1 Corinthians 15: Why the resurrection matters, Part 2

death3. God’s Creation

If the earth is going to be purified and redeemed, rather than being destroyed, then that affects our attitude toward many things, especially the earth itself. How can we pollute our planet and then defend ourselves saying, “It’s all going to burn, anyway”? We can’t. In fact, that God loves his Creation — despite its broken, fallen nature — is clear in scripture.

(Psa 104:10-24 ESV)  10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills;  11 they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches.
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth  15 and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.
16 The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.  17 In them the birds build their nests; the stork has her home in the fir trees.
18 The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.
19 He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.  20 You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
21 The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.  22 When the sun rises, they steal away and lie down in their dens.
23 Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.
24 O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

So read this psalm and then say, “God, you won’t care if we pollute our streams and destroy the homes of wildlife unnecessarily — it’s all going to burn.” You can’t because the psalm plainly shows God’s concern not just for the Creation in general but for the wild animals, the mountains, the trees, and mankind.

Now, God told Adam to tend to the Garden of Eden. God was fine with man making use of the  Creation over which God gave man dominion. But he also required Adam to care for the Garden —

(Gen 2:15 ESV)  15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

The passage requires a balancing of working and keeping — making productive and preserving. And the balance is not always easy. But never are we to ignore the impact of our decisions on fellow humans, nor may we ignore the impact of our decisions on God’s Creation. God cares, and so we must care. When we read Psalm 104, our hearts should resonate with recognition: That’s how we feel!

And this never gets preached from a Church of Christ pulpit — because we’ve politicized our thinking on the environment. We’ve decided that when  it comes to the Creation itself, we’ll worship the principalities and powers rather than God — and so our party affiliation is a far better predictor of our position on environmental issues, instead of whether we are Christians. We don’t even know how to think about the environment in Christian terms — just political terms — which proves we’re owned by the political powers and principalities.

In fact, I’m sure someone will comment that I sound like a Democrat when I say this. But I’m really just a Christian who appreciates God’s Creation and can’t bear to see it being destroyed by Christians. How is that wrong?

4. Building the Kingdom

Paul writes,

(1Co 3:10-15 ESV)  According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.  11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  

12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Some of our work on earth will be burned up by fire. Some will not. God’s children will survive the fire, but those who work poorly, whose work is burned up, they’ll survive but they’ll smell of smoke.

I don’t want to go to heaven stinking of smoke. So how do I do work that survives the fire?

The long opening section of the letter (nearly as long as Philippians or Colossians in their entirety) is thus shot through with Paul’s desire to teach the Corinthians to think eschatologically; more specifically, to get them to understand the present time not simply as a moment to preen and pride themselves on how clever they are, or how the new teaching they have received will distinguish them socially or culturally, but as the moment at which the new age is breaking in to the present evil age, and in which therefore what they need is not merely human wisdom but the wisdom from above.

They need, in short, to be pneumatikoi [driven by the Spirit] rather than psychikoi [driven by the body, that is, whatever drives those without the Spirit], still less sarkinoi [worldly] or sarkikoi [fleshly]: they need to be energized by the divine Spirit so that they live in the present age in the light, and by the standards, of the age to come. We should not be surprised that a letter which opens with this argument should close with a full-scale treatment of the resurrection, or that its key language about the resurrection body will focus on the distinction between the soma psychikon [the body powered by nature] and the soma pneumatikon [the body powered by the Spirit].

N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003), 286.

We have entered the Kingdom of God. We’ve repented, and so agreed to obey the commands of God, regardless of what the world or the flesh might desire. We’ve promised that we have faith in Jesus — that is, that we believe he is LORD (YHWH), that we can trust his promises, and we will be faithful to him (not really different from repentance).

We’ve been baptized to join him his death, burial, and resurrection — announcing to the world our belief in a bodily resurrection and willingness to live as Jesus lived — a life of service, submission, sacrifice, and suffering.

