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Bible Commentaries

Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

1 Corinthians 15

Verse 1

THE GOSPEL

‘Brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel.’

1 Corinthians 15:1

The Gospel! How familiar are the words! What a grand thing is the Gospel!—the good news which nobody would ever have found out by himself. The good news sent down straight from heaven. The great foundation upon which all teaching must rest is the Gospel of our Blessed Lord. It is a deposit of sacred truth revealed by God, and handed down to His Church that it may be kept safely. We are merely trustees of this Gospel.

It is a Gospel of mercy. There are three points about it.

I. Its efficacy.—‘The Gospel which ye have received, and wherein ye stand.’ The first Christians received this great message of God’s truth as coming not from man. It was not St. Paul’s Gospel; he merely handed it on. It could not be improved by his own witness. This message the people received, and on the strength and truth of this message they stood. So the Christian to-day first receives this message unto himself, and then stands upon it as upon a foundation.

II. Its simplicity.—There are three chief points in the Gospel—that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again. The death of Christ is of supreme importance. He came into the world in order that He might offer that mysterious sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Then the burial of Christ certified His death. He really died. The resurrection certified the sufficiency of that death. He triumphed over death and made it man’s servant instead of his master. The Gospel is not a matter of philosophy, but it is a simple declaration of fact.

III. Its trustworthiness.—These simple facts bear investigation, they can be proved. The resurrection was witnessed to by all the disciples. Such is the Gospel of mercy—the great message of the redeeming work of our Saviour.

—Rev. G. F. Smythe.

Verse 10

THE CALL FOR SERVICE

‘I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God.’

1 Corinthians 15:10

The Gospel of Christ appeals to you in your strength as well as in your weakness. It is pitiable to think how many miss this truth in the fulness of their manhood, in the glory of their youth. Somehow they suppose that Christianity will wait out of sight for the day when it ever will find them fallen among thieves, wounded and broken by the roadside. Then, at last, it will come to pour in its oil and to bind up wounds. But till then it has no living message for them.

I. Christianity came to set the world on fire.—It came to work a revolution. It came to create a new heaven and a new earth. And for this high work it needs all the energy of health, of hope, of youth, of aspiration that you can bring it. It will put all splendid gifts to service. It looks out on the brave audacities of souls dauntless and untamed, and loves them, as our Lord loved Simon Peter. It will rebaptise them with the new name, but they will be the same men who once gloried in girding themselves and going whither they would, and now, committed to Christ’s humility, are content to be girded by another and to be carried whither they would not.

II. Christ calls for men of this generous impulsiveness, of this strenuous passion.—He invites the men of high desires—men who will ever ask and seek and knock; men who press ever forward and set no limit to their aspirations. To them, and to them only, who ask is it given. So the Faith cries aloud, invoking holy ambitions. Only those who seek, find; only to those who knock can gates be opened. That is the one law of grace! Such men will go on asking more and more, not for selfish greed, but out of sheer trust in the immeasurable goodness of a God Who exists to give; Who always longs to give more than they ever dare to ask for, crying to us, ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it!’ It is not self that prompts them to seek out ever new treasures, but reliance upon a God Who has prepared for those that love Him things far beyond what eye hath ever seen or heart conceived.

It is out of faith in God that they ask or seek or knock. It is in God that their aspirations are set free to act. And therefore it is that our youth and our health, no less than our sickness and our sin, find their sole interpretation in Jesus Christ.

III. Come, then, and bring Him all that He so dearly loves and so sorely needs.—Come with your youth, hot with desire! Come with your heart aflame. Come with your body sound and fair and free, now while the blood runs warm, and the strength of your pure manhood is in you, undimmed and untainted. Come with your muscular force and your keen vitalities. Come with your laughter and your gladness, you that are joyous-hearted. Come with your music and your song, your emotion and imagination, you that are artists and poets! Come with your high courage and your noble dreams, and your revolutionary ardour, you men of hope. Come while still you have something to bring Him which may be of service for the royalty of His name. For Christianity is the greatest adventure ever set on foot. It has set itself to create the world anew. Christianity is a romance. It appeals to all who can give themselves away. Christianity is a mighty effort to build the city of God on earth, and it wants those who will labour on with their tools in one hand and their weapons in another, in defiant and holy glee. Christianity is a war, and the foe is strong, and the ‘blood-red banner streams afar,’ and who will follow in that train but those who are strong enough to dare all for the good cause?

IV. Take the measure of the task that Christ has undertaken, and then consider whether He will not need all the power and all the splendour that men and women can ever bring Him, if He is to work out this victory—as He has sworn to do—through human flesh and blood. He needs the very best and finest instruments for such a task; and if you have any power of hand or brain, of body or mind; if you have high motives astir and kindling hopes; if you have youth and health, and force and joy; then here, in Christ, is their noblest use; in Him they will find their freedom. Not in self, not in egotism, will they find themselves alive. You will never know your full capacity until you can cry, ‘Lo! I find myself labouring more abundantly than I could have dreamed possible. Yet not I! not I! not I! but the grace of God that is with me.’

—Rev. Canon H. Scott Holland.

Illustration

‘The more splendid the achievement, the more intolerable would be the claim made by self, the more impossible would egotism become. “What!” the Apostle would cry, “when I think of all the incredible wonders wrought through me; when I recall how I, the least of all, who was not worthy to be called an Apostle, yet laboured more abundantly than they all; do you suppose I can calmly attribute all that to my own credit? Can I see myself in it? Can I recognise my own hand in it? Do you suppose I dare review it and pronounce ‘that is all mine: I did it’? It is just because I ‘laboured more abundantly than they all’ that I cannot possibly have done it of myself. The glory of my achievement is the very thing that convinces me of my own nothingness. As I look at the stupendous task I am lost, I disappear. I have forgotten myself. Oh, no! it is not I who so abundantly laboured. Not I, not I! How could it be? Not I, but the grace of God that was with me. It was all God. Nothing but God. God in me. God through me. God and God alone.” ’

Verse 10

THE CALL FOR SERVICE

‘I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God.’

1 Corinthians 15:10

The Gospel of Christ appeals to you in your strength as well as in your weakness. It is pitiable to think how many miss this truth in the fulness of their manhood, in the glory of their youth. Somehow they suppose that Christianity will wait out of sight for the day when it ever will find them fallen among thieves, wounded and broken by the roadside. Then, at last, it will come to pour in its oil and to bind up wounds. But till then it has no living message for them.

I. Christianity came to set the world on fire.—It came to work a revolution. It came to create a new heaven and a new earth. And for this high work it needs all the energy of health, of hope, of youth, of aspiration that you can bring it. It will put all splendid gifts to service. It looks out on the brave audacities of souls dauntless and untamed, and loves them, as our Lord loved Simon Peter. It will rebaptise them with the new name, but they will be the same men who once gloried in girding themselves and going whither they would, and now, committed to Christ’s humility, are content to be girded by another and to be carried whither they would not.

