Category Archives: 1 CORINTHIANS 15:1-34

The classic chapter in the Bible on the subject of resurrection.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:1-34

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NOTES ON 1 CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 15.

Introduction

The word resurrection, literally translated, means “a standing again”, so has particular reference to the body, which falls in death. To raise the dead is the prerogative of God. As the apostle Paul said to Felix, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” Acts 26:8. Nebuchadnezzar was able to “keep alive“, Daniel 5:19; but God is able to “make alive”, 1 Samuel 2: 6. King Jehoram said ” Am I God, to kill and to make alive?” 2 Kings 5:7. (These words were spoken near Nain, see Luke 7:11-18.). The magicians of Egypt testified that when Aaron brought life out of the dust, it was the finger of God, Exodus 8:19. If God can make Adam stand on his feet at the beginning, He can do so again. If He can give a man a spirit, He can return it to him. We shall see later on that Scripture speaks of the resurrection of the dead, and resurrection from among the dead.

Paul came to Corinth from near-by Athens, where the philosophers poured scorn on “Jesus, and the resurrection”, probably thinking them to be two new gods, Acts 17:18. Having shown that their reasonings were illogical, and refuted even by their own poets, Acts 17:28, Paul then returns to the subject of Jesus, “that man whom He hath ordained”, and the resurrection, “He hath raised Him from the dead”, Acts 17:31. Sadly, the Corinthians were influenced much by the wisdom of the world, and the apostle has to deal with their wrong thoughts in the epistle.

It is important to notice that there is a difference between existence on the one hand, and life and death on the other. Death and life are both conditions of existence. When a person dies, they continue to exist, but their condition has changed from life to death. All men will exist for ever, but sinners will not live for ever, but will be in the Lake of Fire; to be consigned there is to have a second death, Revelation 20:14. Believers, on the other hand, will live for ever after a temporary period in a state of death, (assuming they die before the Lord comes), during which they await the resurrection of the body.

Structure of the chapter:
The chapter is broadly divided into two:
Verses 1-34    The resurrection of Christ and its consequences.  (The Gentiles rejected resurrection, and said the body was a hindrance).
Verses 35-58    The  resurrection of the saints and their condition.  (The Jews believed in the resurrection of exactly the same body).

Verses 1-11 Historical Seven-fold testimony to Christ’s resurrection.
Verses 12-19, 29-34 Logical Seven-fold consequence if Christ is not raised.
Verses 20-28 Prophetical Sequence of events beginning with Christ’s resurrection.
Verses 35-50 Graphical Description of the resurrection body.
Verses 51-54 Revelational The mystery of the change of living saints.
Verses 55-57 Triumphal Death swallowed up in victory.
Verse 58 Practical Labour is not in vain in the (risen) Lord.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 15, VERSES 1-34:

 

15:1  Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

15:2  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

15:3  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

15:4  And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

15:5  And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

15:6  After that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

15:7  After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

15:8  And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

15:9  For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

15:10  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

15:11  Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

 

15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

Moreover- chapter 15 is part of that section of the epistle which begins in 12:1, and concerns spiritual gifts in the main, but is also about spirit-matters. There was those who taught that in the resurrection, the saints would be spirits only, so the apostle deals with that matter in this chapter. The saints will have a spiritual body, verse 44, not a spirit-body, and certainly not only a spirit.

I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you- the message has not changed in the face of denial. What he preached to them originally is what he insists on still.

Which also ye have received- this is a verb in the aorist tense, denoting a definite action, in this case in the past. “Many of the Corinthians hearing, believed” Acts 18:8.

And wherein ye stand- this is a verb in the perfect tense, meaning a past event with present effect. Their standing before God was based on the truth of the gospel, including the resurrection, which they had received at the beginning. Like the psalmist, they could say, “He… set my feet upon a rock and established my goings.” Psalm 40:2.

15:2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

By which also ye are saved- a verb in the present tense, meaning they were being continuously saved. The truth of the gospel is not only effectual to save when we first believe, but it saves us from the pitfalls along the Christian pathway. This is why believers need to hear the gospel constantly, for the gospel is not just for the unsaved. The epistle to the Romans, that great treatise on the doctrine of the gospel, was written to believers, Romans 1:7.

If ye keep in memory what I preached unto you- the practical deliverance from the dangers along the way is only known if the truth of the gospel is constantly kept in memory, or held fast.

Unless ye have believed in vain- there are three words for vain used in this chapter, this one meaning to do something easily, without consideration. Compare the stony ground hearers of the parable of the sower, Luke 8:6,13, who received the word immediately, without considering the consequences. When tribulation came because of the word, they withered, having no root in themselves. Their faith was temporary, and Paul tests his readers at the outset lest some of them be the same. The apostle never assumed that because a person was in assembly fellowship that it was certain he was saved.

