A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology: The Pauline Epistles, Part IX – 1 Corinthians 15-16

You can read earlier posts in this series by clicking on the links below:

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Every year around April, an onslaught of news stories are published claiming to have discovered Jesus’ pinky toe, and the like. Where these “scientists” got the original, authoritative labs to determine a DNA match is never disclosed. Rather, we are expected to grant more credence to these “scientists” than to 500 eyewitness contemporaries of the resurrection itself, because we have become an elitist culture: a culture that lives in the shallow end of the intellectual pool and defers whenever possible to the “elites” among us.

The Centrality of the Resurrection

Paul doesn’t leave the matter of Christ’s resurrection up to the religious and political elites of his day. Rather, he points to those who knew Christ best. He challenges his contemporaries to do the intellectual leg-work (like Luke; cf. Lk. 1:3) and thoroughly search out the matter of the resurrection. He not only submits the resurrection to the hard scrutiny of his first century contemporaries, but he also declares the resurrection to be of first importance.

Why is the world so determined to disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ? As Paul states, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is of first importance. Apart from the resurrection of Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. Hence, when we come to 1 Corinthians 15, we come to the centerpoint of the intersection between Christ and culture.

Charles Darwin, in his autobiography, declared the resurrection to be a “damnable doctrine.” Richard Dawkins is also quoted as having said, “Don’t kid yourself that you’re going to live again after you’re dead; you’re not. Make the most of the one life you’ve got. Live it to the full.” Let us consider that denial of the resurrection and the judgment to follow is precisely what enabled men like Stalin and Mao to “Make the most of the one life you’ve got. Live it to the full.” It led Nietzsche into insanity and William James to commit suicide. “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” (1Cor. 15:32b; NASB). If the dead are not raised, there is no morality, no teleology, no purpose, no governorthere is only Nihilism, purposelessness, licentiousness, futility, and despair.

Supporting the Kingdom of God among the Kingdom of Man

Since the dead are raised, we have faith in Christ, hope in our great inheritance to come, and love for all the saints. It is because of this love for the saints that Paul presupposes the Corinthian church’s love for the Jerusalem church. Presupposing their love for all the saints, he requests that they set aside in their collection a donation to aid Jerusalem during their time of famine. From within the kingdoms of man, Christ is building His kingdom. This kingdom demands from Christians a greater sense of patriotism than any earthly kingdom may demand. For all of the financial support we may offer to the coffers of earthly magistrates out of a sense of national pride, our duty to the kingdom of heaven takes precedence.

This general point also applies to how local churches ought to use their budgets. Although there are many praiseworthy projects that individual Christians should support, we must remember that the Church (as an institution) has been primarily charged with the task of making and maturing disciples.. Because local churches have limited resources at their disposal, churches should allocate their resources to activities that are of the utmost importance. This approach to the allocation of local church resources would naturally exclude many of the so-called “social justice” projects and all other matters that might otherwise fall under the purview of the kingdom of man (Rom. 13). In other words, local churches should practice the concept of moral proximity and ensure that the kingdom of God is well supplied.

Most Christians rightly denounce hyper-Calvinism in regard to the work of the individual pastor, evangelist, or missionary. Sadly, many of these same Christians become functional hyper-Calvinists when it comes to their own role of supporting the work of the local church, church associations, and missionary societies. Paul did not divorce the importance of financial support for the ministries of the church from the ministries themselves.

Some might have said, “The Jerusalem church is already established. If they cannot support themselves, let them die. We should be supporting new church plants.” I have heard a similar sentiment from some in the church, today. Paul took the contrary position: “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem,” (1Cor. 16:2-3; NASB). Jerusalem’s inability to support their own ministry during this season of their church life was not a blight on them as a church. Paul did not instruct the churches in Corinth and Galatia to just let this church die. Rather, regardless of where the kingdom of God is present and in need within the kingdom of man, it is to receive the support of the churches of God.

Conclusion

As you may have noticed, we have come full circle back to the theme of love. Paul expects that the local church would have love for the church in Jerusalem and for those who are being sent from Paul. In the same way, he encourages them toward others-centered living within their own body. As local churches practice the second Great Commandment of loving others as themselves within the kingdom of God, the natural trajectory is such that our love should naturally spill over into the kingdom of man.

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One thought on “A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology: The Pauline Epistles, Part IX – 1 Corinthians 15-16

  1. Pingback: A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology: The Pauline Epistles, Part IX – 1 Corinthians 15-16 | Reformedontheweb's Blog

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