was worth it.
    2. How can we fathom such a gift? It is beyond our comprehension! It will take an eternity for us to wrap our minds around. The best we can do today is to proclaim His praises. May we do so with grateful hearts!

11 And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman.”

  1. The city elders approved and gave their blessing to the purchase and to the union. In fact, they gave two blessings/benedictions:
  2. Blessing #1: Rachel and Leah. These were two of the famous wives of Jacob/Israel, sisters who were often jealous of one another especially during the years they gave birth. Interestingly, Rachel is listed first even though the tribe of Judah (which was the correlating tribe over Bethlehem) was born from Leah. Although both women gave birth multiple times, Rachel struggled with barrenness for much of her life. Perhaps this was a hint from the city elders of a potential struggle of Ruth’s with barrenness (which we’ll look at in a moment).
  3. Blessing #2: Perez, borne of Tamar. That Perez was of the lineage of Judah and thus an ancestor to many in Bethlehem is matter of historical record. It’s the mention of Tamar that stands out in the blessing. Recall that Tamar was actually the daughter-in-law of Judah, who was originally married through the process of levirate marriage to two of Judah’s sons (Gen 38). Both his older sons died as a result of God’s judgment on their sin (not unlike Mahlon and Chilion!), and Tamar had to result to deception to gain a son through Judah himself, since he refused to give his third son to her as a husband. The whole affair is rather sordid and an example of when levirate marriage goes wrong with people acting in selfishness rather than selflessness. Yet what God brought out of that situation was wonderful! Judah repented of his sin, grew in his maturity and character, and this ended up being the lineage that led all the way to Boaz (as will soon become clear).
  4. Overall, the blessings were the same: that YHWH God would be glorified in the lives of Boaz and Ruth through the multitude of children that would come from their wedlock. – Not every married couple is blessed with children (as seen through many godly examples in Scripture!), but for those who are, every child is a blessing – every child is a gift. In opposition to those in our culture who deride babies as burdens or unexpected pregnancies as punishment, God sees life as a gift! Children are to be treasured, brought up in the training and admonition of the Lord and the reason for our thanks to God.

Three and a half chapters had held out the hope of redemption for Naomi and Ruth. Finally, it was brought to completion! Boaz went straight to the task, not delaying – he did things according to the word of God – he did things according to the heart of God, not thinking of himself nor considering the cost. In doing so, Boaz becomes a great picture of the Son of God, who did all these things for us in our redemption. 

  • Results (13-22).

13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son.

  1. Result #1: Marriage. This came part-and-parcel with the redemption, but it is important that we see its fulfillment. Boaz did not merely stand in the city gate declaring how he acquired Ruth as his wife; he actually wed her. He followed through on his statement.
    1. So it will be with us and Christ. Although today this is still a promise for the future, the Bible already describes the church as the Bride of Christ. One day, this Bride will be present at the marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev 19). What will it look like? We have only glimpses in the New Testament and the book of Revelation, but it will be wonderful!
  2. Result #2: Children. Although this was one of the primary hopes of redemption, childbearing is by no means guaranteed. Yet the husband and wife were blessed with a baby boy. Notice how the son was born to Ruth: “the LORD gave her conception.” Of course all children are given by the Lord, but there is a deeper implication here: Ruth was previously barren. Although nothing in Chapter 1 is specifically mentioned of her being restrained from getting pregnant while in Moab, she and Mahlon obviously had no children while living outside of Israel. At the time, this may have been viewed as a curse or a judgment, though it surely was not due to any fault of Ruth’s. (Mahlon was a different story! He was judged by God.) Yet whatever sadness she endured during her time of childlessness, we can see at the end of the book that her childlessness was actually a blessing that was part of the plan and provision of God. How so? Think about it: if Ruth had already given birth to children in Moab, she would not have been eligible for redemption upon moving to Israel. Those children would have carried on the name of their deceased father and would have eventually grown to an age to care for Ruth and Naomi (if Naomi had survived). That means that Ruth would never have been married to Boaz, producing no children from him. As becomes clear later in the chapter, that would have completely eliminated David’s family tree, having a massive impact on the Messianic line. Much of what we know of Jesus’ lineage traces back to Ruth’s redemption. And her redemption traces back to her earlier childlessness. What was originally a tragedy was turned by God in His eternal plan to be a blessing for countless generations!
    1. What is it that is a hardship in your life? Although it seems tragic and impossible right now, we can be certain that it has not come as a surprise to God. He has known about this from before the foundation of the world. Trust it to the sovereign plan of God! Paul famously wrote of this idea to the Romans: Romans 8:28–30, “(28) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Notice two things in that: (1) This is promise and guarantee for believers; not for the world. Christians have this assurance; no one else. (2) Whatever else good that God brings out of our trials, His ultimate plan for us is to bring us to Himself in heaven. The things that God allows in our lives right now as believers serve to mold and shape us as believers, continually conforming us to the image of His Son, in which one day everything will be revealed when we stand glorified by the grace of God in heaven. IOW: It isn’t always about now. We tend to look at short-term gains, for the ways God is working good right now. It might not be right now; it might be something that serves a long-term or even eternal purpose. God had a long-term plan with Ruth’s redemption to bring forth Jesus from her lineage. That was an eventuality she never saw in this life; Jesus was born over 1000 years after she died…but that was God’s plan for her. What is God’s plan for you and me? He will reveal it in His time…even if it is in eternity.

