Melissa Spoelstra from Dublin, Ohio wrote our spring Bible study based on 1 Corinthians. When writing about our text for today from 1 Corinthians 15, she talked about the acronym – YOLO.
She wrote, “By the time I heard this phrase, my children told me it wasn’t ‘in’ anymore. It stands for ‘You only live once’. A few years ago teens would use it after a hashtag at the end of their texts as a way to say, ‘Take risks, do what you want to do, live it up because you only have one life.’”
Melissa continues, “The problem with this saying isn’t that it’s not cool anymore. The problem is that it isn’t true! After death we will live again – eternally with God in heaven through our faith in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the payment for our sin. Or we will be eternally separated from God.”
At the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul reminds the believers of the evidence for Christ’s resurrection. But he’s becoming impatient with their inability to remember what he’s taught them before.
1 Corinthians 15:1-2 . . . 1Now 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, 2through 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.
Where the Corinthians lacked clarity was in the understanding that Christ’s resurrection was the forerunner to a bodily resurrection for all believers. The Greek believers in Corinth could accept that Jesus rose from the dead, but they had trouble making the leap to the idea that they too would be resurrected in body and spirit.
So Paul responds by emphasizing the resurrection over and over again in our text. “Christ is proclaimed as resurrected. How can you say there is no resurrection? If there is no resurrection, Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised . . . God raised Christ. He did not raise Christ if the dead are not raised. If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised and then your faith is futile. But Christ has been raised!”
I’m wondering how much that bit of writing helped the Corinthians. In our Bible study, we had questions to discuss in green print.
If someone asked you why the resurrection is vital to the Christian faith, how would you answer? How do we tell someone about Easter morning and why it’s central to our faith? How do we share our belief that Jesus defeated death on the cross and walked out of his tomb three days later?
How does hope in Christ for the next life give us encouragement in our daily struggles in this life? What are some trials that have caused you to look forward to heaven?
Paul lived through all sorts of trials and persecution. In his second letter to the Corinthians he talked about the trials he endured.
2 Corinthians 11:24-27 . . . 24Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; 27in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.
I think of how my life has changed in the past year and a half with a pacemaker/defibrillator, Coumadin for the past 8 years, sleep apnea, gout, and the list grows longer as we grow older. Then I thank God for our brothers and sisters being installed as our Planning Council leaders who have the gifts to make sure our many ministries are getting done to the point that it only takes 15 minutes for a congregational meeting. Everyone knows we’re getting it done!
I think about the hard times families are going through here in Divinity, at Parma Park school, at the Redeemer Crisis Center, at the Lakeside Homeless Shelter, and in our county jail.
Life can be hard. Christ brings purpose, peace, and adventure in the midst of our struggles, but sometimes the only thing that helps people hold on to hope is thinking of and imagining the next life. We remind ourselves that one day we will no longer live in a world where sickness, conflict, and death bring pain and grief.
Paul brings us comfort and encouragement when he writes about the glory of a new creation in Romans 8:18-25 . . . 18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Melissa in our Bible study compares this life to labor before a child is born. Paul uses the same analogy in Romans 8.
She writes, “I’ve gone through labor three times. When I think of my children, labor seems like a distant and faint memory. As painful as those experiences of labor were, they were momentary and brief in light of the amazing gifts of children they produced. This life is like labor – difficult and painful but producing great results.”
Then she asks the question, “How do these verses from Romans encourage you in the midst of whatever difficulties you are facing?”
Paul reminds us in Romans and 1 Corinthians that we will have pain and stress in this life, but we should keep our focus on Christ and the big picture. We keep our focus on loving Christ and loving one another. “When love is maximized, the trivial is minimized”. “When love is maximized, the trivial is minimized”.
When we focus on our relationship with Christ and our relationships with one another, when we focus on love, when we join with Paul in 1 Corinthians in focusing on the resurrection, then our love is maximized and the trivial is minimized. We learn to not sweat the small stuff.
Paul continues to focus on the resurrection in the last 3 verses of our text. 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 . . . 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.
Paul made it clear that Christ had been raised, and he used a couple of Old Testament references to help the Corinthians understand the connection between Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of all believers. First, he called Christ the first fruits or first harvest.
Under the Jewish sacrificial system, the people gave an offering of the first fruits of the harvest. Barley could not be sold in the markets until a special offering of first fruits was given to the Lord. In the same way, the new harvest of life could not come until Jesus had been raised from the dead.
So how do we apply the truth of the resurrection and the truth of God’s love and forgiveness through our faith in Christ to our everyday lives?
In our every day lives, whether it be in first century Corinth or the 21st century United States, we are surrounded by a culture that has bought into the mindset of “feast and drink, for tomorrow we die”.
1 Corinthians 15:32b-33 . . . If the dead are not raised,"Let us eat and drink,for tomorrow we die." 33Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals."
Our culture is full of this kind of thinking. The message of YOLO, you only live once, the message of self-gratification is constantly promoted in all of our media. But Paul says we can’t use our dying tomorrow to justify today’s self-gratification.
When we drift away from an eternal perspective, when we drift away from the big picture, when we maximize the trivial and minimize love, when we get caught up thinking about our house, clothes, and outward appearance, then we tend to look for our identity in what we do or who we know rather than in Christ alone.
Sometimes the world’s mindset influences our thinking more than we realize. Though we are called to be salt and light in the world, we need the Holy Spirit to illuminate when we are allowing the world to influence us negatively. Spending time with Christian friends who help us to keep our focus on Christ and eternity can help us to stay balanced.
Phil Yancey writes in his book, ‘Rumors of Another World;” “Net worth, body shape, muscle tone, beauty secrets, possessions; each of these is transitory. I have attended my share of funerals, and not once have friends and family members eulogized about the deceased’s bank account or physical shape or surround sound stereo system. Instead, they speak of qualities like kindness and generosity and love for family.”
For Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, the resurrection is an absolute of the faith that unites us as believers in Christ. The more we talk about the resurrection, the more we focus on Christ, his love for us, and our love for one another. The truth of eternal life helps us realign our hearts and heads with the habit of treasuring people rather than transitory things.
As you approach the ups and downs of the week ahead, I pray that the promise of resurrection will encourage you to whole heartedly pursue love and kindness, knowing YOLO is a lie!