Hope to Die For

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it… John 12:25 — Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

1 Cor. 15:13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

The placement of 1 Corinthians 15 in the letter used to puzzle me.  This grand apologetic for the resurrection of Christ tagged on the end of an issue driven letter seemed a little out-of-place.  Contextually, some in Corinth had argued there was no resurrection for the believer (v. 12).  They were apparently unaware of the great implications of this error so Paul included these words to confront the error and comfort troubled believers.  That explanation is sensible enough, but there is another purpose for this placement.  (I am thankful to Dr. David Malick for this insight.)

For almost 14 chapters Paul had pressed hard on the heart attitudes of the Corinthian believers.  The Corinthians were big into self: self-promotion self-exaltation, self-reliance, self-preservation, etc.  He pressed the truth of Christ that to find one’s life one must lose it and they had need to die to themselves.  Therefore, for 14 chapters, Paul pressed this dying to self again and again with different case studies to show the point.  Still, however, how does the resurrection fit into this?

Abandoning self-centeredness, self-preservation and self-promotion is like dying.  The fear of death is “will I be raised?,” and the fear of dying to self is “if I don’t take care of me, who will?”  Paul’s chapter on the resurrection gives the believer a hope to die for.

How can I let go of my selfish interests, of my self-exalting nature, of the preservation of self?  If I lay down who will raise me up? The resurrection of Christ answers the deep fear of our hearts about both kinds of dying.  If for only in this life we have hope, Paul says in verse 19, “then we above all people are to be pitied.”  He says, we will be raised after death.  But as Dr. Malick pointed out, rhetorically Paul is also showing that we can have confidence that in laying my life down now, a type of death experience, God will raise us up as well.

How do you face both kinds of death?  You have to possess a hope to die for. You have to believe in the greater promise of God’s provision and the greater power of the resurrection.  Those truths trump false beliefs about our lives. We preach them to ourselves and we pray that God would deepen the truth in our lives.   Dying to yourself occurs in the hope of really knowing that as Jesus was not left for dead; neither will God leave you.

The Lord, He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  And we with Him.  We are risen indeed!

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