14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! 15 And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”

  1. Result #3: Restoration. Boaz and Ruth were not the only people to receive a public blessing in the redemption; Naomi did as well. This time, the blessing was not pronounced by the elders at the city gates but by the women who initially witnessed Naomi’s return to Bethlehem and were astounded at her trials and grief. Now, the grief was gone! Naomi had been truly restored. No longer was she “Mara,” the bitter one; now she was once again pleasant “Naomi,” who could praise God and declare Him the blessed one for all of His gifts in her life. Notice the reversal from Naomi’s situation in Chapter 1. She originally left Bethlehem full and returned empty; now she was full once again. She left town with two sons; she came back with one daughter-in-law who was better than seven sons. Moreover, God gave Naomi not only the go’el redeemer in Boaz, but also the go’el redeemer of this newborn boy, who would provide for both Naomi and Ruth in their old age.
    1. Does God restore us in our redemption through Jesus? Yes! Though we were once estranged from God, having made ourselves His enemies through our own sin, now we are reconciled to Him. We have renewed and restored fellowship with God, something only possible through Christ. We are restored to things we never realized we lost, prior to our faith in Christ!

16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. 17 Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

  1. Result #4: Generations. Of course, the son born to Boaz and Ruth was already mentioned in verse 13, but what is clear in verses 17 is how the genealogy did not end with this one son. This son went on to have children of his own, eventually showing himself to be the grandfather of the future king David. Multiple generations were impacted by this one act of redemption. On top of that, far more generations were affected by this one family line than only the generations of Boaz. All Israel was affected when David became king and his sons followed in the dynastic line. There was a ripple effect that went out far beyond this one family tree.
    1. So too, with us. For every person who comes to faith in Christ, there are many others impacted by our testimonies. And we pray for many more! Just like our faith is the product of someone else witnessing to us (and from someone who witnessed to them, and so on), so do we carry on the lineage as we share Jesus with others.
  2. Result #5 (the best one!): Messiah! Although this is not directly stated in our text, the ultimate impact of the rise of David’s dynastic line as king of Israel is the true Son of David, the Lord Jesus. This is the lineage from which God sovereignly chose to bring forth His Son. The redemption of Ruth and Naomi has a direct tie to our redemption and the redemption of the rest of creation as Jesus makes right what went wrong in the Garden of Eden. For clarity, by no means is every single human saved – for that, we need repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God crucified for our sins and risen from the dead. But the end of the Bible shows us the eternal state when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, all of which is made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The entirety of the redemptive plan of God rests on Jesus, and His family lineage goes straight through Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi.
  3. As for the text, we might need to make couple of notes: First, Naomi helped raise the boy, sharing the role of caregiving. The wording might be a bit confusing for us, as we don’t often think of grandmothers as nurses. One commentary notes that “the word translated ‘nurse’ means guardian rather than wet nurse,” (EBC), hopefully clearing up the confusion. Second, the boy was named by the townspeople, rather than by Boaz and Ruth. Specifically, the name came from “the neighbor women.” There are different thoughts to the meaning of his name. Some translate “Obed” as “worshipper;” others link it to the word for “servant,” suggesting that Obed is short for Obadiah (“servant of Yah”). Either translation is appropriate to the situation. Naomi and Ruth did most definitely worship when the gift of this son was given, and they no doubt raised young Obed to worship the Lord himself. Similarly, both Naomi and Ruth understood their roles as servants of the Lord God, and they desired the same for this baby boy.

18 Now this is the genealogy of Perez: Perez begot Hezron; 19 Hezron begot Ram, and Ram begot Amminadab; 20 Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon; 21 Salmon begot Boaz, and Boaz begot Obed; 22 Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David.

  1. Some have viewed this as a later appendix to the book, being that it is a direct break from the narrative of the story as a whole. Yet it is this genealogy (which is an expansion of what was given in verse 17) that is the reason for this book’s existence in the first place. Why would anyone care about two widowed women being redeemed? Because it led to the birth of the greatest king in Israel’s history! And again, more importantly, it led to the King of kings and Lord of lords: Jesus Christ.

Conclusion:

We end with the same question with which we began: Is there anything better than redemption? And the answer is a resounding no. For Naomi and Ruth, it was what they most needed, and it was brought to completion through the selflessness, mercy, and love of Boaz. He was willing to set himself aside that these two women might be redeemed to the glory of God and God used it in a marvelous way, bringing about wonderful results. These were results that not only impacted the immediate lives of these women, but impact each and every one of us today.

Of course, our redemption is not found in an ancient farmer from Bethlehem. It is found in a carpenter who was born in Bethlehem. It is found in the holy Son of God who set His own glory aside, humbling Himself in selflessness, mercy, and love, that He might pay the price for our redemption, reconciling us to God. He deemed it worth the cost and through His work He brings wonderful results.

How we should rejoice in the work of Jesus’ redemption! Every day we wake is another day we can praise God for the gracious gift of His Son. It is a day we can remember the blessedness of God and declare His goodness to those around us. We have been redeemed! We have been purchased and restored unto God and the results from that will last through all eternity.

In this Resurrection Sunday message, we continue with Paul’s letter of 1 Corinthians as he reminds them of the gospel he had previously preached to them. The gospel is *central* to our faith. It is foundational, it is factual, and it is transformational. Hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ!

