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Bible Commentaries

Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians
1 Corinthians 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

The Resurrection of the Dead

In treating this subject the apostle first proves the fact of Christ's resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. He thence deduces, first, the possibility, and then the certainty of the resurrection of his people, vv. 12-34. He afterwards teaches the nature of the resurrection, so far as to show that the doctrine is not liable to the objections which had been brought against it, vv. 35-58.

The Resurrection of Christ as Securing the Resurrection of His People — 1 Corinthians

That certain false teachers in Corinth denied the resurrection of the dead is plain, not only from the course of argument here adopted but from the explicit statement in 1 Corinthians 15:12. Who these persons were, and what were the grounds of their objections, can only be conjectured from the nature of the apostolic argument. The most common opinion is that the objectors were converted Sadducees. The only reason for this opinion is that the Sadducees denied the doctrine of the resurrection, and that Paul, as appears from Acts 24:6-9 and Acts 26:6-8, had been before brought into collision with them on this subject. The objections to this view are of no great weight. It is said that such was the hostility of the Sadducees to the gospel that it is not probable any of their number were among the converts to Christianity. The case of Paul himself proves that the bitterest enemies could, by the grace of God, be converted into friends. It is further objected that Paul could not, in argument with Sadducees, make the resurrection of Christ the basis of his proof. But he does not assume that fact as conceded, but proves it by an array of the testimony by which it was supported. Others suppose that the opponents of the doctrine were Epicureans. There is, however, no indication of their peculiar opinions in the chapter. In 1 Corinthians 15:32 Epicurean carelessness and indulgence are represented as the consequence, not the cause, of the denial of the resurrection. Nothing more definite can be arrived at on this point than the conjecture that the false teachers in question were men of Grecian culture. In Acts 17:32 it is said of the Athenians that "some mocked" when they heard Paul preach the doctrine of the resurrection. From the character of the objections answered in the latter part of the chapter, vv. 35-58, it is probable that the objections urged against the doctrine were founded on the assumption that a material organization was unsuited to the future state. It is not unlikely that oriental philosophy, which assumed that matter was the source and seat of evil, had produced an effect on the minds of these Corinthian skeptics as well as on the Christians of Colosse. The decision of the question as to what particular class of persons the opponents of the doctrine of the resurrection belonged, happily is of no importance in the interpretation of the apostle's argument. As in 2 Timothy 2:17, 2 Timothy 2:18 he speaks of Hymeneus and Philetus as teaching that the resurrection was passed already, it is probable that these errorists in Corinth also refused to acknowledge any other than a spiritual resurrection.

After reminding the Corinthians that the doctrine of the resurrection was a primary principle of the gospel, which he had preached to them, and on which their salvation depended, 1 Corinthians 15:1-3, he proceeds to assert and prove the fact that Christ rose from the dead on the third day. This event had been predicted in the Old Testament. Its actual occurrence is proved,

1. By Christ appearing after his resurrection, first to Peter and then to the twelve.

2. By his appearing to upward of five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom were still alive.

3. By a separate appearance to James.

4. And then again to all the apostles.

5. Finally by his appearance to Paul himself.

There never was a historical event established on surer evidence than that of the resurrection of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:4-8 This fact, therefore, was included in the preaching of all the apostles, and in the faith of all Christians, 1 Corinthians 15:11. But if this be so, how can the doctrine of the resurrection be denied by any who pretend to be Christians? To deny the resurrection of the dead is to deny the resurrection of Christ; and to deny the resurrection of Christ, is to subvert the gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:12-14; and also to make the apostles false witnesses, 1 Corinthians 15:15. If Christ be not risen, our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins, those dead in Christ are perished, and all the hopes of Christians are destroyed, 1 Corinthians 15:16-19. But if Christ be risen, then his people will also rise, because he rose as a pledge of their resurrection. As Adam was the cause of death, so Christ is the cause of life; Adam secured the death of all who are in him, and Christ secures the life of all who are in him, 1 Corinthians 15:20-22. Although the resurrection of Christ secures the resurrection of his people, the two events are not contemporaneous. Christ rose first, his people are to rise when he comes the second time. Then is to be the final consummation, when Christ shall deliver up his providential kingdom as mediator to the Father, after all his enemies are subdued, 1 Corinthians 15:23, 1 Corinthians 15:24. It is necessary that Christ's dominion over the universe, to which he was exalted after his resurrection, should continue until his great work of subduing or restraining evil was accomplished. When that is done, then the Son (the Theantropos, the Incarnate Logos), will be subject to the Father, and God as God, and not as Mediator, reign supreme, 25-28.

Besides the arguments already urged, there are two other considerations which prove the truth or importance of the doctrine of the resurrection. The first is, "the baptism for the dead" (whatever that means) prevailing in Corinth, assumes the truth of the doctrine, 1 Corinthians 15:29. The other is, the intimate connection between this doctrine and that of a future state is such, that if the one be denied, the other cannot, in a Christian sense, be maintained. If there be no resurrection, there is for Christians no hereafter, and they may act on the principle, "Let us eat and drink for to-morrow we die," 1 Corinthians 15:30-32. The apostle concludes this part of the subject by warning his readers against the corrupting influence of evil associations. Whence it is probable that the denial of the doctrine had already produced the evil effects, referred to among those who rejected it, 1 Corinthians 15:33, 1 Corinthians 15:34.

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I have preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

There is no connection between this and the preceding chapter. The particle הו ́, rendered moreover, indicates the introduction of a new subject. I declare unto ( דםשסי ́ זש), literally, I make known to you, as though they had never heard it before. ‘Moreover, brethren, I proclaim to you the gospel.' This interpretation is more consistent with the signification of the word, and more impressive than the rendering adopted by many, ‘I remind you.' Comp. however, 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 8:1. Of this gospel Paul says,

1. That he had preached it.

2. They had received it, i.e. embraced it as true.

3. That they then professed it. They still stood firm in their adherence to the truth. It was not the Corinthians as a body, but only "some among them," 1 Corinthians 15:12, who denied the doctrine of the resurrection.

4. That by it they are saved. The present tense is used to express either the certainty of the event, or the idea that believers are in this life partakers of salvation. They are already saved. There is to them no condemnation. They are renewed and made partakers of spiritual life.

Their salvation, however, is conditioned on their perseverance. If they do not persevere, they will not only fail of the consummation of the work of salvation, but it becomes manifest that they never were justified or renewed. ‘Ye are saved ( וי ̓ ךבפו ́ קופו) if ye hold fast.' The word does not mean, if ye keep in memory. It simply means, if ye hold fast; whether that be by a physical holding fast with the hand, or a retaining in the memory, or a retaining in faith, depends on the connection. Here it is evident that the condition of salvation is not retaining in the memory, but persevering in the faith. ‘The gospel saves you,' says the apostle, ‘if you hold fast the gospel which I preached unto you.'

The only difficulty in the passage relates to the words פי ́ םי כן ́ דש ͅ, literally, with what discourse; which in our version is expressed by the word what. This may express the true sense. The idea is, ‘If you hold fast to the gospel as I preached it to you.' The principal objection to this interpretation is the position of the words. The order in which they stand is, ‘With what discourse I preached unto you if ye hold fast.' The interpretation just mentioned reverses this order. This clause is therefore by many connected with the first words of the chapter. ‘I bring to your knowledge, brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which ye received, wherein ye stand, by which ye are saved, (I bring to your knowledge, I say,) how, qua ratione, I preached, if ye hold fast.' This, however, breaks the connection. It is, therefore, better to consider the words פי ́ םי כן ́ דש ͅ as placed first for the sake of emphasis. ‘You are saved if you hold fast (the gospel) as I preached it to you.' Unless ye have believed in vain. The word וי ̓ ךח ͂, in vain, may mean either without cause, Galatians 2:18, or without effect, i.e. to no purpose, Galatians 3:4; Galatians 4:11; If the former, then Paul means to say, ‘Unless ye believed without evidence, i.e. had no ground for your faith.' If the latter, the meaning is, ‘Unless your faith is worthless.' The clause may be connected with the preceding words, ‘If ye hold fast, which ye do, or will do, unless ye believed without cause.' The better connection is with the words ye are saved, etc. ‘Ye are saved, if ye persevere, unless indeed faith is worthless.' If, as the errorists in Corinth taught, there is no resurrection, Paul says, 1 Corinthians 15:14, our faith is vain; it is an empty, worthless thing. So here he says, the gospel secures salvation, unless faith be of no account.


Verse 2

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I have preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

There is no connection between this and the preceding chapter. The particle הו ́, rendered moreover, indicates the introduction of a new subject. I declare unto ( דםשסי ́ זש), literally, I make known to you, as though they had never heard it before. ‘Moreover, brethren, I proclaim to you the gospel.' This interpretation is more consistent with the signification of the word, and more impressive than the rendering adopted by many, ‘I remind you.' Comp. however, 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 8:1. Of this gospel Paul says,

1. That he had preached it.

2. They had received it, i.e. embraced it as true.

3. That they then professed it. They still stood firm in their adherence to the truth. It was not the Corinthians as a body, but only "some among them," 1 Corinthians 15:12, who denied the doctrine of the resurrection.

4. That by it they are saved. The present tense is used to express either the certainty of the event, or the idea that believers are in this life partakers of salvation. They are already saved. There is to them no condemnation. They are renewed and made partakers of spiritual life.

Their salvation, however, is conditioned on their perseverance. If they do not persevere, they will not only fail of the consummation of the work of salvation, but it becomes manifest that they never were justified or renewed. ‘Ye are saved ( וי ̓ ךבפו ́ קופו) if ye hold fast.' The word does not mean, if ye keep in memory. It simply means, if ye hold fast; whether that be by a physical holding fast with the hand, or a retaining in the memory, or a retaining in faith, depends on the connection. Here it is evident that the condition of salvation is not retaining in the memory, but persevering in the faith. ‘The gospel saves you,' says the apostle, ‘if you hold fast the gospel which I preached unto you.'

The only difficulty in the passage relates to the words פי ́ םי כן ́ דש ͅ, literally, with what discourse; which in our version is expressed by the word what. This may express the true sense. The idea is, ‘If you hold fast to the gospel as I preached it to you.' The principal objection to this interpretation is the position of the words. The order in which they stand is, ‘With what discourse I preached unto you if ye hold fast.' The interpretation just mentioned reverses this order. This clause is therefore by many connected with the first words of the chapter. ‘I bring to your knowledge, brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which ye received, wherein ye stand, by which ye are saved, (I bring to your knowledge, I say,) how, qua ratione, I preached, if ye hold fast.' This, however, breaks the connection. It is, therefore, better to consider the words פי ́ םי כן ́ דש ͅ as placed first for the sake of emphasis. ‘You are saved if you hold fast (the gospel) as I preached it to you.' Unless ye have believed in vain. The word וי ̓ ךח ͂, in vain, may mean either without cause, Galatians 2:18, or without effect, i.e. to no purpose, Galatians 3:4; Galatians 4:11; If the former, then Paul means to say, ‘Unless ye believed without evidence, i.e. had no ground for your faith.' If the latter, the meaning is, ‘Unless your faith is worthless.' The clause may be connected with the preceding words, ‘If ye hold fast, which ye do, or will do, unless ye believed without cause.' The better connection is with the words ye are saved, etc. ‘Ye are saved, if ye persevere, unless indeed faith is worthless.' If, as the errorists in Corinth taught, there is no resurrection, Paul says, 1 Corinthians 15:14, our faith is vain; it is an empty, worthless thing. So here he says, the gospel secures salvation, unless faith be of no account.


Verse 3

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures:

For introduces the explanation of ‘what he had preached.' I delivered unto you first of all; first, not in reference to time; nor first to the Corinthians, which would not be historically true, as Paul did not preach first at Corinth; but ו ̓ ם נסש ́ פןיע means, among the first, or principal things. The death of Christ for our sins and his resurrection were therefore the great facts on which Paul insisted as the foundation of the gospel. Which also I received, i.e. by direct revelation from Christ himself. Comp. 1 Corinthians 11:23. Galatians 1:12. "I did not receive it (the gospel) from man, neither was I taught it; but by revelation of Jesus Christ." The apostle, therefore, could speak with infallible confidence, both as to what the gospel is and as to its truth. That Christ died for our sins, i.e. as a sacrifice or propitiation for our sins. Comp. Romans 3:23-26. Some commentators remark that as ץ ̔ נו ̀ ס ב ̔ לבספיש ͂ ם, for sin, cannot mean in the place of sin, therefore ץ ̔ נו ̀ ס ח ̔ לש ͂ ם for us, cannot mean in our place. This remark, however, has no more force in reference to the Greek preposition, ץ ̔ נו ́ ס, than it has in relation to the English preposition, for. Whether the phrase, to die for any one, means to die for his benefit, or in his place, is determined by the connection. It may mean either or both; and the same is true of the corresponding scriptural phrase.

