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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

1 Corinthians 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. From this verse to 1 Corinthians 15:11 the Apostle states the facts connected with the Resurrection of Christ, as he had proclaimed them from the outset of his ministry.

γνωρίζω δέ. Moreover, I make known. The A.V. ‘moreover’ gives the idea at once of continuation and variation in the subject, expressed by δέ.

εὐαγγέλιον. This gospel was indeed good tidings. Beside the fact that Christ had been offered for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3) St Paul, as well as the rest of the Apostles (1 Corinthians 15:11), taught that He had risen again in order to communicate to us that new and Divine life whereby our own resurrection should be assured—a life which should make the human body, though laid in the grave, a seed from whence in God’s own good time, a new and more glorious body should arise.

ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε. Which ye received, that is, when it was preached.

ἑστήκατε. Stand fast, that is, against the assaults of sin. Cf. Romans 5:2; 2 Corinthians 1:24; Ephesians 6:11-14. Our faith in Christ, the giver of the new life of holiness, can alone defend us from evil.


Verses 1-58

1 Corinthians 15:1-58. THE DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION

This chapter is one of the deepest and most mysterious in the Bible. It is the one exception to the statement in ch. 3 that St Paul was unable to feed the Corinthians with meat; for it ranks with the profound exposition of the principles of Justification in the Epistle to the Romans, and the weighty but most difficult enunciation of the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge and man’s call in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians.

A short sketch of the Apostle’s argument here will be useful. He comes now to the most important point on which his opinion had been asked (see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 7:1), the discussion of which he reserves to the last. It appears to him the most satisfactory course to begin by restating the message he had proclaimed to the Corinthians at the beginning. This message related to the actual facts of the Resurrection of Christ, the persons to whom, and the circumstances under which, He had appeared (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). He next begins to combat the opinions of those who maintained that there was no resurrection of the dead and shews (1 Corinthians 15:12-19) that a denial of the resurrection of the dead involves a denial of the Resurrection of Christ, and is fatal altogether to all belief in the Gospel. Next (1 Corinthians 15:20-28), the Apostle views the Resurrection of Christ as the virtual resurrection of the whole human race. As the death of Adam involved the death of all his descendants, so the Resurrection of Christ involved the resurrection of all who share His life. After having conquered all the enemies of God and man, He, the representative man, assumes for Himself and for all He represents the due position of submission to God which it is fitting man should assume, even (1 Corinthians 15:28) laying His mediatorial crown aside, that none may even seem to stand between man and God. Then (1 Corinthians 15:29-34) the Apostle discusses the reasonableness of baptism on behalf of the dead, and the endurance by himself of all kinds of trials and sufferings, on the hypothesis that there would be no resurrection, and winds up this portion of his argument by an appeal to the Corinthians not to be led into licentiousness by teaching involving grave moral dangers. His next question has regard to the mode of the Resurrection. He discusses the question how the dead are raised. This he does, 1 Corinthians 15:36, by comparing the body to a seed which falls into the ground and dies before it springs up. Then (1 Corinthians 15:37-41) he enlarges on the various forms and excellences of visible objects as a type of the variety of degrees of glory which the human body may assume in the world to come. He next (1 Corinthians 15:42-45) enters into the contrast between the present and the future life, shewing that the very circumstances of our existence in this world point to a higher stage of existence in another. Then (1 Corinthians 15:46-49) he refers to the necessary priority of the lower existence as a step toward the higher, and (1 Corinthians 15:50-53) points out the nature of the change which must pass over us before we can attain to our final perfection. That perfection, he explains (1 Corinthians 15:54-57), consists in the victory of the spiritual part of our nature over the sensual, and he concludes (1 Corinthians 15:58) by encouraging those to whom he writes to stedfastness in their spiritual course, on the ground that they may be well assured that their efforts after perfection will not be in vain.


Verse 2

2. σώζεσθε. Observe the change of tense. The others refer to past acts, this to a present condition. The A.V. ‘are saved’ is equivalent to the Greek perfect. Cf. σωζόμενος in ch. 1 Corinthians 1:18; Acts 2:47; 2 Corinthians 2:15.

τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν εἰ κατέχετε. ‘That is to say, provided you are holding fast what I taught you.’ For τίς in the place of the relative see Acts 10:29 and Buttm. Neu-Test. Gr., p. 216. He remarks that this construction is usually found with ἔχω, and that the underlying thought is always more or less indirectly interrogative. λόγῳ is the dative of attraction in dependence on εὐηγγελισάμην, ‘if you retain firmly in memory with what discourse (or matter) I brought you good tidings,’ i. e. if you hold fast the subject-matter of my message. Some [2] regard the τίνι λόγῳ as marking more distinctly the nature of the εὐαγγέλιον, ‘if you hold fast the Gospel I have proclaimed to you, of what sort it is.’ And [3] the Revisers of our version have preferred to connect τίνι λόγῳ with γνωρίζω ‘I make known, I say, with what words I preached the gospel to you.’ We cannot translate here, as in Acts 10:29, ‘for what reason.’

ἐκτὸς εἰ μή. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 14:5.

ἐπιστεύσατε. Not ‘have believed,’ as A.V., but believed, i.e. professed yourselves disciples of Christ.


Verse 3

3. ἐν πρώτοις. Not first in order of time, but in order of importance ‘as a truth of the first magnitude.’ Chrysostom takes it as equivalent to ‘at the first.’ See however Plat. Pol. VII. 522 C ὃ καὶ παντὶ ἐν πρώτοις ἀνάγκη μανθάνειν.

ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον. The close resemblance of this passage to the Apostles’ Creed shews that this summary of the doctrines of our faith is actually what it professes to be, a short compendium of Apostolic teaching. Irenaeus, a writer in the second century, and a careful observer of Apostolic tradition, gives a very similar summary in his treatise against Heresies, Book III. ch. 4. St Paul does not state here from whom he received his doctrine, but he must have acquired some elementary instruction in the first principles of the Christian faith from his intercourse with the disciples (Acts 9:19), and even at his admission into the Christian body. And what he had received from others he tested by examination of the Scriptures, by prayer and silent communing with God, till it became his own, by revelation and by that inward conviction which none but God can give. See Galatians 1:12; Galatians 1:16.

ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Corinthians 8:11. Also Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; Romans 5:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 Peter 1:19, &c.

κατὰ τὰς γραφάς. What Scriptures? Those of the O. T., clearly. Those of the New (see ch. 1 Corinthians 4:6 and note) were hardly any of them in existence. If it be asked what Scriptures of the O. T. are meant, we may refer to Psalms 22; Isaiah 53, as well as to Genesis 22; Deuteronomy 9:24-26; Zechariah 12:10. For the same words in the next verse see Psalms 16:10; Isaiah 53:10; Hosea 6:2; Jonah 2:10. This latter passage having been applied to the Resurrection by Christ Himself (Matthew 12:40; Matthew 16:4), may not unnaturally be conceived to be among those St Paul had in his mind here.


Verse 4

4. ὅτι ἐτάφη, καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται. Literally, was buried and hath risen again, the aorist referring to the single act, the perfect to Christ’s continued life after His Resurrection.


Verse 5

5. Κηφᾷ. See Luke 24:34. St Paul and St John alone use the Aramaic form of the Apostle’s surname, the former only in this Epistle and once in the Epistle to the Galatians. This, coupled with the fact that St John only uses the Aramaic form in the narrative in ch. John 1:42, is one of those minute touches which speak strongly for the genuineness of his Gospel.

τοῖς δώδεκα. The official designation of the body of the Apostolate, from which however Judas had at that time ‘by transgression fallen.’


Verse 6

6. πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοίς. This kind of appearance was one about which there could be no mistake or illusion. It either happened, or if not, its falsehood must have been capable of being exposed. St Paul must have seen and conversed with many of these persons.

μένουσιν. Observe the present. ‘They are still alive,’ as we should say.


Verse 7

7. Ἰακώβῳ. It would seem from this (see Stanley and Alford) that St James was an Apostle. But it does not necessarily follow that he was one of the Twelve. See Professor Plumptre’s elaborate note on the brethren of our Lord in the Commentary on St James in this series. Also note on 1 Corinthians 9:5.


Verse 8

8. τῷ ἐκτρώματι. The word refers to a birth out of the usual course of nature, about which there is therefore [1] something violent and strange. Such was the nature of St Paul’s conversion, an event unparalleled in Scripture. Moreover, [2] such children are usually small and weakly, an idea which the next verse shews St Paul also had in mind. St Paul saw the Lord on more than one occasion. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 9:1. The τῷ points out St Paul as the only member of the Apostolic band of whom this could be said. So Winer, Gr. Gram. § 18. Yet τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ (Luke 18:13) signifies the sinner κατ ̓ ἐξοχήν.


Verse 9

9. ἱκανός. A.V. meet. Literally, sufficient.

διότι ἐδίωξα., Acts 7:58; Acts 8:3; Acts 9:1. Cf. Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:13.


Verse 10

10. χάριτι δὲ θεοῦ. St Paul is willing to admit his personal inferiority to the other Apostles, but such willingness does not lead him to make a similar admission regarding his work. For that was God’s doing, not his, or only his so far as God’s grace or favour enabled him to perform it. See ch. 1 Corinthians 1:30, 1 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 3:9, and cf. Matthew 10:20; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Ephesians 3:7; Philippians 2:12-13.

περισσότερον. St Paul does not hesitate to place his labours for the Gospel’s sake on a par with, or even above, those of the Twelve. The work of an Apostle of the Gentiles must necessarily have been more arduous than that of an Apostle of the Jews.

σὺν ἐμοί. If, with rec. we read ἡ σὺν ἐμοί, we must translate with A.V. the grace of God which was with me. If we omit the article the rendering will be the grace of God laboured with me.


Verse 11

11. κηρύσσομεν. This word, which originally meant to proclaim publicly, as a herald, came to mean the delivery of any public discourse. Cf. κηρύσσειν ἐν ἐκκλησίαις καὶ ῥήτορας ἐκδιδάσκειν Lucian Deor. Dial. 24. See 1 Corinthians 9:27, note. The present denotes the fact that St Paul is still proclaiming this message. ‘By his earnestness in saving this, the Apostle testifies to the immense value and importance of historic Christianity.’ Robertson.


Verse 12

12. From this point to 1 Corinthians 15:19 the Apostle insists on a belief in a resurrection as absolutely essential to the existence of any Christian faith whatsoever, and stigmatizes the absence of such a belief as fatal to the acknowledgment of the Resurrection of Christ.

εἰ δέ. But if. Followed by the pres. this is equivalent to, ‘if it be really true that.’

