Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Corinthians 15:51

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Body;   Death;   Immortality;   Resurrection;   Righteous;   Scofield Reference Index - Christ;   Resurrection;   Thompson Chain Reference - Dead, the;   Great;   Mortality-Immortality;   Mysteries, Great;   Mysteries-Revelations;   Resurrection;   Sleep;   Sleep-Wakefulness;   The Topic Concordance - Change;   Corruption;   Death;   Mystery;   Resurrection;   Victory/overcoming;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Resurrection, the;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Death;   Mystery;   Soul;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Body;   Death;   Funeral;   Humanity, humankind;   Jesus christ;   Life;   Millennium;   Mystery;   Paul;   Sleep;   Soul;   Spirit;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Corinthians, First and Second, Theology of;   Flesh;   Hope;   Immortality;   Intermediate State;   Sleep;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Annihilation;   Conflagration;   Mystery;   Omnipotence of God;   Resurrection;   Resurrection of Christ;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Judgment, the Final;   Mystery;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Enoch;   Mystery;   Resurrection;   Stephen;   Thousand Years;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Corruption;   Death;   Hope;   Imperishable;   Life;   Resurrection of Jesus Christ;   Sleep;   1 Corinthians;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Corinthians, First Epistle to the;   Eschatology;   Ethics;   Mystery;   Parousia;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Cloud ;   Marriage;   Mystery ;   Parousia;   Presence;   Sleep ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Incorruption,;   Mystery;   Prophets, the;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Mystery;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Tabernacle, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Change;   Death;   Immortal;   Millennium: Premillennial View;   Mystery;   Parousia;   Translation;  
Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life - Devotion for September 8;   Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for May 18;   Every Day Light - Devotion for December 19;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse 51. I show you a mystery — That is, a thing which you have never known before. But what is this mystery? Why, that we shall not all sleep; we shall not all die; but we shall all be changed: of this the Jews had not distinct notions. For, as flesh and blood cannot inherit glory, and all shall not be found dead at the day of judgment, then all must be changed-undergo such a change that their bodies may become spiritual, like the bodies of those who shall be raised from the dead.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "The Adam Clarke Commentary".​commentaries/​acc/1-corinthians-15.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

The resurrection body (15:35-58)

Some people mocked the idea of the resurrection by asking how could bodies that have decayed in the earth be raised to life again. Paul answers with an illustration. A seed dies when it is put in the ground, but this is part of the process of bringing forth new life in the form of a plant that grows up out of the ground. What grows up is different from what was buried, but in a sense it is the same thing. It is dry and dead looking when put in the ground, but fresh and beautiful when it appears as a living plant (35-37). The doubters should remember also that plant life takes many different forms. So does animal life (38-39). God gives a different life, beauty and form to different things, depending on his purposes for them (40-41).
In similar manner the resurrection body is different from the body that is buried in the ground. The body that is buried is perishable, unattractive, and powerless; the body that is raised is imperishable, beautiful, and strong. Just as the present body is suited to the needs of present earthly life, so the resurrection body is suited to the needs of the spiritual life of the age to come (42-44).
Adam was the first of a race of physical, earthly people; Christ is the first of a race of spiritual, heavenly people. Adam’s body was the pattern for the bodies of people in the present life; Christ’s body is the pattern for the bodies of believers in the life to come (45-49). Believers will have their physical bodies of the present life changed into spiritual bodies suited for life in the heavenly kingdom (50).
The change from the physical to the spiritual will take place when Christ returns and the dead are raised. All Christians, both those who have died and those still alive, will have their physical perishable bodies changed instantly into spiritual imperishable bodies (51-53). Death will have no more power over believers. Sin, which makes death fearful and which uses the law to hold people in this state of fear, will be finally destroyed (54-57).
Believers have no reason to be hesitant or doubtful concerning the coming resurrection. Rather they will find that they have greater confidence and purpose in their Christian life and service as they understand the full meaning that the resurrection has for them (58).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary".​commentaries/​bbc/1-corinthians-15.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

We shall not all sleep ... There is nothing in this passage to support the notion that Paul believed the end to be in his own lifetime. Some of the Thessalonians got that impression from Paul's teaching; but he at once wrote them another letter to dispel such a foolish notion and to point out that great epochs of time were to unfold before the final day. By this word, Paul merely meant those living at the time of the Second Advent would undergo an instantaneous change.

We shall all be changed ... Johnson and many others find grounds here for what they call "a partial rapture of the church";[37] but the meaning of "all" appears to be far too comprehensive to support such a view.

In a moment ... Bruce approved the rendition "moment" in this place, calling it "perfectly correct."[38] He further said:

The Greek word [@atomos] (whence our word "atom") means "incapable of being cut"; and Paul used it here to indicate a division of time so brief that it cannot be subdivided farther, a "split second" if you like.[39]

The trumpet shall sound ... No man may say exactly what this is; but it is clear enough that God would have no need of any literal trumpet. Zechariah said, "The Lord God shall blow the trumpet" (Zechariah 9:14); and the symbolism would appear to be the same as when one might say, "Well, the boss blew the whistle on that practice," meaning, of course, that he stopped it. Something like that is meant here. Jesus mentioned the final day in these words: "And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together the elect, etc." (Matthew 24:31). Note that it was not a trumpet, but "the great sound of a trumpet." See also 1 Thessalonians 4:16. There will come the time when God will blow the trumpet on this world of ours and summon all people to the judgment of the great day.

I tell you a mystery ... This term in the New Testament ordinarily refers to some secret hitherto unknown, but now revealed through the word of God. For a discussion of New Testament mysteries, see my Commentary on Matthew, p. 189, also an entire book on "The Mystery of Redemption."[40]

[37] S. L. Johnson, Jr., op. cit., p. 645.

[38] F. F. Bruce, Answers a Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 100.

[39] Ibid.

[40] See CMY in list of abbreviations.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible".​commentaries/​bcc/1-corinthians-15.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Behold I show you - This commences the third subject of inquiry in the chapter, the question, what will become of those who are alive when the Lord Jesus shall return to raise the dead? This was an obvious inquiry, and the answer was, perhaps, supposed to be difficult. Paul answers it directly, and says that they will undergo an instantaneous change, which will make them like the dead that shall be raised.

A mystery - On the meaning of this word, see the note on 1 Corinthians 2:7. The word here does not mean anything which was in its nature unintelligible, but that which to them had been hitherto unknown. “I now communicate to you a truth which has not been brought into the discussion, and in regard to which no communication has been made to you.” On this subject there had been no revelation. Though the Pharisees held that the dead would rise, yet they do not seem to have made any statement in regard to the living who should remain when the dead should rise. Nor, perhaps, had the subject occupied the attention of the apostles; nor had there been any direct communication on it from the Lord Jesus himself. Paul then here says, that he was about to communicate a great truth which till then had been unknown, and to resolve a great inquiry on which there had as yet been no revelation.

We shall not all sleep - We Christians; grouping all together who then lived and should live afterward, for his discussion has relation to them all. The following remarks may, perhaps, remove some of the difficulty which attends the interpretation of this passage. The objection which is made to it is, that Paul expected to live until the Lord Jesus should return; that he, therefore, expected that the world would soon end, and that in this he was mistaken, and could not be inspired. To this, we may reply:

(1) He is speaking of Christians as such - of the whole church that had been redeemed - of the entire mass that should enter heaven; and he groups them all together, and connects himself with them, and says, “We shall not die; we Christians, including the whole church, shall not all die,” etc. That he did not refer only to those whom he was then addressing, is apparent from the whole discussion. The argument relates to Christians - to the church at large; and the affirmation here has reference to that church considered as one church that was to be raised up on the last Day.

(2) That Paul did not expect that the Lord Jesus would soon come, and that the world would soon come to an end, is apparent from a similar place in the Epistle to the Thessalonians. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, he uses language remarkably similar to that which is used here: “We which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord,” etc. This language was interpreted by the Thessalonians as teaching that the world would soon come to an end, and the effect had been to produce a state of alarm. Paul was, therefore, at special pains to show in his Second Epistle to them, that he did not mean any such thing. He showed them 2 Thessalonians 2:0 that the end of the world was not near; that very important events were to occur before the world would come to an end; and that his language did not imply any expectation on his part that the world would soon terminate, or that the Lord Jesus would soon come.

(3) Parallel expressions occur in the other writers of the New Testament, and with a similar signification. Thus, John 1 John 2:18 says, “It is the last time;” compare Hebrews 1:2. But the meaning of this is not that the world would soon come to an end. The prophets spoke of a period which they called “the last days” (Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1; in Hebrew, “the after days”), as the period in which the Messiah would live and reign. By it they meant the dispensation which should be the last; that under which the world would close; the reign of the Messiah, which would be the last economy of human things. But it did not follow that this was to be a short period; or that it might not be longer than any one of the former, or than all the former put together. This was that which John spoke of as the last time.

(4) I do not know that the proper doctrine of inspiration suffers, if we admit that the apostles were ignorant of the exact time when the world would close; or even that in regard to the precise period when that would take place, they might be in error. The following considerations may be suggested on this subject, showing that the claim to inspiration did not extend to the knowledge of this fact:

(a) That they were not omniscient, and there is no more absurdity in supposing that they were ignorant on this subject than in regard to any other.

(b) Inspiration extended to the order of future events, and not to the thees. There is in the Scriptures no statement of the time when the world would close. Future events were made to pass before the minds of the prophets, as in a landscape. The order of the images may be distinctly marked, but the times may not be designated. And even events which may occur in fact at distant periods, may in vision appear to be near each other; as in a landscape, objects which are in fact separated by distant intervals, like the ridges of a mountain, may appeal to lie close to each other.

(c) The Saviour expressly said, that it was not designed that they should know when future events would occur. Thus, after his ascension, in answer to an inquiry whether he then would restore the kingdom to Israel, he said Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power.” See the note on that verse.

(d) The Saviour said that even he himself, as man, was ignorant in regard to the exact time in which future events would occur. “But of that day, and that hour, knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father;” Mark 13:32.

(e) The apostles were in fact ignorant, and mistaken in regard to, at least, the time of the occurrence of one future event, the death of John; John 21:23. There is, therefore, no departure from the proper doctrine of inspiration, in supposing that the apostles were not inspired on these subjects, and that they might be ignorant like others. The proper order of events they state truly and exactly; the exact time God did not, for wise reasons, intend to make known.

Shall not all sleep - Shall not all die; see the note at 1 Corinthians 11:30.

But we shall all be changed - There is considerable variety in the reading of this passage. The Vulgate reads it, “We shall all indeed rise, but we shall not all be changed.” Some Greek manuscripts read it, “We shall all sleep, but we shall not all be changed.” Others, as the Vulgate, “We shall all rise, but we shall not all be changed.” But the present Greek text contains, doubtless, the true reading; and the sense is, that all who are alive at the coming of the Lord Jesus shall undergo such a change as to fit them for their new abode in heaven; or such as shall make them like those who shall be raised from the dead. This change will be instantaneous 1 Corinthians 15:52, for it is evident that God can as easily change the living as he can raise the dead; and as the affairs of the world will then have come to an end, there will be no necessity that those who are then alive should be removed by death; nor would it be proper that they should go down to lie any time in the grave. The ordinary laws, therefore, by which people are removed to eternity, will not operate in regard to them, and they will be removed at once to their new abode.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible".​commentaries/​bnb/1-corinthians-15.html. 1870.

Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians

15:51-52: Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Sometimes the word mystery (musterion) describes things like Jesus’ death, man’s salvation and the future resurrection (compare 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Corinthians 13:2; 1 Corinthians 14:2). In other places this term emphasizes that the church is Christ’s body and Christians are members of this body. Here the word mystery is associated with the change that all will undergo when Jesus returns (“We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed”).

The word sleep (koimaomai) is used 18 times in the New Testament and in 4 of these places this term describes natural sleep (see Matthew 28:13; Luke 22:45; John 11:12; Acts 12:6). The other 14 appearances of this word in the New Testament are associated with physical death (see Matthew 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; Acts 13:36; 1 Corinthians 7:39 [“dead”]; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15; 2 Peter 3:4). In every passage where this term describes physical death, it always refers to the death of the saved.

Man’s body sleeps in the dust of the earth, but his eternal spirit returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Jesus explained this process with the story of a rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:1-31. He said these two men died and both were taken to “Hades,” a word that meant the “realm of the dead” (compare Luke 16:22-23; Luke 16:26). For the saved, entering into the Hadean realm means “being with Christ” (Philippians 1:23) and going to “paradise” (Luke 23:43). For the unsaved, entering into the Hadean realm means being confined to what is described as a “prison” (1 Peter 3:19) and a place of torment (Luke 16:24).

When Jesus returns at the end of time, all who are in the Hadean realm as well as all who are still alive on the earth will be brought forth and “changed” (verse 51b) so they have an eternal body. The word changed (allasso) is used in the Septuagint to describe the “changing” of Jacob’s wages (Genesis 31:7) as well as “changing” clothes (Genesis 35:2). Here it means “transformed.” Since flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (verse 50), “mortality must be transformed into immortality” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:62).

The living and the dead will not only all be changed, all will be changed immediately (verse 52 says this will occur “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye”). The word moment (atomos) is found only here in the New Testament and it is the basis for our English word “atom.” This term described an amount of time that is so small that, just like an atom, it cannot be divided (the NIV says “in a flash”). The living and the dead will be changed so quickly that no one will have any time to react (the entire process will be faster than blinking our eyes). Lenski (First Corinthians, p. 738) said, “As the creative acts recorded in Genesis, including the animation of Adam’s body, were instantaneously timeless, so the final change at the end will be.” The word twinkling (rhipe) is found only here in the New Testament and it “suggests the idea of throwing. It refers to the time it takes to cast a glance or flutter an eyelid” (CBL, First Corinthians, p. 481).

The Church’s Bible (p. 278) noted how we should “remember how long it takes to conceive and for the seeds of children to coalesce in their mothers’ wombs. After an interval their limbs are formed, over a fixed number of days and months, until what was created and formed within is brought forth into the light. Then what time the child takes to grow, how long until adolescence succeeds childhood, young manhood adolescence, old age young manhood, and death everything! Then there is another interval. The newly dead body seems whole, but it is dissolved into putrescence. And for that dissolution time is needed until the body flows again into decay and dries up into dust. From the first beginnings in the womb until the last dust of the grave, what is the interval? How many days, what length of time? But when it comes to the resurrection, the body is all reconstituted in the twinkling of an eye.”

Paul also said this change will occur when then “last trump” (salpinx) is sounded. While some believe this part of the thought is related to Revelation 8:1-13; Revelation 9:1-21; Revelation 10:1-11; Revelation 11:1-19, the best explanation is found here in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 (a trumpet sound will mark the end of time). Just as trumpet blasts signaled some type of military action in ancient times, so the last trump will announce the end of time, Jesus’ return, the resurrection of the dead, and the day of judgment. Since Paul was familiar with the Old Testament he must have known that trumpet sounds sometimes signaled God’s presence (compare Exodus 19:16). The expression “the trumpet shall sound” in the middle of verse 52 (salpizo) is another way of describing “the Lord’s return and the unfolding of the end time” (CBL, GED, 6:20). The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (3:226) rightly noted that just “who sounds the ‘last trumpet’” is “unclear.”

The word “incorruptible” (aphthartos) in verse 52 is only found here, Romans 1:23; 1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Peter 1:4; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 Peter 3:4. The CBL (GED, 1:501) said this term always has the sense of “that which constantly endures, that which is no longer subject to corruption, that which is immortal and imperishable.” Stated another way, in the resurrection “bodies will be clothed in immortality” (CBL, GED, 1:500). “This is part of Christ’s total victory over death. The human form of appearance will be changed, but the term ‘clothed in’ emphasizes that there is identity and connection between that which was and that which will be. The personality is not wiped out. The power and glory form of the resurrection body conquers all perishableness and mortality” (ibid).

Bibliographical Information
Price, Brad "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians".​commentaries/​bpc/1-corinthians-15.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Hitherto he has included two things in his reasoning. In the first place, he shows that there will be a resurrection from the dead: secondly, he shows of what nature it will be. Now, however, he enters more thoroughly into a description of the manner of it. This he calls a mystery, because it had not been as yet so clearly unfolded in any statement of revelation; but he does this to make them more attentive. For that wicked doctrine had derived strength from the circumstance, that they disputed as to this matter carelessly and at their ease; (127) as if it were a matter in which they felt no difficulty. Hence by the term mystery, he admonishes them to learn a matter, which was not only as yet unknown to them, but ought to be reckoned among God’s heavenly secrets.

51.We shall not indeed all sleep. Here there is no difference in the Greek manuscripts, but in the Latin versions there are three different readings. The first is, We shall indeed all die, but we shall not all be changed. The second is, We shall indeed all rise again, but we shall not all be changed. (128) The third is, We shall not indeed all sleep, but we shall all be changed. This diversity, I conjecture, had arisen from this — that some readers, who were not the most discerning, dissatisfied with the true reading, ventured to conjecture a reading which was more approved by them. (129) For it appeared to them, at first view, to be absurd to say, that all would not die, while we read elsewhere, that it is appointed unto all men once to die. (Hebrews 9:27.) Hence they altered the meaning in this way — All will not be changed, though all will rise again, or will die; and the change they interpret to mean — the glory that the sons of God alone will obtain. The true reading, however, may be judged of from the context.

Paul’s intention is to explain what he had said — that we will be conformed to Christ, because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. A question presented itself, (130) what then will become of those who will be still living at the day of the Lord? His answer is, that although all will not die, yet they will be renewed, that mortality and corruption may be done away. It is to be observed, however, that he speaks exclusively of believers; for although the resurrection of the wicked will also involve change, yet as there is no mention made of them here, we must consider everything that is said, as referring exclusively to the elect. We now see, how well this statement corresponds with the preceding one, for as he had said, that we shall bear the image of Christ, he now declares, that this will take place when we shall be changed, so that

mortality may be swallowed up of life, (2 Corinthians 5:4,)

and that this renovation is not inconsistent with the fact, that Christ’s advent will find some still alive.

We must, however, unravel the difficulty — that it is appointed unto all men once to die; and certainly, it is not difficult to unravel it in this way — that as a change cannot take place without doing away with the previous system, that change is reckoned, with good reason, a kind of death; but, as it is not a separation of the soul from the body, it is not looked upon as an ordinary death. It will then be death, inasmuch as it will be the destruction of corruptible nature: it will not be a sleep, inasmuch as the soul will not quit the body; but there will be a sudden transition from corruptible nature into a blessed immortality.

(127)Par maniere de passe-temps, et tout a leur aise; By way of pastime, and quite at their ease.”

(128) This is the reading of the Vulgate. Wiclif (1380) translates the verse as follows: Lo, I seie to you pryuyte (secret) of holi things, and alle we schulen rise agen, but not alle we schulen be chaungid. — Ed.

(129)Qui leur estoit plus probable;” — “Which appeared to them more probable.”

(130)Il y auoit sur ceci vne question qu’on prouuolt faire;” — “There was a question as to this, which might be proposed.”

Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible".​commentaries/​cal/1-corinthians-15.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Let's turn to I Corinthians, chapter 15.

The Corinthian church was a real mess. A lot of carnality that led to divisions, a lot of party spirit, a real misunderstanding of the spiritual gifts, a lot of weird concepts. There were some in Corinth who declared that there was no resurrection from the dead, sort of a Sadducean background, perhaps. Paul, having corrected the other problems that they wrote to him about, now finally tackles the final problem of those people who were declaring there is no resurrection of the dead.

So Paul, first of all, declares that this is the heart of the gospel.

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; By which also ye are saved, if you'll keep in memory what I've preached unto you, unless you 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; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures ( 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ):

So the first proof that Paul gives of the resurrection is the gospel that was preached and of the changed lives that were wrought through the gospel. He said, "By which you are saved if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you have believed in vain."

Now, in a little while Paul is going to tell us that if there is no resurrection from the dead, your faith is vain. You really have nothing to believe in, nothing to hope for if there is no resurrection from the dead.

The gospel that Paul preached, he preached the gospel that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. The scriptures that he would have to be referring to would be the Old Testament scriptures, because the New Testament was not yet written. So where in the Old Testament does it speak of the death of Jesus Christ? Many places. Psalm 22 , a description of death by crucifixion. Isaiah 52 , beginning with verse 1 Corinthians 15:12 and chapter 53. That He was buried and rose again according to the scriptures on the third this presents a little more difficult problem. Where in the scriptures does it speak about Jesus rising again the third day?

When they asked Jesus for a sign, He said, "a wicked and an adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale so shall the Son on Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" ( Matthew 12:39-40 ). And so the third day and rising again, Jonah, perhaps, as sort of an example and yet it's really hard to tie that in a very definite way.

But if we go back to the book of Genesis, we hear God saying to Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice on the mount that I will show you" ( Genesis 22:2 ). Now, when God said to Abraham "take now thy son thine only son," we have an equivalent to that in John 3:16 ,"For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son." And you remember that Abraham gathered his servants and Isaac, and they began to journey from the area of Hebron towards Jerusalem. And they had journeyed for three days when they came into view of the mount that the Lord showed unto Abraham. Mount Moriah, which is in Jerusalem. During that three-day journey . . . and Isaac is an interesting type of Christ in the Old Testament. During that three-day journey in the mind of Abraham, Isaac was as dead.

