connecting theology and life in gospel-centred ways to the glory of God and our joy in Him
Another quick note to begin – wow Mark Baddeley talks fast! I’ve done my best again with these notes, but if I’ve missed something or you can add to them let me know in the comments below!
Talk 4 | Fruit and Framework (1 Cor 15:42-58; 1 Corinthians 12)
Introduction – Two Visions of Community and the Goal
Let’s recap briefly where we’ve been.
If you have Christ you have everything, if you lose Christ you lose everything.
The heart of being a Christian is being united to Christ – to be joined to him and bound to him. The Bible uses a range of ways to speak about this – the incarnation (Christ uniting himself to us by taking on our nature which enables him to take our sin and give us his qualities in a new way), and the symbol of baptism which is a symbol of our union with Christ.
Faith and union that comes with faith, begins to bear fruit in our lives. We’re saved from hell and judgement – and we’re also saved from sin itself. We’re delivered from evil’s hold on us and have a new capacity to live. We walk in ways which take on the qualities of being in union with Christ. This is not a law driven exercise but is fundamentally a grace-driven exercise.
All of this fits with our humanity – God has made us in a way that makes all of this possible. The gospel message doesn’t contradict or oppose our humanness, it fits perfectly with who we are made to be.
All of the above are from yesterday’s talk. So let’s take all of that for a drive – let’s see what it can do when we put it through its paces.
Question: in the light of the issues of our world today, namely debates around sexuality, how does Union with Christ help us understand these issues? We’ll begin to unpack the answer to this over the final two talks.
We’re going to see how these ideas also interact with community and the end goal.
In Australia the idea of community is lessening. All the data indicates that more people are isolated and less connected to friends and family. This has created an explosion of mental health issues and has caused our life expectancy to go down.
Capitalism doesn’t help – as it drives us from job to job and we’re constantly moving. It takes time to build relationships – 15 years to build roots! How can that happen if people are constantly moving?
Technology hasn’t helped either – we have lots of easy connection and easy relationships online. So even when we are in a place we’re not really invested in that space.
One of the big drivers of the big collapse of community is the vision of happiness and authenticity we looked at yesterday. In order to pursue happiness and authenticity we need to get rid of that which ties us down – and people tie us down. Community only works if everyone in the community is prepared to submit themselves to the community – to let go of our personal desires. That contradicts the pursuit of happiness and authenticity in our world today.
There’s lots of talk of community but Aussie society has worked efficiently to remove all kinds of ways that build community. Work – and travel to work – makes people less connected to the local communities. Holidays are done away from home. Everything serves the happiness of the individual and so community has to bow to that.
Sporting clubs and churches are the only few spaces left that actually produce community. To the degree that anything takes the place like that are little groups that are built around shared interests – board games, hobbies, etc. But these communities tend to be shallow and less inclusive – because they are focused around one single passion/interest and are focused on meeting the happiness of the members.
Aussie society is now struggling with this – it wants community but avoids community, thus leading to isolation and unhappiness. Community gets in the way of pursuing happiness and authenticity – so there’s a constant search looking for a community to suit you. But this is fantasy land. Possibly some of the zeal around some of the moral issues of our day – Black Lives Matter, CRT, etc – these movements could be offering a belonging and a place for people who lack community. A way of belonging to something bigger than yourself, where you’d be willing to sacrifice things for that greater good.
So, what about hope?
It’s hard to work out what Aussie society is looking for in regards to hope. This is arguable one of the distinguishing features of Aussie society – there is no hope, there is no end game. There is only infinite war – a process of liberation, no sense that you’ll ever be finally liberated. It’s pretty clear now after around 100 years of liberating people they are still searching for ‘liberation’.
Arguably Aussies feel less happy and less authentic than ever before – but they fight on. The barriers need to be detected and brought down. What we see around sexuality and gender identity is part of that journey – a liberation process… but to what end?
In this way the journey is the destination, there’s no final stop to get off on. All there is… is a fight.
