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Bible Commentaries

The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide
1 Corinthians 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-58

CHAPTER15

SYNOPSIS OF THE CHAPTER

He proves the resurrection of the dead against the false teachers who denied it:—

i. From the fact of Christ"s resurrection. Thus (ver12) he gives the bearing of it on our resurrection.

ii. He proves the resurrection by the authority of those who are baptized for the dead (ver29).

iii. He declares what the body will be like in the resurrection (ver35), and then names the four endowments of the glorified body (ver42).

iv. He shows that we shall all rise again, but shall not all be changed, and that in the resurrection which shall take place, in a moment, when the trumpet shall sound, death will be completely swallowed up (ver51).

Ver1.—I declare unto you, i.e., recall to your memory.

Vers3 , 4.—How that Christ died for our sins . . . according to the scriptures. Hosea 6:2: "After two days will He revive us; in the third day He will raise us up," i.e., when He shall on the third day Himself rise from death to life; for the resurrection of Christ was the cause of our rising from the death of sin, and of our future resurrection from bodily death, so that we are to rise like Christ on the Judgment Day to everlasting life. See notes on Romans 4:25. So Anselm, Dorotheus, in the beginning of his Synopsis, and also the Jewish writers of old in Galatin. lib. viii. c22. Theophylact, following S. Chrysostom, says that it was prophesied under an allegory that Christ should rise again on the third day; for Jonah brought from the whale"s belly on the third day, was a type of Christ brought back to life from death and hell on the third day.

Isaac, too, typified the same event in his being rescued from death when about to be sacrificed by his father, and restored to his mother alive and well on the third day. So Christ was given by His Father and sacrificed, and raised again on the third day. But these two instances are drawn from the allegorical sense, that of Hosea is from the literal.

Ver5.—Was seen of Cephas. Paul puts this appearance of Christ first, and therefore implies that the first man that Christ appeared to was Peter. I say "the first man," for He appeared to the Magdalene before S. Peter (S. Mark 16:9).

Then of the eleven. On the Sunday after the resurrection, when Thomas was now present, Christ appeared to the eleven, for the twelfth, Judas, had by that time hanged himself, or better still, "to the eleven," i.e., to the whole Apostolic College, which then had been reduced to eleven, Christ appeared on the day of His resurrection, though Thomas was absent. The Greek copies have, "then of the twelve." S. Augustine has the same reading (Qust. Evangel lib. i. qu117), and he says there that, though Judas was dead, "the twelve" were still so called as by a corporate name. So the Decemvirs are said to assemble if only seven or eight are present. Chrysostom explains it otherwise. He says that Christ appeared to the twelfth, Matthias, after His ascension. But this is not recorded anywhere, and Paul is here naming the appearances of Christ before His ascension only.

Ver6.—After that He was seen of above five hundred brethren. The Greek word for above means (a) "more than," (b) "from heaven." Chrysostom and Theophylact take it here in the latter sense. For Christ appeared, they say, not walking on the ground, but above their heads, as though descending from the sky; and He did this that He might show them that He had ascended as well as risen, and might confirm their faith in His ascension. Hence any one may gather that Chrysostom thought that this appearance of Christ took place after His Ascension; but still it is not true, nor is of necessity gathered from what Chrysostom says.

This appearance of Christ, whether on a higher spot, as if from heaven, or in the air, evidently was prior to His ascension; and this is the common opinion of doctors; for we read nowhere of any public appearance after His ascension.

Many suppose that this was the well-known appearance of Christ on a mountain in Galilee, which He had so many times promised. All His disciples met there, as He had bidden. This was not at His ascension, but before it; for Christ ascended into heaven, not from Galilee, but from the Mount of Olives. See S. Jerome (ad Hedibiam, qu7).

Ver7.—After that He was seen of James. The son of Alphæus, first Bishop of Jerusalem, and styled brother of the Lord. There is a tradition mentioned by Jerome (Lib. de Scrip. Eccles. in Jacobo) that James had taken a vow not to eat anything till he should see Christ risen. S. Jerome, however, does not think the tradition of any value. Its falsity is seen, too, (1.) for it is evident, from this passage of S. Paul, that Christ appeared to him after appearing to the five hundred brethren, and therefore long after His resurrection, too long for S. James"s fast to have been prolonged naturally. (2.) All the Apostles, and therefore S. James, were confounded at Christ"s death, and did not believe in His resurrection. It is not likely then that James would take such a vow. (3.) S. Jerome says that he took this story from the "Gospel according to the Hebrews," which is apocryphal. It is also said there that Christ wore at the time a linen garment, and that He gave it to the servant of the priest, which also seems false; for the garments of Christ remained in the sepulchre (S. Matt. xxviii.), and a glorified body, such as Christ"s was, is not clad with linen or any such garments, but with splendour and rays of light.

Then of all the apostles, and the disciples as well, says S. Anselm, at the ascension.

Ver8.—And last of all Ale was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. Born out of due time is, (1.) according to Theophylact and Theodoret, contemptible and despised, because young that come too soon to the birth are generally imperfectly formed, thin, and undersized. (2.) According to Ambrose and Chrysostom it is untimely; that is, after Christ had ascended into heaven, Paul was born in Christ and received his Apostleship. (3.) According to Anselm he thus calls himself, because he was struck to the earth by Divine power, compelled, and violently born again: untimely young are forced into the world by the violence of nature. (4.) Or, as S. Anselm again remarks, such births are of young half-dead, and they are often born blind. So S. Paul was smitten with blindness at his conversion. (5.) S. Paul was expelled from the womb of his mother, the people of the Jews, and was sent, not to his fellow-countrymen, but to the Gentiles outside. (6.) Baronius (Annals, A.D44) thinks that Paul was so called as an Apostle, because he was made an Apostle in addition to the twelve; for the Senators at Rome, he says, were so called, when they were co-opted into the Senate, in addition to the fixed number; but it cannot be said that S. Paul alludes to this, for he is writing in Greek to the Greeks, not to Romans.

