by Pastor Steve Ellison
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth written about 55 AD seems as if it were addressed to the 21st century Christian church worldwide. Corinth was already an ancient city. It had been first settled about 4,000 BC. Corinth’s strategic location enabled it to control east-west trade routes by sea and north-south land routes. First century Corinth was a cosmopolitan city in every way. Anything a person wanted, good or bad, could be found in Corinth. Corinth had such a tremendous reputation for gross immorality that the term “Corinthianized” came to symbolize terrible immorality. The Romans destroyed the city in 146 BC and rebuilt it one hundred years later because of its strategic location. Within a hundred years, by the time the Apostle Paul visited, it had already grown to 500,000 people. He found a society much like our own.
Paul stayed in Corinth for about 18 months. When he departed for a 3 year stay in Ephesus, he left behind an established church. Some time later, the church sent a letter to Paul, asking some minor questions. Paul made a quick trip to Corinth and found many things he did not like. He returned to Ephesus and wrote the letter which we call First Corinthians. Throughout the book, Paul addresses issue after issue that confronts us today as surely as it confronted the first century Corinthians. What a marvelous book it is. Paul confronts division in the church, questions about conduct and order in worship, and a lack of church discipline, among other things. Chapter 11 contains the earliest written and most detailed account of celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
The fifty-eight verses that make up chapter 15 contain a logical, systematic, persuasive argument for the truthfulness of the resurrection of Christ. Paul draws this argument out to its logical conclusion that because of Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven, believers can expect the same for themselves. The passage begins with a call to standing firm, enduring to the end. Then quickly moves on to proving the fact of Christ’s resurrection by telling of more than 500 eyewitnesses, most of whom were still alive at the time of the writing. Paul even names several of them, including himself. What more proof is needed!
Paul next turned his attention to how crucial the resurrection is to our faith. He bluntly points out that without the resurrection our faith is worthless. Even worse, we would be false witnesses against God. He asserts that if the resurrection is not true we ought to be the object of great pity. Paul then declares that because Christ has been resurrected, we will be also, and he lays out the order and some fantastic truths about our resurrection at the end time. He declares that our new bodies will bear the image of the heavenly. What a glorious future we have to look forward to!
Paul closes this wonderful passage with the great declaration that Christ’s resurrection has swallowed death up in victory! The power of death has been removed. The sting of death is gone! Paul gives thanks to God the Father because God the Son has given us the victory, and what a fantastic victory it is! Believers in Christ can live in peace and joy because we know that death has no power over us. Death is only a transition for us, not a destination. Christ has given us the victory! By the way, Nike is a Greek word which means victory. Paul used it in this passage in naming Christ’s victory over death. Every time you see the word Nike, think about the victory over death won by Christ on your behalf. That will change the way you live.