Do not forsake me, O Lord;
O my God, do not be far from me;
make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation.
His friend Bildad tells Job, "If God is punishing you, you must have done something to deserve it. God will not reject a blameless person. " Job replies, "How can anyone lead a totally blameless life? God is all-powerful, but he is not listening to me." Job then addresses God directly, "Why are you doing this to me? You made me, you know me, you know I haven't done anything to deserve what is happening to me."
Another friend, Zophar speaks, "You say you are innocent. God knows what you have done. Turn to God now."
1 Corinthians 15:1-28
Paul reminds the Corinthians the message he terms of first importance: Christ died, was buried, was raised, and appeared to witnesses including Paul himself.
Paul has received this gospel and is passing it on to the Corinthians. His knowledge is based on experience and scripture.
And, now, here we are. What we know about Christ is also based on what we are told--both by long-ago witnesses as well as those in our own times. We hear them recount the good news. We read our Bibles. And we hold firmly to the message that is being proclaimed.
Sidelines: Apparently Paul was not aware of the traditions underlying the Gospel reports of the appearances of Christ to the women at the empty tomb. He includes that the death for our sins and the being raised on the third day was in accordance with the scriptures. That is, to Paul, the death and resurrection of Christ are not a repudiation of Judaism.
Corinth was a city that had been destroyed then rebuilt by the Romans. In Paul's time, it was a thriving port city strategically located with ports on the Aegean and on the western gulf leading to the Adriatic. Like other formerly Greek cities, many gods had been worshiped.
The church founded there by Paul, Silas, and Timothy had, at first, been a vital Christian congregation, but, by the time of this letter, the Corinthians had been visited by and impressed with followers of Simon Peter (spiritual phenomena) and Apollos (wisdom).
(The above information is abstracted from the excellent The People's New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring & Fred B. Craddock.)
I'm struck by Paul's rhetorical strategy. He writes to rich people stressing his being least and unfit. His doing what he is capable of doing is due to the grace of God. Yet, Paul did not leave the gift stored on a shelf of some closet. He worked hard--harder than the other apostles (is this a dig at Peter's followers?)
He worked hard, but he attributes God's grace for the ability to do the work--or, should I read this as God's grace for the ability to want to do the work?
Now, back to us. We have had the opportunity of good, faithful teaching by hard-working teachers who were filled with grace and able to demonstrate that grace to us. And we have been faced with not-so-faithful, not-so-grace-filled teachings and examples. Let us hold firm to the good news proclaimed through Paul. Let us come to believe--and act as if we did. Let God's grace to us not be in vain.
A false witness will perish,
but a good listener will testify successfully.
The wicked put on a bold face,
but the upright give thought to their ways.
Prayer for Today: Pray Psalm 38:21-22.