“What I received I passed on to you” (1 Corinthians 15)
One of the rare excursions outside of the Old Testament is that of the first letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians chapter 15 to be exact. This was the de-facto standard for the EBC (Easter Bible Conference) in many UBF chapters. Each year we attempted to memorize chapter 15 and had multiple lectures on the chapter.
The teaching ingrained in a new student at UBF through 1 Corinthians 15 is the principle of self-pruning or self-flagellation. The emphasis is on death. Many good-sounding Christian words are also added. The lectures talk about the resurrection, hope, and glory of Jesus. But the tone is always that of a somber death ritual. For example here is a recent lecture quote:
“Let me digress to make my point that we have victory over sin in Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection—are a foreshadow of what is going to happen to us when we mature as Christians. It is a pattern or a picture of how God is going to work with us. Something in us is going to have to die when we become Christians. Something in us can no longer go on living, like lust, anger, idol worship, self-glory seeking, pride, etc… It must end; it must die. As we read the Scriptures we see how many passages set this out for us. We are to ‘put off the old man’ (Col 3:9) because it is ‘dead with Christ,’ (Col 2:20). We learn that it is this the selfish self, this god which is me, this insistence on being able to run my own life and make my own decisions—that is what has to go.”
Talking about cutting off our ability to make our own decisions is certainly a digression from the gospel. What kind of church teaches you cannot make your own decisions as part of their Easter message? The answer is of course that a church does not teach like this. A cult does however.
The goal of the lectures from 1 Corinthians 15 is almost always to point out the “passing on” of the “spiritual heritage”. The code word for this is “gospel”. So it is very difficult to discern what the UBF Bible teacher is actually teaching. Notice how this UBF lecturer teaches that we should have a “passing on ministry”:
“Paul also says, “what I received I passed on to you as of first importance”. Here we also learn that our preaching the gospel is the “passing on ministry”. For instance, Paul received the gospel from Christ and he passed it on to the Christians in Corinth. Many of us also received the gospel from our Bible teachers and now we are trying to pass it on to other people. Also, what we pass on to others as a kingdom worker is very important. I mean the contents of our preaching. I think some of us still vividly remember how excited they were when they were watching the men’s 400 meter relay race at the London 2012 Olympics. To many people’s delight, the Jamaican relay team won the gold medal. Each member of the team was very careful in passing the baton to the next runner. If they had passed along anything else, whether a random stick, a wallet, a phone, the team would have been disqualified. Only passing along the gospel can save and transform lives! When we preach, it is important that we are preaching the gospel, about Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are not preaching about ourselves, our church, etc., but about Jesus.”
The lecturer uses many correct Christian terms. The teaching seems to be innocent. But notice the example given: a relay race. While the words surrounding this example are actually correct, this example is out of place and reveals the real heart of what the lecturer wants to communicate. An Olympic racing team does not necessarily have to have a strong friendship. They merely hand off the baton from one member to another member and arrange themselves in the best possible order of skill to win the race.
This relay race analogy is how the missionaries envision their ministry. They want a lot of people running around feverishly handing off the “spiritual heritage” to the next person. It matters little if anyone has a real friendship. The gospel doctrines of the kingdom, of personal trust relationships and many other Christian teachings about the gospel ministry do not apply and are not significant in the mind of the UBF missionary. What matters is the “passing on” aspect.
They tend to preach about themselves and have the UBF heritage slogans in mind, so they often have to state “we are not preaching about ourselves”. In this way the students become confused about who they are serving and lose the ability to distinguish between God and UBF. The line is blurred between Jesus and the student’s UBF shepherd.