Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
for our sins. On no other basis could he regard the gospel as glad tidings. And how had the knowledge of this as a doctrinal reality come to him? He had "received" it from Christ himself, who had appeared personally to him at midday. The historical facts of his death, burial, and resurrection had been known to him; for Saul of Tarsus could not have been ignorant of these things as events involving the nation. Mysteriously, too, he had felt their impression in vague ideas, in vaguer fears; out of unconscious depths, sounds had throbbed as strange pulsations on the inner ear; and so sharp had been the call to thought and reflection, as for the Lord Jesus to remind him on the way to Damascus that he had been kicking against the goads which had pierced his conscience. His conversion was sudden and marvellous. Sudden and marvellous it could not have been but for the long and acute goading that had opened his heart to the hand of the Divine Healer. Yet this preparatory work of conviction was all within himself, under the Spirit's agency. What he knew of Christ's death was not from the historical fact alone, but from the doctrinal truth couched in the fact, and this saving truth he had received. It was a revelation to his soul, a direct and assuring manifestation from the Lord Jesus. To be an apostle, he needed this immediate communication from heaven, this peculiar intensifying of conviction and conversion. Means and methods suited to others were not adapted to his case. Notorious as he had been in the championship of the national Church - the forlorn hope of Sadduceeism and Pharisaism, the young hero whose fanatical strength was adequate to replenish the wasting and well nigh exhausted forces of the Sanhedrim - it was not for him to go over to Christ in some quiet way by meditation, by laborious inquest of soul, by those high resolves which often have their birth from the womb of solitude. No; he must be signally converted, for his own sake and for the sake of others. The change was a momentous affair in the history of the Jewish Church no less than the Christian Church, and, accordingly, he speaks of himself as having "received" the grace of God in an exceptional manner. But were human means disowned? Was naturalness set at nought or even depreciated? Not so; what he "received" was altogether in unison with the true creed of Israel as contained in the records of her national faith. "According to the Scriptures," argues he, was the truth of Christ's death which I "received." Above the effulgence that flashed from the Syrian noon upon his eye, there was another light, and it spread all over Pentateuch, Psalms, prophecies. What, indeed, Gamaliel stood for, but was not; what Sadducee and Pharisee ideally meant, but utterly failed to make real; what priest and scribe had been designed to represent, but had hidden under carnal observances; what temple and sacrifices had been set apart to commemorate and prefigure, but had obliterated in sign and symbol; - all these were now illumined. "According to the Scriptures," which he had learned when a boy in Tarsus, and had come to Jerusalem that he might enlarge and perfect his knowledge of these holy writings; "according to the Scriptures," which St. Stephen had expounded before the Sanhedrim when the shadow of death retreated before the glory descending upon the youthful saint from the "Son of man standing on the right hand of God;" "according to the Scriptures" that Ananias had explained to him at Damascus, when "there fell from his eyes as it had been scales," and, in no long time, the inner eyesight was made clear and strong. Thus it was that providence in the past became providence in the present, the Holy Ghost alike in each, and Tarsus, Jerusalem, and Damascus brought, though seemingly so wide apart, into the unity of his soul's development. Verily, a wondrous scheme of personal history, recognizing home and parents, life in "no mean city," life in the metropolis that was venerated as the glory of the elect nation, life in the leadership of an assault on the young Church, and forever memorable in her annals because of the crown of martyrdom then first won; a marvellous interweaving of the natural and supernatural as warp and woof in one and the same fabric. Back to the original promise spoken in Eden that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; back to the early institution of sacrifice, and thence on to the organization of the Divine idea in a most solemn and august ceremonial that allowed no day to escape its impressive symbolization; all through penitential psalms and instructive prophecies. The great doctrine was present everywhere that "without shedding of blood there is no remission," that "he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows," and that "the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." No emaciating criticism here; no destructive intellect; no disposition inclining St. Paul to obscure Christ in the shadow of the Jewish nation, and minimize his figure to the smallest dimensions consistent with any faith at all. No such taste and temper had this man, fresh from the schools and master of the theology of his times. Nor is it other than one of his very marked peculiarities, that he so frequently cites his thorough and familiar acquaintance with the Scriptures, and that from first to last in his Epistles, he is quite as much a commentator of the Old as an exponent of the New. The two grand hemispheres of religious thought formed one globe in him. From the one to the other, he passed with unobstructed step. Over the immense domain, divided and cut up to so many other minds, adverse or even hostile sections to not a few honest souls; over all this stretch of diversified territory, there was to St. Paul the very perfection of unity. His footsteps never missed their pathway; his eye never lost a landmark. For him, Christ was in