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This important and deeply interesting chapter, I have spoken of as the “third” part of the Epistle. See the introduction. It is more important than any other portion of the Epistle, as it contains a connected, and labored, and unanswerable argument for the main truth of Christianity, and, consequently, of Christianity itself; and it is more interesting to us as mortal beings, and as having an instinctive dread of death, than any other portion of the Epistle. It has always, therefore, been regarded with deep interest by expositors, and it is worthy of the deepest attention of all. If the argument in this chapter is solid, then Christianity is true; and if true, then this chapter unfolds to us the most elevated and glorious prospect which can be exhibited to dying, yet immortal man.
There were, probably, two reasons why the apostle introduced here this discussion about the resurrection:
First, it was desirable to introduce a condensed and connected statement of the main argument for the truth of Christianity. The Corinthians had been perplexed with subtle questions, and torn by sects and parties, and it was possible that in their zeal for sect and party, they would lose their hold on this great and vital argument for the truth of religion itself. It might. be further apprehended, that the enemies of the gospel, from seeing the divisions and strifes which existed there, would take advantage of these contentions, and say that a religion which produced such fruits could not be from God. It was important, therefore, that they should have access to an argument plain, clear, and unanswerable, for the truth of Christianity; and that thus the evil effects of their divisions and strifes might be counteracted.
Secondly. It is evident from 1 Corinthians 15:12, that the important doctrine of the resurrection of the dead had been denied at Corinth, and that this error had obtained a footing in the church itself. On what grounds, or by what portion or party it was denied is unknown. It may have been that the influence of some Sadducean teacher may have led to the rejection of the doctrine; or it may have been the effect of philosophy. From Acts 17:32, we know that among some of the Greeks, the doctrine of the resurrection was regarded as ridiculous; and from 2 Timothy 2:18, we learn that it was held by some that the resurrection was passed already, and, consequently, that there was nothing but a spiritual resurrection. To counteract these errors, and to put the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead on a firm foundation, and thus to furnish a demonstration of the truth of Christianity, was the design of this chapter.
The chapter may be regarded as divided into four parts, and four questions in regard to the resurrection are solved:
- Whether there is any resurrection of the dead? 1 Corinthians 15:1-34.
- With what body will the dead rise? 1 Corinthians 15:35-51.
- What will become of those who shall be alive when the Lord Jesus shall come to judge the world? 1 Corinthians 15:51-54.
- What are the practical bearings of this doctrine? 1 Corinthians 15:55-58.
I. The dead will be raised; 1 Corinthians 15:1-34. This Paul proves by the following arguments, and illustrates in the following manner:
- By adducing reasons to show that Christ rose from the dead; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11;
(a) From the Scripture; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.
(b) From the testimony of eyewitnesses; 1 Corinthians 15:5-11.
(2) By showing the absurdity of the contrary doctrine;1 Corinthians 15:12-34; 1 Corinthians 15:12-34:
(a) If the dead do not rise, it would follow that Christ has not risen; 1 Corinthians 15:13.
(b) If Christ is not risen, he is preached in vain, and faith is reposed in him for nothing; 1 Corinthians 15:14.
(c) It would follow that the apostles would be false witnesses and wicked people; whereas, the Corinthians had abundant reason to know the contrary;
(d) The faith of the Corinthians must be vain if he was not risen, and they must regard themselves as still unpardoned sinners, since all their hope of pardon must arise from the fact that his work was accepted, and that he was raised up; 1 Corinthians 15:16-17.
(e) If Christ was not risen, then all their pious friends who had believed in him must be regarded as lost; 1 Corinthians 15:18.
(f) It would follow that believers in Christ would be in a more miserable condition than any others, if there was no resurrection;1 Corinthians 15:19; 1 Corinthians 15:19.
(g) Baptism for the resurrection of the dead would be absurd and in vain, unless the dead arose; it would be vain to be baptized with the belief, and on the ground of the belief that Christ rose, and on the ground of the hope that they would rise; 1 Corinthians 15:29.
(h) It would be in vain that the apostles and others had suffered so many toils and persecutions, unless the dead should rise; 1 Corinthians 15:30-32.
In the course of this part of his argument 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 Paul introduces an “illustration” of the doctrine, or a statement of an important fact in regard to it, thus “separating” the argument in 1 Corinthians 15:19 from the next, which occurs in 1 Corinthians 15:29. Such interruptions of a train of thinking are not uncommon in the writings of Paul, and indicate the “fullness” and “richness” of his conceptions, when some striking thought occurs, or some plausible objection is to be met, and when he suspends his argument in order to state it. This interjected portion consists of the following items:
(1) A triumphant and joyful assurance that Christ “had in fact risen;” as if his mind was full, and he was impatient of the delay caused by the necessity of slow argumentation; 1 Corinthians 15:19-20.
(2) He “illustrates” the doctrine, or shows that it is “reasonable” that the certainty of the resurrection should be demonstrated by one in human nature, since death had been introduced by man; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. This is an argument from “analogy,” drawn from the obvious propriety of the doctrine that man should be raised up in a manner somewhat similar to the mode in which he had been involved in ruin.
(3) He states the “order” in which all this should be done; 1 Corinthians 15:23-28. It is possible that some may have held that the resurrection must have been already passed, since it depended so entirely and so closely on the resurrection of Christ; compare 2 Timothy 2:18. Paul, therefore, meets this objection; and shows that it must take place in a regular order; that Christ rose first, and that they who were his friends should rise at his coming. He then states what would take place at that time, when the work of redemption should have been consummated by the resurrection of the dead, and the entire recovery of all the redeemed to God, and the subjection of every foe.
II. What will be the nature of the bodies that shall be raised up? 1 Corinthians 15:35-51.
This inquiry is illustrated:
(1) By a reference to grain that is sown; –1 Corinthians 15:36-38.
(2) By a reference to the fact that there are different kinds of flesh; 1 Corinthians 15:39.
(3) By a reference to the fact that there are celestial bodies and earthly bodies; 1 Corinthians 15:40.
(4) By the fact that there is a difference between the sun, and moon, and stars; 1 Corinthians 15:41,
(5) By a “direct statement,” for which the mind is prepared by these illustrations, of the important changes which the body of man must undergo, and of the nature of that body which he will have in heaven; –1 Corinthians 15:42-50. It is:
(a) Incorruptible; 1 Corinthians 15:42.
(b) Glorious; 1 Corinthians 15:43,
(c) Powerful; 1 Corinthians 15:43.
(d) A spiritual body; 1 Corinthians 15:44.
(e) It is like the body of the second man, the Lord from heaven; 1 Corinthians 15:45-50.
III. What will become of those who shall be alive when the Lord Jesus shall return to raise the dead?
Answer: They shall be changed instantly, and suited for heaven, and made like the glorified saints that shall be raised from the dead; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54.
IV. The practical consequences or influences of this doctrine; 1 Corinthians 15:55-58;
- The doctrine is glorious and triumphant; it overcame all the evils of sin, and should fill the mind with joy; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.
- It should lead Christians to diligence, and firmness of faith, and patience, since their labor was not to be in vain; 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Moreover - But (δὲ de). In addition to what I have said, or in that which I am now about to say, I make known the main and leading truth of the gospel. The particle δὲ de is “strictly adversative, but more frequently denotes transition and conversion, and serves to introduce something else, whether opposite to what precedes, or simply continuative or explanatory” - Robinson. Here it serves to introduce another topic that was not properly a continuation of what he had said, but which pertained to the same general subject, and which was deemed of great importance.
I declare unto you - (Γνωρίζω Gnōrizō). This word properly means to make known, to declare, to reveal Luke 2:15; Romans 9:22-23; then to tell, narrate, inform Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7, Colossians 4:9; and also to put in mind of, to impress, to confirm; see the note at 1 Corinthians 12:3. Here it does not mean that he was communicating to them any new truth, but he wished to remind them of it; to state the arguments for it, and to impress it deeply on their memories. There is an abruptness in our translation which does not exist in the original. Bloomfield.
The gospel - See the note at Mark 1:1. The word here means the “glad announcement,” or the “good news” about the coming of the Messiah, his life, and sufferings, and death, and especially his resurrection. The main subject to which Paul refers in this chapter is the resurrection, but he includes in the word gospel. Here, the doctrine that he died for sins, and was buried, as well as the doctrine of his resurrection; see 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
Which I preached unto you - Paul founded the church at Corinth; Acts 18:1 ff. It was proper that he should remind them of what he had taught them at first; of the great elementary truths on which the church had been established, but from which their minds had been diverted by the other subjects that had been introduced as matters of debate and strife. It was fair to presume that they would regard with respect the doctrines which the founder of their church had first proclaimed, if they were reminded of them; and Paul, therefore, calls their attention to the great and vital truths by which they had been converted, and by which the church had thus far prospered. It is well, often, to remind Christians of the truths which were preached to them when they were converted, and which were instrumental in their conversion. When they have gone off from these doctrines, when they had given their minds to speculation and philosophy, it has a good effect to “remind” them that they were converted by the simple truths, that Christ died, and was buried, and rose again from the dead. The argument of Paul here is, that they owed all the piety and comfort which they had to these doctrines; and that, therefore, they should still adhere to them as the foundation of all their hopes.
Which also ye have received - Which you embraced; which you all admitted as true; which were the means of your conversion. I would remind you, that, however that truth may now be denied by you, it was once received by you, and you professed to believe in the fact that Christ rose from the dead, and that the saints would rise.
And wherein ye stand - By which your church was founded, and by which all your piety and hope has been produced, and which is at the foundation of all your religion. You were built up by this, and by this only can you stand as a Christian church. This doctrine was vital and fundamental. This demonstrates that the doctrines that Christ died “for sins,” and rose from the dead, are fundamental truths of Christianity. They enter into its very nature; and without them there can be no true religion.
By which also ye are saved - On which your salvation depends; the belief of which is indispensable to your salvation; see the note on Mark 16:16. The apostle thus shows the “importance” of the doctrine. In every respect it demanded their attention. It was that which was first preached among them; that which they had solemnly professed; that by which they had been built up; and that which was connected with their salvation. It does not mean simply that by this they were brought into a salvable state (Clarke, Macknight, Whitby, Bloomfield, etc.), but it means that their hopes of eternal life rested on this; and by this they were then “in fact” saved from the condemnation of sin, and were in the possession of the hope of eternal life.
If ye keep in memory - Margin, as in the Greek, “if ye hold fast.” The idea is, that they were saved by this, or would be, if they faithfully retained or held the doctrine as he delivered it; if they observed it, and still believed it, notwithstanding all the efforts of their enemies, and all the arts of false teaching to wrest it from them. There is a doubt delicately suggested here, whether they did in fact still adhere to his doctrine, or whether they had not abandoned it in part for the opposite.
Unless ye have believed in vain - You will be saved by it, if you adhere to it, unless it shall turn out that it was vain to believe, and that the doctrine was false. That it was “not” false, he proceeds to demonstrate. Unless all your trials, discouragements, and hopes were to no purpose, and all have been the result of imposture; and unless all your profession is false and hollow, you will be saved by this great doctrine which I first preached to you.
For I delivered unto you - See the note at 1 Corinthians 11:23. “First of all.” Among the first doctrines which I preached. As the leading and primary doctrines of Christianity.
That which I also received - Which had been communicated to me. Not doctrines of which I was the author, or which were to be regarded as my own. Paul here refers to the fact that he had received these doctrines from the Lord Jesus by inspiration; compare the 1 Corinthians 10:23, note; Galatians 1:2, note. This is one instance in which he claims to be under the divine guidance, and to have received his doctrines from God.
How that Christ died for our sins - The Messiah, The Lord Jesus, died as an expiatory offering on account of our sins. They caused his death; for them he shed his blood; to make expiation for them, and to wipe them away, he expired on the cross. This passage is full proof that Christ did not die merely as a martyr, but that his death was to make atonement for sin. That he died as an atoning sacrifice, or as a vicarious offering, is here declared by Paul to be among the “first” things that he taught; and the grand fundamental truth on which the church at Corinth had been founded, and by which it had been established, and by which they would be saved. It follows that there can be no true church, and no wellfounded hope of salvation, where the doctrine is not held that Christ died for sin.
According to the Scriptures - The writings of the Old Testament; See the note at John 5:39. It is, of course, not certain to what parts of the Old Testament Paul here refers. He teaches simply that the doctrine is contained there that the Messiah would die for sin; and, in his preaching, he doubtless adduced and dwelt upon the particular places. Some of the places where this is taught are the following: Psalms 22:0; Isaiah 53:1-12; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 12:10; compare Luke 24:26, Luke 24:46. See also Hengstenberg’s Christology of the Old Testament, vol. 1:pp. 187,216, translated by Keith.
And that he was buried - That is, evidently according to the Scriptures; see Isaiah 53:9.
And that he rose again the third day ... - That is, that he should rise from the dead was foretold in the Scriptures. It is not of necessity implied that it was predicted that he should rise “on the third day,” but that he should rise from the dead. See the argument for this stated in the discourse of Peter, in Acts 2:24-32. The particular passage which is there urged in proof of his resurrection is derived from Psalms 16:1-11.
And that he was seen of Cephas - Peter; See the note at John 1:42. The resurrection of Christ was A fact to be proved, like all other facts, by competent and credible witnesses. Paul, therefore, appeals to the witnesses who had attested, or who yet lived to attest, the truth of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and shows that it was not possible that so many witnesses should have been deceived. As this was not the first time in which the evidence had been stated to them, and as his purpose was merely to remind them of what they had heard and believed, he does not adduce all the witnesses to the event, but refers only to the more important ones. He does not, therefore, mention the woman to whom the Saviour first appeared, nor does he refer to all the times when the Lord Jesus manifested himself to his disciples. But he does not refer to them in general merely, but mentions “names,” and refers to persons who “were then alive,” who could attest the truth of the resurrection. It may be observed, also, that Paul observes probably the exact “order” in which the Lord Jesus appeared to the disciples, though he does not mention all the instances. For an account of the persons to whom the Lord Jesus appeared after his resurrection, and the order in which it was done, see the notes on the Gospels.
Then of the twelve - The apostles; still called “the twelve,” though Judas was not one of them. It was common to call the apostles “the twelve.” Jesus appeared to the apostles at one time in the absence of Thomas John 20:19, John 20:24; and also to them when Thomas was present, John 20:24-29. Probably Paul here refers to the latter occasion, when all the surviving apostles were present.
Above five hundred brethren at once - More than 500 Christians or followers of Jesus at one time. This was probably in Galilee, where the Lord Jesus had spent the greater part of his public ministry, and where he had made most disciples. The place, however, is not designated, and, of course, cannot be known. It is remarkable that this fact is omitted by all the evangelists; but why they should have omitted so remarkable a proof of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, is unknown. There is a slight circumstance hinted at in Matthew 28:10, which may throw some light on this passage. After his resurrection, Jesus said to the women who were at the sepulchre, “Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” And in 1 Corinthians 15:16 it is said, “The eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.” Jesus had spent most of his public life in Galilee. He had made most of his disciples there.
It was proper, therefore, that those disciples, who would, of course, hear of his death, should have some public confirmation of the fact that he had risen. It is very probable, also, that the eleven who went down into Galilee after he rose would apprize the brethren there of what had been said to them, that Jesus would meet them on a certain mountain; and it is morally certain that they who had followed him in so great numbers in Galilee would be drawn together by the report that the Lord Jesus, who had been put to death, was about to be seen there again alive. Such is human nature, and such was the attachment of these disciples to the Lord Jesus, that it is morally certain a large concourse would assemble on the slightest rumor that such an occurrence was to happen. Nothing more would be necessary anywhere to draw a concourse of people than a rumor that one who was dead would appear again; and in this instance, where they ardently loved him, and when, perhaps, many believed that he would rise, they would naturally assemble in great numbers to see him once more. One thing is proved by this, that the Lord Jesus had many more disciples than is generally supposed. If there were five hundred who could be assembled at once in a single part of the land where he had preached, there is every reason to suppose that there were many more in other parts of Judea.
The greater part remain unto this present - Are now alive, and can be appealed to, in proof that they saw him. What more conclusive argument for the truth of his resurrection could there be than that 500 persons had seen him, who had been intimately acquainted with him in his life, and who had become his followers? If the testimony of 500 could not avail to prove his resurrection, no number of witnesses could. And if 500 people could thus be deceived, any number could; and it would be impossible to substantiate any simple matter of fact by the testimony of eye-witnesses.
But some are fallen asleep - Have died. This is the usual expression employed in the Scripture to describe the death of saints. It denotes:
- The calmness and peace with which, they die, like sinking into a gentle sleep;
- The hope of a resurrection, as we sink to sleep with the expectation of again awaking; see the John 11:11 note; 1 Corinthians 11:30 note.