We read in Hebrews, chapter 11 that by faith Abraham offered Isaac believing or knowing that God, if necessary, would raise him from the dead. For God had said, "Through Isaac shall thy seed be called," and Isaac at this point did not have any children. And so Abraham had such confidence in the promise of God that through Isaac shall thy seed be called that he was willing to obey the Lord, if necessary, to offer him as a sacrifice, knowing that God would raise him from the dead. So it was Abraham's faith in the resurrection that caused him to be willing to obey this command of God.

As they left the servants and journeyed together, father and son, toward Mount Moriah, Isaac said, "Dad, we're missing something. We've got the fire and the wood for the sacrifice, but we don't have any sacrifice. Where's the sacrifice, Dad?" And Abraham said, "Son, the Lord will provide Himself a sacrifice." What an interesting phraseology. He didn't say, "The Lord will provide a sacrifice for Himself," but, "The Lord will provide Himself a sacrifice. In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen." And so they journeyed together, and Abraham built the altar and he placed Isaac thereon. And as he raised the knife, the Lord said, "Okay, Abraham, far enough. Now I know that you will not withhold from Me. Behold there is a ram caught in the thicket. Go ahead and offer the ram as a sacrifice."

Now the interesting thing is Abraham left the servants. He said to the servants, "You wait here, and I and the lad will go and will sacrifice and will come again." Abraham told the servants, "We're coming back. I and the lad are going we're going to sacrifice and we're going to come again." Faith in the promise of God, "through Isaac shall thy seed be called." He knew that somehow, someway, if necessary, God would even raise him from the dead. And thus, the belief in the resurrection after three days, dead in his mind, in that he had to sacrifice him according to the commandment of the Lord.

And Abraham offered the ram as the sacrifice and he declared, "Jehovah-Jireh." He called the name of the place Jehovah-Jireh, for the Lord will provide. And then again he prophesied, "For in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen." Interesting! Not, "It was seen, I saw it, I've seen it," but future, "It shall be seen." Very interesting that 2,000 years later on the top of Mount Moriah, the very same mount where Abraham offered Isaac, God provided Himself a sacrifice. And God's only begotten Son was crucified on Mount Moriah in the spot where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice. And so Abraham was only in a play act drama, play acting what God would do in the future and prophesied of that day in the future when God would provide Himself the sacrifice. "In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen," and it was.

So according to the scriptures, the gospel I preached: Christ died, He was buried, He rose again the third day. After His resurrection,

He was seen first of all by Cephas [or Peter], then he was seen by the twelve: and after that, he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part are still alive at the present time, some although have already fallen asleep. Now after that, he was seen of James; then of all of the apostles. And last of all he was seen by me, as one that was born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, and I'm not really worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am ( 1 Corinthians 15:5-10 ):

Can't we all say that tonight? Hey, I'm not worthy of what God has done for me. I'm not worthy what God has called me to do. I heard Tony Campola talking to a group and he said, "If you knew what a sinner I was you wouldn't be sitting here listening to me." And he said, "And if I knew what a sinner you were, I wouldn't be talking to you." By the grace of God I am what I am. Oh, thank God for His grace tonight.

And so Jesus' appearances after His death and resurrection, showing Himself alive, the scripture said, by many infallible proofs being seen by Peter; then by the disciples; then by five hundred at one time; then by all of the apostles; then by James, probably His brother rather than the fact that he is mentioned separately. James the brother of Jesus, rather than the brother of John. James his brother, Jude, Simon, they did not really believe in Him. In fact, Mark's gospel chapter 3 tells us that they came to rescue Him at one time. They figured He was crazy. He's beside Himself. But after His resurrection and His appearance unto James, he became one of the pillars of the first church. "Finally," Paul said, "me. Like I was born out of due season. I'm the least of the apostles." It's really, "I'm not worthy to be called one because of my persecution of the church."

Paul bore in his heart, really, that grief of having been a persecutor of those who believed in Jesus Christ. He stood, when Stephen was stoned, consenting. He voted for his death, then he held the coats of the fellows who were stoning him. The Bible says he wrecked havoc with the church in Jerusalem and then went down to Damascus to imprison those who called upon the Lord. As he was breathing out murders and threatenings against them. And as Paul probably was guilty of trying to dissuade many from their faith in Christ even by force. Now it troubled him later on when he became a believer in Jesus Christ the fact that he had persecuted the church. "I'm not really worthy to be an apostle, but I am what I am by the grace of God." Love it, love it!

and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it was I or they, so we preach, and so you believe. ( 1 Corinthians 15:10-12 )

Now, notice the place of grace in Paul's life, but also the place of works. Now there are those who talk of the grace of God, totally excluding works. There are those who even look on works as almost something wrong. It is wrong to look upon works if you are looking to your works for a righteous standing before God. Because your works cannot bring you to a righteous standing before God. But having received the grace of God, then my response to that grace is my desire to do for God whatever I can. To work tirelessly for Him. Not to earn my salvation, not to even earn righteousness, but just to show my love and appreciation to God for that grace that I have received.

Works have their place within the believer's life, a vital, important place in the believer's life. They can do nothing towards your salvation or righteousness, but they do much to show your love and appreciation for the grace that you have received from God. Our problem is that we reverse things so often. We seek by our works, many times, to get God to respond to us. If I fast, then surely God will respond to me. If I fast and pray, the Lord will respond to me. If I give to God, He'll respond to me. If I praise God, He'll respond to me. And we are doing these, oftentimes, to get God to respond to us. To obligate God to us. But this is the wrong order. God is the initiator; man is the responder. The works that I do are not to get God to respond to me. "Lord, now, I'll do this and this and this for You if You'll do this for me." And it isn't to obligate God to have to respond to me. The works that I do are in response to what God has done for me. Paul, having been the recipient of this grace, responding to that grace, labored more abundantly than all of the rest of the apostles. As Jesus said, "He who is forgiven much loves much."

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how is it that some of you are saying there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen ( 1 Corinthians 15:12-13 ):

And the disastrous consequences of such a thing would be that,

If Christ is not risen, our preaching is vain, your faith is vain. We're found to be false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: who he did not raise up, if the dead do not rise. For if the dead rise not, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ is not risen, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Our loved ones who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable ( 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 ).

Our hope is in that eternal life that is ours in Jesus Christ. And if Christ is not risen, then that whole thing is down the tubes; faith is vain, preaching is vain, hope is vain. Paul then affirms,

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who died. For since by man came death, by man also came 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; and afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. And then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all of the rule, and the authority and the power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet ( 1 Corinthians 15:20-25 ).

So Paul here talks about Adam introducing death to the human family by his sin.

In Romans, chapter 5, "For by one man's sin entered into the world and death by sin, so that death is passed unto all men, for all sin." Adam brought death to the human family, but Jesus has brought life. Even as one man brought death, so by one man are many made righteous and have that eternal life and that hope of life through Him. Christ is the firstfruits of those that rise from the dead. The word firstfruit, firstborn, often indicates not just the first necessarily in a sequential order, but the most important. But here, of course, it is a reference to the sequential order. Christ the firstfruit, the first one to rise from the dead.

Now, prior to this, those saints of the Old Testament when they died were in sort of a holding tank in Hades. In the sixteenth chapter of the gospel of Luke Jesus tells us that there was a certain rich man who fared sumptuously everyday, and there was a poor man that was daily brought to his gates hoping for crumbs that might fall from the rich man's table. This poor man was covered with sores, and the dogs would lick his sores. And so Jesus painted a very pitiful sight. And the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. Moreover, the rich man also died, and in Hades he lifted up his eyes being in torment and seeing Abraham afar off and Lazarus being comforted there by Abraham, he said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus unto me that he might take and dip his finger in water and touch my tongue for I am tormented in this heat." Abraham said unto him, "Son, remember that within your lifetime you had the good things and Lazarus the evil. Now he is comforted while you are tormented. Moreover, between us there is a fixed gulf and it's impossible for Lazarus to go over there or for you to come over here." He said, "Then I pray that you'll send Lazarus back that he might warn my brothers lest they also come to this horrible place." Abraham said, "They have the law and the prophets. If they will not believe the law and the prophets, neither would they believe if one should come back from the dead."

Now, the teaching of Jesus is showing us that prior to His death Hades was divided into the two compartments: those who were waiting for the promise of God to be fulfilled, those who were waiting for the final day of judgement when in Revelation chapter 20, death and Hades will give up the dead which are in them. Now, those who were waiting for God's promise to be fulfilled, those faithful patriarchs of the Old Testament, Hebrew's chapter 11 tells us concerning them that they all died in faith not having received the promise, but seeing it from afar off, they embraced it. They claimed that they were only strangers and pilgrims here. "Hey man, I'm looking for a city which has foundations whose maker is God. This world is not my home. I'm just passin' through. I'm looking for the city of God, the kingdom of God."

And so they died in faith not having received the promise. God having reserved a better thing for us that they apart from us couldn't come into the perfected state. They could not come into the perfected state until the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could actually put away a man's sin. All they could do was cover the sin and look forward by faith to the better sacrifice that would be offered when Jesus, as God's only begotten Son and as the Lamb of God, died for the sins of the world and put away our sins.

Now Peter tells us in Acts, chapter 2 that He descended into Hades when He died. But it was not possible that He could be held in Hades. Because God had given to Him the promise, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you allow the Holy One to see corruption" ( Acts 2:27 ,Psalms 16:10 ). So Peter affirmed to those in chapter 2 of the book of Acts, "This same Jesus hath God raised from the dead." Now Paul tells us in Ephesians, chapter 4, that when Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth, and you remember He hath said to the Pharisees seeking for a sign, "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." As He was the three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, according to Ephesians 4 , He was preaching to those souls that were there in prison. And when He ascended He led those captives, Abraham and Lazarus and all of those who were waiting there for God's promise to be fulfilled. He led the captives from their captivity.

Now if you go back to the prophecy of the Messiah in Isaiah, chapter 61, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, to open the prison doors to those that are bound." He's talking about the prison doors of death. Christ the firstfruits of the those who rise from the dead. Matthew's gospel chapter 27 tells us, "and the graves of many of the saints were opened and they were seen walking through the streets of Jerusalem after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead." He led the captives from their captivity. He opened the prison doors to those that were bound. So Christ. The Old Testament saints at His resurrection, the firstfruits of those who rise from the dead.

This company will be completed when the Day of the Lord comes and Jesus is ready to return to the earth with His saints to establish the kingdom of God. Right now, the first resurrection is a process over a period of time. It began with Jesus Christ. He is the firstfruits. And it continues as each child of God, living and believing in Jesus Christ, as they fall asleep in Christ, the first resurrection continues. It will be completed when all of the martyred saints from the tribulation period have been fulfilled and entered the heavenly realm. That will complete the first resurrection.

The second resurrection of the unrighteous dead will not take place until the end of the thousand year millennial reign of Jesus Christ. The great white throne judgement of God, Revelation, chapter 20, as John saw the throne of God, the books were opened, death and hell gave up the dead which were in them. They all stood before God and they were judged according to the things written in the books. This is the second resurrection.

So Paul gives the order here, every man in his own order. Christ the firstfruits, and afterwards they that are Christ's at His coming. That is, the full compliment will be completed at the time that Jesus comes again. And then will come the end when He delivers the kingdom up to the Father, when He will have put down all rule and authority and powers. Now, this will not take place until He has reigned on the earth for a thousand years. When Jesus begins His thousand year millennial reign upon the earth, Satan will be bound and placed in the abusso. But towards the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, Satan will be released out of the abusso and will gather together the nations to war against Jesus, and at that point, Michael the archangel will stand up. Satan will be defeated and will be cast into Gehenna, the judgment of God, the unrighteous cast into Gehenna. And now all creation in obedience unto the authority of Jesus Christ. He has now vanquished every rebel against God.

You see, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, there was only one government in the universe, the government of God, a government of life and light. And all of the created beings in the universe were subject to that government. But one day a brilliant, beautiful creature of God with a name, "son of the morning," Lucifer, who was perfect in beauty and perfect in wisdom and perfect in all of his ways, until iniquity was found in him, said in his heart, "I'm going to exalt my throne above the stars of God. I'm going to ascend into the mount, into the congregation, the sides of the north. I'm going to be like the Most High." And Satan, Lucifer, rebelled against the authority of God and formed in the universe a second kingdom. A kingdom that was opposed to the first kingdom, in rebellion against the first kingdom. A kingdom of death and darkness. One day Jesus Christ will put an end to Satan's rebellion completely. And when every anti-God foe is brought into judgement and disposed, then Jesus will present this perfect kingdom to the Father. So, then will come the end when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even to the Father. When He will have put down all of the rule and all of the authorities and the powers that had rebelled against the authority of God.

And so in the beginning God, one government, and in the end, God and the one government of God again throughout the whole universe. All of the creatures of the universe once again in obedience and harmony to the one government of God. Ages without end. And then God, through the endless ages to come, will be revealing unto you what is the exceeding richness of His love and grace towards you through Jesus Christ our Lord. A beautiful future, providing the dead rise. If the dead rise not then you can say that we are miserable. All we've got is this rotten world. For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet.

And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death ( 1 Corinthians 15:26 ).

And death and hell will be cast into Gehenna. He will have destroyed it.

For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he said, All things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him ( 1 Corinthians 15:27 ).

Now this is the work of the Father. You remember God said to Jesus in Psalm 110 , "Sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool." "Wherefore God has given Him a name that is above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father" ( Philippians 2:9-11 ). God will put all things in subjection unto Him, but, of course, we understand all things except God, who has put the things under the authority of Jesus. God is excepted in here in that He is the one that has put things under the authority of Jesus. He Himself does not come under the authority of Jesus. And so it is manifest that He is excepted which did put all things under Him.

And when all things shall be subdued under him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all and in all ( 1 Corinthians 15:28 ).

One government, the government of God, the government of life and light, and all things now in subjection to Him.

Now Jesus put Himself in subjection to the Father when He took upon Himself the form of a human being. The Bible tells us that He was with God. He thought it not robbery to be equal with God. And yet, He humbled Himself and took on the form of a man and came as a servant and was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. And that is why God highly exalted Him and gave Him this name that is above all names. So Jesus, while He was here on the earth declared, "I came not to do my will, but the will of Him who sent Me." And He said, "I do always those things that please the Father." And in the garden He said, "If it is possible let this cup pass from Me, but nevertheless not my will, thy will be done." And so He submitted Himself to the Father, becoming a little lower than the angels that He might suffer death for all men.

And now God has highly exalted Him. He said, "Father, glorify Me with the glory that I had with You before the worlds ever existed." And the Father responded, "I have glorified thee and I shall." And now He sits there at the right hand of the Father in glory waiting until His enemies be made His footstool, until the Father puts all things into subjection unto Him. But finally, when the final rebellion is put down at the end of His reign, then He will bring to the Father and present to Him that world that has been perfected through the grace and the love and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Making it possible that we should be a part of God's eternal kingdom. And at that point, according to Paul's teaching here, He Himself will also once more subject Himself to the Father that God might be all in all.


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? ( 1 Corinthians 15:29 )

This is the only place in scripture where baptism for the dead is mentioned. It is mentioned in an argument against the argument that there is no resurrection from the dead. Now, the people in Corinth, as I said, were a mess. They had all kinds of problems: carnality and divisions. They had all kinds of mixed up beliefs and doctrines, and this epistle is known as a corrective epistle in that he was correcting all of the problems that existed in Corinth.

Evidently, in Corinth there were those in the church who were being baptized for the dead. There is no condemnation of the practice here, nor is there any commendation for the practice. It's only brought up that they were doing it, but Paul was pointing out that it is totally inconsistent. "Can't you see, you dummies, if there is no resurrection from the dead, then this practice you have of baptizing for the dead . . . why do you do that if the they dead don't rise? If there is no resurrection from the dead." And he is just showing to them that their inconsistent practices were inconsistent with their beliefs.

Now, to take this and to make it a ritual within the church would be totally wrong. In the law of scriptural interpretation, or in the laws that have been set out for scriptural interpretation called theologically, the laws of hermeneutics, what do we accept for common church practice today? The law of hermeneutics declares that if it was taught by Jesus Christ, if it was practiced in the book of Acts, and taught in the epistles, then we accept it for general church practice today. For instance, the Lord's Supper was taught by Jesus Christ. The Lord's Supper was practiced in the book of Acts, as they would gather together breaking bread from house to house. And there is teaching on the Lord's Supper here in the eleventh chapter of I Corinthians. Thus, taught by Christ, practiced by the early church in the book of Acts, taught in the epistles, we accept it for general church practice today. And so we gather at the Lord's table and partake together of the Lord's Supper.

Water Baptism: taught by Jesus Christ, practiced in the book of Acts, and taught in Romans, chapter 6. Thus, we accept water baptism as a legitimate ritual within the church today. Foot washing: taught by Jesus Christ, we do not find any practice in the book of Acts of the church gathering and washing each other's feet, except that Dorcas was commended because she washed the disciples' feet. But there is no teaching of it in a doctrinal way in the epistles. Foot washing is practiced by some groups today, but from the general church practice it has been dropped, because it doesn't pass the full criteria. There are groups here and there who have foot-washing services. Now I suppose that if you're out in the woods in Oregon or something, it might be very appropriate to have foot-washing services. We almost had them here at Calvary during the hippie period. Only for a different reason--we were trying to protect our carpets. We actually did consider foot-washing services during the hippie period when everybody was going barefooted. It would have been appropriate at that time. But now that we've all become formal again, no need for it.

So, following this same criteria, here is a mention of it; it isn't taught as a doctrine. It isn't commended. It isn't taught as something that should be done. It is just an off-handed argument here showing that their practice was not consistent with their belief. And yet, the Mormons have made a very big thing over baptizing for the dead, and that is why they have the archives of the genealogies that you can go and find out all of your relatives that have died. And you can go in and be baptized for them, and of course, if you are baptized for your dead relatives, then you can save them out of hell and they can be saved if you'll be baptized for them. And thus, it's very important that you baptize for your dead relatives, to save them from the destruction. I could blow your mind, but I won't.

There are many Mormons who actually seek to contact, then, their relatives to ask them for permission to be baptized for them. And so they do get into spiritism, in seeking to contact the dead. This is not common knowledge. It isn't done by all of the Mormons, but it is done by many of the Mormons. And this practice of baptizing for the dead, the next step is the getting their permission to be baptized for them. But it's sort of far out, and so I didn't want to mention it, but . . .

And why do we put our life in jeopardy everyday if there is no resurrection? Sort of dumb that I've gone through all of the persecution and everything that I've gone through. Why would I do that if there is no resurrection?

Why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, because I'm facing death everyday. If after the manner of men I fought with the beast at Ephesus, but what advantage is it to me, if the dead do not rise? ( 1 Corinthians 15:30-32 )

Then let us follow the Epicurean philosophy, the humanist concept.

let's eat and drink; for tomorrow we die. Don't be deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Therefore awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: and I speak this to your shame ( 1 Corinthians 15:32-34 ).

So some of you really don't have this knowledge, and I'm speaking to your shame.

Now some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? ( 1 Corinthians 15:35 )

Now, the Bible does teach that when Jesus comes for His church those that are asleep in Christ will He bring with Him at His coming. So when the Lord comes to get His church, those, our loved ones who have already gone before will be coming with the Lord to meet us. The Lord will bring with Him with His coming. So what body will they have when He comes? When the Lord comes for us, and those our loved ones who have died, what kind of a body will they have? Will we recognize them? Will we know them? And Paul said, and he said this because they were saying it in sort of a mocking way, you know, "Oh, how are the dead raised and what kind of a body will they have will they have when they come?" And Paul said, "Fools, don't you realize that that which you plant doesn't come to life until it first of all dies? I mean, you want to make fun of the idea of the resurrection from the dead? You want to mock at the idea?" He's addressing these people who were saying that there was no resurrection of the dead. Those who were affirming that it doesn't happen. And now he's saying,

You fools ( 1 Corinthians 15:36 ),

Nature teaches you the resurrection from the dead.

That which you plant in the ground does not come forth into new life until it first of all dies. And that which you sow, you do not sow the body that is going to be, but all you sow is bare grain, and it may be by chance be wheat, or some other grain. But God gives it a body as pleases him, and to every seed its own body ( 1 Corinthians 15:36-38 ).

You say you can't believe in the resurrection of the dead? Foolish. Nature demonstrates it. Plant life. You take a seed, you put it in the ground, it germinates, it dies. You don't plant the body that it's going to be, all you plant is just a bare seed. And now God gives it a body that pleases Him. I might hold before you an old, ugly looking bulb and I ask you, "What in the world is that ugly, scaly looking thing?" And you say, "Well, Chuck, that's a gladiolus." "That's a gladiolus? You've got to be kidding." "No, it's a gladiolus." "Are you sure?" "Ya."

So I take that old ugly scaly bulb, I put it in the ground, I cover it with earth, and what happens to it? It dies, germinates. But as it dies, it splits in two, and from that cleft there comes a little white shoot. Roots go down, the little white shoot comes up. As soon as it hits the air, it turns green. It grows up into a stalk, buds come out on it, and then they begin to open into the most beautiful colored blossoms. Purple, white, variegated red-white, red, pink. I say to you, "What is that beautiful white flower with the beautiful variegated red in it?" And you say, "'Chuck, that's a gladiolus." "Come on. What do you take me for? What do you mean that's a gladiolus? You told me that ugly, scaly old thing was a gladiolus. Now you're trying to tell me this beautiful flower is a gladiolus? You've got to be kidding." You see, you plant the bare seed, God gives it a body that pleases Him. You didn't plant the beautiful blossom. You didn't take the beautiful flower blossom and put it in the ground and cover it with earth. All you planted was a bare bulb that died but has now come forth in a new body given to it by God, a body that pleases God. So you didn't plant the body that was going to be, all you planted was a bare grain. God has now given it a new body that pleases Him, and Paul said, "So is the resurrection from the dead." So one day when you see that gorgeous creature with a lot of curly hair and someone asks you, "Who's that?" Some will say, "Ah, that's Chuck." "Ah, come on. You're putting me on." Hey, just blossomed out, man.

