Home Bible Study

"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is both helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible often doesn't tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.


Search HBS Bible Lessons

Friday, October 28, 2016

1 Corinthians (Lesson 48)



Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Established November 2008                                                        Published weekly on Friday

1 Corinthians                                                                            Lesson 48    

Welcome to HBS. 

I have one announcement for the group before we get started with this week’s Bible lesson.  My wife and I are preparing to move this weekend to a new address, which translates to a long list of minute details to tend to and a lot of work for the two of us.  For all you faithful students of God’s Word this means I’m going to be “Off the Air” for at least two weeks.  I apologize for the interruption in service.  Please use this time wisely.  Please study the previous lessons posted to this site or use the time to read ahead.

Introduction to 1 Corinthians 16

1 Corinthians 15 is a highly developed theological section of this letter without a doubt.  Why Paul chose to reveal the “secret” or mystery of the resurrection of the dead to these “infants in Christ’s” no one knows for certain.  However, he shifts from dealing with this reality, to practical Christian living starting at 16:1 without skipping a beat, as if saying, “Should the Lord return today let Him find us minding the church’s business.”

Brief Outline of Chapter 16:

16:1-4 – Collection for the poor Jews in Judea
16:5-9 – Tentative Plans to visit Corinth
16:10-12 – Other Christian Workers
16:13-18 – Final Admonitions
16:19-24 – Closing Greetings

********

Let’s Compare Paul’s Fund-Raising to Church Fund-Raising Today (16:1-4)

On November 6, 2007 Senator Charles Grassley sent formal letters to 6 top televangelists requesting that they turn over their financial records to the Senate Finance Committee.  These six well known preachers were under federal investigation for using their tax-exempt status, as churches, to shield their lavish life styles – a serious offense.   All six televangelist targeted in the investigation preach some form of the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God wants to bless the faithful with “earthly riches.”  Ministers in this tradition often hold up their own wealth as evidence that this teaching works.  If it doesn’t work for you, then you’re faith is inadequate or so they say.  After three years, no penalties were handed out by the senate committee to the two preachers who cooperated or to the four who refused to cooperate by releasing their financial documents to the investigators, and no definitive findings of wrongdoing were established with this group.  However, it could be said this investigation helped shine the light of truth on the fact that some people in the church misuse their position and people’s trust in order to fleece the flock.

While it’s undeniably true that men of God have labored long to raise funds for the Lord’s work, it also true more than a few others, greedy and lusting after the things of the flesh, have brought reproach upon the name of Christ by using the Lord’s work for their own material advantage.  While the majority of the people in their congregations live their lives from meager paycheck-to-paycheck and are literally one disaster away from financial ruin, there are many church leaders living a disproportionate lifestyle. 

The six church leaders that were investigated live in multi-million dollar homes, drive or they are chauffeured in luxury vehicles, own private jets (one of the preachers under investigation owns his own airport), and they command 7-figure annual salaries, while preaching some form of the prosperity gospel.  However, the only people prospering are the preachers themselves. 

What Does the Bible say About the Prosperity Gospel?

In the prosperity gospel, also known as the “Word of Faith,” the Believer is told to use God, whereas the Truth of God’s Word is just the opposite.  God uses the Believer.  The prosperity gospel theology sees the Holy Spirit as a power to be put to use for whatever the Believer wills.  But the Bible teaches the Holy Spirit is a Person who enables the Believer to do God’s will on earth.  Paul warned Timothy about men who came preaching false gospels such as this: …and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of (what) the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain…  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men (and women) into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil… (1Timothy 6:5, 9-11; Ephesians 5:5-7; Hebrews 13:5). 

Over the years church-goers have become cynical about religious “fund-raising.”   Admittedly, I’ve joined their ranks and I’ll explain why that is.  A few years back, the church my wife and I were members of owned the building from the foundation to the roof and the surrounding property.  For some reason, not made clear to the 5,000+ church members, the pastor and elders alone determined we needed a “much bigger building.”   Therefore, a “building fund” commenced and each member was asked to “pledge” a fixed amount for three years.  This faith “pledge” was in addition to our normal giving amount.  Our pastor always called this a “tithe;” please don’t get me started on this subject; we’ll save it for later.  My wife and I wrote down our faith “pledge” amount on the post card provided and mailed it back to our church, and for three years we worked it into our budget by working things out of our budget; that’s how things work in the “real-world, right? 

