1 Corinthians 15-16 The Voice (VOICE)
15 Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I preached to you when we first met. It’s the essential message that you have taken to heart, the central story you now base your life on; 2 and through this gospel, you are liberated—unless, of course, your faith has come to nothing. 3-4 For I passed down to you the crux of it all which I had also received from others, that the Anointed One, the Liberating King, died for our sins and was buried and raised from the dead on the third day. All this happened to fulfill the Scriptures; it was the perfect climax to God’s covenant story. 5 Afterward He appeared alive to Cephas[a] (you may know him as Simon Peter), then to the rest of the twelve. 6 If that were not amazing enough, on one occasion, He appeared to more than 500 believers at one time. Many of those brothers and sisters are still around to tell the story, though some have fallen asleep[b] in Jesus. 7 Soon He appeared to James, His brother and the leader of the Jerusalem church, and then to all the rest of the emissaries[c] He Himself commissioned.[d] 8 Last of all, He appeared to me;[e] I was like a child snatched from his mother’s womb. 9 You see, I am the least of all His emissaries, not fit to be called His emissary because I hunted down and persecuted God’s church. 10 Today I am who I am because of God’s grace, and I have made sure that the grace He offered me has not been wasted. I have worked harder, longer, and smarter than all the rest; but I realize it is not me—it is God’s grace with me that has made the difference. 11 In the end, it doesn’t matter whether it was I or the other witnesses who brought you the message. What matters is that we keep preaching and that you have faith in this message.
12 Now if we have told you about the Anointed One (how He has risen from the dead and appeared to us fully alive), then how can you stand there and say there is no such thing as resurrection from death? 13 Friends, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then even the Anointed hasn’t been raised; 14 if that is so, then all our preaching has been for nothing and your faith in the message is worthless. 15 And what’s worse, all of us who have been preaching the gospel are now guilty of misrepresenting God because we have been spreading the news that He raised the Anointed One from the dead (which must be a lie if what you are saying about the dead not being raised is the truth). 16 Please listen. If you say, “the dead are not raised,” then what you are telling me is that the Anointed One has not been raised. Friends, 17 if the Anointed has not been raised from the dead, then your faith is worth less than yesterday’s garbage, you are all doomed in your sins, 18 and all the dearly departed who trusted in His liberation are left decaying in the ground. 19 If what we have hoped for in the Anointed doesn’t take us beyond this life, then we are world-class fools, deserving everyone’s pity.
20 But the Anointed One was raised from death’s slumber and is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. 21 For since death entered this world by a man, it took another man to make the resurrection of the dead our new reality. 22 Look at it this way: through Adam all of us die, but through the Anointed One all of us can live again. 23 But this is how it will happen: the Anointed’s awakening is the firstfruits. It will be followed by the resurrection of all those who belong to Him at His coming, 24 and then the end will come. After He has conquered His enemies and shut down every rule and authority vying for power, He will hand over the Kingdom to God, the Father of all that is. 25 And He must reign as King until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last hostile power to be destroyed is death itself. 27 All this will happen to fulfill the Scripture that says, “You placed everything on earth beneath His feet.”[f] (Although it says “everything,” it is clear that this does not also pertain to God, who created everything and made it all subject to Him.) 28 Then, when all creation has taken its rightful place beneath God’s sovereign reign, the Son will follow, subject to the Father who exalted Him over all created things; then God will be God over all.
Resurrection is central to the gospel. In fact, without the bodily resurrection of Jesus there is no good news at all. For in Jesus, God personifies His redeeming work and demonstrates the scope of that redemption. He is a God who brings life from death, peace from war, prosperity from adversity, and bounty from famine. The resurrection of Jesus marks a new era of God’s dealing with the world. He intends nothing less than the total reclamation of His good creation damaged by human folly, sin, and death.
