In a recent Watchtower study we had this gem:
While a bit creepy, it does point out that parents have responsibility for their children. Fair enough. But what I’d like to focus on is the scripture referenced to support this. A scripture you’ve probably heard a million times and always used to prevent you from broadening your perspectives:
1 Corinthians 15:33 — Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.
On its own it seems quite clear and is always used to warn you against associating with unapproved people. But since the Watchtower is notorious for using proof text and take things out of context we are going to look at the context today, because “if you take the text out of context, the result is a con.” And we do not want to be conned, do we?
So let’s start in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 to understand what Paul is writing about.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 — Now I remind you, brothers, of the good news that I declared to you, which you also accepted, and for which you have taken your stand. 2 Through it you are also being saved if you hold firmly to the good news I declared to you, unless you became believers for nothing. 3 For among the first things I handed on to you was what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; 4 and that he was buried, yes, that he was raised up on the third day according to the Scriptures;
The topic of discussion in 1 Corinthians 15 is the good news of salvation:
- Jesus died for your sin
- He was buried for 3 days
- He was resurrected, defeating death
- Through faith in his sacrifice and resurrection we are saved from death
This is a “first thing” or the basics of Christian faith. This is what saves you (and not your membership in a society belonging to a printing corporation.)
But Paul goes on to belabor the third point, the resurrection of Jesus and how important it is.
1 Corinthians 15:12-14 — Now if it is being preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how is it that some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If, indeed, there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised up. 14 But if Christ has not been raised up, our preaching is certainly in vain, and your faith is also in vain.
If Christ was not raised from the dead, our faith is in vain, completely pointless. And how was Jesus raised from the dead?
1 Corinthians 15:20,22 — But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. […] 22 For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.
So everyone will be resurrected in the same manner Jesus was resurrected. And how was that? What did Jesus say?
Luke 24:39,40 — See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you see that I have.” 40 And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
John 20:27,28 — Next he said to Thomas: “Put your finger here, and see my hands, and take your hand and stick it into my side, and stop doubting but believe.” 28 In answer Thomas said to him: “My Lord and my God!”
John 2:19-21 — Jesus replied to them: “Tear down this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said: “This temple was built in 46 years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was talking about the temple of his body.
Jesus said he was to be resurrected bodily. The same body he died in was resurrected fleshly, with one difference, which Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 15:
1 Corinthians 15:35,42,44 — Nevertheless, someone will say: “How are the dead to be raised up? Yes, with what sort of body are they coming?” […] 42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised up in incorruption. […] 44 It is sown a physical body; it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one.
The resurrected body is incorruptible, spiritual. So how does this harmonize? Jesus was raised in a physical body, but Paul talks about a spiritual…
- Either Jesus was a spirit and he lied about not being a spirit and deceived the apostles by manifesting a fake body complete with wounds they could see and handle. Hence Jesus is a liar, deceiver and a fraud.
- Or Paul didn’t mean “a spirit”, but a body that is elevated above the physical, given incorruptibility. And Paul didn’t say “spirit body” but “spiritual body” meaning that it has spiritual qualities a regular physical body doesn’t have.
The Watchtower society believes it’s the first one: That Jesus life to his disciples and defrauded them. The Jesus that the Watchtower promotes is a deceiver, fraud and liar. That’s qualities of Satan, not of God.
Jesus was resurrected in the same body, only it was immortalized, glorified and spiritual. It had the capability to travel vast distances instantly, appear and disappear anywhere, even in locked rooms, and of course it’s immortal.
If the Watchtower is correct then it also means that you will not have a physical resurrection, since everyone will be resurrected in the same manner as Jesus.
However if the idea of a spiritual glorified immortal physical body that can freely move through time and space, such as Jesus and Paul describes, is true then you are looking forward to an amazing future!
And this is what 1 Corinthians 15:33 is all about. It means “have nothing to do with people who say that Jesus wasn’t resurrected, or that his resurrection wasn’t a physical one.” They are the “bad associations” and “false witnesses”.
So the next time you hear 1 Corinthians 15:33 quoted, think about who teaches falsehood about Jesus’ resurrection, how it distorts the resurrection hope, how you should avoid such bad associations, and also how they are trying to con you by taking the text out of context.