According to the Scriptures, i.e. the fact that the Messiah was to die as a propitiation for sin had been revealed in the Old Testament. That the death of Christ as an atoning sacrifice was predicted by the law and the prophets is the constant doctrine of the New Testament. Our Lord reproved his disciples for not believing what the prophets had spoken on this subject, Luke 24:25, Luke 24:26. Paul protested before Festus, that in preaching the gospel he had said "none other things than those which Moses and the prophets say should come; that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles," Acts 26:22, Acts 26:23. He assured the Romans that his gospel was "witnessed (to) by the law and the prophets," Romans 3:21. The epistle to the Hebrews is an exposition of the whole Mosaic service as a prefiguration of the office and work of Christ. And the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is the foundation of all the New Testament exhibitions of a suffering and atoning Messiah. Paul and all other faithful ministers of the gospel, therefore, teach that atonement for sin, by the death of Christ, is the great doctrine of the whole word of God.


Verse 4

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures:

There are two things taught in this, as in the preceding verse. First, the truth of the facts referred to; and secondly, that those facts had been predicted. It is true that Christ was buried, and that he rose again on the third day. These facts were included in the revelation made to Paul, and the truth of which he proceeds to confirm by abundant additional testimony. That these facts were predicted in the Old Testament, is taught in John 20:9. Acts 26:23. The passage especially urged by the apostles as foretelling the resurrection of Christ, is Psalms 16:10. Peter proves that that Psalm cannot be understood of David, because his body was allowed to see corruption. It must, he says, be understood of Christ, who was raised from the dead, and "saw no corruption," Acts 13:34-37. The prophetic Scriptures, however, are full of this doctrine; for on the one hand they predict the sufferings and death of the Messiah, and on the other his universal and perpetual dominion. It is only on the assumption that he was to rise from the dead that these two classes of prediction can be reconciled.


Verse 5

And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

As the resurrection of Christ is an historical fact, it is to be proved by historical evidence. The apostle therefore appeals to the testimony of competent witnesses. All human laws assume that the testimony of two witnesses, when uncontradicted, and especially when confirmed by collateral evidence, produces such conviction of the truth of the fact asserted as to justify even taking the life of a fellow-creature. Confidence in such testimony is not founded on experience, but on the constitution of our nature. We are so constituted that we cannot refuse assent to the testimony of good men to a fact fairly within their knowledge. To render such testimony irresistible it is necessary,

1. That the fact to be proved should be of a nature to admit of being certainly known.

2. That adequate opportunity be afforded to the witnesses to ascertain its nature, and to be satisfied of its verity.

3. That the witnesses be of sound mind and discretion.

4. That they be men of integrity.

If these conditions be fulfilled, human testimony establishes the truth of a fact beyond reasonable doubt. If, however, in addition to these grounds of confidence, the witnesses give their testimony at the expense of great personal sacrifice, or confirm it with their blood; if, moreover, the occurrence of the fact in question had been predicted centuries before it came to pass; if it had produced effects not otherwise to be accounted for, effects extending to all ages and nations; if the system of doctrine with which that fact is connected so as to be implied in it, commends itself as true to the reason and conscience of men; and if God confirms not only the testimony of the original witnesses to the fact, but also the truth of the doctrines of which that fact is the necessary basis, by the demonstration of his Spirit, then it is insanity and wickedness to doubt it. All these considerations concur in proof of the resurrection of Christ, and render it the best authenticated event in the history of the world.

The apostle does not refer to all the manifestations of our Lord after his resurrection, but selects a few which he details in the order of their occurrence. The first appearance mentioned is that to Cephas; see Luke 24:34. The second occurred on the same day "to the eleven and those who were with them," Luke 24:33-36. To this Paul refers by saying, "then to the twelve;" comp. also John 20:19. On this occasion, when the disciples were terrified by his sudden appearance in the midst of them, he said, "Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see the have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet." Luke 24:38-40. The apostles collectively, after the apostasy of Judas, are spoken of as the twelve according to a common usage, although at the time there were only eleven.


Verse 6

After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

There is no distinct record of this event in the evangelical history. It may have taken place on the occasion when Christ met his disciples in Galilee. Before his death he told them, "After I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee," Matthew 26:32. Early in the morning of his resurrection he met the women who had been at his tomb, and said to them, "Be not afraid; go tell my brethren, that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me," Matthew 28:10; and accordingly in Matthew 28:16, it is said, "Then the eleven went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them." This, therefore, was a formally appointed meeting, and doubtless made known as extensively as possible to his followers, and it is probable, therefore, that there was a concourse of all who could come, not only from Jerusalem, but from the surrounding country, and from Galilee. Though intended specially for the eleven, it is probable that all attended who knew of the meeting, and could possibly reach the appointed place. Who would willingly be absent on such an occasion? Others think that this appearance took place at Jerusalem, where, in addition to the one hundred and twenty who constituted the nucleus of the church in the holy city, there were probably many disciples gathered from all parts of Judea in attendance on the Passover. The special value of this testimony to the fact of Christ's resurrection, arises not only from the number of the witnesses, but from Paul's appeal to their testimony while the majority of them were still alive. Some have fallen asleep. This is the Christian expression for dying, 1 Corinthians 15:18, and 1 Corinthians 11:30. Death to the believer is a sleep for his body; a period of rest to be followed by a glorious day.


Verse 7

After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

Which James is here intended cannot be determined, as the event is not elsewhere recorded. The chronological order indicated in this citation of witnesses, renders it improbable that the reference is to our Lord's interview with the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, and is inconsistent with the tradition preserved by Jerome, that Christ appeared to James immediately after his resurrection. It has been inferred that the James intended was James the brother of our Lord, who presided over the church in Jerusalem, because he was so conspicuous and universally known. Then to all the apostles. This, for the reason given above, probably does not refer to the appearance of Christ to the eleven on the day in which he rose from the dead. It may refer to what is recorded in John 20:26; or to the interview mentioned in Acts 1:4. Whether James was one of the apostles is not determined by any thing in the verse. The word נב ͂ ףים may be used to indicate that the appearance was to the apostles collectively; and this, from its position, is the most natural explanation. Or the meaning may be, he appeared to James separately, and then to all the apostles including James. If the James intended was James of Jerusalem; and if that James were a different person from James the son of Alpheus (a disputed point), then the former interpretation should be preferred. For "the apostle" answers to "the twelve," and if James of Jerusalem was not the son of Alpheus, he was not one of the twelve.


Verse 8

And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Last of all may mean last of all the apostles; or, as is more probable, last of all means the very last. As to an abortion, he appeared to me. Such is Paul's language concerning himself. Thus true is it, that unmerited favors produce self-abasement. Paul could never think of the distinction conferred on him by Christ, without adverting to his own unworthiness.


Verse 9

For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.

The least, not because the last in the order of appointment, but in rank and dignity. Who am not worthy to be called an apostle. See Matthew 3:11. Luke 3:16. This deep humility of the apostle, which led him to regard himself as the least of the apostles, was perfectly consistent with the strenuous assertion of his official authority, and of his claim to respect and obedience. In 2 Corinthians 11:5 and 2 Corinthians 12:11, he says, he was "not behind the very chiefest apostles;" and in Galatians 2:6-9, he claims full equality with James, Cephas and John. Those of his children whom God intends to exalt to posts of honor and power, he commonly prepares for their elevation by leading them to such a knowledge of their sinfulness as to keep them constantly abased. Because I persecuted the church of God. This is the sin which Paul never forgave himself. He often refers to it with the deepest contrition, 1 Timothy 1:13-15. The forgiveness of sin does not obliterate the remembrance of it; neither does it remove the sense of unworthiness and ill-desert.


Verse 10

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which (was bestowed) upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Christian humility does not consist in denying what there is of good in us; but in an abiding sense of ill-desert, and in the consciousness that what we have of good is due to the grace of God. The grace of God, in this connection, is not the love of God, but the influence of the Holy Spirit considered as an unmerited favor. This is not only the theological and popular, but also the scriptural sense of the word grace in many passages. By the grace of God I am what I am. That is, divine grace has made me what I am. ‘Had I been left to myself, I should have continued a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious. It is owing to his grace that I am now an apostle, preaching the faith which I once destroyed.' The grace of which he was made the subject, he says, was not in vain, i.e. without effect. But, on the contrary, I labored more abundantly than they all. This may mean either, more than any one of the apostles, or more than all of them together. The latter is more in keeping with the tone of the passage. It serves more to exalt the grace of God, to which Paul attributes every thing good; and it is historically true, if the New Testament record is to be our guide. Yet not I, i.e. the fact that I labored so abundantly is not to be referred to me; I was not the laborer — but the grace which was with me. By some editors the article is omitted in the last clause, ח ̔ ףץ ̀ ם ו ̓ לןי ́. The sense would then be with me, instead of, which was with me. In the one case grace is represented as co-operating with the apostle; in the other, the apostle loses sight of himself entirely, and ascribes every thing to grace. ‘It was not I, but the grace of God.' Theologically, there is no difference in these different modes of statement. The common text is preferred by most editors on critical grounds; and the sense, according to the common reading, is more in accordance with the spirit of the passage, and with Paul's manner; comp. Romans 7:17. True, he did co-operate with the grace of God, but this co-operation was due to grace — so that with the strictest propriety he could say, ‘Not I, but the grace of God.'


Verse 11

Therefore whether (it were) I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

This verse resumes the subject from which 1 Corinthians 15:9, 1 Corinthians 15:10 are a digression. ‘Christ appeared to the apostles and to me; whether therefore I or they preached, we all proclaimed that fact, and ye all believed it.' The resurrection of Christ was included in the preaching of all ministers, and in the faith of all Christians.


Verse 12-13

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

The admission of the resurrection of Christ is inconsistent with the denial of the resurrection of the dead. What has happened, may happen. The actual is surely possible. This mode of arguing shows that the objections urged in Corinth bore equally against the resurrection of Christ, and against the general doctrine of the resurrection. They, therefore, could not have been founded on the peculiar difficulties attending the latter doctrine. They must have been derived from the assumption that the restoration to life of a body once dead, is either an impossibility, or an absurdity. Most probably, these objectors thought, that to reunite the soul with the body was to shut it up again in prison; and that it was as much a degradation and retrocession, as if a man should again become an unborn infant. ‘No,' these philosophers said, ‘the hope of the resurrection "is the hope of swine." The soul having once been emancipated from the defiling encumbrance of the body, it is never to be re-imprisoned.'

The argument of the apostle does not imply that the objectors admitted the resurrection of Christ. He is not arguing with them, but against them. His design is to show that their objections to the resurrection proved too much. If they proved any thing, they proved what no Christian could admit, viz., that Christ did not rise from the dead. The denial of the resurrection of the dead involves the denial of the resurrection of Christ. The question discussed throughout this chapter is not the continued existence of the soul after death, but the restoration of the body to life. This is the constant meaning of the expression "resurrection of the dead," for which the more definite expression "resurrection of the body" is often substituted. Whether the false teachers in Corinth, who denied the doctrine of the resurrection, also denied the immortality of the soul, is uncertain. The probability is that they did not. For how could any one pretend to be a Christian, and yet not believe in an hereafter? All that is certain is, that they objected to the doctrine of the resurrection on grounds which logically involved the denial of the resurrection of Christ.


Verse 14

And if Christ be not risen, then (is) our preaching vain, and your faith (is) also vain.

This is the first consequence of denying the resurrection of Christ. The whole gospel is subverted. The reason why this fact is so essential, is, that Christ rested the validity of all his claims upon his resurrection. If he did rise, then he is truly the Son of God and Savior of the world. His sacrifice has been accepted, and God is propitious. If he did not rise, then none of these things is true. He was not what he claimed to be, and his blood is not a ransom for sinners. In Romans 1:3, the apostle expresses his truth in another form, by saying that Christ was by his resurrection demonstrated to be the Son of God. It was on account of the fundamental importance of this fact that the apostles were appointed to be the witnesses of Christ's resurrection, Acts 1:22. Then, i.e. in case Christ be not risen, our preaching is vain, i.e. empty, void of all truth, reality, and power. And your faith is also vain, i.e. empty, groundless. These consequences are inevitable. For, if the apostles preached a risen and living Savior, and made his power to save depend on the fact of his resurrection, of course, their whole preaching was false and worthless, if Christ were still in the grave. The dead cannot save the living. And if the object of the Christian's faith be the Son of God as risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of God in heaven, they believed a falsehood if Christ be not risen.


Verse 15

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

This is the second consequence. The apostles were false witnesses. They were guilty of deliberate falsehood. They testified that they had seen Christ after his resurrection; that they had handled him, felt that he had flesh and bones; that they had put their hands into his wounds, and knew assuredly that it was their Lord. We are found, i.e. we are detected or manifested as being false witnesses; not such as falsely claim to be witnesses; but those who bear witness to what is false, Matthew 26:60. Because we testified of God; literally, against God. We said he did, what in fact he did not do, if so be the dead rise not. Here again it is assumed that to deny that the dead rise is to deny that Christ has risen. But why is this? Why may not a man admit that Christ, the incarnate Son of God, arose from the dead, and yet consistently deny that there is to be a general resurrection of the dead? Because the thing denied was that the dead could rise. The denial was placed on grounds which embraced the case of Christ. The argument is, If the dead cannot rise, then Christ did not rise; for Christ was dead.


Verse 16

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:

This is a reassertion of the inseparable connection between these two events. If there be no resurrection, Christ is not risen. If the thing be impossible, it has never happened. The sense in which Christ rose, determines the sense in which the dead are said to rise. As it is the resurrection of Christ's body that is affirmed, so it is the resurrection of the bodies of the dead, and not merely the continued existence of their souls which is affirmed. The repetition in this verse of what had been said in 1 Corinthians 15:13, seems to be with the design of preparing the way for 1 Corinthians 15:17.


