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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Corinthians 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-12

1 Corinthians 15:1-12

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel.

The apostolic gospel

I. Christianity is based on historical facts, not on human reason or imagination; it is neither an ingenious hypothesis to account for any phenomena, nor a poetic myth to adumbrate any truth. It is based on facts. These facts are--

1. Personal. They are connected with a person, and that person is not Socrates, Plato, nor Caesar, but Christ.

2. Few. He “died,” He was “buried,” and He “rose.” These facts are compendious facts, they imply many more.

3. Well attested (1 Corinthians 15:4-8). No facts on record are better attested than these.

II. Christianity is designed for the removal of evil.

1. He “died for our sins.”

2. It is to “put away sin” from the hearts, literature, institutions, customs, and governments of mankind; natural evil is but the effect of moral.

3. Philosophically, there is no system on earth suited to destroy man’s sinful disposition and to change his heart, but Christianity; and, historically, nothing else has ever done it.

III. Christianity is to be preached with this design (1 Corinthians 15:2). Paul preached that they might be saved, but they could only be saved as they renounced and hated sin. Paul preached Christianity--

1. Convincingly, “which also ye received.” They believed his gospel; then he must have convinced them by arguments. Christianity is to be commended “to every man’s conscience.”

2. Scripturally. He showed those facts in the light of the Scriptures, “according to the Scriptures.”

3. Humbly, “born out of due time, … the least of the apostles,” etc. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

The gospel which Paul preached, and in which the Corinthians found salvation

I. The reception of the gospel by the Corinthians, and the use which they made of it (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).

1. Paul brought glad tidings with him to Corinth, and proclaimed them everywhere--in the synagogue, in the workshop, in the market-place.

2. Nor did he preach without effect. Many might listen incredulously, and others resist, but many “received” his glad tidings.

3. In that gospel these Corinthians were now “standing.” Their ancient superstitions had passed away, and they “stood” upon the rock--“Jesus Christ,” and the hope of a resurrection. That reception of his apostolic message was not only the pledge of blessedness in the great hereafter, it indicated their present security. Now they were safe. The strong swimmer, battling with the waves of a stormy sea, may be living, and not without hope; but not until his feet touch the beach may he whisper to himself, “Now I am safe!” So these Corinthians had been “saved,” but their Christian work was not then over. The saved Christian is not to stand still and think of doing nothing more. “Keep in memory” might rather be translated “firmly maintain.” Without this they had “believed in vain.”

4. Here, then, we are presented with the apostle’s ideas of evangelical conversion. It was a process of preaching on his part followed by these steps on theirs--reception, belief, steadfast adherence. “What Paul taught, that must ministers teach still. What the Corinthian Christians “received,” etc., that must we receive, stand upon, and adhere to, or risk the salvation of our souls.

II. The the truth with which he desired that their minds should be especially occupied (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). In these words we have plainly an epitome of the gospel. He himself had “received” this gospel, and felt it to be the power of God unto his own personal salvation; and now he declared that he had “delivered” it to them as equally available for theirs. Nay, he did so “first of all,” i.e., as the chiefest and most important statement in the gospel message. What was the all-important truth?

1. It was that “Christ had died for our sins.” There was something in that death which possessed an atoning virtue, and this was “according to the Scriptures “(Isaiah 53:1-12).

2. In token of the reality of Christ’s death Paul affirms that He was “buried.”

3. In token also that His atoning work was completely effectual, “He rose from the dead the third day.” (J. Cochrane, A.M.)

Paul’s gospel

Paul’s gospel in its substance. “How that Christ died,” etc. “Good news” must; be the record of a fact. And this is the great peculiarity and the great blessedness and sign of the universal adaptation of Christianity, that it is first and foremost, the story of things that happened on this green solid earth of ours. It is not airy speculations coming from the clouds, it is not a mere morality or republication of man’s duty, with new emphasis, and with sweeter or more terrible sanctions. There is a theology underlying it, deducible from it, and which must be deduced from it. There is a system of morality in it, but the beginning of everything is the story of a life, the history of plain facts. And how else can God be revealed? You cannot reveal a person by anything but deeds. And further, for ever and ever it remains a fact that the highest form in which you and I can conceive of, or be taught of God, is the form of man. The beginning of the gospel is the story of the Christ. Christ is Chistianity; and its first form is neither morality, nor theology, nor philosophy, but simple history, Still further, there is another thought here, and that is that Paul’s gospel, fastened, as its central fact, on the death and accompanying burial, and the consequent resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is the vital centre of the gospel. There! if you tear that out; of it, you have no life left in it; and its morality will never get itself executed, and the fair pattern will never be reproduced, and we shall have but one more of the tragical multitude of systems that have promised to us glorious crowns and left us in the dust. And there is one more point to be noticed, and that is Paul’s gospel carried, as an integral part of itself, the explanation of the meaning of death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “How that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” What is it that changes the historical fact into an historical proclamation of the good news of God? Is it the bare statement “Jesus Christ died”? Is that a gospel? Is it any more a gospel than the statement that Socrates died, or that anybody else died? The only statement about Christ’s death that makes it a gospel is that He died for our sins.

II. Paul’s gospel in its power. He specifies two of its mighty influences upon men: “Wherein ye stand … by which also ye are saved.” First, the reception of that gospel into our hearts enables us to “stand.” In that gospel, received into our believing hearts, we get firm footing for our lives; a certitude. Men all around us are saying, “Who will show us any truth? What are we to believe about God, about men, about the relations of the two? What are we to think of the destiny of humanity? What are we to think of the future?” The answer lies here. “Christ died for our sins”; Christ is risen again for our salvation. In that truth, grasped, fed upon, unfolded as the germs unfold themselves in the sweet May-days, will be found the answer to all perplexities, the certainties amidst all shifting opinion, the basis upon which a whole life’s thinking may be reared, the ground of all true morality, the sum and substance of all real theology, the germ of prophetic anticipations of the fortunes of men and of individuals. Again, the word is employed in another aspect. That gospel of Christ, received into a man’s heart, enables him to resist. “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.” Then there is another aspect here of the power of Paul’s gospel in that familiar word--“By which ye are saved.” “By which also ye are being saved” would be a truer translation. It is a process lifelong, and that process, including deliverance from all forms of evil, whether sin or sorrow, and investiture with all possibilities of good, whether righteousness or happiness, begins with the reception of Christ into the heart, and steadily runs parallel, with the increased reception of His grace, until the grey dawn passes through all the shades of saffron yellow, and rosy pink, and pearly white, and comes at last to the colourless completeness and unsetting radiance of the midday sun.

III. Paul’s gospel, in its conditions. “If ye keep in memory,” or more correctly, “If ye hold fast what I preached unto you.” “Unless ye have believed in vain.” First, there must be a solid faith, not a faith which is lightly and without due cause taken up. There is such a thing, you know, as the seed being sown upon stony places, with an inch of earth above a great lateral shelf of rock. And just because the rock, into which the seed can never penetrate, retains much of the heat of the midday sun, and warms the film of earth above it, it grows quickly. So in a man’s heart, the Word may be sown, it may strike down its little rootlets, and very soon come to an impenetrable layer of rock. And just because it cannot get any deeper it begins to germinate at once, “and anon with joy they receive it.” “Such endure but for a while.” They believe rashly, without due consideration. Their faith is not the deliberate act of the whole man. It is a momentary emotion that produced it. There is no adequate perception of the facts which it grasps, or of the necessities from which it seeks to be delivered. “Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.” But then do not forget that faith may be genuine though it be feeble; and that all which I have been saying about a shallow confidence has no bearing upon people simply because they find that their faith is not what it ought to be; or subject to many a sad break and gap. Again, remember the other condition here, viz., the continuous grasp of the truth which makes the essence of the gospel. “Ye are being saved, if ye keep hold of what I preached to you.” The gospel works upon us as long as we think about it, and keep it in our hearts, and not one instant longer. The polestar will guide you as long as you look at it; but if your eyes are wandering away to the will-o’-the-wisps upon the marsh, or to the comets that flash across your sky, you will lose your guide, and wander into the darkness. It is whilst you believe that the gospel is saving you. And, remember, that continuous grasp of God’s truth cannot keep up without a continuous effort. I have seen conjurers that have said to a man, “Take that coin in your hand. Close your hand upon it. Are you sure you have got it? Yes!” “Certain it is there?” “Certainly.” “Open your hand!” Gone! Ay! And the world, the magician world, conjures his faith out of many a professing Christian man’s clenched hand. And when he opens it--and perhaps he does not open it till he gets before the throne--an empty palm. Where is his faith? Tighten your grasp, “lest at any time you should let them slip.” (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

The certainty of the gospel

I. Of its facts.

1. Declared by competent witnesses.

2. Preached to us.

II. Of its experience.

1. We have received.

2. We stand in it.

III. Of its hopes.

1. It can save us fully and for ever.

2. If we hold it fast by faith. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

How ought the gospel to be preached

I. Faithfully, according to the Word of God.

1. Which is simple in its details.

2. Absolutely true.

II. Out of personal. Experience.

1. This gives confidence.

2. Conveys life.

III. Humbly.

1. With a consciousness of unfitness.

2. In dependence upon Divine grace.

3. With a full recognition of the labours of others. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The resurrection of Christ

1. Because this chapter forms part of the Funeral Service, and every syllable stands associated with some mournful moment in our lives, is one reason why the exposition is attended with some difficulty. It sounds more like stately music heard in the stillness of night than like an argument.

2. The subject, like almost all the others treated of in this Epistle, had been forced upon the apostle by the heresies which had crept into the Corinthian Church. Note the great difference made by the apostle between moral wrong-doing and intellectual error. When incest had been committed the apostle at once commanded expulsion, but here he only expostulates with and endeavours to set the heretics right.

3. In the present day this error arises out of materialism. Now the unbelief of those distant ages was something very different from this. But the Corinthians denied the resurrection of the body because they believed that matter was the cause of all evil; and they hailed the gospel chiefly because it gave them the hope of being liberated from the flesh with its corrupt desires. They regarded the resurrection therefore as a figurative expression. The apostle now controverts this error, and he does it by a twofold line of argument.

I. By historical proofs of the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:4-8).

1. The Christian doctrine was not merely immortality, but resurrection; the historical fact of Christ’s resurrection being the substantial pledge of ours.

2. There are two forms in which it is conceivable that Christianity may exist--essential and historical. Suppose, e.g., that without the aid of Christ, a man could arrive at the chief Christian doctrines--the Fatherhood of God; that it is a Divine Spirit which is the source of all goodness in man; that the righteousness acceptable in His sight is not ceremonial but moral goodness, etc., he would have arrived at the essence of Christianity. And history tells us that before the Redeemer’s advent there were a few who, by the aid of the Spirit of God, had reached to a knowledge which is marvellous to us. By historical Christianity, however, we mean not those truths abstractedly, but considered as actually existing in the life of Christ. Reverence for persons precedes the belief in truths. A few remarkable exceptions have reached truth without knowing Him who is the Truth, but this is not the rule. Those truths which you hold deepest, you have gained not by the illumination of your intellect, but first by trusting in some great or good one, and then, through Him, by obtaining credible evidence of those truths. Take, e.g., the doctrine of the resurrection. The times when it seemed almost incredible to us were those in which we began to despair of human nature--when some great crime or meanness had set us wondering why such beings should be permitted to live hereafter. And the moments when we believed most strongly in it were the moments when we felt assured that human perfectibility was no dream, since we saw the evidence of a goodness most like God’s which could not be limited by death. Carry on this principle, and then you have the very spirit of historical Christianity. For we do not believe that there shall be a life to come merely because there is something within us which craves for it, but because we have believed in the life and death and resurrection of the Man of Nazareth. Our Christianity is not merely the abstract truths which Christ taught, but Christ Himself.

II. By the argument “reductio ad absurdum” (1 Corinthians 15:13-20). “If there be no resurrection--

1. Then is Christ not risen. It is an absurdity to believe that that man perished. The Son of Man grounded His pretensions on this, that He should rise again from the dead. If, then, He did not, He was an impostor; and you are driven to this, that a holy life is not a whit more certain of attaining to God’s truth than a false one.

2. The Christian faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Except in the belief of the resurrection the quitting of sin is impossible. “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,” is an inevitable conclusion. And you are driven also to this, that, just as all other religions have failed in redeeming man from sin, the Christian religion has also failed. It has become the fashion to hold that in proportion as a belief in the resurrection enters into our motives, right-doing loses its value, that he alone can do any really good work who disbelieves in a life hereafter, because he alone does good for its own sake and not from the hope of reward. But--

3. The apostles would be found false witnesses. There is something touching in the manner in which the apostle writes this. That he should be a false witness! He does not leave room for supposing the possibility of a mistake. It was either true or false. James, Cephas, the twelve, the five hundred, either had or had not seen the Lord Jesus; Thomas either had or had not put his finger into the print of the nails; either the resurrection was a fact, or else the apostles were intentional false witnesses before God. Now there is a certain instinct within us generally which enables us to detect when a man is speaking the truth. Truth has a certain ring by which it may be known. Now this chapter rings with truth; and before you can believe that there is no resurrection, you must believe that this glorious chapter was written by one who knew at his heart that he was speaking what was false. Another witness to this fact was the Apostle Peter. There are two things which rarely go together, courage and falsehood. There are circumstances in which a brave and honest man may be betrayed by the sudden force of temptation into a dereliction from the truth, and such a thing had occurred in the life of St. Peter. But after his bitter repentance he went forth and stood as upon a rock, protesting that he knew that the Lord was risen. There must he a cause given for this. Can we believe that the man who laid his hand on the axe, or he who asked that he might be crucified with his head downwards, as unworthy to die as his Redeemer died, that his life was a systematic and continued falsehood kept up to the very last; and that the brave, true man with his dying lips gave utterance to a lie?

4. Those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished, i.e., the noblest of the human race have lived--only to die for ever. You are required to believe, moreover, that they attained to this excellence by believing what was false, namely, the resurrection; so that we are driven to this strange paradox--that by believing that which is false we become pure and noble, and by believing that which is true we become base and selfish! Believe this who can! (F. W. Robertson, M.A.)

The resurrection of Christ

I. Its place in the Christian creed.

1. What did Paul mean by the resurrection of Christ?

2. What was the position occupied by the Corinthians?

3. Consider the place which our Lord’s risen body had in Paul’s conversion. The idea of a crucified Messiah had been abhorrent to him, but from the moment when he saw the risen Lord he understood, with the rest of the disciples, that death was the Messiah’s appointed path to supreme spiritual headship. So from the first Paul put the resurrection of Christ forward as an essential and fundamental part of the gospel he had received. “If,” says Dr. Fairbairn, “it be true that no living Christ ever issued from the tomb of Joseph, then that tomb becomes the grave, not of a man, but of a religion, with all the hopes built on it and all the splendid enthusiasms it has inspired.” It is not difficult to perceive what it was in the resurrection of Christ which gave it this importance.

II. Its proof. As a preliminary to the positive evidence here adduced, it may be remarked that we have no record of any contemporary denial of the fact, save only the story put in the mouths of the soldiers by the chief priests. The authorities resolved there should be no tampering with the grave, and accordingly had set their official seal upon it and placed a guard to watch. Their action after the resurrection proves that the tomb was empty, while their previous action proves that it was emptied by the actual rising of Jesus. So when Peter affirmed it before the Sanhedrin no one was hardy enough to contradict him; or why did they not prosecute the disciples for breaking the official seal? What hindered them from bringing proof that there had been no resurrection? If the body was still in the grave nothing was easier than to produce it; if the grave was empty, as they affirmed, because the disciples had stolen the body, no more welcome handle against them could have been furnished to the authorities. But they could not in open court pretend any such thing. It is admitted on all hands that the disciples had a bona fide belief that Jesus had risen; how was that belief produced? To this there are three answers.

1. That the disciples saw our Lord alive after the crucifixion, but He had never been dead. This answer is plainly inadequate.

2. That the disciples only thought they saw Christ, e.g.--

3. There remains, therefore, only the explanation that the disciples did see Christ alive after He had been dead and buried. The men who said they had seen Him were men of probity, whose lives and conduct are only to be explained by their having been brought in contact with the spiritual world in this surprising and solemnising manner. The testimony of Paul is conclusive. It is simply inconceivable that he should have abandoned all his prospects and entered on a wholly different life without carefully investigating the chief fact which influenced him in making this change. No saner or more commanding intellect ever headed a complex and difficult movement. There is no one of that generation whose testimony to the resurrection is more worth having, and we have it in the most emphatic form of a life based upon it. In fine, no one who takes a serious interest in all this evidence can deny that it would be quite sufficient to authenticate any ordinary historical event. The majority of the historical events are accepted on much slenderer evidence, and the evidence for this can be refused only on the ground that no evidence, however strong, could prove such a miracle. But those who reject it are compelled to accept a miracle equally astounding, viz., that those who had the best means of ascertaining the truth and every possible inducement to ascertain it, should all have been deceived, and that this deception should have been the most fruitful source of good, not only to them, but to the whole world. (M. Dods, D.D.)

Difficulties in the way of disbelief in the resurrection of Christ

I. Exegetical. There is the clear testimony of St. Paul, and the great distinction made by the New Testament between the description of visions and the narratives of our Lord’s appearance.

II. Psychological. All likelihood is wanting for the supposition that so many and such very differently constituted persons should, even by hundreds at a time, have been simultaneously predisposed to see visions. There is the sudden and thorough change in the disciples’ frame of mind, especially, too, the conversion of St. Paul; and finally the cessation of Christ’s appearance.

III. Dogmatical. Whence should the idea of an isolated individual resurrection, hitherto foreign to their belief, arise in the minds of the disciples?

IV. Chronological. Unanimous historical evidence points to “the third day,” and this leaves no space for the gradual development of visions, or for the translocation of the first appearances in Galilee.

V. Topographical. There, in a well-known spot, stands the empty tomb, with its loud question, Where is the body? which neither Jew nor Roman attempts to answer, though investigation would have been easy.

VI. Historical. There is the immove-able belief of the disciples; their preaching, so full of victorious joy and martyr courage, there is the Christian Church founded on the rock of belief in Christ’s death and resurrection. VII. Moral There is the regeneration which followed the teaching of the apostles. (Prof. Christlieb.)

No-resurrection impossible

1. The first impossible consequence may be called the argument from mind, and is thus expressed: “If there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not raised.” What Paul really means to say is this: If there be no immortality of the soul, Christ is dead--the highest of minds has become extinct. It may seem as if this were a mode of reasoning which never would be used in modern times. A writer of our day would certainly put it differently; he would say, Are all the aspirations of the human soul to count for nothing--all the yearnings after moral purity, all the search for truth, all the thirst for beauty? To him the aspirations of the human soul were all fulfilled already in the image of a perfect mind. The life of the Son of Man was, for him, the synonym for all that humanity ever did, or even can do, in the path of greatness; it was aspiration crystallised into fact. Accordingly, when he says, if there be no immortality, Christ is dead, there is a deep significance in his words. It is quite equivalent to saying, what becomes of the dignity of man? The notion that Christ could be dead was to Paul a contradiction in terms. Sometimes a man gets his whole conviction of immortality from his inability to realise the death of a single soul. There are presences in this world so vivid and so strong that their removal by death dissipates the idea of death; they are our types of immortality. But what was Christ to Paul? To say He was a strong and vivid presence is to say nothing; He was a presence that literally filled all things. That such a being should cease to be was, for him, a contingency unthinkable, that God should suffer His Holy One to see corruption was a paradox unparalleled.

2. The second of those impossible conclusions which St. Paul derives from the denial of immortality is expressed in the words: “Your faith is vain.” Put into modern form, his meaning is this: “If Christ be not raised”--if the highest imaginable powers of the human mind have been extinguished in death, then we have an anomaly in the universe--a faculty without an object. We must remember that, in the view of Paul, faith is not a mere act of credulity; it is a faculty, a power of the soul. This is shown by his tendency to oppose faith to sight, clearly implying that the former is an inner vision, as the latter is an outer vision. Wheresoever he turns he can find no other trace of a faculty without an object. Every sense has its environment, every power its appropriate field of exercise. Is the sense of the supernatural to have no object? The sense of the supernatural is what Paul calls faith--that faculty which looks “to the things that are unseen.” These unseen things are to him at once the symbols and the proofs of immortality; they are not “temporal” but “eternal.” If the existence of these be a delusion, then we have an eye without light, an ear without music, a hand without material to work upon, a sense of beauty without the symmetry to fill it; our faculty of faith is useless, objectless, vain. From this point of view it becomes easy to understand St. Paul’s collateral statement, that “our preaching is vain.” It is cruel to stimulate a sense of want which no scene of existence can ever gratify; to awake a power into being which no sphere of life will ever require is a process of education which can only lead to pain. The fact that no faculty can be vain is itself the proof that “Christ is risen.”

3. This brings us to the third argument. It is different in its nature both from those that precede and from those that follow it. They are founded upon facts which appeal to the universal nature of man; this, in the first instance at least, rests on an historical experience of the apostle’s own life and on an emotion induced by it. He says, If there be no resurrection, and if therefore the highest specimen of the human mind be dead, then I am found a false witness for Christ, to whose rising I testify. What Paul really means to say is: If there be no resurrection, I am myself an anomaly; “We are found false witnesses for God,” i.e., for goodness--false witnesses for the immortality of self-sacrifice. Such is the paradox or impossible consequence, which Paul here designs to convey. One cannot but remark what a singular light St. Paul here unwittingly throws on his own character as a witness. He suggests even more than he means. He only wants to prove that he is not a false witness in relation to others; he powerfully impresses us with the additional conviction that he is not a false witness in relation to himself. For, as we follow him in the foregoing train of thought, we see that this man even in his Christianity is no fanatic.

4. St. Paul states his fourth argument thus: “If there be no resurrection, and if therefore Christ be not risen, ye are yet in your sins.” It is an argument which is often misunderstood. Paul is speaking, not of a miserable consequence, but of an impossible consequence. What he means is really this: if there be no Christian immortality, there cannot be at this moment in the world a Christian life; ye are in this case yet in your sins: there is no power keeping you from evil. But your own experience tells you that this is not true; you are not in your sins. There is a life within you which is not part of your natural life, nor a product of that life--a spirit lusting against your flesh, a law of your mind warring with the law of your members. What is it? Whence came it? How do you explain it? If there be nothing but earth and the conditions of earth, in what manner shall we account for a sentiment which transcends those conditions? If there be no resurrection, you ought to be yet in your sins; how comes it to pass that you are not in your sins? To Kant the existence, of a moral law within the soul was the very demonstration of a life transcending the present order of being. St. Paul, instead of seeking the evidence of a risen Christ in the documents of antiquity, seeks it in the Church of his own day; nay, in himself as a member of that Church. He asks what it is that has given rise to this stream of Christian feeling, which is ever widening into an ocean of universal love. He cannot find a source for that stream in the soil of the natural life; for it flows in a channel the reverse of what we call natural. He is forced, therefore, to seek it in a life beyond nature; and the only such life he can find is that said to have been lived by the Son of Man. The evidence that Christ is risen is the consciousness that we are not in our sins.

5. We pass to St. Paul’s final argument. He says: If there be no possible resurrection even of the highest life, if even Christ be not risen, then they that have fallen asleep are perished. This, then, is the argument from affection, since it is evident that here St. Paul directs his main appeal to the feelings of the heart. It would be unfair to say, however, that on this account it is less logical than his other arguments. The feelings of the heart are just as much facts of nature as the sensations of the body, and the intuitions of the intellect. St. Paul, therefore, has a perfect right to appeal to the human heart, whose instincts would be violated by the denial of immortality. (G. Matheson, D.D.)


Verses 1-34

Verse 2

1 Corinthians 15:2

By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you.

Hindrances and helps to memory in spiritual things

In these words we have a discovery--

1. Of men’s utmost happiness--salvation.

2. Of the only means for the attaining of it--the gospel.

3. Of the special grace necessary in respect of this gospel--believing.

4. Of the particular faculty that is requisite for this end--the memory.

5. The relation, or influence, which this last hath upon all the rest.

And this expressed--

I. What the memory is. It is that faculty of the soul wherein are reserved the things we know. Its office, however, is--

1. To receive such things as are presented to it. Wherin it is fitly enough compared to soft wax, which is prepared to receive any impression made upon it.

2. To retain and preserve what is laid up therein. There is a little kingdom in the soul of man. The king, or rather viceroy, is the will, the privy council is the understanding, the judge is the conscience, and the great treasurer is the memory.

3. To recall or recover what was out of mind.

II. The excellence of this faculty. The soul of man is a subject of wonder, and nothing more wonderful in it than the memory. It hath power to make things that are in themselves absent and past to be present. We may see the worth of this faculty by those that are deprived of the use of it, that can remember nobody, nor the last question that they did ask. All a man’s past life would be lost if his memory were lost; so are the comforts of the soul lost so far as they are forgotten.

III. The corruption or depravation of this faculty. This stands--

1. In remembering those things which we should forget. As--

2. In forgetting those things which we should remember.

IV. The sanctification of the memory. Which is the restoring of this faculty to its former integrity and to its proper objects. This is done--

1. By purging the faculty. And so conversion is said to begin here (Psalms 22:27; Revelation 2:5).

2. By strengthening it. For as sin weakens, so grace strengthens, the faculty (John 14:26).

3. By reconciling it to good things, and setting it against evil (Psalms 119:16).

4. By filling it with good things (Matthew 12:35).

5. By fitting things laid up in memory for use and practice (Numbers 15:39-40; Psalms 103:17-18).

V. The ordinary impediments of a good memory, or the causes of a bad one.

1. A weak or dark understanding.

2. A carnal, careless heart. Such a heart can retain abundance of a play or a song, but of a chapter or sermon next to nothing, for everything keeps what is connatural to itself. Nay, a good man’s memory in a remiss, negligent frame, quite differs from what it was in a religious frame.

3. A darling sin. Any bosom sin, as it fills and employs every faculty, so it debauches, monopolises, and disorders them all. Grace, though it rule every faculty, yet ruffles none; it composes the mind, and employs the memory in a rational manner.

4. Excess of worldly cares. The memory is but finite, though capacious, and a superabundance of worldly thoughts within must needs shoulder out better things that should be there.

5. Surfeiting and drunkenness. These disorder the brain and disable it from its functions (Proverbs 31:4-5).

6. Violent passions.

7. A multitude of indigested notions. If a man have a stock of methodical and digested knowledge, it is admirable how much the memory will contain; but many read or hear too much for their capacities, they have not stowage for it (2 Timothy 3:7). He who rides post can never draw maps of the country.

VI. The proper helps to it.

1. Natural.

2. Artificial or outward.

3. Spiritual.

VII. And so I come to application.

1. Magnify God for your memories.

2. Let ministers consult people’s memories, and to that end observe some proper method in their books and sermons.

3. Labour to improve your memories.

4. Store your memories in the time of youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1). A new ship is free from leaks, but time and travel will batter it. (R. Steele, A.M.)

Memory

Aristotle calls it the scribe of the soul; and Bernard the stomach of the soul, because it hath a retentive faculty, and turns heavenly food into blood and spirits. (T. Watson.)

Memory, Christian

It was the remark of John Newton, when his memory had almost completely gone, that he could never forget two things.

1. That he was a great sinner.

2. That Jesus Christ was a great and mighty Saviour.

Memory, cultivation of

If you have learned to look under your feet every day while young, and to cull the treasures of truth which belong to geology, natural history, and chemistry; if every fly has furnished you a study; if the incrustation of the frost is a matter, of interest; if the trees that come in spring, and the birds that populate them, the flowers of the meadow, the grass of the field, the fishes that disport themselves in the water--if all these are to you so many souvenirs of the working hand of your God, you will find, when you come into old age, that you have great stores of enjoyment therein. Let me therefore recommend you to commit much to memory. When a man is blind his memory is not blind. I have seen many a man who in youth had committed much to memory from the Scriptures and hymns and poems, who was able, in old age, to recall and recite what he had learned, and to fall back upon those treasures, his own head having thus become to him a library. Oh, how much a man may store up against old age! What a price is put into the hands of the young wherewith to get wisdom! What provisions for old age do they squander and throw away! It is not merely that you may be keen and strong now; it is not for the poor ambition of being esteemed learned that I urge you now to lay such treasures up; but because it is just and right and noble that you should be intelligent, and because your whole life is interested in it, and your old age pre-eminently so. (H. W. Beecher.)

Unless ye have believed ill vain.--

Believing in vain

1. A terrible peradventure to have believed in vain. To have spent a week, to have risked money, to have loved or chosen a profession in vain, is dreadful, and has driven many to despair, crime, and suicide. What shall we say, then, of having believed in vain; of having staked eternity on a delusion and a lie?

2. There are four phrases in the Greek thus rendered in A.V.

3. The word may have had in it, originally, the idea of seeming, as opposed to reality. But in its use it carries the sense of a thing done by chance, at haphazard, not deliberately. Here are two possibilities in one.

I. A defect in the thing believed.

1. To believe in vain may be to believe a lie. There are those who say that sincerity is everything. If a man be but sincere he must be in the right. His opinion may be false, his hope a dream, his faith a fable, yet if he is sincere he cannot have believed in vain. St. Paul was of another mind. Truth as well as sincerity went with his religion. With him the text meant primarily, “Unless the object of your faith be a nullity.” I transmitted to you, he says, a definite body of doctrine based on a series of fact--is it true? Some parts no one doubts--the death and burial. The miraculous part is the resurrection, which can only be proved by evidence--the evidence of eye-witnesses. Those who knew Christ saw Him alive after certain proof of His death.

2. Those who reject this evidence tell us to be of good cheer, for there is nothing lost. The resurrection is spiritual, and Christ risen means Christ immortal, successful, progressive, influencing the world by His pure ethics or bright example. But Paul is not satisfied with these airy nothings, and says that if the resurrection of Christ be not true those who believe in Him have believed in vain. Their faith is a random faith--they have not waited to see that its foundation is strong (verses 12-15).

II. A defect in the believer. The faith may be true and yet the belief of it unsound.

1. You may have taken for granted the faith of your family or your country, like the Samaritans, who “believed because of the saying of” another. If you had been born amongst Hindoos for the same reason you would have been such still. There is nothing of conviction, will, soul in your belief. It is no tribute to the truth. There needs in you just that step which was expressed in the Samaritans who said, “Now we believe … for we have heard Him ourselves.”

2. You may have believed in vain because you have walked carelessly and never sought to, reproduce the mind of Christ in your lives. “Why call ye Me Lord, and do not the things which I say?” How foolish that invention of our times which would apply the microscope to the feeling and the telescope to the life! which would hang all the hope on the warmth with which we can say, “Jesus is all,” and divert every anxiety from consistency of conduct! There is a random believing which has made haste after safety, and has forgotten to fight. Take seriously your besetting sin, and count nothing done till in the name of the risen Jesus you are victorious over that. (Dean Vaughan.)


Verse 3-4

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins.

First of all

First of all in his profoundest arguments; first of all in his richest encouragements; first of all in his severest, denunciations; first of all in his fervid exhortations; first of all in his impassioned expostulations; first of all in his enraptured, sometimes his entranced and enraptured and absorbed anticipations of the life and the immortality that was to come. If he wanted to induce a habit of self-denying liberality, mark him--thus he did it:--“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you, through His poverty, might be made rich.” If he wanted to get men to forbear with one another, thus he did it:--“Be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.” When he wanted to get men to lead righteous, sober, and godly lives, thus he did it:--“You are not your own, you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your bodies and in your spirits, which are His.” If he wanted, whenever he had a congregation like this, to get the impenitent and the unbelieving out of the hands and out of the snare of the devil, thus be did it:--“There is no other sacrifice for sin (don’t trifle with that one), but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation that shall devour the adversary.” In a word, he determined not to know anything among men, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Your teaching cannot get on without the alphabet; and Paul could not have got on without his alphabet. And thus it was evangelically, that wherever he went he gloried in nothing save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (W. Brock, D.D.)

Originality in preaching

Notice that the preacher does not make the gospel. If he makes it, it is not worth your having. Originality in preaching, if it be originality in the statement of doctrine, is falsehood. We are not makers and inventors; we are repeaters, we tell the message we have received. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Apostle’s creed

1. In these verses we have the earliest specimen of a Christian creed; the compendious form which Paul habitually used in order that, whatever else they forgot, they might not forget this, and to supply a test of the claims of those who assumed to speak in the name of Christ. Note how in 1 Corinthians 11:23, St. Paul introduces the form of words to be used at the Supper in precisely the same way he introduces the creed before us. The phrase seems to have been that by which St. Paul habitually introduced settled and formal statements of Divine truth.

2. But if this creed were already familiar, why repeat it here? Simply because the Corinthians needed to hear it again and again. There were those who held that matter was the root of all evil, that only as the spirit was redeemed from its thraldom to the body could men hope to rise into a happy spiritual life. And when Paul taught that the death and resurrection of Christ were virtually the death and resurrection of all who believed on Him, they concluded that “the resurrection was past already.” Nay, as they reflected on the dignity of Him who had achieved this great spiritual redemption for them, they began to doubt whether the pure Son of God had ever been brought into immediate contact with aught so vile and corrupt as matter; whether all that pertains to His physical life was not a series of illusions. It was in this mood that St. Paul met them.

I. The apostle’s creed includes the three following facts.

1. That Christ really died--that His death was a genuine historical event, the date, manner, and place of which were all perfectly well known.

2. That Christ was buried--a real human body being laid in an actual grave, a grave familiar to those who dwelt in Jerusalem.

3. That Christ has been raised, as could be proved by hundreds of witnesses still alive. These three facts are the cardinal facts of Christian history. To believe in these is, so far forth, to hold the catholic Christian faith.

II. From these three facts the apostle draws two doctrinal sequences.

1. Christ died; but to believe that will do no more for us than to believe that Lazarus died, unless we also believe that “Christ died for our sins.”

2. The death and resurrection of Jesus are parts of an ordered scheme of a Divine economy. “Christ died, has been raised again according to the Scriptures,” the law, the will of God. Now that the Hebrew Scriptures did foretell this (Isaiah 53:8-9; Psalms 16:10) is obvious.

1. The creed is brief enough, and simple enough when compared with the creeds of the Church, and yet, in the judgment of an inspired apostle, it contains all that is essential to the Christian faith. Nay, St. Paul goes even farther than this. There were those at Corinth who, as yet, could not adopt even this succinct and simple creed in its integrity. But instead of expelling them from the Church, or dooming them to everlasting perdition, he sets himself to teach them more perfectly the way of life.

2. The lessons of St. Paul’s wise, gracious conduct are--

The glorious gospel

I. Its great facts.

1. The death.

2. The burial.

3. The resurrection of Christ.

II. Their paramount importance.

1. Sin expiated.

2. Death conquered.

3. Heaven opened.

III. Their absolute certainty.

1. Predicted.

2. Attested.

3. Delivered to us on the authority of the Scriptures. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The foundation facts of the gospel

I. The facts of paul’s gospel. “First of all … I delivered” these things. And the “first” not only points to the order of time, but to the order of importance.

1. The system unfolded in the New Testament is a simple record of historical fact. It becomes a philosophy and a religions system; but it is first of all a story of something that took place in the world. If that be so, let preachers never forget that their business is to insist upon the truth of these fundamental facts. They must evolve all the deep meanings which are wrapped up in the facts; but they will not be faithful to their Lord unless there be the unfaltering proclamation--“first of all,” etc.

2. This character of the gospel makes short work of a great deal that calls itself “liberal Christianity.” We are told that it is quite possible to be a very good Christian, and reject the supernatural. It may be so, but I cannot understand how, if the fundamental character of Christian teaching be the proclamation of certain facts, a man who does not believe those facts has the right to call himself a Christian.

3. There is an explanation which turns the facts into a gospel.

II. What establishes the facts.

1. This Epistle is one of the four letters of Paul which nobody disputes, and was written before the Gospels, probably within twenty-five years of the Crucifixion.

2. The contemporaneousness of the evidence is sufficiently established. What about its good faith? Anybody that knows an honest man when he sees him, anybody that has the least ear for the tone of sincerity and the accent of conviction, must say they may have been fanatics, but one thing is clear, they were not false witnesses for God.

3. What, then, about their competency? Their simplicity; their ignorance; their slowness to believe; their surprise when the fact first dawned upon them, all tend to make us certain that there was no hysterical turning of a wish into a fact, on the part of these men. Fancy five hundred people all at once smitten with the same mistake, imagining that they saw what they did not see!

4. “He was buried.” Why does Paul introduce that amongst his facts? Because, if the grave was there, why did not the rulers put an end to the heresy by saying, “Let us go and see if the body is there”? If His body was not in the grave, what had become of it? If His friends stole it away, then they were deceivers of the worst type. If His enemies took it away, for which they had no motive, why did they not produce it and say, “There is an answer to your nonsense”?

III. What the facts establish.

1. Christ has risen from the dead; and that opens a door wide enough to admit all the rest of the gospel miracles.

2. The resurrection casts back a light upon the Cross, and we understand that His death is the life of the world, and that “by His stripes we are healed.”

3. But, further, remember how He claimed to be the Son of God; how He demanded absolute obedience, trust, and love--and consider the resurrection as bearing on the reception or rejection of these tremendous claims. We are brought sharp up to this alternative--Christ rose from the dead, and was declared by the resurrection to be the Son of God with power; or Christ has not risen from the dead--and what then? Then He was either deceiver or deceived, and in either case has no right to my reverence and love.

4. The resurrection of Christ teaches us that life has nothing to do with organisation but exists apart from the body; that a man may pass from death and be unaltered in the substance of his being: and that the earthly house of our tabernacle may be fashioned like unto the glorious house in which He dwells now at the right hand of God. There is no other absolute proof of immortality but the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

Primary Christian truths

I. The primary truths which St Paul delivered to the Corinthians.

1. Here is a solitary Jew visiting a great heathen city for the first time, to preach an entirely new religion. His bodily presence is weak, and his speech, compared to that of Greek rhetoricians, contemptible. He stands almost alone in a city, famous all over the world for luxury, immorality, and idolatry. A more remarkable conjuncture it is hard to conceive. And what did he say about the Founder of the new faith which he wanted them to receive in place of their ancient religion?

2. Learn--

II. The reasons why he was led to assign to these truths such a prominent position. There are three great facts which stare us in the face everywhere.

1. Sin. When the sense of this is really awakened, what can cure it? Nothing has ever been found to do good to a sin-stricken soul but the sight of a Divine Mediator.

2. Sorrow. What shall best help man to meet and bear this? The cold lessons of Stoicism have no power in them. Just here, the Pauline doctrine of a risen Christ comes in with a marvellous power, and exactly meets our necessities.

3. Death. At no point do human religions and philosophies break down so completely as in the article of death. At the point where all man-made systems are weakest, there the gospel is strongest.

Conclusion:

1. Do not be ashamed of holding decided views about the first things--the foundation truths of religion.

2. The only way to do good is to walk in St. Paul’s steps, and to tell men first, foremost, continually, that Jesus Christ died for their sins, and rose again for their justification. (Bp. Ryle.)

On the atonement

I. The expediency of Christ’s interposition for our salvation may be inferred from the guilt and degradation of mankind. Once, indeed, there was, as it has been called, a golden age; but the same persons who have described it, also delineate the degeneracy of our race. Good men, according to one ancient writer, were scarce as the gates of Thebes, or the mouths of the Nile. Another tells us, that peace had left the earth, truth taken her departure, and fidelity fled far away. In consulting the records of ages that are past, amiable qualities, no doubt, occasionally appear which attract our esteem, and splendid virtues are displayed which excite admiration; still, however, misconduct and crime are the prominent features. Yes, crimes follow in close succession, while virtues are rare like those beautiful flowers which spring up here and there among the weeds of the wilderness. They who contemplate the wandering idolaters in the wilds of Tartary, not to mention the ancient votaries of superstition in Greece and Rome; they who behold the Indian on the banks of the Ganges, or the Samoeide situated on the frozen ocean, must discern, in a striking point of view, the degraded state of humanity, and the expediency of that plan of salvation which the gospel unfolds. The degraded state of humanity, on account of the numberless violations of duty, is productive of many apprehensions and alarms. In the presence of a Being of infinite perfection man has trembled to appear, being timorous and dismayed, like the progenitor of our race, when he “hid himself from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden.” If he would still hope for happiness, after his manifold provocations, he suspects that he cannot demand it from the inflexible justice of the Almighty, but that he must intreat it from the tender mercy of his God. And how astonishing the display of the Divine mercy to the children of men!

II. The expediency of His interposition may be deduced from the inefficacy of every other known mode of atonement for transgression. Much efficacy has been ascribed to repentance; but it is doubtful how far mere repentance is a reparation for wrong. Is not guilt often attended with punishment which repentance alone cannot remove? Has not the murderer been tortured with remorse, after sincerely deploring his crime, and firmly resolving to shed no more innocent blood? True penitence implies a complete change of life: but who ceases entirely to do evil? Erring man sins, repents, and sins again. Even his best resolutions are at times fallacious, and as the stream of brooks they pass away. Hence he is full of anxious disquietude, apprehensive that, while the corruptions of his nature continue, the Divine displeasure will also remain. Distrusting the efficacy of repentance for appeasing His anger, he naturally fears, as a great philosopher has justly remarked, lest the wisdom of God should not, like the weakness of man, be prevailed on to spare the crime by the most importunate lamentations of the criminal. Some other intercession, some other sacrifice, some other atonement, he imagines, must be made for him beyond what he himself is capable of making, before the purity of the Divine justice can be reconciled to his manifold offences. But legal oblations were deficient in efficacy. It was not possible, according to the declaration of an apostle, that these should take away sin. A superior sacrifice was requisite, and a better atonement than these. On the Saviour’s merits the believer reflects with hope and trust, gratitude and transport, in his last moments.

III. The atonement was expedient to vindicate the honour of the Divine government. Mercy to the guilty without suitable expiation might produce ruinous effects. Were breach of order not punished, all would become anarchy and confusion. When the genius of justice seems to slumber for ages, she is scorned like the threatenings of Noah. Never will that Omnipotent Being, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity but with abhorrence, allow guilty mortals to trample on the majesty of His laws, and with impunity to set examples of crimes the most atrocious. That obnoxiousness to punishment which results from the violation of the Divine laws was transferred to Christ when He offered Himself as a substitute for sinners. And this substitution, completely voluntary on His part, and consequently highly meritorious, exalted in every point of view, instead of debasing the doctrine of “the natural placability of the Divine Being.”

IV. Our Saviour’s interposition was expedient as being a subject of prophecy, and the Divine veracity interested of consequence in its accomplishment. Many hundred years before His appearance on earth, the interposition of our Redeemer was predicted with the utmost perspicuity. The whole scene of His sufferings passed before the prophets, and they describe them as circumstantially as if they had been spectators of the crucifixion on Mount Calvary. Without controversy, it was a great and mysterious sacrifice. But mystery is merely a relative term. To infinite intelligence all is plain in the whole economy of grace, the arrangement of providence, and the system of nature. Let us, who are children of the dust, receive with reverence every doctrine which is revealed from heaven, rather availing ourselves of the light of the sun, so to speak, than attempting to gaze on his glory. (T. Laurie, D.D.)

Jesus Christ died for the sins of men

I. It was violent and ignominious--a death by crucifixion. Christians living at this remote age of the Church, are, in some sense, disqualified to conceive of that extremity of pain and shame which attended an execution by the cross. We have been accustomed to associate with the cross whatever is stupendous in history, whatever is dear, and sacred, and sublime in truth. But it was far otherwise in that age, and with those nations among whom the apostles went forth to proclaim their crucified Lord. They knew the cross in no other character than as the instrument of the most horrible and most infamous of punishments. We cannot, therefore, but admire, that in the face of this strong and universal detestation, the apostles should so explicitly affirm and so earnestly iterate the fact of their Master’s crucifixion. Far from drawing an oblivious veil over the Cross, far from attempting, by partial or enigmatical statements, to conceal the offensive fact, they assert it, they appeal to it, they rejoice and glory in it!

1. The sincerity of the apostles, and their conviction that Jesus is the Saviour of the world. Had they been insincere, or had they been of doubtful mind, as to the Christ of God, the mode of their Master’s death they might well have kept back.

2. We ourselves may take a lesson not to stumble at the scandal of the Cross. Happy they who, feeling it to be the power of God and the wisdom of God, are raised above the contempt of unbelieving men, and can glory in the Cross of Christ!

II. The death of Christ was positive and real--not fictitious, not visionary: “Christ died for our sins.” The importance of this part of apostolic instruction we should have much more distinctly perceived had we lived nearer the times of the apostles. Very early in the Christian Church, yea, even in the days of the apostles themselves, there arose a sect of people who denied the reality of the sufferings and death of the Holy Jesus, maintaining that the Jews spent their fury on a phantom sent from heaven to delude them, and that the real Christ was far removed above the reach of their malignant and cruel hands. Some of these persons had witnessed the miracles which the apostles wrought, and probably some of them those of the Saviour Himself; and we may readily conceive how the witnesses of such wonders should find it difficult to credit, that He who wrought them could ever fall a victim to wicked and impotent men! Be this as it may, the apostles, those wise master builders, were careful to guard against the fatal mistake we have mentioned. With what particularity of circumstance did the sacred historians narrate the manner of Messiah’s death!

III. These sufferings, and this death, were a vicarious, sacrificial offering to God, for the sins of the world.

1. This account of the Saviour’s death is required by the express and constant language of the inspired writers. See Isaiah 53:6; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2; Revelation 5:9.

2. This view of the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus is no less forced upon us by the narrative of the event. I will not ask where was the goodness, the compassion of the Divine nature? but I will ask where was its justice, its equity, its righteousness if the immaculate Jesus could bear all this weight of woe, and yet not sacrificially, not as a substitute, not as the Lamb of God, dying for the sins of the world?

3. It is when the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus are regarded in this light that they become, what the sacred Scriptures represent them, the highest display of the love of God to man.

Conclusion:

1. This vital, all-momentous Christian doctrine may serve to guide us in our behaviour towards those who deny the Lord that bought them. As men, and as men for whom Christ died, they are entitled to our respect, our pity, and our prayers; but never let us be found lending ourselves to countenance their fatal errors.

2. The exhibition of this great truth may serve to make known the aggravated guilt, the awful danger of an impenitent life.

3. This blessed doctrine ought especially to bring encouragement to every one who sincerely mourns on account of sin.

4. Finally, standing on this bright and eternal truth, I have a right to require that you unite with me in ascriptions of praise to the adorable Fountain of all this love to man. (J. Bromley.)

Christ’s death: the primary teaching of Christianity

The phrase “first of all” means not only first in point of time, but first in point of importance. If we ask why? the answer is that Christ’s death is--

I. An unanswerable proof of the humanity of our Lord. It declares Him “Son of Man,” and therefore not a phantom too high for fellowship and following. A conviction of this ought to be grasped by us, “first of all,” because it is essential to our regarding Him--

1. As Redeemer.

2. As Friend.

3. As Example.

II. The strongest utterance of Divine love. In following the life of Jesus we gaze on God’s love in unwearied toil, in patient endurance, in keenest sympathy, in bitter tears. But gazing on Christ’s death we see Divine love in agony, humiliation, shame. Man’s highest love to God was when Abram offered his only son Isaac; God’s deepest love to man is seen in giving His only begotten Son in sacrifice on Calvary.

III. The mightiest force in the salvation of the world.

1. He Himself relied on it: “I, if I be lifted up, wilt draw all men.”

2. The influence of His death on many at the crucifixion illustrates it.

3. The history of Christianity testifies to it. (U. R. Thomas.)

Christ’s death a cardinal fact and doctrine

Why did the Apostle Paul make it the very beginning of his preaching? Because--

I. It was most struck at by enemies. Though not a blind zealot who courted opposition, and though he knew how to become all things to all men, he was no trimmer; and when any known doctrine of his Master was impugned, that was the doctrine to which he devoted himself in affectionate defence.

II. It is the distinguishing doctrine of Christianity. In Christianity there are many things common to it with Judaism, Mohammedanism, and even pure Theism; but here is a discriminative mark.

III. It brings men down to the earth, in a sense of sin, weakness, shame, and danger. The gospel is a remedy. It seeks, not to improve what is sound, but to cure what is dying. It is a remedy which none accept but such as despair of other help. All who ever received the doctrine, received it on their knees. He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

IV. It is of all doctrines that which lies nearest the heart of Christian affection. It was uppermost in the heart of Paul; it throbbed in its inmost pulses. It reminds him of what he was, it makes him what he is.

V. It is the precise object of saving faith. To be saved is the one thing needful. But to be saved one thing is necessary--faith. But in what? In this crucified but risen Redeemer. The man who believes in Him, with a spiritual apprehension of what he believes, is a saved man.

VI. It is the key to all other doctrines. The symbol of Christianity is not the all-seeing eye, the creative hand, the sepulchre, the sceptre--but the Cross. With this you can explain all; but denying this, you go on till to be consistent you must deny all.

VI. It is the great instrument of conversion. This is the very event the recital of which, even before the end of the generation then born, filled the Roman Empire with converts. It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Conclusion:

1. These things enable us to come to a judgment with regard to Churches and religious communities. The criterion is the relative place which they give to the doctrine of Christ’s death.

2. In like manner, we may judge of books, preaching, and systems of theology. Try them by this question, What think ye of Christ?

3. We may here judge of our own personal religion. (J. W. Alexander, D.D.)

The death of our Lord

I. Its nature. We must affirm and believe that it was a true and proper death, such as that to which all mortals are by the law of our nature subjected. Such is expressed by all the terms appropriated to it, and by the ordinary signs of death.

II. Its peculiar adjuncts ann respects of our lord’s death, which commend it to our regard, and amplify its worth.

1. Its being a result of God’s eternal counsel and decree by which our Saviour was “a Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.”

2. Its being a matter of free consent and compact between God and His Son. It was pre-ordained by God; and our Saviour’s reply was: “Lo! I come to do Thy will, O God.”

3. Its great excellency and efficacy, appearing from manifold types foreshadowed, and in divers prophecies foretold.

4. Its being compassed by God’s especial providence directing and disposing it, though not without the active concurrence of men; so that although as a work of Divine Providence it was most admirable, yet as an act of human pravity it was the most heinous ever committed.

5. Its great commendation in the quality of our blessed Saviour’s person: how valuable must be the death of one so incomparably transcendent in glory!

III. The causes and principles whence it proceeded; which moved God to determine it, and our Lord to undertake it. There is in Scripture a threefold love of God towards men intimated.

1. A general love to mankind antecedent to the sending of our Lord and His performances, being the ground of God’s designing them.

2. A love, consequent on these, and procured by them.

3. A peculiar love of friendship and complacence, which God bears to all who repent of their sins and embrace the gospel. The like principles are said to move our Lord to undergo death for us. To these may be added our sins, as the meritorious causes of our Saviour’s death: “He was bruised for our iniquities.” He died for us, not only as men, but as sinful and wretched men.

IV. The ends which it aims at.

1. The illustration of God’s glory, by displaying His most glorious perfections.

2. The dignifying and exaltation of our Lord Himself, which is what He Himself foresaw and foretold.

3. The salvation of mankind; which He procured by appeasing that wrath which God bears towards iniquity, and reconciling Him to men, who by sin were alienated from Him.

4. Other subordinate designs and effects are the reparation of God’s honour; the ratification of the new covenant; the reconciliation of all in heaven and earth; the defeat of death, and of the powers of darkness; the engaging us to the practice of all righteousness and obedience; for attestation to, and confirmation of Divine truth.

V. The practical influences which a consideration of this point should have on us.

1. It should beget in us the highest degree of love and gratitude towards God and our Saviour.

2. It should raise in us great faith and hope in God, excluding all distrust or despair.

3. It should comfort and satisfy us in regard to our sins supposing that we heartily repent of them.

4. It discovers to us their heinousness, and thereby should move our detestation of them.

5. It should work in us a kindly contrition and remorse for them.

6. And engage us carefully to avoid them, as “crucifying Him afresh.”

7. It should engage us to patience and resignation to the will of God.

8. It obliges us to the deepest mortification, in conformity with Christ’s death, “being with Him crucified” to the lusts of the flesh.

9. It is also a strong engagement to the fullest measure of charity towards our brethren.

10. We are hence obliged to yield ourselves wholly up to the service of our Saviour, to the promoting of His interest and glory; since “we are not our own; being bought with a price,” etc. (I. Barrow, D.D.)

The mystery of death

I. Why did Christ die?

1. Christ has bequeathed to us the invaluable legacy of a true ideal. We desire to know how to conduct ourselves, and our desire is satisfied by the ideal left by Christ.

2. Now to complete the picture was needed the tragedy of death. Given absolute human perfection in a world death-stricken, then not merely, as Plato said, must the good man suffer at the hands of sinners, but the ideal must be perfected by submission to the common doom of death.

II. What is the significance of death?

1. Well, clearly death is a fact; a fact of intimate and universal interest. In a world of infinite possibilities, and therefore of immeasurable uncertainties, one fact is certain, we shall die. Death is the consummation of the tragedy of change. All is changing--we ourselves among the many that people this mysterious life. Now, death is the crown of change. All other changes are as nothing compared with this. There is a tragic strain in every life when, taking account of so much that has been full of love, and joy, and happiness, we say, “It can never be again.” That tragic strain is heard in its deepest chords, in its fullest, most heart-rending music, in the mystery of death.

3. Death in one sense is an unparalleled catastrophe. The ancients when they thought of it at all, they gazed shuddering at a world of gloom. The philosophic thinkers, the tragic poets of the ancient world, tell the same story by their unvarying strain of sadness; do what they would, it was an unparalleled catastrophe. We Christians feel, in a sense, the same. Did you ever take from your shelves a long-closed volume, and shake out from its pages unawares a letter, written by a dear dead hand? Why for a moment are you all unmanned? “Littera scripta manet,” yes, “remains” but only to mock you. “Where is he?” “How does he feel to me?” “Shall we meet again?” Whatever answer comes, this is certain; what once was is not. Think one moment more. On your table you have the portrait of your wife, your child, your friend. Are they near you? You scarcely care to look at it. Why? Because that sweet presence is about the house. Absence comes, you love the portrait better, for absence is the first, faint, saddening image of the great “farewell” Let the grave divide. You cannot bear to part with that portrait now. It is all that you have left you of what was once so dear, so fair.

III. If our Christianity be a grand reality, we must view even this saddening spectacle in the light” and atmosphere of the new creation.

1. We are “in Christ,” and Christ has died. Remembering this, I ask in an altogether happier temper, “What is the significance of death?”

2. There always is, there always must be, something awful in the thought that I must die. For death has had a fatal affinity to the Prince of Darkness. True: but the Passion of Christ conquers by transforming all. “In Christ” it is still certainly awful, but it is blessed to die. If Christianity has made death more serious by revealing hidden facts of another life, has it not also--for this, too, we must remember--much to offer of compensating strength? To live in faith is to prepare to die. Christ by His death has given us a ground of confidence in His unflagging tenderness, and it is devotion to a person, it is faith in Jesus Christ which, as it conquers the world, so it subdues the grave. (Canon Knox-Little.)

And that He was buried, and that He rose again.

The mystery of the grave

The memory of the burial of Jesus is stamped upon the heart of Christendom. There are many reasons why it should be so.

1. Since our dear Lord is the Eternal Word, every act of that most sacred life and death has its special significance.

2. It is one of that store of mortal experiences laid up, not by omniscient power, but by personal trial, in the heart of God.

3. It stands in direct relation to that strange borderland, at the memory of whose twilight indistinctness voices are hushed, and dreams of ambition die. The question is, Why was He buried?

I. Death is an act of solemn separation, but henceforth the grave to the Christian is a witness to--

1. Its meaning. Well, the souls of the dead are robed in mystery; but this at least is clear, there is some special force in the separation for the ennobling of the body; some peculiar power for developing the energy of the soul.

2. Its limits. It cannot last. The strange dark sleep of death is the prelude to a resurrection morning.

II. The burial night of the redeemer gives a tender touch of sentiment to the grave. Nor is this wrong. False sentiment is never so detestable as in religion. But Christianity, because it is a religion of Divine everlasting realities, rouses the deepest feeling and expresses them in sentiments of beauty, as the deep and massive energy of the ocean flings up the sun-bespangled spray. There is a sweet touch of the real truth of things expressed in a pure poetic sentiment, in the Christian certainty that death is sleep. Now the calm majestic rest of the Redeemer is the evident witness that there is this mystery in the grave. It is the sleeping-place of the weary. “They rest from their labours.” Their graves are symbols of faithful service. Ah! as you love them you would not call them back again. (Canon Knox-Little.)


Verses 5-8

1 Corinthians 15:5-8

And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.

The infallible proofs of our Lord’s resurrection

I. The witnesses were--

1. Numerous.

2. Competent in respect of their acquaintance with Christ, their intelligence, their opportunities of seeing Him.

3. Honest.

II. Their evidence.

1. Was immediately given.

2. Where the facts occurred.

3. Harmonious.

4. Constantly repeated.

5. Openly given while hundreds of them were alive.

6. Steadily maintained even unto death. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The evidence for the resurrection

As the resurrection of Christ is an historical fact, it is to be proved by historical evidence. The apostle therefore appeals to the testimony of competent witnesses. Confidence in such testimony is not founded on experience, but on the constitution of our nature. We are so constituted that we cannot refuse assent to the testimony of good men to a fact fairly within their knowledge. To render such testimony irresistible it is necessary--

1. That the fact to be proved should be of a nature to admit of being certainly known.

2. That adequate opportunity be afforded to the witnesses to ascertain its nature, and to be satisfied of its verity.

3. That the witnesses be of sound mind and discretion.

4. That they be men of integrity. If these conditions be fulfilled, human testimony establishes the truth of a fact beyond reasonable doubt. If, however, in addition to these grounds of confidence, the witnesses give their testimony at the expense of great personal sacrifice, or confirm it with their blood; if, moreover, the occurrence of the fact in question had been predicted centuries before it came to pass; if it had produced effects not otherwise to be accounted for, effects extending to all ages and nations; if the system of doctrine with which that fact is connected so as to be implied in it, commends itself as true to the reason and conscience of men; and if God confirms not only the testimony of the original witnesses to the fact, but also the truth of the doctrines of which that fact is the necessary basis, by the demonstration of His Spirit, then it is insanity and wickedness to doubt it. All these considerations concur in proof of the resurrection of Christ, and render it the best authenticated event in the history of the world. (C. Hodge, D.D.)

The appearances of Christ after His resurrection

I. To whom permitted.

1. To individuals.

2. To the twelve.

3. To a large body of disciples.

4. To the faith of every true believer.

II. With what design.

1. To confirm the truth.

2. Establish the faith of the disciples.

3. Subdue opposition as in the case of Paul.

4. Comfort and assure His people. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

After that He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain,… but some are fallen asleep.--

More than five hundred witnesses

I. The fact.

1. Not elsewhere recorded.

2. Must have been well known.

3. Was widely published when it could easily have been disproved.

4. Was never disputed.

II. Its importance.

1. The witnesses of the resurrection were sufficiently numerous and diverse in point of intelligence, etc., to supply the severest test of its reality.

2. To afford ample means of investigation.

3. To satisfy the most persistent unbelief.

III. Its lessons.

1. Christ is the living Redeemer.

2. Reveals Himself to many or few.

3. Manifests Himself to His own as He does not unto the world.

4. Shall finally be revealed when every eye shall see Him. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Appearances of the risen Redeemer

We have here--

I. A mighty proof of the resurrection of Christ. Two or three witnesses, intellectually and morally competent, would be regarded in a court of justice as sufficient to establish any fact, but here are “five hundred.” To suppose that they were all deceived would be to suppose one of the most stupendous miracles ever wrought. Mark, Paul states this fact when the “greater part” were still alive. Would any man, under such circumstances, dare to have made the assertion had it not been an indisputable fact?

II. An interesting view of the departure of good men from the world. “Some are fallen asleep.” Sleep does not include extinction; must exclude suffering. Sleep is--

1. A welcome rest. Sleep is refreshing. The work of a Christian here is hard work, the work of cultivation, building, battling, voyaging. Sleep reinvigorates the system, gives new tone to the frame, new vigour to the limb. The holy dead renew their strength in eternity.

2. An anticipation of waking. Men yield themselves to repose with the hope of morning; a morning in which they will go forth to the joys and duties of life with a new zest and energy. Who dreads sleep? No good man need dread death.

III. A suggestive event in the experience of the apostle (verse 8). When did Paul see Christ? When Christ was in heaven (Acts 9:5). Then, though in heaven--

1. He is cognisant of the movements of individual men. He knew all about Saul of Tarsus.

2. He can reveal Himself to men on earth.

3. His love for sinners is unabated. He spoke to Saul the persecutor, the “chief of sinners.” (D. Thomas, D.D.)

The character and death of the saints

I. The character of those of whom it may be said when they die,”they are fallen asleep.” “Brethren,” and not on account of a natural relationship, but of a spiritual union. They were brethren, because they had been united to “the Elder Brother,” “the First-born among many brethren”; and their union to Him was the foundation of their union to each other. As brethren, there was a sameness in their principles--in their hopes--in their consolations--in their rejoicing when they beheld a risen Saviour.

II. The state of such persons after death. Sleep denotes--

1. Their rest. The time of sleep is the time of rest so sweet to the labouring man. The believer’s life here is compared to a day; his departure home to a night. Hence the exhortation, “Work while it is called day, for the night cometh when no man can work.” Every description of Christian character conveys the idea of labour. He has to run, to fight, to wrestle, etc.; and death is as the commencing of repose when the labour of the day is done.

2. Their safety. We could not go to rest at night if we knew that a robber would invade our dwelling-place, or a fire consume it, or a wind prostrate it, or a murderer attempt our lives. It is when we have barred our houses against intruders, and committed ourselves to the protection of our Creator, that we close our eyes in hope that we shall both lay ourselves down and sleep in peace and safety. The figure illustrates the perfect safety of those who have entered into peace. It is then that the believer enters into regions which will never be ruffled, and into glories which will never be obscured, and upon joys which will never be interrupted. For no enemy can harass there, no care oppress, no affliction try. And it is a precious remembrance, that the body is safe too. The body of the saint in the tomb is a precious deposit. Christ will rescue it from the darkness and the disgrace of the tomb, and will invest it with honour and immortality.

3. Their resurrection. When we sleep at night, it is with a hope of waking again in the morning.

Conclusion: Let this subject--

1. Comfort us concerning our departed friends.

2. Comfort us under our present trials.

3. Excite inquiries whether, if we die at this moment, it would be a sleep in Christ Jesus. (W. Hodson.)

What the sight of the risen Christ makes life and death

Consider--

I. What life may become to those who see the risen Christ. The word “remain’’ not only tells us that the survivors were living, but the kind of life they lived. It is the same expression as “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” Now, “that saying went abroad amongst the brethren,” and it may have been floating in Paul’s memory, and have determined his selection of this expression. So, then, the sight of a risen Christ--

1. Will make life calm and tranquil. Fancy one of these after that vision going home. How small and unworthy to disturb the heart in which the memory of that vision was burning would seem the things that otherwise would have been important and distracting! Our faith in the risen Christ ought to do the same thing for us. If we build our nests amidst the tossing branches of the world’s trees, they will sway with every wind, and perhaps be blown away from their hold altogether. But we may build our nests in the clefts of the rock, like the doves, and be quiet, as they are. They who see Christ need not be troubled. The ship that is empty is tossed upon the ocean, that which is well laden is steady. The heart that has Christ for a passenger need not fear being rocked by any storm. Make Him your scale of importance, and nothing will be too small to demand and be worthy of the best efforts of your work, but nothing will be too great to sweep you away from the serenity of your faith.

2. Will lead to patient persistence in duty. The risen Christ is--

3. Leads to a life of calm expectancy. That vision sent these five hundred men home to make all the rest of their lives one patient expectation of the return of the Lord. These primitive Christians expected that Jesus Christ would come speedily. That expectation was disappointed in so far as the date was concerned, but after nineteen centuries it still remains true that all vigorous and vital Christian life must have in it the onward look. He has come, He will come; He has gone, He will come back. And for us life ought to be a confident expectance that when Be shall be manifested we also shall be manifested with Him in glory.

