Paul finally addresses the unbelievers who were present among the believers. They liked the fellowship of the believers but not their beliefs. Seemingly there were many at the church in Corinth who did not believe in the resurrection and life after death. In the Gospels we read about the Sadducees (like pharisees, another branch of the Jewish religions sect) who believed in Yahweh but not on His power to resurrect the dead (Mark 12:18).
The Greco-Roman world based its concept on tangible proofs and thus the concept of resurrection would have been laughed out by any serious scholar. But such cynicism was not something foreign to the church but even among the believers the ideas of resurrection were regarded as fables. To Paul’s surprise the so called wise and learned who were cynical of the power of resurrection did not realize the futility of their association with a church that only looks forward to the day of the Lord (Revelation 1:10).
An Incomplete Gospel
The Gospel that we believe is based on the life, the death and the resurrection of our Savior. If we do not believe in His message and only take them as teachings of a wise guru, then we have truly not comprehended the love that God has for us. If we think of Jesus as a martyr who died for upholding His beliefs, then we have failed to understand the depth of the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. If we do not believe in the resurrection then we have wasted our Sundays in pursuit of hobby and have not invited Jesus in our hearts.
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.1 Corinthians 15:19
People pretend to follow Jesus for various reasons but the most common reason is so that they may find a place in a group, be part of a community and feel that they are contributing to bringing good in the society. People who like the novelty of Jesus but in their hearts believe that the idea of resurrection is only a notion, have given birth to the religion of Christianity to help them feel part of a group, a box that they can check as they fill out forms. But the followers of the Way worshiped the Lord in Spirit and not in any building or a place earmarked by man. Paul pitied such people and put forth the example of Adam for us to understand the corollary also.
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.1 Corinthians 15:21
The earthly man (Adam) brought sin into this world through his disobedience of the Father but the heavenly man (Jesus) defeated death on the cross through His obedience of His father’s will. It is up to us which man we choose to follow, the earthy one and the ways of this world or the heavenly man who knew the way to His Father’s heart.
Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?1 Corinthians 15:29
The above verse has raised speculation with regards to Paul’s stance on baptizing the dead. A person can only be saved, not by their own deeds but by their faith on Jesus. Such faith requires conscious belief and understanding of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. The belief on Jesus’s resurrection and on our own resurrection which is a result of His grace on us is what gives us salvation. Baptizing oneself or proxy baptisms are merely rituals people undertake to appease one another. But the one who is in us and knows everything about us, is looking for the transformation of our heart.
In the same manner of proxy baptisms people believe in proxy salvation. Our relationship with our Father is a personal one and not something that can be advocated by someone else on our behalf. If we need an advocate, God has provide His own Son who day and night prays for our salvation. Adam and Eve depended on each other to traverse the complex ways of this world. They had God visiting them every evening but still they did not go to Him and rather caused the downfall of mankind by depending on each other. Depending on our fellow believers will only get us so far and might even lead us away from God. The only way to defeat death is to depend on the heavenly man and follow His path.
“Where, O death, is your victory?1 Corinthians 15:55-57
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
V12: Why did the Corinthians not believe in resurrection?
V19: What is the harm in liking the Gospel but not believing all parts of it?
V29: Can a person be baptized as a proxy for someone else?
Summary: Can we pray for salvation for someone after their death?