Do Not be Deceived
1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? 30 And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? 31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!" 33 Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits." 34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to the Christians in Corinth, Greece from Ephesus, Asia (present day Turkey) in A.D. 54-56, during his third missionary journey. These teachings while written to the first century church in Corinth are applicable to all Christians.
In this chapter, Paul is responding to some false teaching in the church in Corinth. The false teaching was that some teachers were denying the bodily resurrection of Christians.
So Paul, in this chapter, is correcting this false teaching. Chapter fifteen is, perhaps, the most comprehensive study of bodily resurrection in the entire Bible.
In this passage, Paul is commenting on the influence of these false teachers in Corinth. The interpretation of this passage must remain in this context.
The false teachers were denying the bodily resurrection of Christians. In the first part of this passage, Paul is pointing out the inconsistencies in this teaching.
He writes “what will they do who are baptized for the dead”, if there is no bodily resurrection (v. 29). This statement does not mean that believers can be baptized for someone who has died and was not a Christian. This interpretation is not supported anywhere else in the Bible and, in fact, is contrary to the overall context of the Bible’s teaching.
The act of baptism is our public announcement that we have become Christians. In the first century church, and even today, this announcement would open up Christians to persecution.
Many who were baptized in the first century church were put to death. Those who came behind them in baptism were thought of as taking their place in the movement. Thus, they were being baptized in place of the ones who had been put to death.
Paul is asking why subject yourselves to such persecution if there is no resurrection? Why even “stand in jeopardy every hour” if there is no resurrection (v. 30)? Why would you want to be constantly threatened if there is no resurrection?
Paul affirms here that his ministry over the years has daily placed him in the position of being a target to be killed by persecutors (v. 31). Paul knows this subject well, since he was the greatest persecutor of the church, prior to his conversion
The literal translation of the Greek in verse 32 is “If according to man I fought with beasts in Ephesus what to me the profit if dead ones are not raised let us eat and drink tomorrow for we die”. The phrase “according to man” means that it was public knowledge that Paul had been persecuted.
Staying within the context of this persecution by men, the word “beasts” refers to those men who persecuted Paul. It is not a reference to Paul being required to fight wild animals by the authorities. Paul was a Roman citizen and, therefore, could not be required to do such things.
Paul’s reference to persecution in “Ephesus” must have referred to recent persecution that he had experienced during his current two year and three-month stay there. He is writing this letter during his first visit to Ephesus.
Since there was no punctuation in the Greek language Paul is applying the phrase in verse 32 “if dead ones are not raised” to what comes before and after that phrase. If the dead are not raised, Paul is saying that we may as well behave in two different ways.
The first is that we should not expose ourselves to such persecution. We should not identify ourselves with Jesus Christ.
Secondly, Paul is saying that we may as well eat, drink, and be merry if this life is all there is. This statement by Paul contradicts those who say that, even if there is not another life, the best way to live this life on earth is to live according to Christian morals.
Living the Christian life means denying ourselves many of the earthly pleasures that non-Christians enjoy. It also means opening ourselves up to persecution from those who do not understand why we won’t join them in their sinful ways. Anyone who becomes a Christian must understand this before signing up. The Christian life is full of sacrifices.
In the last two verses of this passage, Paul concludes by warning the Corinthian Christians of these false teachers. His warning consists of two courses of action.
The first course of action is what they should not do. Paul writes “Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits" (v. 33). If they listen to the claims of these false teachers the Corinthian Christians will be deceived.
The Greek word translated “deceived” is playnasthe which means “to be led astray”. Their good habits will be corrupted if they listen to the false teachers.
The second course of action is what they should do. Paul writes “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin” (v. 34a). Paul has previously ministered to the Corinthian Christians on his second missionary journey.
He has educated them on the nature of righteousness and on the nature of sin. Christians of today are even more educated on these subjects since we have available to us the entirety of God’s Word, the Bible.
Paul states that these false teachers “do not have the knowledge of God” (v. 34b). They are ignorant, uninformed, of God’s Word.
Paul does not like having to rebuke the Corinthian Christians on this subject that he has covered with them previously. He states that they should be ashamed of themselves for believing such nonsense (v. 34c).
In the same way, today, many Christians believe nonsense taught by those who are ignorant of the Word of God. They believe nonsense because they, too, are ignorant of the Bible.
We must equip ourselves so that we are not deceived by the false teachers of today. That requires reading and studying our Bibles. Otherwise, we will fall prey to the sinful teaching of many, including some teachings of some churches and, even, of the Vatican, itself.
Online Bible Commentary