II. What death becomes to those who have seen Christ risen from the dead. The Christian reason for calling death a sleep embraces a great deal more than the heathen reason for doing so, inasmuch as to most others who have used the word, death has been a sleep that knew no waking, whereas the Christian reason for employing the symbol is that it makes our waking sure. The New Testament scarcely ever employs the words dying and death for the act or for the state it keeps those grim words for the reality, the separation of the soul from God. But the reason why Christianity uses metaphors for death, is the opposite of the reason why the world uses them. The world is so afraid of dying that it durst not name the grim, ugly thing. The Christian faith is so little afraid of death, that it, does not think such a trivial matter worth calling by the name, but only names it “falling asleep.” Even when the circumstances of that dropping off to slumber are painful and violent, the Bible still employs the term. Is it not striking that the first martyr dying a bloody death should have been said to fall asleep? If that be true of such a death, no physical pains of any kind make the sweet word inappropriate for any. We have here not only the designation of the act of dying, but that of the condition of the dead. They are fallen asleep, and they continue asleep. There lies in the figure the idea of--

1. Repose. “They rest from their labours.” In that sleep there are folded round the sleepers the arms of the Christ on whose bosom they rest, as an infant does on its first and happiest home, its mother’s breast.

2. Continuous and conscious existence. It has been argued from this metaphor that the space between death and the resurrection is a period of unconsciousness, but the analogies seem to me to be in the opposite direction. A sleeping man does not cease to know himself to be, or to be himself. That consciousness of personal identity survives dreams sufficiently show us. And therefore they that sleep know themselves to be, and know where they rest.

3. Waking. Sleep is a parenthesis. If the night comes, the morning comes. They shall be satisfied when they awake with His likeness. Conclusion: Now, then, the risen Christ is the only ground of such hope, and faith in Him is the only state of mind which is entitled to cherish it. Nothing proves immortality except that open grave. Every other foundation is too weak to bear the weight of such a superstructure. The old Greek architects were often careless of the solidity of the soil on which they built their temple, and so many of them have fallen in ruins. The temple of immortality can be built only upon the rock of that proclamation, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

Fallen asleep

Yes, the companions of Jesus died one by one. Consider the great value of such men and of all good men to the Church, and the loss caused by their removal. Yet no word of lamentation is used. It is not said that they have perished, or passed into the land of shades, but that “they are fallen asleep.” The spirit is with Jesus in glory: the body rests till His appearing. “Fallen asleep” suggests a very different idea from that which distressed the minds of the heathen when they thought of death.

I. The figure here used.

1. An act of the most natural kind: “fallen asleep.”

2. A state of which rest is the main ingredient.

3. A position of safety from a thousand dangers, such as beset the pilgrim, the worker, the warrior.

4. A condition by no means destructive.

5. A posture full of hope.

II. The thoughts aroused by that figure.

1. How did we treat those that are now asleep?

2. How can we make up for the loss caused by their sleep?

3. How fit that we should also be prepared to, fall asleep!

4. How much better that the faithful should fall asleep than that the wicked should die in their sins!

5. How patiently should we bear up under the labours and sufferings of the day, since there remaineth a rest for the people of God!

III. The hopes confirmed by that figure.

1. The sleepers are yet ours, even as those in the house who are asleep are numbered with the rest of the inhabitants.

2. The sleepers will yet awake.

3. The sleepers and ourselves will enjoy sweet fellowship.

Conclusion:

1. Let us not hopelessly sorrow over those asleep.

2. Let us not ourselves sleep till bed-time comes.

3. Let us not fear to sleep in such good company.

Death as sleep

God’s finger touched him, and he slept. (Tennyson.)

Sleep the time of growth

Physiologists hold that it is during sleep chiefly that we grow; what may we not hope of such a sleep in such a bosom? (S. T. Coleridge.)

After that He was seen of James.--

Seen of James

Words soon read and soon forgotten, but conveying to the thoughtful reader a world of instruction. “All Scripture … is profitable,” etc. These incidental allusions are meant to challenge inquiry.

I. Who was James? “The Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). Whether the son of Mary, or the son of Joseph by a former wife, or our Lord’s first cousin, it is impossible to say with certainty. All we can say is that the relationship was very close. The incident is illustrative of Christ’s mindfulness of His brethren according to the flesh. The touching incident on the Cross is paralleled here. In His humiliation He did not forget His mother. In His glory He did not forget His brethren. Nor does He now (Hebrews 4:13-15).

II. When did Christ appear to James? Placed where this brief account of the incident is, we should infer that it occurred during the forty days, and Acts 1:14 confirms this. The appearance was therefore--

1. Early.

2. Tangible.

III. Why did Christ appear to James? To convict and remove his unbelief. Christ appeared to three types of unbelievers.

1. To Thomas the pious sceptic.

2. To Paul the inveterate disbeliever.

3. To James the scoffing unbeliever (John 7:3-5)--the hardest of all, as experience shows, to convince.

In each case, however, unbelief gave way to faith. Faith is the faculty which grasps the meaning of the vision of Christ; but the appearance of Christ is necessary to quicken the faith which apprehends it. Christ now appears to unbelievers in His Word, providence, etc. Lord, open their eyes!

IV. What effect did the appearance of Christ have on James? This we can estimate by what James afterwards became.

1. President of the Church at Jerusalem.

2. The chairman of the Apostolic Synod.

3. The writer of the most practical Epistle of the New Testament.

The vision of Christ is the inspiration of all Christian usefulness. The original disciples (John 1:1-51) and Paul saw Christ for themselves, hence were able to describe Him to others and to lead others to Him.

V. What is the evidential value of this appearance? James was called the Just, by Jews as well as Christians. No man was less likely to deceive or be deceived. (J. W. Burn.)


Verses 8-11

1 Corinthians 15:8-11

And last of all He was seen of me also.

Me also

Who?

1. The self-righteous Pharisee (Philippians 3:1-21).

2. The bloodthirsty persecutor (Acts 7:58; Acts 8:1; Acts 9:1; Acts 22:4; Acts 26:10-11).

3. The inveterate unbeliever (Acts 26:14; 1 Timothy 1:13).

Conclusion:

1. Who then can despair of any one?

2. Who then need despair? (1 Timothy 1:14-16). (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Christ’s last appearance

I. Granted to paul.

1. It was real.

2. Necessary as a seal of apostleship.

3. Supplies additional and valuable evidence of the resurrection.

II. Granted under special circumstances.

1. As to one born out of due time, after the other apostles.

2. Under unexpected circumstances.

3. Before his religious character was fully developed.

III. Granted for our instruction.

1. As an example of special grace.

2. Requiring special gratitude and humility. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The Epiphany to Saul of Tarsus

This was the occasion of his conversion. The apostle has left on record a statement of the magnitude of the revolution (Philippians 3:1-21). How shall we account for it? The answers may all be reduced to three. That Paul’s assertion that he had seen the risen Lord was--

I. A falsehood. This was the position taken by the Deists of the last century. But what motive could Paul have for asserting it? For even men of the feeblest intellects do not act without motives. But here is a man of powerful intellect persisting for thirty years in maintaining what he knew all the time to be an absolute lie. What was his motive then?

1. Was it hope of advancement? But to confess the Nazarene was the surest way to be defeated in every worldly ambition.

2. Was it love of rank, or wealth, or power, or ease? But to be a follower of the Galilean was to make morally certain toil, poverty, persecution, and death (1 Corinthians 4:9-13; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Thus on this theory of imposture we see a man of marvellous mental breadth and moral height deliberately inventing a useless, monstrous lie, and persistently adhering to it for a quarter of a century, conscious that his only reward was pauperism, disgrace, torture, martyrdom, everlasting damnation.

II. An hallucination. This is the position of the modern philosophical sceptic, driven from the theory of imposture by its unspeakable absurdity. “Paul,” it is said, “was a man of nervous, excitable organisation, and conscientious to the last degree. Coming into contact with the Christians, their arguments, their self-sacrifice, their patient behaviour under persecution, made a profound impression on his susceptible nature. Doubts began to arise, and being a Pharisee, he would have no difficulty with the doctrine of the resurrection. Then the thrilling question came, May not Jesus really have risen? The more he pondered it, the more it distressed him: the very conscientiousness which had made him a persecutor began to torture him with the thought that he might be fighting against God. Agonised by the possibility, in his inflamed imagination he fancied he saw in the heavens the form of the risen Jesus,” etc. But survey the character of Paul. Susceptible, imaginative, impetuous, he certainly was, yet the man never lived who had his faculties more completely under control or used them with more sagacity. Mark the characteristics of a fanatic.

1. Looseness of reasoning and wildness of statement. But the man never lived who reasoned more accurately than Paul (Romans; Galatians, e.g.).

2. Utopian dreaming. But no man ever took broader, deeper, more sensible views of the problems of society, or discussed them with finer acumen than Paul: witness his exposition of the great law of edification (Romans 12:1-21; Romans 13:1-14; Romans 14:1-23; Romans 15:1-33), and his discussion of cases of conscience (chaps. 6-14).

3. Impatience, intolerance, obstinacy, recklessness. Paul was the antithesis of all this--witness his gentleness, patience, tolerance, magnanimity, humility, dignity, courtesy, deference to authority, repudiation of outward form, self-forgetfulness in his devotion to others.

4. Destructiveness. But the man never lived who was more absolutely a constructor of society than Paul. Next his Divine Master Himself, the apostle is the most controlling force of Christendom. If hallucination is capable of producing such characters as St. Paul, would God all men were flighty, all earth a Bedlam.

III. A fact. This is the position of the Christian Church, and explains everything. It explains--

1. His sudden, radical revolution of character; the risen Lord had appeared to him and beckoned him up to a diviner life.

2. His cosmopolitan ministration (Acts 26:16-18).

3. His claim to be an apostle (chap. 9:1).

4. His passionate sense of fellowship with the slain and risen Lord (Galatians 2:20).

5. His career of self-sacrifice (2 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 4:10).

6. His being persecuted in turn by those who had been his fellow-persecutors. Deny that Epiphany, and you have in the career of Paul the most inexplicable of character-problems. Admit that Epiphany, and all is clear. (W. E. Boardman, D.D.)

St. Paul

Combining this opinion of himself with the story of his conversion (Acts 9:1-43.) we may learn--

I. Not to be astonished if we have to change our opinions as we grow older. When we are young we are very positive about this thing and that, and ready to quarrel with any who differs from us, as St. Paul was. But let ten, twenty years roll over us, and we may find our opinions utterly changed, and look back on ourselves with astonishment and shame as St. Paul did.

II. Not to be ashamed of changing our minds: but if we find ourselves to be in the wrong, to confess it honestly, as St. Paul did. What a fearful wrench and humiliation to have to change his mind on all matters in heaven and earth! What must it not have cost him to throw up all his friends and to feel that henceforth they must look upon him as a madman, an infidel, an enemy! But he faced the struggle and conquered, and the consequence was that he had, in time, many Christian friends for each Jewish friend that he had lost.

III. That God will not impute to us our early follies and mistakes, if only there be in us, as there was in St. Paul, the heart which longs to know what is true and right, and bravely acts up to what it knows. In all things, whether right or wrong, St. Paul was an honest, earnest seeker after truth and righteousness. He had not yet the grace of Christ, which is love to his fellow-men; and therefore his works were not pleasing to God. His empty forms and ceremonies could not please God. His persecuting the Church had plainly the nature of sin. But there was something which God had put in him, and that was, the honest and good heart. In that Christ sowed the word of God, and, behold, it sprang up and bore fruit over all Christian nations to this day. Keep, therefore, if you have it, the honest and good heart. If you have it not, pray for it earnestly.

IV. That though God has forgiven a man, that is no reason that he should forgive himself.

1. The common teaching now is, that if a man finds, or fancies, that God has forgiven him, he may forgive himself at once, and go boasting about the world as if he had never sinned at all. That is one extreme.

2. The opposite extreme is that of many old saints who could not forgive themselves at all, but passed their whole lives in misery, bewailing their sins till their dying day. That was a mistake.

3. Run into neither extreme. Look at your past lives as St. Paul looked at his. There is no sentimental melancholy in him. He is saved, and he knows it. He is hopeful, joyful; but whenever he speaks of his past life it is with noble shame and sorrow. So let us do. Let us thank God cheerfully for the present. Let us look on hopefully to the future; let us not look back too much at the past, or rake up old follies which have been pardoned and done away. But let us thank God whenever He thinks fit to show us the past, and bring our sin to our remembrance; and learn as St. Paul learnt, to be charitable to all who have not yet learnt the wisdom which God has taught to us. (C. Kingsley, M.A.)

For I am the least of the apostles, … I persecuted the Church of God.--

Paul an example

I. Of special grace. A persecutor--

1. Saved by extraordinary interposition.

2. Called to be an apostle.

3. Specially privileged.

II. Of special gratitude.

1. He attributes all to the grace of God.

2. Labours more abundantly.

3. Maintains a spirit of profound humility before God and his brethren. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The conversion of Paul viewed in reference to his office

I. It was a triumph over the enemy. When God would convert the world, opening the door of faith to the Gentiles, who was the chosen instrument? Not one of Christ’s first followers. He put forth His hand into the very midst of the persecutors of His Son, and seized upon the most strenuous among them.

II. It was a suitable introduction to his office. It was an expressive emblem of the nature of God’s general dealings with the race of man. What are we all but rebels against God and enemies of the truth? (Colossians 1:21). Who then could so appropriately fulfil the purpose of Him who came to call sinners to repentance as one who had persecuted the Church of God? (1 Timothy 1:16).

III. His previous course of life rendered him, perhaps, after his conversion, more fit an instrument of God’s purposes towards the Gentiles, as well as a more striking specimen of it. We know that St. Paul’s successes were not his, but through “the grace of God which was with him.” Still, God makes use of human means, and it is allowable to inquire what these were, and why St. Paul was employed to convert the heathen world rather than St. James or St. John. Doubtless his intellectual endowments and acquirements fitted him for his office. Yet there was something in his previous religious history which especially disciplined him to be “all things to all men.” His awful rashness and blindness, his rage against the worshippers of Christ, then his strange conversion, then the three years during which he was left to meditate in private on all that had happened, and to anticipate the future--all this constituted a peculiar preparation for the office of preaching to a lost world dead in sin. It gave him an extended insight, on the one hand, into the ways and designs of Providence, and, on the other, into the workings of sin in the human heart, and the various modes of thinking in which the mind is actually trained. It taught him not to despair of the worst sinners, and to enter into the various temptations to which human nature is exposed. It wrought in him a profound humility, which disposed him to bear meekly the abundance of the revelations given him; and it imparted to him a practical wisdom how to apply them to the conversion of others, so as to be the comforter, help, and guide of his brethren.

1. Now I do not allege that St. Paul’s previous sins made him a more spiritual Christian afterwards, but rendered him more fitted, when converted, to reclaim others, just as a knowledge of languages fits a man for the office of missionary, without tending in any degree to make him a better man. If we take two men equally advanced in grace, one of the two would preach to a variety of men with the greater success who had the greater experience of temptation, the war of flesh and spirit, sin, and victory over sin.

2. But St. Paul’s conversion is very far from holding out any encouragement to those who live in sin, or any self-satisfaction to those who have lived in it; as if their present or former disobedience could be a gain to them. Why was mercy shown to Saul? “Because he did it ignorantly in unbelief.” And why was he “enabled” to preach the gospel? “Because Christ counted him faithful.” He differed from other enemies of Christ in this, that he kept a clear conscience, and habitually obeyed God according to his knowledge. Hear his own account of himself (Acts 26:1; Acts 23:19; Acts 26:5). Here is no ease, no self-indulgent habits, no wilful sin against the light. The Holy Spirit is quenched by open transgressions of conscience and by contempt of His authority. But, when men err in ignorance, they are not left by the God of all grace. God leads them on to the light, in spite of their errors in faith, if they continue strictly to obey what they believe to be His will. (J. H. Newman, D.D.)

Self depreciation must not hinder duty

There are people who appreciate themselves intellectually who are constantly depreciating themselves religiously. “I am not worthy to be a Church member--a Christian disciple.” What pastor does not have to encounter that again and again ad nauseam? What preacher who does not at times, and sincerely, say within himself, “I am only an abortion of a man, I am not worthy to be called a preacher.” But as Paul had to be an apostle, notwithstanding his self-depreciation, so you and I have to be that to which we are called, or deny the Christ of God as an all-sufficient Saviour. It would be an act of deliberate disobedience if I, feeling my utter unworthiness to be a preacher of the gospel, should yet refuse to do it when I am called, inasmuch as I believe, intellectually and heartily, that Jesus is God’s Christ, and came to be man’s Redeemer and Saviour. But is it not equally an act of deliberate disobedience on the part of some of you to refuse to confess Christ before men, simply because you feel that you are not worthy to do it? (Reuen Thomas, D.D.)


Verse 10

1 Corinthians 15:10

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace was not in vain.

The grace of God

I. The grace bestowed.

1. Conversion.

2. Privilege.

3. Apostleship.

II. Its efficiency. It worked--

1. In him.

2. With him.

3. By him.

III. Its expression.

1. More abundant labours.

2. Profound humility. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The grace of God

1. There are those who regard themselves as simply the effects of natural causes.

2. Others are wont to attribute their character to social and civil influences, the times and institutions in which they live.

3. There are men of great individuality and power of character who are apt to attribute to their own selves the whole skill and efficiency of their life.

4. The truly Christian man is wont to combine all these as composing a Divine providence; and led by the Spirit of God to see his life and character in its relations to God’s superintending power and grace, profoundly sympathises with the text. See it illustrated in--

I. Our personal history. No devout man can calmly consider many of the circumstances of his history without profoundly feeling that he has been guided by a wisdom greater than his own; that he is the creature of a God of goodness, who has led him in a way that he knew not.

1. The family is the grand starting place.

2. Many of us have been powerfully influenced by others than parents.

3. Everybody can remember scenes in his early life which threatened his destruction, and many, when reflecting upon these things, are constrained to say, “I never could understand why I was not crushed.” They would have been had not the way in which they were going been obstructed by the grace of God. If I had not been taken out of Boston at one time, I do not see what would have prevented me from going to destruction. I look back upon moments of wilfulness, which would have led me to serious disaster, had not events in the providence of God transpired to check me in my course and change my career.

4. Men can often look back and see that the whore complexion of their life depended upon a single choice. Nor do they know why, out of a hundred choices, they should have taken the only one that seems to them to be connected with prosperity and integrity.

5. Many can recall painful crises of their life when everything depended on a single throw. Ninety-nine chances out of a hundred were against you, and God gave you that hundredth, and by His grace you are what you are. Life is like the experience of an Alpine climber. He is met by dangers at every step; and when the ascent is accomplished, he can count twenty places where he might have been dashed in pieces for one where he was absolutely safe.

II. Our inward nature and dispositions. I suppose there are but few who do not feel that there are laid up in them terrible powers, which, if set on fire of evil, would be desolation to their life. There are criminals of every description to-day whose early tendencies were as good as yours, and who had as favourable a chance as you had of making upright citizens. Now, why are they in their situation, and you in yours? There has been a grace of God which for mysterious reasons has led me in the way in which I have walked, and left them in the way in which they have walked.

III. The development of the Divine life in the soul. When a man looks back upon the beginning of his Christian life, and considers what his then state was, he wonders more and more at the way in which God leads him in his religious experience. At each stage, as we have gone on from one grace to another, from one victory to another, we are obliged to say, “By the grace of God I am what I am” Conclusion:

1. This is, in other words, the doctrine of man’s dependence upon God. It may be so stated as to be offensive, but when it is rightfully stated it is as sweet as the doctrine of love between a child and a parent. It is natural for the weak to lean; but I think none want to lean so much as the strong. The practice of constantly depending upon God is not opposed to activity, but promotes it.

2. Out of this retrospect, and out of this sense of our dependence upon God in the past for all that we have been and all that we have had, there ought to spring a future. That same hand that has taken care of you; that same power that has taken the obstacles out of your way, or marvellously put them in your way; that same Providence that has conducted you thus far through life, yet exists, and rules over the affairs of men. “By Thy grace, O God, in the past, I have been what I have been; and by Thy grace I desire, in the future, to be what Thou wilt have me to be. Glorify Thyself, and I shall be satisfied.” ( H. W. Beecher.)

The grace of God and Paul

This account which Paul gives of himself implies--

1. That a great change had been wrought in him.

2. That he was thankfully conscious of it.

3. That God was the Author of it. By the grace of God--

I. Paul was not what he had been. He had been the “chief of sinners”; he was now a humble Christian. “He was before a blasphemer, persecutor, injurious, but he obtained mercy.” “And such were some of us, but we are washed,” etc. The grace of God softens the heart, cleanseth the soul, sweetens the temper, etc. By its power the lion becomes a lamb, the vulture a dove, etc.

II. Paul was what he did not deserve to be. In 1 Corinthians 15:9 he tells us he is “not meet to be called an apostle,” etc. If the grace of God were more fully believed in and better understood, and the necessity for it more deeply felt by men, their works of merit Would not be set up in the place of the Saviour, as is too often the case. All whose hearts are changed, whose sins are forgiven, whose souls are redeemed, who are children of God, are great debtors to grace.

III. Paul was what he never expected to be. He did not expect to, be converted to Christ on his way to Damascus; and so “men who have come to scoff have remained to pray.” He is found of some who seek Him not. Many who are now ministers, teachers, missionaries, were called, perhaps unexpectedly, to the work. Conclusion: What God by His grace did for Paul, He can do for us. In Paul’s conversion “Jesus Christ shows forth all longsuffering for a pattern to them which shall hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.” The grace of God prepared Paul for life or death--it can do this for us. (G. Type.)

The grace of God, its nature and effects

St. Paul does not say, “By creative power,” nor “By providence”; but. “By the grace of God I am,” etc., and adding, “And the grace which,” etc. Consider--

I. What the grace of God is. The free favour of God shown in enlightening, sanctifying, and comforting influence of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 12:28; Hebrews 13:9; etc.).

II. How this grace is bestowed.

1. Through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:4).

2. Freely--implied in the word “grace” (Romans 11:5).

3. In use of means--sacraments, Scriptures, prayer.

4. So as not to be distinguishable from working of human mind.

5. Continuously, from moment to moment.

III. The effects of this grace.

1. Transition from state of sin and death into state of life and holiness.

2. Progressive sanctification.

3. Desire to promote spiritual welfare of others.

4. Confidence in God as loving Father.

5. Cheerful submission to will of God.

6. Joyful expectation of future glory.

IV. Practical use of text.

1. First clause suggests question, “Can I say?” etc.

a man endowed with reason and human affections, capable not only of sensual, but also of intellectual and social enjoyment.

2. To those who can say with the apostle, By the grace, etc., the second clause suggests another question: Has the grace bestowed produced its due effects? Exhortation to self-examination as to particulars, and to diligence lest we fail of, or fall from, the grace of God.

3. Do we habitually ascribe every good thought, word, and deed to the grace of God? Danger lest Satan turn good works into sin by causing us to take the merit of them. (Bp. Perry.)

The grace of God not received in vain

I. The wonderful grace which the apostle had received, and which changed him from what he had been to what he now was. These words stand in close connection with 1 Corinthians 15:9.

1. He had been an exceedingly great and atrocious sinner.

2. He became an eminent apostle of Christ.

3. Hence it was, as he here asserts, the free grace of God that caused the wonderful change (Romans 1:5).

II. The powerful effect which the grace paul had received had produced in him.

1. It was not ineffectual and fruitless--“not in vain” (Isaiah 55:11; Acts 20:24; 2 Corinthians 6:1).

2. It produced more abundant labours in the cause of God. “I laboured more abundantly than they all.” He does not say this in a way of boasting, but merely to show the powerful effects of Divine grace, and to silence the objections of those who could not allow that he was an apostle at all, and who he elsewhere says, had compelled him to glory. The other apostles were all unspeakably indebted to the grace of Christ, but none so much as Saul the persecutor; and never in any man was that observation of our Lord more remarkably verified, “To whom much is forgiven, the same loveth much” (2 Corinthians 11:23, etc.). And he was none the less laborious as a private Christian in mortifying sin and in following after holiness (1 Corinthians 9:26-27; Philippians 3:13).

III. The care which the apostle takes to give all the glory of his extraordinary labours to God and His grace.

1. He renounces the thought that he was to be considered as the performer of these labours. “I laboured; yet not I.”

2. He ascribes them to the same grace of God by which he was made a Christian and an apostle. “Not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Conclusion: Learn--

1. That the wonderful grace shown to Saul the persecutor is well adapted to excite hope in the worst of sinners, and encourage them in supplicating Divine mercy. There is nothing “too hard for the Lord.”

2. Wherever grace is bestowed, it effects a happy and a holy change.

3. That the doctrine of being saved by grace, instead of leading us to indulge in sin or sloth, forms the strongest argument why we should be holy and diligent. (Essex Congregational, Remembrancer.)

Grace, all through

Two or three years before the death of the Rev. John Newton, an aged brother in the ministry called on him to breakfast. Family prayer followed; and the portion of Scripture for the day was read to him. In it occurred the verse, “By the grace of Goal I am what I am.” After the reading of this text, he uttered this affecting soliloquy: “I am not what I ought to be--ah! how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be. I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good. I am not what I hope to be. Soon, soon, shall I put off mortality, and, with mortality, all sin and imperfection. Yet though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say I am not what I once was--a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, “By the grace of God I am what I am.’”

Grace, daily, reception of

We must ever keep in mind that we are only channels for grace, we are not even pools and reservoirs, we must have a continual supply of Divine gifts. We must have an abiding union with the Fountain of all good, or we should soon run dry, and only as fresh streams flow into us are we kept from becoming mere dry beds of sand and mire, but we know that He will never fail us. This spring is high up in heaven near the eternal throne, and it ripples down through the means of grace from the God of all grace, and we receive daily of His fulness grace for grace. Joyful truth for us, that because He lives we must live also. Till Jesus bows His head in death, we, the living members of His mystic body, can never droop nor fail. His might is our strength, His resources our never-failing supply. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Grace, dying and living

“How is it,” said a pious but anxiously worrying lady, “that I never can feel willing to die? I know I ought; I trust Christ fully, I believe in Him, and yet I don’t feel willing to die.” And it troubled her for years. She went to her pastor about it, and went to many friends and counsellors, but all to no purpose. No one could help her. At last an old coloured “auntie” heard her lamentations, and broke out upon her with, “Why, it isn’t dying grace ye want, child; it’s living grace ye want. Go ahead and do your work, and let the dying take its own time and its own grace.” The lady was comforted, and thenceforth was content to grow and go step by step. When she was dying she found abundant supply of dying grace. (Christian Age.)

Grace in men’s changes

I. The spiritual experience of a believer is not his own work, but the operation of Divine grace.

1. From the bias of our fallen nature and the fallen inclinations of the flesh, we are indisposed towards spiritual things. All Scripture and experience tend to negative the idea that man has in himself any predisposition for the things of God. If he had, man might have rendered the offices of the Spirit of grace unnecessary. But as Paul saith, so may every man, “In me”--that is, in my flesh--“dwelleth no good thing.” Yet was he, therefore, incapable of grace? No. “Without Me ye can do nothing,” said the Lord; but lest we should be discouraged at the conviction of our utter weakness, the apostle tells us, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

2. Perhaps some of us have lost sight of this doctrine. We may have been labouring in our own strength to conform to the image of Christ, and yet our repeated failures in the attempt have not humbled us to the confession, “This thing is too high for me.” If so, then let us believe it, and accept the Word of God, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me”; and on the other hand, “No man can come unto Me, except the Father, who hath sent Me, draw him.” There is the mutual co-operation between the Father and Son. The Son attracts the penitent soul to the Father, and the Father gives the pardoned soul to the Son.

II. Divine grace begets in the genuine subject of it an actual and felt change of views and practices: “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

1. This proposition maybe proved, as well as illustrated, by some individual instances from Scripture. Cf. Nicodemus, the Philippian gaoler, the sorcerers (Acts 19:1), and Paul. Thus, in these instances, we behold the miracles of mercy and omnipotence of grace to change and transform the hardest heart, and that the reality of such change in the inner man was demonstrated by an unmistakable change of the whole outer man. “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is (not only) a new creature, but old things are passed away, and all things are become new.”

2. But here I must point out an error, namely, the habit of satisfying ourselves with the reduction of some lusts, while we indemnify the deceitful heart by the indulgence of others; and thus the whole labour is rendered in vain. A soul can be slain by one sin as fatally as by a thousand. One stone could slay a Goliath as surely as a thousand spears. “The body of sin must be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”

Conclusion: The subject suggests an application to--

1. The man of the world who sometimes excuses his frailties, saying, “I did not make myself. Blame not me that ‘I am what I am.’ How could I be otherwise?” Now it is freely granted that if God had proposed no remedy for the radical defect in our moral structure, we might say, “Lord, I knew Thee that Thou art a hard Man, reaping where Thou hast not sown,” etc. But when, on the contrary, a scheme of salvation is offered, what a wickedness to say that God has done nothing for us, and therefore we are at liberty to retaliate and do nothing for God!

2. To that man who thinks “he is rich, and increased in goods, and in need of nothing,” the terms of the text cannot apply. He has no right to say, “By the grace of God I am what I am”; but “by the corruption of nature, by the deceitfulness of the flesh, by the subtilty of Satan, by the vanity and iniquity of my own heart, and by the temptations of the world, but not by the grace of God, ‘I am what I am.’”

3. The man of God is justified in the profession, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” From first to last it was throughout the work of His grace that made you what you are. See that you “receive not the grace of God in vain.” (J. B. Owen, M.A.)

Divine grace

I. The reasons why Divine grace is indispensably requisite to our spiritual welfare. The progress of real religion is not only promoted by the discoveries of the understanding, but by the state of the affections. The passions of love, hope, and fear are the springs of universal obedience; and these, when directed to proper objects, regulate and amend the conduct. But the carnal mind is enmity with God. This fallen and depraved state of human nature is one of the principal reasons why Divine grace is indispensably requisite to our spiritual welfare. Without the efficacious operations of the Holy Spirit our prayers will be languid and formal, our devotions careless and insipid, and our lives irregular and unholy. What would be the state of the mind in spiritual concerns, unaided by the powerful operations of Divine grace? Would not the world, with all its fascinating charms, intervene between us and purer communion with God? Are we not, with every warning around us of the vanity of life, too much attached to present objects? Where shall we find that holy zeal which is requisite to our perseverance in a Christian course without the continual aids of Divine grace? As genuine piety is implanted in the heart by the Spirit of God, so it requires the constant aids of the same Divine power to cherish the growth of pure and undefiled religion.

II. The manner in which the grace of God operates on the mind. It usually begins by alarming the conscience and bringing us to a proper view of our danger. The value and worth of the immortal soul is then correctly understood, and the mind is alive to its chief and most important interests (Psalms 4:6). Divine grace not only operates on the mind by causing us to think seriously, when we were before careless and indifferent; but it enlightens the understanding and corrects the errors of a mistaken judgment. The efficacious aids of this Divine power are also manifest, not only in enlarging the faculties of reason, and adding a luminous distinction to the acuter determinations of the judgment, but also in directing our choice to proper objects and fixing the affections on heavenly pursuits. The grace of God operates on the mind by inclining it to the love of holiness; by cherishing every mild, peaceable, charitable, and contented disposition which flows from the real dictates of pure and undefiled religion. Divine grace does not operate on the mind by lessening our pleasures, but by regulating them. It teaches us to distinguish between those joys which are lasting, and those which only flatter to destroy. This principle, when really implanted in the heart, will uniformly influence and amend the life. Though it will not in this militant state constitute us perfect, yet it will habitually render us altered men in our character, conduct, and pursuits.

III. The benefits which have uniformly arisen from the Divine assistance, and the duties incumbent on all who happily enjoy it. First, the mind is prepared by the influence of Divine grace for the performance of works acceptable and pleasing to God. Further, from the powerful operations of Divine grace, we shall derive not only the lively exercise of faith, genuine repentance, but the continued improvement in every Christian virtue. Our minds will be hereby elevated to the blissful enjoyment of communion with God. Let us now, then, consider the duties which are incumbent on all who happily enjoy this Divine aid. It is our duty to be diligent in the use of those means which are connected with the end. It is not in the busy crowd, or amidst the trifling and the gay, that we can have the sublimer joys of religion; but it is by a willing obedience to the commands of God, a course of habitual piety, and having our minds with our whole affections the temple of the Holy Ghost. It is our duty to avoid every pursuit which may divide us from God or lessen our love of practical holiness. Let us watch against the beginnings of vice, and more especially those temptations to which either our calling in life or our natural inclination peculiarly expose us. (J. Grose, A.M.)

On the Divine influence in the conversion of sinners

The conversion of Paul is not to be made the test of conversion in general. His case was peculiar. Deeply prejudiced against the name and religion of Christ, as well as by the mode of his education, as by the example of his connections and associates, more than ordinary means were necessary to reconcile him to the doctrines of the Cross. But we who have lived under the light of the gospel, and been encouraged from our infancy to revere its doctrines and laws, have no more warrant to look for any immediate and palpable manifestation of Divine power to convert us from sin to holiness, than to expect the gifts of prophecy or of tongues.

I. We are bound gratefully to acknowledge the influence of Divine grace, both in directing our attention to “the things which belong to our peace,” and in aiding our exertions of obedience to the will of God. Generally speaking, those who are “transformed by the renewing of their minds,” perceive nothing which they can distinguish as a special impulse from above; but in the exercise of their rational faculties and in the use of appointed means are eventually brought to “choose that good part which cannot be taken from them.” It can hardly be otherwise, at least, with such as are virtuously educated. Without any assignable human cause, preparatory to such an effect, a deep conviction of guilt and danger, accompanied with anxious desires and endeavours to obtain forgiveness and salvation, suddenly succeed a course of heedless inattention, neglect, and rebellion.

II. Without personal exertions of obedience to the will of God, none can obtain the character and rewards of the faithful. Lessons:

1. We are led to remark the necessity of Divine assistance in the conversion and sanctification of sinful men.

2. We are taught that no trust is to be reposed in any impressions, however serious, or in any resolutions, however sincere, at the moment, which do not issue in a life of uniform virtue and godliness.

3. We are furnished with a test by which to ascertain and determine our spiritual state.

4. We may infer the paramount obligations imposed upon us to exercise charity toward all who exemplify an undissembled attachment to the cause of Christ--though they presume not confidently to describe the manner nor even to assert the reality of their “deliverance from darkness to light,” etc. (John Foster, D.D.)

A good man’s estimate of himself

“By the grace of God I am”--and he is going to say what he is, but he bethinks himself, as if he had reflected. “No! I will leave other people to say what that is! By the grace of God I am--what I am: whatever that be. And all that I have to say is that God made me, and that I helped Him. For the grace of God which was bestowed upon me was not in vain. You Corinthians may judge what the product is. I tell you how it has come about.”

I. As to the one power that makes men. “By the grace of God I am what I am.” Now that word “grace” has got to be worn threadbare, and to mean next to nothing in the minds of many. But Paul had a very definite idea of what he meant by it; and what he meant by it was a very large thing, as being the only thing which will transform character and produce fruit that a man need not be ashamed of. The grace of God, in Paul’s use of the words, implies these two things which are connected as root and product--the active love of God in exercise towards us sinful creatures, and the gifts with which that love comes full charged to men. What is it that men need most for noble and pure living? These two things precisely: motive and power to carry out the dictates of conscience. Every man in the world knows enough of duty and of right to be a far nobler man than any man in the world is. And it is not for want of clear convictions of duty, it is not for want of recognised patterns of life, that men go wrong; but it is because there are these two things lacking, motives for nobler service, and power to do and be what they know they ought to be. And precisely here Paul’s gospel comes in, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” That grace, considered in its two sides of love and of giving, supplies all that we want.. It supplies motives. There is nothing that will bend a man’s will like the recognition of Divine love which it is blessedness to come in contact with, and to obey. You may try to sway him by motives of advantage and self-interest, and there is no adequate response. You cannot soften a heart by the hammers of the law. You cannot force a man to do right by brandishing before him the whip that punishes doing wrong. You cannot sway the will by anything but the heart; and when you can touch that deepest spring it moves the whole mass. The other aspect of this same great word is, in like manner, that which we need. What men want is, first of all, the will to be noble and good; and, second, the power to carry out the will. It is God that worketh in us both the willing and the doing. I venture to affirm that there is no power known, either to thinkers, or philanthropists, or doctrinaires, or strivers after excellence in the world, which will lift a life to such heights of beauty and self-sacrificing nobility as will the power that comes to us by communication of the grace that is in Jesus Christ. And now, if that be true, what follows? Surely this, that for all you have, in any measure, caught a glimpse of what you ought to be, and have been more or less vainly trying to realise your ideal, there is a better way than the way of self-centred and self-dependent effort. All noble life is a building up by slow degrees from the foundation. And can you and I complete the task with our own limited resources and our own feeble strengths? Will not “all that pass by begin to mock” us and say, “this man began to build and was not able to finish”? I need not, I suppose, linger to remind you what important and large lessons these thoughts carry, not only for men who are trying to work at the task of mending and making their own characters, but on the larger scale, for all who seek to benefit and elevate their fellows. Nothing will truly re-form humanity, society, the nation, the city, except that which re-creates the individual; “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” entering into their midst.

II. Notice the lesson we get here as to how we should think of our own attainments. Well, then, it is not necessary for a man to be ignorant, or to pretend that he is ignorant, of what he can do. We hear a great deal about the unconsciousness of genius. There is a partial truth in it; and possibly the highest examples of power and success, in any department of mental or intellectual effort, are unaware of their achievements and stature. But if a man can do a certain kind of service, there is no harm whatever in his recognising the fact that he can do it. But the less we think about ourselves, in any way, the better. The more entire our recognition of the influx of grace on which we depend for keeping our reservoir full, the less likelihood there will be of touchy self-assertion, the less likelihood of the misuse of the powers that we have. If we are to do much for God, if we are to keep what we have already attained, we must make a conscious effort to copy these two things, which marked the apostle’s estimate of himself--a distinct recognition that we are only reservoirs and nothing more--“What hast thou that thou hast not received? Why then dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?”--and a humble waiving aside of the attempt to determine what it is that we are.

III. Lastly, one word about the responsibility for our co-operation with the grace, in order to the accomplishment of its results. “The grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain,” says Paul. “Not I, but the grace of God which was with me, and so I laboured more abundantly than they all.” That is to say, God in His giving love, Christ with His ever out-flowing Spirit, play round our hearts and desire to enter. But the grace, the love, the gifts of the love may all be put away by our unfaithfulness, by our non-receptivity, by our misuse, and by our negligence. Paul yielded himself to the grace that was brought to work upon him. Paul said, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” This man, because he knew that he had submitted himself to the often painful searching, crucifying, self-restraining, and stimulating influences of the gospel and Spirit of Christ, could say, “God’s grace has made me what I am, and I helped Him to make me.” And can you say anything like that? Take your life. In how many of its deeds has there been present the consciousness of God and His love? Is it the grace of God, or nature and self and the world and the flesh that have made you what you are? Oh, let us cultivate the sense of our need of this Divine help, for it does not come where men do not know how weak they are, and how much they want it. The mountain tops are high. Yes, and they are dry; there is no water there. The rivers run in the green valleys deep down. “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” Let us see that we open our hearts to the reception of these quickening and cleansing influences, for it is possible for us to cover ourselves over with such an impenetrable covering that that grace cannot pass through it. Let us see to it that we keep ourselves in close contact with the foundation of all this grace. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

Grace, power of

Grace infuseth a spirit of activity into a person; grace doth not lie dormant in the soul; it is not a sleepy habit, but it makes a Christian like a seraphim, swift-winged in his heavenly motions. Grace is like fire, it makes one burn in love to God. (T. Watson.)

Wonders of grace

I recollect the story of a traveller who at night shouted to the keeper of a toll-bridge to let the gate rise that he might pass through. There was a terrific storm raging, the night was deluged in darkness, and the man could scarcely be prevailed upon, in his tremor, to come out. When he did come out, he found the traveller on the bridge side of the gate, and said to him, “In the name of God, where did you come from?” The traveller replied, “I crossed the bridge.” The man kept him that night, and the next morning took him back and showed him the bridge which he had crossed. The planks had all been taken up, so that nothing remained except the string-pieces, which were stretched from one side to the other of the chasm. The story has it that his faithful steed took the centre one of these beams, a hundred feet, beneath which was rushing a swollen flood, and, dark as the night was, carried him safely across. The man at the time did not know but that he was crossing a regular bridge; and in the morning, when he saw how near be came to being dashed to pieces, he fainted. Are there not many, men that can look back and see that the providence of God has carried them across the bridge over the pit of destruction on a single beam? (H. W. Beecher.)

The conversion of St. Paul

I. Some aspects of the apostle’s life and character in relation to which he would be likely to use such language. By the grace of God--

1. He was a pardoned and recovered sinner.

2. He changed his former views as a Pharisee, and embraced those which he now held as to what would constitute acceptance before God. His own account of himself is in Philippians 3:4-6. Yet how does he estimate these privileges on becoming a Christian? Why, as worthless, and something more (Philippians 3:7-9).

3. He became a chosen vessel unto Christ to preach and teach in His name. Certainly nothing could be more unlikely than the choice of such a man to such a work. The feeling wrought upon him powerfully to the end of his days. “Necessity was laid upon me,” etc.

II. Practical lessons.

1. It is a law of all worlds that, in the way of anything good in His creatures, God alone maketh us to differ. I might go through the ranks of the Seraphim, and single out one who stood nearest to the throne, and were I to say to him, “What raised thee thus high?” he would make answer, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” I might thread my way through the mansions of the just, but if I should be betrayed into the exclamation, “What a recompense for good works is here!” in an instant ten thousand voices would testify aloud, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” Or I might go to one who, through fourscore years of temptation and trail, had ever walked with God; or to one whose unselfish Christianity had prompted him to spend and be spent in his Master’s service; or to one laid low by suffering; yet if I should say, “There must be a claim to moral worthiness here,” again the response would be, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

2. All true conversion must have its origin in a Divine influence. If I am very far gone from original righteousness, nothing but an influence from on high can bring me back; if “dead in trespasses and sins,” nothing short of a regenerating process can give me life.

3. True conversion extends to the whole character. Look at the proof of this in Paul. See it--

4. The grace which has made you what you are alone can make you what you desire to be--

I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.--

Individuality in the Christian life

(text, and Galatians 2:20):--“I, yet not I” is characteristic of Paul. He knew himself. He did not ignore self. In his life, as a man and an apostle, he took the proportions of his own personality, and at the same time confessed that all the operative grace came from God. The “I” within him was regenerated.

I. Every man must recognise his own individuality. Some say that this is an intuition, and others say that it is a conviction which comes with experience. But to us the constituent elements in self are more important. Though there is a generic likeness among men, yet each person has his own individuality. One is calm, another explosive; one logical, another intuitional; one prosaic, another poetic. Hence we have a Shakespeare and Milton, a Bacon and a Butler.

II. Regeneration does not destroy this individuality. If Christ be in you, you are “a new creature.” Your features are the same, though sweetened or calmed, perhaps, by the peace of God; your intellect is the same, though quickened by the new life of faith and hope. If cheerful, you are still cheerful; and if born with tendencies to melancholy, you will still contend with the temptation to despondency. Peter was Peter to the last. The same vehemency that Paul the persecutor exhibited was shown in Paul the apostle. In the annual regeneration of the visible creation, in the plumage and song of the bird, and in the renewing verdure of field and garden, we see pictured the unity yet beautiful variety which prevails in the world which God has made.

III. The spirit of God in his work in a man uses this individuality. It colours and qualifies the whole activity of a person.

1. See how it appears in the writing of the Scriptures. They are Divinely inspired, and yet the human and Divine elements are mingled. David well says, “His word was in my tongue.” Moses was wise in the wisdom of Egypt, and shows it in his writings. The lyrics of David differ from the proverbs of Solomon. The grandeur of Isaiah contrasts with the homely verse of the rude herdsman Amos. The pungency of James and the weird magnificence of Revelation again show the “I and yet not I.”

2. So in character. Peter was fitted to minister to the circumcision and Paul to the Gentiles. Augustine, Luther, Wesley, Whitfield, ,etc., reveal the same principle. In the Church to-day one is fitted for Sunday-school teaching and another for mission work. As in an orchestra each instrument has its place, and its absence cannot be filled by a different instrument, so there is a place and work for each in the Church. We must give full play to the inspiring and directing Spirit of God within us.

3. We must trace the actual results to the operation of the Spirit in us and through us. Give glory to Him who uses us. In a factory the machinery does variety of work, but derives all its motive power from the engine. Is there anything too hard for God?

Conclusion:

1. Respect your individuality, and at the same time give God the glory of what you are and do. Live your own life, and do not fancy that your experience is to be like your neighbour’s. David was powerless wearing the armour of Saul.

2. Be sure that Christ is in you and in your work. He is an inner fountain, and He will evoke your life as a productive and perennial stream.

3. Let your humble and hearty utterance ever be, “Not unto us, not unto us,” etc. (W. M. Taylor, D.D.)

Individuality and self-negation

I. The text is expressive of the highest type of character.

1. The more “self” and the less “self” there is in any man the nobler he is. This sounds paradoxical, but man himself is a paradox. He “lives, moves, and has his being” in Another, and yet is distinct from that Other. This distinctive personality God seeks to fill out of His own fulness with a rich and noble life.

2. Our ordinary language bears witness to this truth. “Self-will,” “self-seeking,” “self-indulgence” we regard as the essence of vice, and “self-sacrifice” as the climax of virtue; yet we commend “self-reliance.” We admire “self-possession,” but laugh at “self-complacency”; and, whilst disgusted by “self-righteousness,” we honour “self-respect.” We say of a man that he “quite lost himself”--“quite forgot himself.” We may be uttering either the highest praise or the severest censure. And although we commonly speak of “self-consciousness” as a fault, yet we feel that a certain consciousness of self is inseparable from all true greatness.

3. In our estimates of men we pronounce that character defective which lacks either individuality or self-negation.

4. The text is well illustrated by the character of the apostle. We scarcely know which is the more striking--Paul’s individuality or his self-negation. He says that he is “the least of all the apostles,” and then that he is “not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.” He is conscious of his own unworthiness, and also of the high honour which God has put upon him. His letters are full of dignified self-assertion and noble independence, and yet he speaks as if he had no separate life at all. “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

5. We see the positive and negative poles of the same attractive nobleness in Christ Himself. “My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me.” In one view Christ’s ministry was a self-proclamation. “I am the Light of the world,” etc. In another view it was a self-negation. “I can of Mine own self do nothing.”

II. Notice how the Divine education of man is designed and fitted to produce this type of character.

1. The human creature is at first thrown entirely upon the care of others, and yet from the first also he has a body distinctively his own. The processes of “isolation” and association go on together. His needs, desires, pleasures, pains, and, alas! sins, all lead him to say “I”; his dependence on his mother’s love, etc., leads him to feel “Not I.”

2. This education God carries on throughout our whole life.

3. And this same process of education God carries on even unto the end. To die--it is to feel how insignificant I am--how the great world will move on all the same without me! and yet it is to feel the preciousness of my own being as I never felt it before. Alone I must pass through this valley of the shadow, and yet this lonely road is the great highway which all the generations of men have trod before me.

4. This same feeling--“I, yet not I”--will abide with each of the redeemed in heaven. Heaven is not selfish enjoyment. The “faithful servant” enters into “the joy of his Lord.” Yet heaven is not “absorption into the Divine essence.” There is no destruction of personality in “the Father’s house.” Each child has a “place prepared” for him. (T. C. Finlayson, D.D.)

The privilege of working

No one ever had--

1. A more vivid sense of the grandeur of the work which God was carrying on in the earth than the Apostle Paul.

2. More of esprit de corps. He knew well who was working with him, and understood perfectly the grandeur of the campaign on which he had entered.

3. So grand and magnificent a sense of the final outcome of God’s moral government over this world as he. Learn--


Verse 11

1 Corinthians 15:11

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

The truly important in preaching.

1. Not the preacher, but the truth preached.

2. Not the hearing, but the belief of the truth. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

An example of a faithful ministry and the conduct of a faithful people

I. A faithful ministry.

1. The gospel preached. Not scientific or philosophical discussions occupied St. Paul’s ministry or that of his fellow apostles, but he proclaimed--

2. The character possessed.

3. The work accomplished. “I laboured more abundantly than they all.” Follow the zealous work of St. Paul from Damascus to Rome. Labour for God must be earnest and abundant.

II. A faithful people. “So ye believed.” The death and resurrection of Christ preached in the spirit of humility, and the co-operation of the grace of God, “the grace of God with me,” should ever produce this result--faith. (Clerical World.)


Verses 12-19

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

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

If there be no resurrection

1. Our religion is not based upon opinions, but upon facts. Whatever your “views” may be, is a small matter; what are the facts of the case?

2. When those outside the Church deny the gospel facts, we are not at all astonished; they are unbelievers, and they are acting out their own profession. But when men inside the Church deny the resurrection, then is our soul stirred within us. Paul’s argument begins, If there be no resurrection--

I. Christ is not risen. Now--

1. The apostles bore witness that Christ had risen.

2. “But,” says one, “Christ might rise, and yet not His people.” Not so, for Christ is one with His people. When Adam sinned, the whole human race fell in him, for they were one with him. In Adam all died. Now, Christ is the second Adam, and all believers are one with Him; and because He rose again, they must rise again; He lives and they shall live also.

II. Apostolic preaching falls (1 Corinthians 15:14-15). For--

1. The apostles were false witnesses. When a man bears false witness, he usually has a motive for doing so. What motive had these men? Surely they were the most extraordinary false witnesses who ever lived. What were their morals?

2. If we suppose that they were mistaken about this matter, we must suspect their witness about everything else; and the only logical result is to give up the New Testament altogether.

III. Faith becomes delusion.

1. It is the belief of a lie. Take this home to yourselves: if He did not literally rise, this faith of yours, that gives you comfort, which has renewed you in heart and life, which you believe is leading you home to heaven, must be abandoned; it is fixed on a falsehood.

2. The trial will be too great for faith to endure, since it has for the very keystone of the arch the resurrection of Christ from the dead. If He did not rise, your faith rests on what never happened; and certainly your faith will not bear that trial. When you are sure that “the Lord is risen indeed,” then you feel that there is something beneath your foot that does not stir.

IV. Ye are yet in your sins. For then--

1. There is no atonement made. Christ died, and by His death obtained the full discharge of all our obligations. But His rising again was the token that He had discharged the whole of the dread liabilities.

2. There is no life for those who are in Christ. If He were still slumbering in the grave, where would have been the life that now makes us joyful, and now makes us aspire after heavenly things?

V. All the pious dead have perished.

1. One phrase must be explained by the previous one; if Christ is not risen, they are yet in their sins. They died, and they told us that they were blood-washed and forgiven; but if Christ rose not from the dead, there is no saint who ever died, who has had any real hope; he has died under a delusion, and he has perished.

2. If Christ be not raised, the godly dead are yet in their sins, and they can never rise; for, if Christ did not rise they cannot.

VI. Our source of joy is gone (1 Corinthians 15:19).

1. Believers have given up sensuous joys. If we consider the mirth of the worldling to be no better than the husks of swine, and there be no bread for us, in the fact that Christ rose from the dead, then we are hungry indeed.

2. We have now learned superior things--holiness, communion with God. Now if, after having tasted these superior joys, they all turn out to be nothing, then we are indeed of all men the most miserable.

3. We have had high hopes that have made our hearts leap for joy. We have been transported with the full conviction that our eyes “shall see the King in His beauty,” etc., and if that be not sure, then are we of all men the most miserable.

Conclusion: Everything hinges upon a fact, and if that is not a fact, it is all up with us.

1. Our eternal hopes do not depend upon our moral condition; for these men in Corinth would not have been better or worse if Christ had not risen from the dead. The reason of your being safe is not the result of what you are, but of what He did.

2. The great hope you have does not hinge even upon your spiritual state. You must be born again; but still, your ultimate hope is not in what you are spiritually, but in what He is.

3. Your being forgiven and saved depends not upon your sincerity and your earnestness. You may be very sincere, and very earnest, and yet be wrong all the while. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

If there be no resurrection, what then?--

The method which the apostle employs is that known as the argument from the absurdity of the contrary supposition. He points out five such absurdities.

I. Christ himself is still dead (1 Corinthians 15:13). The suborned report of the Roman guard is true, the Sanhedrin after all is triumphant, ye are worshipping a corpse.

II. The gospel is a delusion (1 Corinthians 15:14; 1 Corinthians 15:17).

1. “Vain is our preaching.”

2. “Vain also is your faith.” Ye have been putting your trust in a myth.

3. “Ye are still in your sins.” The proof that Jesus is the Saviour lies in His resurrection (Romans 1:4); but if Jesus has not been raised, then He is not the Son of God--you have no Saviour, your fate is still among the unforgiven.

III. The apostles are liars (1 Corinthians 15:15). Observe how St. Paul puts his own personal veracity and that of his fellow apostles into direct issue.

IV. The saintly are lost (1 Corinthians 15:18). If it is the fact that there can be no resurrection of the dead, then Christian morality is a failure. The Heavenly Father puts no difference between His children and the beasts that perish.

V. The life in Christ is a misery (1 Corinthians 15:19.) To profess Christ means self-denial, persecution, martyrdom. Moreover, Christianity awakens within us loftiest aspirations which can never be satisfied in this world. But if there is no resurrection, then we Christians are of all men the most to be pitied. (G. D. Boardman, D.D.)

Supposing Jesus be not raised from the dead, what then?

I. As to the apostles. We are “false witnesses”--liars, the whole twelve of us. Peter heard Him say, “Lovest thou Me?” I heard Him ask, “Why persecutest thou Me?” We have risked our lives for the pleasure of telling a lie which has landed us in poverty and disgrace. What do you take us for? Men now try hard to find some standing-place between the assertion that Jesus was the Christ of God, and positive denial of His claims. They talk of His “moral influence”; what! the moral influence of an impostor? Jesus claimed a place which no ordinary man can claim without blasphemy. Yet we never accuse Him of blasphemy or madness.

II. As to the disciples.

1. Theirs was an empty faith, and they were yet in their sins. An empty or void faith is one which has no centre, an empty thing like a soap-bubble, a filmy something floating in vacancy. For faith must have a person to whom to cling. Faith towards God will be strong or weak according to our conception of what God is. But if God sent Christ into this world, and then treated Him so as the Crucifixion indicates, what kind of a God is that to trust in? What an appalling mystery that the Creator, whom we call Father, should evolve into being such a soul as that of Jesus, simply to dash it into nothingness! No doubt of this being a devil’s world then.

2. They were yet in their sins. The idea that Christ lifts us out of our sins, is one of which we cannot make too much. But if man is to die the death of the swine, why may he not live the life of the swine?

III. As to those who have fallen asleep. They are perished. Fallen asleep in Christ! Suggestive word--so full of rest and quietude! But those of whom we thus think are not in this beatific state. If Christ be not risen, they are perished. We cannot believe that. Our loved ones are gone hence. Their going was a loss to us; oh, how great! Where is he? she? The idea of immortality is in my mind. How did it get there? How could it get into a mind not preadapted to receive it? Then this intuition is corroborated by Jesus the Christ. “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.” “Now see,” says one, “what these sceptics require us to believe: that all those who have shed a sunshine upon earth, and whose affections were so pure and good that they seemed to tell you of eternity, perished utterly as the selfish and impure! You are required to believe that the pure and wise of this world have been wrong, and the selfish and sensual all right.” But how can we believe it? The thing is impossible. The resurrection of Jesus the Christ says that they who have fallen asleep are not perished; they are in His keeping to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth. Perished! Why, even the material does not perish; it changes, but that is all. Why the spiritual? (Reuen Thomas, D.D.)

The certainty of the resurrection of Christ

The religion founded by Jesus Christ has many teachings in common with other religions of the world; spiritual teachings which concern the relationship of God to man, and moral teachings which concern the relationship of man to his fellow-men. Eminent among the truths thus exclusively proper to Christianity is the truth of the resurrection from the dead. The resurrection is essentially and notably a distinctive Christian truth. Other religions of the world have entertained, with more or less clearness, notions of the immortality of the soul. The ancient religion of Egypt (as we learn from the custom of careful and costly embalming, from the erection of massive sepulchral pyramids, and from the teachings of the Book of the Dead) manifested a consciousness not only of the immortality of the soul, but also of the ultimate re-union of the soul with its revivified body. But none of these ancient teachings are comparable, either in scope or perspicuity or inspiring power, with the Christian revelation concerning the rising from the dead. None of them unfold, as does St. Paul (chap. 15.), the characteristics of the risen body and the risen life. And, what is more important than all else, it is Christianity, and Christianity alone, which has furnished to the world a historic illustration and example of the risen life. No doubt there are many earnest, conscientious persons who find great, sometimes even insuperable, difficulty in accepting the fact of Christ’s resurrection. It is a fact so wonderful, so awful, so glorious, so altogether unique in majesty and sublimity: it is, moreover, a fact so utterly unlike anything which the world has ever witnessed either before or since; both science and religion are helplessly unable to supply any parallel to it--that multitudes of thoughtful people shrink from accepting, and even utterly reject the fact. Yet, while fully allowing the possibility of honestly doubting, or even denying, the resurrection, still it seems to me that the difficulties of doubt are greater than the difficulties of faith; the difficulties of denial greater than the difficulties of acceptance.

1. For, first of all, it is clear that the course of the world is a course of progress--progress frequently hindered by lapses and retrogressions. It is surely, then, natural--and none the less natural because of the retrogressions of Mohammedanism--to believe that this great law of progress and ascent should apply to religious knowledge and religious conduct and religious aspiration; and that Christianity should contain illuminations brighter and more heavenly than any of the religions which preceded it.

2. The inherent wonder of the resurrection is not greater than the inherent wonder of many every-day occurrences. In itself, and apart from the frequency of its occurrence, a birth is more marvellous than a resurrection; it is more marvellous that a life should begin to be than that its existence should be renewed and prolonged. If resurrections were as frequent as births, births would be considered more marvelous than resurrections.

3. But the non-recurrence of the resurrection, instead of being unreasonable and unnatural, is just the opposite. For why has there been only one resurrection in the long history of mankind? Simply because, during the whole course of that long history, there has been only one Christ. The resurrection was as natural, as necessary, to the Christ, as death is natural and necessary to us. The perfections of His holiness, and the prerogatives of His Sonship, made His corruption impossible and His resurrection a necessity. If the Son of God has, indeed, taken human flesh, then, I ask you, which is the more reasonable and the more credible supposition--to believe that His body never saw corruption, or to believe that His body is dead, eternally dead?

4. This, moreover, is our answer to those who affirm that the resurrection of Christ goes contrary to the laws of nature. For who, we ask, shall say what was the law of nature in the instance of the Christ? If there had been many Christs and only one of them had risen, while all the others had turned to corruption, then we should rightly have deemed that the one resurrection was contrary to the laws of nature operating upon the Christs. But as there has been only one Christ, we have no means of judging what were the laws of nature in His case, except from what actually happened to Him.

5. And what is the alternative of rejecting the resurrection? The alternative is that Christianity is founded on a falsehood; and that Christ and His apostles are deceivers and untrue. (Canon Diggle.)

Terrible conclusions resulting from the denial of two great gospel facts

Conclusions resulting from the denial of--

I. The general resurrection.

1. The non-resurrection of Christ. What is true of the whole is true of all the parts. If no man can rise from the dead, then Christ is still numbered amongst the dead.

2. That departed Christians are no more. Those thousands who accepted Christ, lived according to His teaching, and who quitted this world have perished--can you believe it? Are they quenched in eternal midnight?

3. That there is no mere pitiable condition in this life than that of Christians. It is implied--

II. Christ’s resurrection.

1. That apostolic Christianity is vain.

2. That the faith of the disciples was vain. What a wreck of faith is involved in the denial of Christ’s resurrection! Vain is--

3. That the followers of Christ are still in their sins. But the Christians at Corinth were conscious that they had got out of their sins. “Such were some of you, but ye are washed,” etc. Consciousness, the highest ultimate argument, protested against Paul’s statement that they were still in their sins, hence it goes to verify the fact of the resurrection of Christ. (D Thomas, D.D.)

If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen.

If there be no resurrection Christ not risen

Paul refused to consider Christ’s resurrection as a miracle in the sense of its being exceptional and aside from the usual experience of man. On the contrary, he accepts it as the type to which every man is to be conformed. Precedent in time, exceptional possibly in some of its accidental accompaniments it may be, but nevertheless as truly in the line of human development as birth, and growth, and death. Christ being man must submit to the conditions and experience of men in all essentials, in all that characterises man as human. And therefore, if resurrection be not a normal human experience, Christ has not risen. The time at which resurrection takes place, and the interval elapsing between death and resurrection, Paul makes nothing of. A child may live but three days, but it is not on that account any the less human than if he had lived his threescore years and ten. Similarly the fact of Christ’s resurrection identifies Him with the human race, while the shortness of the interval elapsing between death and resurrection does not separate Him from man, for in point of fact the interval will be less in the case of many. Both here and elsewhere Paul looks upon Christ as the representative man, the one in whom we can see the ideal of manhood. If any of our own friends should die, and after death should appear to us alive, a strong probability that we too should live through death would inevitably be impressed on our mind. But when Christ rises this probability becomes a certainty, because He is the type of humanity, the representative person. As Paul here says, “He is the firstfruits of them that sleep.” When the farmer pulls the first ripe ears of wheat and carries them home, it is not for their own sake he values them, but because they are a specimen and sample of the whole crop; and when God raised Christ from the dead, the glory of the event consisted in its being a pledge and specimen of the triumph of mankind over death. (M. Dods, D.D.)

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

Reverse the proposition

I. Preaching is not in vain.

1. It has power.

2. Effects moral miracles.

II. Faith is not in vain. It brings--

1. Comfort.

2. Pardon.

3. Life.

III. Therefore Christ is risen. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

What comes of a dead Christ

We do not prove that an event has happened by showing the advantages of believing that it has. Paul here deals with the results that would follow from the denial of a Resurrection to show, not that it has taken place, but that the belief of it is fundamental to Christianity. With the resurrection of Christ--

I. The whole gospel stands or falls. It is emptied of its contents. There is nothing in it. A dead Christ makes a hollow gospel; a living Christ makes a full one. If the Resurrection goes--

1. The supernatural goes; if the Resurrection remains, the door is opened for the miraculous. We hear that all miracle is impossible. The historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ shatters all such contention. That fact is the key of the position. Like some great fortress standing at the mouth of the pass, as long as it holds out, the storm of war is rolled back; if it yields, all is surrendered.

2. All the peculiarity of Christ’s nature goes with it. His life is full of claims to a unique position. Is He in the grave still? If so, there is no use in mincing the matter, Jesus Christ’s talk about Himself was false. But if He has risen, then He is “declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.”

3. The special character and efficacy of His death goes. If He lies in the tomb, then it is idle to talk of sacrifice for sin; but if He has come forth from the grave, then we have the great Divine attestation to the acceptableness of His expiation. So, if all these things go, what is left is not Christianity: yet a great many think all is left--viz., the beauty of Christ’s words, the loveliness of His character, His position as our Pattern. Yet, says Paul, if that is all I have to preach, I have nothing but an empty shell to preach.

II. The character of the witnesses stands or falls. The apostle puts his finger upon the real state of the case when he says, “This is the question: Are we liars or are we not?” He points out, too, the palpable improbability, when he says that, if so, they are “false witnesses of God”--men believing themselves to be servants of the God of truth, and thinking to advance His kingdom by telling a monstrous falsehood. But the vulgar old theory has been long abandoned, and now the men that least accept the apostles’ theory are those who abound in compliment to their moral elevation, to the purity and beauty of their religious character. But Paul would have said to them, “I do not want your compliments; my business is to tell a plain story. Do you believe me, or do you not?” They talk about illusions. Strange illusions that sprung up in a soil that had nothing in it to prepare for them! There was no expectation which might have become parent of the belief. Illusions shared by five hundred people at once! We are shut up to the alternative, either Christ is risen or these noble lives of self-sacrifice and lofty morality are the spawn of a lie.

