“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:12 – 14)
I am not sure it is Paul, or whether it is the argument style that was popular at the time that Paul wrote – but it at times sounds like Paul is setting out a belief that is contrary to what we know about him. I suspect it is the latter. And it is an argument style that was very Greek in its origins. So it makes sense that Paul would use it in writing to the Greeks in Corinth.
“We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ–whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (Verses 15 – 17)
The way Paul sets the case, the Greeks in Corinth would be compelled to accept that truth that Paul is teaching, else they are lost.
“Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.” (Verse 18)
And Paul delivers the final piece of his compelling argument. Now I do not have the information at my fingertips, but it seems to me that the Greeks put a great deal of thought and faith into the afterlife. For those not converted to Christianity, they would have the beliefs that we typically think of when thinking about Greek culture. And we know that whatever one’s faith may be, cultural beliefs nudge us and color our faith beliefs. And that is not wrong, nor a sin. We know from missionary trips and experiences that we have heard of that Christians around the world access faith through the lens of their culture, translating basic beliefs into an understanding that resonates with them. And I have to admit, Paul is quite adept at accessing and putting into good use the culture lens of the people he speaks/writes to.
“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” (Verses 19 – 20)
The term “first fruits” sort of puzzled me – did it puzzle you beloved reader? What Paul meant was the Christ was the first to die, and then be raised to new life. I am not sure what that says about the called and chosen people of God who had already died. But then, this is addressed to the Greeks. Paul winds up his argument by saying the first fruits – the best and most perfect – had gone before the believers to show them the way to the life after this, eternal life. Which to the Greek lens of understanding is something highly valued. Yes, I really have to admire Paul for using his understanding of Greek thinking to further his preaching and teaching.
Now, beloved reader, how can you use your unique cultural understanding for the preaching and teaching of the Lord God! Shalom!