SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Stop Sinning - Really?
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 12:30 AM
"If there is no resurrection, "Let's feast and get drunk, for tomorrow we die!" Don't be fooled by those who say such things, for "bad company corrupts good character." Come to your senses and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don't even know God." (1 Corinthians 15:32b-34)
I know what you're thinking. Stop sinning. Did I read that correctly? Did the Apostle Paul really say that, and if so, was he being serious? Well, let's take a closer look at the context to determine precisely what God is saying to us here through His Apostle.
The great discussion here in the fifteenth chapter of this letter is the Resurrection - the historical truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and its full implication for every believer. Paul has proven quite effectively the fact that this doctrine is central to the Christian faith in that if Jesus be not raised from the dead, then, our faith is worthless, we remain in our sins, and are a people most miserable in this world. If Jesus be not raised from the dead, then none of us have a future to look forward to - and this life is all there is - there is no more. Therefore, the best philosophy we can adopt is to "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!"
But Paul rejects this position outright by stating unequivocally: "But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised up to life again." (1 Cor 15:20) Therefore, in light of the resurrection (Christ's own as well as ours) certain duties are placed upon the believer - implications for how each of us are to live. It is with this understanding that the Apostle now says, "Come to your senses and stop sinning." Let me share with you a few thoughts.
First of all, I believe this passage suggests that God would have us (His children) live soberly in this world. That's really what the Greek word which is used here means - Be Sober. In other words, we aren't to go around as in a drunken daze and we aren't to live as if life doesn't matter. The Christian, above all people, is to be an individual who thinks clearly and remains alert to the seriousness of life. Now, please don't interpret that statement as a license to walk around with a frown and a scowl upon your face! Rather, understand that an attitude of apathy (as if what you do doesn't matter) or lethargy (as if there is no need for passion or zeal in your faith) is not to be tolerated within us. There is a spiritual battle being waged all around us. There is a heaven to be gained, a soul to be rescued, a Savior to be honored and glorified. Therefore, Paul exhorts us to WAKE UP!
Secondly, I believe that this passage also warns us that actions have consequences. Even for the believer, choices carry eternal consequences. The decisions we make regarding the company we keep, the projects in which we involve ourselves, the partnerships to which we commit ourselves - these all carry serious consequences and we are to consider them soberly and wisely. Since the resurrection is a reality, we are to conduct ourselves with the understanding that what we do here and now matters. Indeed there comes a day when each of us must stand before the Judge of the living and the dead to give an account of our lives (Rom 14:12). Each man's work either will pass the fire of divine inspection or will be burned up (1 Cor 3:12-15). The reality that the day of our salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed certainly is to impact the manner in which we conduct ourselves (Rom 13:11) and how we choose to employ our days.
Thirdly, let me say that I don't for a moment believe that Paul is suggesting that it is possible for the believer (any of us) to live sinless lives in this world. I know that there are groups out there that foolishly suggest such a thing. But you see, I believe it was a mature Christian (Paul) who wrote what we find in Romans seven: "I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't. When I want to do good, I don't. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. . . It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong." (Rom 7:18-21) So, when you read here, "Stop Sinning!" -- don't be misled into thinking that Paul is suggesting that the right course of action for the believer is to withdraw himself/herself from this evil world. Even Christ Himself did not pray for this on behalf of His followers (John 17:15).
Yes, for sure, we should ever be mindful of the corrupting influences of this fallen world. Bad company can, and often does, corrupt good character. However, nowhere in the Scriptures is the believer led to imagine that this danger is sufficient cause to withdraw from the world to some place of utter isolation in a cave or high atop some pole in the desert (this indeed has been tried!). Rather, we are exhorted to live soberly, and let me add - expectantly - knowing that a resurrection awaits us. We are to Wake Up to the truth that God has called us to live as lights in the midst of darkness. Therefore, wisely and soberly, let your light shine where God has placed you and, by His grace, exert a redeeming effect upon those around you. Think about it!