III. The faith of the Christian stands or falls. Twice the apostle says, according to A.V., “Your faith is vain.” But the two words are not the same. The first means “empty.” The second (1 Corinthians 15:17) means “having no effect.” A dead Christ makes--

1. An empty faith. There is nothing for faith to lay hold of. It is like a drowning man grasping a rope’s end swinging over the side of the ship which is loose at the other end and gives; or like some poor creature falling down the face of a precipice, and clutching at a tuft of grass, which comes away in his hand. A dead Christ is no object for faith. Faith is empty of contents unless it grasps the risen Lord; and if it lays hold of Him, it is solid and full.

2. A powerless faith. A religion which does not bring conscious deliverance from sin, both as guilt and as tendency, is not worth calling a religion. Unless for the Resurrection, we have no ground of belief in the expiation and sacrifice of the Cross; and unless we have a faith in a Christ that lives to help and quicken and purify us, we shall never really be delivered from the dominion of our sins, nor live a life of purity and of righteousness.

IV. The heaven of Christ’s servants stands or falls. A dead Christ--

1. Means dead Christians (1 Corinthians 15:18). The one thing that makes immortality certain is the fact of Christ’s resurrection. A living Head means living members; a dead Head means members dead.

2. Makes deluded Christians (1 Corinthians 15:19). People say, “What a low notion that is! Would it not be better to be a Christian than not if there were no future life? Did not the Stoic philosophers, who said, “Virtue is its own reward,” reach a higher level than this apostle? I do not think so. Notice, he does not say they are most to be pitied, because of any sorrows or trouble that they have had here, but because the nobler the hope the more tragic its disappointment. And of all the tragedies of life there would be none so great as this, that Christian men cherishing such aspirations should all the while have been clutching a phantom, grasping mists. If we, journeying across the desert, are only cheated by mirage when we think we see the shining battlements of the eternal city, which are nothing but hot air dancing in empty space, surely none are more to be pitied than we. On the other hand, a living Christ turns these hopes into certainties, and makes us, not the most pitiable, but the most blessed of the sons of men. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

Consequences of denying the resurrection of Christ

If Christ be not risen, then vain is our faith--

I. In the credibility of historical testimony. If their testimony is not to be taken, history is worth nothing.

II. In the certainty of philosophical deduction. The rapid prevalence of Christianity in the Roman Empire, in its first era, and its subsequent influences throughout the world, present a mass of phenomena, of which you have no philosophic cause, apart from the resurrection of Christ. Deny that, and you find all history teeming with effects of which yon can find no sufficient cause.

III. In the worth of human character Character is the foundation of confidence; and earth never had such a character to inspire human confidence as that of Christ. But if He rose not from the dead, then He is an impostor, and there is no character for us to trust.

IV. In a future state of existence. Whatever probable evidence we may discover of a future state, its power depends on Christ’s resurrection.

V. In the moral government of God. If a being like Christ is to be smitten and crushed for ever by wickedness, then where is Divine justice?

VI. In the power of moral exhortation. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things,” etc. This is the most powerful of all exhortations, yet it is delusion if Christ be not risen. (W. Johnson Fox.)

If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised.--

Christ’s resurrection the ground of belief in our own

Few of us may have seen an Oriental pearl, and still fewer a collection of such gems, but we have no difficulty in believing, when we see one, that such also are the others, whether in the repositories of the wealthy, or even within the shells of the pearl-producing animals living at this moment at the bottom of the eastern seas. We hold in our hands a golden sovereign coined in the royal mint, and from its obvious appearance and properties we infer the facts of its origin and value, and never question, or think of questioning, the statement when made to us, that there are millions of such coins stored up in the cellars of the Bank of England. So, says the apostle, we ought to do with respect to the doctrines of the Resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is not a solitary instance; it is one of a class. It is evident that, if Christ has been raised from the dead, there can be no likeness or congruity between Him and His people, unless in these respects they are assimilated to Him. The stock must be like the sample--the coins in the Treasury to those in circulation--the stars hid, it may be, behind a cloud, similar to that which shines in the clear heavens. (L Cochrane, A.M.)

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

Logical consequences of rejecting Christianity

There are two kinds of doubters: those who wish to doubt, and seek materials to strengthen their unbelief; and those who would be glad to believe, but are perplexed with doubts that they do not cherish. It is impossible to assist the first of these. Their difficulty is not with the head, but with the heart. I shall therefore pursue a line of thought adapted to assist the honest doubter. The text begins, not with an affirmation, but with a question; so I ask, What will follow from the assumption that the gospel of Christ is untrue?

I. That God has never, in any supernatural way, spoken to man.

1. There is no other religion that can be put into competition for a moment with the gospel as having claims to a supernatural origin. Of course, Judaism you would reject; and Mohammedanism, which is a mixture of Judaism, Christianity, and heathenism, in about equal proportions.

2. We come to systems of philosophy. Plato differed from Socrates in a great variety of modes. And what was the relation of Aristotle to Plato? But what is the condition of affairs to-day? A friend, who has been reading nothing but philosophy for twenty years, testified to me that he has not in all his library two works which substantially agree. But upon the assumption that philosophers do agree, how can they be authenticated? Can a system of philosophy span the river that separates us from the future state? Is it possible for a system of philosophy, without instruction from God, to interpret properly the plans of God, involving the whole course of human life and the final adjustments of eternity? And there will be nothing supernatural in it.

3. Now, let us look at it upon the basis of Nature. J.S. Mill logically argued that Nature is a contradictory witness. Look at her on one side, and she seems to say, “The Being who made us is good.” Look at her on the other side, and she seems to say, “He is not good.”

II. The most elevating precepts we have are without a Divine sanction. Take, e.g., the Golden Rule. Some say that it can be found outside the Bible, and I will not deny it; but if it is, it is found without a Divine sanction. No man, according to the Scriptures, can love his neighbour as himself unless he first loves God and recognises the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Now take the specific applications of the Golden Rule. If the gospel be not true, the Sermon on the Mount is a purely human production. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Why? “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven”; and there is no kingdom of heaven if the gospel be not true.

III. The noblest examples are fictitious. The Book of Job must take its place by the side of Shelley’s “Queen Mab,” as a mere creation of human fancy. The character of Christ is but a rhapsody. Paul’s character is entirely inexplicable; and even Peter must be set down as a myth if the gospel be not true.

IV. It is folly to think of pardon for sin. In nature there is no proof, of any kind, of forgiveness. If the gospel is not true, a man cannot incur guilt, and therefore may dismiss the idea that he is guilty. It his conscience says he is, he can say to it, “You are a presumptuous usurper. There is no law, and I cannot be guilty.” But men cannot do that; they know that they are guilty. But the man who has a sense of guilt, if the Bible be not true, has no power to secure its obliteration from his conscience.

V. There is no regenerative influence. When a man for twenty-five years has tried to keep good resolutions, and has broken them, and has to acknowledge at the end of that time that be has made little progress in purifying his heart, he will do one of two things, according to his temperament: he will sadly relinquish the effort to obtain moral purity, or he will continue on without hope or any inward peace. The gospel of Christ declares that there is a regenerative influence. Now, if the gospel be untrue, there is none such; consequently, to doubt the gospel is to doubt whether there be anything which can possibly make men pure and good.

VI. there is no comfort in trouble. It has been said by a French writer that philosophy conquers past and future evils. Dr. Johnson represents Rasselas as going to hear a philosopher, who taught him how to subdue his passions and to conquer trials without any difficulty. The next day, however, Rasselas found the philosopher tearing his hair and walking up and down in great agony. “Why this grief?” asked Rasselas. “Oh!” said the philosopher, “my only daughter, the light of my home and comfort of my old age, is dead!” “But, certainly,” said Rasselas, “the philosophy which you so eloquently descanted on yesterday comforts you now? “Oh, no,” cried the philosopher, wringing his bands; “what can philosophy say to me now, except to show me that my condition is inevitable and incurable?” Rasselas went to Imlac and told him what he had heard, and he replied, “They preach like angels, but they live like men.” The gospel does offer comfort to every class of afflicted persons, and Tom Moore only told the truth when he said, “Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal”; or, as I would say, earth has no sorrow that the gospel does not offer to heal. But if the gospel be untrue, all these offers of consolation are baseless.

VII. There is no strength for temptation. How is a man to subdue his passions and propensities? Probably four-fifths of the persons who reject the gospel have sophisticated themselves into the belief that what is natural cannot be wrong. But there are men who reject the gospel that never have done that, and they keep on through life struggling and failing. Now the gospel offers to man several kinds of helps.

1. The commands of Almighty God.

2. Promises for every situation of trial and difficulty.

3. Holy examples of men of like passions with ourselves.

4. The privilege of taking these commands and of strengthening his faith by them at the very throne of grace.

But if the gospel be untrue, every promise and command in the Bible may be thrown aside as a matter without any foundation in fact.

VIII. There is no answer to prayer. A distinguished rationalistic preacher ceased to preach, and a friend asked him why he stepped. Said he, “I liked the preaching, and could have got along with it very well as long as I lived; but there was one thing I could not get along with at all, and that was prayer. I did not expect my prayers would be answered, and never believed they would; and to stand up before the congregation and address the Deity as if I really believed that prayer produced a result, seemed to me too much like hypocrisy.” No man will long pray who has not a specific promise upon which to rest.

IX. The institution of marriage is imperilled. This cannot be sustained without a religious sanction, and never was in the history of this world. The heaviest strain on human nature is chastity, and it cannot be sustained unless the obligation rests upon a solemn accountability to God, and the human race cannot sustain it without religious sanction after marriage, and never have. Polygamy, on the one hand, and either spiritual or carnal or free love on the other, would certainly spring up, as they have done, to run riot all over the world.

X. You uproot the whole idea of future accountability, and the question of whether a man will live or die becomes a question of logic. What reason is there why a man utterly dissatisfied with life should not commit suicide? Suppose the case of a man wile has lost all his friends, his property, and his reputation? He is too old to begin again. Prove that he ought not to commit suicide. I cannot, unless you give me the gospel. You cannot find an instance of a sane, devoted, intelligent Christian, remitting suicide: but you can produce a hundred instances of irreligious men not insane committing suicide. The reason men are committing suicide, and making such a trifling thing of it, is the spread of infidelity, the spread of doubts as to future accountability.

XI. Everything with regard to a future state of happiness must be remanded to the realm of conjecture. No man can prove a future state in any proper sense of the term. If you could show it to be probable, you could not determine the mode of existence, or the relation between the future and the present life, or get any means whatever to do so. Then, if the gospel be not true, let us face the issue and strike out, “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” Conclusion: Is it rational to believe that God has given no voice to man? Is it rational to believe that the noblest precepts are without a Divine sanction, etc.? It is not! Rather than believe that, I would believe “There is no God!” But because I cannot say there is no God, I must say that He has spoken to man; and because I must say that, I must believe that the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has a supernatural origin. (J. M. Buckley, D.D.)

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.--

Our lost ones

I. Their character. In Christ.

II. Their condition. “Fallen asleep,” implying--

1. Rest.

2. Life.

3. Hope.

III. Their doom. “Perished”--impossible. Then the assumption is false; Christ is risen, and they must also rise. (J. Lyth, D.D.)


Verses 12-34

Verse 19

1 Corinthians 15:19

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

I. What is implied.

1. That all men are miserable.

2. In different degrees, but are comforted by hope.

II. What is assumed.

1. That our hope in Christ is false.

2. That it only extends to this life.

III. What is hypothetically asserted. That in such a case we are subject to greater--

1. Delusion.

2. Sacrifice.

3. Disappointment.

4. Sense of destitution.

IV. What is the fact.

1. We are not most miserable.

2. Our hope is sure. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

One life only an argument against God

If human life, redeemed by Christ, be limited to this world, God has committed a cruel mistake in creating man. The greatness of man becomes a terrible charge against God. He has created appetites which He cannot satisfy, excited hopes which must perish, built a great ship and must destroy it because He cannot create a sea in which it can float. What would be thought of a man who built a splendid chariot and could not get it out of the workshop? A man believes in Christ, and so becomes identified with all that is known of purity, joy, and hope. He rejects the promises of the world; he gets all that the world can give and finds that it is a stone, not bread; his whole life becomes a hunger after something higher. Having thus developed he is told that his grave is dug, and that into it must be thrown every dream, hope, desire. This world is enough for creatures destitute of aspiration--for the lion and the eagle. They cannot hope, pray, aspire. One life only is an argument against--

I. God’s goodness. Take men like the psalmists. They often sang as if they had laid hold of eternal life. They declared Jehovah to be all their salvation and all their desire. To all this God’s answer is extinction. Can a more revolting blasphemy be conceived?

II. His wisdom. Could not man have been made so as to be satisfied with the present world? We know how our generosity may become a pain and temptation to those upon whom we have bestowed it. Our gifts may be large enough to create dissatisfaction with our daily lot, yet too small to secure contentment with another. If it is not God’s purpose to continue the consciousness with which He has endowed us, He has, so to speak, overbuilt Himself in creation. He should either have gone farther, or not so far.

III. His power. But herein is God unlike His creatures. Impair one of God’s attributes and you overturn the whole Godhead. Man may have special excellences and redeeming points of character; but in the case of God every point must be of equal strength and glory. Suppose His goodness to be infinite, and His power limited; then He is Jehovah no more. When He created man, did He not know that His power was incomplete? Has He been taught the insufficiency of His strength by results which He failed to foresee? Conclusion:

1. We have before us, then, a strong presumptive argument in favour of another and higher life. That life suggests itself as the required complement of our present existence, and urges itself upon us in vindication of all that is Divine in God. Whatever speculative difficulties may arise in connection with immortality, the practical difficulties of the negative theory are insurmountable.

2. The theory of our life only bears more vividly up m the mediation of Christ. How bitter the irony of His appeals, how wasteful the sacrifice of His life, if a few pulsations be the measure of our existence. He spoke much of the life eternal: did it all mean that His most loving followers must be blotted out of existence? If so, His attempts at redemption aggravated the original injustice of our creation.

3. Granted that you never doubted the existence of the future life, this discussion is of the first importance. We may be called upon to give to others a reason for the hope that is in us, and we may feel more keenly the obligations which another life imposes on us to live nobly in this present world. If there is another life--

Hope in this world only

I. What the text implies.

1. That there is misery amongst men on this earth. This is obvious. “Man is born to trouble.” But great as it is--

2. That misery amongst men exists in different degrees. Paul speaks of the “most miserable.” There is a great inequality of suffering here. There must come a day for eternal justice to balance these accounts.

3. That the degree of misery is sometimes regulated by hope. Paul speaks of “hope” as having to do with making men “most miserable.” Man is ever living in the future; he seldom turns willingly to the past; his past sins terrify him, and even his past pleasures depress him. The present satisfies him not. His home is in the future. It is obvious that a principle so powerful must exert a wonderful influence, either for weal or woe. If the hope is directed to right objects, and rightly founded, it will be as a firm anchor, holding his ship securely amidst the tumultuous billows of his stormy life. But should his hope be not rightly directed and grounded, it is clear that though it may afford him for a time some amount of enjoyment, it will ultimately end in his confusion and distress.

4. That the hope of a Christian, if false, will make him of “all men most miserable.”

II. What the text means.

1. Not--

2. Two things must be distinctly kept in mind in order fully to apprehend the idea of the apostle.

III. These suppositions enables us to see that the misery of which the apostle speaks is the misery of a tremendous disappointment. Note--

1. The power which the blighted hope had obtained over the whole soul. There are some hopes that take but a slight hold upon the heart: But there are hopes like the tree that strikes its roots deep into the very fibre of our nature. When such hopes are torn away, it is as the “giving up of the ghost.” Imagine the case of a man who had thrown his whole being into Christianity, being met at the moment when his hopes were at their zenith, and when his death was at hand, with the conviction that all was a delusion; and you have a man of all men “most miserable.” Imagine that man still further fixed in a future state of deep despair, and regarding himself as the hopeless victim of a life of folly. Would he not say, Fool that I have been in spending a whole life in aiming at objects that were purely visionary. Had I been wise I should have adopted the maxim, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.”

2. The deception which the blighted hope prompted its subjects to practise. The apostle declares that on the assumption that Christ rose from the dead, they were “false witnesses of God.” Most assuredly if there be no future state of blessedness, the whole life of the Christian is a living lie. His deception is--

3. The destitution in which the departure of the hope would involve the soul. Christianity works a most radical change in a man. It effects a “regeneration.” Under its influence man becomes “a new creation”; old things pass away, all things become new; what he once loved he loathes, what he once sought he shuns, what he once valued he despises, what things were gain to him he counts loss. On the discovery therefore of the delusion, he would be left in possession of tastes and desires for which there was no provision. A thousand times worse is the state of such a soul than that of a parched traveller, who, beneath the agonising fires of thirst, falls prostrate on the Oriental sands, many leagues away from the refreshing streams. Conclusion: Thank God this is only hypothetic. The apostle does not speak as if he had any doubt, but in order to bring out the glorious fact on which it rests with greater fire and force. “But now is Christ risen from the dead,” etc.

We have hope in a blessed future, and therefore--

1. When bereavement snatches from our embrace the dearest objects of our heart, let us not sorrow as do others.

2. Let us not envy the wicked in their prosperity, but bear up with fortitude, knowing that “our light afflictions which are but for a moment,” etc.

3. Let us labour earnestly to indoctrinate all within our reach with the soul-saving principles of the everlasting word. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

Life most miserable without hope in Christ

These words have been a cause of much distress. Christians have felt that their hope in Christ made this life joyful to them. No doubt the very name “hope” implies a looking forward. But they do not find that the mere thought of a change in their position constitutes their blessedness. “Lo, I am with you always”; “My peace I give unto you”; there, they say, is the secret of it. Certainly they have a right to claim St. Paul in general as the witness and highest authority for their persuasion. “All things are yours,” etc., he said to these very Corinthians. He speaks of himself as “rejoicing in tribulation.” He wished that Aguippa, Festus, and Bernice, and all who heard him, “were both almost and altogether such as he was, except those bonds.” Was, then, that so terrible an exception, that he regarded the worshippers of false gods less miserable, as far as this life went, than he was? Does any one who knows anything of St. Paul’s life and words believe this? Those very bonds became a cause of exultation to him, because through them Christ’s name was made known in Rome. He counted, not some future promised felicity, but his office as an apostle of the Gentiles, which caused him to be the offscouring of all things, the highest privilege ever bestowed upon a mortal. Is this a man who was likely to say, “I am utterly miserable here; but I can endure my lot, for I shall he well paid hereafter”? But if that is not the meaning of the words, what is it?

1. The Corinthians had heard him say, “We are risen with Christ.” A party of them had built on this the conclusion that their spiritual resurrection was all that Christ had procured for them. St. Paul shows them that they were turning this half-truth, not to the destruction of the other half merely, but of itself. If they were not to rise in their bodies, Christ their Lord had not risen in His body. The very ground of the spiritual resurrection, of which they boasted, was their union with Him. God had justified them in Him. The new doctrine, in effect, disclaimed, his relation between them and Him. It left them a set of poor, separated, unredeemed creatures; “yet in their sins.” It was very miserable to believe such a contradiction as this would be.

2. Christ had broken through the barriers of death, had brought the visible and the invisible world into one. Those who said “The Resurrection only concerns us here,” established this separation again, and treated Death as to all intents and purposes the ultimate ruler, Life as shut up within threescore years and ten of conflict. This was to confound the dim hope of all nations. When the sense of present misery was very acute, there was a prophecy, arising in some minds almost to a conviction, that the other side of death might offer a compensation. Had not St. Paul a right to say then “If we possess all that Christ came to give us, He has taken from us something which He has not taken from any others. That which has never been altogether a blank to them, in which there have been some bright Elysian spots, has become entirely a blank to us.” But it may be said, “The apostle speaks of a hope in Christ. What could such a hope have to do with dreams of Greeks or Goths respecting an Elysium or a Walhalla? Being heathens, they certainly could not hope in Him.” But the principle which underlies all the apostle’s teaching is that when Christ took flesh and dwelt among men, He declared Himself to be that King, whose manifestation in His own true and proper nature all had been desiring. If this be so, I cannot imagine how he could describe any hope which had ever been entertained by any human being, except as a hope in Christ. The gods whom Greeks or Goths worshipped could have kindled no hopes in them, only a vague, inconceivable dread. Whatever hope they had came from a secret source, a hidden root. The apostle, then, might truly say, that if the Corinthians who professed to believe that Jesus was the Christ, made His work upon earth an excuse for not looking beyond the earth, they had parted with some of the hope in Christ which their heathen brethren possessed.

3. But there is an ampler justification of the apostle’s words. He had a much deeper impression of the misery of the world around him than any person who did not believe in the gospel could have had. The devil-worship and the sin which prevailed was revolting to him who worshipped a God of love, and who believed that the Spirit of Christ had come among men to make them after His image. Feeling as he did their misery, it would absolutely have crushed him if in this life only he had had hope in Christ, if he could have measured the future of mankind merely by anything that he saw or had yet experienced. The thought which we should often bring before ourselves as we walk our streets, and as we read of what is doing in other parts of the world, is--Are our hopes in Christ, for those whom we see perishing in filth, in ignorance, in moral debasement, only hopes for this life? Is the wisdom of rulers, the godliness of teachers, the benevolence of societies, all which seems to us to intervene between them and utter, absolute ruin? Oh, then, surely we must be of all men most miserable! To think of all the wickedness which is crowded into the most fortunate corner of this earth, and not to feel something very like despair, is very difficult. It would be impossible, if we were not encouraged and commanded to place our hopes, not in what we are doing, but in what Christ has done by His death, resurrection, ascension, and gift of the Holy Spirit. If we think that nothing is given yet; that we are merely to look for something to come, we are most miserable. If we think that all has been given--that we have nothing to long for--we are most miserable. But if we accept the signs and pledges of a perfect sacrifice made once for all, the vision of Him who died once and reigneth for evermore will become brighter and clearer. (F. D. Maurice, M.A.)

“Alas for us, if thou wert all, and nought beyond, O earth”

The apostle does not say that all men are now miserable if there be no hope of the world to come. There are very many who never think of another life, who are quite happy in their way. But he speaks of Christian people, who are known by this, that they have hope in Christ--hope in His blood for pardon, in His righteousness for justification, in His power for support, in His resurrection for eternal glory.

I. We are not of all men most miserable. He who shall affirm that Christianity makes men miserable is an utter stranger to it. For see--

1. To what a position it exalts us! It makes us sons of God. Shall His foes have mirth, and His own home-born be wretched? We are married unto Christ, and shall our great Bridegroom permit His spouse to linger in grief? The Christian is a king, and shall the king be the most melancholy of men?

2. What God has done for us! The Christian knows that his sins are forgiven. And shall the pardoned offender be less happy than the man upon whom the wrath of God abideth? Moreover, we are made temples of the Holy Ghost, and are these dark, dolorous places? Our God is a God of love, and it is His very nature to make His creatures happy.

3. Their actual joy and peace. Our joy may not be like that of the sinner, noisy and boisterous. “As the crackling of thorns under a pot”--a great deal of blaze and much noise, and then a handful of ashes, and it is all over. The Chiristian’s joy does not depend upon circumstances. We have seen the happiest men in the most sorrowful conditions. Every Christian will bear wines that he has found his sad times to be his glad times, his losses to be his gains, his sickness means to promote his soul’s health. We can rejoice even in death.

II. Without the hope of another life we should be of all men most miserable. This is true, not merely of persecuted, and despised, and poverty-stricken Christians, but of all believers. Note that the Christian--

1. Has renounced those common and ordinary sources of joy from which other men drink. We must have some pleasure. Well, then, there is a vessel filled with muddy, filthy water which the camels’ feet have stirred: shall I drink it? I see yonder a cool, clear stream, and I say, “I will not drink this; I will drink of that.” But if it be but the deceitful mirage, then I am worse off than those who were content with the muddy water. So the Christian passes by the pleasures of sin, because he says, “I do not care for them, my happiness flows from the river which springs from the throne of God and flows to me through Christ--I will drink of that,” but if that were proved to be a deception, then were we more wretched than the profligate.

2. Has learned the vanity of all earthly joys. We have chosen eternal things which are satisfying to the soul. Bat it is the most unhappy to know that this world is vain, if there be not another world abundantly to compensate for all our ills. There is a poor lunatic in Bedlam plaiting straw into a crown which he puts upon his head, and calls himself a king. Do you think that I would undeceive him? Nay, verily. If the delusion makes the man happy, by all means let him indulge in it; but you and I have been undeceived; our dream of perfect bliss beneath the skies is gone for ever; what then if there be no world to come?

3. Has had high, noble, and great expectations, and this is a very sad thing for us if our expectations be not fulfilled. I have known poor men expecting a legacy, and the relative has died and left them nothing; their poverty has ever afterwards seemed to be a heavier drag than before. Poverty is infinitely better endured by persons who were always poor, than by those who have been rich. The Christian has learned to think of eternity, of God, of Christ, and if indeed it be all false, the best thing he could do would be to sit down and weep for ever.

4. Has learned to look upon everything here as fleeting. Well, this is a very unhappy thing, if there be no world to come.

III. Our chief joy in the hope of the world to come. There is--

1. Rest.

2. Victory.

3. Happiness.

4. Perfection.

IV. Thus the future operates upon the present. Here is a man who has a machine for his factory. He wants steam power to work this machine. An engineer puts up a steam engine in a shed at some distance. “Well,” said the other, “I asked you to bring steam power here, to operate upon my machine.” “That is precisely,” says he, “what I have done. I put the engine there, you have but to connect it by a band and your machine works as fast as you like; it is not necessary that I should put it just under your nose.” So God has been pleased to make our hopes of the future a great engine wherewith the Christian may work the ordinary machine of every-day life, for the band of faith connects the two, and makes all the wheels of ordinary life revolve with rapidity and regularity. To speak against preaching the future as though it would make people neglect the present is as though somebody would say, “There, take away the moon, and blot out the sun. What is the use of them--they are not in this world”! Precisely so, but take away the moon and you have removed the tides, and the sea becomes a stagnant, putrid pool. Then take away the sun, and light, and heat, and life; everything is gone. Do you believe that apostles and martyrs would ever have sacrificed their lives for truth’s sake if they had not looked for a hereafter? In the heat of excitement, the soldier may die for honour, but to die in tortures and mockeries in cold blood needs a hope beyond the grave. Would yon poor man go on toiling year after year, refusing to sacrifice his conscience for gain; would yon poor needle-girl refuse to become the slave of lust if she did not see something brighter than earth can picture to her as the reward of sin? The most practical thing in all the world is the hope of the world to come; for it is just this which keeps us from being miserable; and to keep a man from being miserable it is to do a great thing for him, for a miserable Christian--what is the use of him? But the man who has a hope of the next world goes about his work strong, for the joy of the Lord is our strength.

V. This will let us see clearly what our future is to be. There are some persons here to whom my text has nothing whatever to say. Suppose there were no hereafter, would they be more miserable? Why, no; they would be more happy. Do you see, then, this proves that you are not a Christian; for if you were, the taking away of a hereafter would make you miserable. Well, then, what have I to say to you? Why just this--that in the world to come you will be of all men most miserable. “What will become of you?” said an infidel once to a Christian man, “supposing there should be no heaven?” “Well,” said he, “I like to have two strings to my bow. If there be no hereafter I am as well off as you are; if there be I am infinitely better off.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The importance of the Resurrection

St. Paul, in this great passage, makes Christianity answer with its life for the truth of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:14). If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we have made a capital mistake, and are of all men most miserable.

I. What, then, is the hope respecting a future which we owe to our risen Lord? Is it the hope that we shall exist for ever? Is our continuous existence hereafter altogether dependent upon faith in and communion with the risen Christ? No, our immortality is not a gift of the Redeemer; it is the gift of the Creator. Belief in a future state does not begin with Christianity. It is as deeply rooted in the human soul as belief in God. In some sense it is wellnigh universal. The honour so widely paid to the graves of ancestors is a natural expression of belief in their survival after death. It was this belief which made an ancient Egyptian deem the embalming of his mummy the most important thing that could happen to him: it was this belief which built, the pyramids, which rendered the Greek mysteries of Eleusis so welcome to those upon whom the old popular religion had lost its power, and which made great thinkers, such as Plato, at least in their higher moods, capable of thoughts and aspirations which Christians, in all ages, have welcomed as almost anticipating their own.

II. But to what sort of immortality does this anticipation point? It is not the immortality--

1. Of the race. How is this shadowy survival entitled to the name of immortality? A race of beings does not live apart from the individuals which compose it.

2. Of fame. How many of us will have a place in the public memory and live in history? For most of us life is made up of duties of so humble a kind that they hardly have a place in our own memories from day to day, much less in those of others. But if there is no life after death, what is to become of them, that is, what is to become of this kind of immortality in the case of the greater part of the human race? Is not this immortality only a perpetuation of inequalities which disfigure our earthly life, and of which a future of absolute truth and justice would know nothing?

3. Of our good deeds. To say that a man lives in his good actions may be Christian language (Revelation 14:13). To this day the saints of the Bible history live in the works which are recorded of them. But, there are actions in all true and saintly lives which are known only to God, and which, so far as we can see, have no certain consequences here. But if the soul perishes at death, in what sense are they immortal? And are our good deeds our only deeds? Have not our evil deeds--some of them--consequences; and do these consequences punish the agent, if he really perishes at death? Others than he are punished. No; the immortality of our actions is not an immortality which satisfies the yearnings of the heart of man, since this yearning is based always and especially on its sense of justice.

II. What, then, is the hope in Christ which redeems Christian life from the failure and misery alluded to in the text. It is the hope, that through His precious death and His glorious resurrection, our inevitable immortality will be an immortality of bliss. Of course it is not denied that He has “brought life and immortality to light.” For multitudes before He came it was a vague and dreary anticipation: He has made it a blessed and welcome certainty. He has familiarised us with the idea that all live unto God (Luke 20:37-38); and He has further taught the future resurrection of the body, as completing the life beyond the grave (John 6:40). He thus has altogether removed the question from the region of speculation into that of certainty, founded upon experience; since when He rose from death He was Himself but the first-fruits from the dead. But the hope in Christ is the hope of a blessed immortality. This He has won for us by His one perfect and sufficient sacrifice on the Cross, whereby our sins are blotted out, and the grace of His Spirit and His new nature is secured to us, so as to fit us, by sanctification, for His eternal presence. Apart from this conviction, Christianity is a worthless dream; the efforts and sacrifices of the Christian life are wasted; we are the victims of a great delusion; we are of all men most miserable. Conclusion:

1. There are signs in our day that faith in a future after death is less taken for granted than was the case a generation ago. One of these signs is the increased number of suicides all over Europe. There are not merely the pathetic suicides of the very wretched, there are the suicides of votaries of pleasure, who having exhausted all the facilities of enjoyment, throw it away like a toy which has ceased to please. Suicides like these mean that the opportunities for enjoyment have in certain classes outrun the power to enjoy. Suicides are only possible when through continuous enervation of the moral nature the awful realities of immortality have been lost sight of: and their increase is a serious symptom of what must be passing in large classes of minds.

2. Much seems to show that in the modern world two entirely different beliefs about man are confounded with each other. According to one of these man is really only the highest of the beasts that perish. Opposed to this idea is the Christian belief that man differs from the lower creatures altogether, except in the fact that he owns a body, which is governed by the same laws as theirs. For man, his body, instead of being the substantive and central part of his being, is an appendage. The soul of man no more dies when it leaves the body than the musical genius which makes that organ do so much to aid the devotion of God’s people forfeits its knowledge and its skill when it ceases to touch the key-board. In man the central or substantive feature is the soul; and of the life of the soul, this earthly life in the body is but a very small portion indeed. It is related to what follows, as is a brief preface to a very voluminous book: it throws light on what is to come; it is relatively insignificant. “The things which are seen are temporal: the things which are not seen are eternal.” (Canon Liddon.)

The penalty of piety and its promise

These words

I. Demand explanation of us.

1. Only the heavenly hope could compensate for the severity of their earthly experiences (2 Corinthians 6:11.). Speaking for himself, and having in view all of every kind that he was enduring for the sake of the gospel, he felt that all the peace and comfort which solaced other men’s lives were absent from his own, and he concluded that without that grand compensation which was in store, he and they were the most to be pitied of all men.

2. In that case they were the victims of a miserable delusion. They were basing their whole life on a faith which was a falsehood; they were building everything on a rotten foundation; they were spending all their energies and surrendering all their opportunities to teach men that which their disciples were bound to disbelieve (1 Corinthians 15:14). They might well be pitied as the dupes of a dream.

II. Provide suggestions for us.

1. That there are consequences attending unswerving faithfulness we must all be prepared to meet. Not now the lash or the dungeon. It may be the biting sarcasm or the polite irony, etc. But it must be that “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

2. That delusion is always pitiable. Men may be buoyed up by false hopes, and it may seem at a superficial glance that the cherishing of the error is positively gainful. But it is always better to walk in the light than to wander in the darkness. They who give way to plausible but unsound doctrine are to be pitied, however fair in the face these doctrines may be, however excellent be the spirit and intention of those that hold them.

3. That genuine piety has within it sources of pure and lasting joy (1 Timothy 4:8; 1 Timothy 6:6); and if the “Manor Sorrows” could speak of “His joy” so may we. (W. Clarkson, B.A.)


Verse 20

1 Corinthians 15:20

But now is Christ risen from the dead … first-fruits of them that slept.

The resurrection of Christ

I. The resurrection of Christ as an historic fact. If Socrates died of the fatal hemlock in an Athenian prison; if Caesar died upon the Roman senate-floor, stricken down by the daggers of assassins; then Christ, our Redeemer, not only died on Golgotha, but on the third day rose again, leading captivity captive. This miracle of the resurrection, as Neander has remarked, is not of the class designed for the conviction of unbelievers. It was rather, in the first instance, for such as already believed in Christ, and now needed only that their faith should be sealed and confirmed.

II. The resurrection of Christ in its relation to previous economies. There were two of these economics, and under each of them a miracle bearing some resemblance to the resurrection of Christ. Under the first, or patriarchal economy, there was the miracle of Enoch’s translation. Under the second, or Jewish economy, there was the miracle of Elijah’s being taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire. Precisely what befel these men, it is impossible to say. But so much at least is certain, that these translations were not resurrections: for the men did not die. The fact proclaimed, and the doctrine illustrated by their departure, was simply the continued existence of the soul in a higher realm; in a word, the immortality of the soul, and not the resurrection of the body. So, also, of the resurrections which occurred under the Jewish economy. Elijah, it is true, restored again to life the widow’s son at Zarephath; Elisha, the son of the Shunemite; and even Elisha’s bones quickened the corpse which touched them. But these persons, thus recalled to life, all died again. Like the translations already spoken of, they attested rather the presence of a soul in man, destined to survive the striking of its tent of flesh. They attested the reality of a world of spirits, not so far removed but that those who had passed behind its curtain might be summoned back. That the body, reduced to ashes, should rise again, never more to be subject to decay, had only been proclaimed, not proved. The resurrection of Christ was, therefore, a new phenomenon. He was literally “the first-fruits of them that slept”; rising as none had ever risen before.

III. The resurrection of Christ in its relation to ourselves. (R. D. Hitchcock, D.D.)

Christ the first fruits

We might take occasion hence to consider the great fact--Christ is risen, the symbolical figure by which that fact might be illustrated--the first-fruits--and the favour which follows--the resurrection of the pious dead. Refer to Leviticus 23:10, etc. The first-fruits were a typical representation of Christ presented to God after His resurrection.

1. The first-fruits were of the same nature as the after fruits. Let this remind us that Christ is of the same nature as His people. He took a real human nature, that in that nature He might sanctify us, as the harvest was sanctified by offering the first-fruits to God. “For both He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Had Christ died and risen in a different nature from ours, it would not have been conquering death for us. We could have derived no benefit or consolation from it. “The Man Christ”; “that Man whom He hath ordained”; “a Man approved of God”; “in all things made like unto His brethren.” He had real flesh. He felt hunger, thirst, and weariness, which a mere spirit could not; and He had a real human soul, which could rejoice, grieve, be amazed, and angry. Being a Man, His resurrection to immortal life is the first-fruits of the human race from the grave.

2. The first-fruits were of superior excellence, being the best--most early ripe, and therefore stronger and more vigorous. Let this remind us of the excellency of Christ’s human nature. He transcends all His brethren. He is without sin, and so excels in perfect purity. His soul had no base passions, His will no rebellion, His understanding was not obscured by mistakes, errors, or prejudices; His body was not influenced by bad habits, nor led astray by sensual appetites. Nor was He only free from sin; there were all the excellences which are comprised in perfection itself. He was, of all the sons of men, the first ripe for heaven--His ripeness was perfect, rich, delightful holiness and love.

3. As the first-fruits, being first ripe, were of superior excellence, and so were a shadow of Christ, so they were to be first gathered in. And thus they resembled Christ as “the first born from the dead,” the first of all those who rose from the grave to immortality. It was fit that the Captain should lead the way to the soldiers, that the Conqueror of death should be the first to take possession of life, that He who was first in the perfection of holiness and grace should be first in the perfect possession of life and glory.

4. As the first-fruits were gathered on the morrow after the Sabbath, it is remarkable that our Lord rose, as “the first-fruits of them that slept,” on the morrow after the Sabbath.

5. The sheaf of first-fruits was lifted up by the priest, and waved to and fro in the air, as an offering presented to the Lord. Christ, as a Priest, presented Himself as the First-fruits to God. The sheaf was waved, to be accepted:for Israel, and Christ presents Himself to God that we may be accepted before Him. As the first-fruits were presented to God, so our risen Lord rose to Him. “In that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.”

6. The corn of the first-fruits was threshed out and winnowed, and the pure corn was pounded, roasted, and, together with the oil and frankincense, was waved before God. Then part of it was made an offering by fire and the rest was the priest’s. When Christ arose, He left all that was mean, humiliating, and mortal, left our sins, with His grave-clothes, in the sepulchre, as new corn separated from chaff. And the oil and frankincense may remind us of the oil of gladness with which the risen Saviour was anointed above His fellows, and the sweet frankincense of His intercession, which is sweet to God; and He offers Himself to God in flames of love, as the first-fruits, with oil and frankincense, was offered on the altar (a handful of them). The rest was for the priests, intimating that Christ, as raised from the dead, is the sweet and pure food of faith to which the spiritual priesthood are entitled. On earth and in heaven, Christ is immortal Bread, living Bread, and souls feast on Him and live and grow.

7. The first-fruits sanctified the whole crop. It might then be gathered in, but not before. Christ the first fruits being raised, such is the power of His resurrection, that the saints through Him have right to rise to a blessed immortality. But for that, they that are fallen asleep in Christ had perished. But by His resurrection they are sanctified for life and glory.

8. The first-fruits being accepted of the Lord for Israel, not only sanctified the harvest, but were a pledge that the harvest should follow. He is called the First-fruits, to convey the idea that the rest must come after. This is the doctrine and argument of this whole chapter. The favour pledged to the Church by the resurrection of Christ is the resurrection of all her members in the last day to fellowship with Christ in life, glory, and a blessed immortality. That state to which He arose, do they arise to also in their measure and order. As a prelude to this, some arose alter His resurrection. This shows that the resurrection of Christ has a retrospective influence, and sheds the dew of heaven on the graves of all who died in faith from the beginning.

As He died for the sins under the first testament, so shall the ancient believers arise by virtue of His resurrection. It has also a prospective influence on the believing multitudes yet unborn.

1. The same power is employed in raising Christ and His people. “The exceeding greatness of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.” The utmost ability in man cannot re-kindle the vital spark. As no creature was employed to awaken Christ, so none shall quicken them. Here Omnipotence will work without means, and the heavenly house will be “a house not made with hands.”

2. As it was the same Christ and the same body that arose, so the very bodies which fall asleep in Christ will again awake. The harvest will resemble the first-fruits in this also. It may not be every particle. “This mortal shall put, on immortality.”

3. The same Spirit that quickened Christ will quicken us. It is spoken of as a privilege to be quickened by the Spirit (Romans 8:1-39.). The wicked may be raised by mere power, the saints by a holy and gracious influence. The Holy Spirit will then put forth His influence in its fullest display of power, sweetness, and glory like the influences of the spring on the vegetable world.

4. The whole Trinity concurred in Christ’s, and shall also in our resurrection.

5. Sin lay on Christ before His death; and there was still some portion of the curse on Him while He lay in His grave. But He arose free from the burden. Saints have to contend with sin while in the body; but they will rise free and pure.

6. Christ wept in His last sufferings. He rose to weep no more. So from the eyes of risen Saints “God shall wipe away all tears.” It is a resurrection to joy.

7. Christ; rose with His human soul full of love to His people, and they shall rise in the perfection of attachment to all who love the Lord. All envy, hatred, and alienation--all discord, strife, and evil surmisings will be destroyed for ever.

8. Christ rose with a body fit for heaven; and so shall they. “Raised in power,” spirituality, and glory, all marks of their fallen and degraded estate shall disappear. “Their bodies shall be fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body.” Contemplate, then, the “end of the world” as the Redeemer’s harvest. See the angels gathering the sheaves into the garner after the first-fruits. (The Evangelist.)

The Resurrection

I. The fact of the Resurrection.

1. This event is indisputable.

2. The agency by which it was effected.

3. Its necessity. It was necessary--

II. The relationship which, by virtue of His resurrection, is formed between Christ and His people--that which exists between the first-fruits and the entire harvest. Christ the first-fruits, His people the plentitude of the ingathering. Hence we learn that the resurrection of Christ is inseparable from that of His people. Christ cannot be complete without His people. He is the “Vine,” but where were the perfection of the vine without “the branches”? He is the “Head,” but where were the perfection of the head without “the members”? Where shall we find completeness, perfection, beauty, in the “Husband” without the “bride,” in the “Foundation” without the superstructure, in the “First-fruits” without the fulness of the ingathering? Notice--

1. That Christ is the “first-fruits” of the Resurrection of His believing people only. It is true that by His power all shall rise again. But it is with believers only that this relationship will be recognised. The term employed is, “them that slept,” which evidently refers to the children of God (1 Corinthians 15:18). As He was the “first-fruits of them that slept” on the resurrection morning (Matthew 27:53), so also “them which sleep in Jesus” to the end of time, “will God bring with Him.” But ere you can “fall asleep in Jesus,” you must live a life of holiness in Jesus. If you go down to the grave with a heart unrenewed, you will rise again, indeed; but it will be “to the resurrection of damnation.”

2. The order of the Resurrection. The righteous and the wicked will simultaneously rise from their graves. One common resurrection will precede one common judgment (John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31-34; Matthew 25:41-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Revelaiton 20:12, 13).

3. The nature of the change which will pass on the bodies of the saints. It will be a change from all that is earthly and gross and vile to that which is heavenly and holy and refined (1 Corinthians 15:35, etc.). By what mode this marvellous change shall be effected we know not. It is enough for us to know that our present vile and wasting body shall undergo a great and ennobling change, divesting it of all that is gross and fading, and clothing it in a robe of brilliance and majesty which shall make it “shine as the brightness of the firmament, as the stars for ever and ever.”

Conclusion: The subject affords ground of consolation--

1. For those who are suffering from bereavement.

2. To those whose lot is sickness and poverty in this vale of tears. (J. Gaskin, M.A.)

The certainty and joy of the Resurrection

The apostle has been contemplating the dismal consequences which would arise if we only had a dead Christ. Then he turns away from that dreary picture, and with a change of key, from the wailing minors of the preceding verses, he breaks into this burst of triumph.

I. The certainty of Christ’s resurrection. “Now is Christ risen.” The way to prove a fact is by the evidence of witnesses. I, therefore, protest against confusing the issues which is popular nowadays, when we are told that miracle is impossible, and therefore there has been no Resurrection, or that death is the end of human existence, and that therefore there has been no Resurrection. The men who argue thus are no more logical than the reasoner who, when told that facts were against him, with sublime confidence in his own infallibility, said, “So much the worse for the facts.” Let us deal with evidence, and not with theory.

1. In this chapter we have a record of the resurrection of Christ, older than, and altogether independent of, the Gospels; that this Epistle is one of the four undisputed Epistles of the apostle; that, therefore, this chapter, written at the latest, some twenty-seven years after the Crucifixion, carries us up very close to that went; that it shows that the Resurrection was believed all over the Church, and therefore must have then been long believed; that it enables us to trace the same belief among the Churches at the time of Paul’s conversion, some five or six years after the Crucifixion, and that so we have absolutely contemporaneous testimony. This is not a case in which a belief slowly and gradually grew up.

2. And the witnesses are reliable and competent. It would be an anomaly, far greater than the Resurrection, to believe that these people were conspirators in a lie, and that the fairest morality and the noblest consecration grew up out of a fraud. But the apostle avers that that is the only tenable alternative. “If Christ be not risen, then are we men who are lying to please God.” The fashionable modern theory, that it was hallucination is preposterous. Hallucinations that five hundred people at once shared; that lasted all through long talks, spread at intervals over more than a month; that included eating, drinking, the clasp of the hand, and the feeling of the breath; that culminated in the fancy that a gathered multitude of them saw Him going up into heaven! The hallucination is on the other side, I think.

3. Another valuable way of establishing facts is to point to others which indispensably require them for their explanation. I do not understand how it was possible for the Church to exist for a week after the Crucifixion, unless Jesus Christ rose again. How came it that these people, with their Master taken away, and their bond of union removed, and all their hopes crushed, did not say, “We have made a mistake, let us take to our fishing again, and try and forget our bright illusions.” That is what John the Baptist’s followers did when he died. Why did not Christ’s do the same? Because Christ rose again and re-knit them together. Christianity with a dead Christ, and a Church gathered round a grave from which the stone has not been rolled away, is more unbelievable than the miracle, for it is an absurdity.

4. Then there is another thing. Suppose, after the execution of Charles I, a pretender had sprung up and said, “I am the king!” the way to end that would have been for the Puritan leaders to have taken people to Westminster Abbey, and said, “Look! there is the coffin, there is the body, is that the king or is it not?” Jesus Christ was said to have risen again. The rulers could have put an end to the nonsense in two minutes, if it had been nonsense, by the simple process of saying, “Go and look at the tomb and you will see Him there.” But this question has never been answered, and never will be, What became of that sacred corpse if Christ did not rise again from the dead? The clumsy lie, that the disciples had stolen away the body, was the acknowledgment that the grave was empty. If the grave were empty, either His servants were impostors, which we have seen is incredible, or the Christ was risen again.

II. The triumph in the certitude of that resurrection. The apostle has been speaking about the consequences which would follow from the fact that Christ was not raised. If we take these and reverse them, we understand this great burst of triumph from the apostle’s lips.

1. The risen Christ gives us a complete gospel. A dead Christ annihilates it. “If Christ be not risen, our preaching is vain,” i.e., empty--a blown bladder; nothing in it but wind. Strike the Resurrection out, and what have you left? Some beautiful bits of moral teaching, a lovely life, marred by tremendous mistakes about Himself and His relation to men and to God; but you have got nothing left that is worth calling a gospel.

2. A living Christ gives faith something to lay hold of. A dead Christ makes our faith “vain,” i.e., “of none effect” or “powerless.”

3. The risen Christ gives us the certitude of our Resurrection. Many men talked about a western continent, but Colunbus went there and came back again, and that ended doubt. Many men before, and apart from Jesus, have cherished thoughts of an immortal life, but He has been there and returned. And that only puts the doctrine of immortality upon an irrefragable foundation.

Conclusion: If you will let Him, He will make you partakers of His own immortal life.

1. “The first-fruits of them that slept” is the pledge and the prophecy of all the waving abundance of golden grain that shall be gathered into the great husbandman’s barns. The apostle goes on to represent the resurrection of “them that are Christ’s” as a consequence of their union to Jesus. He has conquered for us all.

2. There are two resurrections; one, that of Christ’s servants; one, that of others. They are not the same in principle--and, alas! they are awfully different in issue. “Some shall awake to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

The law of the resurrection

1. Our common ideas and fears of death are more Pagan than Christian. Death to many men is the blank wall around life beyond which they look or plan for nothing. But physical death does not hold the first place in the economy of redemption. The Bible assigns it a subordinate place. Sin, indeed, entailed the certainty of death for man; but Adam was not commanded by the Lord to live every day a slave bound under the fear of death. Man is to work out his time here, and to pass through death, as born under the higher law of the Spirit, and with the possibility of eternal life always before him. And in the New Testament the chief use made of the fact of death is as a metaphor. Sin is death; the maid whom the people, thought dead Christ said “sleepeth.” The importance of natural death falls into the background, and the new birth of the Spirit comes into the foreground.

2. The Christian doctrine of the Resurrection is a stumbling-block to faith because of this exaggerated estimate of death. We speak as though death were the ultimate law of life, and thus we have to smuggle in our hope of the resurrection as a miraculous exception. Exactly the opposite is true. Life is the law of nature, and death a natural means to more life and better. The resurrection of Jesus was not the great exception to natural law; it is an exemplification of the higher, universal law of life. In the opinion of the apostle the resurrection of Jesus was no more out of the Divine order of things than the first-fruits of the summer are exceptions to the general law which in the autumn shall show its universal power in every harvest-field.

3. The resurrection of Jesus is the great miracle of history, the corner-stone of the evidences of supernatural religion. But the miracle was not the fact itself, but in that He was raised before the last great day, and that He should be seen by men in His intermediate state between earth and heaven. And the God of the living had His own sufficient reason for making this one exception. It was partly for our sakes, that the world might believe. Was it not due also to the person of Jesus that He should not wait with all the saints for the day of final redemption? The miraculous thus in Jesus’ resurrection pertains to the manner and time of it rather than to the essential fact of it. It was an exceptional fruit appearing before the harvest, which is the end of the world. If you should see a tree blossom, and the next morning find the fruit already ripe, you would say, That is extraordinary! It is not indeed contrary to the nature of the tree that fruit should ripen, yet contrary to all our experience of growth that the fruit should ripen in a day. And it would not be impossible to conceive a quickening of nature’s forces which might cause a plant to break into fruitfulness contrary to our experience of its usual times and seasons. Somewhat so is Jesus’ resurrection a first-fruit of the tree of life; not in itself contrary to the law of life, but in its manner and time out of the common order.

I. There is no little Scriptural evidence for the belief that the resurrection of Jesus, although exceptional in time and manner, is an instance of a general law of resurrection.

1. This was Jesus’ teaching,. He answered the Sadducees by asserting that the dead shall be raised, but He placed the fact of the Resurrection upon the fundamental principle that life, not death, is God’s first law. The highest law of human nature according to Christ is that it should “live unto God”; if there is to be eternal death, that death must come in as the exception, as the falling back of a soul from the kind of life for which it was created to the lower powers of corruption. It is born for freedom and life in constant relation to the living God; if it is to perish it can only be by making itself, through some inner falsehood, subject to corruption.

2. The Lord’s own resurrection is set forth as an event which could not possibly have failed to occur (Acts 2:24; Acts 2:27). How can holiness see corruption? how can life itself be given over to death? Impossible! It would have been a miracle had not Jesus risen from the dead--a miracle without reason, a miracle against the living God, had He not risen from the dead--the first-fruits of this power and order of Divine life in the creation.

3. The same truth comes out grandly in the apostolic gospel of the Resurrection. What is this wonderful chapter but a setting forth of the glorious law of the resurrection? First the historical fact that Jesus was seen after His death is solemnly attested; then Jesus’ resurrection is declared to be the first-fruits of the whole harvest of life which is to follow; and then this process of the resurrection is shown to be in the largest and profoundest sense natural. It is a spiritual outgrowth from this body of death.

II. The Biblical teaching of the resurrection is that it is in accordance with law. Why should it seem otherwise to us?

1. Why should we regard it as a thing incredible that God should raise the dead? Is there anything which we have seen upon this earth which contradicts the spiritual law of our full redemption? Apparent con.tradictions to this gospel there are, but not one which is real. On the other hand, there are positive facts arranging themselves now in lengthening lines, over which we look straight out into the unseen and the eternal. As I cannot think of a star except as I think of it as in the sky, so I cannot think of this visible sphere of things or nature except as existing in some invisible realm and larger presence. And particularly in confirmation of this Scriptural faith in the Divine orderliness of the resurrection and eternal life, let me now merely suggest these considerations.

2. But this is not all. What is death, so far as we can see? Here is a minute living thing in a glass of water. You turn the water out. That living particle is now mere dust upon the glass. Dead--that is, it is no longer moving in an element corresponding to its capacity of vital movements. Death, then, is simply some wrong or imperfect adjustment of life to external conditions. But death may be partial, then, not entire. A part of the body may be dead. A man may be dead in some relations, and still live in others. There is a sense in which we die daily. Life is the principle, the force, the law; death the limitation, the accident, the partial negation of God’s great affirmation of life in things. Now see where this thought leads.

3. This view of the partial and negative power and function of death opens up a further rational possibility of life. We have only to suppose a living soul in perfect adjustment to God, and all God’s laws of things, to conceive of a being possessing eternal life. “This is life eternal that they might know Thee,” etc. In such perfect adjustment of being to God and His laws the finite spirit would exist in its final spiritual embodiment. Eternal life would be the perfect harmony of the inward and outward conditions--the final union of the spirit of the just made perfect with God and His universe. Conclusion: If these things be so it follows that our true life consists in our coming at once into the right correspondence with that which is the real and eternal element of life--with God and His righteousness. We are made to live in perfect harmony with all good, beautiful, and true things, or in communion with God. The only thing to be feared is spiritual death. That is non-adjustment of our hearts to God. There is one thing which I cannot but fear, and that is the loss of one’s own soul. And I am afraid of the death which I see already going beyond the physical man, benumbing the conscience, and chilling the very souls of men. He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (Newman Smyth, D.D.)

The resurrection of Christ

Contemplate this as--

I. An established fact. It is established--

1. On the testimony of the most competent witnesses--those who had a thorough knowledge of the facts, and such an invincible love for truth as would render it impossible for them to misrepresent them.

2. On the very existence of Christendom. What gave birth to Christendom? The gospel; and the truth of the gospel rests on the resurrection of Christ.

3. On the consciousness of genuine disciples. Such consciousness attests that they are “not in their sins,” and they feel that this deliverance came from the gospel.

II. A significant fact. The reference here is to the “first-fruits” of the harvest (see Leviticus 23:12-19). Those first-fruits were both an earnest and a sample of the full harvest at hand. Hence Christ’s resurrection was regarded--

1. As a pledge of the resurrection. As He rose so will all rise.

2. As a pattern. The sheaf waved before the Lord was a specimen or sample of what remained in the field to be gathered in. “Our vile bodies shall be fashioned and made like unto His glorious body” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

III. An influential fact. Between the influence of Adam and that of Christ on the race there is--

1. A resemblance. The resemblance is in its extensibility. Though Adam’s influence upon the race is more extensive at present than that of Christ, it is not more extensible. It has in it the power of extending over the whole race down through all times, and it will do so.

2. A contrast. The influence of the one is destructive, the influence of the other quickening. If by death here bodily death is meant, then the idea is that Christ will quicken to life all that have died. But what does it mean to be in Adam and in Christ. In the sense of character. All men live in the characters of others; children in the character of their parents, pupils in their masters, the present generation in the preceding. The characters of the men of past ages constitute the moral atmosphere of existing men. In Adam’s character--the character of selfishness, carnality, unbelief--all unregenerate men live to-day, his principles pulsate in all hearts. In the character of Christ, in His self-sacrificing love, spotless purity, and godly devotion, all the godly live to-day. Now those who live in the character of Adam must die, not merely in the sense of the dissolution of the soul from the body, but in the more awful sense of the dissolution of the soul from God; whereas those who live in the character of Christ live by a vital connection with the Eternal Fountain of all life. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

Christ’s resurrection

I. Our Lord’s resurrection from the dead is the pledge and earnest of all Christian hope.

1. That it should be the corner-stone of Christian doctrine strikes at the root of all religious theories which ignore the miraculous in Christianity. The story of Christ begins and closes with the supernatural--the incarnation and the resurrection.

2. It is constantly represented as the supreme fact in Christianity.

(a) If He did not rise men would know He was a self-deceiver, if not an impostor.

(b) As the Holy Son of God He could not remain in the power of death, which is a penalty for sin.

(c) As such, moreover, He might give Himself up to death for a time, to secure a great end in the economy of salvation, but He must have life, indestructible, in Himself--must rise.

3. It was established by evidence which admitted no question in the mind of St. Paul, long the bitter opponent of Christianity (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).

II. Why so much stress is laid on the resurrection of Christ.

1. It was the confirmation of all His promises as the founder of a new religion.

(a) Of His claims to be an atoning sacrifice for sin. Of His being, in reality, the Son of God. “Declared to be the Son of God, with power,” etc.

(b) Of His having entered into His glory at the head of the new spiritual kingdom He had founded.

2. It was the pledge of our own resurrection and future happiness. The words spoken over the tomb of Lazarus come back with awful power from the heavens now Christ is risen … I am the resurrection and the life.” Those, also, spoken to His disciples--“Because I live ye shall live also.”

3. It is the constraining impulse to a holy life.

The resurrection: Christ the first-fruits

I. The pictures here given of the death of the saints.

1. As a sleep. Not that the soul sleeps, but the body in its lonely bed of earth, beneath the coverlet of grass, with the cold clay for its pillow.

(a) Rest. On yonder couch, however hard, the labourer shakes off his toil, the merchant his care, the thinker his difficulties, and the sufferer his pains. Sleep makes each night a Sabbath for the day. So is it with the body while it sleeps in the tomb. The weary are at rest; the servant is as much at ease as his lord.

(b) Forgetfulness. The soul forgets not, and we have no reason to believe that the glorified are ignorant of what is going on below. But what do their bodies know? Take up the skull, see if there be memory there. See where once the heart was if there be any emotion there. Gather the bones, see if they are still obedient to muscles which could be moved at will as passing events might affect the mind.

(c) Benefit. In the old tradition Medet, the enchantress, cast the limbs of old men into her cauldron that they might come forth young again. Sleep does all this in its fashion. The righteous are put into their graves all weary and worn, but such they will not rise.

(a) A dreamy slumber. The involuntary action of the mind prevents us at times from taking rest in sleep. But not so with the dear departed. In that sleep of death no dreams can come.

(b) A hopeless sleep. We have seen persons sleep who have been long emaciated by sickness, when we have said, “That eye will never open again; he will sleep himself into eternity.” But it is not so here. They sleep a healthy sleep--they sleep to wake, and not to die the second death; go wake in joyous fellowship when the Redeemer stands in the latter day upon the earth.

2. As a sowing. The mould has been ploughed, and the husbandman scatters his seeds. They fall into the earth, the clods are raked over them, and they disappear. So it is with us. We call Death a reaper--I call him a sower. He takes these bodies and sows us broadcast in the ground. And if this is so let us have done with all faithless sorrow. “The granary is empty,” says the farmer. Yes, but he does not sigh over it; for the seed is put into the ground in order that the granary may be filled again. “Our family circle has been broken,” say you. Yes, but only broken that it may be re-formed. The stars are setting here to rise in other skies to set no more.

II. The connection between the resurrection of Christ and that of believers. Some take very great delight in the hope that they may be “alive and remain” at the coming of Christ, but not to die would be to lose the great privilege of relationship with Christ as “the first-fruits.” The allusion is to the Jewish feast, when the first sheaf was brought out from the harvest as a token of the whole, and first of all heaved upward as a heave-offering, and then waived to and fro as a waive-offering, being thus dedicated to God in testimony of the gratitude for the harvest. The Passover was celebrated first, then came a Sabbath-day, then after that came the feast of first-fruits. So Christ died on the Passover day, the next day was the Sabbatic rest. Christ’s body therefore tarried in the grave; then early in the morning of the first day, the feast of the first-fruits, Christ rose. Christ was the first that rose--

1. In order of time. All who were raised before died again, and, with the exception of Lazarus, none were ever buried. Christ was the first who really rose no more to die. He leads the vanguard through the dark defile, and His brow first salutes the light of heaven, We admire the man who discovers a new country. Christ is the first who returned from the jaws of death to tell of immortality and light.

2. In point of cause; for as He comes back from the grave He brings all His followers behind Him in one glorious train. We read of Hercules descending into Hades and bringing up his friend. Verily went Christ thither, and He gave no sop to Cerberus, but cut off his head.

3. In point of pledge. The first-fruits were a pledge of the harvest.

4. As the representative of the whole. When the first-fruit sheaf had been waved before God it was considered that all the harvest had been brought into the sanctuary. So when Christ rose He consecrated the whole harvest. All the righteous dead were virtually risen in Him.

III. The influence of this doctrine.

1. Let us look well to the holiness of our bodies. “Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost?” Now if our eyes look upon vanity we have defiled the windows of God’s house; if our tongues speak evil we have desecrated its gates. Let us see to it that our feet carry us nowhere but where our Master can go with us, and that our hands be outstretched for naught but that which is pure and lovely.

2. Are we among those for whom Christ stands as first-fruits? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ the first-fruits

All shall rise at the last day, and be clothed with their bodies again. “But will all that rise enter into Christ’s joy? Only if they rise after His likeness. The crop from which the first-fruits were picked was not all of the same quality. There may have been wild grapes and fruit of brambles amid the crop of the vineyard, and there may have been tares and thistles among the crop of corn. These would be cast into the fire, and none but what are of the same kind as the first-fruits, grapes and corn, laid up in store. So it will be at the resurrection harvest. None but such as are like to Christ, the first-fruits, will be admitted into the kingdom of heaven. There is, therefore, much to warn us here. That which goes into the ground as seed of bramble or thistle will rise bromide or thistle, so he that goes into the grave a child of wrath will rise a child of wrath. Note--

I. That which is the grand property of everything that bears fruit, growth. As all men bear fruit of some kind, they are growing up from something and to something.

1. What, then, is the seed in our hearts from which we are growing? Is it the good seed of the Word of God? It is easy to determine. The manner of the plant’s growth declares its seed.

(a) A spreading forth of the love of God?

(b) A continual rise, as if of lively sap, of the sense of the mercies in Christ, of the experience of the earnest of His promises, of the motions of the Holy Spirit, of the promptings of good thoughts, godly meditations, heavenly affections?

(c) The shooting upwards of the stem of the seeking of God, the believing in Christ, the hoping of the good things to come, the raising of the desires?

(d) The shooting downward of a good hold of faith, of a rooting in love, of a seeking of spiritual nourishment?

(e) Shooting sideways into branches of love toward the brethren, of exercise in good works, of example to edification? Who can doubt the seed of such a plant?

(a) Rise and swell with the motions of ungodliness.

(b) Shooting upward in rebellion against God.

(c) Shoot downward in carnal desires, earthly affections, devilish inclinations.

(d) Shoot sideways in carelessness of living, bad example, indifference to God’s honour and glory--who does not know that it is the bad seed sown by the devil in the heart of man when he was asleep in the unwatchfulness of this world?

And who is not certain of the nature of its fruit, that it will be a poisonous berry, to the shame and scandal of the vineyard and field of God in which he has been suffered to grow up?

2. What is the fruit to which we are growing. There can be no doubt of a plant bearing its natural fruit, but there may be a doubt of its bearing fruit at all. But we hardly ever see worthless plants disabled from bearing fruit. Who ever saw the thistle blighted? It is the valuable fruits that are so uncertain, and the more precious they are so much the more tender they are, and require greater care to bring them to perfection, for they are not in their natural climate. And is the sinful world the natural climate for the precious fruits of holiness? No; all ungodliness thrives in it, blossoms without fail and in all abundance, and brings forth fruit most plentifully. But how different is it with the plant which comes up in the heart from the seed of the Word of God. The heat of temptation, the cold of indifference, the blight of unbelief, the floods of ungodliness, are all against it, and it requires to be nursed carefully, watched continually.

II. On our growth, whether for good or for evil fruit, depends our place on the day of the harvest of which Christ is the first-fruits. Our characters are decided for holy or unholy when we go into the grave; our place is decided, for happiness or misery, on the day that we rise out of it. It is astonishing how watchful some men are in keeping out such thoughts; it would be well if others would be as watchful in keeping them in. A person may indeed look forward to a happy resurrection without attaining it, because he may delude himself with false hopes; but no one will ever attain a happy resurrection without looking forward to it. (R. W. Evans, D.D.)


