“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ Become sober–minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.”
1 Corinthians 15:33–34
Trusting in the fact of Christ’s resurrection and looking forward to our own rising from the dead ought to stimulate us toward sanctification.
Like any essential teaching of Scripture, the doctrine of the Resurrection can be studied and discussed from an academic standpoint only. When that happens, we usually acquire a factual understanding of the topic and perhaps some appreciation of how the doctrine supports our faith—but that’s as far as we go.
However, our studies on the Resurrection have already taught us some of the implications this Bible truth ought to have for our conduct. The hope of the Resurrection can give everyone an incentive to be saved and believers an incentive for service. This hope also provides a third incentive: the motivation toward sanctification.
The apostle Paul knew that those in the Corinthian church were being exposed to the heretical theology that there is no real resurrection from the dead. This false teaching was having a bad influence on the Corinthians’ behavior. That’s why Paul tells them in today’s verse, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” It is impossible to be around evil people and not be contaminated both by their ideas and their habits. The apostle goes on to urge those believers who hoped in a resurrection to be a positive influence on others and lead them to the truth.
This glimpse at the situation in Corinth proves that sound doctrine matters and does affect how people live. We see all around us today what results when there is no belief in a resurrection. People become short–sighted and live as they please because ultimately nothing keeps them accountable. This is all the more reason for us to hold firm to the truth of the Resurrection, live in its hope, and proclaim it to others.
Suggestions for Prayer: How is the pursuit of holiness coming in your life? Pray that the Lord would increase your diligence and help you especially in an area of weakness.
For Further Study: Read 1 Peter 1. List all the verses that refer to God’s plan for Christ’s death and resurrection. ✧ How does the existence of such a divine plan strengthen your hope? ✧ Write a theme sentence for the chapter.
An Incentive for Sanctification
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Become sober–minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. (15:33–34)
The third incentive the hope of resurrection gives is for sanctification. Looking forward to resurrection should lead to more godly living and spiritual maturity. Verses 32 and 33 are closely related. Denying the resurrection destroys the incentives both for service and for sanctification. Why then bother serving the Lord or serving others in His name, and why bother to be holy and pure?
Paul warned the Corinthians that they should not be deceived about the danger of bad company. Homilia (company) basically means an association of people, but also can have the connotation of a lecture or sermon. It seems possible, therefore, that the Corinthians were both listening to some wrong teaching and associating with some evil people. Whether the teaching was in formal messages or not, it was bad and corrupting.
People who think wrongly invariably behave wrongly. Wrong behavior comes from wrong thinking, from wrong beliefs and wrong standards. It is impossible to associate regularly with wicked people without being contaminated both by their ideas and by their habits. The context implies that the bad company was teaching the heretical theology that there is no resurrection of the dead, and that bad theology had corrupted good morals.
Just as hoping in the resurrection is an incentive to obedience and holiness, so disbelief of it is an incentive to disobedience and immorality. As Paul has just pointed out, if there is no resurrection, we might as well eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. If death is the end, what great difference does it make what we do?
Some in the Corinthian congregation had no knowledge of God, and therefore no knowledge of His truth. Their bad theology was leading to bad behavior, especially because they denied the resurrection.
The Greek historian Thucydides reported that when a deadly plague came to Athens, “People committed every shameful crime and eagerly snatched at every lustful pleasure.” They believed life was short and there was no resurrection, so they would have to pay no price for their vice. The Roman poet Horace wrote, “Tell them to bring wine and perfume and the too short–lived blossoms of the lovely rose while circumstance and age and the black threads of the three sisters fate still allow us to do so.” Another Roman poet, Catullus, penned the lines: “Let’s live my Lesbia and let’s love, and lets value the tales of austere old men at a single half penny. Suns can set and then return again, but for us when once our brief light sets there is but one perpetual night through which we must sleep.”
Without the prospect of a resurrection, and of the accountability it brings, there is no incentive for doing anything but what we feel like doing here and now. If behavior has no reward or condemnation, it is uncontrollable.
Become sober–minded as you ought, and stop sinning, Paul pleads in the imperative. “Those of you who believe in the resurrection know better, and you should be leading those who do not believe in the resurrection into a true knowledge of God, rather than allowing their heresy and their immorality to mislead and corrupt you.” The apostle spoke this to [their] shame. They had the truth, but they did not fully believe it and therefore did not fully follow it. He commands them to cease the sin they were involved in.
What tremendous power the resurrection has, and what wonderful hope it gives! Jesus rose from the dead; He is alive; and we also shall live because one day He will raise us up to be with Him eternally. What greater incentive, what greater motive, could we have for coming to Him, for serving Him, and for living for Him?
15:33 The Corinthians should not be deceived on this score. Evil company corrupts good habits. Paul is referring to the false teachers who had come into the church at Corinth, denying the resurrection. The Christians should realize that it is impossible to associate with evil people or evil teachings without being corrupted by them. Evil doctrine inevitably has an effect on one’s life. False teachings do not lead to holiness.
15:34 The Corinthians should awake to righteousness and not sin. They should not be deluded by these evil teachings. Some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. This verse is commonly interpreted to mean that there are still men and women who have never heard the gospel story, and that Christians should be ashamed of their failure to evangelize the world. However, while this may be true, we believe that the primary meaning of the passage is that there were men in the fellowship at Corinth who did not have the knowledge of God. They were not true believers, but wolves in sheep’s clothing, false teachers who had crept in unawares. It was to the shame of the Corinthians that these men were allowed to take their place with the Christians and to teach these wicked doctrines. The carelessness which let ungodly people enter the assembly resulted in lowering the congregation’s whole moral tone, thus preparing an opening for the intrusion of all kinds of error.
33–34 Paul ends this section with a warning, presumably to those in Corinth who were under the influence of the heretical doctrine of the resurrection. The maxim “bad company corrupts good character” (which can be traced to the Greek poet Menander but was probably a common proverb in Greco-Roman society) reflects essentially the same concern as contemporary sayings about peer pressure, where going along with the crowd can lead an otherwise good person into bad behavior.
Apparently there were some in Corinth who were doing precisely this—being caught up in the “wine, women, and song” philosophy of those who believed there were no consequences for immoral behavior since there was no resurrection of the dead. Such people had no true knowledge of God (in spite of the claim of some in Corinth to be so wise; cf. the “wisdom” section of 1:18–2:16; also 3:18; 8:1–2). As a result, they were being easily led into sinning. In writing this, Paul was intending to shame his readers to whom this applied (see comments on the “honor-shame” culture at 4:14; 11:7–10; 14:35). What he wanted them to do was to sober up and come to their senses.
It appears that the thinking reflected here is similar to what Paul dealt with in 6:12–20. There, too, I argued that part of the problem was a lack of belief in the resurrection of the body. One can even argue that 15:1–35 is an expansion of these earlier verses. So why would Paul not have coupled together these two sections? As noted in the introduction (pp. 251–52), I suggest that Paul probably wrote this letter over a period of time (perhaps a couple of months). After all, he seems to go back and forth between his responses to their written questions to him and things he keeps hearing about as visitors come to him in Ephesus. Rather than start the letter over again when he hears something new about a problem he has already touched on (or do a “cut and paste,” as we do today on computers), Paul simply wrote his sections as the issues came to him. When the letter was finally read, the connections would be clear to the Corinthians.
 MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 429–430). Chicago: Moody Press.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1808). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 400). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.