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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
1 Corinthians 15

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. I declare—I now here state, I recapitulate, spread out before your view.

The gospel—The joyful Christ-history, with its doctrines embodied in the history. Note on Matthew’s title, before Matthew 1:1.


Verses 1-11

1. The Christ-history, especially Christ’s Resurrection, as received from apostolic witness, fully and firmly stated, 1-11.

We have here the historical argument for Christ’s resurrection, and so for the truth of Christianity, which was fully expanded into full and unanswerable volume by Paley. It is not the sole argument, but it is the ground argument, for our faith. By it Christianity is not a philosophy, like the teachings of Socrates, but a religion like nothing else in the world. A philosophy springs up from the human mind’s own powers; a religion comes down from above to man, revealing truths above man’s human powers.


Verse 2

2. Saved—It is by holy truth, received and kept in memory, that we are saved.


Verse 3

3. I delivered… received—St. Paul rigidly expresses the fact that his message was given, as received, with perfect exactness. In this Christ-narrative every item has been carefully guarded. He repeats it with all the formality of a profession of faith.

For our sins—’ υπερ, on behalf of our sins. So says Alford, and he very strikingly adds, “It may be noticed that in 1 Kings 16:19, where it is said that Zimri ‘died for ( υπερ) his sins which he had done,’ it is for his own sins, as their punishment, that he died. So that υπερ may bear the meaning, that Christ’s punishment was of the sins of our nature which he took upon him. But its undoubtedly inclusive vicarious import in other passages where υπερ ημων and the like occur, seems to rule it to have that sense here also.”

According to the Scriptures—See note on Luke 24:26. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and the whole system of Jewish sacrifices, were predictive of the one real sacrifice. The Scriptures, here, mean the Old Testament, for the New was but yet partially written.


Verse 4

4. Buried—Entombed.

According to the Scriptures—Christ’s resurrection was not an isolated event, like a resuscitation from catalepsy or drowning of some apparent corpse. See note on Acts 17:31; Acts 2:24. It is the crowning fact of a great organic system of facts, binding each other into one common solidity.


Verse 5

5. The twelve—Though Judas was dead and Thomas absent, so that they were but eleven, Paul calls the apostolic college by its habitual numerical title, the twelve. See our vol. ii, p. 81.


Verses 5-8

5-8. From among the appearances of our Saviour after his resurrection, Paul selects six as amply sufficient. Renan says in his “Apostles,” that the nervous imagination of one woman, Mary Magdalene, at the sepulchre, has changed the state of the world. But as if to refute so sweeping a statement by anticipation, Paul entirely omits the testimony of Mary, and also of the other females. He adduces mostly the apostles; especially the two most eminent, Peter and James, a company of five hundred, and last of all, himself.


Verse 6

6. Five hundred—An appearance not elsewhere mentioned; nor do the conjectures of commentators much illustrate the time or place. But most probably, as indicated in Matthew 28:16-17, in a mountain or highland of Galilee. (On the phrase a mountain, see our note on Luke 6:12.) As this was an appointment in Galilee, where so much of the ministry of Christ was spent, it were no wonder if there Jesus met a full assembly.

Greater part—A majority; more than two hundred and fifty. This event was between twenty and thirty years ago; but plenty of eyewitnesses still live. It was no myth formed by popular imagination.

Asleep—A beautiful image of death, implying the hope of an awakening to future life. See note on Luke 8:52. it conclusively implies that the same body that dies is raised, and not another substituted.

The epitaphs inscribed by the primitive Christians upon their tombs as found in the Roman catacombs abound in this cheerful image of repose and sleep. The following specimens are given by Mr. Withrow in his very interesting book on the Catacombs:

“We find also such expressions as follow: DEPOSTVS (sic) IN PACE FIDEI CATHOLICE, (sic)—’Buried in the peace of the Catholic faith,’ A.D. 462; HIC. REQ. IN PACE DEVS, (sic)— ‘Here rests in the peace of God,’ A.D. 500; IN PACE ECCLESIAE— ‘In the peace of the Church,’ A.D. 523; IN PACE ET BENEDICTIONE—’In peace and benediction;’ SEMPER FIDELIS MANEBIT APVD DEVM—’Ever faithful, he shall remain with God,’ (circ. 590); ZOTICVS HIC AD DORMIENDVM— ‘Zoticus here laid to sleep;’ DORMITIO ELPIDIS— ‘The sleeping-place of Elpis;’ DORMIVlT ET REQVIESCIT— ‘He has slept and is at rest;’ DORMIT SED VIVIT—’He sleeps but lives;’ QVIESCIT IN DOMINO IESV— ‘He reposes in the Lord Jesus;’ IVIT AD DEVM— ‘He went to God;’ EVOCATVS A DOMINO— ‘Called by God;’ ACCEPTA APVD DEVM— ‘Accepted with God;’ ετελειωθη—’He finished his life;’ εκοι΄ηθη—’He fell asleep;’ DAMILIS HIC SIC - V - D—’Here lies Damalis, for so God wills.’”—Pp. 429, 430.

The following epitaphs given by Mr. Withrow show that the image of sleep was limited to the body. While the eyes are closed in sleep, the soul is awake, and living in

“The Celestial realms:” “Of similar character are also the following: SALONICE ISPIRITVS TVVS IN BONIS—’Salonice, thy spirit is among the good;’ REFRIGERAS SPIRITVS TVVS IN BONIS—’Thou refreshest thy spirit among the good;’ πρωτοC εν αγιω πνευ΄ατι θεου ενθαδε κειται—’Here in the Holy Spirit of God lieth Protus;’ CORPVS HABET TELLVS ANIMAM CAELESTIA REGNA—’The earth has the body, celestial realms the soul;’ γλυκερον φαοC ου κατελεφασ (sic) εσχεσ γαρ ΄ετα C ου παναθανατον—’Thou didst not leave the sweet light, for thou hadst with thee Him who knows not death,’ literally, ‘the all-deathless One;’ AGAPE VIBIS IN ETERNVM—’Agape, thou livest forever;’ DORMIT ET VIVIT IN PACE XO, (sic)—’He sleeps and lives in the peace of Christ;’ MENS NESCIA MORTIS VIVIT ET ASPECTV FRVITVR BENE CONSCIA CHRISTI—’The soul lives unknowing of death, and consciously rejoices in the vision of Christ;’ PRIMA VIVIS IN GLORIA DEI ET IN PACE DOMINI NOSTRI XR.—’Prima, thou livest in the glory of God, and in the peace of Christ, our Lord.’”—Pp. 430, 431.

These epitaphs show the primitive Christian doctrines to have been: 1. That the self-same body that sleeps in death shall awake to the resurrection. 2. That between death and the resurrection the soul is in an intermediate state of blessed consciousness, awaiting the resurrection of its sleeping body.


Verse 7

7. James—Half brother of the Lord, bishop of Jerusalem, author of the Epistle of James. See notes on Matthew 10:3; and Acts 12:2.

All the apostles—Probably the same as mentioned in Acts 1:4.


