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1 Corinthians 15:29-34 - Homilies By E. Hurndall

Some things float follow upon the denial of the resurrection.

I. THE FOLLY OF SELF DENIAL AND SUFFERING FOR CHRISTIANITY . These must be branded as imbecile; yet they have ever seemed most sublime. But if there be no resurrection (the resurrection of the body being vital to the gospel and all its hopes, as Paul has shown in preceding verses of this chapter), the argument for such conduct fails. Why order one's life for a future which will never be realized? Why suffer for a lie as though it were a truth? There were some who had been "baptized for the dead"—an obscure expression, but probably meaning baptized to take the place of those who had suffered martyrdom. Why should these court so stern a fate if Christianity were a deception? The apostle had "fought with beasts at Ephesus"—probably figurative, to express his contest with beastlike men. He "died daily" in his faithfulness to his commission as a preacher of— what? Ah! upon the what depended everything. According to the answer, Paul was an utter fool or a marvellously heroic saint. If there was no resurrection, and if therefore the gospel fell to the ground, he was undoubtedly the former.

II. THE REMOVAL OF RESTRAINTS FROM INDULGENCE AND VICE . The denial of the doctrine of the resurrection involved the denial of the gospel, and with this perished the hope of salvation. Christians thus became as men of this world, having no bright hope of the hereafter. Consequently the check upon natural appetite was removed. Common sense would seem to favour a life of Epicurean pleasure. If there be no hope concerning the world to come, let us make the best of the world that now is: "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die." "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." The apostle is not supposing that there is no future existence. By "the resurrection" in this chapter he means the resurrection of the body, but he shows that with the rejection of this doctrine Christianity is destroyed, and here he is showing that if Christianity be destroyed the incentives to a pure and virtuous life are removed. His thought seems to be that, apart from Christianity, there is nothing in the world which will constrain men generally to live great and noble and self-denying lives. And this is a matter for our most serious reflection. If Christianity be done away with, what is there which will restrain men from indulgence and vice? No other religion can compete with Christianity; if it falls, all religion is doomed. Can philosophy do the practical work required? Alas! it is possible to be a very excellent philosopher and a very poor moralist. Will general education restrain men? It will, when cleverness and goodness mean the same thing, but not before! Will art and refinement effect what is needed? The palmiest days of art have been the days of most glaring obscenity, and refinement has shown over and over again how easily it allies itself with brutal lust. If Christianity falls, the prevailing doctrine amongst men must be, "let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die."

II. CAREFULLY SHOULD WE GUARD AGAINST EMBRACING THIS FATAL OPINION . We may find difficulty in believing the doctrine; we shall find disaster in rejecting it.

1. The apostle notices one thing very likely to lead us astray. "Evil communications [or, 'evil company'] corrupt good manners"—a line borrowed from the Greek poet Menander. "Can a man touch pitch and not be defiled?" Many mix amongst the ungodly, confident in strength, and fall. We need remember that, in our present state, we are more easily influenced towards the wrong than the right. Our minds are not equally poised. There is already a bias. Strange that those who are so bold to venture into the atmosphere of moral evil shun that of physical evil. A professing Christian will company with an arrant unbeliever, but not with a man suffering from small-pox.

2. Sin must not be yielded to. ( 1 Corinthians 15:34 .) Those who live in sin easily persuade themselves of the truth of anything which they would like to be true. As denial of the resurrection leads to sin, so sin leads to the denial of the resurrection. Sin blinds the intellect as well as corrupts the heart.

3. If we have been at all betrayed, we should at once seek to recover our position. "Awake to righteousness," or, "awake up righteously." We are more than half asleep if we deny that for which there is abundant evidence. We need to rub our eyes or to ask the great Physician to touch them. "Awake," or "be sober." The condition of those who deny the resurrection is one of carnal intoxication. In denial our faces are towards evil; in assent and reception we turn towards righteousness. "Righteousness" in the world depends, according to the apostle, upon the reception of this doctrine, because with it stands or falls Christianity itself.

4. Denial involves ignorance of God. ( 1 Corinthians 15:34 .) To the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, Christ said, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God" ( Matthew 22:29 ). Men say, God cannot do this thing; but with him "all things are possible." True knowledge of God marvellously helps our faith. We doubt and question, not because we know so much, but because we know so little. The Corinthians boasted much of their knowledge; here Paul charges them with gross ignorance.—H.

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