15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

For I delivered unto you first of all- the gospel was a priority with the apostle. The word “for” indicates that he is now about to tell us what it was that resulted in the Corinthians getting saved; it was because he delivered the gospel to them.
That which I also received- as he wrote to the Galatians, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ”, Galatians 1:11,12. He had been faithful in his stewardship, not having altered anything that had been delivered to him. “It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful”, 1 Corinthians 4:2.

How that Christ died- the first of four “thats”, representing the four-square and therefore stable basis of the gospel. (C.f. the four equal sides of the brazen altar, Exodus 27:1, and the four anchors cast out of the ship, Acts 27:29). There are verbs in the active and passive voice in verses 3 and 4, as follows: Christ died (active), was buried, (passive), was raised, (passive), appeared, (active). The proof that He died was that He was buried, the proof that He rose is that He appeared.

That Christ, the Messiah, should die, was a stumbling-block to the Jews, and indeed the disciples, who expected a victor, not a victim. That He should die was foolishness to the Greeks who gloried in those who survived, not those who succumbed. The death of Christ was His own act, yet was not suicide, where a person takes the initiative, for He had authority to lay down His life, and this authority came because of His Father’s commandment, John 10:18. He did not die because of the spear, was not buried by the shovel, rose despite the seal, and walked forth from the tomb despite the sentinels. The kings of the earth set themselves against God’s Christ, but He had them in derision, Psalm 2:2,4; Acts 4:25-28.

For our sins- for means “on account of”, or “for the sake of”. He died on account of other’s sins, and He died for the sake of dealing with them. As Christ He was approved, but our sins were disapproved of God, therefore He died, as being the only one suitable to deal with sins. “Our” is a personal pronoun, so we need to ask who is in view. It is true that the epistle is written to believers, but this is a record of what was told them before they believed. Those who use the personal pronoun have admitted that the sins He died for were theirs, but He had done the work long before they believed; their faith did not alter what happened at Calvary.

When sins are in view, the apostles usually speak of the blood of Christ, which implies His death; but since the subject of this chapter is resurrection, it is more appropriate to actually use the word death. The first sin had brought in death, and here the sum total of sins is dealt with before God. If there are sins that have not been answered for, they never will be, for sinners do not deal with sins by suffering in eternity.
According to the scriptures- the first and major witness to the truth of the gospel. The Old Testament is primarily in view, but we cannot exclude the testimony of the gospels. The death of the Lord Jesus was according to the Old Testament predictions. Every animal sacrifice that died at the altar was a foreshadowing of Calvary. As the Saviour Himself said, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things…And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself”, Luke 24:25,26. His death was not simply martyrdom, or a model, it was certainly not merited, nor a mistake. Rather it was marked out for Him in the Scriptures. Such chapters as Psalm 22; Psalm 69; Isaiah 53; Leviticus chapters 1-5, are classic passages telling us of the nature of His death at Calvary.
His death was also according to the predictions He Himself made as recorded in the gospels, which also record the event itself. So He died according to the Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments.

15:4 And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

And that He was buried- not, indeed, in the soil, but in stone, so the tomb was easily identified, and could be sealed and guarded. The burial-place of Moses is not known, Deuteronomy 34:6, no doubt to avoid superstition, and pointless pilgrimages, but there was an overriding consideration with Christ’s tomb, for it must be evident that He has left it in resurrection.
Note the significance of burial in connection with sowing and growing, verses 36-44. No reference is made here to “according to the scriptures”, (although they did prophesy the manner of His burial, Isaiah 53:9), since the truth regarding burial with Christ is New Testament revelation, Romans 6:4.
And that He rose again- or, “He was raised”, indicating the Father’s involvement, being satisfied with His justifying work at Calvary, for He was “raised again for our justification”, Romans 4:25. The question mark over His character which His death in shame had raised, is removed, for He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, Romans 6:4. His resurrection is the guarantee of the following things, amongst others:

That He is the Son of God, Romans 1:4.

That our sins are dealt with, Romans 4:25.

That all the dead will be raised, 1 Corinthians 15:22.

That He will judge the world, Acts 17:31.

The third day according to the scriptures- the third day was stipulated in His own prophecy, Matthew 12:40. Every prophecy of His reign implied His death and resurrection, for He was raised up to sit on David’s throne, as Peter made clear on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2:30. David had prophesied that the Messiah would die, but His kingdom is everlasting, so He must die and rise before He begins to reign.

We now come to the human witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. It is noticeable that Paul does not mention the witness of the women to his resurrection, even though Mary Magdalene was the first to see Him, Mark 16:9. It is a mark of the genuineness of the gospel records that they are based on the testimony of women, yet a woman was not allowed to bear testimony in Jewish courts. If the gospels were forgeries, the fraudster would have avoided all mention of the testimony of the women.
The point is that Paul is listing those who would preach that Christ was risen. As he writes in verse 11, “Whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed”. The “they” referring to the others mentioned in the list of witnesses. Since women are not appointed by God to preach, they are not mentioned in this context.
Each person or group mentioned here was transformed by seeing Christ in resurrection, and each was given a charge by the Risen Lord, either expressly, or by implication.