Verse 8

8. One born out of due time—Born, not after, but before, the time; and consequently immature and unshapely.


Verse 9

9. For—While the other apostles were following Jesus and hearing his divine wisdom, Paul was sitting at the feet of the rabbins and hearing their traditions. While the other apostles were preaching the crucified and arisen Saviour, he persecuted the Church of God. He was, therefore, a crude material to make into an apostle. And he still feels the terrible dwarfing and deforming effect of that crime of persecuting the Church resting upon his being. It was from this distorted history that he was the last of all to see the risen Saviour. Had he been in timely and regular manner chosen by Jesus with the twelve he would have seen him with them at his resurrection.

Not meet—Viewing himself in that light, he felt as fully as his assailants could wish that he was unfit to be an apostle. Of this fact they fully availed themselves to the last. But there was another side to the matter which he will next give.


Verse 10

10. Whatever I was as a persecutor, yet by the grace of God I am what I am—An apostle!

Not in vain—He was, he says, (Acts 26:19,) “not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.”

More abundantly than they all— Than any one of them all.

Not I—Spoken comparatively. Yet while he would claim much in comparison with other apostles, he has no claim to make in competition with God’s grace.


Verse 11

11. Therefore—In view of this profession of faith.

Or they—The other apostles.

So we preach—Ours is a common and unanimous apostolic doctrine; including the resurrection of the dead. This is a very positive declaration of Paul that he and the other apostles preached one faith and dogma.

So ye believed—As I have preached, so have ye believed, the one common catholic apostolic faith. The concealed object of this covered approach is revealed in the next paragraph.


Verse 12

2. A denial of the resurrection is a denial of the resurrection of Christ, and so a repudiation of the Christian faith, 12-19.

12. If… how say—This draws out the issue.

Some—Who or what were these some? Though with the Sadducees they denied the resurrection of the dead, and probably also the existence of spirit, the opposition between Sadducees and Christians renders it improbable that these deniers belonged to that sect. They may have been converts from among the followers of the Athenian philosophers, especially the Epicureans, who dismissed Paul so promptly for preaching Jesus and the resurrection. Indeed, the summit of the Acrocorinthus was almost in sight of Athens; and this epistle, addressed not only to Corinth but to the Churches of Achaia, doubtless included Athens. Nevertheless the some appear, from the objections of theirs answered by St. Paul, to have rejected the resurrection on account of their holding the oriental Gnostic doctrine of the essential impurity of matter. See note on Acts 8:9.

Resurrection—The resurrection is, in the New Testament, designated by two words, each designating precisely the same event, but from a different standpoint; 1. ‘ εγειρω, to raise, transitively; where the divine power is the agent; 2. ανιστημι, (noun αναστασις,) to rise up; where the person rising is the agent. In this chapter the former word is used at 1 Corinthians 15:4; 1 Corinthians 15:12-15; 1 Corinthians 15:15; 1 Corinthians 15:15-16; 1 Corinthians 15:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:29; 1 Corinthians 15:32; 1 Corinthians 15:35; 1 Corinthians 15:42-43; 1 Corinthians 15:43-44; the latter at 1 Corinthians 15:12-13; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:42; 1 Corinthians 15:52. Both words are applied to the resurrection of Christ, and to the resurrection of the general dead indiscriminately. The former is uniformly held as the essential model of the other.

He rose from the dead—Literally, that he has been raised from deads. See our note on Luke 20:35, where the difference between a resurrection of the dead, a resurrection from the dead, and a resurrection from deads, (dead being Greek plural and without the article,) is shown. This is a very important distinction, which no commentator has clearly noticed. Here it is a resurrection from deads or dead ones, Christ himself being included in the dead ones from whom he is raised; the being raised from one’s own dead self being included in the word.


Verse 13

13. If… no resurrectionIf resurrection of deads there is not. If (such is the supposition) no resurrection of any dead persons takes place: if a resurrection is excluded from nature and thought. So thought the Epicureans and Stoics at Athens, (Acts 17:32,) flouting or politely dismissing the idea of a resurrection from consideration.

Christ not risen—Literally, Christ has not been raised. He is still dead. The reasoning is decisive as a syllogism, from the universal to the particular. So the Athenians reasoned, from universal to individual.


Verse 14

14. Our preaching… your faithOur preaching and your faith are alike a vanity. St. Paul does not suppose that any one will reply. But even without a resurrection, is not the soul immortal, and may not its immortality be blissful through Christ? He does not anticipate this reply, because those deniers did not admit any such immortality. Nor, to all appearance, does Paul himself base our Christian hopes upon an immortality of soul that is not based on Christ, that is, of which our resurrection is not the base, and that based on his resurrection. He preached not Jesus and the immortality of the soul, but Jesus and the resurrection. That he believed in the separate existence and immortality of the soul appears from Philippians 1:23-24. But man is an immortal being, not because he is a thinking substance, for brutes think; but because he is by God placed in the conditions for immortality. A lamp will burn forever if the conditions of carbon and oxygen are properly supplied. An animal would be immortal if placed by God in the conditions for its immortality. Now man is an immortal being because he is placed by God in a probationary system, the basis of which is the resurrection, the accompaniment of which resurrection is the perpetuation of the existence of the soul through the intermediate state until its reunion with the body. Of this destiny for immortality, the proofs drawn from the high intuitive character of the spirit of man are valid and powerful. Animals fear death, and avoid localities of danger. But animals are below the conception of immortality, which is a form of the idea of the Infinite.

From this view it is clear that no argument can be drawn against the immortality of man from the high intellective character of some animals. We are not, indeed, obliged by Christianity to deny the immortality of brutes, or insects. We are perfectly free to believe even that every case of individualized perceptive life, (that is, every intellective entity individualized by being once united to a material organism,) remains a thinking individual forever. But the Pauline ground for man’s immortality is the assumed fact of man’s probationary condition under the headship of Christ, as heir of the resurrection.


Verse 15

15. False witnesses—The supposition not only empties our faith of all value, but it makes all of us apostles perjurers. Paul admits no excuse on grounds of the apostles being mistaken, deceived by false perceptions or excited imaginations. It is an issue of personal veracity.

Of God—False reporters of, or in regard to, God.

Of God—The Greek (in spite of Alford) can hardly be otherwise rendered than against God. The charge is, that we have testified against God what he never did; and what either the laws of nature or the corruptness of matter forbids him to do. And, says Grotius ingeniously: “If any one adulterates the coin of the king, he is most severely punished. Miracles are the coin of God.”


Verses 16-19

16-19. Paul now commences a new series of ifs, supposing Christ not risen, and ending with the perdition of the dead saints, and utter misery of the living.


Verse 17

17. In your sins—If Christ is still dead, and Christianity is nothing, we are in a pagan or Jewish condition. We have no deliverance from sin; neither by Christ, nor from the expiations that Judaism or paganism professes to offer. Both these systems had their sense of sin, and their sacrifices and lustrations for it. But if Christ rose not, ye Christians, wholly without expiation, are yet in your sins.