After that, he was seen of James - This appearance is not recorded by the evangelists. It is mentioned in the fragment of the apocryphal Gospel according to the Hebrews, which is, however, of no authority. It is probable that the Lord Jesus appeared often to the disciples, since he was 40 days on earth after his resurrection, and the evangelists have only mentioned the more prominent instances, and enough to substantiate the fact of his resurrection. This James, the fathers say, was James the Less, the brother or cousin-german of the Lord Jesus. The other James was dead (see Acts 12:1) when this Epistle was written. This James, the author of the Epistle that bears his name, was stationed in Jerusalem. When Paul went there, after his return from Arabia, he had an interview with James (see Galatians 1:19, “But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother”), and it is highly probable that Paul would state to him the vision which he had of the Lord Jesus on his way to Damascus, and that James also would state to Paul the fact that he had seen him after he rose. This may be the reason why Paul here mentions the fact, because he had it from the lips of James himself.
Then of all the apostles - By all the apostles. Perhaps the occasion at the sea of Galilee, recorded in John 21:14. Or it is possible that he frequently met the apostles assembled together, and that Paul means to say, that during the forty days after his resurrection he was often seen by them.
And last of all - After all the other times in which he appeared to people; after he had ascended to heaven. This passage proves that the apostle Paul saw the same Lord Jesus, the same “body” which had been seen by the others, or else his assertion would be no proof that he was risen from the dead. It was not a fancy, therefore, that he had seen him; it was not the work of imagination; it was not even a “revelation” that he had risen; it was a real vision of the ascended Redeemer.
He was seen of me also - On the way to Damascus, see Acts 9:3-6, Acts 9:17.
As of one born out of due time - Margin, Or, “an abortive.” Our translation, to most readers, probably, would not convey the real meaning of this place. The expression, “as of one born out of due time,” would seem to imply that Paul meant to say that there was some unfitness “as to the time” when he saw the Lord Jesus; or that it was “too late” to have as clear and satisfactory a view of him as those had who saw him before his ascension. But this is by no means the idea in the passage. The word used here (ἔκτρωμα ektrōma) properly means an abortion, one born prematurely. It is found no where else in the New Testament; and here it means, as the following verse shows, one that was “exceedingly unworthy;” that was not worth regard; that was unfit to be employed in the service of the Lord Jesus; that had the same relation to that which was worthy of the apostolic office which an abortion has to a living child. The word occurs (in the Septuagint) in Job 3:16; Ecclesiastes 6:3, as the translation of נפל nephel, an abortion, or untimely birth. The expression seems to be proverbial, and to denote anything that is vile, offensive, loathsome, unworthy; see Numbers 12:11. The word, I think, has no reference to the mode of “training” of the apostle, as if he had not had the same opportunity as the others had, and was therefore, compared with their advantages, like an untimely child compared with one that had come to maturity before its birth, as Bloomfield supposes; nor does it refer to his diminutive stature, as Wetstein supposes; but it means that he felt himself “vile,” guilty, unworthy, abominable as a persecutor, and as unworthy to be an apostle. The verse following shows that this is the sense in which the word is used.
For - A reason for the appellation which he had given to himself in 1 Corinthians 15:8.
I am the least of the apostles - Not on account of any defect in his commission, or any lack of qualification to bear witness in what he saw, but on account of the great crime of his life, the fact that he had been a persecutor. Paul could never forget that; as a man who has been profane and a scoffer, when he becomes converted, can never forget the deep guilt of his former life. The effect will be to produce humility, and a deep sense of unworthiness, ever onward.
Am not meet to be called an apostle - Am not fit to be regarded as a follower of the Lord Jesus, and as appointed to defend his cause, and to bear his name among the Gentiles. Paul had a deep sense of his unworthiness; and the memory of his former life tended ever to keep him humble. Such should be, and such will be, the effect of the remembrance of a life of sin on those who become converted to the gospel, and especially if they are entrusted with the high office of the ministry, and occupy a station of importance in the church of God.
Because I persecuted the church of God - See Acts 9:0. It is evident, however, that deeply as Paul might feel his unworthiness, and his unfitness to be called an apostle, yet that this did not render him an incompetent witness of what he had seen. He was unworthy; but he had no doubt that he had seen the Lord Jesus; and amidst all the expressions of his deep sense of his unfitness for his office, he never once intimates the slightest doubt that he had seen the Saviour. He felt himself fully qualified to testify to that; and with unwavering firmness he did testify to it to the end of life. A man may be deeply sensible that he is unworthy of an elevated station or office, and yet not the less qualified to be a witness. Humility does not disqualify a man to give testimony, but rather furnishes an additional qualification. There is no man to whom we listen more attentively, or whose words we more readily believe, than the modest and humble man, the man who has had abundant opportunities to observe that of which he testifies, and yet who is deeply humble. Such a man was the apostle Paul; and he evidently felt that, much as he felt his unworthiness, and ready as he was to confess it, yet his testimony on the subject of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus ought to have, and would have, great weight in the church at Corinth; compare the note on Acts 9:19.
But by the grace of God I am what I am - By the “favor” or mercy of God. What I have is to be traced to him, and not to any native tendency to goodness, or any native inclination to his service, or to any merit of my own. All my hopes of heaven; all my zeal; all my success; all my piety; all my apostolic endowments, are to be traced to him. Nothing is more common in the writings of Paul, than a disposition to trace all that he had to the mere mercy and grace of God. And nothing is a more certain indication of true piety than such a disposition. The reason why Paul here introduces the subject seems to be this. He had incidentally, and undesignedly, introduced a comparison in one respect between himself and the other apostles. He had not had the advantages which they had. Most of all, he was overwhelmed with the recollection that he had been a persecutor. He felt, therefore, that there was a special obligation resting on him to make up by diligence for the lack of their advantages of an early personal conversation with the Lord Jesus, and to express his gratitude that so great a sinner had been made an apostle. He, therefore, says, that he had not been idle. He had been enabled by the grace of God, to labor more than all the rest, and he had thus shown that he had not been insensible of his obligations.
But I laboured more abundantly ... - I was more diligent in preaching; I encountered more perils; I have exerted myself more. The records of his life, compared with the records of the other apostles, fully show this.
Yet not I - I do not attribute it to myself. I would not boast of it. The fact is plain, and undeniable, that I have so labored. But I would not attribute it to myself. I would not be proud or vain. I would remember my former state; would remember that I was a persecutor; would remember that all my disposition to labor, and all my ability, and all my success, are to be traced to the mere favor and mercy of God. So every man who has just views feels who has been favored with success in the ministry. If a man has been successful as a preacher; if he has been self-denying, laborious, and the instrument of good, he cannot be insensible to the fact, and it would be foolish affectation to pretend ignorance of it. But he may feel that it is all owing to the mere mercy of God; and the effect will be to produce humility and gratitude, not pride and self-complacency.
Therefore, whether it were I or they - I or the other apostles. It is comparatively immaterial by whom it was done. The establishment of the truth is the great matter; and the question by whom it is done is one of secondary importance.
So we preach - So we all preach. We all defend the same great doctrines; we all insist on the fact that the Lord Jesus died and rose; and this doctrine you all have believed. This doctrine is confirmed by all who preach; and this enters into the faith of all who believe. The design of Paul is to affirm that the doctrines which he here refers to were great, undeniable, and fundamental doctrines of Christianity; that they were proclaimed by “all” the ministers of the gospel, and believed by all Christians. They were, therefore, immensely important to all; and they must enter essentially into the hopes of all.
Now if Christ ... - Paul, having 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 stated the direct evidence for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, proceeds here to demonstrate that the dead would rise, by showing how it followed from the fact that the Lord Jesus had risen, and by showing what consequences would follow from denying it. The whole argument is based on the fact that the Lord Jesus had risen. If that was admitted, he shows that it must follow that his people would also rise.
Be preached - The word “preached” here seems to include the idea of so preaching as to be believed; or so as to demonstrate that he did rise. If this was the doctrine on which the church was based, that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, how could the resurrection of the dead be denied?
How say - How can any say; how can it be maintained?
Some among you - See the introduction to 1 Corinthians 15:0. Who these were is unknown. They may have been some of the philosophic Greeks, who spurned the doctrine of the resurrection (see Acts 17:32); or they may have been some followers of Sadducean teachers; or it may be that the Gnostic philosophy had corrupted them. It is most probable, I think, that the denial of the resurrection was the result of reasoning after the manner of the Greeks, and the effect of the introduction of philosophy into the church. This has been the fruitful source of most of the errors which have been introduced into the church.
That there is no resurrection of the dead - That the dead cannot rise. How can it be held that there can be no resurrection, while yet it is admitted that Christ rose? The argument here is twofold:
(1) That Christ rose was one “instance” of a fact which demonstrated that there “had been” a resurrection, and of course that it was possible.
(2) That such was the connection between Christ and his people that the admission of this fact involved also the doctrine that all his people would also rise. This argument Paul states at length in the following verses. It was probably held by them that the resurrection was “impossible.” To all this, Paul answers in accordance with the principles of inductive philosophy as now understood, by demonstrating A fact, and showing that such an event had occurred, and that consequently all the difficulties were met. Facts are unanswerable demonstrations; and when a fact is established, all the obstacles and difficulties in the way must be admitted to be overcome. So philosophers now reason; and Paul, in accordance with these just principles, labored simply to establish the fact that one had been raised, and thus met at once all the objections which could be urged against the doctrine. It would have been most in accordance with the philosophy of the Greeks to have gone into a metaphysical discussion to show that it was not impossible or absurd, and this might have been done. It was most in accordance with the principles of true philosophy, however, to establish the fact at once, and to argue from that, and thus to meet all the difficulties at once. The doctrine of the resurrection, therefore, does not rest on a metaphysical subtilty; it does not depend on human reasoning; it does not depend on analogy; it rests just as the sciences of astronomy, chemistry, anatomy, botany, and natural philosophy do, “on well ascertained facts;” and it is now a well understood principle of all true science that no difficulty, no obstacle, no metaphysical subtilty; no embarrassment about being able to see how it is, is to be allowed to destroy the conviction in the mind which the facts are suited to produce.
But if there be no resurrection of the dead - If the whole subject is held to be impossible and absurd, then it must follow that Christ is not “risen,” since there were the same difficulties in the way of raising him up which will exist in any case. He was dead and was buried. He had lain in the grave three days. His human soul had left the body. His frame had become cold and stiff. The blood had ceased to circulate, and the lungs to heave. In his case there was the same difficulty in raising him up to life that there is in any other; and if it is held to be impossible and absurd that the dead should rise, then it must follow that Christ has not been raised. This is the first consequence which Paul states as resulting from the denial of this doctrine, and this is inevitable. Paul thus shows them that the denial of the doctrine, or the maintaining the general proposition “that the dead would not rise,” led also to the denial of the fact that the Lord Jesus had risen, and consequently to the denial of Christianity altogether, and the annihilation of all their hopes. There was, moreover, such a close connection between Christ and his people, that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus made their resurrection certain. See 1 Thessalonians 4:14; see the note on John 14:19.
And if Christ is not risen, then is our preaching vain - Another consequence which must follow if it be held that there was no resurrection, and consequently that Christ was not risen. it would be vain and useless to preach. The substance of their preaching was that Christ was raised up; and all their preaching was based on that. If that were not true, the whole system was false, and Christianity was an imposition. The word vain here seems to include the idea of useless, idle, false. It would be “false” to affirm that the Christian system was from heaven; it would be useless to proclaim such a system, since it could save no one.
And your faith is also vain - It is useless to believe. It can be of no advantage. If Christ was not raised, he was an impostor, since he repeatedly declared that he would rise Matthew 16:21; Matthew 18:22-23; Luke 9:22, and since the whole of his religion depended on that. The system could not be true unless Christ had been raised, as he said he would be; and to believe a false system could be of no use to any man. The argument here is one addressed to all their feelings, their hopes, and their belief. It is drawn from all their convictions that the system was true. Were they, could they be prepared to admit a doctrine which involved the consequence that all the evidences which they had that the apostles preached the truth were delusive, and that all the evidences of the truth of Christianity which had affected their minds and won their hearts were false and deceptive? If they were not prepared for this, then it followed that they should not abandon or doubt the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.
Yea, and we are found - We are; or we shall be proved to be. It will follow, if the Lord Jesus was not raised up, that we have been false witnesses.
Of God - Respecting God. It will be found that we have affirmed that which is not true of God; or have said that he has done that which he has not done. Nothing could be regarded as a greater crime than this, whatever might be the immediate subject under consideration. To bear false witness of a man, or to say that a man has done what he has not done, is regarded as a grievous crime. How much more so to bear false testimony of God!
Because we have testified of God - Or rather “against” God (κάτα τοῦ θεοῦ kata tou theou). Our evidence has been “against” him. We have affirmed that which is not true; and this is “against” God. It is implied here that it would be a “crime” to testify that God had raised up the Lord Jesus if he had not done it; or that it would be affirming that of God which would be “against” his character, or which it would be improper for him to do. This would be so:
- Because it would he wrong to bear any false witness of God, or to affirm that he had done what he had not done;
- Because “if” the Lord Jesus had not been raised up, it would prove that he was an “impostor,” since he had declared that he would be raised up; and to affirm of God that he had raised up an impostor would be against him, and would be highly dishonorable to him.
If the dead rise not - If there is, and can be no resurrection. If this general proposition is true that there can be no resurrection, then it will apply to Christ as well as any others, and must prove that he did not rise. The “argument” in this verse is this:
(1) If it was denied that Christ was raised, it would prove that all the apostles were false witnesses of the worst character; false witnesses against God.
(2) This the apostle seems to have presumed they “could not” believe. They had had too many evidences that they spoke the truth; they had seen their uniform respect for God, and desire to bear witness of him and in his favor; they had had too conclusive evidence that they were inspired by him, and had the power of working miracles; they were too fully convinced of their honesty, truth, and piety, ever to believe that they could be false witnesses against God. They had had ample opportunity to know whether God did raise up the Lord Jesus; and they were witnesses who had no inducement to bear a false witness in the case.
For if the dead rise not ... - This is a repetition of what is said in 1 Corinthians 15:13. It is repeated here, evidently, because of its importance. It was a great and momentous truth which would “bear” repetition, that if there was no resurrection, as some held, then it would follow that the Lord Jesus was not raised up.
Your faith is vain, - 1 Corinthians 15:14. The meaning of this passage here is, that their faith was vain, “because,” if Christ was not raised up, they were yet unpardoned sinners. The pardon of sin was connected with the belief of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and, if he was not raised, they were still in a state of sin.
Ye are yet in your sins - Your sins are yet unpardoned. They can be forgiven only by faith in him, and by the efficacy of his blood. But if he was not raised, he was an impostor; and, of course, all your hopes of pardon by him, and through him, must be vain. The argument in this verse consists in an appeal to their Christian experience and their hopes. It may be thus expressed:
(1) You have reason to believe that your sins are forgiven. You cherish that belief on evidence that is satisfactory to you. But if Christ is not raised, that cannot be true. He was an impostor, and sins cannot be forgiven by him. As you are not, and cannot be prepared to admit that your sins are not forgiven, you cannot admit a doctrine which involves that.
(2) You have evidence that you are not under the dominion of sin. You have repented of it; have forsaken it; and are leading a holy life. You know that, and cannot be induced to doubt this fact. But all that is to be traced to the doctrine that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. It is only by believing that, and the doctrines which are connected with it, that the power of sin in the heart has been destroyed. And as you “cannot” doubt that under the influence of “that truth” you have been enabled to break off from your sins, so you cannot admit a doctrine which would involve it as a consequence that you are yet under the condemnation and the dominion of sin. You must believe, therefore, that the Lord Jesus rose; and that, if he rose, others will also. This argument is good also now, just so far as there is evidence that, through the belief of a risen Saviour, the dominion of sin has been broken; and every Christian is, therefore, in an important sense, a witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, a living proof that a system which can work so great changes, and produce such evidence that sins are forgiven as are furnished in the conversion of sinners, must be from God; and, of course, that the work of the Lord Jesus was accepted, and that he was raised up from the dead.
Then they also ... - This verse contains a statement of another consequence which must follow from the denial of the resurrection - that all Christians who had died had failed of salvation, and were destroyed.
Which are fallen asleep in Christ - Which have died as Christians; 1 Corinthians 15:6 note; 1 Thessalonians 4:15 note.
Are perished - Are destroyed; are not saved. They hoped to have been saved by the merits of the Lord Jesus; they trusted to a risen Saviour, and fixed all their hopes of heaven there; but if he did not rise, of course the whole system was delusion, and they have failed of heaven, and been destroyed. Their bodies lie in the grave, and return to their native dust without the prospect of a resurrection, and their souls are destroyed. The “argument” here is mainly an appeal to their feelings: “Can you believe it possible that the good people who have believed in the Lord Jesus are destroyed? Can you believe that your best friends, your kindred, and your fellow Christians who have died, have gone down to perdition? Can you believe that they will sink to woe with the impenitent, and the polluted, and abandoned? If you cannot, then it must follow that they are saved. And then it will follow that you “cannot” embrace a doctrine which involves this consequence.”