II. Christ calls for men of this generous impulsiveness, of this strenuous passion.—He invites the men of high desires—men who will ever ask and seek and knock; men who press ever forward and set no limit to their aspirations. To them, and to them only, who ask is it given. So the Faith cries aloud, invoking holy ambitions. Only those who seek, find; only to those who knock can gates be opened. That is the one law of grace! Such men will go on asking more and more, not for selfish greed, but out of sheer trust in the immeasurable goodness of a God Who exists to give; Who always longs to give more than they ever dare to ask for, crying to us, ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it!’ It is not self that prompts them to seek out ever new treasures, but reliance upon a God Who has prepared for those that love Him things far beyond what eye hath ever seen or heart conceived.

It is out of faith in God that they ask or seek or knock. It is in God that their aspirations are set free to act. And therefore it is that our youth and our health, no less than our sickness and our sin, find their sole interpretation in Jesus Christ.

III. Come, then, and bring Him all that He so dearly loves and so sorely needs.—Come with your youth, hot with desire! Come with your heart aflame. Come with your body sound and fair and free, now while the blood runs warm, and the strength of your pure manhood is in you, undimmed and untainted. Come with your muscular force and your keen vitalities. Come with your laughter and your gladness, you that are joyous-hearted. Come with your music and your song, your emotion and imagination, you that are artists and poets! Come with your high courage and your noble dreams, and your revolutionary ardour, you men of hope. Come while still you have something to bring Him which may be of service for the royalty of His name. For Christianity is the greatest adventure ever set on foot. It has set itself to create the world anew. Christianity is a romance. It appeals to all who can give themselves away. Christianity is a mighty effort to build the city of God on earth, and it wants those who will labour on with their tools in one hand and their weapons in another, in defiant and holy glee. Christianity is a war, and the foe is strong, and the ‘blood-red banner streams afar,’ and who will follow in that train but those who are strong enough to dare all for the good cause?

IV. Take the measure of the task that Christ has undertaken, and then consider whether He will not need all the power and all the splendour that men and women can ever bring Him, if He is to work out this victory—as He has sworn to do—through human flesh and blood. He needs the very best and finest instruments for such a task; and if you have any power of hand or brain, of body or mind; if you have high motives astir and kindling hopes; if you have youth and health, and force and joy; then here, in Christ, is their noblest use; in Him they will find their freedom. Not in self, not in egotism, will they find themselves alive. You will never know your full capacity until you can cry, ‘Lo! I find myself labouring more abundantly than I could have dreamed possible. Yet not I! not I! not I! but the grace of God that is with me.’

—Rev. Canon H. Scott Holland.

Illustration

‘The more splendid the achievement, the more intolerable would be the claim made by self, the more impossible would egotism become. “What!” the Apostle would cry, “when I think of all the incredible wonders wrought through me; when I recall how I, the least of all, who was not worthy to be called an Apostle, yet laboured more abundantly than they all; do you suppose I can calmly attribute all that to my own credit? Can I see myself in it? Can I recognise my own hand in it? Do you suppose I dare review it and pronounce ‘that is all mine: I did it’? It is just because I ‘laboured more abundantly than they all’ that I cannot possibly have done it of myself. The glory of my achievement is the very thing that convinces me of my own nothingness. As I look at the stupendous task I am lost, I disappear. I have forgotten myself. Oh, no! it is not I who so abundantly laboured. Not I, not I! How could it be? Not I, but the grace of God that was with me. It was all God. Nothing but God. God in me. God through me. God and God alone.” ’

Verse 10

THE CALL FOR SERVICE

‘I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God.’

1 Corinthians 15:10

The Gospel of Christ appeals to you in your strength as well as in your weakness. It is pitiable to think how many miss this truth in the fulness of their manhood, in the glory of their youth. Somehow they suppose that Christianity will wait out of sight for the day when it ever will find them fallen among thieves, wounded and broken by the roadside. Then, at last, it will come to pour in its oil and to bind up wounds. But till then it has no living message for them.

I. Christianity came to set the world on fire.—It came to work a revolution. It came to create a new heaven and a new earth. And for this high work it needs all the energy of health, of hope, of youth, of aspiration that you can bring it. It will put all splendid gifts to service. It looks out on the brave audacities of souls dauntless and untamed, and loves them, as our Lord loved Simon Peter. It will rebaptise them with the new name, but they will be the same men who once gloried in girding themselves and going whither they would, and now, committed to Christ’s humility, are content to be girded by another and to be carried whither they would not.

II. Christ calls for men of this generous impulsiveness, of this strenuous passion.—He invites the men of high desires—men who will ever ask and seek and knock; men who press ever forward and set no limit to their aspirations. To them, and to them only, who ask is it given. So the Faith cries aloud, invoking holy ambitions. Only those who seek, find; only to those who knock can gates be opened. That is the one law of grace! Such men will go on asking more and more, not for selfish greed, but out of sheer trust in the immeasurable goodness of a God Who exists to give; Who always longs to give more than they ever dare to ask for, crying to us, ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it!’ It is not self that prompts them to seek out ever new treasures, but reliance upon a God Who has prepared for those that love Him things far beyond what eye hath ever seen or heart conceived.

It is out of faith in God that they ask or seek or knock. It is in God that their aspirations are set free to act. And therefore it is that our youth and our health, no less than our sickness and our sin, find their sole interpretation in Jesus Christ.

III. Come, then, and bring Him all that He so dearly loves and so sorely needs.—Come with your youth, hot with desire! Come with your heart aflame. Come with your body sound and fair and free, now while the blood runs warm, and the strength of your pure manhood is in you, undimmed and untainted. Come with your muscular force and your keen vitalities. Come with your laughter and your gladness, you that are joyous-hearted. Come with your music and your song, your emotion and imagination, you that are artists and poets! Come with your high courage and your noble dreams, and your revolutionary ardour, you men of hope. Come while still you have something to bring Him which may be of service for the royalty of His name. For Christianity is the greatest adventure ever set on foot. It has set itself to create the world anew. Christianity is a romance. It appeals to all who can give themselves away. Christianity is a mighty effort to build the city of God on earth, and it wants those who will labour on with their tools in one hand and their weapons in another, in defiant and holy glee. Christianity is a war, and the foe is strong, and the ‘blood-red banner streams afar,’ and who will follow in that train but those who are strong enough to dare all for the good cause?

