Day 308 – Thru the Bible
Today we complete First Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 15 – Before addressing a final problem in verses , Paul gives a two-fold summary of the gospel—first in terms of its content (verses ) and then in terms of its transforming power in his own life and ministry (verses ). Once again we hear the rhythm of Gospel transformation: for those united to Jesus the truth of the Gospel always produces a transformed life, which can be sustained in an ongoing way only by the power of the Gospel. Thus the Gospel is not only something we embrace at the beginning of the Christian life (“which you received”), but the source of strength throughout the Christian life (“in which you stand”). It is remarkable that Paul sees a need to “remind” the Corinthians—already Believers!—of the Gospel. Evidently, the Gospel message is not only for evangelism but also for discipleship; not only for unbelievers, but also for Believers.
Paul summarizes the content of the Gospel in terms of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances. The fact that Jesus died “for our sins” reminds us both of our need and of Jesus’ atoning work, as nothing short of God’s Son enduring divine judgment in our place could redeem us. The phrase “in accordance with the Scriptures” teaches us that Jesus’ work fulfills God’s saving purposes, implying that all of Scripture points us ultimately to the grace of God in Jesus. Jesus’ burial confirms that He really died, and His appearances to eyewitnesses confirm that He truly rose. Thus we are not building our lives on myth or legend when we look to Him for grace to pardon our sins and empower holy living.
Paul’s testimony in verses 8–10 allows us to see what effects “the grace of God” can have, even on those with hearts hardened toward Jesus. These include humility (“least”; “unworthy”), honesty regarding past sin (“I persecuted the church”), and repentance (“I persecuted. . . . But . . .”). God’s transforming grace gives us not only a new identity (“I am what I am”; in Paul’s case, no longer a persecutor but an apostle) but the strength to labor diligently in God’s service (“I worked harder”; see also Colossians 1:29; 1 Timothy 4:10). Gratitude for God’s grace means that we will rejoice to see its effects in our lives (“His grace . . . was not in vain”), but we will never take credit for those effects (“not I, but the grace of God”). God is the hero of Paul’s story, and of every Believer’s story as well.
In verses 12-58 Paul addresses a final problem, as some in Corinth accept Jesus’ resurrection from the dead but deny that Christians will share in resurrection life with Jesus. Paul’s response emphasizes three Gospel truths.
First, Believers are united to Jesus and will share in every benefit of His work. Apart from Jesus, we are united to Adam (“in Adam”) and share in the death sentence brought about by his work. But if by faith we are “in Christ,” then we will share in the victory by which He has defeated sin and death. Since Jesus, the “firstfruits”, has been raised, then we, the remainder of the harvest, will be raised also (Leviticus 23:10; Nehemiah 10:35–37; Colossians 1:18).
Second, Jesus’ work addresses every level of human need. He removes our sin and guilt before God; He gives us power to obey, which we are unable to do while we are in our sins (“the power of sin is the law”); and He will one day free us from the physical effects of sin such as death, disease, and disability (“imperishable”; “immortality”; “spiritual”—terms implying that our resurrection bodies will possess all the life-giving power of God’s Spirit).
Third, Jesus fulfills all of God’s purposes for humanity. According to Psalm 8 (cited in 1 Corinthians 15:27), human beings were created to rule over creation in a way that displays God’s glory. Sin and death have distorted this design, so that instead we live to display our own glory. Only in Jesus, who has conquered these powers, have we seen God’s design faithfully expressed. At His return, we will witness two final acts of faithfulness: Jesus will demonstrate His complete power over death, the “last enemy”; and He will display God’s glory by delivering “the kingdom to God the Father.” As at the cross, we will once again see Jesus’ ultimate power joined to perfect humility—a pattern that should govern our lives as those who are part of the new humanity God is creating in Jesus.
These Gospel truths lead to two major applications. First, rather than defining ourselves by the emptiness of “this life” and its pleasures, we cherish the promise that we will share in Jesus’ glory. Second, we embrace this resurrection hope as a source of power by which we may endure hardship and struggle against sin. Gratitude for the victory that God has given us through Jesus leads us to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” The Gospel therefore combats hopelessness and gives purpose to our daily endeavors: “in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
How does the Gospel empower and encourage you in your daily life?
1 Corinthians 16 – The concluding chapter of the letter features several practical expressions of believers’ unity in Jesus. Those who have received the Father’s grace are members of one family (“brothers”) and are therefore eager to gather for worship, to give generously to meet the needs of others, and to offer encouragement—including financial support—to those who labor in spreading the Gospel. Here again we see how grace that captures the heart spurs the Believer into selfless service rather than selfish indulgence.
In verse 13, Paul calls Believers to be courageous and strong. The psalmist uses identical terms when he calls Israel to “wait for the Lord” for strength (Psalm 27:14; 130:5). As God strengthened Old Testament saints, He now enables Believers to “stand firm in the faith.” In verse 14, we see that such courage goes hand in hand with loving relationships. Even here we may detect the power of Jesus’ cross, where courage and love perfectly met.
Paul’s closing words powerfully summarize four Gospel themes: (1) only a relationship with Jesus can provide freedom from the curse; (2) obedience to the instructions contained in 1 Corinthians is an expression of “love for the Lord”; (3) the life of the church is sustained by “the grace of the Lord Jesus”; and (4) this grace leads to love for all who are “in Christ Jesus.” Like the Corinthians, our lives, our relationships, and our churches may be plagued by many problems. Yet the grace of the Lord and the fellowship of His people are available to anyone who is united to Him by faith.
How does the Gospel strengthen you each day?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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