And this argument is a sound one still. There are multitudes who are made good men by the gospel. They are holy, humble, self-denying, and prayerful friends of God. “They have become such by the belief of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” Can it be believed that they will be destroyed? That they will perish with the profane, and licentious, and unprincipled? That they will go down to dwell with the polluted and the wicked? “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25. If it “cannot” be so believed, then they will be saved; and “if” saved it follows that the system is true which saves them, and, of course, that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. We may remark here, that a denial of the truth of Christianity involves the belief that its friends will perish with others; that all their hopes are vain; and that their expectations are delusive. He, therefore, who becomes an infidel “believes” that his pious friends - his sainted father, his holy mother, his lovely Christian sister or child, is deluded and deceived; that they will sink down to the grave to rise no more; that their hopes of heaven will all vanish, and that they will be destroyed with the profane, the impure, and the sensual.
And if infidelity demands “this” faith of its votaries, it is a system which strikes at the very happiness of social life, and at all our convictions of what is true and right. It is a system that is withering and blighting to the best hopes of people. “Can” it be believed that God will destroy those who are living to his honor; who are pure in heart, and lovely in life, “and who have been made such by the Christian religion?” If it cannot, then every man knows that Christianity is not false, and that infidelity is not true.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ - If our hope in Christ shall not be followed by the resurrection of the dead and future glory, and if all our hopes shall be disappointed.
We are ... - Doddridge, Macknight, Grotius, and some others, suppose that this refers to the apostles only, and that the sense is, that if there was no resurrection, they, of all people would be most to be pitied, since they had exposed themselves to such a variety of dangers and trials, in which nothing could sustain them but the hope of immortality. If they failed in that they failed in everything. They were regarded as the most vile of the human family; they suffered more from persecution, poverty, and perils than other people; and if, after all, they were to be deprived of all their hopes, and disappointed in their expectation of the resurrection, their condition would be more deplorable than that of any other people. But there is no good reason for supposing that the word “we,” here, is to be limited to the apostles. For:
- Paul had not mentioned the apostles particularly in the previous verses; and,
- The argument demands that it should be understood of all Christians, and the declaration is as true, substantially, of all Christians as it was of the apostles.
Of all men most miserable - More to be pitied or commiserated than any other class of people. The word used here (ἐληινότεροι elēinoteroi) means, properly, more deserving of pity, more pitiable. It may mean sometimes, more wretched or unhappy; but this is not necessarily its meaning, nor is it its meaning here. It refers rather to their condition and hopes than to their personal feeling; and does not mean that Christians are unhappy, or that their religion does not produce comfort, but that their condition would be most deplorable; they would be more deserving of pity than any other class of people. This would be:
(1) Because no other people had so elevated hopes, and, of course, no others could experience so great disappointment.
(2) They were subjected to more trials than any other class of people. They were persecuted and reviled, and subjected to toil, and privation, and want, on account of their religion; and if, after all, they were to be disappointed, their condition was truly deplorable.
(3) They do not indulge in the pleasures of this life; they do not give themselves, as ethers do, to the enjoyments of this world. They voluntarily subject themselves to trial and self-denial; and if they are not admitted to eternal life, they are not only disappointed in this but they are cut off from the sources of happiness which their fellow-men enjoy in this world - Calvin.
(4) On the whole, therefore, there would be disappointed hopes, and trials, and poverty, and want, and all for nothing; and no condition could be conceived to be more deplorable than where a man was looking for eternal life, and for it subjecting himself to a life of want, and poverty, persecution, and tears, and should be finally disappointed. This passage, therefore, does not mean that virtue and piety are not attended with happiness; it does not mean that, even if there were no future state, a man would not be more happy if he walked in the paths of virtue than if he lived a life of sin; it does not mean that the Christian has no happiness in “religion itself” - in the love of God, and in prayer, and praise, and in purity of life. In all this he has enjoyment and even if there were no heaven, a life of virtue and piety would be more happy than a life of sin. But it means that the condition of the Christian would be more “deplorable” than that of other people; he would be more to be pitied. All his high hopes would be disappointed. Other people have no such hopes to be dashed to the ground; and, of course, no other people would be such objects of pity and compassion. The “argument” in this verse is derived from the high hopes of the Christian. “Could they believe that all their hopes were to be frustrated? Could they subject themselves to all these trials and privations, without believing that they would rise from the dead? Were they prepared, by the denial of the doctrine of the resurrection, to put themselves in the condition of the most miserable and wretched of the human family - to “admit” that they were in a condition most to be deplored?
But now is Christ risen ... - This language is the bursting forth of a full heart and of overpowering conviction. It would seem as if Paul were impatient of the slow process of argument; weary of meeting objections, and of stating the consequences of a denial of the doctrine; and longing to give utterance to “what he knew,” that Christ was risen from the dead. That was a point on which he was certain. He had seen him after he was risen; and he could no more doubt this “fact” than he could any other which he had witnessed with his own eyes. He makes, therefore, this strong affirmation; and in doing it, he at the same time affirms that the dead will also rise, since he had shown 1 Corinthians 15:12-18 that all the objection to the doctrine of the resurrection was removed by the fact that Christ had risen, and had shown that his resurrection involved the certainty that his people also would rise. There is special force in the word “now” in this verse. The meaning may be thus expressed: “I have showed the consequences which would follow from the supposition that Christ was not raised up. I have shown how it would destroy all our hopes, plunge us into grief, annihilate our faith, make our preaching vain, and involve us in the belief that our pious friends have perished, and that we are yet in our sins. I have shown how it would produce the deepest disappointment and misery. But all this was mere supposition. There is no reason to apprehend any such consequences, or to be thus alarmed. “Christ” is “risen.” Of that there is no doubt. That is not to be called in question. It is established by irrefragable testimony; and consequently our hopes are not vain, our faith is not useless, our pious friends have not perished, and we shall not be disappointed.”
And become the first-fruits - The word rendered “first-fruits” (ἀπαρχὴ aparchē) occurs in the New Testament in the following places; Romans 8:23 (see the note on this place); Romans 11:16; Rom 16:5; 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 16:15; James 1:18; Revelation 14:4. It occurs often in the Septuagint as the translations of חלב cheleb, “fat,” or “fatness” Numbers 18:12, Numbers 18:29-30, Numbers 18:32; as the translation of מצשׂרה ma‛asrah, “the tenth” or “the tithe” Deuteronomy 12:6; of צוון ‛awon, “iniquity” Numbers 18:1; of ראשׁית rē'shiyt, “the beginning, the commencement, the first” (Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 23:1; Numbers 15:18-19, etc.): of תּרמה teruwmah, “oblation, offering; lifting up; of that which is lifted up or waved as the first sheaf of the harvest,” etc. Exodus 25:2-3; Exodus 35:5; Numbers 5:9; Numbers 18:8, etc. The first-fruits, or the first sheaf of ripe grain was required to be offered to the Lord, and was waved before him by the priest, as expressing the sense of gratitude by the husbandman, and his recognition of the fact that God had a right to all that he had; Leviticus 23:10-14. The word, therefore, comes to have two:
- That which is “first,” the beginning, or that which has the priority of time; and,
- That which is apart and portion of the whole which is to follow, and which is the earnest or pledge of that; as the “first” sheaf of ripe grain was not only the first in order of time, but was the earnest or pledge of the entire harvest which was soon to succeed.
In allusion to this, Paul uses the word here. It was not merely or mainly that Christ was the first in order of time that rose from the dead, for Lazarus and the widow’s son had been raised before him; but it was that he was chief in regard to the dignity, value, and importance of his rising; he was connected with all that should rise, as the first sheaf of the harvest was with the crop; he was a “part” of the mighty harvest of the resurrection, and his rising was a “portion” of that great rising, as the sheaf was a portion of the harvest itself; and he was so connected with them all, and their rising so depended on his, that his resurrection was a demonstration that they would rise. It may also be implied here, as Grotius and Schoettgen have remarked, that he is the first of those who were raised so as not to die again; and that, therefore, those raised by Elisha and by the Saviour himself do not come into the account. They all died again; but the Saviour will not die, nor will those whom he will raise up in the resurrection die any more. He is, therefore, the first of those that thus rise, and a portion of that great host which shall be raised to die no more. May there not be another idea? The first sheaf of the harvest was consecrated to God, and then all the harvest was regarded as consecrated to him. May it not be implied that, by the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, all those of whom he speaks are regarded as sacred to God, and as consecrated and accepted by the resurrection and acceptance of him who was the first-fruits?
Of them that slept - Of the pious dead; see the note on 1 Corinthians 15:6.
For since by man came death - By Adam, or by means of his transgression; see 1 Corinthians 15:22. The sense is, evidently, that in consequence of the sin of Adam all people die, or are subjected to temporal death. Or, in other words, man would not have died had it not been for the crime of the first man; see the note on Romans 5:12. This passage may be regarded as proof that death would not have entered the world had it not been for transgression; or, in other words, if man had not sinned, he would have remained immortal on the earth, or would have been translated to heaven, as Enoch and Elijah were, without seeing death. The apostle here, by “man,” undoubtedly refers to Adam; but the particular and specific idea which he intends to insist on is, that, as death came by human nature, or by a human being, by a man, so it was important and proper that immortality, or freedom from death, should come in the same way, by one who was a man. Man introduced death; man also would recover from death. The evil was introduced by one man; the recovery would be by another man.
By man came also - By the Lord Jesus, the Son of God in human nature. The resurrection came by him, because he first rose - first of those who should not again die; because he proclaimed the doctrine, and placed it on a firm foundation; and because by his power the dead will be raised up. Thus, he came to counteract the evils of the fall, and to restore man to more than his primeval dignity and honor. The resurrection through Christ will be with the assurance that all who are raised up by him shall never die again.
For as in Adam - (ἐν τῳ Ἀδαμ en tō Adam). By Adam; by the act, or by means of Adam; as a consequence of his act. His deed was the procuring cause, or the reason, why all are subjected to temporal death; see Genesis 3:19. It does not mean that all people became actually dead when he sinned, for they had not then an existence; but it must mean that the death of all can be traced to him as the procuring cause, and that his act made it certain that all that came into the world would be mortal. The sentence which went forth against him Genesis 3:19 went forth against all; affected all; involved all in the certainty of death; as the sentence that was passed on the serpent Genesis 3:14 made it certain that all serpents would he “cursed above all cattle,” and be prone upon the earth; the sentence that was passed upon the woman Genesis 3:16 made it certain that all women would be subjected to the same condition of suffering to which Eve was subjected; and the sentence that was passed on man Genesis 3:17 that he should cultivate the ground in sorrow all the days of his life, that it should bring forth thistles and thorns to him 1 Corinthians 15:18, that he should eat bread in the sweat of his brow 1 Corinthians 15:19, made it certain that this would be the condition of all people as well as of Adam. It was a blow at the head of the human family, and they were subjected to the same train of evils as he was himself. In like manner they were subjected to death. It was done in Adam, or by Adam, in the same way as it was in him, or by him, that they were subjected to toil and to the necessity of procuring food by the sweat of the brow; see the notes on Romans 5:12-19; see 1 Corinthians 15:47-48.
All die - All mankind are subjected to temporal death; or are mortal. This passage has been often adduced to prove that all mankind became sinful in Adam, or in virtue of a covenant transaction with him; and that they are subjected to spiritual death as a punishment for his sins. But, whatever may he the truth on that subject, it is clear that this passage does not relate to it, and should not he adduced as a proof text. For:
(1) The words “die” and “dieth” obviously and usually refer to temporal death; and they should be so understood, unless there is something in the connection which requires us to understand them in a figurative and metaphorical sense. But there is, evidently, no such necessity here.
(2) The context requires us to understand this as relating to temporal death. There is not here, as there is in Romans 5:0, any intimation that men became sinners in consequence of the transgression of Adam, nor does the course of the apostle’s argument require him to make any statement on that subject. His argument has reference to the subject of temporal death, and the resurrection of the dead; and not to the question in what way people became sinners.
(3) The whole of this argument relates to the “resurrection of the dead.” That is the main, the leading, the exclusive point. He is demonstrating that the dead would rise. He is showing how this would be done. It became, therefore, important for him to show in what way people were subjected to temporal death. His argument, therefore requires him to make a statement on that point, and that only; and to show that the resurrection by Christ was adapted to meet and overcome the evils of the death to which people were subjected by the sin of the first man. In Romans 5:0 the design of Paul is to prove that the effects of the work of Christ were more than sufficient to meet all the evils introduced by the sin of Adam. This leads him to an examination there of the question in what way people became sinners. Here the design is to show that the work of Christ is adapted to overcome the evils of the sin of Adam in one “specific matter - the matter under discussion, that is,” on the point of the resurrection; and his argument therefore requires him to show only that temporal death, or mortality, was introduced by the first man, and that this has been counteracted by the second; and to this specific point the interpretation of this passage should be confined. Nothing is more important in interpreting the Bible than to ascertain the specific point in the argument of a writer to be defended or illustrated, and then to confine the interpretation to that. The argument of the apostle here is ample to prove that all people are subjected to temporal death by the sin of Adam; and that this evil is counteracted fully by the resurrection of Christ, and the resurrection through him. And to this point the passage should be limited.
(4) If this passage means, that in Adam, or by him, all people became sinners, then the correspondent declaration “all shall be made alive” must mean that all people shall become righteous, or that all shall be saved. This would be the natural and obvious interpretation; since the words “be made alive” must have reference to the words “all die,” and must affirm the co-relative and opposite fact. If the phrase “all die” there means all become sinners, then the phrase “all be made alive” must mean all shall be made holy, or be recovered from their spiritual death; and thus an obvious argument is furnished for the doctrine of universal salvation, which it is difficult, if not impossible, to meet. It is not a sufficient answer to this to say, that the word “all,” in the latter part of the sentence, means all the elect, or all the righteous; for its most natural and obvious meaning is, that it is co-extensive with the word “all” in the former part of the verse.
And although it has been held by many who suppose that the passage refers only to the resurrection of the dead, that it means that all the righteous shall be raised up, or all who are given to Christ, yet that interpretation is not the obvious one, nor is it yet sufficiently clear to make it the basis of an argument, or to meet the strong argument which the advocate of universal salvation will derive from the former interpretation of the passage. It is true literally that all the dead will rise: it is not true literally that all who became mortal, or became sinners by means of Adam, will be saved. And it must be held as a great principle, that this passage is not to be so interpreted as to teach the doctrine of the salvation of all people. At least, this may be adopted as a principle in the argument with those who adduce it to prove that all people became sinners by the transgression of Adam. This passage, therefore, should not be adduced in proof of the doctrine of imputation, or as relating to the question how people became sinners, but should be limited to the subject that was immediately under discussion in the argument of the apostle. “That object was, to show that the doctrine of the resurrection by Christ was such as to meet the obvious doctrine that people became mortal by Adam; or that the one was adapted to counteract the other.”
Even so - (οὕτω houtō.) In this manner; referring not merely to the certainty of the event, but to the mode or manner. As the death of all was occasioned by the sin of one, even so, in like manner, the resurrection of all shall be produced by one. His resurrection shall meet and counteract the evils introduced by the other, so far as the subject under discussion is concerned; that is, so far as relates to temporal death.
In Christ - By Christ; in virtue of him; or as the result of his death and resurrection. Many commentators have supposed that the word “all” here refers only to believers, meaning all who were united to Christ, or all who were his friends; all included in a covenant with him; as the word “all” in the former member of the sentence means all who were included in the covenant with Adam; that is, all mankind. But to this view there are manifest objections:
(1) It is not the obvious sense; it is not that which will occur to the great mass of people who interpret the Scriptures on the principles of common sense; it is an interpretation which is to be made out by reasoning and by theology - always a suspicious circumstance in interpreting the Bible.
(2) It is not necessary. All the wicked will be raised up from the dead as well as all the righteous, Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29.
(3) The form of the passage requires us to understand the word “all” in the same sense in both members, unless there be some indispensable necessity for limiting the one or the other.
(4) The argument of the apostle requires this. For his object is to show that the effect of the sin of Adam, by introducing “temporal” death, will be counteracted by Christ in raising up all who die; which would not be shown if the apostle meant to say that only a part of those who had died in consequence of the sin of Adam would he raised up. The argument would then be inconclusive. But now it is complete if it be shown that all shall be raised up, whatever may become of them afterward. The sceptre of death shall be broken, and his dominion destroyed, by the fact that all shall be raised up from the dead.
Be made alive - Be raised from the dead; be made alive, in a sense contradistinguished from that in which he here says they were subjected to death, by Adam. If it should be held that that means that all were made sinners by him, then this means, as has been observed, that all shall be made righteous, and the doctrine of universal salvation has an unanswerable argument; if it means, as it obviously does, that all were subjected to temporal death by him, then it means that all shall be raised from the dead by Christ.
But every man - Everyone, including Christ as well as others.
In his own order - In his proper order, rank, place, time. The word τάγμα tagma usually relates to military order or array; to the arrangement of a cohort, or band of troops; to their being properly marshalled with the officers at the head, and every man in His proper place in the ranks. Here it means that there was a proper “order” to be observed in the resurrection of the dead. And the design of the apostle is, probably, to counteract the idea that the resurrection was passed already, or that there was no future resurrection to be expected. The “order” which is here referred to is, doubtless, mainly that of “time;” meaning that Christ would be first, and then that the others would follow. But it also means that Christ would be first, because it was “proper” that he should be first. He was first in rank, in dignity, and in honor; he was the leader of all others, and their resurrection depended on his. And as it was proper that a leader or commander should have the first place in a march, or in an enterprise involving peril or glory, so it was proper that Christ should be first in the resurrection, and that the others should follow on in due order and time.