Well, the long and short of this is, some land was purchased, and a huge building went up.  They didn’t cut any corners or expense in the construction or in supplying each individual department’s request.  They even managed to include a Starbucks Coffee CafĂ© in the main lobby of the church, and a parking lot capable of hosting thousands of vehicles.  People driving by this church often mistake it for a shopping mall today.  The price tag for all this was upwards of $16 million dollars, which means this particular church will be in debt for many years to come; oh yeah, the elders asked us to continue with the faith “pledges” because now those funds were needed to pay down this debt. 

Hang on.  We’re only getting started.  I was coordinating the Children’s Ministry at the church during this period of time and working closely with the pastor in charge of this division and the ministry leader.  One year after we opened the doors I remember arriving early to set up our Sunday morning children’s program.  I found the ministry leader there ahead of me and over a cup of coffee I asked her how things were going.  She said there had been a meeting and the pastors had decided they didn’t have enough space, i.e. they did not have enough rooms in the building to accommodate all the Bible study groups, individual programs, etc.  So, they were talking about another “building fund.”  I was stunned because on any given day, including Sunday, the busiest day of the week, I’d seen dozens of empty and locked rooms unused throughout the church building and not just in the children’s wing and I brought this up. 
 
Once again, my wife and I had been faithful members of this church (the denomination will remain a secret) for many years.  We knew nothing about this proposal.  But we did know this was not a wealthy congregation.  The majority of the families sitting in the seats every week were like us, living their lives from paycheck-to-paycheck; praying and hanging on in other words.  The long and short of this means the church leaders were not being “good stewards” of the finances entrusted to them by the faithful.  Their vision for this church didn’t line up with the reality sitting right there in front of them week after week and this truth proved itself out when the Housing Bubble burst in 2008.  Many of the people lost their jobs when the recession hit their homes or they saw their take-home pay reduced after they were “down-sized.” 

I was already wary of church fund-raising because of situations I’d encountered years ago but this was a whole new “ball game,” as they say.  This took the phrase, “Fleecing the Flock,” to another height.  However, having said that, I’ve also seen the positive side of church fund-raising.  At one time I was a member of a Bible believing church that held itself accountable for every nickel that came in.  This church wouldn’t spend money to replace a torn Bible in the pew without talking to their membership about it first and only then after putting it to a vote; demonstrating accountability!

Now, before we go much further I am not casting a shadow of doubt on your church, its leadership, or its accounting principles, nor am I saying every church leader is working “an angle.”  I am also not telling people to stop giving to their church.  The church needs financial support in order to function properly.  I am merely reporting a personal experience and directing your attention to the truth.  Satan is the god of this age, which means his evil influence has corrupted every facet of our existence.   There isn’t a corner of society that has not been tainted by his evil influence.  In the American Political System, for example, the three branches of government defined in the constitution (legislative, executive, and judicial) make up three of the four estates.  The fourth estate is said to be “the people,” “interest groups,” “the press,” “administrative agencies,” or “popular culture.”  Looking at all these, can you name one that has not been infiltrated by Satan?  Corruption (evil) is inherent in every aspect of society and you can add the church to this list.  We know from church history that Satan has had his way with it.  Read up on “The Crusades” and “The Spanish Inquisition,” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. 

Digging Deeper

I don’t know if Believers are “up to speed” on the facts of Church Embezzlement in this country, but according to ShareFaith Magazine’s article, dated September 30, 2015, Christians stole $39 billion in church related financial fraud in 2014.  They go on to report that church staff (employees and volunteers) steals 30% of the church funds annually.  The average church loss, across the board due to fraud is $120,000, and growing every year!  What’s even more shocking folks is this statistic:  80% of annual church fraud is unreported.  It’s handled quietly behind the scenes; the congregation knows nothing about it.  It’s the churches “dirty little secret.”  To save space and time I didn’t record all the information from this article for you, so it’s much worse than what I’ve shown in print. 

