Last week in our study of First Corinthians, I framed Paul’s argument with 1:13 and 15:58. The church in Corinth had a whole host of issues in which Paul needed to address but he began his letter by addressing their divisions. The main focus of his call to unity is God’s redemptive action in the cross of Christ and in baptism, where each person receives the redemptive grace. In 1:13, he points to the centering foundation of baptism, that all of us who are baptized have a different way of living. We are all united in Christ. Christ is not, cannot, and will not ever be divided. His call for unity is rooted in the Resurrection of Jesus, which he addresses towards the end of his letter in chapter 15. One of his arguments in ch. 15 has been transformative for me and how I think about my work as a minister and the call of all Christians to bring about reconciliation in the world as Christ’s ambassadors. Paul uses the imagery of planting and harvesting. What is planted in this life as perishable will be raised imperishable. This imagery points to what we do to bring about unity in this life will be harvested in the life to come. Paul ends chapter 15 with reminding us that because of Christ’s Resurrection the work we do with the Lord is never done in vain.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is our hope. We too will be resurrected. This is the promise of God that he still loves his creation and has not given up on it. He intends to redeem it. The biblical understanding of the perfect human, as God created them in the garden, is that they are fully physical and fully spiritual. When we only live out our physical desires and ignore the spirit in our lives, we fail to be fully human. When we desire a spiritual existence without a bodily existence, we fail to be fully human. God loves the creation he created and wants to restore it to what he intended it to be. That is the hope in the resurrection. That is the New Jerusalem coming down in Revelation 21. We’ll say more about all of this when we get to chapter 15.
Greek philosophy taught that the physical was bad, and the spirit was good. They taught that the true self was spiritual, and the physical would be cast off for a spiritual existence in the afterlife. The physical being inherently bad is convenient for people who want to fulfill their physical desires. It allows you to “sin in the flesh” as long as you keep your spirit clean.
This is what Paul is addressing when he writes about the sexual sins in chapter 5-7. Read through these chapters and see how you can construct the Corinthian argument that Paul is writing against. One of the major underlying issues in Corinth was “hyper spirituality.” This also plays into the sexual sins Paul is addressing when it comes to marriage. There seems to be people who do not want to stay married to their pagan spouses because their spirit cannot be joined to them. They are also withholding sex from their pagan spouses because they will don’t want to be defiled. Read through these arguments from Paul and see how the conversation might come off the page for you. Where do you see these conversations coming up in our culture?
One of the major points I want to look at in this section is how Paul addresses the sexual immorality in chapter 5 where the guy is sleeping with his stepmother. Paul wants them to kick him out of the church because there is something fundamentally wrong with calling yourself a Brother in Christ and living this way. He says not to associate with him. Take a moment to look at 5:9-13, who does Paul say to judge? Is it possible that churches can be too harsh to the world (who don’t know Christ) and too lenient on those in the church (who do know Christ)? We are to be a redeemed community of believers who live out the image of the resurrection for all to see.