The Resurrection of our Lord – Epistle

by Crossings

Resurrection-Sized Hope
The Resurrection of our Lord
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Analysis by Steven C. Kuhl

19If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his fee. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

DIAGNOSIS: Hopelessly Living on This Life’s Hope

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – Hope in “This Life” at the Expense of Others
One sound truth all Christians in Corinth knew was this: Hope is indispensable to life, even to “this life,” meaning ordinary, natural human existence. And although hope is always a matter of looking to that which is yet to come, hope needs concrete factual evidence that it is not illusory or misleading. That is true economically, socially, psychologically and spiritually. (For example, what distinguishes a child born into wealth, versus one that is born into poverty, is not only the measure of dollars between them but also the measure of hope between them.) In light of this truth, the well endowed (self-proclaimed “spiritually superior” Christians) in Corinth fixed their attention on “this life” as the locus of their hope. (The fact that they regarded their “spiritual gifts” as superlative indicates that they believed those gifts to be the source of their spiritual hope too.) Where else, they likely reasoned, would one “naturally” look for hope? But that assumption led them into grave error. They confused the meaning of Christ’s resurrection with the wisdom of this world (1:18-25); they twisted it into an ideology of worldly success; made it evidence that only the fittest survive; made it an excuse to glorify “rising to the top” in this life. Consequently, they secured hope at the expense of others. According to Paul, they despised the weak, lived for themselves, and led lives that were the antithesis of love (1 Cor. 13). “This life” not only defined “Christ’s resurrection” for them, it also became their sole ground of hope, and the basis of their pitiful lives.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Hope in “This Life” Is Hope in Adam (Status Quo)
As Paul patiently points out, hoping in the signs of “this life” (as opposed to the sign of Christ’s resurrection) has real consequences. Not only expensive because it hurts others, but it also hurts those who live by that illusive hope. It maintains the status quo of human existence, life as usual. Such hope (at the expense of others) results in nothing more than an enduring connection to that universal human reality–into which every human is born–called “Adam.” As Adam goes, so goes those who hope in Adam. To be sure, being connected by hope to Adam does bear fruit in “this life.” And some of that fruit is very impressive by “this life” standards–just look at those who “successfully” tap into this life’s benefits by associating with the world’s rulers, authorities, and powers. But does the “fruit” of Adam really meet the deepest spiritual needs of the Corinthians (or us)? Does it offer an enduring future with God? That is the big question.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – In Death, Adam is Hopeless/Pitiful
To that question, Paul gives a resounding No. He calls such hope in this life “pitiable” (v. 19). The evidence that such hope in “this life” is illusory and futile (even for believers) is the universal reality of “death.” True, like the proverbial foolish youth, the Corinthians may at this time have considered themselves death-proof. And, at the time of Paul’s writing, there was no way he could disprove that. Only time could, which it always does, too late. The truth is, there is no evidence in “this life” that death is escapable–or beatable, cryogenic hopes to the contrary. Such hope does not exist for “this life.” And for good reason: God has made it impossible! Later, Paul explains it this way: “The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law” (15:56). The law of God ensures that “this life” of sin will die. [With Easter occurring on April 15, you may want to link this certainty to taxes.]

PROGNOSIS: Living Hopefully in Christ’s Resurrection Hope

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – “In fact Christ has been raised from the dead”
Hope needs evidence. That’s what every person sitting in the pew on Easter Morning is (and the Corinthians were) looking for: evidence that life need not end in death, as “this life” must. That evidence is already available in “this life” because Christ was raised from the dead. But the fact of Christ’s resurrection from the dead is not rooted in this life–not even in the best of this life’s divinely created resources (as impressive as they may be). Rather, it is something altogether new and different from this life. Describing that difference is not easy. Whereas “this life,” centered in Adam, began with birth and ends in death, the new life centered in Christ begins with death and ends in “resurrection” rebirth. To put it another way: This life began with the creation of Adam (natural human life) and ends with the death of Adam; but the new life begins with Christ’s death and ends with Christ’s resurrection. “This life” and death are embodied by Adam while the resurrection of the dead and New Life are embodied by Christ. In Christ a new human reality emerges that is distinct from the kind of humanity that is located in Adam. Christ stands in continuity with Adam and “this life” in that he shares in their death. Christ stands in discontinuity with Adam because he alone has been raised from the dead. In Adam (our natural human existence) all die, in Christ (the new, alternative existence) all are made alive.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Belonging to Christ, and Our Resurrection Future
But, as Paul goes on to say, the fact of Christ’s resurrection from the dead is but the “first fruits” (v. 20), the sign that this life’s deadly outcome can be surpassed by everyone. That happens as people (old Adams) hope (believe, trust) in the resurrection of Christ as the basis of their own resurrection. For to hope in Christ is to belong to Christ and to belong to Christ means to eventually share in his resurrection completely (v. 23). For Paul, to hope in the resurrection is to belong to the resurrection. It’s just a matter of time until it is fully accomplished.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Resurrection Hope Means Living for Others
While it is true that those who hope in the resurrection still await its final consummation, it also is true that evidence of the resurrected life emerges already in the way Christians regard this world and themselves. Those who hope in the resurrection of the dead no longer need to strive to preserve “this life,” especially at the expense of the weak and the vulnerable. Rather, without reservation, they can live their lives in service and love to the weak and vulnerable; and they can witness to their hope in the resurrection. The Christian’s Christ-like hope produces a very different ethos than Adam’s “this life” hope does. Those who hope in this life inevitably serve only those who benefit them for this life. But those who hope in the resurrection of the dead serve even those who give them no “this life” benefits. Those who live in the resurrection live agape–sacrificial love–as Christ did by enduring and conquering death. What’s more, as Christians live in the hope of the resurrection they will undoubtedly hasten the death (or, at least, frustrate the life) of every ruler, authority, and power who would command their allegiance on pain of death. For since the power of death no longer enslaves the actions of those who hope in the resurrection of the dead, the threats of the powers and principalities are diminished. Whether the mortal end of “this life” (and the final consummation of the resurrection of the dead) comes sooner or later is of little concern to those who have hope. The fact of Jesus’ resurrection is hope enough to sustain them.


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