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Bible Commentaries

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 15

Verses 1-11

  1. Intro:
    1. At the time Paul was writing to the Corinthian church there were many strange views of death and life after death.
      1. Some Jews denied, namely the Sadducees, that there was any life after death at all.
      2. The Greek world had an instinctive fear of death. In Athens’ citadel of human philosophy, the Areopagus, believing in the resurrection of the body was unthinkable.
        1. They believed the body to be the source of man’s weakness & sin; they viewed it as a corpse, or a tomb.
      3. Located near Athens was Corinth. The Corinthian Christians were denying “not the Resurrection of Jesus Christbut the resurrection of “the body”. (see vs.12)
        1. Paul will build his case, they must accept their resurrection, or reject Christ’s!
    2. Let’s describe what we mean by a resurrection body.
      1. Celsus the Roman Physician, circa 220ad, who was a bitter opponent of Christianity, said, “How can those who have died rise with their identical bodies? he demands. Really it is the hope of worms! For what soul of a man would any longer wish for a body that had rotted?”
        1. But of course Paul never said that we would rise with the body with which we died. He explained we’d have a spiritual body.
        2. The individual remains, his personality survives, he believed in the resurrection of “the whole man”.
        3. “Everything of the body & of the soul that is necessary to make a man a person will survive, but, at the same time, all things will be new, & the body & spirit will alike be very different from earthly things, for they will alike be divine.” William Barclay, pg.141.
    3. Outline: The Gospel; Resurrection Validation; Resurrection Personalization.
  2. THE GOSPEL & THE RESURRECTION! (1-11)
    1. Before Paul can build a case for their Resurrection, he must 1st remind them of the very heartbeat of the “Good News” (gospel)…“death, burial, & Resurrection!”
    2. THE GOSPEL! (1-4)
    3. I declare to you the gospel!
      1. The Gospel...is a message of what God has done for me, what I could not do for myself. Jesus came to earth to live a life I should have lived, and to die a death I should have died, and rose from death so that I may live also; so that because of this work I could be saved.
        1. Which produces worship, adoration, & grace. Which produces a love for Him & others. Which drives out temptation to sin. Which gives me the desire to please Him.
    4. (1,2) Here Paul reminds them of 5 things about the good news he had brought them.
    5. [1] Received – No man discovers it for himself, it is designed for one to transmit, & one to receive. (like a radio)
      1. Transmit: Rom.10:14 how shall they hear without a preacher?
      2. Receive: James 1:21, Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
      3. This of course is the function of the church! [receive/deliver; hear/tell; listen/proclaim]
      4. See vs.3a also (Paul received it also & is just passing it along)
    6. [2] Stand – Once received, the Gospel gives a person stability.
      1. In a slippery world we need to be able to keep our feet!
      2. 2 Sam. 22:32,34,37 For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?…He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places…You enlarged my path under me; So my feet did not slip.
      3. Prov. 4:11,12 I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, And when you run, you will not stumble.
    7. [3] Are Saved – (present passive indicates a continuous action which was being performed on the believers) Salvation goes from glory to glory.
      1. This step” of salvation is never completed in this world.
        1. See, He not only wants us to be saved from our sin but from ourselves!
      2. Remember the bible speaks of Salvation as: Past, Present, & Future.
        1. Past – Eph.2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
        2. Present – 1 Cor.1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
        3. Future – Rom.13:11 for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
          1. We have been saved from our sin; We are being saved daily from sinning; We will one day be saved from ever sinning. Justification, Sanctification, & Glorification
    8. [4] Hold Fast – Life has its dark places where there seems to be nothing to do but hold on!
      1. Paul told Timothy to, Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.
      2. “Faith is always a victory, the victory of the soul which tenaciously maintains its clutch on God.” Barclay [Hold tight!]
    9. [5] Unless you believed in Vain(or w/superficial faith) – A faith that can collapse is a superficial faith” where things were not thought out, nor thought through!
      1. Many tend to accept things because they were told to them. That’s a 2nd-hand faith!
      2. It says of Mary that she, kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
      3. “If you undergo the agony of thought there may be much that we must discard, but what is left is really ours in such a way that nothing can ever take it form us.”
        1. Story - I remember having lunch w/Pastor Gary Ansdell (cc Bellflower) in the late 80’s, & we were discussing the Pre-Trib Rapture. I made a statement regarding believing in it because it was a “Calvary Distinctive”. He corrected me & said, “No, I’ve studied it, & I whole heartedly believe the bible teaches that!” – He owned that doctrine!
        2. That challenged me to study it & own it myself!
        3. Know what you believe & why!
    10. (3,4) Died, Buried, Rose Again!
    11. Died – Christ died for our selfish independence, our rejection of His way (the way of righteousness)
      1. Is.53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him(Jesus) the iniquity of us all.