It appears from this verse that Christ appeared to Paul, not by an angel, as Haymo thinks (Comment. on Apocalypse, c. ii.), but in person; not in a vision, as He appeared to him in Acts xxii18 , nor in a trance, as is recorded in2Cor. xii2 , but in the air in bodily form; for it was in this way that Christ appeared to Cephas, James, and the other Apostles; moreover, if it were any other kind of appearance it would be no proof of the resurrection of Christ. The appearance of Christ alluded to here is the one at Paul"s conversion (Acts ix3), when he saw Christ before the bright light blinded him.

Hence it further appears that Christ then descended from heaven, for, as S. Thomas and others say, S. Paul heard the voice of Christ speaking in the air. Whence it follows again that Christ was then in two places, in the empyrean and in our atmosphere, close to Paul; for, according to Acts iii21 , Christ has never left the highest heaven to which He ascended. If Christ was then in two places, why cannot He be at once in heaven and in the Eucharist?

Hegesippus (Excid. Hierosol. lib, iii. c2) and others say that Christ appeared in the same way to S. Peter at Rome, when He called him back as he was flying from martyrdom with the words, "I go to be crucified again."

Ver9.—For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle. Not only the least and unworthy because of my sins, but not fit for the apostleship; for it is not meet that one who was a persecutor should be a leader and Apostle of the Church.

Morally, see the humility of S. Paul in calling himself the least; by so doing he was the greatest. S. Bernard (Serm. xiii. an the Canticles) says well: "A great and rare virtue surely is it that you, who work great things, do not know your own greatness; that your holiness, which is evident to all, escapes your own observation; that you seem wonderful to others, despicable to yourself. This, I think, is more wonderful than your very virtues. You surely are a faithful servant, if, of the great glory of God, which passes through you rather than proceeds from you, you let none stick to your hands. Therefore you will hear the blessed words: "Well done, good and faithful servant; because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.""

Ver10.—I am what I am—an Apostle, and Teacher of the Gentiles.

His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain. Not empty, barren, without results. S. Ambrose reads: "His grace was not poor in me," and then the meaning would be: "Though I persecuted the Church of Christ, yet I did not on that account receive a grace of apostleship that was poor and slight, and less than that of the other Apostles, but if anything greater."

But I laboured more abundantly than they all. S. Jerome (Ep. ad Paulinum) says beautifully: "A sudden increase of heat banishes a long existing lukewarmness. Paul was changed into an Apostle instead of a persecutor; was last in order, first in merits; for though last he laboured more than all." For, as Gregory says (Pastor. p3 , c29): "A guilty life that has learnt to glow with love for God is often more pleasing to Him than a blameless life that has grown sluggish from long security."

Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. It plainly appears from this passage against Luther and Calvin that man has free-will, and that God alone does not work everything in us, but that our free-will co-operates with Him, even in supernatural works, for the Apostle says with me, not in me, and I laboured more abundantly than they all.

Again, the verb to be supplied in this passage is properly laboured. Then it will run. "Yet it was not I that laboured, but the grace of God, which laboured with me." S. Paul does not here exclude the co-operation of the will, but only attributes the praise due to the work to grace as its more worthy cause. But the sense will be the same if you read with the Greek Fathers and S. Jerome, "was with me." The meaning then is, "which was with me to help me." I laboured much of my own free endeavour, yet I did not so labour as to give myself all the praise and glory of my labour; but it was the grace of God which aroused me, aided me, strengthened me for this labour; to it, therefore, I give the first and best praise of my labour."

S. Bernard ("On Grace and Free-will," sub finem) says. ""It was not I, but the grace of God with me" implies that he was not only a minister of the work by producing it, but in some way a companion of the worker by consenting to it. Elsewhere S. Paul says of himself, "We are workers together with God" ( 1 Corinthians 3:9); hence we make bold to say that we merit to receive the kingdom because we are joined to the Divine Will by the voluntary surrender of our own will."

See also Anselm, Chrysostom, Theodoret (in loco); also Jerome (contra Pelag. lib. ii.), Gregory (Morals, xvi. c10), S. Augustine (de Liber. Arbit. c17 , and Serm13de Verbis Apost.). He says there: "If you were not a worker, God could not be a co-worker."

Ver11.—Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. So not only I, but all the Apostles, as was said in ver3 , preach and affirm as eye-witnesses, viz., that Christ died, and rose from the dead, and appeared to us. The Apostle returns here, as if after a long digression, to the point of the whole chapter, which is to prove, from the unanimous testimony of the Apostles, the resurrection of Christ, and of the rest who have died.

Ver12.—How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? Cerinthus with his followers are meant here. He was the first heresiarch after Simon Magus to deny, in S. Paul"s time, the resurrection. See Eusebius (Hist. lib. vii. c23 , and lib. iii. c28) and Epiphanius (Hæres28). Cerinthus was a champion of Judaism, and, founding his opinions on Jewish traditions, he referred all the prophecies about the Church and the Gospel law to an earthly kingdom, and to riches, and to bodily pleasures. In the same way he afterwards perverted the meaning of Rev. xx4 , and became the parent of the Chiliasts, or the Millennarian heretics. Some think from this that he was the author of the Apocalypse, and that it should therefore be rejected.

S. Ignatius, in his epistle to the Churches of Smyrna and Tralles, censures this error and its author. Hymenus and Philetus ( 2 Timothy 2:17) also denied the resurrection.

Ver13.—But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen. Not only because Christ was one of the dead, but also because the primary cause of Christ"s death and resurrection was the complete destruction of death, and the restoration of life. Moreover, the resurrection of Christ was a pattern of ours, i.e., of our resurrection to righteousness in this life, and to glory in the next. See S. Thomas (p3 , qu53 , art1) for five other reasons why it was necessary for Christ to rise again.

