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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
1 Corinthians 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1-2

1 Corinthians 15:1-2. Moreover, brethren — The resurrection of the body being one of the great objects of the faith and hope of Christians, the apostle in this chapter sets before the Corinthians, and all mankind, the proof by which that joyful event is rendered indubitable, namely, that it is a necessary consequence of the resurrection of Christ. Wherefore, to lay a firm foundation for this proof, he judged it proper to recall to the remembrance of the Corinthians the arguments by which he had proved to their satisfaction the truth of Christ’s resurrection, which is the subject that he first touches upon. I declare — γνωριζω, I make known; the gospel — The principal doctrines thereof; which I preached unto you — At the very beginning of my ministry among you; which also you received — In faith and love; and wherein you stand — In the faith of which many of you persevere; by which also ye are — Or shall be; saved finally, if ye keep in memory — ει κατεχετε, if ye hold fast; what I preached unto you — The great truths to which I bore testimony: that is, your salvation is begun, and will be perfected if ye continue in the faith; unless ye have believed in vain — Or rather, rashly, as εικη seems evidently here to signify, denoting the disposition of those who do a thing by chance and lightly, without knowing for what reason or end they do it.


Verse 3-4

1 Corinthians 15:3-4. For I delivered unto you first of all — Among the first things, and as the chief articles of the gospel, that which I also received, namely, from Christ himself; that Christ died for our sins — Made atonement for them by dying; according to the Scriptures — Of the Old Testament, particularly Isaiah 53:5-6; Isaiah 53:12; Daniel 9:26. He proves, first, from the Scriptures, that the Messiah was to die for the expiation of sin, and then from the testimony of a cloud of witnesses, that Jesus of Nazareth, who by his miracles had proved himself to be that Messiah, had died for men’s sins accordingly. And that he was buried — In consequence of his being certainly dead; and that he rose again the third day — His enemies keeping guard about his dead body in vain. According to the Scriptures — The Scriptures which foretold the resurrection of Christ on the third day, and to which St. Paul refers, are Psalms 16:10, (which Peter, Acts 2:31, expressly affirmed to be a prediction of that event,) and Jonah 1:17, which our Lord himself affirmed to be a typical prophecy of his continuing three days in the heart of the earth, and of his subsequent resurrection. See Matthew 12:39-40. Here we see the apostle delivered to the Corinthians, from the Lord himself, not only that he died for our sins, and rose again the third day after his death, but that these things had happened according to the prophecies of the Scriptures concerning the Christ, because by that circumstance, as well as by his resurrection, our Lord was demonstrated to be the Christ.


Verse 5

1 Corinthians 15:5. And that he was seen of Cephas — As mentioned Luke 24:34, who saw him before any of the other apostles. He appeared, indeed, after his resurrection, first of all to Mary Magdalene: but as no woman was employed to testify his resurrection to the world, St. Paul did not think it necessary, in exhibiting the proofs of Christ’s resurrection, to mention any of his appearances to the women. Then of the twelve — That company of apostles so called, though several of the number were not present when he appeared. Macknight thinks, that in this expression all our Lord’s appearances to his apostles, from the time he arose, to the time he showed himself to the five hundred brethren at once, are comprehended; namely, his appearance to the apostles on the evening of the day on which he arose, and on the eighth day thereafter, and at the sea of Tiberias, as also every other appearance to them which the evangelists may have omitted to relate; for that they omitted some is certain.


Verse 6-7

1 Corinthians 15:6-7. After that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once — None of the evangelists have expressly mentioned this appearance, but Matthew seems to hint at it, Matthew 28:10; for probably this appearance was made in Galilee, to which Jesus commanded his disciples to repair, promising that they should there see him; and to which, in obedience to his order, the eleven went, and where, doubtless, many others of his disciples assembled from all parts of the country, Christ having appointed a certain mountain, probably that on which he was transfigured, where he would be seen of them. See note on Matthew 28:16. “As the greatest part of our Lord’s disciples lived in Galilee, it was highly proper, for their consolation, that he should show himself alive there in that public manner. For thus, besides the apostles, numbers, who had often attended him during his ministry in Galilee, and who were well acquainted with his person, having an opportunity to converse with him, could satisfy themselves by the testimony of their own senses concerning the truth of his resurrection, and attest it to others on the surest evidence. These, therefore, may have been the five hundred brethren of whom St. Paul speaks. And their testimony was appealed to by the apostle with the greatest propriety when proving the resurrection of Christ, because such a multitude cannot be supposed to have agreed for so long a time in publishing a falsehood to the world, without any one of them ever betraying the imposture, or even varying in their account of the fact.” Of whom the greater part remain unto this present — About twenty-eight years after the event, constituting a cloud of witnesses to this glorious and infinitely important event; but some are fallen asleep — Doubtless in Jesus, with whom they were gone to dwell. After that he was seen of James

Of this appearance there is no mention in the gospels; but the fathers speak of it, and tell us that the person thus honoured was James the Less, or younger, our Lord’s brother, that is, his cousin-german, and the author of the epistle which bears his name. Eusebius (Chronicles, p. 43) says, this appearance happened in the first year after our Lord’s resurrection. But, from the order in which Paul hath placed it here, it seems more probable that it took place before our Lord’s ascension, at which all the apostles were present, as mentioned in the next clause.


Verse 8

1 Corinthians 15:8. Last of all — This evidently implies that our Lord appeared to none of the disciples after his ascension, except to Paul; he was seen of me also — He here no doubt speaks of Christ’s appearing to him on the way to Damascus, but he does not exclude his other appearances to him. See 1 Corinthians 9:1. As of one born out of due time — An untimely birth. It was impossible to abase himself more than he does by this single appellation. As an abortion is not worthy the name of a man, so he affirms himself to be not worthy the name of an apostle. It must be observed, however, it was not on account of his being sensible of any imperfection in his commission, or of any weakness in his qualifications as an apostle, that he gave himself this name; for he affirms (2 Corinthians 11:5) that he was in nothing behind the very chief of the apostles: but he called himself an untimely birth, for the reason mentioned in the next verse, “and because he was made an apostle without that previous course of instruction and preparation which the other apostles enjoyed, who had attended Jesus during his ministry on earth; so that, in the proper sense of the word, he was εκτρομα, one born before he was brought to maturity. That want, however, was abundantly supplied by the many revelations which his Master gave him, after he had made him an apostle.” — Macknight.


Verses 9-11

1 Corinthians 15:9-11. I am the least of the apostles, because I persecuted, &c. — True believers are humbled all their lives for the sins they committed before they repented and believed. But by the grace of God I am what I am — A Christian and an apostle; and his grace upon — Or toward me, in raising me to so high a dignity, and so happy a state; was not in vain — But produced, in a great measure, its proper fruit. For I laboured more abundantly than they all — That is, more than any of them, from the peculiar love God had showed me; yet — To speak more properly; not I, but the grace of God which was with me — This it was which at first qualified me for the work, and still excites me to zeal and diligence in it. As to Paul’s labouring more than any of the other apostles, it must be observed that they confined their preaching, for the most part, to the Jews, Galatians 2:9 : but Paul preached the gospel to all the Gentile nations, from Jerusalem, round about to Illyricum, Romans 15:19, and also to the Jews who lived in those countries; and by his labours he converted great numbers both of the Jews and Greeks. Moreover, as his success in spreading the gospel exceeded the success of the other apostles, so his labours, if we may judge of them from his own account, 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, greatly exceeded theirs likewise. Therefore whether it were I or they — Whose doctrine you own and adhere to; so we preach, and so ye believed — We agreed in our doctrine concerning the particulars above mentioned: all of us spake, and still speak the same thing.

1 Corinthians 15:12-13. Now if Christ be preached, By all of us, and that upon such infallible grounds as I have mentioned; that he rose from the dead, how say some of you — Or rather, how can some among you say; that there is no resurrection of the dead? — With what face can any who allow of Christ’s resurrection, pretend to deny the resurrection of his disciples, whether it be from an attachment to Sadducean or philosophical prejudices? For, if there be no resurrection of the dead — If that doctrine be, in the general, altogether incredible; then is Christ not risen — “The apostle hath not expressed the ideas, by which the consequent in this hypothetical proposition is connected with its antecedent. But when these ideas are supplied, [as follows,] every reader will be sensible of the connection. Christ promised, repeatedly, in the most express terms, that he would raise all mankind from the dead, Matthew 16:27; John 5:28-29. Wherefore, if there is to be no resurrection of the dead, Christ is a deceiver, whom no person in his right senses can suppose God to have raised, and to have declared his Son. And if Christ hath not been raised, the gospel being stripped of the evidence which it derives from the resurrection of its Author, the whole of the preaching of the apostles, as is observed 1 Corinthians 15:14, is absolutely false; and the faith of the Corinthians in the divine original of the gospel, and of all Christians, from the beginning to the present hour, is likewise false. Such are the consequences of denying the resurrection of the dead.”


Verses 14-18

1 Corinthians 15:14-18. Then is our preaching — In consequence of a commission supposed to be given after his resurrection; vain — Without any real foundation, and destitute of truth; and your faith — In our preaching; is vain — Is grounded on falsehood and deception; yea, and we are false witnesses of God — Having testified that Jesus of Nazareth is his Son and the Messiah; that he hath atoned for sin; hath risen from the dead and ascended into heaven; hath obtained for his followers the Holy Spirit in his gifts and graces; a resurrection from the dead, and eternal life; and is constituted the final Judge of men and angels; — all which things, depending on his resurrection, are absolutely false, if he be not risen; and, of consequence, ye are yet in your sins — Unpardoned and unrenewed, without either a title to heaven or a meetness for it. So that there needed something more than reformation, (which was plainly wrought in them,) in order to their being delivered from the guilt of sin, and renewed after the divine image; even that atonement, the sufficiency of which God attested by raising our great Surety from the grave, and the influences of the Divine Spirit procured for us by that atonement. Then they who are fallen asleep in Christ — Who have died for him, or believing in him; are perished — Have lost their life and being together. This sentence shows, that in this discourse the apostle has the resurrection of the just principally in view, and that what he hath written concerning the excellent qualities of the bodies to be raised, is to be understood of the bodies of the saints only.


Verse 19

1 Corinthians 15:19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ — We, who are exposed to such a variety of dangers and sufferings, for his sake; we are of all men most miserable ελεεινοτεροι, most to be pitied; that is, if we look for nothing beyond the grave. But if we have a divine evidence of things not seen; if we have a hope full of immortality; if we now taste the powers of the world to come, and see the crown that fadeth not away; then, notwithstanding all our present trials, we are more happy than all men. Some have argued from this verse, that if there were no future state, piety and virtue would make men more miserable in this world than they otherwise would be. But, as Dr. Doddridge observes, it is evident the apostle is not speaking here of the case of good men in general, if their hopes of future happiness should be disappointed; but of the case of the first Christians, and especially of the apostles and other preachers of Christianity, amid the hardships and persecutions to which they were continually exposed. If they had not known that there was a state of immortal felicity and glory before them, and if they had not been supported amid their various sufferings with a well-grounded and lively hope of it, they must have been peculiarly miserable. For besides all the external calamities to which they were exposed, they must have been perpetually subjected to the upbraidings of their own minds, for sacrificing every view of happiness in this world or another, to advance what they knew to be a pernicious falsehood. It must be observed, the apostle does not say, that if there should be no resurrection of the body, the Christian could only hope in Christ in this life; for if the soul be immortal, and may be happy after its separation from the body, that would not follow. But he argues thus: If Christ is not risen for our justification, we are yet under the guilt of sin, 1 Corinthians 15:17; and if so, both soul and body must perish after death, 1 Corinthians 15:18; and then the hope of Christians must terminate with this life, which being more especially to many of them a life of misery, by reason of the sufferings to which their faith here often exposes them, they would of all men be most miserable. Macknight considers the apostle as answering an objection, which he supposes the reader to have made in his own mind, namely, this: “The apostles know that Christ hath not risen, and that there will be no resurrection of the dead, but they preach these things for the sake of some present advantage.” “To this Paul replies, If in this life only we have hope, &c., we are of all men the most miserable — Because, by preaching Christ’s resurrection, we expose ourselves to every possible present evil, and if there is to be no resurrection of the dead, there is no future state in which we can enjoy anything. This argument is levelled against the Sadducees, who, believing the soul to be material, affirmed that it perishes with the body; and will have no existence after death, the body being never to be raised. The apostle’s argument is equally conclusive on supposition that the soul is immaterial, and that it will exist and enjoy [happiness] after death, although the body is not raised. For if the apostles were false witnesses and impostors, they could look for no happiness from God after death.”


Verses 20-22

1 Corinthians 15:20-22. But now is Christ risen — Here the apostle declares that Christians have hope not in this life only. His proof of the resurrection lies in a narrow compass, 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. Almost all the rest of the chapter is taken up in illustrating, vindicating, and applying it. The proof is short, but solid and convincing, namely, that which arose from Christ’s resurrection. Now this not only proved a resurrection possible, but, as it proved him to be a divine teacher, it proved also the certainty of a general resurrection, which he so expressly taught. The first-fruits of them that slept — The pledge, earnest, and assurance of the resurrection of those who sleep in him, even of all the righteous, of the resurrection of whom, at least chiefly, if not only, the apostle speaks throughout the chapter. As to the term first- fruits, in explanation thereof it may be proper to observe, that “the Israelites were commanded to bring on the morrow after the sabbath, with which the passover week began, a sheaf of the first-fruits of their harvest to the priest, to be waved before the Lord, who, by accepting it, made it an example and a pledge of the future harvest. In allusion to that rite, Christ, who arose on the very day on which the first-fruits were offered, is called the first-fruits of them who slept, because he is the first who was raised from the dead to die no more, and because his resurrection is an example and an earnest of the resurrection of the righteous.” For since by man came death — Since death came on the whole human race by means of one man, who brought mortality on all his posterity in consequence of one great and wilful transgression; by man came also, &c. — That is, by means of another man came likewise the resurrection of the dead — And our happy relation to him abundantly repairs the damage we sustain by our fatal relation to the former. For as in Adam all — Even the righteous; die, so in — Or through; Christ shall all these be made alive — He does not say shall revive, (as naturally as they die,) but shall be made alive, namely, by a power not their own. See on Romans 5:18, a passage which is a good comment on this verse.


Verse 23

1 Corinthians 15:23. But every man — Shall be reanimated, raised, and glorified; in his own order — Or in his own band, as τω ιδιω ταγματι more properly signifies, denoting a band of soldiers, a cohort, or legion; the word for order being rather ταξις. According to this interpretation, it is here intimated that the righteous will be raised by themselves, and the wicked by themselves; that is, according to the next verse, the righteous are to be raised at Christ’s coming, or are to be first raised, even before the living are changed, and much more before the wicked are raised. See 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.


Verse 24

1 Corinthians 15:24. Then — After the resurrection and the general judgment; cometh the end — Of the world, the grand period of all those wonderful scenes that have appeared for so many succeeding generations; when he shall — Publicly and solemnly; have delivered up — Greek, οταν παραδω, when he shall deliver up; the mediatorial kingdom to God, even the Father — By whose commission he had held it, and to whose glory he had always administered it; when he shall have put down οταν καταργηση, when he shall have destroyed all adverse rule, authority, and power — That had opposed itself to his government, and shall have triumphed over all the efforts which either men or devils could ever make against his dominion. This mediatorial kingdom which Christ will deliver up, is represented, Matthew 28:18, to be his possessing all power in heaven and in earth; “that is, power over angels as well as over men. This kingdom our Lord received in the human nature, as the reward of his humiliation, and was solemnly installed in it after his resurrection, when he ascended into heaven, and was invited by God to sit at his right hand till he should make his enemies his footstool. Further, because it is said, Colossians 1:17, He is before all things, and by him all things consist; and because we are told, Hebrews 1:3, that the Son, while he spake the gospel, upheld all things by the word of his power; it is believed, that besides the mediatorial kingdom which the Son administered in the human nature, and which he will deliver up to the Father after the judgment, he possessed the government of the universe from the beginning, in his character as Creator: and that, after the mediatorial kingdom is delivered up, the kingdom which he holds as Creator, will remain with him as from the beginning. So that after the judgment, the righteous shall enter still into the everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ, as they are represented to do, 2 Peter 1:11.” — Macknight. Indeed, the divine reign, both of the Father and the Son, is from everlasting to everlasting. And only so far as the Father gave the kingdom to the Son, shall the Son deliver it up to the Father, John 13:3. Nor does the Father cease to reign when he gives it to the Son, neither the Son when he delivers it to the Father; but the glory which he had before the world began, (John 17:5; Hebrews 1:8,) will remain even after that is delivered up. Nor will he cease to be a king even in his human nature, Luke 1:33. If the citizens of the New Jerusalem shall reign for ever, (Revelation 22:5,) how much more shall he!


Verses 25-27

1 Corinthians 15:25-27. For he must reign — Because so it is written, Psalms 110:1; till he — God the Father; hath put all enemies under his feet — That is, till he hath utterly subdued them to Christ, that he may destroy them. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death — That enemy which continues, in some measure, to hold the subjects of Christ under his dominion, even when the temptations of the world, and the malice of Satan, can hold them no longer, and when every remainder of corrupt nature and human infirmity has long since ceased in the perfect holiness of the intermediate state. Macknight, who renders this verse, the last enemy, death, shall be destroyed, observes, that “the common version of this passage implies that there are some enemies who shall not be destroyed, which is wrong: for all enemies shall be destroyed, 1 Corinthians 15:25.” Nor is it true in every sense, that “because death is called the last enemy, it is to be last destroyed: for if the destruction of death is to be accomplished by the resurrection, the devil and his angels, and wicked men, are to be judged and punished after the dead are raised. In Chrysostom’s opinion, death is called the last enemy, because he entered into the world after the devil and sin entered.” For Satan brought in sin, and sin brought forth death. There is a sense, however, in which it may be affirmed that death is the last enemy that is destroyed; for when Christ engaged these enemies, he first conquered Satan, namely, in his temptation, then sin in his death, and lastly, death in his resurrection. In the same order he delivers all the faithful from them, yea, and destroys their power. Death he so destroys, that it shall exist no more; sin and Satan, so that they shall no more hurt his people. For he hath put all things under his feet — Agreeably to what is said, Psalms 8:6. But — As is sufficiently evident; when he saith all things are put under him — In the last-mentioned passage, and as is implied in many others; he — The Father; is excepted, who did put all things under him — This declaration concerning the Father’s not being subject to the Son, was intended to prevent us from interpreting what is said of the extent of the Son’s dominion, in such a manner as to fancy that he is in any respect superior to the Father.


Verse 28

1 Corinthians 15:28. When all things shall be subdued — Or, rather, subjected, (as υποταγη properly signifies,) unto him, and there is no longer need of a prophet to teach, nor of a priest to make atonement and intercede, nor of a king to deliver, protect, and govern under God, the Father will resume the government; and then, even the Son himself shall be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, that God — Or the Godhead; may be all in all — May be over all beings, in all places, and the immediate object of their worship and service. Or rather, may be all things in and to his intelligent creatures, saints, and angels, by a full communication of himself to them, and an intimate union with them. “He saith not,” observes Dr. Whitby, “that the Father, mentioned 1 Corinthians 15:24, but that God may be all in all; and so he seems to lead us to that interpretation of the Godhead which comprehends Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and then the import of the phrase, that God may be all in all, will be this: That the Godhead may govern all things immediately by himself, without the intervention of a mediator between him and us, to exact our obedience in his name, and convey to us his favours and rewards, we being then to render all our duty immediately to him, and derive all our happiness immediately from him. So that, as now Christ, God-man, is all in all, Colossians 3:11, because the Father hath put all things into his hands; does all things and governs all things by him; when this economy ceases, the Godhead alone will be all in all, as governing and influencing all things by himself immediately.” “On supposition that this is a proper interpretation of the passage, and that the Son or Word, John 1:1, in conjunction with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is to govern, two questions will occur: 1st, How the apostle came to speak of the Son’s subjection to the Father, seeing he is to reign in conjunction with the Father. 2d, How the Son, under the government of the Godhead, can be subject to himself. To remove these difficulties, it is generally said that the Son is to be subject to the Father in his human nature only. In the present state of mankind, it is suitable to the majesty and purity of God, that all his intercourses with them, whether in the way of conferring blessings on them, or of receiving their worship, be carried on by the intervention of a mediator. But after sinners are completely reconciled to God, and made perfect in holiness, and are introduced into heaven, God will bestow his favours on them, and receive their worship, immediately, without the intervention of a mediator. And thus the offices of mediator and king, becoming unnecessary, shall cease. Yet even in this state, the Son in [or in union with] the human nature, though no longer king, [in the sense in which he was king before,] will still retain the glory of having created all things, described Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:2-3, and the glory of having saved mankind, and of having destroyed the kingdom of Satan, and Satan himself. So that, in respect of personal perfection, and of the veneration due to him for the great things he hath accomplished, he will continue superior to the highest angels, and be acknowledged by them as their superior through all eternity. Now this superiority being considered as a kind of reigning, it is perhaps what the apostle meant when, 2 Timothy 2:12, he said, If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him. See also Revelation 3:21.” — Macknight. So also Doddridge: “The union of the divine and human natures in the person of the great Emmanuel, the incomparable virtues of his character, the glory of his actions, and the relation he bears to his people, with all the texts which assert the perpetuity of his government, prohibit our imagining that he shall ever cease to be illustriously distinguished from all others, whether men or angels, in the heavenly world, through eternal ages.”


Verse 29-30

1 Corinthians 15:29-30. Else, or otherwise, what shall they do — What will become of them? what shall they do to repair their loss, who are exposed to great sufferings in consequence of being baptized for the dead — That is, say some, “In token of their embracing the Christian faith in the room of the dead, who are just fallen in the cause of Christ, but are yet supported by a succession of new converts, who immediately offer themselves to fill up their places, as ranks of soldiers that advance to combat in the room of their companions, who have just been slain in their sight.” Others say, “In hope of blessings to be received after they are numbered with the dead.” Many other interpretations are given of this obscure and ambiguous phrase, υπερ των νεκρων, for the dead. But perhaps that of Dr. Macknight is the most probable, who supplies the words της αναστασεως, and reads the clause, who are baptized for the resurrection of the dead, or are immersed in sufferings, because of their believing in, and testifying the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead: for which interpretation he adduces solid reasons. If the dead rise not — If the doctrine I oppose be true, and the dead are not raised at all; why are they then baptized for the resurrection of the dead? And why stand we — The apostles; also in jeopardy — And are exposed to so much danger and suffering; every hour — In the service of a Master from whom, it is evident, we have no secular rewards to expect.


Verses 31-34

1 Corinthians 15:31-34. I protest by your rejoicing — Greek, νη την υμετεραν καυχησιν ην εχω, by the boasting concerning you which I have, namely, on account of your faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. So the clause is interpreted by some critics. I die daily — That is, I am daily in danger of death, for bearing testimony to the resurrection of Christ, and to a general resurrection through him. If, to speak after the manner of men — That is, To use a proverbial phrase expressive of the most imminent danger; I have fought with beasts at Ephesus — With the savage fury of a lawless multitude, Acts 19:29, &c. What advantageth it me — What have I gained by such sufferings; if the dead rise not? And I have nothing to expect after death. Let us eat and drink, &c. — We might, on that supposition, as well say, with the Epicureans, Let us make the best of this short life, seeing we have no other portion to expect. Be not deceived — By such pernicious counsels as this. Evil communications corrupt good manners — He opposes to the Epicurean saying a well-known verse of the poet Menander. By evil communications, is meant conversation contrary to faith, hope, or love; or familiar intercourse with worldly and carnal people, which tends to destroy all holiness. Awake — An exclamation full of apostolical majesty. Shake off your lethargy! To righteousness — Evangelical and divine righteousness, flowing from the true knowledge of God, and implying that the whole soul be broad awake and watchful: the righteousness through which grace reigns unto eternal life, Romans 5:21; and sin not — That is, and you will not sin, for sin supposes sleepiness or drowsiness of soul. There is need to press this; for some — Among you; have not the knowledge of God — With all your boasted knowledge, you are ignorant of what it most concerns you to know; I speak this to your shame — For nothing is more shameful than sleepy ignorance of God, and of the word and works of God; to them especially, it was shameful, considering the advantages they had enjoyed.


Verse 35

1 Corinthians 15:35. But some man possibly will say, How are the dead raised up — After their whole frame is dissolved? And with what kind of bodies do they come? — From the dead, after these are mouldered into dust. By the apostle’s answer to these inquiries, it appears that he considered the inquirer as not so much desiring to have his curiosity satisfied, respecting the nature and qualities of the bodies raised, as suggesting the impossibility of the resurrection in question taking place. He therefore begins with proving the possibility of the resurrection, by appealing to the power of God displayed in raising grain from seed which is rotted in the ground, and in giving to each of the kinds, when it is grown up, the body proper to it: also in making bodies celestial and bodies terrestrial, each having its own properties by which it is distinguished from all others. And from these instances of the power of God, he infers that the resurrection of the dead is possible, 1 Corinthians 15:36-42. As to the inquiry, with what kind of bodies men will be raised, his answer is given from the middle of 1 Corinthians 15:42-54. But what he advances respects only the properties of the bodies of the righteous, which he contrasts with the properties of the bodies which were laid in the grave. And with respect to the righteous, who are found alive on the earth at the coming of Christ, he declares that their bodies will be changed in a moment, and rendered incorruptible and immortal, because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.


Verses 36-38

1 Corinthians 15:36-38. Thou fool — Greek, αφρον, without mind, or understanding. Or, thou inconsiderate and thoughtless creature, who thinkest a matter impossible, of the possibility of which thou hast an example in the very seed thou sowest. Macknight thinks the apostle here addresses the false teacher at Corinth, “giving him the appellation of fool in the same sense, and for the same reason, that our Lord himself called the Pharisees fools, namely, on account of their ignorance and wickedness, Matthew 22:17.” What thou sowest is not quickened except it die — “To illustrate the possibility of the resurrection, the apostle appeals to a thing which men every day behold, and which is little less wonderful than the resurrection itself, the reproduction of grain from seed sown, which does not grow unless it be rotted in the ground. But after its body is destroyed something springs out of it, which, by a wonderful process, the effect of the power of God, ends in the reproduction of the same kind of grain, not bare as it was sown, but richly adorned with blades, stalk, and ear.” Thomas Paine, in his “Age of Reason,” and some other modern infidels, have maintained, against the apostle, “that the seed does not die in vegetation, because the germe lives and expands itself, and only the extraneous matter corrupts. But in fact the seed, as such, doth die: it ceases to be a grain of corn; though a part of it springs, as it were, into new life, by a process which we can no more comprehend than we can the manner of the resurrection. Even Lucretius, the Epicurean atheist, says, ‘Whatever change transfers a body into a new class of beings, may be justly called the death of the original substance: for what is changed from what it was, that dies.’” — Scott. And that which thou sowest is not the body that shall be — Produced from the seed committed to the ground; but bare, naked, grain — Widely different from that which will afterward rise out of the earth. But God — Not thou, O man, nor the grain itself; giveth it a body — In the course of his natural operations, by certain laws of vegetation, with which thou art entirely unacquainted; as it hath pleased him — With such a variety of parts as he hath thought fit to determine for that particular species; and to each of the seeds — Not only of the fruits and plants, but animals also, to which the apostle rises in the following verse; its own body — Not only a body of the same sort, but that which, by virtue of some connection it had with this or that individual grain, may properly be called its own, though in its form much different, and much more beautiful. It is justly observed by Dr. Macknight here, that, “having such an example of the divine power before our eyes, we cannot think the reproduction of the body impossible, though its parts be utterly dissipated. And although the very numerical body be not raised, which the apostle intimates when he affirms that the grain produced from the seed sown is not the very body which is sown, yet the body is truly raised; because what is raised being united to the soul, there will arise in the man, thus completed, a consciousness of identity, by which he will be sensible of the justice of the retribution which is made to him for his deeds. Besides, this new body will more than supply the place of the old, by serving every purpose necessary to the perfection and happiness of the man in his new state. According to this view of the subject, the objection taken from the scattering of the particles of the body that die, has no place, because it does not seem necessary that the body to be raised should be composed of them; for the Scripture nowhere affirms that the same numerical body is to be raised. In the opinion of some, indeed, the example of the grain which first dies, and then revives, is mentioned to intimate, that in the human body there is a seminal principle, which is not destroyed by death; and which, at the appointed season, will reproduce the body in a more excellent form than before, through the quickening influence of his power. But is a seminal principle any thing different from that power? What occasion then have we to carry our thoughts in this matter beyond God’s power? Besides, as there is no inextinguishable principle in plants, the analogy doth not hold. I therefore suppose this wonderful, though common instance, is mentioned, to show that the resurrection of the body is not beyond the power of God to accomplish; and that it may certainly be expected according to Christ’s promise.”


Verses 39-41

1 Corinthians 15:39-41. All flesh, &c. — As if he had said, There is an immense variety in the works of God, even in those which fall under the inspection of our senses, feeble and limited as they are, while we dwell in flesh and blood. For we see even earthy bodies differ from earthy, and heavenly bodies from heavenly. What wonder then if heavenly bodies differ from earthy? or the bodies which rise from those that lie in the grave? “As in the preceding verse,” says the author last quoted, “the apostle directs us to consider the greatness of the power of God, displayed in the production of that endless variety of vegetable substances for food to man and beast, with which we are surrounded; so in this verse he directs our attention to the same power of God displayed in that wonderful diversity of animal substances, which it hath formed into different sorts of organized bodies, each with members properly adapted to the instincts of its inhabitant, and to the manner of life for which it is designed;” men, beasts, fishes, fowls. There are also celestial bodies, &c. — As if he had said, The greatness of his power God hath likewise showed, in the formation of other bodies which are inanimate, both celestial, as the sun, moon, and stars, and terrestrial, such as fossils and minerals. But the glory of the celestial is one, &c. — Different indeed is the glory of the one from that of the other, and the brightest lustre which the terrestrial can have, falls very short of that of the celestial. There is one glory of the sun, &c. — Yea, and the heavenly bodies themselves differ from each other. From the whole of these principles, the apostle draws this conclusion; — that since God’s power has been so “gloriously manifested in the greatness and variety of the material substances which he has already formed, and in the diversity of their configuration, that person must be a fool indeed, (1 Corinthians 15:36,) who takes upon him to affirm that God cannot raise up bodies for his saints at the last day, in form and use similar to their present bodies, and perfectly adapted to the faculties of their minds, and to the new world in which they are to live.” This last observation is peculiarly worthy the reader’s attention. Our new bodies, what qualities soever they may possess, will doubtless be perfectly adapted to the faculties of our minds, and to the new world in which we shall be placed: as our present bodies are adapted to the faculties we now possess, and to the world in which we now live; and as we see the bodies of all creatures are suited to the instincts God hath given them, and to the element or place in which they have their abode, whether fish in the water, fowls in the air, or cattle and creeping things on or within the dry land. Accordingly, when any living creature is destined to change the place of its abode, it receives a new body, adapted to its new situation: as, for example, the silk-worm, when it is no longer to be confined to the leaves of the mulberry-tree, but to have the freedom and pleasure of roaming at large in the spacious regions of the air, is furnished with a new and winged body, adapted to its new state and element. And here arises a question: Is it not probable that at least one important reason why we are to receive new bodies, and are not always to remain disimbodied spirits, (as we shall be in the intermediate state between death and judgment,) is, because we are destined to remove into a new world, far more perfect and glorious than this fallen and disordered one in which we now are? — a world in which there will be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him, and shall see his face. In this new world, God, who never sinks, but always rises to higher and higher perfection in his works, will certainly make a far more glorious display of his wisdom, power, and goodness, and other attributes, than he has done in this present world; and it is therefore necessary that we should have bodies furnished with senses and other members adapted to that world, and enabling us to hold connection and intercourse with it, and to apprehend, enjoy, and be instructed in the further knowledge of our glorious Creator, by the excellences of it, so superior to any we had witnessed in this present earth, the abode of our infancy and childhood. But suffice it at present to have given a hint of this.


Verses 42-44

1 Corinthians 15:42-44. So also is the resurrection of the dead — So great is the difference between the body which fell and that which rises. It is to be observed, that in this and the following verses, the apostle is giving an account of the righteous only. It is sown — A beautiful word; committed as seed to the ground: and the apostle thus expresses the burial of the body, because he had illustrated the possibility of its resurrection, notwithstanding it rots in the grave, or is otherwise destroyed, by the example of grain sown in the earth, which after it rots produces grain of the same kind with itself; a comparison intended to illustrate only the possibility of the resurrection, but not the manner of its being effected. For certainly the body to be raised will not be produced by any virtue in the body buried, as plants are produced by a virtue latent in the seeds that are sown. For we are carefully taught in the Scriptures, that the resurrection of our bodies will be effected merely by the extraordinary and miraculous power of God, and not at all as either plants or animals are produced, in a natural way, from their seeds. In corruption — Just ready to putrefy, and by various degrees of corruption and decay, to return to the dust from whence it came. It is raised in incorruption — Utterly incapable of either dissolution or decay. It is sown in dishonour — Shocking to those who loved it best: human nature in disgrace! It is raised in glory — Clothed with robes of light, fit for those whom the King of heaven delights to honour. See on Matthew 13:23; Philippians 3:21. It is sown in weakness — Deprived even of that feeble strength which it once enjoyed: it is raised in power — Endued with vigour, strength, and activity, such as we cannot now conceive. It is sown in this world a natural body — Or rather, an animal body, as σωμα ψυχικον more properly signifies, supported by food, sleep, and air, as the bodies of all animals are: it is raised a spiritual body — Of a more refined contexture, needing none of those animal refreshments, and endued with qualities of a spiritual nature like the angels of God. These alterations to be produced in the contexture of the bodies of the righteous are indeed great and wonderful, but far from being impossible. For, as Dr. Macknight justly observes, “to illustrate great things by small, we have an example of a similar, though very inferior transformation, in the bodies of caterpillars, which in their first state are ugly, weak, and easily crushed, but in their second state become beautifully winged animals, full of life and activity. This shows what God can do in greater instances.”

It may not be improper to add here, what is justly observed by the same author, that, notwithstanding this great difference between the bodies raised, and the bodies committed to the ground, those raised will, in a sound sense, be the same with the bodies that were buried; inasmuch as they will consist of members and organs of sensation in form and use similar to the members and organs of the present body: that is, as far as their new state will admit; a limitation this, absolutely necessary to be made, because the Scripture itself mentions two particulars, and reason suggests others, in which the bodies raised will essentially differ from those which died. 1st, We are told (1 Corinthians 6:13) that God will destroy both the belly, (including both the stomach and bowels,) or the use of that member, and meats. 2d, Our Lord assures us, that they who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they are equal to the angels. From these texts it follows, that none of the members necessary to eating, and drinking, and marriage, will make part of the glorified bodies of the saints; and that none of the appetites and passions which are gratified by these members, will have any existence in their minds: consequently, the joys of the heavenly country, though in part they are to arise from bodily senses, will have no affinity with the pleasures of a Mohammedan paradise. 3d, Reason directs us to believe, that to the similarity or sameness of the body which is raised, with the body that was buried, it is by no means necessary that the imperfections in the members of the buried body, should take place in the raised body. On the contrary, the restoration of all the members to their proper form, place, and office in the body, instead of making it a different body, will render it more perfectly the same. 4th, Besides the differences mentioned, there may be other differences likewise in the glorified bodies of the saints, suited to the difference of their state, of which at present we can form no conception. For if the raised body is to be endowed with new powers of action, and new senses, these may require additional members; and notwithstanding the addition, the raised body may, on account of its general similarity to the body that was buried, be still considered as the same. To conclude, the Scripture speaks consistently when, in describing the state of the righteous after the resurrection, it represents them as having their mortal bodies refashioned like to the glorious body of Christ, and informs us, that after their whole persons are thus completed, they shall be carried to a heavenly country, where every object being suited to the nature of their glorified bodies, they shall live unspeakably happy to all eternity.


Verse 45-46

1 Corinthians 15:45-46. And so it is written — With respect to the animal body, Genesis 2:7. The first Adam was made a living soul — God gave him animal life, in many respects resembling that of other animals; the last Adam was made — Rather was, or is, for there is nothing in the original for made; a quickening Spirit — Having life in himself, and quickening whom he will: imparting even a more refined life to men’s bodies at the resurrection, than that which they formerly possessed. Christ is called Adam, because believers receive their sanctified, spiritual nature, and their immortal bodies, from him, (see Ephesians 5:32,) just as mankind have derived their corrupted nature and mortal bodies from the first Adam. He is also called the last Adam, because he is posterior in time to the first Adam, or because there shall be no restorer and head of the human race after him. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, &c. — That is, as the first Adam existed before Christ was sent to assume our nature, and become our Saviour, so must we first wear that animal body, which we derive from the one, before we put on that spiritual body which we receive from the other. Here we are taught that the plan of the divine government is to lead his creatures from a lower to a higher state of perfection. They, therefore, who contend that things should be as perfect at the beginning as at the conclusion of his administration, are wiser than God.


Verses 47-49

1 Corinthians 15:47-49. The first man is [was] of the earth, earthy — Being from earth, and having forfeited his immortality by sin, he became subject to corruption and dissolution, like the earth from which he came. The second man is the Lord from heaven — St. Paul could not well say, “is of, or from heaven, heavenly:” because though man owes it to the earth that he is earthy, yet the Lord does not owe it to heaven that he is glorious. He himself made the heavens, and by descending from them, showed himself to us as the Lord. Christ is called the second Adam in this respect, that as Adam was a public person who acted in the stead of all mankind, so was Christ; and as Adam was the first general representative of men, Christ was the second and the last: and what they severally did, terminated not in themselves, but affected all whom they represented. As is the earthy

The first Adam after his fall; such are they also that are earthy — Who continue without any higher principle; they are sinful, mortal, corruptible creatures: such a body as Adam had, have all his posterity while they remain on earth. And as is the heavenly — Man, Christ, at present; such are — Or rather, shall be; they that are heavenly — Who are united to Christ by the quickening and regenerating influences of his Spirit. That they may live with him in heaven, they shall at last have glorious bodies like his. And as we have borne the image of the earthy — As assuredly as we are now sinful, afflicted, and mortal men, like the first Adam; we shall also bear the image of the heavenly — So surely shall we be brought to resemble Christ in holiness, glory, and immortality.


Verses 50-52

1 Corinthians 15:50-52. Now this I say, brethren — This I offer to your consideration as a great and important truth, that we must first undergo an entire change; for flesh and blood — Such as we are now clothed with; cannot inherit the kingdom of God — Cannot enter that happy place which Christ hath gone to prepare for the reception of his people, (John 14:7,) cannot possess that kingdom which is wholly spiritual, because it affords no objects suited either to the senses or to the appetites of such a body. Neither doth corruption — This corruptible body; inherit incorruption — That incorruptible kingdom. Spirits, clothed with corruptible bodies like our present bodies, cannot enjoy objects that are incorruptible. They are not capable of enjoying the divine vision, nor of performing the exalted services, nor of relishing the pure pleasures, which constitute the glory and felicity of the kingdom of God. Behold, I show you a mystery — A truth hitherto unknown, and not yet fully revealed to any of the sons of men. We — Christians: the apostle considers them all as one in their succeeding generations; shall not die — Suffer a separation of soul and body; but we shall all — Who do not die; be changed — So that this animal body shall become spiritual; in a moment — Amazing work of omnipotence! in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump — Blown by the divine command. For the trumpet shall sound, &c. — At the giving of the law from Sinai, there was heard a great noise, like the sounding of a trumpet, exceeding loud, which sounded long, and waxed louder and louder. In like manner, at the descent of Christ from heaven, a great noise called the trump of God, (1 Thessalonians 4:16,) will be made by the attending angels, as the signal for the righteous to come forth from their graves. And this noise being made at Christ’s command, it is called by himself, his voice, John 5:25. After the righteous are raised, the trumpet shall sound a second time; on which account it is called here the last trumpet. And while it sounds, the righteous who are alive on the earth shall be changed. And the dead shall be raised incorruptible — Though this expression be general, yet, as appears from 1 Corinthians 15:51, and indeed from the whole latter part of the chapter, it is evident it must be restricted to the dead in Christ, of whom alone the apostle is discoursing. Besides, as appears from 1 Thessalonians 4:16, the wicked are not to be raised at the same time with the righteous.


Verse 53-54

1 Corinthians 15:53-54. For this corruptible — This human nature, which is corruptible; must — In order to its partaking of the above-mentioned glory; put on incorruption — Be endued with such qualities as shall continue in perpetual vigour, not subject to any alteration; and this mortal must put on immortality — So as to be no longer subject to diseases or death. The word ενδυσασθαι, here rendered to put on, literally signifies to go into a place, or metaphorically, to put on, or go into clothes. But the metaphorical meaning must not be insisted on here, as implying that our corruptible body shall have one that is incorruptible put over it for an outward covering. These ideas are incongruous, and therefore the meaning is, the corruptible must be changed into one that is incorruptible, as mentioned 1 Corinthians 15:51; the righteous, who are alive at the coming of Christ, instead of dying and rising again immortal, shall, by the power of Christ, have their corruptible, mortal bodies, changed in a moment, into incorruptible, immortal bodies, and by that means be fitted for inheriting the kingdom of God, equally with those who are raised from the dead incorruptible. So, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, &c. — When this glorious and long-expected event shall be accomplished; then shall be brought to pass what is written, (Isaiah 25:8,) Death is swallowed up in victory — Is totally conquered or abolished for ever, as the original phrase, εις νικος, may be translated, being often used by the LXX. in that sense. This circumstance likewise shows, that in this discourse the apostle had the resurrection of the righteous only in view. For it cannot be said of the wicked, who are to suffer the second death, that death is swallowed up in any sense with respect to them, or that God hath given them the victory over it, (1 Corinthians 15:57,) by the resurrection.


Verse 55

1 Corinthians 15:55. O death, where is thy sting? — Which once was full of hellish poison. O grave αδης, O hades, the receptacle of separate souls; where is thy victory? — Thou art now robbed of thy spoils; all thy captives are set at liberty. “The word hades literally signifies the invisible world, or the world where departed spirits, both good and bad, remain till the resurrection, Job 11:8; Psalms 139:9; Isaiah 14:9; and especially Psalms 16:10, Thou wilt not leave my soul in hades. The place where the spirits of the righteous abide, the Jews called paradise; the place where the wicked are shut up they called tartarus, after the Greeks. There many of the fallen angels are said to be imprisoned, 2 Peter 2:4. “In this noble passage the apostle personifies death and the grave, and introduces the righteous after the resurrection, singing a song of victory over both. In this sublime song, death is represented as a terrible monster, having a deadly sting, wherewith it had destroyed the bodies of the whole human race, and the invisible world as an enemy who had imprisoned their spirits. But the sting being torn from death, and the gates of the invisible world set open by Christ, the bodies of the righteous shall rise from the grave, no more liable to be destroyed by death, and their spirits, being brought out of paradise, the place of their abode, shall reanimate their bodies; and the first use of their newly-recovered tongue will be to sing this song, in which they exult over death and hades, as enemies utterly destroyed, and praise God, who hath given them the victory over these deadly foes through Jesus Christ. Milton hath made good use of the apostle’s personification of death, book 2. ver. 666.” — Macknight.


Verses 56-58

1 Corinthians 15:56-58. The sting of death is sin — Which arms it with its greatest terrors, and is attended with a foreboding of future misery, as the effect of the divine displeasure. And the strength of sin — Which constitutes its malignity, and gives it those killing weapons; is the law — As is largely declared Romans 7:7, &c.; or, that it is a transgression of the divine law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us — Who believe on the Lord Jesus with our hearts unto righteousness; the victory — Over sin, death, and hades; through our Lord Jesus Christ — Through his sacrifice and intercession, and the supplies of his grace; through his dying to atone for sin; his rising again to show us that his atonement was accepted, and that he had obtained justification for believers, the Holy Spirit to raise them to newness of life, and a state of immortal glory. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast — In faith, hope, and love, and in an uninterrupted course of well-doing; Colossians 1:23; Romans 2:7; Galatians 6:9; unmoveable — By any temptations from within or without; from persons or things; from visible or invisible enemies; always abounding in the work of the Lord — In every service you are capable of performing for the glory of God, the good of your fellow-creatures, or your own salvation; the work of faith, or the labour of love to God and man. Forasmuch as ye know — On the surest evidence; that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord — But that you shall receive a full reward in that day of final recompense for whatever ye do for his sake. Let us endeavour, therefore, by cultivating holiness in all its branches, to maintain a lively hope of this felicity in all its spirit and energy, longing for that glorious day when, in the utmost extent of the expression, death shall be swallowed up for ever: and millions of voices, after the long silence of the grave, shall burst out at once into that triumphant song, O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory? And when we shall join in everlasting thanksgivings to God for giving us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-corinthians-15.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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