πῶς λέγουσιντινές. There were three different schools of thought among those outside the Christian Church which denied the doctrine of the Resurrection from the dead. The first was the materialistic school, represented by the Epicureans among the heathen and by the Sadducees among the Jews. They thought that man would entirely cease to exist after death, and that any other idea was only the result of man’s vanity and his insatiable longing after existence. The second, in which the Stoics were the most prominent body, taught, what amounted to the same thing, the Pantheistic doctrine of the ultimate reabsorption of the soul into the Divinity from which it had sprung, and therefore the final extinction of the individual personality. The third school, of which the disciples of Plato were the chief representatives, while maintaining the external personality and immortality of the soul, regarded matter as the cause of all evil, the only barrier between the soul and the Absolute Good, a thing, in fact, essentially and eternally alien to the Divine, and they therefore could not conceive of immortality except through the entire freedom of the soul from so malignant and corrupting an influence. Hence the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body was the principal stumbling-block in the way of an early reception of Christianity. It aroused the antagonism of an influential section among the Jews (Acts 4:1-2; Acts 5:17; Acts 23:6-9), and was considered by heathen philosophers inadmissible and even absurd (Acts 17:32). This doctrine for many centuries remained the chief hindrance to the progress of Christianity. It produced the numerous Gnostic sects, which were willing to accept the doctrine of eternal life through Christ, so long as it was not encumbered by the necessity of believing in the resurrection of the body. The Manichaeans and their followers maintained for many centuries a conflict with the Christian Church, mainly on this point, and were able for many years to boast of so distinguished a convert as St Augustine, who describes them, after his return to the Church, as holding that ‘Christ came to deliver not bodies but souls.’ De Haer. 46. It may be questioned whether a doctrine more nearly corresponding to the immortality of the soul than the resurrection of the body is not still held by a large number of Christians. For information concerning the tenets of the heathen philosophers on this point, the student may consult Archer Butler’s Lectures on Philosophy; for the early Christian heretics, Neander and Gieseler’s Church Histories, and Mansel’s Gnostic Heresies, and for both, Ueberweg’s History of Philosophy. We may add that 1 John 4:2 is directed against such heretics. And if, as is generally supposed, Clement’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians has been wrongly attributed to him, and is of later date, we see how obstinate the error was by the words in c. 9 καὶ μὴ λεγέτω τις ὑμῶν, ὅτι αὕτη ἡ σὰρξ οὐ κρίνεται οὐδὲ ἀνίσταται.


Verse 13

13. εἰ δέ. But if, implying a contradiction to what has been said.

ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν. The question has here been raised, against whom was St Paul contending? against those who maintained the immortality of the soul, but denied the resurrection of the body, or those who maintained that man altogether ceased to exist after death? 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Corinthians 15:32 would appear to point to the latter class, but this cannot be affirmed with certainty. There were some, moreover (see 2 Timothy 2:17-18), who perverted St Paul’s teaching (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12-13; Colossians 3:1) into the doctrine that the resurrection taught by the Apostles of Jesus was the spiritual awakening from sin to righteousness, the quickening of moral and spiritual energies into activity and predominance. The fact would seem to be that St Paul so contrived his argument as to deal with all antagonists at once. The whole question whether there were a future life or not, according to him, depended on the fact of Christ’s Resurrection. If He were risen, then a resurrection of all mankind was not probable, but certain. If He were not risen, then there was not only no resurrection, but no immortality, no future life at all (cf. 2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14, as well as 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 of this chapter).

οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται. It would seem that the persons against whom these remarks were addressed admitted the Resurrection of Christ, but denied that of other men. St Paul here shews the absurdity of this view. If a resurrection from the dead be impossible, the principle embraces the Resurrection of Christ Himself, which, if this postulate be granted, becomes at once either a mistake or an imposture. And since, on the Apostle’s principles, there is no hope of a future life but through Him, we are driven to the conclusion—a reductio ad absurdum—that ‘the answer to His prayer “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit,” was Annihilation! that He Who had made His life one perpetual act of consecration to His Father’s service received for His reward the same fate as attended the blaspheming malefactor.’ Robertson. And we must infer also, he continues, that as the true disciples of Christ in all ages have led purer, humbler, more self-sacrificing lives than other men, they have attained to this higher excellence by ‘believing what was false,’ and that therefore men become more ‘pure and noble’ by believing what is false than by believing what is true.


Verse 14

14. εἰ δέ. And if. Here and in 1 Corinthians 15:16 it is the simple continuation of the argument.

κενή, i.e. useless, in vain, as we say. Literally, empty. Vulg. inanis. ‘You have a vaine faith if you believe in a dead man. He might be true man, though He remained in death. But it concerns you to believe that He was the Son of God too. And He was “declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” Romans 1:4.’ Dr Donne, Sermon on Easter Day.


Verse 15

15. ψευδομάρτυρες. Not only is our authoritative proclamation of Christ’s Resurrection useless, but it is even false, though it has been made from the beginning. See Acts 1:22; Acts 2:24; Acts 3:15; Acts 3:21; Acts 4:2; Acts 4:10; Acts 4:33; Acts 5:30; Acts 10:40; Acts 13:30; Acts 13:33-34, &c. Dean Stanley reminds us that this Epistle was written within twenty-five years of the event to which it refers with such unhesitating confidence. Yet that event is not merely affirmed, but is actually made the foundation of the Apostle’s whole argument. See Introduction. ‘There is a certain instinct within us generally which enables us to detect when a man is speaking the truth.… Truth, so to speak, has a certain ring by which it may be known. Now, this chapter rings with truth.’ Robertson. It certainly has not the appearance of having been written by a man who was endeavouring to persuade others of what he did not believe himself.

τοῦ θεοῦ. The genitive of relation, concerning God.

κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ. Either [1] contrary to God, in opposition to His true character and purpose, or [2] with De Wette and others, as the simple gen. above, concerning God.

εἴπερ ἄρα. ἄρα here and in 1 Corinthians 15:14; 1 Corinthians 15:18, implies the improbability of the hypothesis or proposition.

ἐγείρονται. The present of habitual action.


Verse 17

17. ματαία. This word is in all probability synonymous with κενή above, 1 Corinthians 15:14. But Meyer would distinguish between them. The former with him means without result, the latter without reality.

ἔτι ἐστὲ ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν. Christ came, not only to make reconciliation for sin, but to free us from it. Cf. Romans 6:11-23; Romans 8:2. And this He did by proclaiming a Life. He first conquered sin Himself. Then He offered the acceptable Sacrifice of His pure and unpolluted life to God in the place of our corrupt and sinful lives. And then, having at once vindicated the righteousness of God’s law and fulfilled it, He arose from the dead. When He had thus led sin and death captive, He redeemed us from the power of both by imparting His own Life to all who would enter into covenant with Him. Thus the Resurrection of Christ was the triumph of humanity (see 1 Corinthians 15:21) over sin and death; the reversal of the sentence, ‘the soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ Had He not risen from the dead, humanity had not triumphed, the sentence had not been reversed, man had not been delivered from the yoke of sin, and therefore those who had ‘fallen asleep’ could never wake again. ‘None of these things would have taken place, had He not emerged victor from the conflict by rising again.’ Calvin.


Verse 18

18. κοιμηθέντες. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 7:39. ‘The word does not apply to the soul, for that does not sleep (Luke 16:22-23; Luke 23:43), but it describes the state of the bodies of those who sleep in Jesus.’ Bp Wordsworth.

ἀπώλοντο. ‘You are required to believe that those who died in the field of battle, bravely giving up their lives for others, died even as the false and coward dies. You are required to believe that when there arose a great cry at midnight, and the wreck went down, they who passed out of the world with the oath of blasphemy or the shriek of despair, shared the same fate with those who calmly resigned their departing spirits into their Father’s hand’; in short, ‘that those whose affections were so pure and good that they seemed to tell you of an eternity, perished as utterly as the selfish and impure. If from this you shrink as from a thing derogatory to God, then there remains but that conclusion to which St Paul conducts us, “Now is Christ risen from the dead.”’ Robertson.


Verse 19

19. ἠλπικότες ἐσμέν. The meaning of this form differs to a certain extent from that of the simple perfect. The latter relates to the action of the persons referred to. The participle with ἐσμέν refers to their condition.

ἐλεεινότεροι πάντων ἀνθρώπων. Literally, more to be pitied than all men. Because of the sufferings and labours and persecutions they endured for a creed which was false after all. See notes on ch. 1 Corinthians 4:9-13.


Verse 20

20. The next eight verses point us to Adam and Christ, as types respectively of fallen and perfect humanity. As Adam’s fall was man’s fall, so Christ’s Resurrection was man’s resurrection. Christ’s triumph over sin, and therefore over death, is to be repeated in His members until sin, and ultimately death, the wages of sin (Romans 6:23), shall cease to be, and every faithful disciple of Christ shall enjoy an immediate vital union with God.

νυνὶ δέ. νυνί is not to be understood of time here, but as marking a fresh point of departure in the argument. The adversative sense must of course be given to δέ.

Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν. St Paul considers it needless to argue the point further. He appeals not so much to the reason—on points like this (see ch. 1 Corinthians 2:14) it is likely to deceive us—as to the moral instincts of every human being. Of course a man has power to stifle them, but they tell him plainly enough that love of purity and truth, desire of immortality, belief in the love and justice of God, are no vain dreams, as they would be if the ‘wise man died as the fool’ (Ecclesiastes 2:16). Accordingly, the Apostle now proceeds to unfold the laws of God’s spiritual kingdom as facts which cannot be gainsaid. He may appeal (as in 1 Corinthians 15:29-32) to his own practice and that of others as a confirmation of what he says. But from henceforth he speaks with authority. He wastes no more time in discussion.

ἀπαρχή. The firstfruits (Leviticus 23:10) were the first ripe corn, under the Law, solemnly offered to God, a fit type of Him Who first presented our ripened humanity before the Throne of God, an earnest of the mighty harvest hereafter to be gathered.

τῶν κεκοιμημένων. The aor. in 1 Corinthians 15:18 has reference more especially to death itself, ‘when they died they were destroyed.’ The perf. here indicates the past and present condition of the departed.


Verse 21

21. δι' ἀνθρώπου θάνατος. Cf. Romans 5:12; Romans 5:17; Romans 6:21; Romans 6:23; James 1:15; and the narrative in Genesis 3.

