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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 15 - Verse 1

 

1st Corinthians Chapter 15

This important and deeply interesting chapter, I have spoken of as the third part of the epistle. See the Introduction. It is more important than any other portion of the epistle, as it contains a connected, and laboured, and unanswerable argument for the main truth of Christianity, and, consequently, for Christianity itself; and it is more interesting to us as mortal beings, and as having an instinctive dread of death, than any other portion of the epistle. It has always, therefore, been regarded with deep interest by expositors, and it is worthy of the deepest attention of all. If the argument in this chapter is solid, then Christianity is true; and if true, then this chapter unfolds to us the most elevated and glorious prospect which can be exhibited to dying, yet immortal man.

There were, probably, two reasons why the apostle introduced here this discussion about the resurrection.

First. It was desirable to introduce a condensed and connected statement of the main argument for the truth of Christianity. The Corinthians had been perplexed with subtle questions, and torn by sects and parties; and it was possible that in their zeal for sect and party, they would lose their hold on this great and vital argument for the truth of religion itself. It might be further apprehended, that the enemies of the gospel, from seeing the divisions and strifes which existed there, would take advantage of these contentions, and say that a religion which produced such fruits could not be from God. It was important, therefore, that they should have access to an argument plain, clear, and unanswerable, for the truth of Christianity; and that thus the evil effects of their divisions and strifes might be counteracted.

Secondly. It is evident, from 1 Co 15:12, that the important doctrine of the resurrection of the dead had been denied at Corinth, and that this error had obtained a footing in the church itself. On what grounds, or by what portion or party it was denied, is unknown. It may have been that the influence of some Sadducean teacher may have led to the rejection of the doctrine; or it may have been the effect of philosophy. From Ac 17:32, we know that among some of the Greeks, the doctrine of the resurrection was regarded as ridiculous; and from 2 Ti 2:18, we learn that it was held by some that the resurrection was passed already, and, consequently, that there was nothing but a spiritual resurrection. To counteract these errors, and to put the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead on a firm foundation, and thus to furnish a demonstration of the truth of Christianity, was the design of this chapter.

The chapter may be regarded as divided into four parts, and four questions in regard to the resurrection are solved.

(1.) Whether there is any resurrection of the dead? 1 Co 15:1-34.

(2.) With what body will the dead rise? 1 Co 15:35-51.

(3.) What will become of those who shall be alive when the Lord Jesus shall come to judge the world? 1 Co 15:51-54.

(4.) What are the practical bearings of this doctrine? 1 Co 15:55-58.

I. The dead will be raised, 1 Co 15:1-34. This Paul proves by the following arguments, and illustrates in the following manner:

(1.) By adducing reasons to show that Christ rose from the dead, 1 Co 15:1-11.

(a.) From the Scripture, 1 Co 15:1-4.

(b.) From the testimony of eye-witnesses, 1 Co 15:5-11.

(2.) By showing the absurdity of the contrary doctrine, 1 Co 15:12-34.

(a.) If the dead do not rise, it would follow that Christ has not risen, 1 Co 15:13.

(b.) If Christ is not risen, he is preached in vain, and faith is reposed in him for nought, 1 Co 15:14.

(c.) It would follow that the apostles would be false witnesses and wicked men; whereas, the Corinthians had abundant reason to know the contrary, 1 Co 15:15.

(d.) The faith of the Corinthians must be vain if he was not risen, and they must regard themselves as still unpardoned sinners, since all their hope of pardon must arise from the fact that his work was accepted, and that he was raised up, 1 Co 15:16,17.

(e.) If Christ was not risen, then all their pious friends who had believed in him must be regarded as lost, 1 Co 15:18.

(f.) It would follow that believers in Christ would be in a more miserable condition than any others, if there was no resurrection, 1 Co 15:19.

(g.) Baptism for the resurrection of the dead would be absurd and in vain, unless the dead arose; it would be vain to be baptized with the belief, and on the ground of the belief that Christ rose, and on the ground of the hope that they would rise, 1 Co 15:29.

(h.) It would be in vain that the apostles and others had suffered so many toils and persecutions, unless the dead should rise, 1 Co 15:30-32.

In the course of this part of his argument, (1 Co 15:20-28,) Paul introduces an illustration of the doctrine, or a statement of an important fact in regard to it—thus separating the argument in 1 Co 15:19 from the text, which occurs in 1 Co 15:29. Such interruptions of a train of thinking are not uncommon in the writings of Paul, and indicate the fulness and richness of his conceptions, when some striking thought occurs, or some plausible objection is to be met, and when he suspends his argument in order to state it. This interjected portion consists of the following items:

(1.) A triumphant and joyful assurance that Christ had in fact risen; as if his mind was full, and he was impatient of the delay caused by the necessity of slow argumentation, 1 Co 15:19,20.

(2.) He illustrates the doctrine, or shows that it is reasonable that the certainty of the resurrection should be demonstrated by one in human nature, since death had been introduced by man, 1 Co 15:21,22. This is an argument from analogy, drawn from the obvious propriety of the doctrine, that man should be raised up in a manner somewhat similar to the mode in which he had been involved in ruin.

(3.) He states the order in which all this should be done, 1 Co 15:23-28. It is possible that some may have held that the resurrection must have been already passed, since it depended so entirely and so closely on the resurrection of Christ. Compare 2 Ti 2:18. Paul, therefore, meets this objection; and shows that it must take place in a regular order; that Christ rose first, and that they who were his friends should rise at his coming. He then states what would take place at that time, when the work of redemption should have been consummated by the resurrection of the dead, and the entire recovery of all the redeemed to God, and the subjection of every foe.

II. What will be the nature of the bodies that shall be raised up? 1 Co 15:35-51. This inquiry is illustrated,

(1.) By a reference to grain that is sown, 1 Co 15:36-38.

(2.) By a reference to the fact that there are different kinds of flesh, 1 Co 15:39.

(3.) By a reference to the fact that there are celestial bodies and earthly bodies, 1 Co 15:40.

(4.) By the fact that there is a difference between the sun, and moon, and stars, 1 Co 15:41.

(5.) By a direct statement; for which the mind is prepared by these illustrations, of the important changes which the body of man must undergo, and of the nature of that body which he will have in heaven, 1 Co 15:42-50. It is

(a.) incorruptible, 1 Co 15:42;

(b.) glorious, 1 Co 15:43;

(c.) powerful, 1 Co 15:43;

(d.) a spiritual body, 1 Co 15:44;

(e.) it is like the body of the second man, the Lord from heaven, 1 Co 15:45-50.

III. What will become of those who shall be alive when the Lord Jesus shall return to raise the dead?

 

Ans. They shall be changed instantly, and fitted for heaven, and made like the glorified saints that shall be raised from the dead, 1 Co 15:51-54.

IV. The practical consequences or influences of this doctrine, 1 Co 15:55-58.

(1.) The doctrine is glorious and triumphant; it overcame all the evils of sin, and should fill the mind with joy, 1 Co 15:55-57.

(2.) It should lead Christians to diligence, and firmness of faith, and patience, since their labour was not to be in vain, 1 Co 15:58.

Verse 1. Moreover. But, (de). In addition to what I have said; or in that which I am now about to say, I make known the main and leading truth of the gospel. The particle de is "strictly adversative, but more frequently denotes transition and conversion, and serves to introduce something else, whether opposite to what precedes, or simply continuative or explanatory."—Robinson. Here it serves to introduce another topic that was not properly a continuation of what he had said, but which pertained to the same general subject, and which was deemed of great importance.

I declare unto you. gnwrizw. This word properly means, to make known, to declare, to reveal, (Lu 2:15; Ro 9:22,23; ) then to tell, narrate, inform, (Eph 6:21; Col 4:7,9; ) and also to put in mind of, to impress, to confirm. See Barnes "1 Co 12:3".

Here it does not mean that he was communicating to them any new truth, but he wished to remind them of it; to state the arguments for it, and to impress it deeply on their memories. There is an abruptness in our translation which does not exist in the original. Bloomfield.

The gospel. See Barnes "Mr 1:1".

The word here means the glad announcement, or the good news about the coming of the Messiah, his life, and sufferings, and death, and especially his resurrection. The main subject to which Paul refers in this chapter is the resurrection; but he includes in the word gospel, here, the doctrine that he died for sins, and was buried, as well as the doctrine of his resurrection. See 1 Co 15:3,4.

Which I preached unto you. Paul founded the church at Corinth, Ac 18:1, seq. It was proper that he should remind them of what he had taught them at first; of the great elementary truths on which the church had been established, but from which their minds had been diverted by the other subjects that had been introduced as matters of debate and strife. It was fair to presume that they would regard with respect the doctrines which the founder of their church had first proclaimed, if they were reminded of them; and Paul, therefore, calls their attention to the great and vital truths by which they had been converted, and by which the church had thus far prospered. It is well, often, to remind Christians of the truths which were preached to them when they were converted, and which were instrumental in their conversion. When they have gone off from these doctrines, when they have given their minds to speculation and philosophy, it has a good effect to remind them that they were converted by the simple truths that Christ died, and was buried, and rose again from the dead. The argument of Paul here is, that they owed all the piety and comfort which they had to these doctrines; and that, therefore, they should still adhere to them as the foundation of all their hopes.

Which also ye have received. Which you embraced; which you all admitted as true; which were the means of your conversion. I would remind you that, however that truth may now be denied by you, it was once received by you, and you professed to believe in the fact that Christ rose from the dead, and that the saints would rise.

And wherein ye stand. By which your church was founded, and by which all your piety and hope has been produced, and which is at the foundation of all your religion. You were built up by this, and by this only can you stand as a Christian church. This doctrine was vital and fundamental. This demonstrates that the doctrines that Christ died "for sins," and rose from the dead, are fundamental truths of Christianity. They enter into its very nature; and without them there can be no true religion.

{a} "I declare" Gal 1:11 {b} "which also ye have received" 1 Co 4-8

{c} "wherein ye stand" 1 Pe 5:12

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