1 Corinthians 15

Chapter fifteen concludes the teaching portion of Paul’s letter. The final topic he needed to address was the resurrection. His opening statement, that he wanted “to make clear…the gospel,” reminds us that some of these believers were still “infants in Christ” (3:1) and that they were uncertain on the basic doctrines of the faith. It was also a good time to remind them of the gospel that they needed to preach in their meetings, so unbelievers could be convicted and believe (1 Corinthians 14:23-25). The basic message of the gospel is simple: Christ died for our sins and was raised on the third day. Both of these events were prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures, and they were confirmed by his public burial and post-resurrection eyewitnesses, respectively (1 Corinthians 15:3-11). Not only did he appear to individual apostles and small groups, including Paul himself, Jesus appeared to “more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time.” For anyone who thought that could not possibly be true, Paul challenged them to visit these eyewitnesses, “most of whom [were] still alive” at the time of his writing, twenty years after the fact. Circling back to his theme from chapter one, this is the only message Paul had, and this is what the Corinthians had originally believed.

This simple, verifiable message did not stop people from trying to lead the believers astray, though. Even though Paul said they could talk to eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, those people were almost 1,000 miles away, and some of the Corinthians were beginning to believe that the concept of a resurrection was a hoax (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). Paul countered that, if that were true, three other truths would be certain as well. First, no resurrection at all means that Christ was not raised. Second, a dead Christ means that our faith is empty, we are false witnesses, and we are still in our sins. Third, no resurrection means no hope for those who have already died.

Against this false teaching, Paul pointed them back to the Old Testament Scriptures, noting that death has been common since Adam and that their belief in Christ was a belief that he undid what Adam did; thus, a resurrection from the dead is both theologically and logically sound and necessary (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). He also pointed to the prophecies of what Christ is supposed to do: rule in his kingdom until all his enemies are eliminated, including death itself. None of this is possible if Christ is still dead.

Paul’s comment about people being “baptized for the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:29-34) has found its way into Mormon theology, where living people can be baptized in the place of their dead relatives to create a retroactive salvation for them. This has caused a great debate in Christianity as well. It is possible that these Corinthians had been including the pagan practice of baptism for the dead because they had begun to disbelieve the basic gospel (which does not include baptism at all) and the truth of the resurrection. This view fits the context of Paul’s comments about their human thinking, bad company, and command to stop sinning. 1

Paul anticipated a further question asking for more detail about the resurrection: “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). His response indicates that this was not a line of honest questioning but one of defiance. His answer was simple: the resurrection body will be similar but different than our current bodies. Humans were meant to live in physical bodies, and we will live forever in physical bodies, except that they will be better. Some people believe there is a difference between “flesh and blood” and “flesh and bone” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). 2 Regardless of the details, Paul was clear that our resurrected bodies will become imperishable and immortal. This will happen in an instant, at the Rapture, both for dead saints and those still alive. At that time, “death [will be] swallowed up in victory.” This truth should cause us all to live in victory, “knowing that [our] labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

Notes:

  1. Another option is that some had come to believe because of Christians who had died, and their baptism was due to the others’ martyrdom. This is more palatable and has a lot of support from conservative scholars, but it does not seem to be the natural reading.
  2. Paul here said that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Some compare this to Adam’s statement that Eve was from his “flesh and bone,” indicating that they did not have blood at that time. Since physical life is connected to blood (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:11, 14), their conclusion is that spiritual life does not need blood. For an explanation of this position, see Henry Morris, “Flesh and Bones”, https://www.icr.org/article/5946 (accessed 10/23/2015).

“It is an abomination”

Recently, because of the debate about homosexuality in our culture, the word “abomination” has resurfaced. In the context of this topic, we find the word in Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13, as God’s description of homosexual activity.

“You must not have sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman; it is a detestable act.” Leviticus 18:22

“If a man has sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman, the two of them have committed an abomination. They must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves.” Leviticus 20:13

The Hebrew word is the same for both of those bolded words above – to`evah (תּוֹעֵבָה) – and it means “something abominable, detestable, offensive.”

However, while Leviticus is the first time this word is used to describe something God hates, it’s certainly not the last. So what does God consider an abomination? Here’s the entire list (each one uses the same Hebrew word, regardless of how various English Bibles translate it):

coveting silver and gold from idols…Deuteronomy 7:25

idols, idolatry…Deuteronomy 7:26; 27:15; 32:16; 2 Kings 21:11; Jeremiah 16:18; 32:35; 44:3-4; Ezekiel 5:11; 6:9; 7:20; 14:6; 16:36; and all of Ezekiel 8

false worship of God…Deuteronomy 12:31

blemished sacrifices…Deuteronomy 17:1

worshiping the sun, moon, stars, and other gods…Deuteronomy 17:4

witchcraft, sorcery, necromancy, magic…Deuteronomy 18:12

child sacrifice…Deuteronomy 18:12; 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:3

crossdressing…Deuteronomy 22:5

prostitution…Deuteronomy 23:18; 1 Kings 14:24; Ezekiel 16:43

improper divorce and remarriage…Deuteronomy 24:4

cheating others in business…Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 11:1; 20:10, 23