Our union with Christ sheds new light on these pursuits. Our hope, our eschatology, gives us a different light.
Where Christ is Taking Us: Resurrection and Transformation
The Christian faith has a hope – which is fundamental to the faith. Take away the hope, the destination, and the gospel becomes utterly pointless.
Paul makes this point in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 – hear how different that is to the Aussie view of the journey as the destination. If in Christ we have hope only we are to be the most pitied of all people. If you die and there is no resurrection then forgiveness is only for this life. Life may be lived for Christ but if in the end there’s nothing that’s it. Death brings to an end our adoption as children of God. If the gospel only offers hope for this life alone that is pitiable.
What Paul is doing in these verses is showing us that hope is utterly fundamental to the Christian faith. All he argues in this section is take out the resurrection of the dead. And in taking this one thing out he shows that everything in the Christian life is worthless.
Because our hope is connected with our union with Christ our hope is certain. Hope in our Aussie society has a ‘leap of faith’ kinda of connotation. But in Scripture it is certain. It is powerful and changes you now. There is no possibility of hope not coming to pass (double negative intended) – because of our union with Christ.
1 Cor 15:20-24 – having run his hypothetical of no resurrection Paul returns to what he has witness and believed: Christ has been raised from the dead. It’s not a nice religious thought – it actually happened in our world and history. That is a stunning point in thinking about this – this has actually occurred. Using that language of first fruit he is saying that Christ was not raised as an individual but had knock on effects for everyone else because of his connection with them. HE is the first fruit, the first sign and instalment of what is to come – there is a fundamental connection in what happens with him will happen to others. The first fruits language means that it’s not just for him but for others to come as well.
Jesus is the representative for all of his followers. Like the PM who declares war on Indonesia – then all Aussie citizens are at war. His decision affects all. Adam did that for us as well – he led us all in sin. Christ, the second Adam, leads his people towards hope.
Through the resurrection Jesus doesn’t just rise for himself, everyone rises up with him.
The certainty of this means that the effects of Jesus’ resurrection MUST flow to us. Our resurrection has already occurred the moment that Jesus was raised. Yes, there’s a delay – but the delay is not about what might happen, it’s already determined for his people. Our bond with Christ means that his resurrection has already made our resurrection occurred – we’re just waiting for it to be revealed. Our certainty is grounded in our union with Christ.
A third aspect of our union – Christians have, arguably, the weirdest and most ridiculous of hopes. We believe that people will get their bodies back. Despite the fact that their bodies may be burned or decayed, atoms recycled – our hope is that we will get our original bodies back. Despite the fact that our bodies demands and limitations are frustrating.
We maintain our bodies, exercise, clean, remove its waste products – our bodies are not that attractive and they get more decrepit as we get older. Yet Christians believe we’ll get a body back!
Why is this? The salvation that God gives us is as embodied persons. Yet, we don’t just get our bodies back – the bodies get changed, transformed. Life and eternity is not going to be like life in the Garden. They are not the same as our present bodies – nor the same as Adam’s bodies. Our hope for a future body is grounded again in our union with Christ.
1 Cor 15:35-41 – Paul is on the offense in this part. He speaks of a radically different body. The bodies of humans, animals, fish and birds are all quite different. The splendour of an earthly body is very different to a heavenly body. Even those bodies in the sky – the stars – vary from one another. Point – our experience suggests that there is a wide arrange of differences of bodies. So don’t think that your own experience of a body is the only thing that we will get. There is a transformation – like the difference between a seed and a plant.
1 Cor 15:50-57 – There are three ways our transformation will be massively huge and different to our present experience.
First – the previous body is perishable, weak, and filled with dishonour and shame. And in each case our raised body will be the opposite – raised imperishable, powerful, and in glory and honour. He’s not saying we die on a scale as a 1-2 and are raised with a 10. That would be imaginable. What Paul is saying is so different to our experience. Qualitatively opposite.
