The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the CORINTHIANS – Chapter 15
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,
2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
This chapter is a very important section of scripture. Paul’s teaching on the resurrection. The most vital fact of our faith. Jesus was raised from the dead. Paul starts by reaffirming the gospel, the good news. When Roman troops returned from battles victorious they would proclaim the gospel, the good news, that they had won the victory. So the culture associated the term “gospel” with victory over an enemy. Paul is proclaiming that Jesus has won victory over our greatest and universal enemy – death. Later he will quote
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” – 1 Corinthians 15:55
Based on Isaiah 25:8
He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. – Isaiah 25:8
Paul encourages us to hold fast to the word that he has preached, to grasp his teaching, to retain the truth and not think we are believing in vain. We have a sure hope:
Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. – Proverbs 23:18
19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 6:19-20
The fact that Paul tells the church to hold fast means there is a chance they could let go. There is an enemy who seeks to devour us, discourage us, distract us, destroy us, drown us. We need to stand firm in the gospel by which we are being saved and hold on to it tightly, as if we are drowning in the violent sea
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, – 1Corinthians 15:3-4
Here it is! What you’ve been waiting for! The Good News. This is the gospel according to Paul. Not 28 chapters, nor 24 chapters nor 21 or 16 (the chapters in the four gospels) but TWO verses. Christ died for our sins and was buried and was raised from the dead. That’s it. That is the gospel. That is what Christianity is all about. Without this Christianity means nothing. Many believe this was the earliest creed that Paul was quoting. Note that Paul delivered what he received. He did not make it up. He was told the gospel. He humbled himself and accepted that his whole life had been wrong until he accepted that Christ died for his sins and was raised from the dead. He received from Christ then gave out what he received. The gospel. Note he calls it of first importance. Nothing is more important that the gospel. Paul served the gospel:
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you – Romans 1:9
A person who serves at dinner passes out the food. Paul gave out the gospel. Even when inprisoned he served Christ:
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,
13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. – Philippians 1:12-13
He encouraged co-workers to serve:
But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. – Philippians 2:22
Note also that Paul says twice according to the scriptures. This important event was prophesied. God has declared from the beginning that a saviour would come. That He Himself would provide a lamb. That He would not allow His Holy One to see corruption. Paul now spends the rest of this chapter teaching about the resurrection. Guzik points out that the gospel is based on things that actually happened. Not a theory or an idea but on a historical fact. Exciting isn’t it!!!
5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. – 1 Corinthians 15:5-9
The number and quality of witnesses to the resurrection is impressive. Firstly Peter and the apostles. They were the ones who having been the closest friends of Jesus deserted him. How do we feel about people who desert us, betray us, abandon us? We don’t bless them with the most marvelous of revelations, make them pillars of this wonderful new thing being born – the church. Then there was the five hundred at one time. Paul is careful to say ‘most of whom are still alive’. You can check it out with them, get an eye witness report, a first hand account from nearly five hundred people. Then there were James the Lord’s brother. He was a staunch unbeliever. He thought his brother was mad (Mark 3:21). He either chased Jesus out of Nazareth or watched as it happened (Luke 4:29). Yet he became a believer that his own (half) brother was the Son of God. And finally Paul who persecuted the church with passion and thought he was doing God a favour when he killed Christians, fell on his knees to worship the Lord Jesus Christ and declare to all that he died, was buried and was raised again from the dead. No one can dispute this quantity of witnesses. No one can disputes that the resurrection was a historical fact. The evidence would stand in any court of law. We have a sure foundation. A living hope.
therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ – Isaiah 28:16
(….will not be shaken, will not be disturbed, will not be stricken in panic, other translations say).
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:12-14
Here is a very valid argument. If we say there is no life after death then there is no point being a Christian. No life after death equals no judgment. No consequences. So of course that allows you to live life any way you please. And of course I Jesus was not raised from the dead then we have no hope. I wondered how the Old Testament believers got to know and understand about life after death. Obviously there are times when God raised a dead person to life, like Elisha and the woman’s child. (2 Kings 4:35). But much earlier than that Abraham appeared to believe that God would raise Isaac back to life if he was sacrificed. Where did that belief stem from? We know God promised David that:
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. – Psalm 16:10
And that David believed he would see the child that died again:
22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’
23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” – 2 Samuel 12:22-23
“I shall go to him”. Praise God that we shall go to Him, the one our heart desires. To be forever with the Lord. Heaven.
15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.
16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.
17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:15-19
Paul continues the discussion on what if there is no resurrection. If Christ is not raised then our faith is futile. What do we believe in? We believe in God. But:
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder! – James 2:19
The work God has given us to do is to believe in His Son:
Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” – John 6:29
It is whoever believes in Jesus that will have eternal life:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36
So if Jesus is not risen from the dead then there is no hope. But, praise God, He has not abandoned us, He has given us hope:
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. – Romans 5:2
Therefore, there is hope, that God will be glorified in us and through us, as we are found in His Son.
Oh, perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. – 1 Corinthians 15:20-22
The feast of the firstfruits is very interesting. This is how David Guzik describes it:
“The Feast of Firstfruits was observed on the day after the Sabbath following Passover (Leviticus 23:9-14). Significantly, Jesus rose from the dead on the exact day of the Feast of Firstfruits, the day after the Sabbath following the Passover.The Firstfruits was a bloodless grain offering (Leviticus 2). No atoning sacrifice was necessary, because the Passover lamb had just been sacrificed. This corresponds perfectly with the resurrection of Jesus, because His death ended the need for sacrifice, having provided a perfect and complete atonement.”