29 You have probably heard that some people are undergoing ritual cleansings of baptism[g] for the dead. Why are they doing that? If the dead are not going to be raised, then why are people being baptized for them? 30 Why are we putting our lives on the line all the time if there’s no resurrection? 31 I die every day! I swear that it’s true! That’s something you take pride in, brothers and sisters, as I do in Jesus the Anointed, our Lord. 32 But if I have fought against the wild beasts in Ephesus for some human cause, then what good has that done me? If the dead are not raised, then there’s nothing more to do than—as the saying goes—eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.[h]
33 But don’t be so naïve—there’s another saying you know well—Bad company corrupts good habits. 34 Come to your senses, live justly, and stop sinning. It’s true that some have no knowledge of God. I am saying this to shame you into better habits.
35 Now I know what some of you are thinking: “Just how are the dead going to be raised? What kind of bodies will they have when they come back to life?” 36 Don’t be a fool! The seed you plant doesn’t produce life unless it dies. Right? 37 The seed doesn’t have the same look, the same body, if you will, of what it will have once it starts to grow. It starts out a single, naked seed—whether wheat or some other grain, it doesn’t matter— 38 and God gives to that seed a body just as He has desired. For each of the different kinds of seeds God prepares a unique body. 39 Or look at it this way: not all flesh is the same. Right? There is skin flesh on humans, furry flesh on animals, feathery flesh on birds, and scaly flesh on fish. 40 Likewise there are bodies made for the heavens and bodies made for the earth. The heavenly bodies have a different kind of glory or luminescence compared to bodies below. 41 Even among the heavenly bodies, there is a different level of brilliance: the sun shines differently than the moon, the moon differently than the stars, and the stars themselves differ in their brightness.
42 It’s like this with the resurrection of those who have died. The body planted in the earth decays. But the body raised from the earth cannot decay. 43 The body is planted in disgrace and weakness. But the body is raised in splendor and power. 44 The body planted in the earth was animated by the physical, material realm. But the body raised from the earth will be animated by the spiritual. Since there is a physical, material body, there will also be a spiritual body. 45 That’s why it was written, “The first man Adam became a living soul”; the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. 46 Everything has an order. The body is not animated first by the spiritual but the physical; then the spiritual becomes its life-giving source. 47 The first man, Adam, came from the earth and was made from dust; the second man, Jesus, has come from heaven. 48 The earth man shares his earth nature with all those made of earth; likewise the heavenly man shares His heavenly nature with all those made of heaven. 49 Just as we have carried the image of the earth man in our bodies, we will[i] also carry the image of the heavenly man in our new bodies at the resurrection.
Redemption is not merely forgiveness of sin’s guilt so our souls can go to heaven someday. Our true hope is to be free from physical death just as Jesus was raised from the dead. Accordingly, this hope of bodily resurrection stands against the expectation that souls escape from their mortal bodies (as if your soul is the real “you” and your body is a disposable external space suit) and merely float up to heaven. Rather, Paul presents resurrection as a new creation; and this restored bodily existence affirms and fulfills the original intent of creation. Believers don’t have to wait until the future to experience this Spirit-enabled life because living in obedience to God through the Spirit is a foretaste of the total experience that will come when all is restored later.
50 Now listen to this: brothers and sisters, this present body is not able to inherit the kingdom of God any more than decay can inherit that which lasts forever. 51 Stay close because I am going to tell you a mystery—something you may have trouble understanding: we will not all fall asleep in death, but we will all be transformed. 52 It will all happen so fast, in a blink, a mere flutter of the eye. The last trumpet will call, and the dead will be raised from their graves with a body that does not, cannot decay. All of us will be changed! 53 We’ll step out of our mortal clothes and slide into immortal bodies, replacing everything that is subject to death with eternal life. 54 And, when we are all redressed with bodies that do not, cannot decay, when we put immortality over our mortal frames, then it will be as Scripture says:
56 Sin came into this world, and death’s sting followed. Then sin took aim at the law and gained power over those who follow the law. 57 Thank God, then, for our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, the Liberating King, who brought us victory over the grave.