καὶ δι' ἀνθρώπου ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν. Athanasius remarks that here we have not παρά but διά, as pointing out that even in Jesus Christ man was not the source, but the means of the blessings given to mankind in Him; that He took man’s nature in order to fill it, and through it us, each in our measure, with all the perfection of His Godhead. ‘As by partaking of the flesh and blood, the substance of the first Adam, we came to our death, so to life we cannot come unless we do participate in the flesh and blood of the Second Adam, that is, Christ. We drew death from the first by partaking of the substance; and so we must draw life from the second by the same. This is the way; become branches of the Vine and partakers of His Nature, and so of His life and verdure both.’ Bp Andrewes, Serm. II on the Resurrection.


Verse 22

22. ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνήσκουσιν. In the possession of a common nature with Adam all mankind are liable to death. The pres. as in 1 Corinthians 15:15.

ζωοποιηθήσονται. By possession of a common nature with Christ all shall partake of that Resurrection to which He has already attained. Cf. John 5:21; John 6:27; John 6:39-58; John 11:25.


Verse 23

23. ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι. This explains why the last verb in 1 Corinthians 15:22 is in the future. Christ’s Resurrection must necessarily precede in order the resurrection of the rest of mankind, for as in the world at large, so in every individual, the natural necessarily (1 Corinthians 15:46) precedes the spiritual. Christ’s mediatorial work was, in truth, but begun when He ascended to His Father. It continues in the gradual destruction of the empire of sin, the ‘bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Meanwhile the natural order for the present still exists. We live under it, subject to the law of sin and death, until Christ, having first destroyed the former (1 Corinthians 15:24-25), shall finally, as a consequence, destroy the latter (1 Corinthians 15:26), and then, and not till then, shall we be made fully partakers of the completed work of Christ. The word τάγμα is used twice by Clement, in his Epistle to the Corinthians. In the first place he uses it of ranks in the army, in the second of the various offices or orders in the Church. τάγμα means a troop or company in a regiment. Here, however, it clearly relates to the order of time, as when the several divisions of an army successively march to their appointed destination.

ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός. Cf. Acts 26:23; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5; also John 14:19. ‘How should He be overcome by corruption, Who gave to many others the power of living again? Hence He is called “the first-born from the dead,” “the first-fruits of them that slept.”’ Cyril of Alexandria.

παρουσίᾳ. The word here translated coming is most nearly expressed by our English word arrival. It implies both the coming and having come. See ch. 1 Corinthians 16:17; 2 Corinthians 7:6. It is the usual word used for the Second Coming of Christ, as in Matthew 24:3; Matthew 24:27; Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39, and 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15. We are not restored to life until Christ comes again, because not till then will the present, or natural order of things, be brought to an end, and the spiritual order of things be finally and fully inaugurated, so that ‘God will be all in all.’ See succeeding notes, and note on last verse.


Verse 24

24. εἶτα τὸ τέλος. The end, i.e. the supersession of the present order of things by one more perfect; a time when sin and death cease to be, and ‘the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ,’ Revelation 11:15.

ὅταν παραδιδοῖ. ὅταν denotes the uncertainty when this period will arrive. The optative with ὅταν is not found in the best classical authors. But it is found again in N. T. in Mark 4:29 (Westcott and Hort’s text). If this or παραδιδῷ (see Critical Notes) be the true reading, we must see here an attempt to transport us in imagination to the moment when the surrender is made, while the aorist καταργήσῃ denotes the previous and complete destruction of all other rule than that of the Father. Meyer thinks that the difference of tenses refers to the fact that the second of these events is subordinated to the first, but is not closely related to it in order of time. Winer thinks the pres. with ὅταν is a mistake. But he admits that there is good authority for it in Mark 11:25. Tischendorf and other recent editors reject the rec. text in Romans 2:14.

τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί. The passage suggests to us the idea of a prince, the heir-apparent of the kingdom, going out to war, and bringing the spoils and trophies of his conquest to his father’s feet. Such an idea must have recurred with fresh vividness to the minds of the early Christians a few years afterwards, when they saw Titus bringing the spoils of the holy city of the old covenant, the ‘figure of the true,’ to his father Vespasian, and must have led them to look forward with eager expectation to the time when types and shadows should have their end, and the kingdom be the Lord’s, and He the governor among the people. At the Last Day, Christ as man shall receive the submission of all God’s enemies, and then lay them, all His triumphs, all those whom He has delivered captive from the hand of the enemy, at His Father’s feet. ‘Not,’ says Estius, ‘that Christ shall cease to reign, for “of His kingdom there shall be no end,” Luke 1:33 (cf. Daniel 7:14; Hebrews 1:8; Hebrews 2:8), but that He will, by laying all His conquests at His Father’s feet, proclaim Him as the source of all authority and power.’ There were certain heretics, the followers of Marcellus of Ancyra, who taught that Christ’s kingdom should come to an end, holding the error of the Sabellians that Christ was an emanation from the Father, and would be finally reabsorbed into the Father’s personality. It is supposed that the words, ‘Whose kingdom shall have no end,’ were inserted in the Nicene Creed with a view to this error. The words may be translated either [1] with A. and R.V. God, even the Father, or [2] with marg. of R.V. the God and Father, or [3] with Tyndale God the Father. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 2:13.

πᾶσαν ἀρχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐξουσίαν καὶ δύναμιν. See ch. 1 Corinthians 13:10. All rule, that is, all exercise of authority save His own (princehead, Wiclif); all authority, that is, the right to exercise dominion, which is delegated, and will be resumed, by Him; all power (virtus, Vulg.; vertu, Wiclif, see note on ch. 1 Corinthians 1:18), that is, all the inherent faculty of exercising authority. For earthly relations, such as those of father, magistrate, governor, prince, are but partial types and manifestations of the Divine Headship. Even Christ’s Humanity is but the revelation and manifestation of the Being of God. But ‘when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.’ Such human relations shall cease, for they shall be no more needed.


Verse 25

25. δεῖ γὰρ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν, i. e. Christ as Man and Mediator. For at present we can only discern God through the medium of Christ’s Humanity. Cf. John 12:45; John 14:9. In the end, we shall be able to ‘see Him as He is,’ 1 John 3:2. For the present He must reign in His Church, in His sacraments and ordinances, in His ministers, ecclesiastical and secular (Romans 13:4; Romans 13:6), all of them (see last note) the reflex of His power as He sits at God’s Right Hand.

ἄχρις οὗ θῇ. Either [1] the Father, Who put all things under His Son, or [2] Christ, Who puts all things under His own feet. The analogy of Psalms 110:1 (cf. Matthew 22:44) would cause us to suppose the former; the grammatical construction, as well as the course of the argument, the latter. The enemies are all who ‘oppose and exalt themselves above all that is called God or an object of worship’ (2 Thessalonians 2:4), and therein especially pride of rank, wealth, intellect, reason, whatever casts off or disowns the universal empire of God. Cf. Ephesians 1:21-22; Philippians 2:10; Philippians 3:21; Hebrews 1:4. ‘This passage,’ says Cyril of Jerusalem, ‘no more implies a cessation of the reign of Christ than the words “from Adam until Moses” (Romans 5:14) imply a cessation of sin after Moses.’


Verse 26

26. ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος. θάνατος is emphatic. Therefore the sense of the passage is best given in English thus, Death, the last enemy, is brought to nought. Cf. Revelation 20:6; Revelation 20:14. The οὐκ ἔχει ἐξουσίαν of this last passage (taking ἐξουσία in the sense of power, as in Revelation 9:10; Revelation 9:19) is precisely equivalent to this passage. Whatever may be held to be the meaning of ‘the second death’ in Revelation 20:6, it cannot be explained so as to contradict this passage, where death is used in the ordinary sense of the dissolution of the union between soul and body.


Verse 27

27. πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν. This is an almost literal quotation from the LXX. of Psalms 8:6. This fact settles the meaning of the passage. To Christ, as the Man, God has subjected all things on earth. In Him these words of the Psalmist, in their highest possible sense, are fulfilled.

ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ. But whensoever He shall have said. There is a difficulty here, [1] the A. and R.V. rendered when he saith. But this would surely require ὅτε λέγει. [2] To interpret it, with Meyer and Alford, of God, would involve great awkwardness. For then we must explain as follows, ‘Whensoever God shall have said “All things have been subjected,” it is manifest that this is to be understood to the exclusion of Him who has so subjected them’; a very circuitous way of expressing what St Paul would surely have written ‘It is manifest that He Himself is not included.’ The only remaining alternative is to supply αὐτός from the last sentence, i.e. Christ, Who is thus introduced as announcing the subjugation of all things to Him to Whom it is owing.

δῆλον ὅτι. This passage must be compared with the similar one in Hebrews 2:7-9. Each of these supplies what is wanting in the other. In the one we have the Son, the manifestation of the Father’s glory and love, bringing everything in this lower world, which the Father has put under Him, into the most complete subjection to, and the most entire union with, His Heavenly Father. In the other we see the Eternal Father, while permitting, for His own wise purposes, the humiliation and suffering of Christ, doing so in order that all things should finally be put in subjection to ‘His Beloved Son, in Whom He was well pleased.’

APPENDIX I

CH. 1 Corinthians 15:27-28

IT may not be amiss to add a few more interpretations of this important and difficult passage by distinguished Divines of various periods. First of all Irenaeus (Contr. Haer. 1 Corinthians 15:36) says, on the authority of the Presbyters who had been disciples of the Apostles (i.e., had been taught by them orally), ‘esse adordinationem et dispositionem eorum qui salvantur, et per hujusmodi gradus proficere, et per Spiritum quidem [ad] Filium, per Filium autem ascendere ad Patrem, Filio deinceps cedente Patri opus suum, quemadmodum et ab Apostolo dictum est, “quoniam oportet regnare eum” &c.’ The passage is not extant in the Greek.

Tertullian, Adv. Praxeam 4, arguing for the Monarchy, or sole and single rule of God, says, ‘Videmus igitur non obesse monarchiae Filium, etsi hodie apud Filium est, quia et suo statu est apud Filium, et cum suo statu restituetur Patri a Filio. Ita eam nemo hoc nomine destruet, (si) Filium admittat, cui et traditam eam a Patre et a quo quandoque restituendam Patri constat.’