Peter, Mark 16:7.
Change: Denier of Christ to declarer of Christ.
Charge: “when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”, Luke 22:32.

15:5 And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

And that He was seen of Cephas- “He was seen” means “He appeared”, a deliberate act, confronting people with His presence, not a distant shadowy figure. They could touch, see, eat and drink with Him, satisfying themselves that He was really raised bodily. He was the first of them that should rise from among the dead, Acts 26:23, even though He was not the first to be raised from the dead. His resurrection inaugurates a new kind of resurrection, which leaves others still in the graves. At the rapture there will be a selective resurrection, leaving even Old Testament believers behind.
Cephas is an Aramaic name, equivalent to Peter, which is a form of the Greek word petros, a stone. He had denied his Lord, but as a result of his encounter with Him in resurrection, he was changed, and stood fast for the Lord thereafter. The interview with a resurrected Christ deals with Peter’s denial in the High priest’s palace. As a fervent follower of Christ, but one who had denied Him, Peter must have a private reinstatement, as indicated by the words of the angel, “go tell my disciples, and Peter”, Mark 16:7. Then he must have a reinstatement amongst the apostles, seeing he had said that even if they would be offended because of Him, he would not, Matthew 26:33. This is recorded in John 21:15-22. Then, because he had denied the Lord publicly in the High Priest’s Palace courtyard, He needed a public reinstatement, which took place on the Day of Pentecost, when he stood up with the eleven, Acts 2:14, and also in Acts 4:5-12 before the rulers in Israel.
It is important that Peter should see the Lord, for he had seen the empty tomb. The change in Peter is one of the proofs of the resurrection of Christ, for would he have been motivated to suffer persecution and death by the sight of a Christ who had merely swooned and recovered? Men do not die for what they know to be untrue. Besides, would the good that Christianity has been down the centuries have come from the testimony of liars?

At every stage, from the death of Christ to His resurrection, there were eye-witnesses:
John and the women at the cross, seeing the spear-thrust and the blood and water, John 19:33-35.
The centurion testifying to Pilate that He was really dead.
Pilate himself giving the centurion leave to allow the body to be taken away, a virtual death certificate.
Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus taking the body from the cross to the tomb, under the watchful eye of the soldiers, no doubt.
The two Marys sitting over against the sepulchre, Matthew 27:61, beholding where He was laid, Mark 15:47, and how His body was laid, Luke 23:55.
That nothing happened to the body is clear from the fact that when the third day was approaching, the Jews asked for the tomb to be guarded, “lest the disciples…steal Him away”, Matthew 27:64, so they must have known He was still in the tomb. Pilate’s reply was “Ye have a watch”, so they were already guarding the tomb. So the tomb is made sure by the guard and the seal. Would they have sealed the tomb without checking the body was still there? Then angels can testify that the tomb is empty.

The Twelve, Mark 16:14.
The change: Disquiet because of Jews, to delight in the Lord, John 20:19,20. Note there is no mention of “fear of the Jews” in verse 26.
The charge: “as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you, verse 21.

Then of the twelve- this is a technical term for the apostles, even though Judas was gone. Perhaps this pre-empts the objection that Peter should have waited for Paul to be converted, and not have appointed Matthias. Note the two scriptures which gave Peter the authority to appoint Judas’ replacement, Psalm 69:25, Psalm 109:8.
Another proof of resurrection is the unbelief of even the apostles. They did not believe He was going to be raised until the time of the kingdom had come, hence they would see no need to believe in His immediate resurrection. When He was raised immediately, they then wondered if the kingdom was to come soon, too, Acts 1:6. They did not deny that He would rise. We are told in Luke 18:34 that the truth that He would rise the third day was hid from them, no doubt so that infidels would not have reason to say they were easily convinced.

The Five Hundred, Matthew 28:7,10.
The change: Disarray to determination.
The charge: “Go ye into all the world…” Mark 16:15.

15:6 After that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

After that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present- so they were available to be questioned, and their evidence and character could be rigorously tested.

But some are fallen asleep- Christ has robbed death of its power for believers, and so figures used in New Testament are all gentle ones, such as falling asleep, 1 Thessalonians 4:14; being sown, 1 Corinthians 15:42-44; taking down a tent, (putting off a tabernacle), 2 Peter 1:14; setting sail, 2 Timothy 4:6; being offered, or poured out, 2 Timothy 4:6. By this expression Paul is preparing us for the idea of resurrection affecting both those who have fallen asleep in death, and those who have not.

James. No Scripture reference for we are only told this here.
The change: Disbelief to decisiveness, John 7:5, Mark 6:3, Acts 15:4,13.
The charge: Service to the twelve tribes, James 1:1.

