1 Corinthians 15 is the New Testament’s quintessential statement on the resurrection. “O death, where is your sting?” There are others, of course, “He is not here. He has risen.” Or, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Or, “Buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life.”
But if you seek something that covers all the permutations of the strange doctrine of Easter, 1 Corinthians 15 is your ticket. It finds its way into encouraging slots at funerals and sunrise services around the world. You can meme and refrigerator-magnet its contents for days on end. It has a happy reputation.
What makes this weird, though, is that this 15th chapter is the pièce de résistance of rebukes in a New Testament letter crammed with rebukes. On arrogance: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” On those who like to get drunk at Communion: “Don’t you have homes where you can eat and drink?” On sexual license of the lowest order: (It is) something that not even the heathen would be guilty of.”
Into this pitiful context, the apostle drops one of the loveliest lyrics in all scripture: “If I speak in the tongues or men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” DYK that 1 Corinthians 13, that great “love chapter,” stands in judgment of those who should know how to love but don’t?
In the same vein, the heroic 15th chapter is on about the resurrection. “How can some of you say there is no resurrection?” (15:12). How? Because they had bought into the slippery idea that what they did with their bodies didn’t matter much at all. “You do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed … What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable” (vv. 37, 42). So like a good gardener caring for would-be crops, the apostle writes, take care of yourself. You are supposed to last for a long, long time.
The Rev. Eugene Stockstill is pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church and Myrtle United Methodist Church in Union County.