If what I’m about to experience qualitatively different then I can’t understand what it is. I can have a vague sense of what that is, but I can’t explain clearly what that will look like because I have no frame of reference for what that is like. I have no experience of it. It’s the inversion of all my personal experience. Our hope is so breathtaking that this is what is coming for our bodies. It’s human life but way more glorious than what even Adam had. It’s human life with all the limitations taken away.
Second – there are two completely different kinds of bodies. Sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body.
Third – 15:50 – flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. By this he means normal natural bodies designed to live in this creation. That body cannot inherit the Kingdom of God – because the new Kingdom is imperishable. It operates on a completely different set of rules. The body designed for this world isn’t fitted for that world to come. Our body is designed for this world of limitations. Paul’s solution: transformation. The perishable puts in imperishability, the mortal puts on immortality. The lie of the serpent is shown to be a lie – because he will already give us likeness to him.
There can therefore be no place for death in the new creation. Death will be an impossibility. Death will die – it will cease to be a fact. So that’s why even those who have died already will experience the resurrection of the dead.
So why does this hope take this amazing turn? Because of our union with Christ. Resurrection involved transformation because resurrection involves being united to Christ.
How Christ is Taking Us: Church
So, briefly, what does this have to do with church?
1 Corinthians 12
If Christianity is about a relationship with God that comes by faith as I hear the word – why do I need to muck around with church/community? Why is a solo-Christianity not a valid option? Answer: union with Christ. The fundamental reason why the church exists and why it matters is because of the way that God saves us by uniting us to Christ.
1 Cor 12:12-13 – when the Spirit baptises/joins us to Christ he joins us to everyone else who has been joined to Christ. If I have been connected to Christ and you are connected to Christ, then simply by that reality alone then you and I are connected to each other.
By trusting Christ you are getting Christ… and you are getting the rest of us as well! If you belong to Christ by faith then you belong to everyone else who has done that as well. It’s not just you and Christ, you are a member of the body.
The church, the Christian community, isn’t something that is there for you (or just good for you), it’s not there to polish up your relationship with God – these are bonds you cannot choose. You don’t connect with people in church for your own payoff – it’s just part of the package of having Christ, and you now have obligations to them. And what happens to them now matters to you.
That really matters for our world to get – you don’t have to like us, we don’t’ have to like you. We might not grab coffee, we might struggle to speak to each other, we might not have friendship grounds – but that doesn’t matter at the core. We’re not a friendship group, nor a society of like-minded people, we are a body of Christ. We are made up of a genuinely diverse group. The only thing that binds us together is Union with Christ.
It is impossible to be a Christian without the church. Do try to do so is to deny Christ and not abide in him. The Christ you are joined to by faith has a body.
Church is not optional, it’s necessary.
All of us joining to Christ by faith turns us into the body of Christ and joins us to each other. So without any choice in the matter we need each other and depend on each other, we’re also affected by each other.
1 Cor 12:21-26 – when we understand that we are forced into church in this way, when we have not voluntarily chosen this body, then we cannot find something which is worse for the Aussie view of happiness and flourishing!
But that is the nature of church. Our lives are tied together – so if one hurts we hurt, if one flourishes we flourish.
This is not an accident. God wants it this way. The Aussie approach to happiness and authenticity, and how that destroys our ability to form real community, is inhuman. It isn’t good. It destroys the image and likeness of God in us. To become a part of the body, to need others, to be affect by others, whether you want that to happen or not, to be bound to them and not to have chosen who gets the privilege of who you are tied to – that is good. That is what it means to be really human. That is the image and likeness of God at work.
The gospel saves us so that we can love God and love our neighbour – to be connected to God and our neighbour. The gospel isn’t just connected us to God and leaving us alone and solitary like Adam in the Garden. The gospel reconnects us to each other – reconnecting us in a ways that we keep trying to loosen because the snake keeps getting in our ears.
Church is the way that Christ saves us – he saves us by connecting us with bonds so strong that we form a single body and depend on each other and suffer and rejoice with each other.
Both our hope and our place in the church are the fruits of our union with Christ.
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