Verse 17

And if Christ be not raised, your faith (is) vain; ye are yet in your sins.

This is the third consequence of the denial of Christ's resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:14 it was said, your faith is ךוםח ́, empty; here it is said to be לבפבי ́ ב, fruitless. In what sense the following clause explains; ye are yet in your sins, i.e. under the condemnation of sin. Comp. John 8:21, "Ye shall die in your sins." As Christ's resurrection is necessary to our justification, Romans 4:25, if he did not rise, we are not justified. To teach, therefore, that there is no resurrection, is to teach that there is no atonement and no pardon. Errorists seldom see the consequences of the false doctrines which they embrace. Many allow themselves to entertain doubts as to this very doctrine of the resurrection of the body who would be shocked at the thought of rejecting the doctrine of atonement. Yet Paul teaches that the denial of the one involves the denial of the other.


Verse 18

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

This is the fourth disastrous consequence of the denial of the doctrine in question. All the dead in Christ are lost. To fall asleep in Christ is to die in faith, or in communion with Christ for salvation. See 1 Thessalonians 4:14. Revelation 14:13. Are perished; rather, they perished. ‘They perished when they died.' Perdition, according to Scripture, is not annihilation, but everlasting misery and sin It is the loss of holiness and happiness for ever. If Christ did not rise for the justification of those who died in him, they found no advocate at the bar of God; and have incurred the fate of those who perish in their sins. Rather than admit such conclusions as these, the Corinthians might well allow philosophers to say what they pleased about the impossibility of a resurrection. It was enough for them that Christ had risen, whether they could understand how it can be that the dead should rise, or not.


Verse 19

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

Not only the future, but even the present is lost, if Christ be not risen. Not only did the departed sink into perdition when they died, but we, who are alive, are more miserable than other men. This is the last conclusion which the apostle draws from the denial of the resurrection. If in this life only, the word לן ́ םןם, only, admits of a threefold connection. Although it stands at the end of the clause it may be connected, as in our translation, with the words "in this life." ‘If in this life only.' That is,

1. If all the good we expect from Christ is to be enjoyed in this life, we are more miserable than other men. We are constantly exposed to all manner of persecutions and sufferings, while they are at their ease.

2. It may be connected with the word Christ. This is a very natural construction, according to the position of the words in the common text, for ( ו ̓ ם ׳סיףפש ͂ͅ לן ́ םןם), in Christ only, stand together. The sense would then be, ‘If we have set all our hopes on Christ, and he fails us, we are of all men most miserable.' This, however, supposes the important clause, on which every thing depends (if he fails us), to be omitted. It also leaves the words in this life without importance.

3. Recent editors, following the older manuscripts, place ו ̓ ם ׳סיףפש ͂ͅ before the verb, and make לן ́ םןם qualify the whole clause. ‘If we have only hoped in Christ, and there is to be no fulfilling of our hopes, we are more miserable than others.' Or, ‘If we are only such (nothing more than such) who in life, and not in death, have hope in Christ,' etc. The apposition between the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:18, and the living in this verse, is in favor of the first-mentioned explanation. ‘Those who died in Christ, perished when they died. And we, if all our hopes in Christ are confined to this life, are the most miserable of men.' We have hoped. The Greek is ח ̓ כניךן ́ פוע ו ̓ ףלו ́ ם, which, as the commentators remark, expresses not what we do, but what we are. We are hopers.

This passage does not teach that Christians are in this life more miserable than other men. This is contrary to experience. Christians are unspeakably happier than other men. All that Paul means to say is, that if you take Christ from Christians, you take their all. He is the source not only of their future, but of their present happiness. Without him they are yet in their sins, under the curse of the law, unreconciled to God, having no hope, and without God in the world; and yet subject to all the peculiar trials incident to a Christian profession, which in the apostolic age often included the loss of all things.


Verse 20

But now is Christ risen from the dead, (and) become the first-fruits of them that slept.

But now, םץםי ̀ הו ́, i.e. as the matter actually stands. All the gloomy consequences presented in the preceding verses follow from the assumption that Christ did not rise from the dead. But as in point of fact he did rise, these things have no place. Our preaching is not vain, your faith is not vain, ye are not in your sins, the dead in Christ have not perished, we are not more miserable than other men. The reverse of all this is true. Christ has not only risen, but he has risen in a representative character. His resurrection is the pledge of the resurrection of his people. He rose as the first-fruits of them that slept, and not of them only, but as the first-fruits of all who are ever to sleep in Jesus. The apostle does not mean merely that the resurrection of Christ was to precede that of his people; but as the first sheaf of the harvest presented to God as a thank-offering, was the pledge and assurance of the ingathering of the whole harvest, so the resurrection of Christ is a pledge and proof of the resurrection of his people. In Romans 8:23 and Romans 11:16, the word ב ̓ נבסמח ́, first-fruits, has the same force. Comp. also Colossians 1:18 where Christ is called "the first begotten from the dead," and Revelation 1:5. Of the great harvest of glorified bodies which our earth is to yield Christ is the first-fruits. As he rose, so all his people must; as certainly and as gloriously, Philippians 3:21. The nature of this causal connection between the resurrection of Christ and that of his people, is explained in the following verses.


Verse 21

For since by man (came) death, by man (came) also the resurrection of the dead.

The connection between this verse and the preceding is obvious. The resurrection of Christ secures the resurrection of his people, for as there was a causal relation between the death of Adam and the death of his descendants, so there is a causal relation between the resurrection of Christ and that of his people. What that causal relation is, is not here expressed. It is simply asserted that as death is הי ̓ ב ̓ םטסש ́ נןץ, by means of a man; so the resurrection is הי ̓ ב ̓ םטסש ́ נןץ, by means of a man. Why Adam was the cause of death, and why Christ is the cause of life, is explained in the following verse, and abundantly elsewhere in Scripture, but not here. By death, in this verse, is meant the death of the body; and by the resurrection is meant the restoration of the body to life. This, however, only proves that the death of which Adam was the cause includes physical death, and that the life of which Christ is the cause includes the future life of the body. But as the life which we derive from Christ includes far more than the life of the body, so the death which flows from Adam includes far more than physical death.


Verse 22

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

This is the reason why Adam was the cause of death, and why Christ is the cause of life. We die by means of Adam, because we were in Adam; and we live by means of Christ, because we are in Christ. Union with Adam is the cause of death; union with Christ is the cause of life. The nature of this union and its consequences are more fully explained in Romans 5:12-21. In both cases it is a representative and vital union. We are in Adam because he was our head and representative, and because we partake of his nature. And we are in Christ because he is our head and representative, and because we partake of his nature through the indwelling of his Spirit. Adam, therefore, is the cause of death, because his sin is the judicial ground of our condemnation; and because we derive from him a corrupt and enfeebled nature. Christ is the cause of life, because his righteousness is the judicial ground of our justification; and because we derive from him the Holy Ghost, which is the source of life both to the soul and body. Comp. Romans 8:9-11.

That the word all in the latter part of this verse is to be restricted to all believers (or rather, to all the people of Christ, as infants are included) is plain,

1. Because the word in both clauses is limited. It is the all who are in Adam that die; and the all who are in Christ who are made alive. As union with Christ is made the ground of the communication of life here spoken of, it can be extended only to those who are in him. But according to the constant representation of the Scriptures, none are in him but his own people. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature," 2 Corinthians 5:17.

2. Because the verb ( זשןנןיו ́ ש) here found is never used of the wicked. Whenever employed in reference to the work of Christ it always means to communicate to them that life of which he is the source, John 5:21; John 6:63. Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:45. Galatians 3:21. The real meaning of the verse therefore, is, ‘As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made partakers of a glorious and everlasting life.' Unless, therefore, the Bible teaches that all men are in Christ, and that all through him partake of eternal life, the passage must be restricted to his own people.

3. Because, although Paul elsewhere speaks of a general resurrection both of the just and of the unjust, Acts 24:15, yet, throughout this chapter he speaks only of the resurrection of the righteous.

4. Because, in the parallel passage in Romans 5:12-21, the same limitation must be made. In Romans 5:18 of that chapter it is said, "As by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men to justification of life." That is, as for the offense of Adam all men were condemned, so for the righteousness of Christ all men are justified.

The context and the analogy of Scripture require us to understand this to mean, as all who are in Adam are condemned, so all who are in Christ are justified. No historical Christian church has ever held that all men indiscriminately are justified. For whom God justifies them he also glorifies, Romans 8:30.

There are two other interpretations of this verse. According to one, the verb, shall be made alive, is taken to mean no more than shall be raised from the dead. But this, as already remarked, is not only inconsistent with the prevailing use of the word, but with the whole context. Others, admitting that the passage necessarily treats of a resurrection to glory and blessedness, insist that the word all must be taken to include all men. But this contradicts the constant doctrine of the Bible, and has no support in the context. It is not absolutely all who die through Adam, but those only who were in him; so it is not absolutely all who live through Christ, but those only who are in him.


Verse 23

But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

In his own order. The word פב ́ דלב is properly a concrete term, meaning a band, as of soldiers. If this be insisted upon here, then Paul considers the hosts of those that rise as divided into different cohorts or companies; first Christ, then his people, then the rest of mankind. But the word is used by later writers, as Clemens in his Epistle to the Corinthians , and 41, in the sense of פב ́ מיע, order of succession. And this best suits the context, for Christ is not a band. All that Paul teaches is, that, although the resurrection of Christ secures that of his people, the two events are not contemporaneous. First Christ, then those who are Christ's. There is no intimation of any further division or separation in time in the process of the resurrection. The resurrection of the people of Christ is to take place at his coming, 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18.


Verse 24

Then (cometh) the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down an rule, and an authority and power.

This is a very difficult passage, and the interpretations given of it are too numerous to be recited. The first question is, What is the end here spoken of? The common answer is, That it is the end of the world. That is, the close of the present order of things; the consummation of the work of redemption. In favor of this view, it may be urged,

1. That where there is nothing in the context to determine otherwise, The end naturally means the end of all things. There is nothing here to limit the application, but the nature of the subject spoken of.

2. The analogy of Scripture is in favor of this explanation. In 1 Peter 4:7 we find the expression "the end of all things is at hand." Matthew 24:6, "The end is not yet;" Matthew 24:14, "Then shall the end come." So in Mark 13:7. Luke 21:9. In all these passages the end means the end of the world.

3. The equivalent expressions serve to explain the meaning of this phrase. The disciples asked our Lord, "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (i.e. the consummation of the present dispensation.) In answer to this question, our Lord said certain things were to happen, but "the end is not yet;" and afterwards, "then shall the end come." See Matthew 24:3, Matthew 24:6, Matthew 24:14. The same expression occurs in the same sense, Matthew 13:39; Matthew 28:20, and elsewhere. "The end," therefore, means the end of the world. In the same sense the phrase "until the restoration of all things" is probably used in Acts 3:21.

4. What immediately follows seems decisive in favor of this interpretation. The end is, when Christ shall deliver up his kingdom, after having subdued all his enemies; i.e. after having accomplished the work of redemption.

Many commentators understand by the end, the end of the resurrection. That work, they say, is to be accomplished by distinct stages. First the resurrection of Christ, then that of his people, then that of the wicked. This last, they say, is expressed by then cometh the end, viz., the end of the resurrection. Against this view, however, are all the arguments above stated in favor of the opinion that the end means the end of the world. Besides, the doctrine that there are to be two resurrections, one of the righteous and another of the wicked, the latter separated from the former by an unknown period of time, is entirely foreign to the New Testament, unless what is said in the 20th chapter of Revelation teaches that doctrine. Admitting that a twofold resurrection is there spoken of, it would not be proper to transfer from that passage an idea foreign to all Paul's representations of the subject. If that fact was revealed to John, it does not prove that it was revealed to Paul. All that the most stringent doctrine of inspiration requires is, that the passages should not contradict each other. The passage in Revelation, however, is altogether too uncertain to be made the rule of interpretation for the plainer declarations of the epistolary portions of the New Testament. On the contrary, what is doubtful in the former should be explained by what is clearly taught in the latter. Secondly, it is clearly taught in the gospels and epistles that the resurrection of the righteous and of the wicked is to be contemporaneous. At least, that is the mode in which the subject is always presented. The element of time (i.e. the chronological succession of the events) may indeed in these representations be omitted, as is so often the case in the prophecies of the Old Testament. But unless it can be proved from other sources, that events which are foretold as contemporaneous, or as following the one the other in immediate succession, are in fact separated by indefinite periods of time, no such separation can properly be assumed. In the evangelists and epistles the resurrection of the righteous and that of the wicked are spoken of as contemporaneous, and since their separation in time is nowhere else revealed, the only proper inference is that they are to occur together. In Matthew 24:3, the coming of Christ and the end of the world are coupled together as contemporaneous. And throughout that chapter our Lord foretells what is to happen before that event, and adds, "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven … and he shall send his angels with the sound of a great trumpet, and they shall gather together the elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other," Matthew 24:30, Matthew 24:31. In John 5:28, John 5:29 it is said, "The hour is coming when all (good and bad) who are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, Christ is said to come to take vengeance on those who obey not the gospel, and to be glorified in the saints. These events go together. Besides, our Lord repeatedly says that he will raise up his people "at the last day," John 6:39, John 6:40; John 11:24, and therefore not an indefinitely long period before the last day. According to the uniform representations of the Scriptures, when Christ comes he is to raise all the dead and separate the wicked from among the just as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. Or, according to another figure, he is to send forth his angels and separate the tares from the wheat. It has therefore been the constant faith of the church that the second advent of Christ, the resurrection of the just and of the unjust, the final judgment and end of the world — are parts of one great transaction, and not events which are to succeed each other at long intervals of time. All this, however, is said with diffidence and submission. It may prove to be otherwise. The predictions of the Old Testament produced the universal impression that the first coming of Christ was to be attended at once by events which we learn from the New Testament require ages to bring about. Still, we are bound to take the Scriptures as they stand, and events which are described as contemporaneous are to be assumed to be so, until the event proves the contrary. We may be perfectly sure that the Scriptures will prove infallibly true. The predictions of the Old Testament, although in some points misinterpreted, or rather interpreted too far, by the ancient church, were fully vindicated and explained by the event.