Ver17.—If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. It rightly follows that, if Christ has not risen, we are still in our sins; for1. if Christ has not risen, therefore faith in a risen Christ, which is the basis of justification, is false; but a false faith cannot be the beginning and foundation of remission of sins and of true sanctification2. If Christ remained in death, He was overcome by it, and His death was ineffectual for the remission of sins; for if by His resurrection He could not overcome death, then He could not overcome sin, for it is more difficult and a heavier task to overcome this than to overcome death. If this be so, sin is not fully abolished, if its penalty death is not.

3. The resurrection of Christ is the cause of our justification. ( Romans 4:25). Now the cause being removed, the effect is removed. If, then, the resurrection of Christ is not a fact, neither is our justification from sins, and consequently we are still in our former sins.

Ver18.—Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished, i.e., who have died in faith, hope, and charity. If the body is not to rise again, but perishes outright at death, the soul too will perish: it cannot exist for ever without the body, for its nature is the "form" of the body. Unless, then, God take away by violence from the soul its nature and natural condition, He must restore to it its body.

Ver19.—If in this life only we have hope in Christ1. The word "hope" here signifies, not the act of hope, for this exists in this life only, but the object of hope or the thing hoped for. If our only hope in Christ is for the goods of this life, then are we the most miserable of men; we are the most foolish also, because we rely on an empty hope of the resurrection, which is never to happen, and suffer fastings, mortifications, persecutions, and other hardships, and we resign the pleasure of the world and the flesh which others indulge in. Although, then, we are more happy than they, because of the good that is the fruit of the virtue of abstinence, of charity, and of an unclouded conscience, yet we are more miserable than they, so far as our hope in Christ is concerned, nay, we are fools for relying on a baseless hope. So Anselm and Chrysostom. The Apostle does not say "we are worse," but "miserable;" for it is a miserable thing to afflict ourselves for virtue"s sake, and yet not obtain the prize; but the prize of Christian virtue is the resurrection.

It may be said that the soul can have its reward and be blessed without its body rising again. My answer to this is: God might have so arranged things that the soul alone should be rewarded with the Beatific Vision, but He did not so will it. As a matter of fact He willed that if the soul be beatified, so shall the body; if the body is not, neither will the soul; otherwise Christ would not have completely overcome sin, which reigns by death over soul and body alike.

2. It was the opinion of men at that time that if the immortality of the soul be proved, the resurrection of the body must be at once admitted, because of the close connection between them. The soul has a natural longing after the body, and cannot exist without it unless by violence. Therefore the resurrection, so far as concerns the essence and the needs of human nature, is a natural process, though its mode of execution be supernatural. Nor can the soul when once separated be again united to the body by any created force, but only by the supernatural power of God. Paul, then, from the denial of the resurrection and happiness of the body, rightly infers, according to the common opinion of men, as well as the nature and truth of things, the denial of the immortality and bliss of the soul; and so it is no wonder if Christians are not to rise again, that they should be of all men most miserable.

Ver20.—But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1.) Christ was and is the first of those that rise again, both in order of dignity and of merit. (2.) He was first in the Divine will and intention. (3.) First causally, for by Him we shall all rise again. (4.) Temporally, for Christ was the first in time to rise to everlasting life; for though some before Him were raised to life by Elijah and Elisha, yet they rose to this mortal life only, and again died; but Christ was the first to rise to the eternal life of bliss and glory. So Chrysostom, Anselm, Ambrose, Theophylact, Theodoret, and others. The word for firstfruits properly signifies this, and implies others to follow. So is Christ called the "first-begotten of the dead," i.e., rising before all others, and, as it were, being born again from the dead.

It seems from this to be a point de fide that no one rose before Christ to everlasting life. Those, therefore, who at the death of Christ are said to have arisen (S. Matthew 27:52), rose after Him in the way of nature, if not of time, for their resurrection depended on Christ"s as its cause. Francis Suarez points out this (p3. qu53 , art3).

The earliest fruit of the earth, which under the Old Law was to be offered to God, was called the "firstfruits;" so Christ, after His resurrection, was offered to God as the firstfruits of the earth, into which He had been cast as a corn of wheat, and from which He sprang forth again in the new birth of the resurrection.

Ver21.—For since by man came death. Adam brought death on all men, Christ resurrection. The word since gives the reason why Christ is called the firstfruits of them that rise, viz., because by Christ, as a leader of the first rank of God"s army and the subduer of death, the resurrection of the dead was brought into the world.

Ver22.—For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. The question may be asked whether even the wicked are to rise again and be endowed with life through Christ and His merits. S. Augustine ( Ephesians 28) says no, because their resurrection, being to condemnation, is better called death than life. S. Thomas also says that Christ is the efficient cause of resurrection to all men, but the meritorious cause to the good alone.

But my answer is that Christ is the cause of the resurrection of all, even of the wicked: 1. Because Christ wished by His resurrection to abolish the power of death over the whole human race entirely, and therefore the wicked are included, not as wicked, but as men, abstracting their wickedness. See S. Ambrose (de Resurr. c21), and still more clearly S. Cyril (in Joann. lib. iv. c12).

2. Christ merited resurrection for the wicked, even as wicked, that He might inflict just punishment on His enemies, that His glory might be increased by the eternal punishment of His enemies. But these meanings are beside the scope of the passage. The Apostle is treating of the blessed resurrection of the saints, not of the resurrection of the wicked to misery.

We may here recapitulate the six methods by which the Apostle has proved that Christ rose again, that so he might prove that we too should rise.

1. From the testimony of those who saw Him alive after He rose, viz., Peter, Paul, James, the other Apostles, and the five hundred brethren (ver5).

2. If Christ is not risen, then the preaching of the Apostles and the faith of Christians are alike vain (ver14).

3. If Christ is not risen, we are still in our sins. This is proved by the fact that faith that justifies and expiates our sins is the same by which we believe that Christ died and rose again for us (ver17).

4. If Christ is not risen, then have ill perished who have fallen asleep in Christ, and have been destroyed both in body and soul; for the soul cannot live for ever without the body (ver18).