Now, all flesh is not the same flesh: there is a flesh of men, flesh of beast, another of fish, and another of birds ( 1 Corinthians 15:39 ).

We all have different kind of meat.

There are also celestial bodies [or heavenly bodies], and there are terrestrial [or earthly bodies]: and the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, you see the stars: and the planets are different ( 1 Corinthians 15:40-41 ).

The one has its own energy and life-giving force going forth from it. The other is just a planet depending on the energy that's coming. But different bodies, different forms in the heavens, different celestial bodies. And one star differs from another star in glory.

Now so also is the resurrection of the dead ( 1 Corinthians 15:42 ).

The seed, or we are planted, actually. This old body he's talking about now,

is sown in corruption; but it's going to be raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor; it will be raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. And there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body ( 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 ).

I am living now in a natural body. The real me is not this body. The real me is spirit. But the body is an instrument that God has given to me by which I might express me. So what I am, what I feel, what I think, I can relate to you because of my body and you in turn can relate to me what you are and what you feel through the medium of your body. And so, through the medium of our bodies we come into relationships with each other. I get to know you. I get to understand you. I come to appreciate you. I come to admire you. I come to love you. That's what God intended, that we come into meaningful loving relationships by the medium of our body. But the body isn't me, just the medium by which I express myself. And one day this old corruptible body is going to be planted in the ground. This weak body is going to be planted in the ground. This dishonorable body is going to be planted in the ground. But I'm going to be raised in glory, in incorruption, and in honor. For there is a natural body; it will be planted in the ground. But there is also a spiritual body, and I have a new body waiting for me.

Now, in a couple of weeks we will be getting to II Corinthians, chapter 5. Paul goes on with this very same lesson. And he said, "We know that when this earthly tent, the body in which we presently live is dissolved, that we then have a building of God that is not made with hands, that is eternal in the heavens." He's talking about the new body that I have. God has prepared a new body for me, a building of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. "So then we who are in this body do grown earnestly desiring to move out of them. Not that I would be an unembodied spirit, but I want to move into that new building, that new body. I want to be clothed upon with that new body which is from heaven. For I know that as long as I am living in this body," as long as Chuck is living in this old body, "I am absent from the Lord, but I would choose rather to be absent from this body and to be present with the Lord," in that new body. Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many mansions, I'm going to prepare one for you." He's talking about that new body that He's gone to prepare for you. Glorious new mansion, my spirit's going to move in.

Now, I am always interested in the capacities of this body. I've sought to find the limits of the capacities of this body. And it's always interesting to find out just how high this body can jump, how fast it can run, and things of that nature, as you test your body to its limits. It'll be very interesting to discover the limits of our new bodies, which I'm sure are vastly superior to these.

Now, there's the natural body, there's the spiritual body.

And so it is written, [verse 1 Corinthians 15:45 ,] The first man Adam was made a living soul; but the last Adam [Jesus Christ] was made a quickening spirit ( 1 Corinthians 15:45 ).

And the Greek there is hard to translate. Is made a "making alive spirit," a spirit that makes alive.

Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual ( 1 Corinthians 15:46 ),

The first was Adam, the fleshly.

and then afterwards that which is spiritual. So the first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man [Jesus] is the Lord from heaven ( 1 Corinthians 15:46-47 ).

So I received a body from Adam. One of these days I'm going to receive a new body from Jesus. Fashioned into His image, into His likeness. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, it doesn't yet appear what we're going to be, but we know that when He appears we are going to be like Him" ( 1 John 3:2 ). The second is from the Lord, the spiritual, the heavenly.

And as is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, so shall we also bear the image of the heavenly ( 1 Corinthians 15:48-49 ).

But flesh and blood can't inherit the kingdom of heaven, so I've got to have a new body. A new body that will be fashioned like to the body of Jesus Christ, His spiritual heavenly body. That's what my new body will be like.

Now, when God made the body in which you presently live, He made it out of the earth. "Dust thou art and to dust shalt thou return," was spoken of the body of man. It came out of the earth. And the same seventeen elements that make up the dirt outside are the same seventeen elements that make up your body.

One little kid, when his mom told him that we were made out of dust, came running into the kitchen all excited a few days later, and he said, "Momma, come quick. I just looked under the bed and someone's coming or going." But that was spoken of the body, not of you. Not of the spirit.

This body was not only made out of the earth, but it was made for the earth, of the earth, earthy. So God designed your body to exist in the environmental conditions of the planet Earth. Your body is designed to withstand fourteen pounds of pressure per square inch. Your body is designed to take the oxygen out of the 1Co 78:29 nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere in which we live. One per cent neon, freon, and some other gases. Designed for the earth. The body wasn't designed for space; it wasn't designed for the stratosphere. It wasn't designed for the moon or Mars or Venus or Jupiter. It was designed only for the earth. Now, to take your body out of the earth, you've got to take artificial environment with you or you can't survive. Those men who went to the moon had to take artificial environment with them. You saw the pressure suits, the space suits to maintain the fourteen pounds of pressure per square inch. You saw the tanks of nitrogen and oxygen on their backs so that they could have that same balance of atmosphere. They had to take all of the artificial environment to recreate the earth's environment in order to survive on the moon, because the body wasn't made for the moon. Your body wasn't made for heaven.

flesh and blood can't inherit the kingdom of heaven ( 1 Corinthians 15:50 );

Your body was made for the earth, so God wants to bring you into His glorious presence in the heavens. In order to do that, rather than outfit you with a space suit and give you nitrogen and oxygen tanks, heavy shoes to clomp around in, He's just made a new body for you that is designed for the environmental conditions of heaven. So, for the child of God, death is called sleep, because all you do is move out of the old body, the tent, into the new house that God's prepared for you. Just that simple.

Notice again, the body that comes out of the ground is not the body that you planted. All you planted was a bare grain. God gives it a body that pleases Him.

I will have a new body. I don't know that it will look anything at all like this body, and I really don't care. It's going to please God, and I know it'll please me. I expect improvements.

neither doth corruption inherit incorruption ( 1 Corinthians 15:50 ).

That is, this corruptible body cannot inherit the incorruption.

Now behold, I show you a mystery; We're not going to all sleep, [we're not all going to die,] but we're all going to be changed, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality ( 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 ).

So Paul here is now bringing them a new revelation, a mystery. Something that hasn't been revealed by the Lord up until this point, and this, that there's going to be one day a glorious transformation of the children of God. We're not going to all sleep, or die, but we're all going to be changed, in a moment in a twinkling of an eye. This is the event called the rapture, when all of us will be changed and this corruption will put on incorruption; this mortal will put on immortality.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? For the sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ ( 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 ).

We will be changed; we will receive a new body adapted for the heavenly environment.

One more illustration, and then we must move on. A caterpillar has an interesting little body that is designed to crawl on the earth. And that little caterpillar crawls through the fields. And I've watched them as they've crossed the highways on hot summer days. And I've walked across the road on hot summer days and that black asphalt can get awfully hot. And I can imagine that little caterpillar with all of those feet walking across the highway, having crossed through the fields, could probably be saying, "Oh, I'm so tired of hot dirty feet. I wish I could fly." And that little caterpillar might try to fly. It might climb up a tree and out on a twig and jump and wiggle as fast as it can, but the body is not designed aerodynamically. It is designed only to crawl on the ground or up the side of the wall. And so the body falls. But one day that little caterpillar crawls up the wall of your house and exudes a little glue and sticks itself under your windowsill and spins a chrysalis around itself. And after a period of time, you watch that chrysalis hanging there, you'll see it begin to jerk, convulsive kinds of jerks. If you continue to watch it, soon you will see it burst open and beautiful gold and black wings will unfurl. And it will perch there for a moment on the chrysalis, and then that tiger swallow tailed butterfly will begin flying around the yard. Over the fence and away. What's happened? A metamorphosis, a change of body that has allowed it to exist in a totally new environment. No more hot, dirty feet. It can now fly. As I look around this world in which we live and I see the mess, I sometimes say, "God, I'm so tired of hot, dirty feet. I wish I could fly."

"I show you a mystery. We're not gonna all sleep. But we're all gonna be changed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet. And this corruption will put on incorruption. And this mortal will put on immortality." And I'm gonna soar through the skies, to forever be with my Lord. When He comes back to reign on the earth, I'll come back, but I'll have my new body then. The new capacities. And who knows what it is gonna be.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord ( 1 Corinthians 15:58 ).

One glorious thing about what you do for the Lord, it's never in vain. You know, I've put time and energy and all into projects, and worked hard, only to see them just . . . when you think, "Wow, you've got it made," and then just watch the whole thing crumble. All of that energy, all of that time, down the tubes. And you think, "Wow, what a waste of time and energy!" You can never say that about anything you do for the Lord. Your labor for the Lord is never in vain. Never in vain. You say, "But, they didn't believe, or they didn't receive." That's all right. God doesn't pay commissions, only salaries. He pays you for that labor that you did, not for the results of the labor. Just for the fact that you labored for Him. Therefore, abound in the work of the Lord, because it's never in vain.

Now Paul writes to them. He wants to go to Jerusalem and he wants to take money with him from the Gentile churches as a gesture of goodwill, because the saints in Jerusalem have gone through some real heavy times. And there's a real financial need in the church in Jerusalem and they have sort of a standoffish thing with the Gentiles. So Paul is hoping that this will break down that attitude when he can come with a very generous offering from the Gentile churches to show the Jews there that, "Hey, they are brothers. They love you. Because we are all part of the body of Christ."


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "Smith's Bible Commentary".​commentaries/​csc/1-corinthians-15.html. 2014.

Contending for the Faith

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Paul now addresses the question of what happens to believers who are still alive when Jesus returns. Their bodies are perishable and anything perishable cannot inherit an imperishable kingdom.

Behold: The term "Behold" (idou) is "a demonstrative particle...bidding the reader or hearer to attend to what is said...(it) is the exclamation of one pointing out something and calling attention" (Thayer 297-2-2400).

I shew you a mystery: Paul is wanting the Corinthians to pay very close attention to the "mystery" that he is to reveal. The word "mystery" (musterion) refers to "a hidden purpose or counsel (a) secret will...and is used of certain single events decreed by God having reference to his kingdom or the salvation of men" (Thayer 420-1-3466).

We shall not all sleep: The mystery that Paul is about to reveal is that "we shall not all sleep"; we shall not all die (see note on verses 6 and 18), "but we shall all be changed...."

but we shall all be changed: To "be changed" (allasso) means "to transform" (Thayer 28-2-236) from a corruptible body to an incorruptible body. There is nothing here to support the idea that Paul believed that the end of the world would come in his lifetime.

The we all includes all believers who had lived, were living, or ever should live. There is nothing either in the form of expression or in the context to limit it to the men of that generation. In the same way Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, ’We that are alive at the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them that are asleep.’ This does not imply that he expected to be alive when Christ came. In his second epistle to the Thessalonians he warns them against the expectation of the speedy advent of Christ, telling them that a great apostasy and the revelation of the Man of Sin were to occur before that event (Hodge 356).

The Apostle Paul says,

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time (2 Thessalonians 2:1-6).

In a moment: The word "moment" (atomos), a scientific word from which the word atom comes, was considered indivisible and therefore, refers to something "that cannot be cut in two or divided" (Thayer 83-2-823). The Greek word atomos indicates that something is incapable of being cut. Paul uses it here in reference to the time it will take for the mortal to be changed into an immortal body--it will be only a split second.

in the twinkling of an eye: The "twinkling" (thipe) of an eye is a "stroke (or) beat" (Thayer 563-1-4493) or "a jerk of the eye" (Strong #4493).

at the last trump: This trumpet is sometimes, incorrectly, thought to be referring to the last of the seven trumpets spoken of in Revelation chapters eight through eleven. This reference cannot be, since the visions recorded in that book had not yet been seen; it most likely refers to the trumpet that will sound on the last day. Matthew records, "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (24:31).

for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed: At the last trumpet sound, two things will happen immediately. First, the dead (righteous and wicked) will be raised. Secondly, those who are still living will be changed from corruption to incorruption; they will have the same type of immortal body as those who rise from the dead. Paul speaks of this event again when he says,

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first ("first" before the living): Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "Contending for the Faith".​commentaries/​ctf/1-corinthians-15.html. 1993-2022.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

4. The assurance of victory over death 15:50-58

Paul brought his revelation of the resurrection to a climax in this paragraph by clarifying what all this means for the believer in Christ. Here he also dealt with the exceptional case of living believers’ transformation at the Rapture. Transformation is absolutely necessary to enter the spiritual mode of future existence. This transformation will happen when Christ comes.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes".​commentaries/​dcc/1-corinthians-15.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

"Behold" or "Listen" grabs the reader’s attention and announces something important. Paul was about to explain something never before revealed, a mystery (Gr. mysterion; cf. Matthew 13:11; Romans 11:25; Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 Corinthians 13:2; 1 Corinthians 14:2; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:3-4; Ephesians 3:9; Ephesians 5:32; Ephesians 6:19; et al.). He had previously written that at the Rapture dead Christians would rise before God will catch living Christians up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). He had just revealed that resurrection bodies will be different from our present bodies: spiritual rather than natural (1 Corinthians 15:35-39). Now he revealed that living believers translated at the Rapture would also receive spiritual bodies. Three key New Testament passages that deal with the Rapture are John 14:1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Not every Christian will die before he or she receives a new body, but every one must experience this change, even the "spiritual" Corinthians. Whether we are alive or dead when the Rapture takes place we will all receive spiritual bodies at that moment. "All" negates the doctrine of the partial rapture of the church, the view that only watchful Christians will participate in the Rapture.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes".​commentaries/​dcc/1-corinthians-15.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 15

JESUS' RESURRECTION AND OURS ( 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 )

1 Corinthians 15:1-58 is both one of the greatest and one of the most difficult chapters in the New Testament. Not only is it in itself difficult, but it has also given to the creed a phrase which many people have grave difficulty in affirming, for it is from this chapter that we mainly derive the idea of the resurrection of the body. The chapter will be far less difficult if we study it against its background, and even that troublesome phrase will become quite clear and acceptable when we realize what Paul really meant by it. So then, before we study the chapter, there are certain things we would do well to have in mind.

(i) It is of great importance to remember that the Corinthians were denying not the Resurrection of Jesus Christ but the resurrection of the body; and what Paul was insistent upon was that if a man denied the resurrection of the body he thereby denied the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and therefore emptied the Christian message of its truth and the Christian life of its reality.

(ii) In any early Christian church there must have been two backgrounds, for in all churches there were Jews and Greeks.

First, there was the Jewish background. To the end of the day the Sadducees denied that there was any life after death at all. There was therefore one line of Jewish thought which completely denied both the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body ( Acts 23:8). In the Old Testament there is very little hope of anything that can be called life after death. According to the general Old Testament belief all men, without distinction, went to Sheol after death. Sheol, often wrongly translated Hell, was a gray land beneath the world, where the dead lived a shadowy existence, without strength, without light, cut off alike from men and from God. The Old Testament is full of this bleak, grim pessimism regarding what is to happen after death.

For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in Sheol

who can give thee praise? ( Psalms 6:5).

What profit is there in my death if I go down to the pit?

Will the dust praise thee? Will it tell of thy faithfulness?

( Psalms 30:9).

Dost thou work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise

up to praise thee? Is thy steadfast love declared in the

grave? Or thy faithfulness in Abaddon? Are thy wonders

known in the darkness, or thy saving help in the land of

forgetfulness? ( Psalms 88:10-12).

The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down

into silence. ( Psalms 115:17).

For Sheol cannot thank thee, death cannot praise thee;

those who go down to the pit cannot hope for thy

faithfulness. ( Isaiah 38:18).

Look away from me, that I may know gladness, before

I depart and be no more. ( Psalms 39:13).

But he who is joined with all the living has hope; for a living

dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that

they will die; but the dead know nothing.... Whatever

your hand finds to do do it with your might; for there

is no work, or thought, or knowledge, or wisdom, in

Sheol to which you are going. ( Ecclesiastes 9:4-5; Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Who shall give praise to the Most High in the grave?

(Ecc 17:27).

The dead that are in the grave, whose breath is taken from

their bodies, will give unto the Lord neither glory nor

righteousness. ( Bar_2:17 ).

J. E. McFadyen, a great Old Testament scholar, says that this lack of a belief in immortality in the Old Testament is due "to the power with which those men apprehended God in this world." He goes on to say, "There are few more wonderful things than this in the long story of religion, that for centuries men lived the noblest lives, doing their duties and bearing their sorrows, without hope of future reward; and they did this because in all their going out and coming in they were very sure of God."

It is true that in the Old Testament there are some few, some very few, glimpses of a real life to come. There were times when a man felt that, if God be God at all, there must be something which would reverse the incomprehensible verdicts of this world. So Job cries out,

Still, I know One to champion me at last,

to stand up for me upon earth.

This body may break up, but even then

my life shall have a sight of God.

( Job 19:25-27. Moffatt).

The real feeling of the saint was that even in this life a man might enter into a relationship with God so close and so precious that not even death could break it.

My body also dwells secure. For thou dost not give me up

to Sheol, or let thy godly one see the Pit. Thou dost

show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness

of joy; in thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

( Psalms 16:9-11).

Thou dost hold my right hand. Thou dost guide me with thy

counsel, and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory.

( Psalms 73:24).

It is also true that in Israel the immortal hope developed. Two things helped that development. (a) Israel was the chosen people, and yet her history was one continued tale of disaster. Men began to feel that it required another world to redress the balance. (b) For many centuries it is true to say that the individual hardly existed. God was the God of the nation and the individual was an unimportant unit. But as the centuries went on religion became more and more personal. God became not the God of the nation but the friend of every individual; and so men began dimly and instinctively to feel that once a man knows God and is known by him, a relationship has been created which not even death can break.

(iii) When we turn to the Greek world, we must firmly grasp one thing, which is at the back of the whole chapter. The Greeks had an instinctive fear of death. Euripides wrote, "Yet mortals, burdened with countless ills, still love life. They long for each coming day, glad to bear the thing they know, rather than face death the unknown." (Fragment 813). But on the whole the Greeks, and that part of the world influenced by Greek thought, did believe in the immortality of the soul. But for them the immortality of the soul involved the complete dissolution of the body.

They had a proverb, "The body is a tomb." "I am a poor soul," said one of them, "shackled to a corpse." "It pleased me," said Seneca, "to enquire into the eternity of the soul--nay! to believe in it. I surrendered myself to that great hope." But he also says, "When the day shall come which shall part this mixture of divine and human, here, where I found it, I will leave my body, myself I will give back to the gods." Epictetus writes, "When God does not supply what is necessary, he is sounding the signal for retreat--he has opened the door and says to you 'Come!' But whither? To nothing terrible, but to whence you came, to the things which are dear and kin to you, to the elements. What in you was fire shall go to fire, earth to earth, water to water." Seneca talks about things at death "being resolved into their ancient elements." For Plato "the body is the antithesis of the soul, as the source of all weaknesses as opposed to what alone is capable of independence and goodness." We can see this best in the Stoic belief. To the Stoic God was fiery spirit, purer than anything on earth. What gave men life was that a spark of this divine fire came and dwelt in a man's body. When a man died, his body simply dissolved into the elements of which it was made, but the divine spark returned to God and was absorbed in the divinity of which it was a part.

For the Greek immortality lay precisely in getting rid of the body. For him the resurrection of the body was unthinkable. Personal immortality did not really exist because that which gave men life was absorbed again in God the source of all life.

(iv) Paul's view was quite different. If we begin with one immense fact, the rest will become clear. The Christian belief is that after death individuality will survive, that you will still be you and I will still be I. Beside that we have to set another immense fact. To the Greek the body could not be consecrated. It was matter, the source of all evil, the prison-house of the soul. But to the Christian the body is not evil. Jesus, the Son of God, has taken this human body upon him and therefore it is not contemptible because it has been inhabited by God. To the Christian, therefore the life to come involves the total man, body and soul.

Now it is easy to misinterpret and to caricature the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. Celsus, who lived about A.D. 220, a bitter opponent of Christianity, did this very thing long ago. How can those who have died rise with their identical bodies? he demands. "Really it is the hope of worms! For what soul of a man would any longer wish for a body that had rotted?" It is easy to cite the case of a person smashed up in an accident or dying of cancer.

But Paul never said that we would rise with the body with which we died. He insisted that we would have a spiritual body. What he really meant was that a man's personality would survive. It is almost impossible to conceive of personality without a body, because it is through the body that the personality expresses itself. What Paul is contending for is that after death the individual remains. He did not inherit the Greek contempt of the body but believed in the resurrection of the whole man. He will still be himself; he will survive as a person. That is what Paul means by the resurrection of the body. Everything of the body and of the soul that is necessary to make a man a person will survive, but, at the same time, all things will be new, and body and spirit will alike be very different from earthly things, for they will alike be divine.