58 My dear brothers and sisters, stay firmly planted—be unshakable—do many good works in the name of God, and know that all your labor is not for nothing when it is for God.
16 Now I call you, just as I did the churches gathering in Galatia, to collect funds to support God’s people in Jerusalem. 2 On Sunday, the first day of the week, I want each of you to set aside an amount, as God has blessed you, so the funds will be collected by the time I come. 3 When I get there, I will send those you recommend by your own letters to carry your generous and gracious donation to Jerusalem. 4 If you think it seems appropriate for me to travel with them, then we’ll go together.
5 Get ready. I will come your way after traveling through Macedonia. For I’m just passing through Macedonia 6 and will probably stay with you through the winter so that you may provide for my next journey (wherever that may be). 7 I want to reconnect with you, not just pass through; if the Lord is willing, I hope to stay awhile. 8 But until Pentecost, I plan to stay in Ephesus 9 because, not only has God opened a significant door here for me to serve, but also there is a lot of opposition against me.
Churches are often characterized by words such as “independent” and “autonomous.” But one would be hard-pressed to find any of these ideas in the Scriptures. Instead, Paul seems to be modeling submission and interdependence. We must always consider others and shape our actions to bless them. But he does not stop there—it is clear that we are responsible to care for one another in physical and monetary ways. What might Paul say to the church today, given the drastic disparity between the wealthy churches of the West and the brothers and sisters in the rest of the world who lack food, water, or shelter?
10 If Timothy comes, see that he is comfortable and untroubled; his work is the Lord’s, as is mine. 11 No one should treat him badly. Send him on to meet me in peace because the brothers and sisters here and I are looking for him. 12 You shouldn’t expect to see our brother Apollos, although I tried to persuade him to come to you with the rest of the brothers and sisters, because now is not the best time for him to come. When it’s his time, he will come.
13 Listen, stay alert, stand tall in the faith, be courageous, and be strong. 14 Let love prevail in your life, words, and actions.
15 Finally, brothers and sisters, I call on you to follow your leaders. People like those in the house of Stephanas—you know they were among the first believers in Achaia, and they have devoted their lives to serving God’s people— 16 I urge you to submit to the authority of such leaders, to every coworker, and to those who offer their backs and shoulders for the work. 17 I celebrate the arrival of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, as they have supplied me with what you could not. 18 They have been a breath of fresh air for me as I know they are for you, so respect and honor those like them.
19 The churches in Asia salute you. Aquila and Prisca send a heartfelt greeting in the Lord along with those who gather at their house. 20 The entire family in faith here sends their greetings. Be sure you greet one another by a holy kiss.
21 This closing greeting is written by my own hand—Paul’s: 22 May those who have no love for the Lord be cursed. Maranatha, “Our Lord, come!” 23 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love to you all in the name of the Anointed One, Jesus. [Amen.][l]
2 Corinthians 1-3 The Voice (VOICE)
1 Paul, an emissary[a] of Jesus the Anointed pressed into service by the will of God, and our brother Timothy to God’s church that gathers in Corinth and all the saints in the region of Achaia.
2 May grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, surround you.
3 All praise goes to God, Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. 4 He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles. 5 For even as His suffering continues to flood over us, through the Anointed we experience the wealth of His comfort just the same. 6 If we are afflicted with such trouble and pain, then know it is so that you might ultimately experience comfort and salvation. If we experience comfort, it is to encourage you so that you can hold up while you endure the same sufferings we all share. 7 Remember that our hope for you stands firm, unshaken and unshakable. That’s because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so you will also share in our comfort.