5. If we serve Christ only in this short life, and under His law have no hope of resurrection, then are we of all men most miserable (ver19).

6. By Adam all die, therefore through Christ shall all rise again, and be quickened. For Christ has done us as much good as Adam did harm: He came, not only that He might repair all the falls and loss of Adam and his descendants, but that He might lift us up to a higher state.(ver21).

Ver23.—But every man in his own order1. According to Chrysostom, Theodoret and Theophylact this is the just among the blessed, the wicked among the reprobate.

2. According to the commentary ascribed to S. Jerome, this means that each shall rise higher and more blessed as he has been more holy here.

3. Œcumenius and Primasius explain it in this way. All who are to be quickened in Christ shall rise again in this order—Christ the first in time and dignity; secondly, the just shall rise; thirdly shall come the end of the world. This is the Apostle"s meaning, as appears from the next words. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

Ver24.—Then cometh the end1. The end of the whole dispensation of Christ for the salvation of the human race, and it will consequently be the end of the age then existing, of time, of all generations, and all corruptions, and of the universe. So Anselm. For Christ is the end of the whole universe, and when those that He has chosen out of it are completed, then the universe will be ended also.

2. "The end" may, with Theodoret, be rendered "consummation," i.e., the general resurrection of all, even of the wicked, when all things will come to an end.

When He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father. The kingdom is the Church of the faithful and congregation of the elect; not as though God did not now reign over it, for Christ says: "The kingdom of God is within you" (S. Luke 17:21), but because sin has somewhat of power over it, because the devil, death, and cares that attack mortals are found in it. In other words, Then cometh the end when Christ shall have presented, and as it were restored to His Father, the Church of the elect, which had been intrusted to His care and governance during the struggle of this life, that He might gloriously reign over it for ever. The Son shall as it were present it to His Father with the words: "Father, Thou didst send Me into the world, and after I ascended to heaven to be with Thee I have ruled these continuously, and protected them from the power and assaults of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Lo, these that I bring are Thine. They are My possession, given Me by Thee; they are the fruit of My labour, won by My sweat and blood. This is Thy kingdom as it is Mine, and is now free and pure from every sin, temptation, and trouble, that Thou mayst reign gloriously over it for ever." Cf. S. Ambrose and S. Augustine (de Trinitate, lib. i. c8,10).

To God, even the Father is a hendiadys, to signify that Christ as man will present His faithful ones to God, as Son to His Father.

When he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. When He shall have destroyed the power and dominion of the devils, so that they shall no longer be able to attack the Church, which is the kingdom of God. Cf. Ephesians 6:12, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Ambrose, Œcumenius.

Principalities, Powers, and Dominions (the rule, and authority, and power of A. V.) are names of three angelic choirs (cf. Ephesians 1:21). It hence appears that some of them fell and became devils, and kept the same names, just as each kept the same nature, the same order, rank, and power, especially in their attacks on the Church. S. Paul says then that, when Christ shall have destroyed all the rule of the devils, who are and are called Principalities and Dominions, so that they might no longer attack the Church, He will then hand over the Kingdom to His Father, and will be the end and consummation of all things.

S. Augustine (de Trinitate, lib. i.. c8) explains this passage of the good angels, and then the meaning will be. There will be no longer any necessity for the assistance of the angelic Principalities, Powers, and Dominions, and therefore their dispensation and guidance will be done away with in the Church. But the former meaning is truer, because the Apostle is speaking of the enemies of Christ, as is clear from the next verse.

Ver25.—For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. I e., Christ must rule the Church till God the Father puts all the devils and the wicked under Him. Till does not denote an end of His reign, for there is no doubt that when His enemies shall have been overcome Christ will reign more truly and for ever, though in another way and with other glory than now. Cf. S. Chrysostom. It signifies what may have been done before a certain event, not what was done afterwards. So Joseph (S. Matthew 1:25) is said not to have known Mary his wife till she brought forth her Son, not as though he knew her afterwards, as the impure Helvidius insinuates, but that he did not know her before she conceived and gave birth; for S. Matthew merely wished to record a wonderful event that was naturally incredible, viz., the conception and birth of Christ from a virgin without a father. So Paul says here that even now, while the Church is struggling with her enemies, Christ reigns over her. Moreover, it follows from this that Christ will reign after the struggle and triumph, for S. Paul implies but does not state what is evident to all. S. Augustine (Sentences, n169) well says: "As long as we are struggling against sins there is no perfect peace; for those that oppose us are crushed in dangerous fight, and those have been overcome are not yet triumphed over in peaceful land where care cannot come, but are still kept down by a power that must ever be on its guard."

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. That death which still reigns over the bodies of the saints will be altogether destroyed at the resurrection. The first enemy of Christ and His followers is the devil, who was conquered by Christ on the Cross. The second is sin, which, through the grace of Christ, is being conquered by Christians in this life. The third is death, which will be the last to be overcome, and that will he in the resurrection.

Ver27.—He hath put all things under His feet. God will in the resurrection put all men and angels, good and bad, under Christ. He speaks of the future as past, after the manner of the prophets.

But when He saith . . . which did put all things under Him. S. Paul adds this lest any one should suppose that the Father has given everything to the Son in such a way as to deprive Himself of authority over them, for so the Father would be less than the Son and subject to Him. Sometimes among men, when fathers are getting old, they make a gift of their goods and offices to their sons, but not so God.