      2. Martin Luther loved to say, “Jesus Christ never died for our good works. They were not worth dying for. But He gave Himself for our sins, ‘according to the Scriptures’.”
        1. Jesus said, I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.
    12. Buried – Jesus’ burial is proof of his death!
      1. They took his body wrapped it carefully, placed it in the tomb, rolled the stone in front of it. [100 lbs of myrrh, aloes, etc]
      2. If there was any sign of life his friends surely wouldn’t have buried Him!
        1. I think there’s a bumper sticker: “Friends that bury friends don’t bury living friends!”
    13. Rose Again – Believing in Jesus’ sinless life & his death never has saved anyone!… you must believe in His resurrection!
      1. Rom.10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
        1. Jesus not only died for you, but was also raised for you!
      2. “An individual must come to the cross empty-handed, clinging only to the crucified Christ and the empty tomb!”
    14. RESURRECTION VALIDATION! (5-7)
    15. Acts 1:3 to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
    16. Seen by Peter!
      1. Lk.24:34 The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!
      2. Remember Peter had wronged Jesus & then went out & wept.
      3. Others might have hated Peter forever. But Jesus desire was to help Peter “stand”!
      4. Love doesn’t get better than…when one can think more of the heartbreak of the one who wronged him, then of the hurt he himself experienced! (Wow!)
    17. Seen by over 500 believers at once!
      1. ​​​​​​​And most were still alive when Paul was writing this.
    18. Seen by James! (The brother of the Lord)
      1. It is clear from the gospels that his own family didn’t understand Him.
        1. John 7:5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
    19. So, here were 2 men who hurt Jesus but were sorry for it.
    20. RESURRECTED PERSONALIZATION! (8-11)
    21. Now Paul gets personal telling us what the Resurrection meant in his life.
    22. (8) One born out of due time – an untimely birth.
      1. Because of Paul’s past of persecuting Christians he contrasts his background to the rest of the apostles.
    23. (9) I am least – He openly admitted his unworthiness because of his past.
      1. Do you have an inflated view of your significance?
      2. Do you fell you need to be known, or have “special” title?
      3. I wonder...When you hear someone say that “they” are the chief of sinners, do they really think that?
    24. (10a) The grace of God (3x’s) – Paul attributed everything valuable in his life to God’s Grace!
      1. “Just as sin sometimes results in bad things happening to good people, so grace creates the possibility of good things happening to underserving people.” Andy Stanley
        1. Grace is the vehicle God uses on occasion to ensure that we get precisely what we don’t deserve.
        2. Grace is not reserved for good people; Grace underscores the goodness of God!
      2. Grace is not rational. It throws our glory train right off the tracks. It wrestles control out of our hands. It’s undomesticated. It’s unpredictable. It’s scary. It’s easy to run away from.
        1. It’s too easy to run back to the Law. It’s too easy to run back to formulas. Run to a check list. To a, to-do list. To a, to-don’t list.
        2. It’s that part thats inside of us, that screams, “but what do I do?
          1. Or, “what must I do to stay saved”, or “to stay in His graces!”
      3. This Gospel. This Good News. This Grace we preach is not Checklist Christianity. We have declared that little “g” gospel long enough!​​​​​​​
        1. Again the gospel focus is on Jesus performance for us, not our performance for Him!
        2. On what He’s done, not on what we can do!
        3. So how is the Gospel “the death, burial & resurrection”. Because what HE DID was the gospel (not in part, but the whole).
        4. And because of all that He did...we simply respond with awe & adoration; grateful hearts & a desire to now live out from that a life that pleases our Him.
      4. Does your life echo these words?
      5. Do you let Grace touch every part of your life? (relationships, home, job, ministry)
    25. (10b) By the grace of God I am what I am...Yet not I - He could be honest w/his strengths while acknowledging their source.
      1. It’s the beautiful combo! [You need Jesus, & He chose to “need” you!]
      2. Do you belittle your accomplishments? Can you admit what God has enabled you to do in your life, or in your ministry?
        1. Christians are the worse at receiving compliments. I complimented a Christian this week. His immediate response was, “It wasn’t me, its the Lord!” I said, “Yes, it was you, it’s called God working through you. I never would have thought it was just you”.
        2. I know its said to show humility, personally I don’t hear humility I hear false humility.
    26. (11) Whether it was I or they – He wasn’t concerned who got the recognition!
      1. Who are you in spiritual competition with? (Do they even know?…or care?)
    27. A few years before John Newton died, a friend was having breakfast with him. Their custom was to read from the Bible after the meal. Because Newton’s eyes were growing dim, his friend would read, then Newton would comment briefly on the passage. That day the selection was from 1 Corinthians 15. When the words “by the grace of God I am what I am” were read, Newton was silent for several minutes. Then he said, “I am not what I ought to be. How imperfect and deficient I am! I am not what I wish to be, although I abhor that which is evil and would cleave to what is good. I am not what I hope to be, but soon I shall put off mortality, and with it all sin. Though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor yet what I hope to be, I can truly say I am not what I once was: a slave to sin and Satan. I can heartily join with the apostle and acknowledge that by the grace of God I am what I am!”

