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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 15

Verse 1

1. Now I make known to you. He now enters on another subject — the resurrection — the belief of which among the Corinthians had been shaken by some wicked persons. It is uncertain, however, whether they doubted merely as to the ultimate resurrection of the body, or as to the immortality of the soul also. It is abundantly well known, that there were a variety of errors as to this point. Some philosophers contended that souls are immortal. As to the resurrection of the body, it never entered into the mind of any one of them. The Sadducees, however, had grosser views; for they thought of nothing but the present life; nay more, they thought that the soul of man was a breath of wind without substance. It is not, therefore, altogether certain (as I have already said) whether the Corinthians had at this time gone to such a height of madness, as to cast off all expectation of a future life, or whether they merely denied the resurrection of the body; for the arguments which Paul makes use of seem to imply, that they were altogether bewitched with the mad dream of the Sadducees.

For example, when he says,

Of what advantage is it to be baptized for the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:29.)

Were it not better to eat and to drink? (1 Corinthians 15:32.)

Why are we in peril every hour? (1 Corinthians 15:30,)

and the like, it might very readily be replied, in accordance with the views of the philosophers, “Because after death the soul survives the body.” Hence some apply the whole of Paul’s reasoning contained in this chapter to the immortality of the soul. For my part, while I leave undetermined what the error of the Corinthians was, yet I cannot bring myself to view Paul’s words as referring to anything else than the resurrection of the body. Let it, therefore be regarded as a settled point, that it is of this exclusively that he treats in this chapter. And what if the impiety of Hymeneus and Philetus had extended thus far, (2) who said that the resurrection was already past, (2 Timothy 2:18,) and that there would be nothing more of it? Similar to these, there are at the present day some madmen, or rather devils, (3) who call themselves Libertines. (4) To me, however, the following conjecture appears more probable — that they were carried away by some delusion, (5) which took away from them the hope of a future resurrection, just as those in the present day, by imagining an allegorical resurrection, (6) take away from us the true resurrection that is promised to us.

However this may be, it is truly a dreadful case, and next to a prodigy, that those who had been instructed by so distinguished a master, should have been capable of falling so quickly (7) into errors of so gross a nature. But what is there that is surprising in this, when in the Israelitish Church the Sadducees had the audacity to declare openly that man differs nothing from a brute, in so far as concerns the essence of the soul, and has no enjoyment but what is common to him with the beasts? Let us observe, however, that blindness of this kind is a just judgment from God, so that those who do not rest satisfied with the truth of God, are tossed hither and thither by the delusions of Satan.

It is asked, however, why it is that he has left off or deferred to the close of the Epistle, what should properly have had the precedence of everything else? Some reply, that this was done for the purpose of impressing it more deeply upon the memory. I am rather of opinion that Paul did not wish to introduce a subject of such importance, until he had asserted his authority, which had been considerably lessened among the Corinthians, and until he had, by repressing their pride, prepared them for listening to him with docility.

I make known to you. To make known here does not mean to teach what was previously unknown to them, but to recall to their recollection what they had heard previously. “Call to your recollection, along with me, that gospel which you had learned, before you were led aside from the right course.” He calls the doctrine of the resurrection the gospel, that they may not imagine that any one is at liberty to form any opinion that he chooses on this point, as on other questions, which bring with them no injury to salvation.

When he adds, which I preached to you, he amplifies what he had said: “If you acknowledge me as an apostle, I have assuredly taught you so.” There is another amplification in the words — which also ye have received, for if they now allow themselves to be persuaded of the contrary, they will be chargeable with fickleness. A third amplification is to this effect, that they had hitherto continued in that belief with a firm and steady resolution, which is somewhat more than that they had once believed. But the most important thing of all is, that he declares that their salvation is involved in this, for it follows from this, that, if the resurrection is taken away, they have no religion left them, no assurance of faith, and in short, have no faith remaining. Others understand in another sense the word stand, as meaning that they are upheld; but the interpretation that I have given is a more correct one. (8)

(2) “ Iusques a Corinthe ;” — “ As far as Corinth.”

(3) “ Possedez d’autres diables;” — “Possessed by other devils.”

(4) “The Libertines of Geneva were rather a cabal of rakes than a set of fanatics; for they made no pretense to any religious system, but only pleaded for the liberty of leading voluptuous and immoral lives. This cabal was composed of a certain number of licentious citizens, who could not bear the severe discipline of Calvin, who punished with rigour, not only dissolute manners, but Also whatever carried the aspect of irreligion and impiety.” — Paterson’s History of the Church, volume 2. — Ed.

(5) “ Par quelque opinion fantastique;” — “By some fantastic notion.”

(6) “ Vne ie ne scay quelle resurrection allegorique;” — “An allegorical resurrection, I know not of what sort.”

(7) “ Si soudainement seduits;” — “So suddenly seduced.”

(8) It is remarked by Bloomfield, that “in ἐστήκατε (which means ‘ye have persevered, and do persevere,’) there is an agonistic metaphor, (as in Ephesians 6:13,) or an architectural one, like ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε, (be steadfast,) in 1 Corinthians 15:58.” — Ed.

Verse 2

2. If you keep in memory — unless in vain (9) These two expressions are very cutting. In the first, he reproves their carelessness or fickleness, because such a sudden fall was an evidence that they had never understood what had been delivered to them, or that their knowledge of it had been loose and floating, inasmuch as it had so quickly vanished. By the second, he warns them that they had needlessly and uselessly professed allegiance to Christ, if they did not hold fast this main doctrine. (10)

(9) “Our version does not express intelligibly the sense of ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκὢ ἐπιστεύσατε by rendering it so literally — unless ye have believed in vain. To believe in vain, according to the use of ancient languages, is to believe without just reason and authority, giving credit to idle reports as true and authentic. Thus Plutarch, speaking of some story which passed current, says, τοῦτο ἡμεῖς ἐ᾿ἴπομεν ἐν τί τῶν εἰκὢ πεπιστεύμενων — “this I said was one of those tales which are believed without any good authority.” (Sympos. lib. 1, quaest. 6.) The Latins used credere frustra — to believe in vain, or temere — (rashly.) Kypke takes notice that ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ, for except or unless, which has long been a suspected phrase, is used more than ten times by Lucian. It is also used by Plutarch in the Life of Demosthenes, volume 4.” — Alexander’s Paraphrase on 1 Corinthians 15:0. (London, 1766,) — Ed.

(10) “ Ce principal poinct de la foy ; ” — “This main article of faith.”

Verse 3

3. For I delivered to you first of all He now confirms what he had previously stated, by explaining that the resurrection had been preached by him, and that too as a fundamental doctrine of the gospel. First of all, says he, as it is wont to be with a foundation in the erecting of a house. At the same time he adds to the authority of his preaching, when he subjoins, that he delivered nothing but what he had received, for he does not simply mean that he related what he had from the report of others, but that it was what had been enjoined upon him by the Lord. (11) For the word (12) must be explained in accordance with the connection of the passage. Now it is the duty of an apostle to bring forward nothing but what he has received from the Lord, so as from hand to hand (13) (as they say) to administer to the Church the pure word of God.

That Christ died, etc. See now more clearly whence he received it, for he quotes the Scriptures in proof. In the first place, he makes mention of the death of Christ, nay also of his burial, that we may infer, that, as he was like us in these things, he is so also in his resurrection. He has, therefore, died with us that we may rise with him. In his burial, too, the reality of the death in which he has taken part with us, is made more clearly apparent. Now there are many passages of Scripture in which Christ’s death and resurrection are predicted, but nowhere more plainly (14) than in Isaiah 53:0, in Daniel 9:26, and in Psalms 22:0

For our sins That is, that by taking our curse upon him he might redeem us from it. For what else was Christ’s death, but a sacrifice for expiating our sins — what but a satisfactory penalty, by which we might be reconciled to God — what but the condemnation of one, for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness for us? He speaks also in the same manner in Romans 4:25, but in that passage, on the other hand, he ascribes it also to the resurrection as its effect — that it confers righteousness upon us; for as sin was done away through the death of Christ, so righteousness is procured through his resurrection. This distinction must be carefully observed, that we may know what we must look for from the death of Christ, and what from his resurrection. When, however, the Scripture in other places makes mention only of his death, let us understand that in those cases his resurrection is included in his death, but when they are mentioned separately, the commencement of our salvation is (as we see) in the one, and the consummation of it in the other.

(11) “ Que le Seigneur mesme luy auoit enseignee et commandee;” — “ What the Lord himself had taught and commanded him.’:

(12) “ Le mot de receuoir ; ” — “The word receive. ”

(13) The Reader will find our Author making use of the same proverbial expression when commenting on 1 Corinthians 4:1, and 1 Corinthians 11:23. See volume 1, pages 150, 373. — Ed.

(14) “ Il n’y en a point de plus expres, et ou il en soit traitte plus apertement;” — “There are none of them that are more explicit, or where it is treated of more plainly”

Verse 5

5. That he was seen by Cephas He now brings forward eye witnesses, ( αὐτόπτας ) as they are called by Luke, (Luke 1:2,) who saw the accomplishment of what the Scriptures had foretold would take place. He does not, however, adduce them all, for he makes no mention of women. When, therefore, he says that he appeared first to Peter, you are to understand by this that he is put before all the men, so that there is nothing inconsistent with this in the statement of Mark (Mark 16:9) that he appeared to Mary.

But how is it that he says, that he appeared to the twelve, when, after the death of Judas, there were only eleven remaining? Chrysostom is of opinion that this took place after Matthias had been chosen in his room. Others have chosen rather to correct the expression, looking upon it as a mistake (15) But as we know, that there were twelve in number that were set apart by Christ’s appointment, though one of them had been expunged from the roll, there is no absurdity in supposing that the name was retained. On this principle, there was a body of men at Rome that were called Centumviri, (16) while they were in number 102. (17) By the twelve, therefore, you are simply to understand the chosen Apostles.

It does not quite appear when it was that this appearing to more than five hundred took place. Only it is possible that this large multitude assembled at Jerusalem, when he manifested himself to them. For Luke (Luke 24:33) makes mention in a general way of the disciples who had assembled with the eleven; but how many there were he does not say. Chrysostom refers it to the ascension, and explains the word ἐπάνω to mean, from on high. (18) Unquestionably, as to what he says in reference to his having appeared to James apart, this may have been subsequently to the ascension.

By all the Apostles I understand not merely the twelve, but also those disciples to whom Christ had assigned the office of preaching the gospel. (19) In proportion as our Lord was desirous that there should be many witnesses of his resurrection, and that it should be frequently testified of, let us know that it should be so much the more surely believed among us. (Luke 1:1.) Farther, inasmuch as the Apostle proves the resurrection of Christ from the fact that he appeared to many, he intimates by this, that it was not figurative but true and natural, for the eyes of the body cannot be witnesses of a spiritual resurrection.

(15) Granville Penn supposes that the common reading εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα then to the twelve, is a corruption for εἶτα τοῖς δε δεκα and then to the ten, understanding the Apostle as meaning, that Christ appeared first to Cephas, and then to the other ten. Dr. Adam Clarke, after stating that “instead of δώδεκα , twelve, ἓνδεκα , eleven is the reading of D* E F G, Syriac in the margin, some of the Slavonic, Armenian, Vulgate, Itala, and several of the Fathers,” and that “this reading is supported by Mark 16:14 ,” remarks: “Perhaps the term twelve is used here merely to point out the society of the Apostles. who, though at this time they were only eleven, were still called the twelve, because this was their original number, and a number which was afterwards filled up.” “The twelve was a name not of number, but of office. — McKnight. — Ed.

(16) “ C’est a dire, les Cents;” — “That is to say, the Hundred.”

(17) The reader will find the same term referred to by Calvin when commenting on 1 Corinthians 10:8. (See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 324, n. 3.) — Ed.

(18) “This peculiar use of ἐπάνω for πλωῖον, (which seems to have been popular or provincial, not being found in the Classical writers,) occurs also in Mark 14:5, but with a genitive. Perhaps, however, it has properly no regimen, but is used parenthetically, like the Latin plus trecentos , 300 and more.” — Bloomfield. The word ὠπάνω is used in a similar way in the Septuagint. Thus in Exodus 30:14 ἀπὸ εἰκοσαετοῦς και ἐπάνω from twenty years old and above, and in Leviticus 27:7, ἀπὸ ἑξήκονταἐτῶν και ἐπάνω from sixty years old and above. — Ed.

(19) Calvin’s view accords with that of Chrysostom, who says, ἦσαν γὰρ καὶ ἄλλοι ἀπόστολοι ὡς ὁι ἑιβδομήκοντα — “for there were also other Apostles, such as the seventy.” — Ed.

Verse 8

8. Last of all to me, as to one born prematurely, He now introduces himself along with the others, for Christ had manifested himself to him as alive, and invested with glory. (20) As it was no deceptive vision, it was calculated to be of use (21) for establishing a belief in the resurrection, as he also makes use of this argument in Acts 26:8. But as it was of no small importance that his authority should have the greatest weight and influence among the Corinthians, he introduces, by the way, a commendation of himself personally, but at the same time qualified in such a manner that, while he claims much for himself, he is at the same time exceedingly modest. Lest any one, therefore, should meet him with the objection: “Who art thou that we should give credit to thee?” he, of his own accord, confesses his unworthiness, and, in the first place, indeed he compares himself to one that is born prematurely, and that, in my opinion, with reference to his sudden conversion. For as infants do not come forth from the womb, until they have been there formed and matured during a regular course of time, so the Lord observed a regular period of time in creating, nourishing, and forming his Apostles. Paul, on the other hand, had been cast forth from the womb when he had scarcely received the vital spark. (22) There are some that understand the term rendered abortive as employed to mean posthumous; (23) but the former term is much more suitable, inasmuch as he was in one moment begotten, and born, and a man of full age. Now this premature birth renders the grace of God more illustrious in Paul than if he had by little and little, and by successive steps, grown up to maturity in Christ.

(20) “ En sa vie et gloire immortelle;” — “In his life and immortal glory.”

(21) “ Elle estoit suffisante et receuable;” — “It was sufficient and admissible.”

