Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Jeremiah 13 - The Lord compares the linen loincloth, which he instructs Jeremiah to get, with his people. He is to get it, then hide and neglect it, then fetch it again—it is close to him, then distant, then spoiled and useless to him. This is definitely a very curious image—sexual to a degree, like the spouse-image in some ways, very personal. A last warning is given. It is hard to tell if the words are meant to be Jeremiah’s or the Lord’s: “Give glory to the Lord, your God, before it grows dark; before your feet stumble on darkening mountains; before the light you look for turns to darkness, changes into black clouds” (13:16). When the conquerors descend on Israel from the North, you will ask, “Why has all this happened to me?” It is because of your wickedness. “This your share, the wages of your apostasy. This comes from me. . . because you have forgotten me and put your trust in a delusion” (13:25 JB).
1 Corinthians 15 – Paul repeats to them the very heart of the gospel teaching, which he “received” and which he passed on to them: that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Kephas, then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers on once. . [and] after that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me” (15:3-8).
Christ’s dying must be seen in the context of the scriptures—the scripture's redemption narrative. The NAB note refers us to the following OT texts specifically: Psalms 2:7 and 16:8-11; Is 52:13-53; Hosea 6:2 and the OT references made in Acts 2:27-31; 13:29-39.
The disputed points of this gospel Paul addresses are the following:
The "resurrection of the dead," which Paul argues must be general and applicable to all if it is to be applied to Christ (15:13-16). If there is no resurrection, then Paul says their “faith. . .is empty” (15:14); they are still in their sins (15:17). This seems to put a lid on an exclusively “realized” eschatology. But Christ has been raised. Paul gives an archetypal argument, comparing Christ to Adam: “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life. Paul’s vision of the end times is that Christ will come (15:23), the end will come and reign “until he has put all his enemies under his feet,” destroying every sovereignty and power death included. Then Christ will hand over his kingdom to His father.
Paul goes into a great deal of detail, trying to make sense to his readers of this “resurrection of the dead” idea. Having assured them of its centrality, he now tries to find a way of making it sound reasonable: he argues that death is always necessary for birth. Things must be sown in the ground before they can come forth in new life. He argues that there are different kinds of flesh, and the kind we will have may be very different from the kind we now have (15:39). The seed of this new life is the corruptible flesh we now inhabit, but it can be changed from being “natural” to being “spiritual.” His belief is that the end will come very soon, even before the end of his own generation (15:51). Then death will be “swallowed up in victory” (15:54-55). It is only faith that gives us the “knowledge” that the work we do now for the gospel will not be “in vain” (15:58).
I can related to the idea that the bodies we live in now might be a kind of seed for the springing forth of some kind of existence that we cannot imagine, an existence that will even be bodily—just as any seed thrown into the ground may issue forth in a kind of new life that looks nothing like the seed from which it came; but the limitations of my own experience, the limits imposed by my senses and my imagination, make me wonder if we might have it really all wrong—that maybe our continued existence will only be real to the extent we retain a vision of our interconnected lives, our unity with all people—past, present and future. What we are and do today, in our lives, could make the human life that comes forth in the future far different and better than it could be if we live only for ourselves. But that is all so this-worldly, that sometimes I wonder if that is what Christ meant; or maybe all I am supposed to do is be obedient and not worry about what I cannot understand. It is more likely that.