I don’t know anyone who builds shaming and liberating arguments the way the apostle Paul does. He builds with stones of insight — one on another, until the edifice stands before you with humiliating and liberating obviousness.
We are treated as rational people, not animals driven by instinct: “I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say” (1 Corinthians 10:15). If we should be ashamed, he will show us with arguments, not slurs. And he will show us the way out.
Twice in 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the noun for shame (Greek entropē). In both cases, the issue is similar. Believers are walking in the counsel of the godless. They are acting like the world has more wisdom than they do in matters of relationships and resurrection.
Judges of Angels Leaning on the Godless
So, in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is baffled that the church is settling its disputes with unbelieving judges. “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?” (1 Corinthians 6:1). Then he builds his argument, stone by stone.
You will judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2)! You will judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3)! So you can handle trivial cases (1 Corinthians 6:2) and matters of this life (1 Corinthians 6:3). Surely, there is one wise person among you who can figure out a settlement (1 Corinthians 6:5)! Therefore, “I say this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 6:5). You should be ashamed.
This is not a slur. It’s an argument.
If they have ears to hear, there is glory in this humiliation. You will judge the world! You will judge angels! You can handle your own cases! God’s wisdom dwells among you. You have forgotten who you are: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Sober up. You’re acting like you are in a drunken stupor. Don’t be deceived. Embrace your calling, your standing, your gifts.
Schooled on the Resurrection from Unbelievers
Then comes the same shame in 1 Corinthians 15. Again, they are walking in the counsel of the godless. They are shaping their view of their own resurrection with the thoughts of those who do not even know God. Here is the text with all Paul’s stones piled together in his humiliating and liberating argument.
What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. (1 Corinthians 15:32–34)
Same problem as chapter 6: bad company. Walking in the counsel of the . . . who? Who are the “bad company,” when Paul says, “Bad company ruins good morals”? They are the folks in verse 34 who are ignorant of God: “Some have no knowledge of God.” They also are the folks in verse 32 whose philosophy says, “Look, death could come at any time. And after that, there’s nothing. So let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
So we see three stones built in a well-fitted column: (1) ignorance of God, supporting (2) a wrong view of the resurrection, supporting (3) an epicurean lifestyle. “Bad company ruins good morals” means God-less people give bad counsel about supernatural reality and make Paul’s sacrifices in Ephesus look stupid. He should be shunning persecution and throwing parties.
This Is Not Who You Are
What are the Corinthians doing? They are keeping company with the ignorant, and schooling themselves on the resurrection with the ignorance of fools. In comes Paul’s humiliating, liberating argument.
I knew what I was doing at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32). I will do it again. Godly life is risk. It’s worth it. Your counselors are bad company (1 Corinthians 15:33). They haven’t even gotten to first base — knowing God (1 Corinthians 15:34). You are not going to learn about the resurrection from them. Partying is not the point of life, if there is a resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:32). And there is (1 Corinthians 15:20).
So sober up. You are acting like you are in a drunken stupor (1 Corinthians 15:34). Don’t be deceived (1 Corinthians 15:33). Stop sinning (1 Corinthians 15:34). Notice the stones piling up: (1) the stupor of ignorance, supporting (2) deception about the resurrection, supporting (3) an epicurean life of sin. Conclusion: “I say this to your shame.” You should be ashamed.
This is not a slur. It’s an argument. “I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves.” He is arguing from reality, not ranting with abuse.
And woven into that humiliating argument is the liberating thread of hope. You are not your bad company. You are not ignorant of God. You will not give way to deception. You will not go on sinning in a stupor. This is not who you are. “I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!” (1 Corinthians 15:31).
People of Grace and Strength
I say it again: I don’t know anyone who builds humiliating and liberating arguments the way the apostle Paul does. He builds with stones of insight. He doesn’t rant. He reasons.
Oh, that the church of Christ would be drenched with such preaching and teaching week in and week out. If Paul’s wisdom and revelation and reasoning and fearless relational confrontation and love were worked into the Christian mind, with faithful exposition and exultation, what a peculiar people of grace and strength we would be.