Resurrection and the Gospel Message: 15:1-2.
(Read 1 Cor 15:1-2)
The resurrection Jesus Christ is vital to the preaching of the gospel. The Corinthian believers were saved yet some of them were skeptic about resurrection of believers. So Paul defends the doctrine of resurrection by saying that it is vital to the historical preaching of the Gospel. Paul received the gospel by direct revelation from the Lord (Gal 1:12). The Corinthian believers were saved by grace through faith in Christ. If they have not believed in the resurrection, their faith was in vain ((1 Cor 15:2). The resurrection strengthens them in their daily battle against sin (1 Cor 15:2). The gospel is not merely the good news to get saved. It is the power of God for Christian living (Rom 1:17). It is not only needed for evangelizing unbelievers, but also for christian living. The goal of the church is to preach the gospel and make disciples. The decision to submit to Christ is the necessary first step in the disciple making process but it is not the final goal. It is wonderful to guide someone into a relationship with Christ. But discipleship involves helping them to grow in their relationship with Christ and equipping them to live a life that is fruitful and effective. Jesus made disciples by inviting them to be with him (John 1:39). He modeled a life that they should imitate. In the gospel of Matthew, we see the strategy of discipleship (Mat 28:18-20). Mark gives the scope of it (Mark 16:15). In the gospel of Luke we see the essence of discipleship (Luke 24:47). John gives the source of the great commission (John 20:21). Someone has said “The gospel is not primarily about getting people out of hell into heaven, but about getting God out of heaven into people”. It is sad that today evangelism has become like inviting people to a cruse which is equipped with all kinds of entertainments and comforts. Let us not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
The Contents of the Gospel: 15: 3-11.
(Read 1 Cor 15:3-11)
Paul summarizes the content of the gospel in verses 3 and 4. “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried and he was raised from the dead on the third day according to the scriptures”. It was the fulfillment of what had been predicted in the Old Testament (John 20:9; Acts 26:23; Psalms 16:10). Christ's resurrection was confirmed by his appearance to many eyewitnesses (1 Cor 15:5-7). They include “Peter, the twelve apostles, and the five hundred disciples, most of them are still alive”. Then Jesus appeared to James and last of all to Paul. James was the half-brother of Jesus who was once an unbeliever (Mat 13:55; John 7:5). Paul considers himself the least of all apostles yet he too had the honor of seeing the risen Lord (1 Cor 15:9). Paul says “I am what I am by the grace of God”. He worked harder than all apostles yet not Paul but the grace of God that was with him (1 Cor 15:10). It makes no difference who preached the gospel to Corinthians the important thing is that they got saved. The gospel is the historical account of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is not built on myth and legend. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believes (Rom 1:16).
The Risen Christ gives Hope: 15:12-19.
(Read 1 Cor 15:12-19)
Paul has established the fact that resurrection of Christ is an essential part of the gospel (1 Cor 15:1-11). Paul asks “How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor 15:12). Before they got saved Corinthians were influenced by the Gnostic idea that the physical body is a hindrance to true spirituality (1 Cor 7:1-5). Therefore some taught that there is no such thing as a bodily resurrection from the dead. Paul presents the consequences of denying the resurrection in verses 13 to 19. Paul’s logic is inescapable.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event of all time. If Christ is not raised from the dead, his death does not have any power to forgive sin. Resurrection gives hope that believers will join Jesus for eternity with physically resurrected bodies. Unlike other religions, Christianity is based on the teaching of Christ. Christ does not show us the way, or truth or life to God, but he himself is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Those who trust in Christ will rejoice in the eternal life and live in anticipation of his return.
Resurrection and the future blessings: 15:20- 28.
(Read 1 Cor 15:20-28)
Since Chris did rise from the dead, there are great blessings for those who belong to him (1 Cor 15:20). His resurrection is the ground of our faith, our fellowship and our own resurrection. Christ has become the first fruits of those who have died in Christ. In Israel the first fruits always anticipated a harvest (Lev 23:9-14). It gives hope that someday the remaining harvest will be gathered. In Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. It does not teach that there is a universal resurrection. But each in his own order. Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to him (1 Cor 15:23). Christ was the first to experience the resurrection of body from the dead to become the first fruit. When he returns to rapture the church, those who died in Christ including the Old Testament saints will be raised from the dead (1 Thess 4:14-19). Christ will reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet (1 Cor 15:25). Then the wicked will be raise from the dead. The last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Cor 15:26). In essence the Father and the Son are same. But in ministry, as the incarnate Son, Christ is obedient to the Father. When all things are subjected to the Son, he will present himself to God. Then God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). Thus the Father who gave his Son authority over all things will become supreme over everything. The believers who battle against sin and Satan have the blessed hope that their greatest joy awaits at the resurrection.
