The First Epistle to the Corinthians consists of responses by the Apostle Paul to three things. In chapters 1-4, he responds to a report from the house of Chloe, 1:11. In chapters 5 and 6 he responds to a common report about the behaviour of the Corinthians, 5:1. Then from chapter 7 onwards he responds to a letter from them asking certain questions, and each answer is prefaced by “now concerning”. So chapter 7 is concerning marriage and virgins, 7:1,25. Chapters 8-11 concerning idolatry, 8:1. Chapters 12-15 concerning spiritual gifts, 12:1, but the expression “spirit-matters” gives a better idea of the subject of the section, ranging as it does from spirit-manifestations in heathen temples, 12:2,3; the manifestation of the Spirit of God, 12:7; the prophet’s control of their own spirits in the Assembly, 14:32; the false idea of some that there would not be a resurrection of the body, but it was purely a “spiritual” concept, 15:12; and finally, the truth regarding the resurrection body that it is spiritual, 15:44, and is given through Christ who is described as a life-giving spirit, 15:45. Chapter 16:1 begins, “Now concerning the collection for the saints”, and verse 12 begins, “As touching our brother Apollos”.
Paul came to Corinth from near-by Athens, where the philosophers poured scorn on “Jesus, and the resurrection”, thinking them to be two new gods, Acts 17:18. Having shown their reasonings to be illogical, and refuted even by their own poets, Acts 17:28, he 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. The Corinthians were influenced much by the wisdom of the world, which the apostle deals with in 1 Corinthians 1-4.
The word resurrection literally means to stand again, so has particular reference to the body. As the apostle said to Governor 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, (spoken near Nain, see Luke 7:11-18). The magicians of Egypt testified that to bring life out of the dust was the work of 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.
Death and life are 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, which is the second death. They will live again at the resurrection of damnation, Revelation 20:12, but then will experience the second death. Believers, on the other hand, will live for ever after a temporary period in a state of death, during which they await the resurrection of the body.
STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER:
The chapter is broadly divided into two:
1-34 The resurrection of Christ and its consequences. (The Gentiles rejected resurrection, and said the body was a hindrance).
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.|
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.
15:1-11 HISTORICAL SECTION
15:1 Moreover- the equivalent to “but”, reminding us the apostle is refuting error; the heretics may deny the resurrection, “but…I declare”.
I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you- the message has not changed in the face of denial.
Which also ye have received- this is a verb in the aorist tense, signifying a definite action. “Many of the Corinthians hearing, believed” Acts 18:8.
And wherein ye stand- this is a verb in the perfect tense, signifying 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- this is a verb in the present tense, continuously saved in the present. The truth of the gospel is not only effectual to save when we first believe, but it maintains us practically in the good of salvation.
If ye keep in memory what I preached unto you- the practical deliverance from the pitfalls along the Christian’s 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 like this.
15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all- the gospel was a priority with the apostle.
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. (Compare the four equal sides of the brazen altar, and the four anchors cast out of the ship, Acts 27:29.) There are verbs in the active and passive in verses 3 and 4. 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 stumblingblock to the Jews, 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 Roman spear, was not buried by the Roman shovel, rose despite the Roman seal, (those breaking Roman seals were crucified upside-down), and walked forth from the tomb despite the Roman soldiers. The kings of the earth set themselves against God’s Christ, but He had them in derision, Psalm 2:2,4.
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 by 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 the epistle is written to believers, but this is the record of what the apostle 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 in eternity.
According to the scriptures- the first and major witness to the truth of the gospel. The Old Testament is in view; that the circumstances of the death of Christ perfectly fitted the predictions of old, is testimony that it was of God. 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 to enter into His glory? 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.
15:4 And that He was buried- not, indeed, in the soil, but in stone, so the tomb was easily identified, sealed, and guarded. The burial-place of Moses is not known, Deuteronomy 34:6, no doubt to avoid superstition, but there was an overriding consideration with Christ’s tomb, for He it must be evident that He has left His tomb in resurrection. Note the significance of burial as a figure of sowing and growing, verses 36-44. No reference is made here to “according to 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, as is said in Romans 4:25, “Raised again for our justification”. 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 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; that He is the Son of God, Romans 1:4.
The third day according to the scriptures- the third day was stipulated in His prophecy, Matthew 12:40; the scriptures had made theirs beforehand. Every prophecy of His reign implied His death and resurrection, for He was raised up to sit on David’s throne, 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. Each person or group was changed by seeing Christ in resurrection, and each was given a charge by the Risen Lord, either expressly, or by implication.
15:5 PETER, Mark 16:7.
Change-denier of Christ to declarer of Christ.
Charge-“when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”, Luke 22:32.
And that He was seen of Cephas- “seen” means “appeared”, a deliberate act, confronting people with His presence, not a distant shadowy figure. They could touch, see, eat and drink with Him, satisfying them that He was really raised bodily. He was the first of them that should rise from among the dead, even though He was not the first to rise from the dead. His resurrection inaugurates a new kind of resurrection, which leaves others still in the graves.