We became part of his assembly, his gathered people, and we serve him not merely as Christians but as members of his ekklesia. We enjoy the Spirit he gave us not only as members who are individually recipients of the indwelling, but as parts of the church that is being built into a temple for the Spirit. To be part of the Kingdom is to be part of the community that is the Kingdom.

The goal, of course, is for the entire Creation — and all the people in it — to be part of the Kingdom. But it’s not and they’re not, and so the mission has yet to be completed. God’s will is not yet done on earth as it is in heaven. The temple of God does not include all of Creation — not yet.

But within the Kingdom, God’s will is done. We live today as though Christ had already returned in the sense that we presently recognize his Kingship. For us, he is King of everything. He rules our lives entirely, within nothing held back.

And as the Spirit transforms us to become more and more like Jesus and God, the world becomes more and more redeemed — and the work we do will survive the purifying fire that is to come because our work was done to honor Jesus as King. God may transform it into something far better than we could accomplish when Jesus returns, but our work will not be burned up — if we work as people who love each other as Jesus loves us.

And this is true whether we clean up creeks in the name of Jesus or teach the lost about Jesus. But it’s only true if done in the name of Jesus, because the Kingdom is all about its King — and nothing else we do is for the Kingdom. We were baptized into the name of Jesus, and so whatever we do in word or deed, we do in his name. If we can’t do it in his name, we don’t do it.

This tells us how to pick a spouse (in the name of Jesus), how to raise children (to honor Jesus), how to work at the office (in the name of Jesus), and how to be a preacher (to honor Jesus) so that our works don’t burn in the fire that is certainly coming.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to 1 Corinthians 15: Why the resurrection matters, Part 2

  1. Mike Johnson says:

    My observation of the whole “taking care of creation” discussion is those who are the strongest advocates often are still driving their fossil-fuel-powered cars, buying food shipped across the country in trucks, flying in airplanes, using electricity and generally enjoying the benefits brought about by the industrial revolution. It’s always someone else who is destroying the planet. It’s always the evil corporation. There is no confession or acknowledgement that they themselves are not willing to give up the conveniences that use up our planet’s natural resources.

    So what specifically can I do as a Christian to “take care of creation” the way God wants me to? Or do I just fool myself into believing that when I pick up a piece of trash, recycle an old can, or buy that slightly more fuel efficient car that God will look down and smile at what a good and faithful servant I’ve become??

  2. John F says:

    It is more likely man’s hubris (and economic self interest) is behind much of today’s “concern for the environment” and “climate change” than any theological concern.

    A true respect for the creation includes “husbanding” resources. Interesting choice of terminology through history. We care for the creation as a husband cares for his wife. (Eph. 5)

  3. Johnathon says:

    Would you please give an example of a Christian saying or writing, “God, you won’t care if we pollute our streams and destroy the homes of wildlife unnecessarily — it’s all going to burn.” or something similar?

  4. Mike Johnson says:

    Our church just sent a bunch of Bibles to Cuba. Should we not have printed them since so many trees were cut down to make them?

  5. Mike Johnson says:

    We did cancel the bus ministry because of how wasteful the bus is in using gas. We have asked the kids to just walk to the building. We hope they will think of the environment while they are walking.

  6. Mike Johnson says:

    A farmer at our church decided to stop using pesticides and GMOs in his crops. A win for the environment!! He hopes the hungry in Africa will understand why he no longer has the large harvest with extra to share with them.

  7. Jay Guin says:


    You are welcome to argue against stupid environmental theories when someone offers one. But don’t confuse concern for the environment that a Christian ought to have with every hairbrained theory you read about in the paper.

    When I was a child, in the 1960s, I visited St. Louis. The air was so polluted that we could not see the ground from the fifth floor of our hotel. Every day we were there.

    When I visited the 1964 World’s Fair, I had to stop every block and clean my glasses in Manhattan, because I couldn’t see more than a few feet after the filth in the air covered my lenses.

    Today, in Beijing, people die young from the filthy air. Alabama rivers are often heavily polluted, but our state government agency is too underfunded to do anything about it.