Verse 18

18. Fallen asleep—Ruckert quotes an elegant sentence from Photius: “In regard to Christ, Paul uses the term death in order that his dying should be clearly affirmed; when he speaks of us, he uses the cheerful word sleep, that he may yield us consolation. When resurrection is the subject he frankly says death; but when he dwells upon our hopes he calls it sleep.”

Are perished—Literally, They that fell asleep in Christ perished; that is, aoristically, they perished in the act of falling asleep. They fell asleep in Christ, according to the Christian and Pauline view; they perished upon the non-resurrection and non-Christian view. What, then, is the meaning of perished? And it seems not pertinent here to say, with Kling: “Perdition, according to Scripture, is not annihilation, but the state of damnation— remaining in gehenna;” for Paul is writing for, and probably arguing with, those who ignore Gehenna, and even the future existence of the soul. Nor does it seem pertinent to say, with Alford, that perished means “passed into misery in hades.” Both these views Paul seems carefully to avoid expressing, and uses the generic term perished, which was in use among Gentiles on this very point, and which does not define the nature of the ruin. Besides, his statement that the falling asleep and the perishing is one and the same thing, forbids this applying the word perishing to an after state. Those with whom he argues confine the hope in Christ to this life, 1 Corinthians 15:19; and their view yields the Epicurean maxim of 1 Corinthians 15:32, both of which passages suggest that these heretics denied the future of the soul.

The philosophers who mocked Paul at Athens denied alike the resurrection, and the immortality of the soul. A short time before Christ, Cesar, in the Roman senate, argued against executing the followers of Cataline under the assumption, fully expressed, that death is the last of man; and of the entire senate not one dissented from that belief. This was the settled view of the civilized paganism of the age. Even the poets, who playfully prattled of manes, hades, and shadowy Plutonian domes, did, as prosaic thinkers, reject and laugh at such myths. And these Corinthian deniers of the resurrection clearly held the view that Christianity only presented a resurrection of the soul from sin, and was, therefore, a good thing for this life, but nothing for the life to come.


Verse 19

19. In this life—The Sadducees, Stoics, and Epicureans held to rewards of virtue in this life. Paul could concede that; but when they proceeded to add in this life only, he objected.

Most miserable—Rather, most pitiable. They were more pitiable than either of the above three sects, because they underwent persecution, privation, and martyrdom; but still more because, on the supposition stated, they did all this inflated with false visions of eternal glory hereafter. And so pagan authors held the Christian readiness for suffering and death an infatuation. Said the philosopher Epictetus, “Is it possible that a man may arrive at this temper and become indifferent to those things, from madness or from habit, like the Galileans?” And the Emperor Marcus Aurelius said, “Let this preparedness of mind (for death) arise from its own judgment, and not from obstinacy, like the Christians.”


Verse 20

20. But now—After all these denials.

Is Christ risen—Reaffirmed with sublime emphasis.

Firstfruits—According to the Mosaic ritual the first product of the year from field, vineyard, etc., was sacred, and offered unto God. So Christ, as the first raised from the dead to die no more, was the firstfruits of the universal resurrection. Others, like Lazarus and the son of the widow of Nain, were raised from death; and that raising is called, in verb form, a resurrection; but they were raised in mortal body to die again. Their raising was no part of the organic universal resurrection. Christ was the first who went from the tomb to heaven.


Verses 20-28

3. Reaffirmation of Christ’s resurrection, and statement of the place of the resurrection in the divine system, 20-28.

This sublime passage, preceded by 2 Thessalonians 1:10, and followed by 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 of this chapter, forms a part of what we may call the Apocalypse of St. Paul. It differs from that of St. John as being briefer and more literal; and, because it is more literal, John is to be explained by Paul rather than Paul by John.


Verse 21

21. For—Just as the afterfruits are of the same nature with the firstfruits, so the human race is after the nature of its heads.

By man—It pleased God that in some way humanity should within itself, however aided by divinity, work out its own destiny, both for death and life; within itself, in Adam and in Christ.


Verse 21-22

21, 22. Compare this parallelism between Adam and Christ with that in Romans 5:12-21.


Verse 22

22. In Adam… in Christ—Literally in the Adam, in the Christ. That all the race was done up in Adam and drawn out from him, (just as the successive lengths of a spyglass are done up in and drawn out from the first length,) is not a literal fact. It is an imaginative conception, which, properly guarded, gives a powerful impression of the truth. St. Augustine, by perverting the conception, did almost as much to corrupt Christian theology as he did, in other respects, to defend it. See note on Romans 5:12. The being made alive here, is simply the same as the resurrection in the previous verse, and affirms, merely, a universal bodily resurrection. The being in Christ refers not to the incorporation into Christ’s mystical body of believers by faith, but to their being taken in under his headship of the race, as they were previously in under the headship of Adam by descent.


Verse 23

23. Every man—Shall be made alive, in his own order. Order is in the Greek a military term, signifying a band or battalion. The three battalions are Christ, his own, and the wicked. As the apostle, however, is writing for Christians, and for Christian consolation, he here skips the wicked and pictures the resurrection of the righteous solely. He paints the glorious resurrection, or, in other words, the glorious side of the resurrection, alone. That he believed in the resurrection of the wicked is shown by his words, Acts 24:15, where see note.

At his coming—His PAROUSIA a Greek word which, in reference to Christ, always denotes his personal presence at the second advent to judge the world. Of this event the Apostles’ Creed says: “He ascended into heaven,… from thence he shall come to judge the quick,” (living) “and the dead.” The passages containing the word parousia, in application to Christ, and always translated coming, are the following: Matthew 24:3; Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9; James 5:7-8; 2 Peter 1:16; 2 Peter 3:4; 2 Peter 3:12; 1 John 2:28. Other comings of God or Christ are mentioned in the Old Testament and New, both in verb and noun forms, which may designate any of the providential interpositions of God in great events, and which are not to be identified with this PAROUSIA.


Verse 24

24. Then cometh the endThe end of the mediatorial and probationary kingdom of the Messiah; that is, its restoring by Christ to the Father. This is the result of the completed judgment of both the righteous and the unrighteous. The words afterward and then, which mark the second and third of the points of succession, are in Greek επειτα and ειτα, which furnish no indication of the length of interval between the points. As the apostle was not given to know the length of time between Christ’s resurrection and second advent, nor between that advent and the end, he gives no measurement. Personally, he may have believed it possible that the three events were with little or no interval; and the revelation vouchsafed here to him, affirms nothing as to time. But many commentators hold that there are two bodily resurrections; one of the righteous and the other of the wicked, a thousand years apart; so that the end, the third point, is at least that length of period from the parousia. The only authority for this opinion is Revelation 20:5, which, however, describes a resurrection of “souls,” not of bodies. The same two resurrections are shadowed by John in his gospel, John 5:25-29. There is nothing here to show any length of interval between the advent and the end, or to show that there is more than a one twofold resurrection at that advent. And such is the doctrine of Matthew 24, 25, and of John 5:28-29, as well as of the Apostles’ Creed just quoted, and, we may add, of all the confessions of faith of the great Churches of Christendom. The parousia or advent of this verse is identical with the “great white throne” of Revelation 20:11.