The Risen Lord ( 1 Corinthians 15:1-11)

15:1-11 Brothers, I want to make clear to you the nature of the good news that I preached to you, that gospel which you also received, and in which you stand, and through which you are saved. I want to make clear to you what account I gave you of the good news, an account which can save you if you hold fast to it, unless your belief is a random and haphazard thing. In the very forefront of it I handed on to you what I myself received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was laid in the tomb, and that he was raised up on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he was seen by Cephas and then by The Twelve, and that then he was seen by more than five hundred brothers all at the one time, of whom the majority are still alive, although some have fallen asleep. After that he was seen by James, and then by all the apostles, and last of all, as if by the abortion of the apostolic family, he was seen by me too. For I am the least of the apostles; in fact I am not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the Church of God. It is by the grace of God that I am what I am, and his grace to me has not proved ineffective, but I have toiled more exceedingly than all of them; but it was not I who achieved anything but God's grace working with me. So then, whether I be the preacher or they, this is what we preach and this is what we have believed.

Paul is recapitulating the good news which he first brought to the Corinthians. It was not news which he had invented but news which had first been delivered to him, and it was news of a Risen Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Paul says an extremely interesting series of things about the good news.

(i) It was something which the Corinthians had received. No man ever invented the gospel for himself; in a sense no man ever discovers it for himself. It is something which he receives. Therein indeed is the very function of the Church. The Church is the repository and the transmitter of the good news. As one of the old fathers had it, "No man can have God for his Father, unless he has the Church for his mother." The good news is something that is received within a fellowship.

(ii) It was something in which the Corinthians stood. The very first function of the good news was to give a man stability. In a slippery world it kept him on his feet. In a tempting world it gave him resistance power. In a hurting world it enabled him to endure a broken heart or an agonized body and not to give in. Moffatt finely translates Job 4:4, "Your words have kept men on their feet." That is precisely what the gospel does.

(iii) It was something in which they were being saved. It is interesting to note that in the Greek this is a present tense, and not past. It would be strictly correct to translate it not, "in which you have been saved," but, "in which you are being saved." Salvation goes from glory to glory. It is not something which is ever completed in this world. There are many things in this life which we can exhaust, but the meaning of salvation is something which a man can never exhaust.

(iv) It was something to which a man had to hold tenaciously. Life makes many an attempt to take away our faith. Things happen to us and to others which baffle our understanding; life has its problems to which there seems no solution and its questions to which there seems no answer; life has its dark places where there seems to be nothing to do but hold on. Faith is always a victory, the victory of the soul which tenaciously maintains its clutch on God.

(v) It was something which must not be held haphazardly and at random. The faith which collapses is the faith which has not thought things out and thought them through. For so many of us faith is a superficial thing. We tend to accept things because we are told them and to possess them merely at secondhand. If we undergo the agony of thought there may be much that we must discard, but what is left is really ours in such a way that nothing can ever take it from us.

In Paul's list of appearances of the Risen Lord two are specially interesting.

(i) There is the appearance to Peter. In the earliest account of the Resurrection story, the word of the messenger in the empty tomb is, "Go, tell his disciples and Peter." ( Mark 16:7). In Luke 24:34 the disciples say, "The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon." It is an amazing thing that one of the first appearances of the Risen Lord was to the disciple who had denied him. There is all the wonder of the love and grace of Jesus Christ here. Others might have hated Peter forever, but the one desire of Jesus was to set this erratic disciple of his upon his feet. Peter had wronged Jesus and then had wept his heart out; and the one desire of this amazing Jesus was to comfort him in the pain of his disloyalty. Love can go no further than to think more of the heartbreak of the man who wronged it than of the hurt that it itself has received.

(ii) There is the appearance to James. Without doubt this James is the brother of our Lord. It is quite clear from the gospel narrative that Jesus' own family did not understand him and were even actively hostile to him. Mark 3:21 tells us that they actually sought to restrain him because they believed him to be mad. John 7:5 tells us that his brothers did not believe in him. One of the earliest of those gospels which did not succeed in getting into the New Testament is the Gospel according to the Hebrews. Only fragments of it remain. One fragment, preserved by Jerome, reads, "Now the Lord, when he had given the linen cloth unto the servant of the priest, went unto James and appeared unto him (for James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour wherein he had drunk the Lord's cup until he should see him risen again from among them that sleep)." So, the story runs, "Jesus went to James and said, 'Bring ye a table and bread.' And he took bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it unto James the Just and said unto him, 'My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of Man is risen from among them that sleep.'" We can only conjecture what lies behind this. It may well be that the last days turned James' contempt into wondering admiration so that when the end came, he was so torn with remorse for the way in which he had treated his brother that he swore that he would starve unless he came back to forgive him. Here once again we have the amazing grace and love of Christ. He came to bring peace to the troubled soul of the man who had called him mad and who had been his opponent.

It is one of the most heart-moving things in all the story of Jesus that two of his first appearances, after he rose from the tomb, were to men who had hurt him and were sorry for it. Jesus meets the penitent heart far more than halfway.

Finally, in this passage we have a vivid light thrown on the character of Paul himself. To him it was the most precious thing in the world that Jesus had appeared also to him. That was at one and the same time the turning point and the dynamic moment of his life. But 1 Corinthians 15:9-11 tell us much about him.

(i) They tell us of his utter humility. He is the least of the apostles; he has been glorified with an office for which he is not worthy. Paul would never have claimed to be a self-made man. It was by the grace of God that he was what he was. He is perhaps even accepting a taunt made against him. It would seem that he was a little and an unhandsome man ( 2 Corinthians 10:10). It may be that the Jewish Christians who wished to impose the law upon Christian converts and who hated his doctrine of free grace, declared that, so far from being born again, Paul was an abortion. He, for his part, was so conscious of his own unworthiness that he felt no one could say anything too bad about him. Charles Gore once said, "On a general review of life we can seldom feel that we are suffering unmerited wrong." Paul felt like that. His was not the pride which resented the criticisms and the taunts of men, but the humility which felt that it deserved them.

(ii) They tell us at the same time of the consciousness of his own worth. He was well aware that he had laboured beyond them all. His was not a false modesty. But even at that, he spoke always, not of what he had done, but of what God had enabled him to do.

(iii) They tell of his sense of fellowship. He did not regard himself as an isolated phenomenon with a message that was unique. He and the other apostles preached the same gospel. His was the greatness which bound him closer to the Christian fellowship; there is always something lacking in the greatness which divides a man from his fellows.

If Christ Be Not Raised ( 1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

15:12-19 If it is continually proclaimed that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some among you say that the resurrection of the dead does not exist? If the resurrection from among the dead does not exist, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then the proclamation of the faith is emptied of its meaning, and your faith has been emptied of its meaning too. If that is so we are shown to have home false witness about God, because we witnessed about God, that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise, if indeed the dead are not raised up. If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins; and, if that is so, those who died trusting in Christ have perished. If it is only in this life that we have hope in Christ, then we are more to be pitied than all men.

Paul attacks the central position of his opponents at Corinth. They said flatly, "Dead men do not rise again." Paul's answer is, "If you take up that position it means that Jesus Christ has not risen again; and if that be so, the whole Christian faith is wrecked."

Why did Paul regard a belief in the Resurrection of Jesus as so essential? What great values and great truths does j, conserve? It proves four great facts, which can make all the difference to a man's view of life here and hereafter.

(i) The Resurrection proves that truth is stronger than falsehood. According to the Fourth Gospel, Jesus said to his enemies, "Now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth." ( John 8:40). Jesus came with the true idea of God and of goodness; his enemies procured his death because they did not want their own false view destroyed. If they had succeeded in finally obliterating him, falsehood would have been stronger than truth. On one occasion the Earl of Morton, regent of Scotland, sent for Andrew Melville, the great Reformation leader. "There will never be quyetnes in this countrey," said Morton, "till halff a dissone of you be hangit or banished the countrey." "Tushe! sir," said Melville, "threaten your courtiers in that fashion. It is the same to me whether I rot in the air or in the ground.... Yet God be glorified, it will nocht ly in your power to hang nor exyll his treuthe!" The Resurrection is the final guarantee of the indestructibility of the truth.

(ii) The Resurrection proves that good is stronger than evil. Again to quote the Fourth Gospel, Jesus is represented as saying to his enemies, "You are of your father, the devil." ( John 8:44). The forces of evil crucified Jesus and if there had been no Resurrection these forces would have been triumphant. J. A. Froude, the great historian, wrote, "One lesson, and only one, history may be said to repeat with distinctness, that the world is built somehow on moral foundations, that in the long run it is well with the good, and in the long run it is ill with the wicked." But if the Resurrection had not taken place, that very principle would have been imperilled, and we could never again be certain that goodness is stronger than evil.

(iii) The Resurrection proves that love is stronger than hatred. Jesus was the love of God incarnate.

"Love came down at Christmas,

Love all lovely, Love Divine."

On the other hand, the attitude of those who procured his crucifixion was an almost virulent hatred, so bitter that in the end it was capable of ascribing the loveliness and graciousness of his life to the power of the devil. If there had been no Resurrection, it would have meant that the hatred of man in the end conquered the love of God. The Resurrection is the triumph of love over all that hatred could do. This very beautiful poem sums up the whole matter.

"I heard two soldiers talking

As they came down the hill,

The sombre hill of Calvary,

Bleak and black and still.

And one said, 'The night is late,

These thieves take long to die.'

And one said, 'I am sore afraid,

And yet I know not why.'

I heard two women weeping

As down the hill they came,

And one was like a broken rose,

And one was like a flame.

One said, 'Men shall rue

This deed their hands have done.'

And one said only through her tears,

'My son! my son! my son!'

I heard two angels singing

Ere yet the dawn was bright,

And they were clad in shining robes,

Robes and crowns of light.

And one sang, 'Death is vanquished,'

And one in golden voice

Sang, 'Love hath conquered, conquered all,

O heaven and earth rejoice!'"

The Resurrection is the final proof that love is stronger than hate.

(iv) The Resurrection proves that life is stronger than death. If Jesus had died never to rise again, it would have proved that death could take the loveliest and best life that ever lived and finally break it. During the second world war a certain city church in London was all set out for harvest thanksgiving. In the centre of the gifts was a sheaf of corn. The service was never held, for, on the Saturday night, a savage air raid laid the church in ruins. The months passed and the spring came, and someone noticed that, on the bomb site where the church had stood, there were shoots of green. The summer came and the shoots flourished and in the autumn there was a flourishing patch of corn growing amidst the rubble. Not even the bombs and the destruction could kill the life of the corn and its seeds. The Resurrection is the final proof that life is stronger than death.

Paul insisted that if the Resurrection of Jesus was not a fact the whole Christian message was based on a lie, that many thousands had died trusting in a delusion, that without it the greatest values in life have no guarantee. "Take away the Resurrection," he said, "and you destroy both the foundation and the fabric of the Christian faith."

The First-fruits Of Those That Sleep ( 1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

15:20-28 Now then Christ has been raised from among the dead, the first-fruits of those who sleep. For, since it was through one man that death came, it was also through one man that the resurrection of the dead came. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. Each comes in his own rank. Christ is the first-fruits, and then those who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes. After that comes the final end, when he will hand over the Kingdom to God, his father, when he has reduced to helplessness every other rule, and every other authority and power. For he must reign until he puts all his enemies under his feet. Death will be the last enemy to be reduced to helplessness. For God has subjected all things to him. (When we say that all things have been subjected to him, that of course does not include him who subjected them to him). But when all things have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.

This again is a very difficult passage because it deals with ideas which are strange to us.

It speaks of Christ as "the first-fruits of them that sleep." Paul is thinking in terms of a picture which every Jew would recognize. The Feast of the Passover had more than one significance. It commemorated the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. But it was also a great harvest festival. It fell just at the time when the barley harvest was due to be ingathered. The law laid it down, "You shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest; and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, that you may find acceptance; on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it." ( Leviticus 23:10-11). Some sheaves of barley must be reaped from a common field. They must not be taken from a garden or an orchard or from specially prepared soil. They must come from a typical field. When the barley was cut, it was brought to the Temple. There it was threshed with soft canes so as not to bruise it. It was then parched over the fire in a perforated pan so that every grain was touched by the fire. It was then exposed to the wind so that the chaff was blown away. It was then ground in a barley mill and its flour was offered to God. That was the first-fruits.

It is significant to note that not until after that was done could the new barley be bought and sold in the shops and bread be made from the new flour. The first-fruits were a sign of the harvest to come; and the Resurrection of Jesus was a sign of the resurrection of all believers which was to come. Just as the new barley could not be used until the first-fruits had been duly offered, so the new harvest of life could not come until Jesus had been raised from the dead.

Paul goes on to use another Jewish idea. According to the old story in Genesis 3:1-19 it was through Adam's sin that death came into the world as its direct consequence and penalty. The Jews believed that all men literally sinned in Adam; we see that his sin might transmit to his descendants the tendency to sin. As Aeschylus said, "The impious deed leaves after it a larger progeny, all in the likeness of the parent stock." As George Eliot wrote, "Our deeds are like children that are born to us, they live and act apart from our will; nay, children may be strangled, but deeds never. They have an indestructible life both in and out of our consciousness."

Nobody would be likely to deny that a child can inherit a tendency to sin and that the father's sins are literally visited upon the children. No one would deny that a child can inherit the consequences of a father's sin, for we know all too well how physical conditions which are the consequence of an immoral life can be transmitted to the child. But the Jew meant more than that. He had a tremendous sense of solidarity. He was sure that no man could ever do anything that could affect only himself. And he held that all men sinned in Adam. The whole world of men was, as it were, in him; and when he sinned all sinned.

That may seem a strange idea to us and unfair. But that was the Jewish belief. All had sinned in Adam, therefore all were under the penalty of death. With the coming of Christ that chain was broken. Christ was sinless and conquered death. Just as all men sinned in Adam, so all men escape from sin in Christ; and just as all men died in Adam, so all men conquered death in Christ. Our unity with Christ is just as real as our unity with Adam and this destroys the evil effect of the old.

So we get two contrasting sets of facts. First, there is Adam--sin--death. Second, there is Christ--goodness--life. And just as we were all involved in the sin of him who was first created, we are all involved in the victory of him who re-created mankind. However we may estimate that way of thinking today, it was convincing to those who heard it for the first time; and, whatever else is doubtful, it remains true that with Jesus Christ a new power came into the world to liberate men from sin and death.

1 Corinthians 15:24-28 read very strangely to us. We are used to thinking of the Father and the Son on terms of equality. But here Paul clearly and deliberately subordinates the Son to the Father. What he is thinking of is this. We can use only human terms and analogies. God gave to Jesus a task to do, to defeat sin and death and to liberate man. The day will come when that task will be fully and finally accomplished, and then, to put it in pictorial terms, the Son will return to the Father like a victor coming home and the triumph of God will be complete. It is not a case of the Son being subject to the Father as a slave or even a servant is to a master. It is a case of one who, having accomplished the work that was given him to do, returns with the glory of complete obedience as his crown. As God sent forth his Son to redeem the world, so in the end he will receive back a world redeemed; and then there will be nothing in heaven or in earth outside his love and power.

If There Is No Resurrection ( 1 Corinthians 15:29-34)

15:29-34 If there is no resurrection, what will those who are baptized for the dead do? If the dead are not raised at all, why do people get themselves baptized for them? Every day I take my life in my hands, I swear it by the pride which I have in you in Christ Jesus our Lord. What good is it to me--looking at it from the human point of view--if at Ephesus I had to fight with beasts in the arena? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die. Don't deceive yourselves--evil friendships destroy good characters. Turn to sober living, as it is only right that you should, and don't go on sinning. Some of you boast about your knowledge, but you have not a vestige of knowledge about God. It is to shame you that I speak.

Once again this passage begins with a very difficult section. People have always been puzzled about what being baptized for the dead means, and even yet the problem is not definitely settled. The preposition for in the phrase for the dead is the Greek huper ( G5228) . In general this word can have two main meanings. When used of place, it can mean above or over. Far more commonly it is used of persons or things and means instead of or on behalf of. Remembering these two meanings, let us look at some of the ways this phrase has been understood.

(i) Beginning from the meaning of over or above, some scholars have suggested that it refers to those who get themselves baptized over the graves of the martyrs. The idea is that there would be something specially moving in being baptized on sacred ground with the thought of the unseen cloud of witnesses all around. It is an attractive and rather lovely idea, but at the time Paul was writing to the Corinthians persecution had not yet broken out in anything like a big way. Christians might suffer ostracism and social persecution, but the time of the martyrs had not yet come.

(ii) It is in any event much more natural to take huper in the sense of instead of or on behalf of. If we take it that way there are three possibilities. It is suggested that the phrase refers to those who get themselves baptized in order to fill up the vacant places in the Church which the dead have left. The idea is that the new believer, the young Christian, comes into the Church like a new recruit to take the place of the veterans who have served their campaign and earned their release. There is a great thought there. The Church ever needs its replacements and the new member is like the volunteer who fills up the depleted ranks.

(iii) It is suggested that the phrase means those who get themselves baptized out of respect for and affection for the dead. Again there is a precious truth here. Many of us came into the Church because we knew and remembered that some loved one had died praying and hoping for us. Many have in the end given their lives to Christ because of the unseen influence of one who has passed over to the other side.

(iv) All these are lovely thoughts, but in the end we think that this phrase can refer to only one custom, which has quite correctly passed out of Church practice altogether. In the early Church there was vicarious baptism. If a person died who had intended to become a member of the Church and was actually under instruction, sometimes someone else underwent baptism for him. The custom sprang from a superstitious view of baptism, that, without it, a person was necessarily excluded from the bliss of heaven. It was to safeguard against this exclusion that sometimes people volunteered to be baptized literally on behalf of those who had died. Here Paul neither approves nor disapproves that practice. He merely asks if there can be any point in it if there is no resurrection and the dead never rise again.

From that he passes on to one of the great motives of the Christian life. In effect he asks, "Why should a Christian accept the perils of the Christian life if it is all to go for nothing?" He quotes his own experience. Every day he is in jeopardy of his life. Something terrible of which the New Testament has no record happened to Paul at Ephesus. He refers to it again in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10: he says that in Asia, that is in Ephesus, he was in such dire peril that he despaired of life and had the sentence of death passed upon him. To this day in Ephesus there is a building known as Paul's prison. Here he calls his peril fighting with beasts. The word he uses is that used of a gladiator in the arena. The later legends tell us that he actually did so fight and that he was wondrously preserved because the beasts would not attack him. But Paul was a Roman citizen and no Roman citizen could be compelled to fight in the arena. Much more likely he used the phrase as a vivid picture of being threatened by men who were as savage for his life as a wild beast might have been. In any event he demands, "To what end is all the peril and the suffering if there is no life beyond?"

The man who thinks that this life is all, and that there is nothing to follow it, may well say, "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die." The Bible itself quotes those who speak like that. "Come," they say, "let us get wine, let us fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow will be like this day, great beyond measure." ( Isaiah 56:12). The preacher, who held that death was extinction, wrote, "There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and find enjoyment from his toil." ( Ecclesiastes 2:24, compare Ecclesiastes 3:12; Ecclesiastes 5:18; Ecclesiastes 8:15; Ecclesiastes 9:7). Jesus himself told about the rich fool who forgot eternity and took as his motto, "Eat, drink and be merry." ( Luke 12:19).

Classical literature is full of this spirit. Herodotus, the Greek historian, tells of a custom of the Egyptians. "In social meetings among the rich, when the banquet is ended, a servant carries round to the several guests a coffin, in which there is a wooden image of a corpse, carved and painted to resemble nature as nearly as possible, about a cubit or two cubits in length. As he shows it to each guest in turn, the servant says, 'Gaze here, and drink and be merry, for when you die, such will you be."' Euripides writes in the Alcestis (781-789, A. S. Way's translation):

"From all mankind the debt of death is due,

For of all mortals is there one that knows

If through the coming morrow he shall live?

For trackless is the way of fortune's feet,

Not to be taught nor won by art of man.

This hearing then, and learning it of me,

Make merry, drink; the life from day to day

Account thine own, all else in fortune's power."

Thucydides (2: 53) tells how, when the mortal plague came to Athens, people committed every shameful crime and eagerly snatched at every lustful pleasure because they believed that life was short and they would never have to pay the penalty. Horace (Odes 2: 13; 13) gives as his philosophy, "Tell them to bring wines and perfumes and the too-short-lived blossoms of the lovely rose while circumstances and age and the black threads of the three sisters (the Fates) still allow us to do so." In one of the most famous poems in the world the Latin poet Catullus wrote, "Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love, and let us value the tales of austere old men at a single halfpenny. Suns can set and then return again, but for us, when once our brief light sets, there is but one perpetual night through which we must sleep."

Take away the thought of a life to come and this life loses its values. Take away the idea that this life is a preparation for a greater life to follow and the bonds of honour and morality are loosened. It is useless to argue that this should not be so and that men should not be good and honourable simply for the sake of some reward. The fact remains that the man who believes that this is the only world tends to live as if the things of this world are all that matter.

So Paul insists that the Corinthians must not associate with those who say that there is no resurrection; for this would be to risk an infection which can pollute life. To say that there is no resurrection is not a sign of superior knowledge; it is a sign of utter ignorance of God. Paul is unleashing the lash that very shame may bring these wanderers back into the right way.

