New Testament Week 35: “So Also is the Resurrection of the Dead.” – 1 Corinthians 14-16

As we begin our final study of 1 Corinthians I want to point out a reminder about the situation in Corinth. The people there were, by tradition, Greek thinkers and so the idea of a corporeal resurrection would have been tough for them to believe. This traditional belief was creeping into many different justifications of Jesus’s resurrection, all of which denying an actual physical resurrection. The question regarding this was briefly mentioned by Paul in Chapter 11, but he obviously wanted to give more attention to it and holds it back to his climactic treatise we know as Chapter 15.

Chapter 15 provides us more detail about apostolic witnesses, many other witnesses we have not heard of before and truly the only ancient doctrinal treatment on the resurrection. Modern believers, like many of us, take for granted the power of the Grace of God to raise all of us from the dead. Many of us have grown up with that idea being part of our foundations of thought. However, the power and magnitude of grace to the early saints would have been incredible. I think it can be incredible to us as well if we take time to think about just how wonderful it is that we can all be reunited after death.

CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 35 – 1 Corinthians 14-16

– Love is the source and purpose behind all spiritual gifts.

– The Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the grace given to resurrect us is the foundation of the gospel.

– There are many different resurrections, and glories given to those in the resurrection.

Context and Timeline:
– Many Christians were not only Jews, Greeks, and Romans. They were Berbers, Celts, Germanic, Arabs, Africans and many would have been slaves.

– “Women Being Silent in Church” – It is important to know that Paul is speaking about a specific group of women that Chloe was concerned about. These women were, despite Christians being radically progressive about the participation of women in their newly formed church, overstepping what was comfortable for members of the church. They were, on the most basic level, dismissing Jewish custom by participating in worship services, being too pushy and loud would have broken Greek custom, and, according to Chloe, seeking authority over the church would have broken church custom.

– Praying out Loud was encouraged over silent prayers so all could be edified

– The way Paul uses prophecy may be better understood as exhortation.

– Untimely Birth would have meant a miscarriage.

– Baptism for the Dead – there is evidence from early christian writings and practice that there were two forms of initiation into Christianity. Baptism of water and proxy ordinances for the dead, including baptism for the dead. Most other writings or mentions of the practice are scarce and written as if the practice was well established. Unfortunately, there are not a policy of church procedures from that time of Christianity.

– There was a deadly famine in Judea during this time and many saints were in desperate need of financial assistance from Corinth and other areas unaffected by the famine.

– A Holy Kiss would have meant a greeting in which two people would have grasped and kissed each other on the cheek as a friendly greeting.

History around Epistle:
Paul visited Corinth during his second mission. He spent over 18 months building the church there and had very close relationships with the people and the leaders. This epistle would have been written between 53-54 AD. It appears from the epistle that Paul had previously written to the church in Corinth about avoiding company with people who would influence them to become unholy. His previous communication was not effective and so Chloe, an influential female convert, had written to Paul explaining the situation in Corinth and that prompted what we call 1 Corinthians.

The other sender of this epistle was Sosthenes and it was likely sent from Jerusalem before Paul returned to Macedonia. It is also important to note that many of the questions posed by Chloe did not have official church doctrine or policy for answers. Paul sought to find answers and use the scriptures to help answer the questions. Paul was likely received revelation while responding.

This epistle is of particular note to Latter-day Saints because it focuses on two ideas unique to their beliefs. Vicarious baptism for the dead, and different glories of resurrected bodies in the heavens. The epistle is also famous for describing the importance of charity, spiritual gifts, and the way the church, or Body of Christ, should work together in Christ.

Section 1: Chapters 1-6 – Discussion of the need for Unification and items of correction for the church members in Corinth.

Section 2: Chapters 7-16 – Answers to questions that were relayed to Paul.

Doctrinal Teachings:

  • More Discussion of Spiritual Gifts (Chapter 14)
    • Our spiritual purpose is obtaining Charity – leading to happiness, joy in our relationships, and all the other virtues of God and Christ.
      • Love must exist for them to be useful, and blessed by God.
    • Revelation and inspired exhortations are more useful than speaking in different languages or even in the same language but in a way that others cannot understand.
      • The point of teaching and preaching is for edification.
    • Inspiration of prophets is to be rejoined with the words of other prophets to form continuing revelation.
  • The Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Chapter 15:1-34)
    • Ancient Christian Articles of Faith
      • Jesus Christ Died for Our Sins
        • The scriptures prove this was necessary
      • Jesus was Buried and Rose on the Third Day
        • Jesus appeared to Peter, Apostles, over 500 others, and to James, and Paul.
    • Reality of resurrection is the foundation upon which Christian belief exists.
    • Fruits of Resurrection
      • Adam chose to bring us mortality
      • Jesus was first, followed by the rest of us
        • Many resurrections
    • Why do baptisms for the dead without a resurrection?
  • The Resurrection of All (Chapter 15:35-55)
    • Types of Bodies
      • Glorified resurrected bodies are flesh, but different than our earthly bodies of flesh and blood.
    • Nature of Resurrected Bodies
      • There are some the glory of the Sun, some of the Moon, and some of the different glories of the stars.
      • Some people will be resurrected in a twinkling of an eye when the Lord comes again and not taste death.
    • Victory over Death is one of the greatest powers of Jesus Christ and should be a source of our unmovable faith.
  • The Poor Saints and Paul’s Conclusion (Chapter 16)
    • If we have the resources, we must pool them together to take care of those saints who need help.
    • Paul asks the Corinthians to take care of Timothy when he arrives and that Apollos cannot come just yet.
    • Be Strong and let love and charity unit the saints.

Key Moment or Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:40-44
40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

In modern translations we get a better interpretations regarding what Paul means when he is speaking of Celestial and Terrestrial bodies. He is clearly outlining that a resurrected body is of greater glory to mortal bodies. However, he then compares the glory of resurrected bodies to the Sun, the Moon, and the stars. The idea that there is a difference in types of resurrected bodies is something that the restored church has taught since Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon experienced the vision of the heavens recorded in Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In the vision it was revealed that “heaven” would be divided into three large parts that allowed for the varying levels of faith and devotion the children of God would develop. It also provided some glory, in some form, to all of God’s children.

However, there are other examples in ancient Christianity regarding the idea of three different glories in heaven. Paul, in fact, mentions a vision in which he was caught up into the third heaven, and while there heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. The idea of a “third heaven” is only mentioned one time in 2 Corinthians 12, but there are many more detailed writings about the doctrine by an early Christian leader named Iraneus.

Iraneus was the student of Polycarp, a close friend and student of John the Beloved, and taught that there would be three gradients of heaven. One glory would be in the presence of God the Father, the second with God the Son, and the third with God the Holy Ghost. The differences taught by Iraneus were in regards to differentiation of righteousness. I feel like the ideas found within the idea of multiple heavens are important in revealing a merciful God who loves all of his children, even those who reject him.

What is sometimes lost in this doctrinal idea is the power of the resurrection in making our bodies eternal. Paul teaches that when we are resurrected we will be restored and glorified to bodies that are not flesh and blood, but that are flesh and spirit combined to create the glorious spiritual bodies. These bodies are tangible and physical, but capable of so much more. They are not, however, able to change who we were in our souls. We will be who we are, just restored to a more glorious physical form.

Final Thoughts:
Paul was so concerned about the members of the church in Corinth, that he visited them again shortly after sending this letter to them. I think the messages taught in 1 Corinthian will remain applicable to us for generations to come. The conditions of humanity, in particular the difficulty of believing and being obedient, highlight their timeless importance. We must seek to be more righteous, despite the power of Grace, because who we are lasts into eternity.