(22) In accordance with the view taken by Calvin, Bloomfield considers the original term. ἔκτρωμα to mean, a child born before the due time, (in which sense the term abortivus, is employed by Horace, Sat. 1:3.46,) the Apostle “calling himself so as being an Apostle not formed and matured by previous preparation and instruction.” Penn, after quoting the definition given by Eustathius of the term ἔκτρωματὸ μήπω τετυπώμενον an unformed foetus, remarks: “To all the other Apostles our Lord appeared after his resurrection, when they had attained their adult form in his ministry; but to St. Paul he appeared at the first moment of his spiritual conception, and before he was formed or moulded.” The same view, in substance, is given by McKnight. “Although he” (Paul) “calls himself an abortive Apostle, it was not on account of his being sensible of any imperfection in his commission, or of any weakness in his qualifications as an Apostle; for he affirms, 2 Corinthians 11:5, that he was in nothing behind the very greatest of the Apostles; but he called himself an abortive Apostle, because, as he tells us (1 Corinthians 15:9,) he had persecuted the Church of God, and because he was made an Apostle without that previous course of instruction and preparation, which the other Apostles enjoyed who had attended Jesus Christ during his ministry on earth; so that, in the proper sense of the word, he was ἔκτρωμα — born before he was brought to maturity. That want, however, was abundantly supplied by the many revelations which his master gave him after he made him an Apostle.” — Ed.

(23) “ C’est a dire qui est nay apres la mort de son pete ;” — “ That is to say, one that is born after the death of his father.”

Verse 9

9. For I am the least It is not certain whether his enemies threw out this for the purpose of detracting from his credit, or whether it was entirely of his own accord, that he made the acknowledgment. For my part, while I have no doubt that, he was at all times voluntarily, and even cheerfully, disposed to abase himself, that he might magnify the grace of God, yet I suspect that in this instance he wished to obviate calumnies. For that there were some at Corinth that made it their aim to detract from his dignity by malicious slander, may be inferred not only from many foregoing passages, but also from his adding a little afterwards a comparison, which he would assuredly never have touched upon, if he had not been constrained to it by the wickedness of some, “Detract from me as much as you please — I shall suffer myself to be cast down below the ground — I shall suffer myself to be of no account whatever, (24) that the goodness of God towards me may shine forth the more. Let me, therefore, be reckoned the least of the Apostles: nay more, I acknowledge myself to be unworthy of this distinction. For by what merits could I have attained to that honor? When I persecuted the Church of God, what did I merit? But there is no reason why you should judge of me according to my own worth, (25) for the Lord did not look to what I was, but made me by his grace quite another man.” The sum is this, that Paul does not refuse to be the most worthless of all, and next to nothing, provided this contempt does not impede him in any degree in his ministry, and does not at all detract from his doctrine. He is contented that, as to himself, he shall be reckoned unworthy of any honor, provided only he commends his apostleship in respect of the grace conferred upon him. And assuredly God had not adorned him with such distinguished endowments in order that his grace might lie buried or neglected, but he had designed thereby to render his apostleship illustrious and distinguished.

(24) “ Estre estime moins que rien;” — “To be esteemed less than nothing.”

(25) “ Par ma petite et basse condition;” — “By my little and low condition.”

Verse 10

10. And his grace was not vain. Those that set free-will in opposition to the grace of God, that whatever good we do may not be ascribed wholly to Him, wrest these words to suit their own interpretation — as if Paul boasted, that he had by his own industry taken care that God’s grace toward him had not been misdirected. Hence they infer, that God, indeed, offers his grace, but that the right use of it is in man’s own power, and that it is in his own power to prevent its being ineffectual. I maintain, however, that these words of Paul give no support to their error, for he does not here claim anything as his own, as if he had himself, independently of God, done anything praiseworthy. What then? That he might not seem to glory to no purpose in mere words, while devoid of reality, he says, that he affirms nothing that is not openly apparent. Farther, even admitting that these words intimate, that Paul did not abuse the grace of God, and did not render it ineffectual by his negligence, I maintain, nevertheless, that there is no reason on that account, why we should divide between him and God the praise, that ought to be ascribed wholly to God, inasmuch as he confers upon us not merely the power of doing well, but also the inclination and the accomplishment.

But more abundantly Some refer this to vain-glorious boasters, (26) who, by detracting from Paul, endeavored to set off themselves and their goods to advantage, as, in their opinion at least, it is not likely that he wished to enter upon a contest with the Apostles. When he compares himself, however, with the Apostles, he does so merely for the sake of those wicked persons, who were accustomed to bring them forward for the purpose of detracting from his reputation, as we see in the Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 1:11.) Hence the probability is, that it is of the Apostles that he speaks, when he represents his own labors as superior to theirs, and it is quite true, that he was superior to others, not merely in respect of his enduring many hardships, encountering many dangers, abstaining from things lawful, and perseveringly despising all perils; (2 Corinthians 11:26;) but also because the Lord gave to his labors a much larger measure of success. (27) For I take labor here to mean the fruit of his labor that appeared.

Not I, but the grace The old translator, by leaving out the article, has given occasion of mistake to those that are not acquainted with the Greek language, for in consequence of his having rendered the words thus — not I, but the grace of God with me, (28) they thought that only the half of the praise is ascribed to God, and that the other half is reserved for man. They, accordingly, understand the meaning to be that Paul labored not alone, inasmuch as he could do nothing without co-operating grace, (29) but at the same time it was under the influence of his own free-will, and by means of his own strength. His words, however, have quite a different meaning, for what he had said was his own, he afterwards, correcting himself, ascribes wholly to the grace of God — wholly, I say, not in part, for whatever he might have seemed to do, was wholly, he declares, the work of grace. A remarkable passage certainly, both for laying low the pride of man, and for magnifying the operation of Divine grace in us. For Paul, as though he had improperly made himself the author of anything good, corrects what he had said, and declares the grace of God to have been the efficient cause of the whole. Let us not think that there is here a mere pretense of humility (30) It is in good earnest that he speaks thus, and from knowing that it is so in truth. Let us learn, therefore, that we have nothing that is good, but what the Lord has graciously given us, that we do nothing good but what he worketh in us, (Philippians 2:13) — not that we do nothing ourselves, but that we do nothing without being influenced — that is, under the guidance and impulse of the Holy Spirit.

(26) “ Thrasones.” See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 98, n. 1.

(27) “ Dieu donnoit plus heureuse issue a ses labeurs, et les faisoit prou-fiter plus amplement;” — “God gave to his labors a more prosperous issue, and made them much more successful.”

(28) In the Alexandrine MS. the reading is: But not I, but the grace of God with me. — Corresponding to this is the rendering of Wiclif, (1380,) — But not I, but the grace of God with me. — Ed.

(29) See Institutes, volume 1.

(30) Heideggerus seems to have had Calvin’s exposition here in his view in the following observations on the expression made use of by the Apostle: “ Non Gratia Dei meoum, uti vetus Itala vertit, quasi effectus inter Gra-tiam Dei, et Pauli arbitrium distribueretur; nihil enim habuit ipse, quod non acceperit; sed Οὐκ ἐγὼ δε, ἀλλἀχάρις τοῦ Θεοῦ σὺν ἐμοί mecum, ut totum et in solidum omne gratiae soli acceptum feratur. Neque ita loquitur solius humilitatis et modestiae explieandae ergo, quanquam et hanc testari voluit; sed quia po-tens illa gratia demonstratio et testimonium irrefragabile erat resurrectionis Domini.” — “Not the grace of God with me, as the old Italic version renders it, as though the effect were divided between God’s grace and Paul’s free-will; for he has nothing that he has not received, but ἡ σὺν ἐμοί , which with me, that every thing may be wholly and entirely ascribed to grace alone. Nor does he speak thus, merely for the purpose of showing humility and modesty, though he had it also in view to testify this, but because that grace was a powerful demonstration and irrefragable testimony of our Lord’s resurrection.” — Heideggeri Labores Exegetici in Cor. (Tiguri. 1700). — Ed.

Verse 11

11. Whether I or they Having compared himself with the other Apostles, he now associates himself with them, and them with him, in agreement as to their preaching. “I do not now speak of myself, but we have all taught so with one mouth, and still continue to teach so.” For the verb κηρύσσομεν (we preach) is in the present tense — intimating a continued act, or perseverance in teaching. (31) “If, then, it is otherwise, our apostleship is void: nay more — so ye believed: your religion, therefore, goes for nothing.”

(31) “ Perseuerance a enseigner ceste mesme chose;” — “Perseverance in teaching this same thing.”

Verse 12

12. But of Christ. He now begins to prove the resurrection of all of us from that of Christ. For a mutual and reciprocal inference holds good on the one side and on the other, both affirmatively and negatively — from Christ to us in this way: If Christ is risen, then we will rise — If Christ is not risen, then we will not rise — from us to Christ on the other hand: If we rise, then Christ is risen — If we do not rise, then neither is Christ risen. The ground-work of the argument to be drawn from Christ to us in the former inference is this: “Christ did not die, or rise again for himself, but for us: hence his resurrection is the foundation. (32) of ours, and what was accomplished in him, must be fulfilled in us also.” In the negative form, on the other hand, it is thus: “Otherwise he would have risen again needlessly and to no purpose, because the fruit of it is to be sought, not in his own person, but in his members.”

Observe the ground-work, on the other hand, of the former inference to be deduced from us to him; for the resurrection is not from nature, and comes from no other quarter than from Christ alone. For in Adam we die, and we recover life only in Christ; hence it follows that his resurrection is the foundation of ours, so that if that is taken away, it cannot stand (33) The ground-work of the negative inference has been already stated; for as he could not have risen again but on our account, his resurrection would be null and void, (34) if it were of no advantage to us.

(32) La substance et le fondement de la nostre;” — “The substance and foundation of ours.”

(33) “ Si ce fondement est oste, nostre resurrection ne pourra consister ; ” — “If this foundation is taken away, our resurrection cannot possibly stand.”

(34) Billroth, when quoting the above statement of Calvin, remarks, that “Calvin seems to have deceived himself with the double meaning of the words which he uses — ’ nulla ejus resurrectio foret;’ — these may mean either ‘ ejus resurrectio non est,’ or ‘ ejus resurrectio non est vera resurrectio,’ his resurrection is no real ressurection, and indeed only the latter suits his view of Paul’s argument.” It is justly observed, however, by Dr. Alexander, in his translation of Billroth, that Calvin may be considered to have “used the word nulla here in the sense of our null, void, useless,” his assertion being to this effect — that “if we rise not, then Christ’s resurrection becomes null.” See Biblical Cabinet, volume 23 — Ed.

Verse 14

14. Then is our preaching vain — not simply as having some mixture of falsehood, but as being altogether an empty fallacy. For what remains if Christ has been swallowed up by death — if he has become extinct — if he has been overwhelmed by the curse of sin — if, in fine, he has been overcome by Satan? In short, if that fundamental article is subverted, all that remains will be of no moment. For the same reason he adds, that their faith will be vain, for what solidity of faith will there be, where no hope of life is to be seen? But in the death of Christ, considered in itself, (35) there is seen nothing but ground of despair, for he cannot be the author of salvation to others, who has been altogether vanquished by death. Let us therefore bear in mind, that the entire gospel consists mainly in the death and resurrection of Christ, so that we must direct our chief attention to this, if we would desire, in a right and orderly manner, to make progress in the gospel — nay more, if we would not remain barren and unfruitful. (2 Peter 1:8.)

(35) “ C’est a dire, sans la resurrection ;” — “That is to say, apart from his resurrection.”

Verse 15

15. We are also found to be false witnesses. The other disadvantages, it is true, which he has just now recounted, were more serious, as regards us — that faith was made vain — that the whole doctrine of the gospel was useless and worthless, and that we were bereft of all hope of salvation. Yet this also was no trivial absurdity — that the Apostles, who were ordained by God to be the heralds of his eternal truth, were detected as persons who had deceived the world with falsehoods; for this tends to God’s highest dishonor.

The expression, false witnesses of God, we may understand in two ways — either that by lying they used the name of God under a false pretext, or that they were detected as liars, in testifying what they had received from God. The second of these I rather prefer, because it involves a crime that is much more heinous, and he had spoken previously as to men. (36) Now, therefore, he teaches that, if the resurrection of Christ is denied, God is made guilty of falsehood in the witnesses that have been brought forward and hired by him. (37) The reason, too, that is added, corresponds well — because they had declared what was false, not as from themselves, but from God.

I am at the same time well aware that there are some that give another rendering to the particle κατα The old interpreter renders it against. (38) Erasmus, on the other hand — concerning. (39) But, as it has also among the Greeks the force of ἀπό, (from,) this signification appeared to me to be more in accordance with the Apostle’s design. For he is not speaking here of the reputation of men, (as I have already stated, (40)) but he declares that God will be exposed to the charge of falsehood, inasmuch as what they publish has come forth from him.

(36) “ Et aussi il auoit desia parle du deshonneur qui en reuindroit aux hommes, c’est a dire aux Apostres et autres prescheurs;” — “And besides, he had spoken previously of the dishonor that resulted from it to men — that is to say, to the Apostles and other preachers.”

(37) “ Comme subornez;” — “As it were hired.”

(38) In accordance with this Wiclif (1380) renders the words thus — “We haw seide witnessynge agens God.” — Ed.

(39) Raphelius adduces two instances of Ταῦτα μὲν δὴ κατα πάντων Περσῶν ἔχομεν λέγειν — being employed by classical writers in the sense of concerning. “And these are things that we may affirm concerning all the Persians.” — (Xen. Cyrop., Book 1 page 6, line 33.) ‘ ̔Ο κατα τῶν τεχνῶν καὶ ἐποστημε̑ν λέγειν εἰώθαμεν ταυτὸν καὶ κατα τὢς ἀρετὢς φατέον ἐστίν “What we are accustomed to say in reference to the arts and sciences, may also be said in reference to virtue.” — (Plutarch, chapter 4.) Bloomfield suggests that the Apostle probably employed κατα in the “very rare” sense of concerning, “as wishing to include the sense — to the prejudice of — which falsification would occasion, inasmuch as it would almost imply a want of power in God to raise the dead, for the Gentile philosophers denied it.” — Ed.

(40) See p. 19.

Verse 17

17. Ye are yet in your sins For although Christ by his death atoned for our sins, that they might no more be imputed to us in the judgment of God, and has

crucified our old man, that its lusts might no longer reign in us, (Romans 6:6;)

and, in fine, has

by death destroyed the power of death, and the devil himself, (Hebrews 2:14;)

yet there would have been none of all these things, if he had not, by rising again, come off victorious. Hence, if the resurrection is overthrown, the dominion of sin is set up anew.

Verse 18

18. Then they who are fallen asleep. Having it in view to prove, that if the resurrection of Christ is taken away, faith is useless, and Christianity (41) is a mere deception, he had said that the living remain in their sins; but as there is a clearer illustration of this matter to be seen in the dead, he adduces them as an example. “Of what advantage were it to the dead that they once were Christians? Hence our brethren who are now dead, did to no purpose live in the faith of Christ.” But if it is granted that the essence of the soul is immortal, this argument appears, at first sight, conclusive; for it will very readily be replied, that the dead have not perished, inasmuch as their souls live in a state of separation from their bodies. Hence some fanatics conclude that there is no life in the period intermediate between death and the resurrection; but this frenzy is easily refuted. (42) For although the souls of the dead are now living, and enjoy quiet repose, yet the whole of their felicity and consolation depends exclusively on the resurrection; because it is well with them on this account, and no other, that they wait for that day, on which they shall be called to the possession of the kingdom of God. Hence as to the hope of the dead, all is over, unless that day shall sooner or later arrive.