Ver28.—Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him. Some understand this of His Godhead, as though Christ as God will show Himself to have received everything, and His very Godhead, from His Father, and will so declare Himself to His Father. But this is too bold a statement; for the Son is not, subject to the Father, because He has all that He has from the Father, but He is equal to Him in majesty and honour. Hence others often take this passage of Christ according to His human nature. (1.) With Chrysostom, He will show His subjection, and so all will see how perfect were the obedience and subjection of Christ here. (2.) Better, with Anselm, Christ will be subject as man, i.e., He will subject Himself and will offer Himself with His elect to the eternal praise of God, and to a participation in the Divine goodness, dominion, and glory. For this subjection of Christ is the same as is alluded to in ver24 , where it is said that Christ shall hand over the kingdom to God the Father, that He may fully and gloriously reign over Him and His elect. This subjection of Christ and the saints to God is not mean and servile, but blessed and glorious. For God holds them in heaven who are subject to Him as sons, He rules over them, and blesses them, and makes them happy with the utmost height of glory. Well, then, is such subjection and service called reigning, and such service is much to be longed for with David (Ps. lxi1 , Vulg.): "Shall not my soul be subject to God? for of Him cometh my salvation." On the other hand the wicked, who will not submit themselves to God, will be by this very fact His enemies, and the most unhappy of all men. In this very word subject there seems to lurk a double application; and so Gregory of Nyssa says, in his sermon on these words: "Subjection to God is a separation from evil that is perfect and absolute on every side. Christ shall be subject to His Father in the resurrection, because in it all the elect and faithful members of Christ will be clear from all evil, and will receive a chief part of what is good, and will be most closely united with Deity, and with its eternity, power, and bliss; and then will God be all in all, since there will be no evil in those things that remain; for God cannot be in what is evil, but must be in all that is good. Christ then will be subject to His Father when His Church shall be, and shall be so set free from all evil; for the subjection of the Church is called the subjection of Christ." (3.) The words shall be may be understood to denote merely a continued action. In other words, Christ shall persevere for ever in the subjection which He now is under to His Father. Hilary wrote on this sentence of the Apostle"s against the Arians (de Trin. lib. ii.), S. Jerome (Ep. to Principia). S. Augustine (de Trin. lib. i. c8), where he says: "Christ, in so far as He is God with the Father, has us as His subjects; in so far as He is a priest, He is subject even as we to His Father."

That God may be all in all. Viz., as Anselm says, that God may have all power over all things and may show that as God He is everything to His elect, or in place of everything else; that He is our life, salvation, power, plenty, glory, honour, peace, and all things, and the end and satisfaction of our desires. So God will rule over all in all things, and will subject all things to Himself and His glory.

S. Augustine (de Civ. Dei. lib. xxii. c9) argues from this verse that the saints in heaven know our prayers and our state.

S. Jerome (Ep. ad Amandum) appropriately says: "What the Apostle means by saying that God shall be all in all is this: our Lord and Saviour is at present not all in all, but a part in each one, e.g., He is wisdom in Solomon, goodness in David, patience in Job, knowledge of the future in Daniel, faith in Peter, zeal in Phinehas and Paul, purity in John, and other things in other men. But when the end of all things comes, then He will be all in all, that each one of the saints may have all virtues, and Christ may be wholly in each one and in all." From this passage S. Augustine says (de Trin. lib. i. c8) that some Christians thought that the humanity of Christ would reign till the day of judgment, but would then be changed into His Godhead, and they thought that this change is the subjection to the Father, of which S. Paul here speaks. This is both foolish and impossible, according to the faith and to nature.

Some who had given themselves up to the contemplative life, and who aimed at an impossible closeness of union with God, and fanatics, have argued from this and similar passages of Scripture, that at the resurrection all men and all created things will return to their Divine archetype as it existed in eternity in God, and so would have to be changed into God; that is to say, that then every creature will have to disappear into the depths of the uncreated being, i.e., into the Godhead. Gerson attacks this error at length, and accuses Ruisbrochius of holding it; but the latter clears himself from it, and attacks it in his turn (de Ver Contempl. c19 , and ad Samuel, i4).

But this passage of the Apostle"s lends no countenance to this error, but on the contrary opposes it. For if in the resurrection God will be all in all, all created things will be in existence still. Otherwise God would not be all in all, but only all in none, or in nothing. Moreover, we can explain by similitudes how God will be all in all to the blessed. (1.) As a few drops of water poured into a large cask of very strong wine are at once swallowed up by the wine and incorporated with it, so the blessed, through love and the beatific vision, will as it were lose themselves in God, and seem swallowed up and incorporated by God as their greatest good, loved above all things. (2.) As the light of the sun fills all the air, so that it seems no longer to be air but light, in the same way God will so fill the blessed with the light of His glory that they will seem to be, not so much men as gods. (3.) As iron seems to be ignited by fire and to be changed into fire, so will the blessed be so kindled by their love and enjoyment of God, that they will seem transformed into God. (4.) As a large vessel of sugar or honey, when poured into a little porridge, makes it not only sweet as honey, but as if it were sugar or honey, so does God by His sweetness so inebriate and fill with sweetness the blessed that they seem to be very sweetness; for God is a sea of sweetness and an ocean of joy and consolation. (5.) As most sweet strains of music fill the ears of all who hear them and ravish their minds, or as a diamond, ruby, or emerald fills and dazzles the eyes of all who look upon it, so does God ravish, delight, and fill the minds of all the blessed. (6.) As a mirror exhibits, represents, and contains the faces and appearance of everything placed before it, so that they all seem to exist, live, and move in the mirror, so do all the blessed live, move, and have their being in God; for God is a most bright and glowing mirror of everything.

Lastly, S. Bernard (Serm. xi. in Cant.) devoutly and beautifully says: "Who can understand how great sweetness is contained in the one short saying, "God shall be all in all?" To say nothing of the body, I see in the soul three things—reason, will, and memory, and these three are the soul. How much of its integrity and perfection is lacking to each of these in this present life is known to every one who walks in the Spirit. Why is this, except that God is not yet all in all? Hence is it that the reason is so often deceived in its judgments, and the will weakened by a fourfold disturbing cause, and the memory clouded over by manifold causes of forgetfulness. To this threefold vanity a noble creature has beech made subject, not willingly, but in hope. For He that filleth the desire of the soul with good things will Himself be to the reason fulness of light, to the will a multitude of peace, to the memory eternal continuity0 Truth! 0 Love! 0 Eternity! 0 Trinity, blessed and blessing, to thee does my miserable trinity, after a wonderful fashion, aspire, since it is a miserable exile apart from Thee. . . . Put thy trust in God, for I will yet praise Him, when my reason knows no error, my will no grief, and my memory no fear; and when we enjoy that wondrous calm, that perfect sweetness, that eternal security which we hope for, God, as Truth, will give the first, as Charity the second, as Power the third, that He may be all in all, when the reason receives unclouded light, when the will obtains unbroken peace, and the memory drinks for ever of an inexhaustible Fountain. May you see all this, and rightly attribute it, first to the Son, then to the Spirit, and lastly to the Father."