Verse 21-22

1 Corinthians 15:21-22

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

Salvation by man

When Paul says “by man” he refers to Christ; only taking advantage of the fact that, since the Son of God incarnate, is become a proper man, it is permitted us to regard the power of salvation as included in humanity itself. Christ is not so much to be thought of as being external, but as a regenerative power so inserted in humanity as to be, in a sense, of it. The word “since” supposes an impression felt of inherent fitness, requiring the corporate disadvantages of the fall to be made good by a corporate remedy. Consider, then--

I. The antecedent probability of such a remedy, indicated by familiar analogies. It is God’s manner to make all things largely self-remedial when attacked by disorder. The bush that is bent, as soon as it is let go springs up suddenly by an elastic force within. Cut it down and it will set to new growths. Every animal body has a distinct self-medicating force in its own nature, called by physiologists the vis medicatrix. The same is true of all defections of character, the man must repair his losses by a process of recovery undertaken by himself; the whole world toiling at his vices and dishonors could not repair one of them. The same is true of society. What, then, shall we expect when humanity is broken by sin, but that if God organises redemption, He will do it in a way to have it appear as a redemption from within, executed in a sense by man?

II. We not only want a supernatural salvation (for nothing less than that can possibly regenerate the fall of nature), but in order to have any steady faith in it we must have it wrought into nature and made to be, as it were. One of its own stock powers. Note the eagerness that turns such multitudes of our time after the doctrine of progress.

1. Yet there is no fiction more baseless than a strictly natural progress, for after the fact of sin the progress of the race must be (as we see it is) from bad to worse. We want a salvation that is to us all that this doctrine of progress pretends to be, and God gives us to see the general humanity so penetrated with the supernatural by Christ living in it, as to be, in a sense, working out redemption from within itself.

2. Meantime, if it were possible to restore the fall of our race by any kind of wholly external agency, supposing no concurrent struggles operating from within, it would reduce our character and grade of insignificance to a virtual nullity. But the Saviour being or becoming man, the salvation dignifies and raises man even before he receives it.

III. Since it is continually assumed in Scripture that we fall as a corporate whole, we naturally look for some recuperative grace to re entered into the race, by which so great a disadvantage may be repaid or overcome, True, we are not born of Christ physiologically. The correspondence must not be understood to hold in any but a general and qualified way. Let it be enough that as Adam is our head physiologically, so is Christ our head by the head influences He inaugurates. Good souls have a power to get into the race by collateral propagations of their goodness, when bad souls have almost no such power at all. They have a destiny of headship, becoming Adams in the sublime fatherhood of their power. And so it is, illustrating the Divine by the human, that the incarnate Word of God’s eternity, coming into birth and living and dying as a man, fills the race with new possibilities and powers, starts resurgent activities, and overtops the sin abounding with a grace that so much more abounds.

IV. Consider now some of the Scripture evidence of the subject. It declares the the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head. The woman’s whole posterity, including Christ, shall do it, God being always present in the struggle. Here and there the hidden method is departed from, and God does something for or upon our humanity and not through it, but nothing works like a power that does not work by man. When Christ comes, perfect in all Divinity, He gets into the common family register as man, and puts the struggle on as being a struggle of race. And when He is gone a gospel is born, and, though there seems nothing here but the same humanity there was before, it is a very different fight as respects the power of it. Observe how even Holy Scripture is written by man, bearing in every book the stamp of the particular mind in whose personal conception it was shaped. And the gospel of Christ is to be preached by human ministers, and the disciples are to be newer incarnations of Christ, and, in a sense, by their gifts, prayers, and sufferings, vehicles, also, of the Spirit. “Ye are the light of the world.” Conclusion:

1. We have, then, a very significant presumption raised, that when any breakage or damage occurs in any legitimate institution of the world, God has put in somewhere some kind of self-remedial force to mend it.

2. Note the immense responsibility thrown upon Christ’s followers. Christ lays it on them to be gospellers with Him, and to really believe is to come into the great life-struggle of Jesus.

3. Lift up your heads, O ye drooping ones! Christ is in the world. He is about us, within us, going through all things, moving onward in all. Leaven does not make a noise when it works, and yet it works. No river runs to the sea more certainly or steadily than the great salvation by man runs to conquest and a kingdom.

4. Observe the beautiful delicacy of God in His plan of salvation. He makes it not a salvation for man only, but contrives to make it, as far as possible, a salvation by man. True, it is all by Christ, and yet it is by the Christ within--the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. And so, instead of making His mercy a mere pity that kills respect, He makes it a power that lifts into character and everlasting manhood. And when we shall go home to be with Christ, what shall we do but confess in lowliest homage--“Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood”; raising our finale, also, to sing, in the glorified majesty of our feeling, “And hath made us kings and priests unto God.” (H. Bushnell, D.D.)

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.--

Adam and Christ

Consider--

I. The points of resemblance between these two beings as traced out in different parts of Scripture.

1. Adam was the immediate creation of God. He had no other father--neither had Christ’s human nature.

2. In the perfect beauty of holiness was Adam created. And of Christ we are told that He was “holy, harmless, undefiled.”

3. The crown of dominion over the earth and the creatures was set upon the head of Adam; but this is more fully verified in the exalted humanity of Christ (Hebrews 2:8-9).

4. Adam was transported from the part of the earth where he was created to Eden; Christ ascended from the world to the heavenly Paradise.

II. The points of dissimilarity between them. There is between them the distance of humanity and deity. Christ was able to vivify His own body. He was made a “quickening spirit”; but Adam “was made a living soul” only.

III. The relation in which these personages stand to human beings, and the manner in which it is formed. To Adam all stand related by a natural connection--our bond with Christ is a bond of faith.

IV. The consequences accruing to us from this relation.

1. The baneful effects of our connection with Adam.

2. The benefits which come to us from our bond with Christ. (J. Leifchild, D.D.)

The Adam and the Christ

The apostle is not content with affirming the obvious fact, that as Adam died, so all men die. He traces the death of all to the death of the one, and affirms the work of Christ to be coextensive and coefficient with the work of Adam. Just as in Romans 5:12-21 he connects the results of Christ’s redemption with the sin which brought death into the world and all our woe.

I. Throughout the Scriptures Christ is set forth as the creative Word and wisdom of God. Without Him was not anything made that was made. By Him, “the Quickening Spirit,” Adam was made in His image, after His similitude. Adam, by his trespass, defaced that Divine image; but he did not altogether obliterate it. He brought evil and death into our nature; but there was still in that nature some remnant of its original beauty and goodness. And to this day our nature is a compound in which good and evil are strangely blended; the good of God, the evil of ourselves. In every child we see some bad, some good tendencies. Whence do they derive that goodness? From Christ, the Creative Word. All in himself and in us that Adam could not, or did not, wholly spoil, is a remnant of man’s original endowment; it is the work and gift of Christ. And therefore it is that the better man, the better self, in us speaks with an authority which the worse self never claims.

II. But it is not as Creator alone that Christ saves us and gives us life: it is also as Redeemer, the “Second Man, the Lord from heaven,” who took our flesh and dwelt among us. Whatever our view of “original sin,” we all admit that the sins of the father do affect the very nature of his children; and that therefore, if by transgression our first parents fell from their purity, it may very well be that we are the worse for their transgression. But it is not equally easy to see how the redemption of Jesus should have a similar effect on us before we believe on Him. Yet a little consideration may suffice to show us that whatever Christ does must affect the whole human race in the same way in which it is affected by Adam’s sin. For what gave Adam his power over us and the renditions of our life? Simply the fact that he was our father; in the subordinate sense, our maker. Like begets like. God begot Adam in His likeness; Adam begot men in his likeness. As he transgressed, we suffer for his transgression. But who made Adam? Christ, the Creative Word, that afterwards took flesh and became man. If, then, whatever Adam did affects us, simply because we descend from him, will not whatever Christ--from whom also we descend--does, affect us? and affect us by so much the more as Christ is greater than Adam? If we can conceive that Christ, the Living and Creative Word, should have perished, should not we all have perished in Him? And if He, our Maker, assumes our nature, and renders a perfect obedience, must we not all be the better for His obedience? As well might the sun move from its place without influencing, in every part, the whole solar system, as the eternal Christ descend to earth, and dwell a Man among men, without sending a vital influence through the whole of humanity.

III. But how are all men the better for the grace of Christ? Death, moral and physical, was the consequence of Adam’s transgression. Had he become only what he had made himself, he would have sunk irremediably into evil. Had we in our nature only that which, in the strictest sense, we derive from him, we should be only evil. That he did not, that we do not, become the mere bondslaves of evil, is all of “grace”; it is because we derive from Christ other and better qualities than we inherit from Adam, because Adam derived from Christ other and better qualities than those which he superinduced upon his nature. As we have seen, even before we believe in Christ we have a better and a worse self contending in us for the mastery. Consider the children you know. Nay, consider the very worst man you know. Is there not a double nature in him? Has not even he a better self? Does he not know that it is the better, and that it should be supreme? This is the benefit all men derive from the redemption of Christ, that they have “the Christ” in them, just as the harm they inherit from Adam is that they have “the Adam” in them. But for the grace of Christ they would never have had that “better self,” of which they are conscious even when they wrong it by sinning against it. Conclusion: Perhaps it may be objected, “But Adam was the first man. Christ did not come into the world for four thousand years after sin was in the world.” It might be enough to reply that Christ was in the world before Adam, or how could He have made Adam? that He has never left the world: that He was in Adam as a spirit of righteousness and truth after the Fall, and in all who lived before the Advent: for how else could He have taught them what they knew of the spiritual and eternal world? how else could they have striven against His Spirit? how else could they have tempted Christ (1 Corinthians 10:9). How else could all the fathers drink of the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:1-4; cf. Hebrews 11:26). But this objection springs from our purely human way of regarding things. We are in time, and judge events by the measures of time. We are so made that we can only conceive of events locally and in succession--i.e., within the limitations of time and space. But these limitations do not restrain the Inhabitant of Eternity. There is no before and after with Him. If the eternal Christ had been the last man on the earth, none the less His redemption would have passed in its effects through all the eras of time, and have moulded the destinies of all generations. We indeed cannot tell how; but neither can we comprehend the mere conception of eternity: how, then, can we hope to comprehend Him who sits above all of time, or to calculate the issues of His redeeming work?

2. Again, it may be asked, “But if all men are to live in Christ as all men die in Adam, does not the parallel involve the ultimate recovery of the whole human race? No; both the Adam and the Christ are in us: the Adam with his “offence,” the Christ with His “grace”; the Adam with his “disobedience,” the Christ with His “gift of righteousness.” And we have to choose between them. Yielding to the Adam, we die; but if we yield to the Christ, we shall “never die,” but “reign in life” through Him. If we are not obliged to yield to Adam’s sin, why should we be obliged to yield to Christ’s grace? (S. Cox, D.D.)

The solidarity of salvation

1. A friend we love, how distinct and individual seems to us all he says and does! And his most marked peculiarities become dear to us simply because they are his and his only.

2. And yet, if we go home with him, counter-discoveries greet us on every side. We see in his father whence came that look in the eyes, and in his mother that turn of the mouth, that shade of colour in the hair, and his voice in his young brother. But is he any the less a distinct character?

3. How deep our searching might go if we penetrated the hidden ground of our friend’s life. And science could take up his mannerisms, and show us their exact parallel not only in the locality where he was born, but in the ancient homes of the English in the far north. Nor is it his body only into which these multitudinous influences have entered, but into his character and mind. We are using the stored experiences of bygone generations, and cannot throw off the domination of their hidden forces, for they lie at the most secret places of our souls. Old faces, long buried, look out of our eyes; voices from out of forgotten and unknown graves speak through our lips. Yet nothing of all this burdens us; we are ourselves; we miss nothing of our free manhood. We all of us live one life. Out of the same earth we grow, like plants out of a common soil, and each of us puts out our own colour, and shape, and scent. And it is by this unity of race that we effect a combined advance; civilisation is only possible, because the genius of each generation can be retained and transmitted.

4. But, then, we cannot accept the gains of heredity and refuse the losses. And why, then, are we perplexed, if, by this same habitual law, we all in Adam die? We men form one body; and to prohibit poison, once introduced, from spreading over the whole, would be done only at the cost of forbidding that body to perform its functions, at the cost of wrecking its structural life. Let Adam once have sinned, and we, who are in Adam, have the seeds of sin within us. Our freedom is all the more free when it acts under the uplifting pressure of a splendid inheritance; nor is it at all sensible of any diminution because its sin bears witness to the miserable story of a guilty stock.

5. “In Adam all die.” Yes! but hidden in this very mystery is the possibility of a redemption. The transmission that makes for the corruption of all, can be turned to the needs and uses of the regeneration. God converts the conditions of the curse into the very instruments of the blessing. In Adam, it is true, all would die; but, then, in Christ, all may be made alive. So, in the Beloved Son, man becomes new-begotten of God.

6. And now let us measure His task. His virtue must imbed itself by roots as deep and strong as those by which sin has dug its dire fangs into the inherited flesh. It must pervade and embrace the entire bulk of fallen and human nature. Everything that is ours He must make His. And ours, now, was a life bound down under a curse, smitten with the blight of sorrow. Yet He became ours; wholly human, wholly knit into our common fate, implicated with us in all our woe. And yet, lo! He has brought with Him into our burdened days the new vitality. The entire movement in which we had found ourselves held is reversed.

7. As that old sin spread out its baneful influence, ring upon ring, circle upon circle, so this new life issues out over the whole, in circle after circle, in ring upon ring. There is the outermost ring of that dim heathen world which has been brought nigh, in the Risen Christ, to the Father. And they, even they, amid ugly and foul confusions, are not insensible to that strange stirring which is the movement within them of the resurrection--a movement blind yet prophetic--prompting them to deeds which Christ will yet own as His at the Last Day. And within that ring is the ring of a civilisation that, for all its miserable stains, has yet this mark of Christ upon it; it can never lose its hope--a hope that has in it always the power of a recovery. We cannot despair, though the Lord delayeth His coming. And within that ring is the ring of those who cling to Christ. The Lord knows them that are His, and He showers down favour upon them as they look up to Him. And within this ring, again, its very heart and core, is Christ’s living Church. Christ’s love beats like a great heart, pulse upon pulse, expelling that slow death which has crept over the body of humanity. And, thus, “in Christ, all are made alive.” You and I, we are none the less free, because in Adam we all died; and then in Christ, in some strange recovery, achieved for and by God, we all were made alive. Just as we won the free exercise of our English name out of the very necessities which had made us English; so, out of our very bond to Christ, we win the energy to become free friends of Christ. Out of His action we are made free, and the more He does for us, the more we are enabled to do for ourselves. You are free this very minute to rise and follow Christ.

8. But such high freedom cannot but be perilous. It is not yours to choose whether you will rise with Christ or no. All rise with Him; all through Him are dragged through the darkness of the grave, and will stand before the judgment of God. As we must have died in Adam, so we must rise in Christ. And what is it, then, that strikes chill as fear upon our hearts? Can it, indeed, be that the freedom regained in Christ can itself be turned against the name of Him who inspires it? Yet this can be. We shall rise; but where will that order be in which we shall have placed ourselves? What if our approach to God be as the nearing of a great heat that scorches and kills? Holiness is as a fire to sin. (Canon Scott-Holland.)

Spiritual death

Adam, as used in this passage, is, so far as we shall regard it, only a synonym for sinfulness.

1. We assume that human nature is sinful. The degree of this sinfulness, I care nothing about. Look wherever you may and you will find the trace and evidence of deep depravity.

2. Note also that there is no sin without a sinner. Sin is not a vague, weird, devil-like shadow, which no one can grasp and define; it is a palpable fact. Whenever you find it, you find it in the shape of a deed done by some doer.

3. Human nature in its rudiments is precisely what it has always been; the world in the aggregate is just what it was a thousand years ago. We flush to the same wicked passions to-day that flamed in the lusts of our fathers. The old Adam still lives, sins, dies. If you demand proof, I point to your gaols, to your gallows, to yourselves.

4. There are those who do not resist temptation; some because they have never been successful in their resistance, and hence despair has entered into their souls. When Satan has threaded the very fibres of hope out of man, he has won a triumph indeed. The gambler that can take another’s money, and feel no compunction, illustrates how thoroughly sin can get the mastery of a human being. Such people are dead in trespasses and sins. You run a pin into your body and you scream because it is a live body. And so, while conscience is alive, the thrust of a wicked thought through it causes exquisite torture. But when one can lie, and steal, and be drunken--when these barbed iniquities can be driven day by day into the very centre of a man’s life, and conscience receives the stab without a spasm--then is it dead. Hence, sin is moral suicide. This is what men mean by the phrase: “He has no conscience.”

5. All sin is a sin against God. He stands embodied in every creation that He has made. Sin is an electric current, and it matters not along what wire the shock of it is delivered, it finally enters His breast. Do you wonder that He is quick to interpret the insult? Does not a mother resent any injury done to her child? Whoever sins against himself sins against God. For all that makes us to differ from the beasts of the field is the Divinity within us.

6. We can never know how evil sin is, because we cannot measure the evil it works. And this because we cannot know how sublime are the possibilities in the nature which it destroys. He who without cause breaks a bud from a stem, has done a deed the evil of which we can measure. He has destroyed a rose. But he who murders a child has done a deed the sin of which we cannot measure; for we cannot tell how much good that child might have done. Much less can you measure the evil which sin works when it destroys a soul. For none, save God, knows what are the possibilities of a soul. In front of all our sinfulness stands the great fact, staring us in the face, that we cannot keep it to ourselves. For whatever makes me worse, makes all worse who intimately know me. Nor is there any knowing where sin ends. The Bible says that parental transgressions lap over five generations. The tide of human life flows on still turbid and dark; and even the filter of Christianity seems incapable of purifying the unsightly stream. We have done nothing evil that is not to-day as chemically potent to darken the purity of the world, as on that day and at that hour when the sinful deed, or word, or imagination dropped, like a black globule, into it. The young vulture, once having broken its chain, or overflown the wire, returns no more. So it is with sin. Once out of our reach it is for ever beyond our control. (W. H. H. Murray.)

Spiritual life

1. At the root of all higher life in man is a protest against his living a lower life. This protest we call conscience. Without it, men would be devils at birth. Within you all is this root of holiness. If you do evil, it condemns; if you do well, it applauds. Christ means the Anointed, the Consecrated, the Kingly One. Whatever, therefore, is kingly and consecrated in you, He represents. He is, as it were, your best self. Your higher life, therefore, is Divine. So far as you live in it you live in God. And out of this thought comes great hope for many. For there be many, I feel, that live in God and know it not.

2. Now the glory of the whole world is the glory of the life that is in it. A landscape in which there is no green, growthful thing, a level stretch of sea without ripple or current, a house in which no life stirs, a human face, set, colourless, rigid in all its lines--there is no glory in all these. Wherever you look, your eyes instinctively search for life. If you find it not, your soul instinctively draws back within itself. Death is universal horror. Life demands life. It lives on companionships. These are to it what sunshine and moisture are to plants. Only in this connection do we apprehend that fine eulogy of Christ, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

3. Now all life is not the same life. There is the life of beast, of bird, of man. Beyond we come to the life of angels, of spirits; and over all we find the Great Spirit, in whom all life is, and out of whom all life comes. God. In man you find the indwelling life graded as to quality and use. There is body-life, mind-life and soul-life. And the qualities and expressions of the last are finer than the qualities and expressions of the others. Now the life which we have in Christ is the life of the finest qualities in us. It is the life contained in those faculties and powers which are not only immortal, but which are adapted in their nature for the finest uses.

4. Life which is simply continued existence, is a low order of life. There is a life, the result of which is a curse. A bird which should lose its bird instincts and become swinish, would offer to our gaze a spectacle abhorrent to that sense in us which interprets the eternal fitness of things. And so when the man forgets that he is a spirit, when he deserts heaven and makes his home in the earth, offers a spectacle abhorrent to every instinct of justice and propriety.

5. Now, there is no denying that the earthly tendency is in us all. Neither is there any denying that the heavenly impulse is in all who allow it to dwell in them. Man is not an empty vase. He is filled, inwardly, with soul-life capacities. And in these capacities are seed-like qualities which need only Divine quickening to germinate to holiness. The best recognition of this native nobility in man is seen in the incarnation. I thus swing myself up to God’s standpoint and looking down upon the reckless of earth, exclaim: “What a pity that such a creation should misdemean himself in that style!” When I see one engaged in brave battle with some appetite, breasting up against some passion, or striving against unfortunate circumstances to better himself, I say “The original impulse to virtue has not wholly left the race yet.” My angels are not in the sky, but in the bosoms of men and women striving to be better. God is born in some men, and He groweth with their growth. The patience, the courage, the abhorrence of evil, the shrinking from coarseness, the innate love of pure things which are in the Divine nature, are in them.

6. Now this Divine element in human nature, this something in man which is finer than man, had perfect expression in Jesus. It was the moral perfection of the human being, Jesus, that made Him worthy to be called Christ. The title was descriptive of the man.

7. Pattern your lives after the model presented for your guidance and your inspiration in the character of this matchless being. In Him, standing here, behold the union of both worlds; the humanity of earth inspired with the divinity of the skies. Do you wonder that such a being should say, “The kingdom of God is within you”? Nay! For He felt that the foundations of that kingdom were laid in the capacities of His own bosom. As David said touching the Father, so we can say touching our Elder Brother, “I shall be content when I awake in Thy likeness.” Let the dead within you hear the voice to-day which calls it from its grave, and let it come forth and stand ready for action in the front rank of your purposes and endeavours. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.” Every man must make his own world, as Jesus made His. And all who live upon the earth who would be like Him, must live above it.

8. This must be observed also, that whoever comes into that way of living which Christ had, comes into it first by the way of positive resolution. And this resolution is his own. It is conduct which makes character. And you can make your conduct whatever you please. Now he who continues in good conduct, continues in Christ (John 15:4; John 15:6). The man who ceases to practise the actual virtues that Christ practised, is a withered man, morally. (W. H. H. Murray.)

The Christian’s life in Christ

1. All which our Lord has is ours, if we are indeed His. As Man, He received gifts, that He might give them to men. As Man, He received the Holy Spirit, that He might again dwell in man, and clothe us with the holiness which we lost in Adam. For our sakes He sanctified Himself, that we also might be sanctified by the truth. His shame is our glory; His blood our ransom; His wounded side our hiding-place from our own sins and Satan’s wrath; His death our life. And what, then, should His life be? What but the sealing to us of all which He had wrought for us? What but the bursting of the bars of our prison-house, the opening of the kingdom of heaven?

2. All this is to us “in Christ.” “In Christ shall all be made alive.” We shall live then, not only as having our souls restored to our bodies, and souls and bodies living on in the presence of Almighty God. There is a higher blessedness yet in store, viz., to live on “in Christ.” For that implies Christ’s living on in us. For we can only dwell in God by His dwelling in us. To dwell in God is not to dwell on God only. He takes us out of our state of nature, in which we were, fallen, estranged, in a far country, out of and away from Him and takes us up into Himself.

3. This is the great difference between us and the brute creation. They are not capable of the presence of God. He made them; He extendeth His providence over them. Yet their spirit goeth downwards to the earth, not upwards to the God who gave it. This is also the great difference between us and those who lived under the Old Testament. Closer is the nearness of God to those who will receive Him, than when He walked with Adam in Paradise, or seemed to sit with Abraham, or to speak to Moses face to face, or when the angel in whom His presence was, wrestled with Jacob, or when One, in the form of a Son of Man, was with the three children in the fire; yea, nearer yet, than when, in the flesh, His disciples did eat and drink with Him. For all this nearness was still outward only. Such nearness had Judas also, who kissed Him. Such nearness shall they plead to whom He shall say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.”

4. The Christian’s nearness He hath told, “We will come unto Him, and make our abode with Him,” in holiness, peace, bliss, cleansing love. It is not a presence to be seen, heard, felt by our bodily senses; yet nearer still, because when the bodily senses fail the inward eye sees a light brighter than all earthly joy; the inward ear bears His voice; the inmost soul feels the thrill of His touch; the “heart of hearts” tastes the sweetness of the love of the presence of its Lord and its God. The Everlasting Son dwelleth not as He doth in the material heavens, nor as He sanctified this house of God, nor as He did in the tabernacle, but united with the soul, and, in substance, dwelling in her, as He did personally in the man Christ Jesus.

5. This then, as it is the special mystery of the gospel, so is it of the Resurrection--to be “in Christ.” This is our justification, sanctification, redemption, in Him; this our hope for those who are departed before us, that they are “fallen asleep in Him”; are dead, but in Him (1 Thessalonians 4:16); this is our hope in the day of judgment, that we “may be found in Him”; this our perfecting (Colossians 1:28), this our endless life (verse 22), this is the consummation of all things (Ephesians 1:10). Through Christ’s resurrection we have a new principle of life in us. The Spirit, which dwelt in Him “without measure,” He has imparted to us His members, that it may sanctify us, spiritualise our very bodies here, keep in us the true life, if we forfeit it not, and so, through that Spirit, shall our dust again be quickened, and we be raised at the last day to life (Romans 8:9).

6. The Spirit not only “cometh upon those who are Christ’s, as of old, but is within them, (Romans 8:9-10). And if the Spirit abide in us, how should not the body, so lived in, have life? (Romans 8:11). The resurrection, then, of our Lord is not only a pledge of our own; it is our own, if we be His. His body is a pattern of what is in store for ours, since we, if His, are a part of it. Conclusion: Since these things are so, we may well stand in awe of our very selves and of the majesty bestowed upon our frail nature (chap. 3:16). “Grieve not” away “the Holy Spirit of God.” For if the evil spirit find the dwelling-place whence he was cast out “empty,” “he will take to himself seven spirits more wicked than himself, and will re-enter and dwell there.” Let us then, as we would hope at the last day to “rise to life,” and not to “shame and everlasting contempt,” seek, and watch, and pray, to rise with our risen Lord now. (E. B. Pusey, D.D.)

The power of the resurrection

The resurrection of Christ--

I. Is the great public manifestation of His authority over physical decay and death. This it is by being His own personal conquest of that power as it had been exercised upon Himself: a characteristic which separates it from all other instances of similar miraculous restorations. All others, in whatsoever age of the world, had been raised by a power from without: He alone by Himself. The power that revived all, stands self-revived.

II. Being a self-resurrection, stands alone as a monument of His inherent power of life. There seems a sort of progressive scale of the other resurrections noted in the gospel history. The daughter of Jairus was raised before she was conveyed from her chamber; the son of the widow of Nain was being carried out to burial; Lazarus had been four days in his grave. Neither were self-raised; Christ was self-raised.

III. Was the result of a power that did not cease at His departure from the world. The whole Church is the monument of its existence and its exercise; it is built upon His resurrection. For there is a spiritual resurrection and there is a physical resurrection. The latter was wrought by Christ when on earth, as a visible symbol of the other, and a proof of His power to effect it. His own resurrection from the dead mysteriously exemplified both: the general resurrection of the just at the consummation of all things shall again and for ever combine them. The resurrection of Christ, once performed in act, is immortal in energy; He rises again in every new-born child of God.

IV. Should prompt the desire for the final consummation of His work, the restoration of an immortal body to an immortal soul. “In Christ shall all be made alive.” All men are to be made alive spiritually and physically. Behold! we stand alone in creation; earth, sea, and sky can show nothing so awful as we are! The rooted bills shall flee before the fiery glance of the Almighty Judge; the mountains shall become dust, the ocean a vapour; the very stars of heaven shall fall as the fig-tree casts her untimely fruit! Yea, heaven and earth shall pass away, but the humblest, poorest, lowliest among us is born for undying life. Amid all the terrors of dissolving nature, the band of immortals shall stand before their Judge. (W. Archer Butler, M.A.)

The results of Christ’s resurrection

Consider--

I. The results of Christ’s resurrection to us. It is a pledge of the resurrection of all who share in His humanity.

1. Why does this result take place? (verse 22). Do not understand the apostle as if he merely said, “If you sin as Adam sinned, you will die as Adam died.” This was mere Pelagianism, and is expressly condemned in the article on Original Sin. According to the Scriptures we inherit the first man’s nature, and that nature has in it the mortal, not the immortal. And yet there are in all of us two natures, that of the animal and that of the Spirit, an Adam and a Christ. St. Paul explains himself: “The first man was of the earth, earthy”; and again, “The first man Adam was made a living soul.”

2. When will this result take place? (verses 23, etc.) Note--

II. Corroborative proofs. These are two in number, and both are argumenta ad hominem. They are not proofs valid to all men, but cogent only to Christians.

1. When baptized, Christians made a profession of a belief in a resurrection, and St. Paul asks them here, “What, then, was the meaning of their profession? Why were they baptized into the faith of a resurrection, if there were none?” (verse 29).

2. “Why stand we in jeopardy every hour?”


Verse 23-24

1 Corinthians 15:23-24

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

The sequences of the resurrection

I. When and how will the dead be raised?

1. Generally Paul’s answer amounts to this. The resurrection is not a single act. All men are to be raised, “but every one in his own order,” i.e., “in his own troop.” The apostle sees an universal conflict between life and death. Christ the Lord of life has already achieved a personal victory; but all others are still in the thick of the conflict. What is to be the issue? Through the power of Christ’s life, troop after troop they will achieve their conquest, and defile before their victorious Captain with joyful acclamation. Christ’s resurrection, “the first-fruits,” is the first triumph in a series of triumphs over death; the second that of those “who are Christ’s at His coming.” It is impossible that they, with His life in them, should be holden of death, though death may keep them in ward for a while.

2. Do the dead in Christ rise before the other dead?

(a) The discourse commences with the parable of the ten virgins. When the Bride-groom comes the lamps of five are “going out”--at the point to expire. And so, when the Lord comes, they are not ready for Him. Yet they may be saved. For all we are told is that they are too late for that time; not that when they went to buy oil, the shops were shut. They were buying oil when they should have been burning it, and therefore were too late for the marriage supper. It is not the final judgment which is here set before us. Those who miss the first may be in time for the second resurrection.

(b) The same thought expressed in the parable of the talents. All who received talents from “the lord” are of his household. Two are faithful to their trust. One servant fails. The foolish virgins thought their task too easy: the slothful servant thinks his too hard. When his master comes, he has nothing but excesses to offer, and bases his excuses on a wilful misconception of the master’s character. He is cast into the outer darkness. This is a parabolic delineation of the first resurrection, of the judgment of the Church rather than of the world. For there are many in the Church who misconceive the character of God. Among the awful possibilities of life there is also this: that “those who have once been enlightened,” etc. (Hebrews 6:4-6), may fall away beyond the reach of penitence, and therefore beyond the reach of redemption.

(c) But at this point we pass from the first to the second resurrection, from the judgment of the Church--which may extend through the millennium--to the judgment of the world. For now “all the nations” are gathered before the Son of Man. Those who stand on the right are the “sheep who were not of this fold,” the men of every nation who, taught by His Spirit though not through His gospel, have wrought righteousness. To them the King will say, “Come ye blessed of My Father,” etc. Mark their response. They cannot say, “Lord, Thou didst not entrust us with talents.” They do not know Him, nor His gifts. Mark also the Lord’s reply: “Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these My brethren”--and here we must suppose Him pointing to the saints who have come with Him to the judgment--“ye did it unto Me.” In short, all the details of this solemn scene indicate that “the saints” are distinct from “the righteous”; that they are already with Christ in glory, not before Him for judgment.

II. “Then the end,” etc. (verse 24). These words are expanded in the verses which follow. All this means that all the authority of man over man, all the power of death over the race, and even all the grace of Christ in the Church, are Divine expedients for delivering men from their bondage to the lusts which destroy them, and for quickening them into a new better life: that the authority of man and the power of death only reach their true and benignant ends as they are penetrated by the Spirit of Christ: that Christ, therefore, must reign till these various forms of rule are suffused by His Spirit; and that then, when all these have achieved their purpose, “the end” will come; the Divine expedients, having served their turn, will vanish away, and higher forms of life take their place; we shall know God, not only through the Son, but as He is in Himself, and the God whom as yet we know only through Christ, even the Father, will become all in all of us.

1. It is not difficult to see how all forms of human rule and authority are, at least, intended to check the evil dispositions of men, to save us from anarchy, from the tyranny of brute force and unbridled selfishness. Bad as the world is it would be far worse but for the restraints of domestic and political authority. Nor is it difficult to see that even the death we often fear is a wholesome check upon us. The mere fear of it holds back the tyrant from many crimes, the criminal from many offences.

2. Nevertheless human rule is apt to be austere and unlovely. Till it is penetrated by the Spirit of Christ, if it does some good, it also does much harm; and, in so far as it does harm to men, it is the enemy of Christ. Death, again, is a horror, till the light of life and immortality shine through it; and, in so far as it inspires the fear that hath torment, death is the enemy of Christ. Therefore God has ordained that Christ shall reign till He has put all enemies beneath His feet, till His Spirit has penetrated all forms of domestic and civil control, and suffused death itself with the splendours of life. But when He shall thus have drawn all things under Him, the reign of Christ will have achieved its purpose; the world will be full of living men who dwell together in charity, and to whom death means more life and fuller. Having achieved its purpose, the reign of Christ may well come to an end. It will be merged in the universal kingdom of the Father. The Mediator will be lost in the God to whom He has reconciled all men, from whom they can never more be alienated. God, even the Father, will be all in all. Unlike the princes of this world, the Divine King will reign, not when, but only until, He has put all enemies under His feet.

3. This, then, is the glorious prospect which lies before us. To our mortal weakness, indeed, we may find no beauty in it that we should desire it. For we do not care to rise above our need of Christ: the thought of losing Him is intolerable to us. Let us therefore remember that we do not lose a child when we find and love his father. We then really find the child, understand him better, love him more. And, in like manner, we shall not, in finding God, lose Christ. We shall then first truly find Him, know Him as we never knew Him before, love Him with a more perfect love.

4. Whatever else and more may be meant by Christ delivering the kingdom to His Father, and God becoming all in all, at least this must be meant: that the future is to be a grand progress, a golden ladder which we shall climb, round after round, till we stand amid the awful and transfiguring splendours of the eternal throne; a constant advance towards the central light, a constant increase in life, power, wisdom, charity: a beatific vision, which grows and spreads as we gaze upon it, and pours an enlarging volume of energy and peace into our souls. (S. Cox, D.D.)

Christ the first-fruits

I. The figure suggests the idea of precedence. As the presenting of the first-ripe fruits preceded the gathering in of the remainder of the harvest--so Christ’s rising from the grave, and, on His ascension, appearing before God, was the prelude of the rising of all His people and their gathering in to everlasting life. The resurrection of the blessed surety was the first irrecoverable and permanent rescue from the power of the grave. He was the first released victim which death was never to get back.

II. The second idea suggested by the type is that of security. The first-fruits, when duly offered to the Lord, in obedience to His prescription, and as a becoming expression of dependence and thankfulness, formed a kind of Divine pledge to Israel of the remaining harvest. There are two ways in which the resurrection of Jesus may be considered as giving assurance of the resurrection of His people.

1. It involved in it an attestation, on the part of the Father that sent Him, to the divinity of His mission, and to the truth of all His testimony.

2. It was closely connected with His death, as the principal proof of its having answered its end. That end was atonement. It is not the fact that Christ died, even connected with the additional fact of His rising again, that constitutes the gospel. Both the facts may be believed, and yet the gospel rejected. The gospel lies in the purpose of His death--“He died for our sins”; and then His resurrection becomes the evidence of the purpose having been effectually answered--of the Father’s having accepted the propitiation.

III. The last idea suggested by the figure in the text is resemblance. The first ripe fruits were a specimen of the harvest. They were to be the best indeed in quality; and had it been otherwise, the type would ill have agreed with what the apostle represents it as having prefigured. For we must never fancy that, in the case before us, resemblance means the same as equality. The glory of His people can never be supposed equal in degree to that of Jesus Himself. But the glory shall be the same in kind; His the glory of the sun, ours of those stars that receive and reflect His light. See Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2; Colossians 3:4. And oh, is not this enough?--enough to kindle all the ardour of desire, enough to fill the conceptions of the most capacious mind, enough to exhaust the efforts of the boldest and loftiest imagination? To be like Christ! Oh, what is there higher, holier, or happier, which it is possible for you to wish, either for yourselves or for the dearest objects of your love? (R. Wardlaw, D.D.)

Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God.--

The coming of the end

The end comes--

I. To man’s greatness. Alexander the Great conquered all that was known of the world, and sighed because there was only one world to conquer, and yet one small grave in Babylon was large enough to hold him and his greatness. Solomon’s wisdom and greatness were such that there was none like unto him, and yet he “was buried in the city of David his father.” If I visit the Pyramids of Egypt, I am reminded of the glory of the Pharaohs, yet if I were to touch one of these Pharaohs roughly he would crumble into dust. William the Conqueror was a mighty king, yet his horse stumbling over the hot ashes of a burning town brought all this greatness to an end. Napoleon’s ambition knew no bounds, and yet a lonely tomb holds all that remains of that mighty conqueror.

II. To our opportunities for good. All have these opportunities, yet some of you are not using them. An end will come to them. God will not always strive with man, and then the recording angel will point sadly to the text, “Then cometh the end.”

III. To a life of open sin and dissipation. I see men and women staggering out of taverns, I see them gambling in reeking rooms. I see women hovering through the streets seeking whom they may devour, then I open my Bible sadly and read the text, “Then cometh the end.” And it is nearer by forty, or fifty, or sixty years than when you were born. What sort of end is it going to be? Conclusion:

1. There are only two kinds of endings possible for you: if you are in Christ Jesus, then the end will be for you the end of waiting, of toil, of sorrow, and it will be the beginning of peace, of joy, of rest everlasting. But for those who die in their sins, the end must be the end of all hope, of all amendment, and the beginning of the blackness of darkness for ever.

2. Choose then this day, whom you will serve! (H. J. W. Buxton, M.A.)

The certain end

I. It is not possible to rule these words out of life.

1. You tell of any process; but always by and by the process is exhausted. “Then cometh the end.” Your story has to round itself with that.

2. This constant recurrence of ends in life must certainly mean something. It may beget a mere frivolity. It may make it seem as if nothing were worth beginning or prosecuting very thoroughly. Or it may give a freshness and vitality to living. “Now or never.”

II. What sort of tempfr it ought to produce.

1. Note the way in which men’s desire and men’s dread are both called out.

(a) It is a part of his dread of monotony. There is something very pathetic in man’s instinctive fear of being wearied with even the most delightful and satisfactory experiences. Is it not a sign of man’s sense that his nature is made for larger worlds than this? “I would not live alway,” has been a true cry of the human soul.

(b) But there is something deeper. Very early there comes the sense of imperfection and failure, and the wish that it were possible to begin the game again. And as life goes on that conviction grows. Tell any man that he, out of all these mortals, was never to die, and by and by must come something like dismay; for every man has gathered something which he must get rid of, and so there is promise to him in, “Then cometh the end.”

(c) But so far as life has been a success, the same satisfaction comes. It is a poor thing for a traveller along a dreary and difficult road to be able to say, “Thank God, there is an end to this!” But for a man to say, “This road is glorious, but no doubt beyond is something yet more glorious still,” that is a fine impatience. The noblest human natures are built thus. “Let the life be filled with the spirit of the springtime, and the end which comes shall be the luxuriance of summer! “And so in many tones, yet all of them tones of satisfaction, men desire the end. It is like a great company of travellers coming together in sight of the resting-place where they are to spend the night, and lifting up all together one great shout of joy. Their hearts have various feelings. Some are glad because their day’s task is done, others because of the new task which they can see opening out beyond them for to-morrow.

(a) It is the sheer force of habit. That this which is should cease to be is shocking and surprising. Even in that dread there is something which is good it is good for the tree to love the soil in which it grows and to consent with difficulty to transplanting. It is good that the burden of proof should be on the side of change.

(b) Men shrink from the announcement of the coming end because they know how far they are from having exhausted their present condition. A boy has longed to be a man, but when he stands upon the brink of manhood and looks behind him over the yet-unreaped acres of his youth, he is almost ready to go back and postpone his manhood till he has taken richer possession of those harvest fields. And so of the great end. Who wants to die so long as this great rich world has only had the very borders of its riches touched?

(c) But even more than this, perhaps, comes in the great uncertainty which envelops every experience which is untried. The passage from light into light must be always through a zone of darkness. How we are feeling this in these days! Old social conditions are ceasing to be possible any longer. In their place new ones are evidently coming, and who is not conscious of misgiving and of dread as he enters with his time into the cloud of disturbance that hovers between the old and the new? This is a large part of the reason why the most miserable cling to life, counting it better. “To bear the ills they have than flee to others which they know not of.”

2. Blessed indeed it is for man, standing in such confused and mingled mood, that the end of things does not depend upon his choice, but comes by a will more large, more wise than his. The workman’s voice has not to summon out of the east the shadows of the night in which no man can work. “It comes of itself,” we say. We mean, “God sends it.”

The end of the kingdom of grace

Consider--

I. What that kingdom is which Christ is to surrender.

1. There is the kingdom of nature, presided over not by the God of grace, but by the God of providence. In it there is system, order, reason, laws, everything that makes up a kingdom. But this is not the kingdom spoken of here, because it is not peculiarly Christ’s, and there is no necessity it should pass away. There are many reasons for believing that all its glory and richness only separated from man’s sinfulness shall be preserved.

2. Now, there is over and above this the high, celestial, glorious kingdom in which the Lord reigns amongst His people and His angels in unveiled majesty. But this is not the kingdom whereof the apostle is speaking; for what reason is there that it should end? It is a kingdom in which God has gathered together the very choicest of all creatures. No; unless all Scripture be untrue, this kingdom of recompense and of glory is meant to be indestructible.

3. There is, however, a kingdom which is neither the kingdom of nature nor the kingdom of glory, but something between the two: but nevertheless, it belongs to earth in one respect, and to heaven in another. Its great object is to rescue sinners, and to build them up in holiness; and therefore the subjects of this kingdom are those that have been once rebellious, but, through the grace of God, have been brought into a state of loyalty and allegiance to the Lord. One of the grandest sketches we have of this kingdom is in Psalms 110:1-7, where we see the Lord’s willing people being established, and His enemies crushed, and Christ reigning till He hath put all enemies under His feet. All men being originally God’s enemies, are predestined to be subdued--subdued by grace, or subdued by power. It is simply a question for ourselves in what department we shall find ourselves placed--enemies who have been reduced into friends, or enemies who are destined to be “broken.” Now this kingdom being provisional, is destined to pass away. Why should the scaffolding remain when the building is completed? When God’s mighty work is finished, should there be ministers, ordinances, means of grace?

II. The particular time at which this is to be done.

1. At the moment that Christianity was launched, calamities began to thicken upon the house of Israel. Jewish tribulation is running its course, but that will come to an “end.” “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

2. There is another dispensation that has set in concurrently with that of Gentile mercies. In “the times of the Gentiles” we are now living. But this dispensation must come to its “end.”

3. Another dispensation seems to have started concurrently with the dispensation of Christianity; that of Antichrist. Paul tells us in Thessalonians and 1 Timothy that in the last days perilous times shall come; and that this antichrist shall go on until the Lord shall “consume him with the Spirit of His mouth, and destroy him with the brightness of His coming.” So that will have an “end.”

4. There is another grand expectation, viz., that of the returning Redeemer. And now take up these scattered threads and bring them, as they require, to a definite point connected with the second advent of our Master. Now is it not something to stand upon the mountain-top, and to look down upon all these railway trains making their way to one point? To one plunging on with the title of “Jewish doctrines,” and another with the title “Gentile privileges,” and another with the title “Antichrist” stamped upon them? Is it not something in the far distance to see the faintest glimmer of an unearthly light, and to see by the direction of all these various forces that they are hurrying one and all precisely to the same point, and eventually meeting at the world’s great centre, the returning Saviour? When all these destinies come to receive their concurring fulfilment, then the prophecy before us stands accomplished. And when that end comes there shall come a crush of kingdoms, for everything that is earthy shall fall into destruction, and “The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ”; and the Master shall be all in all. There shall also be the crush of a kingdom. The kingdom of grace is wanted no longer; it has done its necessary, its devoted work, long enough; for it has educated the Lord’s people for their privileges. And then the mighty President shall take it in His hands, and lay it down before the throne of His Eternal Father. Christ’s official existence, not His natural and intrinsic glory, will terminate, and then, without distinctions of official character, “God shall be all in all.” (Dean Boyd.)

The transitory and the eternal

We never repeat these words in reference to that which is charming without a certain sense of pain. Yet it is true in regard to all that pertains to us or to our surroundings. The longest, brightest day must end. Each season, each journey, vacation, however pleasant or prosperous, every human relationship, must end. The earthly life of each, though lengthened to a century and full of gladness, must come to an end. The structures built by man outlive the builder, and seem to say, “We only are left behind, while the people once here are for ever gone!” “The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed.” The globe grows old and the new heavens and earth hasten. Even the mediatorial system is but for a time. So with everything with but one notable exception. The soul’s life is not to end. These facts suggest some practical lessons.

I. These things which are passing away are not to become the object of the supreme desire of the spirit which is not to come to an end. It is of course possible to go to extremes.

1. Some affect a disgust for pleasure and property, but by right enjoyment we are recreated. We are not to undervalue it. Again, property may be held without undue ambition or worldly pride. Christianity honours toil and reminds men that Jesus was a working man, and Paul as well. Economy is good. Omnipotence has recognised it. True religion is not hostile to the spirit of thrift and carefulness in acquisition.

2. But there is peril in the other extreme. We are apt to love pleasure and property inordinately. The soul’s welfare is subordinate, and so the lesson of the text is timely, “Then cometh the end.” The most opulent wealth will pass away.

II. There is a Divine purpose in these fleeting objects and experiences, to wit: to serve the culture of the soul which does not pass away.

1. The beauty and enjoyment He furnishes us so richly is intended to give tone and tincture to our taste; and by a contemplation of His handiwork our minds are affiliated with His.

2. So, too, by the proper gratification of the instinct of possession our will force is invigorated. The more means we possess, the more of culture we can give ourselves and households, the more useful we can be in the world. Moreover, character is unfolded in these activities. There is an Italian proverb that “The solitary man is either a beast or an angel.”

3. The body, too, is a means of spiritual culture. Our appetites are to be curbed and our passions confined, and so physical forces may now aid in our spiritual enrichment.

4. This world, though it is to come to an end, is another educational power. Its wealth we are to garner, its mines explore, and its forces subdue. All things are to minister to man, and to be subordinate to the soul’s life.

III. To the soul that has thus wisely used the transitory things of time, “the end of all things” does not in any sense mean defeat, disaster. What is the end of a campaign? Victory. Of a revolution like that of 1776? A new nation. The end of some superb cathedral, like that of Cologne, six centuries in building, is a poem in stone. The end of a true life is not destruction, but consummation. The river finds its end in the distant sea, and the day its end in the glory of a star-lit sky, a glory only seen when the day has found its close. We should not be sad, therefore, as the summer is ended, the harvest past, the journey completed, and the friendly associations terminated which cheered us for a season. The traveller passes the river, the village, or city on his way home, and is not disappointed, for he journeys to an end, his home. We seek an end. (R. S. Storrs, D.D.)

Christ resigning His administration

There are two different ideas attached to “kingdom.” One regards it as the empire of Satan, and the other as the empire of Christ. If the former be adopted, then the passage teaches that when Christ has subdued all the principalities and powers of this kingdom, He will deliver the whole up to the Father. Then “the kingdoms of this world will have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever.” If the latter, then it means that when Christ, in the exercise of His mediatorial authority, has subjugated all the powers of moral evil, He will deliver up His commission to God, who will then be acknowledged as the absolute ruler of all. The latter is the most plausible. Learn then--

I. That the government of our world is administered by Christ. The New Testament is full of the doctrine that Christ reigns over our world, and this explains several things otherwise inexplicable.

1. The perpetuation of the human race. Death was threatened on Adam if he sinned. He sinned, and died not, but became the father of the human family. The Biblical doctrine of mediation is the only principle that explains this.

2. The coexistence of sin and happiness in the same individual. Under the government of absolute righteousness we should antecedently expect that wherever there was sin there would be misery proportioned to it. There is perfect happiness in heaven, because there is perfect holiness; there is unmitigated misery in hell, because there is unmixed depravity; but here there is sin and happiness. The mediative government is the only principle that explains this

3. The offer of pardon, and the application of remedial influences to the condemned and corrupt. Under a righteous government, how is this to be explained? This is explicable only on the ground that He is “exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance,” etc.

II. That Christ administers the government of our world in order to put down all human evils. There are two classes of evil referred to.

1. Moral. “All rule, all authority, and power.” Sinful principles are the moral potentates of this world--“the principalities and powers of darkness.” Christ’s government is to put them down from governments, churches, books, hearts, etc.

2. Physical. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Death is the issue--the totality of all physical evils. Christ will destroy this. He will one day open the graves of the globe.

III. That when these evils are entirely put down, Christ will resign His administration into the hands of the everlasting Father. Moral evil shall be exterminated, and death swallowed up in victory. Then comes the end. Christ having finished the work that was given Him to do, resigns His office. The end realised, the means are no longer needed. Patriarchalism had its day; and Abraham delivering up his ministration to Moses. Judaism had its day: and Moses delivered up his ministration to Christ. Mediation is having its day; and when it shall have realised its design, Christ will deliver up His administration to the primal fountain of all authority and power.

IV. That when Christ shall have resigned His administration, God “will be all in all.”

1. This does not mean--

2. The apostle is speaking of humanity, and what he means, I presume, is that God will become “all in all” to it--that He will become to man, after this, very different to what He had ever been. Two facts will illustrate this.

The end of the mediatorial reign

The Scriptures constantly teach that Christ’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and of His dominion there is no end. In what sense, then, can He be said to deliver up His kingdom? It must be remembered that the Scriptures speak of a threefold kingdom as belonging to Christ.

1. That which necessarily belongs to Him as a Divine person, extending over all creatures, and of which He can never divest Himself.

2. That which belongs to Him as the incarnate Son of God, extending over His own people. This also is everlasting. He will for ever remain the head and sovereign of the redeemed.

3. That dominion to which He was exalted after His resurrection, when all power in heaven and earth was committed to His hands. This kingdom, which He exercises as the Theanthropos, and which extends over all principalities and powers, He is to deliver up when the work of redemption is accomplished. He was invested with this dominion in His mediatorial character for the purpose of carrying on His work to its consummation. When that is done, i.e., when He has subdued all His enemies, then He will no longer reign over the universe as Mediator, but only as God: while His headship over His people is to continue for ever. (C. Hedge, D.D.)


Verse 25

1 Corinthians 15:25

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

The reign of Christ

This world is His battlefield now; and when this conflict is at an end there will be an end to something else, “He shall reign till--,” and no longer.

I. Who are Christ’s enemies?

1. All those agencies in the world which are opposed to God. Christ is on the throne for God; so that whatever in evil spirits, in bad men, in society, in institutions, habits, experiences, is warring against God, is against Christ, and He is against it.

2. All those agencies in the world which are against us. He is on the throne for us. Our cause is His. Every evil which injures or threatens us.

3. We may answer the question by referring to Christ’s life in the flesh. He came here to do battle; and all His life He was engaged in the conflict, attacking--not men; He never touched a man in any way but to bless him--but He was in conflict with all the powers of evil of which men were the instruments and victims. And the battle is still the same. Through His true people He is now carrying on the war with ignorance, unrighteousness, pain. And we may be sure that He will be victorious, not only because it is said in the Bible, and we therefore believe it, but because it is God that is engaged in the conflict.

II. What should be our supremest cares in reference to this great conflict?

1. To be ourselves delivered. We must each ask himself, will He put my enemies under His feet? It depends on whether you will let Him undertake for you. Your faith must lay hold of His strength.

2. To take our part in it on His side. In this great conflict there is no neutrality. And for what reasons should it be our great care to range ourselves in this battle on His side? Because--

3. To engage ourselves in that part of the field where spiritual evils are the enemies combated against. Noble is it to follow Christ in the war He waged with physical evils; but the noblest work is to spread Christ’s truth, for where that is spread all evils diminish. And further, what is the life of the body compared with the life of the soul? (D. Thomas, B.A.)

Christ’s conquests

This world is a vast stage erected for the display consummation of a mighty design by the power of the Lord Jesus. Scripture has distinctly affirmed that “all things were created by Him and for Him.” The world was made for Jesus; and man, the most distinguished of its tenants, was called into existence chiefly that he might add to the Mediator’s glory. In His glory the eternal blessedness of millions is involved; and the consummation of His mighty work will be the seal and fulness of the felicity of the redeemed. Now in the management of this stupendous design, the Mediator is pursuing His way to the glory which awaits Him through the midst of foes. There are foes in whose destruction we may not be able to trace any of that consolation which it is the apostle’s object to afford. The priests and Scribes of Israel constituted themselves His personal enemies, and “the stone which the builders rejected” has fallen upon them and crushed them to powder; but our comfort or advantage appears to be this, that the enemies rather of the Saviour’s cause than of His person are spoken of; and with that cause Jesus has so entirely identified Himself, that He reckons hostility to it as hostility against Himself. There is--

I. Satan, who from the first has evinced himself the foe of the cause of Jesus. But his power is day by day contracting; and one by one are his strongholds wrested out of his hands. His most formidable opposition was his personal struggle with the Saviour, in which he enjoyed a momentary triumph; but it was a triumph which placed a lever underneath the foundations of his throne. The gospel of which that day’s achievement forms both the power and the theme, has gone forth under the sanction of the Redeemer’s command, over those tracts and territories where “the god of this world” had long held unbroken sway. And the means by which the Saviour has enlarged His kingdom are marvellous. Satan, as he was upon the day of the world’s redemption, is defeated with his own weapons. Though covetousness may have sent ships to far distant shores, and rapine may have subjugated one country to another, and injustice may have torn the slave from kindred and from home--still see we not, that in more territories being laid open to the inroads of the gospel, and other influences being brought to bear upon benighted lands, that Satan has been foiled by superior wisdom, and the empire of the Mediator increased by his defeated policy!

II. Corruption in the hearts of God’s believing people. The Mediator’s most glorious title is “the King of Saints”; and that which chiefly prevents Him from being so now, in the fulness and majesty of the expression, is the existence of that secret and unholy principle in the hearts of Christians. But this corruption under the laws of the Mediator’s reign is destined at length to be totally dethroned. The work of subduing it is one of mystery and time, and for the subduing of it Jesus has a train of instrumentalities at His disposal. By troubles, trials, disappointments, the hand of illness and bereavements. In every child of God it is daily waxing more feeble, which shows that, ultimately, it must be utterly extinguished, for “Jesus must reign,” etc.

III. The ungodly. These may not all take Paine for their text-book, or Voltaire for their leader; but yet from the circumstance of their being unconverted; they must be reckoned among His enemies. “The carnal mind is enmity against God”--“They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Now such the Mediator will put under His feet. Contrary to the usual course of His government, He will do little towards effecting this object here. But, while an enemy remains unpunished, the throne of the Mediator must stand.

IV. Death. The trophy and the triumph of the Satanic hosts. It was among the firstfruits of their victory. But in the arrangements of the Mediator’s rule this enemy is destined for destruction! Even now is his power abridged, and his strength much departed from him; for Jesus has gone down into death’s domains, and, in the dark seclusion of the tomb, passed through a conflict with him, from which He has returned a conqueror! And this victory He perpetuates in the persons of the members of His kingdom; for there is not one of them who feels not that death, though he may awe, can no longer terrify. Even upon this world, death to them has ceased to be an enemy; but oh! if we would see him, not simply shorn of his strength, but stripped of his existence, we must throw forward our glance to the resurrection morning. That hour shall see all enemies subdued. (Dean Boyd.)

The victories of Christianity

How real was the faith of St. Paul! Only some twenty years had passed since the Crucifixion. The memory of it was fresh; the shame and stigma recent. Nevertheless, the apostle declares his faith not only in the resurrection of Jesus, but in His universal dominion. The vividness and reality of the apostle’s faith was common to all the Christians of that first age, and is very quickening and reassuring to ours. When St. Paul wrote these words the believers were but a handful. As yet they had mastered no stronghold of the enemy. In but three or four of the great cities of the world they had barely effected a lodgment. At Rome they had scarcely as yet been heard of. And yet says the apostle, “He must reign,” etc. The apostle’s great word is now in course of fulfilment. Though even yet we by no means see all things put under Christ, still the pledge has been already afforded of victory in every kind and over every form of opposition. We have but to pursue the advantages we have gained.

I. The earliest triumphs of Christianity over idolatry are the pledge to us of her ultimate victory over every form of heathenism.

1. The two great historical triumphs were--

2. These things being so, how can we doubt what the results must be of the contest now being waged by Christianity against heathenism? The Christianity of the present day is in all respects superior to that of the age of Constantine, and to that which overcame the heathenism of the Goth, the Teuton, and the Kelt.

II. In the past successes of Christianity we have a pledge of the triumph of free and pure Christian faith over Popish tyranny and corruption.

I. Popery proper, the special creation of the Roman Ecclesiastical Court and Empire, is a priestly growth and usurpation. It is a selfish corruption--and throughout there has been a struggling protest against it. There has been a lay mind in continual revolt, and many even among the priesthood abhor the yoke by which they are bound. The pretensions of the Papacy are doubtless as arrogant and as blasphemous as ever. But this is perfectly consistent with the real weakening of the Roman power. Pius IX could not enact the part of a Hildebrand, though he did summon a so-called OEcumenical Council. He could claim for himself infallibility, but he could not set his foot upon the neck of princes nor cast an interdict over an empire. He could not even prevent his holy city from being wrested from his hands and made the capital of a free kingdom. The Pope is no longer the great Potentate of the world.

2. The effect of the Vatican Council has been to produce alienation in the minds of the noblest among those who felt the spell and attraction of a Church so ancient, so vast, and in many respects so grand in its memories and its achievements.

3. Immense was the power of the Papacy, forty years ago, over every Catholic country of Europe. Now there is scarcely one land in which religion is not, at least professedly, free, and the gospel of Christ in its purity is not more or less preached.

4. Now if the Christianity of the fourth century prevailed to subdue the Imperial heathenism of Rome, much more shall the purer, more powerful, and better organised evangelical Christian life and truth of to-day prevail over this Papal heathenism. What is needed is that the truth and the falsehood should be distinctly defined and discriminated, that the gospel should be known as gospel, and the heathen superstition discerned as heathen superstition. If we cannot yet say that “Babylon is fallen”--though assuredly some of its grandest towers have been overthrown never to be restored--we may at least be confident that the politico-ecclesiastic power of Rome is now at an end, and that she can no longer, as in the past, cause the nations to drink of the mingled cup of her abominations.

III. The past victories of Christianity over heathen and sceptical philosophy are the pledge of its future triumphs. It is often said that science is the great enemy of faith. But science, as such, has nothing to say as to the contents of Revelation or the articles of our faith. Its proper sphere lies wholly apart. Some of the profoundest men of science have found no incompatibility whatever between their science and the faith of a Christian. It remains, accordingly, that the sources of scepticism must be in what are called philosophical doubts or in historical criticism.

1. Whether Atheistic or Pantheistic in its form, Philosophical Scepticism can never extensively prevail. It has many times striven to assert itself against the Christian faith, but always only to be defeated. Of old the philosophy of Epicurus and his school was overborne by the living witness of Christianity. The philosophers, whether Stein or Platonic, could not arrest the triumphant progress of St. Paul. The Pantheistical Neo-Platonism of Alexandria did its utmost to oppose the power of Christianity, but in the end was entirely overthrown. In modern times Hume found his subtlety vain against the rising tide of evangelical faith and power. The infidelity of France was rebuked and put to shame by the horrors of the French Revolution, so manifestly the fruit of French infidelity. And to-day what is the weight, the force, of speculative philosophy in comparison of the living powers and forces of Christianity, which were never so mighty as they are at this present time?

2. As to historical criticism, the essential arguments on behalf of Christianity to-day are the same as those which triumphed in the last century. The forms of objection are, doubtless, varied, and the details differ, but the nature of them is essentially the same, and the answer is essentially the same. The victory won in the last century will not be lost in this. And to-day the vaunting foes of Christianity are boldly met, and the battle is turned to the gate. Never was there so goodly a company of Christian believers gathered from every rank of life, and including not only men of ordinary capacity and of average character and influence, but the highest intellects and the most influential personalities in the land. (J. H. Rigg, D.D.)

Good news for loyal subjects

“Must” is for the king; and concerning King Jesus there is a Divine necessity that He must reign. He was once the King of misery--in that kingdom He reigned supreme. That thorn-crown is pre-eminent in the sorrows which it signifies. To-day He is the King of glory, enthroned far above all principalities and powers. He must reign because He is God. “The Lord reigneth” must ever stand a truth. He must reign as man; for the Lord has made a covenant with David that of his seed there should sit upon the throne of Israel for ever a King to rule in righteousness, and Jesus of Nazareth is that King. He must reign also as the Mediator. At this time the sovereignty of the world is committed to His keeping, the headship of His Church, the government of providence, the ruling of heaven, and earth, and hell, as the mediatorial monarch.

I. What are thy reasons for this “must”? The lamb as seen by John had seven horns of power, and here are seven reasons why he should possess the throne for ever.

1. His empire in itself is such as to ensure perpetuity. There have been many empires of which men said that if they were overthrown, the very pillars of the earth would be removed; yet in due time they were swept away. Christ must reign because--

3. Divine justice demands it. The Father promised that He should be a leader and a commander of the people, and determined as the result of His humiliation that He should mount to a superior throne as the Son of man and the Son of God. Shall God belie His word?

4. It is inwrought into the order of providence. A few months ago the trees were bare; but it was in the order of providence that there should be a spring, and here it is. We cannot say that in any one day it seemed to make any great advance. Even when the days lengthened we saw no great progress, but, surely and steadily the veins of the trees were filled with sap and the buds first swelled and then revealed their glories. So Christ’s reigning is woven into the warp and woof of providence, and though He has not yet drawn all men unto Him, it is coming.

5. The Holy Spirit has been given to the Church to subserve this glorious end. He can soften the most obdurate, He can turn to kindness the most cruel, and lead into light the most darkened. Now, the possession of the Holy Spirit is the Church’s treasury. Here is her battleaxe, and here are her weapons of war. You who preach Christ, or teach Him in the school, do not become discouraged under difficulties, when you recollect that you are workers together with God.

6. Christ is naturally the chief of the human race. “He is the chief among ten thousand and the altogether lovely.” There is none to rival Him.

7. The power to reign belongs to Him. “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” “Go ye, therefore,” saith He, “and teach all nations.” Jesus Christ is no puny pretender to the throne, nor a rightful owner without power to win His own, but as His cause is good, His arm is strong. Ours is no desperate warfare, but a royal crusade, in which every soldier is even now a priest and a king, and is on the way to the banquetting-halls where men feast with God, and Jesus for ever and ever wears the fadeless diadem.

II. The encouragement to be gathered from this “must.” If Christ must reign, then--

1. All our enemies shall be subdued,

2. Our efforts are, after all, not in vain. If Christ must reign, then every soldier who fights for Christ is contributing to the victory, and every one who in any way advances the cause is working with sure and great results.

3. What becomes of us is of no consequence at all. If He will only take me into the royal galley, and let me pull till I have no more life left, I will be satisfied, if I may but row my Lord towards His throne, and have but the smallest share in making Him glorious in the eyes of men and angels. What cares my heart for herself if she may but see Jesus set on high? How this ought to inspirit all of you who grow downhearted about the cause of Christ! Do you not believe in the gospel as the power of God?

III. An admonition.

1. “Jesus must reign.” You have been opposing Him, have you? You are kicking against the pricks with naked feet: you are stumbling upon this stone, and you will be broken; and if the stone shall take to rolling down, like a massive rock, on you, it will grind you to powder.

2. If Jesus Christ must reign, then you who have never submitted yourselves to Him to accept Him as your monarch, will find His reign as terrible as it is sure. He will reign over you, either by your own consent or without it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 26

1 Corinthians 15:26

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death

Death, the last enemy, shall be destroyed

I.
The nature of that enemy. Consider--

1. The dissolution of the human frame. The body is a wonderful machine, which bears the mark of Divine wisdom and skill. If we look upon the Goths and Vandals as the enemies of society because they destroyed the ancient monuments of art, what must we think of death?