(41) “ La profession de Chrestiente;” — “The profession of Christianity.”

(42) It is mentioned by Beza in his life of Calvin, that before leaving France in 1534, he “published his admirable treatise, entitled Psychopannychia, against the error of those who, reviving a doctrine which had been held in the earliest ages, taught that the soul, when separated from the body, falls asleep.” — Calvin’s Tracts, volume 1 page 26. — Ed.

Verse 19

19. But if in this life Here is another absurdity — that we do not merely by believing lose our time and pains, inasmuch as the fruit of it perishes at our death, but it were better for us not to believe; for the condition of unbelievers were preferable, and more to be desired. To believe in this life means here to limit the fruit of our faith to this life, so that our faith looks no farther, and does not extend beyond the confines of the present life. This statement shows more clearly that the Corinthians had been imposed upon by some mistaken fancy of a figurative resurrection, such as Hymeneus and Philetus, as though the last fruit of our faith were set before us in this life. (2 Timothy 2:17.) For as the resurrection is the completion of our salvation, and as to all blessings is, as it were, the farthest goal, (43) the man who says that our resurrection is already past, leaves us nothing better to hope for after death. However this may be, this passage gives at all events no countenance to the frenzy of those who imagine that the soul sleeps as well as the body, until the day of the resurrection. (44) They bring forward, it is true, this objection — that if the soul continued to live when separated from the body, Paul would not have said that, if the resurrection were taken away, we would have hope only in this life, inasmuch as there would still be some felicity remaining for the soul. To this, however, I reply, that Paul did not dream of Elysian fields, (45) and foolish fables of that sort, but takes it for granted, that the entire hope of Christians looks forward to the final day of judgment — that pious souls do even at this day rest in the same expectation, and that, consequently, we are bereft of everything, if a confidence of this nature deceives us.

But why does he say that we would be the most miserable of all men, as if the lot of the Christian were worse than that of the wicked? For all things, says Solomon, happen alike to the good and to the bad. (Ecclesiastes 9:2.) I answer, that all men, it is true, whether good or bad, are liable to distresses in common, and they feel in common the same inconveniences, and the same miseries; but there are two reasons why Christians have in all ages fared worse, in addition to which, there was one that was peculiar to the times of Paul. The first is, that while the Lord frequently chastises the wicked, too, with his lashes, and begins to inflict his judgments upon them, he at the same time peculiarly afflicts his own in various ways; — in the first place, because he chastises those whom he loves, (Hebrews 12:6;) and secondly, in order that he may train them to patience, that he may try their obedience, and that he may gradually prepare them by the cross for a true renovation. However it may be as to this, that statement always holds good in the case of believers It is time, that judgment should begin at the house of God. (Jeremiah 25:29; 1 Peter 4:17 (46)) Again,

we are reckoned as sheep appointed for slaughter. (Psalms 44:22.)


ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3.)

Meanwhile, the condition of the wicked is for the most part the more desirable, because the Lord feeds them up, as hogs for the day of slaughter.

The second reason is, that believers, even though they should abound in riches and in blessings of every kind, they nevertheless do not go to excess, and do not gormandize at their ease; in fine, they do not enjoy the world, as unbelievers do, but go forward with anxiety, constantly groaning, (2 Corinthians 5:2,) partly from a consciousness of their weakness, and partly from an eager longing for the future life. Unbelievers, on the other hand, are wholly intent on intoxicating themselves with present delights. (47)

The third reason, which was peculiar, as I have said, to the age of the Apostle, is — that at that time the name of Christians was so odious and abominable, that no one could then take upon himself the name of Christ without exposing his life to imminent peril. It is, therefore, not without good reason that he says that Christians would be the most miserable of all men, if their confidence were confined to this world.

(43) This statement as to the resurrection is strikingly in contrast with the celebrated sentiment of Horace. (Epist. 1:16, 79.) “ Mors est ultima linea rerum;” — “Death is the ultimate limit of things.” Heathen philosophers denied the possibility of a resurrection. Thus Pliny, Hist. Nat. L. 2, c. 7, says — “ Revocare defunctos ne Deus qidem potest;” — “To call back the dead is what God himself cannot do.”

(44) Pareus, in commenting on this passage, adverts in the following terms to the tenet above referred to — “ Nequaquam vero hinc sequitur, quod Psychopannychitae finxerunt: animas post mortem dormire, aut in nihilum cum corporibus redigi. Perire enim dicuntur infideles quoad animas, non physice, quod corruptae intercant; sed theologice, quod viventes felicitatern coelestem non consequantur; sed in tartara ad paenas solae vel cum corporibus tandem detrudantur;” — “By no means, however, does it follow from this, according to the contrivance of the soul-sleepers, that souls sleep after death, or are reduced to nothing along with the body. For unbelievers are said to perish as to their souls, not physically, as though they corrupted, and died, but theologically, because, while living they do not attain heavenly felicity, but are at length thrust down to hell for punishment, alone, or along with the body.” — Ed.

(45) Described at great length by Virgil. (AEn. 6, 637-703.) — Ed.

(46) Calvin, in commenting on 1 Peter 4:17, when speaking of judgment beginning at the house of God, says: Ideo dicit Paulus, (1 Corinthians 15:19,) Christianos sublata fide resurrectionis, omnium hominum miserrimos fore: et merito, quia dum alii absque metu sibi indulgent, assidue ingemiscunt fideles: dum aliorum peccata dissimulat Deus, et altos torpore sinit, suos sub cruets disciplina multo rigidins exercet;” — “Hence Paul says, and justly, (1 Corinthians 15:19,) that Christians, if the hope of a resurrection were taken away, would be of all men the most miserable, because, while others indulge themselves without fear, believers incessantly groan: while God seems to let the sins of others pass unnoticed, and allows others to be in a torpid state, he exercises his own people more strictly under the discipline of the cross.” — Ed.

(47) “ Es voluptez et delices de ce monde;” — “With the pleasures and delights of this world.”

Verse 20

20. But now hath Christ risen. Having shown what dreadful confusion as to everything would follow, if we were to deny that the dead rise again, he now again assumes as certain, what he had sufficiently established previously — that Christ has risen; and he adds that he is the first-fruits, (48) by a similitude taken, as it appears, from the ancient ritual of the law. For as in the first-fruits the produce of the entire year was consecrated, so the power of Christ’s resurrection is extended to all of us — unless you prefer to take it in a more simple way — that in him the first fruit of the resurrection was gathered. I rather prefer, however, to understand the statement in this sense — that the rest of the dead will follow him, as the entire harvest does the first-fruits; (49) and this is confirmed by the succeeding statement.

(48) “Although the resurrection of Christ, compared with first-fruits of any kind, has very good harmony with them, yet it more especially agrees with the offering of the sheaf, commonly called עומר, omer, not only as the thing itself, but also as to the circumstances of the time. For first there was the passover, and the day following was a sabbatic day, and on the day following that, the first-fruits were offered. So Christ, our passover, was crucified: the day following his crucifixion was the Sabbath, and the day following that, he, the first-fruits of them that slept, rose again, All who died before Christ, and were raised again to life, died afterwards; but Christ is the first-fruits of all who shall be raised from the dead to die no more.” — Lightfoot. — Ed.

(49) “The first-fruits were by the command of God presented to him at a stated season, not only as a token of the gratitude of the Israelites for his bounty, but as an earnest of the approaching harvest. In this sense he is called the first-fruits of the dead. He was the first in order of time, for although some were restored to life by the Prophets, and by himself during his personal ministry, none came out of their graves to return to them no more till after his resurrection; and as he was the first in respect of time, so he was the first in order of succession; all the saints following him as the harvest followed the presentation of the first-fruits of the temple. The interval is long, and the dreary sterility of the grave might justify the thought, that the seed committed to it has perished for ever. But our hope rests upon his power, which can make the wilderness blossom as the rose; and we wait till heavenly influences descend as the dew of herbs, when the barren soil shall display all the luxuriance of vegetation, and death itself shall teem with life.” — Dick’s Theology, volume 4 — Ed.

Verse 21

21. Since by man came death The point to be proved is, that Christ is the first-fruits, and that it was not merely as an individual that he was raised up from the dead. He proves it from contraries, because death is not from nature, but from man’s sin. As, therefore, Adam did not die for himself alone, but for us all, it follows, that Christ in like manner, who is the antitype, (50) did not rise for himself alone; for he came, that he might restore everything that had been ruined in Adam.

We must observe, however, the force of the argument; for he does not contend by similitude, or by example, but has recourse to opposite causes for the purpose of proving opposite effects. The cause of death is Adam, and we die in him: hence Christ, whose office it is to restore to us what we lost in Adam, is the cause of life to us; and his resurrection is the ground-work and pledge of ours. And as the former was the beginning of death, so the latter is of life. In the fifth chapter of the Romans (Romans 5:0) he follows out the same comparison; but there is this difference, that in that passage he reasons respecting a spiritual life and death, while he treats here of the resurrection of the body, which is the fruit of spiritual life.

(50) “ Le premier patron de la resurrection pour opposer a la mort d’ Adam;” — “The first pattern of the resurrection, in opposition to the death of Adam.”

Verse 23

23. Every one in his own order. Here we have an anticipation of a question that might be proposed: “If Christ’s life,” some one might say, “draws ours along with it, why does not this appear? Instead of this, while Christ has risen from the grave, we lie rotting there.” Paul’s answer is, that God has appointed another order of things. Let us therefore reckon it enough, that we now have in Christ the first-fruits, (51) and that his coming (52) will be the time of our resurrection. For our life must still be hid with him, because he has not yet appeared. (Colossians 3:3.) It would therefore be preposterous to wish to anticipate that day of the revelation of Christ.

(51) “ Les premices de la resurrection;” — “The first-fruits of the resurrection.”

(52) “ Quand il viendra en jugement;” — “When he will come to judgment.”

Verse 24

24. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered. He put a bridle upon the impatience of men, when he forewarned them, that the fit time for the new life (53) would not be before Christ’s coming. But as this world is like a stormy sea, in which we are continually tossed, and our condition is so uncertain, or rather is so full of troubles, and there are in all things such sudden changes, this might be apt to trouble weak minds. Hence he now leads them forward to that day, saying that all things will be set in order. Then, therefore, shall come the end — that is, the goal of our course — a quiet harbour — a condition that will no longer be exposed to changes; and he at the same time admonishes us, that that end must be waited for, because it is not befitting that we should be crowned in the middle of the course. In what respect Christ will deliver up the kingdom to the Father, will be explained in a little. When he says, God and the Father, this may be taken in two senses — either that God the Father is called the God and Father of Christ, or that the name of Father is added by way of explanation. The conjunction et (and) will in the latter case mean namely. As to the former signification, there is nothing either absurd, or unusual, in the saying, that Christ is inferior to God, in respect of his human nature.

When he shall have abolished all rule. Some understand this as referring to the powers that are opposed to Christ himself; for they have an eye to what immediately follows, until he shall have put all his enemies, etc. This clause, however, corresponds with what goes before, when he said, that Christ would not sooner deliver up the kingdom Hence there is no reason why we should restrict in such a manner the statement before us. I explain it, accordingly, in a general way, and understand by it — all powers that are lawful and ordained by God. (Romans 13:1.) In the first place, what we find in the Prophets (Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7) as to the darkening of the sun and moon, that God alone may shine forth, while it has begun to be fulfilled under the reign of Christ, will, nevertheless, not be fully accomplished until the last day; but then every height shall be brought low, (Luke 3:5,) that the glory of God may alone shine forth. Farther, we know that all earthly principalities and honors are connected exclusively with the keeping up of the present life, and, consequently, are a part of the world. Hence it follows that they are temporary.

Hence as the world will have an end, so also will government, and magistracy, and laws, and distinctions of ranks, and different orders of dignities, and everything of that nature. There will be no more any distinction between servant and master, between king and peasant, between magistrate and private citizen. Nay more, there will be then an end put to angelic principalities in heaven, and to ministries and superiorities in the Church, that God may exercise his power and dominion by himself alone, and not by the hands of men or angels. The angels, it is true, will continue to exist, and they will also retain their distinction. The righteous, too, will shine forth, every one according to the measure of his grace; but the angels will have to resign the dominion, which they now exercise in the name and by the commandment of God. Bishops, teachers, and Prophets will cease to hold these distinctions, and will resign the office which they now discharge. Rule, and authority, and power have much the same meaning in this passage; but these three terms are conjoined to bring out the meaning more fully.

(53) “ C’est a dire, de la resurrection;” — “That is to say, of the resurrection.”

Verse 25

25. For he must reign He proves that the time is not yet come when Christ will deliver up the kingdom to the Father, with the view of showing at the same time that the end has not yet come, when all things will be put into a right and tranquil state, because Christ has not yet subdued all his enemies. Now that must be brought about, because the Father has placed him at his right hand with this understanding, that he is not to resign the authority that he has received, until they have been subdued under his power. And this is said for the consolation of the pious, that they may not be impatient on account of the long delay of the resurrection. This statement occurs in Psalms 110:1

Paul, however, may seem to refine upon the word until beyond what the simple and natural meaning of the word requires; for the Spirit does not in that passage give intimation of what shall be afterwards, but simply of what must be previously. I answer, that Paul does not conclude that Christ will deliver up the kingdom to the Father, on the ground of its having been so predicted in the Psalm, but he has made use of this quotation from the Psalm, for the purpose of proving that the day of delivering up the kingdom had not yet arrived, because Christ has still to do with his enemies. Paul, however, explains in passing what is meant by Christ’s sitting at the right hand of the Father, when in place of that figurative expression he makes use of the simple word reign.