    So what should a Christian response be? To scorn environmentalism and let the rivers fill with sewage and chemicals? To let children in China die young? To repeal the laws the cleaned up the air in St. Louis and Manhattan?

    I’m not a fan of much that modern environmental groups advocate for, but I’m not therefore scornful of environmentalism. I just don’t let secular organizations define my positions for me as a Christian. We have no business letting the government, the political parties, or the environmental political groups tells us what to think. These are powers and principalities, often more concerned with political gain than people. They are not our guides.

    Rather, as Gen 2 teaches, I think we need to carefully, prayerfully balance our use of the land for the benefit of people against the cost of using the land. We don’t ignore the Creation nor do we ignore the people in the Creation. Rather, we seek the best balance we can find — refusing to go to either extreme.

    Therefore, I have no problem with the state allowing our woods to be hunted and our rivers and the Gulf to be fished — but I also agree that limits are sometimes needed so that we don’t destroy the fisheries and hunting grounds for our children and grandchildren. We might disagree over just where the line should be drawn, but surely we can agree that over-fishing or over-hunting should not be allowed.

    I have clients who are farmers. They speak of holding their farms as stewards for future generations, of having a responsibility to care for the land even if it’s not currently profitable, because they feel charged with a longer view. It’s not Democrat or Republican. It’s being aware that decisions made today ripple across hundreds of future generations and recognizing the weight of that reality.

    And I got to walk the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and see the nastiness brought by the BP oil spill. It was not pretty. And BP should rightly pay for cleaning up the mess it made and the losses it imposed on people whose livelihoods depends on the beaches and waters of the Gulf.

    Again, I don’t necessarily agree with all the rules and results, but surely we can all agree that oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico needs to be regulated so that these things don’t happen — and if they do, Congress shouldn’t again impose a $75 million cap on damages.

    And so, yes, I believe the scriptures have something to say about these things. I don’t think the Sierra Club speaks for God, but neither does the Republican Party. Rather, the church has for far too long given others exclusive say in these questions, as though God doesn’t have anything to say on the subject and hasn’t given his children responsibility for taking care of the planet he’s given them.

  8. Kevin says:

    Well said, Jay.

  9. Mike Johnson says:

    Thank you for your detailed response. However, I didn’t understand exactly what your are suggesting that a a Christian himself/herself should do about protecting the environment. I, nor the church I attend, has the power to regulate BP, enact laws imposing emissions regulations, or control toxic waste, etc. I suppose I could vote for the politicians that say they support these things, but I don’t. I don’t vote. I care zero about politics. (Is that unchristian of me?) They’re all corrupt in my opinion.

    When you look deeper you realize that when a manufacturing plant closes here in the U.S., it moves to another country. A poorer country with less environmental standards. They work for cheap, and there are no pesky regulations. It’s called a Pollution Haven. So in the end, we in the U.S. get to have the best. We own the best products, live extravagant lifestyles compared to the rest of the world, and if that wasn’t enough, we want our clean air and streams too. You see, the laws that help St. Louis clean its air are the same ones that drive those manufacturing plants to other countries (e.g. China) and make their air worse. Another well known example is old batteries going from the U.S. to Mexico. We have strict lead processing laws. They don’t. We dump our hazardous waste on them. Since they are poor, they’ll gladly take it in order to make money.

    So Jay, what am I supposed to DO as a Christian (or church) to please God regarding the environment? Do I just give lip-service to caring about the environment and try not to criticize the politicians that also give lip-service to caring about the environment, ignoring the plight of the poor? What do I have to actually DO?

  10. Johnathon says:

    Mike I have no idea what Jay would have Christians do concerning the environment. But, I would like to offer my opinion on what I consider the best thing Christians should do if they want to better than environment.

    We should do two things:
    1) Most importantly we should evangelize. Meaning we should share the Gospel with our lost neighbors and try to convert them to Christ. If we do not bring the lost into Christ’s Kingdom all attempts to produce a society that treats the environment better will in the long run be futile.