Ver29.—Else what shall they do? . . . why are they then baptized for the dead? 1. This baptism is metaphorical, the baptism of pain, afflictions, tears, and prayers, which they endure on behalf of the dead, in order to deliver them from the baptism of fire in purgatory. For even those Judaisers are baptized who deny the resurrection, like Cerinthus and others, or, at any rate, their fellow-religionists, the Jews, and this, according to the faith and custom of the Hebrews, who are wont to pray for the dead, as appears from2Macc12:43 , and from their modern forms of prayer. This meaning best fits in with what follows. Baptism is in other places often used in this sense, (as S. Mark 10:53; S. Luke 12:50; Psalm 22:6). Throughout Scripture, waters and waves typify tribulations and afflictions.

2. "Baptism" can also be understood of purification before the sacrifices which were offered for the dead. The Jews were in the habit of being purified before sacrifice, prayer, or any Divine service. Cf. S. Mark 7:9; Hebrews 6:12, and Hebrews 9:10.

3. The different interpretations of others are dealt with at length by Bellarmine (de Purgat. lib. i. c4) and Suarez (p3 , qu56 , disp50 , sect1), and they all are referred to literal baptism.

(a) S. Thomas explains it to mean baptism for washing away sins, which are dead works.

(b) Theodoret thinks that "for the dead" is "like the dead," when they rise from death, viz., when they are baptized, and emerge from the waters of baptism as from the tomb, they symbolise the resurrection of the dead.

Epiphanius (H Revelation 28) takes "for the dead" to mean when death is close at hand, and they are looked on as already dead. For then those who had deferred baptism wished to be baptized in hope and faith in eternal life and resurrection. Hence those to be baptized used to recite the Creed, in which is the Article, "I believe in the resurrection of the dead."

(d) Claud Guiliaud, a doctor of Paris, thinks that the phrase refers to the martyrs, who suffer for the faith and the article of the resurrection of the dead. This meaning agrees well with the words that follow. "Why stand we in jeopardy every hour?"

(e) Others refer to a custom which the followers of Marcion afterwards observed, and suppose the meaning to be that some, in mistake and out of superstition, received baptism for the dead who had died without baptism. Cf. Ambrose and Irenus (Hres28), Tertullian (de Resurr. c24) and Chrysostom.

(f) Chrysostom proffers and prefers another explanation, viz., that S. Paul"s meaning is: Why do all receive baptism in hope of the resurrection of the dead, or to benefit their state when dead, that it may be well with them after death, if the dead do not rise? Surely, then, in vain do they do this. But this is not credible, for the common faith of all the faithful is that they do rise, so much so, that many of them put off their baptism, even to the end of life, and are baptized on their death-bed, in the hope that, being purified by baptism from all pain and guilt, they may fly to heaven, and obtain a joyful resurrection. Hence we get the name "clinical baptism." Many canons are extant ordering that such baptism be not refused to those who ask for it.

This last meaning seems the simplest of all, and the one most on the surface, and is taken from the literal meaning of "baptized." Tertullian says that "for the dead" means, "When the sacrament of baptism is performed over the body, the body is consecrated to immortality."

Ver30.—And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? It is folly for us to expose ourselves to so many dangers and persecutions, in hope of the resurrection, if there is none. This is a fresh reason, or rather a fresh part of the reason joined to the preceding verse. That we all shall rise again is evident from the common belief and instinct of all the faithful, instilled into them both by grace and nature; for all long for baptism, because of this hope of the resurrection. Others again, and we especially, because of the same hope, boldly meet and even attack all dangers and sufferings. God, therefore, who by nature and grace has given us this feeling and this courage, through hope of the resurrection, plainly testifies by this very fact that we shall rise again.

Ver31.—I die daily. I.e., I expose myself every day to danger of death, on behalf of the Gospel and the conversion of the Gentiles.

By your rejoicing. That is, I die daily for the sake of the glory which awaits you in heaven, in order that I may win it for you; or, better still, as your father and Apostle, I swear, and call God to witness, by your glory, i.e., by the glorying with which I glory over you as my children in Christ, that I die daily, and expose myself to death in hope of the resurrection. Hence S. Augustine ( Ephesians 89) proves the lawfulness of oaths. [Cornelius Lapide follows the Latin Version, which gives glory where the A. V. has rejoicing.]

Which I have in Christ. This is, according to Anselm, the future glory which, in reliance on Christ, I hope that you will have, or, better, the glory or glorying which I have, i.e., with which I glory in Christ; for I glory that by the merits of Christ I have obtained it. Gagneius and Photius explain the phrase differently, and make it a protestation rather than an oath, and read it, "I die daily because of your" (or, according to some Greek writers, "our") "glorying;" i.e., that I am able to boast of you as having been converted and won to Christ by my efforts.

Take notice that the Apostle here proves the resurrection of the body from the immortality of the soul alone, because these two things are naturally connected, and because men doubted then not so much the resurrection in itself as the immortality of the soul; so that if any one should prove to them the immortality of the soul, they would at once admit the resurrection. So S. Thomas.

Ver32—If after the manner of men. (1.) According to Photius, as far as man could; (2.) better, with human hope only, human courage, enterprise, love of glory, by which men are for the most part driven to face dangers. (3.) Others explain it as meaning, "I speak after the manner of men," who readily dwell on their fights and conflicts.

