“Bad company corrupts good character.” This is best known as a quote of Paul from his first letter to the Corinthians (15.33). What is lesser known about this saying is that Paul is actually quoting a well-known Greek writer of the day, Menander. What is even less known yet is just who Paul is thinking of in reference to “bad company.” Many, if not most, seem to think Paul is talking about people with some general “immoral” behavior. This, however, is highly mistaken and misses Paul’s point entirely. If Paul was speaking of avoiding immoral people because their immorality may “rub-off” then Jesus, who hung with swindlers, drunkards, partiers, tax collectors and other “sinners,” was one corrupt dude and Paul would be teaching that His “way” is not to be ours.
So, if the bad company of 1 Corinthians 15 is not a general reference to people with immoral behavior, who then does Paul have in mind when he quotes Menander? Quite ironically, in this case, the bad company he is talking about are the bad teachers and misleading theologians who are persuading people to believe that there is not going to be a day of resurrection for all. If, Paul states, this were the case then God does not resurrect and thus, not even Jesus has been resurrected and our faith is useless! But, Paul goes on to say, Jesus has indeed been resurrected and we await the great and glorious day of the resurrection for all- your faith is not useless!
The importance of this goes well beyond a mental ascent to proper doctrine and, as should always be the case, into the realm of proper action. While Paul is clearly concerned with right thinking it is not just for thinking’s sake but for thinking’s influence on action. The matter at hand is of action in keeping with faith. Paul understands that what we do now will be entirely different based on one’s understanding of resurrection. In a nutshell, resurrection, properly understood demands continuity between this life and the one to come and thus, insists that what we do now has implications on the life to come!
The difference in action is summed up by Paul in 1 Cor. 15 as:
Corrupted perspective– “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” -1 Cor. 15:33b
Uncorrupted perspective– “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” -1 Cor. 15:58b