The Gospel

Posted: April 4, 2021 in 1 Corinthians
Tags: , ,

1 Corinthians 15:1-11, “The Gospel”

Happy Resurrection Sunday! Today is Easter, the day Christians around the world celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It is the day that marks Christianity apart from every religion in the world, the day without which we would not have Christianity. Although Christmas gets far more press and cultural attention (even having a full month+ designated for shopping and special music), Easter has far more importance. After all, Christmas is only special because Jesus rose from the dead. If He didn’t, no one would have cared how He was born. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pivotal event of history, and it is the event that we celebrate this day and every Sunday.

What’s the big deal? The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is what makes the gospel the gospel. Without Jesus rising from the dead, there is no good news to share about Him. Without Jesus’ resurrection, we have no proof of His victory over death, no declaration of His deity, no eyewitness apostles, no reason for Paul to traipse around the Roman empire, nothing. Without Jesus’ resurrection, we have no news to share, much less good news. At that point, all we have is the reality of our sins against a holy God with no way of resolving them. We are left with hopelessness and judgment. We are left with the futile religions of men, trying to prove ourselves righteous and always failing. Those who try to earn their way into heaven are like trucks stuck in the mud, spinning their wheels wildly, getting only dirtier and deeper into the muck. We need a rescue and a Rescuer, and without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have none.

But praise God, Jesus is risen from the dead! Jesus is alive today, just as He has been alive for the nearly 2000 years since He first came out of the Jerusalem tomb. And because He is, we have good news to share and to believe. Not just “kind of” good news; the best news of all: the news of God’s salvation!

This was the news that Paul shared with the Corinthian church at the beginning of Chapter 15. Paul had just concluded his discussion of spiritual gifts, which came as a part of his longer discussion of orderly worship within the local church. On a broader scale, this was part of a section in the letter where Paul was answering some specific questions from Corinth – subjects he addressed after dealing with several issues of discipline. Paul had covered a full array of topics with this local congregation ranging from internal division to marriages to prophecy, and everything in-between.

At this point in the letter, Paul started to bring things to a close, and as he did, he addressed one more major subject – something that had been on his mind since the letter’s beginning. Back in Chapter 1, Paul wrote how the message of the cross was foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1:18). Some of the Christians in Corinth had begun to stumble on some of the basics of the gospel itself – something foundational to our faith, without which we cannot be saved. Now, with the other issues out of the way, Paul turned to that which was most important: the wisdom of God seen in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It quickly becomes apparent that the primary stumbling black of some in Corinth was the physical literal resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as the ramifications that it held for the resurrections of those who believe. But before Paul can look at the details of the resurrection, he first needed to establish its place within the gospel message. This is what he does at the beginning of Chapter 15 as he reminds the Christians in Corinth about the centrality of the gospel to the Christian faith.

What a marvelous text to examine on Resurrection Sunday! The events that took place that glorious Sunday morning make it possible for us to be saved. The things that took place that day ensure that there is a gospel to share, that there is good news to tell. We have that good news and it is glorious! It is foundational – it is factual – it is transformational. It is essential to everything we have in God and it is all about Jesus.

Praise God this Resurrection Sunday for the gospel of Jesus Christ!

1 Corinthians 15:1–11

  • The gospel is foundational (1-2).

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, …

  1. What was the first thing Paul wrote about the gospel? He had already preached it once to Corinth. He was about to preach it to them all over again. One of the oldest strategies in public speaking is this: “Tell them what you’re about to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them.” Paul was in the “tell them what you told them” phase. He had already given them the gospel, so what he was about to write to them should seem very familiar. Why? Because it wasn’t going to change. What Paul had originally declared, that was what he was going to write.
    1. Why? Because the gospel does not change! No matter who the audience is, no matter what the preferences of our culture may be, the message of Jesus does not change. Certain methods of sharing the news might, but the message (i.e., the content) does not. How so? Today, we have technology of which Paul could not have imagined. His method of worldwide publishing was to write a letter by hand, have a bunch of people copy it, and then send the copies around the Roman empire individually, hand-carrying it from church to church as people walked to different cities. Today, all we need to do is click a button on Facebook or Twitter, etc., and it goes to a worldwide audience immediately. Paul preached to many cities, but he could only preach to one city at a time. For us, anyone with a cell phone can instantly post a global livestream. The methods are incredibly advanced. Even the media can vary. In addition to the spoken and written word is video, infographics, picture books, etc. Even things like puzzles and Rubik-cube like toys have been used to share the gospel. The news of Jesus goes out in a myriad of ways undreamt of by Paul or any of the original apostles.
    2. But the content does not change. The content must not change. The gospel is what the gospel is, and we have neither the right nor the authority to alter it. Some want to water it down, hoping to find a way to make it more palatable to the world, or at least not as offensive as it might be perceived. That is not our job! It is not our authority. We are stewards of this news; not the originators or owners of it. We cannot change what God has set forth.
    3. Beloved, beware that you do not change the message! Likewise, beware of any pastor, teacher, or evangelist who does change the message! In his letter to the Galatians, Paul put a warning in the strongest of terms: Galatians 1:8–9, “(8) But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” How important is it to keep the message of the gospel unchanged? So much so, that even if Paul changed it, he was under the curse of God! Let us beware and be careful to leave the gospel intact, as given us in the Scripture.
  2. That is a lot of talking around the message of the gospel. What is the message itself? Paul will get to the details in a moment, but for now, let us look at the big picture. The words “gospel” and “preached” come from the same root word in Greek. The noun is euangelion (εὐαγγέλιον), in which you might hear the word “evangelism.” It is a compound word (or, at least a strengthened form of one word) placing a word for “good” in front of another word for “news / declaration.” In fact, that word is the same root from which we get our word “angel,” as an angel is nothing more than an heavenly being with a message from God. The angel brings divine news. So the eu-angel (~evangel) is the good declaration, the good news of God concerning Jesus Christ.
    1. Why does this matter? Because we tend to use the word “gospel” as an adjective for all sorts of things. There is gospel music, gospel literature, gospel action, gospel fill-in-the-blank, as if it is just another word in a Christian version of “Mad Libs.” And that is just the church; our culture uses the word in a different way, often as a synonym for “truth,” as if we might read a book that purports to be the gospel about politics, or sports, or other such things. This needs to stop. We need to understand this single point: the true gospel speaks only of Jesus Christ! If we are not referring to Jesus, we are not referring to the gospel at all. May we not allow this glorious word to be so easily diluted in our speech! Jesus is the gospel, the good news of God. Anything less is not the gospel at all.

