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1 Corinthians 15:12-20 Study Guide: Being Raised with Christ

Community Group Study Guide — Being Raised with Christ
1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Main idea:
The good news of Jesus is bound up in his resurrection from the dead. Jesus did not stay in the tomb but was raised to new life and followers of Jesus can have a true and real hope that their faith is not in vain, forgiveness of sins are found in Jesus and they have a hope beyond this life. 

Study Information:
One of the ongoing issues in the Corinthian church was a misunderstanding of how the physical and spiritual relate to one another. For example, earlier on Paul addressed how the Corinthians struggled with sexual immorality and bought into the idea of “it’s just a physical act;” Paul corrected them because they were actually becoming “one-flesh” and as followers of Jesus they were a dwelling place for God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). Likewise, eating meat previously sacrificed to idols was more than just a nice meal, for some it led to the worship of demons (1 Corinthians 10:14-22). The confusion of the spiritual and physical has spilled over into their views on the resurrection and there was a rumor spreading in the church that Christ had not been physically raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12). Paul wants us to understand the necessity of the physical resurrection of Jesus to our faith. Removing the reality of the resurrection from our faith is like trying to remove all the bottom blocks of the “Jenga” tower, the whole thing crumbles. The reality of the resurrection changes everything. The rest of 1 Corinthians 15 will detail all the ways the resurrection is central to true Christian faith and in this section Paul ties the resurrection to a true and useful faith, forgiveness of sin and a real hope. 

A Solid Foundation for Faith:
1 Corinthians 15:12-16
We can often looks back at the ancient world and think that they had no problem with believing things that were supernatural but we see here that this is not the case. In verse 12 Paul comments on how there was a fairly large group of them in the church who struggled to believe that a human being could be dead for three days, sealed up in a tomb and then be raised in a new glorious body. Ancient Jews would affirm a physical resurrection at the end of time for everybody all at once; but the idea of a resurrection in the middle of history was preposterous. Likewise, the Greek and Roman world shunned the physical body so for them any sort of resurrection would be “spiritual” and not physical. Yet what actually happened in the resurrection of Jesus goes against both those assumptions. Jesus was raised in the middle of redemptive history as a forerunner for all united to him in faith and this resurrection is not just “life after death” but a profoundly physical reality stretching on for all eternity that Paul will go into great detail with later on in 1 Corinthians 15. But for our passage today, if there was no physical resurrection of Jesus then your faith, forgiveness and hope are useless.  

The resurrection of Jesus, our future resurrection and God’s promise to renew the physical world are all pat of God’s total plan of redemption (Revelation 21-22). If our main problem is sin and death which began with Genesis 3 and sin’s presence in the world then we need a solution that addresses both sin and death. Sin and death create a barrier between us and God and a fracturing of the physical world. Whatever God does in his plan of redemption needs to address both of those realities. Jesus died for our sins as a propitiation (removal of wrath) and to pay our debt of sin; but since we also have a death problem Jesus did not stay in the tomb but was raised so we could experience newness of life. Jesus’ resurrection is an utter defeat of death’s power and victory. Paul tells us as much in verses 13-15, if there is no resurrection of the dead then Jesus is still in the tomb and our faith is in vain and we’re found to be misrepresenting God. Without the resurrection your faith in Christ is useless; there’d be no promise of eternal life with God, no defeat of death and no new creation to look forward to. Jesus resurrection is the foundation on which Christian faith is built you cannot remove the reality of the resurrection and still have what we’d call a “Christian faith.” 

The Fulfillment of Forgiveness of Sin:
1 Corinthians 15:17
To deny the resurrection is also to deny justification by faith. Justification by faith is the doctrine that our sins are forgiven, because of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, through placing our trust in the person and work of Jesus. For Paul this doctrine is tied to the doctrine of the resurrection because forgiveness of sin is bound up experiencing new life. The resurrection is a promise of new life and that new life begins with being made a “new creation in Christ Jesus” and is fulfilled in our future resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:17). Without Jesus being raised our faith is “useless” and we’re still stuck in our sins and we cannot experience new life. Praise God that because of Jesus’ defeat of death that we are no longer “in sin” but are “in Christ” and have freedom and redemption in him.

A Real Hope
1 Corinthians 15:18-20
Without the resurrection, death would have the final word and we’d be without hope. If you have been to a memorial service of a Christian you know how hope filled and joy filled they can be as we reflect upon the faithfulness of God in that individual’s life. Yet, those who do not know Christ grieve differently and as Paul would say “as those without hope.” You see Paul’s hopefulness reflected in how he talks about departed believers, they are not “dead” but rather “fallen asleep” because death is not a permanent state for them. The resurrection gives us a hope that this earthly life is just a foretaste of joy and that death is not the end. 

The resurrection also pulls us to hope in something more certain than what we can see and experience in this world. We do not live with just this earthly life in mind but also in view of eternity. If our hope is in this life only we are to be pitied above all others. If there was only hope in this life then you’d better try get every once of please and purpose you can from however many days you have. If your only hope was to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die, then you better live for yourself and get as much as you can out of this world. If there was no resurrection and no future hope and you still followed Christian teaching you’d be living a pitiable life in Paul’s mind. We do not just follow Christian teaching around obedience to Christ and morality because it is wiser or leads to a happier life or because they’re some sort of path to self-actualization. We are called to live sanctified lives because we are not our own but belong to God and are “in Christ.” God is at work in us to free us from the power of sin and help us to walk in newness of life and the resurrection is the sign and power of that reality. The resurrection means that we have hope in someone outside of ourselves and this world is filled with some really good things and with joy but they’re just a foretaste of what we will experience in New Creation. This is why Paul ends with a resounding hopefulness in verse 20, in fact Christ has been raised from the dead and is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. Paul does not want to leave us hanging about all the things that we’d be missing without the resurrection but ends this section with abounding confidence that we have a solid faith, forgiveness of sins, freedom from death and a true and real hope in Christ. Rather than denying the resurrection, the Corinthians should long for the resurrection to be true because faith, forgiveness, and hope all hinge on its reality. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-20

What are all the benefits of the resurrection for a believer listed in these verses?

Read Romans 6:1-11. How do these verses help us understand what Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians 15:12-20? How does the resurrection tie into followers of Jesus “walking in newness of life?”

What does it mean to put our hope in this life only?

What questions are you still left with after studying this passage? How can you or your community group take some steps in exploring answers to those questions?

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