Cephas is an Aramaic name, equivalent to Peter, which in the Greek is petros, a stone. The resurrection of Christ deals with Peter’s denial in the High Priest’s palace. As the chief of the apostles, and as one who had denied the Lord, Peter must have a private reinstatement, as indicated by the words of the angel to Mary Magdalene and the other women with her, “go tell His disciples, and Peter”, Mark 16:7. Then Peter was reinstated amongst the apostles, John 21:15-17; then publicly, on the Day of Pentecost, and also before the hierarchy of Jerusalem who had been present at the High Priest’s Palace when he had denied his Lord, Acts 4:5-7.
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- 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. Would the good that Christianity has been down the centuries have come from the testimony of liars? At every stage there were honest eye-witnesses; John and the women at the cross, seeing the spear thrust and the blood and water, John 19:33-35; Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, taking the body from the cross to the tomb; 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 after the Sabbath, 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 the tomb is made sure by the seal and the guard. 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: “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 Paul pre-empts the idea that Peter should have waited for the conversion of Paul, and not appointed Matthias; note the two scriptures which gave Peter the authority to appoint Judas’ replacement, Psalm 69:25, Psalm 109:8. Another proof of the 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 be soon, too, Acts 1:6. They did not deny that He would rise; it was the quickness of the event that surprised them.
15:6 THE 500, Matthew 28:7,10.
The change: disarray to determination.
The charge: “Go ye into all the world…”
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 the figures used in the New Testament are all gentle ones; falling asleep, 1 Thessalonians 4:13; sowing a seed, 1 Corinthians 15:42; putting off a tabernacle, 2 Peter 1:14; being offered, or poured out, 2 Timothy 4:6.
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.
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. So James covers the first 30 years of the Lord’s life, Peter the next 3, and Paul sees Him in heaven. James did not believe in Christ when He went about doing good, why believe Him after He was crucified as a malefactor? He did not believe He was Messiah when he saw the miracles, which were the manifestation of the power 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. As the Lord had said, “When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He”.
It is difficult to see a special reason for the other men named James having a special appearance of the Lord to them, especially as they were apostles, Matthew 10:2,3, and were included in “the twelve” who had already seen Him.
ALL THE APOSTLES.
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 change- Destroyer to defender.
The charge: “it shall be told thee what thou shalt do”, Acts 9:6.
And last of all He was seen of me also- it is true that John saw Him afterwards, but this was in 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. “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision”, Acts 26:19.
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 a Christ in glory, will be repeated for Israel when they see Christ coming in glory. Paul is “a pattern to them which should 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- the apostle always felt his unworthiness because of his past, alluding to it in the last months of his life, 1 Timothy 12-15; “I am (not was) the chief of sinners”. 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- Paul refers to himself fourteen times in these verses, 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 that of 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, 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 all” 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- 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. Note 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 role in the furtherance of the gospel, see Philippians 4:3. It is one of the marks of the genuineness of the accounts of the resurrection in the Gospels, that so much depends upon the testimony of women, who were barred from giving evidence in Jewish Law-courts. This is certain proof that the records are not the work of forgers.
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.
15:12-19, 29-34. LOGICAL SECTION
15:12 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 are divided into some and some, although this is the impression we might gain from the Authorised Version. The first “some” refers to those who rise at that time, (the end of the tribulation period). The second “some” refers to those who do not rise at that time, but who rise to stand before the Great White Throne 1000 years later. In other words, the first “some” refers to believers from Israel, the second “some” refers to unbelievers from Israel who await the great white throne judgement. The Jewish rabbis understood the words in this way.
Christ is “the first that should rise from the dead”, Acts 26:23, 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, as Revelation 11:15-18 shows.
How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?- this is a question asked by the apostle, whereas in verse 35 a question is raised by “some man”. “How” is a word that 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; 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.
15:13 FIRST CONSEQUENCE- CHRIST IS NOT RAISED
But if there be no resurrection of the dead- note the apostle takes up the general phrase for resurrection as such.
Then is not Christ not risen- the apostle will deal with the fact that the resurrection has to do with bodies from verse 35 onwards, but assumes here that resurrection is not a spirit thing, as he has right to do, having listed those who had seen Christ risen bodily.
15:14 SECOND CONSEQUENCE- PREACHING AND FAITH ARE 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.
15:15,16 THIRD CONSEQUENCE- THE APOSTLES GIVE FALSE WITNESS ABOUT GOD
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. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised- there are two opposing statements, one from heretics, “There is no resurrection of the dead”, and another from God’s witnesses, “Christ is risen”. Note that the testimony of angels is involved too, Matthew 28:5-7. Not only is Christ wrong if He is not raised, but the God of truth is wrong, too! The “yea” perhaps expresses the deep emotion of the apostle as he thinks of being designated a false witness.
15:17 FOURTH CONSEQUENCE- BELIEVERS ARE STILL IN THEIR 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. If He is not raised, then, our sins cannot be 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 if Christ is not risen.
