In our encounters with Jesus passages, leading up to Pentecost, this week we will look at an encounter that is not found in the Gospels, but one that Paul tells us about in 1 Corinthians. We’ll look this week at 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11:
Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit 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 has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
Paul’s entire first letter to the Corinthians is fascinating. It has some of Paul’s most beautiful, more controversial, more Christ-centric words in all the Bible. There are so many things that are happening in this letter, let’s talk a little about them before we dig into the text tomorrow.
Corinth was a city that Paul knew very well. It was a port city a city with lots of wealth, lots of merchants, lots of Greek and Roman idolatry. It was a place that one could easily compare to New Orleans. It would have had all the culture, food, and other things that New Orleans has, along with lots of other issues. This was one of the most well-known cities in that part of the world. As we said, it is a city, and a church, that Paul knew well. He has been a missionary there and was instrumental in the starting of the church. We can read about Paul’s work there in Acts 18.
Paul did ministry there for a season and then moved on. But, as he traveled and did ministry in other places, word came back to him to that there were problems in Corinth. This letter is written to address those problems. In Corinth, there were five major issues that the church is dealing with. First, divisions within the church. Second, sexual immorality within the church. Third, food that has been sacrificed to idols. Four, what it looks like for Christian to gather together for worship. And last, the resurrection.
This is where our reading will pick up and this is the crux of everything for all Paul. Some in the community and even in the church were saying that the resurrection was ridiculous and didn’t matter. Paul says, no it is the key to the entire Gospel. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then His death was meaningless. It means that we are lost in our sins. The resurrection is the key to all of the faith, it is the victory over death and evil. Within this letter, all the answers to the issues come back to the resurrection. The resurrection is not just moral advice or path for individuality spirituality. It is the center of the Gospel. That is what this week’s reading will look at.
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