15:7 After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

After that, He was seen of James- if this is James the Lord’s brother, then he can testify that the one he knew for nearly 30 years at Nazareth, is indeed the one who appeared in resurrection. It is difficult to see a special reason for the other man named James having a personal appearance of the Lord to him, especially as he was an apostle, Matthew 10:2,3, and therefore included in “the twelve” who had already seen Him.

So James covers the first 30 years of Christ’s life, Peter the next 3 years, and Paul sees Him in heaven. James did not believe in Christ when He went about doing good, so why should he believe in Him after He was crucified as a malefactor? He did not believe He was the Messiah when he saw the miracles, which were the powers of the age to come, Hebrews 6:5, why believe on Him when He had been crucified in shame? The only thing that could change him was Christ’s resurrection. “When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He” John 8:28.

All the apostles, John 20:26-29.
The change: Doubt to devotion.
The charge: “be not faithless, but believing”, John 20:24-29.

Then of all the apostles- the “all” suggests that it was not the occasion when Thomas was absent, but rather when the sight of Christ risen caused him to exclaim “My Lord and My God”. The sight of the spear-pierced side, and nail-pierced hands, in the body of a living man, were proof to Thomas of the resurrection. There was only one living man in Jerusalem at that time who had both nail-prints and a spear-wound. The two malefactors had the former, but not the latter, and they were still dead.

Paul, Acts 9:17; 1 Corinthians 9:1.
The change: Destroyer to defender.
The charge: “It shall be told thee what thou shalt do”, Acts 9:6. ’

15:8 And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

And last of all He was seen of me also- John saw Him afterwards, but in a vision, and not therefore with natural sight. Here the emphasis is on the actual bodily resurrection of Christ. It is appropriate that Saul should see Him as one in heaven, for his special ministry is to tell of heaven, and our place with Christ there.
As of one born out of due time- Paul likens himself to a premature child, who has not had time to fully develop. He had not had years with Christ on earth, so was immature in that sense, but see 2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11,12. There is also a sense in which Paul was born before his time in that his conversion, at the sight of Christ in glory, will be repeated for Israel when they see Christ coming in glory. Paul is “a pattern to them which shall hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting”, whether they are believers of this age, or of Israel in the future, 1 Timothy 1:16, Revelation 1:7.

15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God- the apostle always felt his unworthiness because of his past, alluding to it in the last months of his life, 1 Timothy 1:12-15. He persecuted the church because it represented the Name of Christ which he hated. That such a one as this could testify to having seen Christ risen was conclusive- only this event was great enough to change him.

15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain- Paul refers to himself several times in these verses, (14 times from verse 1) but attributes what he is solely to the grace of God, whether saving grace or enabling grace. He does this lest we think his testimony is of less value than the others. In vain means “without purpose”. His position as an apostle and a witness of Christ risen is the purpose behind God’s call.
But I laboured more abundantly than they all- those who are forgiven much, love much, Luke 7:47, but the apostle was the chief of sinners, therefore had been forgiven most, and loved most. This gives him the moral authority to exhort them to constant labour, verse 58. “They” means those he has listed as witnesses.
Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me- he attributes all to the free favour of God in putting him into the ministry, and choosing him as a witness.

15:11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed- the individual is lost sight of; the important thing is the preaching of the gospel, by which alone the Corinthians had been brought to faith. As already noted, he has the preaching in view, hence he has not included any women in his list of witnesses. Valuable as their testimony was on the resurrection day, and as it still is, theirs is not a public preaching role in the furtherance of the gospel, but they have other and vital parts to play in its spread; see, for instance, Philippians 4:3.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 15, VERSES 12-19:

15:12  Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

15:13  But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

15:14  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

15:15  Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

15:16  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:

15:17  And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

15:18  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

15:19  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

15:20  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

15:21  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

15:22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

15:23  But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

15:24  Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

15:25  For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under his feet.

15:26  The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

15:27  For He hath put all things under His feet. But when He saith all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him.

15:28  And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

15:29  Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

15:30  And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

15:31  I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our LORD, I die daily.

15:32  If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.