Christ the first-fruits - Christ first in time, and the pledge that they should rise; see the note on 1 Corinthians 15:20.
Afterward - After he has risen. Not before, because their resurrection depended on him.
They that are Christ’s - They who are Christians. The apostle, though in 1 Corinthians 15:22 he had stated the truth that “all” the dead would rise, yet here only mentions Christians, because to them only would the doctrine be of any consolation, and because it was to them particularly that this whole argument was directed.
At his coming - When he shall come to judge the world, and to receive his people to himself. This proves that the dead will not be raised until Christ shall re-appear. He shall come for that purpose; and he shall assemble all the dead, and shall take his people to himself; see Matthew 25:0. And this declaration fully met the opinion of those who held that the resurrection was past already; see 2 Timothy 2:18.
Then cometh the end - Then is the end; or then “is” the consummation. It does not mean that the end, or consummation is to “follow” that event; but that this “will” be the ending, the winding up, the consummation of the affairs under the mediatorial reign of Christ. The word “end” (τέλος telos) denotes properly a limit, termination, completion of anything. The proper and obvious meaning of the word here is, that then shall be the end or completion of the work of redemption. That shall have been done which was intended to be done by the incarnation and the work of the atonement; the race shall be redeemed; the friends of God shall be completely recovered; and the administration of the affairs of the universe shall be conducted as they were before the incarnation of the Redeemer. Some understand the word “end” here, however, as a metaphor, meaning “the “last,” or the rest of the dead;” but this is a forced and improbable interpretation. The word end here may refer to the end of human affairs, or the end of the kingdoms of this world, or it may refer to the ends of the mediatorial kingdom of the Redeemer; the consummation of his special reign and work resulting in the surrender of the kingdom to the Father. The connection demands the last interpretation, though this involves also the former.
When he shall have delivered up - (παραδῷ paradō). This word means properly to give “near, with,” or “to” anyone; to give over, to deliver up - Robinson. It is applied to the act of delivering up “persons” to the power or authority of others, as e. g. to magistrates for trial, and condemnation, Matthew 5:25; Mark 15:1; Luke 20:20; to lictors, or soldiers, for punishment Matthew 18:24; or to one’s enemies, Matthew 26:15. It is applied also to persons or things delivered over or surrendered to do or suffer anything, Acts 15:26; 1 Corinthians 13:3; Ephesians 4:19. It is also applied to persons or things delivered over to the care, charge, or supervision of anyone, in the sense of giving up, entrusting, committing, Matthew 11:27; Matthew 25:14; Luke 4:6, Luke 4:10, Luke 4:22. Here the obvious sense is that of surrendering, giving back, delivering up, rendering up that which had been received, implying that an important trust had been received, which was now to be rendered back. And according to this interpretation, it means:
- That the Lord Jesus had received or been entrusted with an important power or office as mediator; compare the note on Matthew 18:18.
(2)That he had executed the purpose implied in that trust or commission; and,
- That he was now rendering back to God that office or authority which he had received at his hands.
As the work had been accomplished which had been contemplated in his design; as there would be no further necessity for mediation when redemption should have been made, and his church recovered from sin and brought to glory; there would be no further need of that special arrangement which had been implied in the work of redemption, and, of course, all the entrustment of power involved in that would be again restored to the hands of God. The idea, says Grotius, is, that he would deliver up the kingdom as the governors of provinces render again or deliver up their commission and authority to the Caesars who appointed them. There is no absurdity in this view. For “if” the world was to be redeemed, it was necessary that the Redeemer should be entrusted with power sufficient for his work. When that work was done, and there was no further need of that special exercise of power, then it would be proper that it should be restored, or that the government of God should be administered as it was before the work of redemption was undertaken; that the Divinity, or the Godhead, as such, should preside over the destinies of the universe. Of course, it will not follow that the Second Person of the Trinity will surrender “all” power, or “cease” to exercise government. It will be that power only which he had as Mediator; and whatever part in the administration of the government of the universe he shared as divine before the incarnation, he will still share, with the additional “glory” and “honor” of having redeemed a world by his death.
The kingdom - This word means properly dominion, reign, the exercise of kingly power. In the New Testament it means commonly the reign of the Messiah, or the dominion which God would exercise through the Messiah; the reign of God over people by the laws and institutions of the Messiah; see the note on Matthew 3:2. Here it means, I think, evidently, dominion in general. It cannot denote the peculiar administration over the world involved in the work of mediation, for that will be ended; but it means that the empire, the sovereignty, shall have been delivered up to God. His enemies shall have been subdued. His power shall have been asserted. The authority of God shall have been established, and the kingdom, or the dominion, shall be in the hands of God himself; and he shall reign, not in the special form which existed in the work of mediation, but absolutely, and as he did over obedient minds before the incarnation.
To God - To God “as” God; to the Divinity. The Mediator shall have given up the special power and rule as Mediator, and it shall be exercised by God as God.
Even the Father - And (καὶ kai) the Father. The word “Father,” as applied to God in the Scriptures, is used in two senses - to designate “the” Father, the first person of the Trinity as distinguished from the Son; and in a broader, wider sense, to denote God as sustaining the relation of a Father to his creatures; as the Father of all. Instances of this use are too numerous to be here particularly referred to. It is in this latter sense, perhaps, that the word is used here - not to denote that the second person of the Trinity is to surrender all power into the hands of the first, or that he is to cease to exercise dominion and control; but that the power is to be yielded into the hands of God as God, that is, as the universal Father, as the Divinity, without being exercised in any special and special manner by the different persons of the Godhead, as had been done in the work of redemption. At the close of the work of redemption this “peculiar” arrangement would cease; and God, as the universal Father and Ruler of all, would exercise the government of the world; see, however, see the note on 1 Corinthians 15:28.
When he shall have put down - When he shall have “abolished,” or brought to nothing, all that opposed the reign of God.
All rule ... - All those mighty powers that opposed God and resisted his reign. The words used here do not seem intended to denote the several departments or forms of opposition, but to be general terms, meaning that whatever opposed God should be subdued. They include, of course, the kingdoms of this world; the sins, pride, and corruption of the human heart; the powers of darkness - the spiritual dominions that oppose God on earth, and in hell; and death and the grave. All shalt be completely subdued, and cease to interpose any obstacles to the advancement of his kingdom and to his universal reign. A monarch reigns when all his enemies are subdued or destroyed; or when they are prevented from opposing his will, even though all should not voluntarily submit to his will. The following remarks of Prof. Bush present a plausible and ingenious view of this difficult passage, and they are, therefore, subjoined here. “If the opinion of the eminent critic, Storr, may be admitted, that the kingdom here said to be delivered up to the Father is not the kingdom of Christ, but the rule and dominion of all adverse power - an opinion rendered very probable by the following words: “when he shall have “put down” (Greek: “done away, abolished”) all rule, and all authority and power,” and 1 Corinthians 15:25, “till he hath put all “enemies” under his feet” - then is the passage of identical import with Revelation 11:15, referring to precisely the same period: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of the world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever. It is, therefore, we conceive, but a special mode of denoting the “transfer,” the “making over” of the kingdoms of this world from their former despotic and antichristian rulers to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ, the appointed heir and head of all things, whose kingdom is to be everlasting.
If this interpretation be correct, we are prepared to advance a step further, and suggest that the phrase, “he shall have delivered up” (Greek, παραδῷ paradō), be understood as an instance of the idiom in which the verb is used without any personal nominative, but has reference to the “purpose of God as expressed in the Scriptures;” so that the passage may be read,” Then cometh the end (that is, not the close, the final winding up, but the perfect development, expansion, completion, consummation of the divine plans in regard to this world), when the prophetic announcements of the Scriptures require the delivering up (that is, the making over) of all adverse dominion into the hands of the Messiah, to whose supremacy we are taught to expect that everything will finally be made subject” - “Illustrations of Scripture.” A more extended examination of this difficult passage may be seen in Storr’s Opuscula, vol. i. pp. 274-282. See also Biblical Repository, vol. 3:pp. 748-755.
For he must reign - It is fit, or proper (δει dei), that he should reign until this is accomplished. It is proper that the mediatorial kingdom should continue till this great work is effected. The word “must” here refers to the propriety of this continuance of his reign, and to the fact that this was contemplated and predicted as the work which he would accomplish. He came to subdue all his enemies; see –Psalms 2:6-10; or Psalms 110:1, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Paul, doubtless, had this passage in his eye as affirming the necessity that he should reign until all his foes should be subdued. That this refers to the Messiah is abundantly clear from Matthew 22:44-45.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death - The other foes of God should be subdued “before” the final resurrection. The enmity of the human heart should be subdued by the triumphs of the gospel. The scepter of Satan should be broken and wrested from him. The false systems of religion that had tyrannized over people should be destroyed. The gospel should have spread everywhere, and the world be converted to God. And nothing should remain but to “subdue” or destroy death, and that would be by the resurrection. It would be:
(1) Because the resurrection would be a triumph over death, showing that there was one of greater power, and that the sceptre would be wrested from the hands of death.
(2) Because death would cease to reign. No more would ever die. All that should be raised up would live forever; and the effects of sin and rebellion in this world would be thus forever ended, and the kingdom of God restored. Death is here personified as a tyrant, exercising despotic power over the human race; and “he” is to be subdued.
For he hath put - God has put by promise, purpose, or decree.
All things under his feet - He has made all things subject to him; or has appointed him to be head over all things; compare Matthew 28:18; John 17:2; Ephesians 1:20-22. It is evident that Paul here refers to some promise or prediction respecting the Messiah, though he does not expressly quote any passage, or make it certain to what he refers. The “words” “hath put all things under his feet” are found in Psalms 8:6, as applicable to “man,” and as designed to show the dignity and dominion of man. Whether the psalm has any reference to the Messiah, has been made a question. Those who are disposed to see an examination of this question, may find it in Stuart on the Hebrews, on Hebrews 2:6-8; and in Excurses ix. of the same work, pp. 568-570. Ed. 1833. In the passage before us, it is not “necessary” to suppose that Paul meant to say that the psalm had a particular reference to the Messiah. All that is implied is, that it was the intention of God to subdue all things to him; this was the general strain of the prophecies in regard to him; this was the purpose of God; and this idea is accurately expressed in the words of the psalm; or these words will convey the “general sense” of the prophetic writings in regard to the Messiah. It may be true, also, that although the passage in Psalms 8:1-9 has no immediate and direct reference to the Messiah, yet it includes him as one who possessed human nature.
The psalm may be understood as affirming that all things were subjected to “human nature;” that is, human nature had dominion and control over all. But this was more particularly and eminently true of the Messiah than of any other man. In all other cases, great as was the dignity of man, yet his control over “all things” was limited and partial. In the Messiah it was to be complete and entire. His dominion, therefore, was a complete fulfillment, that is, “filling up” (πλήρωμα plērōma) of the words in the psalm. Under him alone was there to be an entire accomplishment of what is there said; and as that psalm was to be fulfilled, as it was to be true that it might be said of man that all things were subject to him, it was to be fulfilled mainly in the person of the Messiah, whose human nature was to be exalted above all things; compare Hebrews 2:6-9
But when he saith - When God says, or when it is said; when that promise is made respecting the Messiah.
It is manifest - It must be so; it must be so understood and interpreted.
That he is excepted ... - That God is excepted; that it cannot mean that the appointing power is to be subject to him. Paul may have made this remark for several reasons. Perhaps:
(1) To avoid the possibility of cavil, or misconstruction of the phrase, “all things,” as if it meant that God would be included, and would be subdued to him; as among the pagan, Jupiter is fabled to have expelled his father Saturn from his throne and from heaven.
(2) It might be to prevent the supposition, from what Paul had said of the extent of the Son’s dominion, that he was in any respect superior to the Father. It is implied by this exception here, that when the necessity for the special mediatorial kingdom of the Son should cease, there would be a resuming of the authority and dominion of the Father, in the manner in which it subsisted before the incarnation.
(3) The expression may also be regarded as intensive or emphatic; as denoting, in the most absolute sense, that there was nothing in the universe, but God, which was not subject to him. God was the only exception; and his dominion, therefore, was absolute over all other beings and things.
And when ... - In this future time, when this shall be accomplished. This implies that the time has not yet arrived, and that his dominion is now exercised, and that he is carrying forward his plans for the subjugation of all things to God.
Shall be subdued unto him - Shall be brought under subjection. When all his enemies shall be overcome and destroyed; or when the hearts of the redeemed shall be entirely subject to God. When God’s kingdom shall be fully established over the universe. It shall then be seen that he is Lord of all. In the previous verses he had spoken of the promise that all things should be subjected to God; in this, he speaks of its being actually done.
Then shall the Son also himself be subject ... - It has been proposed to render this, “even then shall the Son,” etc.; implying that he had been all along subject to God; had acted under his authority; and that this subjection would continue even then in a sense similar to that in which it had existed; and that Christ would then continue to exercise a delegated authority over his people and kingdom. See an article “on the duration of Christ’s kingdom,” by Prof. Mills, in Bib. Rep. vol. iii. p. 748ff. But to this interpretation there are objections:
(1) It is not the obvious interpretation.
(2) It does not seem to comport with the design and scope of the passage, which most evidently refers to some change, or rendering back of the authority of the Messiah; or to some resumption of authority by the Divinity, or by God as God, in a different sense from what existed under the Messiah.
(3) Such a statement would be unnecessary and vain. Who could reasonably doubt that the Son would be as much subject to God when all things had been subdued to him as he was before?
(4) It is not necessary to suppose this in order to reconcile the passage with what is said of the perpetuity of Christ’s kingdom and his eternal reign. That he would reign; that his kingdom would be perpetual, and that it would be unending, was indeed clearly predicted; see 2 Samuel 7:16; Psalms 45:6; Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:14; Luke 1:22-23; Hebrews 1:8. But these predictions may be all accomplished on the supposition that the special mediatorial kingdom of the Messiah shall be given up to God, and that he shall be subject to him. For:
- His kingdom will be perpetual, in contradistinction from the kingdoms of this world. They are fluctuating, changing, short in their duration. His shall not cease, and shall continue to the end of time.
- His kingdom shall be perpetual, because those who are brought under the laws of God by him shall remain subject to those laws forever. The sceptre never shall be broken, and the kingdom shall abide to all eternity.
- Christ, the Son of God, in his divine nature, as God, shall never cease to reign.
As Mediator, he may resign his commission and his special office, having made an atonement, having recovered his people, having protected and guided them to heaven. Yet as one with the Father; as the “Father of the everlasting age” Isaiah 9:6, he shall not cease to reign. The functions of a special office may have been discharged, and delegated power laid down, and that which appropriately belongs to him in virtue of his own nature and relations may be resumed and executed forever; and it shall still be true that the reign of the Son of God, in union, or in oneness with the Father, shall continue forever.
(5) The interpretation which affirms that the Son shall then be subject to the Father in the sense of laying down his delegated authority, and ceasing to exercise his mediatorial reign, has been the common interpretation of all times. This remark is of value only, because, in the interpretation of plum words, it is not probable that people of all classes and ranks in different ages would err.
The Son also himself - The term “Son of God” is applied to the Lord Jesus with reference to his human nature, his incarnation by the Holy Spirit, and his resurrection from the dead; see the note on Romans 1:4. (For the evidence of the eternal sonship, see the Supplementary Note on the same passage.) It refers, I apprehend, to that in this place. It does not mean that the second person in the Trinity, as such, should be subject to the first; but it means the Incarnate Son, the Mediator, the man that was born and that was raised from the dead, and to whom this wide dominion had been given, should resign that dominion, and that the government should be re-assumed by the Divinity as God. As man, he shall cease to exercise any distinct dominion. This does not mean, evidently, that the union of the divine and human nature will be dissolved; nor that important purposes may not be answered by that continued union forever; nor that the divine perfections may not shine forth in some glorious way through the man Christ Jesus; but that the purpose of government shall no longer be exercised in that way; the mediatorial kingdom, as such, shall no longer be continued, and power shall be exercised by God as God. The redeemed will still adore their Redeemer as their incarnate God, and dwell upon the remembrance of his work and upon his perfections Revelation 1:5-6; Revelation 5:12; Revelation 11:15; but not as exercising the special power which he now has, and which was needful to effect their redemption.
That God may be all in all - That God may be supreme; that the Divinity, the Godhead, may rule; and that it may be seen that he is the Sovereign over all the universe. By the word “God” (ὁ Θεὸς ho Theos), Whitby and Hammond, I think correctly, understand the Godhead, the Divine Nature, the Divinity, consisting of the three persons, without respect to any special office or kingdom.
