"I Am What I Am": Resurrection and Grace in 1 Corinthians 15


In Chapter 15 of the first letter to the church in Corinth,  Paul brings his readers back to the heart of their commitment to Christ. If there if one core truth that ought to provide the foundation for their lives, this is it:

 “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken a firm stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of primary importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.  (15:1-8)

The city of Corinth offered a lot of ideas about what should guide someone's life. It was a city of temptations, pleasure, and distractions of all kinds, full of popular slogans that were easy to say and dreadful to live:

“Everything is permissible” (6:12; 10:23)“The Food for the Stomach and the Stomach for Food” (6:13) •“Let us Eat and Drink, for Tomorrow We Die!”  (15:32)

People in the Corinthian church were not immune to the influence of their city.  Even as followers of Christ, they used the first slogan to justify flaunting their freedom in Christ, the second as an excuse for sexual immorality, and the third to live like there was no tomorrow.  Somewhere, I suspect there is Greek version of YOLO carved in temple stone.

Paul refocuses them on the person of Christ.  Jesus was dead, and He’s not anymore. He conquered death. There is no greater miracle. There is no greater sign of power. There is no other aspect of our faith that trumps this one. If Jesus rose from the dead, everything changes. Paul should know:

"For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. I have worked harder than all of them—yet I can’t take the credit for what I have accomplished.  God has been working through me by His grace. Whether, then, it is I or they who preach this message, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-11)

Paul reminds them, “I was who I was.” He earlier referred to himself as "one abnormally born."  This world literally referred to a miscarriage or an abortion. It was a slang term used by the common people in Rome to describe Senators who got into the Roman senate by favor or bribery. They were "abortives"  -  they did not deserve to be there.  Paul says that's who he was.  Then he says, “By the grace of God, I am something different and new.  Look what God’s grace can do.”

Paul was dead in his sins; now he was alive because of Savior who was once dead came back to life, and it changed everything.  Later in the chapter he calls Jesus the “firstfruits,’ which is just another way of saying, “Look what Jesus started. Now, people who are dead can be brought back to life.”

    A God of Resurrection can resurrect you. 

Because Christ died and rose again, those things within us that have died can be brought back to life. Our passions, emotions, longings, loneliness, our despair, our depression, our aimlessness, our grief - all can be made new.

 Because Christ died and rose again, death is not the end. 

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you."  (1 Corinthians 15:58)