The last enemy — death We see that there are still many enemies that resist Christ, and obstinately oppose his reign. But death will be the last enemy (54) that will be destroyed. Hence Christ must still be the administrator of his Father’s kingdom. Let believers, therefore, be of good courage, and not give up hope, until everything that must precede the resurrection be accomplished. It is asked, however, in what sense he affirms that death shall be the last enemy (55) that will be destroyed, when it has been already destroyed by Christ’s death, or at least, by his resurrection, which is the victory over death, and the attainment of life? I answer, that it was destroyed in such a way as to be no longer deadly to believers, but not in such a way as to occasion them no uneasiness. The Spirit of God, it is true, dwelling in us is life; but we still carry about with us a mortal body. (1 Peter 1:24.) The substance of death in us will one day be drained off, but it has not been so as yet. We are born again of incorruptible seed, (1 Peter 1:23,) but we have not yet arrived at perfection. Or to sum up the matter briefly in a similitude, the sword of death which could penetrate into our very hearts has been blunted. It wounds nevertheless still, but without any danger; (56) for we die, but by dying we enter into life. In fine, as Paul teaches elsewhere as to sin, (Romans 6:12,) such must be our view as to death — that it dwells indeed in us, but it does not reign

(54) “It may not be improper to remark that there is an inaccuracy in our common version, which so vitiates its application that it does not seem to sustain the conclusion to which the Apostle had arrived. It was his purpose to establish the perfection of our Savior’s conquest, the advancement of his triumphs, and the prostration of all enemies whatever beneath his power. Now to say that ‘the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,’ by no means affords a proof of this position. Though death might be destroyed, and be the last enemy that shall be destroyed, it would not thence appear but that other enemies might remain not destroyed. But the proper rendering is, ‘Death, the last enemy, should be destroyed.’” — R. Hall’s Works, (Loud. 1846,) volume 6. — Ed.

(55) Ultimum vero seu novissimum hostem cur vocat? Chrysostomus putat, quia ultimo accessit. Primus fuit Satan, solicitaris hominem ad pecca-tum. Alter voluntas hominis, sponte se a Deo avertens. Tentius pecca-tum. Quartus denique mors, superveniens peccato. Sed baud dubie Apostolus novissimum vocat duratione, respectu aliorum externorum hos-tium Ecclesiae, quos Christus in fine abolebit omnes. Postremo et mor-tem corporalem pellet, suscitando omnes ex monte: ut hoc mortale induat immortalitatem; ” — “ But why does he call it (death), the latest or last enemy? Chrysostom thinks, because it came last. The first was Satan tempting man to sin. The second — man’s will, voluntarily turning aside from God. The third — sin. Then at length the fourth — death, following in the train of sin. There can be no doubt, however, that the Apostle calls it the last in respect of duration, in relation to the other external enemies of the Church, all of which Christ will in the end abolish. Last of all, he will drive away the death of the body, by raising up all from death, that this mortal may put on immortality.” Fareus in loc. — Ed.

(56) “ Mais c’est sans danger de mort;” — “But it is without danger of death.”

Verse 27

27. He hath put all things under his feet Some think that this quotation is taken from Psalms 8:6 , and I have no objection to this, though there would be nothing out of place in reckoning this statement to be an inference that is drawn by Paul from the nature of Christ’s kingdom. Let us follow, however, the more generally received opinion. Paul shows from that Psalm, that God the Father has conferred upon Christ the power of all things, because it is said, Thou hast put all things under his feet The words are in themselves plain, were it not that there are two difficulties that present themselves — first, that the Prophet speaks here not of Christ alone, but of the whole human race; and secondly, that by all things he means only those things that have to do with the convenience of the life of the body, as we find in Genesis 2:19. The solution of the former difficulty is easy; for as Christ is the first-born of every creature, (Colossians 1:15,) and the heir of all things, (Hebrews 1:2,) God, the Father, has not conferred upon the human race the use of all creatures in such a way as to hinder that in the mean time the chief power, and, so to speak, the rightful dominion, remain in Christ’s hands. Farther, we know, that Adam lost the right that had been conferred upon him, so that we can no longer call anything our own. For the earth was cursed, (Genesis 3:17,) and everything that it contains; and it is through Christ alone that we recover what has been taken from us. (57) It is with propriety, therefore, that this commendation belongs to Christ personally — that the Father has put all things under his feet, inasmuch as we rightfully possess nothing except in him. For how shall we become heirs of God, if we are not his sons, and by whom are we made his sons but by Christ.

The solution of the second difficulty is as follows — that the Prophet, it is true, especially mentions fowls of heaven, fishes of the sea, and beasts of the field, because this kind of dominion is visible, and is more apparent to the eye; but at the same time the general statement reaches much farther — to the heavens and the earth, and everything that they contain. Now the subjection must have a corrrespondence with the character of him who rules — that is, it has a suitableness to his condition, so as to correspond with it. Now Christ does not need animals for food, or other creatures for any necessity. He rules, therefore, that all things may be subservient to his glory, inasmuch as he adopts us as participants in his dominion. The fruit of this openly appears in visible creatures; but believers feel in their consciences an inward fruit, which, as I have said, extends farther.

All things put under him, except him who put all things under him. He insists upon two things — first, that all things must be brought under subjection to Christ before he restores to the Father the dominion of the world, and secondly, that the Father has given all things into the hands of his Son in such a way as to retain the principal right in his own hands. From the former of these it follows, that the hour of the last judgment is not yet come — from the second, that Christ is now the medium between us and the Father in such a way as to bring us at length to him. Hence he immediately infers as follows: After he shall have subjected all things to him, then shall the Son subject himself to the Father. “Let us wait patiently until Christ shall vanquish all his enemies, and shall bring us, along with himself, under the dominion of God, that the kingdom of God may in every respect be accomplished in us. ”

This statement, however, is at first view at variance with what we read in various passages of Scripture respecting the eternity of Christ’s kingdom. For how will these things correspond — Of his kingdom there will be no end, (Daniel 7:14; Luke 1:33; 2 Peter 1:11,) and He himself shall be subjected? The solution of this question will open up Paul’s meaning more clearly. In the first place, it must be observed, that all power was delivered over to Christ, inasmuch as he was manifested in the flesh. It is true that such distinguished majesty would not correspond with a mere man, but, notwithstanding, the Father has exalted him in the same nature in which he was abased, and has

given, him a name, before which every knee must bow, etc. (Philippians 2:9.)

Farther, it must be observed, that he has been appointed Lord and highest King, so as to be as it were the Father’s Vicegerent in the government of the world — not that he is employed and the Father unemployed (for how could that be, inasmuch as he is the wisdom and counsel of the Father, is of one essence with him, and is therefore himself God?) But the reason why the Scripture testifies, that Christ now holds dominion over the heaven and the earth in the room of the Father is — that we may not think that there is any other governor, lord, protector, or judge of the dead and living, but may fix our contemplation on him alone. (58) We acknowledge, it is true, God as the ruler, but it is in the face of the man Christ. But Christ will then restore the kingdom which he has received, that we may cleave wholly to God. (59) Nor will he in this way resign the kingdom, but will transfer it in a manner from his humanity to his glorious divinity, because a way of approach will then be opened up, from which our infirmity now keeps us back. Thus then Christ will be subjected to the Father, because the vail being then removed, we shall openly behold God reigning in his majesty, (60) and Christ’s humanity will then no longer be interposed to keep us back from a closer view of God. (61)

(57) The reader will find the same difficulties solved by Calvin in his Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 1, pp. 106, 108. — Ed.

(58) “ Mais que nous fichions les yeux de nostre entendement en luy seul;” — “But that we may fix the eyes of our understanding on him alone.”

(59) “The mediatorial kingdom of Christ will end when its design is accomplished; he will cease to exercise an authority which has no longer an object. When all the elect are converted by the truth, and, being collected into one body, are presented to the Father ‘a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing;’ when idolatry, superstition, and heresy are overthrown, and all evil is expelled from the kingdom of God; when the plans and efforts of wicked spirits are defeated, and they are shut up in their prison, from which there is no escape; when death has yielded up his spoils, and laid his scepter at the feet of his Conqueror; when the grand assize has been held, his impartial sentence has pronounced the doom of the human race, and their everlasting abodes are allotted to the righteous and the ungodly, nothing will remain to be done by the power with which our Savior was invested at his ascension; and his work being finished, his commission will expire. On this subject we cannot speak with certainty, and are in great danger of error, because the event is future, and our information is imperfect. Here analogy fails, and the utmost caution is necessary in borrowing an illustration from human affairs; but without insinuating that the two cases are exactly similar, may we not say, that as a regent or vicegerent of a King to whom the royal authority has been intrusted for a time, resigns it at the close, and the sovereign himself resumes the reins of government; so our Redeemer, who now sways the scepter of the universe, will return his delegated power to him from whom he received it, and a new order of things will commence under which the dependence of men upon the Godhead will be immediate; and Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one in essence, counsel, and operation, will reign for ever over the inhabitants of heaven. This is the probable meaning of the words, Then shall the Son himself be subject unto him that put all things under him.” — DickTheology, volume 3. — Ed.

(60) Nous contemplerons nostre Dieu face a face, regnant en sa maieste;” — “We shall behold our God face to face, reigning in his majesty.”

(61) “ Pour nous empescher de veoir de pres la maieste de Dieu;” — “To keep us back from a near view of the majesty of God.”

Verse 28

28. That God may be all in all Will it be so in the Devil and wicked men also? By no means — unless perhaps we choose to take the verb to be as meaning, to be known, and openly beheld. In that case the meaning will be: “For the present, as the Devil resists God, as wicked men confound and disturb the order which he has established, and as endless occasions of offense present themselves to our view, it does not distinctly appear that God is all in all; but when Christ will have executed the judgment which has been committed to him by the Father, and will have cast down Satan and all the wicked, the glory of God will be conspicuous in their destruction. The same thing may be said also respecting powers that are sacred and lawful in their kind, for they in a manner hinder God’s being seen aright by us in himself. Then, on the other hand, God, holding the government of the heaven and the earth by himself, and without any medium, will in that respect be all, and will consequently at last be so, not only in all persons, but also in all creatures.”

This is a pious interpretation, (62) and, as it corresponds sufficiently well with the Apostle’s design, I willingly embrace it. There would, however, be nothing out of place in understanding it as referring exclusively to believers, in whom God has now begun his kingdom, and will then perfect it, and in such a way that they shall cleave to him wholly. Both meanings sufficiently refute of themselves the wicked frenzies of some who bring forward this passage in proof of them. Some imagine, that God will be all in all in this respect, that all things will vanish and dissolve into nothing. Paul’s words, however, mean nothing but this, that all things will be brought back to God, as their alone beginning and end, that they may be closely bound to him. Others infer from this that the Devil and all the wicked will be saved — as if God would not altogether be better known in the Devil’s destruction, than if he were to associate the Devil with himself, and make him one with himself. We see then, how impudently madmen of this sort wrest this statement of Paul for maintaining their blasphemies.

(62) “ Ce sens contient doctrine saincte;” — “This view contains sacred doctrine.”

Verse 29

29. Else what shall they do He resumes his enumeration of the absurdities, which follow from the error under which the Corinthians labored. He had set himself in the outset to do this, but he introduced instruction and consolation, by means of which he interrupted in some degree the thread of his discourse. To this he now returns. In the first place he brings forward this objection — that the baptism which those received who are already regarded as dead, will be of no avail if there is no resurrection. Before expounding this passage, it is of importance to set aside the common exposition, which rests upon the authority of the ancients, and is received with almost universal consent. Chrysostom, therefore, and Ambrose, who are followed by others, are of opinion (63) that the Corinthians were accustomed, when any one had been deprived of baptism by sudden death, to substitute some living person in the place of the deceased — to be baptized at his grave. They at the same time do not deny that this custom was corrupt, and full of superstition, but they say that Paul, for the purpose of confuting the Corinthians, was contented with this single fact, (64) that while they denied that there was a resurrection, they in the mean time declared in this way that they believed in it. For my part, however, I cannot by any means be persuaded to believe this, (65) for it is not to be credited, that those who denied that there was a resurrection had, along with others, made use of a custom of this sort. Paul then would have had immediately this reply made to him: “Why do you trouble us with that old wives’ superstition, which you do not yourself approve of?” Farther, if they had made use of it, they might very readily have replied: “If this has been hitherto practiced by us through mistake, rather let the mistake be corrected, than that it should have weight attached to it for proving a point of such importance.”

Granting, however, that the argument was conclusive, can we suppose that, if such a corruption as this had prevailed among the Corinthians, the Apostle, after reproving almost all their faults, would have been silent as to this one? He has censured above some practices that are not of so great moment. He has not scrupled to give directions as to women’s having the head covered, and other things of that nature. Their corrupt administration of the Supper he has not merely reproved, but has inveighed against it with the greatest keenness. Would he in the meantime have uttered not a single word in reference to such a base profanation of baptism, which was a much more grievous fault? He has inveighed with great vehemence against those who, by frequenting the banquets of the Gentiles, silently countenanced their superstitions. Would he have suffered this horrible superstition of the Gentiles to be openly carried on in the Church itself under the name of sacred baptism? But granting that he might have been silent, what shall we say when he expressly makes mention of it? Is it, I pray you, a likely thing that the Apostle would bring forward in the shape of an argument a sacrilege (66) by which baptism was polluted, and converted into a mere magical abuse, and yet not say even one word in condemnation of the fault? When he is treating of matters that are not of the highest importance, he introduces nevertheless this parenthesis, that he speaks as a man. (Romans 3:5; Romans 6:19; Galatians 3:15.) Would not this have been a more befitting and suitable place for such a parenthesis? Now from his making mention of such a thing without any word of reproof, who would not understand it to be a thing that was allowed? For my part, I assuredly understand him to speak here of the right use of baptism, and not of an abuse of it of that nature.

Let us now inquire as to the meaning. At one time I was of opinion, that Paul here pointed out the universal design of baptism, for the advantage of baptism is not confined to this life; but on considering the words afterwards with greater care, I perceived that Paul here points out something peculiar. For he does not speak of all when he says, What shall they do, who are baptized ? etc. Besides, I am not fond of interpretations, that are more ingenious than solid. What then? I say, that those are baptized for dead, who are looked upon as already dead, and who have altogether despaired of life; and in this way the particle ὑπέρ will have the force of the Latin pro , as when we say, habere pro derelicto ; — to reckon as abandoned (67) This signification is not a forced one. Or if you would prefer another signification, to be baptized for the dead will mean — to be baptized so as to profit the dead — not the living, (68) Now it is well known, that from the very commencement of the Church, those who had, while yet catechumens, (69) fallen into disease, (70) if their life was manifestly in danger, were accustomed to ask baptism, that they might not leave this world before they had made a profession of Christianity; and this, in order that they might carry with them the seal of their salvation.

It appears from the writings of the Fathers, that as to this matter, also, there crept in afterwards a superstition, for they inveigh against those who delayed baptism till the time of their death, that, being once for all purged from all their sins, they might in this state meet the judgment of God. (71) A gross error truly, which proceeded partly from great ignorance, and partly from hypocrisy! Paul, however, here simply mentions a custom that was sacred, and in accordance with the Divine institution — that if a catechumen, who had already in his heart embraced the Christian faith, (72) saw that death was impending over him, he asked baptism, partly for his own consolation, and partly with a view to the edification of his brethren. For it is no small consolation to carry the token of his salvation sealed in his body. There is also an edification, not to be lost sight of — that of making a confession of his faith. They were, then, baptized for the dead, inasmuch as it could not be of any service to them in this world, and the very occasion of their asking baptism was that they despaired of life. We now see that it is not without good reason that Paul asks, what they would do if there remained no hope after death? (73) This passage shows us, too, that those impostors who had disturbed the faith of the Corinthians, had contrived a figurative resurrection, making the farthest goal of believers to be in this world, His repeating it a second time, Why are they also baptized for the dead? gives it greater emphasis: “Not only are those baptized who think that they are to live longer, but those too who have death before their eyes; and that, in order that they may in death reap the fruit of their baptism.”