The kingdom—The rule of the Son, as bringing to order the rebellion of the world, is well compared by Grotius to the vice-royalty of a king’s son, sent forth to subdue an insurgent province. When every enemy is subdued, he returns to the capital, gives up his commission, resigns his foreign viceroyalty, and resumes his royal place at the royal right hand; and the king is all-ruling in all things, owing to the harmony restored.

To God, even the Father—Literally, to the God and Father.

Put down—A bad rendering for καταργηση, which means nullify, abolish, or put out of existence, not the persons of his enemies, but their organic rule, authority, and power.


Verse 25

25. For—Assigns Scripture proof of this abolition. He, Christ, must reign from his accession to the end above mentioned. The quotation is from Psalms 110:1, in which “Jehovah says to my Jehovah, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” With this compare our notes on Matthew 28:18, and Acts 1:1, showing Christ’s investiture with this kingdom at his ascension in accordance with Daniel 7:13.

Put all enemies under his feet—As their organisms in the last verse were to be abolished, so their persons it is that are put down. The figure is taken from the custom of ancient conquerors placing their feet upon the head of the conquered. See note on Acts 2:35. It indicates not the conversion, but the powerful subjection, of incorrigible enemies.


Verse 26

26. The last enemy—Literally, the last enemy shall be abolished, death. The word for abolished is the same as we have so rendered in 1 Corinthians 15:24. This is annihilation of death by the universal resurrection. So Revelation 20:14, “Death and hades were cast into the lake of fire;”

Revelation 21:4, “and there shall be no more death.” Death is an enemy to man, brought in by sin; an enemy to Christ, to whom Christ had first to submit, in order last to conquer and destroy.


Verse 27

27. He (God) hath put all things under his (Christ’s) feet—This is a quotation from Psalms 8:6; words which are spoken by the psalmist of man as in the earthly image of God; and are applied here, as in Hebrews 2:8, to Jesus as the representative man in his highest state.

But—These words may be thus paraphrased: When, at the consummation, God shall have pronounced that all things have actually become subjected to Christ, (in accordance with Psalms 8:6,) it is clear that he (God) who so put all things under Christ is excepted; so that he puts not himself under Christ. As Grotius says, this is that figure of exception mentioned by Greek rhetoricians as necessary in some instances, and is exemplified by the sentence, the sky covers all things, of course excepting the sky itself. This exception, Wordsworth thinks, Paul expressly makes in order to guard his Greek readers against the error of their own mythology, which makes Jupiter subject his own father, Saturn, to himself. Let the reader mark, that at the completion of this verse all things are under Christ, and Christ under the Father. The restoration of the mediatorial kingdom takes not all things from under Christ, as the coming home of the king’s eldest son, and the surrendry of his special temporal viceroyalty, does not diminish his perpetual rank and supremacy over all others, his father excepted. Rather is he higher, in the peaceful order and harmony of the home kingdom, for his temporary absence and victorious expedition. Christ’s kingdom is, therefore, “without end.”


Verse 28

28. God… all in all—The first all of the two here, which God may be, is an all of absolute power, pervading the second all things, immediate and without a mediator. For it is power, kingdom, authority, abolition, and subjection, which are the subject of the whole passage; not one word being spoken of reconciliation, communion, or love. This we think entirely decisive against all theories of Restorationism founded on this passage.

God is finally all things—in supremacy over and in all things. As the light perfectly pervades the perfectly transparent diamond, so that the diamond itself becomes invisible, being visually dissolved in light, so God, the omnipotent all, is omnipresent in all things. From the very nature of things, that omnipresence is perfectly blissful to every conscious nature accordant with it; but perfectly woful to every conscious nature discordant with it, though perfectly subjected by it. And between the idea of this subjection under power, and this discordance of nature, there is no contradiction.


Verse 29

29. Else—If this apocalypse of the resurrection be not true.

What shall they do—Or say for themselves.

Baptized for the dead—Over this passage an interminable battle of commentary is waged. It is admitted by all that the Greek υπερ, for, signifies either, (1) over, in local position; or, (2) instead of, as a substitute, but rarely; or, (3) in behalf of, as favourer, sponsor, advocate, or other benefactor. Of the many interpretations fully given by Stanley but two are worth a discussion. 1. The supposed custom of substitutive baptism, by which a living person was baptized in place of a dead person, one or more. 2. The baptism in behalf of the resurrection of the dead.

By the substitutive interpretation (as Tertullian, Grotius, Alford, Hodge) it is maintained that when a catechumen died before baptism, a friend was baptized in his stead, and so was substitutively baptized for the dead.

But, 1. There is no reason to believe, outside of the passage itself, that any such practice existed in the apostolic Church. It seems illegitimate to create, for an exegetical purpose, a class of heretics practising a particular superstitious rite, when any other natural meaning exists. There is not the slightest reason to doubt that the practisers of substitutive baptism mentioned by Tertullian and ridiculed by Chrysostom were later than Paul’s day, and based their practice on their interpretation of this verse, as do the modern Mormons. 2. It could hardly be said that such substitutes were baptized universally for the dead; dead being a Greek plural with the article, and so signifying all the dead. Note, 1 Corinthians 15:12. The phrase to express this substitutive meaning should be υπερ νεκρου, for a dead person, or νεκρων, without the article, for dead persons. 3. Quoting the condemnable practice of heretics is out of the analogy and line of the argument. Paul has argued that a denial of the resurrection impugns Christ, Christians, and sufferers of persecution, like himself; and then a sudden and transient interpolation of heretical performers of a superstitious rite is incredible. 4. The argument would be without value. It would subject Paul to the reply, What authority for us is an example of a set of heretics practising a false superstition? And this worthlessness would be aggravated if it were true that Paul’s words intimate a disapproval of the practice.

Such disapproval, however, does not appear from the proofs Alford furnishes. His first proof is, that baptized is in the present, βαπτιζονται, are being baptized, instead of βαπτισθεντες, were baptized. The present is used, we think, as in the case of stand we in jeopardy, as a matter of vividness. The third person is used because, for the sake of that vividness, Paul speaks of converts being baptized now, rather than of persons, like himself, baptized twenty years ago. In fact, the they of this verse refers to the catechumens, and the we of the next verse to the apostles. 5. For substitution the proper Greek preposition is not υπερ, but αντι. The ordinary sense of in behalf of is the true intrinsic meaning, and should not be surrendered for any reasons that have ever here been produced.

