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19If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.


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19. But if in this life Here is another absurdity — that we do not merely by believing lose our time and pains, inasmuch as the fruit of it perishes at our death, but it were better for us not to believe; for the condition of unbelievers were preferable, and more to be desired. To believe in this life means here to limit the fruit of our faith to this life, so that our faith looks no farther, and does not extend beyond the confines of the present life. This statement shows more clearly that the Corinthians had been imposed upon by some mistaken fancy of a figurative resurrection, such as Hymeneus and Philetus, as though the last fruit of our faith were set before us in this life. (2 Timothy 2:17, 18.) For as the resurrection is the completion of our salvation, and as to all blessings is, as it were, the farthest goal, 4343     This statement as to the resurrection is strikingly in contrast with the celebrated sentiment of Horace. (Epist. 1:16, 79.) “Mors est ultima linea rerum;” — “Death is the ultimate limit of things.” Heathen philosophers denied the possibility of a resurrection. Thus Pliny, Hist. Nat. L. 2, c. 7, says — “Revocare defunctos ne Deus qidem potest;” — “To call back the dead is what God himself cannot do.” the man who says that our resurrection is already past, leaves us nothing better to hope for after death. However this may be, this passage gives at all events no countenance to the frenzy of those who imagine that the soul sleeps as well as the body, until the day of the resurrection. 4444     Pareus, in commenting on this passage, adverts in the following terms to the tenet above referred to — “Nequaquam vero hinc sequitur, quod Psychopannychitae finxerunt: animas post mortem dormire, aut in nihilum cum corporibus redigi. Perire enim dicuntur infideles quoad animas, non physice, quod corruptae intercant; sed theologice, quod viventes felicitatern coelestem non consequantur; sed in tartara ad paenas solae vel cum corporibus tandem detrudantur;” — “By no means, however, does it follow from this, according to the contrivance of the soul-sleepers, that souls sleep after death, or are reduced to nothing along with the body. For unbelievers are said to perish as to their souls, not physically, as though they corrupted, and died, but theologically, because, while living they do not attain heavenly felicity, but are at length thrust down to hell for punishment, alone, or along with the body.”Ed. They bring forward, it is true, this objection — that if the soul continued to live when separated from the body, Paul would not have said that, if the resurrection were taken away, we would have hope only in this life, inasmuch as there would still be some felicity remaining for the soul. To this, however, I reply, that Paul did not dream of Elysian fields, 4545     Described at great length by Virgil. (AEn. 6, 637-703.)Ed. and foolish fables of that sort, but takes it for granted, that the entire hope of Christians looks forward to the final day of judgment — that pious souls do even at this day rest in the same expectation, and that, consequently, we are bereft of everything, if a confidence of this nature deceives us.

But why does he say that we would be the most miserable of all men, as if the lot of the Christian were worse than that of the wicked? For all things, says Solomon, happen alike to the good and to the bad. (Ecclesiastes 9:2.) I answer, that all men, it is true, whether good or bad, are liable to distresses in common, and they feel in common the same inconveniences, and the same miseries; but there are two reasons why Christians have in all ages fared worse, in addition to which, there was one that was peculiar to the times of Paul. The first is, that while the Lord frequently chastises the wicked, too, with his lashes, and begins to inflict his judgments upon them, he at the same time peculiarly afflicts his own in various ways; — in the first place, because he chastises those whom he loves, (Hebrews 12:6;) and secondly, in order that he may train them to patience, that he may try their obedience, and that he may gradually prepare them by the cross for a true renovation. However it may be as to this, that statement always holds good in the case of believers It is time, that judgment should begin at the house of God. (Jeremiah 25:29; 1 Peter 4:17 4646     Calvin, in commenting on 1 Peter 4:17, when speaking of judgment beginning at the house of God, says: Ideo dicit Paulus, (1 Corinthians 15:19,) Christianos sublata fide resurrectionis, omnium hominum miserrimos fore: et merito, quia dum alii absque metu sibi indulgent, assidue ingemiscunt fideles: dum aliorum peccata dissimulat Deus, et altos torpore sinit, suos sub cruets disciplina multo rigidins exercet;” — “Hence Paul says, and justly, (1 Corinthians 15:19,) that Christians, if the hope of a resurrection were taken away, would be of all men the most miserable, because, while others indulge themselves without fear, believers incessantly groan: while God seems to let the sins of others pass unnoticed, and allows others to be in a torpid state, he exercises his own people more strictly under the discipline of the cross.” — Ed. ) Again,

we are reckoned as sheep appointed for slaughter.
(Psalm 44:22.)

Again,

ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
(Colossians 3:3.)

Meanwhile, the condition of the wicked is for the most part the more desirable, because the Lord feeds them up, as hogs for the day of slaughter.

The second reason is, that believers, even though they should abound in riches and in blessings of every kind, they nevertheless do not go to excess, and do not gormandize at their ease; in fine, they do not enjoy the world, as unbelievers do, but go forward with anxiety, constantly groaning, (2 Corinthians 5:2,) partly from a consciousness of their weakness, and partly from an eager longing for the future life. Unbelievers, on the other hand, are wholly intent on intoxicating themselves with present delights. 4747     “Es voluptez et delices de ce monde;” — “With the pleasures and delights of this world.”

The third reason, which was peculiar, as I have said, to the age of the Apostle, is — that at that time the name of Christians was so odious and abominable, that no one could then take upon himself the name of Christ without exposing his life to imminent peril. It is, therefore, not without good reason that he says that Christians would be the most miserable of all men, if their confidence were confined to this world.

20. But now hath Christ risen. Having shown what dreadful confusion as to everything would follow, if we were to deny that the dead rise again, he now again assumes as certain, what he had sufficiently established previously — that Christ has risen; and he adds that he is the first-fruits, 4848     “Although the resurrection of Christ, compared with first-fruits of any kind, has very good harmony with them, yet it more especially agrees with the offering of the sheaf, commonly called עומר, omer, not only as the thing itself, but also as to the circumstances of the time. For first there was the passover, and the day following was a sabbatic day, and on the day following that, the first-fruits were offered. So Christ, our passover, was crucified: the day following his crucifixion was the Sabbath, and the day following that, he, the first-fruits of them that slept, rose again, All who died before Christ, and were raised again to life, died afterwards; but Christ is the first-fruits of all who shall be raised from the dead to die no more.” — Lightfoot.Ed. by a similitude taken, as it appears, from the ancient ritual of the law. For as in the first-fruits the produce of the entire year was consecrated, so the power of Christ’s resurrection is extended to all of us — unless you prefer to take it in a more simple way — that in him the first fruit of the resurrection was gathered. I rather prefer, however, to understand the statement in this sense — that the rest of the dead will follow him, as the entire harvest does the first-fruits; 4949     “The first-fruits were by the command of God presented to him at a stated season, not only as a token of the gratitude of the Israelites for his bounty, but as an earnest of the approaching harvest. In this sense he is called the first-fruits of the dead. He was the first in order of time, for although some were restored to life by the Prophets, and by himself during his personal ministry, none came out of their graves to return to them no more till after his resurrection; and as he was the first in respect of time, so he was the first in order of succession; all the saints following him as the harvest followed the presentation of the first-fruits of the temple. The interval is long, and the dreary sterility of the grave might justify the thought, that the seed committed to it has perished for ever. But our hope rests upon his power, which can make the wilderness blossom as the rose; and we wait till heavenly influences descend as the dew of herbs, when the barren soil shall display all the luxuriance of vegetation, and death itself shall teem with life.”Dick’s Theology, volume 4 — Ed. and this is confirmed by the succeeding statement.




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