I believe an informed Believer is a wise Believer.  As I’ve said, when church fund-raising is the topic, I’ve learned to open both eyes, I listen, and I ask questions.  I’ve seen the program misused by the very people I put my trust in.  From this point onward, it’s up to you.  As Ronald Reagan said, after signing the INF Treaty with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, “Trust, but verify.  Meaning, you need to do the “leg-work” in your own church to see what’s going on behind the scenes.  The church I attend today provides an annual “cash flow” statement to each person.  Every dollar is accounted for.

Paul’s Fund-Raising Example

As we will soon discover, the fund-raising of today as compared to our Apostle Paul’s fund-raising is as different as “Light” is to “darkness.”  I’ll begin by saying he wasn’t shy when it came to asking the churches to contribute to the poor Jews in Judea or reminding the Corinthian church of their prior commitment (2 Corinthians 8:8-11).  Paul had his own method of fund-raising and it’s far different from what we’ve come to expect.  Before we “dig” into Paul’s instructions concerning “charitable” contributions, let’s consider the kind of man Paul was, especially as this relates to (OPM) Other People’s Money. 

Let’s face facts folks, one of the reasons people have become cynical about church fund-raising is that there are a lot of crooks hiding behind their Bibles, clerical collars, and pulpits.  But if there ever was a man who deserved to be heard when it comes to contributing money, that man is Paul.  His example was a man named Barnabas.  Barnabas was a Jewish saint.  He set the “bar” for the church in Jerusalem when it came to giving funds:  Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles -the twelve – (which translated means Son of Encouragement, and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostle’s feet (Acts 4:36-37).

This is the same man who befriended Paul when he was first saved, when the other apostles wanted nothing to do with him (Acts 9:26-27).  When Agabus and other prophets came down to Antioch from Jerusalem to announce that a great world-wide famine was forthcoming, the newly formed church at Antioch took up a collection for the saints in Judea, and these funds were sent with Barnabas and Paul (Acts 11:27-30) to the saints in need in Jerusalem. 

As an apostle Paul had every right to be supported financially by those to whom he was ministering.  But he chose to waive this right, preaching the gospel that saves at no cost to the Corinthians, so that this same gospel might not be hindered in any way (1 Corinthians 9:1-23).  Thus, when Paul arrived in Corinth, he went to work as a tentmaker along with Aquila, and when he finally ministered full-time to the Corinthians, it was because of the financial support he received from the Macedonians (Acts 18:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11;7-9; Philippians 4:15-18).  This practice was not the exception but the rule.  Paul was not going to be a financial burden to anyone including the churches where he served.  In the midst of warning the Ephesian elders of false teachers, Paul reminded them that his hand was never found in their pockets (Acts 20:30-33).

Paul did not gain financially from the Corinthians.  If anything, the Corinthians were taken advantage of by the false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:20).  Paul, on the other hand, was poor in their midst (1 Corinthians 4:8-13).

Paul never raised funds for himself and he never took advantage of those he ministered too.  He was completely honorable in the use of the funds entrusted to him (1 Corinthians 16:3-4; 2 Corinthians 8:19-23, 9:3-5).

If there were only more men like Paul in the church today; that’s all I’m saying!

Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 16:1.

Paul’s Instructions on Giving

1 Corinthians 16

1: Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.

2: 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.

3: When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem;

4: and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.

Paul’s opening remark, Now concerning, in verse 1 introduces answers to questions which this church had asked in its letter to Paul (1 Corinthians 7:1, 25, 8:1, 12:1, 16:1). 

The collection for the saints, Logia in the Greek language, (pronounced:  log-ee’-ah), Noun Feminine, Strong’s Greek #3048, means – a collection of money for the relief of the poor in Judea.  The word collection does not appear anywhere else in the N.T., however, Paul calls it by other names in some of his other letters:  almsgiving or gifts of charity” (Acts 24:17); “indebtedness” (Romans 15:27); “fellowship” (2 Corinthians 8:4); and “service” (2 Corinthians 9:12).  Paul had mentioned this matter before, so it was not “news” to the Corinthians.  All that was needed at this time was the giving of instructions in which the collection should be made. 

There’s continuity between Paul’s teaching on the resurrection of the dead in the preceding chapter and his opening remark concerning the collection for the saints.  It wasn’t that long ago Paul encouraged these Believers with these words “your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (15:58).  Therefore, responding to the poor Jewish Believer’s need in Judea is one of the ways they can lay up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). 

