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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary
1 Corinthians 15

 

 

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Verses 1-11

15:1-58 THE DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION

The fact of Christ's resurrection (15:1-11)

Among the Corinthians were some who denied that there will be a physical resurrection of the dead. Paul points out in this chapter that the truth of the resurrection is part of the gospel which they believed and by which they are saved (15:1-2).

The gospel Paul preaches has been given him by God. It has as its basis the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (3-4). Paul then gives a list of eye witnesses to Christ's resurrection, including Peter, James the Lord's brother and many others, most of whom were still living should anyone want to question them. These eye witnesses could confirm that the resurrection of Christ was an undeniable fact (5-7).

Last of all the risen Lord appeared to Paul himself, who at the time was on the road to Damascus to arrest and imprison Christians (see Acts 9:3-6). God's choice of the fierce persecutor to be his special apostle was unnatural and unexpected. Yet through God's grace, Paul did a greater work than all the other apostles. He is careful to point out, however, that he and his fellow apostles all preached the same gospel (8-11).


Verses 12-28

A guarantee of final victory (15:12-28)

To those who claim there will be no bodily resurrection of the dead, Paul replies that if this is true it means that Christ has not been raised. In that case the gospel he preaches is not true and the believer's faith is without foundation (12-14). Furthermore, it means that the preachers of the gospel have misled their hearers. For if Christ has not been raised from the dead, he is certainly not the victorious Saviour. He has not conquered sin; sin has conquered him (15-17). Those who died believing in Christ have likewise been for ever conquered by sin and death. As for those believers still living, they are to be pitied for putting up with hardship in the hope of a better life to come if, as the doubters argue, there is no such future life (18-19).

Christ's return guarantees the resurrection of all believers. They will not merely be brought back to life, but they will enter into a new kind of life, one where death will no longer have any part. Death is the result of sin, and all who are descended from Adam will die; but all who have faith in Christ will triumph over death. This victorious resurrection of believers will take place at Christ's return (20-23).

With the final banishment of death itself, Christ will see the victory he won at the cross effectual to the last outpost of rebellion. Having established full and complete authority over everything and everyone, he will deliver up this authority to his Father (24-26). The work for which the Son willingly became subject to the Father will then be complete. Everything will be subject to him who is Lord of all (27-28).


Verses 29-34

A source of encouragement (15:29-34)

It seems that another strange practice the church in Corinth had introduced was that of baptizing people on behalf of those who had died unbaptized. Paul does not stop to discuss whether this was a desirable practice; he simply asks what meaning can it have if there is no future resurrection? If people do not believe in the resurrection but practise baptism for the dead, they are demonstrating something they do not believe in (29).

There are no doubts about the resurrection in Paul's mind. On the contrary his assurance of the resurrection and the victory it will bring encourages him amid daily trials. In Ephesus (the place from which he writes) he is daily in danger of being killed because of his faithfulness in preaching the gospel. If, however, there is no hope of a future and better life, he suffers for nothing. He would do better to forget about preaching the gospel and have a good time while he still has the opportunity (30-32).

Paul warns the Corinthians not to deceive themselves. If they mix with people who deny the resurrection, they will soon have wrong ideas about God, and this in turn will lead to wrong behaviour (33-34).


Verses 35-58

The resurrection body (15:35-58)

Some people mocked the idea of the resurrection by asking how could bodies that have decayed in the earth be raised to life again. Paul answers with an illustration. A seed dies when it is put in the ground, but this is part of the process of bringing forth new life in the form of a plant that grows up out of the ground. What grows up is different from what was buried, but in a sense it is the same thing. It is dry and dead looking when put in the ground, but fresh and beautiful when it appears as a living plant (35-37). The doubters should remember also that plant life takes many different forms. So does animal life (38-39). God gives a different life, beauty and form to different things, depending on his purposes for them (40-41).

In similar manner the resurrection body is different from the body that is buried in the ground. The body that is buried is perishable, unattractive, and powerless; the body that is raised is imperishable, beautiful, and strong. Just as the present body is suited to the needs of present earthly life, so the resurrection body is suited to the needs of the spiritual life of the age to come (42-44).

Adam was the first of a race of physical, earthly people; Christ is the first of a race of spiritual, heavenly people. Adam's body was the pattern for the bodies of people in the present life; Christ's body is the pattern for the bodies of believers in the life to come (45-49). Believers will have their physical bodies of the present life changed into spiritual bodies suited for life in the heavenly kingdom (50).

The change from the physical to the spiritual will take place when Christ returns and the dead are raised. All Christians, both those who have died and those still alive, will have their physical perishable bodies changed instantly into spiritual imperishable bodies (51-53). Death will have no more power over believers. Sin, which makes death fearful and which uses the law to hold people in this state of fear, will be finally destroyed (54-57).

Believers have no reason to be hesitant or doubtful concerning the coming resurrection. Rather they will find that they have greater confidence and purpose in their Christian life and service as they understand the full meaning that the resurrection has for them (58).

 


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Bibliography Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:4". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/1-corinthians-15.html. 2005.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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