At Work & Theology 101

Christ’s Death and What It Means for Our Mission on Earth

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We are approaching the Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday, continues through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and culminates in Easter Sunday. These days, and the religious events surrounding them, can easily become routine, but this week is central to our faith as believers in Jesus.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, Paul explains the gospel and reveals why Christianity is so much different than every other religion:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

Besides being one of the most glorious passages in scripture, as well as the clearest definition of the gospel, this passage reminds those who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood that our goal is not to get off the earth as quickly as possible.

Instead, like Paul, we have a mission on this earth.

The Gospel Basis for Our Mission

In the Old Testament, Isaiah prophesies the suffering of the Messiah. He tells how the Messiah would be “pierced for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5), have his “grave . . . made with the wicked and with a rich man” (Is 53:9), and through the anguish of the Messiah, to have the wrath of God against sin satisfied (Is. 53:11).

These clear predictions in the Old Testament are part of what Paul is referring to when he declares, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3b).

Adam’s sin was committed in this world, in the flesh. Therefore, Christ as the second Adam paid the penalty for our sin as a human living in the world. Had Christ merely died and spiritually ascended to heaven, leaving his body behind, we might be led to believe our goal is to get free of the body as Christ did.

However, Paul defends against that error. He reminds us that Christ “was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4). Not only was he raised, but he appeared bodily to hundreds of people (1 Corinthians 15:5–8). Christ did not merely rise from the dead as a spirit, but he obtained a redeemed, resurrection body that is imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:35–49).

Again, this passage reminds us as Christians that our goal isn’t to get off earth as quickly as possible. We have a mission on this earth.

What Paul’s Mission Means for Us Today

In addition to his work as a tent maker, Paul was called to be an apostle. He had been an eye witness to the resurrected Messiah and had been given a task to carry the name of Christ where it had not been made known (Acts 9:1–19).

Because of his history as a persecutor of the church, Paul labels himself the least of the apostles, but, in the pursuit of his unique apostolic calling, Paul claims he “worked harder than any of” the other apostles (1 Corinthians 15:10).

Still, Paul’s success wasn’t due to his effort, but the grace of God through him. He was faithful and God worked through him.

We are called to serve faithfully in our callings in light of the gospel, just as Paul was called to fulfill his task.

Our vocation may not be to take the gospel to new places and preach it to people who have never heard it, but it is no less important to be faithful in the mundane.

As we do our daily work, we should do it in light of the gospel, which ends in the hope of the resurrection when everything will be set right and sin will be no more. Our aim should be to live in that future state as well as we can in a fallen world. We should strive to bring order from disorder, treat others with love, and demonstrate integrity in all that we do.

Our work, if it is done for God’s glory through his grace, demonstrates the nature of God’s kingdom. Paul concludes this majestic passage on a note of triumph, but also with a clear reminder to be faithful in this age between the resurrection and the restoration of all things:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

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