…which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, …

  1. The Corinthians received the news of Jesus. They did not reject it, but believed it as Paul declared it. Likewise, they stood in the news of Jesus, having planted their feet in the truth that was preached, not moving from that spot of faith. And because of that, they were currently being saved through/via that same news of Jesus. The ESV brings out the present tense grammar in verse 2 as Paul wrote, “by which you are being saved.” More than a one-time act of forgiveness, the effect of the gospel of Jesus upon the Corinthian Christians was present and ongoing.
  2. The Bible speaks of salvation in three tenses: past, present, future. (1) We are saved from our sins of the past by being justified by Jesus. His death on the cross serves as the punishment for our sins and when we place our faith in Him, He justifies us, wiping out our debt against God. (2) We are presently being saved from our sinful nature in the process of sanctification. In this, Jesus frees us from the power that our sinful nature has on us, that we need not give in to the slavery of temptation. (3) We will be saved in the future in the day we are removed from the presence of sin through the act of glorification. One day, our bodies will be resurrected along with Jesus (which Paul addresses later in the chapter), and in that day we will live in Jesus’ kingdom altogether free from our sinful condition.
  3. Paul’s point for Corinth was that they already experienced the first two tenses. Because they received the gospel and stood in it, they were justified by Christ. They were truly forgiven of their sins and made new creations by the grace of God. And because of their ongoing faith, they were currently being saved, being continually sanctified by the grace of God as they were made more and more into the likeness of Christ. God had done a mighty work among them, in which they could rejoice!

Yet there was one disclaimer…

…if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

  1. The “if” stands out to us in a major way. All of what Paul wrote was true for Corinth, if they held fast to that gospel. It needs to be pointed out that the grammar used by Paul indicates that this was not a strong fear of his for the church. He was certain that this was indeed the belief for the Corinthians. Even so, their one guarantee of their salvation was to “hold fast” to the gospel preached to them, not being those who “believed in vain.” Make no mistake: there are some who believe in vain. There are some people who walk through the doors of a church, who know all the right words, and who can even recite some basic Biblical doctrine about Jesus (particularly on an Easter Sunday morning) yet who do not hold fast to the message. They do not themselves believe. For them, the words they know are empty words – the faith they pretend is a façade. There is a theological term for this person: a false convert. Maybe he raised his hand during a preacher’s invitation wanting to go to heaven, but he did not surrender himself to Jesus as his Lord. Maybe she was told she could fill the spiritual void in her heart, but she did not turn from her sins to follow Jesus, never truly believing upon Christ for who He is. Whatever their faith was in, it was not in the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified for their sins and risen from the dead. They may have believed in something, but they did not believe the true gospel. All their other belief was in vain.
    1. Don’t let that be you! Especially on Easter, on Resurrection Sunday, take the time to examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. Take a hard look at your beliefs and determine if you hold fast to the gospel, the good news about Jesus. Only those who do have any assurance of their salvation. If your hope in heaven in based on anything other than Jesus, then you have no hope of heaven. At that point, you are not being saved. But you can Hold fast to the gospel of Christ!

You can’t get much more important than this! The gospel is foundational to our eternal salvation. It is the access we have to the promises of God. It is the assurance of our deliverance from sin and future in presence of God. It is essential to believe and to keep.

  • The gospel is factual (3-8).

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: …

  1. In verse 1, Paul already wrote how he preached the gospel to the church at Corinth, as this was the message he was going to deliver to them all over again. Guess what? It was a message that was delivered to Paul himself. Paul did not invent the message; he (like every other gospel preacher) was a messenger. It had been given to him; he passed it along to others.
  2. That Paul “received” this message confirms that it existed long before the writing of 1 Corinthians. Paul likely learned this formulation from the initial Christians he met in Damascus following his own conversion, some 20 years earlier. Considering that Paul wrote this letter around 54-55AD, having first ministered in the city around 51AD, we can place his conversion somewhere around 36AD. This means that a fully formed Christian creed (confession of faith) existed outside of Jerusalem within 3-5 years of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. – For all the skeptics who claim that the story of Jesus’ resurrection was a myth that developed over time, the historical facts simply do not allow that as a possibility. It takes years and even decades for myths to develop. In this case, doctrine was being formulated and taught within only a couple of years from the event itself. Presidential terms last for a longer period of time than what it took for the gospel to be systematically taught to new believers! – It underscores the idea that the gospel is historical fact. This good news of God is not “too good to be true;” it is good because it is true.