Else what shall they do ... - The apostle here resumes the argument for the resurrection which was interrupted at 1 Corinthians 15:19. He goes on to state further consequences which must follow from the denial of this doctrine, and thence infers that the doctrine must be true. There is, perhaps, no passage of the New Testament in respect to which there has been a greater variety of interpretation than this; and the views of expositors now by no means harmonize in regard to its meaning. It is possible that Paul may here refer to some practice or custom which existed in his time respecting baptism, the knowledge of which is now lost. The various opinions which have been entertained in regard to this passage, together with an examination of them, may be seen in Pool’s Synopsis, Rosenmuller, and Bloomfield. It may be not useless just to refer to some of them, that the perplexity of commentators may be seen:
(1) It has been held by some that by “the dead” here is meant the Messiah who was put to death, the plural being used for the singular, meaning “the dead one.”
(2) By others, that the word “baptized” here is taken in the sense of washing, cleansing, purifying, as in Matthew 8:4; Hebrews 9:10; and that the sense is, that the dead were carefully washed and purified when buried, with the hope of the resurrection, and, as it were, preparatory to that.
(3) By others, that to be “baptized for the dead” means to be baptized as dead, being baptized into Christ, and buried with him in baptism, and that by their immersion they were regarded as dead.
(4) By others, that the apostle refers to a custom of vicarious baptism, or being baptized for those who were dead, referring to the practice of having some person baptized in the place of one who had died without baptism. This was the opinion of Grotius, Michaelis, Tertullian, and Ambrose. Such was the estimate which was formed, it is supposed, of the importance of baptism, that when one had died without being baptized, some other person was baptized over his dead body in his place. That this custom prevailed in the church after the time of Paul, has been abundantly proved by Grotius, and is generally admitted. But the objections to this interpretation are obvious:
- There is no evidence that such a custom prevailed in the time of Paul.
- It cannot be believed that Paul would give countenance to a custom so senseless and so contrary to the Scripture, or that he would make it the foundation of a solemn argument.
- It does not accord with the strain and purpose of his argument. If this custom had been referred to, his design would have led him to say, “What will become of them for whom others have been baptized? Are we to believe that they have perished?”
- It is far more probable that the custom referred to in this opinion arose from an erroneous interpretation of this passage of Scripture, than that it existed in the time of Paul.
(5) There remain two other opinions, both of which are plausible, and one of which is probably the true one. One is, that the word baptized is used here as it is in Matthew 20:22-23; Mark 10:39; Luke 12:50, in the sense of being overwhelmed with calamities, trials, and sufferings; and as meaning that the apostles and others were subjected to great trials on account of the dead, that is, in the hope of the resurrection; or with the expectation that the dead would rise. This is the opinion of Lightfoot, Rosenmuller, Pearce, Homberg, Krause, and of Prof. Robinson (see the Lexicon article Βαπτίζω Baptizō), and has much that is plausible. That the word is thus used to denote a deep sinking into calamities, there can be no doubt. And that the apostles and early Christians subjected themselves, or were subjected to great and overwhelming calamities on account of the hope of the resurrection, is equally clear. This interpretation, also, agrees with the general tenor of the argument; and is an argument for the resurrection. And it implies that this was the full and constant belief of all who endured these trials, that there would be a resurrection of the dead. The argument would be, that they should be slow to adopt an opinion which would imply that all their sufferings were endured for nothing, and that God had supported them in this in vain; that God had plunged them into all these sorrows, and had sustained them in them only to disappoint them. That this view is plausible, and that it suits the strain of remark in the following verses, is evident. But there are objections to it:
- It is not the usual and natural meaning of the word “baptize.”
- A metaphorical use of a word should not be resorted to unless necessary.
- The literal meaning of the word here will as well meet the design of the apostle as the metaphorical.
- This interpretation does not relieve us from any of the difficulties in regard to the phrase “for the dead;” and,
- It is altogether more natural to suppose that the apostle would derive his argument from the baptism of all who were Christians, than from the figurative baptism of a few who went into the perils of martyrdom - The other opinion, therefore, is, that the apostle here refers to baptism as administered to all believers.
This is the most correct opinion; is the most simple, and best meets the design of the argument. According to this, it means that they had been baptized with the hope and expectation of a resurrection of the dead. They had received this as one of the leading doctrines of the gospel when they were baptized. It was a part of their full and firm belief that the dead would rise. The argument according to this interpretation is, that this was an essential article of the faith of a Christian; that it was embraced by all; that it constituted a part of their very profession; and that for anyone to deny it was to deny that which entered into the very foundation of the Christian faith.
If they embraced a different doctrine, if they denied the doctrine of the resurrection, they struck a blow at the very nature of Christianity, and dashed all the hopes which had been cherished and expressed at their baptism. And what could they do? What would become of them! What would be the destiny of all who were thus baptized? Was it to be believed that all their hopes at baptism were vain and that they would all perish? As such a belief could not be entertained, the apostle infers that, if they held to Christianity at all, they must hold to this doctrine as a part of their very profession. According to this view, the phrase “for the dead” means, with reference to the dead; with direct allusion to the condition of the dead, and their hopes; with a belief that the dead will rise. It is evident that the passage is elliptical, and this seems to be as probable as any interpretation which has been suggested. Mr. Locke says, frankly, “What this baptizing for the dead was, I know not; but it seems, by the following verses, to be something wherein they exposed themselves to the danger of death.” Tyndal translates it, “over the dead.” Doddridge renders it, “in the room of the dead, who are just fallen in the cause of Christ, but are yet supported by a succession of new converts, who immediately offer themselves to fill up their places, as ranks of soldiers that advance to the combat in the room of their companions who have just been slain in their sight.”
And why stand we in jeopardy - Why do we constantly risk our lives, and encounter danger of every kind? This refers particularly to Paul himself and the other apostles, who were constantly exposed to peril by land or by sea in the arduous work of making known the gospel. The argument here is plain. It is, that such efforts would be vain, useless, foolish, unless there was to be a glorious resurrection. They had no other object in encountering these dangers than to make known the truths connected with that glorious future state; and if there were no such future state, it would be wise for them to avoid these dangers. “It would not be supposed that we would encounter these perils constantly, unless we were sustained with the hope of the resurrection, and unless we had evidence which convinced our own minds that there would be such a resurrection.”
Every hour - Constantly; compare 2 Corinthians 11:26. So numerous were their dangers, that they might be said to occur every hour. This was particularly the case in the instance to which he refers in Ephesus, 1 Corinthians 15:32.
I protest - (νὴ nē). This is a particle of swearing, and denotes a strong asseveration. The subject was important; it deeply interested his feelings; and he makes in regard to it a strong protestation; compare John 3:5. “I solemnly affirm, or declare.”
By your rejoicing - Many manuscripts here read “by our rejoicing, but the correct reading is doubtless that which is in the present Greek text, by your rejoicing. The meaning of the phrase, which is admitted by all to be obscure, is probably, “I protest, or solemnly declare by the glorying or exultation which I have on your account; by all my ground of glorying in you; by all the confident boasting and expectation which I have of your salvation.” He hoped for their salvation. He had labored for that. He had boasted of it, and confidently believed that they would be saved. Regarding that as safe and certain, he says it was just as certain that he died daily on account of the hope and belief of the resurrcction. “By our hopes and joys as Christians; by our dearest expectations and grounds of confidence I swear, or solemnly declare, that I die daily.” People swear or affirm by their objects of dearest affection and desire; and the meaning here is, “So certainly as I confidently expect your salvation, and so certainly as we look to eternal life, so certain is it that I am constantly exposed to die, and suffer that which may he called a daily death.”
Which I have in Christ Jesus - The rejoicing, boasting, glorying in regard to you which I am permitted to cherish through the grace and favor of the Saviour. His boasting, or confident expectation in regard to the Corinthians, he enjoyed only by the mercy of the Lord Jesus, and he delighted to trace it to him.
I die daily - compare Romans 8:36. I endure so many sufferings and persecutions, that it may be said to be a daily dying. I am constantly in danger of my life; and my sufferings each day are equal to the pains of death. Probably Paul here referred particularly to the perils and trials which he then endured at Ephesus; and his object was to impress their minds with the firmness of his belief in the certainty of the resurrection, on account of which he suffered so much, and to show them that all their hopes rested also on this doctrine.
If after the manner of men - Margin, “To speak after the manner of men” (κατὰ ἄνθρωπον kata anthrōpon). There has been a great difference of opinion in regard to the meaning of these words. The following are some of the interpretations proposed:
(1) If I have fought after the manner of people, who act only with reference to this life, and on the ordinary principles of human conduct, as people fought with wild beasts in the amphitheater.
(2) Or if, humanly speaking, or speaking after the manner of people, I have fought, referring to the fact that he had contended with mcn who should be regarded as wild beasts.
(3) Or, that I may speak of myself as people speak, that I may freely record the events of my life, and speak of what has occurred.
(4) Or, I have fought with wild beasts as far as it was possible for man to do it while life survived.
(5) Or, as much as was in the power of man, who had destined me to this; if, so far as depended on man’s will, I fought, supposing that the infuriated multitude demanded that I should be thus punished. So Chrysostom understands it.
(6) Or, that Paul actually fought with wild beasts at Ephesus.
(7) Others regard this as a supposable case; on the supposition that I had fought with wild beasts at Ephesus. Amidst this variety of interpretation, it is not easy to determine the true sense of this difficult passage.
The following thoughts, however, may perhaps make it clear:
(1) Paul refers to some real occurrence at Ephesus. This is manifest from the whole passage. It is not a supposable case.
(2) It was some one case when his life was endangered, and when it was regarded as remarkable that he escaped and survived; compare 2 Corinthians 1:8-10.
(3) It was common among the Romans, and the ancients generally, to expose criminals to fight with wild beasts in the amphitheater for the amusement of the populace.
In such cases it was but another form of dooming them to certain death, since there was no human possibility of escape; see Adam’s Rom. Ant., p. 344. That this custom prevailed at the East, is apparent from the following extract front Rosenmuller; and there is no improbability in the supposition that Paul was exposed to this - “The barbarous custom of making men combat with wild beasts has prevailed in the East down to the most modern times. Jurgen Andersen, who visited the states of the Great Mogul in 1646, gives an account in his Travels of such a combat with animals, which he witnessed at Agra, the residence of the Great Mogul. His description affords a lively image of those bloody spectacles in which ancient Rome took so much pleasure, and to which the above words of the apostle refer. Alumardan-chan, the governor of Cashmire, who sat among the chans, stood up, and exclaimed, ‘It is the will and desire of the great mogul, Schah Choram, that if there are any valiant heroes who will show their bravery by combating with wild beasts, armed with shield and sword, let them come forward; if they conquer, the mogul will load them with great favor, and clothe their countenance with gladness.’ Upon this three persons advanced, and offered to undertake the combat.
Alamardan-charn again cried aloud, ‘None should have any other weapon than a shield and a sword; and whosoever has any breastplate under his clothes should lay it aside, and fight honorably.’ Hereupon a powerful lion was let into the garden, and one of the three men above mentioned advanced against him; the lion, upon seeing his enemy, ran violently up to him; the man, however, defended himself bravely, and kept off the lion for a good while, until his arms grew tired; the lion then seized the shield with one paw, and with the other his antagonist’s right arm, so that he was not able to use his weapon; the latter, seeing his life in danger, took with his left hand his Indian dagger, which he had sticking in his girdle, and thrust it as far as possible into the lion’s mouth; the lion then let him go; the man, however, was not idle, but cut the lion almost through with one stroke, and after that entirely to pieces.
Upon this victory the common people began to shout, and call out, ‘Thank God. he has conquered.’ But the mogul said, smiling, to this conqueror, ‘Thou art a brave warrior, and hast fought admirably! But did I not command to fight honorably only with shield and sword? But, like a thief, thou hast stolen the life of the lion with thy dagger.’ And immediately he ordered two men to rip up his belly, and to place him upon an elephant, and, as an example to others, to lead him about, which was done on the spot. Soon after, a tiger was set loose; against which a tall, powerful man advanced with an air of defiance, as if he would cut the tiger up. The tiger, however, was far too sagacious and active, for, in the first attack, he seized the combatant by the neck, tore his throat, and then his whole body in pieces. This enraged another good fellow, but little, and of ordinary appearance, from whom one would not have expected it: he rushed forward like one mad, and the tiger on his part undauntedly flew at his enemy; but the man at the first attack cut off his two fore paws; so that he fell, and the man cut his body to pieces.
Upon this the king cried, ‘What is your name?’ He answered, ‘My name is Geyby.’ Soon after one of the king’s servants came and brought him a piece of gold brocade, and said, ‘Geyby, receive the robe of honor with which the mogul presents you.’ He took the garment with great reverence, kissed it three times, pressing it each time to his eyes and breast, then held it up, and in silence put up a prayer for the health of the mogul; and when he concluded it, he cried, ‘May God let him become as great as Tamerlane, from whom he is descended. May he live 700 years, and his house continue to eternity!’ Upon this he was summoned by a chamberlain to go from the garden up to the king; and when he came to the entrance, he was received by two chans, who conducted him between them to kiss the mogul’s feet. And when he was going to retire, the king said to him, ‘Praised be thou, Geyby-chan, for thy valiant deeds, and this name shalt thou keep to eternity. I am your gracious master, and thou art my slave’“ - Bush’s Illustrations.
(4) It is the most natural interpretation to suppose that Paul, on some occasion, had such a contest with a wild beast at Ephesus. It is that which would occur to the great mass of the readers of the New Testament as the obvious meaning of the passage.
(5) The state of things in Ephesus when Paul was there Acts 19:0 was such as to make it nowise improbable that he would be subjected to such a trial.
(6) It is no objection to this supposition that Luke has not recorded this occurrence in the Acts of the Apostles. No conclusion adverse to this supposition can be drawn from the mere silence of the historian. Mere silence is not a contradiction. There is no reason to suppose that Luke designed to record all the perils which Paul endured. Indeed, we know from 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, that there must have been many dangers which Paul encountered which are not referred to by Luke. It must have happened, also, that many important events must have taken place during Paul’s abode at Ephesus which are not recorded by Luke; Acts 19:0. Nor is it any objection to this supposition that Paul does not, in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, mention particularly this contest with a wild beast at Ephesus. His statement there is general. He does not descend into particulars. Yet, in 2 Corinthians 11:23, he says that he was “in deaths oft,” - a statement which is in accordance with the supposition that in Ephesushe may have been exposed to death in some cruel manner.
(7) The phrase κατὰ ἄνθρωπον kata anthrōpon, as a “man,” may mean, that, “to human appearance,” or so far as man was concerned, bad it not been for some divine interposition, he would have been a prey to the wild beasts. Had not God interposed and kept him from harm, as in the case of the viper at Melita Acts 28:5, he would have been put to death. He was sentenced to this; was thrown to the wild beast; had every human prospect of dying; it was done on account of his religion; and but for the interposition of God, he would have died. This I take to be the fair and obvious meaning of this passage, demanded alike by the language which is used and by the tenor of the argument in which it is found.
What advantageth it me? - What benefit shall I have? Why should I risk my life in this manner? see the note on 1 Corinthians 15:19.
Let us eat and drink - These words are taken from Isaiah 22:13. In their original application they refer to the Jews when besieged by Sennacherib and the army of the Assyrians. The prophet says, that instead of weeping, and fasting, and humiliation, as became them in such circumstances, they had given themselves up to feasting and revelry, and that their language was, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die that is, there is no use in offering resistance, or in calling upon God. We must die; and we may as well enjoy life as long as it lasts, and give ourselves up to unrestrained indulgence. Paul does not quote these words as having any original reference to the subject of the resurrection, but as language appropriately expressing the idea, that if there is no future state; if no resurrection of the dead; if no happy result of toils and sufferings in the future world, it is vain and foolish to subject ourselves to trials and privations here. We should rather make the most of this life; enjoy all the comfort we can; and make pleasure our chief good, rather than look for happiness in a future state. This seems to be the language of the great mass of the world. They look to no future state. They have no prospect, no desire of heaven; and they, therefore, seek for happiness here, and give themselves up to unrestrained enjoyment in this life.
Tomorrow - Very soon. We have no security of life; and death is so near that it may be said we must die tomorrow.
We die - We must die. The idea here is, “We must die, without the prospect of living again, unless the doctrine of the resurrection be true.”
Be not deceived - By your false teachers, and by their smooth and plausible arguments. This is an exhortation. He had thus far been engaged in an argument on the subject. He now entreats them to beware lest they be deceived - a danger to which they were very liable from their circumstances. There was, doubtless, much that was plausible in the objections to the doctrine of the resurrection; there was much subtilty and art in their teachers, who denied this doctrine; perhaps, there was something in the character of their own minds, accustomed to subtle and abstruse inquiry rather than to an examination of simple facts, that exposed them to this danger.