I have fought with beasts at Ephesus. Theophylact, Anselm, Primasius, and Baronius think that "beasts" refers to Demetrius and his savage companions, who fought fiercely and like beasts against Paul in defence of Diana (Acts xix.). We may then translate it. "If I have fought against a man who was as a beast." So Paul calls Nero a lion ( 2 Timothy 4:17). Such men too are called bulls ( Psalm 68:30); and S. Ignatius, in his epistle to the Romans, says: "I fight daily with beasts," i.e., with the soldiers guarding him.

But Chrysostom, Ambrose, and others think that Paul was actually thrown to the beasts at Ephesus and fought with them; for this is the strict meaning of the Greek, and, moreover, that contest with Demetrius at Ephesus took place after this Epistle was written, for after that outbreak, Demetrius and his followers, by their violence, forced Paul to leave Ephesus at once, so that he had no time to write this letter at Ephesus; therefore it was written before. It is pretty certain, as Baronius holds, that it was about that time that this letter was written at Ephesus. The fight with beasts, here spoken of, was not the one with Demetrius, which had not yet taken place, but an earlier one.

It may be said, it is remarkable that S. Luke should have said nothing in the Acts of so important an incident and so fearful a fight. But it is clear that S. Luke passed over things of no less moment, as, e.g., those related by S. Paul himself in 2 Corinthians 11:25: "Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck," &c. Hence Nicephorus (Hist. lib. ii. c25) relates, on the authority of tradition apparently, that this fight of S. Paul"s was a literal fight with beasts.

Gagneius says that the Greek means, not only to fight against beasts, but to fight against them to extremities, even for life. He turns it: "For the defence of the Gospel I was thrown to beasts, and fought with them to the last breath, and by the help of God I overcame them, and slew them not with weapons or fists but with faith and prayer, or I fled from them and escaped them."

Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die. S. Paul is quoting Isaiah 22:13. Those who deny the resurrection or who do not believe it are not far from the position of the wicked in Isaiah; for if there is no resurrection it will be lawful to join with the Epicureans in saying, "Eat, play, drink: there is no pleasure after death."

Ver33.—Evil communications corrupt good manners. Viz., with atheists and unbelievers who deny the resurrection. This is an iambic senarius of Menander"s, as S. Jerome points out.

Ver34.—Awake to righteousness and sin not. Awake from sin to be righteous. The Greek copies give "awake righteously;" Ephrem, "Stir up your hearts righteously." Sin not, because some know not that God can call the dead to life.

I speak this to your shame. It is a shame for a Christian to have any doubt about the resurrection or the power of God.

Vers35 , 36.—But some man will say . . . except it die. The Apostle strikes here at the root of their disease and the cause of their error, which was that some were despairing of and denying the resurrection of the body, because they saw that it rotted in the ground, and they thought therefore it was incredible and impossible for it to be raised again and refashioned. S Paul here answers this objection by pointing to a grain of corn which is sown. It first rots and dies away in the earth, and then as it were is born again and springs up, and brings forth, not merely one grain, but many grains from the one. In this way the one grain which is sown is clothed and laden at the harvest with many ears and grains, so that it seems to rise with greater glory. In the same way our bodies will rot in the ground, and thence rise to greater glory.

Ver37.—Thou sowest not that body that shall be. When you sow you do not sow the body which will rise from the seed, as, e.g., a tree or an ear, but bare seed, of apple, or of wheat, &c., and yet God gives to this seed sown, when it spring from the earth, not any other seed, but a complete and beautiful body, e.g., of a tree or of an ear, which is beautifully composed of its own stalk, beard, blossoms, and grains. Hence S. Augustine says ( Ephesians 146) that the Apostle implies, "if God can add to the new seed something it had not before, much more can He at the resurrection restore man"s body."

Ver38.—But God giveth . . . to every seed his own body. He gives to each seed the body that belongs to its own natural species, as, e.g., to a grain of wheat He gives a body of wheat, and not of barley or of oats.

Ver39.—All flesh is not the same flesh. He goes on to prove what he has said, viz., that God gives to each seed its own body as He hath pleased and determined. He proves it by analogy. "God," he says, "gives one flesh to man—his own, another to beasts, another to fishes, another to birds. He gives one body to the heavens and the stars, and another to things on earth." So, too, to the blessed in the resurrection, which will be a kind of regeneration and new creation, will God give their own body, such as He sees fit to give, and such as is becoming to men beatified and glorified. He will give to each as he had deserved; for there is a similitude and proportion between nature and merit. Such a nature demands such a body; so such a degree of merit demands a correspondingly glorified body: the less the merit, the less glorified the body to be received; the more the merit, the more the glory of the body.

Ver41.—There is one glory of the sun, &c. Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Primasius, Œcumenius, Bede, Augustine (de Sanct. Virg. c26), Jerome (contra Jovinian. lib. ii.), prove from this that not only is the resurrection of the saints glorious, but that there is also an inequality of rewards in heaven, just as there is an inequality in the seeds of merits sown here.

Ver42.—So also is the resurrection of the dead. As there is one brightness of the sun, another of the moon, another of the stars, so will God give to each of the blessed the blessed and glorious body that belongs to him, and that is proportioned to his merits.

The saints and blessed are well compared to stars for reasons which I have given when commenting on Romans 4:18. Moreover, as one star outshines another, so does one saint in heaven excel another—as in grace and merits, so in the glory and reward that he receives, and "the star of virginity shines among all as the moon among lesser lights."