The Physical And The Spiritual ( 1 Corinthians 15:35-49)

15:35-49 But perhaps someone says, "In what form are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" That is a foolish question. When you sow a seed, it cannot be made alive, unless it first dies. It is not the body which is going to come into existence that is sown, but a seed which is not clothed in a body at all, it may be of corn, or of some other of the crops. But God gives it a body as he wills, and to each of the seeds he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh. But there is one kind of flesh of men, and another of beasts, and another of birds, and another of fishes. There are heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies. The splendour of the heavenly bodies is one thing, and the splendour of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one splendour and the moon another splendour and the stars another splendour. I say stars, not star, for star differs from star in splendour. There is the same difference between this body and the body we shall have in the resurrection of the dead. Our body is like the seed. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a physical body; it is raised a spiritual body. For if a physical body exists, so does a spiritual one. For it stands written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit." It is not the spiritual that comes first, but the physical, and after that the spiritual. The first man is of the earth and was made of earth--the second man is from heaven. Such as are made of earth are like earth; such as are heavenly, are like the heavenly one; and, as we have borne the image of that which is of earth, so we shall also bear the image of him who is of heaven.

Before we begin to try to interpret this section we would do well to remember one thing--all through it Paul is talking about things that no one really knows anything about. He is talking not about verifiable matters of fact, but about matters of faith. Trying to express the inexpressible and to describe the indescribable, he is doing the best he can with the human ideas and human words that are all that he has to work with. If we remember that, it will save us from a crudely literalistic interpretation and make us fasten our thoughts on the underlying principles in Paul's mind. In this section he is dealing with people who say, "Granted that there is a resurrection of the body, with what kind of body do people rise again?" His answer has three basic principles in it.

(i) He takes the analogy of a seed. The seed is put in the ground and dies, but in due time it rises again; and does so with a very different kind of body from that with which it was sown. Paul is showing that, at one and the same time, there can be dissolution, difference and yet continuity. The seed is dissolved; when it rises again, there is a vast difference in its body; and yet, in spite of the dissolution and the difference, it is the same seed. So our earthly bodies will dissolve; they will rise again in very different form; but it is the same person who rises. Dissolved by death, changed by resurrection, it is still we who exist.

(ii) In the world, even as we know it, there is not one kind of body; each separate part of creation has its own. God gives to each created thing a body suitable for its part in creation. If that be so, it is only reasonable to expect that he will give us a body fitted for the resurrection life.

(iii) In life there is a development. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth ( Genesis 2:7). But Jesus is far more than a man made from the dust of the earth. He is the incarnation of the very Spirit of God. Now, under the old way of life, we were one with Adam, sharing his sin, inheriting his death and having his body; but, under the new way of life, we are one with Christ and we shall therefore share his life and his being. It is true that we have a physical body to begin with, but it is also true that one day we shall have a spiritual body.

All through this section Paul has maintained a reverent and wise reticence as to what that body will be like; it will be spiritual, it will be such as God knows that we need and we will be like Christ. But in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 he draws four contrasts which shed light on our future state.

(i) The present body is corruptible; the future body will be incorruptible. In this world everything is subject to change and decay. "Youth's beauty fades, and manhood's glory fades," as Sophocles had it. But in the life to come there will be a permanence in which beauty will never lose its sheen.

(ii) The present body is in dishonour; the future body will be in glory. It may be that Paul means that in this life it is through our bodily feelings and passions that dishonour can so easily come; but in the life to come our bodies will no longer be the servants of passion and of impulse but the instruments of the pure service of God, than which there can be no greater honour.

(iii) The present body is in weakness; the future body will be in power. It is nowadays fashionable to talk of man's power, but the really remarkable thing is his weakness. A draught of air or a drop of water can kill him. We are limited in this life so often simply because of the necessary limitations of the body. Time and time again our physical constitution says to our visions and our plans, "Thus far and no farther." We are so often frustrated because we are what we are. But in the life to. come the limitations will be gone. Here we are compassed about with weakness; there we will be clad with power.

"All we have hoped or willed or dreamed of good

shall exist;

The high that proved too high, the heroic for earth

too hard."

On earth we have the "broken arcs"; in the life to come "the perfect round."

(iv) The present body is a natural body; the future body will be a spiritual body. By that, it may be, Paul meant that here we are but imperfect vessels and imperfect instruments for the Spirit; but in the life to come we will be such that the Spirit can truly fill us, as can never happen here, and the Spirit can truly use us, as is never possible now. Then we will be able to render the perfect worship, the perfect service, the perfect love that now can only be a vision and a dream.

The Conquest Of Death ( 1 Corinthians 15:50-58)

15:50-58 Brothers, I say this, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruption. Look now--I tell you something which only the initiated can understand. We shall not all die, but we shall all be changed, in a moment of time, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised up incorruptible and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality, then the word which stands written will happen, "Death has been swallowed up in victory." O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, beloved brothers, show yourselves steady, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your toil does not go for nothing.

Once again we must remember that Paul is dealing with things which defy language and baffle expression. We must read this as we would read great poetry, rather than as we would dissect a scientific treatise. The argument follows a series of steps until it reaches its climax.

(i) Paul insists that, as we are, we are not fit to inherit the Kingdom of God. We may be well enough equipped to get on with the life of this world, but for the life of the world to come we will not do. A man may be able to run enough to catch his morning train and yet need to be very different to be able to run enough for the Olympic games. A man may write well enough to amuse his friends and yet need to be very different to write something which men will not willingly let die. A man may talk well enough in the circle of his club and yet need to be very different to hold his own in a circle of real experts. A man always needs to be changed to enter into a higher grade of life; and Paul insists that before we can enter the Kingdom of God we must be changed.

(ii) Further he insists that this shattering change is going to come in his own lifetime. In this he was in error; but he looked to that change coming when Jesus Christ came again.

(iii) Then Paul goes on triumphantly to declare that no man need fear that change. The fear of death has always haunted men. It haunted Dr. Johnson, one of the greatest and best men who ever lived. Once Boswell said to him that there had been times when he had not feared death. Johnson answered that "he never had a moment in which death was not terrible to him." Once Mrs. Knowles told him that he should not have a horror for that which is the gate of life. Johnson answered, "No rational man can die without uneasy apprehension." He declared that the fear of death was so natural to man that all life was one long effort not to think about it.

Wherein lies the fear of death? Partly it comes from fear of the unknown. But still more it comes from the sense of sin. If a man felt that he could meet God easily then to die would be only, as Peter Pan said, a great adventure. But where does that sense of sin come from? It comes from a sense of being under the law. So long as a man sees in God only the law of righteousness, he must ever be in the position of a criminal before the bar with no hope of acquittal. But this is precisely what Jesus came to abolish. He came to tell us that God is not law, but love, that the centre of God's being is not legalism but grace, that we go out, not to a judge, but to a Father who awaits his children coming home. Because of that Jesus gave us the victory over death, its fear banished in the wonder of God's love.

(iv) Finally, at the end of the chapter, Paul does what he always does. Suddenly the theology becomes a challenge; suddenly the speculations become intensely practical; suddenly the sweep of the mind becomes the demand for action. He ends by saying, "If you have all that glory to look forward to, then keep yourself steadfast in God's faith and service, for if you do, all your effort will not be in vain." The Christian life may be difficult, but the goal is infinitely worth the struggle.

"A hope so great and so divine,

May trials well endure;

And purge the soul from sense and sin,

As Christ himself is pure."

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible".​commentaries/​dsb/1-corinthians-15.html. 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

1 Corinthians 15:51

Show mystery -- I make known something previously hidden (a revelation.)

Shall not all sleep -- 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16; The Lord’s time of return is unknown, 2 Corinthians 4:14; "us" to die and be raised.


John 5:28-29 resurrection of the good and bad

1 Corinthians 15:1 ff great entire chapter

1 Corinthians 15:51-53 the living will be changed

1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 18 words of comfort to righteous

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". Gann's Commentary on the Bible.​commentaries/​gbc/1-corinthians-15.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Behold, I show you a mystery,.... Or a secret, which could never have been discovered by reason, or the light of nature, and what is of pure revelation; and which perhaps the apostle became acquainted with, when he was caught up into the third heaven; and is what is never made mention of by any prophet, or apostle, but himself: he prefaces the account of it in this manner, partly to show the great respect he had for these Corinthians, that he treated them as his bosom friends, to whom he communicated his secrets; and partly to excite their curiosity and attention:

we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; some copies read, "we shall all rise again, but we shall not all be changed", and so the Vulgate Latin version; according to which the sense is, all will rise again, both just and unjust, but all will not be changed into a state of glory; but the apostle is only speaking of the saints, of whom it is true, not only that they shall rise again, but shall be changed from corruption to incorruption; wherefore this cannot be a true reading: others read the words thus, "we shall all die, but we shall not all be changed"; and so the Ethiopic version and the Alexandrian copy seem to have read; which is just the reverse of the text, and arises from a wrong sense of Hebrews 9:27 where it is not said, it is "appointed unto all men", but "unto men once to die"; from which rule there has been some exceptions, as the instances of Enoch and Elijah show; and there will be more at the time of Christ's coming, for all will not sleep in their graves, or die, for death is meant by sleeping; they will not die as men ordinarily do, and continue under the power of death, but they will be changed at once from corruption to incorruption, from dishonour to glory, from weakness to power, from being natural to be spiritual bodies; this change all the saints will undergo, whether dead or alive, at Christ's coming; the dead by a resurrection from the dead, and the living by a secret and sudden power, which will at once render their bodies, without separating them from their souls, immortal and glorious: and this reading and sense are confirmed by the Syriac and Arabic versions.

Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible".​commentaries/​geb/1-corinthians-15.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Resurrection of Saints. A. D. 57.

      51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,   52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.   53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.   54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.   55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?   56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.   57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

      To confirm what he had said of this change,

      I. He here tells them what had been concealed from or unknown to them till then--that all the saints would not die, but all would be changed. Those that are alive at our Lord's coming will be caught up into the clouds, without dying, 1 Thessalonians 4:11. But it is plain from this passage that it will not be without changing from corruption to incorruption. The frame of their living bodies shall be thus altered, as well as those that are dead; and this in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Corinthians 15:52. What cannot almighty power effect? That power that calls the dead into life can surely thus soon and suddenly change the living; for changed they must be as well as the dead, because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. This is the mystery which the apostle shows the Corinthians: Behold, I show you a mystery; or bring into open light a truth dark and unknown before. Note, There are many mysteries shown to us in the gospel; many truths that before were utterly unknown are there made known; many truths that were but dark and obscure before are there brought into open day, and plainly revealed; and many things are in part revealed that will never be fully known, nor perhaps clearly understood. The apostle here makes known a truth unknown before, which is that the saints living at our Lord's second coming will not die, but be changed, that this change will be made in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and at the sound of the last trump; for, as he tells us elsewhere, the Lord himself shall descend with a shout, with a voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16), so here, the trumpet must sound. It is the loud summons of all the living and all the dead, to come and appear at the tribunal of Christ. At this summons the graves shall open, the dead saints shall rise incorruptible, and the living saints be changed to the same incorruptible state, 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Corinthians 15:52.

      II. He assigns the reason of this change (1 Corinthians 15:53; 1 Corinthians 15:53): For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. How otherwise could the man be a fit inhabitant of the incorruptible regions, or be fitted to possess the eternal inheritance? How can that which is corruptible and mortal enjoy what is incorruptible, permanent, and immortal? This corruptible body must be made incorruptible, this mortal body must be changed into immortal, that the man may be capable of enjoying the happiness designed for him. Note, It is this corruptible that must put on incorruption; the demolished fabric that must be reared again. What is sown must be quickened. Saints will come in their own bodies (1 Corinthians 15:38; 1 Corinthians 15:38), not in other bodies.

      III. He lets us know what will follow upon this change of the living and dead in Christ: Then shall be brought to pass that saying, Death is swallowed up in victory; or, He will swallow up death in victory.Isaiah 25:8. For mortality shall be then swallowed up of life (2 Corinthians 5:4), and death perfectly subdued and conquered, and saints for ever delivered from its power. Such a conquest shall be obtained over it that it shall for ever disappear in those regions to which our Lord will bear his risen saints. And therefore will the saints hereupon sing their epinikion, their song of triumph. Then, when this mortal shall have put on immortality, will death be swallowed up, for ever swallowed up, eis nikos. Christ hinders it from swallowing his saints when they die; but, when they rise again, death shall, as to them, be swallowed for ever. And upon this destruction of death will they break out into a song of triumph.

      1. They will glory over death as a vanquished enemy, and insult this great and terrible destroyer: "O death! where is thy sting? Where is now thy sting, thy power to hurt? What mischief hast thou done us? We are dead; but behold we live again, and shall die no more. Thou art vanquished and disarmed, and we are out of the reach of thy deadly dart. Where now is thy fatal artillery? Where are thy stores of death? We fear no further mischiefs from thee, nor heed thy weapons, but defy thy power, and despise thy wrath. And, O grave! where is thy victory? Where now is thy victory? What has become of it? Where are the spoils and trophies of it? Once we were thy prisoners, but the prison-doors are burst open, the locks and bolts have been forced to give way, our shackles are knocked off, and we are for ever released. Captivity is taken captive. The imaginary victor is conquered, and forced to resign his conquest and release his captives. Thy triumphs, grave, are at an end. The bonds of death are loosed, and we are at liberty, and are never more to be hurt by death, nor imprisoned in the grave." In a moment, the power of death, and the conquests and spoils of the grave, are gone; and, as to the saints, the very signs of them will not remain. Where are they? Thus will they raise themselves, when they become immortal, to the honour of their Saviour and the praise of divine grace: they shall glory over vanquished death.

      2. The foundation for this triumph is here intimated, (1.) In the account given whence death had its power to hurt: The sting of death is sin. This gives venom to his dart: this alone puts it into the power of death to hurt and kill. Sin unpardoned, and nothing else, can keep any under his power. And the strength of sin is the law; it is the divine threatening against the transgressors of the law, the curse there denounced, that gives power to sin. Note, Sin is the parent of death, and gives it all its hurtful power. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,Romans 5:12. It is its cursed progeny and offspring. (2.) In the account given of the victory saints obtain over it through Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:56; 1 Corinthians 15:56. The sting of death is sin; but Christ, by dying, has taken out this sting. He has made atonement for sin; he has obtained remission of it. It may hiss therefore, but it cannot hurt. The strength of sin is the law; but the curse of the law is removed by our Redeemer's becoming a curse for us. So that sin is deprived of its strength and sting, through Christ, that is, by his incarnation, suffering, and death. Death may seize a believer, but cannot sting him, cannot hold him in his power. There is a day coming when the grave shall open, the bands of death be loosed, the dead saints revive, and become incorruptible and immortal, and put out of the reach of death for ever. And then will it plainly appear that, as to them, death will have lost its strength and sting; and all by the mediation of Christ, by his dying in their room. By dying, he conquered death, and spoiled the grave; and, through faith in him, believers become sharers in his conquests. They often rejoice beforehand, in the hope of this victory; and, when they arise glorious from the grave, they will boldly triumph over death. Note, It is altogether owing to the grace of God in Christ that sin is pardoned and death disarmed. The law puts arms into the hand of death, to destroy the sinner; but pardon of sin takes away this power from the law, and deprives death of its strength and sting. It is by the grace of God, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, that we are freely justified,Romans 3:24. It is no wonder, therefore, (3.) If this triumph of the saints over death should issue in thanksgiving to God: Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through Christ Jesus, our Lord,1 Corinthians 15:57; 1 Corinthians 15:57. The way to sanctify all our joy is to make it tributary to the praise of God. Then only do we enjoy our blessings and honours in a holy manner when God has his revenue of glory out of it, and we are free to pay it to him. And this really improves and exalts our satisfaction. We are conscious at once of having done our duty and enjoyed our pleasure. And what can be more joyous in itself than the saints' triumph over death, when they shall rise again? And shall they not then rejoice in the Lord, and be glad in the God of their salvation? Shall not their souls magnify the Lord? When he shows such wonders to the dead, shall they not arise and praise him?Psalms 88:10. Those who remain under the power of death can have no heart to praise; but such conquests and triumphs will certainly tune the tongues of the saints to thankfulness and praise--praise for the victory (it is great and glorious in itself), and for the means whereby it is obtained (it is given of God through Christ Jesus), a victory obtained not by our power, but the power of God; not given because we are worthy, but because Christ is so, and has by dying obtained this conquest for us. Must not this circumstance endear the victory to us, and heighten our praise to God? Note, How many springs of joy to the saints and thanksgiving to God are opened by the death and resurrection, the sufferings and conquests, of our Redeemer! With what acclamations will saints rising from the dead applaud him! How will the heaven of heavens resound his praises for ever! Thanks be to God will be the burden of their song; and angels will join the chorus, and declare their consent with a loud Amen, Hallelujah.

Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible".​commentaries/​mhm/1-corinthians-15.html. 1706.

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible

1 Corinthians 15:1-58

There were people in the Apostles' days who had an idea that there was no resurrection. Paul endeavours torefute the idea, and teaches the Corinthians that there was a resurrection from the dead. From the 1st to the 11th verse he proves the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and upon that grounds the doctrine of the resurrection of the just.

"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye 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."

Now, we expect to hear a whole list of doctrines when the apostle says "I declare unto you the gospel;" but instead of that, he simply tells us of the resurrection of Jesus, for that is the very marrow of the gospel, the foundation of it that Jesus Christ died and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.

"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures."

"And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."

That is the whole of the gospel. He who perfectly understands that, understands the first principles; he has commenced aright. This is the starting point if we wish to learn the truth, "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."

"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."

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is one of the best attested facts on record. There were so many witnesses to behold it, that if we do in the least degree receive the credibility of men's testimonies, we cannot and we dare not doubt that Jesus rose from the dead. It is all very easy for infidels to say that these persons were deceived, but it is equally foolish, for these persons could not every one of them have been so positively deceived as to say that they had seen this man, whom they knew to have been dead, afterwards alive; they could not all, surely, have agreed together to help on this imposture: if they did, it is the most marvellous thing we have on record, that not one of them ever broke faith with the others, but that the whole mass of them remained firm. We believe it to be quite impossible that so many rogues should have agreed for ever. They were men who had nothing to gain by it; they subjected themselves to persecution by affirming the very fact; they were ready to die for it, and did die for it. Five hundred or a thousand persons who had seen him at different times, declared that they did see him, and that he rose from the dead; the fact of his death having been attested beforehand. How, then, dare any man say that the Christian religion is not true, when we know for a certainty that Christ died and rose again from the dead? And knowing that, who shall deny the divinity of the Saviour? Who shall say that he is not mighty to save? Our faith hath a solid basis, for it hath all these witnesses on which to rest, and the more sure witness of the Holy Spirit witnessing in our hearts. "And last of all," says the apostle, "he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time: for I am the least of the apostles." We should not have thought Paul proud if he had said, "I am the greatest of the apostles," for he occupies the largest portion of the sacred Scriptures with his writings; and he preached more abundantly than they all. There was not one who could exceed Paul, or even come near him in his arduous labours; yet he says,

"For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God."

When he looked upon the mercies that God gave to him he always recollected how little he deserved; and when he found himself preaching, oh! with what pathos did he preach to the ungodly, for he could always close up: "But I obtained mercy, that in me first Christ might show forth all long-suffering as a pattern to them that believe." Have I a persecutor here? Let him know that his sin is a most damnable sin that will sink him lower into hell than any other; but even for him there is mercy, and abundant pardon; for Paul says he obtained mercy even though he 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."

"But by the grace of God I am what I am." That is about as far as most of us can get; we shall never get any further. "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." Then he stops himself: "Yet, not I, but the grace of God which was with me." We should always take care that we do not take any of our good works to ourselves: they are the effects of grace within us. If we once get putting the crown on our own heads we shall soon have heavy heads for our trouble; but if we put them all on the head of Jesus, he will honour us if we honour him.

Having thus proved the resurrection of Christ, he goes on:

"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, and your faith is also vain.

"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:",

Perhaps it does not strike you at first sight that there is an indissoluble connection between the resurrection of Christ and that of all his people; perhaps you do not see the marrow of the argument. The apostle says, "If the dead do not rise, then Christ did not rise; and if Christ did rise, then all the dead will rise." Do you see how it is? Why, because Christ and human nature are now so linked together that what Christ did, he did as the representative of all his people. When Adam sinned, the world sinned, and the world died. "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." Christ could not rise except as the representative of his people; and "if Christ rose," says Paul, "then his people will rise; and if he did not rise then we shall not rise, because we are one with him; and if we do not rise Christ did not rise, because we are one with him." See here a connection which cannot be broken, that if Christ rose, then must the dead rise also. This brings another argument

"Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished."

How do you like that thought?

"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable."

For they were then persecuted, cast to the wild beasts, shut up in prison; and if this life were all, what would be the value of the Christian religion? If would only make men miserable.

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits 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."

It is no use for the Arminian to strain this, and say that it proves that every one receives grace through Christ. It says no such thing; it simply says, "die" and "live." Everybody shall live at the resurrection.

"But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits: 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."

Here the great proof flashes out if death is to be destroyed, then there must be a resurrection, for death cannot be destroyed until the very bones of the saints are delivered from the strongholds of the enemy.

"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."