Origen, De Principiis III. 7, says, ‘Verum nescio quo pacto haeretici non intelligentes Apostoli sensum … subjectionis in filio nomen infamant … Sermo namque Apostoli, secundum quod isti volunt, hoc videtur ostendere; ut quasi is qui nunc patri subjectus non sit, subjectus futurus sit hinc cum prius pater ei universa subjecerit. Sed miror quomodo hoc intelligi possit, ut is qui nondum sibi subjectis omnibus non est ipse subjectus, hinc, cum subjecta fuerint sibi omnia, cum rex omnium fuerit, et potestatem tenuerit universorum, hinc eum subjiciendum putant, cum subjectus ante non fuerit, non intelligentes quod subjectio Christi ad patrem beatitudinem nostrae perfectionis ostendit … cum non solum regendi ac regnandi summam quam in universam emendaverit creaturam, verum etiam obedientiae et subjectionis correcta reparataque humani generis patri offerat instituta.’ Cf. Hom. 2 on Psalms 36; and in Tom. XX. in Joan. 7, he writes, ζητήσαις δ' ἂν εἰ ἔσται ποτε, ὅτε οἱ ἄγγελοι αὐτοὶ ὄψονται τὰ παρὰ τῷ πατρί, οὐκέτι διὰ μεσίτου καὶ ὑπηρέτου βλέποντες αὐτά. ὅτε μὲν ὁ ἑωρακὼς τὸν υἱὸν ἑώρακε τὸν πατέρα τὸν πέμψαντα αὐτόν, ἐν υἱῷ τις ὁρᾷ τὸν πατέρα, ὅτε δὲ ὡς ὁ υἱὸς ὁρᾷ τὸν πατέρα, καὶ τὰ παρὰ τῷ πατρὶ ὄψεταί τις, οἱονεὶ ὁμοίως τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοπτὴς ἔσται τοῦ πατρός, καὶ τῶν τοῦ πατρός, οὐκέτι ἀπὸ τῆς εἰκόνος ἐννοῶν τὰ περὶ τούτου οὗ ἡ εἰκών ἐστι. καὶ νομίζω γε τοῦτο εἷναι τὸ τέλος, ὅταν παραδίδωσι κ.τ.λ.

Athanasius explains it of Christ as a representative of mankind, αὐτὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ πατρί, ὡς κεφαλὴ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἰδίων μελῶν, De Hum. Nat. Suscept. In his Unum Esse Christum he rejects the explanation of Marcellus and Paul of Samosata, which would regard the words of the subjection of the man Christ Jesus to the Divinity which had taken him into Itself. Theodoret in loc. regards the words as being added lest the heathen should imagine something in the Christian scheme corresponding to the fables of Saturn being dethroned by Jupiter and the like. And he explains it in much the same way as Athanasius above. Cyril of Alexandria (De Sacros. Trin. 25) denies that Jesus, as God, was in any way subject to the Father, but regards the words as spoken κατ ̓ οἰκείωσιν καὶ ἀναφοράν.

Aug., De Trinitate, lib. I., ch. 8, says that this was written to guard against the idea that Christ’s manhood would ever be converted into His Divinity. And he adds that we must not suppose that Christ delivers up the kingdom to His Father in such sort as that He takes it away from Himself. Again, he says, Octoginta Quaestiones 69, ‘Non ergo absurde sic intelligimus, Tunc et ipse filius subjectus erit ei qui illi subjecit omnia; et Filium non solum caput Ecclesiae, sed omnes cum eo sanctos intelligamus, qui sunt unum in Christo, unum semen Abrahae. Subjectum autem secundum contemplationem sempiternae veritatis, ad obtinendam beatitudinem, nullo motu animi, nulla parte corporis resistente, ut in illa vita nemine amante propriam potestatem, sit Deus omnia in omnibus.’

Anselm in loc. explains that Christ is subject ‘secundum humanitatem, ne quis putaret humanam naturam quam assumpsit in naturam divinitatis commutandam ut fieret aequalis patri, non subjecta.’

Aquinas in loc. says, ‘Et subjectus est nunc etiam Christus secundum quod homo patri, sed hoc tunc manifestius erit. Et ratio hujus subjectionis est “ut sit Deus omnia in omnibus,” id est ut anima hominis totaliter requiescat in Deo, et solus Deus sit beatitudo.’

Luther’s explanation in his exposition of this passage is as follows; God’s kingdom is so called when it is no longer hidden but clear before all creatures, and when faith shall cease. To hand over the kingdom to the Father is to present us and the whole Christian world openly before the Father, in His eternal brightness and majesty, in which He reigns without a veil. Since the Church is governed through Christ’s Word and Sacraments, it is called His kingdom. But at the last day He will give Himself up with His whole kingdom to the Father. Henceforth men will perceive and enjoy openly that Sacred Trinity in which they have believed, and for which they have waited.

Calvin’s explanation is, ‘Sed ideo testatur Scriptura Christum nunc vice Patris caeli et terrae imperium obtinere; ne quem alium gubernatorem, dominum, tutorem, judicemve mortuorum et vivorum cogitemus; sed defixi sumus in solo ejus intuitu. Deum quidem agnoscimus rectorem, sed in facie hominis Christi. Tunc autem restituet Christus quod accepit regnum ut perfecte adhaereamus Deo. Neque hoc modo regnum a se abdicabit, sed ab humanitate sua ad gloriosam divinitatem quodammodo traducet; quia tunc patebit accessus, quo nunc infirmitas noster nos arcet. Sic ergo Christus subjicietur patri; quia tunc remoto velo palam cernemus Deum in sua majestate regnantem, neque amplius media erit Christi humanitas quae nos ab ulteriore Dei conspectu cohibeat.’

Hooker’s explanation has been given above. Pearson’s is subjoined (On the Creed, Art. II. ‘Our Lord’), ‘Now as all the power given unto Christ as man had not the same beginning in respect of the use and possession, so neither, when begun, shall it all have the same duration. For part of it, being merely economical, aiming at a certain end, shall then cease and determinate, when that end for which it was given shall be accomplished; part, being either due upon the union of the human nature with the Divine, or upon covenant, as a reward for sufferings endured in that nature, must be coeval with that union and that nature which so suffered, and consequently must be eternal.’ Of the first part of that dominion, he adds, is the Apostle speaking here.

Thus in the history of the exegesis of this passage by some of the greatest minds in Christendom, we find three main lines of interpretation; [1] that the Son is subject to the Father as man; [2] that He offers to the Father, as the Head of the Church, the submission of all its members; [3] that there will come a time in the far distant future when His mediatorial office will no longer be needed, when His kingdom over mankind, as man, will cease, and when each of us will enjoy for himself, through the Mediator’s completed work, the blessing of immediate access to the Father. The right method of interpretation may be to include all three meanings. It is no true principle of explanation of a thing so infinite as the revelation of God in His Word to suppose that one contribution to the elucidation of a Divine mystery of necessity shuts out another. But we should miss the point of this deep passage if we left out the last of these three explanations. The truth is that Christ’s Divinity does not come within the scope of this passage at all. It deals simply with Christ’s mediatorial work. That mediatorial work, in man’s present condition, is absolutely necessary in order to bring us to God. He is so far above us, that we cannot conceive of Him, except as revealed in the shape of one of ourselves. But there will come a time, the Apostle dimly hints, when the intermediate action of Christ’s Manhood between us and God will be no longer necessary. Man’s development does not cease with death, but will go on in a constantly ascending process until he becomes sufficiently spiritualized to see God for Himself. Then, when the work of reconciliation and restoration is finally and completely accomplished, when every thought of man’s heart is brought into obedience to the law of Christ, when death and hell are cast into the lake of fire, when the God-Man sees all enemies at His Feet, then shall Christ, as Man, no longer reign: even His humanity will cease to be the necessary link between God and man, for sin, the only barrier between the two, shall have been finally destroyed, and God shall be all in all.


Verse 28

28. ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ. Here again the subject is Christ, whereas αὐτῷ here refers to the Father, thus reversing the construction in the last verse.

τὰ πάντα. If everything is put under Christ, it is in order that there may be no divided empire. ‘I and my Father are One,’ He said (John 10:30). Cf. John 17:11; John 17:22, as well as ch. 1 Corinthians 3:23, 1 Corinthians 11:3 of this Epistle.

τότε καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ υἱός. This passage is one of great difficulty. Athanasius gives two explanations of it: [1] in his treatise De Incarnatione, that Christ is subject to God not in Himself, but in His members; [2] in his first dialogue against the Macedonians (so also Chrysostom), that Christ is subject not by the nature of His Divinity, but by the dispensation of His Humanity. ‘For this subjection,’ he further remarks, ‘no more involves inferiority of essence, than His subjection (Luke 2:51) to Joseph and Mary involved inferiority of essence to them.’ Hooker remarks [3] of Christ’s mediatorial kingdom on earth, that ‘the exercise thereof shall cease, there being no longer on earth any militant Church to govern,’ and regards the passage as referring to the surrender, on Christ’s part, of that mediatorial kingdom at the end of the world. Cyril of Jerusalem [4] regards the subjection as one of voluntary surrender, as opposed to necessity. But perhaps [5] the true explanation may be suggested by the passage in Philippians 2, as translated by some, ‘He snatched not greedily at His equality with God.’ Though He were God, yet He was always a Son. And the object of His mediatorial work was not, as that of the unregenerate man would have been, to obtain this kingdom for Himself, but for His Father. See Matthew 26:39; John 5:30; John 6:38; John 7:18; John 8:50; John 8:54; Ephesians 1:10. So that the disorder and confusion of the universe shall henceforth cease, and one vast system of order, peace and love shall reign from the Father and source of all things, down to the meanest creature to whom He has given to have eternal life. And this was the object of His Resurrection from the dead. In fact what is meant is this; that whereas now our limited faculties only permit us to discern God through His Revelation of Himself as Man, there will come a time when this Revelation shall retire into the background, and men shall see God as He is. See Appendix I.

τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. The restoration of God’s, kingdom over the moral and spiritual part of man was the object of Christ’s Mission on earth, Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; Matthew 5:3; Matthew 5:10; Matthew 6:10; Matthew 6:33, and ch. 13; John 3:5; John 3:17; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:4. This was to be brought to pass by means of the revelation of the Divine perfections in the Man Christ Jesus, John 1:14; John 14:8-10; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9. God was thus revealed to us, that we might obtain fellowship with Him. See John 16:23-28; Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 10:20. ‘Therefore he is called the door, and the way, because by Him we are brought nigh to God.’ Athanasius. And thus in the end each believer will have immediate and individual relations, not only with the Man Christ Jesus, but with the whole of the Blessed Trinity. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 13:12. For all in all, see ch. 1 Corinthians 12:6. Theodoret remarks that the same expression is used of Christ in Colossians 3:11. Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:23; 1 Corinthians 16:7; 1 Corinthians 16:13-14; John 17:22-23; 1 John 2:24; 1 John 4:13.

APPENDIX I

CH. 1 Corinthians 15:27-28

IT may not be amiss to add a few more interpretations of this important and difficult passage by distinguished Divines of various periods. First of all Irenaeus (Contr. Haer. 1 Corinthians 15:36) says, on the authority of the Presbyters who had been disciples of the Apostles (i.e., had been taught by them orally), ‘esse adordinationem et dispositionem eorum qui salvantur, et per hujusmodi gradus proficere, et per Spiritum quidem [ad] Filium, per Filium autem ascendere ad Patrem, Filio deinceps cedente Patri opus suum, quemadmodum et ab Apostolo dictum est, “quoniam oportet regnare eum” &c.’ The passage is not extant in the Greek.

