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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
1 Corinthians 15

 

 

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Verses 1-19

The resurrection of the dead – I

1 Corinthians 15:1-19

In this chapter the apostle proves the resurrection of Christ and with different arguments he establishes the resurrection of all men. Evidently another problem that had risen in the church was the denial by some of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12; 2 Timothy 2:17-18). The doctrine of the resurrection is a fundamental article of the gospel; without it we have no gospel (v.17; 2 Timothy 2:8). Much of the wrath and persecution that came upon the apostles from the Sadducees, the Jews, the philosophers and the Gentiles was because they preached the resurrection (Acts 17:31-32; Acts 24:14-15; Acts 24:21).

1 Corinthians 15:1. ‘Let me remind you, brethren (since it seems to have escaped some of you), of the gospel which I preached unto you when I first came among you. This is the gospel which you received with faith and joy - the gospel in which and for which most of you stand, though some of you have been seduced and warped by false teachers’ (Galatians 1:6-9).

1 Corinthians 15:2. ‘By believing and receiving the gospel of Christ, you are saved. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16; Mark 16:15-16), but not unless you persevere (keep in memory what I preached) and continue in the faith of the gospel (Colossians 1:21; Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:13-14). Unless you continue in faith, your profession (your so-called faith) is all in vain’ (1 John 2:19).

1 Corinthians 15:3-4. ‘I delivered (or preached) unto you what I received from our Lord himself (Galatians 1:11-12), how that Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, died that he might satisfy divine justice for our sins (Romans 3:25-26; Isaiah 53:4-6), was buried and rose again the third day, and all of his work on our behalf was according to the Old Testament Scriptures. Every promise, prophecy and type recorded in the Law and the Prophets concerning the Messiah had its fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44-45). The Old Testament contained the New Testament in picture and prophecy, and the New Testament is the Old Testament fully and plainly revealed (Acts 10:43).

1 Corinthians 15:5-7. In these verses Paul calls forth the eye-witnesses of the resurrected Lord. The Scriptures say, ‘In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established’ (2 Corinthians 13:1). The Lord appeared to Simon Peter, then to the Twelve. (Though Judas was dead, they went by their original name, the Twelve - John 20:24.) Later Christ showed himself to more than five hundred brethren at one time (Matthew 28:16-17). ‘Most of these people who saw him are still alive,’ Paul said, ‘but some are dead,’ for this epistle was written twenty-six years later. He appeared to James and then again to all the disciples when he was taken up into heaven (Acts 1:1-3; Acts 1:9-10).

1 Corinthians 15:8. The last appearance of the risen Lord was to Paul (Acts 9:3-4). To be an apostle one must have been an eyewitness of the glory of Christ and must have received his gospel directly from Christ. Paul had both credentials. His revelation of Christ came after the others (after Christ had risen and ascended) as an abortive birth or one born at the wrong time. His sight of Christ was not according to the pattern established with the other apostles.

1 Corinthians 15:9. ‘I am the least of the apostles,’ not in office, dignity, gifts, or labour, but deserving the least esteem because he had not stood with the others in the early days but was (with the Pharisees) a persecutor of the name of Christ and the people of God (Acts 9:1-3).

1 Corinthians 15:10. ‘By the unmerited favour and blessings of God, I am what I am.’ Paul defends his authority and magnifies his office by declaring that these gifts and grace bestowed on him were not fruitless and in vain, for he labored more abundantly and had more success than any of the others. Yet he is careful to ascribe nothing to himself but all to the grace of God, which enabled him both to believe and to serve God (l Cor. 4:7; John 3:26-27).

1 Corinthians 15:11. Therefore, it matters not whether they heard those who saw Christ first or Paul, who saw him last. The subject matter of their ministry was the same – namely, the incarnate, suffering, risen Redeemer. Christ, not the preacher, is the object of saving faith.

1 Corinthians 15:12. If both the Old Testament and the New Testament declare his resurrection, if the apostles (who were eye-witnesses of his resurrection) preach the resurrection, if the gospel declares the absolute necessity of Christ's resurrection, how is it that some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? This is an absolute denial of the Scriptures, the gospel and the word of Christ's apostles.

1 Corinthians 15:13-19. Then follow several severe consequences of such teaching:

1. ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.’ Christ became a man, died in the flesh and was buried. If men do not live again, then he is not alive.

2. ‘If Christ be not risen, all of our preaching is in vain and amounts to nothing, and your faith in God is devoid of truth and will profit you nothing.’