We are not to suppose, when we read that Jesus Christ will deliver up his kingdom to God, even to his Father, that he will therefore cease to be God or cease to be a King. Understand this; God the Father gave to the Son a Mediatorial Kingdom as Man-God; but the Father was just as much God when he had given him that kingdom; it was his own special kingdom which he, as the Man-God Mediator was to take, and God the Father lost no glory by giving it to him. When Christ shall have worked out all his Mediatorial purposes, when he shall have finished the salvation of all his elect, he will lay the crown of his Mediatorial Kingdom at the feet of God, and, as the Man-Mediator, he too will be subject unto the great Jehovah, the Three-one; then there will be no Mediator any longer, since there will be no necessity for any mediation, but we shall all be gathered in one, even the things that are on earth and the things that are in heaven one in Christ Jesus. Then Christ will have his kingdom as God, but as Mediator he will have no kingdom. It is a destruction of office, not of person, nor yet of honor; it is a laying aside of his official capacity, not in any degree a diminution of his glory and honor.

"Else what shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?"

This text has had thirty or forty explanations. Doddridge and a great many more think it refers to the practice, when a martyr died, for another person to come forward and fill the offices which he held, and so to be "baptized for the dead;" but the meaning I like best is: What shall they do who are baptized with the certainty that they are not baptized to live a long while, but that immediately after baptism they will be dragged away to die baptized in the very teeth of death? For as soon as any one was baptised, the Romans would be looking after him, to drag him away to death. Thus they were many of them baptised as if they were being washed for their burial, and dedicating themselves to the grave. They came forward and said, "O Lord, I give myself unto thy service not to serve thee here below, for that the enemy will not let me do, but since I must die, I will be baptized and brave it all; I will be baptized even for death itself." Well, what shall these do who are baptized in the certain prospect of death if the dead rise not? "Why are they then baptized for the dead?"

"And why stand in jeopardy every hour?

"I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

"If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die."

It does not say that Paul did fight with beasts at Ephesus; but a great many others did. It was a common practice to put Christians to the lions, giving them a short sword, and bidding them fight for their lives; and sometimes, strengthened by God, they fought manfully, and come off alive. But "if," says Paul, "I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?" I might as well give up my religion; then I could lie down and be at peace. "Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die." Oh! wicked Paul! to quote from a heathen poet! How disgraceful. If I were to repeat a verse, and it looked as if Shakespere or any profane author ever wrote such a thing, how criminal! say you. But I like good things wherever I find them. I have often quoted from the devil, and I dare say I shall often quote from his people. Paul quoted this from Meander, and another heathen poet, who wrote far worse things than have been written by modern poets, and if any of us who may have stored our minds with the contents of books we wish we had never read, and if there be some choice gems in them which may be used for the service of God, by his help we will so use them.

"Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

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

Christ is coming, and he will find some alive on the earth, and those who are alive will not die. Paul was so full of the Second Coming, that he says: "We shall not all sleep." He did not know but what Christ might come while he was writing the letter. And we are so earnestly looking for Christ, that we too are constrained to say, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."

"For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must 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."

What a shame it is, when we sometimes attend a funeral and hear that magnificent portion of Scripture read over by a chaplain without heart, or soul, or life the quicker he can get through the service the better. Oh that such noble words should be so awfully spoiled by men who know nothing about them!

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."


Just Published, Price Twopence, "Come, ye Children," a Sermon addressed to Sunday School Teachers, by the Rev. C. H. SPURGEON, preached on behalf of the Western Kent Sunday School Union, at the "Temple," Saint Mary Cray, Kent, on Wednesday Afternoon, February 20th, 1856.

Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible".​commentaries/​spe/1-corinthians-15.html. 2011.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

As usual, the introductory words (1 Corinthians 1:1-3) of the epistle give us no little intimation of that which is to follow. The apostle speaks of himself as such "called [to be ] an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God," but coupling a brother with him, "and Sosthenes our brother," he writes to "the church of God at Corinth" not to the saints, as was the case in the epistle to the Romans, but to the church at Corinth "to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus," as in the former epistle "called [to be] saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours."

This will be found to lead the way into the main subject of the present communication. Here we must not look for the great foundations of Christian doctrine. There is the unfolding of the assembly in a practical way; that is, the church of God is not viewed here in its highest character. There is no more than an incidental glance at its associations with Christ. No notice is here taken of the heavenly places as the sphere of our blessing; nor are we given to hear of the bridal affections of Christ for His body. But the assembly of God is addressed, those sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints called, "with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord." Thus room is left for the profession of the Lord's name. It is not, as in Ephesians, "to the saints which are in Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus." There is no such closeness of application, nor intimacy, nor confidence in a really intrinsically holy character. Sanctified they were in Christ Jesus. They had taken the place of being separate, "calling upon the name of the Lord;" but the remarkable addition should be noticed by the way "with all that in every place call upon the name of the Lord, both theirs and ours." And this is the more notable, because if there be an epistle which the unbelief of Christendom tries more than another to annul in its application to present circumstances, it is this first letter to the Corinthians. Nor need we wonder. Unbelief shrinks from that which calls, now rather recalls, the saints to a due sense of their responsibility in virtue of their position as the church of God here below. Those at Corinth had forgotten it. Christendom has not merely forgotten but denied it, and so would fain treat a large part of that which will come before us tonight as a bygone thing. It is not disputed that God did thus work in times past; but they have not the smallest serious thought of submitting to its directions as authoritative for present duty. Yet who can deny that God has taken more care to make this plain and certain in the very frontispiece of this epistle than anywhere else? He is wise and right: man is not. Our place is to bow and believe.

There is another point also to be weighed in the next verses (4-8). The apostle tells them how he thanks his God always on their behalf, but refrains from any expression of thankfulness as to their state. He recognises their rich endowments on God's part. He owns how they had been given all utterance, and all knowledge, the working of the Spirit of God, and His power. This is exceedingly important; for there is a disposition often to consider that difficulties and disorder among the saints of God are due to a want of government and of ministerial power. But no amount of gift, in few or many, can of itself produce holy spiritual order. Disorder is never the result of weakness alone. This, of course, may be taken advantage of, and Satan may tempt men to assume the semblance of a strength they do not possess. No doubt assumption would produce disorder; but weakness simply (where it leads souls, as it should, to spread out their need before the Lord) brings in the gracious action of the Holy Ghost, and the unfailing care of Him who loves His saints and the assembly. It was not so at Corinth. Theirs was rather the display of conscious strength; but at the same time they lacked the fear of God, and the sense of responsibility in the use of what God had given them. They were like children disporting themselves with not a little energy that wrought in vessels which altogether failed in self-judgment. This was a source, and a main source, of the difficulty and disorder at Corinth. It is also of great importance to us; for there are those that continually cry out for increase of power as the one panacea of the church. What reflecting spiritual mind could doubt that God sees His saints are not able to bear it? Power in the sense in which we are now speaking of it that is, power in the form of gift is far from being the deepest need or the gravest desideratum of the saints. Again, is it ever the way of God to display Himself thus in a fallen condition of things? Not that He is restrained, or that He is not Sovereign. Not, moreover, that He may not give, and liberally as suits His own glory; but He gives wisely and holily, so as to lead souls now into exercise of conscience and brokenness of spirit, and thus keep and even deepen their sense of that to which God's church is called, and the state into which it has fallen.

At Corinth there was a wholly different state of things. It was the early rise of the church of God, if I may so say, among the Gentiles. And there was not wanting an astonishing sample of the power of the Spirit in witness of the victory that Jesus had won over Satan. This was now, or at least should have been, manifested by the church of God, as at Corinth. But they had lost sight of God's objects. They were occupied with themselves, with one another, with the supernatural energy which grace had conferred on them in the name of the Lord. The Holy Ghost in inspiring the apostle to write to them in no way weakens the sense of the source and character of that power. He insists on its reality, and reminds them that it was of God; but at the same time he brings in the divine aim in it all. "God," says he, "is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." Immediately after he alludes to the schisms that were then at work among them, and calls on them to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment; informing them of the tidings which had reached him through the house of Chloe, that there were contentions among them, some saying, "I am of Paul," others "I am of Apollos;" some, "I am of Cephas," and others "I am of Christ himself." There is no abuse to which flesh cannot degrade the truth. But the apostle knew how to introduce the Lord's name and grace with the grandly simple but weighty facts of His person and work. It was unto His name that they were baptized; it was He that had been crucified. And be it observed, that from the first of this epistle it is the cross of Christ that has the prominence. It is not so much His blood-shedding, nor even His death and resurrection, but His cross. This would have been as much out of place in the beginning of Romans as the putting forward of propitiation would be out of place here. Expiation of sins by Christ, His death and resurrection, are given of God to be displayed before the saints, who needed to know the firm, immutable foundation of grace; but what the saints wanted most was to learn the gross inconsistency of turning to selfish ease, honour, and aggrandisement the privileges of God's church, and the power of the Spirit of God that wrought in its members.

It is the cross which stains the pride of man, and puts all his glory in the dust. Hence the apostle brings Christ crucified before them. This to the Jew was a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness. These Corinthians were deeply affected by the judgment of both Jews and Greeks. They were under the influence of man. They had not realized the total ruin of nature. They valued those that were wise, scribes, or disputers of this world. They were accustomed to the schools of their age and country. They conceived that if Christianity did such great things when those who possessed it were poor and simple, what might it not do if it could only be backed by the ability, and the learning, and the philosophy of men! How it must ride triumphantly to victory! How the great must bow, and the wise be brought in! What a glorious change would result when not the unlettered poor only, but the great and the noble, the wise and the Prudent, were all joined in the confession of Jesus!

Their thoughts were fleshly, not of God. The cross writes judgment on man, and folly on his wisdom, as it is itself rejected by man as folly; for what could seem more egregiously unreasonable to a Greek than the God that made heaven and earth becoming a man, and, as such, crucified by the wicked hands of His creatures here below? That God should use His power to bless man was natural; and the Gentile could coalesce as to it with the Jew. Hence too, in the cross, the Jew found his stumbling-block; for he expected a Messiah in power and glory. Though the Jew and the Greek seemed opposite as the poles, from different points they agreed thoroughly in slighting the cross, and in desiring the exaltation of man as he is. They both, therefore, (whatever their occasional oppositions, and whatever their permanent variety of form,) preferred the flesh, and were ignorant of God the one demanding signs, the other wisdom. It was the pride of nature, whether self-confident or founded on religious claims.

Hence the apostle Paul, in the latter part of chap. 1, brings in the cross of Christ in contrast with fleshly wisdom, as well as religious pride, urging also God's sovereignty in calling souls as He will. He alludes to the mystery (1 Corinthians 2:1-16), but does not develop here the blessed privileges that flowed to us from a union with Christ, dead, risen, and ascended; but demonstrates that man has no place whatever, that it is God who chooses and calls, and that He makes, nothing of flesh. There is glorying, but it is exclusively in the Lord. No flesh should glory in his presence."

This is confirmed in1 Corinthians 2:1-16; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, where the apostle reminds them of the manner in which the gospel had entered Corinth. He had come there setting his face against all things that would commend himself. No doubt, to one of such eminent ability and such varied gifts as the apostle Paul, it was hard, to speak after the manner of men, to be nothing. How much it must have called for self-denial utterly to decline that which he could have handled so well, and which people at Corinth would have hailed with loud acclamation. Just think of the great apostle of the Gentiles, on the immortality of the soul, giving free rein to the mighty spirit that was in him! But not so. What absorbed his soul, in entering, the intellectual and dissolute capital of Achaia, was the cross of Christ. He determined therefore, as he says, to know nothing else not exactly to know the cross alone, but "Jesus Christ and him crucified." It was emphatically, though not exclusively, the cross. It was not simply redemption, but along with this another order of truth. Redemption supposes, undoubtedly, a suffering Saviour, and the shedding of that precious blood which ransoms the captives. It is Jesus who in grace has undergone the judgment of God, and brought in the full delivering power of God for the souls that believe. But the cross is more than this. It is the death of shame pre-eminently. It is utter opposition to the thoughts, feelings, judgments, and ways of men, religious or profane. This is the part accordingly that he was led in the wisdom of God to put forward. Hence the feelings of the apostle were distrust of self, and dependence on God according to that cross. As he says, "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." Thus, as Christ Himself is said in 2 Corinthians 13:1-14 to be crucified in weakness, such was also the servant here. His speech and his preaching was "not in enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Accordingly, in this chapter he proceeds to supplement the application of the doctrine of the cross to the state of the Corinthians by bringing in the Holy Ghost; for this again supposes the incapacity of man in divine things.

All is opened out in a manner full of comfort, but at the same time unsparing to human pride. Weigh from the prophecy of Isaiah the remarkable quotation "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit." There is first the great standing fact before our eyes. Such is the Saviour to the saved. Christ crucified is the death-knell on all man's wisdom, and power, and righteousness. The cross writes total condemnation on the world. It was here the world had to say to Jesus. All that it gave Him was the cross. On the other hand, to the believer it is the power of God and the wisdom of God, because he humbly but willingly reads in the cross the truth of the judgment of his own nature as a thing to be delivered from, and finds Him that was crucified, the Lord Himself, undertaking a deliverance just, present, and complete; as he says, "Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Flesh is absolutely put down. Man cannot go lower for weakness and ignominy than the cross on which hangs all the blessedness God gives the believer. And therein God is glorified as He is nowhere else. This in both its parts is exactly as it should be; and faith sees and receives it in Christ's cross. The state of the Corinthians did not admit of Christ risen being brought in, at least here. It might have drawn a halo, as it were, round human nature this presenting the risen man in the first instance. But he points to God as the source, and Christ as the channel and means, of all the blessing. "Of him," says he, "are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." But then, as he shows, there was not only this great source of blessing in Christ, but there is the power that works in us. Never is it the spirit of man that lays hold of this infinite good which God vouchsafes him. Man requires a divine power to work within him, just as he needs the Saviour outside himself

Accordingly, in 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, still carrying on the thought of Christ crucified, and connecting it with their condition, he intimates that he was in no wise limited to it. If persons were grounded in Christianity, he was prepared to go into the greatest depths of revealed truth; but then the power of entering safely was not human, but of the Holy Ghost. Man is no more capable of fathoming the depths of divine things than a brute can comprehend the works of human wit or science. This doctrine was utterly repulsive to the pride of the Greeks. They might admit man to have need of pardon, and of moral improvement. They fully admitted his want of instruction, and refinement, and, so to speak, of spiritualization, if it only might be. Christianity deepens our estimate of every want. Man not only wants a new life or nature, but the Holy Ghost. It is not merely His grace in a general sense, but the power of the Holy Ghost personally dwelling in him. It is this alone which can lead us into the deep things of God. And this, he lets us see, affects not merely this particular or that, but the whole working of divine grace and power in man. The whole and sole means of communicating blessing to us must be the Holy Ghost. Hence he insists, that as it is the Spirit of God in the first place who reveals the truth to us, so it is the same Spirit who furnishes suitable words, as, finally, it is through the Holy Ghost that one receives the truth revealed in the words He Himself has given. Thus, from first to last, it is a process begun, carried on, and completed by the Holy Ghost. How little this makes of man!

This introduces 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 and gives point to his rebukes. He taxes them with walking as men. How remarkable is such a reproach! Walking as men! Why, one might ask, how else could they walk? And this very difficulty as no doubt it would be to many a Christian now (that walking as men should be a reproach) was no doubt a clap of thunder to the proud but poor spirits at Corinth. Yes, walking as men is a departure from Christianity. It is to give up the distinctive power and place that belongs to us; for does not Christianity show us man judged, condemned, and set aside? On the faith of this, living in Christ, we have to walk. The Holy Ghost, besides, is brought in as working in the believer, and this, of course, in virtue of redemption by our Lord Jesus. And this is what is meant by being not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, which is proved by the Holy Ghost dwelling in us.

Here the apostle does not explain all this, and he gives a very withering reason for his reticence. These Corinthians had an uncommonly good opinion of themselves, and so they must be told plainly the reason why he does not open out these deep things. They themselves were not fit; they were but babes. What! the polished Greek believers no more than babes! This was rather what they would have said of the apostle or of his teaching. They thought themselves far in advance. The apostle had dwelt on the elementary truths of the gospel. They yearned after the fire of Peter and the rhetoric of Apollos. No doubt they might easily flatter themselves it was to carry on the work of God. How little many a young convert knows what will best lead him on! How little the Corinthians dreamt of depreciating the Second man, or of exalting the first! Hence the apostle tells them that he could not speak unto them as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat." Far from denying, he owns that their insinuation was true he had only brought before them elementary truths. They were not in a condition to bear more. Now this is full of meaning and importance practically at all times. We may damage souls greatly by presenting high truths to those that want the simplest rudiments of divine truth.

The apostle, as a wise master-builder, laid the foundation. The state of the Corinthians was such that he could not build on the foundation as he would have desired. His absence had given occasion for the breaking out of their carnal wishes after the world's wisdom. They were making even the ardour of a Peter and the eloquence of an Apollos to be a reason for dissatisfaction with one that, I need not say, was superior to both of them. But the apostle meets them in a way most unexpected to their self-satisfaction and pride, and lets them know that their carnality was the real reason why he could not go on with them into deeper things.

This leads him to point out the seriousness of the work or building; for he presents the church of God under this figure. What care each servant needs to take how and what he builds! What danger of bringing in that which would not stand the fire or judgment of God nay, further, of bringing in that which was not simply weak and worthless, but positively corrupting; for it was to be feared there were such elements even then at Corinth! Again he brings in another principle to bear upon them. Their party spirit, their feeling of narrowness, the disposition to set up this servant of Christ or that, was not only a dishonour to the Master, but a real loss to themselves. Not that there is any ground to suppose it was the fault of Peter or Apollos any more than of Paul. The evil was in the saints themselves, who indulged in their old zeal of the schools, and allowed their natural partiality to work. In point of fact this never can be without the most grievous impoverishment to the soul, as well as a hindrance to the Holy Ghost. What faith must learn is, that "all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas; . . . . . all are yours." Thus the subject enlarges, as is his wont, taking in an immense breadth of the Christian's possessions life, death, things present, and things to come. "All are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

This again brings in another point before the subject closes. He is not content with the pressing of responsibility on others; he had a solemn sense of his own place, which made him wonderfully independent of the judgments of men. Obedience gives firmness as well as humility. Not in the smallest degree was the pride of the Corinthians met by pride on his part, but by keeping the Lord and His will before his soul. Yet this is certainly true that this effect of faith looks like pride to a man who merely views things on the surface. The calm going on in the service of Christ, the endurance of this spirit or that, as no more than the idle wind, was no doubt exceedingly unpleasant to such as were wise in their own conceit, and valued the criticism they freely bestowed on the different servants of the Lord. But Paul sees all in the light of the eternal day. They had forgotten this, and were in a sense trafficking with these powers of the Spirit of God. They were making them the counters of a game they were playing in this world. They had forgotten that what God gives He gives in time, but in view of eternity. The apostle puts the truth of the case before their souls as he had it vividly before his own. (1 Corinthians 4:1-21)

Another thing is noticeable here. He had reproached them with walking not as Christians but as men (that is, with their habitual life and conversation formed on human principles instead of divine). On the other hand, it would appear from what follows, that they reproached the apostle in their hearts, not, of course, in so many words, with not being enough of a gentleman for their taste. This seems to me the gist of the fourth chapter. It was a thing that they considered quite beneath a Christian minister to work from time to time with his hands, often poor, occasionally in prison, knocked about by crowds, and so on. All this they thought the fruit of indiscretion and avoidable. They would have preferred respectability, public and private, in one who stood in the position of a servant of Christ. This the apostle meets in a very blessed way. He admitted that they were certainly not in such circumstances; they were reigning as kings. As for him it was enough to be the off-scouring of all men, this was his boast and blessedness. He wished that they did indeed reign that he might reign with them (that the blessed time might really arrive). How his heart would rejoice in that day with them! And surely the time will come, and they would all reign together when Christ reigns over the earth. But he quite admits that for the present the fellowship of Christ's sufferings was the place he had chosen. Of honour in the world, and ease for the flesh, he at least could not, if they could, boast. Present greatness was what he in no wise coveted; to suffer great things for His sake was what the Lord had promised, and what His servant expected in becoming an apostle. If his own service was the highest position in the church, his was certainly the lowest position in the world. This was as much an apostle's boast and glory as anything that God had given them. No answer can I conceive more telling to any one of his detractors at Corinth who had a heart and conscience.

In 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 we enter on another and more painful part of the epistle. A fearful instance of sin had come to light, so gross, indeed, that the like was not even named among the Gentiles. In fact it was a case of incest, and this among those called of God, and sanctified in Christ Jesus! The question is not in the least raised whether the guilty person was a saint or not; still less does he allow that which one so often and painfully heard pleaded in extenuation, "Oh, but he [or she] is a dear Christian." Christian affection is most excellent; as brethren we should love even to laying down life for each other; as it is also very right that we should own the work God has wrought, above all what He has wrought in grace. But when one bearing the name of the Lord has, through unwatchfulness, fallen into wickedness, which of course grieves the Holy Ghost and stumbles the weak, it is not the time to talk thus. It is the time, in the very love that God implants, to deal sternly with that which has disgraced the name of the Lord. Is this to fail in love to the person? The apostle showed ere long that he had more love for this evildoer than any of them. The second epistle to the Corinthians entreats them to confirm their love to him whom they had put away. They were too hard against him then, as they were too loose now. Here their consciences needed to be roused. To deal with the matter they owed to the Lord Jesus. It was not merely getting rid of the obnoxious man. They had to prove themselves clear in the matter certainly; but he puts before them another course, whenever the guilty one had repented.