8 My brothers and sisters, we have to tell you that when we were in Asia the troubles we faced were nearly more than we could handle. The burdens we bore nearly crushed us. Our strength dwindled to nothing. For a while, we weren’t sure we would make it through the whole ordeal. 9 We thought we would have to serve out our death sentences right then and there. As a result, we realized that we could no longer rely on ourselves and that we must trust solely in God, who possesses the power to raise the dead. 10 Miraculously God Himself delivered us from the cold hands of death. We again place our hope in Him alone, and we know He will deliver us. 11 Join us in this work. Lend us a hand through prayer so that many will give thanks for the gift that comes to us when God answers the prayers of so many.
Some believe that prosperity and comfort are the markers of a faithful Christian; in order to believe that, you have to ignore completely the life and writings of Paul, the emissary. It is only when you suffer that you can meet God as your comforter. In these letters, and often in our own lives, it is when we seem to have come to the end of ourselves that we see and experience the fullness of God in entirely new ways. This is not to say that any of us should or would seek out the kind of suffering Paul experienced; we do not long to be imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, or hunted by authorities. But when our dark days come, we should be ready to learn, grow, and experience the fullness of God in the midst of our troubles.
12 We are proud of the fact that we have lived before the world and especially before you with clear consciences, living holy lives mixed with genuine sincerity before God. We have not relied on any human wisdom but on the grace and favor of God. 13 We are not writing to you in anything resembling codes or riddles; we only write those lessons you are ready to read and understand. I hope you will study them, value them, and truly understand them until the end. 14 You have already begun to grasp what we mean in part; but on the day when our Lord Jesus returns, we will be as proud of you as you are of us.
15-16 In this spirit of trust and confidence, I was intending to come your way first on my current journey. So that you might have a double dose of this grace and assurance, my plan was to visit you on my way to Macedonia and return to you again on the journey back so that you could assist me on the trip to Judea. 17 But since this didn’t happen, was I just being indecisive? Were my plans made in the flesh rather than by God’s Spirit? How can I say “yes” and “no” in the same breath? 18 Because our God is always faithful to His promises, our word to you was not both “yes” and “no”—“Yes, I’ll come,” and then, “No, I’ve changed my mind.” 19 For the Son of God—Jesus the Anointed whom we (Silvanus,[b] Timothy, and I) have preached to you—was not both “yes” and then “no.” With Him the answer is always “yes.” 20 In Jesus we hear a resounding “yes” to all of God’s many promises. This is the reason we say “Amen” to and through Jesus when giving glory to God. 21 Remember that God has established our relationship with you in the Anointed One, and He has anointed and commissioned us for this special mission. 22 He has marked us with His seal and placed His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee, a down payment of the things to come.
23 If I were in court today, I’d call God as a witness to my soul. Here’s the truth: I decided not to come back to Corinth in order to spare you further pain and sorrow. 24 It’s not that we want to coerce you in any matter of faith; we are coworkers called to increase your joy because you have stood firm in faith.
The believers in Corinth are exhausting Paul and one another with their negativity and criticism. Nothing destroys the beauty of Christian community more aggressively than these kinds of patterns.
2 I finally determined that I would not come to you again for yet another agonizing visit. 2 If my visits create such pain and sorrow for you, who can cheer me up except for those I’ve caused such grief? 3 This is exactly what I was writing to you about earlier so that when we are face-to-face I will not have to wallow in sadness in the presence of friends who should bring me the utmost joy. For I felt sure that my delight would also become your delight. 4 My last letter to you was covered with tears, composed with great difficulty, and frankly, a broken heart. It wasn’t my intention to depress you or cause you pain; rather, I had hoped you would see it for what it was—a demonstration of the overwhelming love I have for all of you.
Interpersonal relationships are often filled with disagreements and tensions. It’s common to hear someone long for the “good old days” of the New Testament when things were simpler and people were holier. But Paul’s ministry proves the first-century churches were no different. They were just as full of fights, tensions, and power plays as modern churches are. We should seek to be loving but also firm when the situation demands it. We should be quick to offer forgiveness to and seek reconciliation with those who turn back from their divisive actions. That’s what Paul did.