    2) We should actually teach and share christian morality to not only our fellow Christians but also the outside world as well. I am primarily thinking of the four Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude) and the three Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity). The word cardinal is derived from a latin word meaning a hinge. Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude are called the cardinal virtues because they are pivotal to civilization. These virtues can be attempted by the irreligious, whereas the theological virtues are only attempted by the religious. Why should we expect our neighbors to be moral if we do not remind and show them what morality is. If people are causing great harm to the environment, they are being imprudent and unjust to their fellow creatures.
    The theological virtue most germane to the environment, in my opinion, is Hope. I will leave you with what C.S. Lewis wrote about Hope in Mere Christianity:
    “Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

  11. Monty says:

    If what I read is true, California is experiencing record drought due in large part to environmental efforts to save some small creature(salamander, snail or something). If true, that is an example of lefty thinking run amok. Is fracking safe or unsafe? The EPA says according to their studies it’s safe. But according to those on the left, supposedly the EPA is being untruthful. That the EPA is being a political mouthpiece for the Obama Admin. Fox host Stuart Barney(Varney?) had the guy who made a documentary about folks in the Appalachian who could light their tap water on fire all because of recent fracking. Barney said, that type of thing has been taking place for many years up and down the Appalachians(the guest called Barney a liar and got kicked off the show) way before fracking. Barney showed video of a town in New York that had a fountain in old 1950’s film footage where they lit the town fountain every night that flowed from an underground spring. But hey, never miss a chance to make a dramatic statement, relative or not, to your point.

  12. Jay Guin says:


    Not every Christian can or should do everything that the church is charged with. But we should all be taught how to see the world through God’s eyes when it comes to the Creation. Here are some thoughts. I’m no expert. Hopefully the readers can add to the list —

    1. Don’t litter. In fact, I have a friend at church who is retired and walks up and down the neighborhood streets cleaning up litter.
    2. Recycle — if in your part of the country recycling actually reduces pollution. My church works with the city to provide a recycling site that people from all over the county come to to dump their glass, aluminum, etc. We are centrally located, and it’s good stewardship. Someone has to provide a site and we’re delighted to get to do it. We have a local factory that makes paper out of recycled paper — so there actually is an environmental gain. The recycled paper never goes into the landfill.
    3. If you live in an area where water is in short supply, be responsible with your water use. (Not an issue in Tuscaloosa but a huge issue in many other places.)
    4. Support mission organizations that help local people reclaim their land and become self-supporting. https://www.plantwithpurpose.org/ is very exciting to me, and I did a series on them some years ago, as did Christianity Today. They get that poverty is cured both by spiritual conversion and by training on how to use the land without destroying the land (very Genesis 2!). They have restored lands that were ruined for human cultivation, and rebuilt local economies — all while working with local leadership and local churches. Most poverty relief in Haiti competes with local merchants, putting them out of business, and does nothing to help the local people restore the land so that they can support themselves responsibly.
    5. I don’t see a lot of good coming from government, but sometimes the government can at least stop being a problem. I think Bono of U2 is exactly right about Third World debt relief — very true to the Torah’s Jubilee teaching. I would love to see trade pacts that stop subsidizing European and American farmers so that the most impoverished nations can’t make money exporting agricultural products. But it’s hard to do much from an individual level. But if the churches in a given city or state were to organize, they could push the political needle.
    6. Get involved in mission programs through your church, and if your church is involved in places like Haiti and Sub Saharan Africa, look for sustainable ways to provide poverty relief along with spiritual change. In fact, check out well-digging programs with sensitivity to environmental issues. Christians in SE Asia dig wells that produce arsenic and selenium-laced water! Don’t let people just do what feels good. Run the tests. Check the facts. (Christianity Today is a good source to start. And then some great books have been written. Do your homework.)
    7. Realize that you can’t change the world, but you and your church can adopt a village and change it. About 10 years ago, a church (an Assembly of God, I think) decided to take their building fund and literally buy a village in Mozambique from its corporate owners. Freed from having to pay rent, the villagers were able to improve their land and water and soon enjoyed new prosperity. ANd, of course, they enjoyed conversions by the 1,000s as natives saw the power of Christianity to change lives.
    8. Clean up a creek. Get your small group or Bible class, some boots, and go fix a small corner of nature in the name of Jesus.