IV. Take the measure of the task that Christ has undertaken, and then consider whether He will not need all the power and all the splendour that men and women can ever bring Him, if He is to work out this victory—as He has sworn to do—through human flesh and blood. He needs the very best and finest instruments for such a task; and if you have any power of hand or brain, of body or mind; if you have high motives astir and kindling hopes; if you have youth and health, and force and joy; then here, in Christ, is their noblest use; in Him they will find their freedom. Not in self, not in egotism, will they find themselves alive. You will never know your full capacity until you can cry, ‘Lo! I find myself labouring more abundantly than I could have dreamed possible. Yet not I! not I! not I! but the grace of God that is with me.’

—Rev. Canon H. Scott Holland.

Illustration

‘The more splendid the achievement, the more intolerable would be the claim made by self, the more impossible would egotism become. “What!” the Apostle would cry, “when I think of all the incredible wonders wrought through me; when I recall how I, the least of all, who was not worthy to be called an Apostle, yet laboured more abundantly than they all; do you suppose I can calmly attribute all that to my own credit? Can I see myself in it? Can I recognise my own hand in it? Do you suppose I dare review it and pronounce ‘that is all mine: I did it’? It is just because I ‘laboured more abundantly than they all’ that I cannot possibly have done it of myself. The glory of my achievement is the very thing that convinces me of my own nothingness. As I look at the stupendous task I am lost, I disappear. I have forgotten myself. Oh, no! it is not I who so abundantly laboured. Not I, not I! How could it be? Not I, but the grace of God that was with me. It was all God. Nothing but God. God in me. God through me. God and God alone.” ’

Verse 11

THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL

‘So we preach, and so ye believed.’

1 Corinthians 15:11

According to the context there seem to be two principal reasons why the Apostle speaks in this way of the death of the Redeemer. One is on account of the place which it occupies in the redemption of man. The other is on account of the place which it occupies in the revelation of truth.

I. The place it occupies in the redemption of man.—What did the death of the Redeemer follow on the one hand? What followed it on the other?

( a) The answer to the first question is plain. The death of the Saviour ‘followed’ the act of laying on Him the sins of the world. This is the uniform scriptural explanation of that otherwise astonishing fact.

( b) Hence, therefore, next, the exceeding importance of that which followed Christ’s death, viz. of course, as here set forth, His ‘rising again.’ For not only was such a sequel to such an event a most remarkable thing in itself—remarkable as being a complete reversal of that which had previously happened—a movement in the exactly opposite direction, a passing back from death into life, a turning of darkness into light, such as never happened before; but it was still more striking, because, in the circumstances noted, it had such singular meaning and force.

II. Much the same is true when we consider, next, the place occupied by this same two-sided conflict with death—this tasting of its full bitterness on the one hand, and this total annihilation of its utmost power on the other—in the message of God to mankind. We may consider that message to consist, practically, of two principal parts. Our Bibles recognise this in their familiar distinction between the Old Testament and the New. In the one we have a sketch of what God taught the world in the ages before Christ. In the other we have a sample of what He taught the Church in the age which followed Christ’s death. The ‘goodly fellowship of the Prophets’ may be regarded as speaking to us in the one. The ‘glorious company of the Apostles’ virtually teach us in the other.

( a) With regard to the earlier of the two ‘witnesses’ in question—the Old Testament portion of the message of God to mankind—the answer is given at once in these words of St. Paul to which we have already adverted: ‘I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.’

( b) The same is true of the subsequent ‘witness’ of the ‘glorious company of the Apostles.’ Using that name in its widest sense, the New Testament is their work. By their hands, or by hands guided by them, they themselves being first taught by the Spirit of God, all its pages were written. What was their special office in doing so, according to their own account of the matter? The office of being witnesses of the fact of the Resurrection—after first dying for sin—of their Lord. So we find them recorded as doing.

III. The twofold truth, thus doubly set forth, is shown thereby to be our all in all in two principal ways.

( a) It is so, first, as being all, from a Christian point of view, which requires to be taught. Who can do more, be he who he may, than teach the essence of truth? And where else is the benefit, be it what it may, of attempting anything else? Give me the germ, you give me also the plant. Show me the ‘north,’ you show all other quarters as well. Keep the heart, you keep the life too. Just so, to teach nothing but the Crucified Risen One is, in fact, to teach all.

( b) This summary of truth is all that requires to be held.—Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, believe in the Lamb that was slain, believe in Him risen again, believe in Him really and truly, and thou shalt be saved. This follows necessarily from the kind of salvation which is implied in this truth. For it is a salvation which in fact is effected for us by the experience of another. ‘He was delivered,’ it is written, ‘for our offences, and raised again for our justification.’ ‘In that He died,’ it is written again, ‘He died unto sin once; in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.’ There cannot, therefore, be a fuller work or a completer result. There cannot, consequently, be anything left for us except to rely upon both. The simplest trust in a perfect work is perfect, too, in its way, and on that very account.

—Rev. W. Sunderland Lewis.

Illustration

‘Remember the power of Christ’s Resurrection. Take two instances almost at random: one early in the thirteenth century, the other late in the eighteenth. A certain rollicking youth in a little Italian town gives himself to Christ, and Francis of Assisi becomes Francis the great Gospel-preacher of his age; John Newton, the blaspheming, slave-dealing sea-captain, became the great evangelical preacher and hymn-writer. In each case the change was nothing short of a resurrection.’

Verse 14

THE DILEMMA

‘And if Christ be not risen, then is out preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.’

1 Corinthians 15:14

The Apostle justly argued that if Christ be not risen it is another Christianity; if it be a gospel at all, it is not the Gospel committed to us, not the Gospel on which we have staked our all for time and for eternity. If there be an opening here for faith, it is a belief in a mere event of human history, not a faith in a Divine, a present, a living Lord; it is no faith with a power to cleanse from sin, it is no faith with a power to purify the conscience, it is no faith with a present efficacy to lift men above the ills, the temptations, the sins, and the sorrows of life. For the Divine personality of the one Christ, God and Man, the Divine personality which alone gives value to the whole, this has been rent in twain if He be not risen.

I. This was the dilemma in which St. Paul seems to place them in his argument: Either Christ is risen, or the Christianity you profess is not the Christianity which Apostles preach; if you will sacrifice the one, you must be content to part with the other.

II. Must not this be the thought of any reverent mind, Take heed what ye do, ye know not what it may be when you claim the liberty to accept or reject any part of the revelation of God. A precept that seems unnecessary, or a doctrine which you think may be as well dispensed with, if you reject one or the other, you may be undermining the very foundations of the faith.

III. God’s revelation cannot be treated by fragments.—It cannot be pared away to suit the supposed necessities of modern thought, or to meet the ever-shifting difficulties of this or that class of minds. Nay, not thus can we contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. And though, doubtless, some truths may be rejected with less risk to the faith than others, just as some limbs of the body may be amputated without danger to life itself, yet this could never be with such a doctrine as that of the resurrection.