The true interpretation is, we believe, that of Chrysostom. The apostolic Christians were baptized into the faith of the resurrection of the dead, and thereby they were sponsors in behalf of the dead, that the dead should rise. Baptism was itself an affirmation in behalf of the dead, who were assailed and condemned to final death by these deniers of their resurrection. In favour of this view, 1. Is Paul’s use of υπερ, as in behalf of, with an intermediate idea. So above, (1 Corinthians 15:3,) in behalf of our sins, that is, of their forgiveness. So also 2 Thessalonians 2:1, in behalf of the parousia, which was involved in error by mistaken believers. So also in behalf of the dead, whose resurrection baptism asserts. 2. It lies in the direct line of the argument. Paul has quoted in favour of the resurrection the Christian preaching, (1 Corinthians 15:14,) faith, (1 Corinthians 15:17,) the salvation of dead Christians, (1 Corinthians 15:18,) the jeopardy of the living, (1 Corinthians 15:30); why should he not quote Christian baptism as a pledge in behalf of the dead? These deniers were against the dead; Christian baptism was for the dead. 3. The Church early recognised the connexion between baptism and the resurrection. It has its basis in the words of St. Paul: “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him.” Colossians 2:12. And so Chrysostom says: “When we have instructed the catechumen in the divine mysteries of the Gospel, and are about to baptize him, we command him to say, ‘I believe in the resurrection of the body.’… This is what St. Paul recalls to their memory. If there is no resurrection of the body why are you baptized for the dead?”


Verses 29-34

4. The devastating result of a no-resurrection upon all our Christian hopes and activities, 1 Corinthians 15:29-34.

Paul resumes suddenly, and continues, the train of thought interrupted at 1 Corinthians 15:19 by the apocalypse of 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 he had argued that the no-resurrection doctrine contradicts Christianity; he now (1 Corinthians 15:29-34) shows how it blights all Christian hope and destroys all Christian heroism.


Verse 30

4. This accords with the phrase the dead; the baptism being, not for a dead person, or some dead persons, but for the universal dead.

30. We—The apostles, as the I of the next verse specifies the apostle himself. From their sponsorship for the dead in baptism he passes to the baptism of suffering and blood which the apostles underwent in behalf of the same cause.


Verse 31

31. By your rejoicing—Rather, by the boasting of you which I have. He not only affirms his daily death, but he protests it by that which was both its cause and its compensation, his triumph in the conversion of the Corinthians.

Die daily—In the purpose of my enemies, and in the just apprehension of my own mind. But God gave him as many lives as his persecutors gave him deaths.


Verse 32

32. I have fought with beasts—In a single word, I beast-fought. Happily our present Christian civilization needs no such word. The Christians during the pagan persecutions were exposed to lions, but it is not probable that so early as Paul’s writing of this epistle any such exposure had taken place. The best commentators take the words as metaphorical. The words after the manner of men, (literally, according to man,) we doubt not implies this figurative meaning. The word speaking is not, indeed, supplied, for the reason that speaking is implied in the very fact that speaking is what he is doing. According to man may as well mean, according to man in language, as in any other respect.

Eat… die—Stoical moralists in Paul’s day, and materialistic moralists of the present day, declare that earthly motives are sufficient for the maintenance of a true virtue. This cannot be. Unless man’s virtue be fastened by some cord to the supernal it has nothing in it of divine. Culture and self-respect may keep a few philosophers at an elevated level, but the mass of men, if cut off from THE ABOVE, and deprived of its hopes and fears for the great future, will sink into animalism, and the apostle has here given voice and utterance to the mere instincts of the animal man in his despair. In ancient poetry, the saddest and most beautiful, and often most disgusting, strains, are the varied expression either of this despair, or this union of licentiousness with despair.


Verse 33

33. Paul now flings out some words of warning against the demoralizing influence of the men who are among them insinuating the non-existence of any human future.

Deceived—Beware of error, for evil intercourses, intimacies, corrupt good morals, rather than manners. Bad principles produce bad characters and conduct. The belief that we live but for this world will seduce us into sin.


Verse 34

34. Awake, from the influence of these seductions to living righteously, and sin not; for some, whose doctrines I have indicated, though their names I will not utter, have not the knowledge of God; literally, have an ignorance of God. They are really holding fast a part of their old paganism—the evil of matter and the impossibility of a renovation of man’s body. They “err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God” touching the resurrection. Matthew 22:29-30.

Your shame—That these semi-pagan errorists, denying the power of God for a resurrection, and demoralizing the Church, should be still influential among them.


Verse 35

35. Some man—One of the some of 1 Corinthians 15:34; 1 Corinthians 15:12. Both questions deny the possibility of the resurrection (of our present body, note Acts 8:9) by asking the how and the what kind. They fully believe that it is no how and of no kind; for matter is immutably corrupt, and they have no conception that body can be made, even by divine power, any otherwise than corrupt—just because it is matter.


Verses 35-41

5. By the contrasts in the glory of various classes of material bodies is illustrated the contrast between our bodies, mortal and immortalized, 1 Corinthians 15:35-41.

Paul now, through the remainder of the chapter, answers the Gnostic opponent who denies the possibility of the resurrection, based on the vileness of corporeal matter. He shows (1 Corinthians 15:35-41) that there are varieties of body, contrasts the mode of our present body with the mode of the future same body, (1 Corinthians 15:42-50,) and furnishes an apocalyptic picture affirming by revelation a glorious resurrection of the same body.


Verse 36

36. Thou fool—The italic thou is furnished by the translators. Similar was Solomon’s fool, who said in his heart, There is no God.

Thou—Yet here, as in Romans 9, the apostle has a conceptual opponent face to face. This thou would be more emphatic in Paul’s Greek than in our English, for the Greek can omit the pronoun, and inserts it only for the keen point. As Dr. Poor (in Lange) pertinently says, “It is the pointed finger aiming at the objector present to the author’s mind—thou.” And fool belongs to this thou, just because his own planting a seed refutes him. When you yourself put a seed in the ground, you know what follows.

Quickened—Made alive in the future plant.

Paul here, be it noted, is not dealing in the secrecies of science, but with the bare facts presented to the eye of the seed planter. The three patent ocular facts are, a burial, a death, and a reappearance. The seed goes into the ground, dies, and is “resurrected” in a plant above ground. To Paul’s conception the plant is the same seed reappearing; the same matter in a new form. Yet this sameness is not what he is now illustrating; he is now only showing the Gnostic that as matter is not necessarily inglorious, so the materiality of our present body is no reason for objecting to its future remodelling in glory. Paul’s view is, that the same materiality rises re-organized, and endowed with new properties. It is idem et alter; the same in substance, but different in phenomena; just as the same carbon may be first a charcoal and then a diamond.

Except it die—Is it strange to you that corruption, decay, and death should be the antecedent of immortal life? Lo, the seed you plant cannot live until it die. Death is the necessary condition to future life.


Verse 37

37. Not… body that shall be—The planter does not sow it a plant and then have it come up a plant. But a seed is sown and a plant is grown. Just so you bury a putrid corpse, and it comes forth an angel-like body. But to the apostle’s legitimate conception the new plant is but a transfiguration of the old seed, and the new body is but a molecular rearrangement of the old corpse. The old corpse is the primitive material out of which the new body is made; just as in the change of 1 Corinthians 15:52, the old is the material for the new.

Bare grain—Naked kernel, not a living stalk, with fresh branches, foliage, and flower; as it is in its upspringing.


Verse 38

38. But God giveth it—And it was just because the Gnostical objector had a semi-pagan ignorance of God, (note on 1 Corinthians 15:34,) that he could not realize that God can reorganize old matter in new glory.