The second question to be considered is, When is the end of the world to take place? According to some, at Christ's coming; according to others, at an indefinite period after his second coming. It may be admitted that this verse is not decisive on this point. It marks the succession of certain events, but determines nothing as to the interval between them First, Christ's resurrection; then the resurrection of his people; then the end of the world. But as it is said that those who are Christ's shall rise at his coming, and then cometh the end; the natural impression is that nothing remains to be done after the resurrection before the end comes. This view is confirmed by the numerous passages of the New Testament, several of which have already been quoted, which connect the general judgment and end of the world as intimately with the coming of Christ as the resurrection of his people. Some of those who assume that an indefinite period is to elapse between the coming of Christ and the end of the world, suppose that the intervening period is to be occupied not in the work of conversion, but in the subjugation of the enemies of Christ spoken of in the following verses. The common opinion among those who adopt this interpretation is, that the interval in question is to be occupied by the personal reign of Christ on earth. This is the doctrine of the ancient Chiliasts, and of modern Millenarians. The form which this doctrine has commonly assumed in ancient and modern times is only a modified Judaism, entirely at variance with the spirituality of the gospel and with the teachings of the apostle in this chapter. He tells us that flesh and blood, i.e. bodies organized as our present bodies are, i.e. natural bodies, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The whole design of the latter portion of this chapter is to show that after the resurrection, the bodies of believers will be like the glorious body of the Son of God, adapted to a heavenly, and not to an earthly condition.

A third question which this verse presents is, In what sense is Christ to deliver up the kingdom to the Father? In the common text the words are ן ̔́ פבם נבסבהש ͂ͅ, when he shall have delivered up; most of the modern editors read נבסבהיהש ͂ͅ, when he delivers up. That is, when the end comes, Christ is to deliver up the kingdom to his Father. What does this mean? The Scriptures constantly teach that Christ's kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and of his dominion there is no end. In what sense, then, can he be said to deliver up his kingdom? It must be remembered that the Scriptures speak of a threefold kingdom as belonging to Christ.

1. That which necessarily belongs to him as a divine person, extending over all creatures, and of which he can never divest himself.

2. That which belongs to him as the incarnate Son of God, extending over his own people. This also is everlasting. He will for ever remain the head and sovereign of the redeemed.

3. That dominion to which he was exalted after his resurrection, when all power in heaven and earth was committed to his hands. This kingdom, which he exercises as the Theanthropos, and which extends over all principalities and powers, he is to deliver up when the work of redemption is accomplished. He was invested with this dominion in his mediatorial character for the purpose of carrying on his work to its consummation. When that is done, i.e. when he has subdued all his enemies, then he will no longer reign over the universe as Mediator, but only as God; while his headship over his people is to continue for ever.

To God even the Father, i.e. to him who is at once his God and Father. This is the Scriptural designation of the first person of the Trinity. He is the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, inasmuch as he is the God whom Christ came to reveal, and whose work he performs. He is his Father in virtue of the eternal relation subsisting between the first and second persons in the Godhead.

The fourth question which this pregnant verse suggests is presented in the last clause. When he shall have put down all rule, and authority and power. Calvin and others understand this to mean, ‘When he shall have abrogated all other dominion than his own.' Whatever authority is now exercised by one man over others is at last to be abolished, and merged in the all-pervading authority of God. Most commentators, in obedience to the context, understand the passage to refer to all hostile powers, whether demoniacal or human. These are to be put down, i.e. effectually subdued; not annihilated, and not converted; but simply deprived of all power to disturb the harmony of his kingdom.

For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

This verse assigns the reason why Christ cannot relinquish his dominion over the universe as mediator until the end comes, and why he will then deliver it up. He must reign until the purpose for which he was invested with this universal dominion is accomplished. As in Psalms 110:1-7 it is said to the Messiah, "Sit thou on my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool," many assume that God is the subject of the verb has put. The meaning would then be, ‘He must reign until God has put all his enemies under his feet.' But this is inconsistent with the context. Christ is to put down all rule, authority and power, 1 Corinthians 15:24, and he reigns until he has accomplished that work. The two modes of representation are perfectly consistent. The Father created the world, though he did it through the Son, Hebrews 1:3. The work, therefore, is sometimes ascribed to the one and sometimes to the other. In like manner the Father subdues the powers of darkness, but it is through Christ to whom all power in heaven and earth has been committed. It is therefore equally proper to say that God makes the enemies of Christ his footstool, and that Christ himself puts his enemies under his feet. The enemies who are to be thus subdued are not only intelligent beings hostile to Christ, but all the forms of evil, physical and moral, because death is specially included. By subduing, however, is not meant destroying or banishing out of existence. The passage does not teach that Christ is to reign until all evil is banished from the universe. Satan is said to be subdued, when deprived of his power to injure the people of God. And evil in like manner is subdued when it is restrained within the limits of the kingdom of darkness.

The last enemy (that) shall be destroyed (is) death.

Death shall reign until the resurrection. Then men shall never more be subject to his power. Then death shall be swallowed up in victory, Luke 20:36. "Neither shall they die any more," 2 Timothy 1:10, Revelation 20:14.

For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put under (him, it is) manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.

The proof that death is finally to be destroyed is derived from the 8th Psalm, where the subjection of all things to the Messiah is predicted. There are two passages of the Old Testament frequently quoted in the New Testament as foretelling the absolutely universal dominion of the Messiah, Psalms 110:1-7 and Psalms 8:1-9. The former is quoted, or its language appropriated, in 1 Corinthians 15:25. Matthew 22:44. Acts 2:34. Ephesians 1:22. Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:13, 1 Peter 3:22. In this there is no difficulty, as that Psalm clearly refers to the Messiah and to none else. The 8th Psalm is quoted and applied to Christ in this passage, and in Ephesians 1:22. Hebrews 2:8 and 1 Peter 3:22. As this Psalm has no apparent reference to the Messiah, but is a thanksgiving to God for his goodness to man, the use made of it in the New Testament is to be understood as an inspired exposition of its hidden meaning. That is, when the Psalmist said, "Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands, thou hast put all things under his feet," we learn from the New Testament that the Spirit of God intended by these words far more than that man was invested with dominion over the beasts of the field. There is no limit to the all things here intended. Hebrews 2:8. Man is clothed with dominion over the whole universe, over all principalities and powers, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come. This is fulfilled in the man Christ Jesus, into whose hands all power in heaven and earth has been committed. This may be called the hidden meaning of the Psalm, because it never would have been discovered without a further revelation such as we find in the exposition given by the inspired apostles,. When he saith, ן ̔́ פבם וי ̓́ נח ͅ, This may mean either, when the Scripture saith, or when God saith. The latter is better on account of what follows. The verb is not to be translated as in the present tense, but, as the better commentators agree, in the past future, see 1 Corinthians 15:24. Hebrews 1:6. ‘When God shall have said.' That is, when God shall have declared his purpose to subject all things to Christ accomplished, it will then be manifest that all things are subject to him, God only excepted.

And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

When the work of redemption has been accomplished, the dead raised, the judgment held, the enemies of Christ all subdued, then, and not till then, will the Son also himself be subject to him who put all things under him. This passage is evidently parallel with that in 1 Corinthians 15:24. The subjection of the Son to the Father here means precisely what is there meant by his delivering up the kingdom to God even the Father. The thing done, and the person who does it, are the same. The subjection here spoken of is not predicated of the eternal Logos, the second person of the Trinity, any more than the kingdom spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15:24 is the dominion which belongs essentially to Christ as God. As there the word Christ designates the Theanthropos, so does the word Son here designate, not the Logos as such, but the Logos as incarnate. And as the delivery of the kingdom or royal authority over the universe committed to Christ after his resurrection, is consistent at once with his continued dominion as God over all creatures, and with his continued headship over his people; so is the subjection here spoken of consistent with his eternal equality with the Father. It is not the subjection of the Son as Son, but of the Son as Theanthropos of which the apostle here speaks. The doctrine of the true and proper divinity of our Lord is so dearly revealed in Scripture, and is so inwrought into the faith of his people, that such passages as these, though adduced with so much confidence by the impugners of that doctrine, give believers no more trouble than the ascription of the limitations of our nature to God. When the Bible says that God repents, we know that it is consistent with his immutability; and when it says the Son is subject or inferior to the Father, we know that it is consistent with their equality, as certainly as we know that saying that man is immortal is consistent with saying he is mortal. We know that both of the last-mentioned propositions are true: because mortality is predicated of man in one aspect, and immortality in another aspect. In one sense he is mortal, in another sense he is immortal. In like manner we know that the verbally inconsistent propositions, the Son is subject to the Father, and, the Son is equal with the Father, are both true. In one sense he is subject, in another sense he is equal. The son of a king may be the equal of his father in every attribute of his nature, though officially inferior. So the eternal Son of God may be coequal with the Father, though officially subordinate. What difficulty is there in this? What shade does it cast over the full Godhead of our adorable Redeemer? The subordination, however, here spoken of, is not that of the human nature of Christ separately considered, as when he is said to suffer, or to die, or to be ignorant; but it is the official subordination of the incarnate Son to God as God. The words בץ ̓ פן ̀ ע ן ̔ ץי ̔ ן ́ ע, the Son himself, here designate, as in so many other places, not the second person of the Trinity as such, but that person as clothed in our nature. And the subjection spoken of, is not of the former, but of the latter, i.e. not of the Son as Son, but of the Son as incarnate; and the subjection itself is official and therefore perfectly consistent with equality of nature.

There is another difficulty connected with this verse which it may be well to notice. According to the Scriptures and the creeds of all the great historical churches (Greek, Latin, Lutheran and Reformed), the term Son, as applied to Christ, designates his divine nature. It is a term of nature and not of office. He was from eternity the Son of God. Yet it is of the Son that subjection is here predicated. This is urged as an argument against his eternal sonship. The fact, however, is, that the person of Christ may be designated from one nature, when the predicate belongs either to the opposite nature or to the whole person. That is, he may be called God when what is said of him is true only of his human nature or of his complex person as God and man; and he may be called man, when what is said is true only of his divine nature. Thus he is called the Son of Man when omnipresence and omniscience are ascribed to him; and he is called God, the Son of God, the Lord of glory when he is said to die. These passages do not prove that the human nature of Christ is every where present; or that his divine nature suffered and died. Neither do such expressions as that in the text prove that the Son as such is inferior to the Father, nor that the term Son is not a scriptural designation of his divine nature. The principle here adverted to is so important, and serves to explain so many passages of Scripture, that it will bear to be often repeated.

That God may be all in all. Before the ascension of Christ, God reigned as God; after that event he reigned and still reigns through the Theanthropos; when the end comes, the Theanthropos will deliver up this administrative kingdom, and God again be all in all. Such is the representation of Scripture, and such seems to be the simple meaning of this passage. When our Lord ascended up on high all power in heaven and earth was given to him. It was given to him then, and therefore not possessed before. He is to retain this delegated power in his character of Mediator, God-man, until his enemies are put under his feet. Then he, the God-man, is to deliver it up. And God as God will reign supreme. The phrase here used, פב ̀ נב ́ םפב (or נב ́ םפב) ו ̓ ם נב ͂ ףים, all in all, depends (as is the case with all similar formulas), for its precise meaning on the connection. If words be taken by themselves, and made to mean any thing which their signification will admit, without regard to the context or to the analogy of Scripture, then the authority of the word of God is effectually subverted. No book, human or divine, can be interpreted on a principle so unreasonable. Some, however, regardless of this universally admitted rule of interpretation, say that these words teach that the whole universe is to be merged in God — he is to become all in all — he will be all, and all will be God. Others limit the last all to intelligent creatures, and the sense in which God is all is restricted to his gracious influence; so that while the continued personal existence of rational creatures is provided for, it is assumed that God is to reign supreme in all intelligent beings. All sin and evil will thus be banished from the whole universe. This interpretation is, in the first place, perfectly arbitrary. If the meaning of the words is to be pressed beyond the limits assigned by the context and the analogy of Scripture, why limit ו ̓ ם נב ͂ ףי to intelligent creatures, and פב ̀ נב ́ םפב to mere gracious control? The passage teaches pantheism, if it teaches universalism. Secondly, this interpretation is contrary to the context. Paul is speaking simply of the continuance of the mediatorial dominion of Christ over the universe. That dominion was given to him for a specific purpose; when that purpose is accomplished, he will give it up, and God, instead of reigning through Christ, will be recognized as the immediate sovereign of the universe; his co-equal, co-eternal Son, clothed in our nature, being, as the everlasting head of the redeemed, officially subordinate to him. In other words, the whole question, so to speak, is whose hands are to hold the reins of universal dominion. They are now in the hands of Christ; hereafter they are to be in the hands of God as such. The passage does not teach us the design of redemption, but what is to happen when the redemption of God's people is accomplished. Then the Messianic reign is to cease, and God is to rule supreme over a universe reduced to order, the people of God being saved, and the finally impenitent shut up with Satan and his angels in the prison of despair. Thirdly, the interpretation which makes this passage teach the restoration of all intelligent creatures to holiness, is contrary to the express declarations of Scriptures and to the faith of the church universal. This the most accomplished of its advocates virtually admit. See for example Olshausen's commentary on this epistle. If the evidence in support of the doctrine of the everlasting perdition of the wicked were not overwhelming, it never could have become a part of the faith of the universal church. And that doctrine being once established on its own grounds, doubtful passages must he interpreted in accordance with it.