Furthermore, the contribution to the saints, which Paul has instructed these Believers to prepare for, is that which will be delivered after he arrives at Corinth, so Paul’s discussion of his travel plans logically follow in verses 5-9.

At this juncture I feel the need to point out the following facts about this contribution:

The churches of Macedonia and Achaia participated (Romans 15:26).

The Church of Rome may have participated for Paul writes to them about it (Romans 15:27).

The churches of Galatia participated (1 Corinthians 16:1).

Twice Paul sent Titus to arouse the well-to-do but unresponsive Corinthians to this financial responsibility.  Paul had to urge them to complete it one year later, “But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability” (2 Corinthians 8:6, 8:10-11, 9:2-5).

In his letters to them he did not refrain from advising them of poor churches who were doing better than they or from reminding them of their good intentions of the year previous, urging them to fulfill the undertaking without further delay, lest he and they should both be embarrassed by their failure to do their fair share (2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 9:3).

The churches at Berea, Philippi, Thessalonica, Troas, and others are not mentioned, but we may assume that they participated in this collection.  An important dispensational lesson is taught here, as both the Jews appeal and the Gentile’s response showed that they were beginning to recognize one another as one in Christ Jesus. 

1 Corinthians 16

1: Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.

2: 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.

For the saints – this means people of faith, holy, i.e. set apart for God’s service (1 Corinthians 1:2, 2 Corinthians 1:1; Romans 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2).  It is always plural in the New Testament except on one occasion in Philippians 4:21, but even there, it is used corporately.  Paul’s saying to be saved by God’s grace is to be part of the covenant community of faith – the family of Believers.  Believers are declared holy and called to a lifestyle of holiness (or progressive sanctification). 

As I directed the churches of Galatia so do you also.  Here it’s important to understand, even though the saints in Corinth were “men of flesh,” “infants,” divisive and above all proud; Paul wasn’t treating them any differently.  There was a standard procedure to be followed in this offering (1 Corinthians 4:17; 7:17, 11:34, 14:33; Titus 1:5).

In these two verses Paul does not explicitly state what percentage of his income the Believer should contribute toward the collection.  In doing so, he does not place the Believer back under the Law, he does, however, teach systematic giving:   On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, and he teaches proportionate giving:  as he may prosper, (or according to your ability).

Paul is saying the Believer is not to give in proportion to what others are giving, but in proportion to his or her ability to give:  as God has prospered them.  These guidelines are to be observed by all.  How do we know this?  Note Paul’s words, each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper (v2). 

There’s more than one reason for this comment to the Corinthians “each one of you is to put aside and save,” and I would think, after all we’ve learned to date, that it would be obvious, especially since he added the phrase, so that no collections be made when I come.  In other words, Paul’s saying let’s put this Judean contribution matter behind us because we have more important items to discuss and things to do when I arrive. 

Finally, we catch a glimpse of Paul’s integrity here, and his insistence on the integrity of any who might have a hand in conveying this vast offering (gifts from many churches) to Jerusalem.  Those chosen were to be from their own number, at least two (2 Corinthians 8:16-24), and accredited in writing (by your own letters), to carry your gift to Jerusalem (v3). 

To further insure that all would be done properly and in order, he reminds them of his apostolic authority:  whomever you may approve, I will send them… (v3).  And if is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me (v4).
 
There were those who were chosen by the churches at large (2 Corinthians 8:16-19), further insuring the veracity of the undertaking, as Paul states:  taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men (2 Corinthians 8:20-21).

This provides an important lesson for us and especially for those who lead us; irresponsibility in fiscal matters is a sin.  Not only should our leaders have clear consciences in their use of the funds we have entrusted to them, but they should prove their integrity by careful and precise requirements and accurate record keeping. 

Paul has more to say concerning the responsibility of stewardship than any other person in the Bible and we’ll get to that when we study chapters 8-9 of 2 Corinthians.

(To be continued)

© Copyright 2011
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 21, 2016

1 Corinthians (Lesson 47)



Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Established November 2008                                                        Published weekly on Friday

1 Corinthians                                                                         Lesson 47       

Hello, and welcome to HBS.