Evil communications - The word rendered “communications” means, properly, a being together; companionship; close contact; converse. It refers not to discourse only, but to contact, or companionship. Paul quotes these words from Menander (in Sentent. Comicor. Greek p. 248, ed. Steph.), a Greek poet. He thus shows that he was, in some degree at least, familiar with the Greek writers; compare the note on Acts 17:28. Menander was a celebrated comic poet of Athens, educated under Theophrastus. His writings were replete with elegance, refined wit, and judicious observations. Of one hundred and eight comedies which he wrote, nothing remains but a few fragments. He is said to have drowned himself, in the 52nd year of his age, 293 b.c., because the compositions of his rival Philemon obtained more applause than his own. Patti quoted this sentiment from a Greek poet, perhaps, because it might be supposed to have weight with the Greeks. It was a sentiment of one of their own writers, and here was an occasion in which it was exactly applicable. It is implied in this, that there were some persons who were endeavoring to corrupt their minds from the simplicity of the gospel. The sentiment of the passage is, that the contact of evil-minded men, or that the close friendship and conversation of those who hold erroneous opinions, or who are impure in their lives, tends to corrupt the morals, the heart, the sentiments of others. The particular thing to which Paul here applies it is the subject of the resurrection. Such contact would tend to corrupt the simplicity of their faith, and pervert their views of the truth of the gospel, and thus corrupt their lives. It is always true that such contact has a pernicious effect on the mind and the heart. It is done:
(1) By their direct effort to corrupt the opinions, and to lead others into sin.
(2) By the secret, silent influence of their words, and conversation, and example. We have less horror at vice by becoming familiar with it; we look with less alarm on error when we hear it often expressed; we become less watchful and cautious when we are constantly with the frivilous, the worldly, the unprincipled, and the vicious. Hence, Christ sought that there should be a pure society, and that his people should principally seek the friendship and conversation of each other, and withdraw from the world. It is in the way that Paul here refers to, that Christians embrace false doctrines; that they lose their spirituality, love of prayer, fervor of piety, and devotion to God. It is in this way that the simple are beguiled, the young corrupted, and that vice, and crime, and infidelity spread over the world.
Awake to righteousness - See the note on Romans 13:11. The word here translated “awake” denotes, properly, to awake up from a deep sleep or torpor; and is usually applied to those who awake, or become sober after drunkenness. The phrase “to righteousness” (δικαίως dikaiōs) may mean either “rouse to the ways of righteousness; to a holy life; to sound doctrine,” etc.; or it may mean “as it is right and just that you should do.” Probably the latter is the correct idea, and then the sense will be, “Arouse from stupidity on this subject; awake from your conscious security; be alarmed, as it is right and proper that you should do, for you are surrounded by dangers, and by those who would lead you into error and vice; rouse from such wild and delusive opinions as these persons have, and exercise a constant vigilance as becomes those who are the friends of God and the expectants of a blessed resurrection.”
And sin not - Do not err; do not depart from the truth and from holiness; do not embrace a doctrine which is not only erroneous, but the tendency of which is to lead into sin. It is implied here, that if they suffered themselves to embrace a doctrine which was a denial of the resurrection, the effect would be that they would fall into sin or that a denial of that doctrine led to a life of self-indulgence and transgression. This truth is everywhere seen and against this effect Paul sought to, guard them. He did not regard the denial of the doctrine of the resurrection as a harmless speculation, but as leading to most dangerous consequences in regard to their manner of life or their conduct.
For some have not - Some among you. You are surrounded by strangers to God; you have those among you who would lead you into error and sin.
I speak this to your shame - To your shame as a church; because you have had abundant opportunities to know the truth, and because it is a subject of deep disgrace that there are any in your bosom who deny the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and who are strangers to the grace of God.
But some man will say - An objection will be made to the statement that the dead will be raised. This verse commences the second part of the chapter, in which the apostle meets the objections to the argument. and shows in what manner the dead will be raised. See the Analysis. That objections were made to the doctrine is apparent from 1 Corinthians 15:12.
How are the dead raised up? - (Πῶς Pōs.) In what way or manner; by what means. This I regard as the first objection which would be made, or the first inquiry on the subject which the apostle answers. The question is one which would be likely to be made by the subtle and doubting Greeks. The apostle, indeed, does not draw it out at length, or state it fully, but it may be regarded probably as substantially the same as that which has been made in all ages. “How is it possible that the dead should be raised? They return to their native dust. They become entirely disorganized. Their dust may be scattered; how shall it be re-collected? Or they may be burned at the stake, and how shall the particles which composed their bodies be recollected and re-organized? Or they may be devoured by the beasts of the field, the fowls of heaven, or the fishes of the sea, and their flesh may have served to constitute the food of other animals, and to form their bodies; how can it be re-collected and re-organized? Or it may have been the food of plants, and like other dust have been used to constitute the leaves or the flowers of plants, and the trunks of trees; and how can it be remoulded into a human frame?” This objection the apostle answers in 1 Corinthians 15:36-38.
And with what body do they come? - This is the second objection or inquiry which he answers. It may be understood as meaning, “What will be the form, the shape, the size, the organization of the new body? Are we to suppose that all the matter which at any time entered into its composition here is to be recollected, and to constitute a colossal frame? Are we to suppose that it will be the same as it is here, with the same organization, the same necessities, the same needs? Are we to suppose that the aged will be raised as aged, and the young as young, and that infancy will be raised in the same state, and remain such for ever? Are we to suppose that the bodies will be gross, material, and needing support and nourishment, or, that there will be a new organization?” All these and numerous other questions have been asked, in regard to the bodies at the resurrection; and it is by no means improbable that they were asked by the subtle and philosophizing Greeks, and that they constituted a part of the reasoning of those who denied the doctrine of the resurrection. This question, or objection, the apostle answers 1 Corinthians 15:39-50. It has been doubted, indeed, whether he refers in this verse to two inquiries - to the possibility of the resurrection, and to the kind of bodies that should be raised; but it is the most obvious interpretation of the verse, and it is certain that in his argument he discusses both these points.
Thou fool - Foolish, inconsiderate man! The meaning is, that it was foolish to make this objection, when the same difficulty existed in an undeniable fact which fell under daily observation. A man was a fool to urge that as an objection to religion which must exist in the undeniable and everyday facts which they witnessed. The idea is, “The same difficulty may be started about the growth of grain. Suppose a man who had never seen it, were to be told that it was to be put into the earth; that it was to die; to be decomposed; and that from the decayed kernel there should be seen to start up first a slender, green, and tender spire of grass, and that this was to send up a strong stalk, and was to produce hundreds of similar kernels at some distant period. These facts would be as improbable to him as the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. When he saw the kernel laid in the ground; when he saw it decay; when apparently it was returning to dust, he would ask, How can these be connected with the production of similar grain? Are not all the indications that it will be totally corrupted and destroyed?”
Yet, says Paul, this is connected with the hope of the harvest, and this fact should remove all the objection which is derived from the fact that the body returns to its native dust. The idea is, that there is an analogy, and that the main objection in the one case would lie equally well against the acknowledged and indisputable fact in the other. It is evident, however, that this argument is of a popular character, and is not to be pressed to the quick; nor are we to suppose that the resemblance will be in all respects the same. It is to be used as Paul used it. The objection was, that the body died, and returned to dust, and could not, therefore, rise again. The reply of Paul is, “You may make the same objection to grain that is sown. That dies also. The main body of the kernel decays. In itself there is no prospect that it will spring up. Should it stop here, and had you never seen a grain of wheat grow; had you only seen it in the earth, as you have seen the body in the grave, there would be the same difficulty as to how it would produce other grains, which there is about the resurrection of the body.”
Is not quickened - Does not become alive; does not grow.
Except it die - See the note on John 12:24. The main body of the grain decays that it may become food and nourishment to the tender germ. Perhaps it is implied here also that there was a fitness that people should die in order to obtain the glorious body of the resurrection, in the same way as it is fit that the kernel should die, in order that there may be a new and beautiful harvest.
And that which thou sowest - The seed which is sown.
Not that body that shall be - You sow one kernel which is to produce many others. They shall not be the same that is sown. They will be new kernels raised from that; of the same kind, indeed, and showing their intimate and necessary connection with that which is sown. It is implied here that the body which will be raised will not be the same in the sense that the same particles of matter shall compose it, but the same only in the sense that it will have sprung up from that; will constitute the same order, rank, species of being, and be subject to the same laws, and deserve the same course of treatment as that which died; as the grain produced is subject to the same laws, and belongs to the same rank, order, and species as that which is sown. And as the same particles of matter which are sown do not enter into that which shall be in the harvest, so it is taught that the same particles of matter which constitute the body when it dies, do not constitute the new body at the resurrection.
But bare grain - Mere grain; a mere kernel, without any husk, leaf, blade, or covering of any kind. Those are added in the process of reproduction. The design of this is to make it appear more remarkable, and to destroy the force of the objection. It was not only not the grain that should be produced, but it was without the appendages and ornaments of blade, and flower, and beard of the new grain. How could anyone tell but what it would be so in the resurrection? How could any know but what there might be appendages and ornaments there, which were not connected with the body that died?
It may chance of wheat ... - For example; or suppose it be wheat or any other grain. The apostle adduces this merely for an example; not to intimate that there is any chance about it.
But God giveth it a body ... - God gives to the seed sown its own proper body, formation, and growth. The word body here, as applied to grain, seems to mean the whole system, or arrangement of roots, stalks, leaves, flowers, and kernels that start out of the seed that is sown The meaning is, that such a form is produced from the seed sown as God pleases. Paul here traces the result to God, to show that there is no chance, and that it did not depend on the nature of things, but was dependent on the wise arrangement of God. There was nothing in the decaying kernel itself that would produce this result; but God chose that it should be so. There is nothing in the decaying body of the dead which in itself should lead to the resurrection; but God chose it should be so.
As it hath pleased him - As he chose. It is by his arrangement and agency. Though it is by regular laws, yet it is as God pleases. He acts according to his own pleasure, in the formation of each root, and stalk, and kernel of grain. It is, probably, here intimated that God would give to each one of the dead at the resurrection such a body as he should choose, though it will be, doubtless, in accordance with general laws.
And to every seed his own body - That which appropriately belongs to it; which it is suited to produce; which is of the same kind. He does not cause a stalk of rye to grow from a kernel of wheat; nor of maize from barley; nor of hemp from lenthes. He has fixed proper laws, and he takes care that they shall be observed. So it will be in the resurrection. Everyone shall have his own, that is, his proper body - a body which shall belong to him, and be suited to him. The wicked shall not rise with the body of the just, or with a body adapted to heaven; nor shall the saint rise with a body adapted to perdition. There shall be a fitness or appropriateness in the new body to the character of him who is raised. The argument here is designed to meet the inquiry how should the body be raised, and it is that there is nothing more remarkable and impossible in the doctrine of the resurrection, than in the fact constantly before us, that grain that seems to rot sends up a shoot or stalk, and is reproduced in a wonderful and beautiful manner. In a manner similar to this, the body will be raised; and the illustration of Paul meets all the difficulties about the fact of the resurrection. It cannot be shown that one is more difficult than the other; and as the facts of vegetation are constantly passing before our eyes, we ought not to deem it strange if similar facts shall take place hereafter in regard to the resurrection of the dead.
All flesh is not the same flesh - This verse and the following are designed to answer the question 1 Corinthians 15:35, “with what bodies do they come?” And the argument here is, that there are many kinds of bodies; that all are not alike; that while they are bodies, yet they partake of different qualities, forms, and properties; and that, therefore, it is not absurd to suppose that God may transform the human body into a different form, and cause it to be raised up with somewhat different properties in the future world. Why, the argument is, why should it be regarded as impossible? Why is it to be held that the human body may not undergo a transformation, or that it will be absurd to suppose that it may be different in some respects from what it is now? Is it not a matter of fact that there is a great variety of bodies even on the earth? The word flesh here is used to denote body, as it often is. 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 1:22, Philippians 1:24; Colossians 2:5; 1 Peter 4:6.
The idea here is, that although all the bodies of animals may be composed essentially of the same elements, yet God has produced a wonderful variety in their organization, strength, beauty, color, and places of abode, as the air, earth, and water. It is not necessary, therefore, to suppose that the body that shall be raised shall be precisely like that which we have here. It is certainly possible that there may be as great a difference between that and our present body, as between the most perfect form of the human frame here and the lowest repthe. It would still be a body, and there would be no absurdity in the transformation. The body of the worm; the chrysalis, and the butterfly is the same. It is the same animal still. Yet how different the gaudy and frivilous butterfly from the creeping and offensive caterpillar! So there may be a similar change in the body of the believer, and yet be still the same. Of a sceptic on this subject we would ask, whether, if there had been a revelation of the changes which a caterpillar might undergo before it became a butterfly - a new species of existence adapted to a new element, requiring new food, and associated with new and other beings - if he had never seen such a transformation, would it not be attended with all the difficulty which now encompasses the doctrine of the resurrection? The sceptic would no more have believed it on the authority of revelation than he will believe the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. And no infidel can prove that the one is attended with any more difficulty or absurdity than the other.
There are also celestial bodies - The planets; the stars; the host of heaven; see 1 Corinthians 15:41.
And bodies terrestrial - On earth; earthly. He refers here to the bodies of human beings, beasts, birds, etc.; perhaps, also, of trees and vegetables. The sense is, “There is a great variety of bodies. Look upon the heavens, and see the splendor of the sun, the moon, and the stars. And then look upon the earth, and see the bodies there - the bodies of people, and brutes, and insects. You see here two entire classes of bodies. You see how they differ. Can it be deemed strange if there should be a difference between our bodies when on earth and when in heaven? Do we not, in fact, see a vast difference between what strikes our eye here on earth and in the sky? And why should we deem it strange that between bodies adapted to live here and bodies adapted to live in heaven, there should be a difference, like that which is seen between the objects which appear on earth and those which appear in the sky?” The argument is a popular one; but it is striking, and meets the object which he has in view.
The glory of the celestial is one - The splendor, beauty, dignity, magnificence of the heavenly bodies differs much from those on earth. That is one thing; the beauty of earthly objects is another and a different thing. Beautiful as may be the human frame; beautiful as may be the plumage of birds; beautiful as may be the flower, the fossil, the mineral, the topaz, or the diamond; yet they differ from the heavenly bodies, and are not to be compared with them. Why should we deem it strange that there may be a similar difference between the body as adapted to its residence here and as adapted to its residence in heaven?
There is one glory of the sun ... - The sun has one degree of splendor, and the moon another, and so also the stars. They differ from each other in magnitude, in brightness, in beauty. The idea in this verse differs from that in the former. In that 1 Corinthians 15:40 Paul says, that there was a difference between the different classes of bodies; between those in heaven and those on earth. He here says, that in the former class, in the heavenly bodies themselves, there was a difference. They not only differed from those on earth, but they differed from each other. The sun was more splendid than the moon, and one star more beautiful than another. The idea here is, therefore, not only that the bodies of the saints in heaven shall differ from those on earth, but that they shall differ among themselves, in a sense somewhat like the difference of the splendor of the sun, the moon, and the different stars. Though all shall be unlike what they were on earth, and all shall be glorious, yet there may be a difference in that splendor and glory. The argument is, since we see so great differences in fact in the works of God, why should we doubt that he is able to make the human body different from what it is now, and to endow it with immortal and eternal perfection?
So also is the resurrection - In a manner similar to the grain that is sown, and to the different degrees of splendor and magnificence in the bodies in the sky and on the earth. The dead shall be raised in a manner analogous to the springing up of grain; and there shall be a difference between the body here and the body in the resurrection.
It is sown - In death. As we sow or plant the kernel in the earth.
In corruption - In the grave; in a place where it shall be corrupt; in a form tending to putrefaction, disorganization, and dust.
It is raised in incorruption - It will be so raised. In the previous verses 1 Corinthians 15:36-41 he had reasoned from analogy, and had demonstrated that it was possible that the dead should rise, or that there was no greater difficulty attending it than actually occurred in the events which were in fact constantly taking place. He here states positively what would be, and affirms that it was not only possible, but that such a resurrection would actually occur. They body would be raised “in incorruption,” “uncorruptible” 1 Corinthians 15:52; that is, no more liable to decay, sickness, disorganization, and putrefaction. This is one characteristic of the body that shall be raised, that it shall be no more liable, as here, to wasting sickness, to disease, and to the loathsome corruption of the grave. That God can form a body of that kind, no one can doubt; that he actually will, the apostle positively affirms. That such will be the bodies of the saints is one of the most cheering prospects that can be presented to those who are here wasted away by sickness, and who look with dread and horror on the loathsome putrefaction of the tomb.
It is sown in dishonour - In the grave, where it is shut out from human view; hurried away from the sight of friends; loathsome and offensive as a mass turning to decay. There is, moreover, a kind of disgrace and ignominy attending it here, as under the curse of God, and, on account of sin, sentenced to the offensiveness of the grave.
It is raised in glory - In honor; in beauty; honored by God by the removal of the curse, and in a form and manner that shall be glorious. This refers to the fact that everything like dishonor, vileness, ignominy, which attends it here shall be removed there, and that the body shall bear a resemblance to the glorified body of Jesus Christ, Ephesians 3:21. It shall be adapted to a world of glory; and everything which here rendered it vile, valueless, cumbersome, offensive, or degraded, shall be there removed. Of course, every idea which we can get from this is chiefly negative, and consists in denying that the body will have there the qualities which here render it vile or loathsome. The word “glory” (δόξα doxa) means dignity, splendor, honor, excellence, perfection; and is used here as denoting the combination of all those things which shall rescue it from ignominy and disgrace.
