Week 34 (August)
"We're atheists," the man at the door explained as he refused to accept the scripture text calendar I was offering him.
A Swiss mission had provided the Florence, Italy church with a quantity of these calendars free of charge. I was using them in some door-to-door canvassing in the apartment buildings surrounding the church.
It was in the second tall building just west of the church that I met the professed atheist. Unfortunately, the man didn't have time to talk, so I was not given a chance to witness to my faith.
I thought, what hopelessness such a person must feel in the face of death. What futility must grip him at times when he realizes that his belief makes death the final victor. [ Missionary stories from Italy ]
I Corinthians stands in great contrast to this philosophy. There Paul reminds us that we Christians have begun an existence that will never end. A glorious change awaits us when our mortal bodies will one day be exchanged for immortal spiritual bodies. That king of all terrors, death itself, will be finally overthrown.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul meets head-on a heretical denial of the Resurrection. Quoting both Isaiah and Hosea in this chapter, Paul also reaffirms his claim to divine inspiration. He caps his argument by asserting that the goal of human existence is life eternal.
The importance of the resurrection of Jesus is made clear: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (15:17). Thus, the doctrine of the bodily resurrection and of the final transformation of Christians in linked to justification and forgiveness of sins.
Unfortunately, Paul was not able to snuff out the denial of Jesus' bodily resurrection with his letter. That denial has lingered on and is with us. Some time ago, a news report in what is now Holiness Today revealed a widespread denial of Jesus' resurrection within leadership ranks of some Christian denominations. The report gave the results of a poll of 10,000 American protestant clergymen. Of those who returned Jeffrey Hadden's questionnaire, one-half of the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and American Baptist ministers said they did not accept as factual the stories of Jesus' physical resurrection from the dead.
I'm glad to be a part of a church that asks its members to clearly affirm their belief that "Jesus Christ died for our sins, and that He truly arose from the dead and took again His body that the bodies of both the just and the unjust shall be raised to life and united with their spirits" ( Nazarene Manual ).
Take note, as well, of Paul's "therefore" at the end of the chapter. Our faith in Jesus as the risen Savior can keep us from being intimidated by the last threats and terrors of a foe whose certain end is near. We can already taste victory. Because of that, we face the future with courage, hope, joy, and a steadfastness of service.
I wrote these devotional thoughts while a missionary in Italy. They originally appeared in the August 24, 1980 edition of Standard, a take-home piece for adult Sunday school classes.
|Christians do have a hope. Eternal life is a quality that begins here and now, but it does project on into the future when death is conquered. [ read more ]|
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