In this last section of 1 Corinthians 15, our Apostle Paul is about to inform these Corinthian saints that their bodies must experience a significant change before they can inherit the kingdom of God.  Paul has spent considerable time and ink explaining that it was possible for God to give them bodies different from which they now possess.  Here he affirms the need for every Believer’s body to undergo a transformation in order for it to be fashioned like Christ’s body.

********
Please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 15:50.

The Mystery of Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15

50: Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable (See 1 Corinthians 6:9).

51: Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep (this is a biblical euphemism for death), but we will all be (what) 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 imperishable (immortal), and we will be changed.

53: For this perishable (body) must put on the imperishable, and this mortal (body) must put on immortality.

54: But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory (Isaiah 25:8).  

55: “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O    DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”  (Hosea 13:14)

56: The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; (Romans 3:20).

57: but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37).

58: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Starting with verse 50, for some reason unbeknownst to me and many others, Paul decided to reveal the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead to the carnal, infants in Christ in Corinth even though earlier in this same letter he said all he could give them was spiritual milk to drink (3:1-3).  I rarely offer a biblical opinion, but I will now and again when Scripture supports it.  Because some of these Corinthians, for whatever reason, did not believe their bodies would be resurrected (see 1 Corinthians 15:12-13), I think Paul decided this destructive heresy and the arrogant attitude associated with it had to be uprooted from this assembly for the common good.  He knew the best way to overcome evil is to shine the Light of truth upon it (John 1:4-5, 14:6; Titus 1:10-13).    

Therefore, Paul is unwavering in his argument and for good reason.  You see, the resurrection of our body from the dead (just like our Savior’s; the firstfruits) is the very core of our faith; death is not the end, but the beginning of eternal life for a true Believer.  Our salvation is just the beginning of this process, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:1:  And you (insert your name here, if you’re a Believer) hath he quickened, who were (past tense) dead in trespasses and sins; (KJV)

Paul isn’t talking about a time future he’s talking about now, the moment you and I believed, we went from being dead in trespasses and sins, i.e. spiritually disconnected from God, to being a new creation, an adopted child of God, co-heirs with Jesus Christ, and the indwelt Holy Spirit guarantees that we will receive eternal life in the age to come (1 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:17).

Paul wants these Corinthians to understand the heart of all these heavenly promises is the resurrection!  Most people have bills they pay regularly, so permit me to put this in language we can all understand.  Salvation comes in installments.  You and I we’re saved the very moment we believed the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), both in body and in spirit, and the eyes of our soul were opened, praise God.  Now we love God and want to walk in His Light while serving Him and others - instead of just ourselves.  We delight in His Word and we communicate with Him in prayer regularly.  But, we do not yet have salvation in its fullness – that’s a future event.  God sealed “the deal” by filling each Believer with the Holy Spirit as a down-payment on our inheritance.  Paul explained this Truth to the Believers in Ephesus with these words:  Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge (or down payment) (2 Corinthians 1:21).
 
There’s a companion passage in Ephesians 1:12-14:  In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were (what) sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.   

The day is coming, (and that day is imminent); when we will receive the fullness of our salvation, i.e. when our bodies will be raised in power and we’ll receive our glorified bodies (Romans 6:5; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 3:4).   

Let’s go to verse 51.

51: Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be (what) changed,

According to Merriam-Webster, the second definition for the word mystery is:  something not understood or beyond understanding; an enigma.  That’s the way the majority of people interpret its meaning; they apply the “Penn & Teller” principle to something they can’t comprehend, deeming it a mystery.  Now, the meaning of the word in ancient time and the way the word is used in the Bible is altogether different.  The word mystery in the Greek language is Musterion (pronounced:  moos-tay’-ree-on), Noun Neuter, Strongs Greek #3466, and it means – of God, a hidden thing; a secret. 

Thus, Paul is about to reveal one of ten mysteries (a.k.a. Church Age Doctrines), a secret, previously kept hidden in the mind of God since the foundations of the earth.  I thought I would put these down on paper so you can look them up in your Bible this week:

The Secret of the Gospel of the Grace of God (Romans 16:25-26)
The Secret of the Blinding of Israel (Romans 11:25-27)
The Secret of the Rapture or Resurrection of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)
The Secret of the One Body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18, 24,)
The Secret of Heavenly Citizenship (Ephesians 1:3; 2:4-6; Philippians 3:20-21)
The Secret of His Will (Ephesians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:19-20)
The Secret of the Grace of God (Romans 3:28, 6:14, 7:2-6, 8:2-4, 10:4; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
The Secret of Identification with Christ (Romans 6:3-9; Galatians 2:20)
The Secret of Lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12)
The Secret of Faith (1 Timothy 3:8-9)
 
The secret things belong to God because He is Sovereign.  They remain secret until He chooses to reveal them to humanity.  The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29). 

