Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What did Paul mean by Die Daily

One of my frustrations is the way some people make declarative statements with great confidence that are both historically untrue as well as being Biblically untrue. For example here is how it was used today in the Sabbath School Class I attended this morning. This is taken from Larry Kirkpatrick’s article on his Great Controversy Website:

After all, in 1 Corinthians 15:31 Paul says: I die daily. Is this your experience too? Every Christian needs to die daily. Did you die to self this morning? Are you converted anew as of this morning?

Another blog says:

The desires we have are not excuses to endulge, they are simply a result of our fallen state. To follow God means to choose to deny self. Paul said "I die daily."
Victory can be won, through Christ, over all out sinful desires, whatever they may be.

This type of non contextual method of interpretation has lead many Adventists to assert that Paul when he uses the expression “I die daily”, quite apart from the context of danger as he preaches the gospel to some type of metaphysical death to self daily.

Here is the text in question first from the King James Version and then from the NIV to show that there is really no significant difference between translations.

KJV 1 Cor 15:29-32

29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.(KJV)

NIV 1 Cor 15:29-32

29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?

30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour?

31 I die every day-- I mean that, brothers-- just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord.

32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."(NIV)

Clearly Paul is referring to his life being endangered. But where do SDA’s get the idea that Paul is dying daily to self. It is from Ellen White’s misinterpretation of 1 Cor. 15:31.

Addressed to Two Young Men

Last December I was shown the dangers and temptations of youth. The two younger sons of Father O need to be converted. They need to die daily to self. Paul, the faithful apostle, had a fresh experience daily. He says: "I die daily." This is exactly the experience that these young men need. They are in danger of overlooking present duty and of neglecting the education that is essential for practical life. They regard education in books as the all-important matter to be attended to in order to make life a success. 3T.221.003 (Testimonies Vol. 3 p. 221)

The Lord requires us to be submissive to His will, subdued by His Spirit, and sanctified to His service. Selfishness must be put away, and we must overcome every defect in our characters as Christ overcame. In order to accomplish this work, we must die daily to self. Said Paul: "I die daily." He had a new conversion every day, took an advance step toward heaven. To gain daily victories in the divine life is the only course that God approves. The Lord is gracious, of tender pity, and plenteous in mercy. He knows our needs and weaknesses, and He will help our infirmities if we only trust in Him and believe that He will bless us and do great things for us. (Testimonies Vol. 4 page 66)

The life of the apostle Paul was a constant conflict with self. He said, "I die daily." 1 Corinthians 15:31. His will and his desires every day conflicted with duty and the will of God. Instead of following inclination, he did God's will, however crucifying to his nature. (The Ministry of Healing page 452)

The Lord would have us submissive to his will, and sanctified to his service. Selfishness must be put away, with every other defect in our characters. There must be a daily death to self. Paul had this experience. He said, "I die daily." Every day he had a new conversion; every day he took an advance step toward Heaven. We, too, must gain daily victories in the divine life, if we would enjoy the favor of God. (Signs of the Times Mar. 1887 page 3)

You will notice that this view is not at all the message in Paul, as the Expositor’s Bible Commentary says:

30-32 Another argument for the resurrection is that if it is not true, then suffering and hardship for the sake of Christ are useless. By "endangering ourselves every hour," Paul seems to be alluding to peril looming up in his ministry in Ephesus (cf. Acts 19), where he was when he wrote 1 Corinthians. He is in danger of death every day (v. 31). He seals this assertion with the oath (Greek, ne, "I mean that, brothers") that this is as true as the fact that he glories over them and over their union with Christ. Paul's reference to fighting with wild beasts in Ephesus (v. 32) may be taken literally or figuratively. But since from Acts 19 we see no evidence of such punishment and since it was questionable whether a Roman citizen would be subjected to such treatment, it is best to take the words metaphorically--the human enemies he fought with at Ephesus were like wild beasts. But, Paul says, why go through all this suffering if there is no hope of resurrection? To prove his point, he first quotes Isaiah 22:13, (possibly for the benefit of the Jewish believers at Corinth) from a context of reckless living that the Lord condemns. So without eternal hope through the resurrection, men have nothing to turn to but gratification of their appetites.

From some readily available internet commentaries:

The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible

1 Corinthians 15:30

And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
Not only they that have suffered martyrdom for the faith of Christ, and for this article of it, have acted very injudiciously and indiscreetly; but we, also, who are on the spot, whether ministers or private Christians, must be highly blameworthy, who continually expose ourselves to dangers, and are for Christ's sake killed all the day long, are every moment liable to innumerable injuries, tortures and death; who in his senses would act such a part, if there is no resurrection of the dead? such, as they must be of all men the most miserable, so of all men the most stupid.