3. ‘We apostles and preachers have misrepresented God, for we have testified of God that he raised Christ from the dead, whom he did not raise, if the dead rise not’ (Acts 2:23-24; Acts 2:32).

4. He repeats for emphasis, ‘If the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised.’ He is still in the tomb and proved to be an impostor.

5. ‘Your object of faith, Christ, is not raised; therefore, your faith is worthless, you are not saved, you know not God, you have no mediator, and you are still in a state of unregeneracy and guilt.’

6. ‘Those of your number who have died believing in Christ and trusting him to save them are perished and eternally lost.’

7. The fashion of this world fades and believers in Christ are persecuted, hated and cast down. Our hope is not in this world but in the world to come. If these promises are not true, our hopes are in vain and we are the most miserable and frustrated of all men.


Verses 20-34

The resurrection of the dead – II

1 Corinthians 15:20-34

1 Corinthians 15:20. The first-fruits were what first sprang out of the earth, were soonest ripe, were reaped first, gathered in and offered to the Lord (Deuteronomy 26:1-3). So Christ first rose from the dead, ascended to heaven and presented himself to God as the representative of his people. There were others who were raised from the dead before him, but Christ was the first to be raised to immortal life. All of these others died again. He is the first-born from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence (Colossians 1:18). Our resurrection is secured by him, our Representative (John 14:19).

1 Corinthians 15:21-22. The first man, Adam, was the representative, the covenant and federal head of all men. We all lived in him and died in him when he sinned (Romans 5:12). Sin, disease, physical death and eternal death came upon us through Adam's disobedience. So Christ is the Representative, the covenant and federal Head of the elect, and because he became a man, obeyed God's law perfectly, died for our sins and rose again, in him we have righteousness, redemption and eternal life (Romans 5:17-19). All who are ‘in Adam’ die; all who are ‘in Christ’ (by grace, divine purpose and faith) shall live.

1 Corinthians 15:23. God has appointed the order of the resurrection of his people. Christ is the first-fruits of this harvest, rising from the dead to die no more. Afterwards, at his second coming, all believers shall rise together (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 John 3:2).

1 Corinthians 15:24. ‘Then cometh the end’ - that is, the accomplishment, completion and perfection of all things: the end of the world as it now is; the end of all evil power, authority and activity; the end of all earthly rule, authority and divisions, such as nations, families and races; the end of all ecclesiastical rule, authority and power. There will be no more prophets, apostles, bishops and pastors and teachers. But the mediatorial kingdom of Christ is referred to here mainly. The grand design of the Father in creation, providence and salvation is to have a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness, populated by a holy people perfectly conformed to the likeness of his Son. This he gave to Christ, in the eternal council and covenant, to accomplish, to perfect and to deliver to him at the end (Luke 22:37; John 17:4; John 6:38-39).

1 Corinthians 15:25-26. The Lord God has decreed that Christ should (as Prophet, Priest and King) reign over his people, over all flesh (John 17:2), over all things (Matthew 28:18; Colossians 1:16-18; Psalms 110:1), until every contrary creature, word, thought and imagination are conquered. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death, for we shall rise to die no more.

1 Corinthians 15:27. Paul refers to Psalms 8:4-6, and according to Hebrews 2:6-9, this is Christ. But the apostle adds that when God said, ‘All things are put under his feet,’ the Father is not included!

1 Corinthians 15:28. When all is accomplished, God's design in redemption is complete and all evil is cast out, then nothing shall appear but the essential kingdom of God, the power by which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (three persons though but one God) shall reign.

1 Corinthians 15:29. The apostle returns to his subject, the resurrection of the dead. ‘If the dead are not raised, then why do we submit to believers' baptism, which declares that we died with Christ, are buried and are risen with Christ?’ This is a meaningless ordinance if there is no resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:30-32. ‘For that matter, why do we expose ourselves to ridicule, suffering and even death if we entertain no hope of eternal life? If there is no resurrection, we would not only be of all men most miserable but also most stupid. I face death every day. If the dead rise not, what advantage do I have? If we have no hope of resurrection, let us live as the heathen live.’

1 Corinthians 15:33. ‘Do not be deceived by those who deny the resurrection and by such denial argue for a sinful course of life. If you listen to these people and are influenced by them, you will be corrupted, for evil companions, associations and communion have a bad influence on the lives and practices even of good men.’

1 Corinthians 15:34. ‘Awake from this condition of sleep and carelessness. Awake to truth, righteousness and godliness. Don't be deceived by the false teachers who deny the resurrection, for there are some among you who have not a true knowledge of God, the gospel of Christ and the hope of eternal life. I say this to your shame.’