It is sown in weakness - Weak, feeble, liable to decay. Here disease prostrates the strength, takes away its power, consigns it to the dust. It denotes the many weaknesses, frailties, and liabilities to sickness, to which we are here exposed, Its feeble powers are soon prostrate; its vital functions soon cease in death.
It is raised in power - This does not denote power like that of God, nor like the angels. It does not affirm that it shall be endued with remarkable and enormous physical strength, or that it shall have the power of performing what would now be regarded as miraculous. It is to be regarded as the opposite of the word “weakness,” and means that it shall be no longer liable to disease; no more overcome by the attacks of sickness; no more subject to the infirmities and weaknesses which it here experiences. It shall not be prostrate by sickness, nor overcome by fatigue. It shall be capable of the service of God without weariness and languor; it shall need no rest as it does here (see Revelation 7:15; compare Revelation 22:5); but it shall be in a world where there shall be no fatigue, lassitude, disease; but where there shall be ample power to engage in the service of God forever. There is, however, no improbability in supposing that the physical powers of man, as well as his intellectual, may be greatly augmented in heaven. But on this point there is no revelation.
It is sown a natural body - (σῶμα ψυχικὸν sōma psuchikon). This word, “natural,” denotes properly that which is endowed with “animal” life, having breath, or vitality. The word from which it is derived (ψυχή psuchē) denotes properly the breath; vital breath; the soul, as the vital principle; the animal soul, or the vital spirit; the soul, as the seat of the sentient desires, passions, and propensities; and then a living thing, an animal. It may be applied to any animal, or any living thing, whether brutes or men. It is distinguished from the soul or spirit (Πνεῦμα Pneuma), inasmuch as that more commonly denotes the rational spirit, the immortal soul, that which thinks, reasons, reflects, etc. The word “natural” here, therefore, means that which has “animal” life; which breathes and acts by the laws of the animal economy; that which draws in the breath of life; which is endowed with senses, and which has need of the supports of animal life, and of the refreshments derived from food, exercise, sleep, etc.
The apostle here, by affirming that the body will be spiritual, intends to deny that it will need that which is now necessary to the support of the animal functions; it will not be sustained in that way; it will lay aside these special animal organizations, and will cease to convey the idea which we now attach to the word animal, or to possess that which we now include under the name of vital functions. Here the body of man is endowed simply with animal functions. It is the dwelling-place indeed of an immortal mind; but as a body it has the properties of animal life, and is subject to the same laws and inconveniences as the bodies of other animals. It is sustained by breath, and food, and sleep; it is endowed with the organs of sense, the eye, the ear, the smell, the touch, by which alone the soul can hold communication with the external world; it is liable to disease, languor, decay, death. These animal or vital functions will cease in heaven, and the body be raised in a different mode of being, and where all the inconveniences of this mere animal life shall be laid aside.
It is raised a spiritual body - Not a mere spirit, for then it would not be a body. The word spiritual (πνευματικόν pneumatikon) here stands opposed to the word natural, or animal. it will not be a body that is subject to the laws of the vital functions, or organized or sustained in that way. It will still be a “body” (σῶμα sōma), but it will have so far the nature of spirit as to be without the vital functions which here control the body. This is all that the word here means. It does not mean refined, sublimated, or transcendental; it does not mean that it will be without shape or form; it does not mean that it will not be properly a body. The idea of Paul seems to be this: “We conceive of soul or spirit as not subject to the laws of vital or animal agency. It is independent of them. It is not sustained or nourished by the functions of the animal organization. It has an economy of its own; living without nourishment; not subject to decay; not liable to sickness, pain, or death. So will be the body in the resurrection. It will not be subject to the laws of the vital organization. It will be so much like a spirit as to be continued without food or nutriment; to be destitute of the special physical organization of flesh, and blood, and bones; of veins, and arteries, and nerves, as here 1 Corinthians 15:50.; and it will live in the manner in which we conceive spirits to live; sustained, and exercising its powers, without waste, weariness, decay, or the necessity of having its powers recruited by food and sleep.” All, therefore, that has been said about a refined body, a body that shall be spirit, a body that shall be pure, etc., whatever may be its truth, is not sustained by this passage. It will be a body without the vital functions of the animal economy; a body sustained in the manner in which we conceive the spirit to be.
There is a natural body - This seems to be added by Paul in the way of strong affirmation arising from earnestness, and from a desire to prevent misconception. The affirmation is, that there is a natural body; that is apparent: it is everywhere seen. No one can doubt it. So, with equal certainty, says Paul, there is a spiritual body. It is just as certain and indisputable. This assertion is made, not because the evidence of both is the same, but is made on his apostolic authority, and is to be received on that authority. That there was an animal body was apparent to all; that there was a spiritual body was a position which he affirmed to be as certain as the other. The only proof which he alleges is in 1 Corinthians 15:45, which is the proof arising from revelation.
And so it is written, - Genesis 2:7. It is only the first part of the verse which is quoted.
The first man Adam was made a living soul - This is quoted exactly from the translation by the Septuagint, except that the apostle has added the words “first” and “Adam.” This is done to designate whom he meant. The meaning of the phrase “was made a living soul” (ἐγένετο εις ψυκὴν ζωσαν egeneto eis psuchēn zōsan - in Hebrew, נפשׁ חיה nephesh chayaah is, became a living, animated being; a being endowed with life. The use of the word “soul” in our translation, for ψυχὴ psuchē, and נפשׁ nephesh, does not quite convey the idea. We apply the word “soul,” usually, to the intelligent and the immortal part of man; that which reasons, thinks, remembers, is conscious, is responsible, etc. The Greek and Hebrew words, however, more properly denote that which is alive, which is animated, which breathes, which has an animal nature, see the note on 1 Corinthians 15:44. And this is precisely the idea which Paul uses here, that the first man was made an animated being by having breathed into him the breath of life Genesis 2:7, and that it is the image of this animated or vital being which we bear, 1 Corinthians 15:48. Neither Moses nor Paul deny that in addition to this, man was endowed with a rational soul, an immortal nature; but that is not the idea which they present in the passage in Genesis which Paul quotes.
The last Adam - The second Adam, or the “second man,” 1 Corinthians 15:47. That Christ is here intended is apparent, and has been usually admitted by commentators. Christ here seems to be called Adam because he stands in contradistinction from the first Adam; or because, as we derive our animal and dying nature from the one, so we derive our immortal and undying bodies from the other. From the one we derive an animal or vital existence; from the other we derive our immortal existence, and resurrection from the grave. The one stands at the head of all those who have an existence represented by the words, “a living soul;” the other of all those who shall have a spiritual body in heaven. He is called “the last Adam;” meaning that there shall be no other after him who shall affect the destiny of man in the same way, or who shall stand at the head of the race in a manner similar to what had been done by him and the first father of the human family. They sustain special relations to the race; and in this respect they were “the first” and “the last” in the special economy. The name “Adam” is not elsewhere given to the Messiah, though a comparison is several times instituted between him and Adam. (See the Supplementary Note on 1 Corinthians 15:22; also Romans 5:12, note.)
A quickening spirit - (εἰς πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν eis pneuma zōopoioun. A vivifying spirit; a spirit giving or imparting life. Not a being having mere vital functions, or an animated nature, but a being who has the power of imparting life. This is not a quotation from any part of the Scriptures, but seems to be used by Paul either as affirming what was true on his own apostolic authority, or as conveying the substance of what was revealed respecting the Messiah in the Old Testament. There may be also reference to what the Saviour himself taught, that he was the source of life; that he had the power of imparting life, and that he gave life to all whom he pleased: see the note at John 1:4; note at John 5:26, “For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” 1 Corinthians 15:21, “for as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.”
The word “spirit,” here applied to Christ, is in contradistinction from “a living being,” as applied to Adam, and seems to be used in the sense of spirit of life, as raising the bodies of his people from the dead, and imparting life to them. He was constituted not as having life merely, but as endowed with the power of imparting life; as endowed with that spiritual or vital energy which was needful to impart life. All life is the creation or production of “spirit” (Πνεῦμα Pneuma); as applied to God the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit. Spirit is the source of all vitality. God is a spirit, and God is the source of all life. And the idea here is, that Christ had such a spiritual existence such power as a spirit; that he was the source of all life to his people. The word “spirit” is applied to his exalted spiritual nature, in distinction from his human nature, in Romans 1:4; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:18. The apostle does not here affirm that he had not a human nature, or a vital existence as a man; but that his main characteristic in contradistinction from Adam was, that he was endowed with an elevated spiritual nature, which was capable of imparting vital existence to the dead.
Howbeit - There is a due order observed, 1 Corinthians 15:23. The decaying, the dying, the weak, the corruptible, in the proper order of events, was first. This order was necessary, and this is observed everywhere. It is seen in the grain that dies in the ground, and in the resurrection of man. The imperfect is succeeded by the perfect; the impure by the pure; the vile and degraded by the precious and the glorious. The idea is, that there is a tendency toward perfection, and that God observes the proper order by which that which is most glorious shall be secured. It was not his plan that all things in the beginning should be perfect; but that perfection should be the work of time, and should be secured in an appropriate order of events. The design of Paul in this verse seems to be to vindicate the statement which he had made, by showing that it was in accordance with what was everywhere observed, that the proper order should be maintained. This idea is carried through the following verses.
The first man - Adam.
Is of the earth - Was made of the dust; see Genesis 2:7.
Earthy - Partaking of the earth; he was a mass of animated clay, and could be appropriately called “dust;” Genesis 3:19. Of course, he must partake of a nature that was low, mean, mortal, and corruptible.
The second man - Christ; see the note on 1 Corinthians 15:45. He is called the second man, as being the second who sustained a relation to people that was materially to affect their conduct and destiny; the second and the last 1 Corinthians 15:45, who should sustain a special headship to the race.
The Lord from heaven - Called in 1 Corinthians 2:8, the “Lord of glory;” see note on that place. This expression refers to the fact that the Lord Jesus had a heavenly origin, in contradistinction from Adam, who was formed from the earth. The Latin Vulgate renders this, “the second man from heaven is heavenly;” and this idea seems to accord with the meaning in the former member of the verse. The sense is, evidently, that as the first man had an earthly origin, and was, therefore, earthy, so the second man being from heaven, as his proper home, would have a body adapted to that abode; unlike that which was earthy, and which would be suited to his exalted nature, and to the world where he would dwell. And while, therefore, the phrase “from heaven” refers to his heavenly origin, the essential idea is, that he would have a body that was adapted to such an origin and such a world - a body unlike that which was earthy. That is, Christ had a glorified body to which the bodies of the saints must yet be made like.
As is the earthy - Such as Adam was.
Such are they also ... - Such are all his descendants; all who derive their nature from him. That is, they are frail, corruptible, mortal; they live in an animal body as he did, and like him, they are subject to corruption and decay.
And as is the heavenly - As is he who was from heaven; as is the Lord Jesus now in is glorified body. “Such are they also, etc.” Such will they be also. They will be like him; they will have a body like his. This idea is more fully expressed in Philippians 3:21, “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.”
And as we have borne the image of the earthy - As like our first father, we are frail, decaying, dying; as we are so closely connected with him as to be like him. This does not refer, mainly, to one bearing his moral character, but to the fact that we are, like him, subject to sickness, frailty, sorrow, and death.
We shall also bear the image of the heavenly - The Lord Jesus Christ, who was from heaven, and who is in heaven. As we are so closely connected with Adam as to resemble him. so by the divine arrangement, and by faith in the Lord Jesus, we are so closely connected with him that we shall resemble him in heaven. And as he is now free from frailty, sickness. pain, sorrow, and death, and as he has a pure and spiritual body, adapted to a residence in heaven, so shall we be in that future world. The argument here is, that the connection which is formed between the believer and the Saviour is as close as that which subsisted between him and Adam; and as that connection with Adam involved the certainty that he would be subjected to pain, sin, sickness, and death, so the connection with Christ involves the certainty that he will like him be free from sin, sickness, pain, and death, and like him will have a body that is pure, incorruptible, and immortal.
Now this I say, brethren - “I make this affirmation in regard to this whole subject. I do it as containing the substance of all that I have said. I do it in order to prevent all mistake in regard to the nature of the bodies which shall be raised up.” This affirmation is made respecting all the dead and all the living, that there must be a material and important change in regard to them before they can be prepared for heaven. Paul had proved in the previous verses that it was possible for God to give us bodies different from those which we now possess; he here affirms, in the most positive manner, that it was indispensable that we should have bodies different from what we now have.
Flesh and blood - Bodies organized as ours now are. “Flesh and blood” denotes such bodies as we have here, bodies that are fragile. weak, liable to disease, subject to pain and death. They are composed of changing particles; to be repaired and strengthened daily; they are subject to decay, and are wasted away by sickness, and of course they cannot be suited to a world where there shall be no decay and and no death.
Cannot inherit - Cannot be admitted as heir to the kingdom of God. The future world of glory is often represented as an heirship; see the note on Romans 8:17.
The kingdom of God - Heaven; appropriately called his kingdom, because he shall reign there in undivided and perfect glory forever.
Neither doth corruption ... - Neither can that which is in its nature corruptible, and liable to decay, be adapted to a world where all is incorruptible. The apostle here simply states the fact. He does not tell us why it is impossible. It may be because the mode of communication there is not by the bodily senses; it may be because such bodies as ours would not be suited to relish the pure and exalted pleasures of an incorruptible world; it may be because they would interfere with the exalted worship, the active service, and the sleepless employments of the heavenly world; it may be because such a body is constituted to derive pleasure from objects which shall not be found in heaven. It is adapted to enjoyment in eating and drinking, and the pleasures of the eye, the ear, the taste, the touch; in heaven the soul shall be awake to more elevated and pure enjoyments than these, and, of course, such bodies as we here have would impede our progress and destroy our comforts, and be ill adapted to all the employments and enjoyments of that heavenly world.
Behold I show you - This commences the third subject of inquiry in the chapter, the question, what will become of those who are alive when the Lord Jesus shall return to raise the dead? This was an obvious inquiry, and the answer was, perhaps, supposed to be difficult. Paul answers it directly, and says that they will undergo an instantaneous change, which will make them like the dead that shall be raised.
A mystery - On the meaning of this word, see the note on 1 Corinthians 2:7. The word here does not mean anything which was in its nature unintelligible, but that which to them had been hitherto unknown. “I now communicate to you a truth which has not been brought into the discussion, and in regard to which no communication has been made to you.” On this subject there had been no revelation. Though the Pharisees held that the dead would rise, yet they do not seem to have made any statement in regard to the living who should remain when the dead should rise. Nor, perhaps, had the subject occupied the attention of the apostles; nor had there been any direct communication on it from the Lord Jesus himself. Paul then here says, that he was about to communicate a great truth which till then had been unknown, and to resolve a great inquiry on which there had as yet been no revelation.
We shall not all sleep - We Christians; grouping all together who then lived and should live afterward, for his discussion has relation to them all. The following remarks may, perhaps, remove some of the difficulty which attends the interpretation of this passage. The objection which is made to it is, that Paul expected to live until the Lord Jesus should return; that he, therefore, expected that the world would soon end, and that in this he was mistaken, and could not be inspired. To this, we may reply:
(1) He is speaking of Christians as such - of the whole church that had been redeemed - of the entire mass that should enter heaven; and he groups them all together, and connects himself with them, and says, “We shall not die; we Christians, including the whole church, shall not all die,” etc. That he did not refer only to those whom he was then addressing, is apparent from the whole discussion. The argument relates to Christians - to the church at large; and the affirmation here has reference to that church considered as one church that was to be raised up on the last Day.
(2) That Paul did not expect that the Lord Jesus would soon come, and that the world would soon come to an end, is apparent from a similar place in the Epistle to the Thessalonians. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, he uses language remarkably similar to that which is used here: “We which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord,” etc. This language was interpreted by the Thessalonians as teaching that the world would soon come to an end, and the effect had been to produce a state of alarm. Paul was, therefore, at special pains to show in his Second Epistle to them, that he did not mean any such thing. He showed them 2 Thessalonians 2:0 that the end of the world was not near; that very important events were to occur before the world would come to an end; and that his language did not imply any expectation on his part that the world would soon terminate, or that the Lord Jesus would soon come.
(3) Parallel expressions occur in the other writers of the New Testament, and with a similar signification. Thus, John 1 John 2:18 says, “It is the last time;” compare Hebrews 1:2. But the meaning of this is not that the world would soon come to an end. The prophets spoke of a period which they called “the last days” (Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1; in Hebrew, “the after days”), as the period in which the Messiah would live and reign. By it they meant the dispensation which should be the last; that under which the world would close; the reign of the Messiah, which would be the last economy of human things. But it did not follow that this was to be a short period; or that it might not be longer than any one of the former, or than all the former put together. This was that which John spoke of as the last time.