The 1599 Geneva Study Bible

15:30 16 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

(16) The sixth argument: unless there is a resurrection of the dead, why should the apostles so daily cast themselves into danger of so many deaths?

Matthew Henry Complete Commentary
on the Whole Bible

And his next is as plain to us. IV. He argues from the absurdity of his own conduct and that of other Christians upon this supposition, 1. It would be a foolish thing for them to run so many hazards (v. 30): "Why stand we in jeopardy every hour? Why do we expose ourselves to continual peril-we Christians, especially we apostles?’’ Every one knows that it was dangerous being a Christian, and much more a preacher and an apostle, at that time. "Now,’’ says the apostle, "what fools are we to run these hazards, if we have no better hopes beyond death, if when we die we die wholly, and revive no more!’’ Note, Christianity were a foolish profession if it proposed no hopes beyond this life, at least in such hazardous times as attended the first profession of it; it required men to risk all the blessings and comforts of this life, and to face and endure all the evils of it, without any future prospects. And is this a character of his religion fit for a Christian to endure? And must he not fix this character on it if he give up his future hopes, and deny the resurrection of the dead? This argument the apostle brings home to himself: "I protest,’’ says he, "by your rejoicing in Jesus Christ, by all the comforts of Christianity, and all the peculiar succours and supports of our holy faith, that I die daily,’’ v. 31. He was in continual danger of death, and carried his life, as we say, in his hand. And why should he thus expose himself, if he had no hopes after life? To live in daily view and expectation of death, and yet have no prospect beyond it, must be very heartless and uncomfortable, and his case, upon this account, a very melancholy one. He had need be very well assured of the resurrection of the dead, or he was guilty of extreme weakness, in hazarding all that was dear to him in this world, and his life into the bargain. He had encountered very great difficulties and fierce enemies; he had fought with beasts at Ephesus (v. 32), and was in danger of being pulled to pieces by an enraged multitude, stirred up by Demetrius and the other craftsmen (Acts 19:24, etc.), though some understand this literally of Paul’s being exposed to fight with wild beasts in the amphitheatre, at a Roman show in that city. And Nicephorus tells a formal story to this purport, and of the miraculous complaisance of the lions to him when they came near him. But so remarkable a trial and circumstance of his life, methinks, would not have been passed over by Luke, and much less by himself, when he gives us so large and particular a detail of his sufferings, 2 Co. 11:24, ad fin. When he mentioned that he was five times scourged of the Jews, thrice beaten with rods, once stoned, thrice shipwrecked, it is strange that he should not have said that he was once exposed to fight with the beasts. I take it, therefore, that this fighting with beasts is a figurative expression, that the beasts intended were men of a fierce and ferine disposition, and that this refers to the passage above cited. "Now,’’ says he, "what advantage have I from such contests, if the dead rise not? Why should I die daily, expose myself daily to the danger of dying by violent hands, if the dead rise not? And if post mortem nihilif I am to perish by death, and expect nothing after it, could any thing be more weak?’’ Was Paul so senseless? Had he given the Corinthians any ground to entertain such a thought of him? If he had not been well assured that death would have been to his advantage, would he, in this stupid manner, have thrown away his life? Could any thing but the sure hopes of a better life after death have extinguished the love of life in him to this degree? "What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? What can I propose to myself?’’

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible

Verse 30. Why are we - The apostles. Also in danger every hour - It is plain we can expect no amends in this life. Verse 31. I protest by your rejoicing, which I have - Which love makes my own. I die daily - I am daily in the very jaws of death. Beside that I live, as it were, in a daily martyrdom.

If this subject is ever brought up to a Traditional Adventist they generally will have no answer or their answer will be something to the effect that if he was willing to die then he must have been unselfish and being unselfish means that he was daily dieing to self. Which is the classic way of reading information into the text (eisegesis) rather then letting the text speak for itself (exegesis). The funny thing is that as many times as this is explained to Adventists they often will revert to the Ellen White usage rather than the Biblical usage. The idea of dying to self is pretty hard to accept no matter how someone tries to explain it. The best thing is that Biblically there is no need to be telling people they have to die to self. If you want to tell people it is hard to follow Christ that is fine use the text about taking up your cross and following Christ.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mat 16:24 NIV)

In that case you are not dying to self you are discipling yourself, choosing to follow Christ rather than going your own way. Or if you want to talk about killing your “old man” there is a text for that.

