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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
1 Corinthians 15

 

 

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Verses 1-9

1 Corinthians 15:1. Moreover, brethren I declare unto you the gospel —

Mark that Paul writes concerning “the gospel.” We shall see now what “the gospel” is.

1 Corinthians 15:1-3. Which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

That is the central truth of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 15:4. And that he was buried,

That is an essential part of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 15:4. And that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

This is the bright light of the gospel, the resurrection of our Lord from the dead —

1 Corinthians 15:5-9. And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Yet he was made one amongst the many testifiers to the fact that Jesus really died, and was buried, and rose from the dead, of which we will speak more particularly by-and-by.

This exposition consisted of readings from Mark 15:34-47; John 19:38-42; John , 1 CORINTHIAN 15:1-9


Verses 1-20

1 Corinthians 15:1-2. Moreover, Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

Paul preached the gospel, his hearers received it, and also stood in it: “wherein ye stand.” It is essential to salvation to hear the gospel, to receive it, and then to stand in it. Now, what was this gospel? Paul is going to tell us; and instead of making a list of doctrines, he mentions a set of facts.

1 Corinthians 15:3. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received,

Notice that the preacher does not make the gospel. If he makes it, it is not worth your having. Originality in preaching, if it be originality in the statement of doctrine, is falsehood. We are not makers and inventors; we are repeaters, we tell the message we have received.

1 Corinthians 15:3. How that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

This then, is the gospel, that Jesus “died for our sins”, taking our sins upon himself. He bore the death penalty for us, “according to the scriptures.” There are plenty of scriptures, Old Testament scriptures, which teach this great truth by way of prophecy.

1 Corinthians 15:4. And that he was buried,

This was necessary as a proof of his death, and as the ground work of his rising again.

1 Corinthians 15:4. And that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

This is the gospel, Christ dead, buried, risen again, ever living. We must dwell upon these points, for they are the essentials of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 15:5-6. And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present,

When Paul wrote,-

1 Corinthians 15:6-7. But some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

In different places, and at different hours; sometimes by one, sometimes by eleven, once by five hundred brethren at once, Jesus was seen after he had risen from the dead. As I have often said, there is no historical fact that is so well authenticated as that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:8. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Paul calls himself an abortion, and speaks of himself as one hardly worth mentioning; yet he had seen the Lord after his resurrection from the dead. He was not a man to be deceived, for he had persecuted the Church of Christ. He was exceedingly mad against the Messiah; so that if he said that he had seen Jesus of Nazareth, and that he was converted by the sight, we may be quite sure that it was so. Paul was not a man to undergo all the sacrifices he had to endure, for the sake of a mere dream.

1 Corinthians 15:9-10. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

No man could be more thoroughly with Christ, heart and soul, than that Paul who, aforetime, had been the blood thirsty Saul of Tarsus. His witness may well be believed; and, in connection with all that went before it, it proves beyond all doubt that he who was crucified and was laid in the tomb, did certainly rise again, and was seen in life after death.

1 Corinthians 15:11. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

There was not a doubt about that. All the apostles, all the early Christians preached the resurrection of Christ; and the Corinthians, when they became Christians, believed it.

1 Corinthians 15:12. Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

What! had they got so far as that, to call themselves Christians, and yet they doubted the truth of the resurrection of the dead? Yes, they spirited it away, they made it into a kind of myth or fable; and yet they called themselves Christians. That the heathen should not believe it, was not wonderful; but that those who professed to believe that Christ had risen from the dead, yet doubted the resurrection of his people, was indeed a strange thing. Paul argues with them about this matter.

1 Corinthians 15:13-14. But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, we are preaching a falsehood. If he did not rise from the dead, you are believing a falsehood, and our preaching and your believing are nothing but vanity.

1 Corinthians 15:15-17. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

If Jesus Christ is not risen, he has done nothing for you; you are not saved, you are not pardoned, you are not renewed. It is all a myth, all a piece of deceit. If that fact be given up, that Christ rose from the dead, everything connected with salvation is also given up.