How can you and I know that He Who died on Calvary has indeed made atonement for sin unless we know that He is God? And how can we know that He is God except by the resurrection? How am I to know that the future is lighted up for me and for those who have gone before with a bright and glorious hope except by the resurrection?

—Archdeacon Robeson.

Illustration

‘We are told, in The Life of R. W. Dale, that, in the course of writing an Easter sermon, he came to a new realisation of the fact that Christ is alive. “I got up,” said Dr. Dale, in describing this experience, “and walked about repeating, ‘Christ is living, Christ is living!’ At first it seemed strange and hardly true; but at last it came upon me as a burst of sudden glory; yes, Christ is living. It was to me a new discovery. I thought that all along I had believed it; but not until that moment did I feel sure about it.” ’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE CERTAINTY OF THE RESURRECTION

It will be profitable for us to consider the triumphant tone of assured certainty on the part of St. Paul and of all the other Apostles upon the fact of the Resurrection.

Let us think of some of the grounds for that certainty.

I. The Resurrection not expected.—First of all we have this fact, and I do not think its importance can be overlooked, the belief in our Lord’s Resurrection did not come with the Apostles. None of them were prepared for it. None of them in the least expected it. They did not even faintly hope that it might be.

II. The Resurrection a fact.—But after the Resurrection they have no longer any hesitation in believing in the reality of this stupendous miracle. Their conviction is firm and unshakable. It is the one subject of their teaching. It is the firm basis upon which all faith and teaching rests. It is a truth concerning which they cannot now keep silent; for which they are now prepared to die. For this extraordinary change in their whole moral attitude there is only one possible explanation, namely, that they had sufficient evidence to convince them that what they had once thought to be not only improbable but impossible had actually taken place, and that Christ had truly risen—the object of their worship.

III. The foundation of the Christian Church.—Apart from the Resurrection of Christ, and from the Apostles’ belief in it, how could they ever have attempted to do that which they did attempt, and which they succeeded in doing, namely, to found the Christian Church? What object, what motive could they have had to do anything at all, if Christ had not risen? Then the awful tragedy of Good Friday must have been the end. If it was the end of Christ it must have been the end of their work. When I ask myself what possible inducement they could have had to proceed further I am at a loss to think; for remember, they had no message to tell, they had no Gospel to proclaim. They could only tell of absolute and utter failure on the part of One in Whom they had trusted. It is no exaggeration to say that, in these circumstances, the founding of the Christian Church and its marvellous growth, apart from the Resurrection, would have been an even greater miracle, greater even than the Resurrection itself, and more utterly inexplicable. But, given the Resurrection, given that absolute certainty concerning it, all that is inexplicable and impossible otherwise at once becomes possible and explicable.

The Resurrection of Christ is the sole reasonable explanation of the existence to this day of Christianity.

Rev. Canon C. P. Greene.

Illustration

‘Thousands and tens of thousands,’ said Dr. Arnold, ‘have gone through the evidence for the Resurrection piece by piece, as carefully as ever judge summed up on a most important case. I have myself done it many times over, not to persuade others, but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the history of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

THE NEED OF AN OBJECTIVE PROPITIATION

Here we observe that the atoning Sacrifice is not named indeed, but unmistakably implied. In the opening sentences of the chapter ( 1 Corinthians 15:3) it appears as the first article of the great Apostle’s creed and message; first of all, imprimis, ‘Christ died for our sins.’ The theme of His Resurrection immediately follows on, and, as we well know, fills the whole chapter, its argument and its glorious prophecy; but it is thus first indissolubly connected with the atoning death for our sins.

I. Practically, then, the words ‘If Christ be not risen’ mean ‘If Christ our Sacrifice were not, as such, accepted, with an acceptance evidenced by His Resurrection.’ If He were not—what then? Then, says the Apostle, not anxiously arguing but, as we have seen, appealing to open and indubitable certainties, you, you Corinthian converts and disciples, ‘ are yet in your sins.’

II. How shall we explain this phrase, in your sins’? Verbally, it might mean easily and naturally ‘under the power of your sins,’ involved in their coil, as they twist themselves serpentwise about you, and bind you down from obedience to your Lord. But then this interpretation, verbally possible, is negatived absolutely by fact. The Corinthians are contemplated by St. Paul as men actually and in fact delivered from the power of sin. And if so, he cannot mean here—when he says that, ex hypothesi, ‘Ye are yet in your sins’—that they were still in their old bad life. For as a matter of fact they were not. Whether the Lord were risen or not risen, fact was fact; they were morally liberated men. Then the only proper meaning left to the phrase is the meaning of judicial implication in sin. ‘Ye are yet in your sins’ in the sense of condemnation. Your Lord’s sacrifice has, on the hypothesis that the tomb never gave Him up, not won its end. Then your guilt is yet upon your heads.

III. Could there be a more impressive witness to the inexorable need of an objective propitiation, an atoning sacrifice, looking not merely man-ward to convict, to soften, to attract, but also and first God-ward, to satisfy? Here, as a fact, were men who had, biographically, found a wonderful moral transformation. They had been sorry for their sins; they had forsaken them; they stood as victors over them. Yes, but suppose per impossibile that all this had happened, and yet that the God-ward propitiation, the ‘deliverance up because of our transgressions,’ had not availed. Then the moral transfiguration would not for one hour have met and cancelled the judicial forfeit. They would be yet in their sins. They would be in condemnation still.

—Bishop H. C. G. Moule.

Illustration

‘If we do not mistake, the vast side of truth indicated here is one which calls for reverent and even urgent reaffirmation. It has occurred to us sometimes to hear or to read statements of the plan and purpose of, for instance, missionary enterprise in which the sin of man is indeed put solemnly in view, but only as a power on the will needing to be broken, not as an offence against the law needing, before everything else, to be lawfully forgiven. Let those teachers in the Church who have with joy made the fullest discoveries of the blissful power of the indwelling Lord to “subdue iniquities” and set free the whole soul for His service be the first also (none will do this more effectually than they) to emphasise the antecedent and everlasting necessity of the Lord for us in His “sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction.” Without Him thus, where, for all other blessings, should we be? Our faith would be vain; it would rest upon a cloud. We should be “yet in our sins.” ’

Verse 19

THE ARGUMENT OF COMMON SENSE

‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.’

1 Corinthians 15:19

Let me seek to show to any one who has any heart-love for the Lord Who died for him, how, when we begin to doubt as to the reality of the Lord’s Resurrection, we are verily approaching the state of those of whom the text speaks; and, if doubt passes into disbelief, must be of all men most miserable and most pitiable.

