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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 15

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

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Verses 1-58



1. Resurrection and the Hope of the Church.


1. The Gospel and the Resurrection of Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:1-11 .)

2. If Christ were not raised--then what? (1 Corinthians 15:12-19 .)

3. Christ the Firstfruits and what follows. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28 .)

4. Further practical arguments about Resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:29-34 .)

5. Concerning the Resurrection of the Body. (1 Corinthians 15:35-49 .)

6. The Coming of the Lord and the Victory. (1 Corinthians 15:50-58 .)

The third section lifts us higher and brings us to the summit of this Epistle. We have seen the church in relation to the world, the church as the body of Christ and now we see the consummation, the destiny of the church in resurrection glory. From this chapter we learn that some members of the Corinthian church said “there is no resurrection of the dead” ((1 Corinthians 15:12 ). The denial of this fundamental doctrine of the faith brought forth this blessed portion of the Epistle concerning resurrection and the coming of the Lord.

The first thing mentioned in opening up this subject is the gospel which Paul had preached to the Corinthians, which they had received and wherein they stood. This is the order: The preaching of the Gospel, the good news, its reception by faith, followed by the standing in salvation and the enjoyment of it. By this Gospel is salvation as it is so fully revealed in the Epistle to the Romans. The Apostle Paul had delivered unto them, which he himself had received from the Lord (Galatians 1:11-19 ). The three great facts according to the Scriptures (the Old Testament Scriptures) are: (1) Christ died for our sins. The death of Christ, the cross and the mighty work accomplished there, is the great foundation. The entire Old Testament revealed in many ways this fundamental fact without which there would be and could be no redemption. (2.) He was buried. He expired as to the body on the cross. The death of Christ was real and not a deception. And His burial also has a meaning in the Gospel (Romans 6:4 ). And the third great fact of the gospel, “He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” This is the great truth of this chapter, a truth, if denied, must result in the complete collapse of the gospel. And His resurrection had been foretold by Himself as well as by the Scriptures. (See Genesis 22:4 and Hebrews 11:17-19 ; Psalms 16:1-11 ). This great truth, the enemy has always hated. The lying inventions of the Jews are well known to every reader of the Gospel (Matthew 28:11-15 ). In Corinth this truth was being denied, and in our own days those who deny the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus are ever on the increase in the professing church. They occupy leading pulpits and are prominent in institutions of learning.

The Apostle brings forth a number of witnesses, but he does not mention the women who play such an important part in the resurrection account of the Gospel. He gives only a number of witnesses, all men, who furnish an unanswerable evidence. Unbelievers have often attempted to trace the belief in the resurrection of our Lord to the women. Cephas is mentioned first. “But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter,” had been the angelic instruction on the resurrection morning. And Peter who had so shamefully denied Him had seen the risen One. “The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared unto Simon” (Luke 24:34 ). On the day of Pentecost he became the wonderful witness of the risen Christ. That He appeared first to Simon Peter shows His infinite grace. Then He was seen of the twelve. Luke 24:36-48 speaks of the eleven; the twelfth had gone to his awful place. But the passage in Luke also informs us that others were with them when the Lord appeared. The eleven were gathered together, and those that were with them. (Luke 24:33 ). Probably Matthias, the one added to the Apostolate (Acts 1:26 ), was in that company. “After that He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto the present, but some are fallen asleep.” This was probably in Galilee. And how could such a large number of men be deceived together, or concoct a falsehood? It is an impossibility. Sooner or later, if they had all agreed to deceive the world, the fraud would have been discovered. He was also seen by James and by all the Apostles. Last of all he was seen by the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, where as the blind persecutor of the church, the chief of sinners, He beheld Him in the glory light. He was like one born out of due season. He was an untimely birth. He was in his experience a type of the nation to which he belonged. As he saw Christ in glory so will the remnant of Israel behold Him at the time of His second coming. He was therefore a firstfruit of the nation.

(The correct meaning of the Greek word “ektroma” seems to point to a child born from a dead mother, by what is called the Caesarian operation. The dead Jewish system gave birth to the chosen vessel who was to become what Israel should have been, and yet will be, when the mystery of the present dispensation is complete.--Romans 11:25-27 ).