There is another orthodox interpretation of this passage. It is assumed to treat of the final result of the work of redemption. God will reign supreme in all. But the all is restricted to the subjects of redemption. The whole chapter treats of those who are in Christ. It is of their resurrection, and of the effect of redemption in their case, the apostle is assumed to speak. ‘All who are in Christ shall be made alive, 1 Corinthians 15:22, and God shall reign in them all.' The sense is good, but this interpretation overlooks what intervenes between 1 Corinthians 15:22 and 1 Corinthians 15:28 concerning the kingdom of Christ and its being given up.


Verse 25

For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

This verse assigns the reason why Christ cannot relinquish his dominion over the universe as mediator until the end comes, and why he will then deliver it up. He must reign until the purpose for which he was invested with this universal dominion is accomplished. As in Psalms 110:1-7 it is said to the Messiah, "Sit thou on my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool," many assume that God is the subject of the verb has put. The meaning would then be, ‘He must reign until God has put all his enemies under his feet.' But this is inconsistent with the context. Christ is to put down all rule, authority and power, 1 Corinthians 15:24, and he reigns until he has accomplished that work. The two modes of representation are perfectly consistent. The Father created the world, though he did it through the Son, Hebrews 1:3. The work, therefore, is sometimes ascribed to the one and sometimes to the other. In like manner the Father subdues the powers of darkness, but it is through Christ to whom all power in heaven and earth has been committed. It is therefore equally proper to say that God makes the enemies of Christ his footstool, and that Christ himself puts his enemies under his feet. The enemies who are to be thus subdued are not only intelligent beings hostile to Christ, but all the forms of evil, physical and moral, because death is specially included. By subduing, however, is not meant destroying or banishing out of existence. The passage does not teach that Christ is to reign until all evil is banished from the universe. Satan is said to be subdued, when deprived of his power to injure the people of God. And evil in like manner is subdued when it is restrained within the limits of the kingdom of darkness.


Verse 26

The last enemy (that) shall be destroyed (is) death.

Death shall reign until the resurrection. Then men shall never more be subject to his power. Then death shall be swallowed up in victory, Luke 20:36. "Neither shall they die any more," 2 Timothy 1:10, Revelation 20:14.


Verse 27

For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put under (him, it is) manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.

The proof that death is finally to be destroyed is derived from the 8th Psalm, where the subjection of all things to the Messiah is predicted. There are two passages of the Old Testament frequently quoted in the New Testament as foretelling the absolutely universal dominion of the Messiah, Psalms 110:1-7 and Psalms 8:1-9. The former is quoted, or its language appropriated, in 1 Corinthians 15:25. Matthew 22:44. Acts 2:34. Ephesians 1:22. Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:13, 1 Peter 3:22. In this there is no difficulty, as that Psalm clearly refers to the Messiah and to none else. The 8th Psalm is quoted and applied to Christ in this passage, and in Ephesians 1:22. Hebrews 2:8 and 1 Peter 3:22. As this Psalm has no apparent reference to the Messiah, but is a thanksgiving to God for his goodness to man, the use made of it in the New Testament is to be understood as an inspired exposition of its hidden meaning. That is, when the Psalmist said, "Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands, thou hast put all things under his feet," we learn from the New Testament that the Spirit of God intended by these words far more than that man was invested with dominion over the beasts of the field. There is no limit to the all things here intended. Hebrews 2:8. Man is clothed with dominion over the whole universe, over all principalities and powers, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come. This is fulfilled in the man Christ Jesus, into whose hands all power in heaven and earth has been committed. This may be called the hidden meaning of the Psalm, because it never would have been discovered without a further revelation such as we find in the exposition given by the inspired apostles,. When he saith, ן ̔́ פבם וי ̓́ נח ͅ, This may mean either, when the Scripture saith, or when God saith. The latter is better on account of what follows. The verb is not to be translated as in the present tense, but, as the better commentators agree, in the past future, see 1 Corinthians 15:24. Hebrews 1:6. ‘When God shall have said.' That is, when God shall have declared his purpose to subject all things to Christ accomplished, it will then be manifest that all things are subject to him, God only excepted.


Verse 28

And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

When the work of redemption has been accomplished, the dead raised, the judgment held, the enemies of Christ all subdued, then, and not till then, will the Son also himself be subject to him who put all things under him. This passage is evidently parallel with that in 1 Corinthians 15:24. The subjection of the Son to the Father here means precisely what is there meant by his delivering up the kingdom to God even the Father. The thing done, and the person who does it, are the same. The subjection here spoken of is not predicated of the eternal Logos, the second person of the Trinity, any more than the kingdom spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15:24 is the dominion which belongs essentially to Christ as God. As there the word Christ designates the Theanthropos, so does the word Son here designate, not the Logos as such, but the Logos as incarnate. And as the delivery of the kingdom or royal authority over the universe committed to Christ after his resurrection, is consistent at once with his continued dominion as God over all creatures, and with his continued headship over his people; so is the subjection here spoken of consistent with his eternal equality with the Father. It is not the subjection of the Son as Son, but of the Son as Theanthropos of which the apostle here speaks. The doctrine of the true and proper divinity of our Lord is so dearly revealed in Scripture, and is so inwrought into the faith of his people, that such passages as these, though adduced with so much confidence by the impugners of that doctrine, give believers no more trouble than the ascription of the limitations of our nature to God. When the Bible says that God repents, we know that it is consistent with his immutability; and when it says the Son is subject or inferior to the Father, we know that it is consistent with their equality, as certainly as we know that saying that man is immortal is consistent with saying he is mortal. We know that both of the last-mentioned propositions are true: because mortality is predicated of man in one aspect, and immortality in another aspect. In one sense he is mortal, in another sense he is immortal. In like manner we know that the verbally inconsistent propositions, the Son is subject to the Father, and, the Son is equal with the Father, are both true. In one sense he is subject, in another sense he is equal. The son of a king may be the equal of his father in every attribute of his nature, though officially inferior. So the eternal Son of God may be coequal with the Father, though officially subordinate. What difficulty is there in this? What shade does it cast over the full Godhead of our adorable Redeemer? The subordination, however, here spoken of, is not that of the human nature of Christ separately considered, as when he is said to suffer, or to die, or to be ignorant; but it is the official subordination of the incarnate Son to God as God. The words בץ ̓ פן ̀ ע ן ̔ ץי ̔ ן ́ ע, the Son himself, here designate, as in so many other places, not the second person of the Trinity as such, but that person as clothed in our nature. And the subjection spoken of, is not of the former, but of the latter, i.e. not of the Son as Son, but of the Son as incarnate; and the subjection itself is official and therefore perfectly consistent with equality of nature.

There is another difficulty connected with this verse which it may be well to notice. According to the Scriptures and the creeds of all the great historical churches (Greek, Latin, Lutheran and Reformed), the term Son, as applied to Christ, designates his divine nature. It is a term of nature and not of office. He was from eternity the Son of God. Yet it is of the Son that subjection is here predicated. This is urged as an argument against his eternal sonship. The fact, however, is, that the person of Christ may be designated from one nature, when the predicate belongs either to the opposite nature or to the whole person. That is, he may be called God when what is said of him is true only of his human nature or of his complex person as God and man; and he may be called man, when what is said is true only of his divine nature. Thus he is called the Son of Man when omnipresence and omniscience are ascribed to him; and he is called God, the Son of God, the Lord of glory when he is said to die. These passages do not prove that the human nature of Christ is every where present; or that his divine nature suffered and died. Neither do such expressions as that in the text prove that the Son as such is inferior to the Father, nor that the term Son is not a scriptural designation of his divine nature. The principle here adverted to is so important, and serves to explain so many passages of Scripture, that it will bear to be often repeated.

That God may be all in all. Before the ascension of Christ, God reigned as God; after that event he reigned and still reigns through the Theanthropos; when the end comes, the Theanthropos will deliver up this administrative kingdom, and God again be all in all. Such is the representation of Scripture, and such seems to be the simple meaning of this passage. When our Lord ascended up on high all power in heaven and earth was given to him. It was given to him then, and therefore not possessed before. He is to retain this delegated power in his character of Mediator, God-man, until his enemies are put under his feet. Then he, the God-man, is to deliver it up. And God as God will reign supreme. The phrase here used, פב ̀ נב ́ םפב (or נב ́ םפב) ו ̓ ם נב ͂ ףים, all in all, depends (as is the case with all similar formulas), for its precise meaning on the connection. If words be taken by themselves, and made to mean any thing which their signification will admit, without regard to the context or to the analogy of Scripture, then the authority of the word of God is effectually subverted. No book, human or divine, can be interpreted on a principle so unreasonable. Some, however, regardless of this universally admitted rule of interpretation, say that these words teach that the whole universe is to be merged in God — he is to become all in all — he will be all, and all will be God. Others limit the last all to intelligent creatures, and the sense in which God is all is restricted to his gracious influence; so that while the continued personal existence of rational creatures is provided for, it is assumed that God is to reign supreme in all intelligent beings. All sin and evil will thus be banished from the whole universe. This interpretation is, in the first place, perfectly arbitrary. If the meaning of the words is to be pressed beyond the limits assigned by the context and the analogy of Scripture, why limit ו ̓ ם נב ͂ ףי to intelligent creatures, and פב ̀ נב ́ םפב to mere gracious control? The passage teaches pantheism, if it teaches universalism. Secondly, this interpretation is contrary to the context. Paul is speaking simply of the continuance of the mediatorial dominion of Christ over the universe. That dominion was given to him for a specific purpose; when that purpose is accomplished, he will give it up, and God, instead of reigning through Christ, will be recognized as the immediate sovereign of the universe; his co-equal, co-eternal Son, clothed in our nature, being, as the everlasting head of the redeemed, officially subordinate to him. In other words, the whole question, so to speak, is whose hands are to hold the reins of universal dominion. They are now in the hands of Christ; hereafter they are to be in the hands of God as such. The passage does not teach us the design of redemption, but what is to happen when the redemption of God's people is accomplished. Then the Messianic reign is to cease, and God is to rule supreme over a universe reduced to order, the people of God being saved, and the finally impenitent shut up with Satan and his angels in the prison of despair. Thirdly, the interpretation which makes this passage teach the restoration of all intelligent creatures to holiness, is contrary to the express declarations of Scriptures and to the faith of the church universal. This the most accomplished of its advocates virtually admit. See for example Olshausen's commentary on this epistle. If the evidence in support of the doctrine of the everlasting perdition of the wicked were not overwhelming, it never could have become a part of the faith of the universal church. And that doctrine being once established on its own grounds, doubtful passages must he interpreted in accordance with it.

There is another orthodox interpretation of this passage. It is assumed to treat of the final result of the work of redemption. God will reign supreme in all. But the all is restricted to the subjects of redemption. The whole chapter treats of those who are in Christ. It is of their resurrection, and of the effect of redemption in their case, the apostle is assumed to speak. ‘All who are in Christ shall be made alive, 1 Corinthians 15:22, and God shall reign in them all.' The sense is good, but this interpretation overlooks what intervenes between 1 Corinthians 15:22 and 1 Corinthians 15:28 concerning the kingdom of Christ and its being given up.


Verse 29

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?

The apostle, after the preceding digression, returns to his argument for the resurrection. ‘The dead are certainly to be raised, otherwise ( ו ̓ נוי ́) what shall they do who are baptized for the dead?' This practice (whatever it was) of baptizing for the dead, takes for granted that the dead are to rise. What shall they do, i.e. What account will they give of themselves? what explanation of their conduct can they make? The most important of the numerous interpretations of this verse admit of being reduced to the following classes:

1. Those which turn on the sense given to the word baptize.

2. Those which depend on the explanation of the preposition ץ ̔ נו ́ ס, for.

3. Those which assume an ellipsis in the verse.

4. Those which turn on the explanation of פש ͂ ם םוךסש ͂ ם, the dead.

1. The simplest and most natural interpretation takes the word baptize in its ordinary sense. ‘What do they do who allow themselves to be baptized in the place of the dead?' This supposes that the custom of vicarious baptism, as afterwards practiced by the Cerinthians and Marcionites, had already been introduced into Corinth. Among those heretical sects, if a catechumen died before baptism, some one was baptized in his name, in order that he might be enrolled among Christians and receive the benefit of the ordinance. The objections to this interpretation are, that the practice was superstitious, founded on wrong views of the nature and efficacy of baptism.