  13. Jay Guin says:


    I agree that there is lying on both sides of many environmental issues. We need to be people of discernment and not let ourselves be led around by special interests who want to use us and our votes on either side.

    But how we vote is but a tiny part of what we can do about the environment. In fact, Mike Johnson asked the right question — not “How do I vote?” but “What do I do?” And I think there are issues that have no real controversy where individual Christians and congregations can make a difference. One member of my church asked for some announcement time 10 years ago and got the church to agree to provide space for the city’s recycling center. Just one guy made it possible for thousands to recycle in a town without curbside recycling.

    Just so, it’s not hard to find a creek that needs to be cleaned — and most Sunday school classes can take such a task on. Or volunteer to clean a mile of highway.

    One person with persistence might be able to push several churches in the same town to do environmental work together. And by having several churches work together, the rightwing and leftwing extremists should be eliminated, as only middle-of-the-road projects get taken on. (Avoid the temptation to take positions on national issues. Rather, limit the work to actual local issues. Symbolic stuff gives the illusion of helping in lieu of actual help.) I’d actually require unanimous (or near-unanimous) approval of the churches before taking anything on, as no one should claim to do X in the name of Jesus if there are churches that think X is wrong.

    Just thinking outloud …

  14. Johnathon says:

    “if in your part of the country recycling actually reduces pollution.”
    Thank you for writing this. Many people assume recycling is always good for the environment. Sometimes recycling programs are imprudent and can be harmful for the environment.
    Here is a good article about recycling:

  15. Kevin says:

    I think you are exactly right. This doesn’t have to be difficult…be responsible, leave the place better than you found it, apply a bit of the golden rule, be a good steward of the resources that God has provided.

  16. Monty says:

    Watched John Stossel’s “Green Tyranny” last night. I would recommend everyone watch it just to get some opposing viewpoints that differ from the Green Movement. It showed some of the propaganda that some countries are teaching their grade school kids with. Teaching kids that the North Pole is going to melt and they will have to cancel Christmas. Really? And I think that is an appropriate name for much of that movement.

    Jay, you make some good points about what we can do locally. Our congregation has adopted a mile of the highway we are on to pick up litter every quarter. We have had folks(local papers) catch us doing good in the neighborhood. I have always been on the side of conservation. At one point as a teen I wanted to be a Forest Ranger or do something to protect endangered critters. It sickens me to think about what is happening to the rhino in Africa having to have around the clock body guards for at least one species, all because of greed and backwards primitive thinking. Every day is a chance to keep on pushing back the darkness.

  17. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for your note. The environmental movement is going to such extremes that we sometimes forget that there are very legitimate needs to be met. I love the idea of adopting amount of highway. It’s exactly the sort of thing the church ought to do both to appeal to younger people in because it’s just the right thing to do.

    PS — I still have my junior forest ranger card around here somewhere. I signed up back when Smokey the bear I was on TV constantly reminding us to prevent forest fires.
    As an eight-year-old I made a pest of myself at church stomping on cigarette butts as the deacons smoked in between classes and church.

  18. Dwight says:

    There is use and then there is abuse and then there is use to spite the creation of God. I recycle everything I can, because it is not good for the enviroment, but good for the enviroment which supports us. What goes around comes around. We are not too concerned about toxic run off untill it shows up in our back yard, then we become mightly concerned. Well if we are to treat our brother as we would want to be treated, then we need to treat the earth as if we depend upon it because our brother somewhere else does. Now do I believe that the earth will burned up, possibly, but we shouldn’t get the process started. and we will have to live here until that happens. The oceans can take alot, until they can’t. Be responsible Christians who care for all and all that which God gave us.

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