2. Death puts an end to all that is terrestrial. All schemes and thoughts that relate only to time are destroyed. As much, therefore, as the world is worth, so much is death to be considered as a formidable foe. Say, ye ambitious, ye lovers of wealth or pleasure, what will these things avail you when you are summoned to meet this last enemy?

3. It dissolves the tenderest ties of nature and affection. Death tears asunder husbands and wives, parents and children, etc. One part of the mortal compound is left by him to mourn while the other part is mingled with corruption. Death so mars the features that the most passionate admirers of beauty are constrained to say, “Bury my dead out of my sight.” All the fruits of friendship are withered by his breath. Nor is there any union so closely formed but it will be cut asunder by this great enemy.

4. Its moral or eternal consequences (1 Corinthians 15:56). The death of the body is by no means the full infliction of the penalty of the Divine law. It is but a preparation; like knocking off the chains and fetters from a prisoner who is about to be led forth to the place of execution (Romans 6:23).

5. There are many properties of this enemy which give him the pre-eminence of terror.

II. Why he is called the “last enemy.” To denote the completeness of the Redeemer’s conquest: nothing remains after the last.

1. This is the last enemy of the Church of God in its collective capacity. Persecution shall cease, affliction be removed, fears and terrors of conscience quelled, temptations overcome, and Satan subdued: still the triumphs of death will remain; a large portion of what the Lord has redeemed will remain under His dominion; the bodies of believers will continue in the grave till the final consummation of all things.

2. He is the last enemy of every believer. The Christian obtains a hope of pardon; he goes on conquering one temptation after another, but he knows that, after all, his body must come under the power of this enemy, and remain for a season in his dark domain.

3. To other men what ought I to say of the last enemy? However long they have escaped his power, he will meet them at last, and they must conquer him or be defeated and lost for ever.

III. Christ has conquered this enemy in part and will ultimately destroy him. Note--

1. The degrees and stages by which Christ conquers death.

2. When these preparatory measures have taken place the empire of death shall be sapped to the foundation. It has, indeed, been a widely extended empire, founded on, or spreading over, the ruins of all other empires: it has comprehended within its domains all the seed of Adam: it has continued from age to age. But the final stroke will produce the entire overthrow of this wide and lasting dominion.

Conclusion: “What is the proper improvement of this subject?

1. To raise our eyes in adoration and gratitude to the conqueror of death.

2. To elevate believers above the sorrows and afflictions of time! This enemy is the “last”; when he is destroyed, the field will be quite clear; the vast field of eternity will be free from every molestation. (R. Hall, M.A.)

The last enemy destroyed

Consider death as--

I. An enemy.

1. It is always repugnant to the nature of living creatures to die. God has made self-preservation one of the first laws of our nature. We are bound to prize life.

2. It entered into the world through our worst enemy--viz., sin. It came not in accordance to the course of nature, but according to the course of evil. Physiologists have said that they do not detect any particular reason why man should die at fourscore years. The same wheels which have gone on for forty years might have continued their revolutions even for centuries, so far as their own self-renewing power is concerned.

3. It embitters existence.

4. It has made fearful breaches in our daily comforts. The widow has lost her stay; the children have been left desolate. O death! thou art the cruel enemy of our hearths and homes.

5. It has taken away from us One who is dearer to us than all others. On yonder Cross behold death’s most dreadful work. Could it not spare Him? Were there not enough of us?

6. It bears us away from all our prized possessions. “These things,” said one, as he walked through his grand estate, “make it hard to die.” When the rich man has made his fortune he wins six foot of earth and nothing more, and what less hath he who died a pauper?

7. It carries us away from choice society.

8. It breaks up all our enjoyments and employments and successes.

9. It is accompanied with many pains, infirmities, and since the decay and utter dissolution of the body is in itself a most terrible thing, we are alarmed at the prospect of it. He is an enemy, nay the enemy, the very worst enemy that our fears could conjure up, for we could fight with Satan and overcome him, but who can overcome death?

II. The last enemy.

1. The dreaded reserve of the army of hell. When Satan shall have brought up every other adversary, and all these shall have been overcome through the blood of the Lamb, then the last, the strongest, the most terrible, shall assail us! The soldiers of the Cross have pursued the foe up to the city walls, as if the Lord had said to his soldier, “There are more laurels yet to win.”

2. But if death be the last enemy we have not to fight with him now; we have other enemies, and in attending to these we shall best be found prepared to die. To live well is the way to die well.

3. Notice--for herein lies the savour of the thought--it is the last enemy. Picture our brave soldiers at the battle of Waterloo; for many weary hours they have been face to face with the foe; now the commander announces that they have only to endure one more onslaught. How cheerfully do the ranks close! The last enemy! Soldiers of Christ, do not the words animate you? Courage! the tide must turn after this, it is the highest wave that now dashes over thee.

4. Having overcome death, peace is proclaimed, the sword is sheathed, the banners furled, and you are for ever more than a conqueror through Him that loved you.

III. An enemy to be destroyed. At the resurrection, death’s castle, the tomb, will be demolished, and all its captives must go free. But although this is a great truth with regard to the future, I desire just to conduct you over the road by which Christ has, in effect, virtually destroyed death already. He has taken away--

1. The shame of death. A man might hold his head low in the presence of angels who could not die, but now we can talk of death in the presence of archangels and not be ashamed, for Jesus died.

2. The sting of death. Christmas Evans represents the monster as driving its dart right through the Saviour, till it stuck in the Cross on the other side, and so has never been able to draw it out again.

3. Its slavery. The bondage of death arises from man’s fearing to die.

4. Its greatest sorrows. Death snatches us away from the society of those we love, but it introduces us into nobler society far. We leave the imperfect Church on earth, but for the perfect Church in heaven. We leave possessions, but death gives us infinitely more than he takes away. Death takes us from sacred employments; but he ushers us into nobler. If death doth but give us a sight of Jesus, then let him come when he wills, we will scarcely call him enemy again. An enemy destroyed in this case becomes a friend.

IV. The last enemy that wilt be destroyed. Do not, therefore, give yourself so much concern if you do not feel death to be destroyed in you at present. Remember that dying grace is of no value in living moments. Expect that if your faith is not faith enough to die with, yet as a grain of mustard seed it will grow, and enable you to die triumphantly when dying time comes. You have many enemies who are not destroyed, e.g., inbred sins. Look well to them. Until they are all gone you must not expect death to be destroyed, for he is the last to die. Expect to lose thy dear ones still, for death is not destroyed. Hold them with a loose hand; do not count that to be freehold which are only leasehold; do not call that yours which is only lent you. And then remember that you too must die. (C. H. Spurgeon)
.

The last enemy destroyed

Note--

I. What death the apostle here speaks of and styles an enemy. We may view this death with reference to--

1. The creature it divides. We live by the conjunction of soul and body, and the separation of them is death.

2. The state it puts an end to. We are here in a state of probation, wherein heaven is to be won or lost. Death ends this state.

3. What follows upon it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

II. What kind of enemy it is.

1. A common enemy: common to young and old, rich and poor, saints and sinners.

2. A hidden enemy. We know that there is such an enemy; but know not when it will make its assault upon us.

3. An enemy we are always liable to. In the midst of life we are in death.

4. A most powerful and irresistible enemy. There is no defence against its stroke, nor way to escape or prevent it.

5. An authorised enemy. It comes by commission from heaven, and acts according to His order, in whose hand all our times are.

6. An inexorable enemy. No wealth can bribe, nor eloquence persuade, nor cries or entreaties move, nor holiness awe, or otherwise prevail with it to spare.

7. A formidable enemy. And it may be said to be so in regard of

III. The rank death holds among our enemies. It is the last. This intimates

1. That there are others that we are not to overlook and be unconcerned about. A Christian’s life is a continual warfare, and he is to finish the conflict by dying.

2. Whatever enemies go before it, death, to a believer, will be the last. After this the warfare will be over.

IV. That it is to be destroyed.

1. The way of its destruction is to be by the resurrection.

2. Of this we are secured by Christ’s death and resurrection, whereby He hath laid the foundation of His people’s happiness, and hath obtained all power in heaven and earth to complete it.

V. Death, as it is to be destroyed, is to be destroyed last. (D. Wilcox.)

The last enemy destroyed

1. Death is represented in Scripture under very different, aspects; at one time he is the king of terrors--at another a slave; now in full possession of all his power--and then spoiled and abolished. In one place you will find the inspired writer speaking of it as a gainful thing to die, whilst in another he seems to shrink from dissolution. There is no great difficulty in understanding why these opposite representations should thus be given. If he still reign, it is by sufferance, no longer by right, as a minister employed by God in the effecting certain purposes, and not as a ruler exercising undisputed supremacy.

2. But whilst there is this variety we may safely say that death is never represented as desirable in itself. Death may, in some sense, be made to perform towards us the part of a friend; but, nevertheless, death is never set before us in Scripture as a friend, but invariably as an enemy. It came into the world with sin, constituting the burden of the curse which sin had provoked; and though, through the interference of Christ, provision has been made for the complete removal of the curse, death still retains so much of its original character that it cannot be regarded as anything but a foe. Consider--

I. With what justice death is styled an enemy.

1. Coming into households and filling them with mourning, marring the might and withering the beauty of man, snatching away the wise in the midst of their searchings after knowledge, and the useful ere they have half perfected their benevolent plans, what enemy is so destructive as death? What conqueror ever made such ravages? Whose progress ever caused so much terror? Witness the tears of orphans and widows; witness the rapid pains which attend the taking down of the “earthly house of this tabernacle”; witness the dishonours of the grave. And if we consider that death sends the immortal part to the judgment-seat of God, cutting off all opportunities for repentance, no language can exaggerate this enemy’s office.

2. But death is an enemy even to the righteous. Is it nothing that the soul has to go alone into the invisible world, without that body, through whose organs it has seen and heard and gathered in knowledge while a sojourner below? We do not dispute that the soul will have great enjoyment in the separate state. The saint has exchanged labour for repose, danger for security; but in making the exchange he has laid aside his weapons as well as his anxieties, and must rest in comparative inactivity till the voice of the Son of Man revivify his lost members. Then count it not strange that we suppose the souls of the buried saints crying out like those which St. John saw beneath the altar. “How long, O Lord, how long?” These souls do not feel that every enemy is yet trampled under foot, though they do feel the final conquest to be as certain as though already were the last foe annihilated.

II. Why is the destruction of this enemy deferred?

1. Certainly this does seem strange. We cannot but feel that so complete was the victory won by the Redeemer that death might have been at once annihilated. The original curse was exhausted when that sinless One who made Himself our substitute expired on the Cross, and it would only be allowing the consequences of Christ’s work to take immediate and continued effect, had He been the last human being who died. We know that numbers are to be living on the earth at the time of Christ’s second appearing, and that these are to escape death altogether, and to become instantaneously what they would have been had they undergone dissolution, and we may certainly learn from this that there might be universally the “swallowing up of mortality in life.”

2. And it is very interesting to consider why this is not the case. Were it so--

Christ the Destroyer of death

I. Death an enemy.

1. It was so born. Death is the child of our direst foe, for “sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.” “Sin entered into the world and death by sin.”

2. It does an enemy’s work. It tears in pieces that comely handiwork of God, the fabric of the human body. This Vandal spares no work of life, however full of wisdom, or beauty, for it looseth the silver cord and breaketh the golden bowl. Whither can we go to find no sepulchres? The tear of the bereaved, the wail of the widow, and the moan of the orphan--these have been death’s war music, and he has found therein a song of victory. War is nothing better than death holding carnival, and devouring his prey a little more in haste than is his common wont. Death has done the work of an enemy--

3. It is a subtle enemy, lurking everywhere, even in the most harmless things.

4. It is an enemy whom none of us will be able to avoid, take what by-paths we may, nor can we escape from him when our hour is come.

5. Sudden, too, full often, are its assaults.

II. An enemy to be destroyed.

1. Christ has already subdued death.

2. But death in the sense meant by the text is not destroyed yet. He is to be destroyed, and how will that be?

III. Death is to be destroyed last.

1. Because he came in last he must go out last. First came the devil, then sin, then death. Death is not the worst of enemies. It were better to die a thousand times than to sin.

2. Death is the last enemy to each individual Christian; therefore leave him to be the last. You do not want dying grace till dying moments. Ask for living grace, and glorify Christ thereby, and then you shall have dying grace when dying time comes.

3. Why is death left to the last? Because Christ can make much use of him.

The last enemy destroyed

There is an enemy before every one of us, and we are all advancing to encounter him; let each ask himself, In what spirit, in what strength, under whose banner, and with what hope?

I. I will mention three reasons why death should be called an enemy. First, because of his probable antecedents. Secondly, because of his certain concomitants. And thirdly, because of his possible consequences. A brief word upon each.

1. The latest stage of earthly life is commonly a time of trial--a very valley of humiliation. The consciousness of reduced strength must be very trying to a man of vigour.

2. Still the antecedents of death are but probable; he himself may prevent them by an earlier stroke than is usual. But of the concomitants of death we cannot say even this. They are certain; they must be. And what are they? I will name but one--separation. Death is loneliness in its strongest sense.

3. I hasten to the consequences of death. I called the antecedents probable. I called the concomitants certain. I must call the consequences (blessed be God) only possible. Still that possibility is dreadful. I suppose a man to be pondering the old question--What shall be after death? What shall I be, and where? An anxious and (apart from the gospel) an indeterminable inquiry. Only there is something within me which seems to tell me that I shall be after death. Can I be quite sure that things done in the body will not influence or affect that future existence? Can I be quite sure that words which have done injury to others, and imaginations which have done injury to myself, may not, in some strange way, be bearing fruit in that state into which death shall usher me? And if all this be (as we are at this moment supposing it to be) less than certain, still is not the possibility serious enough? Does it not make me feel that “enemy” is the only name befitting him who is to introduce me into a condition, at the very worst, so mysterious and so critical?

II. We thank Jesus Christ for not requiring us to do violence to natural convictions, by changing the appellation of that terrific foe, whom each one of us has inevitably to encounter. But we thank Him still more for having revealed to us one way of meeting and conquering this foe; yea, for words stronger far than any promise of resistance or of victory--“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death!”

1. The foundation is laid for the individual destruction of death, when a man heartily believes in Jesus Christ as his Saviour. A young man is alarmed by the first touch of serious illness--none so timid on this point--lest it should run on into that which is fatal. And the feeling lasts; which of us has got over it? But whenever in any particular instance a man turns heartily to Christ as his Saviour, then is the foundation laid, in his case, for that which St. Paul here calls the destruction or the abolition of death.

2. Again, we read at the end of this chapter, that “the sting of death is sin.” And we must distinguish at all times between what is called the guilt of sin and what we all understand by the power of sin. It is sad that we should be obliged to do so. But, unhappily, all experience tells us--and we need the warning most of all for ourselves--that a person may take to himself the comforts of the gospel without knowing anything really of its living strength. Therefore I say that we must separate that first step towards the destruction of death--faith in the merits of Jesus Christ--from this second step, the habitual growing mastery over self and sin by the power of the Holy Spirit of God, given to all who ask for Him in the name of Jesus.

3. The next step carries us far onward; it is a death-bed cheered by the sense of a Saviour’s presence. This is the result of the other two.

4. And yet, thus far, although death has been boldly encountered, and although, in one sense, he has been vanquished, yet to the end, in another sense, the victory has remained with him. The lifeless body has been left his prey; he has carried it off, he has triumphed over it, he has made it his very sport and trophy. Not till all the dead shall have been raised in newness of life can the Destroyer of death be said to have fulfilled His mission. Till then, death may have been overruled, may have been made tolerable, may have been even, in certain cases, converted into an instrument of blessing; as when the same apostle said, “I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better”; but never till then will death have been abolished and annihilated; never till then will the corruptible have put on incorruption, and mortality have been swallowed up of life. (Dean Vaughan.)


Verse 28

1 Corinthians 15:28

And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son … be subject.

Christ subjecting Himself

I. Christ reigning. Our text speaks of the time when 1 Corinthians 15:25 shall be accomplished.

1. Christ’s kingdom is to exist till all things are subjugated to it. It is set up to bring to obedience those who are rebels to God’s government.

2. This kingdom will eventually be universal. Here is no uncertainty, no speculation. “The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” “I have sworn by myself,… that unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.”

II. Christ subjecting himself.

1. Humanly speaking, Christ subjected Himself to the Father when He assumed our nature, and submitted to the death of the Cross. His present exaltation is the reward of that submission (Philippians 2:1-30), and consists of a relative dominion which will come to an end when Christ has finished the peculiar work for which it was established.

2. The relative subjection of the incarnation was voluntarily and not derogatory to His Divinity. Christ was God manifested in the flesh.

3. Nor will it be derogatory to Christ’s Divinity to “subject Himself” by yielding up the lordship of the mediatorial kingdom. His glory and dominion will be the same, it will merely be a change in the form of administration.

III. God as “all in all.”

1. This does not mean that God the Son shall be lost in the Father, for Christ is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This expression is also used of Christ. He is spoken of as “the fulness of Him that filleth all things,” and as “all, and in all.” God the Father is not “all in all” to the exclusion of the Son, but with the Son, and with the Holy Ghost.

2. It is the Triune God that is here spoken of as “all in all.” The mediatorial kingdom having come to an end, the relative position of Christ being no longer required, there is seen only the Divine absoluteness in the never divided Trinity.

3. The Triune God “all in all” means that the Divine will be supreme by a universal, voluntary, glad consent. When God is absolutely our “all in all” we shall have secured the highest happiness we are capable of. (Homiletic Magazine.)

The final submission of the Son to the Father

That from the moment of His final triumph the Son will bow to the Father in a sense in which He does not now, must be expounded in harmony with Luke 1:33. “Of His kingdom there will be no end”; and with Revelation 11:15, “The kingdom of the world has become our Lord’s and His Christ’s: and He will reign for ever and ever.” In this latter passage the united reign of the Father and Son is described by the remarkable words, “He will reign.” Perhaps the following imperfect human comparison may help to harmonise these apparently contradictory assertions. Conceive a king who never leaves his palace, but commits all public acts of royalty to his son, who performs them in the name, and at the bidding and according to the will, of his father, whose will his son always approves. Such a son we might call a sharer of his father’s throne; and, in another sense, the sole ruler of his father’s realm. Conceive now that a province is in rebellion, and that, to bring it into submission, the king invests his son, for the time of the rebellion, with full royal authority. The son begins in person the war against the rebels; but before its completion he returns to the capital in which his father reigns and directs thence the war until order is completely restored. Even in the presence of his father he exercises the full regal authority given to him for the suppression of the revolt. While the rebellion lasts he seems to be an independent ruler; though really ruling only at the bidding, and to work out the will, and restore the authority of his father. But when order is restored, the son gives back to the father this delegated royalty: and even the apparent independence of the son’s rule ceases. Henceforth the father reigns with undisputed sway. The difference between the special authority delegated to the Son for the suppression of the revolt and afterwards laid down and the abiding authority of the Son as the Father’s representative, I cannot define. Probably it is connected with the fact that in consequence of sin the Son did what the Father never did, viz., became man and died. May it not be that in consequence of this He exercises now an authority which is specially His own, and which will continue only for a time? (Prof. Beet.)

Our relations to Christ in the future life

That Christ is to be in some sense eternal, and the eternal joy of all believers, we cannot willingly doubt. What kind of personal relation to Christ we are to hope for and hold, as our authorised and fixed expectations for the future life? Among those who hold the Trinity more lightly, or in a more nearly Sabellian way, as a dramatising of God to serve the occasional uses of redemption, it is common to assume the discontinuance of it, when the uses of redemption no longer require it. But there is a fatal want of depth in this conception. If there was a necessity of the Three to carry on the redemption of the world, as this partly Sabellian view supposes, it was not a necessity of sin, but of mind--finite mind, all finite mind; existing therefore ab aeterno in aeternum. We have now a great first point established, viz., that when the Son is spoken of as finally to be made subject, or so far discontinued as to let God be all in all, it cannot be meant that the Son is to be taken away, or disappear, in any sense that modifies at all the fact of Trinity. If God is to be all in all, it must be as Trinity and not otherwise. How then shall we understand the apostle when he testifies that the “Son” shall be subject or retired from the view? He is speaking plainly of the Son as incarnate, or externalised in the flesh, visible outwardly in the man-form and known as the Son of Mary. He it is that, after having--as a king outwardly regnant--put all things under His feet, is in turn to become subject also Himself, that God may be all in all, and the machineries hitherto conspicuous be for ever taken back as before the advent. The only objection I perceive to this construction is, that the word Son here appears to be used in connection with the word Father--“delivered up the kingdom to God even the Father,”--“then shall the Son also”--as if it were intended to say that the Son as in Trinity is to give place to the Father as in Trinity, and He to be henceforth sole Deity. But there is a two-fold relationship of Father and Son appearing and reappearing constantly; viz., that of the Father to the incarnate Son and that of the Father to the pre-incarnate Son; that which gives Him earthly Fatherhood and that which gives Him celestial, ante-mudane Fatherhood. The apostle was not careful here to put a guard for the saving of the eternal Sonship, because he did not imagine the need of saving that, any more than of saving Deity itself. He was only thinking of the mortal Sonship, and giving us to see the essentially temporal date of its continuance. Trinity then as He conceives will remain, but the mortal Sonship, the man, will disappear and be no more visible. And let us not too hastily recoil from this. It may be that we have been promising ourselves a felicity in the future world, made up almost wholly of the fact that we shall be with Christ in His humanly personal form, and have used this hope to feed our longings, quite apart from all higher relations to His Eternal Sonship. Their word is Jesus, always Jesus, never the Christ; and if they can see Jesus in the world to come, they do not specially look for anything more. Heaven is fully made up, to their low type of expectation, if they can but apprehend the Man and be with Him. Religion reaches after God, and God is Trinity, and all the gospel does, or can do, by the name and human person of Jesus, is to bring us in and up to a God who is eternally above that name. Our relations to Christ, then, in the future life, are to be relations to God in Christ, and never to the Jesus in Christ. There is, I know, a conception of our gospel which has its blessedness in Jesus, because it meets God in Him, and is specially drawn to His humanity, because it even finds the fulness of God bowed low in His person. This so far is genuine gospel. And it would not be strange if a disciple thus wonted in God should imagine that the joy of his faith is conditioned for ever by the human person at whose ministry or from whose love it began. What, then, is the future glory, he will ask, if he does not bring him in, where he can see the very Man of the Cross? And who is this but Him that you seek? Surely He is somehow here, and this is somehow He. You missed Him, perchance, because you were looking too low down, out of the range of Deity, to find Him; whereas now you find Him throned in God, hymned in God, as the everlasting Son of the Father--and yet He is somehow Son of Mary still, even as He is the Lamb that was slain. (H. Bushnell.)

The termination of the mediatorial kingdom

There are two great truths presented by this verse and its context--the one, that Christ is now vested with a kingly authority which He must hereafter resign; the other, that, as a consequence on this resignation, God Himself will become all in all to the universe. We begin by observing the importance of carefully distinguishing between what the Scriptures affirm of the attributes, and what of the offices, of the persons in the Trinity in regard of the attributes, you will find that the employed language marks perfect equality; the Father, Son, and Spirit being alike spoken of as Eternal, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent. But in regard of the offices, there can be no dispute that the language indicates inequality, and that both the Son and Spirit are represented as inferior to the Father. This may readily be accounted for from the nature of the plan of redemption. This plan demanded that the Son should humble Himself, and assume our nature; and that the Spirit should condescend to be sent as a renovating agent; whilst the Father was to remain in the sublimity and happiness of Godhead. And it is only by thus distinguishing between the attributes and the offices that we can satisfactorily explain our text and its context. The apostle expressly declares of Christ, that He is to deliver up His kingdom to the Father, and to become Himself subject to the Father. And the question naturally proposes itself, how are statements such as these to be reconciled with other portions of Scripture, which speak of Christ as an everlasting King, and declare His dominion to be that which shall not be destroyed? There is no difficulty in reconciling these apparently conflicting assertions if we consider Christ as spoken of in the one case as God, in the other as Mediator. And you cannot be acquainted with the scheme of our redemption and not know that the office of the Mediator warrants our supposing a kingdom which will be finally surrendered. The grand design of redemption has all along been the exterminating evil from the universe, and the restoring harmony throughout God’s disorganised empire. He was not indeed fully and visibly invested with the kingly office until after His death and resurrection: for then it was that He declared to His disciples, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth.” Nevertheless the mediatorial kingdom had commenced with the commencement of human guilt and misery. But when, through death, He had destroyed “Him that had the power of death,” the Mediator became emphatically a King. He “ascended up on high, and led captivity captive,” in that very nature in which He had “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” He sat down at the right hand of God the very person that had been made a curse for us. It is certainly the representation of Scripture, that Christ has been exalted to a throne, in recompense of His humiliation and suffering; and that, seated on this throne, He governs all things in heaven and earth. And we call this throne the mediatorial throne, because it was only as Mediator that Christ could be exalted. The great object for which the kingdom has been erected, is, that He who occupies the throne may subdue those principalities and powers which have set themselves against the government of God. And when this noble result is brought round, and the whole globe mantled with righteousness, there will yet remain much to be done ere the mediatorial work is complete. The throne must set for judgment; the enactments of a retributive economy take effect; the dead be raised, and all men receive the things done in the body. Then will evil be finally expelled form the universe, and God may again look forth on His unlimited empire, and declare it not defiled by a solitary stain. Now it has been our object, up to this point, to prove to you, on scriptural authority, that the Mediator is a King, and that Christ, as God-man, is invested with a dominion not to be confounded with that which belongs to Him as God. You are now therefore prepared for the question, whether Christ has not a kingdom which must be ultimately resigned. We think it evident that, as Mediator, Christ has certain functions to discharge, which, from their very nature, cannot be eternal. When the last of God’s elect family shall have been gathered in, there will be none to need the blood of sprinkling, none to require the intercession of “an advocate with the Father.” Then shall all that sovereignty which, for magnificent but temporary purposes, has been wielded by and through the humanity of Christ, pass again to the Godhead whence it was derived. Then shall the Creator, acting no longer through the instrumentality of a Mediator, assume visibly, amid the worshippings of the whole intelligent creation, the dominion over His infinite and now purified empire, and administer its every concern without the intervention of one “found in fashion as a man.” “God shall henceforwards be all in all.” Now it is upon this latter expression, indicative as it is of what we may call the universal diffusion of Deity, that we design to employ the remainder of our time. We wish to examine into the truths involved in the assertion that God is to be finally all in all. It is an assertion which, the more it is pondered, the more comprehensive will it appear. You may remember that the same expression is used of Christ in the Epistle to the Colossians--“Christ is all and in all.” There is no disagreement between the assertions. In the Epistle to the Colossians St. Paul speaks of what takes place under the mediatorial kingdom; whereas in that to the Corinthians he describes what will occur when that kingdom shall have terminated. We learn, then, from the expression in question, however unable we may be to explain the amazing transition, that there is to be a removal of the apparatus constructed for allowing us communications with Godhead; and that we shall not need those offices of an Intercessor, without which there could now be no access to our Maker. There is something very grand and animating in this announcement. If we were unfallen creatures, we should need no Mediator. The mediatorial office, independently on which we must have been everlastingly outcasts, is evidence, throughout the whole of its continuance, that the human race does not yet occupy the place whence it fell. But with the termination of this office shall be the admission of man into all the privileges of direct access to his Maker. In ceasing to have a Mediator the last barrier is taken down; and man, who has thrown himself to an unmeasured distance from God, passes into those direct associations with Him “that inhabiteth eternity,” which can be granted to none but those who never fell, or who, having fallen, have been recovered from every consequence of apostacy. And therefore it is not that we depreciate, or undervalue, the blessedness of that condition in which Christ is all in all to His Church. We cannot compute this blessedness, and we feel that the best praises fall far short of its deserts; and yet we can believe of this blessedness, that it is only preparatory to a richer and a higher. To tell me that I should need a Mediator through eternity, were to tell me that I should be in danger of death, and at a distance from God. There is, however, no reason for supposing that the human race alone will be affected by the resignation of the mediatorial kingdom. We may not believe that it is only over ourselves that Christ Jesus has been invested with sovereignty. It would rather appear, since all power has been given Him in heaven and earth, that the mediatorial kingdom embraces different worlds, and different orders of intelligence; and that the chief affairs of the universe are administered by Christ in His glorified humanity. It is therefore possible that even unto angels the Godhead does not now immediately manifest itself; but that these glorious creatures are governed, like ourselves, through the instrumentality of the Mediator. Hence it will be a great transition to the whole intelligent creation, and not merely to an inconsiderable fraction, when the Son shall give up the kingdom to the Father. It will be the visible enthronement of Deity. The Creator will come forth from His sublime solitude, and assume the sceptre of His boundless empire. And it is not, we think, possible to give a finer description of universal harmony and happiness than is contained in the sentence, “God all in all,” when supposed to have reference to every rank in creation. Let us consider for a moment what the sentence implies. It implies that there shall be but one mind, and that the Divine mind, throughout the universe. Every creature shall be so actuated by Deity, that the Creator shall have only to will, and the whole mass of intelligent being will be conscious of the same wish, and the same purpose. It is not merely that every creature will be under the government of the Creator, as a subject is under that of his prince. It is more than all this. It is that there shall be such fibres of association between the Creator and the creatures, that every other will shall move simultaneously with the Divine, and the resolve of Deity be instantly felt as one mighty impulse pervading the vast expansion of mind. God all in all--it is that from the highest order to the lowest, archangel, and angel, and man, and principality, and power, there shall be but one desire, one object. This is making God more than the universal Ruler: it is making Him the universal Actuator. But if the expression mark the harmony, it marks also the happiness of eternity. It is undeniable that, even whilst on earth, we find things more beautiful and precious in proportion as we are accustomed to find God in them, to view them as gifts, and to love them for the sake of the giver. It is not the poet, nor the naturalist, who has the richest enjoyment when surveying the landscape, or tracing the manifestations of creative power and contrivance. It is the Christian, who recognises a Father’s hand in the glorious development of mountain and valley, and discovers the loving-kindness of an ever-watchful guardian in each example of the adaptation of the earth to its inhabitants. What will it be when God shall be literally all in all? It were little to tell us, that, admitted into the heavenly Jerusalem, we should worship in a temple magnificent in architecture, and bow down at a shrine whence flashed the effulgence and issued the voice of Jehovah. The mighty and overwhelming thing is that, according to the vision of St. John, there shall be no temple there; but that so actually shall God be all, that Deity itself will be our sanctuary, and our adorations be rendered in the sublime recesses of the Omnipotent Himself. And if we think on future intercourse with beings of our own race, or of loftier ranks, then only are the anticipations rapturous and inspiriting, when Deity seems blended with every association. The child may be again loved and embraced. But the emotions will have none of that selfishness into which the purest and deepest of our feelings may now be too much resolved: it will be God that the child loves in the parent, and it will be God that the parent loves in the child; and the gladness with which the heart of each swells, as they recognise one the other in the celestial city, will be a gladness of which Deity is the spring, a gladness of which Deity is the object. Thus shall it be also in regard of every element which can be supposed to enter into future happiness. It is certain, that, if God be all in all, there will be excited in us no wish which we shall be required to repress, none which shall not be gratified so soon as formed. Having God in ourselves, we shall have capacities of enjoyment immeasurably larger than at present; having God in all around us, we shall find everywhere material of enjoyment commensurate with our amplified powers. Let us put from us confused and indeterminate notions of happiness, and the simple description, that God shall be all in all, sets before us the very perfection of felicity. The only sound definition of happiness is that every faculty has its proper object. And we believe of man, that God endowed him with various capacities, intending to be Himself their supply. Thus, at present, we make little or no approach towards knowing God as He is, because God hath not yet made Himself all in all to His creatures. But let there once come this universal diffusion of Deity, and we may find in God Himself the objects which answer to our matured and spiritualised faculties. We profess not to be competent to the understanding the mysterious change which is thus indicated as passing on the universe. But we can perceive it to be a change which shall be full of glory, full of happiness. Thus we look forward to the termination of the mediatorial kingdom as the event with which stands associated our reaching the summit of our felicity. There is then to be a removal of all that is now intermediate in our communications with Deity, and the substitution of God Himself for the objects which He has now adapted to the giving us delight. God Himself will be an object to our faculties; God Himself will be our happiness. We can only add that it becomes us to examine whether we are now subjects of the mediatorial kingdom, or whether we are of those who will not that Christ should reign over them. If God is hereafter to be all in all, it behoves us to inquire what He is to us now. Can we say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee?” How vain must be our hope of entering into heaven if we have no present delight in what are said to be its joys! Again we say, that, if it be heaven towards which we journey, it will be holiness in which we delight: for if we cannot now rejoice in having God for our portion, where is our meetness for a world in which God is to be all in all for ever and for ever? (H. Melvill, B.D.)

That God may be all in all--

God all in all

I. In the shifting scenes of the world’s life. When we look out upon the tangled web of history, the rise and the fall of mighty empires, the changing dynasties, the successive forms of government and social life, the instability of all things, the recurring cycle of events, the growth which ends only in decay, the constant ebb and flow of political life, our heart will sometimes ask, Is there any thread which strings together this chaotic mass, is there any design which is growing towards maturity by these accumulations of the ages? Are we to believe in the world’s progressive life, or are we to resign ourselves to despair, looking out upon the present and the past as an ever-varying kaleidoscope, in which the combinations seem to follow one another at random, and with no fixed law? In the text we read the answer. Beyond and above the busy turmoil of earth, the blessed Trinity lives and loves, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. A Divine purpose runs throughout the ages, and under the ever-changing forms of life, God is fulfilling Himself in many ways.

II. In the destinies of the Church. If at times we feel anxious as we think of her conflicts; if at certain eras Christ seems to sleep within the tempest-tossed barque; if she no longer goes forth as in her early days, in the freshness of her strength and joy, to convert the world to the obedience of the faith, yet we know that she ceases not to be the bride of her unchanging Spouse; the eternal Trinity is in the midst of her, therefore shall she not be removed; God is working where we can see nothing but the perversity and the strivings of man; He is all in all.

III. In our temporal life. Looking at life from one point of view, how baffling, how meaningless does it appear! What mean the complaints which reach us in so many forms, not so much of life’s deep sorrows, as of its inconsistencies and apparent aimlessness, its want of harmony and completeness of any kind? Purposes unfulfilled, aspirations unrealised, emotions wasted, paths which seem to lead nowhither, these lie a heavy weight upon the heart of humanity. Where is to be found the note which shall simplify this complex life of ours? how shall we be enabled to look back upon it with quietness and confidence, and feel that all has been working together for our final perfection and happiness? If we have been in any degree cherishing the spiritual life within us, such a power is to be found in the thought of Him, who has done all things well, who, behind the restless, ceaseless changes of life, has been carrying out His eternal purposes concerning us, has been step by step training our soul for its everlasting home--who out of the unchangeableness of His own eternity has seen the end from the beginning, and been Himself the real but unseen agent in all that has befallen us.

IV. In our spiritual life. This also is full of change and variety; it needs to be reduced to some principle of unity. There is the varied atmosphere of the inner life, times of joy and refreshment, times of fears and misgivings--there is the oft-renewed struggle with some besetting sin, the consciousness of God’s grace working within us to its weakening or overthrow. There is an element of restlessness even in our deepest, truest life. But God is working within us to will and to do of His good pleasure; He is Himself the Way, by which we travel to Himself the end; Himself the Life in whom alone we live; Himself the prize when all our warfare is accomplished. God is our all in all. Conclusion: Thus we find that all centres at last in God; all existence stands at length in relation to Him, who is the Fount of all being. The life of nations as well as that of individuals springs out of the exhaustless depths of His eternal counsels. Life is indeed many-sided and discordant when we look at it out of our own human weakness and imperfection, but as we view it in the light of God we learn to believe that all is well. Apart from Him its greatest achievements appear poor and unsatisfactory: when referred to Him its smallest details are dignified and ennobled. (S. W. Skeffington, M.A.)


Verse 29

1 Corinthians 15:29

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all.

Baptism for the dead

The baptized for the dead mean all those persons who, saved from a world of sin, from Pagan ignorance, and from the power of Satan, passed through the ordinance of initiatory baptism, there to fill the places and to carry on the work of the dead martyrs, as fresh soldiers fill the ranks of those who are slain in battle. What shall they do? Secular motives for such a profession they had none. What must be their disappointment if the hopes of spiritual recompense were delusive? This method of interpretation suggests--

I. That the disciples of Christ are always described as a peculiar people.

1. They are separated from the world--“I have chosen you out of the world.” The duty such a separation involves is manifest.

2. They are avowedly united one to another--in the fellowship of holy love. We much neglect our duty and our privilege if we neglect or refuse such communion with the people of God.

3. They form an organised and well connected body, in which every member has his proper place and office. The Church is likened to a kingdom, a house, a body, an army.

II. That the individual disciples of Christ are frequently removed, and their places rendered vacant by death. The ranks of Christ’s army are constantly being thinned. When the text was written many lost them through the bitterness of persecution. But the ordinary causes of death still exist. The best must die.

1. We see vacant places in the leadership; ministers, rulers, governors must lay down their authority.

2. We see vacant places among the rank and file. Our beloved companions are called away one after another, and our own turn must soon arrive.

III. That God always will raise up others to take the place of those who are removed. The Church of Christ is unchangeable and lasting as the throne of God, and, as such, neither can the gates of hell prevail against it, nor the change of time affect its constitution, nor the deaths of its individual members occasion its dissolution. It may suffer a temporary eclipse by the loss of its brightest ornaments, but it is never abandoned, and others soon rise to take the place of those gone before, The whole history of the past is a living commentary on this truth.

IV. That the prospect of the resurrection to a future life is the consoling element in all the changes of the present. If it were not for this prospect all else would be utter loss. “Else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if Christ had not become the first-fruits of them that slept?” All their labour would have been in vain and their duty lost. (Homilist.)

Baptism for the dead

I. Many commentators have declined to accept these words in their obvious sense. Here are some of their interpretations: “What shall they gain who are baptized only to die?” “What shall they gain who are baptized when dying, as a sign that their dead bodies shall be raised? … What shall they gain who are baptized for the removal of their dead works?” “What shall they gain who are baptized into the death of Christ?” “What shall they gain who are baptized for the hope of the resurrection of the dead?” “What shall they gain who are baptized into the place of the dead martyrs?” “What shall they gain who are baptized into the name of the dead?” “What shall they gain who are baptized in order to convert those who are dead in sin?” “What shall they gain who are baptized over the graves of the dead?” i.e., martyrs--a custom which existed in the post-apostolic Church. “What shall they gain who are baptized for the good of the Christian dead?” i.e., to accomplish the number of the elect, and to hasten the kingdom of Christ. Taken together, these sound like a series of ingenious answers to a conundrum, no one of which is the true answer. And thus they read us a most impressive homily against putting forced, or “spiritual” meanings on the plain words of Scripture. These opposing constructions of St. Paul’s words refute each other, and warn us that we must abide by the natural and obvious sense of the passage, in whatever difficulties it may land us. Take them literally and St. Paul says, that in the Corinthian Church men were baptized for, in the stead of, the unbaptized dead.

II. We have many historical traces of the custom of baptizing for the dead. Tertullian and Chrysostom attest that it existed among the Marcionites (A.D.130-150). Epiphanius relates that a similar custom prevailed among the Corinthians, a still earlier sect, and adds: “There was an uncertain tradition handed down that it was also to be found among some heretics in Asia, especially in Galatia, in the times of the apostles.” St. Chrysostom gives us a graphic picture of such a baptism. He says: “After a catechumen was dead, they hid a living man under the bed of the deceased; then, coming to the bed of the dead man, they spake to him and asked whether he would receive baptism, and he making no answer, the other replied in his stead, and so they baptized the living for the dead.” Similar observances have obtained in all ages. The Februarian lustrations for the dead are familiar to all readers of Ovid. Tertullian refers to them as very much on a level with the Corinthian baptism for the dead. They were designed to contribute in some indefinite way to the welfare and happiness of the Roman dead. With the Jews, if any man died in a state of ceremonial uncleanness, which would have required ablution, one of his friends performed the ablution; he was washed, and the dead man was accounted clean. In a kindred spirit the Patristic Church once placed the eucharistical elements in the mouths or hands of the dead.

III. Now a custom which has obtained so widely, and which still lives virtually in the Roman “masses for the dead,” must have had some humane and noble motive. Nor, I think, is the motive far to seek. Death often lends new life to love. When we have lost those who were nearest to us, we long to do something to prove the sincerity of our love. Suppose, then, that in Corinth a son, who had often listened to the Christian preachers, lost the father who had listened with him. Both, let us assume, have been impressed by the truth, but they have not been drawn by it into the Christian fellowship. The father dies: and now the son resolves that he will hesitate no longer. He will put on Christ by baptism. But the dear father now dead--can nothing be done for him? He might have been baptized had he lived a little longer: perhaps, as he lay a-dying, he lamented that he had not been bolder. Are his good intentions, his regrets, to come to nothing? May not his son’s baptism be in some sort the father’s too? May not the son say to the minister of the Church, “My father would have been baptized had he lived; I will be baptized for him”? If he did say that, we may be sure the minister would respect his feeling; possibly he might even share it. For we must not forget how ignorant the Corinthians were, and that on the main sacramental and doctrinal points. And if vicarious baptism were administered by any one teacher, if those were admitted to baptism who were moved thereto by love of the dead as well as by love for Christ, we can easily see how a superstitious custom would soon grow up in the Church.

IV. But Paul knew this to be a mere superstition. Can we suppose that he would argue from it without condemning it.

1. And yet, did he not, in becoming all things to all men, that he might save some, often accommodate himself to the views and feelings of those whom he addressed when he could not share them? We can hardly suppose that St. Paul admired the allegorical method of interpretation which was so dear to many of the Jews. Yet, in speaking or in writing to men who used this method, he often adopted it (Galatians 4:21-31). So again, as he passed through Athens, he saw an altar with this inscription, “To the Unknown God.” The Athenians meant only some god whom they did not clearly know, who might well consort with the crowd of divinities in their Pantheon. “Him,” says St. Paul, “I declare unto you.” But it was not any such god as was in their thoughts, but the only wise and true God. Here again, therefore, he was accommodating himself to views which he could not share; he appealed to the polytheism of a heathen race in order to set forth Jesus as the Saviour and life of men. So, once more, when he took a Jewish vow, and, after a Jewish custom, shaved his head at Cenchrea; or when he went and purified himself in the Temple, or when he caused his “son Timothy” to be circumcised, he became as a Jew that he might, gain the Jews. Is it impossible, then, that, in persuading the Corinthians of a resurrection, he should appeal to a superstitious custom which he himself did not approve?

2. Nevertheless, one does not like to conceive of St. Paul as doing that. The least we should expect of him is that, if he condescended to use such an argument at all, he would disconnect himself from the superstition on which it was based, and hint his disapproval of it. And this much, I think, he does. There are traces of his tacit disapprobation of this baptism for the dead even in our English version. Mark the tone of his argument before and after the 29th verse, and you will see how completely he identifies himself with his friends at Corinth. If the dead rise not, he says in the previous verses, our preaching is vain, your faith is vain, etc. It is all we and you. The same tone dominates the subsequent verses. Contrast with this the tone of verse 29. “Else,” i.e., if the dead rise not, “what shall they do who are baptized for the dead?” St. Paul no longer speaks of we and you, but of they and them, as though he were speaking of men with whom neither he nor his friends were in perfect sympathy. And this change of tone is much more marked and obvious in the Greek. To give effect to his change of tone and the niceties of his grammar, we may paraphrase his question thus: “What will become of those,” or, “What good account of themselves can they give, who are in the habit of being baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not? The very ground and motive of their custom is cut from under their feet by a denial of the resurrection, and therefore they, of all men, should be the very last to deny it.”

V. Note one of the grave moral questions the subject suggests. I have spoken of the humane and universal feeling in which this vicarious baptism probably had its rise and strength. We have lost those who were dear to us, and if we have hope for all our dead, we can sympathise with the anguish of those who have no hope. We can see that if fears for their eternal welfare had been added to our sorrow at the loss of those who were very dear to us, that added burden would have been enough to break our hearts. And the question I would fain suggest is--Are your children to long, when you are taken from them, that they could be baptized for the dead? If only because you love those who will be after you, and would save them from vain longings and inconsolable regrets, it will be well for you to consider this question, and to act out your answer to it without delay. (S. Cox, D.D.)

Baptism for the dead

I. The connection of the passage. It is connected with verse 20, the intervening verses being a parenthesis. Paul has been speaking of the vanity of the Christian life apart from the resurrection (verses 19, 20), and then after a digression on the order of the resurrection, suggested by the word “first-fruits,” he resumes his argument. “Else,” if Christ be not risen, “what shall they do that are baptized for the dead?” But whilst the passage is thus disconnected from what precedes, it is directly connected with what follows (verse 30). If Christ be not risen, what is the use of our enduring sufferings for our faith in Him?

II. The apostle’s train of thought.

1. His chief argument is that derived from the resurrection of Christ. “If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is not Christ risen,” consequently “your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins,” and in testifying to it “we are found false witnesses.” But we have the most convincing proofs, from numerous and unquestionable witnesses, of Christ’s resurrection, which is a proof and pledge of ours.

2. If there be no resurrection, then dead believers are annihilated (verse 18), and their Christianity, as it is inseparably connected with suffering, has augmented the misery of human existence (verse 19). But this is a consequence that cannot be admitted (verse 20).

3. And analogous to this the apostle argues that if there be no resurrection, all the trials of believers are useless; not the practice of the Christians, but that of the Epicureans, is reasonable (verses 30-33). Now it is evident that it is to this argument that the text belongs; therefore, baptism for the dead must be connected with the sufferings of believers.

III. The text therefore means baptism to fill the place of the dead.

1. The apostle represents one set of Christians succeeding another: when their ranks were thinned by death others rushed in to supply their place. But why so if there be no resurrection? Why do they voluntarily submit to like suffering for their faith? Such an interpretation agrees well with what follows. And what a noble idea does this give of Christians. They fill up the ranks and fight in the battle in which their companions have fallen. And what a touching scene it must have been in times of persecution to see the baptized, like soldiers, occupying the breach which death had made in their ranks, thus verifying the observation that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

2. This interpretation gives us a striking view of the nature of baptism. It unites the baptized living with the baptized dead; it is the ceremony for our enrolment into the great army of the living God; it ensures the perpetuity of the Church, and supplies it with a constant succession of those who bear the name of Jesus; it is a solemn consecration to the service of Christ, and imposes upon us the duties which our predecessors performed, and enables us to look forward to those rewards which they now enjoy. (P. J. Gloag, D.D.)

Baptized for the dead

The words, “baptized for the dead,” do not, either necessarily or naturally, imply (in the original) a vicarious baptism: the “for” is “in behalf of,” rather than “instead of”--at the utmost “for the benefit of,” whatever sense may be given to it--as champions or advocates, rather than as proxies or substitutes.

I. St. Paul speaks (we venture to think) not of a caprice, and not of a superstition--not of a local custom, not of a human invention, not of a pious fancy, and not of a morbid and perilous addition to the faith and rule of the Churches: he speaks, we believe, of the ordinance of baptism as the risen and departing Saviour instituted it, and he unfolds to us here in brief, as elsewhere in detail, the connection of that ordinance with the foundation-fact of the resurrection. Every Christian baptism is a baptism for the dead. Not only is the resurrection of the dead one of the articles of the apostles’ creed which the person to be baptized professes himself to believe--as Chrysostom says, commenting upon this passage, “When we are about to baptize, we bid the man say, “I believe in the resurrection of the dead,’ and after this confession he is plunged in the sacred fountain”--not only is there this connection between the sacrament and the doctrine--but also, as the same great writer goes on to explain, the very immersion in, and emergence from, the baptismal waters, is a symbol of the burial and the resurrection that shall be--it is an insertion into the Saviour dead and risen, it is the typical foreacting of that funeral and that revival, the anticipation of which is the saint’s life, the realisation of which is the saint’s glory. To be “baptized for the dead” is to vindicate, by our baptism, the sure hope of the dead--namely (to use again St. Paul’s words), that, as we believe that Christ died and rose again, even so “them also which have been laid to sleep through Jesus shall God bring with Him.” If there is no such hope--“if the dead rise not at all”--what shall they do, which way shall they turn themselves, who have been subjected, on becoming believers, to that Christian baptism, which is, being interpreted, the assertion of the right of the dead, not only to immortality in a world of spirits, but, definitely and specifically, to a resurrection of the body? “Why,” he adds, “if there be no such hope, are the generations of the faithful thus ‘baptized for the dead’?”

II. The saying opens to us a new region of duty. We are apt to imagine that death breaks all ties. Certainly it breaks some. Ties of office--ties of courtesy--ties of parentage and wedlock--death breaks these--as to their form. But not even these, surely, as to their substance. What shall we say of the son whose heart does not burn within him at the slighting mention of a dead father--what shall we say of the patriot who has no sense of shame at the ridicule of a great statesman departed, or of the subject who is capable of no resentment when he reads some cowardly outrage upon the memory of a dead sovereign? Yes--“cowardly” I call it, if it concerns the dead. The characters of the dead are the heirlooms of the living. To disparage a dead man is like injuring a child or insulting a woman. If you must calumniate the departed, begin on the day of the funeral--while at least there may be some one to answer you--son, brother, friend--some one to call you to the reckoning--some one to challenge you to the proof. These, indeed, are more or less personal matters. They affect but a few--generally the more famous, the more illustrious, of mankind. But St. Paul tells us that there is an honour, and by consequence a dishonour, which may be done to all the dead. There is way in which we can disparage, or in which we can vindicate them, as a class. We may be baptized for them. And when he explains himself he says, We may either assert for them, or doubt for them, or deny to them, a resurrection--which is, in other words, an immortality of complete being. Let us not forget that we ourselves shall soon have gone across from this world to that. “Baptized for the dead?” then, baptized for ourselves. Let us cling now to that Easter which shall be our all then!

1. Let us thank God for the gospel. The gospel is true or not true--but at least it is clearly defined and very simple. Christ died for our sins, and was buried, and the third day rose. In Him we live--He is the Resurrection and the Life. Let us settle these matters. To live in suspense about Jesus Christ is to live in a trance, incapable of true speech or true action. Settle that question--and let it settle all else. I can recognise no plea for waiting. That which will be true at your death is true to-day. If true, it involves duties. Amongst others--and of that the text speaks--

2. A duty towards the departed. How often have we turned back from the open grave, as from a closed book or a career ended! Anxieties we have silenced by a peradventure, unuttered but tolerated, that all may be well because all may be nothing. Prayers for the dead are un-Protestant--the dead are in the hands of God. Duties to the dead are ended--neglected or done, they are of the past. Let them rest in peace. Nay, we have still to be their champions. We have still to think of them as being and to be--as members of the Church, as possessors of the Spirit. We have still to be in communion with them--meeting them when we pray--meeting them when we worship--meeting them when we communicate. We have still to feel, when we bring a little child to baptism, we are standing up for the dead. We are asserting the resurrection of the body. (Dean Vaughan.)

Baptism for the dead

Just as Christ died both for us and our sins, i.e., with a mind bent “over us,” in order to our redemption, or “over our sins,” with an eye to their abolition (see verse 3), even so catechumens in baptism emerged from the hallowed streams with their thoughts busy about or intent upon the dead, not as particular persons, but as a general class, distinct from the living on earth. And both context and circumstance together proclaim that the ulterior view of a neophite’s mind, bending over the long roll of the dead, is their resurrection. But to make certainty doubly certain, St. Paul adds, “If absolutely not raised are dead men, why do persons actually receive baptism on their account?” Between the death of the Duke of Wellington and his public funeral, I remember a lady, pointing to some crape near her, saying, “This will be of use for the Duke of Wellington.” The text came immediately to my mind as parallel in structure to the sentence uttered, which, expanded in full, signified, “This crape will be of use for me to wear on the day of Wellington’s funeral.” (Canon Evans.)

The Church-world

There is a community of men whose principles, spirit, aim, character, and destiny, distinguish them from every other class of human society. The text presents this Church-world:--

I. As thinned by death--“the dead.” The great law of mortality enters this realm. The intelligence, virtues, devotions, and usefulness of this Church-realm, constitute no barrier to the entrance of death. But--

1. He appears here as the messenger of mercy--outside as the officer of justice.

2. He leaves behind him here consolation for the survivors, but outside unmitigated sorrow.

II. As replenished by conversion. By those who are baptized for the dead I understand those who, from Pagan darkness, were converted by the gospel, and were admitted into the visible Church, there to fill up the place of those who, by martyrdom or otherwise, had been called away by death. The new convert then took the place of the departed saint. No sooner is one Christian removed from his station than another is raised up by God to supply the loss. As Joshua succeeded Moses, Elisha Elijah, Eleazer Aaron, so one man is ever raised in the Church to take the place of another. This succession affords a lesson--

1. For humility. The man of most brilliant talents, distinguished position, and extensive usefulness in the Church, has nothing whereof to flatter himself; however important he may be, the Church can do without him. When he fails, others are ready to step into his place, and to be baptized for the dead.

2. For encouragement. God’s redemptive plan will go on, whatever happens to individual agents. “He buries His workmen, but carries on His work.” Let us learn to trust God rather than His most distinguished servants. The treasure is only in earthern vessels--vessels that must crumble.

III. As living in hope. This language implies that the hope of a future state, of a resurrection, was a vital thing in the experience of the Church; and so it has ever been, is, and will ever be. The Church lives in hope. It “reckons that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glories that shall be.” It is “waiting for the adoption”; it is “looking for the blessed appearing,” etc. Paul does not mean, however, that the religion of Christ is of no service to man if there be no future state. Let us answer his two questions.

1. “What shall they do?” We venture to reply, not renounce religion, but continue faithful for ever. Should there be no future, Christian virtue is good. You will lose nothing by it should you be annihilated: you will not feel even the disappointment, but you will gain immensely by it, even in the present life. “Godliness is profitable unto all things.”

2. “Why are they then baptized?” We answer, because the claims of religion are independent of the future state. Were there no heaven, no hell, we should be bound to be truthful, honest, benevolent, God loving, etc. (D. Thomas, D.D.)


Verses 30-34

1 Corinthians 15:30-34

And why stand we in Jeopardy every hour?

The hourly jeopardy: the daily death

We have now reached the second of St. Paul’s argumenta ad hominem. The first is the argument for the resurrection from the baptism of the dead. The second is the argument which he derives from his perils and sufferings. Admit that his hope would not make him ashamed, and his career was noble and heroic: deny it, and his career was a senseless bravado. Good trees do not spring from evil roots. Devotion to truth, a charity capable of all sacrifices--these are qualities which do not grow out of a lie, or faith in a lie. That cannot be a lie which made St. Paul so true and great a man. St. Paul begins by asking, “If the dead rise not, why stand we in jeopardy every hour?” and he affirms, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:30-31). We know what his life was like.

I. The apostle’s life was a daily death, an hourly jeopardy.

1. Elsewhere, he furnishes us with a more detailed description, and thus supplies us with the best commentary on these words (2 Corinthians 11:23-28.) But mark how he says it (1 Corinthians 15:31). Instead of “I protest,” read, “I swear”; for St. Paul here uses a common Greek form of oath. He frequently employs the most solemn adjurations. Christ’s “Verily, verily,” is an oath. Nay, the Almighty Himself is represented as swearing by Himself (Hebrews 6:16-18; Genesis 22:16-18). But let us also note by what Paul swears--“by my boast of you which I have in Christ Jesus.” The Corinthians were the seal of his apostleship. His very oath, therefore, must have touched their hearts, and have predisposed them to a cordial acceptance of that which he was about to advance. It is, indeed, by these delicate touches of a most tender and loving nature, that St. Paul declares himself to us and constrains us to love and admire him.

2. The apostle cites one special instance of the jeopardy in which he always stood (1 Corinthians 15:22). If we assume that St. Paul did on one occasion fight with beasts in the Ephesian stadium, his argument is plain. It means that here again he was a mere idiot to incur deadly peril, if he were teaching a lie. But this is improbable. Paul was a Roman citizen, and could not therefore be legally condemned to the arena, he could very hardly have escaped from it with his life. In the Acts, moreover, there is no hint of any such conflict; nor does the apostle ever refer to one in any catalogue of his dangers. On all these grounds we conclude that he is here speaking metaphorically, viz., that he had to encounter men as brutish and fierce as wild beasts. Such figures of speech are common in all ages and lands. Heraclitus expressly calls the Ephesians “beasts,” using the very word which St. Paul employs. And no one who reads Acts 19:1-41 will deny the propriety of the epithet. The multitude rushed into the theatre like a herd of bulls in wild stampede, and, like bulls, bellowed some one thing, and some another: and then, like beasts irritated by a red rag, as soon as they heard that Alexander was a Jew, went mad with rage, more like beasts that want discourse of reason than rational men. As St. Paul listened to their din, the epithet of Heraclitus may have occurred to him and have fixed itself on his memory. And if his letters to the Corinthians were written after the tumult at Ephesus, he may here allude to that confused and terrible scene. In Ephesus, as elsewhere, he risked all, because he believed in Christ as the resurrection and the life (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10)
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II. To run such a risk daily and hourly, St. Paul affirms to be impossible to men who did not believe a future life (verse 32).

1. Those who believe that dead men are not raised have as their motto, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,” which the apostle cites from (Isaiah 22:13). Yet it is curious to note that at Anchiale in Cilicia (the apostle being of Tarsus in Cilicia) there was a statue with this inscription: “Sardanapalus, the son of Anacyndraxes (Sennacherib), built Anchiale and Tarsus in one day. Stranger, eat, drink, and play, for all the rest is not worth this”--this being a fillip which the fingers of the statue were in the act of giving. In the prophet it has a special historical reference. Jerusalem was besieged by the Babylonians. The slain lay unburied in its streets. Dearth preyed on the living. By all these calamites God was calling His people to repentance. Instead of responding and waxing desperate with despair, they gave themselves to reckless mirth and revelry, crying, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” It is this outcry of desperate ghastly mirth--which has been heard in Athens, in Florence, in London, in Paris, as well as in Jerusalem--which St. Paul quotes, which he puts into the mouth of those who deny a resurrection. To them, human life is a mere siege. The hosts of death are encamped against it. The fatal assault may be delivered at any moment. Why should they restrain their appetites? “Why deny themselves to-day for a to-morrow that may never dawn? Why desire a morrow which brings no hope with it? Better eat and drink, and snatch what little pleasure may be had! (cf. Wisdom of Solomon 2:1-9)
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2. This was the tone taken in the apostle’s time by the degenerate Epicurean school. It was the prevalent tone of the empire. In Corinth the ghastly revel was at its height.

3. Hence it is that St. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, lays such emphasis on the resurrection. If he can help it, he will not so much as have them listen to those who jest about the future life, or deny it, or urge them to riot and excess because they must soon perish. They may think there can be no great harm in hearing what these scufflers have to say. “There is harm in it,” replies St. Paul. One of your own poets long since said, “Vile speeches honest customs do corrupt.” And if you listen to the Epicurean speeches which are rife about you, your habits of thought and life will degenerate. And we have not outgrown the need of this proverb. I have known men listen complacently to jests against good morals or religious truths, although they themselves condemn irreligion and immorality Their excuse is that it is “only a jest,” that “words break no bones,” that “a little freedom of speech does no harm.” The wise Greek poet was not of their mind; nor was the holy apostle.

4. From the words with which St. Paul closes this paragraph (verse 34) there is reason to fear that the good Christian customs of some of the Corinthians had suffered from the vile speeches of the heathen. “Wake up from your orgies,” he exclaims. Their only hope lay in rousing themselves to righteousness. They would come to “the knowledge of God” as they set themselves to do His will. They would learn that there was a resurrection unto life as they ordered their present life wisely, holily, and in the fear of God. Conclusion: Of the many points of interest incidentally suggested by these verses, none, perhaps, is more pertinent to the present time than St. Paul’s use of the Greek poets; for there are still good people who object to the introduction of what they call secular topics into religious discussions or exhortations, and object to a classical curriculum for students destined for the Christian ministry, and, therefore, it may be well to ask them to consider the example of St. Paul. Here, if he quotes from a Hebrew prophet, he also quotes from a Greek poet; and it would be hard to deny that the same spirit which moved him to cite Isaiah also moved him to cite Menander (see also his quotation from Aratus and Kleanthes in Acts 17:28, and from Epimenides in Titus 2:12). The probability is, that he had studied the Greek poets only less earnestly than the Hebrew prophets. His use of them sanctions our use of them. There is also abundant proof that the apostle was as familiar with the Greek philosophy as with Greek poetry: we cannot so much as gather his meaning in many parts of his Epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, etc., except as we acquaint ourselves with the themes and terms of Hellenic speculation. This is a sufficient proof that secular learning is lawful and desirable in those who handle “the things of the Spirit”; that this, like all other gifts or accomplishments, may be and ought to be devoted to the service of God and of His Christ. (S. Cox, D.D.)


Verse 31

1 Corinthians 15:31

I protest … I die daily.

I die daily

I. Inevitably--by the natural decay of nature.

II. Voluntarily--by self-mortification.

III. Experimentally--by a growing indifference to the world.

IV. Believingly--in hope of a better life. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

I die daily

1. Deposit my soul in Christ’s hands.

2. Resign the interests of earth.

3. Cultivate a closer communication with another world.

4. Realise death as the means of attaining my wishes.

5. Subdue the corruptions of nature. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Dying daily

1. In a certain sense we all do this. The very moment we begin to live we commence to die. The whole of our life is like an ebbing tide.

2. Of some also this may be affirmed in a very painful and unhappy sense. They die daily because they feel a thousand deaths in fearing one. “Through fear of death they are all their lifetime subject to bondage.” They are afraid to die, and yet are so fascinated by death that they cannot take their eyes from off it.

3. Paul used this expression in an heroic sense; every day he deliberately put his life in jeopardy for the cause of Jesus Christ. In these more silken days, we cannot run such serious risks. We know professors who cannot imperil their business or venture the breaking of some fond connection for the sake of Christ. Alas! many are ashamed of Jesus.

4. Our text we shall now take in a practical spiritual sense. Note--

I. Some previous necessaries for the practice of this art. The Christian--

1. Must be willing to die; for if he shall shrink at death, and covet life, it will be a miserable necessity to him that he will have to die one day. In order that a man should be willing to die daily he must be a saved man, and know it.

2. Must be even desirous of departure, and cheered with the hope of the better land. To an ungodly man, to die can never be a thing to be desired, for what remaineth to him after death? But to the believer death is gain.

3. Should have a good understanding, and a clear knowledge as to what death really is, and what are the matters that follow upon it. What is it to die? Is it to cease to be? Is it to part with every comfort? If so, we might indeed be excused if we shut our eyes to the dreary prospect. To die is nothing, but to be at once with Jesus in paradise.

II. Wherein it consists.

1. To consider every day the certainty of death. We are but strangers and sojourners; we are only right when we act as such. The Lord knowing that we should try to shake off the remembrance of death, has so helped us as almost to force us to it; by--

2. To put your soul, by faith, through the whole process of death. Anticipate the final stroke, the upward mounting, the eternal beatific vision.

3. To hold this world with a very loose hand. Birdlime so much abounds. When a man wins a little gain it sticks to him. Our dear friends and children are all strong chains, binding our eagle-souls to the rock of earth. “Ah,” said one, as he was shown a rich man’s ample house and luxuriant gardens, “these are the things that make it hard to die.” Our bereavements would not be half so sharp if we always viewed our friends as being lent to us. A man does not cry when he has to return a tool which he has borrowed. Rejoice to say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away,” etc.

4. To test our hope and experience every day. Alas! for that evil habit of taking our religion for granted. Each day examine yourself whether you be in the faith. The man who is in a sound business does not object to overhaul his stock and examine his books; but the man to whom bankruptcy is imminent generally seeks to shut his eyes to his actual position.