15:33  Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

15:34  Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

Section 2 Verses 12-19 and 29-34 Logical

The seven consequences if Christ is not risen

15:12 Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead- the preposition “from” means “from among”. In Mark 9:10 the disciples were puzzled when the Lord spoke of a resurrection from among the dead. They knew from Daniel 12:2 that many “from among” them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, “some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”. It is not that the many who awake are divided into some and some. The first “some” refers to those who rise at that time, (the end of the tribulation period, see verse 1 of Daniel 12). The second “some” refers to those who do not rise at that time, but who rise to stand before the Great White Throne one thousand years later. In other words, the first “some” refers to believers from Israel, the second “some” refers to unbelievers from Israel who await the judgement of the great day. There is no reference to Gentiles in that passage.
Christ is “the first that should rise from the dead”, Acts 26:23, which reads, literally “the first of the resurrection from among the dead ones”. The resurrection of Christ was selective, and is the first of a class, for church saints will be selected from among the believing dead, with Old Testament saints raised later, in accordance with Revelation 11:15-18.
How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead- this is a question asked by the apostle, whereas verse 35 is the question raised by “some man”. “How” is a word which asks “what state of mind leads to such a statement, that there is no resurrection?” Note they refer to the resurrection of the dead as an idea, for they seemed to have embraced worldly wisdom, and become like the Stoics and Epicureans of nearby Athens, see Acts 17:18,31,32. Men like Hymenaeus and Philetus seemed to have taught the idea of a “spiritual” resurrection, which was past already, 2 Timothy 2:18. These latter had perhaps mis-interpreted Romans 6 with its doctrine that believers are raised with Christ positionally. It is true that the physical position of being immersed in the waters of baptism has the spiritual counterpart of being buried with Christ, and physically coming out of the water has the counterpart of being raised with Christ. But those spiritual counterparts have their basis in physical burial and resurrection.

First consequence: Christ is not raised

15:13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

But if there be no resurrection of the dead- note the apostle takes up the general phrase for resurrection as such. The order of the words in the original is, “But if a resurrection of the dead there is not”. The word “of” in that phrase is not a preposition.
Then is not Christ not risen- the fact that the resurrection has to do with bodies is dealt with from verse 35, but the apostle proceeds on the assumption that resurrection is not a spirit-thing, as he has every right to do, having listed those who had seen Christ risen bodily.

Second consequence: Preaching and faith are vain

15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain- The word vain used here means “without purpose”. There is no point in preaching or believing, if Christ is still in the grave, for He said He would rise; if He did not He was mistaken, or worse. The Lord made a short-term prophecy that He would rise on the third day after His crucifixion to emphasize that He is a true prophet. This is why the Jews were so concerned lest the disciples try to steal His body so as to maintain His credibility.

Third consequence: The apostles give false witness about God

15:15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not- those who preached the gospel did so as sent by God, implying they had His approval and authority. If, however, the message they preached was based on a lie, then the character of God was damaged beyond repair. Not only are the apostles and the angels wrong if He is not raised, but the God of truth is wrong as well! The “yea” perhaps expresses the deep emotion of the apostle as he thinks of being designated a false witness, when he knows he is a true one.

15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised- there are two opposing statements implied here. By heretics, “The dead rise not”. By God’s witnesses, “Christ is raised”. Note that those who denied the resurrection of the dead are in conflict with the angels too, Matthew 28:5-7. The logic of the stark statement in this verse should give heretics pause for thought.

Fourth consequence: Believers are still in their sins

15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins- there is no point in preaching or believing if Christ is still in the grave, for there is nothing worthwhile to announce, or believe. Christ was delivered for our offences, and raised again because His death was sufficient to enable God to justify those who believe, Romans 4:25. If He is not raised, then our sins cannot have been forgiven, because the necessary sign of God’s satisfaction with His death is missing. The word for vain here means “without result”, or “profitless”, so preaching and believing do not result in anything worthwhile, (such as the forgiveness of sins), if Christ is not risen.

Fifth consequence: The dead in Christ are perished

15:18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished- later the apostle will liken being buried to being sown like a seed, but if Christ is not risen the seeds have rotted away, for there was much more reason for Christ to rise than for them to do so, therefore if He has not risen they certainly will not, and are lost. The security which they thought they had in Christ is an illusion if Christ is not risen.

15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable- having given up the “pleasures of sin” the believer finds that there are no compensations if Christ is not risen, for the believer hopes for fulness of joy in heaven, Psalm 16:11, but he will never arrive in that place if there is no resurrection of the dead.

Special note: It seems as if the apostle is so keen to speak of the positive things about Christ’s resurrection, that he breaks off his negative reasoning, and resumes it in verse 29.

Section 3    Verses 20-28    Prophetical

The sequence of events beginning with Christ’s resurrection

Structure of the section

(a) Verses 20-23 Christ’s resurrection secures the resurrection of all.
(b) Verses 24-26 Christ’s administration secures the kingdom for God.
(c) Verses 27-28 Christ’s subjection secures supremacy for God.

Summary of the section

The resurrection of Christ sets in motion a sequence of events centred around resurrection, which culminates in the reaffirmation of His subjection to God in manhood, so that the Triune God may be supreme.