1 Corinthians 15:18. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

All the godly saints died resting in the risen Christ; and if he is not risen, they died under a delusion, and they have perished.

1 Corinthians 15:19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

Those who are believers in Christ, says Paul, are miserable dupes if he has not risen from the dead. They are believing and resting all their hopes upon a lie. It makes them happy, truly; but if you can take away from them that hope, by persuading them that what it is grounded upon is not true, you have made them miserable indeed.

1 Corinthians 15:20. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

Paul has been arguing on every supposition, and now he comes back with his own positive witness a Christ is risen. You remember that Jesus died at the time of the Passover, as the one great Paschal Lamb; but he rose again on the first day of the week, and that was the feast of firstfruits with the Jews. They brought handfuls of wheat from the fields to show their gratitude to God, and in order that a blessing might rest on all the crop; and Paul uses Christ’s rising on that particular day as a figure: “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept.” He lives. He is the firstfruits, and the full harvest will follow. All who are in him will rise from the dead; for he is one with them, and none can separate them from him, nor sever him from them. They died in him, and they live because he liveth, blessed be his name


Verses 1-32

1 Corinthians 15:1-2. Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand. By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

By which the apostle means, unless they had a false faith, a merely notional faith; or he may also mean “Unless what I have preached unto you should have been a fable, and therefore you will have exercised your faith upon nothing real, and so it would have been in vain.”

1 Corinthians 15:3. For I delivered unto you first of all that which, I also received,-

The preacher of Christ must not make new doctrines. He is not to be his own teacher, he is to receive the truth first, and then to deliver it. The Christian minister takes the lamp out of the hand of God, and then passes it on to the hands of his people. Think not that any originality is needed in the pulpit. All that is required is that the herald should faithfully deliver his Master’s message just as his Master gives it to him. “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received,-“

1 Corinthians 15:3-4. How that Christ died for our sins according to the scripture; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

There are many passages in the Old Testament which describe the Messiah as dying for sinners, especially the old chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy. There are others that speak of him as being buried, yet not corrupting in the tomb. These were facts which the apostle had received upon the testimony of others; now comes the great fact of the resurrection:-

1 Corinthians 15:5-8. And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostle. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

The apostle does not attempt to defend the doctrine of the resurrection by an argument fetched from reason, but he proves it by undoubted evidence. If I had to prove that there existed such a tree as the cedar, I should not use logical arguments further than this,-I produce a certain number of men who have seen a cedar, and the thing is proved by their testimony. If the evidence of honest men be not accepted, then there is an end, not only to Christianity, but to all the sciences, and you and I must wander forever in a maze of doubts. Now, of all the facts recorded in history, there is not one which is better attested than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The men who testified that they had seen the risen Christ evidently had no selfish reason for doing so. What is the result of their testimony ? They were cast into prison, they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, simply for believing the evidence of their own senses, and testifying what they knew to be true. It is clear that they would have had no interest in publishing this fact if it had not been true; their interest would have lain quite the other way. Besides, it was not as if only a few had seen him but over five hundred brethren at once beheld him. For forty days he was gazed upon by different persons, and the fact is proved beyond all doubt.

1 Corinthians 15:9. For I am the least of the apostles that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

“God has forgiven me,” said a good man once, “but I shall never forgive myself.” So was it with the apostle Paul; he knew that God had forgiven him, and honoured him by making him an apostle, but he could not forgive himself; and no doubt the tears gushed from his eyes when he wrote these words, “I am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

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, out I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me

In what humble tones Paul speaks! He will not deny what grace has done in him and by him, but he will ascribe it all to grace. Brethren, you are not to shut your eyes to the gracious change which God’s Holy Spirit has wrought in you. You may speak of it, and speak of it often, but always guard against taking any of the honour to yourselves, and be especially careful to put the crown upon the right head.

1 Corinthians 15:11-12. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

For Christ was the pattern man to all his people. He is their Representative. Whatever he did, he did for them; and whatever was wrought in him shall be surely wrought in them, and if Christ rose from the dead, then all who are members of his mystical body must rise too; for when the Head comes out of the grave, you cannot retain the members in it. Prove that Christ rose, and you prove that his people rise, for they are one with him.

