James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;1 Corinthians 15:1-16:24
RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD
They were not only questions of casuistry that disturbed this church, but deeper ones especially that of the resurrection of the dead. We may gather the real nature of this difficulty by the manner of Paul’s treatment of it.
He dwells on the fact of Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-11), in which he furnished incidentally a definition of the Gospel he preached. This consists of just three counts, Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again. The proof that he rose again is two-fold, the Old Testament scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:4), and human witnesses. Just where or how the former testified to his resurrection is not apparent to the casual reader, but a student like Paul found it in both type and prophecy. Compare also Christ’s words to the two disciples en route to Emmaus (Luke 24). The proof from the human witnesses (514 in all) is given in detail (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). “Born out of due time,” some would translate “before the due time,” as though Paul were thinking of the national new birth of Israel which is to be. His conversion by the appearance of the Lord at Damascus (Acts 9), was an illustration before the time of what will take place when the Lord reveals Himself to that people at the end of this age (Ezekiel 20:35-38; Zechariah 12:10 to Zechariah 13:6; Romans 11:25-27).
Passing from the fact of Christ’s resurrection he proceeds to the inference from and the importance of it (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). Christ having arisen, the fact of a resurrection can no longer be disputed (1 Corinthians 15:12-13; 1 Corinthians 15:16). To dispute it would render nugatory the whole scheme of the Gospel on which depended their salvation and future life (1 Corinthians 15:14; 1 Corinthians 15:17-19). Strange that Christians should find it possible to question the resurrection of Christ, but still are there some inconsistent and ignorant enough to do so.
The order of the resurrection follows (1 Corinthians 15:20-34). The resurrection of Christ insures that of all men (1 Corinthians 15:20-22), for both the wicked and the good, the unbelieving and the believing shall be raised, “some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt” (John 5:28-29; 1 Timothy 4:10). But they will not be raised all at once. Christ is the first-fruits whose resurrection has already taken place. The second installment of the resurrection will consist of true believers, and come forth at His second advent (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The third and last will consist of the rest of the dead which will come forth after the millennium and at the end of the world (1 Corinthians 15:24 compared with Revelation 20). The “kingdom” spoken of is that promised to David and his seed (2 Samuel 7:8-17; Zechariah 12:8; Luke 1:31-33). It is that which was announced as “at hand” when Jesus Christ came (Matthew 4:17), but which was rejected by the Jews when they rejected Christ and crucified Him (Matthew 11:20; Matthew 21:42-43). At His second coming, and after the church has been caught up to meet Him in the air, the King will restore the Davidic monarchy in His own Person, re-gather Israel, establish His power in the earth and reign with His church a thousand years (Matthew 24:27-30; Acts 15:14-17; Revelation 20:1-10). This is the kingdom which at the end of the millennium, will be delivered up to the Father, that God (i.e., the Triune God) “may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28). The subjection of the Son spoken of in this verse is not that of the Son as the Second Person of the Trinity, but as the mediatorial King of the earthly kingdom. The language in 1 Corinthians 15:29 is difficult, but is evidently a challenge of some kind to their reason, like that which follows. Why should Christians expose themselves to the peril of their Christian testimony, as Paul himself was doing daily, if the resurrection of the dead were not a fact? Why not live to please the flesh? Alas! Some seemed to be doing so whom he would warn (1 Corinthians 15:30-34).
THE NATURE OF THE RISEN BODY
Now comes the teaching as to the nature of the resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:35-50), which, in a word, will be related to the mortal body as the harvest is related to the grain that is sown (1 Corinthians 15:35-38). That is to say, the body that is raised will be the same as to identity with that which was buried, but not the same in other respects it will be incorruptible, glorious, powerful, spiritual, “the image of the heavenly.” Verses 45-49 are deeply interesting. “The first man Adam was made a living soul.” i.e., he derived his life from another, even God. “The last Adam was made a quickening Spirit,” gives a truer meaning by omitting the italicized words “was made,” so as to read, “the last Adam a quickening [i.e., a lifegiving] Spirit.” He did not derive His life, but is Himself the fountain of life, and gives that life to others (John 1:4; John 5:21; John 10:10; John 12:24; 1 John 5:12). Because He lives we shall live also.
But all believers will not die (1 Corinthians 15:50-57). These verses should be read in connection with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, as they similarly teach that the bodies of living believers will be instantaneously changed from corruptibility and mortality to the opposite, at the coming of the Lord.
The theme is concluded by a reference to the practical effects of the doctrine, which carries us into the 16th chapter as far as verse 4. It should confirm our steadfastness in the Christian faith, at the same time that it quickens our service (1 Corinthians 15:58). A good outlet for this service in the case of the Corinthians is that named at the opening of chapter 16, the means of whose execution are detailed in 1 Corinthians 16:2-4.
The concluding instructions and greetings in the epistle (1 Corinthians 16:5-22) hardly furnish material for another lesson, and may be included in this. Paul will not visit them at present though he is just across the Aegean Sea, but will pass through Macedonia first and come to them later, probably wintering there (1 Corinthians 15:5-9). He commends Timothy to them whose arrival en route to Ephesus they may expect (1 Corinthians 16:10-11). Apollos is also referred to in brotherly terms (1 Corinthians 16:12), though he had spoken plainly about him in the body of the letter. Those who had specially ministered to him are named (1 Corinthians 16:17-18). The token of validity in his letter is important (1 Corinthians 16:21).
“Maranatha” means “Our Lord Cometh.” With that hope before him he had begun his letter, and with that hope he laid down his pen.
1. Divide chapter 16 into six parts.
2. What is Paul’s definition of the Gospel?
3. How many eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection does Paul indicate?
4. What may “born out of due time” mean?
5. When will the second and third installments of the resurrection army come forth, and of whom will they be composed?
6. What is meant by “kingdom” (1 Corinthians 15:24)?
7. How will the resurrection body compare with the mortal body?
8. Give the meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.
9. What is the twofold practical effect of the doctrine of the resurrection?