Resurrection and Suffering: 15:29-34.
(Read 1 Cor 15-29-34)
The hope of resurrection helps us to endure suffering for the gospel. This also strengths us to devote our energy not to the temporary pleasures of this life but to embrace the promise that one day we will share in Christ’s glory. In Corinth some were baptized on behalf of the dead. Paul asks “If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? (1 Cor 15:29). Since Baptism symbolizes death and resurrection, it is meaningless to be baptized, if there is no resurrection of the dead. This custom is not scriptural and not practiced in the church today. If there is no resurrection there is no sense in suffering. Paul asks “If there is no resurrection, what value was there in fighting wild animals at Ephesus and facing death threat every day” (1 Cor 15:32). It gives only empty hope like “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die”. Scholars suggest that Paul quotes the proverb from the Greek poet Menander “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor 15:33). To their shame, some in the Corinthian church questioned the doctrine of resurrection. Paul urges Corinthians to come to their senses and stop sinning (1 Cor 15:34). Paul wants to say to their shame that some of them don’t even know God. Only when we embrace the doctrine of resurrection, we will find strength to endure hardship for the gospel.
The Nature of the Resurrection Body: 15:35-49.
(Read 1 Cor 15:35-49)
Paul gives his insight on the nature of the resurrected body here. Someone may ask “How will the dead be raised? What kind of body do they have? (1 Cor 15:36). Paul answers these questions with an analogy from the nature. Whenever a seed is sown in the ground it must die first before it can germinate. A grain is sown, a plant is the result. God gives it a body according the seed that was sown. Diversity exists among the living beings in the nature. There is a difference between the physical body and the resurrected body. Our earthly body is perishable but the resurrected body will be imperishable. There is nothing glorious about a dead body but when it is raised it will be full of glory. A weak body is buried now. When it is raised it will be full of power. A natural human body is buried now but when it is raised it will be a spiritual body (1 Cor 15:42-44). Paul contrasts the first man Adam with the last Adam, Christ. The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life giving spirit (Gen 2:7; John 5:21). First Adam gives physical life but the last Adam gives eternal life (Rom 5:14; John 5:26). First Adam was made from the dust while second Adam came from heaven. Every human being has an earthly body just like Adam’s but our heavenly bodies will be just like Christ’s glorified body (1 Cor 15:49; 1 John 3:2). Although believers will resemble Christ morally, they don’t look like him in their glorified body. Each believer will have distinct personality and recognizable in heaven. As the earthly planets reflect different glory, believers will reflect different glory in their resurrected bodies. In their glorified body they will be able to live a life that is free from sin and its corruption. This is our blessed hope.
Resurrection and our Victory: 15:50-58.
(Read 1 Cor 15:50-58)
Paul’s final attention turns to what happens to those who are living at the time of the second coming of Christ. Paul says that now we live in a perishable body and it can’t inherit the kingdom of God. This perishable body will change into an imperishable body to live forever. Paul shares a mystery that was revealed to him by God. “We shall not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Cor 15:51-52; Phil 3:21; 1 Thess 4:16-17). For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died in Christ will be raised imperishable. Then the living believers shall be transformed so that they will never die (1 Cor 15:52). For this perishable body must put on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality. Those who are raised from the dead will shout the victory song “O grave, where is your victory” (1 Cor 15:55). The living believers who are changed shall shout “O death where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law (1 Cor 15:56). Paul thanked God who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor 15:57). This is a reference to the complete victory we are going to receive when Christ returns. So, Paul exhorts believers to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that our labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor 15:58). one day we will share the glory of resurrection. The promise of resurrection gives us energy and purpose to our daily life because we know that “Our labor in the Lord is not in vain”. Do you have this confidence?