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The three greatest things

Published at: 17/04

Also available in fr

[Image by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

Three Greatest Things

1 Corinthians 15: 1-22

Corinth like today’s society took pride in its wisdom and wealth. Its two great influences in thought were Stoicism and Epicureanism

Stoic Philosophy

Stoic Principles

  • Nature: Nature is rational.
  • Law of Reason: The universe is governed by the law of reason. ...
  • Virtue: A life led according to rational nature is virtuous.
  • Wisdom: Wisdom is the root virtue. ...
  • Apathea: Since passion is irrational, life should be waged as a battle against it.

A practical application of Stoicism

  • 1: Focus on what you can control.
  • 2: Take action.
  • 3: Be virtuous.
  • 4: Lead by example.
  • 5: Diminish your ego.
  • 6: You’re not entitled to anything.
  • 7: Exercise your will.
  • 8: Practice resilience when faced with obstacles, failure, or tragedy.
  • 9: Choose your response.
  • 10: Be grateful.

Epicurus

We all desire happiness as an end in itself, and all other things are desired as a means for producing happiness Epicurus makes the following claims about human happiness:

  • Happiness is Pleasure; all things are to be done for the sake of the pleasant feelings associated with them
  • False beliefs produce unnecessary pain; among them, that the gods will punish us and that death is something to be feared
  • There are necessary and unnecessary desires. Necessary desires, like desiring to be free from bodily pain, help in producing happiness, whereas unnecessary desires, like desiring a bigger car or a more luxurious meal, typically produce unhappiness
  • The aim is not the positive pursuit of pleasure but rather the absence of pain, a neutral state he calls “ataraxia,” which is freedom from all worry, often translated simply as “inner tranquility.”
  • This state of ataraxia can be achieved through philosophical contemplation rather than through pursuit of crass physical pleasures
  • Happiness is not a private affair: it can be more readily achieved in a society where like-minded individuals band together to help inspire one another’s pursuit of happiness

Epicurus believed that fear of the gods and death were our big challenges and he answered them by teaching that the gods are not interested in our petty affairs and that death is the end, it brings release from pain and anxiety.

“Death is meaningless to the living because they are living, and meaningless to the dead… because they are dead."

The Bible View

A Biblical response to this view is found in 1 Corinthians 15:32 New International Version

If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.

Psalm 14

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.

World’s Greatest Wisdom – wisdom of God

1 Cor. 1:23;

but we announce the crucified Messiah, a scandal to Jews and folly to Gentiles,

1 Cor 2: 2

No: I decided to know nothing in my dealings with you except Jesus the Messiah, especially his crucifixion.

1 Cor 2: 8

None of the rulers of this present age knew about this wisdom. If they had, you see, they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of glory.

Paul shows that the wisdom of the world does not lead to knowledge of God. It is impossible to come to know God through human wisdom, as human wisdom has no power to save anyone. “In the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation to save those who believe” (1:21). Paul makes a strong contrast between the wisdom of the world and the foolishness of the cross. Using logic and wisdom will not persuade an unbeliever, the Holy Spirit convinces of sin and therefore punishment that leads to repentance

John 16:8 New Living Translation

And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.

What makes the Cross powerful?

The resurrection. No resurrection, no power or victory

Romans 1:16 Darby Translation

For I am not ashamed of the glad tidings; for it is God's power to salvation, to every one that believes, both to Jew first and to Greek:

Jon Courson on 1 Corinthians 15

World’s Greatest Victory

Victory over death that leads to eternal life

Evidence of resurrection of Jesus was eyewitness accounts of many disciples. In law multiple eyewitness testimonies are accepted as proof. Scientific proof needs to be repeatable but Jesus was resurrected once. We become false witnesses if we deny what we have seen (1 Cor 15: 15)

If the dead won't be raised to life, we have told lies about God by saying he raised Christ to life, when he really did not.

Baptism for the dead

1 Corinthians 15: 29

Otherwise, what are people doing when they get baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead simply aren’t raised, why should people get baptized on their behalf?

Darby translation

Since what shall the baptised for the dead do if [those that are] dead rise not at all? why also are they baptised for them?

If there is no resurrection of the dead then baptism has no purpose or meaning. Why be baptised into Christ if Christ is not alive, not risen?

World’s Greatest Destiny

1 Cor 15: 20-23

But Christ has been raised to life! And he makes us certain that others will also be raised to life. 21 Just as we will die because of Adam, we will be raised to life because of Christ. 22 Adam brought death to all of us, and Christ will bring life to all of us. 23 But we must each wait our turn. Christ was the first to be raised to life, and his people will be raised to life when he returns.

42 That's how it will be when our bodies are raised to life. These bodies will die, but the bodies that are raised will live forever. 43 These ugly and weak bodies will become beautiful and strong.

Paul had a hidden truth revealed to him, not understood before

1 Cor 15: 51

I will explain a mystery to you. Not every one of us will die, but we will all be changed. 52 It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so we will never die again.

John 14: 2

There are many rooms in my Father's house. I wouldn't tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. 3 After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together.

  • Greatest wisdom is wisdom of God
  • Greatest victory of Calvary
  • Greatest destiny is immortality with Jesus

Foundation stone of all of this is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our faith stands or falls on this one foundation.

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