2. That there are no traces elsewhere of the prevalence of vicarious baptism before the second century.

3. That it was universally condemned by the churches as heretical.

4. That it cannot be supposed that the apostle would refer to such a superstitious custom without condemning it.

These objections are in a measure met by the following considerations:

1. Paul, so far from intimating any approbation of the custom, distinctly separates himself from its abettors. He does not say, ‘What shall we do' — ‘What shall they do.' It was something with which he had no fellowship.

2. That this method of arguing against others from their own concessions, is one which the apostle frequently employs.

3. That when his mind is full of a particular subject he does not leave it, to pronounce judgment on things incidentally introduced. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 11:5, when treating of women speaking in the church unveiled, he expresses no disapprobation of their speaking in public, although he afterwards condemned it. A still more striking example of the same thing is to be found 1 Corinthians 10:8, where he speaks of the Corinthians "sitting at meat in an idol's temple," without any disapprobation of the thing itself, but only of its influence on the weaker brethren. Yet, in 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, he proves that the thing itself was an act of idolatry.

4. That the entire disappearance of this custom in the orthodox church, although other superstitious observances not less objectionable soon prevailed, is probably to be referred to the practice having been forbidden by the apostle as soon as he reached Corinth. This may have been one of the things which he left "to be set in order when he came," 1 Corinthians 11:34.

5. The state of the church in Corinth, as disclosed by this epistle, was not such as to render the adoption of such a custom by a portion of the people, incredible. Baptizing for the dead was not so bad as sitting at the table of devils, 1 Corinthians 10:21.

A second interpretation under this head gives the word baptize the figurative sense which it has in Matthew 20:22. Luke 12:50, "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!" According to this view, Paul here refers to the baptism of afflictions. ‘Why do men suffer so for the hopelessly dead? if the dead are not to rise, what is the use of suffering so much for them? i.e. of laboring so much, and enduring so much for men who, when dead, are never to live again.' This, however, evidently puts a sense on the word dead, which it will not bear. It is assumed to designate not those actually dead, but men who when dead are not to rise again.

Of the second class of interpretations some propose to render ץ ̔ נו ́ ס by over. ‘Why do they baptize over the dead? i.e. over their graves.' Sometimes, for the sake of expressing their faith in the resurrection, Christians are said to have been baptized over the graves of the martyrs. Others say that ץ ̔ נו ́ ס means in the place of. ‘Why should men be baptized in place of the dead? i.e. to supply their places in the church, and thus keep up the ranks of believers.' A third class propose to take םוךסש ͂ ם for the singular, and to read, ‘Why are they baptized for one dead?' Others say the meaning is, for the dead, i.e. for bodies. What is the use of being baptized for a dead body? a body which is never to live again. He that is baptized receives the ordinance believing that his body is not to remain dead. Calvin and others understand the dead to mean here, those about to die. ‘Why should baptism be administered for those on the verge of the grave — if there be no resurrection?' Finally, some suppose the passage is elliptical. Fully expressed it would be, ‘What do they do who are baptized for the resurrection of the dead?' i.e. in hope of the resurrection which was professed by all who receive baptism. The darkness which rests on this passage can never be entirely cleared away, because the reference is to a custom of which no account is extant. If the dead rise not at all belongs to the latter member of the verse. ‘If the dead rise not at all, why are they baptized for them?' Instead of פש ͂ ם םוךסש ͂ ם, the dead, modern editors read בץ ̓ פש ͂ ם, them.


Verse 30

And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

Here Paul speaks for himself. With baptizing for the dead, he had nothing to do. ‘Why do they allow themselves,' he asks, ‘to be baptized for the dead?' That, as would appear, is what his opponents did. As an additional argument for the doctrine which he is defending, he urges, that its denial destroys at least one of the great motives to self-denial. ‘If there be no resurrection, on which all our hopes as Christians depend, why should we voluntarily encounter perpetual danger?' It is to be remembered that, according to Paul's doctrine and previous argument, if there be no resurrection, then Christ is not risen, and if Christ be not risen, there is no atonement, no reconciliation with God. We are in a state of final and hopeless condemnation. What is the use of laboring to save men, if there be no salvation?


Verse 31

I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

Paul solemnly assures his readers that he was constantly in jeopardy, for, says he, I die daily, i.e. I am constantly exposed to death, 2 Corinthians 4:10. By your boasting which I have. This is not the meaning, but, ‘By my boasting concerning you.' That is, ‘as surely as I boast of you, and rejoice over you.' The pronoun ץ ̔ לופו ́ סבם your, is to be taken objectively (as in Romans 11:31; comp. also 1 Corinthians 9:12) the boasting of which you are the object. Which I have in Christ Jesus, i.e. which I have in communion with Christ. It was a rejoicing which he, as a Christian minister, had over them as the seals of his ministry.


Verse 32

If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.

The apostle refers to one, and probably a recent instance of his exposure to death. If after the manner of men, i.e. with those views and interests which determine the conduct of ordinary men, i.e. without hope in the resurrection. I have fought with beasts at Ephesus. This may be understood either literally or figuratively. Against the literal interpretation is urged,

1. The improbability that, as a Roman citizen, he should have been subjected to that punishment. But his being a Roman citizen did not prevent his being thrice beaten with rods, by Roman magistrates, or at least, by others than Jews, and contrary to law, 2 Corinthians 11:25.

2. The silence of The Acts on the subject. But we learn from 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, that scarcely a tithe of what Paul did and suffered is recorded in The Acts.

3. The omission of any reference to his exposure to wild beasts in the long enumeration of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. This is a more serious objection.

Considering, moreover, that Paul was at Ephesus exposed to the violent tumult of the people, and that this expression is often used by the ancients figuratively for contests with enraged men, the probability is, that it is to be so understood here. What to me is the advantage? ‘If I have no other views or hopes than ordinary men, whose expectations are confined to this world, what is the use of incurring so many dangers?' If the dead rise not. This clause does not belong to the one preceding, as it is pointed in our version, but to what follows. ‘If the dead rise not, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' The natural consequence of denying the doctrine of the resurrection, involving as it does the denial of the gospel, and the consequent rejection of all hope of salvation, is to make men reckless, and to lead them to abandon themselves to mere sensual enjoyments. If man has no glorious hereafter, he naturally sinks towards the level of the brutes, whose destiny he is to share.


Verse 33

Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

This warning flows naturally from what had been said. If the tendency of the denial of the resurrection be to render men reckless and sensual, then the Corinthians should not be deceived by the plausible arguments or specious conduct of the errorists among them. They should avoid them, under the conviction that all evil is contagious. Evil communications. The word properly means a being together, companionship. It is contact, association with evil, that is declared to be corrupting. This is a fact of common experience, and therefore the apostle expresses it in a verse borrowed from the Greek poet, Menander, which had probably become a proverb. It is only when men associate with the wicked with the desire and purpose to do them good, that they can rely on the protection of God to preserve them from contamination.


Verse 34

Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak (this) to your shame.

Surrounded by evil teachers, the Corinthians had need not only of being on their guard against deception, but also of vigilance. Awake. The word properly means, to become sober, to arouse from a state of drunkenness or torpor. The call is to prompt exertion to shake off the delusion under which they were lying as to their security. To righteousness, literally, righteously, i.e. in a proper manner. ‘Awake rightly,' or, as Luther renders it, Wake right up. And sin not, i.e. do not allow yourselves to be carried away into sin. This was the end to be answered by their vigilance. There was need of this exhortation, for some have not the knowledge of God; literally, have ignorance of God. They are ignorant of God; and therefore they deny the resurrection. Comp. Matthew 22:29, where our Lord says to the Sadducees who denied the resurrection, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God." I speak this to your shame. It should make you ashamed that there are men among you capable of calling in question one of the great essential facts of the gospel — the resurrection of the dead.


Verse 35

Nature of the Resurrection Body — 1 Corinthians

Having proved the fact of the resurrection, the apostle comes to illustrate its nature, or to teach with what kind of bodies the dead are to rise. It seems that the great objection against the doctrine in the minds of his readers rested on the assumption that our future bodies are to be of the same nature with those which we now have; that is, natural bodies consisting of flesh and blood, and sustained by air, food and sleep. Paul says this is a foolish assumption. Our future bodies may be material and identical with our present bodies, and yet organized in a very different way. You plant a seed; it does not come up a seek, but a flower. Why then may not the future be to the present body what the flower is to the seed? 1 Corinthians 15:35-37. Matter admits of indefinite varieties in organization. There is not only immense diversity in the vegetable productions of the earth, but even flesh is variously modified in the different orders of animals, 1 Corinthians 15:38, 1 Corinthians 15:39. This is true not only as to the earth, for there are heavenly as well as earthly bodies. And even the sun, moon and stars differ from each other in glory; why then may not our future differ from our present bodies in glory? 1 Corinthians 15:40, 1 Corinthians 15:41. Such not only may be, but will be the case. The body deposited in the grave is corruptible, mean, weak, and, in a word, natural; as raised from the grave, it will be incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual, 1 Corinthians 15:42-44. This is according to Scripture. Adam was created with a natural body, adapted to an earthly state of existence; Christ, as a life-giving spirit, has a spiritual body. As Adam was before Christ, so our early tabernacles are before our heavenly ones. As we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall bear the image of the heavenly, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49. It is freely admitted that flesh and blood, i.e. bodies organized as our now are, are unfit for heaven. Corruption cannot inherit incorruption, morality shall put on immortality, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53. When this is done, the original promise that death shall be swallowed up in victory, will be fully accomplished, 1 Corinthians 15:54. Death, therefore, to the believer, has lost its sting, and the grave is conquered. Death has no sting but sin; sin has no strength but from the law; the law has no power over those who are in Christ Jesus, therefore thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord! 1 Corinthians 15:55-57. Seeing then that we have such a glorious hereafter, we should be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, 1 Corinthians 15:58.

But some (man) will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?

The discussion of the fact of the resurrection being ended, the apostle comes to consider the manner of it. He supposes some objector to ask, How are the dead raised up? This may mean, How can a corrupted and disorganized body be restored to life? And the next question, With what body do they come? may refer to the result of the process. What is to be the nature of our future bodies? Or the latter question may be merely explanatory of the former, so that only one point is presented. How, i.e. with what kind of body are the dead raised? There are, however, two distinct questions, for although the two are not connected by ךבי ́, and, but by the particle הו ́ which might be merely explanatory, yet the apostle really answers, in what follows, both questions, viz., How it is possible for life to come out of death, and, What is to be the nature of the body after the resurrection. The latter difficulty was the main one, and therefore to that the most of what follows refers. The great objection in the minds of the Corinthians to the doctrine of the resurrection was evidently the same as that of the Sadducees. Both supposed our future bodies are to be like our present ones. Our Lord's answer to the Sadducees, therefore, is the same as that which Paul gives to the Corinthian objectors. The future body is not to be like the present. To reject a plainly-revealed and most important doctrine on such grounds as these is wicked as well as foolish, and therefore the apostle says in the next verse —


Verse 36

(Thou) fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.

It is not, Thou fool, but simply, Fool! an exclamation both of disapprobation and contempt. Luke 12:20. Romans 1:22. Ephesians 5:15. It does not, however, necessarily express any bitterness of feeling; for our blessed Lord said to his doubting disciples, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" Luke 24:25. It was the senselessness of the objection that roused the apostle's indignation. The body cannot live again because it dies. Fool! says Paul, a seed cannot live unless it does die. Disorganization is the necessary condition of reorganization. If the seed remain a seed there is an end of it. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit, John 12:24. The seed is as much disorganized, it as really ceases to be a seed when sown in the ground, as the body when laid in the grave. If the one dies, the other dies. Death is not annihilation, but disorganization; the passing from one form or mode of existence to another. How then can the disorganization of the body in the grave be an objection to the doctrine of a resurrection? It may be said that the apostle does not pursue the objection; that the body is not only disorganized but dispersed; its elements scattered over the earth, and embraced in new combinations; whereas in the seed the germ remains, so that there is no interruption of the organic life of the plant. To those who make this objection our Savior's answer is, that they err, "not knowing the power of God." Who knows where the principle of the organic life of the body is? It may be in the soul, which when the time comes may unfold itself into a new body, gathering or regathering its materials according to its own law; just as the principle of vegetable life in the seed unfolds itself into some gorgeous flower, gathering from surrounding nature the materials for its new organization. The identity between the present and future body is implied in the apostle's illustration. But it is his object neither to assert that identity, nor to explain its nature. The latter is a very subordinate point. The Bible clearly teaches that our bodies hereafter are to be the same as those which we now have; but it nowhere teaches us wherein that sameness consists. In what sense is a sprouting acorn the same with the full-grown oak? Not in substance, not in form, not in appearance. It is, however, the same individual organism. The same is true of the human body. It is the same in old age that it was in infancy. But in what sense? The materials of which the body is composed change many times in the course of an ordinary life, yet the body remains the same. We may rest assured that our future bodies will be the same with those which we now have in a high and satisfying sense, though until the time comes we may be as little able to explain the nature of that identity as we are to tell what constitutes the identity of the body in this life. The same body which is sown in tears, shall be reaped in joy. To doubt the fact of the resurrection, because we cannot understand the process, is, as the apostle says, a proof of folly.