The Apostle Paul is one of the greatest witnesses to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The argument which follows ((1 Corinthians 15:12-19 ) is so clear and powerful that no comment is needed. If Christ is not risen from the dead, if it were true what some said in Corinth “there is no resurrection of the dead”--then what? The answer is fearful, for it strips the Christian of everything. “Your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins; your loved ones who died in Christ are perished, gone forever; we are of all men most miserable.” And into this terrible pit the men who deny this fundamental doctrine are leading those who accept this damnable heresy (2 Peter 2:1 ).

But triumphant is the uncontrovertible fact, “Christ is risen from among the dead”; and more than that, “He is become the firstfruit of them that slept.” As He was raised, not as we have it in the authorized version “from the dead,” but “from among the dead,” so will there be in the future an “out-resurrection from among the dead,” which is the first resurrection of all those who are Christ’s. A general resurrection is no more taught in the Bible than a general judgment. By man came death (the first Adam) by man also is the resurrection of the dead (by the last Adam, Christ). (1 Corinthians 15:22 does not teach a universal salvation. Those who will be made alive are those who are “in Christ.” But only such are in Christ, who have believed on Him and were born again.

(1 Corinthians 15:20-28 , unfold the successive stages in the accomplishment of God’s purposes. (1) The Resurrection of Christ, then after the purpose of the present age is accomplished. (2) His second coming ((1 Corinthians 15:23 ). (3) The Resurrection of those who belong to Him. (4) The overthrow of all His enemies and the establishment of His kingly and glorious rule over the earth. (5) His delivering up the Kingdom to God that God may be all in all.

(1 Corinthians 15:29-34 continues the reasoning on the fatal results if there were no resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:29 connects with (1 Corinthians 15:19 and what is between, (1 Corinthians 15:20-28 , form a parenthesis. What then is the value of Christian suffering, self-denial, trial and persecution if there were no resurrection? This connection with the previous argument helps us to understand the much disputed statement “else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” It is said that some thirty different interpretations of this statement are in existence, most of them so fanciful and strained that they merit no further mention. Some say it meant those who were about to be baptized and others believe it has a meaning concerning those who had relatives who had died unbaptized. There is no need of inventing these theories. If we look at it in the most simple way the difficulty disappears. They had been baptized and taken the place as being dead with Christ. In this sense they had been baptized for the dead. But if the dead rise not, then this ordinance, which is so closely connected in a symbolical way with death and resurrection, has no meaning and value at all.

“Baptized, then, for the dead is to become a Christian with the view fixed on those who have fallen asleep in Christ, and particularly as being slain for Him, taking one’s portion with the dead, yea, with the dead Christ; it is the very meaning of baptism (Romans 6:1-23 ). How senseless if they do not rise! As in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18 , the subject, while speaking of all Christians, is looked at in the same way. The word translated ‘for’ is frequently used in these epistles for ‘in view of,’ ‘with reference to.’“ (Synopsis of the Bible)

Then those who had been affected by these doubts about resurrection asked questions concerning the resurrection of the body and the process of resurrection. How are the dead raised? And with what body do they come? But he brands as folly their doubting reasonings. There are of course, difficulties for reason but none for faith. If God’s omnipotent power is admitted and believed every difficulty vanishes. Their difficulties and objections were not of faith. Nature and God’s works give abundant evidence of the resurrection of the body. There will be in resurrection a continuity of identity.

“They sowed but bare grain, whether wheat or any other, but they knew quite well that that grain was not to continue grain, but that it would soon be clothed with a body very different from that which it had when sown in the earth. God gave it the body that He had willed for it, and to every seed its own kind of body. Thus, the individuality of what was sown was maintained all through, in spite of disorganization. God in it, as in innumerable cases in nature, has stamped things everywhere with His own stamp of resurrection. Things are in His hand. You may call the process natural because you are so familiar with it, because it is so constantly taking place under your eyes. All the same, God is working in it and through it.