Pleased him— For the laws of the resurrection, like the laws of nature, are a mode of the divine volition. The new body is produced by God’s power, and just as he wills.

To every (kind of) seed his own body—And so God may modify the resurrection body so as to destroy the objector’s supposition that the same body means a corrupt body.


Verse 39

39. All… not… same flesh—All are alike matter and flesh; but God’s power is competent to clothe the same matter with varied properties.


Verses 39-41

39-41. As the necessary corruptness of all matter, and therefore the necessary corruptness of all bodies, here or hereafter, is the ground assumption of the Gnostical objector against the possibility of the resurrection, Paul now enlarges on the varieties of body, and the various glories which material bodies are made by God to assume. These are all to illustrate the difference between the dying body and the resurrection body.


Verse 40

40. Celestial… terrestrial—Celestial bodies might be understood of the stars, or, as they are called, “the heavenly bodies,” but there hardly appear to be any earthly bodies to correspond with them. Hence, very plausibly, they are interpreted by the best modern commentators as angelic bodies and human bodies. This would assume that an angel possesses, or at least assumes whenever he appears to human vision, a spiritual body, 1 Corinthians 15:44, yet none the less a subtilely material one. The glory of our earthly bodies is indeed a very inferior one at present, yet still possessing traits of the image of God.


Verse 41

41. Glory—Visible splendour. The splendours of the luminaries differ in intensity, magnitude, and colour. Against the doctrine of a resurrection it is argued that our bodies are now in a continual process of change; so that, even here, our very material sameness is not a literal, but a successional and historical one. Yet, we reply, this molecular succession is, in fact, now most carefully maintained unbroken; so that the historical continuity and sameness can be traced and sworn to. The murderer of twenty years ago, in spite of all organic changes, is hung to-day. This man at seventy is husband of the wife he married at twenty-five, and heir of the patrimony he inherited in infancy. But we never in life drop our whole body to-day, pass a bodiless period, and then take a whole new body. Nor then would the new body be the same as the old. In order to be the same body next year, the reconstructor must go back and take up the material of the old body into the new. And so in the resurrection, the reorganizer must go back and take up the body that died; otherwise, the successional historical identity which exists in our present life, and which is quoted as a precedent, is wholly abolished.

Dr. Poor theorizes that the “plastic principle” may, at the resurrection, “assimilate new materials of a wholly different kind” from those in our present bodies. What demand for such a supposition? For, 1. There is not known to science, or demanded by reason, any other “plastic principle” than an omnipresent divine power, working under forms of law and finite causations. As Paul says, God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, yet in accordance with the laws of resurrection. 2. When the undressed soul appears before God on the morning of the resurrection, it is by divine power that from somewhere in the wide universe, the particles should gather in accretion upon the soul, to form its body. Now why is it not quite as easy for divine power to order the coming of that set of particles which formed the old body as any other? What demand from science, reason, or Scripture for any new materials? Nay, that divine power may establish such affinity between the soul and the particles of the old organism that it may attract them to itself by a process as truly natural as that by which a magnet draws a mass of iron filings to itself.

Otherwise there is no resurrection, but a new creation and a substitution. The real debate is not between “two theories of the resurrection,” but between the resurrection and something else that is not a resurrection. An anastasis (resurrection) of the dead is an uprising of the body from its fallen position in death, and, normally, the grave. That is the very meaning of the word. And it is that which down-fell which must uprise, and not something else. Or, if it is called in the New Testament an egersis, it is an upraising. What is it that is upraised unless the previous body, the body that fell, and that now lies a prostrate corpse? There must be no legerdemain about it; no slipping in a supposititious body; no substitution; no new creation “out of new materials of a wholly different kind.” If either of those things takes place, it is no resurrection at all, and the doctrine of the resurrection is wholly denied.

This realistic identity is absolutely required by Scripture. Daniel tells us (Daniel 12:2) that they “that sleep in the dust of the earth,” which can be no other than the buried corpses, “shall awake.” Our Lord, almost quoting Daniel’s words, says that it is “they that are in the graves,” which can again mean only the entombed corpses, that “shall come forth.” John 5:28-29. Wherever death is called a sleep it is the body (certainly not the soul) that is conceived to sleep, and the resurrection is the awakening of that same body. Our Lord’s resurrection—the pattern and model for all—was of his same body from the tomb. In his transfiguration, by which he was assimilated to the resurrection body of Moses and Elijah, that self-same body rose into the resurrection state, and then subsided into its ordinary conditions; unchanged in material throughout. In the change of 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 it is this same mortal body; and the change is simply its putting on immortality.

If by divine law there may be a fixed affinity between the soul and its last investiture, that law can secure that the same material shall never be organic in two bodies at death; just as a secret law secures the equality in number of the two sexes.

This modern unscriptural pseudo-resurrection is a Gnostical one. It has “an ignorance of God,” doubting his power to raise the same body. It has the Gnostic abhorrence of matter, demanding “new materials of a wholly different kind,” known as matter now. But it does not deny a future life, like the errorists whom Paul corrects; and so does not shake the foundations of Christianity.

Meyer quotes from Tertullian the following notes as a caution to over-brilliant commentators, 1 Corinthians 15:40 : One flesh of men, that is, servants of God; another of beasts, that is, the heathen; another of birds, that is, the martyrs; another of fish, to whom belongs the water of baptism! Also, 1 Corinthians 15:41.

There is one glory of the sun—Christ; of the moon—The Church; of the stars—The seed of Abraham.


Verse 42

6. With these differences in various bodies, the differences between the buried and risen bodies correspond, 1 Corinthians 15:42-50.

42. So also—Similar to the difference in these contrasted classes of objects in nature is the difference between the buried and the resurrection body.

The words thrice produced—sown, sown, sown—can mean nothing but buried, buried, buried in the grave. And raised, raised, raised, can mean nothing but raised from the grave. And what is or can be raised but the material corpse there buried? And what can be “resurrected,” or immortalized, but that same material which is raised from the grave? And if the corpse is raised from the grave by the resurrection, what need of any other material? Obviously, indeed, both Jesus and Paul select the case of the buried only as the ordinary fact. But that ordinary fact is selected to declare the resurrection of the actually dead body. For what has any substituted body to do with the grave at all?

It… it—The it is not expressed in the Greek, but necessarily implied. For as the subject of both verbs, sown and raised, is the same, so the same subject is buried and “resurrected.” But what is the grammatical antecedent of it? What is it that is sown? None is here expressed, but 1 Corinthians 15:44 shows that body is implied.

If Jesus, instead of reanimating the putrid corpse of Lazarus by restoring to it its soul, had enshrined his soul in a new body, it would have been, so far as the soul was concerned, a transmigration, and not a resurrection. And so far as the body is concerned, a substitution and not a resurrection. The resurrection, to be a resurrection, must be of the same body; and it must be the same body by being the same substance, particle for particle. But it destroys not the resurrection to endow the body with new properties, and arrange its molecules to a new model.