"I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already," etc. The case was most gross, and there was no question about it. The facts were indisputable; the scandal was unheard of. "I have judged already, as though present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh." There was no discussion raised whether the person might be converted. The fact is, church discipline supposes and goes on the ground that those on whom it is exercised are Christians; but when it is a question of discipline, it is not the season for the display of Christian affection. This would falsify the conscience and turn the eye from off the point to which the Holy Ghost was directing attention. There was wickedness in their midst; and while known and unjudged, all were implicated; none could be clean till it was put away. Accordingly the apostle, while he expresses the desire that the spirit of the man should be saved in the day of the Lord, flesh being destroyed, at the same time rouses the saints to that which became the name of the Lord on the very ground that they were unleavened. If they were free from evil, let them act consistently. Let them preserve that purity in practice which was theirs in principle. They were unleavened, and therefore should be a new lump. Notoriously there was old leaven among them. What business had it there? "Put away from" not the table of the Lord merely, this he does not say, but "Put away from among yourselves." This is much stronger than expelling from the table. Of course, it implies exclusion from the Lord's table, but from their table too "with such an one, no, not to eat." An ordinary meal, or any such act expressive even in natural things of fellowship with the person thus dishonouring the Lord, is forbidden.

Mark, they must put away. It is not the apostle acting for them; for God took particular care that this case, demanding discipline to the uttermost, should be where the apostle was not. What an admirable instruction for us who have no longer an apostle! None can pretend that it was an assembly where there was a high degree of knowledge or spirituality. The very reverse was the case. The responsibility of discipline depends on our relationship as an assembly to the Lord, not on its changing states. The Corinthians were babes; they were carnal. He who loved them well could not speak of them as spiritual. Nevertheless, this responsibility attached to the very fact that they were members of Christ His body. If saints are gathered to the name of the Lord, and so are God's assembly, if they have faith to take such a position here below, and have the Holy Ghost owned as in their midst, this, and nothing short of this, is their responsibility; nor does the ruined state of the church touch the question, nor can it relieve them from their duty to the Lord. The church at Corinth had soon failed most gravely far and wide. This was the more shameful, considering the brightness of the truth vouchsafed to them, and the striking manifestation of divine power in their midst. The presence of apostles elsewhere in the earth, the beautiful display of Pentecostal grace at Jerusalem, the fact that so short a time had elapsed since they had been brought out of heathenism into their standing in God's grace, all made the present state of the Corinthians so much the more painful; but nothing can ever dissolve the responsibility of saints, whether as individuals or as an assembly. "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person."

Another thing is to be observed, that the Holy Spirit's scale of sin is not that of man. Which of you, my brethren, would have thought of classing a railer with an adulterer? A railer is one who uses abusive language for the purpose of injuring another, not the transient out-breaking of flesh, sad as it is, but provoked it may be, or at any rate, happening through unwatchfulness. The habit of evil speaking stamps him who practises it as a railer; and such a man is unfit for the company of the saints, for God's assembly. It is the old leaven of malice and wickedness. He is unclean. Doubtless the world would not so judge; but this is not the world's judgment. The Corinthians were under the influence of the world. The apostle had already shown that to walk as men is beneath the Christian. Now we see that to walk as the world, no matter how refinedly, ever exposes Christians to act worse than men of the world. God has stamped upon His children the name of Christ; and what does not express His name is inconsistent, not only with the Christian, but with His assembly. They are all as such held responsible, according to the grace and holiness and glory of Christ, for the sin done in their midst, of which they are cognisant. They are bound to keep themselves pure in ways.

There was another case also: brother was going to law with brother. (1 Corinthians 6:1-20) We have no reason to think they had fallen so far as to go to law with those that were not brethren; this would seem to be a lower step still. But brother was going to law with brother, ,and this before the unjust. How often now-a-days one hears, "Well, one expects something better from a brother; and surely he ought to suffer the consequences of his ill-doing." This was just the feeling of the Corinthian plaintiff. What, then, is the weapon that the apostle uses in this case? The dignified place in the glory that God designs for the Christian: "Know ye not that we shall judge the world judge angels?" Were such going before the Gentiles? Thus is seen how practical all truth is, and how God casts the bright light of the approaching day on the smallest matters of the life of today.

Again, there was no quarter in the world where personal purity was more unknown than at Corinth. Indeed, such were the habits of the ancient world, it would only defile the ears and minds of God's children to have any proofs of the depravity in which the world then lay, and that too in its best estate, the wisest and the greatest not excepted, those, alas. whose writings are in the hands of the youth of our day, and more than ever, perhaps, in their hands. Those wits, poets, and philosophers of heathen antiquity lived in habitual, yea, often in unnatural grossness, and thought nothing of it. It is a danger for the saints of God to be tinctured by the atmosphere of the world outside when the first fervour of grace cools, and they begin to take up their old habits. It was certainly so at Corinth.

Accordingly the believers there were betrayed into their former uncleanness of life when the heavenly light got dim. And how does the apostle deal with this? He recalls to them the Holy Spirit's dwelling in them. What a truth, and of what force to the believer! He does not say simply that they were redeemed, though he brings it in also; still less does he merely reason on the moral heinousness of the sin; neither does he cite the law of God that condemned it. He presses upon them that which was proper to them as Christians. It was no question of man, let him be Gentile or Jew, but of a Christian. Thus he sets before them the distinctive Christian blessing the Holy Ghost dwelling in the believer, and making his body (not his spirit but his body) a temple of the Holy Ghost; for here was precisely where the enemy seems to have misled these Corinthians. They affected to think they might be pure in spirit, but do what they liked with their bodies. But, answers the apostle, it is the body which is the temple of the Holy Ghost. The body belongs to the Lord and Saviour; the body, therefore, and not the spirit only, He claims now. No doubt that the spirit be occupied with Christ is a grand matter; but the licentious flesh of man would talk, at any rate, about the Lord, and at the same time indulge in evil. This is set aside by the blessed fact that the Holy Ghost even now dwells in the Christian, and this on the ground of his being bought with a price. Thus the very call to holiness ever keeps the saint of God in the sense of his immense privileges as well as of his perfect deliverance.

1 Corinthians 7:1-40 naturally leads from this into certain questions that had been proposed to the apostle touching marriage and slavery questions which had to do with the various relationships of life. The apostle accordingly gives us what he had learned from the Lord, as well as what he could speak of as a commandment of the Lord, distinguishing in the most beautiful manner, not between inspired and non-inspired, but between revelation and inspiration. All the word is inspired; there is no difference as to this. There is no part of Scripture that is less inspired than another. " All (every) scripture is given by inspiration of God;" but all is not His revelation. We must distinguish between parts revealed and the whole inspired. When a thing is revealed of God, it is absolutely new truth, and of course is the commandment of the Lord. But the inspired word of God contains the language of all sorts of men, and very often the conversation of wicked men nay, of the devil I need not say that all this is not a revelation; but God communicates what Satan and wicked men say (as for instance Pilate's words to our Lord and the Jews). None of these evidently was that which is called a revelation; but the Holy Ghost inspired the writers of the book to give us exactly what each of these said, or revealed what was in the mind of God about them. Take, for example, the book of Job, in which occur the sayings of his friends. What intelligent reader could think that they were in any way authorised communicators of the mind of God? They say sometimes very wrong things, and sometimes wise, and often things that do not in the smallest degree apply to the case. Every word of the book of Job is inspired; but did all the speakers utter necessarily the mind of God? Did not one of the speakers condemn one or other of the rest? Need one reason on such facts? This, no doubt, makes a certain measure of difficulty for a soul at the first blush; but on maturer consideration all becomes plain and harmonious, and the word of God is enhanced in our eyes.

And so it is in this chapter, where the apostle gives both the commandment of the Lord, and his own matured spiritual judgment, which he expressly says was not the commandment of the Lord. Still he was inspired to give his judgment as such. Thus the whole chapter is inspired, one part of it just as much as another. There is no difference in inspiration. What was written by the different inspired instruments is of God as absolutely as if He had written it all without them. There is no degree in the matter. There can be no difference in inspiration. But in the inspired word of God there is not always revelation. Sometimes it is a record which the Spirit gave a man to make of what he had seen and heard, sometimes he recorded by the Spirit what no man could have seen or heard. Sometimes it was a prophecy of the future, sometimes a communication of God's present mind according to His eternal purpose. But all is equally and divinely inspired.

The apostle then lays down at least as far as may be here briefly sketched that while there are cases where it is a positive duty to be married, undisguisedly there was a better place of undivided devotedness to Christ. Blessed is he who is given. thus to serve the Lord without let: still it must be the gift of God. The Lord Jesus had laid down the same principle Himself. InMatthew 19:1-30; Matthew 19:1-30, it is needless to say, you have the selfsame truth in another form.

Again, while the Lord employs the apostle thus to give us both His own commandment and His mind, the general principle is stated as to the relationships of life. It is broadly laid down that one should remain in that condition in which he is called, and for a very blessed reason. Supposing one were a slave even, he is already, if a Christian, a freeman of Christ. You must remember that in these days there were everywhere bondmen: those that then ruled the. world took them from all classes and all countries There were bondmen highly educated, and once in a high position of life. Need it be said that often these bondmen rose up against their cruel masters? The very knowledge of Christ, and the possession of conscious truth, if grace did not counteract mightily, would tend to increase their sense of horror at their position. Suppose, for instance, a refined person, with the truth of God communicated to his soul, was the slave of one living in all the filth of heathenism, what a trial it would be to serve in such a position! The apostle urges the truth of that liberty in Christ which Christendom has well-nigh forgotten that if I am Christ's servant I am emancipated already. Match if you can the manumission he has got. Twenty millions will procure no such emancipation. At the same time, if my master allows me liberty, let me use it rather. Is it not a remarkable style of speech and feeling? The Christian, even if a slave, possesses the best freedom after all: anything else is but circumstantial. On the other hand, if you are a freeman, take care how you use your liberty: use it as the Lord's bondman. The freeman is reminded of his bondmanship; the bondman is reminded of his freedom. What a wonderful antithesis of man is the Second Man! How it traverses all the thoughts, circumstances, and hopes of flesh!

Then he brings before us the different relationships at the end of the chapter, as they are affected by the coming of the Lord. And there is nothing which shows more the importance of that hope as a practical power. There is not only the direct but the indirect allusion when the heart is filled with an object; and the indirect is a yet stronger witness of the place it holds than the direct. A mere hint connects itself with that which is your joy and constant expectation; whereas when a thing is little before the heart you require to explain, prove, and insist upon it. But this chapter brings vividly before them how all outward things pass away, even the fashion of this world. Time is short. It is too late either to make much of scenes so changing, or to seek this thing or that here below with such a morrow before our eyes. Hence he calls on those who had wives to be as those who had none, on those who were selling and buying to be above all the objects that made up the sum of business. In short, he puts Christ and His coming as the reality, and all else as the shadows, transitions, movements of a world that even now crumbles underneath us. No wonder that he follows all up at the end with his own judgment, that the man most blessed is he who has the least entanglement, and is the most thoroughly devoted to Christ and His service.

Next in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 he begins to take up another danger for the Corinthian saints. They had the sound of the truth ringing in their ears; and assuredly there are few sounds sweeter than the liberty of the Christian. But what is more liable to abuse? They had abused power to self-exaltation; they were now turning liberty to license. But there is a solemn fact which none can afford to forget as to both power and liberty that without responsibility nothing is more ruinous than either. Herein lay the sad failure of these saints. In the sense of responsibility they were utterly wanting They seem to have forgotten completely that the Lord from whom the liberty had come is the One in whose sight, and for whose glory, and according to whose will, all power was to be used. The apostle recalls them to this; but he takes up their license in going into heathen temples, and eating things offered to idols, not first of all on the high ground of the Lord, but on account of their brethren. In their boasted liberty, and because they knew an idol was nothing, they considered that they might go anywhere, and do what they pleased. Nay, not so, cries the apostle; you must consider your brother. There is many a disciple who, far from knowing how vain idolatry is, thinks a good deal of the idol. Thus, you that know so much, if you make light of going here and there, will induce other disciples to follow your steps who may slip into idolatry through it, and thus a brother perish for whom Christ died; and what is the liberty of one who is instructed may prove the extreme ruin of one who is equally a believer in the Lord. Thus he looks at the thing in its full character and ultimate tendency if unchecked. Grace, as we know, can arrest these tendencies, and avert the evil results.

In 1 Corinthians 9:1-27 he interrupts the course of his argument by an appeal to his own place as an apostle. Some were beginning to question his apostolate. It was not that he in the slightest degree forgot his call by God's will to that special service; neither was he insensible to the blessed liberty in which he was serving the Lord. He could lead about a sister-wife like another; he had foregone this for the Lord's sake. He could look for support from the church of God; he preferred to work with his own hands. So in the second epistle to the Corinthians he begs them to forgive the wrong; for he would not accept anything from them. They were not in a condition to be entrusted with such a gift. Their state was such, and God had so overruled it in His ways, that the apostle had received nothing from them. This fact he uses in order to humble them because of their pride and licentiousness.

The course of this chapter then touches on his apostolic place, and at the same time his refusal to use the rights of it. Grace can forego all questions of right. Conscious of what is due, it asserts rights for others, but refuses to use them for itself. Such was the spirit and the faith of the apostle. And now he shows what he felt as to practical state and walk. Far from being full of his knowledge, far from only using his place in the church for the assertion of his dignity and for immunity from all trouble and pain here below, he on the contrary was as one under the law to meet him that was under it; he was as a Gentile to meet him that was free from law (that is, a Gentile). Thus he was a servant of all that he might save some. Besides, he lets them know the spirit of a servant, which was so lacking in the Corinthians in spite of their gifts; for it is not the possession of a gift, but love which serves and delights in service. The simple fact of knowing that you have a gift may and often does minister to self-complacency. The grand point is to have the Lord before you, and when others are thought of, it is in the love which has no need to seek greatness, or to a et it. The love of Christ proves its greatness by serving others.

This, then, was the spirit of that blessed servant of the Lord. He reminds them of another point that he was himself diligent in keeping his body in subjection. He was like a man with a race that was going to be run, and who gets his body into training. He puts this in the strongest way, "Lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Mark the tact of the apostle. When he has something discreditable to say, he prefers to say it about himself; when he has something pleasing to say, he loves to put it with regard to others. So here he says, "Lest I myself become a castaway," not " you." He meant their profit, no doubt; his aim was for them to have their own consciences searched by it. If Paul even was exercising himself to have a conscience void offence; if Paul was keeping his body in subjection, how much more did these men need it? They were abusing all the comfort that Christianity brings, to live at ease and play the gentleman, if one may speak according to modern language. They had not entered in the smallest degree into the spirit of the moral glory of Christ humbled here below. They had dislocated the cross from Christianity. They had severed themselves from the power of service. Thus they were in the utmost possible jeopardy; but the apostle, who had the blessedness of Christ before him, and the fellowship of His sufferings is scarce another had like him, even he used all diligence of heart, and held a tight rein over himself. Faithful man as he was, he allowed himself none of these licenses. Liberty indeed he prized, but it was not going here and there to feasts of idols. He was free to serve Christ, and time was short: what had such an one to do with heathen temples?

Thus he wants them to feel their danger, but first of all he begins with himself. He was free but watchful; and he was jealous over himself, the greater the grace shown him. It was not that he in the smallest degree doubted his security in Christ, as some so foolishly say; or that such as have eternal life may lose it again. But it is plain that men who merely take the place of having eternal life may, and often do, abandon that place. Those who have eternal life prove it by godliness; those who have it not prove the lack of it by indifference to holiness, and lack of that love which is of God. So the apostle shows that all his knowledge of the truth, far from making him careless, prompted him to yet greater earnestness, and to daily denial of himself. This is a very important consideration for us all (I press it more especially on the young in such a day as this); and the greater the knowledge of the saints, the more they need to keep it in view.

The apostle draws their attention to another warning in the history of Israel. These had eaten of the same spiritual meat, for so he calls it; they had the heaven-sent manna, had drunk of the same spiritual drink; yet what became of them? How many thousands of them perished in the wilderness? The apostle is approaching far closer to their state. He began with application to his own case, and now he points to Israel as a people sanctified to Jehovah. At length the word is, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful." This was a great comfort, but it was also a serious caution. "God is faithful who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." It is in vain, therefore, to plead circumstances as an excuse for sin. "But [He] will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." He makes it plain that he is, with characteristic address, dealing with their little-exercised consciences from the statement of his own earnest vigilance over his ways, and then from the sad and solemn history of Israel judged of the Lord. Thus, too, he goes forward into new ground, the deeper spiritual motives, the appeal to Christian affection as well as to faith. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? He begins with that which most nearly touches the heart. It would have been an order more natural, if one may so say, to speak of the body of Christ; as we know in the Lord's supper habitually, there is that which brings before us first the body and then the blood. The departure from what may be called the historical order makes the emphasis incomparably greater. More than that, the first appeal is founded on the blood of Christ, the answer of divine grace to the deepest need of a soul found in its guilt before God and covered with defilement. Was this to be slighted? "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" He does not here say, "the blood" or the "body of the Lord." This we find in 1 Corinthians 11:1-34; but it is here Christ, because it becomes a question of grace. "The Lord" brings in the idea of authority. This, then, is evidently an immense advance in dealing with the subject. Accordingly he now develops it, not on the ground of injury to a brother, but as a breach of fellowship with such a Christ, and indifference to His immense love. But he does not forget His authority: "Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table and of the table of demons." It is not simply the love of Christ, but His full authority as the Lord. The apostle contrasts two mighty powers that were contesting demons, on the one hand, a power stronger than man, struggling as to him here below; and, on the other hand, there was the Lord that had shed His blood for them, but the Lord of all who should judge quick and dead. Hence he follows up with a comprehensive and simple principle, but full of liberty withal, that in going into the market you need ask no questions. If I do not know that the food has been connected with idols, the idol is nothing to me; but the moment I know it, it is no longer the question of an idol but a demon; and a demon, be assured, is a very real being indeed. Thus what the apostle insists on amounts to this, that their vaunted knowledge was short indeed. Whenever a person boasts, you will in general find. that he particularly fails precisely where he boasts most. If you set up for great knowledge, this will be the point in which you may be expected to break down. If you set up for exceeding candour, the next thing we may well dread to hear is that you have played very false. The best thing is to see that we give ourselves credit for nothing. Let Christ be all our boast. The sense of our own littleness and of His perfect grace is the way, and the only way, to go on well. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"

Then in 1 Corinthians 11:1-34 we enter on another point. It would seem that the sisters at Corinth gave them a deal of trouble, and that they had forgotten entirely their due relative place. No doubt the men were at least as much to blame. It is hardly possible that women should ever put themselves forward in the church unless Christian men have deserted their true, responsible position and public action. It is the man's place to guide; and although women may assuredly be far more useful in certain cases, still, unless the man guides, what an evident departure from the order God has assigned to them both! How complete a desertion of the relative position in which they were placed from the first! Thus it was at Corinth. Among the heathen, women played a most important part, and in no quarter of the world, perhaps, so prominent a one as there. Need it be said that this was to their deep shame? There was no city in which they were so degraded as that in which the attained such conspicuous and unnatural prominence. And how does the apostle meet this new feature? He brings in Christ. This is what decides all. He affirms the everlasting principles of God, and he adds that which has so brightly been revealed in and by Christ. He points out that Christ is the image and the glory of God, and that the man stands in an analogous place as connected with and distinguished from the woman. That is to say, the woman's place is one of unobtrusiveness, and in fact, she is most effective where she is least seen. The man, on the contrary, has a public part a rougher and ruder task, no doubt one that may not at all bring into play the finer affections, but which demands a calmer and more comprehensive judgment. The man has the duty of the outward rule and administration.

Accordingly he marks the first departure from what was right by the woman's losing the sign of her subjection. She was to have a covering, on her head; she was to have that which indicated as a sign that she was subject to another. The man seemed to have failed just in the opposite way; and although this may seem a very little thing, what a wonderful thing it is, and what power it shows, to be able to combine in the same epistle eternal things and the very smallest matter of personal decorum, the wearing of long hair or short, the use of a covering on the head or not! How truly it marks God and His word!! Men. would scorn to combine them both in the same epistle; it seems so petty and so incongruous. But it is the littleness of man which calls for big matters to make him important; but the smallest things of God have significance when they bear on the glory of Christ, as they always do. In the first place, it was out of order that a woman should prophesy with her head uncovered; man's place was to do so. He was the image and the glory of God. The apostle connects it all with first principles, going up to the creation of Adam and Eve in a very blessed manner, and above all bringing in the second Man, the last Adam. Did they think to improve on both?

The latter part of the chapter takes up not the relative place of the man and the woman, but the supper of the Lord, and so the saints gathered together. The first part of it, as is evident, has nothing to do with the assembly, and thus does not dispose of the question whether a woman should prophesy there. In fact, nothing is said or implied in the early verses of the assembly at all. The point primarily mooted is of her prophesying after the manner of a man, and this is done with the greatest possible wisdom. Her prophesying is not absolutely shut out. If a woman has a gift for prophecy, which she certainly may have as well as a man, for what is it given of the Lord but for exercise? Certainly such an one ought to prophesy. Who could say the gift of prophecy given to a woman is to be laid up in a napkin? Only she must take care how she does exercise it. First of all, he rebukes the unseemly way in which it was done the woman forgetting that she was a woman, and the man that he is responsible not to act as a woman. They seem to have reasoned in a petty way at Corinth, that because a woman has a gift no less than a man, she is free to use the gift just as a man might. This is in principle wrong; for after all a woman is not a man, nor like one officially, say what you please. The apostle sets aside the whole basis of the argument as false; and we must never hear reasoning which overthrows what God has ordained. Nature ought to have taught them better. But he does not dwell on this; it was a withering rebuke even to hint at their forgetfulness of natural propriety.

