Dying in Faith
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20).- 1 Corinthians 15:1–58
As we continue our look at what it means to live by faith, we will look today at one of the most important questions in human experience. No matter one’s religious, cultural, or philosophical background, all people want to know if life continues past the grave.
Immanuel Kant possessed one of the greatest minds in the history of Western philosophy. His teachings regarding epistemology and ethics still influence our thinking today. We shall look briefly at his ethical theory as a precursor to today’s passage.
Kant recognized that, try as we might, we cannot make our consciences go away. Our sense of right and wrong motivates us to act ethically and morally in certain ways. Without these ethics and morals, there would be utter chaos in society.
Kant rightly argued that living a moral life only makes sense if there is justice. We sacrifice our self-interest for the good of others only if we know that we will be rewarded. However, since justice is not perfect in this life, the only way for justice to prevail is if there is an afterlife. Moreover, the only way justice can prevail in the afterlife is if there is a judge who is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly just.
This description sounds a lot like God as He is presented to us in Holy Scripture. Kant said we must live as if this God really existed in order to live ethical lives and preserve society.
However, as later philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out, living as if God exists makes no difference if, in the end, He does not exist. If there is no God, then we should do whatever we want.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul enters into dialogue with this nihilistic assumption. Paul says that if Christ is not raised, then there is no God and that we must live however we want to live (vv. 12–19; 32). Without the resurrection of Christ to vindicate His claims about God and the life to come, then we ought to “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
But thanks be to God, Christ has been raised from the dead, guaranteeing our future resurrection and that justice will indeed prevail (vv. 20–28; 50–58). Most importantly, the faith that we have in Jesus’ being raised is not a blind, irrational faith; rather, it is a faith based on the authority of the trustworthy apostolic witness we find recorded in the pages of Holy Scripture (vv. 1–11).
The resurrection of Christ guarantees that He has made an effectual sacrifice for sin and that we too will one day be resurrected. It guarantees the justice of God and gives us hope in the midst of this evil world. Thank God for raising Christ from the dead, and strive to live your life in anticipation of this glorious hope.
Passages for Further Study