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Monday, November 13, 2017

“Ultimate Thanks”

I Cor. 15:1-11

The apostle Paul is encountering doubts and questions in the church at Corinth. To encourage them he goes over certain essential truths which are just as important for us as they were for them. Paul begins by asserting the basic fact that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” The primary Old Testament text describing the sacrifice for sin is found in Leviticus chapter 16. There atonement (payment for sin) is made by offering two goats. One is sacrificed by the high priest as a “sin offering.”  It bears the consequence for sin which is death. The other however is sent out into the wilderness to “Azazel” who represents the demonic powers to which humanity has become enslaved once we have turned away from God. Too often this double emphasis has been lost. Paul clearly maintains it, as did Martin Luther, in the theme of Christ’s conquest in the cross over the “rulers and authorities” which dominate us (Col. 2:15; Eph. 4:9-10).

Christ’s victory on the cross makes the resurrection inevitable. It was impossible for Death to hold Christ (Acts 2:24). There apparently were some doubts in this congregation about Jesus’ resurrection. Paul then provides a lengthy list of all those who saw the risen Christ. There were more than five hundred on a single occasion that saw him. Paul then adds himself to this list as “the least of the apostles” because he had persecuted the church.

Paul here struggles with his own self-image.  He tells us in another passage that he was in danger of being too “elated” because of all that God had shown him (II Cor. 12:7). The fact that Paul mentions “boasting” so many times indicates that this is something he struggled with. He makes it clear that it was only by the grace of God that he was what he was. For a moment he almost slips into boasting when he says he worked harder than anyone else. However, he catches himself when he adds, “it was not I but the grace of God that is with me.”

How do we avoid pride and focusing on ourselves? This is why the season of Thanksgiving is so important. Paul reminds us that we are to give thanks in all circumstances (I Thess. 5:18).  Giving thanks frees us from being overly preoccupied with ourselves.  A thankful heart is a Christ centered heart.

Gracious and faithful God keep me from the sin of boasting.  May I recognize pride in myself and be prepared to confess it.  Make me truly thankful I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.