I. Is not this certainly true, that if we cannot feel sure that we have been redeemed from the powers of sin and death, our lot in this world must be the saddest conceivable? To feel sin within us and around us and blighting every effort for good, chilling every hope, thwarting every endeavour, and not also to feel that there is some countervailing influence, is to dwell within the very gates of despair.

II. If the Redeemer had not risen the power of sin must be deemed to have prevailed even over Him Who came to save us from it. Else why was its penalty, after having been endured for our sakes, not plainly shown to have had no enduring power on the Saviour of the world? If our dear Lord had not risen as He rose, with His own veritable body, with the wounds on His blessed hands and feet and side, I see not how the edge of such an argument could be turned, nor how any doubting soul could be brought to feel any real confidence whatever in its own Redemption! Redemption! and no token or trace of victory in the divinely appointed procedure by which Redemption was to be secured. Our dear Lord might doubtless have taken again His body even as He took it, but if no eye of man had beheld it, nor hand of man had touched it, where could have been the assurance to mankind either that Redemption had been won for us, and that death had been swallowed up in victory?

III. What is our highest and holiest hope—the most blessed hope of which our nature is susceptible? The answer may be easily given, and given, in part, in the words of an Apostle. The holiest hope that the heart of redeemed man can entertain is to behold the glorified face and form of Him Who rose this day, and having beheld it, to be for ever with Him. But how can we presume to entertain such a hope if we have any doubts as to that Lord’s bodily Resurrection? Is not this Resurrection of the body that which forms, so to speak, the link, the eternal link, between us and Him? If He had left His body where believing men had laid it, and that dear body had never been vivified and glorified, what really rational hope could we entertain of that union and communion in which Holy Scripture permits us, and even encourages us, to look for in our Redeemer’s kingdom? How could we sit down with Him at the marriage feast of the Lamb? How could we drink with Him the new fruit of the vine in the mystic union to which He Himself vouchsafed, while on earth, to allude, unless there was something, some element of glorified corporeity, in common, to such an extent as the finite can have aught in common with the infinite, between us and Him? His body must have risen; His body must have been borne ‘through all the heavens’ to where it now is, at the right hand of God, for such thoughts as Scripture permits us to entertain to be thinkable and intelligible. There is the deepest ground for thinking that the reality of the union of the Redeemer with His own through the ages of eternity depends more, perhaps far more, on the whole circumstances of the Lord’s Resurrection as it is revealed to us in the Gospels, than has yet been distinctly set forth even in the best meditative theology.

—Bishop Ellicott.

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE DESTRUCTION OF HOPE

The Apostle calls his people to consider what life would be, and still more what death would be, if this hope of a Resurrection through Jesus were taken away.

I. What would it be for us to know that all was over for us when the last gasping breath left our dying lips, and our eyes closed for ever in an eternal death? Could we bear the idea of losing our separate being for ever? We know that the particles which make up our fleshly bodies will go back to earth and air, whence they were taken, will grow, it may be, once more in the blades of grass, and wave in the leaves of trees, and go on in the endless round in which this lower creation moves; but could we bear to think that would be all, and that there would be nothing left of this living, thinking I, which had loved and suffered, learned and striven? Could it be that we had learned so many lessons from the Holy Spirit of God—had begun by degrees to submit our lower and animal nature to the higher and spiritual, and so drawn near to the Cause and Maker of all—and that then all our hopes and longings, all our aspirations for what is noble and what is good—all our progress upwards towards the Throne of God, should be crushed into nothingness in an instant, as the grasp of our hand can crush a butterfly! That is what would be our lot without the good hope of Resurrection through the Gospel.

II. Or what would it be to bid an eternal farewell to all we had loved and cared for, and to know that we should see them no more, nor they us; and that each of us was to sink into a blank nothingness, apart and away from the other! Yet that would be the lot of every loving and trustful soul without the hope of a Future Life, brought to us by the Gospel of Jesus. This hope and prospect of another life is therefore the first consequence of the Incarnation of God the Son, the great light which has lightened the darkness of human life—the very corner-stone of the Christian Faith. It is the special truth which we are taught by Eastertide, and therefore Easter is the Queen of Festivals, the great joy and crown of the Christian Year. It is the most precious of gifts—is the gift of immortality.

III. Immortal life with Jesus and in the image of Jesus is the crown of blessings.—Then only are we fit to enjoy everlasting life: then only are we strong enough to bear the burden of unnumbered ages of existence. We must lean on the idea of “the Eternal Years” of God, and so we shall be braced up to endure the life that lies before us—and more, to enter into it and dwell in its glory with happiness and joy.

Illustration

‘There is a heathen story which tells that once a man asked for this gift— not to die; and it was granted to him by the Fates. He was to live on for ever. But he had forgotten to ask that his youth and health and strength might last for ever also: and so he lived on till age and its infirmities and weakness were weighing him down, and his life grew to be a weariness and a burden to him. Existence (for it could hardly be called life) was one long torment to him; and then he wished to die. He wished to die, and could not. He had asked for a thing which lie was totally unfit to enjoy, but he had to take the consequences of it when it was once given. It was a curse to him, not a blessing.’

Verse 20

HE IS RISEN

‘Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.’

1 Corinthians 15:20

Two distinct truths are taught us in these blessed words:—

I. ‘Now is Christ risen from the dead.’—Here is the assurance—

( a) That the souls of all believers are safe.

( b) That their sin is cancelled.

( c) That death is abolished.

( d) That heaven is opened.

II. ‘And become the firstfruits of them that slept.’—Here is the guarantee that the future of the bodies of believers is secured as well.

—Rev. F. Harper.

Illustration

‘When, in the days of old, the pious Jew brought a basket of firstfruits to the priest according to God’s holy ordinance, he brought a pattern—a specimen of the fruits in his orchard or garden; and when Jesus rose, He rose as the firstfruits of them that slept—in the future life the body of every saint shall be like the Body of his Lord.’

Verse 24

THE END

‘Then cometh the end.’

1 Corinthians 15:24

It is not possible to rule these words out of life. They are perpetually recurring. We contemplate a man’s life from childhood to full manhood and old age; all the works that he will do; all the associations he will form; our eye runs along his whole course; but at last we reach the point where ‘Then cometh the end’ sums up and closes all.

I. The most striking thing about the whole matter is the way in which men’s desire and dread are both called out by this constant coming of the ends of things; this stopping and restarting of the works of life.