…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

  1. Christ.” Note that Paul gives a title rather than a name. Not that anything is wrong with the name of Jesus. Far from it! The name “Jesus” encapsulates the gospel itself, meaning “YHWH is salvation,” or, the shortened form of “Yah saves.” This is the name specifically chosen by God during Mary’s pregnancy for His only begotten Son. It is the name that is above every other name. It is wonderful! But for Paul’s purposes here, it was also wonderfully common. “Jesus” is the anglicized Greek equivalent of “Joshua,” a name extremely common among the first century Jews. Imagine if Paul wrote that “Josh died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” While theologically correct, his readers might have asked, “Which one?” They may have known a dozen men named Joshua/Jesus, and they needed some distinction. Paul could have done this legitimately by writing “Jesus of Nazareth,” which was the name that Peter used in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22), but Paul didn’t. He wrote “Christ.” Why? Because this specific title has a specific meaning. The Christ is the Messiah, the Man anointed by God to be King of Israel and the Savior of the world. The Christ/Messiah is the Man to whom Scripture points as the fulfillment of the promises of God, stretching all the way back to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden. This is a Person of great importance – this is the Man upon whom rests the fate of the universe – this is the Man at the center of the good news of God. The gospel is about Christ.
    1. Don’t gloss over that! The gospel is not about life-fulfillment, good feelings, material riches, or anything that this world offers. The gospel is not even ultimately about eternal life in heaven. That is a benefit of the gospel, but it is not the gospel itself. The gospel is about Christ. It is about the Lord Jesus of Nazareth as God’s Messiah. It is about who He is and what He has done. The good news of God all about Him; not us.
    2. This gets us back to the warning against changing the gospel. If we make it all about us and what we can get out of God, we are no longer preaching/believing the gospel. If the preaching is all about seeing what we can gain (be it prosperity, physical healing, supernatural power, etc.), it is not gospel preaching because true gospel preaching is going to be about Jesus as the Christ. We dare not dilute nor diverge from that message. It is far too important!
  2. Christ “died.” Again, remember whom it is of which we speak. Christ the King, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the God-Man Himself died. The One who existed before time began, the 2nd Person of the Trinity who had no beginning, the One through whom God created the world – this Man died. That alone is a mind-blowing thought. How is it possible that the Christ could die? Without question, this was unthinkable in the minds of the 1st century Jews. They anticipated Messiah’s arrival, looking forward to a great military victory He would bring over the Romans and restore Israel to its kingdom and prominence. Certainly, this was on the minds of the original disciples, which was why they scattered so quickly when Jesus was arrested. It was why they hid themselves behind locked doors when Jesus died on the cross. Their hopes for Messianic reign had been dashed, so they thought. The Man whom they trusted was gone. He had been bruised, beaten, and nailed to the cross, and it was upon the cross that He died. The weight of this was crushing to them. Looking back 2000 years later, we might chastise them saying, “But Jesus warned them. They should have listened!” Yes, they should have…but they were humans just like us. They did not want to believe that Jesus could suffer and die on the cross, but He did, and they were devastated.
  3. But there was a reason for Jesus’ death, one which we dare not forget. This too is part of the gospel. Specifically, “Christ died for our sins.” This is what we remember on Good Friday, though we dare not limit it only to then. Jesus died as a sacrifice, as a substitution. And this is why it had to be Christ, and not just anyone. Because it was Jesus, because it was the Son of God incarnate as the Christ, the death that Jesus died served as a sufficient substitute for sinful people like you and me. Because we live in 21st century western culture (and a primarily Gentile one at that), we have a difficult time understanding the need for sacrifice. To us, “sacrifice” is something that we give to another. It might even be valuable, like the sacrifice of time or money. It might even be the sacrifice of the life of a soldier for the country which he loves. But it is a one-sided sacrifice – something without a correlating response. To the ancient Hebrews following the law of Moses, “sacrifice” was something far different. That kind of sacrifice required blood – it required the life of an animal that served as a judicial substitute for one’s own sins. You had sinned against God, and the wages of your sin was death. But you couldn’t personally pay that price, for obvious reasons. So, you put an animal in your place, and the death that you should have received was administered to that animal, and you knew the blood that came pouring out from its neck should have been yours. Of course, there was a problem: you kept sinning and you had to keep giving animal sacrifices. Moreover, the value of an animal never equals the value of a person. Thus, the sacrifice was always insufficient. – This is where the death of Christ comes in. His sacrifice is His death was given in place of your death. The punishment He received should have been your punishment. The blood that poured out His body should have been yours, but it was His – and because it was His, it serves not only as a sufficient payment for your sins, but an overwhelming payment. As the hymn says, “Jesus paid it all.”