5. To come every day, just as you did at conversion, to the Cross of Christ; and if you can always live as a lost sinner saved wholly by a precious Saviour, you are then fit to live and fit to die.

6. To take care to be always in such a place and state that we should not be ashamed to die therein. Hence, the believer has no licence to be found in places of ungodly amusement. The Christian, also, should never be in a state of temper in which he would be ashamed to die.

7. To have all our affairs in such a condition that we are ready to die.

III. Its practical benefit.

1. It will help us to live well. We should not be covetous and grasping if we knew that the heap would soon melt or we should be taken from it. We should not attach so much importance to trifles, if we felt that there were grander things close at our heels. If we saw our candle flickering in its socket, we should be far more diligent.

2. It will help us to die. No man would find it difficult to die who died every day. He would have practised it so often, that he would only have to die but once more.

3. The benefits of dying daily are commensurate--

The Christian’s duty of dying daily

I. Show you what the duty is. To die once is a lot appointed for all; to die daily is a duty practised, a blessing obtained by few; most live as if they were never to die; because the day is evil, they put it far from them.

1. To die daily is to set death always before us as a change which “will one day certainly come.”

2. It is to be ready to meet death, as a change which may suddenly come.

3. To die daily is to wait for our change, as what we desire, were it God’s will, should come speedily (Philippians 1:23).

4. To die daily is to resign our souls solemnly into our Redeemer’s hands, as those who know not whether they have another day to live. To leave them with His faithfulness, love and care, who hath said, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

II. Why are we to be found in the constant practice of it?

1. This redounds greatly to the glory of God. He is honoured by a lively frame and an upright walk. For the sons of God, and of glory, to live wholly strangers to death, or to be afraid of it; how does this sully their character and shame their profession!

2. It makes much for the establishment and consolation of other Christians. It greatly saddens the hearts of younger Christians to hear those that are going off the stage of life mourning and complaining, as if they were wholly in suspense as to their eternal state. Sure, were you to converse more with God, you would speak more for Him. What though your hopes for the present fail, the God of your hopes lives.

3. This is a frame which is highly beneficial to our souls.

III. How does the regular practice of this duty redound to the comfort of our own souls when death really comes?

1. They that die daily die comfortably, because by this means we make death familiar to us, and those we are well acquainted with we are but little afraid of.

2. Dying daily has a farther influence upon our comforts, because hereby we are “weaned from the world,” and all worldly enjoyments, and those things which we are weary of we are glad to leave behind us.

3. By dying daily our “accounts are clearly stated” between God and us; and what condemnation have we then to fear?

4. By dying daily we learn to look beyond death while we are looking at it; and all is peace and joy there for ever and ever.

I shall now close all with a few remarks.

1. How dreadful is it for them to think of dying who have not as yet begun to live.

2. The truest wisdom is to be prepared against the greatest danger; our everlasting all depends upon our dying well.

3. Unless we know Christ savingly we can neither die daily nor die comfortably. He is the Lord our righteousness, and our strength.

4. It is dangerous living, even for the Christian himself, without keeping his dying time ever in view; for a view of death is the greatest bridle upon indwelling sin, next to an immediate grant of mortifying grace from above.

5. Should we not make haste with our living work when we know not how soon our living time may cease?

6. Learn hence the excellency and sweetness of the Christian’s life. Interest in Christ makes life pleasant and death joyful. (J. Hill.)

Of dying daily

1. We must die while we live, in order that we may live when we die. We must habitually consider ourselves as mere strangers in this world, who are on pilgrimage to another. Our mortal life must be a daily death, in conformity with the sufferings of Christ.

2. This description of the Christian’s life on earth may seem to some repulsive. Remember this, then, that in the language of Scripture you are dead already. When born into the world you were dead in trespasses and sins; but now “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” We are thus taught to look upon ourselves as dead to this world, from the moment we are brought into covenant with God.

3. But since, to each of us is allotted a longer or shorter period of sojourning therein, our condition may be fairly spoken of as a dying daily--i.e., we have to “crucify the old man,” those corrupt tempers and appetites which remain in us though we have been made regenerate, but which are at variance with the love of God. And this can only be done by a process slow and lingering, like that experienced by the victim on the cross. We cannot cast out the evil spirit at once; all we can do is to struggle with it, to keep every entrance by which it could gain admission fast and closed. We cannot destroy the noxious plant at once, but we may tear off each bud as it shoots forth. Yet, as all this is an anxious and a toilsome process, those who are engaged in it may be described as dying daily.

4. Now, it is not to be denied that religion, viewed as involving a continual struggle with our natural appetites, has something unattractive in it; and it seems hard at first to understand how her ways can be ways of pleasantness, and that all her paths are peace. But the question for persons to decide is, not whether they like the prospect of mortification and self-denial, but whether it is not far preferable to submit to any amount of suffering rather than, after spending a few short years in selfish gratification, to pass to death eternal? It is hard when the world invites, to renounce it; when Satan allures, to resist him; when the flesh tempts, to deny it; but if these, when yielded to, will keep me for ever from God, then I will fight against them all the day long, and, the Lord being my helper, they shall gain no mastery over me. It is hard to mortify the members; to say to the eyes, see not; to the ears, hear not; to the tongue, taste not; to the hands, touch not. But if these things place my soul in jeopardy, I will rule them with a rod of iron. It is hard to submit one’s own will to God’s, but it were harder still to be shut out from His presence for ever.

4. Application: The first step towards dying daily is to establish within ourselves, practically, the feeling that we may die any day. Another step is to learn to discipline our earthly affections, by dwelling upon the thought that, though relations and friends are blessings for which it believes us to be very thankful, still they are only loans lent us by the Lord. And the same rule which applies to our earthly friends must be brought to bear on our worldly possessions. We must discipline ourselves to part with them by voluntary privations (1 Corinthians 7:29-30.) (F. E. Paget, M.A.)

Daily dying

There is a daily dying that is--

I. Inevitable. There is a daily dying of--

1. Our corporeal frame. In each human body the seed of death is implanted, the law of mortality is at work. There is decay with every respiration and heart-throb. The water does not more naturally roll towards the ocean, or a falling body gravitate towards the centre of the earth, than the human frame runs every moment to dissolution. This fact should teach us--

2. Our social world. We live not only with others but by them. But the social circumstances which feed our life are changing every day. The circle of the nursery in which we once lived is gone; the circle of the school and other circles in which we lived have broken up long ago.

3. Our mental motivity. The motives that influence us to action are elements of life, and they are constantly dying. A realised purpose has lost its motivity. Many of the loves, hopes, fears, romances, ambitions, which once formed much of our life, have been buried long ago in the ever-widening cemetery of the soul.

II. Optional. This death is of two kinds.

1. There is the criminal. In the depraved soul, sensibility of conscience, generosity of impulse, elasticity of intellect, freedom of thought, spirituality of feeling--the sinner is constantly murdering these, and their blood cries to heaven for vengeance. “To be carnally minded is death.”

2. There is the virtuous. The highest life of man is a daily dying to all that is mean, false, mercenary, unspiritual, and uncharitable. The apostle felt this when he said, “I,” that is my carnal self, “am crucified with Christ”; nevertheless, “I,” that is my spiritual self, “live,” etc., etc. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

On the utility of meditating on death

Such meditation--

I. Teaches us to value all earthly things aright, and perpetually corrects the fallacy of our calculations by reminding us of the period to which they apply; it discourages those schemes of injustice and ambition, the fruits of which are distant, by reminding us that that distance we may never reach.

II. Improves the mind--

1. By destroying in it trifling discontents, and by blunting the force of all the malevolent passions. Jealousy and hatred cannot coexist with the prospect of the last hour. It diminishes the importance of the offence we have suffered, awakens that candour which self-love has set to sleep, and makes us think, not of the trifling scenes which are past, but of the awful events which are to come.

2. It aggrandises the mind as the near approach of death itself is commonly accustomed to do; for men on their death bed often evince an heroism of which their lives have afforded little or no symptom, forgive injuries which should have been forgiven years before, faults which should have been rectified before half the race of life was run, confession of Christ who had been denied before the world. The distant contemplation of death leaves us greater time for godly actions--whatever seeds it casts into the mind may spring up and fructify.

III. Induces us to consider by what means we shall avert its terrors. Can we figure to ourselves anything more dreadful than a human being at the brink of death who has never once reflected that he is to die? Let us, then, in youth and strength gather a decent firmness for that trial.

IV. Opens up the prospect of eternity. In the contemplation of heaven the persecuted man figures to himself a state of rest; the poor, an exemption from want; the sick, health; the weak, power; the ignorant, knowledge; the timid, safety; the mean, glory; the parent looks for his lost child across the great gulph, and the widow for her husband; the soul lifts itself up to the great Author of our being who has sanctified and redeemed us by the blood of Christ.

V. Teaches us that the evil is not without its remedy. That through Christ we are become the lords of death, that the mere separation of matter and spirit is a pang of so short a moment that it is hardly a rational object of fear, that the real pang is the remembrance of a misspent life. If you think the accumulation of such thoughts is awful take care that they do not accumulate. Conclusion: The choice is, Shall we meditate voluntarily on death as a religious exercise, or shall we be haunted by the image of death as a terrific spectre? Shall we gain wisdom by meeting the danger, or shall we, like children, be bribed by the tranquillity of a moment to keep it off? The image of death follows the man who fears it, it rises up at feasts and banquets; no melody can soothe it; it is undaunted by the sceptre or the crown. All men suffer from the dread of death; it is folly to hope you can escape it. Our business is to receive the image, to gaze upon it, to prepare for it, to seek it, and by these means to disarm. (Sydney Smith.)

God’s gladiators

There is a well known picture which represents a band of gladiators who are going to fight in the Roman Amphitheatre; with shields lifted and bowed heads, they address the Emperor thus--“Ave Caesar! Morituri te salutant” (Hail Caesar! we are going to die, salute thee). And so they go to the hard fight which can only have one ending. St. Paul was thinking of such a scene (1 Corinthians 15:31-32). He would have us understand that we are all God’s gladiators sent into the arena of this world to fight, and that in that battle we must turn our eyes to Christ, and ever say, “Hail, Master! we who are dying daily, salute Thee.”

I. We must fight.

1. This world is one long battle to the Christian. It is the coward alone who yields without a struggle, who gives himself up as the slave of sin.

2. And there is but one thing for us to do, we must fight or perish. Some of the hardest battles are fought by our bedside, or when we lie, like the sinful woman, prostrate in the dust, where Jesus wrote His words of pardon.

II. We must die.

1. God’s gladiators can only come out of the battle when death sets them free; they leave their bodies scarred by many a wound, to rest here on the battle-field of earth, but God’s angels bear their spirits to paradise. Every day we live we see a comrade falling in the ranks of battle, but still the Church marches on to victory; another fills his place. In the American war a wounded soldier heard the bugles of the enemy close at hand; weak as he was, he crawled out of the ambulance, and seizing a rifle, tried to march to the front. The doctor assured him that he was too feeble, and that the exertion would kill him. “If I must die,” said the soldier, “I would rather die in battle than in an ambulance.”

2. Happy are God’s gladiators who die fighting. There are signs and tokens all around to show us that we die daily. Read the dim writing of old letters, look at your book of photographs, turn tenderly to the dead flowers between the leaves of your Bible, or gaze on the picture which childish fingers coloured, what do they say to us? We understand now what these relics say to us, “Behold, we die daily.” The vacant places around us teach us that our place will one day know us no more, that we, like our brethren, shall pass to the land which has never been surveyed, and the great secret which is between God and His creatures. But not till our fight is over, and our work finished, “man is immortal till his work is done.”

III. We must ever look unto Jesus, who will raise up from the dead. (H. J. W. Buxton.)

Daily dying

We die daily. We are connstantly returning to the earth the materials we received from it. Every movement of our bodies, every exercise of thought and will, every muscular and nervous effort, is accompanied by a corresponding change in the structure of our frames--exhausts the vitality of so much brain, and nerve, and muscle. Every part of our body is undergoing a process of disintegration and renovation; constantly throwing off old effete matter, and constantly receiving deposits of new and living matter. Day and night, sleeping and waking, this ceaseless dying and ceaseless resurrection is going on with more or less rapidity; the river of life flows on changing its particles, but preserving the same form and appearance. In seven years the whole structure is altered down to the minutest particles. It becomes essentially a different body, though the individual still retains his original form and his personal identity unimpaired. (Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)


Verse 32

1 Corinthians 15:32

If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me if the dead rise not?
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Beasts at Ephesus

Note here--

I. A low judgment of human nature.

1. There is no good reason for taking the text literally. Had such a terrible struggle taken place it would have been recorded in the Acts, and often referred to by Paul himself.

2. By wild beasts he means men, gross and savage in wickedness. Heraclitus called the Ephesians θήρια. If we refer to Acts 19:1-41. we shall find that certain men were entitled to the designation. We read of them “being full of wrath,” of the whole city “filled with confusion,” of some “crying out one thing and some another.” They seem to have been bereft of reason and given up to the wildest fury of passion.

3. Paul was not alone in classifying such men with beasts. The Baptist called some of his hearers vipers, and Christ compared such men to swine. The Bible speaks of wicked men in two stages lower than humanity.

II. A fierce struggle for human nature. “I have fought with.” Paul fought with men for men.

1. The battle was inevitable to his mission. He was the messenger of truths that struck directly at their prejudices, their habits, their greed (Acts 19:27).

2. The battle was most benevolent on his part. Love, not anger, was its inspiration. He fought for them by fighting against their prejudices and their sins.

3. the battle was most unequal in circumstances. Numbers, authority, influence, wealth, were all arrayed against one penniless foreigner. In moral battles numbers are an inferior consideration. One man in truth may conquer a nation in error.

III. A great problem for human nature. “What advantageth it me?” etc. The apostle does not say either that there would be no advantage in a godly struggle for truth were there no future life, nor that such a struggle was to be conducted with a view of advantage. He puts the question and leaves it to be answered. Our answer will be that on the assumption that there is no future life, godliness will be--

1. Of physical advantage to man. The habits of life promoted by Christianity are conducive to bodily health and longevity.

2. Of mental advantage to man. It generates sentiments, it starts trains of thoughts, it awakens hopes, which yield to the mind a happiness which nothing else on earth can afford. If Christianity is only a dream, it is a dream from which we would not awake.

3. Of social advantage to man. Christianity has proved itself to be infinitely the best system for promoting the peace of families, the order of society, the prosperity of nations. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

Fighting beasts at Ephesus

It would be greatly to the satisfaction of our curiosity if we could mention exactly what was the historic form of this trial. And there is an interpretation of this passage which insists that Paul was once compelled to fight literally with wild beasts. Indeed, tradition has caught up the story, and told us that he braved the beasts most dauntlessly in the attack, and, while the audience waited to see him torn in pieces, he suddenly invoked the powerful interposition of high heaven with a wonderful gesture of his outstretched hand. The suppliant animals refused to do him harm. Lions came cringing to his feet, and, like so many tame dogs, began licking his wounds where the scourge blows had broken the skin. Now we have in 2 Corinthians a complete catalogue of Paul’s sufferings; but fighting in the arena is not among them. We understand this text, therefore, as a figurative description of the great conflict he had with wild Ephesian men; and with such an interpretation the question comes within the reach of every Christian put under severe conflict. When any good man is forced into a fight he is often constrained to ask, “What advantageth it me?” It so happens that the inquiry has a right noble answer.

I. The fine possession of a manly reminiscence. We always have a high respect for a difficulty we have actually surmounted. Evermore there remains deep in our hearts the joyous consciousness for once at least of having stood true when under fire.

II. Quickened growth in grace. Conflict makes men sober and thoughtful; then it makes them gentle and kind; then it makes them forbearing and charitable.

III. Power for leadership among men. Men trust the veterans from hard-fought fields.

IV. Fellowship with Christ (Hebrews 12:3). Those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake receive precisely what He received; the disciple is mot above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord.

V. It renders more luminously welcome the heavenly outlook. “No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast.” All will be peace and rest and satisfaction. (C. S. Robinson, D.D)

Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.

The house of feasting, or the epicure’s measures

1. The text is the epicure’s proverb, began on a weak mistake, thought witty by an undiscerning company, and prevailing greatly because it strikes the fancy and maintains the merry meeting. The pagans recommended sensuality in this life because they knew of no enjoyments in another.

2. They are to be excused rather than us. They placed themselves in the order of beasts, making their bodies but receptacles of flesh and wine; therefore they treated themselves accordingly. But why should we do the same things who have higher principles, and the revelation of immortality?

3. To reprove the follies of mankind and their improper motions towards felicity. Note--

I. That plenty and the pleasures of the world are no proper instruments of happiness. A man must have some violence done to himself ere he can receive them. If we go beyond what is needful, we put that to hazard which nature has secured. It is not nature that desires superfluities, but lust. By a disease we acquire the passion for luxuries, which eventually become necessaries, and then cease to gratify. Contrast the happiness of the virtuous poor man in his cottage, his sound sleep, quiet breast, easy provision, sober night, healthful morning, and joyous heart, with the noises, diseases, passions, which fill the houses of the luxurious and the hearts of the ambitious.

II. Intemperance in eating and drinking is opposed to the epicure’s design. The voluptuous man has the least share of pleasure.

1. It is an enemy to health which is a handle by which we can apprehend pleasure, and the same which makes life delicious. For what content can a full table administer to a man in a fever? Health carries us to Church, and makes us rejoice in the communion of saints; but an intemperate table makes us lose all this. It bears part of its punishment in this life, and has this appendage, that unless it be repented of it is not remitted in the life to come. The epicure’s genial proverb might be a little altered. “Let us eat and drink, for by this means to-morrow we shall die”; yet it is not so, for such men lead a healthless life; they are long in dying, and die in torment. What folly for men to pray for healthy bodies, and then pour in loads of flesh and seas of wine. The temptations which men meet with from without in these cases are in themselves most unreasonable, and soonest confuted. He that tempts me to drink beyond measure, what does he, but tempt me to lay aside my reason, or civilly invite me to a fever? When Athens was, destroyed by the plague, Socrates escaped through the temperate diet to which he had accustomed himself. He had enough for health, study, philosophy, and religion; but he had no superfluities to bring on groans and sickly nights. All gluttons are convinced of the excellence of temperance in order to moral felicity and health; for after they have lost both they are obliged to go to temperance to recover them. Fools, not to keep their health by the means which they seek to restore it! Such men “heap up wrath against the day of wrath.” When the heathen feasted their gods they gave nothing but an animal, poured a little wine on the altar, and burnt a little frankincense: but when they feasted themselves they had many vessels of Campanian wine, turtles, beeves, wild boars, etc. And little do we spend on charity and religion; but we spend so much on ourselves that we make ourselves sick, and seem to be in love with our own mischief.

2. A constant full table is less pleasant than the temperate provisions of the virtuous, or the natural banquets of the poor. “Thanks be to the God of nature,” said Epicurus, “that He hath made that which is necessary to be ready at hand, and easy to be had; whilst that which cannot easily be obtained is not necessary at all,” i.e., in effect it cannot be constantly pleasant: for want makes the appetite and the appetite makes the pleasure; so that men are greatly mistaken when they despise the poor man’s table. Fortune and art give delicacies, nature gives meat and drink; and what nature gives fortune cannot take away, whilst every change can take away what is only given by fortune. Moreover, he that feasts every day, feasts no day; and however a man treats himself, he will sometimes need to be refreshed beyond it. A perpetual fulness will make you glad to beg pleasure from emptiness and variety from humble fare.

3. Intemperance is the nurse of vice, and no man dare pray to God for a pure soul in a chaste body, if he lives intemperately, “making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” For in this case he will find “that which enters him shall defile him,” more than he can be cleansed by vain prayers that come from his tongue and not from his heart.

4. Intemperance is the destruction of wisdom. “A full gorged belly never produced a sprightly mind.” The heavy and foul state of an intemperate person may be compared to the sun, clouded with fogs and vapours, when it has drawn too freely from the moisture of nature. But temperance is reason’s girdle and passion’s bridle, the strength of the soul and the foundation of virtue.

5. Intemperance is a dishonour to the nature, person, and manners of a man. But naturally men are ashamed of it, and night is generally a veil to their gluttony and drunkenness.

III. Some rules and measures of temperance.

1. Our natural needs. Hunger, thirst, and cold, are the natural diseases of the body; food and raiment are their remedies, and therefore the measures. But in this there are two cautions--

2. Reason. Eating and drinking so as to make the reason useless or troubled is intemperate. Reason is the limit beyond which temperance never wanders. Intemperate men are so stripped of the use of reason that they are not only useless as wise counsels, but have not reason enough to avoid inflicting evils upon themselves.

3. The fitness of the body for useful service. Overloaded with food or drink, the mind cannot think, nor the body work with any sprightliness. (Jeremy Taylor.)

The folly of thoughtlessness of religion

Is it not foolish to be living in this world without a thought of what you will do at last? A man goes into an inn, and as soon as he sits down he begins to order his wine, his dinner, his bed; there is no delicacy in season which he forgets to bespeak. He stops at the inn for some time. By and by the bill is forthcoming, and it takes him by surprise. “I never thought of that--I never thought of that!” “Why,” says the landlord, “here is a man who is either a born fool or else a knave. What! never thought of the reckoning--never thought of settling with me!” After this fashion too many live. They eat, and drink, and sin, but they forget the inevitable hereafter, when for all the deeds done in the body the Lord will bring us into judgment. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 33

1 Corinthians 15:33

Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

Self-deception

Of all species of deception, self-deception is the most detrimental; it is like having a traitor in the fortress who betrays his country to an enemy. Be not deceived--

I. By a corrupt heart. An eminent man said once, “Paris is France”; it is more correct to say, “The heart is the man”; “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” The seed contains the future flower, the small acorn the majestic oak, the egg the poisonous viper; so also the heart contains the germ of the future glorified saint or doomed spirit (Matthew 15:19). Every healthy man can easily see that consumptives are gradually approaching the great change; but they tell you they are improving in health, and persist in deceiving themselves to the last. We have people that are morally consumptive, “whose end is destruction.” They do not believe it. “The heart is deceitful above all things,” etc. These obstinately refuse the aid of the Great Physician, until their moral nature falls into the second death. “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” etc.

II. By a polluted imagination. Imagination--

1. Is like a merchant’s ship, she bringeth her food from afar. The poet mounts upon the wings of this imperial faculty, and brings back rich treasures from fairy land, and presents them to us in the form of poems and dramas. In ancient mythology spring is pictured as a young maiden whose lap is full of flowers, and all the paths she walks are strewn with them.

2. Is a beautiful maiden, whose voice is enchanting as the song of the nightingale. But, alas! she is not always chaste. When celebrating the inhumanities of the hero, her skirts drop human blood. When she ministers to the lusts and passions of men her crown is tarnished: she becomes a wanton coquette at the bidding of Horace, Ovid, and Byron; but at the bidding of Job, Isaiah, and Milton she becomes “a woman clothed with the sun,” etc. The reason why imagination sometimes wanders to forbidden paths is because she is the slave of the heart. The influence of the moon upon the tide is not more regular and absolute than that of the heart over the imagination.

III. By the habits of society. The phrase “good manners” is not used now in the sense in which it is used here. We mean etiquette; but Paul meant virtue--all that is noble and heroic. Be not deceived. One may have the beauty of Venus and the charms of Cleopatra; and another the figure of Adonis and the polish of Chesterfield, and still be void of “good” manners, What are the genteel habits without religion? Apples of Sodom, having a charming outside, but an inside of dust; a dead body dressed in a white winding sheet and decked with flowers which only hide a mass of putrefaction. So refinement, polish, and accomplishments are often only the adornments of one “dead in trespasses and sins” (1 Samuel 16:7). (W. A. Griffiths.)

Evil communications

I. Good manners are supposed as the result of--

1. Early training.

2. Religious influence.

II. May be corrupted.

1. The tendency of the heart is evil.

2. The world is wicked.

3. The influence of its example pernicious.

4. There needs decision and watchfulness.

III. Will certainly be corrupted by evil communications.

1. The choice of bad company shows the inclination to evil.

2. Such company is insinuating.

3. Insensibly lowers the tone of morality.

4. Destroys shame.

5. Hardens the heart. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Evil communications

Let me--

I. Explain this doctrine.

1. Good manners, although applied by St. Paul to those Christian principles from which his converts were in danger of being seduced, may be understood as including both right sentiments and holy practice.

2. The term “evil communications,” means the associating with evil men.

3. Such evil communications corrupt the mind, sap the principles, and taint the conduct. In the case of the upright Christian, whose duty leads him to intercourse with the world, this tendency may, indeed, be counteracted by watchfulness and prayer, and by the preventing grace of God. But if, without this defence, a man will freely associate with the ungodly, the effect will soon be visible in his character.

4. The injurious effect of evil communications is not described as taking place in any sudden or striking manner. Corruption is a gradual change. Silently, but surely, evil communications corrupt good manners.

II. Confirm it, by an appeal to--

1. The Word of God (Proverbs 4:14, etc., 9:6, 13:6; 2 Peter 2:1-22.).

2. Maxims of wise men. St. Paul’s words are borrowed from a heathen writer. This shows that Reason without the aid of Inspiration has led men to the very same conclusion with the apostle. To this I will add the modern saying of “a man is known by the company he keeps.”

3. Take the cases of Lot, Solomon, etc.

4. Personal experience. Look back through your past lives, and recollect in how many instances your views and conduct have been influenced by the example of those among whom you lived.

III. Apply it. Be not deceived.

1. As to the reality of your danger from ungodly society. We soon perceive the perilous situation of a son, a daughter, or a friend; but we are apt to be very blind when the case becomes our own. There is no safety in the society of those who have not the fear of God before their eyes. If they be openly immoral or unprincipled, all connection with them is perilous in the extreme. But their society is scarcely less dangerous to a true Christian, if, while destitute of religion, their outward behaviour is plausible and decorous.

2. As to your ability for resisting the influence of evil communications. A man may say, “I know that there is danger, but my principles are fixed: and, as I do not go into such company, out of any love for their bad conduct, I shall easily avoid what I know to be wrong.” The man who talks thus is ignorant both of the power of temptation and of the weakness of his own heart, and he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool. And should the tempter suggest, as he did to Jesus, that God will give His angels charge over you to keep you, recollect that there is no promise of such protection to those who quit the path in which the Lord requires them to walk.

3. As to the possibility of separating yourself from ungodly connections.

4. As to the final tendency of that corruption, which arises from evil communications. (J. Jowett, M.A)

Evil communications

I. The import of the phrase.

1. Bad books.

2. Company.

3. Associations.

II. Their evil tendency.

1. They corrupt the heart.

2. Deprave the character.

3. Destroy reputation.

4. Spoil happiness.

5. Ruin the soul.

III. The means of escaping them

1. Avoid them.

2. Cultivate the company of the good.

3. Study the Bible.

4. Watch unto prayer. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Evil communication

The text is a quotation from the Greek comic playwright Menander, which illustrates 1 Corinthians 9:22-23. In this sceptical age all teachers should go to the forges of the Philistines to sharpen their intellectual tools, so as to be able to meet their enemies on their own ground.

I. What are these evil communications? They are those of--

1. The tongue.

2. The pen. In former times the evils of the pen were comparatively small, because only few could read what fewer still could write. But in this age of cheap literature the evil of the pen rivals the evil of the tongue in its magnitude. There is--

3. The pencil. Nothing contributes more towards the education of the heart and the refinement of the feelings than familiarity with high art; but on the other hand, nothing is more infectious than familiarity with lewd pictures.

II. How to eradicate these evil communications.

1. Form a close and frequent intercourse with the people of God. The help afforded to Christians by mutual interchange of thought, feeling, and experience will be found to be wonderfully effective; as will also the biographies of good men.

2. Form a close and frequent intercourse with Christ. Enter into a covenant with Him, and He will keep thee in all thy ways. (W. A. Griffiths.)

Nature and danger of evil communications

This maxim of the heathen poet Menander accords with universal experience, and was worthy, therefore, of being adopted as a portion of the sacred record. The connection is not that in which we should have expected such a maxim; but the occasion of it was this: by a mixture of the corrupt communications of false teachers the Corinthians had been led off from the fundamental doctrine of the gospel. Hence we may learn the necessity of being on our guard in this respect.

I. What are evil communications? We cannot, of course, entirely avoid intercourse with bad men; this would be “to go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10-11). The intercourse of society must be maintained, without respect to the characters of men, to such an extent as the business of life requires. An unsocial spirit that would lead us, like the Essenes of old, into the solitudes of the wilderness, would be inconsistent with the genius of Christianity and the example of our Lord. But still, we must not, under pretence of yielding to the necessary calls of business, cultivate and cherish that “evil communication” which “corrupts good manners.” Those communications may be justly regarded evil--

1. Which have a tendency to taint the purity of the mind by associations of a lascivious and sensual nature.

2. In which religion is not adverted to, or has no hold upon the mind, where the fear of God is evidently dismissed, and there is no scriptural rule of action.

3. Which abounds with objections to Christianity, and is calculated to produce a doubt, either of its Divine origin, or of the certainty of its most important truths.

4. Which is avowedly and aggressively infidel (2 John 1:9-10).

5. Which proceed from those whose moral principles are loose, with respect to the great obligations of justice and equity, and who indulge in dishonourable practices.

II. The way in which evil communication operates in corrupting good manners. It is one of the fundamental laws of nature, that our minds should be subject to perpetual modification from the minds of others. We may determine what society we will keep, but not what influence that society shall have upon us. One of the first feelings of every person who goes into company is to please and be pleased. Hence we plainly perceive that there is a preparation in the very nature of society for an assimilation of our minds to the principles and dispositions of those with whom we converse.

1. Let us suppose, then, that the society into which we enter is not positively vicious, in any other sense than as it is distinguished by a total absence of religion; it is not too much to say that this society will possess a very pernicious influence over any mind. It is dangerous to be accustomed to the absence of religion. Next to the infusion of positive impiety, the most evil element in which the mind can be placed, is that out of which religion is expelled.

2. Suppose the society into which we enter be impure, such communications must corrupt good manners. Must not the primary effect be, at least, gradually to enure the mind to the contemplation of vicious objects, without horror and disgust?

3. Suppose that the society into which we enter be distinguished by a rejection of Christianity, or of its great doctrines. To hear the cause of Christ attacked without being in a situation, in a becoming manner, to undertake its defence, must bare an injurious tendency. Conversation, if we intend to please and be pleased, should never be a scene of continual dispute; we must either relinquish such society or hold our peace.

III. The caution is strongly implied in the words, “be not deceived.” Be not deceived--

1. By the adduction of false precedents. Our Lord mingled indiscriminately with all descriptions of persons; but do not imagine that it would be safe for you to do so. Recollect the infinite disparity of His situation and character, and yours.

2. By your past experience. You have been frequently exposed to vicious society, and perceived none of these evils. “Be not deceived”; you are very ill judges, it may be, of the state of your own minds; you may imagine that you have received no injury, but what has been the effect of such society on your private devotions? Has it endeared to you the Scriptures, or estranged you from them?

3. By any complacent reference to the time of life at which you have arrived, or the progress in religion which you have already made. At whatever period of life you have arrived, “evil communications” will “corrupt good manners.” Solomon, in his youth, feared God, but when old age came upon him, through the contagious example of his idolatrous wives, he forsook the God of his fathers.

4. By any supposed strength of resolution with which you may enter into such society. When confederacies are formed it requires a powerful effort to break them. It is far less difficult to keep out of society than to resist its current.

Conclusion: Let me suggest one or two cautions of prudence.

1. Let those who have a serious sense of religion bind themselves with the vows of God, and enter on a solemn profession of them at an early period of life. Let all young persons unite themselves to those whom God has touched by His Spirit, and is guiding, under the convoy of the Captain of salvation, to eternal glory. The Church will willingly receive all such as are desirous of uniting themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant.

2. Let it be remembered, that with those with whom you voluntarily associate here, you shall be associated hereafter by the disposer of all things, for ever. With whom would you have your everlasting portion? (R. Hall, M.A.)

The influence of association

When we find the heathen and Christian giving utterance to the same sentiment we ought the more to heed its importance. We are so constituted and circumstanced that none of us can live to himself, and none of us can die to himself. Each necessarily exerts a great influence on many others, and is acted on in turn by those with whom he is associated. If “evil commumications corrupt good manners,” it is to be inferred that good communications work for good upon the character. Of course in each case it must be supposed that the association is both intimate and voluntary. It does not always come to pass that the child of religious parents is religious himself; neither is every one who lives with the ungodly a partaker in their ungodliness.

I. There is in all of us considerable desire of being esteemed or approved. This desire is morally allied to that dislike of being singular which has so mighty an operation upon men. With those with whom we are in constant intercourse, we wish, if possible, to stand well, and we feel that this cannot be, so long as there is distinct opposition in their principles and motives to our own; and it is almost a necessary consequence that we shall gradually assimilate ourselves to their tastes and tendencies, and thus seek to escape the unpleasantness of being singular, and therefore of being tacitly disapproved, by acquiring resemblance, or softening down points of difference. For instance, suppose a man, not of vicious habits himself, thrown continually into association with the dissolute. He will feel that there is no affinity between himself and his companions, and it will be very galling to feel himself thus an object of dislike, whilst his desire is to be esteemed. But what is galling he will endeavour to escape from. Then the question is as to the mode of escape. If he be possessed of great moral courage, he may break loose from the pernicious associations; but if not he will cease to be singular by becoming like. He may not form any distinct resolution of this, but the almost certainty is that his virtuous principles will be undermined, and he will gradually get rid of what was unpleasant in his situation by getting rid of what was offensive in his character.

II. Over and above this desire of approval, consider the force of example. Our nature is prone to imitation, and practically seeing a thing done is more likely to move us to the doing of the same than any precept we can enforce. Undoubtedly men do feel encouraged to do evil by seeing others do it, just as though less danger were incurred by breaking God’s laws in company than in breaking them alone. A man whose conscience has been active, remonstrating against a particular sin while he has not mixed with those who are in the habit of that sin--place him with such persons, and you know very well that he will be led through the mere force of example to its habitual commission. Conclusion: We think we have said enough to warrant us in urging, especially upon the young, the vast importance of taking heed with whom they make their association. We might almost dare to say on the strength of the foregoing statements, that in choosing your companions for time you choose your companions for eternity. Never, therefore, let it be thought that it can be a trivial or unimportant thing with whom you contract intimacies. Rather be assured, that such is necessarily the influence of man upon man, that to make friends with the righteous is to gain a vast assistance towards saving the soul, and to make friends with the wicked is to advance a long stage towards everlasting ruin. (H. Melvill, B.D.)

The evils of bad company

I. It is dangerous to our characters. To have the same attachments and dislikes, the same pursuits and aversions, has always been esteemed the foundation of friendship; similarity of disposition, of sentiments, of manners, is the usual bond which unites companions together. The world forms its judgments by general rules; when it sees a man a frequent spectator of the excesses of the vicious, it takes for granted that he is a partaker also, and an approver of them.

II. It will have a proportionable pernicious influence on our fortunes. Reputation has been always looked on as the surest step to wealth and preferment. Whoever wishes to advance himself esteems a good character as useful, if not essential, to that end, and is as anxious to preserve it as the miser to preserve his gold. Let the ambitious, the covetous, those who aspire after dignity or wealth, think of this, and if they have no better motive for declining the society of the vicious, let them decline it as they have regard to the gratification of their favourite passion; let them be restrained by their interest, if they have lost their virtue. Bad company may likewise hurt our advancement in life another way, as it usually involves us in idleness and extravagance, and leads as to dissipate, or, at least, to neglect to improve, the provision bequeathed us by our ancestors.

III. It is dangerous to our quiet. As he who takes a viper frequently to his bosom, though he may awhile escape with impunity, will one time or other certainly repent of his rashness; so let, that man beware who has made choice of a confirmed vicious character for his intimate, for however strong in appearance his attachment be, if appetite or interest invite, he will certainly sting him to the heart. Can any reliance be placed on him who lives in a continued state of disobedience and ingratitude to his Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer, that he will not, when any imaginary pleasure or profit may accrue to him by it, betray or even ruin his fellow-creatures? But if, added to this state of rebellion towards God, he has been known in his general commerce with his brethren to be false and treacherous, is it not the height of folly in any individual to expose his family and affairs to his machinations, under the vain hope that he should belie his general conduct to be true to him alone?

IV. It is prejudicial to our morals, and of consequence dangerous to our eternal salvation. Man is by nature prone to imitation; this is observed by every wise parent, and turned as much as possible to their children’s advantage by every good one. What we are taught, however wise, virtuous, and prudent, will have little effect on us if it be contradicted by what we see. If a young person perceives that vice is no exclusion from the countenance and familiarity of those whom he has been accustomed to honour, it cannot but greatly diminish the abhorrence in which he has been taught to hold it. It is the property of vice to endeavour to draw over to its party all who come within its influence--the libertine, the drunkard, and all the other votaries of profligacy, have ever taken delight to render others as wicked as themselves; to compass this point they spare no arguments, no solicitations--the sons of virtue, I fear, are not half so anxious to make converts as the children of darkness to make apostates. (G. Haggitt, M.A.)

On the progress of vice

I. The contagion which is diffused by bad examples, and heightened by particular connections with persons of loose principles or dissolute morals. This, in a licentious state of society, is the most common source of those vices and disorders which so much abound in great cities. It is indeed disagreeable to contemplate human nature in this downward course of its progress. But it is always profitable to know our own infirmities and dangers. There are few but who set out at first in the world with good dispositions. The warmth which belongs to youth naturally exerts itself in generous feelings and sentiments of honour; in strong attachments to friends, and the other emotions of a kind and tender heart. At that period they repudiate whatever is mean or base. It is pleasing to them to think of commanding the esteem of those among whom they live, and of acquiring a name among men. But, alas! how soon does this flattering prospect begin to be overcast. How many pass away some of the most valuable years of their life tossed in a whirlpool of what cannot be called pleasure so much as mere giddiness and folly. There are certain degrees of vice which are chiefly stamped with the character of the ridiculous and the contemptible; and there are also certain limits beyond which if it pass it becomes odious and execrable. If to the other corruptions which the heart has already received be added the infusion of sceptical principles, that worst of all the evil communications of sinners, the whole of morals is then on the point of being overthrown. For every crime can then be palliated to conscience, every check and restraint which had hitherto remained is taken away. Miserable and deluded man! to what art thou come at the last? Dost thou pretend to follow nature, when thou art contemning the laws of the God of nature? when thou art stifling His voice within thee, which remonstrates against thy crimes? when thou art violating the best part of thy nature by counteracting the dictates of justice and humanity?

II. This brings me to the next head of discourse; to suggest some means that may be used for stopping in time the progress of such mischiefs; to point out some remedies against the fatal infection of evil communications.

1. The first and most obvious is, to withdraw from all associations with bad men, with persons either of licentious principles or of disorderly conduct. The circumstances which chiefly attract the liking and the friendship of youth are vivacity, good humour, engaging manners, and a cheerful or easy temper; qualities, I confess, amiable in themselves, and useful and valuable in their place. But I entreat you to remember that these are not all the qualities requisite to form an intimate companion or friend. Something more is still to be looked for; a sound understanding, a steady mind, a firm attachment to principle, to virtue, and honour. As only solid bodies polish well, it is only on the substantial ground of these manly endowments that the other amiable qualities can receive their proper lustre. Destitute of these essential requisites they shine with no more than a tinsel brilliancy. Allow me to warn you that the most gay and pleasing are sometimes the most insidious and dangerous companions.

2. In order to prevent the influence of evil communications it is farther needful that you fix to yourselves certain principles of conduct, and to be resolved and determined on no occasion to swerve from them. Setting the consideration of religion and virtue aside, and attending merely to interest and reputation, it will be found that he who enters on active life without having ascertained some regular plan, according to which he is to guide himself, will be unprosperous in the whole of his subsequent progress. But when conduct is viewed in a moral and religious light, the effect of having fixed no principles of action, of having formed no laudable standard of character, becomes more obviously fatal. From hence it is that the young and thoughtless imbibe so readily the poison of evil communications, and fall a prey to every seducer. They have no internal guide whom they are accustomed to follow and obey; nothing within themselves that can give firmness to their conduct. They are, of course, the victims of momentary inclination or caprice.

3. As a farther corrective of evil communications, and as a foundation to those principles which you lay down for conduct, let me advise you sometimes to think seriously of what constitutes real enjoyment and happiness. Your days cannot be entirely spent in company and pleasure. Seize that sober hour of retirement and silence. Indulge the meditations which then begin to rise. Cast your eye backwards on what is past of your life; look forward to what is probably to come. Think of the part you are now acting, and of what remains to be, acted, perhaps to be suffered, before you die. If your hearts secretly reproach you for the wrong choice you have made, bethink yourselves that the evil is not irreparable. Still there is time for repentance and retreat; and a return to wisdom is always honourable. Were such meditations often indulged, the evil communications of sinners would die away before them; the force of their poison would evaporate; the world would begin to assume in your eyes a new form and shape.

4. Let me once more advise you to look forward sometimes beyond old age; to look to a future world. Amidst evil communications let your belief and your character as Christians arise to your view. Think of the sacred name in which you were baptized. Think of the God whom your fathers honoured and worshipped; of the religion in which they trained you up; of the venerable rites in which they brought you to partake. (H. Blair, D.D.)

On evil communication

I. In almost every case the young begin well. They come out of the hand of nature pure and uncorrupted.

II. It is wise in them, in the second place, to reflect for what it is that they were born, and in what consists the real happiness of mortal life.

III. It is wise in them, in the last place, to look beyond the world, and to consider the final destiny of their being. And to us, my elder brethren, it is a reflection of no common interest--that our folly and imprudence may thus poison the minds of the pure, and introduce guilt and woe into the innocent family of God.

1. There is, in the first place, an “evil communication” to the young, which proceeds from the abuse of rank and affluence. These are the high and the valued situations of life, to which all others naturally look up--and it is their manners which necessarily give the tone and fashion to their age. Of what fatal consequence it is to every generation when rank and fashion are only the leaders of folly, and when riches are employed in vice and sordid dissipation; and, what is even worse, when the manners of the higher ranks of mankind are assimilated to all that is base or degrading in the lower. How many, alas! of the young are the victims of these abuses of prosperity?

2. There is, in the second place, an evil communication to the young which arises from the abuse of learning and talents. Of all the employments of human wisdom, the noblest certainly, and the most genuine is that of the instruction of the ignorance, and the support of the innocence of youth. Yet the world shows us that there are men who have deserted this sublimest duty--who please themselves in spreading doubt and unbelief, and who delight to employ their powers with withdrawing all the most sacred principles of religion and morality.

3. There is, in the last place, an evil communication to the young from the society of the aged in vice itself. (A. Allison.)

Fatal tendency of evil associations

While seeking for a rainbow in the Handeck Falls another lesson was learned. A beautiful butterfly was sporting in the sunshine, and either through carelessness, or the fascination of the pearly drops which shot from the fall in profusion, went too near, was caught in the falling shower, and hurled to destruction in the awful gulf two hundred feet below. Who does not see in this an every-day occurrence? Young people, in the thoughtlessness which the pursuit of pleasure engenders, go to places in winch they “see no harm,” and, alas! are soon hurled into the gulf of disgrace here, and of everlasting despair hereafter. (Gavin Kirkham.)

Depraved by evil associations

Sir Thomas Lawrence, the eminent painter and president of the Royal Academy, commended the pictures of a young artist, and then said to him: “You have round your room two or three rough, clever, but coarse Flemish sketches. If I were you I would not allow my eye to become familiarised with any but the highest forms of art. If you cannot afford to buy good oil-paintings, buy good engravings of great pictures, or have nothing at all upon your walls. You allow, in intercourse with your fellows, that ‘Evil communications corrupt good manners.’ So is it with pictures. If you allow your eye to become familiar with what is vulgar in conception, however free and dashing the handling, and however excellent the feeling for colour, your taste will insensibly become depraved. Whereas, if you habituate your eye to look only on what is pure and grand, or refined and lovely, your taste will insensibly become elevated.” Sir Thomas’s advice, which is as applicable to books as to pictures, was enforced by an anecdote. The artist of reputation, who had never seen any of the works of the greatest painters, went with Sir Thomas to see one of the best collections on the Continent. It was arranged according to the different schools--beginning with the German, proceeding to the Flemish, Dutch, Spanish, Bolognese, the Venetian, and ending with the Umbrian. The artist was so fascinated with the vigour, the colour, the invention, and the drawing of Rubens’s pictures that Sir Thomas had difficulty in dragging him away from them. After visiting the several schools they came to the Italian collection, with its Guidos, Titians, and Raphaels, before which they lingered until the hour for closing the gallery. The contemplation of these beautiful, chastened works of the Italian masters so educated the visitor’s taste that, on repassing the Rubens pictures, which a few hours before had delighted him, he shuddered at their grossness.

Environment

That environment is an immense and controlling natural law for the sustenance of life has come to be a fact as conceded and confessed as that Biogenesis, or life only proceeding from life, is the inexorable natural law for the beginning of life. Environment, as the natural law for the sustenance of life, is energetic, with two main influences upon life. The first influence is that of variation. The life itself varies as the environment gets changed. Hunter put a sea-gull into such environment that it could only get grain to eat. The result was that the stomach of a bird, normally adapted to a fish diet, came in time to resemble in structure the gizzard of a grain feeder like the pigeon. Holmgren fed pigeons for a lengthened period on meat diet, and their gizzards became carnivorous stomachs. How constant and controlling this varying power upon life is, is seen in the adjustment of animals to their habitat--the flounder, burying himself in the mud and sand at the bottom of its sea or river, takes on its hue; the fur of the polar bear is white as are the arctic snows amid which it lives; the alternating narrow stripes of shadow and sunshine inter-braided amid the tangled Indian jungles are photographed and stereotyped upon the Bengal tiger which seeks its prey among them. But is not this varying force of environment upon life a natural law for life as thoroughly energetic in the spiritual world as in what we call the natural? What man’s spiritual life does not get shape and take on colour from his environment? The books he reads, the social atmosphere in which he is immersed, the daily business to which he sets his hand, the companionships he chooses--how do their varieties, their purities or impurities, their nobleness or lowness, react into variations within himself. The law of environment which, in the natural world, bleaches the brown coat of the hare into the white coat of it in the arctic regions, is only the same law plying its changes upon man in the spiritual world.


Verse 34

1 Corinthians 15:34

Awake to righteousness.

Moral resurrection

This chapter generally deals with the resurrection of the body; but the text refers to the resurrection of the soul. And this is a greater and more glorious work than the other, because--

I. The soul is greater than the body. What is the casket to the jewel, the house to the tenant, the barque to the crew? “Heap worlds on worlds; one soul outweighs them all.”

2. It can only be accomplished with the full concurrence of the man. In the material resurrection the man has no choice, but the soul will not rise without its own consent.

3. It requires a higher agency. Mere volition and force will effect the material resurrection. Christ had only to say to Lazarus, “Come forth”; but thousands of souls dead in sin He appealed to, yet but few came out of their spiritual graves. Mere volition will not do it; it requires argument, suasion, love, example.

4. It is an invaluable blessing in itself. The material resurrection will be an intolerable curse to the wicked; but the resurrection of the soul is evermore a blessing.

5. It is necessary to qualify us to understand the resurrection of the body. This is suggested by the text when viewed in connection with the apostle’s object. Rectitude of soul is a better interpreter than any hermeneutic skill. Note--

I. The condition from which man is summoned. What is moral sleep?

1. It is not the sleep of--

2. When is the soul asleep? When it is not inspired in all its powers by supreme love to God. This is not like sleep--

3. There are certain points of resemblance which warrant the figure.

(a) There is the morning of spiritual reformation--the morning when “God commands the light,” etc. Then the soul awakes, and finds itself in a new world--a world full of God, and exclaims, “Surely God is in this place,” etc.

(b) The other morning is the morning of retribution. The awful manifestations of that morning will startle the most sleepy into active consciousness.

II. The state into which we are summoned. Men are not required to awake to business, pleasure, or fashion; they are all alive in relation to these things. But concerning righteousness they are asleep.

1. The state of righteousness includes--

(a) Be just to yourself; that is virtue.

(b) Be just to others; that is morality.

(c) Be just to God; this is piety.

2. The getting of man into this righteous state is ascribed to Christ. He furbishes--

3. This righteous state includes--

III. The voice by which we are summoned. “Awake.” Paul is but the organ of the Divine voice. This Divine voice sounds through--

1. All history. Turn over the sin-stained annals of the world, and you will find every chapter pealing with the word, “Awake.” All the miseries of the awful past sprang from the want of righteousness.

2. The moral constitution of our nature. Conscience, with more or less emphasis, calls upon every man to “awake.”

3. The memories of sainted friends.

4. The whole Bible of God. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

A call to the unconverted

I. A lamentable condition. “Some have not the knowledge of God.”

II. A merited reproof. This is “shameful” with all the means of enlightenment around you, and implies the love of darkness.

III. An earnest call to a better life.

1. Awake. Seek forgiveness.

2. Put away sin and follow after holiness. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

I. Observe that a state of sin is here represented by sleep.

1. Unconcerned.

2. Unapprehensive of danger.

II. Observe that man, being careless and secure in the midst of the greatest dangers, he is called upon to “awake.” This is an instance of the care and compassion of God. He calls us by His providences, His Holy Spirit, His Word, His ministers, etc.

III. Observe that we are called to awake to righteousness, and to renounce sin.

1. “Awake to righteousness.”

2. “And sin not.”

IV. Observe the charge alleged against some of the Corinthians. “Some have not the knowledge of God.” May not the same thing be charged upon some of us? Do we know God, so as to fear Him, so as to be reconciled unto Him by Christ, so as to love Him, so as to serve Him with a perfect heart and willing mind? If not, then in the apostle’s sense we do not know Him. “I speak this to your shame.” It is our shame. Because we have so many means of knowing Him, so many reasons to know Him drawn from our wants, etc. (J. Walker, D.D.)

Sin not.--

Sin not

I. The condition implied.

1. Ignorance.

2. Insensibility.

3. Peril.

II. The earnest call.

1. To serious reflection.

2. To righteousness, both the knowledge and practise of it.

3. To vigilance. (J. Walker, D.D.)

The sins Easter Day condemns

This warning, in the midst of an elaborate argument about the resurrection, reminds us that Christianity is intended to be a regulative rather than a speculative system, that it is a law for our life, not merely a theme for our thought. Paul brings to bear the resurrection as an argument against sinning. It is an argument against--

I. Degrading the body. It is the body that is to rise as well as the spirit. Avoid, then, both the extreme of pampering it in animalism, and of despising it in asceticism.

II. Absorption in this world. Beyond the time-world there is another; beneath the sense-world there is another. Live for the unseen and the eternal.

III. Wronging Christ, For us He was the Conqueror, which implies that for us He went through the battle. The resurrection is--

1. The seal of His Divinity. Shall we slight His Divinity?

2. The sign of His power. Shall we defy His power?

3. The token of His love. Shall we neglect His love? (U. R. Thomas.)

For some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.--

The knowledge of God

1. Knowledge lies at the foundation of religion; for, if we are to serve and worship God we ought to know who and why we are to worship; and it is this which renders religion a reasonable service.

2. Ignorance is the fruitful source of wickedness. The heathen were devoted to the grossest abominations--because “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,” the Corinthians were erroneous in doctrine and licentious in practice, because “they had not the knowledge of God.”

I. What is this knowledge? It cannot be a knowledge of the Divine essence; for of the essence of anything we know just nothing at all. “Canst thou, by searching, find out God?” etc. This knowledge must be considered as--

1. Theoretical to begin with. From the visible things of creation may be clearly inferred the existence and perfections of a great First Cause; but we can learn nothing of His justice or His mercy, or of the method of reconciliation with Him through Christ from nature. The Bible is the only book whence we can acquire a satisfactory knowledge of God; because there God has been pleased to give a revelation of Himself. Here He is seen as the just God and the compassionate Saviour, giving His Son to death that He may make the sinner alive.

2. Experimental. A person may study navigation at school and acquire a theoretical knowledge of it, but he must reduce that knowledge to practice, then, becoming a skilful pilot, his knowledge is experimental. We may study medicine by books, or at a university; but until we walk the hospitals our knowledge is not experimental. Now, we may believe that God knows all things, and our belief may be merely theory; but when He has removed the veil from our understandings, and shown us all that is in our hearts, then we have experience of the infinite knowledge of God. We may believe that God is pure, and this may be all theory; but when we have been given to see sin as exceeding sinful, Then we have an experience of the purity of God. We believe that God is almighty--but that, too, may be all theory. When, however, He has effected a change in our moral nature, which is nothing less than a new creation, then have we experimental proof of the power of God. We may believe that Christ is a Saviour; but this may be nothing more than a mere general apprehension; but when we have seen ourselves guilty and undone, and when He has said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” we experimentally know the power of the grace of the Lord Jesus.

3. Practical. There is no perfection of God but which, if experimentally known, will have a practical influence upon us. If we know His greatness and codescension, this will humble us; if we know His holiness, we shall abhor whatever is offensive to His purity; if we know His justice, we shall tremble at His power and be driven for a refuge to the great atonement; ii we know the whole Divine character, we shall love Him with all our heart, and serve Him with all our powers. That knowledge which does not improve the life is very little worth. Hence the character of a wicked man is included in this, that “he knows the God.”

II. Some have not this knowledge.

1. They do not admit the truth of God.

2. They do not fear Him. They who know God, know that He is awful in power, glorious in holiness, and that it is a fearful thing to fall into His hands. As such, they fear to offend Him, and reverence His law.

3. They do not trust in Him. Every instance of doubt or of unbelief are just a total or partial ignorance of the Divine character; for “They that know Thy Name will put their trust in Thee.”

4. They do not love Him.

III. The want of the knowledge of God is a great shame.

1. Nothing can be more important than that ignorant creatures should know their safety; that weak and perishing creatures should know where their strength lies; that the miserable should know where happiness is to be found; and that an immortal spirit should know its portion.

2. This knowledge will have considerable influence upon our duties. We are called to serve God, and we cannot, serve an unknown God.

3. We have adequate means put into our hands to acquire this knowledge, if we have inclination to avail ourselves of them in nature, the Scriptures, through the Holy Spirit, etc.

4. For this knowledge, too, we have also adequate faculties. Can it be said that our faculties are adequate to the attainment of every other kind of knowledge but that which most concerns us to be acquainted with?

5. We have the most important and positive motives to urge us on to secure this knowledge. “Godliness is profitable unto all things,” etc. In this knowledge standeth our eternal life.

Conclusion: This is interesting to us all; and every man ought to inquire of his own conscience, “Do I know God?”

1. Alas! of some it may be said--by your fruits your ignorance of God is too clearly manifested.

2. There are some who profess to know God--but is that knowledge real? is it experimental? (W. Atherton.)

The shame of living without the knowledge of God

I. The knowledge of God.

1. There is a knowledge of God obtained by reflecting on His works.

2. There is a knowledge of God obtained by perusing His Word.

3. There is a knowledge of God by a revelation of Himself to the mind. This knowledge has been usually termed experimental.

II. Some have not this knowledge.

1. Avowed infidels have not the knowledge of God.

2. Profligate sinners have not the knowledge of God.

3. Nominal Christians have not the knowledge of God.

III. This was spoken to their shame.

1. Consider the object of this knowledge. A Being who unites in Himself all possible perfections. How disgraceful to live in ignorance of God!

2. Consider the congeniality of this knowledge with the nature of man. Our first parents were invested with a large share of it; and the human soul was formed for its possession.

3. Consider the means afforded us for obtaining this knowledge.

4. Consider the ease with which this knowledge may be secured. Human knowledge is often obtained with difficulty.

5. Consider the happiness which you will forego, and the misery you will share, by living without this knowledge.

We conclude by observing--

1. How important is the knowledge of God! How insignificant is human science when put into competition with this!

2. How solicitous should we be to ascertain whether we are in the possession of this knowledge.

3. How shameful to live without the knowledge of God! (Sketches of Sermons.)

The immediate knowledge of God

Who, then, are these Corinthian disciples, that they have not so much as the knowledge of God? Plainly enough our apostle is not charging them here with ignorance, but with some lack of the Divine illumination which ought, if they are true disciples, to be in them. They certainly know God in the traditional and merely cognitive way. Indeed, the apostle is discoursing to them here of the resurrection of the dead, which is itself a matter based in Christian ideas. We shall best understand the point assumed in this impeachment, I think, if we raise the distinction between knowing God, and knowing about God. Doubtless it is much to know about God, about His operations, His works, His plans, His laws, His truth, His perfect attributes, His saving mercies. But true faith itself discovers another and more absolute kind of knowledge, a knowledge of God Himself; immediate, personal knowledge, coming out of no report, or statement, or anything called truth, as being taught in language. It is knowing God within, even as we know ourselves. The other is only a knowing about God, as from a distance. It may be well to say that we have two denials set against this doctrine. One is the denial of the philosophers outside of Christianity, speculating there about the cognitive functions, and making what they conceive to be their specially profound discovery, that knowledges are possible only of things relative. Therefore, God being infinite, cannot be known--God is unknowable. They say nothing of faith, they have no conception of any such super-eminent, almost Divine talent in our humanity. Could they simply trust themselves over to God, to live by His tender guidance and true inward revelation, they would never again call Him the Unknowable. The other and second form of denial as regards the immediate knowledge of God, sets up its flag inside of the Christian Church and among the muniments of doctrine. Here the possibility of faith is admitted, and the necessity of it abundantly magnified. But the faith power is used up, it is conceived, on propositions; that is propositions which affirm something about God. It does not go through, and over, and beyond, such propositions, to meet the inward revelation or discovery of God Himself. They do not even conceive it as a possibility, that we should know God Himself as a presence operative in us; even as we know the summer heat by its pervasive action in our bodies. We do not know the heat by report, or debate, or inference, or scientific truth interpreting medially between us and it; we do not see it, or hear it, or handle it, and yet we have it and know that we have, by the inward sense it creates. What then is the truth of this matter? Why it is that human souls or minds are just as truly made to be filled with God’s internal actuating presence, as human bodies are to be tempered internally by heat, or as matter is made to be swayed by gravity, or the sky-space to be irradiated by the day. God is to them heat, gravity, day, immediately felt as such, and known by the self-revelation of His person. So at least it was originally to be, and so it would be now, had not this presence of God internally and personally to souls, this quickening, life-giving God-sense, been shut off by sin. Is it, then, to be said or imagined that, in the new birth, or new-begun life of faith, the subject really knows God by an immediate knowledge? He may not so conceive it, I answer, but it is none the less true. He will speak, it may be, only of his peace, but it will seem to him to be a kind of Divine peace. Thus you have every one two kinds of knowledge relating to yourself. One is what you know mediately about yourself, through language, and one that which you have immediately as being conscious of yourself. Under the first you learn who your parents were, what others think of you, what effects the world has on you, what power you have over it, and what is thought to be the science, it may be, of your nature, as an intelligent being. Under the second you have a knowledge of yourself so immediate, that there is no language in it, no thought, no act of judgment or opinion, you simply have a self-feeling that is intuitive and direct. Now you were made to have just such an immediate knowledge of God as of yourself; to be conscious of God; only this consciousness of God has been closed up by your sin and is now set open by your faith; and this exactly is what distinguishes every soul enlightened by the Spirit, and born of God. Observe now in what manner the Scriptures speak on this subject. And the time would fail me to merely recount the ways in which it is given as the distinction of faith or holy experience, that it carries, in some way, the knowledge of God, and differs the subject in that manner from all that are under the blindness of mere nature. The Holy Spirit, in like manner, is spoken of in a great many ways, as the intercoursing life and immediate inward manifestation of God. But there is an objection to this mode of conceiving holy experience, as implying an immediate discovery of God, which I am properly required to notice. What is the use, in this view, some will ask, of a Bible, or external revelation? what use of the incarnation itself? Does it follow that because we have an immediate knowledge of heat we have therefore no use at all for the scientific doctrine of heat, or the laws by which it is expounded? There is also another objection to be noticed here, which moves in the exactly opposite direction, where those who know not God complain that revelation, as they look upon it, does not reveal Him, and that God is dark to them still, as they could not expect Him to be. If there be a God, they ask, why does He not stand forth and be known as a Father to His children? Why allow us to grope and stumble after Him, or finally miss Him altogether? They are not satisfied with the Bible, and if we call it a revelation of God, they do not see it. We must not make Him responsible for the blear and self-blinding of our sin. And if it were not for this I think we should all see Him plainly enough, and always, and everywhere. For it is the whole endeavour of His management to be known. Now this exposition of God’s truth converges practically, as I conceive, on a single point of broadest consequence; correcting a mistake almost universally prevalent in some greater or less degree; the mistake I mean of being overmuch occupied in religion with matters of the head. The true evidence of discipleship is knowing God. Other men know something about Him. The Christian knows Him, has Him as a friend. And there is no substitute for this. Observances, beliefs, opinions, self-testing severities--all these are idle and prove nothing. If a man knows God, it is a fact so grand, so full of meaning, that he wants no evidence beside. Now as these keep off the light of their day by the ever-busy meddling of their understanding, there is another class who have never found the day by reason of their over-busy, over-curious endeavours to make ready for it. They are waiting, and reading, and reasoning, as they think, to get light for conversion. They are going to be converted rationally, nursing all the while a subtle pride of this, which only makes them darker and puts them farther off. After all you have reasoned, faith is still to come. The roads of the natural understanding are in a lower plane, you must rise, you must go up into trust and know God--God Himself--by the inward discovery of His infinite spirit and person. What is wanted, therefore, for us all, is summed up in this Christian word faith--faith in Christ, or faith in God; for it makes no difference. Thinking and questioning stir the mind about God, faith discerns Him, and by it, as the soul’s open window, he enters to be discerned. Would that all of you could know how much this means. (H. B Bushnell, D.D.)

On the knowledge of God

How deplorable would be our condition if universal knowledge were necessary in order to our happiness! For, alas! how very little do the wisest know! There is, however, a certain kind of knowledge essentially necessary to our happiness, viz., “the knowledge of God.” If we would enjoy peace, and secure future good, we must be “acquainted with Him” (Job 22:21). This knowledge infallibly leads to eternal life, and is, in fact, an anticipation of it (John 17:3), whereas they who are destitute of it remain in spiritual death (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). And quite agreeable to Scripture is the testimony of reason. As creatures who are dependent continually upon God for all we have or hope for, we owe to Him our worship and service. But to worship and serve Him in an acceptable manner is impossible if we do not know Him. Consider--

I. The nature and origin of the knowledge of God. He is infinite and incomprehensible to our limited faculties. He is a Spirit, and invisible to our bodily eyes. If therefore He do not reveal Himself to us, we can never know Him. But He does reveal Himself in the works of creation and providence, in the Bible, in His Son, and by the illumination of His Spirit.

II. The fruits of this knowledge.

1. Humility.

2. Confidence attended with inward peace (Psalms 9:10; Isaiah 26:3).

3. Love (1 John 4:8). (J. Benson.)


Verses 35-44

1 Corinthians 15:35-44

But some man will say, How are the dead raised up?
and with what body do they come?

How are the dead raised up?

I. These words meant, “How can the dead be raised up?” Let us try to find an answer to it.

1. If any man really believe in the existence of a Great First Cause, his answer would at once be, “With God all things are possible.” He who built the house, and allowed it to be pulled down, can rebuild it. But we should not rest the answer upon this.

2. What has been done can be. Now, we affirm--and it is the subject of this chapter--that there is now passed into the heavens a man who was once dead--Christ. And this fact rests upon the irrefragable evidence adduced in this chapter; and this evidence is such that when a great infidel went to work to prove Christianity untrue, it ended in his being convinced, by the candid examination of it; and Gilbert West’s book is a standing evidence of the truth of the resurrection. We answer the question, “How are the dead raised up?” by saying, It has been done. What God has done He can do again.

