Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s Organic 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: 1 Corinthians 15
For better or worse, I have a bias for certain passages, and the first part of 1 Corinthians 15 is one of them. And honestly, approaching my favorite passages can be intimidating. I want to provide a good introduction for those unfamiliar with the passage, supply helpful information to expand others’ understanding of the passage, and show those for whom it might not be a favorite passage why I’m so fond of it. I want to do right by the passage. But my own expectations can be crippling, and here I am searching for pages on Pascal’s Wager when I should be digging into today’s chapter. I can’t cover everything in a single blog post. It’s not gonna be perfect, but let’s get to it.
Paul begins with the gospel. And remember our “The Gospel According to…” series, where we had to dig through the gospel authors’ accounts to piece together what each writer would say the good news about Jesus Christ actually is? Well, Paul doesn’t leave us guessing for a second. He tells us the Gospel According to Paul plainly at the outset: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (3-4). You can hardly hope for a more succinct statement of the gospel. He also cites Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances: to the twelve apostles starting with Peter, to a group of five hundred disciples, to James, and to Paul himself (6-8). The gospel is the grounds for Paul’s expectation of resurrection, and he wants the Corinthians to know that its truth is well-attested, not just by Paul but by hundreds of eyewitnesses.
But apparently the belief that there’s no resurrection isn’t just restricted to the Jewish sect of the Sadducees. Gentiles also are calling resurrection an impossibility, even in the Corinthian church; Paul asks, “[H]ow do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (12). Christianity, he explains, hinges on the resurrection; if Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead, then Paul and his partners are wasting their time preaching, they’re spreading falsehoods about God, and they can expect to die in their sins. He concludes: “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (19). In other words: if you’re a believer and there is no life after death, you backed the wrong horse.
But Paul still stakes his bet on Jesus Christ. He’s confident that he’s right, but he acknowledges that he stands to lose massively if he isn’t. At the risk of oversimplifying Pascal’s Wager–a complex argument from French philosopher Blaise Pascal reasoning that it’s most rational to believe God exists regardless of whether he actually does–Paul’s position has more in common with the song “You Bet Your Life” by Rush than with Pascal’s Wager. As much as Rush tends to take a skeptic’s position on faith, religion, and God, I think they’ve got it right in this song. With their litany of affiliations, “Anarchist, reactionary, running-dog revisionist, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, creation/evolutionist…” Rush comes to a single conclusion: “You bet your life.” They recognize what’s at stake when you commit to what you believe: the stakes are you. You only get one self, and you’ve got to put it down on something.
Paul ends the chapter with an exhortation to his fellow Christians: “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” (58). Paul bets his life on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On what do you bet your life?