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Rom 6:6 -7 KJV)

In any case if the point one wants to make is that following God is not simply doing as you please there are abundant legitimate texts that can be used which are contextually speaking of the subject. There is no need to rip a text out of its context to make the point. Because in fact a text taken out of context is a pretext and ultimately you are not even making a point. Unless of course you are trying to make the point to people who already believe as you do and who take things out of context as much as you do. But in all honesty what is the point of that? Sometime you are going to have to face the people who don’t believe as you do, the people who won’t accept pretexts, why not learn to speak to them properly now and speak to others in our congregations properly within the context of the scriptures now.


Matt Meacham said...

From the expositors bible "Another argument for the resurrection is that if it is not true, then suffering and hardship for the sake of Christ are useless."
How can suffering hardship for the sake of Christ be useless unless there is resurrection? Sounds like paying a premium on a fire insurance policy to me. How many people would follow Christ without the hope of resurrection?

Ron Corson said...

Actually I used to think in a similar way. I thought that as a philosophy Christianity would be a good choice even if there was no heaven or reward in heaven.

I don't think that way anymore. The reason is that the resurrection, the concept of being with God after life is too central to the Christian philosophy. If you are teaching or believing something that is not true than you are deluding yourself and others. Much worse than simply believing something it would be saying this part of Christianity is not true and yet I still teach it and claim that the one who originated and taught it is true and right. It all becomes hypocritical than.

So Paul is saying why endanger yourself for a better life with Christ if there really is no better life with Christ because people can simply kill you because they don't like you going against their religion and that is you lived a shorter and less productive life and that is all you get.

So now instead of saying that I think the Christian philosophy is worth choosing even if there is no heaven. I would say that if there is no heaven I would choose a more practical philosophy like humanism.

You could say that secular humanism is an outgrowth of Christian philosophy. That is likely very true, so we can still trace some ideas to Christ but if the resurrection is untrue than there is little reason to hold to everything He said just because some things are true. We don't do that with any other philosopher or thinker.

You could say it goes back to the old saying Liar, Lunatic or Lord. If the presupposition is that there is no Resurrection than your presupposition is that Jesus is a Liar or Lunatic. Not exactly a position that would cause many people to follow Christ.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for you. When light is rejected darkness proportionate over take them that reject truth.

Ron Corson said...

What light has been rejected? If God had wanted Paul to say he died daily to self than that is what Paul would have written. To reject the misinterpretation of someone 1800 years later is hardly rejecting truth. Unless of course someone has taken some sort of cultic stand on what is truth.

shant said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Al said...

Try this; to die daily is to have a new life the next day. Leave the old behind and let the Resurrection and the Life give you a new day to live again without burdens of the old to holding you back.

kLutz said...

Without the resurrection their is no point in putting ourselves under scrutiny of our Christian walk. So few have put themselves on the line in the past 16oo years, since christianity was normalised, that they have no clue, no interest in walking in Jesus footsteps, but rather wrangling scripture to prove their knowledge.

Rightbalance said...

You shoot yourself in the foot by saying "The idea of dying to self is pretty hard to accept no matter how someone tries to explain it. The best thing is that Biblically there is no need to be telling people they have to die to self. If you want to tell people it is hard to follow Christ that is fine use the text about taking up your cross and following Christ."

The dying to self whether Paul meant that or not , really is a part of the Christian experience. Christians try to live without sinning, realise that they can't by themselves, and are drawn to their saviour for daily assistance. It IS a daily struggle, made easy by trusting in Jesus. If you really don't know this i would question your credentials in commenting about the Christian experience.

Ron Corson said...

It is a part of Christian tradition, not experience because no Christian has really had the experience of dying daily to self. If Paul did not say or mean that and clearly he did not it becomes an extra-biblical insertion into Christianity. That you are so willing to insert your favorite traditions into the Bible is really the problem...what other things are you inserting, then what other things have you inserted and then condemn others for not accepting your traditions and questioning their Christianity in the process. That is the problem!

Rightbalance said...

You simply have to die daily to sin, that is the Christian experience. I don't care about your petty anti-adventist vendetta, that is your problem. I'm more worried that a Christian wouldn't actually know this from his experience. Jesus on earth prayed constantly, we read Pauls admonition to the Thessalonians "pray without ceasing" if you think you are fine for a few days because you said a good prayer or went to a good church service, think again. This is a vulnerability that will cause people to fail in their walk. "let him that think he stands, take heed lest he fall".