(a) Verses 20-23 Christ’s resurrection secures the resurrection of all

15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

But now is Christ risen from the dead- in accordance with the seven-fold testimony of verses 1-11. The argument can now proceed, since the objections of the doubters have been answered both positively, verses 1-11 and negatively, verses 12-19, with further answers to come in verses 29-34.
And become the firstfruits of them that slept- this figure is taken from Leviticus 23:9-14, where on the morrow after the Sabbath which followed the killing of the Passover lamb, a sheaf of barley was waved horizontally before the Lord, the sign that out in the field there was a harvest ready to be gathered. The resurrection of Christ is the fulfilment of this type, and He rises as a sample of the harvest of saints at the resurrection when He comes. He was not only “waved” before the Lord, but He appeared to His own as well, as verses 5-8 have recorded. He “shewed Himself alive”, Acts 1:3. We have already noticed that the Lord was not simply seen by the disciples, (which could be misunderstood to mean that they only caught a passing glimpse of Him), but that He appeared to them, deliberately confronting them and giving them ample opportunity to satisfy themselves that it was indeed Himself. Just as the wave-sheaf was seen from every angle, so Christ manifested Himself in varied ways during the forty days between His resurrection and ascension.

15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

For since by man came death- through the sin of the first man physical death was inflicted on all who came from him, Romans 5:12.
By man came also the resurrection of the dead- it is entirely appropriate that the one who should reverse the results of the first man’s sin, should Himself be man. He must be a man to be able to die, and because by His death He dealt effectively with the consequences of the sin of the first man, He has every right to rise again. Death came in because Adam was defeated by sin; resurrection comes in because Christ triumphed over sin.

15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

For as in Adam all die- that is, die physically, one by one. This is not a reference to being dead in trespasses and sins. We are born into that condition, we do not die to get into it. We do, however, die to get into a state of physical death, which is the subject of this chapter.
Even so in Christ shall all be made alive- note that the apostle does not say “Those in Christ shall all be made alive”, even though that is true. To die in Adam means to fall in death by his instrumentality; to be made alive in Christ means to rise again from the dead through His instrumentality. All die because of something Adam did, namely, commit sin, and this brought in physical death for all who are linked to him. Christ did something too, namely, rise from the dead, and all shall rise from the dead in virtue of that. There is no reason to deny that the “all” is the same company. Note the “every man” of the next verse, and “the end”, in verse 24, the last stage in the resurrection sequence, that of the unsaved dead. So the apostle is including unsaved persons in his argument here.

This does not mean that all shall be saved, but it does mean that all, whether saint or sinner, shall be brought forth from the grave.

Revelation 20:5 says that the wicked dead “lived not again until the thousand years was finished”, and then they stand before God, so there is support for the idea of sinners living again, as well as rising again. God has given assurance to all men that He will judge the world, by raising Christ from the dead, Acts 17:31. Note also that the apostle goes on to speak of the last enemy, which is death, being destroyed, which happens when the unsaved dead are brought out of Hades, and death is then cast into the Lake of Fire, Revelation 20:14.
In John 5 His authority is vested in His Deity, whereas here it is His authority as Christ, the man of God’s approval who could not be held by death. He raises from the dead in virtue of His Deity through His spoken word, John 5:25, but He raises also because He has passed through death and emerged in resurrection. It is important for Christ to reverse the process that Adam began when he sinned and brought in death, (see Romans 5:12-21), for He must prove that He can replace Adam as the head of all things, see Hebrews 2:5-9.

15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

But every man in his own order- Christ’s supreme control over death and the grave ensures an orderly resurrection sequence, for this is part of His office as the Christ, to whom all things have been committed to administer for God mediatorially.
Christ the first-fruits- as already indicated, Christ’s rising was the sign that death’s power over God’s people has been broken in principle; now it is to be broken in practice.
Afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming- when Christ descends and becomes present in the air, (the word for coming is “parousia” meaning “presence”), then those that are His of this church age will be raised. When He descends to be present on the earth, then Old Testament saints and tribulation saints will be raised, as Revelation 11:15-18 indicates. These groups, being “blessed and holy”, all have part in the first resurrection, but not at the same time, see Revelation 20:4-6. The respective groups of saints will be raised by Christ at the coming which is appropriate to them. The present age of the church is not the subject of Old Testament prophecy, as Ephesians 3 makes clear, so Christ’s coming for the church is not connected with the raising of the Old Testament saints, which, as Revelation 11:15-18 and Daniel 12:1,2 clearly imply, is at the end of the Tribulation Period.