My parents “limited my knowledge” or chose to withhold certain information from me until they decided I was ready (mature) to receive it and we see this same principle utilized throughout Scripture.  God has every right to withhold information from His creation until He decides it’s time to reveal it.  But once He reveals something to Believers He expects them to obey or to take Him at His Word– this is called faith. 

The mystery (secret) Paul is about to reveal to the church in Corinth is we will not all sleep (die physically), but we will all be changed.  I mentioned earlier that Paul spent a lot of time showing these Believers their bodies were going to be raised one day and fashioned after Christ’s resurrected body.  It will be like our physical body but different in that it’s going to be a spiritual body suitable for heaven. 

If you’re familiar with John’s account, when Jesus Christ suddenly appeared in the locked room with His disciples His glorified body still bore the scars of the crucifixion and the wound from the Roman’s spear was still visible.  He showed His wounds to the disciples so that they wound KNOW it was really Him (John 20:19-31).  While growing up in the church I’ve listened to a few sermons on this subject and no two were alike.  One gentleman said we’d have complete make-overs, which meant my resurrected body would have a full head of hair and I would be young again.  I liked the sound of that because I’m old and bald today, but I’ve been teaching this book for 20 years and haven’t come across one Bible verse that says we’re going to experience a “miraculous make-over.”  Nowhere in Scripture does it state that at the resurrection people are going to grow hair where it’s needed, become 6’ 2” and handsome, blond, petite, and beautiful, shed unnecessary weight, lose our freckles and warts, have the perfect nose, smaller ears, or exchange our brown eyes for blue eyes.       

The reason there will be a change, and not an exchange, is due to the fact that the present body left unchanged cannot inherit the kingdom of God.  Paul talked about bodies throughout this entire chapter, and this is stressed in verse 35 where he was challenged with the question:  With what body will they come?  Paul has shown these folks (and us) that the same body that was sown into the earth will be a resurrected body made up of flesh and bones yet controlled by the Spirit. 

Paul uses the term all in this verse and by this he means to say “those living and those who have died.  Now, Paul only writes to Believers, and it’s also quite evident from his writings that he believed the Lord would return in his lifetime.  You can see that here as he includes himself in this verse.  To say, “we will not all sleep” is to say not everyone in the group is going to die.  Some will; some won’t (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  But here’s the thing, whether dead or alive at the Lord’s coming for His Church “we will all be changed.”  This must occur in order to satisfy the fact that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. 

I’d like to point out that Paul, as did his colleagues, expected an imminent return of the glorified Christ, however, only God the Father knew the exact timing of this event (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7).  From this we learn that Believers should live every day in light of the fact that our Lord is returning to remove His Church from the earth before the Tribulation begins.  God has not destined us (the church, i.e. the Body of Christ) for wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9).  After the Rapture, God closes the door on the Church Age and removes the Holy Spirit from this planet simultaneously (2 Thessalonians 2:6). 

If you think this planet is on the “Highway to Hell” now, just wait until after the Church and the Holy Spirit have been removed from it.  This knowledge should incite every Believer to “get busy.”  You were once lost but now you’re saved, which means someone cared enough to share the knowledge of Jesus and God’s grace with you.   Return the favor by paying that forward.  Share Jesus and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 with at least one person each day - for the time grows shorter (Romans 1:16). 

Paul goes on to explain when this change in each Believer will occur:  in a moment, in
the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable (immortal), and we will be changed (v52).  I need to point out “the last trumpet” of verse 52 has nothing whatsoever to do with the seven trumpets of the Revelation.  This event isn’t the Second Coming it’s the Rapture of God’s Church, so not one of the Revelation trumpets will have sounded here.  They will all sound during “the Great Tribulation” (the last 3.5 years of the Tribulation), but not one of these seven trumpets will sound when the Lord comes for the Body of Christ?  Revelation 11:15 simply says, “Then the seventh angel sounded;” while the trumpet of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is called in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “the trumpet of God.”  The term, “the last trumpet,” in 15:52, is a military expression, denoting the trumpet which is sounded at the last, or the close of this dispensation, i.e. to call all the soldiers to assembly or the saints to home. 