  4. Christ was “buried.” This too, is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because it is a reminder that Jesus was really dead. It is a reminder that even His initial disciples believed it was over. When Jesus died on the cross, it seemed as if all their hopes had died with Him. As the two men walking on the road to Emmaus on Sunday morning said to Jesus (before knowing it was Him), “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel,” (Lk 24:21). They hoped He was the Messiah, but in their minds, how could He be if He was dead? They needed a living Christ for the promises of God to be true. With Jesus dead, those hopes had died. Thus, they buried Him. Joseph of Arimathea gave his own unused tomb for the body of Jesus, and he and Nicodemus the Pharisee packed Jesus’ body with 100 pounds of spices, wrapped it according to Jewish custom, and rolled a massive stone in front of the door. They would have done none of it if they expected Jesus to rise. Moreover, there was no chance they would have done it if they had any suspicion that Jesus might still somehow be alive! Of course, the Roman centurion had already verified the death of Jesus by piercing Jesus’ side with his spear, but if neither the cross nor the spear had killed Jesus, surely the smothering of the all the spices and wrapping would have finished off the job! The point? Jesus was truly dead. The price was truly paid. Without the real and verified death of Jesus, we have no payment for our sins. But it was real, it was verified…to the point of His literal burial in a literal tomb.
  5. Christ “rose again.” This is where the good news becomes good! This is why the gospel is the gospel! On the third day after Jesus gave His life on the cross for our sins, Jesus rose again to new and glorious life. We remember the Biblical account, how the women who believed in Jesus still wanted to somehow attend to His body in devotion, even though they did not have the opportunity on the day He died. The sun had set and the Sabbath had begun, so the women had no choice but to wait until Sunday morning. They started out at their earliest opportunity, right as light was beginning to break, going to the tomb with their spices and material. How they were supposed to move the stone was a part of the puzzle they hadn’t yet figured out, but all they knew is that they needed to get to Jesus’ grave. As it turns out, the stone wasn’t a problem at all! An angel appeared, rolling back the stone, revealing that the tomb was already empty (Mt 28:2). Jesus had already departed the tomb, having been risen from the dead, an event unheard of in all history. Several people had been raised from the dead in the past (some by the hand of Jesus Himself), but none had ever risen from the dead by their own power. Jesus did. Just as Jesus willingly gave up His life, committing His spirit into the hands of God the Father, so did Jesus take up His life again on the third day!
    1. What does it show? Everything! It shows that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom 1:4). It shows that Jesus truly is Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). It shows that Jesus is the One who will one day judge the world (Acts 17:30). Moreover, it shows that the price for sin has been paid that that we have the promise of new life in His name! The resurrection of Jesus is the Easter story and it is the reason that the gospel of Christ is good news.
    2. Is this the news you believe? This is the news by which we can be saved, but we will never be saved if we do not believe it. Think of it: Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave nearly 2000 years ago in the past. His sacrifice has already been completed in full. The work has been done, but not everyone is saved. Why hasn’t everyone in the past 2000 years automatically been given the promise and assurance of heaven? Because not everyone believes. Jesus’ work has been done but it is only effectual for those who have faith. The apostle John put it this way: 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” You need to believe!
  6. Note: all of it was “according to the Scriptures.” Nothing that happened to Jesus was according to random chance; it was all according to the Scriptures. It was all according to the revealed plan of God. Which Scriptures? Paul does not list them here. And for good reason…there are far too many! There are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that speak of the earthly ministry of Jesus, ranging from His family line to the city of His birth to the events surrounding His death, and more. As to the specific Scriptures that speak of His death, burial, and resurrection, one need look no further than Isaiah 53. The entire chapter speaks of the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus, but is also specific on these lines: Isaiah 53:9–10, “(9) And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. (10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.” Jesus died, having been crucified next to two robbers (most likely terrorists). Jesus was buried, placed by the rich Joseph of Arimathea in his own tomb. Jesus rose again, having seen His “offspring” of the church and having His days prolonged. This was the plan of God regarding His Son and it came true to the letter!