(63) “This,” it is stated by Barnes, “was the opinion of Grotius, Michaelis, Tertullian, and Ambrose.” — Ed.

(64) “ De ce seul argument;” — “With this single argument.”

(65) “ Mats ie ne voy rien qui me puisse amener a suyure ceste coniecture;” — “But I see nothing that could induce me to follow that conjecture.”

(66) “ Ce sacrilege horrible; ” — “ This horrible sacrilege.”

(67) The form of expression referred to is made use of by Cicero. (Art. 8.1.) — Ed.

(68) “ Proufite apres la mort, et non pas la vie durant;” — “Profits after death, and not during life.”

(69) “ Estans encore sur la premiere instruction de la doctrine Chrestienne;” — “Being as yet in the first rudiments of Christian doctrine.”

(70) “ Quelque maladie dangereuse;” — “Some dangerous malady.”

(71) Cornelius a Lapide, in his Commentary on the Canonical Epistles, (Paris, 1631,) adverts in the following terms to the custom referred to by Calvin : “ Inter conversos olim multi erant qui Baptismum diu differebant, etiam usque ad mortem, adeoque aegri in lecto baptizabantur, ut per Baptismum expiati ab omni culpa et poena illico puri evolarent in coelum :” — “Among the converted there were anciently many who deferred baptism for a long time, even up to the time of their death, and were accordingly baptized when sick in bed, that cleared by baptism from all fault and punishment, they might fly up to heaven pure.” Milner, in his Church History, (volume 2,) when treating of Gregory Nazianzen, says, “In another discourse, he protests against the too common practice of delaying baptism, which, from the example of Constantine, had grown very fashionable, for reasons equally corrupt and superstitious. Men lived in sin as long as they thought they could safely, and deferred baptism till their near approach to death, under a groundless hope of washing away all their guilt at once.” See also Turretine’s Theology, (Geneva, 1690,) volume 3 — Ed.

(72) “ Si celuy qui n’ estoit pas encore parfaitement instruit en la doctrine Chrestienne, et toutesfois auoit desia de vraye affection embrasse la foy;” — “If one, that had not as yet been fully instructed in Christian doctrine, but yet had already embraced the faith with true affection.”

(73) “Baptism,” says Dr. Dick, in his Lectures on Theology, (volume 4) “imports our interest in the resurrection of Christ and its consequences. It was called by the ancients ‘the earnest of good things to come,’ and ‘the type of the future resurrection.’ May not this be the meaning of that passage in the fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, concerning which there has been such a diversity of opinion? ‘Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not? why are they then baptized for the dead?’ (1 Corinthians 15:29.) Some of the Fathers understood the expression, ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν, to mean to be baptized into the hope of the resurrection of the dead; or, what amounts to the same thing, to submit to baptism that they might fill up the places of those who had died, thus declaring their belief that they had not perished, but were alive in a better world, and their hope that, through Jesus Christ, to whom they dedicated themselves in baptism, they also should be raised again to enjoy the same glorious recompense. According to this view of the passage, a resurrection to life is one of the blessings signified and sealed by this institution. It assures us of a triumph over death and the grave, through the redeeming blood of Christ, with which we are sprinkled; and of admission into heaven, for which we are qualified by the washing of regeneration.” — Ed.

Verse 30

30. Why are we also? “If our resurrection and ultimate felicity are in this world, why do we of our own accord abandon it, and voluntarily encounter death?” The argument might also be unfolded in this manner: “To no purpose would we stand in peril every hour, if we did not look for a better life, after death has been passed through.” He speaks, however, of voluntary dangers, to which believers expose their lives for the purpose of confessing Christ. “This magnanimity of soul, I say, in despising death, would be ascribed to rashness rather than firmness, if the saints perished at death, for it is a diabolical madness to purchase by death an immortal fame. ” (74)

(74) “ Quand quelques fois les mondaines s’exposent a la mort seulement pour acquerir vn bruit immortel;” — “When worldly persons in some cases expose themselves to death, merely to acquire an immortal fame.”

Verse 31

31. I die daily Such a contempt of death he declares to be in himself, that he may not seem to talk bravely when beyond the reach of danger. “I am every day,” says he, “incessantly beset with death. What madness were it in me to undergo so much misery, if there were no reward in reserve for me in heaven? Nay more, if my glory and bliss lie in this world, why do I not rather enjoy them, than of my own accord resign them?” He says that he dies daily, because he was constantly beset with dangers so formidable and so imminent, that death in a manner was impending over him. A similar expression occurs in Psalms 44:22, and we shall, also, find one of the same kind occurring in the second Epistle. (2 Corinthians 11:23.)

By our glory. The old translation reads propter, (because of,) (75) but it has manifestly arisen from the ignorance of transcribers; for in the Greek particle (76) there is no ambiguity. It is then an oath, by which he wished to arouse the Corinthians, to be more attentive in listening to him, when reasoning as to the matter in hand. (77) “Brethren, I am not some philosopher prattling in the shade. (78) As I expose myself every day to death, it is necessary that I should think in good earnest of the heavenly life. Believe, therefore, a man who is thoroughly experienced.”

It is also a form of oath that is not common, but is suited to the subject in hand. Corresponding to this was that celebrated oath of Demosthenes, which is quoted by Fabius, (79) when he swore by the Shades of those who had met death in the field of Marathon, while his object was to exhort them to defend the Republic. (80) So in like manner Paul here swears by the glory which Christians have in Christ. Now that glory is in heaven. He shows, then, that what they called in question was a matter of which he was so well assured, that he was prepared to make use of a sacred oath — a display of skill which must be carefully noticed.

(75) The rendering in Wiclif (1380) is — for youre glorie. — Ed.

(76) The particle νὴ, made use of in solemn protestation. — Ed.

(77) “ Veu qu’il parloit a bon escient, ayant luy-mesme les mains a la besongne, ainsi qu’ on dit;” — “Inasmuch as he spoke in good earnest, having himself his hands in the work, as they say.”

(78) “ Quelque Philosophe qui triomphe de dire, estant loin de la prattique;” — “Some Philosopher, that talks loftily, while far from the scene of action.”

(79) “ Lequel Quintilian allegue;” — “Which Quintilian quotes.”

(80) “ Quid denique Demosthenes? non illud jusjurandum per caesos in Marathone ac Salamine propugnatores reipublicae, satis manifesto docet, praeceptorem ejus Platonem fuisse ?” — “What in fine as to Demosthenes? Does not that celebrated oath by these defenders of the Republic who were slain at Marathon and Salamis, afford ample evidence, that Plato was his preceptor?” Quinctilian, (Edin. 1810,) volume 2. The celebrated oath of the Grecian orator referred to, was in these terms — νὴ τοὺς ἐν Μαράθωνι πεπτωκοτας “By those who fell at Marathon.” — Ed.

Verse 32

32. If according to the manner of men He brings forward a notable instance of death, from which it might be clearly seen that he would have been worse than a fool, if there were not a better life in reserve for us beyond death; for it was an ignominious kind of death to which he was exposed. “To what purpose were it,” says he, “for me to incur infamy in connection with a most cruel death, if all my hopes were confined to this world?” According to the manner of men, means in this passage, in respect of human life, so that we obtain a reward in this world.

Now by those that fought with beasts, are meant, not those that were thrown to wild beasts, as Erasmus mistakingly imagined, but those that were condemned to be set to fight with wild beasts — to furnish an amusement to the people. There were, then, two kinds of punishment, that were totally different — to be thrown to wild beasts, and to fight with wild beasts. For those that were thrown to wild beasts were straightway torn in pieces; but those that fought with wild beasts went forth armed into the arena, that if they were endued with strength, courage, and agility, they might effect their escape by dispatching the wild beasts. Nay more, there was a game in which those who fought with wild beasts were trained, like the gladiators (81) Usually, however, very few escaped, because the man who had dispatched one wild beast, was required to fight with a second, (82) until the cruelty of the spectators was satiated, or rather was melted into pity; and yet there were found men so abandoned and desperate, as to hire themselves out for this! (83) And this, I may remark by the way, is that kind of hunting that is punished so severely by the ancient canons, as even civil laws brand it with a mark of infamy. (84)

I return to Paul. (85) We see what an extremity God allowed his servant to come to, and how wonderfully, too, he rescued him. Luke, (86) however, makes no mention of this fight. Hence we may infer that he endured many things that have not been committed to writing.

Let us eat and drink This is a saying of the Epicureans, who reckon man’s highest good as consisting in present enjoyment. Isaiah also testifies that it is a saying made use of by profligate persons, (Isaiah 22:13,) who, when the Prophets of God threaten them with ruin, (87) with the view of calling them to repentance, making sport of those threatenings, encourage themselves in wantonness and unbridled mirth, and in order to show more openly their obstinacy, say, “Since die we must, let us meanwhile enjoy the time, and not torment ourselves before the time with empty fears.” As to what a certain General said to his army, (88) “My fellowsoldiers, let us dine heartily, for we shall sup to-day in the regions below,” (89) that was an exhortation to meet death with intrepidity, and has nothing to do with this subject. I am of opinion, that Paul made use of a jest in common use among abandoned and desperately wicked persons, or (to express it shortly) a common proverb among the Epicureans to the following purpose: “If death is the end of man, there is nothing better than that he should indulge in pleasure, free from care, so long as life lasts.” Sentiments of this kind are to be met with frequently in Horace. (90)

(81) “ Et mesme comme il y auoit le ieu de l’escrime pour duire des gens h combatre les vns contre les nutres, pour donner passetemps au peuple, aussi il y auoit vn ieu auquel on faconnoit des gens a combatre contre les bestes es spectacles publiques;” — “Nay more, as there was a game of fencing for training persons for fighting with each other, to afford amusement to the people, so there was a game in which they made persons fight with wild beasts in the public shows.”

(82) “ N’ estoit pas quitte, mais il luy faloit retourner au combat contre la seconde.” — “He was not let go, but had to return to fight with a second.”

(83) “Sometimes freemen, of desperate circumstances, sought a precarious subsistence by hazarding their lives in this profession; but it was chiefly exercised by slaves, and prisoners of war, whom their masters or conquerors devoted to it; or by condemned persons, to whom was thus afforded an uncertain prolongation of existence, dependent upon their own prowess, activity, or skill.” — Illustrated Commentary. — Ed.

(84) “What was called venatio ,“ ( hunting,) ”or the fighting of wild beasts with one another, or with men called bestiarii , ( fighters with wild beasts,) who were either forced to this by way of punishment, as the primitive Christians often were; or fought voluntarily, either from a natural ferocity of disposition, or induced by hire, ( auctoramento ,) Cic. Tusc. Quaest. it. 17. Faro. 7:1., Off. it. 16., Vat. 17. An incredible number of animals of various kinds were brought from all quarters, for the entertainment of the people, and at an immense expense. Cic. Faro. 8:2, 4, 6. They were kept in inclosures, called vivaria , till the day of exhibition. Pompey in his second consulship exhibited at once 500 lions, who were all dispatched in five days; also 18 elephants. Dio. 39. 38. Plin. 8.7.“ Adam ’s Roman Antiquities, (Edin. 1792,). — Ed.

(85) “ Ie retourne maintenant a parler de Sainct Paul;” — “I now return to speak of St. Paul.”

(86) “ Sainct Luc aux Actes;” — “St. Luke in the Acts.”

(87) “ De ruine et perdition;” — “With ruin and perdition.”

(88) “ Car quant a ce qui on trouue entre les histoires ancicnnes que quelqu’vn disoit aux soldats;” — “For as to its being recorded in ancient histories, that one said to his soldiers.”

(89) The allusion is to Leonidas, king of Sparta, when addressing 300 Spartans, at the Pass of Thermopyhe, who “by an act of intrepidity, rarely paralleled in history, set themselves to defend that Pass, in opposition to 20,000 Persian troops, and during the night spread dreadful havoc and consternation among the Persians, but the morning light at length discovering their small number, they were immediately surrounded and slaughtered.” — Robertson’s H istory of Greece, page 151. — Ed.

(90) The following instances may be quoted as a specimen: —

O beate Sesti! Vitae summa brevis nos vetat inchoare longam, Jam to premet nox, fabulaeque Manes Et domus exilis Plutonia :

O happy Sestius! the brief span of human life forbids us to indulge a distant hope. Soon will night descend upon thee, and the fabulous Manes, and the shadowy mansion of Pluto.” — Hor. Carm. I. 4, 13-17.

Sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi Spem longam reseces. Dum loquimur, fugerit invida Aetas. Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

Be wise; rack off your wines; and abridge your distant hopes in adaptation to the brevity of life. While we speak, envious age has been flying. Seize the present day, depending as little as possible on any future one.” — Hor. Carre. I. 11.6-8.

Verse 33

33. Be not deceived. Evil communications corrupt good manners As nothing is easier than to glide into profane speculation, under the pretext of inquiring, (91) he meets this danger, by warning them that evil communications have more effect than we might suppose, in polluting our minds and corrupting our morals. (92) To show this, he makes use of a quotation from the poet Menander, (93) as we are at liberty to borrow from every quarter everything that has come forth from God. And as all truth is from God, there is no doubt that the Lord has put into the mouth of the wicked themselves, whatever contains true and salutary doctrine. I prefer, however, that, for the handling of this subject, recourse should be had to Basil’s Oration to the Young. Paul, then, being aware that this proverb was in common use among the Greeks, chose rather to make use of it, that it might make its way into their minds more readily, than to express the same thing in his own words. For they would more readily receive what they had been accustomed to — as we have experience of in proverbs with which we are familiar.

Now it is a sentiment that is particularly worthy of attention, for Satan, when he cannot make a direct assault upon us, (94) deludes us under this pretext, that there is nothing wrong in our raising any kind of disputation with a view to the investigation of truth. Here, therefore, Paul in opposition to this, warns us that we must guard against evil communications, as we would against the most deadly poison, because, insinuating themselves secretly into our minds, they straightway corrupt our whole life. Let us, then, take notice, that nothing is more pestilential than corrupt doctrine and profane disputations, which draw us off, even in the smallest degree, from a right and simple faith; (95) for it is not without good reason that Paul exhorts us not to be deceived. (96)

(91) “ De douter et s’enquerir;” — “Of doubting and inquiring.”

(92) “ Les bonnes moeurs;” — “Good manners.”

