Biblical study series for this week on the Social Gospel Blog with Minister & Author Paul J. Bern will be part 3 of Acts chapter 2, on the continuing relevance of the Day of Pentecost https://www.social-gospel.net/so/58NN32iTV
The Apostle Paul’s Teachings About the Resurrection of Christ (part 1)
(1st Corinthians chapter 15, verses 20-33)
During last week’s study of the first 19 verses of First Corinthians chapter 15, we left off where the apostle Paul was reminding the early Church of the truthfulness and authenticity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the morning of the third day after he was crucified. You will recall that Paul asked pointedly how anyone could not believe in Christ’s resurrection, followed by his emphatic statement that those Christians who don’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection believe in vain, and they will thus die in their sins, with their souls unable to be saved. I’d say that’s pretty blunt and direct, wouldn’t you? Frankly, I couldn’t agree more on this point. Any ‘Christian’ who doesn’t believe in a personal, 1-on-1 relationship with Jesus Christ, and that Jesus was crucified, died on a cross, only to be raised from the dead 3 days later, is wasting their time attending church on Sunday mornings. They should stay home and wax their vehicles instead. And now I will take up Paul’s train of thought where he left off as he wrote it, beginning in verse 20.
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn; Christ, the first-fruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he has ‘put everything under His feet’. Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When He has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to Him, so that God may be all in all.” (1st Corinthians chapter 15, verses 20 thru 28)
When Paul called Christ “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep”, he was referring to an ancient tradition of Judaism that is based on the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Old Testament from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The ‘festival of first fruits’ involved the farmers and livestock herders bringing one tenth of their initial harvest or their mature livestock to the temple as a living sacrifice to be given unto God for atonement for their sins. And so Jesus was, in effect, the first-fruits offering for all of humankind. The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ was a pure atonement offering made unto God consisting of Christ himself as a living sacrifice for sin. In the course of making this offering, Jesus became the new covenant between God and humankind and the new sacrificial sin offering, taking the place of the old, which was the law of Moses.
Unfortunately, there pervades a teaching of sorts within the modern churches that says – quite presumptuously – that both laws are in effect, and that although Christ died and was resurrected on the third day and so saved us from our sins, we are still obligated to give a tenth of what we earn, or own, or a combination of the two, at every service. This is NOT what the Bible says at all, and if those within the church who are demanding 10% of everyone’s wages would bother to read it, they would see that they are seriously in error. Unfortunately for the greater Church, the ones who are disseminating this wrong teaching are the same “ministers” who have turned their houses of worship into profitable enterprises. Such pastors and evangelists, if they do not repent of this, are not saved by the blood of Christ like they think they are. At the end of their lives, their expectation of eternal reward because their churches were “successful” will turn to terror when they learn their fate. And then it will be too late. How tragic for them. If only they would have read their Bibles once in a while instead of preaching about ‘tithing’, or abortion, or homosexuality to the exclusion of nearly everything else, their error would then become apparent to them. And yes, that’s still another prophecy.
The tithe, as the Word calls it, was offered as the sacrifices that were made on the feast days that God directed the ancient Israelite’s to celebrate, such as Passover, first fruits, and the Feast of Tabernacles, among others. They were also offered on the Sabbath day, the seventh day of the week according to the book of Genesis. Interestingly enough, that would mean we are supposed to be going to church on Saturdays instead of Sunday as we do now, if our calendar were to be strictly followed by the modern church. Sacrifices on the feast days instituted in the Law of Moses were mandatory. However, it is doubtful that sacrifices had to be made by every single person at every Sabbath since there were approximately one million Israelite’s encamped in the Sinai desert at its high point before they were given the land of Canaan. In that case, there would still be sacrifices waiting to be offered from the previous Sabbath by the time of the following one, making the offering of so many sacrifices impractical. But the festivals and holy days celebrated from the time of Moses up until now were many days in length, enabling ample time to be made for so many sacrifices.
But the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ changed all that when He made himself the new atonement, the everlasting sacrifice and the propitiation for the numerous sins of all humankind. Jesus is the embodiment of the new covenant, the New Testament and the new offering for us all. So there is no more need to bring a sacrifice to the altar – Jesus has already offered up Himself. To teach and preach that the 10% sacrificial offering must continue to be made brings into question the very reason for Christ’s death and resurrection. How many times must He shed his blood for us all? Without a doubt, once was enough.
So the claim being made by some modern churches that all who congregate must tithe 10% of what they make every single week is not only untrue and unnecessary, it also comes across as a thinly disguised grab for funds by the pastor and senior leadership. This would presumably be for the enrichment of those “in charge”, making God and the monthly electric bill to be little more than afterthoughts. Since only a fraction of the Sunday offerings at churches throughout North America are actually allocated for charitable purposes – with most of the remainder spent on “administrative” expenses like salaries – what we have are an entire host of houses of worship posing as non-profits or as charities that are actually being run like businesses. You know, just like the money-changers in the Temple who were physically removed by Christ himself?
Of course, the flip side of this coin is that this does not excuse us from giving to the church of our choice. Giving at least a little something each week is required for the church to stay in operation. Only those who are unemployed, disabled, or retired for any reason would be exempt from this tradition. The churches have rent or a mortgage to pay, the power bill, and garbage pickup, etc, plus sufficient salaries so the pastor and his/her family may be reasonably provided for, and it all costs money. But as it was in the days when Jesus walked the earth, so it is today with organized religion, as Jesus said when He threw the money-changers out of the temple, “You have taken my Father’s house and turned it into a den of robbers.” That rebuke from Jesus himself still holds true today.
So take my advice, which is based on my own previous experiences with these so-called “churches”. If when visiting a church, or after having joined a church, you hear preaching and teaching about how everyone must give 10% of their earnings each and every week, get out of there at the first opportunity and go find a better church, preferably one whose teachings are grounded in the Word as it is written, rather than those which are taught by men for men. I will now continue at verse 29.
“Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day – I mean that, brothers – just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die’. Do not be mislead: Bad company corrupts good character. Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God – I say this to your shame.” (1st Corinthians 15, verses 29-34)
To clarify this passage of scripture, there was within the early church a practice of being baptized in the place of dead relatives and other loved ones who had died having not had an opportunity to be baptized and to embrace Christ as Lord and Savior. The idea behind this was to make sure that all those with whom we had gone through life’s journey would not be condemned to hell, and that we would someday see our loved ones again when we all get to heaven together. To the best of my knowledge, only the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches still practice this ancient tradition, and then only in the forms of having a service, or a “mass” for the dead, such as on the celebration of All Saint’s Day every fall by those denominations.
Paul the apostle continued by making the point that true believers should be adhering to the Word of God as they have read and learned it, and he is telling them in blunt terms that they needed to stop listening to false doctrines being taught by phony “teachers” of the Bible. The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ, as I pointed out earlier, are completely sufficient for the salvation and redemption of humankind. To not believe in the resurrection of Christ, therefore, is heretical and blasphemous. Ditto for getting baptized in place of someone else, which Christ also made unnecessary. None of these man-made ideas are anywhere in the 4 gospels. But instead, if we stick to God’s word, who lived among us in the form of Jesus Christ, we can’t go wrong. So study the Bible, read what’s in it and put it into practice. It’s the one sure way to know that you are on the right track in life. And when we return next week we’ll go over the second part of Paul’s writings on the resurrection as we move on to part 3 of chapter 15.