This is the message regarding Jesus, the good news of the gospel. And it is good! But is it true? The best story in the world does nothing for us if it is just a fairy tale. How can we know that Jesus actually rose from the dead? That is what Paul goes on to describe. We can know this is true because Jesus was seen. His physical person was witnessed not just by one, but by many people.

5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.

  1. That “Cephas” (Peter) is mentioned first among the apostles is not just a matter of historical record; it is a demonstration of great grace. We need to acknowledge that Peter was not the first person to see the risen Lord Jesus; that privilege was given to Mary Magdalene and the other women who steadfastly followed Him and believed in Him. But Paul isn’t writing here of every witness; he names the ones that the Christians in Corinth would have known. Considering they had a personal experience at some point with Peter/Cephas, it is only fitting that Paul begins the list of eyewitnesses with him. The issue of grace is important due to Peter’s last interaction with Jesus prior to Jesus’ crucifixion. After boasting how he would never leave Jesus, how all the other disciples might abandon Him but that Peter himself would never deny Him, Peter had a massive failure. The “mighty” Peter, the de facto leader of the apostles did deny Jesus in a major way. He crumbled at the questions of a little girl, along with others at a campfire within eyeshot of Jesus. Like so many of us, Peter temporarily turned his back on the Man he claimed as his Lord. Peter failed.
    1. The good news for Peter? His failure was not final! Jesus died for the sins of Peter, just like Jesus died for your sins and mine. When Jesus rose from the grave, He made special effort to ensure that Peter knew that Jesus was risen. Peter saw Jesus, and later even had a special meeting with the Lord restoring him to full ministry. Peter found forgiveness in the risen Lord Jesus, just like anyone can.
  2. It wasn’t only Peter who saw Jesus, it was all “the twelve.” Interestingly, the official “twelve” had dwindled to eleven after the betrayal by Judas Iscariot. That said, there were other men present, as acknowledged by Peter when Matthias was officially added to the number prior to the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:26). But just as there was grace shown to Peter in Jesus’ resurrection, so was grace shown to all the apostles. Remember that although Peter denied Jesus in a particular way, all the apostles abandoned Jesus. Aside from a brief time when John came to stand at the foot of the cross, all the men who faithfully followed Jesus for three years were scattered like scared sheep. Even after Jesus’ death, they still feared for their lives, hiding behind locked doors. Yet locked doors are no problem for the risen Christ! Jesus appeared in their midst, showing them the wounds in His hands and side. And He did it not just once, but twice. Thomas was not initially with the disciples when Jesus first appeared and despite the glorious news told to him, he stubbornly refused to believe for a full week. Only then did Jesus once more appear specifically for Thomas, to which Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).
    1. Isn’t it good to know that the original apostles were not “perfect” Christians? They were men just like us. They had failings like every man and woman today. And Jesus gave them grace in His resurrection…just like Jesus offers us grace in His resurrection. This is the good news! How we need to believe!

6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.

  1. When did this meeting with “five hundred brethren” take place? Scripture does not directly tell us. Many scholars believe it to be the gathering in Galilee when Jesus gave the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20). Paul was less interested in giving the details of the meeting than he was giving the Corinthians other references and eyewitness testimonies. He was basically telling them, “You don’t have to take my word for it, or even Peter’s word. Go ask folks from the crowd of 500. Most of them are still alive today. Go check it out for yourselves.” According to Hebrew law, it only took the agreement of 2-3 witnesses for a matter to be established as judicial fact. A man could even be put to death on the testimony of 2-3 witnesses (Dt 17:6). How many witnesses did Paul name thus far? 512 and counting! The amount of eyewitness testimony was overwhelming.
  2. Objection: “But it’s just eyewitness testimony. That doesn’t prove anything.” On the contrary, yes it does. There are two ways of establishing fact: scientific testing by which phenomenon can be reproduced, or judicial/historical testimony as in a court of law. Historical events, by definition, happened in the past and cannot be reproduced scientifically. There is no experiment one can set up to “prove” that Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. What we can do is look at the historical documents and the testimonies of the people who lived at the time. The same thing happens in criminal courts every day all over our nation. Evidence is presented to a judge, sometimes the only evidence being eyewitness testimony. The testimony of one person may not be afforded much credibility, but the more people who corroborate a story, the more likely it is true. — How much eyewitness testimony is available regarding the risen Jesus? An astounding amount! Literally hundreds of people saw Him alive, and at the time Paul wrote this letter, those testimonies could be verified.

7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.

  1. The fact that “James” is mentioned is incredibly important. This is not either of the two apostles named James during Jesus’ earthly ministry; this was the James who was the half-brother of Jesus, who ended up being a prominent leader in the church at Jerusalem. If there were anyone prone to be a skeptic of Jesus’ claims of deity as the Messiah, His siblings topped the list. Sure, they would have heard from Joseph and Mary that Joseph was not Jesus’ father, but it’s doubtful they would have believed too many of the stories. They certainly did not believe in Him during Jesus’ earthly ministry (Jn 7:5). Why would they? They were his brothers. They grew up next to Him, they played games with Him, they maybe even attempted to play pranks on Him. They would not have given Jesus more authority than absolutely necessary. No brother does. Yet something Something massive changed James’ mind to where he was convinced that his own half-brother was God and that James owed Jesus his worship. What could it be, other than the resurrection? Jesus “was seen by James” and it changed his life.
  2. Who were the other “apostles” mentioned here? We cannot say exactly. The official twelve were already mentioned by Paul. This second grouping surely included the twelve as well as other men like James and Jude (as the half-brothers of Jesus), Justus (as the other potential choice from Matthias), and perhaps some other men who had been with Jesus in His earthly ministry, thought not named with the twelve. The overall point is clear: the risen Jesus was seen by all kinds of people, and even the people who were most skeptical towards Him during His ministry believed. They were converted, being absolutely convinced that Jesus is the risen Messiah.

8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

  1. Finally, there was Paul. Paul’s own conversion is recorded three times in the book of Acts, as his personal testimony was something he often shared. And for good reason: it was powerful! (Something which he details in the next several verses.) But the point here was that Paul was apparently the final eyewitness of the risen Jesus. Paul was not part of the original group of disciples, nor was he included in the group of men and women who came to faith in Jesus in the earliest days of the church. On the contrary, as Saul of Tarsus, Paul was steadfastly against Jesus…yet Jesus still appeared to him. And like a baby being born unexpectedly, so was Paul reborn as an apostle of Jesus Christ, an eyewitness to the risen Lord. He could add his own voice to the chorus of testimonies surrounding Jesus.