Verse 37

And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other (grain):

The first clause of this verse stands, as it were, absolutely. And as to that which thou sowest — thou sowest not the body that shall be. That is, you do not sow the plant, but the bare grain, i.e. the simple, naked grain — it may be of wheat, or of some other grain. The point of the illustration is, that what comes up is very different from that which is deposited in the ground. You sow a seed, a plant appears. You sow a natural, corruptible body; a spiritual, incorruptible body appears. Nature itself therefore teaches that the objection that the future body must be like the present, is of no force.


Verse 38

But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

What is deposited in the earth is very different from that which springs from it. Every seed produces its own plant. The product depends on the will of God. It was determined at the creation, and therefore the apostle says that God, in the continual agency of his providence, gives to each seed its own appropriate produce, as he willed, i.e. he originally purposed. The point of this is, if God thus gives to all the products of the earth each its own form, why may he not determine the form in which the body is to appear at the resurrection? You cannot infer from looking at a seed what the plant is to be; it is very foolish, therefore, to attempt to determine from our present bodies what is to be the nature of our bodies hereafter.


Verse 39

All flesh (is) not the same flesh: but (there is) one (kind of) flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, (and) another of birds.

If even here, where the general conditions of life are the same, we see such diversity in animal organizations, flesh and blood appearing in so many forms, why should it be assumed that the body hereafter must be the same cumbrous vehicle of the soul that it is now?


Verse 40

(There are) also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial (is) one, and the (glory) of the terrestrial (is) another.

There is no limit to be set to the possible or actual modifications of matter. We not only see it in all the diversified forms of animal and vegetable life, but in the still greater diversities of heavenly and earthly bodies. What Paul here means by bodies celestial, is doubtful.

1. Many suppose the reference is to angels, either on the assumption that they too have bodies, or that the apostle refers to the forms in which they appear to men. When they become visible they must assume some material vehicle, which was always luminous or glorious. Of the angel who appeared at the sepulchre of Christ it is said, "His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow," Matthew 28:3. There is a great contrast between the bodies of these celestial beings and those of men.

2. Others suppose that the reference is to the bodies of the saints in heaven. There are many kinds of bodies here on earth, and there are also celestial as well as terrestrial bodies. The one differing from the other in glory.

3. The common opinion is that the apostle means what is now generally meant by "the heavenly bodies," viz., the sun, moon and stars. To this it is objected that it is to make the apostle use the language of modern astronomy.

This, however, has little force; for whatever the ancients conceived the sun, moon and stars to be, they regarded them as bodies, and used the word ףש ͂ לב in reference to them or to the universe. Galen, who was born not more than sixty or seventy years after the date of this epistle, uses nearly the same language as the apostle does. He too contrasts פב ̀ ב ̓́ םש ףש ́ לבפב (meaning the sun, moon and stars,) with פב ̀ דח ́ י ̈́ םב ףש ́ לבפב. See Wetstein. The common interpretation is also sustained by the context, for the sun, moon and stars mentioned in the next verse are evidently included in the heavenly bodies here intended.


Verse 41

(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.

Not only do the heavenly bodies differ from the earthly bodies in glory, but there is great diversity among the heavenly bodies themselves. How different is the sun from the moon, the moon from the stars, and even one star from another. Standing, therefore, as we do in the midst of this wonderful universe, in which we see matter in every conceivable modification, from a clod of earth to a sunbeam, from dust to the lustre of the human eye, how unutterably absurd is it to say that if we are to have bodies hereafter, they must be as gross, and heavy, and as corruptible as those which we have now.


Verse 42

So also (is) the resurrection of the dead It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption:

So also is the resurrection of the dead. That is, as the heavenly bodies differ from the earthly bodies, and as one star differs from another star, so the resurrection body will differ from our present body. The apostle does not mean that as one star differs from another star in glory, so one risen believer will differ from another. This, no doubt, is true; but it is not what Paul here says or intimates. His object is simply to show the absurdity of the objection founded on the assumption that the body hereafter must be what it is here. He shows that it may be a body and yet differ as much from what it is now as the light of the sun differs from a piece of clay. He therefore proceeds to show wherein this difference consists. The body is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. The figure of the seed is again introduced. The bodies of the saints are as seed sown in the ground, not there to be lost or to remain; but at the appointed time, to rise in a state the very reverse of that in which they were committed to the dust. It is sown in corruption, i.e. it is now a corruptible body, constantly tending to decay, subject to disease and death, and destined to entire dissolution. It is raised in incorruption. Hereafter it will be imperishable; free from all impurity, and incapable of decay.


Verse 43

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. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

The apostle contemplates the body as at the moment of interment, and therefore these predicates are to be understood with special reference to its condition at that time. It is the dead body that is sown in dishonor, despoiled of the short-lived attractiveness which it had while living. It is raised in glory, i.e. in that resplendent brightness which diffuses light and awakens admiration. It is to be fashioned like unto the glorious body of the Son of God, Philippians 3:21. It is sown in weakness. Nothing is more absolutely powerless than a corpse — it can do nothing and it can resist nothing. The weakness which belonged to it in life, is perfected in death. It is raised in power. The future body will be instinct with energy, endowed, it may be, with faculties of which we have now no conception. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. This comprehends all that has been said. A natural body, ףש ͂ לב רץקיךן ́ ם, is a body of which the רץקח ́, or animal life, is the animating principle; and a spiritual body ףש ͂ לב נםוץלבפיךן ́ ם, is a body adapted to the נםוץ ͂ לב, the rational, immortal principle of our nature. We know from experience what a natural body is. It is a body which has essentially the same properties as those of brutes. A natural body consists of flesh and blood; is susceptible of pain and decay; and needs air, food, and rest. It is a mere animal body, adapted to the conditions of an earthly existence. What a spiritual body is, we know only from Paul's description, and from the manifestation of Christ in his glorified body. We know that it is incorruptible, glorious, and powerful, adapted to the higher state of existence in heaven, and therefore not adapted to an earthly condition. Spiritual, in this connection, does not mean ethereal, refined, much less made of spirit, which would be a contradiction. Nor does it mean animated by the Holy Spirit. But as ףש ͂ לב רץקיךן ́ ם is a body adapted to the רץקח ́ or principle of animal life, the ףש ͂ לב נםוץלבפיךן ́ ם is a body adapted to the נםוץ ͂ לב or principle of rational life. The Bible uses these terms just as we do, without intending to teach that the רץקח ́ or life, is a distinct substance or subject from the נםוץ ͂ לב or rational spirit, but only that as we have certain attributes, considered as living creatures, in common with irrational animals, so we have now a body suited to those attributes; and, on the other hand, as we have attributes unspeakably higher than those which belong to brutes, we shall hereafter possess bodies adapted to those higher attributes. The Bible recognizes in man only two subjects or distinct separable substances, the soul and body. And this has ever been a fundamental principle of Christian anthropology.

There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. This is a vindication of the apparently contradictory expression, spiritual body, which according to the letter, is tantamount to immaterial matter. If, however, it is proper to speak of ףש ͂ לב רץקיךן ́ ם, a natural body, i.e. a body adapted to the principle of animal life; it is right to speak of a ףש ͂ לב נםוץלבפיךן ́ ם, a spiritual body, i.e. a body adapted to the spirit. Lachmann, Rückert, and Tischendorf, after the ancient MSS. and versions, adopt the reading וי ̓ ו ̓́ ףפי, k. t. l. If there is a natural body, there is a spiritual body. Just as certainly as we have a body adapted to our lower nature, we shall have one adapted to our higher nature. If the one exists, so does the other.


Verse 44

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. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

The apostle contemplates the body as at the moment of interment, and therefore these predicates are to be understood with special reference to its condition at that time. It is the dead body that is sown in dishonor, despoiled of the short-lived attractiveness which it had while living. It is raised in glory, i.e. in that resplendent brightness which diffuses light and awakens admiration. It is to be fashioned like unto the glorious body of the Son of God, Philippians 3:21. It is sown in weakness. Nothing is more absolutely powerless than a corpse — it can do nothing and it can resist nothing. The weakness which belonged to it in life, is perfected in death. It is raised in power. The future body will be instinct with energy, endowed, it may be, with faculties of which we have now no conception. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. This comprehends all that has been said. A natural body, ףש ͂ לב רץקיךן ́ ם, is a body of which the רץקח ́, or animal life, is the animating principle; and a spiritual body ףש ͂ לב נםוץלבפיךן ́ ם, is a body adapted to the נםוץ ͂ לב, the rational, immortal principle of our nature. We know from experience what a natural body is. It is a body which has essentially the same properties as those of brutes. A natural body consists of flesh and blood; is susceptible of pain and decay; and needs air, food, and rest. It is a mere animal body, adapted to the conditions of an earthly existence. What a spiritual body is, we know only from Paul's description, and from the manifestation of Christ in his glorified body. We know that it is incorruptible, glorious, and powerful, adapted to the higher state of existence in heaven, and therefore not adapted to an earthly condition. Spiritual, in this connection, does not mean ethereal, refined, much less made of spirit, which would be a contradiction. Nor does it mean animated by the Holy Spirit. But as ףש ͂ לב רץקיךן ́ ם is a body adapted to the רץקח ́ or principle of animal life, the ףש ͂ לב נםוץלבפיךן ́ ם is a body adapted to the נםוץ ͂ לב or principle of rational life. The Bible uses these terms just as we do, without intending to teach that the רץקח ́ or life, is a distinct substance or subject from the נםוץ ͂ לב or rational spirit, but only that as we have certain attributes, considered as living creatures, in common with irrational animals, so we have now a body suited to those attributes; and, on the other hand, as we have attributes unspeakably higher than those which belong to brutes, we shall hereafter possess bodies adapted to those higher attributes. The Bible recognizes in man only two subjects or distinct separable substances, the soul and body. And this has ever been a fundamental principle of Christian anthropology.

There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. This is a vindication of the apparently contradictory expression, spiritual body, which according to the letter, is tantamount to immaterial matter. If, however, it is proper to speak of ףש ͂ לב רץקיךן ́ ם, a natural body, i.e. a body adapted to the principle of animal life; it is right to speak of a ףש ͂ לב נםוץלבפיךן ́ ם, a spiritual body, i.e. a body adapted to the spirit. Lachmann, Rückert, and Tischendorf, after the ancient MSS. and versions, adopt the reading וי ̓ ו ̓́ ףפי, k. t. l. If there is a natural body, there is a spiritual body. Just as certainly as we have a body adapted to our lower nature, we shall have one adapted to our higher nature. If the one exists, so does the other.


Verse 46

Howbeit that (was) not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.

This does not mean simply that the natural body precedes the spiritual body. But it announces, as it were, a general law. The lower precedes the higher; the imperfect the perfect. This is true in all the works of God, in which there is a development. Adam's earthly state was to be preparatory to a heavenly one. The present life is like a seed time, the harvest is hereafter. The natural comes before the spiritual; as Calvin says, we are born before we are regenerated, we live before we rise.


Verse 47

The first man (is) of the earth, earthy: the second man (is) the Lord from heaven.

The general principle stated in the preceding verse, that the natural precedes the spiritual, is here illustrated by the fact that Adam came before Christ. The first man was of the earth, i.e. formed out of the earth, and therefore earthy. The second man is the Lord from heaven. Here the text is doubtful. The authorities are about equally divided for and against the reading ן ̔ ךץ ́ סיןע, the Lord. The sentence is more simple if that word be omitted. ‘The first man was from the earth; the second man was from heaven.' If the common text be retained, the word Lord is in apposition with the words the second man. ‘The second man, the Lord, was from heaven.' This passage was used by the early heretics of the Gnostic school to sustain their doctrine that our Lord was not really born of the Virgin Mary, but was clothed in a body derived from heaven, in opposition to whom the early creeds declare that he was as to his human nature consubstantial with man, and as to his divine nature consubstantial with God. The text, however, simply asserts the heavenly origin of Christ. Adam was of the earth; Christ was from heaven; comp. John 3:13. Adam, therefore, had a body suited to the earth; Christ has a body suited to heaven.


Verse 48

As (is) the earthy, such (are) they also that are earthy; and as (is) the heavenly, such (are) they also that are heavenly.

The earthy is of course Adam; they that are earthy are his descendants. The heavenly is Christ; they that are heavenly are his risen people. The descendants of Adam derive from him an earthly body like his. Those who are Christ's are to have a body fashioned like unto his glorious body, Philippians 3:21.


Verse 49

And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

In this passage, instead of the future צןסו ́ ףןלום, we shall bear, the great majority of the oldest MSS. read the conjunctive צןסו ́ ףשלום, let us bear. The context, however, so evidently demands the future, that the common reading is preferred by almost all editors. An exhortation here would be entirely out of place. The apostle is evidently proceeding with his discussion. He is obviating the objection to the doctrine of the resurrection founded on the assumption that our bodies hereafter are to be of the same kind as those which we have here. This is not so. They are to be like the body of Christ. As we have borne the image of Adam as to his body, we shall bear the image of Christ as to his body. The idea that as we have derived a corrupt nature from Adam, we derive a holy nature from Christ, though true in itself, is altogether foreign to the connection.