Verses 35-44

The resurrection of the dead – III

1 Corinthians 15:35-44

1 Corinthians 15:35. There were some who denied the resurrection of the dead (v.12). The question is presented: ‘How shall dead bodies be raised which have been in the earth so many years?’ They have been reduced to dust, and this dust has undergone a thousand changes. With what bodies do they come out of their graves? Will they be the same bodies?

1 Corinthians 15:36. Paul does not answer in anger nor call them fools in violation of Matthew 5:22, but he calls them foolish people who claim to be wise in the Scriptures and yet are ignorant of the power and ways of God (Galatians 3:1). He takes them to the farmer to learn the answer to these questions. When the farmer sows grain (whether wheat or corn), it must be put into the ground before it produces a stalk of fruit. The seed, being buried in the earth, corrupts, rots and dies; and in time it rises up as stalk, blade and full ear. This shows that the decaying of the body by death is not an objection to the resurrection, but really necessary to its resurrection. If God is able to quicken a grain of corn that is entirely dead and rotten, why should it be thought incredible that God should quicken dead bodies?

1 Corinthians 15:37. The farmer does not take a full stalk of corn with full blade and ear and plant it in the earth; he only plants the bare grain. In other words, that which we plant is not the finished product but only bare grain. When a believer rises from the grave, it will be, in a sense, the same body but with infinite glories and excellencies, as the new stalk of corn is so much greater than the bare seed which was sown!

1 Corinthians 15:38. God gives to the seed the kind of body which pleases him; yet none can deny that the body of corn or wheat which comes up is from the seed sown, though with a different body in respect to quality, beauty and usefulness. It is not the farmer, nor the sun, nor the rain, but God, by his power and sovereignty, who gives the seed a new and glorious body. So the resurrection of the dead is God's work. All the glory in which our bodies shall rise springs from his free grace and is bestowed on the same person who is buried in the grave.

1 Corinthians 15:39. Paul is showing in these next verses that, though God will raise our bodies from the grave with flesh and bones, we shall rise with qualities and conditions much different from the flesh and bones which we now know. There is now a difference in flesh. All flesh, as we know it, is not the same. Humans, beasts, birds and fish are all flesh, yet not the same.

1 Corinthians 15:40-41. ‘There are celestial bodies’ (such as the sun, moon and stars) ‘and terrestrial bodies’ (men, beasts, birds and other elements). The celestial is greater than the terrestrial. Even in the celestial bodies, the sun has a greater glory than the moon, and the moon greater than the stars. He is not saying that there will be a difference in the risen bodies among themselves, but he is only stressing the great difference in what we shall be compared to what we are now!

1 Corinthians 15:42-44. ‘So is the resurrection of the dead.’ The resurrection of the dead will be in real flesh, in our own flesh as to substance (the way we know it now), but as to its qualities, as different as human flesh from fish flesh! Our vile bodies shall be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body (Philippians 3:21, John 3:1-2; Luke 24:36-43).

1. Our bodies are buried in corruption, sickness and disease and are subject to decay and putrefaction, but when we are raised from the dead, our new bodies will be immortal, no longer subject to disease, decay, nor corruption.

2. We are buried in dishonor and shame. We were conceived in sin, shapen in iniquity, brought forth from the womb speaking lies. Our whole existence from birth to death (in thought, word and deed) is sinful, shameful and dishonorable (Isaiah 1:5-6; Romans 3:10-18). We shall be raised in glory – in perfect beauty and comeliness, physically and spiritually. There will be no cause for shame in any way (Genesis 2:25).

3. We are buried in weakness. We come into the world in great weakness. What is weaker than a new-born babe? When we become adults, we are weak before disease and injury. We are weak and frail and subject to thirst, hunger, weariness and finally death. We are weak before Satan, the world and our own passions (Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:24). We shall be raised in power! We are raised by the power of God but with great power in ourselves. We shall no longer be subject to these enemies of the flesh, no longer dependent on food, nor subject to evil (which shall be no more). We shall know weariness no more; we shall know as we have been known (1 Corinthians 13:12). We shall be raised in spiritual, physical and mental power.

4. We are buried a natural (physical) body. We shall be raised a spiritual (supernatural) body. Now we have a body generated from another body, supported by food, water, breath and sleep. We are limited to time, places and information. When we are raised, our bodies will be as the body of Christ is now, not subject to nor dependent on these things. Our bodies shall be beautiful, incorruptible, free from infirmities, not subject to hunger, thirst or injuries, not needing meat, drink, clothes, nor marriage, but bodies which perfectly obey – the soul made perfect.


Verses 45-58

The resurrection of the dead – IV

1 Corinthians 15:45-58

In the preceding verse Paul says that our resurrected bodies will be spiritual bodies. As we now bear the image of the first man, Adam (from whom we descended), having a natural body like his, so we shall one day bear the image of the second man, the Lord Jesus, having a spiritual body like his!

1 Corinthians 15:45. Adam was the first man made, the parent, head and representative of all his posterity. Adam had a body which was animated by the soul, which was supported by eating, drinking, sleeping and which was capable of dying. The last Adam is the Lord Jesus Christ, called Adam because he is really and truly man. He was raised from the dead with a spiritual body - not that it was changed into a spirit, for it still remained flesh and bones (Luke 24:36-40); but it was no longer supported in an animal way nor subject to the weaknesses of animal bodies. It is called ‘a quickening spirit’ because it has life itself, and he is called a quickening spirit because he gives life (John 14:19).

1 Corinthians 15:46-47. It is not the spiritual life which came first, but the physical and then the spiritual. The first man was formed out of the earth (Genesis 2:7), and the word there signifies red earth. He had an earthy constitution, like the earth out of which he was taken, and he was doomed to return to it. The second man is the Lord from heaven, in distinction from the first man, who was of the earth. Though he was formed in the womb of the virgin, was flesh of her flesh and was supported by earthly means, yet he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and is very God of very God.

1 Corinthians 15:48-49. As was Adam's body, so are the bodies of those who descend from Adam. They are houses of clay which rise out of the earth, are maintained by the things of earth and will return to the earth. As in Christ's spiritual body after his resurrection (in which he now lives in heaven and in which he will come again), so will be the resurrected bodies of all (Acts 1:9-11; 1 John 3:2). As we have borne the frailty and mortality of our representative, Adam, a body subject to sin, infirmity and death, so we shall one day bear the image of our representative, Christ Jesus, a spiritual body created in righteousness and true holiness (Romans 5 :l 7-19).

1 Corinthians 15:50. ‘Flesh and blood’ here signifies our bodies in their present state. These cannot inherit the kingdom of God; they are corrupt, subject to disease, supported corrupt by things and dying. We must be changed; we must put on incorruption and immortality and be raised a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:51. Someone may say, ‘But there will be many saints alive on earth in natural bodies, when Christ returns, who shall not be buried in the common way.’ That is true, but they must be changed. Their natural bodies must be turned into spiritual bodies.

1 Corinthians 15:52. This change will take place in a sudden moment. When the trumpet sounds, when Christ returns, when the dead are raised incorruptible, immortal and made like Christ, those who are alive shall also be changed (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

1 Corinthians 15:53. God has decreed, and heaven requires, that our bodies be changed from their present state of mortality and corruption to immortality and incorruption before we can enter into eternal glory.

1 Corinthians 15:54. This quotation is from Isaiah 25:8. Christ (by his obedience, death and resurrection) has obtained a full victory for all his elect over sin, the curse and condemnation of the law, death, the grave judgment and hell. So when this glorious change takes place at his coming, this promise shall become a reality. He will swallow up all death in victory.

1 Corinthians 15:55. The reference may be to a bee or a wasp which, having lost its sting, can do no more harm and is no longer feared. When believers arise from the grave, they shall fear the sting of death no more – it is gone. The grave gets its victory over all men, for we shall all lie there one day. But in that resurrection morning, when death is swallowed up in victory, we may reasonably ask, ‘Now, grave, where is your boasted victory?’

1 Corinthians 15:56. Death has a sting and it is sin, which is the cause of death (Romans 5:12). If it were not for sin, death would have no power over us. Sin gives death power over us. The strength of sin is the law of God, without which there would be no sin. Sin is the transgression of the law. It is the law which binds sin upon us, pronounces us guilty and condemns us to death (Romans 3:19; Galatians 3:10).

1 Corinthians 15:57. ‘Thanks be unto God, who has given us the victory,’ over the law by answering in perfect obedience all of its demands, and over death and the grave by dying and rising again. He lives for evermore; and because we are one in him and with him by God's sovereign mercy and grace, we shall never die (Romans 8:33-39).

1 Corinthians 15:58. ‘Therefore, my beloved brethren, because we have such a blessed and certain hope of resurrection, victory over death and the grave and perfect conformity to the image of Christ Jesus, let us be steadfast and unmovable in the doctrines of the gospel, in our walk with Christ, in the preaching of the gospel and in encouraging one another; for your faith, labour and hope are certainly not in vain.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/1-corinthians-15.html. 2013.

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