Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Word for Wednesday, 22 April Edition

This week, once again, the Word for Wednesday seems to be happening on Tuesday evening. I work my day job tomorrow, and then I teach afterward, and the scheduled lab is a long one; so I likely won't get back here until Thursday, at best. This week, I'm still in 1 Corinthians, currently chapter 15. I know it's been a couple of weeks now since the church at large celebrated the Resurrection, so maybe a recap of the gospel won't seem timely. On the other hand, when is a bad time to reconsider the center and heart of Christianity? And I have to think that Paul had been over this with the Corinthian believers before ... many times, no doubt. But he saw fit to cover that ground again, and what's a good enough use of an apostle's time is for sure a lot better than a good-enough use of mine ... and yours, too, if I may be so bold. So, verses 1 - 28:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, 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, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit 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 toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For "He has put all things in subjection under His feet." But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
It might be well here to draw a distinction between "the gospel" -- the good news -- and what we know as the Gospels, meaning the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If the little bit of Biblical scholarship that I've read is accurate, this letter to the church at Corinth either predates all the four Gospels or is at least roughly contemporary with them. We are apt to imagine, based on the order in which the writings appear in the New Testament, those early believers starting out with the "data" in the four Gospels, the initial history of the church in Acts, and then the epistles of Paul and the others as footnotes, or commentary, processing that data. What I'm getting at here is that the early Christian believers at Corinth -- and elsewhere -- became believers based on their acceptance of a central fact (the resurrection of Jesus) and a simple, concise theological interpretation of that fact: atonement and salvation. Perhaps they were, and I am, wrong to accept that fact and to believe that theology; I don't think so, but I can't deny the possibility. Still, it's surprising and wonderful to me that the central, irreducible kernel of the whole thing can be said in so few words and in so little time. "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes." (Psalm 118:22, 23)

(For more Words-for-Wednesday, click here.)


Anonymous said...

What, no catechism? No weighty volumes of church doctrine telling us what to believe? No creeds or confessions?

Imagine. The simplicity of faith in our resurrected Christ.

Rebecca said...

You can see this simple truth if you follow Paul's missions-- he preached Christ, Him crucified, and risen. That is essentially it. He didn't preach faith healing (it was by works that he showed his faith), or positive and encouraging words to soothe emotions, nothing like that. I think you're so correct-- in the beginning, there was the preaching of the resurrection!

Corinthians is one of my favorites! Now I am compelled to go read it again! :D

Dauvit Balfour said...

Ahhh, but for us Catholics, we have 8 days in which to celebrate the Feast of Easter (the Octave) and then another 42 of this joyous season before Pentecost. But those are all weighty Church traditions :).

In all seriousness, anytime, but especially any time during the Easter season, is appropriate for these reflections.

@akaGaGa - The teachings of the Apostles spread the faith before the writing of the Gospels, or even of many of the other New Testament works. And yes, they predated the catechism and those weighty volumes of Church Doctrine, but they were concurrent with the Sacraments of Confession ("confess your sins one to another, that ye may be healed..." confession in the early church was public and... eh... reserved for "weighty" matters) and of Baptism and the Eucharist (Breaking of the Bread). Anyway, the Apostles Creed (which no Protestant would argue against, probably with the exception of the line "I believe... in the Holy Catholic Church...") predates even the declaration of the Church that "this is the Canon of scripture", before which there was little to differentiate what became the New Testament from all the other apocryphal gospels and writings. Our faith is beautifully simple and wonderfully rich at the same time.

As for the catechism, I would earnestly challenge any protestant to dive into it's depth and richness. It is not scripture, to be sure, but it is a beautiful, concise, and wonderful explanation of what the Catholic Church teaches and believes, and I think most protestants would be surprised at how many things they agree with (at least in the first 100 or so pages... I have yet a long way to go).

It is a wonderful thing to accept Christ's death and resurrection as the means of our salvation, and to know that he calls us ever higher, every day to serve him and live a life pleasing to him.

David said...

Since I mentioned it above and claimed that most protestants would agree with almost all of it,

The Apostles' Creed:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended to the dead. The third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

Anonymous said...

@David - I grew up reciting the Apostles' Creed, and it didn't make me a Christian. Neither did my infant baptism or my confirmation into the church.

I became a Christian when I repented of my rebellion against God (without the services of a priest, I might add) and received the Holy Spirit into my heart.

And this is my objection to all creeds, confessions, and catechisms. They do not lead people to Christ.

David said...


I appreciate the response. I do not claim that any of these things make one a Christian, any more than attending church makes you a Christian. The purpose of creeds, catechisms, and the like, is not to make one a Christian, but to help one to understand the Christian faith. I grew up in a Protestant home until about 4th grade, at which point my parents reverted to their Catholic roots. I have no doubts of the strength of their Christian faith before or after this conversion. For each person a conversion of the heart is necessary. The sacraments do not make one a Christian, nor does attending church, or even professing faith in Christ. As you pointed out, it is repentance, as an act of the will, in co-operation with God's Grace (which is the source of every Good Thing in our life, and most especially of our understanding of the need for repentance), that makes us worthy of the name Christian.

I entered the Catholic Church in highschool. It was in some sense a defining moment, but I've had to grow and learn since then. I've learned the necessity of answering God's call every day of my life. Being Catholic does not make me Christian; I am Catholic because I find that everything about the Church, when I understand it, helps me to grow in holiness and draw closer to God's love.

So those are my closing thoughts. Sorry, Jim, for cluttering your blog with my Papism :).

Jim Wetzel said...

Sorry I've been gone for a few days -- it's mostly the evening job that's been crowding out the important things, like my online life. Meanwhile, there seems to have been a fairly complete exchange of views here; I don't think I'll add to it.

Except to say: David, your Papism is most welcome, and I hope you'll bring it around more often. I think we're all grownups who love the Lord, and we can surely treat each other well while disagreeing, maybe, about this or that. And who needs an echo chamber, anyway?

Thanks to all who contributed.