Tertullian, Adv. Praxeam 4, arguing for the Monarchy, or sole and single rule of God, says, ‘Videmus igitur non obesse monarchiae Filium, etsi hodie apud Filium est, quia et suo statu est apud Filium, et cum suo statu restituetur Patri a Filio. Ita eam nemo hoc nomine destruet, (si) Filium admittat, cui et traditam eam a Patre et a quo quandoque restituendam Patri constat.’

Origen, De Principiis III. 7, says, ‘Verum nescio quo pacto haeretici non intelligentes Apostoli sensum … subjectionis in filio nomen infamant … Sermo namque Apostoli, secundum quod isti volunt, hoc videtur ostendere; ut quasi is qui nunc patri subjectus non sit, subjectus futurus sit hinc cum prius pater ei universa subjecerit. Sed miror quomodo hoc intelligi possit, ut is qui nondum sibi subjectis omnibus non est ipse subjectus, hinc, cum subjecta fuerint sibi omnia, cum rex omnium fuerit, et potestatem tenuerit universorum, hinc eum subjiciendum putant, cum subjectus ante non fuerit, non intelligentes quod subjectio Christi ad patrem beatitudinem nostrae perfectionis ostendit … cum non solum regendi ac regnandi summam quam in universam emendaverit creaturam, verum etiam obedientiae et subjectionis correcta reparataque humani generis patri offerat instituta.’ Cf. Hom. 2 on Psalms 36; and in Tom. XX. in Joan. 7, he writes, ζητήσαις δ' ἂν εἰ ἔσται ποτε, ὅτε οἱ ἄγγελοι αὐτοὶ ὄψονται τὰ παρὰ τῷ πατρί, οὐκέτι διὰ μεσίτου καὶ ὑπηρέτου βλέποντες αὐτά. ὅτε μὲν ὁ ἑωρακὼς τὸν υἱὸν ἑώρακε τὸν πατέρα τὸν πέμψαντα αὐτόν, ἐν υἱῷ τις ὁρᾷ τὸν πατέρα, ὅτε δὲ ὡς ὁ υἱὸς ὁρᾷ τὸν πατέρα, καὶ τὰ παρὰ τῷ πατρὶ ὄψεταί τις, οἱονεὶ ὁμοίως τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοπτὴς ἔσται τοῦ πατρός, καὶ τῶν τοῦ πατρός, οὐκέτι ἀπὸ τῆς εἰκόνος ἐννοῶν τὰ περὶ τούτου οὗ ἡ εἰκών ἐστι. καὶ νομίζω γε τοῦτο εἷναι τὸ τέλος, ὅταν παραδίδωσι κ.τ.λ.

Athanasius explains it of Christ as a representative of mankind, αὐτὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ πατρί, ὡς κεφαλὴ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἰδίων μελῶν, De Hum. Nat. Suscept. In his Unum Esse Christum he rejects the explanation of Marcellus and Paul of Samosata, which would regard the words of the subjection of the man Christ Jesus to the Divinity which had taken him into Itself. Theodoret in loc. regards the words as being added lest the heathen should imagine something in the Christian scheme corresponding to the fables of Saturn being dethroned by Jupiter and the like. And he explains it in much the same way as Athanasius above. Cyril of Alexandria (De Sacros. Trin. 25) denies that Jesus, as God, was in any way subject to the Father, but regards the words as spoken κατ ̓ οἰκείωσιν καὶ ἀναφοράν.

Aug., De Trinitate, lib. I., ch. 8, says that this was written to guard against the idea that Christ’s manhood would ever be converted into His Divinity. And he adds that we must not suppose that Christ delivers up the kingdom to His Father in such sort as that He takes it away from Himself. Again, he says, Octoginta Quaestiones 69, ‘Non ergo absurde sic intelligimus, Tunc et ipse filius subjectus erit ei qui illi subjecit omnia; et Filium non solum caput Ecclesiae, sed omnes cum eo sanctos intelligamus, qui sunt unum in Christo, unum semen Abrahae. Subjectum autem secundum contemplationem sempiternae veritatis, ad obtinendam beatitudinem, nullo motu animi, nulla parte corporis resistente, ut in illa vita nemine amante propriam potestatem, sit Deus omnia in omnibus.’

Anselm in loc. explains that Christ is subject ‘secundum humanitatem, ne quis putaret humanam naturam quam assumpsit in naturam divinitatis commutandam ut fieret aequalis patri, non subjecta.’

Aquinas in loc. says, ‘Et subjectus est nunc etiam Christus secundum quod homo patri, sed hoc tunc manifestius erit. Et ratio hujus subjectionis est “ut sit Deus omnia in omnibus,” id est ut anima hominis totaliter requiescat in Deo, et solus Deus sit beatitudo.’

Luther’s explanation in his exposition of this passage is as follows; God’s kingdom is so called when it is no longer hidden but clear before all creatures, and when faith shall cease. To hand over the kingdom to the Father is to present us and the whole Christian world openly before the Father, in His eternal brightness and majesty, in which He reigns without a veil. Since the Church is governed through Christ’s Word and Sacraments, it is called His kingdom. But at the last day He will give Himself up with His whole kingdom to the Father. Henceforth men will perceive and enjoy openly that Sacred Trinity in which they have believed, and for which they have waited.

Calvin’s explanation is, ‘Sed ideo testatur Scriptura Christum nunc vice Patris caeli et terrae imperium obtinere; ne quem alium gubernatorem, dominum, tutorem, judicemve mortuorum et vivorum cogitemus; sed defixi sumus in solo ejus intuitu. Deum quidem agnoscimus rectorem, sed in facie hominis Christi. Tunc autem restituet Christus quod accepit regnum ut perfecte adhaereamus Deo. Neque hoc modo regnum a se abdicabit, sed ab humanitate sua ad gloriosam divinitatem quodammodo traducet; quia tunc patebit accessus, quo nunc infirmitas noster nos arcet. Sic ergo Christus subjicietur patri; quia tunc remoto velo palam cernemus Deum in sua majestate regnantem, neque amplius media erit Christi humanitas quae nos ab ulteriore Dei conspectu cohibeat.’

Hooker’s explanation has been given above. Pearson’s is subjoined (On the Creed, Art. II. ‘Our Lord’), ‘Now as all the power given unto Christ as man had not the same beginning in respect of the use and possession, so neither, when begun, shall it all have the same duration. For part of it, being merely economical, aiming at a certain end, shall then cease and determinate, when that end for which it was given shall be accomplished; part, being either due upon the union of the human nature with the Divine, or upon covenant, as a reward for sufferings endured in that nature, must be coeval with that union and that nature which so suffered, and consequently must be eternal.’ Of the first part of that dominion, he adds, is the Apostle speaking here.

Thus in the history of the exegesis of this passage by some of the greatest minds in Christendom, we find three main lines of interpretation; [1] that the Son is subject to the Father as man; [2] that He offers to the Father, as the Head of the Church, the submission of all its members; [3] that there will come a time in the far distant future when His mediatorial office will no longer be needed, when His kingdom over mankind, as man, will cease, and when each of us will enjoy for himself, through the Mediator’s completed work, the blessing of immediate access to the Father. The right method of interpretation may be to include all three meanings. It is no true principle of explanation of a thing so infinite as the revelation of God in His Word to suppose that one contribution to the elucidation of a Divine mystery of necessity shuts out another. But we should miss the point of this deep passage if we left out the last of these three explanations. The truth is that Christ’s Divinity does not come within the scope of this passage at all. It deals simply with Christ’s mediatorial work. That mediatorial work, in man’s present condition, is absolutely necessary in order to bring us to God. He is so far above us, that we cannot conceive of Him, except as revealed in the shape of one of ourselves. But there will come a time, the Apostle dimly hints, when the intermediate action of Christ’s Manhood between us and God will be no longer necessary. Man’s development does not cease with death, but will go on in a constantly ascending process until he becomes sufficiently spiritualized to see God for Himself. Then, when the work of reconciliation and restoration is finally and completely accomplished, when every thought of man’s heart is brought into obedience to the law of Christ, when death and hell are cast into the lake of fire, when the God-Man sees all enemies at His Feet, then shall Christ, as Man, no longer reign: even His humanity will cease to be the necessary link between God and man, for sin, the only barrier between the two, shall have been finally destroyed, and God shall be all in all.


Verse 29

29. From hence to 1 Corinthians 15:34 arguments are drawn from the practice of baptism for the dead and from St Paul’s daily life of suffering, and the section winds up with an exhortation to greater holiness of life.

ἐπεί. Here and in ch. 1 Corinthians 14:16, the conclusion involved in ἐπεί seems to be derived from what follows, whereas in Romans 3:6, where it also ushers in a question, it clearly refers to what precedes. The sense here more nearly approaches to our ‘again.’

οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν. St Paul now abruptly changes the subject, and appeals to the conduct of Christians as a witness to their belief. This is again a passage of extreme difficulty, and it would be impossible to notice one tithe of the explanations which have been proposed of it. We will only touch on three: [1] the natural and obvious explanation that the Apostle was here referring to a practice, prevalent in his day, of persons permitting themselves to be baptized on behalf of their dead relatives and friends. This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that Tertullian, in the third century, mentions such a practice as existing in his time. But there is great force in Robertson’s objection: ‘There is an immense improbability that Paul could have sustained a superstition so abject, even by an allusion. He could not have spoken of it without anger.’ The custom never obtained in the Church, and though mentioned by Tertullian, is as likely to have been a consequence of this passage as its cause. Then there is [2] the suggestion of Chrysostom, that inasmuch as baptism was a death unto sin and a resurrection unto righteousness, everyone who was baptized was baptized for the dead, i.e. for himself spiritually dead in trespasses and sins; and not only for himself, but for others, inasmuch as he proclaimed openly his faith in that Resurrection of Christ which was as efficacious on others’ behalf as on his own. There remains [3] an interpretation suggested by some commentators and supported by the context, which would refer it to the baptism of trial and suffering through which the disciples of Christ were called upon to go, which would be utterly useless and absurd if it had been, and continued to be, undergone for the dying and for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:18). The use of the present tense in the verb baptized, the close connection of the second member of the sentence with the first, and the use of the word ‘baptized’ in this sense in Matthew 3:11 and Mark 10:38-39, are the grounds on which this interpretation may be maintained. See Appendix II.