5 But if anyone has caused harm, he has not so much harmed me as he has—and I don’t think I’m exaggerating here—harmed all of you. 6 In my view, the majority of you have punished him well enough. 7 So instead of continuing to ostracize him, I encourage you to offer him the grace of forgiveness and the comfort of your acceptance. Otherwise, if he finds no welcome back to the community, I’m afraid he will be overwhelmed with extreme sorrow and lose all hope. 8 So I urge you to demonstrate your love for him once again. 9 I wrote these things to you with a clear purpose in mind: to test whether you are willing to live and abide by all my counsel. 10 If you forgive anyone, I forgive that one as well. Have no doubt, anything that I have forgiven—when I do forgive—is done ultimately for you in the presence of the Anointed One. 11 It’s my duty to make sure that Satan does not win even a small victory over us, for we don’t want to be naïve and then fall prey to his schemes.
12 When I arrived at Troas, bringing the good news of the Anointed, the Lord opened a door there for me. 13 Yet my spirit was restless because I could not find my brother Titus. Eventually I told them good-bye and set out for Macedonia.
14 Yet I am so thankful to God, who always marches us to victory under the banner of the Anointed One; and through us He spreads the beautiful fragrance of His knowledge to every corner of the earth. 15 In a turbulent world where people are either dying or being rescued, we are the sweet smell of the Anointed to God our Father. 16 To those who are dying, they smell the stench of death in us. And to those being rescued, we are the unmistakable scent of life. Who is worthy of this calling? 17 For we are nothing like the others who sell the word of God like a commodity. Do not be mistaken; our words come from God with the utmost sincerity, always spoken through the Anointed in the presence of God.
3 Are we back to page one? Do we need to gather some recommendations to prove our validity to you? Or do we need to take your letter of commendation to others to gain credibility? 2 You are our letter, every word burned onto our[c] hearts to be read by everyone. 3 You are the living letter of the Anointed One, the Liberating King, nurtured by us and inscribed, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God—a letter too passionate to be chiseled onto stone tablets, but emblazoned upon the human heart.
4 This is the kind of confidence we have in and through the Anointed toward our God. 5 Don’t be mistaken; in and of ourselves we know we have little to offer, but any competence or value we have comes from God. 6 Now God has equipped us to be capable servants of the new covenant, not by authority of the written law which only brings death, but by the Spirit who brings life.
Apparently Paul is responding to repeated questions from the church in Corinth requiring him to justify his actions and explain his words. But instead of addressing each separately, Paul suggests a new course of action: let my record be based on the fruit in your lives. The Corinthians had experienced the promised effects of the new covenant—transformed hearts through the Spirit—as prophesied by Jeremiah (31) and Ezekiel (36–37). If the Corinthians agree the Spirit is working in them, then they have to agree that Paul’s ministry to them is productive.
How do we stand up to the same test? If our lives were judged based on the fruit of the seeds we have planted and nurtured in the lives of others, would we be proud or mortified?
7 Now consider this: if the ministry of death, which was chiseled in stone, came with so much glory that the Israelites could not bear to look at Moses’ face even as that glory was fading, 8 imagine the kind of greater glory that will accompany the ministry of the Spirit. 9 If glory ushered in the ministry that offers condemnation, how much more glory will attend the ministry that promises to restore and set the world right? 10 In fact, what seemed to have great glory will appear entirely inglorious in the light of the greater glory of the new covenant. 11 If something that fades away possesses glory, how much more intense is the glory of what remains?
12 In light of this hope that we have, we act with great confidence and speak with great courage. 13 We do not act like Moses who covered his face with a veil so the children of Israel would not stare as the glory of God faded from his face.[d] 14 Their minds became as hard as stones; for up to this day when they read the old covenant, the same veil continues to hide that glory; this veil is lifted only through the Anointed One. 15 Even today a veil covers their hearts when the words of Moses are read; 16 but in the moment when one turns toward the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 By “the Lord” what I mean is the Spirit, and in any heart where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is liberty. 18 Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.