living in rebellion against God’s law, wicked plans…Proverbs 2:32; 6:18; 15:9, 26; Jeremiah 7:9-10

perverted hearts…Proverbs 11:20

lies, lying…Proverbs 6:17-18; 12:22

religious acts, outward religion…Proverbs 15:8; 21:27; Isaiah 1:13

arrogance…Proverbs 6:17; 16:5

acquitting the guilty, condemning the innocent…Proverbs 17:15

shedding innocent blood…Proverbs 6:17

the prayers of those who ignore God…Proverbs 28:9

adultery…Ezekiel 22:11

creating disunity…Proverbs 6:19

It is important to remember that, while “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), Christianity does not give us the license to do whatever we want. Because God’s standard against sin has never changed, and he is working to grow us to become like himself, we must learn to despise the actions that he despises, while at the same time pointing the people who do them back to Jesus.

Which of these surprised you the most to be on “the list”?

Is homosexuality really sin?

There is great debate in our culture and in our churches right now over whether homosexuality is really sin. Many in our culture insist that it is a state of being, that they are “born that way,” and many in our churches are choosing to believe and accept that as truth.

However, we have only one source of absolute truth: the Scriptures. It is here, and only here, that we must search to discover what God has said, and once we discover that, we must accept that as God’s final word.

So, “what does Scripture say?”

First, we should note that the Scriptures always speak of homosexuality as an action, not a state of being. The Scriptures do not see “gay” as a valid state of being, only male and female (biologically) and unregenerate, carnal, and spiritual (spiritually). “Gay” is just a deceptive feeling perpetrated by a depraved mind. The only thing inherent about “being gay” is being a sinner by nature, and that is true of every human.

Following is a brief summary of five key passages in this discussion. I may break them out further at a later time, but this summary will do for now. Please use the comments section for questions, discussion, and (civil) debate.

Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 – Interestingly, this is the only sin in all of Leviticus that God called an abomination (other things are called that elsewhere in the Old Testament). The fact that we are not under the Mosaic Law does not change God’s view of this sin. Those who say that we must now accept homosexuality because we eat bacon are grossly mishandling the text and do not understand Bible interpretation (which is a different post).

Now, to be sure, if this were the only place it was mentioned, we would seriously have to take pause, but it’s repeated in the New Testament, which solidifies it for all time. Frankly, I rarely go here first because people misuse it, but I’m taking these passages in order.

Romans 1:24-32 – In the first four verses (24-27) homosexual activity is called impurity, a dishonor to our bodies, a lie, false worship, dishonorable passions, unnatural, shameless acts, and error. I can’t think of another action that is so soundly repudiated this way anywhere else in Scripture. Interestingly, homosexuality seems to be linked to idolatry here as well, which makes sense, because it’s essentially self-worship.

In verse 28, Paul continued saying that “they did not see fit to acknowledge God,” that they had “a depraved mind,” and that they “do what should not be done.” At some point their rejection of God ultimate leads to God fulfilling their desire to be completely free to wallow in their depravity.

Finally, in verse 32 Paul referred to those who know God’s truth yet “approve of those who practice” these sins. Since the whole context is actually talking about unbelievers (starting in verse 18), how much more should believers not participate in or celebrate and approve of these sins?

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – Although recently there has been a push to reinterpret Paul’s last two words in verse 9 to mean something else, the ancient people knew what these words meant and used them the way the NET translates them: “passive homosexual partners” and “practicing homosexuals.”

The first word with no context can simply mean “soft.” In general reference to a man it means “effeminate” (the KJV and NASB translations). But used in conjunction with the next word it means the submissive male partner. In fact, it was used in ancient times as a crass insult, much like “fag” (please pardon the use).

The second word literally means “to bed a male” or “in bed with a male” and can refer to homosexuality in general or, when referring to them individually like in this case, to the dominant male partner.

The great news is that Paul said this was activity that some of the Corinthians had participated in during their pre-Christ lives, but in salvation they were “washed…sanctified…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” This again speaks to the fact that it’s an action, not a state of being, and certainly not something that cannot be changed by God’s power.

1 Timothy 1:8-10 – The second word from above is used here in verse 10. The NET translates it again as “practicing homosexuals” and can refer to both partners, since the passage doesn’t refer to them separately. In this case the people who commit these sins are classified generally with “lawless and rebellious people, the ungodly and sinners, the unholy and profane…any who live contrary to sound teaching.”

In addition to these specific passages, “sexual immorality” (which covers all sexual sin) is mentioned frequently throughout the New Testament. Galatians 5:19 lists sexual immorality first in its “works of the flesh,” noting that these are always against the Holy Spirit and that those who live according to the Spirit will not be able to do these works of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-26).

Conclusion

To say that the Bible doesn’t speak to homosexuality at all or that it doesn’t really condemn it if it’s between two loving people misses the point, at best, and completely rejects it, at worse.

Unless a person comes to the Scriptures with his mind already embracing homosexuality, it is impossible to read these passages and not see homosexuality as a sin against God.

May our churches and those who claim to know Jesus embrace the Scriptures and stand firm in this culture, always pointing people back to Jesus.