Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. 53 For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality. 54 When this corruptible body is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory. 55 Where, death, is your victory? Where, death, is your sting? 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

The Original Intent

1) What do the terms corruption, incorruption, corruptible and incorruptible mean in this context? (verses 50-53)

Corruption and corruptible share the same meaning. In Greek, corruption, phthora, means perishable or perishing. Contrarily, incorruption and incorruptible both imply immortality and lack of decay.

Paul focuses on the reality that our present mortal bodies, which are subject to decay at death, cannot enter God’s Kingdom in eternity in their current form, but must be transformed. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruption.” (verse 50) The necessary pre-cursor for this transformation is found in John 3:5, “Jesus answered, ‘Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” 

To enter eternity, a person must be born of water and spirit, meaning once they’ve accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, they receive a spiritual re-birth through the Holy Spirit, becoming new for their old life has died. To be raised with incorruptible physical bodies that will be equipped to live in eternity, our souls must first have been reborn from death to life by God’s Spirit. Paul taught in Philippians 3:18-20, “…many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame; and they are focused on earthly things, our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

There is a distinction between those who are enemies of Christ and those already counted as citizens of Heaven; faith in Jesus. For those who are no longer enemies of Christ, when our physical bodies have died, for they are corruptible, they require a second transformation by Christ, “He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” (Philippians 3:21)

The Everyday Application

1) What do the terms corruption, incorruption, corruptible and incorruptible mean in this context? (verses 50-53)

I Corinthians 15 focuses on the resurrection from the dead of believers in Jesus. One day, their old, corruptible bodies will be transformed in preparation for their eternal dwelling with God.

Many in the early church were influenced by false teachers like the Sadducees, who claimed there was no resurrection of the dead. Wanting the Church to be equipped with truth, Paul sought to clear the air on this misconception by providing resurrection facts from the Lord.

Part of his explanation included what would happen to our bodies. When we die, our physical bodies experience decay, for they are corruptible. At the resurrection, all who have safeguarded their souls with Christ Jesus will receive new physical bodies that have been made perfectly incorruptible by His power.

This truth encourages us because we can look forward to a day when there will be no more sickness, no more pain, and no more death. We will enjoy eternity with the Lord God in new, perfect physical bodies! Jesus even provided a sneak peek of these new bodies when He rose from the dead with His own incorruptible physical body. (Luke 24:36-43)

If we have a loved one or know someone living with a disability, illness like cancer, or suffering of any kind, we can take heart knowing this is only temporary for those who trust Jesus as their Savior. My own mother has dementia, and it is heart-breaking knowing she was once a vibrant woman who loved to sing. But I take comfort knowing that one day, she will become whole again at the resurrection with a new spiritual body.

The Original Intent

2) How has death been swallowed up in victory? (verses 54-55)

Paul’s pronouncement, “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (verse 54) quotes the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah. (Isaiah 25:8) His follow-on quote, “Where, Death, is your victory? Where, Death, is your sting?” (verse 55) pulls from another Old Testament prophet, Hosea. (Hosea 13:14)

Both of these spoke of a promised coming day when Death would no longer rule; Death itself would die as it was consumed by the Victor, God Himself. Death is inevitable for all of us (Psalm 89:48), but we should be aware there are three types of death, physical, spiritual, and eternal

Physical death is experienced by everyone when our lungs stop breathing and our hearts stop beating. (Hebrews 9:27) Physical death results from sin which infiltrated the world via Adam

Spiritual death is eternal separation from God, which is also caused by sin. These two deadly outcomes are the default position for every human being. All of us are destined to experience both of these if we trust ourselves to be “good enough” for God. His justice has no room for less than perfect, and each of us are far, far from perfect. (Romans 3:23)

The Spiritually dead are those who choose to remain worldly and have no desire to serve or worship God as their personal Lord and Savior from sin. (Ephesians 2:1-3) 

Eternal Death is the just reward reserved for the unrepentant spiritually dead. Those who reject Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, also choose to remain locked-in to their default destination of eternal separation from God as a result of their sin; this is referred to as the second death. (Revelation 21:8) The devil initially held power over death (Hebrews 2:14), but Jesus defeated Satan when He rose from the dead. Victory over death resulted from Jesus’ resurrection, making Him the firstborn from the dead. (Colossians 1:18)

The Everyday Application

2) How has death been swallowed up in victory? (verses 54-55)

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead defeated Satan and death once and for all, but our bodies still die, even those who have trusted Jesus as their Savior. Just as the Old Testament prophets announced, there is still coming a day when Jesus will “swallow up death once and for all” (Isaiah 25:8) when He returns and transforms the corruptible into the incorruptible!

Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, and when He returns to earth to transform us, all who have trusted Him as their Lord and Savior will come up out of their graves and meet him in the air! (I Thessalonians 4:16-17) Jesus’ resurrection has offered humanity a new birth and a living hope in victorious freedom from Death! (I Peter 1:3)

We must remember, this freedom is an offer not our default. 

Eternal Death remains our default destination unless we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Saviour, confessing our helpless reality as sinner, and receiving His forgiveness and eternal life as a gift. (John 3:16Romans 6:23) For the believer, eternal LIFE is our hope and confident expectation. This Sure Hope is why death is nothing to be feared for those who come to Jesus in genuine faith. Death is something we can welcome for it is nothing more than sleep until Christ makes us incorruptible. (verses 51-52Matthew 9:24

Mother Theresa had some interesting quotes about death, but my favourite is, “People ask me about death and whether I look forward to it and I answer, ‘Of course’ because I am going home.” Death merely means going home to Jesus.

The Original Intent

3) What is to be learned from Paul’s exhortation to be steadfast, immovable, and excel in the Lord’s work because their labour is not in vain? (verse 58)

Labour is usually associated with hard work which is not always pleasant, but from the beginning, God created work. When God made the earth, mankind was not yet around to work the ground. (Genesis 2:5) However, when He planted the Garden of Eden, He placed Adam there to work it and be its caretaker, all before sin had entered the world. (verse 15)

Tending the garden before sin must have been pleasant and enjoyable, even relaxing, but when Adam sinned, part of God’s judgment was to curse the land and labour. Work became painful and laborious. (Genesis 3:17-18) Humanity now would labour hard to earn a living.

Imagine how much more creative and artistic and purposeful our work would be if it wasn’t tainted by sin and tediousness! Paul’s words in verse 58 serve as strong encouragement to the believers regarding their difficult work for the Lord, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 

Working for the Lord is full of challenges and persecutions, BUT Christ has won our victory, so we can be assured our labours for Him are not in vain for the Lord wastes nothing! The work Paul speaks of is more than just for earning a living, it refers to an active help in building the kingdom of God, which is accomplished in many ways throughout our everyday lives.

In Romans 16, Paul commended some women who worked hard for the Lord. Paul also worked hard to build up the Church (I Corinthians 15:10). His encouragement is for all the Corinthian believers to do the same and work hard for the Lord for their reward would come in eternal life. (Revelation 14:13)

The Everyday Application

3) What is to be learned from Paul’s exhortation to be steadfast, immovable, and excel in the Lord’s work because their labour is not in vain? (verse 58)

Work, which can be arduous most times, but our difficulties can be redeemed because of Christ. When we submit our work to the Lord, doing it for Him instead of mankind (Colossians 3:22-24), we are blessed because of His victory over the curse.

This doesn’t mean believers aren’t to engage in work that isn’t technically “ministry related” like work in the church; Paul stresses we must work to eat and live and not be lazy. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12) God’s vision for work that honors Him encompasses every aspect of life and our heart-attitude while we labour.

Are we working for the Lord? Are we praying over our work? Are we using our jobs to further God’s kingdom by teaching others about Him, loving others, and using opportunities with coworkers to share about the Hope of Jesus?

These labors build up the Church (I Corinthians 3:10-15) and are not done in vain. I enjoy working for the Lord! 

I gave my life to Jesus at the age of seventeen, and while life has been challenging, at the age of fifty-three, I can say God has been with me and blessed me as I surrendered myself to Him. Living for Jesus and serving Him is what makes life abundant. (John 10:10) At the end of my physical life and when Jesus exchanges the corruptible for incorruptible, all believers will become truly Whole.

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