Is Christ Divided?
Notes for the house groups on 1 Corinthians.
Week eighteen, beginning Sunday 18 November: 1 Corinthians 15.1-34
Main theme: the resurrection
Questions to prompt discussion
1.Is it necessary to believe in the resurrection in order to be a Christian? What might a 'yes' answer imply? (NB Sam thinks the answer is yes....)
2.What is it that we are able to hope for?
At the beginning of this extended discussion Paul points out that he is passing on what he himself has learned, in a line going back to Peter. In other words Paul has been caught up in a tradition of teaching that is passed on from person to person.
The understanding of resurrection that Paul is deploying here was something that began to be developed in Jewish thought in the two or three centuries before Christ, and given especial strength through some of the events associated with the Maccabean revolt. It was not a generally accepted notion in other cultures, and Paul's language cannot be glossed into 'life after death'. It was also disputed by some elements in Jewish culture (eg Sadducees, see Luke 20.27-39). So it doesn't mean that Jesus was 'raised to heaven' or 'vindicated by God' - both of which may be true but it's not what Paul is describing! It's because Jesus was raised from the dead that Paul understands him to be Lord. The notions cannot be separated, but it's the claim of a specific historical event that drives Paul's language. Given the Corinthian culture at the time, the idea of resurrection made no sense to them - hence a downplaying of the idea in their community, and hence Paul's insistence that without an acceptance of the resurrection their faith is 'in vain'.
Note the link between sin and death (vv 16-18), and the way in which the resurrection overcomes both (deals with both). Without the resurrection the 'world' is still all that there is, and we need to come to some sort of accommodation with the world in order to live. With the resurrection there is a place to stand apart from the world, which allows us to live in distinction from the world (ie be leaven in the bread). Those who are in Christ (v29) become the means by which the disordered world is put back into good order, they share in Christ's work.
Notes on verses
vv 3-7 are the earliest known Christian creed
v32 may be a metaphorical reference to arguments that Paul has had in Ephesus (cf Acts 19)