( a) There is man’s desire of the end. This partly arises from man’s instinctive dread of monotony. ‘I would not live always’ has been a true cry of the human soul. Man’s mere dread of monotony, his sense of the awful weariness of living on for ever, has made him rejoice that down the long avenues of life here he could read the inscription of release, ‘Then cometh the end.’ Every man has gathered something which he must get rid of, something he would not carry always; and so he welcomes the prophecy, ‘Then cometh the end.’ But it is not only the sense of the evil element in life that makes men desire the coming end. That is, after all, a poor and desperate reason. When life has been a success and developed its better powers, then, for a man to say, ‘This road is glorious, but I am glad to see it stops yonder; for beyond, without doubt, there is something yet more glorious’—that is a fine impatience. The noblest human natures are built thus.

( b) There in man’s dread of the end. Undoubtedly the sense of the changefulness of things is what sends such a feeling of insecurity through all our ordinary living—a dread which haunts the very feature of life which, as we have seen, wakens also the almost enthusiastic desire of men’s souls. And one reason is, the soul shrinks from change. Another reason is, that one shrinks from the thought of the coming end of the condition in which he is now living in proportion as he is aware of how far he is from having fulfilled and exhausted the fulness and richness of this present life. But the strongest element in our dread of change is the great uncertainty which envelops every untried experience, the great mystery of the unlived. We dread the end even of our own imperfect condition.

II. Fortunate, indeed, is it that the end of things does not depend upon man’s choice, but comes by a will more large, more wise than his. If we, in such mingled mood, were at last compelled to give the sign when we thought the time had come for this mortal to put on immortality—how the desire and the dread would fight within us! We are spared all that. ‘It comes of itself,’ men say; the Christian man with perfect reverence and truth exclaims, ‘God sends it.’ Apart from this view of the changefulness of life, this perpetual hurrying of all things to an end, we can make nothing out of it all. But if around this instability of human life is wrapped the great permanence of the life of God; if no end comes which is not in His sight truly a beginning; then there is light shed upon it all, and everything is instinct with His spiritual design.

III. How is it with you?—Have you anything to which there comes no end? Any passion for character, and the love of God? Those, and such like things, are eternal. There is no end to the great things of life. If one is living in the resolute pursuit of them, he may first welcome, and then rejoice to leave behind, the several means which in succession offer him their help to attain the object of life. A noble independence this gives to man’s soul. The more your soul is set upon the ends of life, the more you use its means in independence. Consider the life of your Lord, particularly its crowning scenes. Let such be your lives. As He was, so let us seek to be. That while we hang upon our cross, and cry ‘It is finished,’ it may be with a shout of triumph, counting the end but a new beginning, and looking out beyond the cross to richer growth in character, and braver and more fruitful service of our Lord.

—Bishop Phillips Brooks.

Verse 35

THE RESURRECTION BODY

‘With what body do they come?’

1 Corinthians 15:35

The Prayer Book contains several phrases which express the Christian Faith as regard the future life: ‘I believe in the Resurrection of the body’ (Apostles’ Creed). ‘I look for the Resurrection of the dead’ (Nicene Creed). ‘Dost thou believe in the Resurrection of the flesh?’ (Baptismal Service). ‘All men shall rise again with their own bodies’ (Athanasian Creed). The resurrection of the body, the flesh, the dead—the coming again with their own bodies.

The general conclusion is, we believe not only in the life everlasting, but that men shall live again after this earthly life; that there shall be a revival of personal identity.

The early belief in the Resurrection was not a stupid credulity. The Corinthians were intellectual, the objections natural then and natural now. As we have stood by the open grave we have known their force, and often asked ourselves, ‘With what body do they come?’ Will the child rise a child? the old man an old man? the cripple maimed? the blind sightless? Will the resurrection body be of the same material and form, only reconstructed? Is this the Christian Faith? If not, ‘With what body do they come?’

The Apostle meets these objections by analogy.

I. ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’—There is no question, then, of regathering the particles of the dead body; ‘neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.’ Not one of the particles composing a human body seven years ago exist in that body to-day; they have passed into new combinations and forms. St. Paul points us to the analogy of the seed and the plant—a parable of wondrous force and beautiful simplicity. ‘With what manner of body do they come?’ Certainly not with the same body. The plant is entirely unlike the seed from which it sprang. The resurrection body will not be the body which we now possess. The seed is not identical with the plant; it is the parent of the organism, the form of which is determined by God. ‘So also is the resurrection of the dead.’

II. Yet the resurrection body will, in a real sense, be our own body.—When clothed with it we shall be the same persons that we are now. The Thames is the same river now that it was a hundred years ago, flowing from the same source, created by the same force, coursing in the same channel; it is still the Thames, though not a drop of its water to-day was there ten years ago. The old man to-day says, ‘I am the same person that I was twenty, fifty years ago; though not a single particle of my body is the same, yet I am the same.’ So in the resurrection, it will be our body, only the identity will not be that of form or of particles, but that of a permanent force and character which make it what it is and constitute its unity. ‘God giveth it a body,’ remember, not as it pleaseth Him, but ‘as it pleased Him’—according to a certain law, which is His eternal will, that, through whatever changes the seed or germ of life should pass, something there shall be which shall connect its latest with its earliest stage.

III. The resurrection body will be the manifested expression of ourselves.—This, then, will be the resurrection body—ourselves, essentially ourselves. We are perpetually judging men by what we have learned to call their ‘expression.’ We look into a face and say, ‘There is kindness, sympathy, tenderness’; or, ‘There is pride, temper, passion, avarice.’ But we often judge wrongly; for this self-expression is, as at present, imperfect; in the resurrection body it will be full, complete, the perfect expression of the inmost spirit. According to the lives we live now, we shall be hereafter. The character formed here will determine our future expression. Our very bodies will be our condemnation or our glory in that day. We shall then wear the garb of holiness, or the livery of sin; and every man shall know even as he is known.

Rev. Prebendary J. Storrs.

Verses 41-42

DEGREES OF CONDITION

‘There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.’

1 Corinthians 15:41-Luke :

We may not overlook the point insisted upon by the Apostle—namely, that there shall be diversities and degrees in the condition of the risen righteous; that, though every seed shall come up with an entirely new body, yet every human seed shall have its own: differing in capacity it may be, differing in happiness it may be, differing in celestial rank it may be, but certainly not all alike. ‘There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory’ (see Daniel 12:3).

I. The saint of the lowest degree will be blessed according to the extent of his capacity, and therefore according to the extent of his desire. For capacity measures desire, whether in heaven or in earth. Every desire of the risen nature will be gratified; and though one vessel may be larger than another, yet no vessel can be more than full. No; there will be no room for envy in heaven. The deeds according to which God rewards us are the effects of His own grace; derive all their acceptableness from Christ’s mediation; are performed only in and through the assistance of the Holy and Eternal Spirit, Who, according as we neglect or improve the gift that is in us, raises us to this stature of saintliness or that, ‘dividing to every man severally as He will.’