(93) “ 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 fifty-second year of his age, B. C. 293, because the compositions of his rival Philemon obtained more applause than his own.” — Barnes. — Ed.

(94) “ Pour nous seduire;” — “To draw us aside.”

(95) “ De la simplicite de la foy;” — “From the simplicity of the faith.”

(96) “The connection is not that in which we should have expected such a maxim to be inserted. It is in the midst of a very affecting and instructive view of the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting; but the occasion of it was this: the Corinthians had received, from the intrusion of false teachers, principles which militated against that great doctrine. They had been taught to explain it away, and to resolve it merely into a moral process which takes place in the present world; interpreting what is said of the resurrection of the dead in a mystical and figurative manner. The apostle insinuates, that it was by a mixture of the corrupt communications of these men with the Christian Church, and the intimate contact into which they had permitted themselves to come with them, that they had been led off from the fundamental doctrine of the gospel, and rejected a primary part of the apostolic testimony. ‘For if there be no resurrection of the dead, then,’ as he observed, ‘is Christ not risen, and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain; ye are yet in your sins.’ We see, that notwithstanding the apostle had planted pure Christianity among the Corinthians, and had confirmed it by the most extraordinary miracles and supernatural operations, yet such was the contagion of evil example and corrupt communication, that the members of the Corinthian Church, in a very short time, departed from the fundamental article of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ; and hence we may learn the importance, nay, the necessity, of being on our guard in this respect, and of avoiding such confidence in ourselves as might induce us to neglect the caution here so forcibly expressed — ’Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners.’” — R. Hall’s Works, (Lond. 1846,) volume 6, pages 273, 274. — Ed.

Verse 34

34. Awake righteously As he saw that the Corinthians were in a manner intoxicated, (97) through excessive carelessness, he arouses them from their torpor. By adding, however, the adverb righteously, he intimates in what way he would have them wake up For they were sufficiently attentive and clear-sighted as to their own affairs: nay more, there can be no doubt that they congratulated themselves on their acuteness; but in the mean time they were drowsy, where they ought most of all to have been on the watch. He says accordingly, awake righteously — that is, “Direct your mind and aim to things that are good and holy.”

He adds at the same time the reason, — For some, says he, among you are in ignorance of God This required to be stated: otherwise they might have thought that the admonition was unnecessary; for they looked upon themselves as marvellously wise. Now he convicts them of ignorance of God, that they may know that the main thing was wanting in them. A useful admonition to those who lay out all their agility in flying through the air, while in the mean time they do not see what is before their feet, and are stupid where they ought, most of all, to have been clear-sighted.

To your shame Just as fathers, when reproving their children for their faults, put them to shame, in order that they may by that shame cover their shame. When, however, he declared previously that he did not wish to shame them, (1 Corinthians 4:14,) his meaning was that he did not wish to hold them up to disgrace, by bringing forward their faults to public view in a spirit of enmity and hatred. (98) In the mean time, however, it was of advantage for them to be sharply reproved, as they were still indulging themselves in evils of such magnitude. Now Paul in reproaching them with ignorance of God, strips them entirely of all honor.

(97) The original word ἐκνήψατε, properly signifies to awake sober out of a drunken sleepage It is used in this sense in stone instances in the Septuagint. Thus in Joel 1:5, Εκνηψατε οἱ μεθυντες Awake, ye drunkards. See also Genesis 9:24, and 1 Samuel 25:37. It is used in the same sense by classical writers. “‘ Awake to righteousness and sin not, for some have not the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame;’ that is, shake off the mental delusion and stupor in which the intoxication of error has involved you, that, with clear and exerted faculties, you may attend to the most important subject.” — Brown’s Expository Discourses on Peter, volume in. page 8. The expression ἐκνήψατε δικαίως , (awake righteously,) is rendered by Luther machet recht aui — “Wake right up.” It is, however, generally considered to be elliptical. Some supply ζησοτες — “Awake, that ye may live righteously. Others understand δικαίως, as equivalent to ὡς δικαίως δεῖ “as it is fit you should.” “Arrian and Menander,” says Parkhurst, “use δικαιως in this sense, as may be seen in Alberti on the text.” To the two authorities quoted by Alberti, Alexander in his Paraphrase on 1 Corinthians 15:0, adds one from Ocellus Lucanus — ̔Ο δε διαμαχομενος δικαιως, but the man who stands up for his own authority as he ought to do.” — Apud Gale, page 533, I. 20. Ed. 1688. — Ed.

(98) See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 167.

Verse 35

35. How will they be raised up? There is nothing that is more at variance with human reason than this article of faith. For who but God alone could persuade us that bodies, which are now liable to corruption, will, after having rotted away, or after they have been consumed by fire, or torn in pieces by wild beasts, will not merely be restored entire, but in a greatly better condition. Do not all our apprehensions of things straightway reject this as a thing fabulous, nay, most absurd? (100) Paul, with the view of removing entirely this appearance of absurdity, makes use of an anhypophora, (101) that is, he brings forward by way of objection, in the person of another, what appears at first view to be at variance with the doctrine of a resurrection. For this question is not that of one who inquires doubtingly as to the mode, but of one who argues from impossibility — that is, what is said as to the resurrection is a thing incredible. Hence in his reply he repels such an objection with severity. Let us observe, then, that the persons who are here introduced as speaking, are those who endeavor to disparage, in a way of scoffing, a belief in the resurrection, on the ground of its being a thing that is impossible.

(100) “ Comme la plus grande absux, dite du monde;” — “As the greatest absurdity in the world.”

(101) See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 281, n. 1.

Verse 36

36. Thou fool, that which thou sowest The Apostle might have replied, that the mode, which is to us incomprehensible, is nevertheless easy with God. Hence, we must not here form our judgment according to our own understanding, but must assign to the stupendous and secret power of God the honor of believing, that it will accomplish what we cannot comprehend. He goes to work, however, in another way. For he shows, that the resurrection is so far from being against nature, that we have every day a clear illustration of it in the course of nature itself — in the growth of the fruits of the earth. For from what but from rottenness spring the fruits that we gather out of the earth? For when the seed has been sown, unless the grains die, there will be no increase. Corruption, then, being the commencement and cause of production, we have in this a sort of picture of the resurrection. Hence it follows, that we are beyond measure spiteful and ungrateful in estimating the power of God, if we take from him what is already manifest before our eyes.

Verse 37

37. Thou sowest not that body that will spring up. This comparison consists of two parts — first, that it is not to be wondered that bodies rise from rottenness, inasmuch as the same thing takes place as to seed; and secondly, that it is not at variance with reason, that our bodies should be restored in another condition, since, from bare grain, God brings forth so many ears of corn, clothed with admirable contrivance, and stored with grains of superior quality. As, however, he might seem to intimate, by speaking in this way, that many bodies will therefore rise out of one, he modifies his discourse in another way, by saying that God forms the body as it pleases him, meaning that in that also there is a difference in respect of quality.

He adds, to every seed its own body By this clause he restricts what he had said respecting another body; for he says that, while the body is different, it is in such a way as to retain, nevertheless, its particular kind.

Verse 39

39. All flesh is not, etc. Here we have another comparison leading to the same conclusion, though there are some that explain it otherwise. For when he says, that under the name of flesh is comprehended the body of a man as well as of a beast, and yet the flesh in those two cases is different, he means by this that the substance indeed is the same, but there is a difference as to quality. The sum is this — that whatever diversity we see in any particular kind is a sort of prelude of the resurrection, because God clearly shows, that it is no difficult thing with him to renew our bodies by changing the present condition of things. (102)

(102) “Nearly allied to these are the examples of peculiar transformations undergone by various insects, and the state of rest and insensibility which precede those transformations; such as the chrysalis or aurelia state of butterflies, moths, and silkworms. The myrmeleon forniicaleo, of whose larva, and its extraordinary history, Reaumur and Roesel have given accurate descriptions, continues in its insensible or chrysalis state about four weeks. The libellula, or dragon-fly, continues still longer in its state of inaction. Naturalists tell us that the worm repairs to the margin of its pond, in quest of a convenient place of abode, during its insensible state. It attaches itself to a plant, or piece of dry wood, and the skin, which gradually becomes parched and brittle, at last splits opposite to the upper part of the thorax: through this aperture the insect, now become winged, quickly pushes its way, and being thus extricated front confinement, begins to expand its wings, to flutter, and, finally, to launch into the air with that gracefulness and ease which are peculiar to this majestic tribe. Now who that saw, for the first time, the little pendant coffin in which the insect lay entombed, and was ignorant of the transformation of which we are now speaking, would ever predict that, in a few weeks, perhaps in a few days or hours, it would become one of the most elegant and active of winged insects? And who that contemplates, with the mind of a philosopher, this current transformation, and knows that two years before the insect mounts into the air, even while it is living in water, it has the rudiments of wings, can deny that the body of a dead man may, at some future period, be again invested with vigor and activity, and soar to regions for which some latent organization may have peculiarly fitted it?” — Olythus Gregory’s Letters on the Evidences of the Christian Religion, page 225. — Ed.

Verse 41

41. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon Not only is there a difference between heavenly bodies and earthly, but even the heavenly bodies have not all the same glory; for the sun surpasses the moon, and the other stars differ from each other. This dissimilarity, accordingly, appears (103) in the resurrection of the dead. A mistake, however, is commonly fallen into in the application; (104) for it is supposed that Paul meant to say, that, after the resurrection, the saints will have different degrees of honor and glory. This, indeed, is perfectly true, and is proved by other declarations of Scripture; but it has nothing to do with Paul’s object. For he is not arguing as to what difference of condition there will be among the saints after the resurrection, but in what respect our bodies at present differ from those that we will one day receive. (105)

He removes, then, every idea of absurdity, by instituting this comparison: The substance of the sun and moon is the same, but there is a great difference between them in point of dignity and excellence. Is it to be wondered, then, if our body puts on a more excellent quality? (106) “I do not teach that anything will take place at the resurrection but what is already presented before the eyes of all.” That such is the meaning of the words is clear from the context. For whence and for what purpose would Paul make such a transition, were he now comparing them with one another in respect of the difference of their condition, while up to this point he has been comparing the present condition of all with their future condition, and immediately proceeds with that comparison?

(103) “ Ceste dinersite de qualite se monstre;” — “This difference of quality shows itself.”

(104) “ En l’application de ceste similitude;” — “In the application of this similitude.”

(105) “ Comment different nos corps que nons auons maintenant de ceux que nons aurons apres;” — “In what respect our bodies, which we have now, will differ from those that we shall have afterwards.”

(106) “ Qu’il n’ha maintenant;” — “Than it has now.”

Verse 43

43. It is sown in corruption That there may be no doubt remaining, Paul explains himself, by unfolding the difference between their present condition, and that which will be after the resurrection. What connection, then, would there be in his discourse, if he had intended in the first instance (107) to distinguish between the different degrees of future glory among the saints? There can, therefore, be no doubt, that he has been, up to this point, following out one subject. He now returns to the first similitude that he had made use of, but applies it more closely to his design. Or, if you prefer it, keeping up that similitude, he figuratively compares the time of the present life to the seed-time, and the resurrection to the harvest; and he says, that our body is now, indeed, subject to mortality and ignominy, but will then be glorious and incorruptible. He says the same thing in other words in Philippians 3:21

Christ will change our vile body, that he may make it like to his own glorious body.

(107) “ Au propos precedent;” — “In the foregoing statement.”

Verse 44

44. It is sown an animal body. As he could not express each particular by enumerating one by one, he sums up all comprehensively in one word, by saying that the body is now animal, (108) but it will then be spiritual. Now that is called animal which is quickened by ( anima ) the soul: that is spiritual which is quickened by the Spirit. (109) Now it is the soul that quickens the body, so as to keep it from being a dead carcase. Hence it takes its title very properly from it. After the resurrection, on the other hand, that quickening influence, which it will receive from the Spirit, will be more excellent. (110) Let us, however, always bear in mind, what we have seen previously — that the substance of the body is the same, (111) and that it is the quality only that is here treated of. Let the present quality of the body be called, for the sake of greater plainness, animation; (112) let the future receive the name of inspiration. For as to the soul’s now quickening the body, that is effected through the intervention of many helps; for we stand in need of drink, food, clothing, sleep, and other things of a similar nature. Hence the weakness of animation is clearly manifested. The energy of the Spirit, on the other hand, for quickening, will be much more complete, and, consequently, exempted from necessities of that nature. This is the simple and genuine meaning of the Apostle; that no one may, by philosophizing farther, indulge in airy speculations, as those do, who suppose that the substance of the body will be spiritual, while there is no mention made here of substance, and no change will be made upon it.

(108) “ It is generally agreed on by the best expositors, that ψυχικὸς here, as being opposed to πευματικὸς , (spiritual,) especially as the expression is used with a reference to the words of Moses respecting the body of Adam, ἐγένετο εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν (became a living soul,) must signify animal, (literally that which draws in the breath of life, necessary to the existence of all animal bodies,) that which is endowed with faculties of sense, and has need of food, drink, and sleep for its support.” — Bloomfield. “ Ψυχικὸν not φυσικὸν. (says Granville Penn,) and therefore not ‘ naturale ’ but ‘ animale ,’ as rendered in the Latin. Wiclif,” (he adds,) “strangely rendered, from the Vulg., ‘ a beastli bodi, ’ in correcting whom, our revisers would have done well to prefer ‘ animal’ to ‘ natural.’” — Ed.

(109) “ Au reste la ou nous traduisons, Sensuel, il y auroit a le tourner au plus pres du Grec, Animal: c’est a dire, gouuerne et viuifie de l’ame. Voyla donc que signifie Le corps sensuel. Le corps spirituel est celuy qui est viuifie de l’Esprit; ” — “ But what we translate sensual, might be rendered, more closely to the Greek, animal: that is to say, governed and quickened by the soul. Mark then what is meant by the sensual body. The spiritual body is that which is quickened by the Spirit.”

(110) “ Sera vne chose beaucoup plus excellente;” — “Will be a thing much more excellent.”

(111) “ La substance du corps sera tousiours vne; ” — “ The substance of the body will always be the same.”

(112) “ Animation, qui est nom descendant de ce mot Ame ;” — “ Animation, which is a name derived from this word Soul. ”

Verse 45

45. As it is written, The first Adam was made Lest it should seem to be some new contrivance as to the animal body, (113) he quotes Scripture, which declares that Adam became a living soul, (Genesis 2:7) — meaning, that his body was quickened by the soul, so that he became a living man. It is asked, what is the meaning of the word soul here? It is well known, that the Hebrew word נפש, (nephesh,) which Moses makes use of, is taken in a variety of senses; but in this passage it is taken to mean either vital motion, or the very essence of life itself. The second of these I rather prefer. I observe that the same thing is affirmed as to beasts — that they were made a living soul, (Genesis 1:20;) but as the soul of every animal must be judged of according to its kind, there is nothing to hinder that a soul, that is to say, vital motion, may be common to all; and yet at the same time the soul of man may have something peculiar and distinguishing, namely, immortal essence, as the light of intelligence and reason.