Paul repeats what he said previously, “we will be changed (v51).”  All, both the living and the dead, will be changed simultaneously, at the same moment, when the trumpet sounds.  This experience is the resurrection of the saints; not one group at a time, at different intervals, but all bodies will be changed at the same moment in time.  Paul’s saying at the Rapture both the living and dead will undergo a necessary change so as to fit them for their new abode in heaven and this transformation will be instantaneous; in the twinkling of an eye.  Paul’s talking about a “split-second” in time folks, in less time than it takes to blink one’s eye every Believer will be “out of here.”   

All at once, we will be changed; glory, incorruptibility, power; a spiritual body, i.e. we all will be like Christ.  There’s no possible way for us to fully comprehend what this means right now on this side of glory – let’s be real!  For this perishable (body) must put on the imperishable, and this mortal (body) must put on immortality (v53).  Paul’s saying the body that had been sown was corruptible and mortal and there’s been no change in the body of those who are still alive at the Lord’s coming, obviously.  But in the twinkling of an eye the perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality in order to inherit God’s kingdom.  Thinking on this a bit, right now every Believer, thanks to the indwelt Holy Spirit and God’s good Grace is making changes, removing bad habits, as they move forward in life, not to earn God’s favor but to be more like His Son.  But this metamorphosis is so slow.  However, when the Lord comes for us, in the twinkling of an eye, this change will be instantaneous – for we will be (instantly) like Him!

Let’s go to verses 54-55.

But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.  “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O    DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”  (Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 13:14)

With feeling, Paul asks and then answers one more two-fold question referencing Hosea 13:14 specifically, “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O  DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”  Now that’s a profound question, requiring some thought, but our Apostle Paul comes at it from Scripture’s perspective and not man’s.  How do we know this?  Paul gives the answer in the next verse: 

56: The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  It is sin that makes death hurt so much for death is the result of sin.  In Romans 3:20b Paul wrote:  for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.  In Romans 5:12 Paul wrote:  Therefore, just as through one man (Adam; and not the woman) sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men (and women), because all sinned –

In Romans 6:23 Paul wrote: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Indeed, the sting of death is sin!

O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY?  What makes the grave so victorious in the end?  What gives it its power?  The power of sin is the law, said Paul (v56).  The Law was given “so that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God” (Romans 3:19b).  It always works in favor of the accuser.  It does not, in any way, defend the sinner.  Thus, says Paul, “the Law brings about wrath…”  Without a doubt, “the strength of sin,” or the power that convicts us of sin, resides in the Law. 

With the Law, then, pronouncing us guilty, how is it we have victory in death?  Paul answers this question in verses 56-57.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul said the Law brings about wrath.  This book says it’s a curse to us but (Behold the underlying Truth) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE” – (Galatians 3:13).

The Closing Practical Application

In verse 58 Paul applies to these Believers (and us) in a most practical way, the great truths he has been teaching:

58: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

In summarizing Paul is basically saying the Corinthians should retain their hope, for he wrote earlier that there is no need to think there is hope only in this life.  He encouraged them to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.  To be sure doing the Lord’s work here on earth may bring on some degree of “suffering,” as Paul said he risked his life daily for the gospel.  I don’t think people are going to be persecuted to that degree here in the USA.  However, you may face ridicule and rejection by mentioning the gospel to someone.  But remember Paul said your labor for the Lord is not in vain. 

This exhortation implies that the daily pressures we all experience have a tendency to discourage us and could, at times, make us feel like “throwing in the towel,” but knowing our glorious future awaits is the answer to all these daily trials!  Note the absence of a single negative comment in this exhortation.  Paul doesn’t say, “Do not be discouraged; don’t give up, don’t quit on the Lord.”  Instead he says, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”  And the reason for this stirring request comes next:  knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”  The best is yet to come!

(To be continued)

© Copyright 2011
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved