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 1 Corinthians Chapter 15 Part One

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PostSubject: 1 Corinthians Chapter 15 Part One   Sun May 18, 2014 4:12 am

1 Corinthians 15:1-2

This chapter is the most extensive treatment of resurrection in the Bible. Both the resurrection of Jesus Christ as recorded in the gospels and the resurrection of believers as promised in the gospels are here explained.
Beginning in verses 1-11, we begin his teachings about the resurrection of believers, Paul reviewed the evidences for Jesus’ resurrection: (1) the church, v.1-2; (2) the Scriptures, v.3-4; (3) the eyewitnesses, v.5-7; (4) the apostle himself, v.8-10; and (5) the common message, v.11.
Counsel concerning the Resurrection
Some have suggested that Paul reserved this chapter on the Resurrection till last because he thought that a firm belief in it would help solve many of the Corinthians’ problems. Certainly if the message of Christ crucified were foolishness to the Greek mind (1Co_1:23), the corollary doctrine of the Resurrection was no less so (cf. Act_17:31-32). The implicit denial of the Resurrection on the part of some may be seen in the Corinthian conviction that the present era represented the consummation of God’s material blessings (1Co_4:8; cf. 1Co_6:2) and sexual immorality was a matter of no lasting consequence (1Co_5:1; cf. 1Co_6:9, 1Co_6:13-14).
Like the problems previously discussed (1:10-6:20), the denial of the Resurrection by some in the church was a matter apparently reported to Paul (1Co_15:12) and not something the Corinthians themselves had included among their questions in their letter to him (cf. 1Co_7:25; 1Co_8:1; 1Co_12:1; 1Co_16:1, 1Co_16:12). As in his response to the Thessalonians confusion on the Resurrection (1Th_4:13-18), Paul began with a fundamental affirmation of the faith (cf. 1Co_15:3-4; 1Th_4:14) and expanded on it.
The Certainty Of Bodily Resurrection (1Co_15:1-34)

Historical argument

The gospel Paul had preached in Corinth (1Co_2:1-2) had not changed; but he feared that just as there had been declension in the church concerning the message of Christ crucified and its implication for believers, the same was happening with regard to the message of Christ resurrected. As the former message was an essential element in the Corinthians’ experience of ongoing salvation (the pres. tense of the verb saved focuses on sanctification), so was the latter. Paul had not only preached the good news of the gospel to them, but had even started this church here at Corinth. Paul is also saying, that he has taught them what they know about the Lord. It appears that Paul feels that he is the founder of the church and its doctrine. It is as if he is saying, you have a church here, because I brought you the message of God and you accepted it. To reject bodily resurrection eviscerated “the gospel” and made faith vain (eikē, “without cause” or “without success”; cf. 1Co_15:14, 1Co_15:17) because it had an unworthy object (cf. 1Co_15:13, 1Co_15:17). We must remember that the Corinthians had written Paul a letter about the problems going on in their church. Paul is reminding them, here, of the simple message of salvation that he had brought to them. Notice in the above verse Paul says, are saved, in the present tense. He says, was you just caught up in the emotions of the moment and went through the procedure without truly believing? Did you believe, or did you not believe? To go through the formality of being saved without truly a change in your heart, would be in vain. Believing the gospel includes holding firmly to belief in Christ’s resurrection. Unless one holds firmly, his belief is “in vain”; cf. Mat_13:18-22).

1 Corinthians 15:3-5

Paul included himself in the company of all believers when he spoke of receiving the truth of Christ’s death and His resurrection on behalf of sinful people. These verses, the heart of the gospel, were an early Christian confession which Paul described as of first importance. I Peter 2:24 "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
Jesus, actually, was our substitute. It was our sin that crucified Him. In the sacrifice of the animal in the tabernacle, the sinner placed his hands on the animal's head and symbolically placed his sins on the animal. That is what Jesus did for us. He took our sin on His body. Our sin died on the cross. All of the sacrifices in the tabernacle, and later in the temple, actually symbolize the crucifixion of Jesus for our sin.
Paul was merely stating that the true Gospel is what he had delivered to the Corinthians.
It was really a twofold confession: Christ died for our sins and He was raised. The reality of this was verified by the Scriptures (e.g., Psa_16:10; Isa_53:8-10) and by historical evidence verified by time in the grave and out of it, in the presence of the living. Luke 24:46 "And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day:"
The hope of the Christian is the hope of the resurrection. In another book {Leviticus}, we go into great detail why it was important for Jesus to be crucified on Passover, to fulfill the feast of unleavened bread, and that it was terribly important for Him to fulfill firstfruits, on the third day thereafter.
1 Corinthians 15:20 "But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept." He not only fulfilled firstfruits by rising from the dead on the third day, but is, in fact, the first of the firstfruits Himself.
The fact that He was buried verified His death, and the fact that He appeared to others verified His resurrection. Peter, the first male witness, was soon joined by the remaining disciples who composed the Lord’s immediate circle. Before we get to the account of the others that Jesus appeared to, we must look at who Jesus appeared to first.
John 20:15-16 "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away." "Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master."
Mark 16:9 "Now when [Jesus] was risen early the first [day] of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils." We see the two witnesses here that tell of Mary seeing Jesus first. Why this is omitted by Paul, I cannot say. Since there was such an extensive list of the others, I thought we should tell of this, also.
Peter and Cephas are the same person. Peter and John went to the tomb together. We know, also, that Jesus appeared to Peter and the others, and served them fish on the seaside.

1 Corinthians 15:6

Later a much larger company of believers witnessed His resurrection. The 500… brothers may have formed the audience who received the commission recorded in Mat_28:18-20 (cf. Act_1:3-Cool. Since most of those were still living when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, they could be consulted. We know that the Lord Jesus ministered on the earth 40 days and nights after He rose from the tomb. He was establishing the church. We, also, know that ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, there were 120 disciples waiting in the upper room for the Holy Spirit to come upon them.
Acts 1:15 "And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)"
The figure of 500, here, is probably a very low estimate, considering these things. Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians approximately 20 to 25 years after the resurrection, so it would have been likely that many of these same people were still alive at this time. The specific number of 500 people is not mentioned, but was probably on the mountain where Jesus ministered.
The testimony of eyewitnesses, recorded in the New Testament, was added to support the reality of the resurrection. These included: (1) John and Peter together; (2) the 12; (3) The 500; only referred to here, had all seen the risen Christ; (4) James, either one of the two so named apostles (son of Zebedee or son of Alphaeus; or even James the half brother of the Lord, the author of the epistle by that name and the key leader in the Jerusalem church; and (5) the apostles.
Such unspecified appearances occurred over a 40 day period (Acts 1:3) to all the Apostles.

1 Corinthians 15:7-8

Some have debunked this Resurrection appearance as simply the pious vision of believers seeing with the eyes of faith. But Paul could have cited the testimony of two for whom that was not true of, James, the half brother of Jesus, and himself. Like Paul, James probably came to faith (cf. Joh_7:5 with Act_1:14) because of an appearance of the resurrected Christ (Act_9:3-6; Act_22:6-11). This is the same James that was the head of the church at Jerusalem, and I believe, is the same who wrote the book of James. Paul considered himself abnormally born because he lacked the “gestation” period of having been with Christ during His earthly ministry (cf. Act_1:21-22). Paul really had not seen the face of Jesus, but had seen the bright light. Jesus spoke to Paul from this Light. Paul had been like James, he had not believed Jesus to be Messiah, until Jesus appeared to him in this great Light. The statement {born out of due time}, just means that Paul did not believe, until after Jesus rose from the tomb.
Christ revealed Himself to Paul and, according to divine purpose, Paul was made an apostle. He was “last of all” the apostles, and felt himself to be the least.
It seems that the apostles were a body wider than the previously mentioned Twelve (cf. comments on Eph_4:11), but were all distinguished by having seen the resurrected Christ (1Co_9:1) which made Paul the last of their company.

1 Corinthians 15:9

Because he was the last, like a runt, untimely born, Paul could call himself the least of the apostles. He felt less deserving of the office because he had been an opponent of the church (cf. Act_22:4; 1Ti_1:15-16) which he now served (2Co_4:5). The word "apostle" is not speaking of the 12, but of all who are ambassadors of the gospel. The word "apostle" means ambassador of the gospel, commissioner of Christ, and he that is sent. Paul was actually present at the stoning of Stephen. He was on his way to capture and imprison the Christians, when he first encountered Jesus Christ in the great Light. Paul regretted this, after he became a Christian. He was like so many of us who regret our behavior, before we came to Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:10

He realized, however, that his past was simply a backdrop on which to display the grace of God (cf. 1Co_1:3), the grace to which Paul had been so responsive. It is the grace of God that makes each of us better than we ever could have been in the flesh. "Grace" is unmerited favor. We can see probably why Paul worked so hard in the Lord's work in the next Scripture.
Luke 7:47 "Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, [the same] loveth little."
Paul worked very hard to make up for the errors he had made earlier. He knows that, except for the grace of God, he never would have understood. Paul not only worked hard, but suffered much for the work the Lord Jesus had given him.
In terms of years and extent of ministry, he exceeded all those named in verses 5-7. John outlived him but did not have the extensive ministry of Paul.
Ephesians 3:7-8 "Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power." "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;"
Indeed Paul was without peer in his devotion (cf. 1Co_9:19-27). The history of the church confirms that his devotion was not without effect (kenē, “empty”; cf. 1Co_15:14). He had worked harder than any of the other apostles, as he traveled more, suffered more opposition, wrote more New Testament epistles, and founded more churches. Yet Paul knew and ministered with the recognition that it was not his power but God’s (1Co_2:4-5) which produced results (1Co_3:6).

1 Corinthians 15:11

In the final analysis it was not the messenger but the message which was important (cf. 1:18-4:5), and in that regard the apostolic message was that the crucified Christ became the resurrected Christ, which message Paul did preach and the Corinthians believed. Paul is saying, in this, that the message is the same regardless of which apostle brings the message. Paul has just finished naming Peter and many of the other apostles who are preaching. It really does not matter, who brings the message. The important thing was that they believed and were saved. One of the problems at this time was there were no real guidelines set for the apostles to use.

1 Corinthians 15:12

Logical argument
Paul then turned to consider the claim of some that no one dead could experience bodily resurrection. This had been argued by the Jews, even before the resurrection of Jesus. It seems that many of the teachings of the Jewish schools were still being believed by many of the converts to Christianity. Paul is saying, if they accepted Jesus as their Savior, part of the belief was that he rose from the dead.
The Corinthian Christians believed in Christ’s resurrection, or else they could not have been Christians. But some had particular difficulty accepting and understanding the resurrection of believers. Some of this confusion was a result of their experiences with pagan philosophies and religions.
A basic tenet of much of ancient Greek philosophy was dualism, which taught that everything physical was intrinsically evil; so the idea of a resurrected body was repulsive and disgusting. In addition, perhaps some Jews in the Corinthian church formerly may have been influenced by the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection even though it is taught in the Old Testament.
On the other hand, New Testament teaching in the words of our Lord Himself was extensive on the resurrection and it was the theme of the apostolic preaching. In spite of the clarity, the church at Corinth was in doubt about the resurrection.
He pressed that tenet to its logical consequences within the framework of the Christian faith.

1 Corinthians 15:13

To deny a bodily resurrection in principle was to deny the resurrection of Christ. Presumably some in Corinth had done this, and Paul wanted to warn them and others of the serious consequences which would result from such disbelief. If Christ is not risen, then the basis for the Christian belief would be gone. The two resurrections, Christ’s and the believer’s, stand or fall together; if there is no resurrection, then Christ is dead.
Jesus defeated Satan and sin on the cross, and defeated death when He rose from the grave.
In verses 13-19, Paul gives 6 disastrous consequences if there were no resurrection. (1) Preaching Christ would be senseless, v.14; (2) Faith in Christ would be useless, v.14; (3) All the witnesses and preachers of the resurrection would be liars, v.15; (4) No one would be redeemed from sin, v.17; (5) All former believers would have perished, v.18; (6) Christians would be the most pitiable people on earth, v.19.

1 Corinthians 15:14

Not the least of those consequences was the fact that a denial of the Resurrection tore the heart out of the gospel message and left it lifeless. If that were so, the Corinthians’ faith, however vital, would be useless (kenē, “empty”; cf. 1Co_15:2, 1Co_15:10, 1Co_15:17) since its object would be a dead man. If there is no life after physical death, why bother? If Christ did not rise, then there is no Spirit of the risen Christ. The sad thing in all of these problems they were bringing up is, that they did not believe the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ, but the old news of the Jewish traditions. I see this in all of the problems, not just the doubt about the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:15-16

Second, the apostles of the church would turn out to be crass charlatans since their message uniformly affirmed the truth of Christ’s resurrection (cf. 1Co_15:11). One of the fundamental teachings of Christianity is, the third day he arose. As I said above, this is some leftovers from their Jewish teaching. Paul is saying, here, that if this one thing is not true, then they are all lost, because they have believed a lie. The assurance that Jesus was God was the fact that He rose from the tomb. We serve a risen Savior. This is almost identical to verse 13. One of the things that set the Christian apart from the world is that the Christian has hope of the resurrection. We know that because he rose, we shall rise, also.

1 Corinthians 15:17-18

Third, the Corinthians’ salvation would be only a state of mind with no correspondence to reality. Their faith would be futile (mataia, “without results”; cf. kenē, “empty,” in 1Co_15:10, 1Co_15:14, eikē, “without cause” or “without success,” 1Co_15:2). Simply put, if Christ had not risen as has been written, then no one is saved and will have to pay their own sin debt which is eternal death.
Just as Moses redeemed the children of Israel out of Egypt {type of world} and took them to their promised land, Jesus will redeem us from this earth and take us to our promised land {heaven}. The Lord is going to redeem those who are looking for Him. It is a dangerous thing to doubt the resurrection.
I Thessalonians 4:14 "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."
We will continue on with the promises in I Thessalonians 4:16-17 " For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:" "Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
Jesus is our resurrection, our hope and our life.
The Resurrection was God’s validation that the redemption paid by Christ on the cross was accepted (Rom_4:25). Without the Resurrection there could be no certainty of atonement and the Corinthians would remain in a state of alienation and sin. Fourth, if Christ were not raised, the loved ones among the Corinthian believers who had died entered not bliss but perdition. The pagan concept of a liberated spirit was a lie. Without the Resurrection the sting of death would remain, with lasting painfulness (cf. 1Co_15:54-56).

1 Corinthians 15:19

Fifth, if there were no Resurrection, the pagans would be right. The “foolishness of the Cross” (1Co_1:18) would be just that, and men such as Paul and the apostles who had suffered for the gospel (1Co_4:9-13) could only be pitied. Many religions of the world do not offer life after death. Paul is saying here, if Christianity did not offer everlasting life, the hardships that we face in this life would make us miserable. He even goes so far as to say, that he would be leading the list of those who would be miserable.
This is because of the sacrifices made in this life in light of the hope of life to come. If there is no life to come, we would be better “to eat, drink and be merry” before we die.
The last lesson dealt with the resurrection of our bodies after death on this earth. It would be worth trusting in Christ, if it were just for this earth, but praise God, Christ brings us everlasting life.
Those who lived for the pleasure of the moment would be right and the sacrifices of Christians would only be cruel, self-inflicted jokes (cf. 1Co_15:32).

1 Corinthians 15:20

Theological argument
Paul had explored the logical negations which followed from a denial of the bodily resurrection of Christ (1Co_15:12-19). He then considered the theological tenet that the destiny of Christians was bound up in the destiny of Christ, and he set forth the positive consequences of this union. Speculation had given way to affirmation: Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. And He is the firstfruits, an Old Testament word (e.g., Exo_23:16, Exo_23:19) here used in the sense of a preliminary installment of what will be both an example and a guarantee of more to come (cf. Rom_8:23). The fact of the death of the body of Jesus Christ is not argued by anyone. Paul, also, established the fact that Jesus rose from the dead by all the witnesses who saw him after he arose. A witness is someone who tells something that they have seen with their very own eyes. Just the word "firstfruits" tell us that there was more to come.
This speaks of the first installment of harvest to eternal life, in which Christ’s resurrection will precipitate and guarantee that all of the saints who have died will be resurrected.
Slept or fallen asleep is a common euphemism for death. This is not soul sleep, in which the body dies and the soul, or spirit, supposedly rests in unconsciousness.
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