(b) Verses 24-26 Christ’s administration secures the kingdom for God

15:24 Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

Then cometh the end- the fourth stage in the ordered resurrections of men is when the unsaved dead are raised at the resurrection of damnation, John 5:29; Revelation 20:5,11-15. This is the end of the process of resurrection, and takes place after the thousand-year reign of Christ mentioned repeatedly in Revelation 20:2-7.
When He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father- Christ’s reign over the earth is mediatorial. In other words, He reigns as the Firstborn on behalf of His Father, see Psalm 89:27; Hebrews 1:6. The resurrection of the wicked dead will be one more sign that He has subdued everything.
When He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power- put down means to destroy, as in verse 26, or to render powerless.
All rule means every form of government upon the earth, as was illustrated by the various metals of the image in Daniel 2; all shall be replaced because of their failure to govern for God’s glory.
All authority and power means every aspect of Satan’s support of human government for his own ends, seen in its worst form in the tribulation, when the Beast dominates the whole earth. It is the Dragon (Satan) who gives him his “power, and his seat (throne), and great authority”, Revelation 13:2. The Lord Jesus refused this kingdom from Satan, when tempted in the wilderness, Luke 4:5-8. He will receive His kingdom from God when He asks for it, Psalm 2:8, Daniel 7:13,14. It will take the form of a theocracy, the ideal mode of rule.

15:25 For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet.

For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet- the second half of this verse is a quotation from Psalm 110:1, which can only be fulfilled by Christ, see Acts 2:34,35; Hebrews 1:13. He (Christ) must reign, till He (God) hath put all things under His feet. In Hebrews 1:13 Christ is set by God at His right hand until He makes His foes His footstool. There the word for “until” means “up to the time when”. So Christ is seated in heaven up to the time when God begins to manifestly put all things under His feet, which begins at the start of His reign but will take a thousand years to accomplish. He must reign in this way, subduing all hostile forces, to vindicate God in His choice of man and not angels to rule the earth, see Hebrews 2:5.
Peter said of Him, “whom the heavens must receive”, Acts 21, then he went on, “until the times of restitution of all things”, the things Paul is speaking of here. So heaven must receive Him, and He must reign.

15:26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death- when the unsaved dead are raised, death itself is cast into the Lake of Fire, Revelation 20:14. At that point every hostile force in God’s universe will have been dealt with. To destroy in this context means to render powerless. Death will still exist, for the unsaved shall endure the second death for all eternity, but it will be strictly controlled by Christ, and will never harm His people again.

(c) Verses 27-28 Christ’s subjection secures supremacy for the Godhead

15:27 For He hath put all things under His feet. But when He saith all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him.

For He hath put all things under His feet- this is a quotation from Psalm 8:6. Note that now it is not just enemies that are in view, but all things. In Psalm 8 the initial reference was to Adam, and the “all things” are defined as sheep and oxen, etc. But when the psalm is used in reference to Christ, all things absolutely are in view, whether angels, men, the earth, or hostile powers. This is important to notice in view of the end of verse 28, where God is the only one not subject to Christ.
But when He saith “all things are put under Him”- “put under” is in the perfect tense, which signifies permanent result. It appears that at the end of the reign of Christ, God will use the language of Psalm 8:6, and announce that all things are permanently put under Him.
It is manifest that He is excepted, that put all things under Him- clearly the One who has the right to delegate to Christ a position of supremacy over all things, must of necessity not be one of the “things” put under Christ.

15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

And when all things shall be subdued unto Him- note the apostle now speaks of all things subdued unto Christ, not just under Him, to heighten the sense of supremacy this involves. At this point Christ is supreme in heaven and earth; what will He do with this position? Lucifer had prominence in heaven and rebelled against God. Adam had it on earth and did the same. But the response of Christ has already been indicated, for Christ has made Himself of no reputation, (unlike Lucifer, who sought reputation, wanting to be like the Most High, Isaiah 14:12-14); and has humbled Himself, (unlike Adam, who sought to be as God, Genesis 3:5).
Then shall the Son also be subject unto Him that put all things under Him- the simple title of Son always indicates “Son of God”, not “Son of Man”. So the subjection of Christ, stretching forward into eternity as it does, takes account of the fact that He is the Son of the Father. He had come into the subject place when He became man, so that we read that “the head of Christ is God”, 1 Corinthians 11:3, but what will He do now that all is subject unto Him- will His supremacy represent a threat to God His Father? The answer is a resounding No! for He will deliberately re-affirm His subjection at the moment of His highest supremacy, and will do it, moreover, as the Son, so that subjection is shown conclusively to be a permanent feature of Him in His Deity.
That God may be all in all- the last question over the supremacy of the Godhead has been settled, for the only one of the Persons of the Godhead who could conceivably rival the Father, has deliberately subjected Himself to Him afresh. Note the change from “Him that put all things under Him”, meaning God the Father, to “God”, meaning the Triune God. The way is clear, therefore, for the Triune God to be all things in all places, everywhere and in all ways supreme. The Son does not claim any part of the universe or of the outworking of Divine purpose as His own exclusive domain, so the Godhead is manifestly united. No wonder the apostle broke off his reasoning in verse 19! He could not contain himself any longer as he thought of the glorious panorama opening out before him, culminating in the ultimate supremacy of God.
The apostle now resumes in verses 29-34 his consideration of the consequences if there is no resurrection of the dead. He had been constrained to set out positively the sequence of resurrections, lest we be too taken up with negative things.