      At 82, Newton said, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour."

      Newton's tombstone reads, "John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy."

Verses 35-58

  1. Intro:
    1. How hopeless the Greeks were when they thought about death.
      1. Inscriptions on tombs in ancient Greece & Rome indicate that death was their greatest enemy, that they saw no hope beyond the grave!
        1. In Christ we have life & hope!
    2. In ch.15 Paul has gone to great lengths to prove the resurrection of the body of the Corinthian believers, by proving 1st the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
      1. The resurrection of Jesus from the tomb was only the beginning of a great harvest!
  2. TWO QUESTIONS! (35-44)
    1. ​​​​​​​2 QUESTIONS! (35-44)
    2. We still have many questions regarding our new bodies. Will babies have infant bodies or mature bodies? – What about bodies that have died violently deaths, how will they be resurrected. – or, What about those who have been cremated, & their ashes spread, how will God raise them up? (dust or ashes, He will!)
    3. 2 questions are asked in vs.35. (a How & a Why question)
      1. The 1st is answered in vs.36 & the 2nd is answered in vs.37-49.
    4. HOW? (36)
    5. You can’t have a plant unless you have a seed, & seeds have to die first.
      1. Every time a seed sprouts life, nature testifies to the fact that life can come form death. (Chuck Swindoll, pg.69.)
    6. WHAT? (37-41) [4 Illustrations]
      1. Our Res is Definite [a seed] (37,38) – The seed represents the life it will grow (i.e. plant corn get corn).
        1. So, our heavenly body will be a “continuation” of our earthly body.
        2. Resurrection is not Reconstruction! [God doesn’t reassemble the original body that has turned to dust. The body is planted & blooms forth a beautiful flower!]
        3. My gravestone(epitaph): Plant me in the earth, but tis only for a spell, for soon to bloom forth, is the new Brian Bell! :)
      2. Our Res is Distinct [flesh=sarx/σαρξ] (39) – In creation God marked each species w/a unique distinction.
        1. We too will continue be able to be identified, just as the disciples were able to recognize Jesus in His res body.
        2. We will be able to recognize & identify our loved ones.
      3. Our Res is in Degree [solar system] (40,41) – As no 2 stars shine w/the same brightness, so each of us will have a glory all our own.
      4. Our Res is Different [note 4 contrasts] (42-44)
        1. Corruption/incorruption(perishable & imperishable); dishonor & glory; weakness/power; natural body/spirit body.
  3. TWO ADAMS! (45-49)
    1. ​​​​​​​FIRST & LAST ADAM! (45-49)
    2. Adam gave natural life to the entire human race - Jesus gave spiritual life to all who believe.
    3. Bearing Adam’s image we’re all destined to die - Bearing Jesus’ image we’re destined to live forever!
      1. Rom.5:17 For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
      2. Have you changed your image from the natural to the spiritual?
      3. Does your life today more reflect Adam’s image or Christ’s?
  4. THE DEATH OF DEATH! (50-58)
    1. NOT FIT TO ENTER! (50)
    2. Flesh & blood – our present mortal nature.
    3. Cannot inherit – Like caterpillars who can’t fly until they’ve been transformed, so we will never see heaven unless our bodies are changed! (Chuck Swindoll, pg.69.)
    4. Slide#13 CHANGED! (51)
    5. Sleep – What a great phrase when a believer dies, we sleep in Jesus!
      1. See 15:18 asleep in Christ.
      2. Jn.11:11-14 Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up. Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”
      3. Just like the child that falls asleep on the way home from grandma’s, they fall asleep in 1 location & wake up in another.
    6. Changed – or altered. (LKGNT)
      1. Like our sign in our nursery, “We shall all be changed.”
    7. Changed? How?
    8. A GENERATION THAT WON’T DIE! (52)
    9. In a moment – indivisible, because of smallness. (LKGNT)
    10. In the twinkling of an eye – like “quickly”. (surely I am coming quickly)
      1. Speaks of swiftness, speed when it happens, not length of time.
    11. We – Paul believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ.
      1. So was Paul wrong? - Did he make a mistake? - Was he in error?
        1. No, he held fast to what Jesus plainly taught, But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming; in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning; lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!
      2. “The absence of the of the information as to the date serves as a stimulus to expectancy.” (Herbert Lockyer, pg.281.)
      3. No generation should consider it improbable in their generation!
    12. There will be a generation that does not die.