εἰ ὅλως. This is connected by the punctuation in the text (as well as in R.V.) with what follows, not (as A.V.) with what precedes.

τί καὶ βαπτίζονται. The repeated τί καί brings this clause into close connection with what follows, thus suggesting a closer relation between the present and the next verse than appears at first sight.

APPENDIX II

CH. 1 Corinthians 15:29

IT is useless to append a catena of interpretations of this passage. A question of this kind was not one to which the early writers of the Church paid much attention, and they either pass it by altogether, or give an unsatisfactory explanation. Tertullian, however (Adv. Marc. 1 Corinthians 15:10), propounds one which is as likely to be true as any other. To be baptized for the dead, he says, is to be baptized for our bodies, for if they do not rise again they are as good as dead. And this gives a very good sense. The passage would then mean, ‘What will they do who are being baptized on behalf of persons virtually dead?’ Baptism is a mystical resurrection to life (Romans 6:4). But what resurrection to life can there be said to be in a person who is doomed to eternal death? One of the two great Sacraments of the Gospel, from this point of view, becomes an absurdity. The arguments in favour of interpretation [3] in the note are certainly strong. Yet the argument from the apparently close connection between the first and second half of the verse is minimized by St Paul’s habit of breaking off suddenly into another topic when he grows impassioned. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 4:8, 1 Corinthians 6:12-14, 1 Corinthians 9:1, 1 Corinthians 11:21-23; 1 Corinthians 11:32-34 &c. So that one of the earliest interpretations of this passage may be said to be one of the most probable.

30. τί καὶ ἡμεῖς κινδυνεύομεν. Not only those who were daily being baptized for the dead witnessed to the universal belief among Christians in a resurrection, but the lives of daily peril in which St Paul and the other missionaries of the Gospel lived were sufficient evidence that they did not conceive all their hopes to be summed up in this life.


Verse 31

31. καθ' ἡμέραν ἀποθνήσκω. I am daily dying. Cf. Romans 6:3-4; Romans 6:11; Romans 7:24; Romans 8:13; Romans 8:36; 2 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 4:10-12; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 5:24; Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:3; Colossians 3:5. The death of Christ was a death to sin, a death which must be imitated in His disciples by their putting all the sinful affections of their bodies to a lingering death. But such a task they would never be likely to undertake, but for the prospect of a Resurrection.

νὴ τὴν ὑμετέραν καύχησιν. καύχησις is the act of rejoicing, καύχημα that of which we boast, or the boast itself. Here we may either [1] take ὑμετέραν your rejoicing concerning me, in which case ἣν ἔχω must relate to the community of life and feeling there is among Christians (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 3:3), or [2] my rejoicing concerning you. See Winer, Pt III. § 22, 7, and cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 11:20. The latter is preferable. For St Paul not only adds ἣν ἔχω, which would naturally imply that the rejoicing was his, but it was to this daily dying that he attributes his success in founding the Corinthian Church, a legitimate ground, as he repeatedly said, for boasting. See ch. 1 Corinthians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 9:2; 1 Corinthians 9:15; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 3:2; 2 Corinthians 4:5-15; 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 10:13-18; 2 Corinthians 11:18 to 2 Corinthians 12:12.


Verse 32

32. κατὰ ἄνθρωπον. From a purely human point of view, one bounded entirely by the horizon of this world, and excluding the idea of another life. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 3:3, and Romans 3:5; Galatians 1:11; Galatians 3:15. Cf. Soph. Aj. 761 βλαστὼν ἔπειτα μὴ κατ' ἄνθρωπον φρονῇ. Also line 777.

ἐθηριομάχησα. This word and its derivatives became the technical expressions for men contending with beasts in the amphitheatre. The point of the Apostle’s allusion can hardly be missed by any one who reads Acts 19:29-30. He did not ‘adventure himself; in the theatre it is true. But none the less was his experience a θηριομαχία. Ignatius, Ad Romans 5, δεδεμένος δέκα λεοπάρδοις, ὅ ἐστι στρατιωτῶν τάγμα. Also 2 Timothy 4:17; Psalms 22:20-21; Psalms 35:17.

τί μοι τὸ ὄφελος; What is the use of it? as we should say.

εἰ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται. The best later editors, following Chrysostom, place the note of interrogation before this passage. The whole will then run thus, If after the manner of men I fought with beasts at Ephesus, what doth it profit me? If the dead rise not, let us eat and drink &c.

φάγωμεν καὶ πίωμεν, αὔριον γὰρ ἀποθνήσκομεν. These words are quoted from Isaiah 22:13. They agree with the LXX. but whether they are an independent translation or not is uncertain. ‘With our hopes of immortality gone, the value of humanity ceases’ and life becomes not worth living. ‘Go, then, to the sensualist. Tell him that the pleasure of doing right is a sublimer existence than that of self-indulgence. He will answer you … “The victory is uncertain, present enjoyment is sure.” … Do you think you can arrest that with some fine sentiment about nobler and baser being? Why, you have made him out to be base yourself. He dies, you tell him, like a dog. Why should he live like an angel?… The instincts of the animal will be more than a match for all the transcendental reasonings of the philosopher.’ Robertson. Observe the present instead of the future in ἁποθνήσκομεν, implying not the future act, but the present liability.


Verse 33

33. φθείροσιν ἤθη χρηστὰ ὁμιλίαι κακαί. Perhaps the nearest approach to this in English is bad company corrupts good habits. This passage is taken from the Thais of Menander, and like Acts 17:28 and Titus 1:12, shews that St Paul was familiar with classical literature.


Verse 34

34. ἐκνήψατε δικαίως. ‘The aor. marks the sudden momentary occurrence of the awakening.’ Meyer. ἐκνήφειν signifies to arise from the stupefaction of a slumber produced by over-indulgence. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 6:11, 1 Corinthians 12:2. δικαίως, literally righteously, may either mean [1] as is just and proper, or [2] to what is just and proper, or [3] as in our version, so as to become righteous. The Vulgate renders by justi, Wiclif by juste men. Tyndale truely, Luther recht (i.e. rightly, properly), Calvin juste. Diodati has giustamente. De Sacy follows the Vulgate.

καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε. The change of tense marks the transition from the sudden act to the continuous state. The present here (see also 1 Corinthians 15:32; 1 Corinthians 15:35) is used of habitual condition.

ἀγνωσίαν γὰρ θεοῦ τινὲς ἔχονσιν. The expression is remarkable; some have ignorance of God. So Wiclif. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 14:38. As there were some among them who denied the resurrection, so there were some who were ready to pervert such denial to every form of fleshly indulgence. See Philippians 3:18-19; 2 Peter 2:10; 2 Peter 2:18-22; Judges 1:4; Judges 1:7-8; Judges 1:10.

πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν. To shame you. To reuerence, Wiclif, following the Vulgate. To youre rebuke, Tyndale. Ad pudorem incutiendum, Calvin. St Paul was usually very anxious to spare the feelings of his converts (2 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 2:3). But when the question was of making shipwreck of Christian purity, he had no such scruples. See 2 Corinthians 7:9; 2 Corinthians 12:20; 2 Corinthians 13:2; 2 Corinthians 13:10.


Verse 35

35. ἀλλὰ ἐρεῖ τις. We now proceed from the fact of the resurrection to its manner, a question which the Apostle discusses as far as 1 Corinthians 15:54, where he begins to treat of its result. The steps of the argument are as follows. The seed dies before it comes up. God then gives it a body according to the law of its life, and different bodies to different seeds (1 Corinthians 15:35-38). This diversity exists among animals (1 Corinthians 15:39), and in the heavenly bodies (1 Corinthians 15:40-41). Next we enter upon the contrasts between the present and the future life (1 Corinthians 15:42-44), as resulting from the relation of each life to its prototype (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). The transition from the present to the future life will be the result of a wondrous change (1 Corinthians 15:50-53).

ποίῳ δὲ σώματι. It was the doctrine of the Resurrection of the body which was the stumbling-block of many hearers of the Gospel. Estius remarks that the Pharisees taught that men would rise again with bodies possessing in every respect the same functions as those in which they were laid in the grave. This was a difficulty to many, especially to the Sadducees. See Matthew 22:23-33. To remove these difficulties St Paul now explains the nature (ποῖος) of the Resurrection body, and of the process whereby it is brought into being.


Verse 36

36. ἄφρων. Literally, O man without understanding. Insipiens, Vulg. Unwise man, Wiclif. The stronger term fool (μωρός) (except in ch. 1 Corinthians 3:18, 1 Corinthians 4:10) seems in the Scriptures to imply moral as well as intellectual error.

σὺ ὃ σπείρεις. The word thou is emphatic: ‘Thou who art mortal and perishing.’ Chrysostom. ‘The force or emphasis may be gathered thus. If God doth give a body unto that seed which thou sowest for thine own use and benefit, much more will the same God give a body unto the seed which He himself doth sow.’ Dr J. Jackson. Or better perhaps, ‘You can see this yourself. You are accustomed to observe the sowing of seed. And you see that before it rises again it invariably dies.’

οὐ ξωοποιεῖται ἐὰν μὴ ἀποθάνῃ. ‘Thus what they made a sure sign of our not rising again he makes a proof of our rising.’ Chrysostom. Cf. John 12:24. It is a law of the spiritual as well as the natural world that decay is the parent of life. From the Fall came corruption, from ‘the likeness of sinful flesh’ a new and higher life. Humanity died to sin in Christ: it arose again to righteousness in Him.


Verse 37

37. καὶ ὃ σπείρεις. ‘There are two parts in this similitude: first that it is not wonderful that bodies should arise again from corruption, since the same thing happens in the case of the seed; and next that it is not contrary to nature that our bodies should be endowed with new qualities, when from naked grain God produces so many ears clothed with a wonderful workmanship.’ Calvin. Tyndale renders, And what sowest thou?

οὐ τὸ σῶμα τὸ γενησόμενον. ‘The same, yet not the same. The same, because the essence is the same; but not the same, because the latter is the more excellent.’ Chrysostom. The identity of the body does not depend upon its material particles, because physicists tell us that these are in a continual flux, and that in the course of seven years every material particle in the body has been changed. Personal identity depends upon the principle of continuity. The risen body arises out of that which has seen corruption, in the same way as the plant out of its germ. The length of time that elapses is nothing to Him to Whom ‘a thousand years are but as one day.’ But as the seed is to all appearance very different to the plant which arises from it (although science tells us that it contains that whole plant in miniature); as the Body of Jesus after His Resurrection was endowed with many strange and new qualities (John 20:19; John 20:26) so as often to be unrecognizable by His disciples (Luke 24:16; Luke 24:31; Luke 24:37; John 20:14; John 21:4) though yet it was the same body (Luke 24:39-40; John 20:20; John 20:27); so we learn that the body we sow in the grave is ‘not that body that shall be,’ but that the resurrection body—the spiritual body, as St Paul calls it—while it exhibits visible and unequivocal signs of its connection with the body out of which it has arisen, will be possessed of many wondrous faculties which are denied to us here. See notes on next verse and on 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, and cf. Romans 8:11; Revelation 21:4.