Sixth consequence: Replacing martyrs is pointless

15:29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?- else means “if it is otherwise” than that Christ is risen, thus resuming the logical arguments broken off at verse 19. This verse has given rise to much discussion. First of all we must remember the clear principle of Scripture, that “The just shall live by his faith”, Habakkuk 2:4. Therefore the faith of another, however expressed, cannot justify. The practice of being baptized on behalf of persons who are dead is pointless, for it accomplishes nothing for them.
The literal meaning of the words must be our starting-point, closely followed by the nature of the context. “For the dead” translated literally is “over the dead ones”. The idea behind the word huper, translated “for”, is of one who bends over another so as to do something on his behalf, hence the literal bending over becomes a figure for the attitude adopted.
The question is, how can a person be baptized on another’s behalf? Notice that the context is of being in jeopardy, of dying daily, of fighting with beasts. So it is reasonably suggested that the dead referred to here are those who died through martyrdom, much as we speak of “the dead of the two world wars”, meaning those who died fighting, not all who died from 1914-18 for whatever reason. We distinguish between the war-dead and those who died naturally, so here the apostle may be referring to a particular class of the believing dead, namely, the martyred dead. Believers who had died, especially those who had been martyred, would have had a strong desire that the testimony to the name of Christ should be continued after their passing. It was in this sense that new converts were baptized for the dead, for they were committing themselves to live and die on behalf of the cause of Christ which the dead believers had held so dear. Naomi speaks of kindness to the dead, Ruth 2:20, meaning kindness which resulted in furthering the cause those who had died held dear when they were alive, in this case having children.

Another explanation takes the words more literally. If there is no resurrection, and since baptism is a burial in a watery grave, the persons baptized should not be brought up out of the water, since that action portrays resurrection. In this imaginary scenario, when the next candidate for baptism enters the water, he finds the previous person to be still there, and he has to be baptized over a dead person. Such is the situation if the idea of no resurrection is taken to its logical conclusion.

Seventh consequence: Courage in adversity is not worthwhile

15:30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?- There is emphasis on the word “we”, meaning the apostle and his companions. Not only is there no point in suffering martyrdom if Christ is not risen, but there is no point in endangering one’s life at all, for the cause is hopeless. If there is no resurrection there is no reason to stand for the truth, for all ends in oblivion anyway.

15:31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily- the word “protest” is in italics, but is represented in the Greek by a particle which was used in oaths. The apostle is putting himself on oath by the use of this word since he is making such a bold claim about risking his life on a daily basis. But the basis of his oath is nothing less than the cause that the Corinthians rejoiced in, and which he shared. The cause in which they had a mutual interest was Christ Jesus our Lord, the Man who is risen, and who has been given all authority in His triumphant place in heaven. It was because they were assured that Christ was risen that they were prepared to risk their lives for Him at any time. That he was prepared to “die daily” is shown by the next verse, with its reference to fighting with beasts. Those who were thrown to the lions in the Roman arena knew very well that death was near.

15:32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? “Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die”.

If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?- The apostle uses the language of natural men as he describes as beasts those who opposed him. The apostle would not normally use this sort of language for men whose spiritual welfare he held dear, even though they persecuted him, but he does it here to highlight the ferocity of their antagonism. The philosopher Plato called the mob “beasts”.
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”- in Isaiah 22 the nation of Israel were in extreme danger from their invading enemies, but when God called them to fast and repent, they responded with the words Paul quotes here. Paul and his companions reject the response of Israel to danger, which combined a fatalistic attitude with a careless ease, preferring to suffer hardship and privation in the sure knowledge of a resurrection.

15:33 Be not deceived: “Evil communications corrupt good manners”.

Be not deceived: “Evil communications corrupt good manners”- the evil conversation and character of those who speak as Israel did, are liable to destroy the previously good behaviour of the believers. Paul quotes here from a heathen poet to emphasize that even pagans realize this principle, yet some believers do not. It was those who did not believe in resurrection, with the allied denial of accountability for the things done in the body, who would be careless and indifferent.

15:34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

Awake to righteousness and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame- a quotation from Psalm 4:4 is now used by the apostle to exhort the Corinthians to act more responsibly before God. If they had a true appreciation of the character of God as the God of resurrection, they would live in the light of it. Unhappily, he is not confident that they have all grasped the truth in this way, and this he labels a shameful thing. Clearly, the apostle sees belief in the resurrection of the body as a sanctifying and solemnizing truth, which if acted upon, would result in a life lived to God’s glory.

This brings us to the second major section of the chapter, in which the apostle deals with the resurrection of the saints. Those who have died in Christ have not perished, verses 18, for Christ is risen. Those who are still alive are not of all men most miserable, verses 19, for the same reason.

In verse 1-34 the emphasis has been on the resurrection of Christ Himself. In the remainder of the chapter the focus is on the consequence of that resurrection, even the resurrection of the saints of this present church age.