Focal Passage: 1 Cor. 15:20-41
“Watch out for people who think they know it all,” my mother used to say. “Most of the time, they don’t.”
I was barely in school. We sat at the dinner table, or on the living room floor during a long, lazy summer afternoon. One of us would ask a question – something about science, or arithmetic, or history, but often about religion.
My questions, obviously, were a child’s: “If heaven is up, which way is it for the people in China?”
Mom’s questions were harder: “If God knows everything before it happens, does that mean it has to happen?”
Mom would do her best to explain difficult ideas in words that a child could understand. We’d discuss it upside down and all around until neither had more to say. Then, almost every time, she would sign off with the warning about know-it-alls. It was her way of saying some things just can’t be explained, at least not completely.
Paul was doing his best to explain difficult ideas in words even grownups found hard to understand.
“Resurrection? What resurrection (v. 21)? She’s just as dead now as she was last week. Paul, how do you know?”
“‘As in Adam all die (v. 22)?’ What’s that about? Is sin inherited, like blue eyes or flat feet? How do you know that?”
“God will destroy ‘every ruler and authority and power’ (vv. 24-28)? Evil and corruption and oppression? Even death? Come on, Paul, get real. Read the papers!”
“And what’s this business about heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, and sun and moon and stars, and seeds dying in the ground (vv. 35-41)? Somehow that’s all supposed to explain something? Paul, how do you know? How do you know for sure?”
Finally Paul came right out and admitted it: “Look! It’s a mystery” (v. 51). Some things can’t be reasoned out by logic or explained by the natural order of cause and effect. Some things you just can’t know by the normal ways of knowing. Some things you can only know by faith.
“But if you want proof,” Paul said, “think about this (vv. 30-32): Why do I put myself in danger all the time? Why did I fight wild animals at Ephesus, if my hope were only for this life, and on this earth? But … the resurrection!”
A minister friend was in the hospital, seriously ill. In recent years his family had suffered tragedy after tragedy, and now this. “How do you manage to keep going?” I asked.
“I couldn’t,” he said, “except for one thing: the resurrection!”
Anybody can be a know-it-all, with an answer for everything. Betting your life is another thing altogether.