(4) I do not know that the proper doctrine of inspiration suffers, if we admit that the apostles were ignorant of the exact time when the world would close; or even that in regard to the precise period when that would take place, they might be in error. The following considerations may be suggested on this subject, showing that the claim to inspiration did not extend to the knowledge of this fact:
(a) That they were not omniscient, and there is no more absurdity in supposing that they were ignorant on this subject than in regard to any other.
(b) Inspiration extended to the order of future events, and not to the thees. There is in the Scriptures no statement of the time when the world would close. Future events were made to pass before the minds of the prophets, as in a landscape. The order of the images may be distinctly marked, but the times may not be designated. And even events which may occur in fact at distant periods, may in vision appear to be near each other; as in a landscape, objects which are in fact separated by distant intervals, like the ridges of a mountain, may appeal to lie close to each other.
(c) The Saviour expressly said, that it was not designed that they should know when future events would occur. Thus, after his ascension, in answer to an inquiry whether he then would restore the kingdom to Israel, he said Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power.” See the note on that verse.
(d) The Saviour said that even he himself, as man, was ignorant in regard to the exact time in which future events would occur. “But of that day, and that hour, knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father;” Mark 13:32.
(e) The apostles were in fact ignorant, and mistaken in regard to, at least, the time of the occurrence of one future event, the death of John; John 21:23. There is, therefore, no departure from the proper doctrine of inspiration, in supposing that the apostles were not inspired on these subjects, and that they might be ignorant like others. The proper order of events they state truly and exactly; the exact time God did not, for wise reasons, intend to make known.
Shall not all sleep - Shall not all die; see the note at 1 Corinthians 11:30.
But we shall all be changed - There is considerable variety in the reading of this passage. The Vulgate reads it, “We shall all indeed rise, but we shall not all be changed.” Some Greek manuscripts read it, “We shall all sleep, but we shall not all be changed.” Others, as the Vulgate, “We shall all rise, but we shall not all be changed.” But the present Greek text contains, doubtless, the true reading; and the sense is, that all who are alive at the coming of the Lord Jesus shall undergo such a change as to fit them for their new abode in heaven; or such as shall make them like those who shall be raised from the dead. This change will be instantaneous 1 Corinthians 15:52, for it is evident that God can as easily change the living as he can raise the dead; and as the affairs of the world will then have come to an end, there will be no necessity that those who are then alive should be removed by death; nor would it be proper that they should go down to lie any time in the grave. The ordinary laws, therefore, by which people are removed to eternity, will not operate in regard to them, and they will be removed at once to their new abode.
In a moment - (ἐν ἀτόμῳ en atomō). In an “atom,” scil. of time; a point of time which cannot be cut or divided (α a, the alpha privative (“not”) and τομη tomē, from τέμνω temnō, “to cut”). A single instant; immediately. It will be done instantaneously.
In the twinkling of an eye - This is an expression also denoting the least conceivable duration of time. The suddenness of the coming of the Lord Jesus is elsewhere compared to the coming of a thief in the night; 2 Peter 3:10. The word rendered “twinkling” (ῥιπῆ ripē, from ῥίπτω rhiptō, “to throw, cast”) means “a throw, cast, jerk,” as of a stone; and then “a jerk of the eye,” that is, “a wink” - Robinson.
At the last trump - When the trumpet shall sound to raise the dead. The word “last” here does not imply that any trumpet shall have been before sounded at the resurrection, but is a word denoting that this is the consummation or close of things; it will end the economy of this world; it will be connected with the last state of things.
For the trumpet shall sound - See the note at Matthew 24:31.
And the dead shall be raised - See the note at John 5:25.
For this corruptible ... - It is necessary that a change should take place, either by dying and then being raised, or by being changed without seeing death; for we cannot enter heaven as we are now.
Must put on - The word used here (ἐνδύνω endunō ) properly means to go in, to envelope, to put on as a garment; and then to put on any thing; as the soul is, as it were, clothed with, or invested with a body; and here it means, must be endued with, or furnished with. It is equivalent to saying that this corruptible become incorruptible, and this mortal must become immortal. We must cease to be corruptible and mortal, and must become incorruptible and immortal. The righteous who remain till the coming of Christ shall be at once changed, and invested, as Enoch and Elijah were, with incorruption and immortality.
So when ... - In that future glorious world, when all this shall have been accomplished.
Then shall be brought to pass - Then shall be fully accomplished; these words shall then receive their entire fulfillment; or this event shall meet all that is implied in these words.
The saying that is written - What is written, or the record which is made. These words are quoted from Isaiah 25:8; and the fact that Paul thus quotes them, and the connection in which they stand, prove that they had reference to the times of the gospel, and to the resurrection of the dead. Paul does not quote directly from the Hebrew, or from the Septuagint, but gives the substance of the passage.
Death - Referring here, undoubtedly, to death in the proper sense; death as prostrating the living, and consigning them to the grave.
Is swallowed up - Κατεπόθη Katepothē (from katapinō, to drink down, to swallow down) means to absorb Revelation 12:16; to overwhelm, to drown Hebrews 11:29; and then to destroy or remove. The idea may be taken from a whirlpool, or maelstrom, that absorbs all that comes near it; and the sense is, that he will abolish or remove death; that is, cause it to cease from its ravages and triumphs.
In victory - (εἰς νῖκος eis nikos. Unto victory; so as to obtain a complete victory. The Hebrew Isaiah 25:8 is לנצח laanetsach, The Septuagint often renders the word נצח drow netsach which properly means “splendor, purity, trust, perpetuity, eternity, perfection,” by νῖκος nikos, “victory”; Job 36:7; Lamentations 3:18; Lamentations 5:20; Amos 1:1-15; Amos 2:0; Amos 8:7. The Hebrew word here may be rendered either “unto the end, that is,” to completeness or perfection, or unto victory, with triumph. It matters little which is the meaning, for they both come to the same thing. The idea is, that the power and dominion of death shall be entirely destroyed, or brought to an end.
“O death.” This triumphant exclamation is the commencement of the fourth division of the chapter, the practical consequences of the doctrine. It is such an exclamation as every man with right feelings will be disposed to make, who contemplates the ravages of death; who looks upon a world where in all forms he has reigned, and who then contemplates the glorious truth, that a complete and final triumph has been obtained over this great enemy of the happiness of man, and that man would die no more. It is a triumphant view which bursts upon the soul as it contemplates the fact that the work of the second Adam has repaired the ruins of the first, and that man is redeemed; his body will be raised; not another human being should die, and the work of death should be ended. Nay, it is more. Death is not only at an end; it shall not only cease, but its evils shall be repaired; and a glory and honor shall encompass the body of man, such as would have been unknown had there been no death. No commentary can add to the beauty and force of the language in this verse; and the best way to see its beauty, and to enjoy it, is to sit down and think of death; of what death has been, and has done; of the millions and millions that have died; of the earth strewn with the dead, and “arched with graves;” of our own death; the certainty that we must die, and our parents, and brothers, and sisters, and children, and friends; that all, all must die; and then to suffer the truth, in its full-orbed splendor, to rise upon us, that the time will come when death shall be at an end. Who, in such contemplation, can refrain from the language of triumph, and from hymns of praise?
Where is thy sting? - The word which is here rendered sting (κέντρον kentron) denotes properly a prick, a point, hence, a goad or stimulus; that is, a rod or staff with an iron point, for goading oxen; (see the note on Acts 9:5); and then a sting properly, as of scorpions, bees, etc. It denotes here a venomous thing, or weapon, applied to death personified, as if death employed it to destroy life, as the sting of a bee or a scorpion is used. The idea is derived from the venomous sting of serpents, or other reptiles, as being destructive and painful. The language here is the language of exultation, as if that was taken away or destroyed.
O grave - ᾅδη hadē. Hades, the place of the dead. It is not improperly rendered, however, grave. The word properly denotes a place of darkness; then the world, or abodes of the dead. According to the Hebrews, Hades, or Sheol, was a vast subterranean receptacle, or abode, where the souls of the dead existed. It was dark, deep, still, awful. The descent to it was through the grave; and the spirits of all the dead were supposed to be assembled there; the righteous occupying the upper regions, and the wicked the lower; see the note on Isaiah 14:9; compare Lowth, Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, vii; Campbell, Prel. Diss. vi. part 2, 2. It refers here to the dead; and means that the grave, or Hades, should no longer have a victory.
Thy victory - Since the dead are to rise; since all the graves are to give up all that dwell in them; since no man will die after that, where is its victory? It is taken away. It is despoiled. The power of death and the grave is vanquished, and Christ is triumphant over all. It has been well remarked here, that the words in this verse rise above the plain and simple language of prose, and resemble a hymn, into which the apostle breaks out in view of the glorious truth which is here presented to the mind. The whole verse is indeed a somewhat loose quotation from Hosea 13:14, which we translate,
“O death, I will be thy plagues;
O grave, I will be thy destruction.”
But which the Septuagint renders:
“O death, where is thy punishment?
O grave, where is thy sting?”
Probably Paul did not intend this as a direct quotation; but he spoke as a man naturally does who is familiar with the language of the Scriptures, and used it to express the sense which he intended, without meaning to make a direct and literal quotation. The form which Paul uses is so poetic in its structure that Pope has adopted it, with only a change in the location of the members, in the “Dying Christian:”
“O grave, where is thy victory?
O death, where is thy sting?”
The sting of death - The sting which death bears; that with which he effects his purpose; that which is made use of to inflict death; or that which is the cause of death. There would be no death without sin. The apostle here personifies death, as if it were a living being, and as making use of sin to inflict death, or as being the sting, or envenomed instrument, with which he inflicts the mortal agony. The idea is, that sin is the cause of death. It introduced it; it makes it certain; it is the cause of the pain, distress, agony, and horror which attends it. If there had been no sin, people would not have died. If there were no sin, death would not be attended with horror or alarm. For why should innocence be afraid to die? What has innocence to fear anywhere in the universe of a just God? The fact, therefore, that people die, is proof that they are sinners; the fact that they feel horror and alarm, is proof that they feel themselves to be guilty, and that they are afraid to go into the presence of a holy God. If this be taken away, if sin be removed, of course the horror, and remorse, and alarm which it is suited to produce will be removed also.
Is sin - Sin is the cause of it; see the note at Romans 5:12.
The strength of sin - Its power over the mind; its terrific and dreadful energy; and especially its power to produce alarm in the hour of death.
Is the law - The pure and holy law of God. This idea Paul has illustrated at length in Romans 7:9-13; see the notes on that passage. He probably made the statement here in order to meet the Jews, and to show that the law of God had no power to take away the fear of death; and that, therefore, there was need of the gospel, and that this alone could do it. The Jews maintained that a man might be justified and saved by obedience to the law. Paul here shows that it is the law which gives its chief vigor to sin, and that it does not tend to subdue or destroy it; and that power is seen most strikingly in the pangs and horrors of a guilty conscience on the bed of death. There was need, therefore, of the gospel, which alone could remove the cause of these horrors, by taking away sin, and thus leaving the pardoned man to die in peace; compare the note on Romans 4:15.
But thanks be to God; - See the notes at Romans 7:25.
Which giveth us the victory - Us who are Christians; all Christians. The victory over sin, death, and the grave. God alone is the author of this victory. He formed the plan; he executed it in the gift of his Son; and he gives it to us personally when we come to die.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ - By his death, thus destroying the power of death; by his resurrection and triumph over the grave; and by his grace imparted to us to enable us to sustain the pains of death, and giving to us the hope of a glorious resurrection; compare the note at Romans 7:25; Romans 8:37.
Therefore, my beloved brethren - In view of the great and glorious truths which have been revealed to us respecting the resurrection, Paul closes the whole of this important discussion with an exhortation to that firmness in the faith which ought to result from truths so glorious, and from hopes so elevated as these truths are suited to impart. The exhortation is so plain, that it needs little explanation; it so obviously follows from the argument which Paul had pursued, that there is little need to attempt to enforce it.
Be ye steadfast - ἑδραῖοι hedraioi, from ἕδρα hedra. Seated, sedentary (Robinson); perhaps with an allusion to a statue (Bloomfield); or perhaps to wrestling, and to standing one’s ground (Wolf). Whatever may be the allusion, the sense is clear. Be firm, strong, confident in the faith, in view of the truth that you will be raised up. Be not shaken or agitated with the strifes, the temptations, and the cares of life. Be fixed in the faith, and let not the power of sin, or the sophistry of pretended philosophy, or the arts of the enemy of the soul seduce you from the faith of the gospel.
Unmovable - Firm, fixed, stable, unmoved. This is probably a stronger expression than the former, though meaning substantially the same thing - that we are to be firm and unshaken in our Christian hopes, and in our faith in the gospel.
Always abounding in the work of the Lord - Always engaged in doing the will of God; in promoting his glory, and advancing his kingdom. The phrase means not only to be engaged in this, but to be engaged diligently, laboriously; excelling in this. The “work of the Lord” here means that which the Lord requires; all the appropriate duties of Christians. Paul exhorts them to practice every Christian virtue, and to do all that they could do to further the gospel among people.
Forasmuch as ye know - Greek “Knowing.” You know it by the arguments which have been urged for the truth of the gospel; by your deep conviction that that gospel is true.
Your labour is not in vain - It will be rewarded. It is not as if you were to die and never live again. There will be a resurrection, and you will be suitably recompensed then What you do for the honor of God will not only be attended with an approving conscience, and with happiness here, but will be met with the glorious and eternal rewards of heaven.
In the Lord - This probably means, “Your labor or work in the Lord, that is, in the cause of the Lord, will not be in vain.” And the sentiment of the whole verse is, that the hope of the resurrection and of future glory should stimulate us to great and self-denying efforts in honor of Him who has revealed that doctrine, and who purposes graciously to reward us there. Other people are influenced and excited to great efforts by the hope of honor, pleasure, or wealth. Christians should be excited to toil and self-denial by the prospect of immortal glory; and by the assurance that their hopes are not in vain, and will not deceive them.
Thus, closes this chapter of inimitable beauty, and of unequalled power of argumentation. Such is the prospect which is before the Christian. He shall indeed die like other people. But his death is a sleep - a calm, gentle, undisturbed sleep, in the expectation of being again awaked to a brighter Day, 1 Corinthians 15:6. He has the assurance that his Saviour rose, and that his people shall therefore also rise, 1 Corinthians 15:12-20. He encounters peril, and privation, and persecution he may be ridiculed and despised; he may be subjected to danger, or doomed to fight with wild beasts, or to contend with people who resemble wild beasts; he may be doomed to the pains and terrors of a martyrdom at the stake, but he has the assurance that all these are of short continuance, and that before him there is a world of eternal glory; 1 Corinthians 15:29-32. He may be poor, unhonored, and apparently without an earthly friend or protector; but his Saviour and Redeemer reigns; 1 Corinthians 15:25.
He may be opposed by wicked people, and his name slandered, and body tortured, and his peace marred, but his enemies shall all be subdued; 1 Corinthians 15:26-27. He will himself die, and sleep in his grave, but he shall live again; 1 Corinthians 15:22-23. He has painful proof that his body is corruptible, but it will be incorruptible; that it is now vile, but it will be glorious; that it is weak, frail, feeble, but it will yet be strong, and no more subject to disease or decay; 1 Corinthians 15:42-43. And he will be brought under the power of death. but death shall be robbed of its honors, and despoiled of its triumph. Its sting from the saint is taken away. and it is changed to a blessing. It is now not the dreaded monster, the king of terrors it is a friend that comes to remove him from a world of toil to a world of rest; from a life of sin to a life of glory. The grave is not to him the gloomy abode, the permanent resting-place of his body; it is a place of rest for a little time; grateful like the bed of down to a wearied frame, where he may lie down and repose after the fatigues of the day, and gently wait for the morning.
He has nothing to fear in death; nothing to fear in the dying pang, the gloom, the chill, the sweat, the paleness, the fixedness of death; nothing to fear in the chilliness, the darkness, the silence, the corruption of the grave. All this is in the way to immortality, and is closely and indissolubly connected with immortality; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57. And in view of all this, we should be patient, faithful, laborious, self-denying; we should engage with zeal in the work of the Lord; we should calmly wait till our change come; 1 Corinthians 15:58. No other system of religion has any such hopes as this; no other system does anything to dispel the gloom, or drive away the horrors of the grave. How foolish is the man who rejects the gospel - the only system which brings life and immortality to light! How foolish to reject the doctrine of the resurrection, and to lie down in the grave without peace, without hope, without any belief that there will be a world of glory; living without God, and dying like the brute.
And yet infidelity seeks and claims its chief triumphs in the attempt to convince poor dying man that he has no solid ground of hope; that the universe is “without a Father and without a God;” that the grave terminates the career of man forever; and that in the grave he sinks away to eternal annihilation. Strange that man should seek such degradation! Strange that all people, conscious that they must die, do not at once greet Christianity as their best friend, and hail the doctrine of the future state, and of the resurrection, as that which is adapted to meet the deeply-felt evils of this world; to fill the desponding mind with peace; and to sustain the soul in the temptations and trials of life, and in the gloom and agony of death!
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent