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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
1 Corinthians 15

 

 

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Introduction

Verse 1

The certainty of the Resurrection of Believers from the Resurrection of Christ, 1-23.

1 Corinthians 15:1. Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, by which also ye are saved (Gr. ‘being saved,’ see on 1 Corinthians 1:18), I make known, I say, in what words I preached it unto you—that is, ‘on what footing I placed it,’ namely, on the fact of Christ’s resurrection—if ye hold it fast, except ye believed in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1). The construction of the sentence is involved, but this seems clearly the sense.


Verse 3

1 Corinthians 15:3. For I delivered unto you first of all—as being of primary importance (not ‘first’ in point of time)—that which I also received—by immediate revelation (Galatians 1:12)—how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;(1)


Verse 4

1 Corinthians 15:4. and that he was buried—and how buried? “As the manner of the Jews is to bury” (John 19:40). All the Evangelists record the burial so circumstantially as to shew that the object was to preclude possible doubt of the reality of the burial. The body being taken down from the cross, when the death had been certified by the centurion, and committed into the hands of two of his disciples, a profusion of rich aromatics was rubbed into the body, and all the orifices being closed, it was swathed from head to foot in fine linen, and then laid in a new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, hewn out of a rock, a tomb wherein was never man before laid, and a great stone was rolled against the door of the sepulchre. The chief priests and Pharisees—remembering His prediction that He would rise the third day, and fearing lest His disciples should come by night and steal Him away, and trump up a story that He was risen from the dead—got Pilate’s permission to place their own guard of Roman soldiers to watch the spot and see that all remained undisturbed until the third day. After this day, if He was found alive, since the reality of His death was beyond dispute, His actual resurrection could with no decency be questioned. So vividly did the apostles realize the importance of this fact being quite certain, that they glory in using the naked word “death” in His case, while the death of believers they hesitate not to call a “sleep.” And in one case the term is significantly changed, in passing from the death of the One to that of the others:—“If we believe that Jesus DIED and rose again, even so them also that are FALLEN ASLEEP, in Jesus will God bring with Him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Here also we have the naked terms—“How that Christ died for our sins, . . . and that He was buried,”

and that he hath been raised(1) on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas (on this name of the Apostle Peter, see on 1 Corinthians 1:12). To Luke 24:34 we are indebted for the thrilling information that the risen Lord specially manifested Himself to that one of all the eleven who when He was on trial for His life before the Sanhedrin had thrice disowned Him. What passed at that interview is not—probably could not have been—described. This, indeed, is one of those, not few, cases in which the silences of Scripture are as grand as its utterances—then to the twelve—the original number being here retained, as a general and familiar designation (like the Decemviri and Duumviri in Latin), though as was well known, “Judas by transgression fell”.

then lie appeared to above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep. An attempt has been made to find a contradiction here to Acts 1:15, where they are said to be only a hundred and twenty. But that those assembled in the “upper room” were the whole surviving disciples of Christ there is no reason to believe. Whether the appearance here referred to in Galilee, or in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, before the vast numbers then at Jerusalem to keep the Passover had dispersed, is uncertain. Anyhow, it is not at all probable that it was the occasion referred to in Matthew 28:16. However the matter be, no sensible writer could have ventured on such a statement—virtually calling in some hundreds of living witnesses to attest the fact—if he had not been sure of his ground.


Verse 7

1 Corinthians 15:7. then he appeared to James—the James of the Acts (Acts 12:17; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18—not Acts 12:2). This James, we believe, was “James the Lord’s brother,” not James the apostle. It has been thought that this special manifestation was what removed his last misgivings as to the claims of Jesus (Meyer); for up to a pretty late period of His public ministry, “even His brethren did not believe in Him” (John 7:5)—that is, they were from time to time shaken by unfavourable appearances. It has been thought, too, that this special manifestation to James—no doubt communicated to the apostles—along with his blood-relationship to the Lord Himself, had something to do with the leading place assigned to him at Jerusalem.


Verse 8

1 Corinthians 15:8. and last of all, as unto one born out of due time (Gr. ‘the abortion,’ ‘the mistimed birth’), he appeared to me also. The allusion is no doubt to the great manifestation at Damascus.


Verse 9

1 Corinthians 15:9. For I am the least of the apostles—though still I am one. While deprecating the occupant, he magnifies the office.


Verse 10

1 Corinthians 15:10. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, etc. With perfect freedom does he at once abuse himself for what he had done against Christ in the days of his ignorance, and claim through grace to have after the change outstripped all the apostles in self-denying labours for Christ.


Verse 11

1 Corinthians 15:11. Whether then it be I or they—no matter who the preachers,—so we preach (as said 1 Corinthians 15:3), and so ye believed.

Note.—Observe here what the primitive apostolic Gospel consisted of—a connected series of historical facts, the story of Christ’s life in its main features: dying for our sins according to the Scriptures; His resurrection from the dead attested by a multitude of competent witnesses; His ascension and session at the right hand of God, as evinced by the promised descent of the Spirit at Pentecost which was to be the proof of it; and His final coming again to judge the quick and the dead, always held forth. In this historical sense our Lord Himself had used the word “Gospel” (Mark 14:9). But not as bare historical facts were these held forth. The truths which the facts embodied constituted their whole value, and these—as richly developed in the apostolic epistles—were imparted along with the facts, as the converts were able to receive them, as is plain from this very epistle.


Verse 12

1 Corinthians 15:12. Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised (see on 1 Corinthians 15:4) from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?


Verse 13

1 Corinthians 15:13. But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised—for, as logicians say, the genus being destroyed, the species of necessity goes with it; the root and the branches, the head and the members, stand and fall together.


Verse 14

1 Corinthians 15:14. and . . . then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain—all Christianity, as a historical fact, is subverted.


Verses 15-17

1 Corinthians 15:15-17. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God, etc. The repetition and reiteration, in slightly varied forms, of the same truth gives to the statement momentous emphasis. How strikingly the expiatory character of Christ’s death, as taught at Corinth, and there joyfully embraced, comes out here, and quite incidentally, in connection with the resurrection of Christ—which if not true, argues the apostle, “we are yet in our sins”—must strike every candid reader.


Verse 19

1 Corinthians 15:19. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable—building our hope of a future resurrection on a mere delusion, to die at length as a fool dieth.


Verse 20

1 Corinthians 15:20. But now hath Christ been raised from the dead. As if impatient at having to linger over such wretched speculations, with what a bound does the apostle here spring on the firm ground and into the clear air of an indubitable resurrection in the Person of Christ

the first-fruits of them that are asleep. The allusion here is as obvious as it is beautiful. On the morrow after the first Sabbath of the Passover, a sheaf of the first-fruits of the barley harvest was reaped and “waved before the Lord,” as a joyful pledge of the full harvest to come (Leviticus 23:10-11; Leviticus 23:15-16). Even so, on the morrow after the first Sabbath of that Passover when our Lord was crucified—being the first day of the week—did He rise “the First-fruits of His sleeping people.”


Verse 21

1 Corinthians 15:21. For since by man came death—a grandly rhythmical expression of the grand truth, that the ruin and recovery of humanity spring alike from within itself.


Verse 22

1 Corinthians 15:22. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Note.—It has been the Divine plan from the first, and will be to the last, that mankind shall be dealt with under two heads—Adam and Christ—hence called “the first man” and “the second man;” as if there never had been, nor ever will be more than those two men. In the one all die, in the other all are made alive. But this universality is very differently understood by different schools of theology: (1) According to some, the death meant being that of the whole human race, the life intended must be co-extensive with it, and so the ultimate salvation of the whole human race must be that which is here meant. But this being contrary to both the spirit and letter of all Scripture elsewhere, many others believe (2) that though the life meant here is indeed co-extensive with the death spoken of, it does not mean the life actually conferred upon any one, but the life procured and made available for all on condition of their believing. But this fatally destroys the analogy between the death, which certainly was real to all, and the life, which is thus only made available to all, and in the case of many will never become a real, but to them a missed life. One other way of explaining these words remains, which at once preserves the strict analogy between the death and the life—and so is alone (as we think) exegetically tenable—and is at the same time in harmony with all other Scripture: (3) that the death by Adam and the life by Christ, here intended, mean death and life in their whole extent, as actually experienced. It is Humanity as actually lost in Adam and as actually recovered in Christ, that the apostle is here treating of—the whole ruin expressed by the all-comprehensive word “death,” and the whole recovery expressed by the equally comprehensive word “life.” Accordingly the word “all,” applied to both parties in 1 Corinthians 15:22, is carefully explained in 1 Corinthians 15:23 as not meaning all numerically. For instead of saying, ‘Christ the first-fruits, then all men at His coming,’ he warily changes his terms, thus:


Verse 23

1 Corinthians 15:23. But each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, then they that are Christ’s at his coming—not each individual of the human race, but each party represented by its respective head. The one head involves “them that are his” in “death;” the other, for “them that are His” secures “life.” But it is Humanity that is meant in both cases—as actually lost in Adam, and as actually recovered in Christ. But in this case, where (it may be asked) is the resurrection of the wicked here? The true answer is, Nowhere here. “Life” is a word which, when meant of the future state of believers, is never used of that of the wicked. (See John 5:24; John 6:47; John 6:54; John 6:56-57; John 11:26; John 17:3; Ephesians 2:1-4; Ephesians 2:7; Colossians 3:1-4.) So plain is this, that some now allege that the wicked will either not rise at all, or rise to be thereafter annihilated. But this not only is a baseless inference from anything said here, and contrary to the general teaching of all Scripture, but our Lord, while teaching the resurrection of all, expressly refuses to the wicked a resurrection to life: “The hour cometh in which all that are in the grave shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29).


Verse 24

1 Corinthians 15:24. Then cometh the end—that is, when the saints are raised; not after a whole dispensation of risen saints ruling the earth has elapsed after their resurrection, as Alford and such as hold the ‘premillennial’ theory maintain,—when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father—in what sense may appear at 1 Corinthians 15:28,—when he shall have abolished all rule, and all authority and power—all hostile power, as is plain from what follows.


Verses 24-28

The Issues of the Resurrection, 24-28.

This is a digression, involving disclosures so mysterious—there being nothing elsewhere with which to compare and throw light upon it—that we must, in interpreting it, keep very close to the text.


Verse 25

1 Corinthians 15:25. For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. The “must” here seems a predictive “must,” as if he had said Psalms 110:6 must be fulfilled; though there is a deeper necessity still, in the nature of the thing—God cannot let His enemies for ever prevail. The “He” is not God the Father (as Bera, Bengel, and others take it), but Christ—till He has subjugated all the enemies of His authority (as Chrysostom and the best modern interpreters hold).


Verse 26

1 Corinthians 15:26. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death. Though death to the believer, stripped of its sting, only ushers him into the presence of his Lord, yet in itself and to nature instinct with the love of life, it is utterly repulsive, rupturing a tie formed for perpetuity: it is the unnatural and abhorrent divorce of parties formed for sweet and uninterrupted fellowship. Viewed thus, it is even to the believer an “enemy,” but it is “the last.”


Verse 27

1 Corinthians 15:27. For (as it is written, Psalms 8:6; Hebrews 7) he put all things in subjection under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put in subjection, it is evident that he is excepted, who did put all things under him. The Son, as Mediator, is with His own royal hand to put all enemies under His feet. But since even this mediatorial authority of His is an authority delegated to Him by an eternal arrangement for saving purposes (John 3:35; John 5:22-23; John 17:2), this universal subjugation by the Son cannot include the subjugation of the Father to the Son. A strange truism this might seem; but it is only to pave the way for the remarkable piece of information which follows.


Verse 28

1 Corinthians 15:28. And when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all—all things in all persons.

Note.—To those who deny the supreme Divinity of Christ, this ultimate subjection of the Son to the Father involves no difficulty; it is to them only a confirmation of their view of His Person. But to those who find the supreme Divinity of Christ in every account of His work, and who cannot rest on a Saviour without absolutely Divine properties, the following remarks may prove helpful. This “delivering up of the kingdom” must be (1) that He is to “give an account of His stewardship” to Him who entrusted Him with it. It would seem a fitting thing that in some formal, august style His intromissions should be subjected to public inspection, that judgment should be passed upon His fidelity and success, and that the whole work to which He was appointed should (so to speak) be taken off His hand, with a “Well done, good and faithful Servant!” But (2) the “delivering up of the kingdom” will not, it seems, be so “the end” of the kingdom as that the Son’s connection with it shall altogether cease. For then, how should it be called “the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”? and how is it that in those Apocalyptic scenes which depict the eternal state “the Lamb” is introduced as exercising active functions, “in the midst of the throne”—“feeding and leading” the redeemed “to living fountains of waters” (Revelation 7:17), as “the Lamb” from which shines “the glory of God” over the new Jerusalem to lighten it (Revelation 21:23), and as having His “throne” as “the Lamb” along with God’s throne, there (Revelation 22:3)? The kingdom itself, then, and Christ as the principle of all its highest activities, is never to disappear if anything certain can be gathered from these disclosures. But (3) all that is preparatory and provisional will undoubtedly be merged in the consummated and enduring state of the kingdom, and the great Gatherer in and Perfecter of the redeemed will have no more to do of that nature. He surrenders, therefore, the seals of office; and as He was “exalted to be a Prince and Saviour” for all saving purposes, He will, when these ends have been fully achieved, “be subjected unto Him that did subject all things unto Him,” and, as the grand result, GOD, in the most absolute sense—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—will be all in the entire new creation. But since “here we see through a glass darkly,” with what caution and reverence should one venture to speak on such high themes!

After this digression, the apostle returns to his argument on the resurrection, beginning with six objurgatory verses.


Verse 29

A Remonstrance, 29-34.

1 Corinthians 15:29. Else what shall they do which are baptised for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptised for the dead?—a most difficult verse, of which the interpretations that have been given are endless. Some excellent expositors think it refers to the practice of Christians allowing themselves to be baptized as substitutes for converts who were candidates for baptism, but died before being baptized, in order thereby to complete their Christian standing and future prospects. That such a strange practice did exist in the early Church there can be no doubt; but among whom? Only among the heretical followers of Cerinthus, if we may credit Epiphanius (Har. xxviii. 7) and Tertulltan (adv. Marc. v. 10). There is no ground to believe that it was practised in the orthodox churches, and the writers now quoted plainly regarded it as antichristian. But though this is admitted, it is urged that the apostle does not say, ‘What shall we, or ye, do?’ and as this seems a tacit rebuke of the practice, it may have soon ceased. Surely this scarcely deserves notice. Plainly, the allusion is to some act performed in expectation of future benefit to themselves, which benefit would be lost if the dead did not rise. And the following view—which is that of all the best interpreters, ancient and modern—alone suits the argument and agrees with the context:—Foreseeing that their faith would cost them the loss of all things, perhaps of life itself, not a few converts, in proceeding to baptism, went to it as their virtual death-warrant, saying virtually with the apostle—who knew not how soon it might become a reality—‘We who live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:11). Our verse would then mean: ‘What is to become of those who in advancing to baptism do so as not knowing that it may not prove their death-warrant, if the dead rise not?’ What follows seems to confirm this.


Verse 30

1 Corinthians 15:30. Why do we also (we preachers) stand in jeopardy every hour? ‘If their conduct, supposing there is no resurrection, is folly, are we preachers, in hourly peril of our lives, any wiser?’


Verse 31

1 Corinthians 15:31. I protest by that glorying in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord—Gr. ‘by your glorifying’ (as in 1 Corinthians 11:24; Romans 11:31),—I die daily. By the joy and glory which I have in you as my children in Christ, I protest I am in daily peril for Jesus sake.


Verse 32

1 Corinthians 15:32. If after the manner of men (if speaking humanly) I fought with beasts at Ephesus. To take this literally is most unnatural. For, besides that as a Roman citizen the apostle would be exempt from such a thing, we can hardly suppose that such an occurrence, if it did take place, would never have been mentioned in the Acts, nor included in the minute detail of his perils, which he gives in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. Clearly, the statement is to be understood in a figurative sense, thus: ‘If after encountering, as I did at Ephesus, such a furious opposition as was more like a rush of wild beasts than the hostility of reasonable men.’

Compare chap. 1 Corinthians 4:9; 2 Timothy 4:17—what doth it profit me, if the dead are not raised? Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.(1) This maxim, though found in a fragment of the Greek poet Menander (about B.C. 280), was not likely taken directly from him by our apostle; for it is just such a proverbial saying as, when once penned, would be sure to be caught up and repeated from mouth to mouth.


Verse 34

1 Corinthians 15:34. Awake to righteousness,(1) and sin not—‘These opinions spring not from honest conviction, but are bred of too intimate association with men of free thought and lax life, sucking you down into their corrupt atmosphere, and deadening your Christian instincts. Shake yourselves from this, and rouse up your Christian energies,’—for some have no knowledge of God: I speak this to move you to shame. ‘Only gross ignorance of God can account for sentiments so shameful arising in a Christian community.’ But, loth to confound the good with the bad in this severe censure, the apostle delicately ascribes this gross ignorance of God only to “some.”


Verse 35

1 Corinthians 15:35. But some one will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what manner of body do they come? Two questions are asked here. The first—“How are the dead raised?”—is answered half scornfully.


Verses 35-57

The Mode and Issues of the Resurrection, 35-57.

The invaluable information on the subject of the resurrection here given is drawn forth in the way of reply to objections, arising from the difficulty of conceiving how such a thing can be—a form of objection urged in our day with a plausibility which scientific discoveries are thought to render very formidable.


Verse 36

1 Corinthians 15:36. Senseless man! “Fool” is too strong a rendering of the word here used (which is not that rightly rendered “fool” in Matthew 23:17; Matthew 23:19; Luke 11:40; Luke 12:20)—that which thou thyself sowest is not quickened, except it die (compare John 12:24). ‘Not more truly does the grain require to die in the ground, to yield the bread we live on, and not more certainly does it yield it when thus first buried in the earthy than must this mortal body die in order to live again, nor more surely will it then rise to life.’ The next objection—“with what manner of body do they come?”—is answered more respectfully; for even Christians themselves may be troubled with it—and that which thou lowest, thou lowest not the body that shall be, but a bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other kind. What is reaped is not precisely what is sown.


Verse 38

1 Corinthians 15:38. but God giveth it a body even as it hath pleased him—at its original creation,—and to each seed a body of its own. ‘In the vegetable world the Creator has shown inexhaustible resources in point of variety; how easy then to give to the body at its resurrection other properties than those of its mortal state, without destroying its essential identity?’


Verse 39

1 Corinthians 15:39. All flesh is not the same flesh. ‘Take the members of the animal creation too; neither are they, any more than those of the vegetable world, all of one type,’—but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fishes.(1) In the next two verses the illustrations rise into a higher region.


Verse 40

1 Corinthians 15:40. There are also celestial bodies—not those of good angels (as Alford, after De Wette and Meyer, unnaturally), but, as the next verse clearly shews, what we call the ‘heavenly bodies’—sun, moon, and stars (as Bengel, Neander, and Stanley), and bodies terrestrial—embracing all that distinguishes the organisms of earth from those of the heavens,—but the glory of the celestial is one, etc.


Verse 41

1 Corinthians 15:41. There is one glory of the sun, etc. There is here no reference to the different degrees of glory among the saints in heaven (as some of the Greek fathers thought, and some moderns think). It is simply the amazing variety observable in the spangled vault above us, suggesting the reasonableness of expecting that the resurrection body will differ greatly from the mortal body, consistently with its essential identity. Accordingly, it is added.

Ver, 42. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown. Observe the word “sown” here, not ‘buried,’ for the similitude of seed cast into the earth is purposely continued,—in corruption—going quickly to decay,—it is raised in incorruption—undecaying.


Verse 43

1 Corinthians 15:43. it is sown in dishonour becoming so repulsive that one is fain to say with Abraham, of the dearest object in life, “Bury my dead out of my sight,”—it is raised in glory—resplendent and ravishing to behold (compare Matthew 28:3; Luke 9:29-31; 1 John 3:2), it is sown in weakness—the lifeless corpse absolutely powerless,—it is raised in power-endued with inexhaustible energy.


Verse 44

1 Corinthians 15:44. it is sown a natural body—Gr. ‘an animal body,’ animated by the same vital principle which we have in common with the entire animal kingdom,—it is raised a spiritual body—not meaning a body simply of finer material than the present (the contrast does not lie in that), but a body whose animating principle is “the spirit,” or rational nature in its entirely purified and perfected condition; a body all whose organs and properties will be adapted to the inner and higher nature whose handmaid it is to be. (To be sober and safe on such a subject, one needs to keep strictly within the lines of these definitions.)

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body(1)—the one no less certain than the other—and simply an advance from the lower to the higher.


Verse 45

1 Corinthians 15:45. So also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. “The last Adam,” as a name for the promised Messiah, is not unknown to the rabbinical writers, though that feature in His constitution which is here expressed—His becoming the second Head of humanity, who would more than undo the evil done by the first—was never dreamt of by them.


Verse 46

1 Corinthians 15:46. Howbeit that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural—by an ascent from the lower to the higher, as is the law of all God’s works.


Verse 47

1 Corinthians 15:47. The first man is of the earth. The word signifies ‘rubbish,’ ‘loose earth,’ ‘dust’ (as in Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 12:7 in LXX.),—the second man is of heaven.(1) The reference here is not to the properties of Christ’s flesh, as received from the Virgin, but to the properties of His resurrection or spiritual body, as is plain from what follows.


Verse 48

1 Corinthians 15:48. As is the earthy (man)—the first Adam,—such . . . the earthy: and as is the heavenly (One), such are they also that are heavenly—the risen saints shall be invested with heavenly properties, like their Head (see Philippians 3:21).


Verse 49

1 Corinthians 15:49. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear(1) the heavenly.

Note.—So far is the question—“with what body do they come?”—from being unnatural, that after all the explanation now given, the difficulty will recur in this form: ‘If that which is sown is not that which dies, in what sense is it the resurrection of the dead? In other words, ‘what is that in the two states which constitutes their identity?’ The best answer to this question is, that the same difficulty applies to our personal identity through out the present life. From infancy to old age there is a constant flux in the particles of our natural body; insomuch that it is never at any one period in all respects precisely what it was at any other period; yet in every human being, by a law of his nature, there is an irresistible conviction that whether as child, youth, or man, he is the tame individual that he was from the first. Beyond that there is no need to go, nor perhaps shall we ever discover wherein precisely the principle of personal identity consists.


Verse 50

Now come sublime disclosures.

Ver. 50. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and bloodi.e. humanity as now constituted, “mortal,” “corruptible,” “weak,” etc. (James 1:10; 1 Peter 1:24)—cannot inherit the kingdom of God—which is “incorruptible, undefiled, unfading,” 1 Peter 1:4.


Verse 51

1 Corinthians 15:51. Behold, I tell you a mystery—in the sense so often explained—a thing hitherto undisclosed, and even now known only by revelation. The disclosure here referred to, and the corresponding one in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, appears to have been made exclusively to the apostle himself

We shall not all sleep—the sleep of death; for a generation of believers will be “alive and remain when the Lord comes” (1 Thessalonians 4:15),—but we shall all be changed(1)—from mortality to immortality, from corruption to incorruption; a change which in the living will be equivalent to both death and resurrection all but instantaneously occurring, while they are standing, it may be, on their feet, expecting nothing, and working their ordinary work.


Verse 52

1 Corinthians 15:52. in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye—a sublime expression of all but instantaneousness. There will, indeed, be an interval between the “resurrection” of the dead and the “changing” of the living saints—for “the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16), but so brief as to be but as the “twinkling of an eye,”—at the last trump (“the trump of God,” 1 Thessalonians 4:16), for the trumpet shall sound—audibly, it would seem, as the signal for the winding up of all present things,—and we (the living) shall be changed.


Verse 53

1 Corinthians 15:53. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal (of ours)(1) put on immortality. The same figure—of “putting off” and “putting on” the dress of our present and future state is found in 2 Corinthians 5:2-4.


Verse 54

1 Corinthians 15:54. And 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 (Isaiah 25:8), Death is swallowed up in victory.(1) Having closed his argument with these sublime words of one prophet, the apostle’s bosom seems to have so swelled with emotion as to vent itself in the exultant exclamation of another prophet.


Verse 55

1 Corinthians 15:55. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? (Hosea 13:14). The textual evidence for this reading of so familiar a verse is decisive; and though it may be less grateful to the ear accustomed to the old form of it, it will be found on reflection to be more expressive. The challenge to “death,” to say where is now its “victory,” seems the natural sequel of the immediately preceding words, “Death is swallowed up in victory;” as if he had said, ‘The tables are turned upon thee now: till now the victory was thine indeed; for “the wages of sin was death,” and thou hadst a right to see them duly paid. But thy sting has been extracted, and where is it now?’ And this view of the exclamation explains sufficiently the emphatic repetition of “death” in both members of the question, instead of “grave” in the second question (an addition from the LXX.); for the dreaded enemy is really “death,” the grave being but its sequel.


Verse 56

1 Corinthians 15:56. The sting of death is sin—as it inflicts on the sinner a wound which is mortal (Romans 6:23),—and the power of sin is the law. Law is the expression of sovereign authority. A law which has “no power” to avenge the breach of itself is no law at all. But the Divine law has deadly “power,” since the breach of it is “death.” It will be seen that “sin”here is viewed in its penal, not its moral character; as criminal, as damnable, as, in its desert, deadly rather than as hateful (as in Romans 4:15; Romans 5:13; 1 John 3:4); though these two features of sin are of course inseparable.


Verse 57

1 Corinthians 15:57. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ—whose full name in this closing word the apostle expressively gives.


Verse 58

Inference from the whole subject, 58.

1 Corinthians 15:58. Wherefore, my beloved brethren—in view of all that has been held forth to you on this subject—be ye stedfast, unmoveable—not moved either by the specious reasonings or by the lax life of “men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth” (1 Timothy 6:5),—always abounding in the work of the Lord. The way not to go back is to go forward, the way to be “unmoveable” is to be “always abounding.” The secret of stability is progress. The progressive principle is the grand conservative principle. Not to advance is to recede,forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. Woefully “in vain” would their “labour” be if there were no resurrection. But holding this for a settled point, the apostle says, “ye know” it is “not vain;” and “the Lord,” he says, is pledged that it shall not be so.

Thus, with beautiful calmness and ease, does the apostle come down, in this closing verse, from the height to which he had risen in the verses immediately preceding, to the everyday work and warfare of life. Nor is this wonderful; for the spring of all Christian activity, energy, and progress Ties in such soul-stirring themes as are handled in this chapter, whose practical outcome is expressed in the closing verse.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/1-corinthians-15.html. 1879-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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