1 Corinthians 15:13. But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

Yet it is proved by hundreds of credible witnesses that Christ is risen, therefore there is a resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:14. And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

This truth is the key-stone of the arch, put this away, and the whole tumbles down. It is upon this that the whole Christian system rests. If the resurrection of Christ be a mere myth, and not a positive matter of fact, preaching and faith are equally vain.

1 Corinthians 15:15. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

The apostle puts the matter strongly, yet not too strongly. He seems to say, “You know me to be an honest and truthful man, having no selfish motive in what l declare unto you; but if Christ did not rise from the dead, I have testified to you a gross falsehood, and led you to put your trust in an imposture.” So he stakes his own personal character upon the fact of Christ resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:16-17. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

Yet they knew that they were not in their sins, for they had the witness within them that their sins had been pardoned. They knew that sin had no more dominion over them, for they had been made to walk in holiness before the Lord. “Therefore,” says Paul, “Christ must have risen, for if he had not risen, you would have remained sinners as you once were.”

1 Corinthians 15:18. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

A supposition against which both nature and grace revolt.

1 Corinthians 15:19-20. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

As they always brought into the Jewish tabernacle and temple a portion of the harvest, which indicated that the harvest was begun, so Christ’s going up to heaven was the taking of the first sheaf into God’s great garner, and all the rest must follow.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even in Christ shall all be made alive.

Not that all shall be saved, but all will be raised from the dead. Or else the passage means that, as all who were in the first Adam died as the result of Adam’s sin, so all who are in the second Adam, that is, Christ, shall live as the result of his righteousness. The question is, Are we in the second Adam? Faith is that which unites us to Christ. If we are trusting in him by a living faith, then his rising from the dead ensures our rising from the dead; and if not, it be true that we shall rise, but it will be to shame and everlasting contempt.

1 Corinthians 15:23-28. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is accepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

This is a very difficult passage, but I suppose the meaning is just this. Jesus Christ, in order to remedy the great mischief of sin, was appointed to a mediatorial kingdom over all worlds, and that kingdom will continue until all his enemies shall be destroyed, and sin shall be trodden under his feet. Then Christ-as mediator, mark you, not as Lord, shall deliver up his mediatorial kingdom to his Father, and there shall be heard that great shout, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The Lord God omnipotent reigneth!” Christ as God, as one of the persons of the ever-blessed Trinity, will still be as glorious as ever, but his mediatorial reign will then be over, seeing that he hath accomplished all its purposes.

1 Corinthians 15:29. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

This is another most difficult passage, and many meanings have been given to it, but I think the most likely to be correct is this: As soon as a member of the early Christian Church was given up to the lion or to be burned, another convert would step forward, and say, Let me take his name and place.” Though it was almost certain that they also would soon be put to death, there were always found persons bold enough to come forward to be baptized, to take the place of the dead. “Now,” says the apostle, “what advantage is there in this horizon if the dead rise not ?”

1 Corinthians 15:30. And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

Why were the apostles always subjecting themselves to cruel persecution?

1 Corinthians 15:31. I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

He was so hunted about everywhere that there was not a day in whole he felt secure of his life, so he asks, “Why should I endure this if there be no world to come?”

1 Corinthians 15:32. If after the manner of men I has fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?

It is quite possible that Paul was thrown to the lions in the theatre at Ephesus, and that he fought with them, and came off a conqueror. “But why,” says he, “did I try to save my life for future labour and for future suffering if the dead rise not ?”

1 Corinthians 15:32. Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.

This is the best philosophy in the world if there is no life to come. So Paul has proved his point right well by every argument that he has used.


Verses 1-58

1 Corinthians 15:1-2. Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

What then was this gospel which Paul had preached, and which the Christians in Corinth had received,—the gospel which Paul declared would save them if they truly believed it? Was it a gospel made up merely of doctrines? No; it was a gospel formed of facts.