II. Having therefore such promises, let us strive after high things.—Let us not be content with a low spiritual ambition. Expectants of a mansion, let us try for the noblest. Heirs to a crown, let us aspire to the richest. Designated to a place in the upper firmament, let no lower glory content us than a place near to the ‘Bright and Morning Star.’

—Prebendary D. Moore.

Verse 44

THE FUTURE LIFE

‘It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.’

1 Corinthians 15:44

There is no more wonderful or impressive chapter in the Bible than this fifteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Corinthians, which deals with the transfiguration of this present life into its future state. Whenever we hear it read—as we often do on the saddest occasions of our lives—we are listening to the best explanation we shall ever get of the great change which will take place when we ourselves pass out of the present life.

I. In stating the fact of the future life St. Paul was not making a new statement, especially to the people of Greece. Their most ancient poets had written of a future life. They believed most thoroughly in a life beyond the grave. Man would continue to live—that was the idea—but only in some shadowy state, some pale reflection of the life on earth. And so this letter of St. Paul to these clever Corinthians, these men of universal intelligence, had a very special message. It was not to prove that the soul was indestructible, but to prove by the Resurrection of Christ what sort of life awaited man beyond the grave. The value of human personality is the basis of St. Paul’s letter. This conception had within the past thirty years undergone a tremendous change. There were, perhaps, 300 or 350 men still alive in Palestine who had actually listened to our Lord—had seen Him before He died, and seen Him and listened to Him again after He rose from the grave. Life was to them, indeed, a different, a far higher, thing. Christ had taught the extreme value of personality, and it was this fact which changed so completely and brightened so wonderfully the hope of immortality. It was, then, this wonderful new thought which led St. Paul to write as he did.

II. Our ideas of personality are so much bound up with the bodies that are so closely our own that we shrink from the idea of a purely spiritual existence.—It is so unintelligible; we have not the slightest idea what pure spirit is like. We may say truly, of course, that our bodies are not ourselves—that, indeed, every particle of the body we see and feel undergoes some complete chemical change in the course of seven or eight years, while we remain the same, we continue the same personality. We admit logically and easily that our individuality—that mysterious something within us which is not imperilled by such changes as loss of limb or the chemical renewal of the flesh—is our true soul. Yet, though the thought is quite logical, we cannot separate the body from the soul, we cannot imagine a pure spiritual existence. St. Paul, however, distinctly encourages us to believe that the future life will not be that mere abstraction from which we recoil, will not be a merely spiritual existence; but rather that the spirit will continue to have its body. We may be comforted by the hope that in the future life our friends, and we ourselves, shall possess some real distinction in form as well as in spirit. St. Paul speaks of another body, a spiritual body, yet a body bearing the closest relationship to the natural body. An analogy, he says, may be found in the growth of the seed—the seed which in its wonderful transformation to the flower loses none of its individuality, That suggests to us much that is comforting.

III. It suggests to us the comfort of recognition.—We shall not be lost to one another. The resurrection body will, we doubt not, in a way that we cannot yet conceive, present sufficient points of resemblance to the earthly body to make recognition possible. There is the consolation here that we all want—that we must have before we can ever take a calm view of death. All that is best in our life here has been sanctified by loving ties. Our spiritual growth has depended so largely on the way we have spent and used our life in the interests of others that we seem to demand the assurance that all this love will not be lost. Such an assurance is given us by St. Paul.

—Rev. W. M. Le Patourel.

Verse 52

THE CHANGE

‘We shall be changed.’

1 Corinthians 15:52

These few but momentous words place before us a mystery, a profound mystery.

I. What saith the Scriptures?—Three passages there certainly are, all of them in the writings of St. Paul, in which the fact, and to some extent the circumstances, of the final change are more particularly specified.

( a) The first of these is that portion of the 1 Corinthians 15, from which the text has been taken. From this portion we derive the following great spiritual truth that the nature of the future body will be essentially different from that of the present earthly body, both in appearance and in substance.

( b) In 1 Thessalonians 4 the Apostle desired first to reassure his converts that those who had become Christians, and were now dead, would in no degree be in a worse position than those who might be alive at that coming of the Lord which these Thessalonian Christians thought to be very nigh at hand.

( c) In 2 Corinthians 5 the present earthly body is contrasted with the heavenly body; and the burdened Christian is represented as longing to be clothed upon (the expression is alike remarkable and suggestive) with the body which is from heaven.

These three passages seem to complete all that Scripture has directly revealed of the final change and its attendant circumstances; and they appear to justify us in believing—firstly, that all believers will rise with bodies utterly different as regards appearance and substance from the bodies they wore upon earth, and that, for the great mass of mankind, the time when this mighty change will be consummated will be at the Second Coming of our Lord; secondly, we seem warranted in believing that they who will then be alive on earth will pass through the mighty change in a moment of time, and will be caught up, in company with the risen dead, to meet the Lord in the air; thirdly, we seem justified in drawing this momentous conclusion, that existence in a bodily or unclothed state would appear to be repugnant to Christian feeling, as indicated by the Apostle St. Paul, and that thus we are permitted humbly to believe that in the waiting and intermediate world the soul will not exist in a state wholly unclothed or bodiless.

II. Two questions remain.

( a) The first relates to the time when the great change of the mortal putting on immortality will actually take place. Is it in every case to be restricted to the time of the Second Coming of the Lord? At that coming, Holy Scripture tells us that there will be mighty and cosmical changes in this earth, purifying fires and glorifying restorations, new heavens and a new earth, and in the forefront of all those changes the bodily resurrection of mankind. This is the general answer; but it must not be forgotten that we find in Scripture distinct allusion to a first resurrection, and the mention of an interval of time between it and the later and general resurrection. We thus have scriptural warrant for the belief that, prior to the Advent and all its momentous issues, the elect and specially chosen will be clothed with the resurrection body, and form a part of the blessed and holy company that will be with their Lord and reign with Him till the end come. Such a belief will be found to throw a sidelight on many a passage of Scripture which to the general reader may seem dark and difficult fully to understand.

( b) The second question is, What is the relation between the changing and mortal body of the present and the changeless and glorified body of the future? Is there any connection at all, and, if so, what is it? All that we really know is this—that this earthly body and the spiritual or heavenly body with which we shall hereafter be clothed will be garments of the same soul at two different periods of our existence; but when we think of the one that we know, and of the other that, in the case of believers, is to be fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body, all idea of any real connection between the two seems beyond our powers to grasp.

Union with Christ is that which seals and certifies to us the resurrection of the body, and all the circumstances and truths on which we have been dwelling this morning.

—Bishop Ellicott.

Illustration

‘When writers as early and as famous as Justin Martyr could assert that cripples would rise as cripples, though after their rising they would be restored—or when teachers as conspicuous as Jerome, and even (though less strongly) as Augustine contended for the reappearance of the very hairs on the head, we see plainly enough how the instructive analogy of the Apostle was completely ignored and forgotten in the anxious desire to maintain an absolute identity in appearance and substance between the body that now is and the body which shall be hereafter.’

Verse 54

VICTORY!

‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’

1 Corinthians 15:54

There are very few who do not sometimes think about the life beyond that which they are living now. It is an instinct of the human race. Death forces itself on us as a universal fact. And in all ages and in every land men have been guessing (how could they do more?) about what came next. But who can tell us about it? Where is it? What is it? What are its conditions? What its hopes, its joys, or its fears and sorrows? No traveller but One has come back to describe to us this unknown country.

It is the language of two later prophets that St. Paul has woven together in the closing sentences of that great chapter which is enshrined in our Burial Service, and which tells us more vividly than any other of the coming and Kingdom of Christ. For it is He only Who ‘has abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light.’ It is with Him that they who are ‘absent from the body’ are ‘at home.’ It is by Him that this body, so constantly humbled by its infirmities, shall be transformed into a body of glory such as His own. And ‘we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.’

I. Apart from Christ the future has no gleam of hope.—It is all dark. No sure word comes from anywhere else. The pretended intercourse with the departed which some have claimed is only one of those delusions which, we have been warned, will abound in the last days. The world’s greatest philosophers have nothing of their own to tell us. Science is silent. One of the best-known of modern thinkers, Herbert Spencer, writing to an intimate friend, said: ‘My own feeling. respecting the ultimate mystery is such that of late years I cannot even try to think of ultimate space without some feeling of terror.’ What a contrast to that triumphant cry, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’! ‘Victory!’ Yes, for heaven is more than rest, more than relief, more than satisfaction, more than happiness; it is victory. Death itself—the last enemy—will be extinguished in the glory of the Coming King.

II. This is the hope, ‘sure and certain,’ as our Church bids us call it, with which we lay to rest those loved and cherished here, who have died in the Lord, whether it be some little one whose eyes have hardly opened upon this ‘troublesome world,’ or whether it be some honoured servant of God who has reached the ripeness of age, and spent many years in doing good. The promise is sure—‘them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him,’ and then ‘shall all be changed’; ‘corruptible must put on incorruption, and mortal must put on immortality’; ‘then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.’ For them death has no sting, for sin in its strength has been conquered by Christ. The condemnation which the holy law adjudged He has borne. The power which sin exerted in us He has overcome, and the joyful chorus of the redeemed will rise, ‘Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ It is with such thoughts we comfort one another when death comes near to us or ours; with such thoughts we brace our spirits afresh to labours which we know will ‘not be in vain in the Lord.’

III. The future for the Christian is all victory, but a victory which has had its anticipations here.—The Christian’s first step to heaven starts with the passage from death to life. He is already in possession of the triumphant life that will last for ever. For him dying is not death. This fact more than any distinguishes his from all other forms of existence. He lives, he works, he hopes as one in sight of eternal victory. And this gives energy, stability, yea! perpetuity to all work that is done for God.

—Rev. Prebendary Fox.

Verse 57

A SONG OF TRIUMPH

‘Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

1 Corinthians 15:57

It is in this high strain of triumph that the Apostle concludes his magnificent Hymn of the Resurrection. He had spoken of the Resurrection of Christ; first as a fact in history, and next as a moral and spiritual power; first, as a fact for which the evidence was clear, certain, abundant; next, as a power ruling man’s life and giving him a victory over death, giving him a victory over his two greatest enemies, sin and death.

Let us glance for a moment at the victory which the Apostle says we have.

I. Victory over sin.—‘Now is Christ risen from the dead’; and in the power of this resurrection we have the victory over sin. God, in raising Him from the dead, has not only proclaimed to angels and men that He has accepted the propitiation wrought out on the Cross, but has exalted Him to be a Prince and a Saviour to give us all we need, to lift off from us the burden of guilt, and to pour into our diseased spirits the life of His Resurrection, the life of His Spirit, that we may gain the victory over sin.

II. God gives us, through Christ’s Resurrection, the victory over death.—When the Apostle exclaimed, ‘Thanks be to God Who giveth us the victory,’ it is this victory which he has chiefly before his eyes. ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ Death is a very real enemy. The fear of death; is not this the most terrible fear that assaults men, that gives its edge of bitterness to all our fears? What is the fear of sickness, of poverty, of sorrow, of old age—are not these natural infirmities?—compared with the fear of death? It is an awful thing to die, above all if we do not know where we are going.

III. Are we partakers of this victory?—We may repeat the Creed, ‘I believe in the Resurrection of the body,’ and yet, alas! we may have no victory over death. How many baptized Christians have no doubt of another life, and yet live and die as if this world were all? Their eyes are pointed to the earth, and their hearts shrink and wither in the narrow cell in which they have locked themselves. They have won no victory over death. And yet there is such a victory. Christ’s risen life may be ours. It is by a close actual union with Christ that we share in His victory. Christ, the risen Lord, gives us, if we believe in Him and follow Him, the very life which in Him met and overthrew and abolished death. It is His life, and therefore we know that He has vanquished death, and therefore, for ourselves and those we love, we may rest assured that because He liveth we shall live also.

Bishop J. J. S. Perowne.

Verse 58

‘NOT IN VAIN’

‘Grace … not in vain;’ ‘Labour … not in vain.’

1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Corinthians 15:58

St. Paul, of all men, was ever keen on Christian men and women not only enjoying their privileges, but also discharging their responsibilities consistently.

I. Because if we do not, God’s grace has been bestowed upon us in vain.—An ample supply of that grace comes to every child of God: on every penitent soul the Divine bounty descends in the form of virtue and power to lead a new life. Judging by Apostolic language we each have more than enough (see 2 Corinthians 9:14 and 1 Peter 4:10). That grace is given for the distinct purpose of service; and if it is not thus received, or thus employed, it is vain, it is rendered void, it becomes an empty thing! Bad enough to be unmoved by human kindness; a far greater sin not to be affected by the grace of God; not to be stirred to sacrifice and service ( vide 2 Corinthians 6:1).

II. Because if we do, He will see that such labour is not in vain.—This follows our first thought admirably: ‘God gives His grace, do you give your labour,’ for if you see that His grace is not lost, He will see that your labour is not lost. But if men will not hear, is not our labour necessarily in vain? So we sometimes think; but the Apostle reminds us of the Resurrection, when the Master will assuredly give the increase, produce some fruit for all our labours, for the work of grace cannot be lost. There may be few signs of harvest to-day; but they will appear to-morrow when He cometh, ‘Whose reward is with Him.’

Rev. A. B. G. Lillingston.

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15". Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/1-corinthians-15.html. 1876.