Question: What about today? We are nearly 2000 years removed from Jesus’ resurrection. Any eyewitness to Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb is long-dead and buried. Sure, there are occasional stories of visions, of varying credibility. Some stories are plainly lies; others are perhaps grounded in truth. But as for anyone laying eyes on the physical resurrected person of Jesus of Nazareth? Those days are over. 

Yet it does not stop us from testifying of the risen Jesus. (1) We still have the eyewitness testimonies in the pages of the New Testament. The four gospel accounts are based on the testimonies of the men and women who were there. Paul’s own letters speak of his experience, as well as the book of Acts. The other epistles testify of the authors’ experiences with the risen Jesus. We may not have access to the 500 men and women mentioned by Paul to Corinth, but we do have the eyewitness testimonies of the apostles! (2) We have our own personal testimonies of Jesus Christ. No, we have not seen the risen person of Jesus, but we have experienced Him through faith. Every single born-again Christian has a real relationship with the real, resurrected Jesus Christ. It cannot be otherwise, if you are saved. If you do not believe in the risen Jesus, you are not born-again, period. That means we pray to the living God. That means we interact with the living God. It means we have been saved by the living God, known in the person of the risen Jesus. You can testify to someone else of Jesus because you know that Jesus is risen from the dead! (And if you don’t, you can know Him today!)

Jesus’ resurrection is a fact! This is not some myth based on the imaginations of deluded men. This is not invented dogma by a cultic group. This is historical, factual truth.

  • The gospel is transformational (9-11).

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

  1. Here is where Paul writes of the effect of Jesus’ resurrection on his own life. Yes, he was the last to be called by Jesus as an apostle and eyewitness, but it was a privilege to be called! Paul was “not worthy to be called,” but he was. Paul “persecuted the church of God,” but he was given grace. How much grace? An abundance! Three times in one verse, Paul writes of the grace of God that he received. Grace made Paul who he was as an apostles – the grace of God was effectual in Paul’s life, not being in vain – the grace of God enabled him to engage in ministry. Everything that the Corinthians knew of Paul was all due to the grace of God. Grace transformed Paul totally. It changed him from a persecutor to one who was often persecuted. It changed him from one who hunted the church to one who planted the church. The grace of God changed everything!
  2. How did this grace come? Through the gospel! How might we be transformed? Through the gospel! When we respond to the good news of Jesus Christ, we are showered with the grace of God. His grace forgives us of every sin, cleansing us from our past, making us who we now are as new creations. His grace enables us to live for His glory, empowering us by the Holy Spirit to do things we never thought possible. Who were we, other than wretched sinners? Who was I, other than a wretched sinner? And apart from the grace of Jesus, that is what I still am! But in Christ? I am saved! Because of the grace of God through Jesus Christ, I am what I am, sealed and filled with the Holy Spirit that I might live to the glory of God. That is my testimony and it is the testimony of all who believe! 

11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

  1. Paul brings it back to where he began. He gave this church the gospel and he could testify of the risen Jesus and the grace that Jesus provides. Even if Corinth heard it from someone else, it didn’t change the message. Jesus changes lives and eternal destinies because Christ died, was buried, and rose again, according to the Scriptures. It happened with Paul, and it happened with Corinth.

It can happen with anyone. Why? Because the gospel is transformational.

Conclusion:

What better news to share on Resurrection Sunday than the good news? This is the central message of the Christian faith and it is all about Jesus. It is foundational – it is factual – it is transformational. It is what we celebrate not just one day per year, nor one day per week; it is to be celebrated every day of our lives! Because Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the grave, we are saved. That is something that ought to come out in our prayer and devotions every morning or evening, or whenever you spend time with the Lord. This is the news that ought to be on the tips of our tongues, ready to share with whomever the Lord puts in front of us. If this is the news that changed Paul – if this is the news that changed you – then this is the news that can change anyone.

Christian: hold fast to what you have heard! Do not underestimate the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let it be that to which you cling every morning and every evening. This is what we need to preach to ourselves, all day every day. Why? Because we sin all day every day! How many times do you and I fail even before breakfast in the morning, much less through the rest of the day? Our thoughts turn to selfishness, or we get upset at the news headlines, or we get irritated at traffic, or at the dog, or at a half-dozen other things before we even get to the office (or wherever). It is in those times we need to remember Christ came, Christ died for our sins, Christ was buried, and Christ rose again. Jesus did all of that according to the plan of God, that God would be glorified and that we might be bathed in His grace. It is in the truth of that message, by the work of that Person, that we are saved and assured. Hold fast! Hold to it like a life-preserver in the middle of an ocean, like the parachute to which you cling as you jump from the plane. However you do it, just do it! Hold fast to the gospel, clinging tightly to the risen Jesus. He is our only hope.

Some of you do not yet know that hope. You can. You should. Maybe you have been a false convert, showing up in church but believing in vain. Or maybe you know that you haven’t believed, thinking that it did not affect you. I implore you: cast yourself upon the mercies of Jesus today! You have heard the good news. Jesus is the Christ of God, crucified for your sins and risen from the dead. This is a historical fact and your lack of faith does not change that. One day you will stand before Jesus in all of His glory, and you will be judged for your life based on how you responded to the gospel. Once you’ve heard the truth you cannot “unhear” it. Today you know and you must respond. Respond in humility and faith! Respond with repentance and trust. Turn away from your sins and trust Christ today.