There are three qualities assigned to the present body—corruption, dishonour, and weakness; and three to the resurrection body— incorruption, honour, and power. Corruption is the quality that arises from the instability of the material particles, by which displacement, decay, and disintegration take place. Incorruption implies that the body, however flexible to every volition, suffers no displacement, disarrangement, or dissolution. Every part and particle retains its place with perfect indissolubleness, health, and durability. Flexible as gossamer, it is unyielding as adamant.


Verse 43

43. Dishonour—Both in life and in death the mortal body has parts, conditions, operations, and failures that render it a disgust to the contemplation. In death, decay and putrefaction render it unendurable to its fellows. “When the soul departs,” says Xenophon, “men carry out the body of the dearest friend in the quickest way, and put it out of sight.”

Glory— Phenomenal properties that attract the wonder and admiration of the beholder.

Weakness—With strength of body to effect little; liable to sickness and debility, requiring to be carried by machinery for rapid locomotion.

Power—Vigour of body to accomplish the boldest determinations of the will, exemption from fatigue, and ability to pass through space with the rapidity of thought. Grotius adds, “Endowed with a variety of new senses;” which, however true, is not so clearly said.


Verse 44

44. Natural body… spiritual body—The word natural, to the English reader, entirely breaks the thread of the apostle’s thought. If we assume a difference between soul and spirit, and coin the word soulical as the antithesis of spiritual, we present his exact idea, and the connexion with the word soul, 1 Corinthians 15:45, will be immediately made. The Greek word ψυχη, psyche—soul or life—when used as antithetical to πνευμα, pneuma— spirit—signifies that animating, formative, and thinking soul or anima which belongs to the animal, and which man, as animal, shares as his lower nature, with the animals. Its range is within the limits of the five senses, within which limits it is able to think and to reason. Such is the power of the highest animals. Overlying this, is the spirit which man shares with higher natures, by which thought transcends the range of the senses, and man thinks of immensity, eternity, infinity, immortality, the beautiful, the holy, and God. Whether soul and spirit exist in man as two entities distinct from each other, we need not here discuss; yet it is certain that man’s mind possesses both these two classes or sets of thoughts. The lower faculties may exist without the higher; for they do so exist in brutes. The brute has also a higher set of faculties overlying those of the oyster. But it is all-important to note that it is by man’s spiritual faculties that he rises into a supernal region, and shows affinities with celestial natures.

When St. Paul says it is sown a soulical body, as in the two preceding cases (1 Corinthians 15:42-43) of the sown, he does not refer to the dead or dying body, but to the body as mortal in life, and sown in death. It is a soulical body while living, and is buried as the vacated frame of a soulical body.

The body dies because the animal soul either fuses into surrounding nature, or is borne by the spirit into the spirit region.

There is—The anti-resurrectionists of the Corinthian Church seem never to have understood this striking assertion. A soulical body… a spiritual body— But as the soulical body is not all pure soul, so the spiritual body is not pure spirit. For a pure spirit is not a body at all. As the soulical body is soul-pervaded body, so the spiritual body is spirit-pervaded body. But while the soul pervades and gives sensitive life to body alone, the spirit pervades both soul and body, and gives supernal life to both; forming the unit of body, soul, and spirit.

Scholars agree that the true reading here is, If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. By the body’s becoming a “spiritual body” we understand that it will be so subtilized, so adjusted to the pure spirit, and so subjected in every part and particle to the volition and power of the spirit, that while the spirit becomes, so to speak, more substantiated, the personal unit of the two natures possesses all the capabilities that our thought usually attributes to the pure spirit. By volition it passes with lightning rapidity through measureless distances. It clairvoyantly sees, at volition, through a finite immensity. By volition it transforms itself to any shape, and invests itself with a countless variety of properties and phenomenal presentations. It can become as the dark, rolling cloud, the flashing lightning, the solid rock. And yet it will have a normal figure and face which will at once be the true expression of its essential nature, (far more truly than human physiognomy now manifests the character,) and will reveal to the intuition of the fellow-celestials the particular personality, and perhaps the entire past history, of the individual. When asked, Will the glorified bodies have teeth? we reply, If they please; and eat with them, too, as the angels did who visited Abraham. If asked, Will they have hair? we reply, Yes, if they please. And when asked, Where will they get their clothes? we answer, Just where the “two angels” who stood before the apostles at Christ’s ascension, procured their “shining raiment.” it is perfectly clear, we think, that varying phenomenal form and properties are more or less at the command both of the pure spirit and of the unit of spirit and spiritual body. See note on Luke 24:39.


Verse 45

45. So—In accordance with this distinction between the soulical and the spiritual, it is written in Genesis 2:7.

Was made a living soul—Paul quotes the words of the Septuagint, which, like those of the Hebrew, are literally rendered became unto, or into, a living soul. From these words, as Dr. Poor truly says, no argument for immortality could be drawn, for our English translation wrongly conceals that in Genesis 1:20-21; Genesis 1:24, the words severally rendered creature that hath life, living creature, living creature, are in the Hebrew precisely the same as here for living soul, which last is the true translation in every case. Yet a most remarkable difference between the case of the animals who, in the above three verses, become a living soul, and man, who becomes a living soul, is this: that whereas the animals become such in accordance with God’s fiat to nature to bring them forth, man becomes so by the direct breath of the Almighty.

Of the antitheses of this verse the clause, the first… soul is Moses’ scripture; the last clause, the last… quickening spirit, is Paul’s; and, as equally inspired, is equally good. Yet it may be Paul’s equivalent for Genesis 2:7, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” expressed in form to balance the antithesis. Christ is a quickening, that is, an alive-making, spirit, by the resurrection of men wrought by him.


Verse 46

46. HowbeitNotwithstanding that it might be supposed that the greatest would be first, the reverse is the case.

Afterward… spiritual—God works by progresses and climaxes, bringing out the greatest last. See note on Romans 8:39.


Verse 47

47. Of—Rather, from the earth, as the second man is from heaven. In Genesis 2:7, the same Greek words occur, from the earth.

The Lord— This phrase is rejected as spurious by the best scholars; the true reading is the second man is the Lord from heaven. By this antithesis, as by the former, (1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Corinthians 15:49,) Adam is viewed at his creation, and Christ at his second advent, producing our resurrection.


Verse 48

48. As… earthy, such… earthy—By the universal law of descent, earthly beings inherit the nature of their progenitors. See note, Romans 5:12, on the phrase all have sinned.

Heavenly—But the nature of the heavenly is stamped at the resurrection upon the earthy by a direct act of divine power.


Verse 49

49. We shall also bear—Instead of the future the subjunctive of the verb has the best authority from MSS. But Alford rejects it, properly, (as well as the subjunctive in Romans 6:1,) as having been introduced from doctrinal reasons. It would then follow, from Alford’s own conclusion, that St. Paul here gives us a we in which it was not fully certain that himself would be included. See note, 1 Corinthians 15:52.


Verse 50

50. Now—Rather, but. We shall attain the heavenly resurrection image, but not as unchanged flesh and blood.

This I say—As the thought really running through all the antitheses, (42-49,) furnishing the full and final answer to the question what body? and negativing the error on which that question was based, that the resurrection implies our corrupt mortal bodies in a future state.