II. But the question may mean the curious inquiry as to the manner of the resurrection. With what body will they rise? Will it be the same body that was buried? Will all its particles be the same? Will the ashes of Wickliffe, e.g., that, after the body was dug up and burned, were thrown into the river, which carried them into another river, which carried them into the sea--will all those ashes be brought together? Now I shall answer this by showing that when we shall be raised--

1. We shall know that we are the same persons that lived. It is a fact well known that our bodies are continually changing. Unless there were particles being continually taken up, how would the meals that we regularly take to repair the waste, increase the size of the body? The boy of seven, the youth of fourteen, the young man of twenty-one, and the full-grown man of thirty, has really and truly had a fresh body every seven years. Yet which of us is not conscious that we are the same persons that we were as little children--not the same pieces of matter, but the same persons? And this is necessary for the judgment. It is a principle of English law that it is the person that did the offence that must be tried for it. Twenty years may have elapsed since the murderer did the deed; the hand that shed the blood may have been changed in that time; yet he is the same man, knows that he is the same, and is answerable for the crime that was done twenty years ago. We shall, in this sense, be the same, and have to give account of the things done in the body.

2. Others will know us to be the same. The great missionary Moffat, in one of his journeys, fell in with an African king, and began to tell him of the resurrection; and as he went on he saw that iron man’s face begin to work convulsively; and when the king could speak he said, trembling all over, “What! do you say that I shall see the men whom I have slaughtered in battle?” He seemed as if he saw before him the victims of his courage, as he had thought, but of his cruelty, as he now began to think. At the great day others will know us, however changed we may be. Seducer, you shall recognise the woman whom you have flung heartless on a cold world, and left to vice, misery, and an early death. Tempter of youth, you shall recognise the thoughtless boys you enticed from duty, and they shall know you. Infidel, you shall recognise those whose little faith you sapped by specious arguments, whose little hope you took away. Hume is related to have shaken the faith of his mother, and when that mother was dying, finding that his arguments would not support her, she sent for him to tell her again what he had told her before, for she found she was sinking into eternity with nothing under her feet. Hume shall meet his mother, and his mother know her son that did this unfilial work upon the soul. And you who are really Christians, you shall recognise every one of those whom you lead to Christ.

3. And yet we shall be changed.

The resurrection body

(with Philippians 3:21):--When the fact of the resurrection has been established, there remains a number of very interesting and important questions concerning the manner and the time of the resurrection, and the relation of the resurrection-body to the present one. These questions are not simply for the delectation of our curiosity, because clear views of the nature of our future life and of the transformation which our present life is to undergo through the energy of the power of Christ cannot fail to influence our present life and to inspire us with enthusiasm for the Lord whose glory we are to share.

I. What, then, are the principles of the resurrection as given in the words before us?

1. Take first of all the passage in Philippians, and you will find it assert the following principles--

2. Now, if you turn to the passage in Corinthians, you will find several of these principles over again, with some supplementary matter.

II. Having these definite principles to check and to direct us, we wish to examine in the light of them such conceptions as are, or may be, formed of the manner in which the resurrection-body shall come into being and be united to the spirit to which it belongs. The Scripture-phrase, “the resurrection of the dead” does not refer either to spirit or body in separation from one another, but to the reappearance of the complete human life in a state of glory. The theory that flings the body away as a temporary fetter, and denies it a share in the resurrection-life is clearly and emphatically condemned. It is in violent opposition to the whole genius of Christian thought. It is foreign to all that we know of the mind of Jesus Christ and His apostles. The “ego” of Christ’s conception is certainly not an independent spiritual essence, whether embodied or disembodied. It is always the entire life in its association of soul and body. Whether He directs his attention to this life or the next, the human “unit” is always a complex one. How, then, is the resurrection-body produced, and what is its relation to the body which is placed in the grave? If we turn to our principles we shall find that they clearly contradict the resurrection of the identical particles laid in the grave. The whole spirit of the passage in Philippians is in opposition to it, for instead of the idea of an inert mass being indued with life again after a long period of death, the passage glows with the conception of a continuous energy, and a great transformation effected by an informing process of life. The passage from the epistle to the Corinthians is still more explicit in its testimony. For the two principles we found there, viz., that the resurrection-body is produced by a development in accordance with true laws and processes of life, and, that it does not reproduce the identical particles of the earthly body--are both in direct contradiction to the commonly received theory of the resurrection. Probably the misconception has arisen through mistaking the bearing of Paul’s beautiful series of antitheses respecting the resurrection. When Paul says, “It is sown … It is raised,” he is not speaking of the body only, but of the entire man as be appears first in the earthly, and afterwards in the heavenly, state. It is this earthly life of ours that “cannot be quickened except it die,” and that through death shall inherit incorruption. The transition, therefore, is one of spirit and life. It is a living transition from the present living association of soul and body to a higher form of such association, the development of the “higher” body requiring as its necessary condition the death of the lower body, as the living seed flings off its old body that a higher embodiment of the life of the seed may take its place. Some obscure questions remain, which may become clearer to Christian thought by and by. They are such as these: Does the new body co-exist at any period with the earthly body, and has it already reached any stage of development at the hour of death? Or is it at death only a “latency,” ready to leap into full development and activity at the appearing of Jesus Christ? If so, how will this non-development affect the present life of the blessed dead? These questions open up a vast field of thought that has scarcely been entered except by one here and another there. But we may lay down one thing more as clear and certain, namely, that the full development of the “body of glory” will not take place until the Lord appears.

III. I trust that this discussion will have impressed upon you that the Scripture-teaching concerning the resurrection-body trenches upon great questions of Divine power and glory, and embodies great principles of transformation and development that may well impress our imagination, and, even though but obscurely understood, may profoundly inspire our life.

1. One result of this faith is, that it gives fulness and substantiality to our future life. The human body is no encumbrance fastened upon the spirit, like a fetter on powerful wrists, so that the spirit would be more complete without it. God never loaded a life with a useless encumbrance of that kind. Rather, the body is necessary for the complete life of the man, to give it individuality and fulness. We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed--such an anticipation would be too shadowy and ghostly.

2. Belief in the resurrection-body is ultimately bound up with faith in the foundations of Christianity. I do not say that disbelief in the full resurrection of the dead is at once and always attended by disbelief in the central truths of Christianity. Fortunately or unfortunately, men are not always consistent, and may for a time hold together beliefs that are destructive of one another. Yet I have no doubt that disbelief in a resurrection-body is a logical denial of the foundations of Christianity, and must be constantly exerting an influence that tends to draw away a man from the heart of Christian truth. For it must be noted that the distinguishing feature, the very soul of Christianity is belief in a person. Jesus is infinitely more than a mark in history to suggest noble ideas. He is life, and the certainty of life for us. In Him we see, in full view on the stage of human life, the battle of humanity fought and won. If any one attenuates the saints’ future life into an intangible “ego” he cannot heartily believe in that living, I may almost say earthly, portraiture of immortality which Christ gave. Generally you will find such an one attach ever lessening importance to the earthly life of Jesus, until His Christianity is a philosophic rationalism, with the name of Christ meaninglessly attached to it.

3. The Christian view of the resurrection sets great value on our present life, even on its physical relations. Therefore, it is able to say with an authority of its own: Give to God the full service of body, soul, and spirit, for eternity shall glorify you in the whole range of your life. (John Thomas, M.A.)

The resurrection

To the sceptical question, “With what body do they come?” Paul’s answer is--

I. Not in the same as that which was deposited in the grave. The old body is destroyed. The death of that seed from which the plant springs is the mere destruction of its husk. Its hidden life, something altogether distinct from its clothing, germinated and broke through its husky garb, which dissolved in the earth. So “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.” The gross is gone for ever.

II. With a body that will have an organic connection with the buried one. The oak, though it has not a particle of the old acorn in it; the butterfly, though it has not a particle of the grub egg from which it sprung in it; the stalwart man, though he has not one particle of that matter which he had when an infant on his mother’s knee, has an organic connection with it. So Paul virtually says of the resurrection body, though it has nothing in it of the old materials, it has a casual connection with it. What is that mystic thing which connects the acorn with the oak, the man with the infant? Tell me that, and I may perhaps tell you that which connects the resurrection body with that which was buried. We know that seeds that have been buried in darkness for thousands of years, will, when brought into the genial air and sunbeam, break into life; may it not be that in the human body there is an invisible, indestructible germ--what the old Jew called the “immortal bone,” and Goethe the “monad”--that will spring to life when, by the interposition of Heaven, all the graves of the world shall be thrown open? Is there an undying embryo in this gross body of ours out of which will spring one day a glorious body?

III. With a body which God in His sovereignty will bestow.

1. God clothes life. “To every seed his own body.” There is no doubt that in the universe there is life unclothed by matter. It may be so with the angels; it is so with God. Around us there may be immeasurable oceans of naked life; but we only know something of the embodied. No science has as yet told us what life is.

2. God clothes life with the fittest body. “All flesh is not the same flesh.” Life has boundless varieties, but God gives to each its fitting body. The hare and the elephant, the wren and the eagle, the minnow and the leviathan, all have bodies fitted to the peculiarities of their distinctive life.

3. God clothes life according to His own pleasure. “Giveth a body as it hath pleased Him.” He chose the form, the hue, the garb, of each life. Our resurrection body will be as it “hath pleased Him.” Then--

IV. With a body that will be a vast improvement on the old one. Paul attributes three predicates to the present body--corruption, dishonour, weakness: to the resurrection body, three predicates--immortality, glory, and power. What an improvement! (D. Thomas, D.D.)

The resurrection body

I. This question we have all asked.

1. At death something goes out of the body--that which vitalised it, that which we could not touch, nor weigh, nor measure. No sooner has this something gone, than the body immediately begins to return to its dust. Nothing can arrest it. We may make a mummy of it, but a mummy is not a body. In the British Museum are many specimens of mummies. They excite no human interest, only appeal to curiosity and create aversion.

2. The necessity for this material body of ours arises from the fact that we belong, temporarily at least, to a material world. Without such bodies we could not see, or feel, or touch, or recognise this world. It would not exist for us.

3. Recall what Paul says elsewhere in other parts of his letters about the body. Writing to Roman Christians, he calls it a “body of death.” To the Corinthians he speaks of it as a wild beast to be kept in subjection. To the Philippians he speaks of “this body of our humiliation.” And yet, when we have said everything to its disadvantage, we cannot withhold a recognition of the wonderful way in which the body sympathises with and serves the purpose of the mind and spirit. The old Greeks recognised its lines of beauty in their Dianas and Apollos. They lived intelligently and artistically for the body. But they proved to the world that the service of the body, even when artistically pursued, issues in enfeeblement, effeminacy, and corruption. Art refines to a degree, but only to a degree. They who talk of regenerating men by opening art museums and multiplying picture galleries must be people with but little reflection. In Athens of yesterday, and in Paris of to-day, we have the most salacious of all populations. When, however, we study the body under the influence of the mind and spirit, how admirable it often is--revealing and concealing the thought of the mind--the feeling of the soul! suggesting to us how possible it is to elevate even this body, and treat it as if it were a temple--a temple of the Holy Spirit of God.

4. This body is a body of humiliation, and yet it suggests a body of a very much higher and nobler kind. As the mind develops, as the heart enlarges, this body becomes more and more unadapted to it. Age is not of the mind and heart; it is of the body only. Spiritually-minded men do not become in feeling and spirit old, like men of the world. There is nothing that preserves juvenility like true piety. There is nothing ages men and women like the opposites of the graces of the spirit. Envy, hatred, jealousy, un-charitableness--these bring the wrinkles into the face, and the age into the soul.

II. But the body that is, is the only forerunner of the body that shall be. All the way through this chapter the apostle is fighting the thought that we ourselves put into the phrase “disembodied spirits.”

1. He goes to nature and finds a suggestion there. Why, even in nature, he says, you sow not the body that shall be, only a bare grain--the vital element that rises above the earth takes to itself a body suited to it. Every vital thing has in it a tendency to gather to itself a bodily form suited to its necessities and conditions. The grub in its grub state is embodied in one form and way; by and by, as it advances in its life, that body is no longer suited to it, but a new body is developing: soon it seems to die into its chrysalis state; but, lo, an entirely new creature, no longer with the limitations of the grub body, emerges; a creature that now sports in the air, and no longer crawls on the earth. It has its own body, but how different from the grub body; yet there is a vital connection between the one and the other. Each stage in it has been preparing for the next. And everything has its own body suited to its state and environment. And not sameness, but variety, is the order of creation. There are terrestrial bodies--bodies that belong to earth. There are celestial bodies--bodies that belong to the heavens. And each and all of these have their special glory and beauty. A star is of one order, a sun of another, but each has its own glory. And so with bodies. There is a body that belongs to man in his state of dishonour. Another which belongs to him in his state of glory.

2. The natural body is the type and promise of the spiritual body, but it is not the spiritual body. It has the same relation to it as the terrestrial has to the celestial, as corruption has to incorruption, etc. Everything lower points to a higher. Man is never disembodied; all through time he is an embodied spirit, and when he has sloughed off his time body, his earth body, he has still a body, but one suited to him in a way and to a degree to which this body has never been suited (verses 48, 49). All earth forces and powers and laws have been in our earth body. Like the earth, it has been subject to the law of gravitation and decay, to constant change. We have borne the image of the earthy. “We shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” The one is not complete without the other. The spirit of man in its next stage of being will have a body suited to it. Not a body subject to all the diseases, infirmities, neuralgias, aches, and pains to which this is subject. Every one shall have his own body, the body suited to express his inward character; but it shall be as superior to this present material body as the body of the butterfly is to that of the grub. (Reuen Thomas, D.D.)

The resurrection of the body

Note--

I. The difficulties in which that fact seems involved. The resurrection is exhibited in the Bible, not as a speculative truth, but as so intimately bound up with our salvation, that to prove it false were to prove the human race unredeemed (verses 16, 17). It were useless, then, to adduce proofs from revelation, seeing that we have it explicitly declared that, unless the dead rise, Christianity would be reduced into fable. The question, then, is whether there lie such objections against the resurrection as make it incredible, and thus justify us in rejecting the testimony of Scripture.

1. Can we demonstrate that the resurrection falls without the limit of possibility, and that the effecting of it would overpass Omnipotence? If we are not prepared with such a demonstration, it is childishness to argue against the resurrection from its difficulty. If the Bible had ascribed it to a finite agent, reason might fairly have argued that the disproportion between the thing done and the doer furnishes ground enough for rejecting the statement. But will any one declare that the resurrection exceeds the capability of Him who is to achieve it? No man who admits that God created everything out of nothing should hesitate to admit that God can raise the dead.

2. We allow, however, that this general demonstration is scarcely sufficient for the case; and we proceed, therefore, to consider certain difficulties which still suggest themselves. We begin by warning you against the idea that, provided the soul be hereafter united to a body, it will matter nothing whether it be the same body which it tenanted on earth. The grand use of the resurrection is that the same beings may stand in judgment as have here been on probation; but they are not the same beings unless compounded of the same body and soul. But our bodies, it may be said, are here perpetually changing. Yes, but such change in no degree interferes with the thorough sameness of the person. Suppose a man to have committed a murder, and that after thirty years the guilt is brought to light, and the assassin put on trial, what would the judge and jury say if the criminal should plead that, because in thirty years his body had been often changed, he was not the same person as committed the murder? And supposing, that in place of being discovered by his fellow-men, the murderer had remained undetected till arraigned at the judgment bar of Christ, in what body must he appear in order that the identity of the man may be rigidly preserved? Certainly it will not be necessary that he appear in the very body which he had when he took away a fellow-creature’s life; nothing is necessary but that his soul be clothed in matter which had once before clothed it. It is unquestionable that the same matter must enter at different times into the construction of different bodies; nourished by seed, which seed is itself nourished by the earth, which earth is the receptacle of the dust of human kind: it is indeed possible that there are component particles in the arm which I now lift which have entered successively into the limbs of men of bygone generations, and that the portion wrought up into the members of the men of one age will yet again be moulded into flesh. And if the same matter may belong successively to different men, to whom shall that matter belong in the resurrection? We observe on this that the man is the same man if his future body be composed of particles which at any time have made up his present. It is not necessary that all the dust which hath ever been wrought into his corruptible members should hereafter be wrought into his incorruptible: indeed, we know not how small a portion of the same matter may suffice for the preservation of identity: this we know, that the man is the same man in the vigour and efflorescence of health, and when wasted by long sickness into a skeleton: the abstraction at one time, and the addition at another, of large masses of animate matter, interfere not at all with personal identity. Hence it is evident, that, even if much which now belongs to my body belonged at other times to the bodies of other men, there may yet be enough belonging exclusively to myself, and kept distinct by the omniscience and omnipotence of God to cause, when wrought into a dwelling-place for my soul, that I shall be the same individual who now pleads in the earthly sanctuary, and tells his fellow-men of re-opened graves and quickened generations.

II. What answer may be given to the questions of the text? The grand characteristic of our resurrection bodies is to be likeness to the glorified body of Christ (Philippians 3:21). Now there is every reason for concluding that Christ when transfigured appeared in that glorified humanity in which He now sits at the Father’s right hand. And if Christ, when transfigured, exhibited humanity in its glorified condition, we learn that our bodies, though made wondrously radiant, shall be distinguished, as now, the one from the other, by their characteristic features. The Saviour was not so altered as not to be known. And if we would examine more minutely into the change which shall pass upon our bodies, enough is told us in this chapter.

1. “It is sown in corruption”: the principle of dissolution is in this framework of matter, and, whatever for a time its comeliness and vigour, it is the heir of death, and must say to corruption, “Thou art my father,” etc. But “it is raised in incorruption,” imperishable and unchangeable.

2. “It is sown in dishonour.” Here the body is a degraded thing, and the grand business of a Christian is to “crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts.” But “it is raised in glory”: no longer the seat of unholy propensities, no longer furnishing inlets by its senses and appetites for manifold temptations.

3. “It is sown in weakness.” Who feels not how the body is now a clog upon the spirit, impeding it in its stretchings after knowledge, as well as in its strivings after holiness? But “it shall be raised in power”: no longer needing rest, no longer subject to waste, the body shall be an auxiliary to the soul in all her searchings after truth.

4. “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” The body of the risen Redeemer, though certainly material, yet it had in a high degree the attributes of spirit, for it could be made invisible, and could enter a chamber with closed doors, thus proving itself no longer subject to the laws which matter now obeys; and so matter shall partake much of the independence of spirit, and the body be fitted for accompanying the soul in all her marchings over the area of the universe, and in all her divings into its most secret recesses. The natural body is a structure which belongs fitly to the natural man who “receiveth not the things of God.” Conclusion: We are told nothing of the body with which the wicked shall come. The natural body may remain the natural, and if the resurrection consigns this to be sown a natural body and to be raised a natural body, you reach the summit of all that is terrible in conception; when you suppose the grave thus sending up the drunkard thirsting for wine where there is no wine, and the miser always hankering for gold where there is no gold, and the sensualist to be galled by the impress of voluptuousness where there may exist the sense, but not the objects, of concupiscence. Seeing, then, there is no escaping the resurrection, ought not each one of us to ask himself solemnly the question, “With what body shall I come--with the natural or with the spiritual?” (H. Melvill, B.D.)

The resurrection, credibility of

“How are the dead raised?” This Paul answers by arguments from analogy.

I. The nature of the argument. Analogy is probability from a parallel case. We assume that the same law which operates in the one case will operate in another if there be a resemblance between the relations of the two things compared. Thus, when Christ said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground,” etc. As in nature life comes through death, so also is it in the world of spirit. The law of sacrifice, which accounts for the one fact, will also explain the other. Thus St. Paul shows that the life of the seed is continued after apparent death in a higher form, and argues, that in like manner the human spirit may be reunited to form.

2. How far this argument is valid. It does not amount to proof; it only shows that the thing in question is credible. It does not demonstrate that a resurrection must be, it only shows that it may be.

3. Now, it is in this way that St. Paul concludes his masterly argument. He proves the resurrection from the historical fact, and by the absurdity which follows from denial of it, and then he shows that so proved, it is only parallel to the dying and upspringing corn, and the diverse glories of the sun, and moon, and stars. But it is not on these grounds that our belief rests. We fetch our proofs from the Word of God, and the nature of the human soul.

II. The credibility of the resurrection.

1. There are two difficulties advanced.

2. Now, to these objections Paul replies. He discerns in this world three principles.

3. St. Paul finds that all this coincides with the yearnings of the human heart (verse 54). This is the substance of two prophecies, one in Isaiah, the other in Hosea, and expresses the yearnings of the heart for immortality. No man, in a high mood, ever felt that this life was really all, ever looked on life and was satisfied, ever looked at the world without hoping that a time is coming when that creation which is now groaning and travailing in bondage, shall be brought into the glorious liberty of the Son of God. And this feeling, felt in a much greater and higher degree, becomes prophecy. And when we look around, instead of finding something which damps our aspirations, we find the external world corroborating them. Then how shall we account for this marvellous coincidence? Shall we believe that God our Father has cheated us with a lie? (F. W. Robertson, M.A.)

The natural resurrection

The day dies into night, and is buried in silence and darkness; in the next morning it appeareth again and reviveth, opening the grave of darkness, rising from the dead of night: this is a diurnal resurrection. As the day dies into night, so doth the summer into winter; the sap is said to descend into the root, and there it lies buried in the ground; the earth is covered with snow or crusted with frost, and becomes a general sepulchre; when the spring appeareth all begin to rise; the plants and flowers peep out of their graves, revive, and grow, and flourish: this is the annual resurrection. The corn by which we live, and for want of which we perish with famine, is notwithstanding cast upon the earth and buried in the ground with a design that it may corrupt, and being corrupted, may revive and multiply; our bodies are fed by this constant experiment, and we continue this present life by succession of resurrections. Thus all things are repaired by corrupting, are preserved by perishing, and revive by dying; and can we think that man, the lord of all these things which thus die and revive for him, should be so detained in death as never to live again? (Dr. John Pearson.)

The resurrection possible

To understand the apostle’s reply to the question we must lay firm hold of these two things: first, that he is speaking of the man, who is dead, not of the mass of matter undergoing dissolution in the earth; second, that his purpose is to point out analogies to the fundamental conception on which his proof rests, viz., the conception of a progress that is not checked but realised through death.

I. In the relation of the seed to the plant we recognise--

1. That death is, in some cases at least, necessary to the perpetuation of life.

2. That this perpetuation involves a development.

3. That this development is not automatic, but the consequence of a creative and beneficent act of God.

4. That in this act God appropriates indefinite material to produce the development of definite kinds.

II. The analogy of the various kinds of flesh teaches us that this limiting of the limitless in the formation and development of kinds consists in differentiating their physical constitution.

III. The analogy of the various glories in sun, etc., intimates that such a differentiation of nature implies a difference also in sphere of action. Conclusion: To apply all this to the subject in hand, it means--

1. That the believer’s relation to Christ involves development.

2. That this development implies death as one of its conditions.

3. That this development is brought about “through God’s creative and beneficent act.

4. That it is a development within the limits of kind.

5. That it involves a change in mode of existence.

6. That it necessitates and secures transference of the entire man into another sphere. (Principal Edwards.)

The analoqies of nature

Note--

I. The death is often a condition of new and higher life. Paul first teaches us the parable of the seed (verses 37, 38). Is that which thou sowest the body that will be? No: a new body springs from the corruption of the old, more complex, beautiful, and adapted to the higher region in which it has its life. But though the form of the grain be changed its identity is not lost. To each of the seeds God gives its own body. It you sow wheat, you reap wheat; if you sow barley, you reap barley, etc. The form is changed, but the identity is preserved. We draw no proof from the analogy; but we feel that it is not so difficult for us to conceive the resurrection of the body now that this natural resurrection of the seed is brought home to our thoughts. We see, e.g.--

1. That dissolution does not inevitably imply destruction, nay, that it affords no clear presumption of it even. Nothing sown is quickened except it die. And therefore, it may be that the dissolution of the body is not its destruction: it may pass through death to a form more comely and perfect, to a more fruitful service, to more life and fuller.

2. When form is changed identity may be preserved. The grain rots and dies that the vital germ may be quickened and fed, and each grain takes its own new body: wheat remains wheat, and rice, rice. And so if we ask, “How are the scattered and vapourised particles of which our bodies are composed to be recovered and compacted into a new organism?” Nature replies, “That may not be necessary. Much may die and yet the vital germ may live.” If we say, “We do not care simply to live, but to be ourselves,” Nature replies, “To each of the seeds God giveth its own body, not another’s. And therefore, though your new form may differ from the old, it may be that you will remain the same, and find the same friends about you, each in its own likeness, though enlarged and glorified. You may have exchanged the winter of seed-time for the golden splendours of an eternal summer; but nevertheless you may still be what you were.”

II. The same substance may take various forms.

1. Earthly bodies differ from each other (verse 39). Men, beasts, fish, birds are all composed of flesh and blood. Yet this one flesh--how infinite its variety of forms!

2. If then of one flesh God can weave these infinite varieties of animal life, each exquisitely adapted to its peculiar element and conditions, can we suppose that His power is exhausted by the forms now visible to us? Is it not in accordance with all the teachings of Nature that, if at death men pass into a new element and new conditions of life, God should adapt their organism to its new conditions, that He should develop in it new faculties and powers?

3. Heavenly bodies differ from earthly (verse 40). There is one matter as there is one flesh. Compare sun, moon, stars, planets, comets with the various orders of beasts, fish, birds, or with mountains, streams, trees, flowers; and how immeasurable is the diversity! Yet God made them all and made them of the same substance, and if it please Him, He can mould the identical substance of which all physical nature is composed into new forms. Nay, more; the matter of the heavenly bodies is in each case adapted to its conditions, and varies as these vary. And therefore the presumption is strong that if death should greatly change our conditions, our physical organism will change with them, and be adapted to them. If death should lift us to heaven, we may well believe that, as we were here adapted to an earthly lot, so there we shall be adapted, for a heavenly lot.

4. Heavenly bodies differ from each other (verse 41). It is not simply that each of the heavenly bodies had its own light: it has its own glory, its peculiar characteristics, its proper excellence. From the earliest ages, when men tilled the fertile plans of Chaldaea, they have distinguished differences of light even in the planets--the blue ray of Mercury, the golden lustre of Venus, the red and bloody portent of Mars, the deep orange gleam of Jupiter, the leaden hue of Saturn. And these differences of light speak of differences of place, magnitude, structure. The one glory of the heavens is a complex of many different glories. And if of one substance God has woven the infinite and differing globes of light, how incommensurate our thought of Him, did we suppose that He could not out of the one substance of this mortal body weave many different bodies, each perfect in its kind and for its purpose, each answering to its conditions and rising as they rise! (S. Cox, D.D.)

Harvest sermon

It is evident that St. Paul had not walked in the corn fields in vain. Nor let us do so. Note--

I. The sentiments and feelings with which we should contemplate the corn fields, as they grow ripe unto the harvest.

1. Devout reverence and awe. I sympathise with Dr. Johnson, who uncovered his head whenever he passed a church, and worshipped with bare head in the corn fields. What a manifestation of the living God, in quiet, ceaseless, beautiful, benign energy!

2. Joyful gratitude. In everything give thanks, for a bad as well as a good crop; for thus God teaches us that man does not live by bread alone.

3. Practical brotherly kindness. The heart can scarcely fail to expand at the sight of the exceeding bountifulness of the great Father, into some joyful sense of oneness with all our brethren of mankind.

II. The analogies which the corn fields supply; or rather the lessons which these analogies teach.

1. That much in the moral and spiritual world which appears to perish wholly, still lives, at least, in its issues and results. It is thus with our sins--thus with words and works of truth and charity.

2. That in order to the preservation and reproduction of life, there must be change, dissolution, death. This is true of institutions, forms of thought and doctrine, generations, persons, illustrated in the solemn law of self-sacrifice adduced (1 Corinthians 11:24-25.)

3. That in preserving and developing truth and holiness in successive generations, and bringing all high and benign purposes to their issue, God does far more than man, operates more powerfully and constantly. “God gives it a body” (Mark 4:26-27). It belongs to man to hope and quietly wait, as well as to work, and to remember that all great changes wrought in man, either in the community or the individual, resemble rather the processes and results of agriculture, than those of manufacture.

4. That results often little accord with, and far surpass our designs and expectations: “as it hath pleased Him.” Illustrated in Protestantism, in the Divinely shaped result of Luther’s attack on indulgencies; in the United States, in the result of the emigration of the Pilgrim Fathers; in what will be probably the issue of those efforts many are now making for church reformation. Let us be true to principles and trust in God for their future embodiment.

5. That, nevertheless, results are appropriate and fixed. God acts by law and not with caprice and fickleness. “To every seed his own body.” Apply to individual conscience. “Whatsoever a man soweth,” etc.

6. That the harvest of the world shall come. God’s purposes ripen to their accomplishment as certainly as grain, in spite of exceptional eases, ripens for the sickle. “Be patient, therefore, brethren,” etc. (J. Glyde.)


Verses 35-50

Verses 36-40

1 Corinthians 15:36-40

Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.

The reproof of scepticism

I. Justly severe. “Thou fool.” Because--

1. It is opposed to God and Divine truth.

2. Is based in ignorance and self-conceit.

II. Severely just. Because--

1. It ignores the analogy between natural facts, and the higher purposes of God.

2. Cannot realise anything beyond the domain of natural sense.

3. Denies everything it cannot realise. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

From death to life

The text may be applied to--

I. The facts of nature as here.

II. The events of history.

1. In general. Note the fate of empires. They are born, grow, decay, die or are killed, and out of their ruins, phoenix like, the new emerge: evolution succeeds revolution. So with the dynasties who rule these empires.

2. In particular rulers and statesmen die to give birth to their successors. Moses dies, but Joshua rises. John must decrease that Christ must increase. Saul holds the mantle of martyred Stephen and then wears it.

III. The phenomena of providence. “The old order changeth, giving birth to new,” etc. “Our little systems have their day,” etc. Each age has its own mission, and having accomplished it, it dies only, however, to hand on the results of its mission which are embodied in the work of the next.

IV. The development of the Church. This is marked by a series of burials and resurrections, beginning with the burial and resurrection of its great Head. “The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.” What was more completely dead than Christendom before the reformers awoke it into life! What was deader than religion in England before the great evangelists of the last century aroused it into activity! What are revivals but resurrections of dead churches?

V. The progress of the soul. True manhood is ever mounting on its dead self to nobler things. This is true--

1. Mentally. What intellectual revolutions a thoughtful man passes through! How dead are the dreams of childhood, the ideals of youth, the purposes of later years! How opinions, principles, beliefs change, and how necessary for the mind’s growth that they should!

2. Spiritually. From the moment when a man passes from death to life to the moment the mortal puts on immortality moral growth consists of a perpetual dying to sin that righteousness may live. (J. W. Burn.)

And … thou sowest not that body that shall be.--

The present and future of the body

1. Christianity does not teach us to despise even the mortal body. We are taught that Christ Himself--“without whom was not anything made that was made”--formed man of the dust of the earth. The body, therefore, is a sacred thing; the very handiwork of Christ, though sadly marred and spoiled. By His incarnation a new sacredness has been added to it. God was made flesh, and dwelt among us. The instrument whose strings could be made to express the harmonies of a Divine perfection, cannot be too feeble for the lowlier music of the holiness proper to humanity.

2. Although we are taught to expect that this mortal body must be transfigured before our feet can stand on the pavement of the city of God, yet how wonderful a thing it is even now! I do not refer to the marvels of its mere physical structure, the miracles of skill which the anatomist delights to celebrate. I refer to the relationship which exists between every part of your physical nature and your thoughts, your affections, your conscience and your will. It is the necessary servant, and sometimes the imperial master of an immortal nature which sprang direct from God, and is still capable of intercourse with Him. Take the eye, and dissect it as skilfully as you please; but for that the soul would be a stranger to the splendid pageantry of nature, and to the more affecting beauty which irradiates the faces that we love. And, what is, if possible, more wonderful still, the body is gradually moulded and transformed by the energy or feebleness, the purity or the wickedness of the soul within. The inward kindness makes the eye gentle--the inward fury makes it burn with a terrible fire. The very lines of the face are gradually determined by the thoughts which occupy the most secret sanctuary of the soul, and the passions by which the depths of the heart are agitated.

3. But yet, mighty as are the susceptibilities of our physical being, it is not yet equal to the high claims of its spiritual alliance. We are hindered and enfeebled by it continually. Hardly have we plunged into our work before fatigue compels us to lay it aside; hardly has the day begun before the night returns, and with it the necessity of sleep. By the most trifling physical accidents the very mightiest are made powerless. No brilliance of genius, no heroism of moral nature can wholly defy the tyranny of weakness and suffering. The richest wisdom, the noblest moral energy, may all be made nearly useless by physical infirmity, and must at last be driven away from the world altogether by physical death.

4. Let us be thankful that we sow “not that body that shall be.” “Bare grain” is cast into the ground, but after a few months the hidden life reappears in the slender and graceful stalk, and the richly laden ear. So shall it be in the resurrection of the just. The body will rise again; but, thank God, not the same body (verse 34). As yet we cannot imagine the nature or the results of that transforming process which our “flesh and blood “must undergo before they can inherit the “kingdom of God”; but the unsuspected capabilities of human nature, even on its inferior side, have already been most wonderfully illustrated in the resurrection of Christ, and His enthronement at God’s right hand. He reigns not as God merely, but as man. His entire nature has been received into glory. The body in which He endured the feebleness, and suffering, which made up His earthly history, He wears still. Think, then, of the vast and tremendous duties to which the Redeemer of man has been appointed. And yet, in the discharge of the duties of His high government, His brain knows no weariness, His strength no exhaustion. A few hours of public teaching, when He was on earth, made it necessary that He should lay His head on a pillow and seek repose, though the night was dark, and the winds were loud, and the billows rough. But there is no danger now when the tempest is raging of finding Him asleep. And our vile bodies are to be made like to His glorious body. (R. W. Dale, D.D.)

Four important principles bearing upon the doctrine of the resurrection

I. Change of form--thou sowest not, etc.

II. Identity of body--to every seed his own body.

III. Identity of species--wheat cannot produce tares or tares wheat--neither can the sinner be raised a glorified saint nor the saint a reprobate sinner.

IV. Difference in the degree of development in the same species--one stalk of wheat is more fairly developed than another, “God giveth,” etc.

so also in the resurrection of the dead. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

But bare grain.--

Bare grain

During the last week we have had a second edition of our summer, which seemed almost gone--a second edition, abridged, condensed into a few days, but charming, because unexpected. No wonder the poor Indian, with untutored mind, lonely in his narrow thought, feeling after God, if haply he might find Him, dreamed that he saw in the haze illumined sky of October some glimpse of the happy hunting-fields where his fathers roamed. Work-people in Europe, besides their regular wages, expect some little extra gift, which they call, in Italian, buono-mano. And they seem to take more pleasure in their buono-mano than in their regular wages. These warm days in September are Nature’s buono-mano. God has left this margin of the unexpected, the casual, around all the majestic machinery of law, in order to give us the joy of feeling the gift, to give Himself the joy of being loved as the Giver. Let us be thankful that there are some surprises in the world, some things which elude mathematics, some Indian summer days which come when no one has predicted them, to warm the heart through and through; because being unlooked for, they seem more like a direct gift from God. This return of summer in the form of Indian summer has suggested to me the subject of returning events, of recurrence in human affairs, of the circular and spiral movement in history and life. Things come back, but when they come back they are seldom exactly what they were before. Summer returns as Indian summer; history is always repeating itself, but on a higher plane. The difference between two men, one having Christian faith and the other not having it, is this: both commit the same faults, and repeat the same experience, but the one repeats it always high up. He has more faith, more hope, more love to God and man. Thus he takes the past with him, as precious seed of a better future. His youth departs, with its golden summer days, but returns again an Indian summer with mellower warmth, and a more enchanting peace. The Christian army marches ever to the east, with the dawn shining on its white shields of expectation. But just in proportion as this faith is wanting, life goes round and round, in a mere mill-horse circle of routine. If we look only at this, life grows very tiresome. The despair of the Book of Ecclesiastes comes over us, and we say, “What profit has a man of all his labour that he takes under the sun?” For all “things return, according to their circuit.” But the New Testament teaches another lesson than the Book of Ecclesiastes. It is a proof of the Divine origin of these gospels and epistles--that they are full, through and through, of the spirit of hope. Throughout they cry to us: “The life we sow to-day is seed of something better to come to-morrow. We do not plant that which is to be, but only its seed. Our present life, which we are leading now, compared to that which is to come to us, is only as naked seed is to the green and graceful plant which springs from it.” The Old World of Pagan religion and philosophy was very much ennuyed. It expected nothing, it had little hope left in its heart. Now, the new life of Christianity consisted very much in giving hope to the world. As when a glacier pours its enormous river of ice through Alpine ravines, descending into the valleys, it wastes away imperceptibly, and turns to moist vapours, filling the valley with masses of foliage--so this glacier of despair melted in the warm breath of the new Christian life. The letters of Paul and Peter are full of expectation of Christ’s coming to reign on earth. That great expectation of Christ’s coming was the seed that the New Testament planted in civilisation; and it has borne its fruits in all human progress. The one thing needful, the only essential in Christianity, is to have Christ formed within us, the hope of glory; hope of glory here, in all forms of growing goodness, generosity, honour; and of glory, honour, immortality hereafter. Christ Himself was the seed planted in Palestine, which has come up in Christianity in that new body which pleased God. When in the world Jesus worked outward, physical miracles. He works miracles still, but in a new way. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised,” but not now by a mere touch or word. We have blind asylums, and deaf and dumb asylums, and sanitary associations. These all proceed from the Christian spirit of humanity, and so come from the seed which Christ’s miracles planted. Those miracles were bare grain, to which God gave the body which pleased Him. Visitors to Rome, looking out from its lofty walls over the Campagna, see with delight the long line of arches which cross the plain, converging towards the city from the distant mountains. They are the remains of the ancient aqueducts, which formerly brought supplies of water to the immense population of ancient Rome. Visitors to Chicago are carried down to see a tunnel running two miles under the lake, which brings pure water in inexhaustible supplies to that new-born metropolis of the prairies. The methods differ, the water is the same. Forms change, but the needs of men remain. So the soul of man needs always to drink the same living water of faith and hope. The water is the same, whether it is drawn up from Jacob’s spring, or brought through a Roman aqueduct, or spouts from an artesian well, or is pumped up through a Chicago tunnel. So, if we have love to God and man, and have faith in the great and blessed future, if we believe good stronger than evil, and life more permanent than death, it is no matter by what Jewish or Roman aqueduct or modern creed that pure water comes. God gives it the body which has pleased Him, and to every seed its own body. (James Freeman Clarke.)

But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body.--

The permanence of human identity

I. Natural life preecedes spiritual life--in the sinner.

II. Natural life is combined with spiritual life--in the believer.

III. Spiritual life is consummated in the glorified natural life--in the risen saint, yet the man loses nothing essential to his identity. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

All flesh is not the same flesh.--

The wealth of Divine power displayed

I. In the visible creation.

1. Variety of living forms.

2. Adaptation to different spheres.

3. Degrees of glory and beauty.

II. In the resurrection.

1. The same body yet wonderfully changed.

2. Adapted to heaven and hell.

3. Differing in glory. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The falsity of the development theory

I. All flesh is not the same flesh.

1. Man differs from a beast in the very constitution of his flesh, blood, nervous system--as also other genera of animal life.

2. Modification is possible, but change is a pure assumption unsustained by facts, and contradicted by revelation.

II. Much less is all spirit the same spirit.

1. The spirit of the beast goeth downward.

2. The spirit of man returns to God.

III. The folly of such assumptions is manifest--they contradict.

1. Fact.

2. Reason.

3. Eternal and infallible truth.

4. And incur a terrible responsibility. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The resurrection body will be wonderfully changed

I. In its tissues. Though its elements be substantially the same, the variety of flesh proves the possibility (verse 39), the Word of God asserts its certainty (verse 50).

II. In its adaptations--to a new and heavenly sphere--there are bodies celestial and terrestrial.

III. In its appearance--all glorious--yet one glory of the sun, etc. The first shall be last, etc. (J. Lyth, D.D.)


Verse 41-42

1 Corinthians 15:41-42

There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon.

Degress of glory in heaven

I. What this means. That as the Lord has displayed His mercy and His love to holiness, by rewarding a short and imperfect obedience by an eternal glory, so it is accordant with these perfections to confer higher degrees of this glory on those whose obedience has been more constant, and piety more ardent. While we maintain this--

1. We allow that all will nevertheless be perfectly happy, according to their faculties and power of enjoyment.

2. We also maintain that in many things their felicity will be common. It will be common in--

II. This is proved--

1. By Scripture.

2. From analogy. Look at--

3. From the transactions of the judgment-day, and the nature of the future felicity (Matthew 25:1-46.).

III. The objections that have been made against it.

1. Perhaps the most plausible has been drawn from the parable of the labourers in Matthew 20:1-15. But how can the reward signify eternal life, since it is given to the murmurers and envious (verse 14). The design of the parable is to repress the pride of the Jews, and show the propriety of the vocation of the Gentiles. It has no reference whatever to future reward.

2. “Are not all believers, through the merits of Christ, alike justified and adopted, and must they not therefore be alike glorified?” But do the blessings of God spring less from grace because He has established a wise order in the distribution of them? There are different degrees of holiness and comfort enjoyed by Christians upon earth; then, there may be different degrees of glory in the world to come. The objection is precisely as strong against a difference in sanctification as against a difference in glorification.

3. “As all the blessed are perfectly holy, they must all be perfectly and alike happy.” The conclusion by no means follows. Are the angels alike elevated because they are all perfectly holy? We know that there are distinctions among them. If two diamonds are of the same water and perfection does it follow that there may not be a difference in their weight and value?

4. “They all derive their felicity from the same source, the beatific vision of God, and therefore their felicity most be equal.” But may we not view the same sun, and receive its rays differently? When vessels of capacity cast into the same ocean are filled by the same mass of waters, must the quantity they receive be alike?

5. “The titles given to the redeemed are the same; they are all called kings, the sons of God, the spouse, the members of Christ.” And are not these names given to believers on earth, and, notwithstanding, do we not see a great diversity among them? Are all kings equal in power? Have all sons the same inheritance? Have all members of the body equal honour? (H. Kollock, D.D.)

Diversity in the heavenly inhabitants

Such a variety is--

I. A fact well sustained.

1. By all analogy. No two objects are exactly alike. This variety reveals the illimitable inventiveness of the Divine mind, and gives to the universe its freshness and charm.

2. It meets the instinctive love for the new in human souls. All souls loathe monotony. A dead uniformity would crush out its life.

3. It agrees with the varieties found amongst men here. No two minds are alike. Is it conceivable that in the higher world all souls will run into a common mould?

4. It accords with the general teaching of the Scriptures. Paul speaks of the temple of the good as composed of gold, silver, and precious stones. Christ refers to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as sustaining the most honourable positions at the heavenly feast.

II. Essential to social blessedness. Suppose a society, all of whose members shall be exactly alike in temperament, experience, attainments, modes of thought, and forms of expression. Why, such a state of things would be incompatible, not only with social enjoyment, but with social life. The monotony would become intolerable. The utmost variety in speculative thought is compatible with unity of heart; and the larger variety in spiritual temperament and conception in any circle--where all hearts are one--the higher the social enjoyment. Most unwise, most impious have been the attempts to force on all men the same system of thought and form of worship.

III. Consistent with the highest unity. Whatever variety in the stars--

1. They have one centre. Some larger, some smaller, some dimmer, some brighter, some moving more quickly, and some more slowly, yet all move round the same central orb: so with sainted souls. Whatever their diversities, they revolve round one great centre--God.

2. They are controlled by one law. Attraction moves all, regulates all, keeps each in its place and speed. One law, the law of love, rules all sainted souls above, however illimitable their varieties,

3. They fulfil one mission. They all catch the light from the central orb, and flash their borrowed radiance abroad through all their spheres. So with souls above. They are all the recipients and reflectors of Divine light and love. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

Identity and variety

Note--

I. The idea of identity and variety ministering to each other.

1. St. Paul bases the argument for immortality upon the richness and splendour of this mortal life. Often have men made heaven a compensation for the woes of earth; St. Paul makes it not a compensation, but a development. How much nobler is this! For he who finds the manifold glories of this mortal life to be the symbols of immortality, will always be led to live this life as intensely and profoundly as he can, in order that the higher life may become real and attractive to him.

2. Identity and variety express the tone and feeling which life demands. Identity is sound, solid, and substantial; variety is vital, interesting, and novel. To quicken identity with variety, to steady variety with identity, is to make a man always keep himself and yet always feel the power of new conditions around him. Think of the best men you have known, and you will find in them these qualities in their highest union.

3. See how largely this union pervades the universe, and how, wherever it appears, it gives richness and depth.

(a) That each of these arts has its own absolute standard, its own good or bad ways of doing its own work.

(b) That each art, so far as it lives up to its own standard, becomes a true utterance of the universal human nature, which gets its value from the fact that it is at once identical with and different from all other utterances. These truths make the richness and harmony of all active life.

II. Its consequences, and the sort of life and character it will make in him who entertains and accepts it.

1. It will produce self-respect. Here are you, seemingly insignificant, yet--

2. Respect for others is bound up in such self-respect as this. The philanthropist, all eager to set right the world, is apt to become furious at the sight of the scholar; and the scholar, in his turn, is ready to despise the bustling restlessness of the man who is for ever organising committees, petitioning legislators, and screwing up the loosened machinery of charity. “There is one glory of the sun,” etc. Surely it must be possible for men to be devoted to their own work and yet thankful for the work which other men are doing, which they can neither do nor understand. “All things are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

3. This truth may also apply to the different degrees and conditions in which our own lives are passing. You and I are this to-day; to-morrow or the next year we may be something quite different. To-day we may be insignificant, to-morrow or the next year we may be prominent, or vice versa. How shall we look upon this uncertainty of human life? Let us look upon each as a distinct thing, with its own values and meaning, and yet feel how our human life may still be the same, ever spreading itself out to larger things. This harmonises everything. Conclusion: To Paul this truth was a proof of immortality. He would have men live upon earth, yet conscious of their capacity for heaven. Is not that what we want--the life of earth now, the life of heaven by and by, each clear with its own glory, and our humanity capable of them both? We must not lose either of them in the other. We must not be so full of hope of the future that we cannot do our daily work here upon the road. We must not be so lost in dull work on the earth that we shall not be perpetually inspired by the hope of heaven. (Bp. Phillips Brooks.)

Death and the grave the physical preparation for the perfect humanity of the resurrection state

A dewdrop, so says the Oriental fable, hung on a rose leaf. It was a summer morning; and delighted with itself and the calm loveliness around, it could have hung there for ever. But, alas! it soon fell to the ground. What a change! Earth for the bright sky, and darkness for the ten thousand hues of nature’s loveliness! But through its dark prison-house in the earth it gradually passed till it reached a river, by which it was conveyed to the ocean; and there, deposited in one of its rocky cavities, it became a brilliant and costly gem. In due course the hand of man reached it; and from its long rest in isolation and darkness, it was taken, polished, and set in gold--finally terminating its career by occupying the place of honour in the very diadem of majesty itself! Such is the fable which illustrates the principle of development affirmed here. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be,” etc. Our connection with this world is very insecure, and in a moment that connection may be dissolved. We hang like the dew-drop on the odorous petals of the rose; and some of us, perchance, would be willing to hang there for ever. But a touch suffices to loosen the attachment, and downwards we are carried to the darkness of the earth. Are we then extinguished? Far from it; we have only passed from one domain of creative instrumentality to another. The river of God will bear us to the ocean at length. There our resting-place shall be provided; but from the secret recesses of the spirit-world we shall emerge again, like a gem of purest water and costliest price, to adorn the diadem of the King of kings. The apostle asserts that this principle of development universally prevails throughout nature, and that the “glory” of mundane arrangements is mainly dependent upon it. Childhood has its glory; so has youth; so has mature manhood; so even has old age; and when man reappears at the resurrection, it will be to supply another illustration. As sun, moon, and stars all differ from one another in glory, so will the risen and immortal man be distinguished from man fallen and immortal.

I. All the redeemed are on their journey towards mental and corporeal perfection; and all the phenomena of the present life have a bearing on that destiny. There are two preliminary stages of human existence--the first beginning at birth and ending at death, the second commencing with death and terminating at the resurrection. Everything in the universe proceeds by steps. The acorn does not bound in an instant to the dimensions of the full-grown oak. Why should not man, therefore, the most wonderful of all God’s works, be Divinely carried through many preliminaries? Before birth man passes through various stages of development, and could we but realise our arrival at physical perfection, and take, in connection with that, the certainty that every stage and event going before contributes towards it, we world be much more patient under trials. The afflictions of the present life, being temporary, will soon pass away; but the obedient submission to the will of God, the compassion for the afflicted, and the other virtues which they have fostered and brought to maturity, are permanent improvements in our character, and may be needed even in eternity. So in the intermediate state influences are at work upon both which bear with prodigious force on our final perfection. What we shall be in eternity is as much the result of causes operating there, as the full-grown man is the product of the causes which carry the infant from childhood to maturity. Such reflections ought to mitigate the fear of death, and comfort all mourning friends.

II. We may arrive at some explanation of the fact itself.

1. The Shorter Catechism, in answer to the question, “What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?” says, “The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.” The body, although left behind to decay, is not forgotten; it is still “united to Christ.” The living Christ in heaven regards it, even then, as part of His spiritual body … not dead, but only sleeping,” and by that repose preparing for the awakening of the resurrection day. And as, when children or other loved ones go to rest, care is taken to provide a place of security for them, and, if need be, a guard set; over their slumbers, so, we may be sure, there is a special superintendency of the dead, with a view to prepare for what is to come. The crooked may be made straight, the defective supplied, the hideous made beautiful. And who is to affirm that there may not be influences in nature quite competent to produce this result? The acorn has a wonderful power of extracting such substances from the earth as are fitted to constitute an oak; and so is it with every other seed. Nay, it is within the competency of science and skill greatly to modify and improve the various products of the vegetable creation. There are chemical affinities also whose operation can exhibit the most extraordinary changes. What is so cheap and worthless as a piece of charcoal; what so precious as a diamond?--and yet in constitution they are absolutely identical. The grave may thus become the alembic in which the clay of man’s fallen humanity is transmuted into the gold of the kingdom of heaven.

2. Then again the believer is a temple of the Holy Ghost. The effect of this is to consecrate the body, or to make it holy. Why, then, should we imagine that the Holy Spirit should maintain His union with the soul, and abandon altogether the body? The separated spirit cannot but think much and often of its ancient and close companion, and God the Spirit cannot possibly be divorced from any member or fragment of that temple wherein He had a loved abode. (J. Cochrane, A.M.)


Verses 42-45

1 Corinthians 15:42-45

So also is the resurrection of the dead.
It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.

The resurrection

I. Its essential character.

1. It is not the work of an age, but of a moment--not a gradual process, but an instantaneous act.

2. It is to be distinguished in its nature from--

3. It is a work of perfect beauty.

II. Its certainty. A threefold voice testifies to it.

1. The voice of nature, which shadows it forth.

2. The testimony of the Scripture, which confirms it.

3. The testimony of the spirit within, which awakens the expectation of it.

III. Its glory.

1. The enemy which at this hour shall be annihilated.

2. The condition of happiness which begins now.

3. The kingdom of God which will now be completed. (Prof. Van Oosterzee.)

The resurrection body

I. Its substance.

1. Material and identical: that which is sown is raised, and not by any process but by the Word of God.

II. Its properties.

1. No longer corruptible, but undecaying, vigorous, and immortal.

2. No longer dishonoured by sin and defect, but; holy, beautiful, glorious.

3. No longer weak and frail, but endued with extraordinary capabilities and strength.

4. No longer a natural body subject to sense, passion, and the necessities of the earthly nature, but governed by the Spirit.

III. Its life. Not natural, but mysteriously sustained by the life-giving Spirit: for there is a natural and there is a spiritual body. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The resurrection harvest

Look at those grassy mounds in the light of this truth; the eye of faith sees them change into a field sown with the seeds of immortality. Blessed field! what flowers shall spring there! What a harvest shall be gathered there! In the neighbouring fields, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that he shall also reap.” But here how great the difference between what is sown amid mourners’ tears, and what shall be reaped amid angels’ joys; between the poor body that we restore to the earth, and the noble form that shall spring from its ashes. Those who saw Lazarus’ putrid corpse, with health glowing on its cheek, saw nothing to match the change the grave shall work on these mouldering bones. (T. Guthrie.)

The resurrection of the dead

I. The doctrine teaches that the same body shall be raised in glory to a nobler life.

II. Its evidence.

1. The Word of God.

2. The resurrection of Christ.

3. The quickening Spirit within us.

III. Its use. It teaches us to take care of the soul first--then the body, not to enfeeble it by folly, pollute it with sin, neglect it in suffering, or mourn it when dead. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The resurrection of the saint

I. The body is sown, not buried. No exact analogy with the seed; life is extinct. Yet it is sown in hope of a new life.

II. Will be gloriously transformed--from corruption to incorruption, etc.

III. Will be fashioned after the example of christ. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The old house and the new

When we pluck down a house, with the intent to rebuild it, or repair the ruins of it, we warn the inhabitants out of it, lest they should be soiled with the dust and rubbish, or offended with the noise, and so for a time provide some other place for them; but, when we have newly trimmed and dressed up the house, then we bring them back to a better habitation. Thus God, when He overturneth this rotten room of our flesh, calleth out the soul for a little time, and lodgeth it with Himself in some corner of His kingdom, repaireth the imperfections of our bodies against the resurrection, and then, having made them beautiful--yea, glorious and incorruptible--He doth put our souls back again into their acquainted mansions. (Chrysostom.)

Life in heaven a spiritual life in a glorified body

I. The body will be a fit organ for the spirit.

1. A new body, incorruptible, glorious, vigorous, spiritual.

2. Yet substantially the same that was sown in the grave, therefore glorified by the power of God as the organ of the redeemed spirit.

II. The spirit will be developed in its full perfection.

1. Freed from ignorance and sin, from the control of the body, from the capability of suffering.

2. Yet retaining its peculiar properties.

It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory.

Dishonour belongs to the corpse of even the richest and the noblest in the land. You may conceal that humiliation by a splendid coffin, a rich funeral pall, the pomp of lying in state, and a costly monument; but the corpse is a poor, poor thing, with all your elaborate attempt to conceal its shame. The loveliest, sweetest maiden that you know soon becomes ghastly in the coffin, and you long to put the body out of sight. It was the shock of such a sight that made Don Francis Borgia, one of the founders of the Jesuits, renounce the world and devote himself to a religious life. It was the custom in Spain not to bury any of the royal family until some grandee of the highest rank should look within the coffin and identify the body. Queen Isabella, to whom Francis had been much attached, was smitten down by death. Don Francis was chosen to look within the coffin and say whether or not it was the corpse of the queen, whose eyes, now closed in death, had always turned in kindness unto him; whose every facial lineament was perfectly familiar unto him. Amidst the half-uttered prayers which commended her soul to the Divine mercy and the low dirge of the organ, Francis advanced with streaming eyes and reverently raised the covering which concealed the secrets of the grave;… but the horrible change which death had wrought upon the queen’s countenance was so loathsome and appalling that Francis turned aside to shudder and to pray, and from that day the courtier became a monk. Verily Queen isabella’s body was sown in corruption and dishonour, in spite of all the funeral pomp and show! But the resurrection body of every Christian shall be incorruptible, spiritual powerful, and glorious. (F. W. Aveling, M.A.)

It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.

At Stratford-on-Bow, in the days of Queen Mary, there was once a stake erected for the burning of two martyrs, one of them a lame man, the other a blind man. Just when the fire was lit, the lame man hurled away his staff, and turning round said to the blind man, “Courage, brother, this fire will cure us both.” So can the righteous say of the grave, “Courage, the grave will cure us all; we shall leave our infirmities behind us.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.--

The natural body and the spiritual body

At first the phrase “a spiritual body” seems a contradiction in terms. “Body” and “spirit” are not only distinct in our thoughts, but opposite.

I. St. Paul has in part prepared us to understand the phrase by his argument from the analogies of nature.

1. He has taught us that one life, one flesh, one glory, may take many forms; the same flesh: it clothes itself in many forms in man, in beasts, in fishes, in birds, modified by the external conditions in which it is placed. So, also, there is one glory of light; but it takes many and diverse forms in the suns, the moons, the stars. And that bodies answer to the quality of the inward life, and are adapted to it, and to the conditions in which it is to act. This is the law of the universe.

2. Let us illustrate this.

3. Therefore we may fairly assume that this universal law holds good of man, that he too will pass into a new form, a form more heavenly and spiritual, as his capacities are spiritualised and he rises into more heavenly conditions.

II. If we look a little more closely into the word translated “a natural body,” Paul’s meaning will grow upon us, and the argument become more cogent.

1. The Greeks called the soul psyche, as well as the butterfly. And as psyche stood for soul, of course psychical stood for soulish, or of the soul. So St. Paul speaks here of a soulish and of a spiritual body, just as elsewhere he speaks of a soulish and a spiritual man. He held, as Aristotle held before him, and as the ablest metaphysicians still hold, that man is composed of body, soul, and spirit. He meant--

2. St. Paul holds that so long as we remain soulish men, we have the very body adapted to our present stage of life and to the conditions of our life. But he also holds that if we live in the spirit, and walk in the spirit, we thus develop capacities and graces to which the present body gives neither full scope nor adequate expression. Therefore it is that, like the seed which has the life of wheat in it, our bodies must be sown in the earth that they may spring up heavenly bodies. Therefore it is that, as the caterpillar, which has in it the germ of a nobler life, lies down in death that its life may pass into a new aerial body, so we must lie down in the grave that, shedding these earthly husks, we may be clothed upon with a spiritual body, incorrupt, immortal, strong, glorious.

3. Our present body only imperfectly expresses our spiritual life; it veils from us many of “the things of the Spirit,” it impedes us in the pursuit of spiritual excellence. When the spirit is willing, how often is the flesh weak! The more spiritual we are, so much the more do we feel that we are in bondage to the flesh, and crave that spiritual body which, instead of veiling and clogging, will further and express all that is highest in us and best. How bright and animating the hope, then, that one day we too shall have a body as quick and responsive to the spirit in us as the mortal body to the soul, a body whose organs will minister as delicately and perfectly to our spiritual capacities, energies, virtues, graces, as the senses now minister to the energies and passions of the soul! (S. Cox, D.D.)

A spiritual body

is a bodily organism adapted to the life of the spirit, and controlled thereby. In it the soul has taken its proper position of subordination: man’s spirit now holds the administrative power, and, ruled by Gods Spirit, rules the body through the executive medium of the willing soul. Man is at last what God originally intended him to be, a creature in whom the spirit is the personifying principle and the seat of government: his proper self down from his own spirit, as from a throne, reigns supreme over the soul, and through that over the body, in a threefold harmony: the harmony of the parts is the harmony of the whole: for the body is now reconstituted meet for the new government: it is pneumatic, no longer psychical. In the hour of Adam’s probation, as his spirit was to him the vehicle of fellowship with the Holy Spirit and his body the channel of communication with the sensible world, so his soul or self-living nature had to decide between two attractions, a higher and a lower, whether it would consent in accordance with the Divine intention to be determined by the spirit and thereby continue in fellowship with God, or would conclude against God and choose a life of selfish independence. By the fall of Adam his fellowship with God was dissolved, and the Divine life of his spirit was quenched, although its Divine substance remained, but not unimpaired. (Canon Evans.)

The relation between resurrection and immortality

The doctrines of immortality and resurrection stand somewhat in the same relation as a block of marble to a finished statue. The Christian doctrine of resurrection is the natural fact of immortality wrought into shape. We may know there is a statue in the marble, but how beautiful it may be, in what grace of posture it may stand, what emblems may hang upon its neck or crown its head, what spirit may breathe from its features, we do not know till the inspired sculptor has uncovered his ideal and brought it to light. The analogy may go farther. As an artist works a mass of marble into a statue, putting mental conceptions and meanings into it that are no part of the marble, so Christ has given a Divine shape to immortality and filled it with beautiful suggestions and gracious meaning. We see in the statue the mind of the sculptor as well as the marble; so in the doctrine of the resurrection we see the mind and purpose of Christ as well as the bare fact of future existence.

Our spiritual bodies

Our spiritual bodies will doubtless have new powers, and new glories, as much beyond those we now have as the flower in the sunshine, beautiful and fragrant, is beyond the seed under ground. May it not be that the wonderful development of our national powers by the inventions of Christian civilisation are but hints and glimpses and foretastes of the enlarged powers of our spiritual bodies? In the microscope, in the telescope, in the telegraph and telephone, in our facilities of travel, in the connection of mind with mind hinted at in some of the facts of mesmerism, all which a few years ago were but wildest dreams, but have more than realised the fables of the “Arabian Nights,” may we not have gleams of the dawning rays of our spiritual bodies when the resurrection morn shall have come? A curious illustration of the possibilities of our spiritual bodies was given not long ago in the American Popular Science Monthly. Sound is the vibration produced on us when the vibrations of the air strike on the drum of our ear. When they are few, the sound is deep; as they increase in number, it becomes shriller and shriller; but when they reach forty thousand in a second they cease to be audible. Light is the effect produced on us when waves of light strike on the eye. When four hundred millions of millions of vibrations of ether strike the retina in a second, they produce red, and as the number increases the colour passes into orange, then yellow, then green, blue, and violet. But between forty thousand vibrations in a second and four hundred millions of millions we have no organ of sense capable of receiving the impression. Yet between these limits any number of sensations may exist. We have five senses, and sometimes fancy that no other is possible. But it is obvious that we cannot measure the infinite by our own narrow limitations. (Christian Age.)


Verses 45-50

1 Corinthians 15:45-50

The first man Adam was made a living soul

Adam and Christ

Or the mystery of life contemplated:--

I.
In its sources.

1. Adam was endued with natural life, Christ with a life-giving Spirit.

2. The natural preceded the spiritual.

3. The natural is of the earth, the spiritual is the Lord from heaven.

II. In its communication.

1. From Adam we derive the earthy or natural life, from Christ the heavenly.

2. The image of the earthy precedes the heavenly.

3. As the earthy body (flesh and blood) cannot inherit heaven, it must be exchanged for an incorruptible body. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The two Adams

I. The resemblance.

1. The existence of each rose not in the ordinary course of nature. Neither came by the ordinary laws of human generation.

2. Each commenced free from sin.

3. Each had a nature capable of temptation. Temptability is an attribute of all created intelligences. Where there is no power to go wrong, there is no virtue in keeping right.

4. The character of each exerts a momentous influence upon the whole race.

II. The dissimilarity.

1. The one had a sublimer connection with God than the other. Adam was the offspring, representative, and steward of God. Christ was God-man. God was in Him in a special sense, unfolding truths, working miracles, and reconciling the world unto Himself. Be was God “manifested in the flesh.” The one yielded to the devil, the other conquered him.

2. the One possessed a higher type of moral excellence than the other. The character of the first was innocence, not holiness. Holiness implies intelligence, convictions, efforts, habits. This had not Adam. Hence he gave way to the first and simplest temptation. This holiness Christ had in the sublimest degree; and He triumphed over principalities and powers of evil, and made a show of them openly.

3. The influence of the one upon the race has been infinitely pernicious, that of the other infinitely beneficent. The first planted that upas whose pestiferous branches have spread over all men, and whose poisonous food all have tasted and been injured. The other planted the tree of life, bearing fruit for the healing of the nations.

4. The moral influence of the one is destined to decrease, the other to increase. “Where sin abounded, grace will much more abound.” “The kingdoms of our God shall become the kingdoms of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever.” (D. Thomas, D.D.)

The first and the last Adam

1. St. Paul bases his assertion that “if there is a psychical body, there is also a spiritual,” first, on the analogies of Nature; second, on the nature of Man as revealed in Holy Writ (see 1 Corinthians 15:44); third, on the historical facts that Adam had the one and Christ the other.

2. Note, however, some interesting preliminaries. The opening clause of the text is almost an exact quotation from Genesis 2:7; that the second refers to Christ is proved by these two facts: that with the rabbis, at whose feet Paul sat, “the last Adam” was a common name for “the Messiah”; and that St. Paul never uses the designations the second Man,” or “the last Adam,” of any one but Christ. Again the rabbis bid us note that Moses says, not “man was made, but became a living soul.” They hold that when God breathed the breath of life into Adam, He conferred on him the higher spiritual nature of man; but that, when Adam sinned, he fell, and became a man in whom the soul ruled rather than the spirit. And the rabbis have the Scriptures on their side. What was “the fall” but a fall from the higher life of the spirit into the lower life of the soul, into a life of mere intelligence and passion as distinguished from a life of righteousness, faith, love, joy, peace? Why was he debarred from “the tree of life” but because that it was no longer meet that his body should put on incorruption and immortality?