The last Adam. This expression we do not find anywhere written. (114) Hence the phrase, It is written, must be understood as referring exclusively to the first clause; but after bringing forward this testimony of Scripture, the Apostle now begins in his own person to draw a contrast between Christ and Adam. “Moses relates that Adam was furnished with a living soul; Christ, on the other hand, is endowed with a life-giving Spirit. Now it is a much greater thing to be life, or the source of life, than simply to live.” (115) It must be observed, however, that Christ did also, like us, become a living soul; but, besides the soul, the Spirit of the Lord was also poured-out upon him, that by his power he might rise again from the dead, and raise up others, This, therefore, must be observed, in order that no one may imagine, (as Apollinaris (116) did of old,) that the Spirit was in Christ in place of a soul. And independently of this, the interpretation of this passage may be taken from the eighth chapter of the Romans, where the Apostle declares, that the body, indeed, is dead, on account of sin, and we carry in us the elements of death; but that the Spirit of Christ, who raised him up from the dead, dwelleth also in us, and that he is life, to raise up us also one day from the dead. (Romans 8:10.) From this you see, that we have living souls, inasmuch as we are men, but that we have the life-giving Spirit of Christ poured out upon us by the grace of regeneration. In short, Paul’s meaning is, that the condition that we obtain through Christ is greatly superior to the lot of the first man, because a living soul was conferred upon Adam in his own name, and in that of his posterity, but Christ has procured for us the Spirit, who is life.

Now as to his calling Christ the last Adam, the reason is this, that as the human race was created in the first man, so it is renewed in Christ. I shall express it again, and more distinctly: All men were created in the first man, because, whatever God designed to give to all, he conferred upon that one man, so that the condition of mankind was settled in his person. He by his fall (117) ruined himself and those that were his, because he drew them all, along with himself, into the same ruin: Christ came to restore our nature from ruin, and raise it up to a better condition than ever. They (118) are then, as it were, two sources, or two roots of the human race. Hence it is not without good reason, that the one is called the first man, and the other the last. This, however, gives no support to those madmen, who make Christ to be one of ourselves, as though there were and always had been only two men, and that this multitude which we behold, were a mere phantom! A similar comparison occurs in Romans 5:12

(113) “ Vne nouuelle imagination qu’il ait forgee;” — “A new fancy that he had contrived.”

(114) “ Ceci n’est point trouue en lieu quelconque de l’Escriture;” — “This is not found in any passage of Scripture.”

(115) “As it is said, Adam was at first a living soul, (‘So God breathed into him the breath of life,’ — that pure, divine, and heavenly breath,) ‘and he became a living soul;’ so, then to have asked the question, ‘What is man?’ must have been to receive the answer, ‘He is a living soul: he is all soul, and that soul all life.’ But now is this living soul buried in flesh, a lost thing to all the true, and great, and noble ends and purposes of that life which was at first given it. It is true, indeed, that this is a thing much less than what is said of the second Adam, in 1 Corinthians 15:45. ‘The first man Adam was made a living soul; the second Adam was a quickening Spirit.’ This latter is a great deal more. A living soul signified him to live himself; but a quickening spirit signifies a power to make others live. That the first Adam could not do; the more excellent kind of life which he had (for there was a complication of lives in the first creation of this man) he could not lose: but he could not give. He could not lose it from himself; but he could never have given it, by any power or immediate efficiency of his own, to another. Here the second Adam — the constitution of the second Adam — was far above that of the first, in that he could quicken others — a quickening spirit, not only quickened passively, but quickened actively, such a spirit as could give spirit, and diffuse life.” — Howe’s Works, (Lond. 1834,) page 1209. — Ed.

(116) The views held by Apollinaris were as follows: “ Christum corpus assumpsisse sine anima, quod pro anima ei fuerit deitas illudque corpus consubstantiale fuisse deitati, nec ex substantia Martin efformatum;” — “That Christ assumed a body without a stud, because Deity was to him in place of a stud, and that body was co-essential with Deity, and was not formed from the substance of Mary.” — See Mastrieht’s Theology, (1698,) volume ii. page 975. “Apollinaris, or Apollinarius, taught that the Son of God assumed manhood without a soul, ( ψυχης ανευ,) as Socrates relates; but afterwards, changing his mind, he said that he assumed a soul, but that it did not possess the intelligent or rational principle, ( νουν δε ουκ εξεις αυτην) and that the λογος (word) was instead of that principle, ( αντιςου )” — Dick’s Lectures on Theology volume iii. page 22. — Ed.

(117) “ Le poure mal-heureux par sa transgression;” — “The poor miserable creature by his transgression.”

(118) “ Adam done et Christ;” — “Adam and Christ, therefore.”

Verse 46

46. But this is not first, which is spiritual. “It is necessary,” says he, “that before we are restored in Christ, we derive our origin from Adam, and resemble him. Let us, therefore, not wonder, if we begin with the living soul, for as being born precedes in order being born again, so living precedes rising again.”

Verse 47

47. The first Adam was from the earth. The animal life comes first, because the earthy man is first. (119) The spiritual life will come afterwards, as Christ, the heavenly man, came after Adam. Now the Manichees perverted this passage, with the view of proving that Christ brought a body from heaven into the womb of the Virgin. They mistakingly imagined, however, that Paul speaks here of the substance of the body, while he is discoursing rather as to its condition, or quality. Hence, although the first man had an immortal soul, and that too, not taken from the earth, yet he, nevertheless, savoured of the earth, from which his body had sprung, and on which he had been appointed to live. Christ, on the other hand, brought us from heaven a life-giving Spirit, that he might regenerate us into a better life, and elevated above the earth. (120) In fine, we have it from Adam — that we live in this world, as branches from the root: Christ, on the other hand, is the beginning and author of the heavenly life.

But some one will say in reply, Adam is said to be from the earth — Christ from heaven; the nature of the comparison (121) requires this much, that Christ have his body from heaven, as the body of Adam was formed from the earth; or, at least, that the origin of man’s soul should be from the earth, but that Christ’s soul had come forth from heaven. I answer, that Paul had not contrasted the two departments of the subject with such refinement and minuteness, (for this was not necessary;) but when treating of the nature of Christ and Adam, he made a passing allusion to the creation of Adam, that he had been formed from the earth,, and at the same time, for the purpose of commending Christ’s excellence, he states, that he is the Son of God, who came down to us from heaven, and brings with him, therefore, a heavenly nature and influence. This is the simple meaning, while the refinement of the Manichees is a mere calumny.

We must, however, reply to another objection still. For Christ, so long as he lived in the world, lived a life similar to ours, and therefore earthly: hence it is not a proper contrast. The solution of this question will serve farther to refute the contrivance (122) of the Manichees. For we know, that the body of Christ was liable to death, and that it was exempted from corruption, not by its essential property, (as they speak,) (123) but solely by the providence of God. Hence Christ was not merely earthy as to the essence of his body, but was also for a time in an earthly condition; for before Christ’s power could show itself in conferring the heavenly life, it was necessary that he should die in the weakness of the flesh, (2 Corinthians 13:4.) Now this heavenly life appeared first in the resurrection, that he might quicken us also.

(119) “ La vie sensuelle, ou animale, c’est a dire, que nous auons par le moyen de l’ame, precede;” — “The sensual or animal life, that is to say, what we have by means of the soul, comes first.”

(120) “ Plus haute et excellente que la terre;” — “Higher and more excellent than the earth.”

(121) “ La nature de l’antithese et comparison;” — “The nature of the contrast and comparison.”

(122) “ La meschante imagination; ” — “ The wicked fancy.”

(123) “ Afin que Fuse du terme commun;” — “To use the common phrase.”

Verse 49

49. As we have borne Some have thought, that there is here an exhortation to a pious and holy life, into which Paul was led by way of digression; and on that account they have changed the verb from the future tense into the hortative mood. Nay more, in some Greek manuscripts the reading is φορέσωμεν (let us bear,) (124) but as that does not suit so well in respect of connection, let us adopt in preference what corresponds better with the object in view and the context. (125) Let us observe, in the first place, that this is not an exhortation, but pure doctrine, and that he is not treating here of newness of life, but pursues, without any interruption, the thread of his discourse respecting the resurrection of the flesh. The meaning accordingly will be this: “As the animal nature, which has the precedency in us, is the image of Adam, so we shall be conformed to Christ in the heavenly nature; and this will be the completion of our restoration. For we now begin to bear the image of Christ, and are every day more and more transformed into it; (126) but that image consists in spiritual regeneration. But then it will be fully restored both in body and in soul, and what is now begun will be perfected, and accordingly we will obtain in reality what we as yet only hope for.” If, however, any one prefers a different reading, this statement will serve to spur forward the Corinthians; and if there had been a lively meditation of sincere piety and a new life, it might have been the means of kindling up in them at the same time the hope of heavenly glory.

(124) “ Pourtant en lieu de Nous porterons, aucuns ont traduit Portons. Et mesme aucuns liures Grecs le lisent ainsi;” — “Hence instead of We shall bear, some have rendered it, Let us bear. And even some Greek manuscripts read it thus.”

(125) The Alexandrine manuscript, with some others, reads φορέσωμεν, let us bear. The rendering of the Vulgate is portemus — (let us bear.) Wiclif (1380) following the Vulgate, as he is wont, renders as follows: bere we also the ymage of the heuenli. — Ed.

(126) “ Car nons ne faisons encore que commencer a porter l’image de Jesus Christ;” — “For as yet we do but begin to bear the image of Jesus Christ.”

Verse 50

50. Now this I say This clause intimates, that what follows is explanatory of the foregoing statement. “What I have said as to bearing the image of the heavenly Adam means this — that we must be renewed in respect of our bodies, inasmuch as our bodies, being liable to corruption, cannot inherit God’s incorruptible kingdom. Hence there will be no admission for us into the kingdom of Christ, otherwise than by Christ’s renewing us after his own image.” Flesh and blood, however, we must understand, according to the condition in which they at present are, for our flesh will be a participant in the glory of God, but it will be — as renewed and quickened by the Spirit of Christ.

Verse 51

Hitherto he has included two things in his reasoning. In the first place, he shows that there will be a resurrection from the dead: secondly, he shows of what nature it will be. Now, however, he enters more thoroughly into a description of the manner of it. This he calls a mystery, because it had not been as yet so clearly unfolded in any statement of revelation; but he does this to make them more attentive. For that wicked doctrine had derived strength from the circumstance, that they disputed as to this matter carelessly and at their ease; (127) as if it were a matter in which they felt no difficulty. Hence by the term mystery, he admonishes them to learn a matter, which was not only as yet unknown to them, but ought to be reckoned among God’s heavenly secrets.

51. We shall not indeed all sleep. Here there is no difference in the Greek manuscripts, but in the Latin versions there are three different readings. The first is, We shall indeed all die, but we shall not all be changed. The second is, We shall indeed all rise again, but we shall not all be changed. (128) The third is, We shall not indeed all sleep, but we shall all be changed. This diversity, I conjecture, had arisen from this — that some readers, who were not the most discerning, dissatisfied with the true reading, ventured to conjecture a reading which was more approved by them. (129) For it appeared to them, at first view, to be absurd to say, that all would not die, while we read elsewhere, that it is appointed unto all men once to die. (Hebrews 9:27.) Hence they altered the meaning in this way — All will not be changed, though all will rise again, or will die; and the change they interpret to mean — the glory that the sons of God alone will obtain. The true reading, however, may be judged of from the context.

Paul’s intention is to explain what he had said — that we will be conformed to Christ, because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. A question presented itself, (130) what then will become of those who will be still living at the day of the Lord? His answer is, that although all will not die, yet they will be renewed, that mortality and corruption may be done away. It is to be observed, however, that he speaks exclusively of believers; for although the resurrection of the wicked will also involve change, yet as there is no mention made of them here, we must consider everything that is said, as referring exclusively to the elect. We now see, how well this statement corresponds with the preceding one, for as he had said, that we shall bear the image of Christ, he now declares, that this will take place when we shall be changed, so that

mortality may be swallowed up of life, (2 Corinthians 5:4,)

and that this renovation is not inconsistent with the fact, that Christ’s advent will find some still alive.

We must, however, unravel the difficulty — that it is appointed unto all men once to die; and certainly, it is not difficult to unravel it in this way — that as a change cannot take place without doing away with the previous system, that change is reckoned, with good reason, a kind of death; but, as it is not a separation of the soul from the body, it is not looked upon as an ordinary death. It will then be death, inasmuch as it will be the destruction of corruptible nature: it will not be a sleep, inasmuch as the soul will not quit the body; but there will be a sudden transition from corruptible nature into a blessed immortality.

(127) “ Par maniere de passe-temps, et tout a leur aise; ” — “ By way of pastime, and quite at their ease.”

(128) This is the reading of the Vulgate. Wiclif (1380) translates the verse as follows: Lo, I seie to you pryuyte (secret) of holi things, and alle we schulen rise agen, but not alle we schulen be chaungid. — Ed.

(129) “ Qui leur estoit plus probable;” — “Which appeared to them more probable.”

(130) “ Il y auoit sur ceci vne question qu’on prouuolt faire;” — “There was a question as to this, which might be proposed.”

Verse 52

52. In a moment This is still of a general nature; that is, it includes all. For in all the change will be sudden and instantaneous, because Christ’s advent will be sudden. And to convey the idea of a moment, he afterwards makes use of the phrase twinkling (or jerk) of the eye, for in the Greek manuscripts there is a twofold, reading — ῥοπὣ (jerk,) or ῥιπὣ (twinkling.) (131) It matters nothing, however, as to the sense. Paul has selected a movement of the body, that surpasses all others in quickness; for nothing is more rapid than a movement of the eye, though at the same time he has made an allusion to sleep, with which twinkling of the eye is contrasted. (132)

With the last trump. Though the repetition of the term might seem to place it beyond a doubt, that the word trumpet is here taken in its proper acceptation, yet I prefer to understand the expression as metaphorical. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, he connects together the voice of the archangel and the trump of God: As therefore a commander, with the sound of a trumpet, summons his army to battle, so Christ, by his far sounding proclamation, which will be heard throughout the whole world, will summon all the dead. Moses tells us, (Exodus 19:16,) what loud and terrible sounds were uttered on occasion of the promulgation of the law. Far different will be the commotion then, when not one people merely, but the whole world will be summoned to the tribunal of God. Nor will the living only be convoked, but even the dead will be called forth from their graves. (133) Nay more, a commandment must be given to dry bones and dust that, resuming their former appearance and reunited to the spirit, they come forth straightway as living men into the presence of Christ.