Verse 38

38. καθὼς ἠθέλησεν. Literally, as He willed. Cf. ch. 1 Corinthians 12:11 (where however the word is not the same in the Greek). ‘Life even in its lowest form has the power of assimilating to itself atoms.’ Robertson. And these are arranged and developed according to the law that God has impressed on each seed.

ἴδιον σῶμα. The omission of the article of the rec. text gives a more vivid sense, and to every seed a body of its own. ‘That body with which it is raised may be called its own body, and yet it is a new body. It is raised anew with stem and leaves and fruit, and yet all the while we know that it is no new corn: it is the old life in the seed reappearing, developed in a higher form.’ Robertson.


Verse 39

39. οὐ πᾶσα σάρξ. The same principle is now applied to animate which has been applied to inanimate nature. There are different varieties and forms of bodily life (σάρξ). The Apostle in this and the two following verses lays down the doctrine (see note on 1 Corinthians 15:42) that the life hereafter will depend in every way upon the life here; that the body raised will correspond to the body sown; that the character impressed upon it during this life will remain with it throughout eternity. And this not merely in the broad general distinction between good and bad (see Galatians 6:7-8), but in the minuter shades of individual character.


Verse 40

40. καὶ σώματα ἐπουράνια. The principle is now further extended to the heavenly bodies, and another argument thus drawn from the close analogy which subsists between the kingdom of nature and the kingdom of grace. Meyer, De Wette, and Alford consider the heavenly bodies to be those of angels. But we nowhere read of angels having bodies, though we read of their assuming visible forms. Chrysostom refers the phrase to the resurrection bodies. This is unquestionably the meaning of ἐπουράνιος in 1 Corinthians 15:48 : but here it would seem to be in more strict opposition to ἐπίγειος, that which exists on the earth, since the Apostle refers to the sun, moon, and stars as ‘heavenly bodies’ in the next verse.

ἀλλὰ ἑτέρα μέν. The celestial body is superior to the terrestrial. In like manner, and to a similar extent, shall the risen body surpass the present human organism.


Verse 41

41. ἄλλῃ. The change from ἑτέρα is not without its meaning. The glory of the various celestial bodies is the same in kind but different in degree. The glory of heavenly and earthly bodies is different in kind. So in 1 Corinthians 15:39.

δόξα ἡλίου. The argument is pushed a step farther. The celestial bodies are not all alike. They differ in beauty and excellency. And so to all eternity it shall be true of men raised and in possession of their heavenly bodies, that ‘one star differeth from another star in glory.’ So Chrysostom on 1 Corinthians 15:38. ‘Augustine elegantly says, “splendor dispar: coelum commune.”’ Wordsworth. An erroneous interpretation of Matthew 20:10 has led some to the conclusion that all rewards shall be exactly alike in the world to come. As the Apostle here shews, the analogy of nature makes against this in every way. And the passage just cited has reference not to the equality of rewards, but of the principle on which such rewards are given. The labourer is rewarded, not for length of service, but for the spirit in which that service has been rendered.


Verse 42

42. οὕτως καὶ ἡ ἀνάτασις. The fact is now plainly stated that all shall not possess the same degree of glory in heaven. οὕτως, i.e. as has been before stated. But St Paul goes on to deal less with the fact than with the manner in which the fact is accomplished.

σπείρεται ἐν φθορᾷ. Cf. Romans 8:21; Galatians 6:8; Colossians 2:22; 2 Peter 1:4 for φθορά. And for ἀφθαρσία see Romans 2:7; Ephesians 6:24; 2 Timothy 1:10, and Titus 2:7. The English version in the first and third of these passages renders by immortality, in the second and fourth by sincerity.


Verse 43

43. σπείρεται ἐν ἀτιμίᾳ. The dishonour is, of course, corruption, with its revolting accompaniments. What the glory will be we may learn, to a certain extent, from the Transfiguration of our Lord, and from the account of the majesty and splendour of His Resurrection-Body in Revelation 1:13-16. Cyril of Jerusalem, after citing Daniel 12:3 and Matthew 13:43, goes on to say that ‘God, foreseeing the unbelief of man, gave to the smallest of worms to emit beams of light, that thereby might be inferred what was to be looked for in the world to come.’

σπείρεται ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ. What ἀσθένεια means we scarcely need to inquire. Decay of strength and vitality, ending in the absolute powerlessness of death, is the destiny of the body which is to be laid in the grave. But when it is raised, not only can it never be subject to the same weakness again, but it will be endowed with new faculties, as superior to those of the former body as those of the plant are to those of the seed. For δύναμις see 1 Corinthians 1:18.


Verse 44

44. ψυχικόν. See ch. 1 Corinthians 2:14. The σῶμα ψυχικόν is the body accommodated to, and limited by, the needs of the animal life of man. Man possesses a spiritual life through union with Jesus Christ, but his present body is not adapted to the requirements of such a life. It is called a ‘body of death,’ Romans 7:24 (in the A.V. ‘the body of this death’). ‘The corruptible body (Wisdom of Solomon 9:15) presseth down the soul,’ and we groan under its weight, and look earnestly forward to its redemption (Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 5:2; 2 Corinthians 5:4). But the spiritual body will not only be a body in which the spiritual principle dominates the whole organism (Theodoret), but it will be adapted to the needs of that principle, and therefore will be possessed of powers hitherto unknown. So Chrysostom. See also last note and 2 Corinthians 5:1, ‘we have in the heavens a house not made with hands.’ ‘The earthly and celestial body are not identical, but not absolutely different; the elements of the former are employed in the formation of the latter, the operation of Christ in believers gradually transforms the one into the other.’ Olshausen. This remark, however, leaves out of sight the fact that however gradual the transformation of the natural man into the spiritual man in this life, it is completed by a process which is not gradual, namely, the Resurrection.

εἰ ἔστιν αῶμα ψυχικόν. The rec. reading (see Critical Note) is the more easy to understand, but perhaps it is for that very reason that it has been substituted for the other. If it be accepted the passage is a simple assertion of the existence of a spiritual as well as of a natural body. If we prefer the text, it affirms that the life spiritual of necessity demands a proper vehicle as much as the life natural; that if the latter has—and we see that this is so—a body corresponding to its demands, it follows that the life spiritual will have one also.


Verse 45

45. γέγραπται. In Genesis 2:7. This applies only to the first part of the verse. But did not St Paul know that the words had been uttered, and would one day be recorded, which make it true also of the second part? See John 5:21; John 6:33; John 6:39-40; John 6:54; John 6:57; John 11:25. The citation is from the Hebrew.

ἐγένετο. Became a living soul, ψυχή is translated indifferently by life and soul in the A.V. As instances of the former see Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; of the latter, Matthew 10:28; Matthew 16:26. We must not press this so far as to say that before Christ came man had no πνεῦμα or spiritual nature (though the Hebrew word corresponding to πνεῦμα is noticeably absent in Genesis 2:7), but we are justified in saying that until Christ recreated and redeemed humanity the higher nature existed only in a rudimentary state, in the form of an aspiration after higher things, and that it was overborne and subjected by the lower, or animal nature. ‘Adam was therefore “a living soul,” that is, a natural man—a man with intelligence, perception and a moral sense, with power to form a society and to subdue nature to himself.’ Robertson.

ὁ ἔσχατος Ἀδάμ. So called because Christ was a new starting point of humanity. Thus to be in Christ is called a ‘new creation,’ 2 Corinthians 5:17 (cf. Galatians 6:15). He is called the ‘new man,’ ‘created after God in righteousness and holiness,’ Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10, Whom we are to ‘put on,’ Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27. ‘For being from above and from heaven, and God by nature and Emmanuel, and having received our likeness, and become a second Adam, how shall He not richly make them partakers of His Own Life, who desire to partake of the intimate union effected with Him by faith? For by the mystic blessing we have become embodied into Him, for we have been made partakers of Him by the Spirit.’ Cyril of Alexandria. See Tertullian De Res. Carnis c. 49 ‘Nam et supra novissimus Adam dictus, de consortio substantiae commercium nominis traxit, quia nec Adam ex semine caro quod et Christus.’

πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν. See texts quoted under γέγραπται, and last note; also Romans 6:11; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13; Colossians 3:4. ‘He does not call the second Adam a “living spirit,” but a life-giving one; for He ministers the eternal life to all.’ Theodoret. The word ‘quickening’ means that which gives life, as we speak of the ‘quick and the dead’ in the Creed. The idea of activity to which the word quick and its derivatives is now confined, comes from its original ideal of life. We use the word lively in a similar manner. The word is really kindred to the Latin vivus and the French vie.


Verse 46

46. ἀλλ' οὐ πρῶτον. See note on 1 Corinthians 15:23. ‘The law of God’s universe is progress.’ Robertson. His whole lecture on this passage will repay study. He shews how the Fall was an illustration of this law, a necessary consequence of a state of mere natural life; a ‘step onward,’ if for the time ‘downward.’ He traces it in the history of nature and of nations, and finally applies it to individuals, and shews how our natural feelings and affections are the sources of our spiritual ones; how the moral life, the fulfilment, that is, of the law of our being as discerned by natural religion, the living up to the light we have (cf. Romans 2:14), leads up to the spiritual life, and how temptation and sorrow, themselves the fruit of a state of things undeveloped and incomplete, are necessary elements in the formation of the perfect, the spiritual man. Cf. Hebrews 2:10. Thomas Aquinas remarks how the law holds good in nature, even of one and the same being, that what is imperfect precedes what is perfect.


Verse 47

47. χοϊκός. χοϊκός from χοῦς, dust, is an allusion to the ‘dust of the ground’ in Genesis 2:7; in the LXX. χοῦς.

ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ. The law of progress, above referred to, is illustrated by the creation of the second man. The first man was ‘dust of the ground,’ and God breathed a breath of life into his soul. But the second man is not created anew altogether, but takes the first man as the starting-point of the new life. By the agency of the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ took our flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, being a new creation, but not directly from heaven. See note on 1 Corinthians 15:21; 1 Corinthians 15:45. This passage bears a strong resemblance to John 3:31; and in the reading we have followed the resemblance is even stronger than in the rec. text. John 3:3 may also be compared.


Verse 48

48. οἷος ὁ χοϊκός, i. e. Adam. Man, when united to Christ by faith, partakes of both natures. He is liable, therefore, still to the weakness and infirmities of the former. ‘This infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated.’ Art. IX. And this they must bear to the end. They must be subject to the law of the natural order of things, before they attain fully to the law of the spiritual order. They must receive the wages of sin, namely, death. But, possessing faith in Christ, they possess the imperishable principle of life.

οἷος ὁ ἐπουράνιος, i. e. Christ. ‘When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be brought to an end.’ ‘Mortality shall be swallowed up of life’: the old Adam shall be done away in Christ. Cf. Philippians 3:20-21.


Verse 49

49. τὴν εἰκόνα. The image or likeness. In this present life we are like Adam: in the next we shall be like Christ, cf. Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 3:10; 1 John 3:2.

φορέσωμεν. We might have been disposed to suspect that here, as in many other places, the doctrinal statement of the Apostle has been fastened upon by divines, and made use of for hortatory purposes, and that the hortatory reading has crept into the text. But it is impossible to evade the almost unanimous testimony of the MSS. and VSS. here (see Critical Note), backed as they are by the express authority of so early a writer as Tertullian, who twice (Adv. Marc. 1 Corinthians 15:10, and De Res. Carnis c. 49) declares that the verb is imperative, and in the first passage also remarks that it is not indicative. Therefore we must explain that St Paul warns the Corinthians to become heavenly minded in this life so that they may not fail of being conformed to the Divine image at last. Theodoret, however, states, equally expressly, that in his Syrian text the verb is here in the indicative.


Verse 50

50. τοῦτο δέ φημι. The δέ here must receive the adversative sense. ‘On the other hand, I must remind you of this.’ We enter now upon a new phase of the argument. The image of the heavenly is not merely added to, it replaces the image of the earthy. The present constituents of our natural bodies will form no part of our spiritual organization. There must be change, even (1 Corinthians 15:51) in the case of those who are not compelled to undergo death. Not that the essential principle of life which animates the body will be changed, but its relations to things external will be largely modified.

σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα οὐ δύναται. It is not the material particles of our body which endure for ever. They are subject to corruption and dissolution. It is the spiritual principle of life which abides, and like the seed, attracts to itself such material particles as shall serve it for a suitable habitation. (See notes on 1 Corinthians 15:37-38.) The early heretics mentioned above, 1 Corinthians 15:12, caught eagerly at this verse as disposing of the idea of a material resurrection. But the early Fathers of the Church shewed conclusively that it was not to be so understood. They cited Luke 24:39 to prove that Jesus Christ had ‘flesh and bones’ after His Resurrection. And we may observe, moreover, that in St Paul’s language ‘flesh and blood’ stood for our ordinary humanity, as distinguished from everything of a spiritual nature. See John 6:63; Romans 8:1-10; Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 6:12. If we read δύναται we must suppose the singular is used because σάρξ and σἷμα are so intimately connected in one being. But it is possibly a copyist’s error.

οὐδὲ ἡ φθορά. An additional proof of what has just been stated. Our ordinary flesh and blood is by its very nature destined to corruption. It is not with such flesh and blood that we can become partakers of the incorruptible life.


Verse 51

51. μυστήριον. See note on ch. 1 Corinthians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 4:1. Human reason unaided is of course incapable of arriving at the truth on a point like this.

πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα. There seems little reason to doubt that the reading of our version is the true one. The others have probably arisen from the fact that St Paul and his contemporaries did sleep. But he was obviously under the impression (see 1 Thessalonians 4:17)—an impression in no way surprising, even in an inspired Apostle, when we remember Mark 13:32—that the coming of Christ would take place during his life-time, or that of some at least of those whom he addressed. Estius gives six reasons against the received reading of the Vulgate, of which two appear by themselves to be conclusive. First, that the reading ‘we shall not all be changed,’ is not suited to the words ‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye’ which follow; and next, that this reading is in direct contradiction to the words ‘we shall be changed’ in the next verse. To these, however, a third may be added, namely, that to read ‘we shall not be changed’ is to contradict the whole drift of the argument.

πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα. ‘For we who have gone to rest in faith towards Christ, and have received the earnest of the Spirit in the time of our corporeal life, shall receive the most perfect favour and shall be changed into the glory which is of God.’ Cyril of Alexandria (on John 10:10). See Philippians 3:21.


Verse 52

52. ἐν ἀτόμῳ. The literal meaning of the word here used is, that which is so small as to be actually indivisible.

ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ. Some MSS. read ῥοπῇ for ῥιπῇ, i.e. the downward motion of the eyelid (literally, the inclination of the scale), for the rapid movement suggested by the word twinkling. The latter suits the context best. Cf. Soph. El. 106 παμφεγγεῖς ἄστρων ῥιπάς.

ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ σάλπιγγι. Some have referred this to the last of the seven trumpets in Revelation 8-11. See especially Revelation 10:7. But this cannot be, since the visions recorded in that book had not yet been seen. It must therefore mean the trumpet which will sound on the last day. Cf. Matthew 24:31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

σαλπίσει. This form is found also Matthew 6:2; Revelation 8:6-13, &c. The usual classical form is σαλπίγξει. For the impersonal verb see Winer, § 58.

καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀλλαγησόμεθα. ἡμεῖς is emphatic; we who are alive and remain, 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Therefore the Apostle here expresses once more his belief that he will be alive at the coming of Christ; for, ‘since the last times were already come, the saints expected that day from hour to hour.’ Calvin.


Verse 53

53. δεῖ γὰρ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο. The Apostle has just said that ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’ He now explains in what sense these words are to be taken. There is a sense in which the mortal body is not destroyed entirely and created again. ‘Change,’ says Tertullian, ‘must be dissociated from all idea of destruction. For change is one thing, destruction another.’ The body receives an addition of qualities which it did not possess before. It is ‘clothed upon’ with immortality. That which was corruptible is now freed from all liability to corruption (‘sanctified and cleared from all impurity.’ Irenaeus). That which is mortal is swallowed up, and disappears in the vastness of the life which knows no end. That is to say, there is a principle not only of personal, but even of physical identity which is retained, even as our Lord’s Body retained the marks of His crucifixion, but the material particles of the body are in no wise necessary to that identity. See Introduction, p. 22, notes on 1 Corinthians 15:37-38; 1 Corinthians 15:50, and 2 Corinthians 5:4.


Verse 54

54. The concluding words of this chapter relate to the effects of the Resurrection, the destruction of death, the abolition of its attendant terrors, sin and the law, coupled with the assurance that our labours and toils while the conflict with evil was yet undecided shall not have been in vain.

κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος. Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:4. The literal translation of Isaiah 25:8, of which these words are a translation, is, ‘He hath swallowed up death for ever.’ The LXX. translates ἰσχύσας instead of εἰς νῖκος. But it frequently translates the Hebrew word by νῖκος, following the analogy of kindred Chaldee and Syriac words which have that meaning. The verb, in the perfect tense in the Hebrew, as speaking of the fixed purpose of God, is here rendered by the aorist, but probably as relating to the instantaneous nature of the change by which that purpose is to be realized.


Verse 55

55. ποῦ σου θάνατε τὸ νῖκος; Neither the LXX. nor Hebrew of Hosea 13:14 are followed in this quotation. The latter has, ‘I will be (where are, R.V.) thy pestilences, O death, I will be (where is, R.V.) thy destruction, O Hades’ (or ‘grave,’ for the Hebrew Sheol is used in both senses). The LXX. version is ποῦ ἡ δίκη σου, θάνατε; ποῦ τὸ κέντρον σου, ἅδη; So that the probabilities seem to be in favour of the alteration in the rec. text of St Paul’s words [1] by the substitution of ἅδη from the LXX., and [2] by the transposition of κέντρον and νῖκος so as to agree with the next verse.

ποῦ σου θάνατε τὸ κέντρον; Bishop Wordsworth suggests that the text was altered from a fear lest the passage should give any countenance to the idea of a god of the shades below, known to the Greeks by the name of Hades. But in later Greek and in the Septuagint its use to denominate the condition of departed spirits was well established.


Verse 56

56. ἡ δὲ δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ νόμος. That the sting of death is sin is very easy to understand. It is not so easy at first sight to understand the introduction here of St Paul’s favourite doctrine that the strength of sin is the law. But a reference to the strict meaning of δύναμις (which is often explained as if it were equivalent to ἰσχύς) and a due consideration of the connection of this and the following verse, may help to indicate the Apostle’s meaning. δύναμις means (see note on 1 Corinthians 1:18) the capacity or faculty which enables us to do things. Thus the δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας, that which gives sin its power to afflict or condemn, is the perfect law of an all-holy God. Every sinner has transgressed that law, and knows that he has done so, and is liable to the consequent penalties. That which takes away this sentence of condemnation, which robs sin of its power to disquiet us, is the fact that sin has been vanquished and the law fulfilled by Jesus Christ, in Whom we have learned to live by faith, and whose victory over all evil has been worked out in us also, by His condescending to dwell in us by His Spirit. See next note.


Verse 57

57. τῷ διδόντι ἡμῖν τὸ νῖκος. This sense of having transgressed that righteous law need disturb us no longer. Our shortcomings have been fully atoned for by the Life and Death of Jesus Christ and by our participation first in that Death, and next in that Life. The mortal part of us must pay the penalty due to sin (Romans 6:23), but the spiritual part remains unaffected by that punishment, because it is united to Him Who has fulfilled the law, has taken our condemnation upon Himself, has acknowledged its justice on our behalf, and has enabled us through fellowship with Him to attain to the victory over evil which He Himself has attained. To that spiritual part God ‘giveth a body as it pleaseth him,’ and to every man a body of his own. See 1 Corinthians 15:38. διδόντι is usually explained as referring to the certainty of the gift. But it is perhaps better to refer it to its continuousness. He is now giving us the victory, and therein we have an earnest of its future endurance. Cf. 1 John 5:4-5; Revelation 2:7, &c.


Verse 58

58. ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί. The aim of St Paul is always practical. Even this magnificent passage comes to what from a merely oratorical point of view is a somewhat tame conclusion, a conclusion however which, regarded from the point of view of Christian edification, is full of beauty. ‘Be not weary in welldoing,’ the Apostle would say. ‘Labour on in faith and courage till life comes to an end. For your life is hid with Christ in God; and therefore your efforts and struggles here are not thrown away. Not one of them shall be lost sight of before the Eternal Throne.’ We may compare the ending of the magnificent Psalms 90, which is ascribed, and as far as internal evidence goes, not without reason, to Moses.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-corinthians-15.html. 1896.


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