I. The first man Adam became a living soul.

1. The psychical or soulish man is a man in whom the soul is supreme. Conscience, righteousness, faith, God, etc., do not stand first with him; but man, time, earth, the gratifications of sense and intellect. Was not Adam a man of this type? When the spiritual crisis came his faith failed him. God was not first with him, nor God’s will.

2. A soulish man he came to have a soulish body. Indications of this are seen in--

Nevertheless, as our own experience proves, the body, even when thus changed and depraved, was nevertheless perfect in its adaptation to the faculties, functions, cravings, needs of the soul.

II. Christ, the last Adam, was a life-giving spirit.

1. He was the true spiritual Man; for in Him all faculties and passions of the soul were in subjection to the spirit. To Him, living and walking in the spirit, all that is of earth and time and soul was as nothing when compared with the eternal realities. And therefore He could refuse all the kingdoms of this world, and could hasten to help any man, however lowly, however earthly, and seek to quicken in him, by help to the body, the life of the spirit. Of a charity so intense that He loved every man, of a faith so clear and strong that He looked through all the shows of time to the eternal substance, of a hope so lively that He despaired of no man, of a righteousness so pure that even the practised eyes of incarnate evil could find nothing in Him, of a peace so perfect that even His unparalleled labour and conflict could not impair it; in heaven even while He was on earth; making His Father’s will His daily food, He stands before us the one true spiritual Man.

2. So also the last Adam teaches us what the spiritual body is.

(a) And therefore we see signs of the spiritual body even in the body of His humiliation. Virtue went out of Him. He lived not by bread alone. He walked on the storm-tossed waves. On Mount Tabor He stood before the eyes of His amazed and dazzled disciples a spiritual man in a spiritual body.

(b) But all these signs of the spiritual m the physical region of His life were prompted by that which is of the spirit, not by that which is of the soul. It was at the touch of faith, of spiritual need and desire and trust, that virtue went out of Him. It was that He might feed the hungry, succour the distressed, or deliver the imperilled, that He exerted a supernatural control over natural laws: and He fed, succoured, delivered men that they might come to know Him, and God in Him, and thus possess themselves of eternal life. When the weak physical frame was transfigured with an immortal strength and splendour, it was because His spirit was rapt in the ecstasies of redeeming love as He talked with Moses and Elias, because He saw that the work of His redemption would be triumphantly accomplished.

The second Adam “a quickening Spirit”

Human relationships correspond with those which subsist between Jesus Christ and His people, and doubtless were constituted to shadow it forth. In procuring the redemption of His people, Christ assumes the standing of a husband, who, by uniting Himself to us, made Himself capable of standing in our place, and answering for our acts. In advocating our cause, that He may do this effectually, and with an experimental feeling of our wants, He assumes the place of a brother unto us. By His resurrection He assumes the relationship of a father, the giver of life and of being to His people. As the natural life, or life of the soul, is to be traced to the first man Adam, so the spiritual life in the believer is to be traced to Christ, the last Adam. But here, however, the resemblance ends. Adam was but a living soul, capable of continuing the same life in others who should succeed him; but Christ, by His resurrection from the dead, has become “a quickening spirit,” capable of giving life unto the dead. Note the bearing of the text--

I. On the foundation of the Christian’s salvation.

1. The apostle here enumerates only two men of all that have ever lived: because all men stand in such a relationship to the first Adam, and all believers stand in such a relationship to the second, as they can stand in to no other man. We do not see, in the ordinary course of human generation, that all children are born with what is peculiar in the sinful propensities of their immediate progenitors. By dint of care you may guard against the outbreaking of those sins which have been peculiar to the immediate progenitor; but you will not be able by your utmost care to root out the evil which is in the heart of man. And the inference from this is that there is a connection between us and the first man Adam which does not subsist between us and our immediate parents, or any intermediate link of the chain by which we are connected with our first progenitor. And so it is written of Adam, that he “begot a son in his own image, after his own likeness”; who thus deriving from him his life of nature, shared with Adam in all the miserable circumstances of his fallen condition. When God created Adam, He created all men; all therefore stood, and all fell in Adam: all in him became not only exposed to the consequences, but also infected with the very nature of his sin.

2. Now there is no greater difficulty in the idea that having union with the last Adam as a quickening Spirit, we are endowed with His life and His likeness, than in the former idea. This is the only foundation of our salvation. Salvation is not to be found in the reformation of conduct, in a difference of feeling, in an act of the mind, but in a vital union with Christ.

II. On the trials of the Christian’s present condition. The great peculiarity in the Christian’s condition is that while he is a quickened spirit in union with Christ the quickening Spirit, he yet has a body proper only to a soul, by still having, in his own nature, union with the first Adam. This throws a striking light on many passages in Scripture which are descriptive of the Christian experience (2 Corinthians 5:1-4; Romans 8:22-23; Romans 7:24). What do these (and a variety of similar passages) express but the desires of the quickened spirit to be released from this prison-house in which it is pent up? And does not this also point out the Christian’s resource under such trials? What is it but to walk by faith and not by sight? (Romans 8:10-13; Colossians 3:1-5).

III. On the Christian’s future prospects. We are as yet, indeed, in the natural body--the body proper to a soul; but there is a spiritual body; and as we are now by faith quickened in spirit, so there is a renewal unto holiness to this body also, which shall be revived, and glorified, and changed into the likeness of Christ’s glorious body. For as the resurrection of Christ shows us the perfection and sufficiency of Christ’s work, so ours will bring to perfection in us the fruit of His work. As it was His resurrection that showed Him to have come out from under the effects of imputed sin, into the possession of the glory which He had with the Father before the world was; so ours will show us to have come out of the course of sin and of the flesh into the enjoyment of that glory. As it was His resurrection that showed Him to be the Conqueror of Satan; so ours will show us to be conquerors over all evil through Him. As it was by His resurrection that He was declared to be the Son of God with power; so it is ours by which we shall be manifested to be sons of God. (W. Dodsworth, M.A.)

The last Adam

Note--

I. The relation between Christ and Adam which is implied in the name. A name used to designate a party whoso proper name it is not, expresses a symbolical or typical relation between the two (Romans 5:14). Adam prefigured Christ--

1. In the holiness of his nature. There have been only two men who were free from every taint of sin when they came into the world; and there never will be more.

2. In his dominion (Psalms 8:1-9; cf. Hebrews 2:1-18.). Adam as the lord of this world, and the creatures contained in it, symbolised that King who has on His head many crowns.

3. In his marriage (Ephesians 5:25-33).

4. In his trial.

5. In his covenant headship. The covenant with Adam was expressed in the form of a threatening (Genesis 2:16-17), while the covenant with Christ was expressed in the form of a promise (Galatians 3:16); but the fact is unaltered that there was a covenant with each. Now Adam, in his headship, typified Christ in--

II. The relation which is implied by prefixing to the name “adam” the term “last.” Christ is called “David” and “Solomon.” But He is not called “the last David,” or “the last Solomon.” John the Baptist is called “Elias,” but not “the last Elias.” These were types and only types. But Adam was not a mere type. There was, beyond this, a public and official relation between him and Christ; so that if Adam had not gone before, or if he had been other than he was, or had actual otherwise than he did, there would have been no need of Christ. The common name is suggestive of the unity of obligation being derived from the first member of the series. The special term “last” is suggestive of the obligation being at last fulfilled.

1. Let the two Adams be contrasted.

(a) The first Adam entailed only sin upon his posterity; the last Adam has for His people righteousness: He is their righteousness (Romans 5:19).

(b) The first Adam condemns all; the last Adam justifies all (Romans 5:18).

(c) In the first Adam, all die, all are dead (Romans 5:15-17); in the last Adam, Christ, all are made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Corinthians 15:18-19).

2. Let our Lord’s success, as the last Adam, be considered in opposition to the failure of the first Adam. Christ, as the last Adam, succeeded by fulfilling the obedience to the law in which the first Adam failed, and by overcoming the obstacle which the first Adam’s failure created. The last Adam is perfect, as a competitor for the prize--eternal life to man--which the first Adam lost; as a worker at the task in which the first Adam broke down.

Christ the archetype of Adam

Sometimes, after an engraven steel-plate has given forth some pictures it is destroyed, in order to enhance the value of the copies thrown off. If the copies were all destroyed, then the ideal would be lost. But when one type was thrown off and planted in paradise, the original remained when the copy was spoiled. Man still remained--the Eternal Son remained. (W. Anot, D.D.)

The wonderful contrast

I. Adam was a living soul, which includes--

1. Reason; thus above the brute, and able actively to glorify God. They passively praise Him.

2. Spirituality, or knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness in mind and soul. Nothing can comprehend holiness but the image of that holiness.

3. Happiness. Holiness is happiness; God infinitely happy, because infinitely holy. He must delight in His own image, and for us to wear that image is a greater honour than, if it were possible to be invested with creative power.

4. Immortality. We are immortal, but not independently so; God alone is (1 Timothy 6:16).

II. The last adam a quickening spirit. He quickens--

1. From spiritual death (Ephesians 2:5).

2. The afflicted (Psalms 119:50).

3. The backslider (Hosea 14:4).

4. From the grave (Philippians 3:20-21).

We manifest our oneness with Adam by our disobedience, and our oneness with Christ by our obedience. The most glorious work of God is the renewal of a human soul, and its transition from grace to glory. How grateful we should be that God has promised that His work within us shall be as perfect as His work for us (Ephesians 5:14). (Homiletic Monthly.)

Natural and spiritual life

I. Adam was made a living soul.

1. Endued with natural life.

2. His body possessed no inherent immortality.

3. Its perpetuated life depended upon obedience and his access to the tree of life.

4. Consequently he could not in any case confer immortality upon his descendants.

II. Christ was made a quickening spirit.

1. Possessed life in Himself, hence His resurrection.

2. Communicates it to all who believe in Him.

3. Hence also He will raise them up in the last day. (J. Lyth, D.D.)


Verse 46

1 Corinthians 15:46

Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural.

The natural and the spiritual

I. The natural precedes the spiritual. This is seen in--

1. Nature. Not until the earth was complete did God create man, a spiritual being, “in His own image and after His own likeness,” etc. Thus man stands at the head of the creation. By his physical organisation, which is natural, he is connected with all that is below him. But by his higher nature, which is spiritual, he is allied with God.

2. History. A nation is well advanced before it exhibits marked spiritual characteristics. Our own ancestors were rude men. Now the Anglo-Saxon race leads the world of thought.

3. The progress of revelation. The Old Testament histories and genealogies prepare the way for Christian doctrine. Bible study proceeds from the natural to the spiritual.

4. The development of religious life. “When I was a child I spake as a child,” etc. The existence of such a principle suggests the necessity of great consideration for weakness. “We then that are strong ought to bear,” etc. Weakness may be on the way to strength. Therefore it should be encouraged.

II. The natural conditions the spiritual. The spiritual life must inevitably be affected by the natural life with which it is associated. What a help health is to the spiritual faculties! what a restraint sickness is! As dissipation enfeebles the body, it very soon weakens the mind. How distressing it is to see a really great man like Solomon or Alexander a slave to dissipation! We feel that this is robbery. The spiritual power of such men requires the best assistance of their natural powers. How much has been lost in this way!

III. The spiritual governs the natural.

1. The questions, What shall I eat? What shall I drink? What is the limit of indulgence? are answered here. The natural is for the spiritual, the spiritual governs the natural. That which is truly best for the spiritual must determine the activities of the natural.

2. The more spiritual classes cannot thrive if the less spiritual classes are neglected. The thought and the sympathy of the palace must enter the hut and transform it into a neat cottage. The thought and the sympathy of the hut must go out to the palace, that the helping hand of kindly interest may be grasped. The masses must be instructed. But if the masses need education, then surely they must be willing to be taught. Christianity urges all men to be considerate, the higher to consider the lower, the lower to consider the higher.

IV. The natural is to give way to the spiritual. Not until the spiritual is completely realised does man discover the end of his existence. A tree lives, blossoms, bears fruit, and dies. It has accomplished the purpose of its existence. Not so, however, with man. He just begins to live when he dies. How emphatic are the words of Christ! “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” etc. “I am come that they might have life,” etc. (H. M. Booth.)

The true development

I. Natural life necessarily precedes the spiritual, or heavenly.

1. Progression is the law of all life.

2. So man was created in a lower condition with the prospect of advancing to a higher.

3. Natural life, so far from rendering a nobler life doubtful, much rather justifies the hope of it (1 Corinthians 15:45-46).

II. The natural and the spiritual life are mysteriously united.

1. Apparently they are distinct, as in the first and second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:47-48).

2. But they are really the same nature under different forms (1 Corinthians 15:49)

3. Hence when the earthly is lost in the heavenly humanity is still essentially the same.

III. The spiritual life is the glorification of the natural life. Man’s destiny is immortality (1 Corinthians 15:50). The present mode of life (flesh and blood) is temporary, therefore must the natural be glorified that man may live for ever. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

The natural precedes the spiritual

Many an objector, on hearing the saying of 1 Corinthians 15:44, might say, Why should not God create the perfect spiritual life at once? St. Paul in answer applies a general law of the universe to the case before him. It would be contrary to the Divine order in God’s creation, which is first the natural, and afterward the spiritual. Consider--

I. The universality of this law. This is disclosed--

1. In the order of creation. Note the principle of gradation on which the universe arose in Genesis. And this is confirmed at every step by science. First, the formless earth, then the green herb, then the lowest forms of animal existence, then the highest types, then man, the last and noblest. And then, perhaps, an age to come, with a higher and nobler race of beings.

2. In the progress of the Jewish nation. Recollect their origin. They were a nation of slaves. Originally, too, they were of a rude, hard stock, and became in Egypt and in Palestine sensual, idolatrous, and money-loving. You are reminded of one of those trees whose exposed roots are seen gnarled and twisted, hard as iron, more like rock than wood, and yet whose foliage above is rich and noble: below extends the basis of the coarse and natural, above are manifested the beautiful and spiritual. By slow gradations did this nation of slaves rise into a spiritual people.

3. In the progress of the human race. St. Paul says, Adam was “of the earth, earthy”; and again, he calls him “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 herself. The fall, then, was a step downwards from innocence, but also it was a giant step in human progress. It made goodness possible: for to know the evil, and to conquer it and choose the good, is far nobler than a state which only consists in our ignorance of both. Until the step of nature has been passed, the step of spirituality cannot be made. Thus did the race begin to share in the spiritual; and among many nations, and by means of many men, was the progress of mankind evolved; but their light was too scattered, and their isolated lives imparted little life. So the next stage in the progress of the race was the coming of Christ, the spiritual Man, whose prerogative it was, not as the first Adam, to live in Eden for Himself, but as the second Adam, to die on Calvary for others; not as the first Adam, to receive happiness, but as the second Adam, to confer life. It was no longer the natural man, but the quickening Spirit, that represented the race to God.

II. This law is true of us as men.

1. Our natural affections precede our spiritual. According to the two great commandments, in the order of importance the love of God is first; in the order of time the love of man. Love to man also begins lower down. We do not love our neighbours first, nor embrace the race in our affection all at once; we ascend from a lower point. The table given on Sinai only specifies one kind of love, but in the fifth commandment they all lie as the furture oak-tree lies in the acorn; the root of all the other developments of love is love and honour unto parents. “The child is father to the man.” The friend, the husband, the citizen are formed at the domestic hearth. Out of human love grows love to God. For a time the father represents God to the child. He is to train the affections which afterwards shall be given to God; and the brother those which shall expand hereafter for Christ. You cannot force love to God.

2. The moral precedes the spiritual. There is a time when the Adam is formed within us, when the Christ begins to be formed, when we feel within us the sense of “Christ in us, the hope of glory,” when the “living soul,” as ruler of the man, gives place to the “quickening spirit.” But there are two slates through which we pass.

The law of the psychical and the spiritual

It is in the history of the individual man that we find our best illustration of St. Paul’s law. As babes and sucklings, our life is animal and instinctive, we are a mere complex of appetites--appetite for food, for warmth, for sleep: the mind is dormant. Soon however we begin to take notice, and to respond to notice; to imitate sounds; to pry into the nature of the things around us and their relation to us. Then we learn to name them, to speak about them, to like and dislike them. Intellect awakens; we master our first abstractions; we learn to put words for things. Our schooling commences; perception, imagination, memory, understanding are developed: all the intellectual facets of the soul are polished: and still we carry into this new stage of our life many of the animal and instinctive qualities of the earlier stage. After, and in much blended with, the intellectual comes the passionate era. We rise into that fine frenzy in which we live in another heart, in which we prefer, or fancy we prefer, another’s good to our own. With love comes the long train--desire, envy, jealousy, hatred of rivals, indifference to former affections, ambition to shine and to please. It is the passionate stage of our existence. In and through all these earlier stages there may be the rudiments of spiritual life. We may have formed some conception of God, of His goodness; we may have felt some love, some trust in Him. But, as a rule, the proper life of the spirit is kindred within us, or becomes regnant within us, only after we have passed through the intellectual and passionate stages of our course. The spiritual is not first in us, but the psychical. Nay, however early we may begin to think of God and to love Him, it is obvious that we must have learned to think before we can think of God that we must have learned to love before we can love God. (S. Cox, D.D.)

The two grand types of character

The words show--

I. That man has set before him two moral images or types of character. The “earthy” and the “heavenly.” These two are essentially distinct.

1. The one is sensuous, the other spiritual.

(a) In his views of happiness. All his pleasures are of a sensuous order.

(b) In his views of wealth, viz:, worldly property.

(c) In his views of dignity, viz., the highest worldly position.

2. The one is practically selfish, the other is benevolent.

3. The one is practically atheistic, the other is godly.

II. That man does bear the one; he should bear the other. Every man, in the first stages of his life, bears the image of the “earthy.” This fact is at once the crime and the calamity of the race. But whilst we do bear the one image at first, we should strive to bear the other because--

1. It is right. This heavenly image realises the soul’s highest ideal of excellence. It is that for which we unconsciously hunger, and for which we shall hunger for ever unless we get it.

2. It is practicable.

3. It is urgent. To do this is the grand mission of life. Unless the work is fulfilled our existence becomes a failure and a curse. To pass from the “earthy” to the “heavenly” is to pass from darkness to light, from sin to holiness, from Satan to God. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

The Divine order

The method of God’s working is upward progress. His path is “as the Shining light,” etc.

I. In the creation of the material world. First, there was the globe without life; then a world filled with life and beauty. First the protozoans, molluscs, and sponges of the primeval world; after that, man created in the image of God.

II. In the natural development of each individual man.

1. There is helpless infancy. Physical, mental, spiritual forces, and wild passions sleep in that little nebulous mass like thunderstorms in the quiet clouds or summer.

2. By and by we arrive at youth, this blossoming season of our nature, the time of fancy.

3. After that comes manhood. There is now fulness of reason and strength and responsibility.

III. In the dispensations of revealed religion. “The law was given by Moses; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Moses was an inspired man: Christ is “God manifest in the flesh.” Moses was faithful as a servant over all his house--Christ as a Son in His own house, whose house are we; and the grace and truth are more excellent than the law. The law demands obedience, but gives no help to obey; the gospel creates within us new hearts which make obedience a delight. The law revealed sin; the gospel proclaims pardon. The law threatens; the gospel invites. The great promise of the law was,” Thou shalt inherit the land”; that of the gospel is, “I give unto them eternal life,” etc. The law was for one nation; the gospel is for the whole world. The law was the shadow; the gospel is the substance. The law was bondage; the gospel is liberty.

IV. In Christian experience and in the development of Christian character.

1. Faith in religion is easy in childhood. Little children fresh from the hand of God are not sceptics. They have the power of reverence and faith. For a time they worship father and mother. They never regard the material universe as a thing to be weighed, and understood, and measured. It is to them a solemn mystery. Being thus constituted, it is the easiest thing in the world to teach a child to utter words of prayer.

2. The young man discovers that much ignorance has mingled with the reverence of childhood, and has not sufficient experience to replace his early fancy with the solid structure of reality and truth. Besides, the powers of childhood become full in youth. Self-will is strong, and the whole republic of the passions is up in arms against the authority of reason and conscience. But Christ is there, and His voice is heard amid the arrogant and noisy voices of the flesh. There is a long struggle. The young man wavers; but, thank God! Christ perseveres, and the “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” shows that Christ has taken possession of his will.

3. The struggle is not yet over. A time of deep thought and anxious reflection arrives, and brings with it an intense desire to know the reason of faith, the basis of belief. The intellect demands greater evidence than is or can be given. It asks for demonstration. But during this time of intellectual revolt Christ is there; Christ speaks with authority and love, “Believe on Me when thou canst not know. Worship before the mystery; what thou knowest not now thou shalt know hereafter.” Christ is victorious again, and the pride of the intellect subsides, and the mind bows before Christ, saying, “Thou art the power and wisdom of God; and I wish to be Thine for ever and ever.”

4. After this comes old age--the best period of all by far. Childhood is untried innocence; youth little better than rebellion against Christ; manhood a struggle against intellectual difficulties and spiritual enemies; but as the years pass on, the man’s whole nature is subdued and sanctified. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart. The peace of God, which passeth understanding, keeps his heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Joy unspeakable and full of glory flows in plentifully upon his spirit. By and by visitors from the unseen come and say, in tones never heard before, “Brother, come away.” What is best in the tree is the last to get perfect.

V. In the increase of the spiritual kingdom in the world. Here we may well ask, Can the gospel live and multiply? Think of China and India, whose very nature is engrained with their false religion and their fantastic philosophy. Can they be changed? But we need not go so far to seek difficulties. Think of the state of things here in England. Think, e.g., of the adoration of wealth and appearances. Can religion live in this dense atmosphere of worldliness? Think again of the unbelief of the age in which we live. There are unhealthy summer days when physical activity is almost an impossibility. A heavy, oppressive, stagnant atmosphere weighs down upon the land. That is a symbol of the spiritual atmosphere of Europe to-day. It is permeated with a spirit of unbelief. I ask again, then, Can Christianity live? Yes.

1. It has lived and increased in spite of the most determined opposition. After eighteen hundred years of trial and opposition, “the foundation of God standeth sure.” The powers of men and the powers of darkness have exerted themselves to remove this foundation, but it standeth sure, in spite of persecution and in spite of criticism.

2. Christianity has affinities with all good things. Truth, virtue, love, science, philosophy, literature, are good, and the gospel is nearly related to all these. It creates them where they do not already exist; and where they exist, it inspires and promotes them. Nothing good dies. It is falsehood, and not truth; evil, and not good; moral deformity, and not moral beauty, that is going to disappear. The gospel is the grandest truth, the greatest good, the most beautiful revelation ever given to man; and therefore it cannot perish. “The word of the Lord endureth for ever.”

3. We have the old promise of the Holy Ghost. Goethe’s last words were, “More light! more light!” This is the cry of the age. It is not more external evidence that is needed, but more internal illumination, more power of spiritual vision in the minds of men. The light is here in Divine plenitude. Christianity is either supernatural or it is nothing. Christianity makes its way in the world by the coming of the Spirit of God into contact with the spirits of men. Conclusion: The progress is not rapid. But let the Church calm her heart. Let us learn to wait and work. And, above all things, let us not be afraid. “He that believeth shall not make haste.” God’s method is upward progress, and that upward progress is slow in its development. But the progress is certain, and the end is sure. (T. Jones, D.D.)


Verses 47-49

1 Corinthians 15:47-49

The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.

The first and second man

I. The first--is of the earth, earthy--consequently--

1. Confined to earth.

2. Perishes with the earth.

II. The second--from heaven, heavenly.

1. Rules the earth.

2. Opens heaven.

3. Lives for ever. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Of the earth, earthy

χοϊκος properly means “clayey,” but is here used to express man’s terrestrial nature. Because he is of the earth in his origin--i.e., as to his body, there is a terrestrial side to his nature and sphere of action. From this we may infer--

I. That man in his sinless state had a body capable of dying. If he had continued sinless, his body would have been rendered immortal by a Divine act, and we gather from Genesis 3:22 that the tree of life was the appointed sacrament of immortality. This is consistent with Romans 5:12. In the case of man sin brought death, not mortality, into the world. The correctness of this hypothesis is confirmed by the side light it throws upon the voluntariness of Christ’s death. As Christ was sinless, death was not a necessity to Him, though He had a mortal body; and as He was Divine as well as sinless, death was impossible to Him without a voluntary act of “laying down” His life.

II. That the divine image in adam consisted, negatively, in sinlessness and, positively, in a potential and rudimentary goodness; by no means in the full perfection of human nature. Christ does infinitely more than restore our original state (cf. Wisdom of Solomon 8:1)
. (Principal Edwards.)

The second man

In what sense is our Lord the second man? There were so many millions intervening between Him and Adam. The answer is that all the others were mere copies of the first; whereas Christ introduced a new kind of man, and became the head of a new family.

I. The differences between Adam and Christ. There is a difference.

1. Of origin.

(a) Whatever may be said of Adam’s Divine parentage, according to his physical nature, he and his belong essentially to this earth; they are part of its fauna, and stand at the head of long lines of animal life, which, commencing with the lowest of sensitive creatures, find their highest term in man. All the materials of his physical life and being belong to the planet of which he is the chief inhabitant, of whose vital forces he is simply the highest outcome, the most elaborated product.

(b) There are many who tell us that man is “of the earth, earthy,” in the sense of being descended from the lower forms of animal life through the process of natural selection; but this can only be received as an hypothesis; yet there is nothing in it contrary to Scripture. If true it gives a new and most marvellous aspect to the Incarnation. Of course, if our ancestors were “marine ascidians,” so were His; and thus we see Him in an unexpected sense, gathering together in one, and summing up in Himself all created life (Ephesians 1:10), and reuniting it unto God. I do not know why a Christian should be staggered at the thought of one unbroken continuity of life; for the great gap in the cycle of life, which seemed to be eternally impassable, was above man, not below him, and yet we know that this gulf which separated the highest creature by an infinite distance from the Creator was bridged by the condescension of the Son.

2. Of nature. This difference was not in wealth, happiness, beauty, nor in any of those things which ordinarily make one man superior to another, for in all these things Christ voluntarily placed Himself at a disadvantage; but it was in holiness.

II. Christ is called the second adam because--

1. He introduced into the world a new type, a new order of humanity--a child of man, indeed, but such a child of man as had never been seen before. He was the beau ideal of the human race; all that is noble and lovely in other human beings was united in Him, and all that is noble and lovely in our dreams and fancies about what human beings might be was realised in Him. You have heard of those tropical plants which are said to blossom but once in a hundred years, then, having thrown up a single spike of exquisite white blossom, to die. This (however exaggerated in fact) may serve to illustrate the relation of Christ to the human race: once, and once only, humanity blossomed up and put forth one exquisite faultless flower, in which its entire life culminated, in which all its possibilities were exhausted; that flower was Christ, the Son of Man, par excellence, the second man.

2. But Adam not only set a type, but he began a race, a series like himself, and thus he became the fountain-head of a guilty and perishing humanity. In like manner Christ began a new race, and became the fountain.head of a new regenerate human life, cleansing itself from sin, rising victorious over death. (R. Winterbotham, M.A.)

The believer’s pedigree

1. On the one side traced to Adam who is of the earth--on the other to Christ who is the Lord from heaven.

2. On the one side he derives an earthly nature, on the other a heavenly.

3. On the one side he is stamped with the features of the earthy, on the other with those of the heavenly.

4. On the one side he can claim no inheritance in the kingdom of God, on the other becomes heir of all things. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy.--

The earthy and the heavenly

I. The earthy--frail, sensual, dying--can only produce his like.

II. The heavenly--pure, spiritual, immortal--communicates His own nature by a new birth, to be consummated in the resurrection. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.--

The assimilation of Christians to the Redeemer

I. The redeemer of the world is the heavenly.

1. The Scriptures represent Him as the express character of God’s person, the brightness of His glory. The perfections of the Divine nature indeed shine forth in all the works of creation; but there is a clearer and more glorious display of them all in “God manifest in the flesh.”

2. His life and character demonstrate Him to be the Heavenly.

II. The points of similarity between the heavenly and those with whom he stands connected.

1. That we may be humble, contemplate the dissimilarity. There is in Him the complete perfection of those various graces and virtues of which, in the saints, there is only an extremely remote resemblance.

2. But although the dissimilarity be great, there is an obvious similarity.

On heavenly-mindedness

A soul chained down to earth is as little suited for the occupations of heaven as is a body framed of the dust for becoming the eternal tenement of a spirit that liveth for ever. Temper, in its widest acceptation, is the uniform frame of the mind; the disposition, which it partly derives from nature and partly from circumstance; but to which, in its better condition, it is principally reduced by Divine grace and by religious cultivation. Thought is a sudden conception or a process of the intellect, and the fitful spring of action. Passion is a desultory violence of the soul when roused by external impressions. Both thought and passion are subject to variations in the same breast, and both may have intervals of cessation. But disposition is the inward light--the permanent hue of the heart, which tinctures the moral complexion, and blends with the whole course of thought, action, passion and existence. What, then, is that spirit, that disposition, which prevails among the blessed above, and by imitating which we may humbly aspire to be joined to their high and holy association?

1. In its reference to God it implies a spirit of devotion. To acquire the habit of contemplating, under all circumstances, the bond which connects earth with heaven, and of acknowledging the impulse which all the affairs of life are constantly receiving from an unseen arm: to discover providence where ignorance sees but chance, or where pride confesses only the power of man; to hear the voice of God in the accents of instruction; to trace His workmanship in the magnificence of Nature; to admire His beneficence throughout the varied year, whether crowned with blossoms or laden with sheaves--this is to imbibe the spirit of the heavenly; for the works and the wonders of Providence, we may rest assured, for ever occupy the meditations, the converse, and the praises, of the blessed, in the courts of light.

2. The temper and spirit of heaven may be considered, secondly, as it relates to our neighbour. Charity is the bond of union among the blessed above; all is there harmonious as the silent chime of the spheres.

3. It now remains to consider heavenly-mindedness in its immediate relation to ourselves. Humility is the pre-eminent virtue of the heavens. Another feature in the disposition which looks towards a heavenly prototype, and a feature relating to ourselves, is purity. The enjoyments of heaven, and the affections of its inhabitants, we may be sure, are unstained by the cloud or shadow of a thought that may suffuse the mind with the tinge of shame. But the crowning quality of temper, which at once unites and assimilates probationary mortals unto the multitude--the Sabaoth of heaven--is serenity. To this entire composure it cannot be expected that creatures such as we, in a state like that which we inherit, can attain. But here, too, though all may not be achieved or hoped, the task is not to be wholly relinquished. Some self-discipline is practicable; and what is practicable is what God expects. We have the treasury of grace for our feebleness--we have devotion as the key which unlocks it. (J. Grant, M.A.)

As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

The image of the earthy and of the heavenly

I. The image of the earthy.

1. Sin.

2. Sorrow.

3. Death.

II. The image of the heavenly.

1. Holiness.

2. Happiness.

3. Life. (F. A. Cox, LL.D.)

The attainment of the image of the heavenly

The great hindrance to our reception of the full power of these words lies in the difficulty of realising them as a present experience. We fancy that death is the great magician. Paul contemplated the change as actually begun. We were once merely natural men, and knew nothing of the higher spiritual world. Then quickened by the grace of God in Christ we became spiritual. Thus because the quickening Spirit of Christ is forming His image in us now, the earthly shall perish, and we shall wear the image of the heavenly. Just as the flowers which open beneath the summer sunshine are folded in the dark buds which are beaten and tossed in the winter winds; just as the strength of will, the fire of feeling, etc., of a man are hidden in the child, so the heavenly life is within us now, and because it is there it is possible for us to reach the full formed image of the heavenly.

I. The great aim of Christian aspiration--“to bear the image,” etc. This is one of the deepest longings of the soul. We yearn for rest, for service, for happiness; but there is a deeper longing; we want to be holier, heavenlier men. This is also the all-embracing Christian aim. Every prayer for light, blessedness, strength, is gathered up and centred in the aim to be like Christ. Observe His image has three great features.

1. Divine vision--the spiritual insight that realises the presence of God and the unseen world. It is true that we cannot see God and the radiance of eternity with the bodily eye; but were we like Christ, we should apprehend them through the sympathies of the soul.

2. Divine love. We admit the feebleness of our love to God, yet in many ways we aspire after a deeper love. What means our perpetual unrest, our constant effort after the unattained, etc., but the yearning after that love of God which alone can fill us, our longing after the image of Christ who realised it fully.

3. Divine power.

II. The hindrance to its attainment. “The image of the earthy,” i.e., the body of corruption whose tendency is--

1. To limit aspiration to the earthy.

2. To become an aid to the sin of the soul.

Conclusion:

1. Our aspirations must be earnest and real. What we sincerely aspire to be we may become.

2. Our endeavour must be practical. Meditation alone will do but little.

3. God will aid us by the discipline of life. Many strokes may be needed; but as the form of immortal loveliness lies concealed in the block of stone, and is being moulded stroke by stroke by the sculptor’s genius, so the heavenly form in man is being developed by the Eternal Sculptor, who by His discipline is unveiling in us the image of His Son. (E. L. Hull, B.A.)

Perfection in heaven

I. Wherein consists the image of the earthy.

1. In innocent infirmities; hunger, thirst, weariness, etc., and the like. How unlike are we in this respect to the blessed who hunger no more, and thirst no more, and rest not day nor night.

2. In sinful imperfections, commonly expressed by the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of nature.

3. In the consequences.

II. The respects in which true believers shall bear the image of the heavenly.

1. In the glorious spirituality of the body. How vastly will it differ from what it now is (verses 42-44).

2. In the perfect holiness of the soul.

3. In complete happiness.

4. In immortality. (D. Whittey.)

The believer’s assimilation to Christ

I. The characters here placed in contrast.

1. The earthy.

2. The heavenly.

II. The fact assumed--“that we have all borne,” etc.

1. The first man is emphatically styled earthy (verse 47).

2. But Christ is the heavenly One, because of--

3. Therefore it is said that we have borne the image of the earthy.

4. And not only because of this, but also because the first man’s moral image has become characteristic of us.

III. The promise in reference to believers. A perfect moral resemblance to Christ will be attained at the last day. (J. Scott.)

Man’s present and future

I. Confirm the lamentable fact that, by nature, we all bear the image of the earthly. So says my text; so says my experience, the melancholy experience of all ages and nations; so witness our own feelings in the endurance of those ills to which mortality is subject. Behold it--

1. In our bodies, which are earthly, frail, and tending to dissolution. What is that in the cold corpse which shocks the feelings of humanity, and harrows up the soul? It is the image of the earthly Adam! And ere long you shall bear it too.

2. We all bear this image in our souls.

II. Rejoice in the glorious truth that, as believers, we shall also bear the image of the Lord from heaven.

1. It is first impressed upon us at the time of our regeneration. Effectual grace then gives a new bias to the mind, and the Father of the spirits of all flesh then makes us new creatures in Christ Jesus. The Saviour imparted to us the principle of grace; He made us, who before lived only for folly and sin, to pant after holiness as our noblest pursuit; to grasp after purity as our noblest attainment.

2. This image shall visibly discover itself through the whole course of the Christian’s life, producing a happy effect upon his temper, his passions, his pursuits; it shall make him to speak, to look, to live, like the children of God.

3. This image shall be rendered more striking and glorious on the resurrection morning. (T. Spencer.)


Verses 50-54

1 Corinthians 15:50-54

Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

Flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God

I. The general law.

1. This carries with it its own proof: for, obviously, darkness might as well become light, or death life, as that which is corrupt rise into the incorruptible. On this point St. Paul is earnest and absolute. The exception of 1 Corinthians 15:51 is only an apparent one. Those who are alive when Christ comes will nevertheless be changed (1 Corinthians 15:52).

2. Note the significance of this law. Flesh and blood is a Scripture term for the lusts and passions of our lower nature. Jewish readers would instantly apprehend its force. To them “the blood was the life”; and therefore it was shed in sacrifice. It was the seat of passion and desire, of all that is lawless and irregular; and therefore they were not permitted to partake of it. Their conception finds utterance to-day in such phrases as, “His blood is up,” or, “A hot-blooded fellow.” St. Paul uses the term here as the symbol of this life, these lusts, these corruptions, which cannot inherit incorruption.

3. Mark the different use of the phrases “flesh and blood” and “flesh and bones” in the New Testament. “Flesh and blood” cannot inherit; the incorrupt and heavenly kingdom, but “flesh and bones” may and do. After His resurrection Christ had flesh and bones (Luke 24:37-39); and Christians aremembers of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:30). Christ’s blood as the symbol of life has been shed for the redemption of the world: as the symbol of corruption, it is poured out, exhausted. “Flesh and bones” may still be retained even when the natural becomes a spiritual body; but the life that pulses through it is that of a higher than mortal existence.

II. The truths and hopes which underlie it.

1. The truth for which St. Paul contends is not the immortality of the soul, but the resurrection of the body. Centuries before Christ the Greeks had believed that the souls of the departed survived the pangs of death. But these souls were not themselves, they were but their shades. Elysium was as thin and unsubstantial in its avocations and joys as the poor ghosts that tenanted it. And as nature shrinks from disembodiment, the Greeks were accustomed to offer rich garments on the tombs of heroes, if so be that, being thus clothed, they might not be found naked, and a Corinthian queen is said to have appeared to her husband after death, entreating him to burn dresses for her as a covering for her disembodied spirit. We may smile at all this, but none the less we are touched by this naive childish testimony to the universal dread of disembodiment, the universal desire to be clothed upon with some vesture whether of earth or heaven. To men gazing thus sadly into the future St. Paul’s strong hearty words must have been as health to the sick. So, then, they were not to become disembodied spirits, but to be clothed upon with a body more exquisitely attuned to the faculties and energies of their spiritual life!

2. In our Lord’s risen body we have the express type of the spiritual bodies we are to wear.

The change required that we may inherit the kingdom of God

I. The kingdom intended.

1. Not the kingdom of Christ on earth.

2. But the kingdom of God in glory, which is heavenly and eternal.

II. The unfitness of man for it.

1. His nature is morally corrupt.

2. Physically it is earthly and corruptible.

III. The change necessary.

1. A new birth.

2. A resurrection. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Corporeal transformation

Paul here speaks of a bodily transformation that is--

I. Indispensable (verse 50). “Flesh and blood,” i.e., our mortal nature, cannot inherit the heavenly world. He does not say why--whether the state of the atmosphere, or the means of subsistence, or the force of gravitation, or the forms and means of vision, or the conditions of receiving and communicating knowledge, or the nature of the services required. “Flesh and blood” can no more exist yonder, than the tenants of the ocean can exist on the sun-burnt hills. In such corporeal transformations there is nothing extraordinary, for naturalists point us to spheres of existences where they are as regular as the laws of nature.

II. Certain (verse 51). “Mystery” here does not point to the unknowable, but to the hitherto unknown, viz., that “we shall all be changed.” “We shall not all sleep.”

1. Some will be living when the day dawns. “As in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of Man, they ate, they drank,” etc.

2. Both those who will be living and those who will be sleeping in the dust will undergo corporeal transformation.

III. Instantaneous (verse 52). “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night,” etc.

IV. Glorious (verses 53, 54). The transformation is from mortality to immortality, from the dying to the undying; “death will be swallowed up in victory.” The idea may be taken of a whirlpool or maelstrom that absorbs all that comes near it. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

The necessity of the believer’s resurrection arises

I. Out of the nature of the kingdom of God, which is--

1. Heavenly.

2. Spiritual.

3. Incorruptible.

4. Divine.

5. Holy.

II. Out of the imperfection of the human body, which is--

1. Earthly.

2. Sensual.

3. Corruptible.

4. Sinful.

III. Out of the purpose of God.

1. It is His good pleasure to give us the kingdom.

2. The body of flesh and blood cannot inherit it.

3. Therefore it must be subject to a marvellous change. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.--

Corruption cannot inherit incorruption

I. Corruption.

1. Implies dissolution.

2. Is on earth a natural law.

3. Overtakes man in consequence of sin.

4. Includes decay, disease, death, decomposition.

II. Incorruption.

1. Implies immortality.

2. Is the distinguishing feature of the heavenly world.

3. Results from the immediate presence and power of God.

4. Secures purity, happiness, immortal vigour, eternal life.

III. The incompatibility of the two.

1. Is obvious.

2. Hence the absolute necessity of a change not only in man’s moral but physical condition.

3. To be effected in the resurrection.

4. That man may inherit eternal life. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Behold, I shew you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all he changed.

The mystery of the resurrection revealed

I. The great change.

1. Its nature.

2. When and how effected.

3. Its absolute certainty.

II. The triumph.

1. Death swallowed up in victory.

2. Hence the exultation of the redeemed over death and the grave.

III. The means of participation in it. The victory is--

1. The free gift of grace.

2. Through Christ.

3. By the destruction of sin.

IV. The practical lesson,

1. Steadfastness.

2. Abundant toil.

3. Confident hope. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Change

I. Our life on earth is full of change. Every hour brings changes and chances. The sun which rises to shine on happy children’s faces, bright with laughter, sets over a desolate home. Have you ever seen the famous picture of “The Railway Station”? That, or the reality, will show you any day what “a tangle” life is. There you will see youth and age, joy and sorrow, success and failure, hope and despair, going their several ways in the great journey of life.

II. But the greatest change of all is yet to come. There will be a change--

1. In our bodies. The poor, worn-out clothing of flesh which was laid in the grave to decay, will be no longer needed. As the trees are clad with new clothing in the spring-time, so will our souls be at the great spring-time of the Lord’s coming. As the beggar forgets his rags when wrapped in soft raiment, so shall we doubtless forget our poor bodies, or remember them only as a dream when one awaketh. Here they are constantly getting out of repair. When we are changed, we may believe it will be always well with us in body.

2. In our minds and feelings. We shall be improved by the lessons we learn, just as we see a child altered by wise and careful schooling. The man of science has a world of knowledge and beauty open to him which the unlearned does not dream of. So in the school beyond there must be a still wider world of which the cleverest men know nothing. Then our mind, no longer warped by prejudice, will understand rightly; then “we shall know even as we are known.” We shall see clearly what seemed so dark and perplexing before. We shall understand how some of God’s dealings with us, which appeared so strange and hard, were the best of blessings for us.

III. The change will be very great, but we ,shall be fitted for it.

IV. The change will not make us feel lonely. In that land none are strangers. Sometimes when one is going to emigrate, I have asked him if he did not expect to feel very strange and lonely, and the answer was, “Oh no, I have friends waiting for me there.” And so with us.

V. Though the great change comes then, there must be a change in us now. Our most constant, prayer should be, “Give me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me.” (H. J. W. Buxton, M.A.)

The final change

This is one in which you will be, not merely spectators, but parties concerned. It is an event the most certain. It is a solemnity that is continually drawing near. Note--

I. The union there is among the followers of the redeemer. “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

1. Of the number of this universal Church, some “sleep.” Death is often an alarming subject, and to reduce this dread we should do well to view it;as Scripture does as a departure--a going home--a sleep. Man is called to labour, and “the sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much.” So Christians must “work while it is day,” etc. But then they will “rest from their labours.” Sleep is a state from which you may be easily awakened; and, lo!” all that are in their graves shall hear Christ’s voice, and come forth.”

2. Many will be found alive. The earth’s inhabitants will not be gradually consumed till none are left: the world will be full; and all the common concerns of life will be pursued with the same eagerness as before. And, “as it was in the days of Noah,” etc. Many of the Lord’s people too will be found alive; and perhaps they will be much more numerous than at any former period.

II. In what manner will this be disposed of? “We shall all be changed.” We are always varying now. But what a change is here from time to eternity, from earth to heaven, from the company of the wicked to the presence of the blessed God: from ignorance to knowledge; from painful infirmities to be “presented faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy!” But the change principally refers to the body: “for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” etc. Enoch and Elias, though they did not die, passed through a change equivalent to death. The same change which will be produced in the dead by the resurrection will be accomplished in the bodies of the living by this transformation; and of this we have the clearest assurance (verses 42-44).

III. The ease and despatch with which all this will be performed. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” What a view does this give us of the dominion and power of God! Think of the numbers that will be alive--all these metamorphosed in one instant. And “why should it be thought a thing incredible?” “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

IV. The signal. “At the last trump,” etc. When the Lord came down on Horeb to publish the law, “the voice of the trumpet waxed exceeding loud.” By the sound of the trumpet the approach of kings has been announced. Judges in our country enter the place of assize preceded by the same shrill sound. And those who have witnessed the procession well know what an awe it impresses, and what sentiments it excites. Will the last trump call you to “lamentation, and mourning, and woe”? or will its language be, “Lift up your heads with joy, for your redemption draweth nigh”? Conclusion: He who will then be the Judge, is now the Saviour. He will then say to the wicked, “Depart”--but He does not say so now to any--His language is, “Come.” (W. Jay.)

For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.--

The trumpet shall sound

It is said when Lord Nelson was buried at St. Paul’s Cathedral, all London was stirred. As the funeral procession passed on, it moved amid the sobbing of a nation. Thirty trumpeters stood at the door of the cathedral with musical instruments in hand, and when the illustrious dead arrived at the gates of St. Paul’s Cathedral these thirty trumpeters blew one united blast; but the trumpets did not wake the dead. He slept right on. What thirty trumpets could not do for one man, one trumpet will do for all nations.

The trumpet of judgment

The blowing of trumpets at particular seasons was a statute for Israel. The trumpet was to be blown on the solemn feast day, to assemble the people together, to direct their march when the camp was to be moved, they were to be sounded over the burnt-offerings, and at the new moons, and when the year of jubilee arrived to proclaim liberty, also to summon the people to war. To this St. Paul alludes, when he says, “If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” All this was typical of the trumpet of the gospel which is to resound till all are warned to flee from the wrath to come (Psalms 89:15). But there is another trumpet we must all hear.

I. The manner of its sound.

1. Sudden. Our Lord intimates this (Matthew 24:38, etc.). The destruction of Jerusalem was a fit representation of this, it was awfully sudden. When the trumpet sounds to judgment there shall be the giddy and profane pursuing their unhallowed pleasures. In a moment! in the twinkling of an eye, the trumpet shall sound! Oh! to be found watching, waiting, praying, ready. “Blessed is that servant who, when his Lord cometh, shall be found so doing.”

2. Universal. It shall re-echo in heaven, reach every corner of earth, and penetrate the dark abyss of hell. Every soul shall hear it that ever lived in the world from the days of Adam to the period when the last infant shall be born, the king and the peasant, the righteous and wicked, etc. You who dislike the sound of the gospel; you who neglect the great salvation; you, formal professor, and self-righteous pharisee; you, hypocrite with the mask of religion--all must hear it.

3. Final. It is the close of all things the termination of our probation. There is a period when you shall hear of salvation, when you shall attend the sanctuary, when you shall read the Bible and surround the sacramental table for the last time.

II. The import of its accents. The Sound shall proclaim--

1. The end of time. How solemn the thought! Now we have the seasons in regular succession, times of business, recreation, devotion, etc. But soon time shall be no longer. The river of time will be emptied in the ocean of eternity. Oh! then, now seize it, and sail in the ship of the gospel, and you shall be safely conducted by the Divine Pilot till you glide safely into an ocean of bliss, that knows not the ruffle of a wave.

2. The resurrection of the dead.

3. The approach of the Judge. It shall be glorious. How unlike His first advent. The scene will be majestic beyond description. How great the designs of His coming! Not to present an atoning sacrifice, but to hold the last assize. He shall come to explain the mysteries of His providence, to display the riches of His grace, in the consummation of the happiness of His people, to vindicate His justice in the everlasting destruction of His foes.

III. The solemnity of its results.

1. The final triumphs of the righteous.

2. The eternal punishment of the wicked. (Ebenezer Temple.)

The resurrection

I. What are we to understand by the sounding of the trumpet? That this will announce our Saviour’s coming to judgment is frequently asserted (Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). As at the giving of the law, so at the judging of men according to that law, God shall cause some such sound to be uttered as shall be heard over the whole world, and summon all men to appear before His judgment-seat, and when this sounds then shall the dead be raised.

II. Who are those dead that shall be raised at the sound of this trumpet?

1. There is a threefold life: natural, the union of the soul to the body; spiritual, the union of Christ to the soul; eternal, the communion of the soul with God. Answerable to this there is a threefold death.

2. Which of these shall be raised? All of them, and yet it is the naturally dead which are chiefly to be understood here.

III. How shall the dead be raised? When the trumpet shall sound by the power of the most high God, every man’s body being made fit to receive its soul, the soul shall immediately be united to it, and so we, even the very self-same persons that now we are, shall be raised to answer for what we have done here.

IV. How doth it appear that the dead shall thus be raised?

1. From Scripture (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29; Matthew 22:31-32).

2. From reason.

V. How shall they be raised incorruptible? The apostle here treats of principally the resurrection of the saints, who shall be raised incorruptible.

1. In their souls, which being wrought up into an exact conformity to the will of God, will be emptied of all corruptions, and blessed with all perfections.

2. In body. As our souls shall be void of all corruptions, so shall our bodies be of all imperfections, for these our vile bodies shall be made like unto Christ’s glorious body. What is sown a natural shall be raised a spiritual body; it shall not any longer be a clog to us in the performance of duties to God; but it shall be as quick, agile, and subservient as if it was advanced beyond the degree of a body, and had commenced a soul.

3. In their happiness. There shall be no crosses in their relations, no losses in their possessions, no disgrace in their honours, no fears in their preferments, no irregularities in their affections, no sorrow in their joys, no darkness in their light, not one drop of misery in the whole ocean of happiness they shall enjoy.

VI. What is meant by we shall be changed? There will be a change in--

1. Our opinions. We shall think otherwise of most things. Here we are apt to look upon sin as amiable, and grace as not desirable; but then we that once esteemed all things before God, shall look upon God as to be esteemed above all things.

2. Our conditions. A Dives in this may become a Lazarus in the other world; and a Lazarus here, a Dives there. (Bp. Beveridge.)


Verses 53-57

1 Corinthians 15:53-57

For this corruptible must put on incorruption.

The great change

The apostle presents this--

I. As a contrast betwixt what man now is and what he will be.

1. Twice over the apostle affirms the change from corruptible to incorruption, and from mortal to immortality; first as a matter of necessity, then as a matter of fact. Four times over, also, he uses the same word, translated “put on,” which means, to “go into,” as into a place of covering or shelter; and hence to go into one’s clothes, to attire, to array one’s self or others in garments, ornaments, or the like (2 Corinthians 5:2).

2. Death, then, is a mere “unclothing” of the man, and if there is any propriety in the analogy the “unclothing” leaves him in possession of the full integrity of his being: he has simply stripped off his garments, and for a season laid them aside. It is still competent for him to resume them, or to array himself in different attire; and on reinvestment he cannot be other than he was before. Very great may the change be betwixt the “clothing” before death and that which is “put on” at the resurrection, but the language of the apostle implies that its use and purpose in both cases are the same.

3. Then, again, the apostle informs us, twice over, that that which in the one state is corruptible and mortal, becomes in the other state incorruptible and immortal. The thing is the same in both states, but placed under different conditions. At present it is organised matter, liable to decay, injury, and dissolution; but that same organised matter will be found in a state of “incorruption” and “immortality.”

II. As a victory over death and the grave.

1. The words mean properly “unto victory”; the idea being that the process of extermination goes on like a battle that is waged until a triumphant victory is secured--that is, “aye and until” death is totally abolished. Death at the resurrection is destined to be cast, like a stone, into an abyss, so profound that it never will be brought up or appear again.

2. Death is compared to a venomous reptile which has wounded its victims and introduced into their body its deadly poison. Dissolution, it is true, does not immediately follow the implanting of the sting, but there is pain and anguish, and death ensues in due course of time. And then comes the victory of the grave, or Hades. Like a resistless conqueror, it lays hold of those whom death has prostrated, consigns the body to the house appointed for all living, and the soul to the mysterious condition of disembodied consciousness. Well may this be called a victory, for nothing can be conceived of as a more complete overthrow of human hopes and desires; but introduce the idea of resurrection and it is plain the victory passes over to the other side. The conqueror is despoiled of his triumph; and from being a victim, sin-ruined and dying man, restored to that high standard of corporeal life for which he was originally designed, is in his turn a conqueror, all the more distinguished and glorious that his triumph lasts for ever.

III. As a boon for which gratitude ought to be felt and thanks returned. Gratitude is the appropriate sequel of benefits bestowed and appreciated. But to realise to the full the emotion of gratitude of which the apostle here speaks, we must actually close with and appropriate the glorious boon. This is the office of faith. None are excluded from the offers of the gospel: all are invited to partake of its blessed privileges; and however great and precious these privileges may be, so far as the present world is concerned, the actual consummation is the resurrection of the body and a portion in the kingdom of God. When the wilderness journey was over, and the wars of the settlement in Canaan at an end, how gladsome would every household be and every heart in Israel as they sat down each one under his vine and fig-tree, and none to make them afraid! But this was only a type of far more glorious things to come, when the epoch of sorrow and death is over, and the entire company of God’s redeemed enters upon the long-promised inheritance. (J. Cochrane, M.A.)

The celestial body of a Christian after the resurrection

I. The grounds of the belief of a Christian concerning this change of a corruptible and mortal into an incorruptible ann immortal body. I appeal to all sensible men whether that God, who is the Author of motion, by which all alterations in bodies are made, who brought this goodly frame of the world out of an heap of indigested matter, who formed the body of Adam out of the dust, who has so framed nature, that a spring of vegetables should succeed their death in winter; who caused even the dry rod of Aaron to bud, and blossom, and bring forth almonds; who has given skill and power to men, by fire and other natural causes, to open and refine the grossest bodies; whether that God who hath done these great things is not able to put together the parts of an humane body which He made, contrived, and formerly joined, and to advance the frame of it from grossness to purity. To think He is not is next to no thinking at all, and it is to reproach God’s power and knowledge and wisdom. It is more than barely credible, it is certain, that God who can do all this will at last do it because He has said He will.

II. The consequence of this belief is very comfortable; for great and many are the advantages derived to Christians by being clothed with a celestial body. There is scarce a comparison to be admitted betwixt this earthly body and that which shall be at the ascension of Christians. They differ more than the least and dimmest star, and the brightest and greatest luminary in the firmament of heaven. The happiness derived from the change of a natural to a spiritual body consisteth in a deliverance--

1. From the grossness of the former, as it is a body of this flesh and blood.

2. From the disorderly motions of it, as it is a corruptible body.

3. From the perishing nature, decay, and fall of it, as it is both a corruptible and mortal body.

III. What shall we do that we may come at these several great advantages of living at last in an heavenly body? The way to have better bodies is to have more virtuous souls. God hath put us into this body, as into the habit of a pilgrim on earth, as probationers for a more excellent clothing. And, according to our patience, our self-denial, our keeping the body in subjection to the mind, our governing the appetites and passions of it, so shall the resurrection and ascension of it be. (Abp. Tenison.)

This mortal must put on immortality.--

The mortal immortalised

Those who take thought for immortality are divided into two schools, the sensuous and the spiritual. The one picture to themselves a heaven of physical blessedness, a glorified earth--immortality only the state of the well-developed mortal! The other class regard heaven as a state utterly unlike the mortal--where the soul shall exist in the transcendental majesty of a risen spirit rather than as a redeemed and yet veritable man in Christ Jesus. Now both of these notions are alike unphilosophic and unscriptural. The text teaches not transubstantiation, but transfiguration--a change not of an essence, but only of aspects--and gives us twofold data for solving the problem of the after state.

I. The identity of the immortal creature with the mortal. Though at death we are unquestionably to lose whatever belongs only to this rudimental life--as the chrysalis drops the exuviae in developing the wings--yet all faculties and functions essentially human are to be ours for ever.

1. Even in regard of the body is this strictly true. Whatever may be the bliss of the intermediate state yet reason and revelation alike declare it to be unnatural, and so imperfect. Death, self-considered, cannot be a benefit. It is not a step in a progress--it is an interruption, a judicial infliction, God’s curse upon sin. Indeed, how the soul can act when divested of this body we cannot understand. And therefore from the dust, as a trophy of the mediatorship, is to be reconstructed a new body like Christ’s, to be part of the redeemed and immortal man.

2. This identity is more manifestly true in regard to the mind. Even as a philosophic inquiry there appears no reason why death should work any change in our rational nature. Accepting immortality as a simple matter of faith we should expect that, as the last enemy rocked its dwelling into dust, it would emerge from the ruins with all its peculiar habits of thought, and at precisely its attained point of progress.

3. And so with the affections. There is no stranger mistake than that which regards these as the specialities of the present life. The heart is among the most indestructible elements of our being. Pure intellect, unsoftened by affection, is simply monstrous. Entering heaven with our logic intensified and our love gone, our sympathies would be fiendish. In this respect “the mortal does put on immortality.” Said our Saviour, standing by the beloved dead with the sisters of Bethany, “He shall rise again ‘your brother’ still.” Death annihilates no pure affection wherein a Christian heart rejoices. “The water of life” is no Lethe of forgetfulness. Death, then, does not destroy nor mutilate the mortal. The immortal creature will be man with a human body, a human intellect, a human heart.

II. The marvellous and all-glorious transfiguration of that nature. The word “immortality” is a simple negative. There are things for which human language can have no name. While we remain mortal, inspiration can only describe the future in negatives.

1. The body shall be the same with eye to see and tongue to speak, but as the seed is transfigured into the queenly flower, so great shall the change be. With what new senses and organs it may be furnished God hath not told us. In this very chapter Paul seems struggling under the burden of the magnificent description--“It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.” And what notion can we form of incorruptible matter? “It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory.” The body, a house of leprosy, with all its senses instruments of temptation, is to be reconstructed into a palace of the higher life--fashioned like Christ’s glorious body! “It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” This poor, imperfect instrument of the intellect, requiring constant care lest it be injured by the using, shall be changed into a mighty and imperishable engine wherewith to work out unwearied the grand ministrics of eternity! “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” Its material elements, no longer controlled by material inertia, impenetrability, and attraction, but (like Christ’s raised body, which could pass closed doors and float up to the firmament) shall be the equipment of the soul when it would explore the mysteries of creation and traverse immensity in adoring contemplation.

2. If the dwelling-place be thus glorified what a transfiguration must await the spirit inhabitant! This intellect, how it sometimes towers and triumphs! What discoveries it hath made! Milton’s song! Newton’s march through the universe! Yet all this was the mortal; the doings of the cradled child with its playthings. And who shall tell us, then, of the child’s manhood?

3. But unto man’s heart rather than to his head shall be accorded the loftiest prizes of eternity! To think of that (while unchanged in all its gentle, blessed, earthly affections) putting on immortality, is the highest conception we can form of man’s kingship and priesthood in the city of God. (C. Wadsworth.)

Mortality and immortality

I. We are mortal. As a simple statement of truth, this proposition needs neither proof nor illustration. If it did, the one might be found in the churchyard, the other in the sighs of the mourner. But while we all know and acknowledge the fact of our mortality, it is strange how seldom we consider it, how little we are affected by it. Those among us who are the most devoted to pleasure are universally found to be the most regardless of death. This can be accounted for only on the supposition that they think not at all, either of mortality or immortality, that sensual pleasure is an opiate powerful enough to lull every anxiety, to preclude every solemn reflection. And yet it seems incomprehensible how any thinking being should be able to shut his eyes to the fact that he is dying. The world is full of death, from the first and feeblest efforts of life, up to its most perfect examples.

II. We are immortal; and it is from this second fact in our destinies that death derives most of its solemnity, and all its moral force. It is fearful to think that this very spirit, busied now with trifles, must continue to exist, busied with something, for ever and ever. Mere fatigue may lull the most wretched here into the repose of a little slumber; but when this mortal shall put on immortality, there shall be no opiate for ever and ever to soothe the spirit’s sorest anguish, not even a troubled dream to vary the uniformity of torture. The spirit may prey for ever on itself, but shall never be consumed--it may weep and wail for ever, without wailing itself to rest.

III. The change between the present and future conditions of man will not destroy the identity either of his person or character. There is no alchemy in death to distil charitable and holy dispositions from the gross elements of selfishness and malignity--in it there is no purgatorial fire to change our base metal into refiner’s gold. As the soul enters the troubled waters of dissolution, so must it pass out of them on the other side, bearing that very transcript of character which time and the world have written on it. Are we striving, then, day by day, incessantly, to lay the restraints of godliness on our naturally rampant corruption? Are we watching and praying to guard our hearts from temptation by all the defences of piety and devotion? (W. Stevenson.)

The mind exchanging the mortal for the immortal

Paul uses this language in relation to the body, but it may be useful to apply it to the mental and moral part of human nature. To--

I. Systems of thought. All errors of judgment are mortal and must perish. And what system of human thought is not intermixed with ideas not true? Look at systems--

1. Of philosophy. Many have already died out because of their errors; and existing systems because they are often contradictory reveal their errability, and consequently must die. The sensational, idealistic, mystic, and eclectic schools are all shifting as the clouds. It will not be always so; the true must take the place of the false in the realm of thought.

2. Of theology. How contradictory are most of them to each other and to some of the most vital things embodied in the life and teachings of Jesus. Many have died; some are dying; and all will sooner or later die. Human souls will one day have the “truth as it is in Jesus.” “Our little systems have their day. They have their day and cease to be.”

II. Elements of human character. Analyse the character of unrenewed men, and you will find moral principles that must die out if there be a God of justice and benevolence in the universe--e.g., avarice, envy, pride, malice, ambition, and selfishness. The human mind was never formed to be influenced by these. The fact that they are antagonistic to the moral constitution of the human soul, to the character of God, and to the order and well-being of all, show that they must sooner or later die. Human souls will one day put off this mortal and “put on” the immortal; “Righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost,” etc.

III. Institutions of human life.

1. Our political institutions are mortal. Human governments are constantly dying. The unwisdom in their method of management, the unrighteousness of some of their laws, the haughtiness of those in power, and their constant fattening upon the overtaxed millions give mortality to governments. Man will one day put off these and put on the government of common sense, common justice, common benevolence. Men are craving not for the aristocratic or democratic, but for the theocratic, the reign of God, which is the reign of honesty and love.

2. Our ecclesiastical institutions are mortal. Whether they are Papal, Episcopal, Wesleyan, or Congregational, they are more or less mixed with error and must die.

IV. Types of human greatness. Some see the highest greatness in the millionaire, some in the triumphant conqueror, some in a monarch, some in ancestry and high-sounding titles. But such types of greatness agree neither with the reason nor the conscience of humanity. Because they are false they are mortal, and they will have to be exchanged for the immortal. The time will come when men will regard Christ as the only true type of greatness. Conclusion: What a glorious change awaits humanity! St. Paul speaks of the resurrection of the body. But there is a more glorious resurrection--a resurrection of the soul from the false, the unrighteous, the impure, to the true, the right, and the holy. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption … Death is swallowed up in victory.--

Death is contemplated

I. As an enemy. Because it--

1. Interferes with human happiness.

2. Divides us from our friends, etc.

3. Separates soul and body.

II. As an enemy that must be fought.

1. All must die.

2. The struggle is often bitter and painful.

3. Must be maintained by faith, etc.

III. As an enemy that shall re utterly destroyed.

1. In the resurrection to eternal life.

2. By Jesus Christ. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Death swallowed up

1. The death of sin in the life of grace.

2. The death of the body in the hope of life.

3. The corruption of death in incorruption. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Death swallowed up in victory

The victory is--

I. Glorious.

1. The body rises.

2. Is clothed with immortality.

II. Is complete. There is no more sickness--pain--death.

III. Triumphant.

1. Christ celebrates the triumph of His grace.

2. Saints participate in it. (J. Lyth, D.D.)

Death swallowed up in victory

It is a dreadful sight to see an army routed and flying. But in my text is a worse discomfiture. It seems that a black giant proposed to conquer the earth. He gathered for his host all the aches and pains and malad