The dead shall rise What he had declared generally as to all, he now explains particularly as to the living and the dead. This distinction, therefore, is simply an exposition of the foregoing statement — that all will not die, but all will be changed “Those who have already died,” says he, “will rise again incorruptible.” See what a change there will be upon the dead! “Those,” says he, “who will be still alive will themselves also be changed.” You see then as to both. (134) You now then perceive how it is, that change will be common to all, but not sleep. (135)

When he says, We shall be changed, he includes himself in the number of those, who are to live till the advent of Christ. As it was now the last times, (1 John 2:18,) that day (2 Timothy 1:18) was to be looked for by the saints every hour. At the same time, in writing to the Thessalonians, he utters that memorable prediction respecting the scattering (136) that would take place in the Church before Christ’s coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:3.) This, however, does not hinder that he might, by bringing the Corinthians, as it were, into immediate contact with the event, associate himself and them with those who would at that time be alive.

(131) It is stated by Semlr, that some in the times of Jerome preferred ῥοπὟ, but Jerome himself preferred ῥιπὟ is derived from ῥέπω, to tend or incline to. It means force or impetus. It is used by Thucydides (v. 103) to mean the preponderance of a scale. In connection with ὀφθαλμοῦ, (the eye,) it would probably mean, a cast or inclination of the eye. ̔ΡιπὟ, (the common reading,) is derived from ῥίπτω, to throw. ̔ριπὟ ὀφθαλμοῦ is explained by Nyssenus, (as stated by Parkhurst,) to mean — επιμύσις the shutting or twinkling of the eyelids.

(132) “ Pour ce que quand on se resueille, on cleigne ainsi des yeux;” — “Because, when persons awake, they twinkle in this way with their eyes.”

(133) “ The trumpet shall sound, (1 Corinthians 15:52,) says the prophetic teacher. And how startling, how stupendous the summons! Nothing equal to it, nothing like it, was ever heard through all the regions of the universe, or all the revolutions of time. When conflicting armies have discharged the bellowing artillery of war, or when victorious armies have shouted for joy of the conquest, the seas and shores have rung, the mountains and plains have echoed. But the shout of the archangel, and the trump of God, will resound from pole to poles — will pierce the center and shake the pillars of heaven. Stronger — stronger still — it will penetrate even the deepest recesses of the tomb! It will pour its amazing thunder into all those abodes of silence. The dead, the very dead, shall hear.” — Hervey’s Theron and Aspasio, volume 2 page 66. — Ed.

(134) “ Voyla donc ques les viuans et les morts;” — “Mark then how it will be as to the living and the dead.”

(135) “ Non pus le dormir, c’est a dire la mort;” — “Not sleep, that is to say, death.”

(136) “ La dissipation horrible;” — “The dreadful scattering.”

Verse 53

53. For this corruptible must Mark, how we shall live in the kingdom of God both in body and in soul, while at the same time flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God — for they shall previously be delivered from corruption. Our nature then, as being now corruptible and mortal, is not admissible into the kingdom of God, but when it shall have put off corruption, and shall have been beautified with in-corruption, it will then make its way into it. This passage, too, distinctly proves, that we shall rise again in that same flesh that we now carry about with us, as the Apostle assigns a new quality to it which will serve as a garment. If he had said, This corruptible must be renewed, the error of those fanatics, who imagine that mankind will be furnished with new bodies, would not have been so plainly or forcibly overthrown. Now, however, when he declares that this corruptible shall be invested with glory, there is no room left for cavil.

Verse 54

54. Then shall be brought to pass the saying This is not merely an amplification, ( ἐπεξεργασία ,) (137) but a confirmation, too, of the preceding statement. For what was foretold by the Prophets must be fulfilled. Now this prediction will not be fulfilled, until our bodies, laying aside corruption, will put on incorruption Hence this last result, also, is necessary. To come to pass, is used here in the sense of being fully accomplished, for what Paul quotes is now begun in us, and is daily, too, receiving further accomplishment; but it will not have its complete fulfillment until the last day.

It does not, however, appear quite manifest, from what passage he has taken this quotation, for many statements occur in the Prophets to this effect. Only the probability is, that the first clause is taken either from Isaiah 25:8, where it is said that death will be for ever destroyed by the Lord, (138) or, (as almost all are rather inclined to think,) from Hosea 13:14, where the Prophet, bewailing the obstinate wickedness of Israel, complains that he was like an untimely child, that struggles against the efforts of his mother in travail, that he may not come forth from the womb, and from this he concludes, that it was owing entirely to himself, that he was not delivered from death. I will ransom them, says he, from the power of the grave: I will rescue them from death. It matters not, whether you read these words in the future of the indicative, or in the subjunctive (139) for in either way the meaning amounts to this — that God was prepared to confer upon them salvation, if they would have allowed the favor to be conferred upon them, and that, therefore, if they perished, it was their own fault.

He afterwards adds, I will be thy destruction, O death! thy ruin, O grave! In these words God intimates, that he accomplishes the salvation of his people (140) only when death and the grave are reduced to nothing. For no one will deny, that in that passage there is a description of completed salvation. As, therefore, we do not see such a destruction of death, it follows, that we do not yet enjoy that complete salvation, which God promises to his people, and that, consequently, it is delayed until that day. Then, accordingly, will death be swallowed up, that is, it will be reduced to nothing, (141) that we may have manifestly, in every particular, and in every respect, (as they say,) a complete victory over it. (142)

(137) “ Vne declaration ou amplification;” — “A declaration or amplification.”

(138) “The words, as alleged by Paul,” (from Isaiah 25:8,) “are found in the version of Theodotion, with which the Targum and Syriac agree, in reading the verb as a passive, כלע in Piel, as here, commonly signifies to destroy, destroy utterly; in Kal, the more usual signification is that of swallowing, which most of the versions have unhappily adopted, לנצח the Greek translators render by; ἰσχύσας, εἰς τέλος, εἰς νῖκος; attaching to the term the idea of what is overpowering, durable, complete. The significations of the Hebrew root נצח, used only in Niphal and Piel, are — to shine, lead, lead on, be complete; in Chald. to surpass; excel, vanquish; hence the idea of victory, eternity, etc., attaching to נצח, and of completely, entirely, for ever, etc., to לנצח נצח. The words are therefore equivalent to ὁ θάνατος ὀυκ ἐσται ἐτι (Death shall be no longer,) Revelation 21:4, where there seems to be an evident allusion to our text; and where the subject is, as here, not the millennial state of the Church, but the state of glory after the resurrection of the body. It will be then only, that a period shall be put to the reproachful persecutions of the righteous, which Isaiah likewise predicts.” — Henderson on Isaiah. — Ed.

(139) “ Ie les eusse rachetez — ie les eusse deliurez;” — “I could have ransomed them — I could have rescued them.”

(140) “ Lors vrayement et a bon escient il sauue les fideles;” — “He then truly and effectually saves believers.”

(141) “This victory will not be gradual only, but total and entire. Every thing of mortality, that was hanging about these glorious victors, shall be swallowed up in perfect and endless life. Death is unstung first — disarmed — and then easily overcome. Its sting is said to be sin — the deadliest thing in death. A plain farther proof, by the way, the Apostle intended death also in the moral sense. And the insulting inquiry, ‘where is it?’ implies ‘tis not any where to be found; and signifies a total abolition of it, and, by consequence, must infer that every thing of death besides must, as to them, for ever cease and be no more. Which also the phrase of swallowing up doth with great emphasis express.” — Howe’s Works, (Lond. 1834,) page 1035. — Ed.

(142) “ En sorte que nons aurons plene et parfaite victoire a Pencontre d’elle; ” — “ So that we shall have a full and complete victory over it.”

Verse 55

As to the second clause, in which he triumphs over death and the grave, it is not certain whether he speaks of himself, or whether he meant there also to quote the words of the Prophet. For where we render it, “I will be thy destruction, O death! — thy ruin, O grave !” the Greeks have translated it, “ Where, O death, is thy suit? (143) where, O grave, thy sting?” Now although this mistake of the Greeks is excusable from the near resemblance of the words, (144) yet if any one will attentively examine the context, he will see that they have gone quite away from the Prophet’s intention. The true meaning, then, will be this — that the Lord will put an end to death, and destroy the grave. It is possible, however, that, as the Greek translation was in common use, Paul alluded to it, and in that there is nothing inconsistent, though he has not quoted literally, for instead of victory he has used the term action, or law-suit. (145) I am certainly of opinion, that the Apostle did not deliberately intend to call in the Prophet as a witness, with the view of making a wrong use of his authority, but simply accommodated, in passing, to his own use a sentiment that had come into common use, as being, independently of this, of a pious nature. (146) The main thing is this — that Paul, by an exclamation of a spirited nature, designed to rouse up the minds of the Corinthians, and lead them on, as it were, to a near view of the resurrection. Now, although we do not as yet behold the victory with our eyes, and the day of triumph has not yet arrived, (nay more, the dangers of war must every day be encountered,) yet the assurance of faith, as we shall have occasion to observe ere long, is not at all thereby diminished.

(143) “ Ou est ton plaid, c’est a dire, le proces que tu intentes contre nons, o mort ?” — “O death, where is thy suit — that is to say, the process that thou carriest on against us?”

(144) “The passage (says Dr. Bloomfield) is from Hosea 13:14, and the Apostle’s words differ only by the transposition of νῖκος (victory) and κέντρον, (sting,) from the ancient versions; except that for νῖκος the Sept. has δίκν (law-suit.)” It is noticed, however, by Granville Penn, that “in the most ancient of all the existing MSS. (Vat. and Ephr.) there is no transposition of θανατος (death) and κεντρον, (sting;) and the Apostle’s sentence preserves the same order as in the Greek of Hosea; so that the transposition lies wholly at the door of those MSS. which are more recent than those ancient copies.” The Vat. version has νεικος; instead of νικος, but from the circumstance that in that version νεικος is used in the 54 verse manifestly instead of νικος , it abundantly appears that it is a mere difference of spelling. The words to which Calvin refers, as having been mistaken for each other from their near resemblance, are, δικη (law-suit) and νικος, (or νικη,) victory. — Ed.

(145) “ Car en lieu du mot δίκη , qui signifie plaid ou proces, il a mis νῖκος , qui signifie victoire ; ” — “For in place of the word δίκη, which signifies an action or law-suit, they have used νῖκος, which signifies victory.”

(146) “ Bonne et saincte;” — “Good and holy,”

Verse 56

56. The sting of death is sin In other words, “Death has no dart with which to wound us except sin, since death proceeds from the anger of God. Now it is only with our sins that God is angry. Take away sin, therefore, and death will no more be able to harm us.” This agrees with what he said in Romans 6:23, that the wages of sin is death. Here, however, he makes use of another metaphor, for he compared sin to a sting, with which alone death is armed for inflicting upon us a deadly wound. Let that be taken away, and death is disarmed, so as to be no longer hurtful. Now with what view Paul says this will be explained by him ere long.

The strength of sin is the law It is the law of God that imparts to that sting its deadly power, because it does not merely discover our guilt, but even increases it. A clearer exposition of this statement may be found in Romans 7:9, where Paul teaches us that we are alive, so long as we are without the law, because in our own opinion it is well with us, and we do not feel our own misery, until the law summons us to the judgment of God, and wounds our conscience with an apprehension of eternal death. Farther, he teaches us that sin has been in a manner lulled asleep, but is kindled up by the law, so as to rage furiously. Meanwhile, however, he vindicates the law from calumnies, on the ground that it is holy, and good, and just, and is not of itself the parent of sin or the cause of death. Hence he concludes, that whatever there is of evil is to be reckoned to our own account, inasmuch as it manifestly proceeds from the depravity of our nature. Hence the law is but the occasion of injury. The true cause of ruin is in ourselves. Hence he speaks of the law here as the strength or power of sin, because it executes upon us the judgment of God. In the mean time he does not deny, that sin inflicts death even upon those that know not the law; but he speaks in this manner, because it exercises its tyranny upon them with less violence. For the law came that sin might abound, (Romans 5:20,) or that it might become beyond measure sinful. (Romans 7:13.)

Verse 57

57. But thanks be to God From this it appears, why it it was that he made mention both of sin and of the law, when treating of death. Death has no sting with which to wound except sin, and the law imparts to this sting a deadly power. But Christ has conquered sin, and by conquering it has procured victory for us, and has redeemed us from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3:13.) Hence it follows, that we are no longer lying under the power of death. Hence, although we have not as yet a full discovery of those benefits, yet we may already with confidence glory in them, because it is necessary that what has been accomplished in the Head should be accomplished, also, in the members. We may, therefore, triumph over death as subdued, because Christ’s victory is ours.

When, therefore, he says, that victory has been given to us, you are to understand by this in the first place, that it is inasmuch as Christ has in his own person abolished sin, has satisfied the law, has endured the curse, has appeased the anger of God, and has procured life; and farther, because he has already begun to make us partakers of all those benefits. For though we still carry about with us the remains of sin, it, nevertheless, does not reign in us: though it still stings us, it does not do so fatally, because its edge is blunted, so that it does not penetrate into the vitals of the soul. Though the law still threatens, yet there is presented to us on the other hand, the liberty that was procured for us by Christ, which is an antidote to its terrors. Though the remains of sin still dwell in us, yet the Spirit who raised up Christ from the dead is life, because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10.) Now follows the conclusion.

Verse 58

58. Wherefore, my brethren Having satisfied himself that he had sufficiently proved the doctrine of the resurrection, he now closes his discussion with an exhortation; and this has much more force, than if he had made use of a simple conclusion with an affirmation. Since your labor, says he, is not in vain in the Lord, be steadfast, and abound in good works Now he says that their labor is not in vain, for this reason, that there is a reward laid up for them with God. This is that exclusive hope which, in the first instance, encourages believers, and afterwards sustains them, so that they do not stop short in the race. Hence he exhorts them to remain steadfast, because they rest on a firm foundation, as they know that a better life is prepared for them in heaven.

He adds — abounding in the work of the Lord; for the hope of a resurrection makes us not be weary in well doing, as he teaches in Colossians 1:10. For amidst so many occasions of offense as constantly present themselves to us, who is there that would not despond, or turn aside from the way, were it not that, by thinking of a better life he is by this means kept in the fear of God? Now, on the other hand, he intimates, that if the hope of a resurrection is taken away, then, the foundation (as it were) being rooted up, the whole structure of piety falls to the ground. (147) Unquestionably, if the hope of reward is taken away and extinguished, alacrity in running will not merely grow cold, but will be altogether destroyed.

(147) “ D’autant que ceste esperance enest le fondement;” — “Inasmuch as that hope is the foundation of it.”

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Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.