Then, in the latter verses, we have the supper of the Lord, and there we find the saints expressly said to be gathered together. This naturally leads the way to the spiritual gifts that are treated of in1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31. As to the supper of the Lord, happily I need not say many words to you. It is, by the great mercy of God, familiar to most of us; we live, I may say, in the enjoyment of it, and know it to be one of the sweetest privileges God vouchsafes us here below. Alas! this very feast had furnished occasion, in the fleshly state of the Corinthians, to a most humiliating abuse. What led to it was the Agape, as it was styled; for in those days there was a meal which the Christians used to take together. Indeed, the social character of Christianity never can be overlooked without loss, but in an evil state it is open to much abuse. Everything that is good may be perverted; and it never was intended to hinder abuse by extinguishing that which was only to be maintained aright in the power of the Spirit of God. No rules, no abstinence, no negative measures, can glorify God, or make His children spiritual; and it is only by the power of the Holy Ghost in producing a sense of responsibility to the Lord as well as of His grace that saints are duly kept. So it was then at Corinth, that the meeting for the Lord's Supper became mingled with an ordinary meal, where the Christians ate and drank together. They were glad to meet at any rate, originally it was so, when love was gratified with the company of each other. Being not merely young Christians, but unwatchful and then lax, this gave rise to sad abuse. Their old habits re-asserted their influence. They were accustomed to the feasts of the heathen, where people thought nothing whatever of getting drunk, if it was not rather meritorious. It was in some of their mysteries considered a wrong to the god for his votary not to get drunk, so debased beyond all conception were the heathen in their notions of religion.

Accordingly these Corinthian brethren had by little and little got on until some of them had fallen into intemperance on the occasion of the Eucharist; not, of course, simply by the wine drank at the table of the Lord, but through the feast that accompanied it. Thus the shame of their drunkenness fell upon that Holy Supper; and hence the apostle regulated, that from that time forward there should be no such feast coupled with the Lord's Supper. If they wished to eat, let them eat at home; if they came together in worship, let them remember it was to eat of the Lord's body, and to drink of the Lord's blood. He puts it in the strongest terms. He does not feel it needful or suitable to speak of "the figure" of the Lord's body. The point was to make its grace and holy impressiveness duly felt. It was a figure, no doubt; but .still, writing to men who were at least wise enough to judge aright here, he gives all its weight, and the strongest expression of what was meant. So Jesus had said. Such it was in the sight of God. He that partook undiscerningly and without self-judgment was guilty of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. It was a sin against Him. The intention of the Lord, the true principle and practice for a saint, is to come, examining his ways, trying his springs of action, putting himself to the proof; and so let him eat (not stay away, because there is much discovered that is humbling). The guard and warning is, that if there be not self-judgment, the Lord will judge. How low is the state of things to which all saints tend, and not the Corinthians only! There ought to have been, I suppose, an interposition of the church's judgment between the Christian's lack of self-judgment and the Lord's chastenings; but, alas! man's duty was altogether lacking. It was from no want of gifts. They had no sense of the place God designed self-judgment to hold; but the Lord never fails.

In 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 accordingly, the apostle enters on a full statement of these spiritual powers. He shows that the distinctive feature of that which the Spirit of God leads to is the confession, not exactly of Christ, but of Jesus as Lord. He takes the simplest and most necessary ground that of His authority. This is observable in verse 3: "Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed, and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost." Impossible that the Spirit should dishonour, yea, that He should not exalt, Him who humbled Himself for God's glory. "Now, there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God that worketh all in all." They had forgotten all this. They were pre-occupied with human thoughts, with this clever Jew and that able Gentile. They had lost sight of God Himself working in their midst. The apostle points out that if there were different services, if distinct gifts to one and another, it was for the common good of all. He illustrates the nature of the church as a body with its various members subserving the interests of the body and the will of the head. "By one Spirit were we all baptized into one body;" it is not the Holy Ghost merely making many members, but "one body." Accordingly he confronts with this divine aim their misuse of their spiritual powers, independence one of another, disorder as to women, self-glorification, and the like, as we see in1 Corinthians 14:1-40; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 the detail. He presses that the least comely members, those that are least seen, may be of more importance than any others; just as in the natural body some of the most vital parts are not even visible. What would a man do without a heart, or liver, or lungs? So in the spiritual body there are members which are most important and not seen at all. But men are apt to value most those which make a showy appearance. Thus he rebukes the whole tenor and spirit of Corinthian vanity; at the same time he maintains their place of blessing and responsibility to the last. After all their faults he does not hesitate to, say, "Now ye are the body of Christ." This way of dealing with souls has been grievously enfeebled in the present day. Grace is so feebly known, that the first thought you will find amongst godly people is what they ought to be; but the ground and weapon of the apostle Paul is what they are by God's grace. "Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular; and God hath set some in the church." It was far from his mind in the least to deny it. Observe here an important use of the expression, "the church." It cannot be the local assembly, because, looking at Corinth, no apostles were there. Whatever might be the providential arrangements outside in the world, he is looking at the assembly of God here on earth; and it is the assembly as a whole, the Corinthian assembly being, as every true assembly is, a kind, of representative, of the church universally. It is the church of God here below; not merely churches, though that was true also.

Thus we can look at what the church will be by-and-by glorified and absolutely perfect. We can also look at a particular local assembly. Besides there is this most important sense of the church never to be forgotten namely, that divine institution viewed as a whole on. earth. Members of Christ no doubt compose it; but there is His body, the assembly as a whole, in which God works here below. Such is the reason why we do not find in this epistle evangelists or pastors, because it is not a question of what is needed to bring souls in or lead them on. He looks at the church as a thing already, subsisting as the witness of the power of God before men. Therefore it was not at all necessary to dwell on those gifts which are the fruit of Christ's love to and cherishing of the church. It is regarded as a vessel of power for the maintenance of God's glory, and responsible for this here below. Therefore tongues miracles, healings, the use of outward powers, are largely dwelt on here.

But we pass on to another and a still more important theme, a wonderfully full picture even for God's word, that most perfect and beautiful unfolding of divine love which we have in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. After all, if the Corinthians had coveted gifts, they had not coveted the best But even if we may desire the best gifts, there is better still; and the best of all is charity love. Accordingly we have this in the most admirable manner brought out both in what it is and in what it is not, and that too as corrective of the wrong desires of the Corinthians, and the evil spirit which had manifested itself in the exercise of their gifts; so that what seems to be an interruption is the wisest of parentheses between chapter 12, which shows us the distribution of gifts and their character, and chapter 14, which directs the due exercise of gifts in the assembly of God. There is but one safe motive-power for their use, even love. Without it even a spiritual gift only tends to puff up its owner, and to corrupt those who are its objects.

Hence 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 thus opens: "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy." And why? Prophecy seemed to be somewhat despised amongst the Corinthians. Miracles and tongues were liked, because these made themselves of importance. Such wonders made men stare, and drew general attention to those who were invested evidently with a superhuman energy. But the apostle lays it down, that the gifts which suppose the exercise of spiritual understanding have a far higher place. He himself could speak more tongues than they all. It need hardly be added that he did more miracles than any of them. Still, what he valued most was prophesying. We must not suppose that this gift simply means a man preaching. Prophesying never means preaching. More than this, prophesying is not simply teaching. It, no doubt, is teaching; but it is a good deal more. Prophesying is that spiritual application of the word of God to the conscience which puts the soul in His presence, and makes manifest as light to the hearer the mind of God. There is a great deal of valuable teaching, exhortation, and application, that has no such character. It is all very true, but it does not put the soul in the presence of God; it gives no such absolute certainty of God's mind flashing on the condition and judging the state of the heart before Him. I do not speak now of the unconverted, though prophesying might affect such as well as the converted. The direct object of it was, of course, the people of God; but in the course of the chapter the unbeliever is shown coming into the assembly and falling on his face, and owning that God was among them of a truth. Such is the genuine effect. The man finds himself judged in the presence of God.

There is no need to enter into all that this chapter brings before us, but it may be well to observe that we have giving of thanks and blessing, as well as singing and prayer. Prophesying and the rest are brought in as all pertaining to the Christian assembly. What was not directly edifying, as speaking in a tongue, is forbidden unless one could interpret. I doubt very much whether there was any revelation after the scheme of Scripture was complete. To suppose anything revealed, when that which is commonly called the canon was closed, would be an impeachment of God's purpose in it. But till the last portion of His mind was written down in a permanent form for the church, we can quite understand His goodness in allowing a special revelation now and then. This gives no warrant to look for anything of the sort at any time subsequent to the completion of the New Testament. Again, it is plain from this that there are certain modifications of the chapter. Thus so far it is true that if anything has, through the will of God, terminated (for instance, miracles, tongues, or revelations), it is evident that such workings of the Spirit ought not to be looked for; but this does not in the smallest degree set aside the Christian assembly or the exercise according to God's will of what the Spirit still distinctly gives. And undoubtedly He does continue all that is profitable, and for God's glory, in the present state of His testimony and of His church here below. Otherwise the church sinks into a human institute.

In the end of the chapter a very important principle is laid down. It is vain for people to plead the mighty power of God as an excuse for anything disorderly. This is the great difference between the power of the Spirit and the power of a demon. A demon's power may be uncontrollable: chains, fetters, all the power of man outside, may utterly fail to bind a man who is filled with demons. It is not so with the power of the Spirit of God. Wherever the soul walks with the Lord, the power of the Spirit of God on the contrary is always connected with His word, and subject to the Lord Jesus. No man can rightly pretend that the Spirit forces him to do this or that unscripturally. There is no justification possible against Scripture; and the more fully the power is of God, the less will a man think of setting aside that perfect expression of God's mind. All things therefore are to be done decently and in order an order which Scripture must decide. The only aim, as far as we are concerned, that God endorses, is that all be done to edification, and not for self-display.

The next theme (1 Corinthians 15:1-58) is a most serious subject doctrinally, and of capital importance to all. Not only had the devil plunged the Corinthians into confusion upon moral points, but when men begin to give up a good conscience, it is no wonder if the next danger is making shipwreck of the faith. Accordingly, as Satan had accomplished the first mischief among these saints, it was evident the rest threatened soon to follow. There were some among them who denied the resurrection not a separate state of the soul, but the rising again of the body. In fact the resurrection must be of the body. What dies is to be raised. As the soul does not die, "resurrection" would be quite out of place; to the body it is necessary for God's glory as well as man. And how does the apostle treat this? As he always does. He brings Christ in. They had no thought of Christ in the case. They seem to have had no wish to deny the resurrection of Christ; but should not a Christian have at once used Christ to judge all by? The apostle at once introduces His person and work as a test. if Christ did not rise, there is no resurrection, and therefore no truth in the Gospel; "your faith is vain: you are yet in your sins." Even they were quite unprepared for so dreadful a conclusion. Shake the resurrection and Christianity goes. Having reasoned thus, he next points out that the Christian waits for the time of joy and glory and blessing for the body by-and-by. To give up resurrection is to surrender the glorious hope of the Christian, and to be the most miserable of men.. For what could be more cheerless than to give up all present enjoyment without that blessed hope, for the future at Christ's coming? Thus strongly was the whole complex nature of man before the apostle's mind in speaking of this hope of blessedness by-and-by.

Then, somewhat abruptly, instead of discussing the matter any more, he unfolds a most weighty revelation of truth "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits 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." True, the kingdom is not yet come for which we are waiting, but it 'will come. See how all truth hangs together, and how Satan labours to make a consistency in error. He knows the weakness of man's mind. Nobody likes to be inconsistent. You may be dragged into it, but you are never comfortable when you have a sense of inconsistency about you. Hence, after one. error gains empire over the mind of man, he is ready to embrace others just to make all consistent.

Such was the danger here among the Corinthians. They had been offended by the apostle's supreme indifference to all that is of esteem among men. His habits of speech and life were not at all up to the mark that they supposed seemly before the world in a servant of God. Out of this fertile root of evil has the clergy grown. It has been the effort to acquire as much refinement as possible. Holy orders make a man a sort of gentleman if he was not so before. This seems to have been at work in, the minds of these critics of the apostle. Here we find what lay at the bottom of the matter. There is generally a root of evil doctrine where you find people wrong in practice. At any rate, where it is a deliberate, persistent, and systematic error, it will not be merely a practical one, but have a root deep underneath. And this was what now came out at Corinth. It was feebleness about that which, after all, lies at. the very foundation of Christianity. They did not mean to deny the person of Christ or His condition as risen from the dead; but, this is what the enemy meant, and into this their wrong notion tended to drift them. The next step, after denying resurrection for the Christian, would be to deny it about Christ. And here the apostle does not fail to rebuke them, and in a manner trenchant enough. He (exposes the stupidity of their questions, wise as they flattered themselves to be. How? It is always the danger of man that he is not content to believe; he would like first of all to understand. But this is ruinous in divine things, which are entirely outside sense and reason. All real understanding for the Christian is the fruit of faith.

The apostle does not hesitate in apostrophising the unbeliever, or at any rate, the errorist he has in view, to expose his folly. "Thou fool," says he, "that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die." Thus the strongest possible censure falls on these Corinthians, and this for the very matter in which they plumed themselves. Human reasoning is poor indeed outside its own sphere. However, he is not content merely with putting down their speculations; he brings in subsequent and special revelation. The previous part of the chapter had pointed out the connection of Christ's resurrection with our resurrection, followed by the kingdom which finally gives place in order that God may be all in all. In the latter part of the chapter he adds what had not been explained hitherto, From the early portion we should not have known but that all saints die, and that all rise at Christ's coming. But this would not be the full truth. It is most true that the dead in Christ rise, of course, but this does not explain about the living saints. He had vindicated the glorious character of the resurrection; he had proved how fundamental, and momentous, and practical, is the truth that the body is to be raised again, which they were disposed to deny as though it were a low thing, and useless even if possible. They imagined the true way to be spiritual was to make much of the spirit of man. God's way of making us spiritual is by a simple but strong faith in the resurrection-power of Christ; look to His resurrection as the pattern and spring of our own. Then at the last he adds that he would show them a mystery. On this I must just say a few words in order to develop its force.

The resurrection itself was not a mystery, The, resurrection of just and unjust was a well-known Old Testament truth. It might be founded on Scriptures comparatively few, but it was a fundamental truth of the Old Testament, as the apostle Paul lets us hear in his controversy with the Jews in the Acts of the Apostles. In fact, the Lord Jesus also assumes the same thing in the gospels. But if the raising of the dead saints was known, and even the raising of the wicked dead, the change of the living saints was a truth absolutely unrevealed. Up to this it was not made known, It was a New Testament truth, as this indeed is what is meant by a "mystery." It was one of those, truths that were kept secret in the Old Testament, but now revealed not so much a thing difficult to comprehend when stated, as a thing not revealed before. "And behold," says he, "I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." Evidently this supports and confirms, while it might seem an exception to, the resurrection; but, in point of fact, it gives so much the more force and consistency to the rising of the dead in a very unexpected way. The general truth of the resurrection assuredly does put the sentence of death on all present things to the believer, showing that the earth cannot rightly be the scene of his enjoyment, where all is stamped with death, and that he must wait for the resurrection power of Christ to be applied before he enters the scene where the rest of God will be our rest, and where there will be nothing but joy with Christ, and even this earth will behold Christ and His saints reigning over it till the eternal day. The addition to this of the New Testament truth of the chance gives immense impressiveness to all, and a fresh force, because it keeps before the Christian the constant expectancy of Christ. "Behold, I show you a mystery" not now that the dead in Christ shall rise, but "we," beginning with the "we" "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed; for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality." And "therefore," as he closes with the practical deduction from it all, "my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work, of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."

The last chapter is now before us, in which the apostle lays down a weighty exhortation as to collections for the saints. He puts it on the ground of their being prospered in any degree, and connects it with the special day of Christian enjoyment, when they gather together for the communion of saints. "Upon the, first day of the week let every one of you lay by in store as he has been prospered, that there be no gatherings when I come." Need it be said how human influence has dislocated the truth there? No doubt this was precisely what the apostle, or the Holy Ghost rather, discerned to be at work at Corinth, the same mistake that has wrought so malignantly in Christendom; that is to say, personal rank, learning, eloquence, or a great name (as of an apostle for instance), invoked to call out the generosity of the saints (perhaps, even of the world), and increase the proceeds by all these or like means.

But is there not another danger? Is there no snare for you, beloved brethren? When persons are more or less free from the ordinary incubus of tradition, when they are not so much under the influence of excitement, and of those appeals to the love of being known and of pleasing this or that man, or the cause, or any of those human motives that often do operate, I apprehend that they are exposed to danger in a wholly opposite direction. Do we sufficiently make it a matter of personal responsibility to the Lord, everyone of us, to give, and that in connection with the first day of the week and its blessed surroundings and objects, when we meet at His table? Do we every one of us give as we are prospered by the way? It is very well to keep clear of human influence, but let us see to it that we do not forget that "the Lord has need" of our giving for the purposes He loves here below. And of this I am sure, that if we have rightly cast aside mere human calls, and if we do thank God for the deliverance from worldly influence, and from the power of custom, public opinion, etc., it would be a deep reproach if we did not do double as much now, under the grace that confides in us, as we used to do under the law that used to govern us. Your own consciences must answer whether you can meet the Lord about this matter. I believe that we are in no small danger of settling down in the conviction that our old way was quite wrong, and simply keeping the money in our pockets. It does seem to me, I confess, that bad as human pressure may be in order to raise money, bad as may be a variety of earthly objects in this way or that, bad as a worldly lavish expenditure is, after all, a selfish personal keeping to ourselves of what we have is the worst thing of all. I am quite persuaded that the danger of the saints of God who have been brought outside the camp lies here, lest, delivered from what they know to be wrong, they may not seek in this an exercised conscience. Standing in the consciousness of the power of God's grace, they need to be continually looking out that they be devoted to Him. To cease doing what was done in a wrong way, and sometimes for wrong ends too, is not enough. Let there be zealous and vigilant exercise of soul, and enquiry how to carry out right objects in right ways, and so much the more, if indeed a simpler, fuller knowledge of God's grace and of Christ's glory has been given us.

Then we have various forms of ministry noticed. It is not here gifts as such, but persons devoted to labouring in the Lord; for there is a difference between the two things, as this chapter shows us strikingly. For instance, the apostle himself comes before us in ministry with his especial gift and position in the church. Then again, Timothy is there, his own son in the faith, not only an evangelist, but with a charge over elders at length, to a certain extent acting occasionally for the apostle Paul. Again, we have the eloquent Alexandrian thus introduced: "As touching our brother Apollos I greatly desired him to come unto you, but his will was not at to come at this time." How delicate and considerate the grace of Paul who wished Apollos to go to Corinth then, and of Apollos who wished not to go under the circumstances! On the face of the case we have the working of liberty and responsibility in their mutual relations; and the apostle Paul is the very one to tell us that Apollos's will was not to go as he himself wished at this time. It was no question of one in a place of worldly superiority regulating the movements of another of subordinate degree. The apostle did express his strong desire for Apollos to go; but Apollos must stand to his Master, and be assured that he was using a wisdom greater than that of man's. Finally, we observe another character of service lower down in "the house of Stephanas." This was a simpler case and a humbler position, but very real before God, whatever the danger of being slighted of men. Hence, I think, the word of exhortation "I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first-fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)" etc. They gave themselves up in an orderly manner to this work. "That ye submit yourselves," not merely to Timothy or to Apollos, but to such, to the simple-hearted Christian men whose desire was to serve the Lord with the measure of power they had, and this proved by their persevering labour. Undoubtedly, in the midst of the difficulties of the church, in the face of the oppositions and disappointment, manifold griefs, enemies, and sources of sorrow and shame, it requires the power of God to go on without being moved by any of these things. It is an easy thing to make a start; but nothing short of the power of God can keep one without wavering at the work in the face of everything to cast down. And this was the question. We may suppose that these Corinthians were troublesome enough. From the statements made in the early part of the epistle it is evident; and so the apostle calls upon them to submit themselves. Evidently there was an unsubject spirit, and those ministered to thought they were just as good as the house of Stephanas. It is good to submit ourselves "unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us and laboureth." I am persuaded, beloved brethren, that it is no impeachment of the blessedness of the brotherhood to maintain the speciality of ministry in the Lord. There can be in these matters no more deplorable error than to suppose that there is not to be this godly submission one toward another, according to the place and power that the Lord is pleased to entrust.

The Lord grant that our souls may hold fast the truth here revealed, and in no general or perfunctory way. All I pretend to now is to give a sketch or combination of the parts of the epistle. But may the word itself, and every part of it, sink into our souls and be our joy, that we may not only take the precious truth of such an epistle as the Romans for the peace and joy of our hearts in believing individually, but also may understand our place by faith as of God's assembly on earth, and with thankful praise as those that call on the name of the Lord ours as well as theirs as those that find ourselves practically in need of such exhortations. The Lord give us His own spirit of obeying the Father.

Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible.​commentaries/​wkc/1-corinthians-15.html. 1860-1890.