“And what advantage would it have, if there were no resurrection, by dying daily, denying self, passing through all kinds of trials, suffering persecution and fighting, as Paul had done at Ephesus, with wild beasts? If there were no resurrection, then man is like the beast: let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. That which looks so merely lifeless has, nevertheless, in itself the determination of its future life. No seed produces anything else, but its own kind, and yet how different is that which springs out of it from the seed out of which it springs!” (Numerical Bible)

True from all this we learn that the resurrection of the same body is promised and while its identity is preserved it will be a different body at the same time. So then is the resurrection of the dead.

(All through this resurrection chapter only the resurrection of believers is in view. Nothing is said about the resurrection of the wicked dead. They too will be raised as to the body to exist forever in the dreadful condition of eternal punishment.)

It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. What kind of a body will it be, this spiritual body? Scripture gives the answer. “Who shall change our body of humiliation that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Philippians 3:21 ). We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.

Now our blessed Lord was not raised from the dead with an ethereal, airy body. His was a real human body of flesh and bones. He ate in the presence of His disciples; He was able to take food, though He needed none. He was capable of passing through closed doors and was in nowise limited by earthly conditions, such as space. And even so will be the spiritual body of the risen believers. Not a spirit phantom, but a spiritual body in its adaptation to the spirit. As we have now a natural body which is suited for an earth-life, so the believer shall have a body suited for a glory-life. We shall be like Him to be with Him in eternal glory and in these wonderful bodies we shall rule and reign with Him.

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” ((1 Corinthians 15:50 ). It simply means that man as he is here below cannot inherit God’s kingdom. It does not mean the kingdom which will some day be established on earth in which converted Israel and converted nations will be the subjects. It means the kingdom of God on the other side of death. The kingdom on earth for a thousand years will be an earthly thing; the kingdom mentioned in this verse is the kingdom of God in glory.

“The blood applies to the present life. It is the vehicle of change. It is that which implies the need of continual sustenance and renewal. A body which needs no renewal cannot need blood to renew it, and thus the Lord speaks of Himself as risen from the dead, not as having flesh and blood, but as having flesh and bones. “A spirit hath not flesh and bones,” He says, “as ye see Me have.” He has poured out His blood and left it with the earthly life that He had lived. He has entered upon a new sphere, retaining all that makes Him truly man, but not the conditions of the old earthly life. The conditions are changed. Flesh and blood are not suited for the kingdom of God in this sense of it. He is not, of course, in the least implying that there is any evil in flesh and blood.”

And what a change it will be for God’s redeemed people to receive these wonderful bodies of glory and enter into the kingdom of God in glory! And when will it come? Paul writes of a mystery.

(The teachers who say that there is no such thing as a Coming of the Lord for His Saints may well pause at this word “mystery.” They teach that this coming here, when the dead shall be raised and living believers shall be changed, is the visible Coming of Christ at the end of the great tribulation. But this visible Coming is the revelation which is found in the entire Old Testament prophetic Word. It was and is not a mystery. But the Coming of the Lord for His Saints, who are to be caught up in clouds to meet Him in the air, is a new Revelation, unknown in former ages.)

We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall be changed. It will be a sudden thing. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. It will be at the last trump. This trumpet has nothing whatever to do with the seventh trumpet in Revelation. Before any trumpet has sounded, before the Lamb of God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, opens the seals, He comes for His Saints “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” The trumpet is a military term. The first trumpet bade the armies to arise and be ready; the last trumpet commanded them to depart, it was the signal to march. When that shout (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ) comes from the air and He comes for His Saints, the dead (the dead in Christ, only those who believed) will be raised incorruptible. And “we shall be changed.” The Apostle did not write “they” shall be changed. He expected not death, but the blessed Hope for himself and the Corinthians was the change in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, which means translation and not death. He speaks of the dead when he writes “for this corruption must put on incorruption.” He speaks of living believers in these words: “this mortal must Put on immortality.” This gives the true meaning of Romans 8:11 . The coming of the Lord is the Hope of the church. And then we have the shout of victory. And what manner of lives we should live and what manner of service should be ours in view of such a destiny, such glory, which in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, may burst upon us! “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord.”

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/1-corinthians-15.html. 1913-1922.
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