15:18 FIFTH CONSEQUENCE- THE DEAD 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; if Christ is not risen the seeds have rotted, for there was more reason for Christ to rise than they, so if He has not risen they certainly will not, and are lost. The security which they thought they had because they were 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- having given up the “pleasures of sin”, the believer finds that there are no compensations if Christ is not risen, for he hopes for fulness of joy in heaven, Psalm 16:11, but he will never arrive there 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. So we will go to that verse now, and revert back to the parenthetical passage of verses 20-28 later.
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 15,VERSES 29-34
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.
15:29 SIXTH CONSEQUENCE- REPLACING MARTYRS IS POINTLESS
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptised for the dead?- The word “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 that the principle of Scripture is clear, “The just shall live by his faith”, Habakkuk 2:4, so the faith of another, however expressed, cannot justify. By the same token, baptism cannot justify, so they are in error who believe they may be baptized on behalf of the dead and save their souls thereby. The literal meaning of the words must be our starting-point, closely followed by the nature of the context. “For the dead” is literally, “over the dead ones”. The idea behind the word huper, translated “over”, 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? One suggestion is 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. 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 that those who had died had held dear when they were alive, in that case having children.
Another explanation takes the word “huper” more literally, and envisages that those coming forward to be baptized are baptized over the dead, if there is no resurrection. If there is no resurrection, then those baptized should be left in the water. In which case the next person baptized is baptized over their dead bodies. Why, asks the apostle, should they want to do that?
15:30-34 SEVENTH CONSEQUENCE- COURAGE IN ADVERSITY IS NOT WORTHWHILE
15:30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?- There is emphasis on the word “we”, meaning the apostle and his companions. What is the point of risking our lives for a hopeless cause?
15:31 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 given all authority in His triumphant place in heaven. It was because he was assured that Christ was risen that he was prepared to risk his life.
15:32 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. 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. He rejects 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”- the evil conversation and character of those who speak as Israel did, are liable to destroy the previously good behaviour of the believers. It was those who did not believe in resurrection, with the allied denial of accountability for the things done in the body, who would speak thus.
15:34 Awake to righteousness and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame- this is the apostle’s rendering of Psalm 4:4, 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.
We now revert to the parenthetical section of verses 20-28.
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS CHAPTER 15,VERSES 20-28
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.
15:20-28 PROPHETICAL- SEQUENCE OF EVENTS BEGINNING WITH CHRIST’S RESURRECTION
|(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.|
The resurrection of Christ sets in motion a sequence of events which culminates in His 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- 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 in verses 1-11 and negatively, in verses 12-19.
And become the firstfruits of them that slept- the 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, and a sign, too, that Israel was prepared to recognize God first in their life. 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”, or seen from every angle, by God, but He appeared to His own as well, as verses 5-8 have recorded.
15:21 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.
15:22 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.
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 die by his instrumentality, to be made alive in Christ means to live through His instrumentality. All die because of something Adam did, so that they die in virtue of what he did, namely, commit sin, which brought in physical death. 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. THIS DOES NOT MEAN ALL WILL BE SAVED, BUT IT DOES MEAN THAT ALL 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 the Christ, or Messiah. He raises 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. This is why there is a definite article in the original before Adam and Christ in this verse. Christ will show His headship over all men by raising believers to life, and unbelievers to damnation.
15:23 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 firstfruits- as already indicated, Christ’s rising was the sign that death’s power over God’s people had been broken in principle, now it is to be broken in practice.
Afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming- when Christ is 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 is present on the earth, then Old Testament saints and tribulation saints will be raised. 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, just as they will be raised at the last day of the age appropriate to them, John 6:39,40. 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.
15:24 Then cometh the end- the word for then means “after an interval”, whereas the “then” of verse 28 means “immediately”. The interval is in fact 1000 years, and then the end of the series of resurrections takes place.
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 on behalf of His Father, being the Firstborn, see Psalm 89:27; Hebrews 1:6. The resurrection of the wicked dead takes place after Christ 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” involves 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” signifies 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; but 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 the true kingdom from God when He asks for it, Psalm 2:8, Daniel 7:13,14.
15:25 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. The subjection of all things to Christ is a process that lasts at least 1000 years. 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 will take 1000 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.
15:26 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 this point every hostile force in God’s universe will have been eradicated.
15:27 For He hath put all things under His feet- now 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 primary 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, (meaning the Father, verse 24), 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. At the end of the reign of Christ God will 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” over which Christ is put, being the Creator.
15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto Him- as God will announce they are. 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 He 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. Note the apostle now speaks of all things subdued unto Christ, not just under Him, to heighten the sense of supremacy this involves.
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 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, for 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 affirm His subjection at the moment of His highest supremacy, and will do it, moreover, as the Son, so that subjection becomes 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 God, has deliberately subjected Himself to His Father afresh. The way is clear for the Triune God to be all things in all ways, everywhere supreme. The Son does not claim any part of the universe or of the outworking of God’s purpose as His own exclusive domain- 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.