So S. Dominic, while still a boy, appeared to a noble matron in a vision, wearing on his forehead a bright star which irradiated the whole world (Vita, lib. i. c1 , and cap. ult.); and it is said of the high-priest Simon, son of Onias ( Sirach 1:6): "As the morning star shines in the midst of a cloud, and as the full moon in her days, or as the noonday sun, so did he shine in the Temple of God." Similar things are told us of other saints. Learned men and teachers of righteousness and holiness will call to mind the verse ( Daniel 12:3): "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." (Cf. Wisd3) Hence Christ, too, says ( Revelation 22:16). "I am the bright and morning star," and in Revelation 1:20: "The seven stars are the angels" (i.e., the doctors and bishops) "of the seven churches;" and in Rev. xii1 , the Church appeared to S. John like a woman having on her head a crown of twelve stars, that is of the twelve Apostles, who, like stars, shed their light over the Church, and that on the head, i.e., in the beginning of the Church, as Primasius, Aretas, Andrew Bishop of Csarea, Bede, and others explain it. Lastly, in Rev. ii28 , Christ says: "And he that overcometh, to him will I give the morning star," i.e., glory and the beatific vision, which is called a star because of the brightness of its light and the clearness of the vision. It is called the morning star, both because it is given after the night of this world, and because it is the beginning of the blessedness which will be completed at the resurrection of the body. Cf. Richard Victor, Primasius, and Aretas.

It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption1. It is sown in creation, when the corruptible body is produced by the direct act of God, or from the seed of the father. So Anselm2. Better, it is sown a human body when it is buried, and thrown like seed into the ground to be eaten by worms and changed into dust; for so grain, when sown in the ground, is cast forth, buried, and corrupted. So Chrysostom, Ambrose, Anselm.

Hence they have erred who supposed that the resurrection will take place through the powers of nature, and that we shall rise by natural strength; as though in the ashes of the corpse were latent seminal powers, able to make it rise again. S. Thomas refers to these men. This is an error opposed to the faith and to true philosophy, both of which declare that the resurrection is above the powers of nature. The Apostle does not compare the body to seed sown in this respect, but he merely points to the fact that, as God has given to each seed its own body, so that, e.g., wheat springs from wheat and not barley, so to each of the blessed will He give a body corresponding to his work and merit. That this is his meaning, appears from the following verses. To bring this out more clearly, S. Paul adduced, in vers39,40 , a similitude drawn from the difference existing in the flesh and bodies of different creatures.

The seed dying and springing up again, and as it were rising from death, is a remarkable image and proof of the resurrection. Hence S. Augustine (Serm34de Verb. Apost.) says: "The whole government of this world is a witness to the resurrection. We see the trees at the approach of winter stripped of their fruits and shorn of their foliage, and yet in the spring set forth a kind of resurrection; for they first of all begin to shoot forth buds, then they are adorned with blossoms, clad with leaves, and laden with fruit. I ask you who believe not in the resurrection, Where are those things hidden which God in His own good time brings forth? They are nowhere seen, yet God, who is Almighty, and created them from nothing, produces them by His secret power. Then look at the meadows and fields, which after summer are stripped of their grass and flowers, and remain nothing but a bare expanse of ground; yet in the spring they are again clad, and rejoice the heart of the husbandman when he sees the grass again springing up in newness of life. Truly, the grass which lived and died again lives from the seed; so, too, does our body live again from the dust."

Ver43.—It is sown in dishonour. Man"s body when it is buried and thrown like seed into the ground, is base, thick, heavy, opaque.

It is raised in glory. It will rise glorious clear, resplendent. The Apostle here strikes at another root of their error. There were some who at that time denied the resurrection of the body on the ground that the body, as being heavy and fleshy, was unfitted to be the home of the soul in bliss, and to enjoy the Divine life, as S. Dionysius testifies when refuting them (Eccles. Hierarch. c7). The Apostle cuts this away by declaring that to the soul in glory a corresponding glorified body must be given.

It is sown in weakness. Is weak, slow, inert when it dies and is buried.

It is raised in power. Powerful, quick, agile.

Ver44.—It is sown a natural body. It dies as it lived: its life was vegetative and sensitive, and needed for its support food and drink, like the life of other animals. So, too, it was solid, inert, unable to give place to other bodies, and impenetrable. Such was the body of Adam, even in Paradise. The natural body is one that eats, drinks, sleeps, digests, toils, suffers fatigue, is heavy, and offers resistance to other bodies.

It is raised a spiritual body1. Not that the body is to be changed into a spirit or into an arial body, as Origen and Eutychius, Patriarch of Constantinople in the time of S. Gregory, thought (he was convinced by S. Gregory and abandoned his error), but spiritual in the sense of being wholly subject and conformed to the spirit, so that it no longer stands in need of food or drink, it toils not, and feels no weariness, but is, so to speak, heavenly and deified, and, as Tertullian says, is, as it were, changed into the angelic nature. So S. Augustine (de Fide et Symb. c6) says: "It is called a spiritual body, not because it is changed into spirit, but because it is so subdued to the spirit that it is fitted for its heavenly dwelling-place, when all weakness and earthly frailty have been taken away, and transformed into celestial strength." Yet (c10) he seems to say that in the resurrection the body will not be of the flesh, but like that of angels. He retracts this, however, afterwards (Retract. lib. i. c17), and more at length (de Civ. Dei, lib. ult. c5,21).

2. Spiritual denotes subtilty, freedom from that heaviness and solidity that fills space, i.e., from that property of body by which it so fills space as to exclude all other bodies. The spiritual body will be subtle, as free from this property, and able, like spirit, to penetrate and fill all other bodies. Cf. Damascene (de Fide, lib. iv. c28) and Epiphanius (in Hres. Orig.). For, as God can take from man his property, viz., the power of laughing, and can take from fire the heat which is the property of fire, so from body can He take away solidity, which is the property of natural bodily substance.

This gift of subtilty, however, will not be a quality infused into the soul, for this seems an impossibility. It will be an assisting presence of Divine power, internal to the soul in bliss, so that the soul can, at its pleasure, lay aside the solidity by which it excludes other bodies, when it wishes to penetrate into them; and can, on the other hand, retain it when it wishes to occupy space and exclude other bodies.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:4". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/clc/1-corinthians-15.html. 1890.

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