The Greek word translated firstfruits here and in the Greek Old Testament had a secular usage for “entrance fee” so the resurrection of Jesus is also the “entrance fee” of our resurrection, as Jesus paid our admission to the resurrection.
Paul goes on the teach about the fact that sin came into the world through one man and life was brought to us by one man. Adam and the last adam, Christ, ( by the way, the Hebrew meaning of Adam is “man”). Later Paul will say:
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. – 1 Corinthians 15:45
We are alive in Christ. Hallelujah. We have the very power of God living in us as we are the temple of God. God dwelling not only with us but in us. The One who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. No wonder we should not fear. We are alive unto God now and we will be resurrected, made alive forever with Him in eternity. Praise God from whose all blessings flow.
23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. – 1 Corinthians 15:23-26
Jesus was the first person to be resurrected. Although others had been brought back to life (the widow’s son through Elijah, Lazarus) they were still mortal and eventually died. Jesus came back in His resurrected body that is designed and fit for eternity and is immortal. When Jesus comes again to rule and reign on earth He will make manifest the Kingdom of God on earth and He will have His saints with Him, all of us in our resurrected, immortal bodies. During the Millennium mortal men and women will still die, although it will be far rarer as mortal life will be extended again. When Satan is released at the end and the final rebellion occurs, Jesus will defeat the final enemy – death. As Paul will soon quote from Hosea:
I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes. – Hosea 13:14
We are ransomed, redeemed, bought back from death. We are and will be immortal. Doesn’t that make this life pale into insignificance:
For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. – James 1:11
All that matters is Jesus. Let’s lift Him higher today, so people can see and believe.
27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.
28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. – 1 Corinthians 15:27-28
My hot topic at the moment submission/subjection. Accepting or yealding to an authority or superior force / owing allegiance to a superior. There is no doubt that Jesus is superior to us. Massively! But interestingly Jesus put Himself under the authority of the Father. But they are equal, Jesus is as much in authority as God the Father and the Holy Spirit. But:
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:6-8
Yet here is declares that when Jesus reigns on the earth He will be under the authority of the Father. Jesus is of the same substance as the father but there is a line of authority from the Father to the Son. Jesus is not inferior but co -equal. Jesus will not rule over the Father their relationship is eternal. We, after all, are using human language to describe God. We understand that a human son is of the same substance as his father but has to submit to his authority, as God has put this in place to reflect some aspect of the tri-une Godhead. Each person of the Godhead glorifies another person in the Godhead. So in all God will be glorified. God wants to be all in our lives and as we submit to Him so He is glorified. If we do what we want we are glorified which is never a good thing. God deserves all the glory.
29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?
30 Why are we in danger every hour?
31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!
32 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.”
33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” – 1 Corinthians 15:29-33
This is a strange and confusing passage. Guzik notes that he has found over 30 different explanations for verse 29. The idea seems to be that the pagans who practice baptism for the dead have more sense that Christians who do not believe in life after death. Paul continues his arguments in favour for the resurrection of the dead by stating that he faced physical death every day. We know he had enemies, faced shipwrecks and no doubt had a continual awareness they each day could be his last. There is no record of him facing lions in an arena so it is supposed that the “beasts” are figuratively speaking of the crowd that wanted him dead. He also argues that if there is no resurrection we may as well live a self indulgent life as there are no consequences of judgment. He ends by pointing out, concisely, you become like those you spend time with. Paul was an man who lived without considering his own comforts. He gave his life for the gospel. We should spend time with him, reading his letters, meditating on their content and meaning, learning about and being with the One who we all desperately need – Christ our Lord
34 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.
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”
36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.
38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. – 1 Corinthians 15:34-38
Paul uses the example of wheat falling into the ground and dying. Where have we heard that before ??
23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. – John 12:23-26
The hour had come for the Son of Man to be glorified through the resurrection. God is glorified as every person chooses to believe in Him and He will be glorified through our resurrection. As every believer is given their new body so God will be glorified in every member. Later in this chapter Paul says:
43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. – 1 Corinthians 15:43-44
Through everything the Lord will be glorified. As we give our lives to Him, moment by moment, so He is glorified. May He be glorified is all that we do today.
39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.
40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. – 1 Corinthians 15:39-41
Wow does the Bible really say that humans, animals, birds and fish are different. Don’t say we did not all evolve from a primeval amorphous blob into this, the most wonderful and marvellous of creatures??? Of course there is an intelligent designer. God the creator of the heavens and the earth who has done great things and through all will receive glory forever. Paul is really leading up to the point that our bodies now are of one form that gives God glory but in the future our resurrected eternal bodies will reveal His glory for eternity. Although the heavenly bodies all have very different forms in which they express power, light, mass and all the other physical qualities they all reveal the glory of God. May we shine as celestial lights in a dark world today and give God the glory he deserves.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:20
14 You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
16 When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. – Psalm 77:14-20
1 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. – Psalm 8:1-5
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
So, Paul gets to his main point. That we will be resurrected and have a new spiritual body:
who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. – Philippians 3:21
Jesus told his disciples that he was going to be raised from the dead and using the allegory of destroying the temple he told the authorities:
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. – John 2:18-22
Paul at a point of dispare cries out:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? – Romans 7:24.
But as we know concluded that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The promise of the resurrection gives us hope. Jesus conquered death and sin and:
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:36
Paul uses a series of comparisons: perishable/imperishable; dishonour/glory; weakness/ power;
And natural/spiritual to raise our awareness that from death comes life, from suffering comes joy.