1 Corinthians 15:3. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

That is the first fundamental fact in the gospel system. Blessed is the man who believes it, and rests his soul upon it.

1 Corinthians 15:4. And that he was buried: and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

That grand fact of the resurrection of Christ from the dead is rightly put next to his substitutionary sacrifice, for it is the very cornerstone of our holy faith. It is one of the essential doctrines which must be received by us, for we cannot truly believe the gospel unless we accept the great truth of Christ’s resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:5-8. And that he was seen of Cephas,— that is, Peter,— then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James, then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

I suppose, brethren, that we may have persons arise, who will doubt whether there was ever such a man as Julius Caesar, or Napoleon Bonaparte; and when they do,—when all reliable history is flung to the winds,—then, but not till then, may they begin to question whether Jesus Christ rose from the dead, for this historical fact is attested by more witnesses than almost any other fact that stands on record in history, whether sacred or profane. The risen Christ was seen by many persons who knew him intimately before he died, by those who saw him put to death, and who saw him when he was dead. He was seen, on various occasions, privately, by one, by two, by twelve, of those who had been his companions for years; at other times, he was seen, in public, by large numbers who could not all have been deceived. These men were so certain that this was indeed the same Christ who had lived, and died, that, although it was at first difficult to make them believe that he had risen from the dead, it was impossible to make them doubt it afterwards, and the major part of them died to bear witness to the fact, they were martyred because they confessed that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead. There is no fact in history, from the days of Adam until now, that is better attested than this great central truth of the resurrection of Christ; so we accept it, and receive it gladly. Paul finishes up his list of witnesses by putting himself down as one of them, although his conversion was, to himself, such a marvellous display of divine grace that he was like “one born out of due time.”

1 Corinthians 15:9-14. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, the your faith is also vain.

It is all emptiness together. Our preaching evaporates—there is nothing left in it—unless Christ did really rise from the dead; and your faith has nothing in it either, you are believing in that which is only vanity, and nothingness unless his resurrection was a fact.

1 Corinthians 15:15-17. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom, he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

So that you cannot be a Christian if you deny the resurrection of Christ.

You must give up Christianity altogether, and confess that your faith in it was a delusion, unless you believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and that therefore there is a resurrection from the dead for the sons of men. Let it ever be most clearly understood that what Christ is, that his people are. There is an unbroken union between the Head and the members, so that, if he lives, they live; and if he lives not, then they live not; and if they live not, then he lives not. Jesus and those for whom he died are so intimately joined together that they are really and truly one, and nothing can ever separate them.

1 Corinthians 15:18-19. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

That is to say, if our hope for the future be all a lie, we have been dreadfully deceived; and, moreover, if we could lose a hope so brilliant as that has been to us, there would fall upon us a sense of loss so great that no one in the world could be so wretched as we should be. Besides, the apostles being always in jeopardy of their lives, if they were suffering poverty, and persecution, and the fear of death by martyrdom, all for a lie, they were indeed of all men the most deluded, and the most miserable. But the Corinthians would not admit that, neither will we.

1 Corinthians 15:20. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits—

He must always come first, that in all things he may have the preeminence.

1 Corinthians 15:20-28. Of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule the all authority and power. For he must reign, tall he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

The mediatorial person of Christ, as God-man, shall bow before the eternal majesty of the Godhead: “that God may be all in all.” Now we will finish our reading with just a few verses at the close of the chapter.

1 Corinthians 15:50-51. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

We shall not all die, some will be alive when Christ comes to this earth again; “but we shall all be changed,” if not by the process of death and resurrection, yet by some other means.

1 Corinthians 15:52. In, a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall he raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Somehow or other, such a change as this must take place before we can enter heaven, for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”

1 Corinthians 15:53-58. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on in corruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that ,is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

That should be the practical outcome of receiving the great truths of which we have been reading God grant that it may be! Amen.

This exposition consisted of readings from Revelation 7:9-17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-28; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58.

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/1-corinthians-15.html. 2011.

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Sunday, December 15th, 2019
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