I cannot really imagine how difficult Paul’s job was. Not only did he have to convince folks that Jesus died and rose again – an incredible tale in and of itself - but he also had to convince them that the reason Jesus died was to give to all the same opportunity. Throughout this Chapter 15 of 1st Corinthians he does this is a number of ways.
First, he reiterates the resurrection of Christ, as told not just by Paul, but by the other apostles. Paul reminds the Corinthians that he is nothing special, but a sinner like everyone else, as if to say “Don’t listen to me, listen to the apostles who were actually there and saw it all.” Paul uses this argument in many of his writings very convincingly, given his background as a Pharisee who at one time had dedicated his life to killing new Christians.
Second, he refers back to the Old Testament prophesies. That is to say, if you believed in the Old Testament, how can you not believe in Christ. He uses passages from Isaiah, Genesis and Hosea to make his point – most particularly in today’s readings he quotes from Isaiah “Death has been swallowed up in victory”. How can death be a victory if there wasn’t something more to it, like a resurrection of the dead?
Third, he agrees that this is a mystery. It may be hard to believe, but it is truly so simple, so freeing and it makes such perfect sense. If being resurrected with Christ is not the point of death, then what’s the point of living? After all, death is inevitable – “the trumpet will sound”.
Finally, Paul encourages the readers – with all this to look forward to, stand your ground. Don’t hold back in your work for the Lord because it will not be in vain. The reward is so much greater than the cost; but, as with most prizes, it can be hard to always remember that. And that is, after all, the point of this Chapter – to convince new Christians – and all of us as well – that to follow the way of Christ is the path to everlasting life. Not an easy task, indeed.