Verse 50

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

This I say. These words admit of three interpretations.

1. They may be understood concessively. ‘This I concede, brethren. I admit that flesh and blood, our bodies as now organized, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. But that is not what I teach when I preach the doctrine of the resurrection. Our bodies are to be changed.'

2. The sense may be, ‘This is what I say, the sum of what I have said is that flesh and blood,' etc.

3. The words may mean, ‘This I assert, brethren. I assure you of this fact, that flesh and blood,' etc. In 1 Corinthians 7:29 the expression is used in this sense. Comp. also Romans 3:8 and 1 Corinthians 10:19.

Flesh and blood means our body as now constituted, not sinful human nature. The phrase never has this latter sense. In Hebrews 2:14 it is said, "Inasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (Christ) also himself likewise took part of the same," Matthew 16:17. Galatians 1:16. Ephesians 6:12. It is indeed true, that our unsanctified nature, or unrenewed man, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. But that is not what the apostle is speaking about. He is speaking of the body and of its state after the resurrection. It is of the body as now constituted that he says, it cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven, i.e. the kingdom of Christ as it is to exist after the resurrection, Matthew 8:11. Luke 13:28; 1 Corinthians 6:9.;Galatians 5:21; 2 Timothy 4:18. The same idea is repeated in abstract terms and as a general proposition in the next clause, neither can corruption inherit incorruption. The mortal cannot be immortal; the perishable imperishable. Incorruption cannot be an attribute of corruption. Our bodies, therefore, if they are to be immortal and imperishable must be changed. And this the apostle in the next verse announces on the authority of a direct revelation, is actually to occur.


Verse 51

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

A mystery; something revealed, and which could not otherwise be known, Matthew 13:11; 1 Corinthians 4:1, and often elsewhere. What is here expressed by saying, I show you a mystery, is in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 expressed by saying, ‘This I say unto you by the word of the Lord,' i.e. by divine revelation. The revelation which Paul now declares, and to which he calls special attention by the word, Behold! is, that all are not to die, but all are to be changed, i.e. so changed that their corruptible body shall be rendered incorruptible. The common text is, נב ́ םפוע לו ̀ ם ןץ ̓ ךןילחטחףן ́ לוטב, the negative being connected with the verb, so that the literal sense would be, all are not to die. This is said of all whom Paul addressed. The apostle tells them all that they are not to die. To avoid this impossible sense, for Paul certainly did not mean to assure the Corinthians that it had been revealed to him that none of them should die, most of the older commentators assume in common with our translators a not unusual trajection of the negative particle, נב ́ םפוע ןץ ̓ standing for ןץ ̓ נב ́ םפוע. Others explain the verse thus: ‘We all — shall indeed not die (before the resurrection) — but we shall all be changed.' It is said this is contrary to the context, inasmuch as being changed is something peculiar to those who should be alive at the coming of Christ, and is not affirmed of the dead. This, however, is contrary to the fact. Paul had said, v. 50, that flesh and blood could not inherit the kingdom of God. All, therefore, who enter that kingdom, whether they die before the second advent or survive the coming of Christ, must be changed. And that is the fact which Paul says had been revealed to him. Those who died before the advent would not fail of the blessings of Christ's kingdom, and those who should be alive when he came, would not be left in their corruptible bodies. Both should be changed, and thus prepared for the heavenly state.‹28› Comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. The modern commentators, both German and English, understand the apostle as expressing the confident expectation that he and others of that generation should survive the coming of Christ. ‘Though we (who are now alive) shall not all die, we shall all be changed.' But

1. This is altogether unnecessary. The we all includes all believers who had lived, were living, or ever should live. There is nothing either in the form of expression or in the context to limit it to the men of that generation. In the same way Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, "We that are alive at the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them that are asleep." This does not imply that he expected to be alive when Christ came. In his second Epistle to the Thessalonians he warns them against the expectation of the speedy advent of Christ, telling them that a great apostasy and the revelation of the Man of Sin were to occur before that event.

2. The plenary inspiration of the sacred writers rendered them infallible in all they taught; but it did not render them omniscient. They could not err in what they communicated, but they might err, and doubtless did err, as to things not included in the communications of the Spirit. The time of the second advent was not revealed to them. They profess their ignorance on that point. They were, therefore, as to that matter, on a level with other men, and may have differed in regard to their private conjectures on the subject just as others differ. It would not, in the least, therefore, encroach on their authority as infallible teachers, if it should be apparent that they cherished erroneous expectations with regard to that about which they professed to know nothing. Knowing that Christ was to come, and not knowing when he was to come, it was perfectly natural that they should look on his advent as constantly imminent, until it was revealed that certain events not yet accomplished, were to occur before Christ came.

But all this is very different from any didactic statement that he was to come within a certain period. Paul might exhort Christians to wait and long for the coming of the Lord; but he could not tell them by the word of the Lord that he and others then living would be alive when he came. This would not only be teaching error, but it would be claiming divine authority, or a special revelation, for that error. It is, therefore, only at the expense of all confidence in the inspiration of the apostle that the exposition above mentioned can be adopted.


Verse 52

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

The change in question is to be instantaneous; in a moment, literally, an atom, i.e. in a portion of time so short as to be incapable of further division. It is to take place at the last trump, i.e. on the last day. As the trumpet was used for assembling the people or marshaling a host, it became the symbol for expressing the idea of the gathering of a multitude. So, in Matthew 24:31, Christ says, "He will send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet; and they shall gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to another." Comp. Isaiah 27:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:16. This trumpet is called the last, not because several trumpets (the Jews say seven) are to sound in succession, but because it is the last that ever is to sound. In other words, the resurrection is to take place on the last day. For the trumpet shall sound. This is a confirmation of the preceding. That day shall surely come — the voice of the archangel, the trump of God, shall certainly resound as it did from Sinai, Exodus 19:16. And, i.e. and then, in consequence of the summons of God, the dead shall be raised in the manner described in 1 Corinthians 15:42, 1 Corinthians 15:43, incorruptible, glorious and powerful. And we shall be changed. This is in exact accordance with 1 Thessalonians 4:15. Those who are alive when Christ comes "shall not prevent them which are asleep." The dead in Christ shall rise first, and then the living shall undergo their instantaneous change. As remarked on the preceding verse, it is not necessary to understand the apostle as including himself and fellow believers in Corinth, when he says We shall be changed. The connection indeed is different here from what it is there. There he says, "We shall not all die." If that means that the men of that generation should not all die, it is a positive assertion of what the event has proved to be false. But here he simply says, all who are alive when Christ comes shall be changed. If he hoped that he might be of the number there would be nothing in that expectation inconsistent with his inspiration. Calvin, therefore, so understands the passage.‹29› Considering, however, his express teaching in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-12 on the subject, it is far more natural to understand him as contemplating the vast company of believers as a whole, and saying ‘Those of us who are dead shall rise, and all who are alive shall be changed.'


Verse 53

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal (must) put on immortality.

This is the reason why we must be changed. ‘We must all be changed, for this corruptible must put on incorruption.' It is impossible that corruption should inherit incorruption. This reason applies equally to the quick and to the dead. With regard to both classes it is true that these vile bodies must be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body.


Verse 54

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

When the change above described has been accomplished, when once the resurrection has taken place, then, according to the language of Scripture, death shall be completely conquered. Not only shall those over whom he had triumphed, and whom he had so long detained in the prison of the grave, be delivered from his power, but there shall be no more death. The passage quoted is Isaiah 25:8, "He will swallow up death in victory." In Hebrew the last words mean literally for ever. They are, however, frequently translated by the lxx. as they are here rendered by the apostle. The sense is the same. The victory over death is to be complete and final.


Verse 55

O death, where (is) thy sting? O grave, where (is) thy victory?

The apostle places himself and his readers in presence of the Savior and of the risen dead arrayed in immortality; and in view of that majestic scene he breaks out in these words of triumph: ‘Christ has conquered. His people are redeemed. Death is disarmed. Hades is no more.' Death is addressed under the figure of an animal armed with a poisonous sting which pierces even to the soul; for that sting is sin. The grave, or the Greek word Hades, means, what is unseen, the invisible world, the abode of the dead in the widest sense. It depends on the context whether the immediate reference be to the grave, the place of departed spirits, or hell, in the modern sense of that word. Here where the special reference is to the bodies of men and to the delivery of them from the power of death, it is properly rendered the grave. The only sense in which the body can be in Hades is that it is in the grave. The apostle is not speaking of the delivery of the souls of men from any intermediate state, but of the redemption of the body. In Hosea 13:14 God says, "O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction." This is a literal version of the Hebrew. The Vulgate comes near to it, Ero mors tua, O mors! Morsus tuus ero, inferne! The lxx. depart from the figure, "Where is thy judgment (or vengeance), O death? where is thy sting, O grave?" These are all different forms of expressing the idea that death and the grave are completely conquered. The apostle does not quote the prophet. He expresses an analogous idea in analogous terms. In speaking of death as furnished with a sting, the most natural figure is that of a scorpion. Others say that ךו ́ םפסןם here means a goad, and that death is compared to a man driving animals before him with such an instrument. The power of a goad is as nothing to that of the sting of a scorpion, Revelation 9:5, Revelation 9:6, Revelation 9:10, and the figure is therefore far more forcible as commonly understood.‹30›


Verse 56

The sting of death (is) sin; and the strength of sin (is) the law.

The sting of death is sin; that is, death would have no power to injure us if it were not for sin. This is true for two reasons.

1. Because if there were no sin there would be no death. Death is by sin, Romans 5:12.

2. Because sin gives death, when it has been introduced, all its terrors.

If sin be pardoned, death is harmless. It can inflict no evil. It becomes a mere transition from a lower to a higher state. The strength of sin is the law. This must be the law of God in its widest sense; not the Mosaic law, which would make the declaration amount to nothing. The law is the strength of sin for two reasons.

1. Because without law there would be no sin, Romans 4:15. The very idea of sin is want of conformity on the part of moral creatures to the law of God. If there be no standard to which we are bound to be conformed, there can be no such thing as want of conformity. Sin is the correlative, that of reason, nor of expediency, but of law. If you take away law, men may act unreasonably, or in a way injurious to themselves or others, but they cannot sin.

2. Because if there be no law there can be no condemnation. Sin is not imputed where there is no law, Romans 5:13.

There is still another reason, which, though presented elsewhere by the apostle, is foreign to this connection, and that is, that the law not only reveals and condemns sin, but it exasperates and excites it, and thus gives it strength, Romans 7:8-12.


Verse 57

But thanks (be) to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The victory here meant is, of course, the victory over death and the grave. Thanks be to God, who delivers us from the power of death, redeeming even our bodies from the grave, and making us partakers of everlasting life. This is done through Jesus Christ our Lord, i.e. our divine possessor and absolute ruler. It is through him, and through him alone.

1. Because he has satisfied the demands of the law. It has no power to condemn those who are clothed in his righteousness. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth? Romans 8:33, Romans 8:34. Christ by his death hath destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage, Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:15. That is, in virtue of the death of Christ, by which the demands of justice are satisfied, Satan, the great executioner of divine justice, has no longer the right or power to detain the people of Christ under the power of death. If, therefore, it be the law which gives sin its reality and strength, and if sin gives death its sting, he who satisfies the law destroys the strength of sin, and consequently the sting of death. It is thus that Christ deprives death of all power to injure his people. It is for them disarmed and rendered as harmless as an infant.

2. But Christ not only gives us this victory through his justifying righteousness, but by his almighty power, he new creates the soul after the image of God, and, what is here principally intended, he repairs all the evils which death had inflicted. He restores us to that state, and even to more than that state, from which sin had cast us down. He rescues our bodies from the grave, and fashions them like unto his glorious body, even by that power whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself, Philippians 3:21.

Had it not been for Christ, death would have reigned for ever over our fallen race; but thanks be to God, Christ hath given us the victory; so that the believer may even now say, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?


Verse 58

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Such being the truth and importance of the doctrine of the resurrection, Christians should be firm in their adherence to it, not suffering themselves to be moved by the specious objections of philosophy falsely so called. They should remember that if the dead rise not, then is Christ not risen; and if Christ be not risen, their faith is vain, and they are yet in the power of sin. But as Christ has risen, and as his resurrection illustrates and renders certain that of his people, what more natural and proper than that they should abound in the work of the Lord. The work of the Lord is either that work in which the Lord is engaged, the destruction of death by destroying sin; or, it is the work which the Lord has given us to do, as parents and children, as husbands and wives, as ministers and Christians. In this work we should abound, i.e. be abundant. As Paul says, 2 Corinthians 11:23, "In labors more abundant." Forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. This with Paul was more than faith; it was knowledge. He knew that labor in the work of the Lord would not be in vain. The reward secured for it by the grace of God and merit of Christ is participation of the glories of a blessed resurrection.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hodge, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:4". Hodge's Commentary on Romans, Ephesians and First Corintians. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hdg/1-corinthians-15.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 6th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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