Flesh and blood—The perishable amalgam of soul and matter which furnished the basis of the objection against the resurrection.

Cannot—Literally, are not able, as vile and putrifying, to inhabit the eternal mansions. They must be as immortal as the heavenly abodes themselves.


Verse 51

7. Apocalyptic picture of the glorious resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; triumphal pean, 1 Corinthians 15:54-57; and admonitory inference, 1 Corinthians 15:58.

51. Behold—Lift up your eyes upon the glorious picture I present.

Show—Utter. The showing was in language.

A mystery—A truth hitherto concealed in the eternal counsels, now revealed to men by me. We—Who are this we? Alford, and other commentators who are earnest to make out that Paul firmly expected the resurrection to occur in his own generation, say that it means Paul and his Corinthian brethren. We think it as comprehensive, at least, as the we of 1 Corinthians 15:49, including all the candidates for the glorious resurrection—all who have borne the image of the earthy. And this seems to be a complete reply to all argument drawn from both this we and that in 1 Thessalonians 4:15. For it shows that St. Paul’s we may cover a whole class—a class in which he may eventually fail to be one.

All—And this all we consider as comprehensive as the all of 1 Corinthians 15:22. St. Paul is here meeting the question, How will it be with those alive when Christ descends in judgment?

Be changed—On this change we may note, 1. That it is a change that comes upon and is of the very body then being; the very same matter and substance: 2. That a change does not mean the bringing in any new material: 3. That 1 Corinthians 15:53 shows that it consists in the assuming of immortality, with the modifications included therein, upon that very mortal body and no other. We may add that this change illustrates the transition through which man, without sin, would have entered on his full immortality. Death, hades, and the intermediate state, would for him have had no existence. Nay, the “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” would have been suffered by devils alone. Man’s great mistake of falling into Satan’s proper inheritance would have been avoided.


Verse 52

52. In a momentεν ατομω. In an atom of time; in an indivisible instant. In the twinkling (literally, stroke) of the eye. Quick as a jerk of the eyelash.

The last trump—See note, 1 Thessalonians 4:6.

We… changed—St. Paul’s present we conceptually includes not quite the same as the first we of 1 Corinthians 15:51, but all the living in the body at the parousia.


Verse 53

53. This corruptible—The very mortal body that lives at the time of the change.

Put on—Literally, shall clothe on; the Greek being the word signifying to put on a garment. On the very self-same mortal body, immortality shall be taken as an investiture, making the mortal immortal. 2 Corinthians 5:2.


Verse 54

54. Brought to pass—In a more specific fact, yet justly to be included in the general saying of Isaiah 25:8. The words are the same as the Hebrew, with the active verb made passive. Yet Stanley maintains that the apostle probably still used some Greek translation; other, however, than the Septuagint.

Death… victory—The prophet is depicting a blessed future to be brought about by the Messiah; but his pencil does not distinguish in its strokes the hues that belong to the periods before, at, and after, the resurrection. Touches belonging to each separately are blended in the then blessed Messianic future. Isaiah says, that in the great coming time, death shall be swallowed up in victory; Paul says it will be completely done by the resurrection at the parousia. Isaiah says, in the same verse, that “God will wipe away tears from off all faces;” John (Revelation 21:4) says, this shall be beyond the judgment and the casting the wicked into hell, even in the new heavens and earth of eternity.


Verse 55

55. In this verse, no doubt, Hosea 13:14 was running through St. Paul’s mind, but he does not seem so much to quote as to parallel the prophet. Modern editors, such as Stanley and Alford, find death not only in the first clause, but in the second, instead of hades, rendered, unfortunately, grave. They think that hades has been inserted to conform it to the Septuagint. Wordsworth retains hades, assuming that the copyists substituted death to avoid the pagan-like personification of hades. On esthetic ground we can hardly believe that St. Paul could do so flat a thing as to substitute death repeated, in the place of the Septuagint hades.

Sting—Not a goad-point, (see notes, Acts 9:5,) as Stanley insipidly prefers; but a sting as of a scorpion, (Revelation 9:10,) or a serpent, as in Genesis ii, and Numbers 21.

Grave—Hades, the abode of the disembodied spirit in the intermediate state. See notes, Luke 16:23; Luke 23:43. Death detains the body in the grave; hades detains the spirit in the intermediate state; the resurrection delivers and unites them both. Over this deliverance St. Paul now peals his pean, as healing the wound made by death’s sting, and spoiling the victory of hades, the detainer from heaven. This adverse view of hades fully shows that it does not signify the glorified heaven, and so demonstrates the reality of an intermediate state.


Verse 56

56. Sting of death is sin—Before Adam’s sin the destroyer slew the lower orders of creation, but had no sting for man; man would attain the resurrection state without death or hades. Note, 1 Corinthians 15:51.

Strength… the law—The law over Adam, with its “Thou shalt not,” made the act (otherwise irresponsible like those of animals) to be sin, and worthy of death. Thence death, which in the lower orders is simply natural, in man is also judicial and penal.


Verse 57

57. But—There is one who has satisfied the law; has thence taken out the strength of sin; thence destroyed the sting of death; and so wrought the resurrection. This exposition shows that the reference to the law is logically in the straight line of Paul’s argument. It shows, we think, the infelicity of Stanley’s remark: “It seems as if he could not mention sin, without adding that the strength of sin is the law.” As if the apostle’s pen, like a garrulous man’s tongue, ran on its own account in the grooves of habit, loose from brain or thought. Yet it is a pertinent remark of Stanley’s, that this apparently “is the germ of what is afterwards fully developed in Romans 5:12-21; Romans 7:7-24.” And Romans 7:25 is an echo of this verse.

The victory—That over hades, in 1 Corinthians 15:55, by the resurrection, through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Verse 58

58. Therefore—The Christian doctrine is a great motive force for the Christian life. All the terrors and glories of death, resurrection, judgment, and eternity, are startling admonitions to steadfast, solemn duty-doing.

My beloved brethren—St. Paul’s heart hovers in full affection, in passing from those fearful scenes, over his brethren, as if he would provide for their safety.

Steadfast, unmovable—In your faith in the resurrection which the some of 1 Corinthians 15:12 are endeavouring to overthrow. Steadfast, unmovable, and abounding, form a climax. Steadfast means positive, intrinsic firmness; unmovable implies resistance to the mightiest outward pressures and fiercest onsets; abounding means energetic action. Some Christians appear to do nothing; some to do a little; others abound in every good word and work.

Work of the Lord—The conversion of sinners, the upbuilding of the Church, and all the countless forms of Christian activity.

Not in vain—As it would be (1 Corinthians 15:29-34) were there no resurrection. But there being a resurrection, every deed in faith shall brighten the lustre of the resurrection body. “One star differeth from another star in glory.” This maxim is not, indeed, uttered by the apostle of the differences of personal glory in heaven; but it is, no doubt, applicable. The brighter our earthly Christian character, the more transcendent our heavenly glory.

In the Lord—Our labours shall attain their highest reward in Christ, who is all riches.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-corinthians-15.html. 1874-1909.

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Friday, December 6th, 2019
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