      1. They will not go into the shadow of the valley of death. They will not taste the darkness of death. But they shall be changed!
      2. “No dates are given, but it will be at the exact moment which is in the purpose of God!” (Alan Redpath, pg.216.)
      3. It could happen before this day is through!
    13. Remember Dennis Tito, the California tycoon, paid $20 million to be “shot up” into space. Who now holds the title as “The 1st Space Tourist”! [went up w/the Russians in 2001]
      1. For Free, I’m not going to be “shot up” but be “Caught up”. Not propelled by any earthly effort, but by the heavenly magnetism of my Lord…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet!
      2. And, I’m not going to be called a tourist up there, but a Local!
    14. CLOTHED WITH INCORRUPTION! (53)
    15. Not only “will” but “must”!
    16. A redeemed spirit, without a body, will be awaiting that day of resurrection.
      1. 2 Cor.5:4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
      2. Death cannot touch the soul or the spirit of the Christian. It only touches the bodybut only for a bit!
    17. THE DEATH OF DEATH! (54,55)
    18. Here is an assurance that comforts us…Death is de-clawed!
    19. Swallowed up - to drink down. (down the hatch!)
    20. (55) Here is where Paul dares to laugh at death & the grave!
      1. He confronts an enemy which has held in its grip every human being throughout all history…except 2.
        1. Enoch who went for a walk with God & never came back, & Elijah who was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire!
    21. Death which swallowed up, will now be swallowed up!
      1. Rev.21:4 the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from their eyes. [also in Rev.7:17]
        1. No more Death but Life forevermore! - No more Sorrow but Joy! No more Crying but Laughter! - No more Pain but Pleasure!
    22. Deaths stinger is removed!
    23. Sting - represents death as a venomous creature, a scorpion, or a hornet rendered harmless.
      1. Death for the believer is like a de-clawed cat, de-fanged rattlesnake, or a scorpion w/o its stinger!
      2. It is like a bee which has already stung, & now is left harmless to ever sting again!
    24. VICTORY! (56,57)
    25. Sin is cancelled & the strength of the Law to condemn us is removed…because it has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
    26. Death is no longer our enemy then Christian; but an instrument of freedom from the reign of sin in our body.
      1. There will always be the human fear of entering the valley of death…unless Jesus comes 1st!
      2. Death then becomes like a friend who leads me to a curtain, which is drawn aside, which has been hiding the full Glory of the Savior from my eyes!
      3. Death is like the doors at the back of our sanctuary during one of our weddings.
        1. They are the only thing that stands between the bride & her groom!
        2. Once they are flung open they both behold each other in all their splendor!
  5. Slide#19 MEANWHILE...PERSEVERE! (58)
    1. ​​​​​​​So, now that we know about this mystery regarding the Rapture, what do we do now?
      1. Set dates? Quit our jobs? Sell everything? Sit up on our roofs & wait? Nope! See next vs!
    2. We end with a call that challenges us!
    3. Alan Redpath said, “To preach or teach the bible without applying it to life is sin! The bible is not a text book, nor a book of theory & doctrine. It is to be a compass, the chart, the guide for my whole life.”
    4. What is our application to what Paul just taught us? - Prepare for Victory!…How?
      1. Be steadfast – firm.
      2. Immovable –not moved.
        1. Are you easily moved by circumstances?
        2. Set your sail & stay on course!
      3. Always abound in the work of the Lord
        1. A honeybee lives only about six weeks. It works all that time. In a lifetime, a honeybee will make one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey!
      4. Know that your labor is not in vain – (when it’s in the Lord!)
        1. Here we are assured of the promise of reward!
        2. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love. Heb.6:10
    5. Live today as if was your last on earth? Would you do anything different?
      1. If you knew it was your last day would you plan anything different?
      2. If the trumpet sounds today at 9pm would you be “caught up” or “left behind?”
    6. This Victory ahead is for Christians! - Death is no friend to the unbeliever…it is an enemy!
      1. Death becomes, not a curtain separating a bride & a groom, but instead it is like a prison door, that opens for the prisoner,…only to be escorted to His execution.
      2. It need not be so! – Look unto Jesus, as the author & finisher of your faith!
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15". "Brian Bell Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/1-corinthians-15.html. 2017.