Eden, in Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Hosea; and the Old Testament was what it was and all it was because Christ was in every one of its doctrines and institutions. The present Christ to him - the Christ of Damascus, and Arabia, and Jerusalem, and Athens, and Ephesus, and Corinth - was the Christ of the past, and he was this because he was the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Is it like]y, then, that we shall find too much of Christ, and especially as it respects the legal bearings of his death, in the Old Testament? Clearly St. Paul did not think so. "According to the Scriptures" was prefatory, and essentially so, to the logic, sentiment, fervour, of the grand argument he was about to make. What was this argument to be? A defence - the defence - of the doctrine of the resurrection of the human body. Observe now that the historical fact of the Lord's resurrection was not in debate. No one of the Corinthians denied or even doubted that. What, then, was in controversy? This it was, viz.: Did the doctrine involved in the Lord's rising from the dead apply to all? Was there to be a general resurrection? From this point of view, we see why in the present case he laid such stress on his dying for our sins. It was not death as an ordinary termination of life, but death considered in this exclusive instance as an atoning death, as a vicarious and expiatory offering, as a complete and perfect satisfaction to law and justice. It is this death that stands so closely related to his resurrection, and through it to our resurrection. Taking merely an ethical view of the matter, and confining ourselves to what Jesus of Nazareth taught, and to the example of moral excellence he set before men, we can see no reason why he should have risen. He added nothing to morality, nothing to example, nothing to a high and self-sacrificing manhood, by returning to life and reappearing at sundry times to his disciples during the forty days. On the other hand, looking at his death as penal "for our sins" - we can understand why, if he was "delivered for our offences," he should be "raised again for our justification." Without the resurrection, we could not be assured whether he died simply and solely as a good man, the best of men, or as the Son of God to expiate our sins. If, indeed, law and justice have been satisfied by the sacrifice, let them express in an authoritative and sovereign manner, clear of all liability to misapprehension, and assuring to the most eager solicitude, that the penalty has been paid and a full pardon for guilt in man made possible. Precisely this was accomplished by Christ's resurrection, and thus the scars of Calvary, preserved upon his person, were shown to the disciples as the signs of victory over "hell and death." He rose, furthermore, on "the third day." Though it was not Christ's habit to fix times and seasons, yet he was careful to settle the day of his resurrection. Again and again he announced the date of the event. Friends, in their overwhelming dismay, forgot it, or if some remembered it, as the two who journeyed to Emmaus, it was clouded by grief and distrust. Foes remembered it and provided a guard for the sepulchre, and his foes were the first to know that he had risen, and that, too, from their own soldiers. There was no ethical reason for him to rise on the third day or on any other day, but, viewing his death as penal, its purpose instantly answered when he died, we can see congruity between the two facts, "the third day" being his own appointment and a proof that he had died, not as a mere man, but as the eternal Son of God. St. Paul repeats, "according to the Scriptures," i.e. Christ's resurrection had been foretold. "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Psalm 16:10). Christ's death, burial, and resurrection hold together, and their congruity is determined by the fact that "the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." To these truths the apostle gave prominence in the opening of his argument. Logically, they had to assume that commanding position, and emotionally they could have no other. And therefore, "first of all," he delivered these doctrines. They took precedence of all else; they were the data foreverything in Christianity; they were "the gospel." So that if he was about to dwell on a topic which should evoke his power to the utmost, nor leave a faculty of his mind disengaged nor a sensibility unmoved, he would "first of all," as he had done in his preaching, rest his whole cause on Christ dying and rising as the Redeemer of the human race. - L.
I. THE FACT OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION IS PROVED AND PREACHED. (Vers. 1-11.) This is here exhibited as:
1. The substance of Christian preaching.
2. The fulfilment of Old Testament predictions.
3. Verified by the witness of the apostles and of five hundred brethren.
4. Attested by Paul himself.
5. Believed and professed by the whole Church of the Redeemer.
II. INFERENCES FROM THIS FACT. (Vers. 12-28.)
1. Destructive inferences. (Vers. 12-19.) The resurrection of Jesus is represented as conflicting with and altogether overthrowing the belief inculcated by false teachers, that the dead rise not.
2. Constructive inferences. (Vers. 20-28.) The Lord Christ, as a risen Saviour and King, is represented as the Firstfruits of the spiritual harvest, and as the supreme Governor and Controller of the universe.
III. CONFIRMATIONS OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE GENERAL RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD. (Vers. 29-49.)
1. Christian practice, and especially the endurance of opposition, persecution, and martyrdom, can only be accounted for by the power of a belief in worlds to come. Nothing is more evident than that the apostle himself, and many of the early Christians, came under the influence of this new and mighty power, making of them nothing short of new men.
2. Natural analogies support the doctrine of the resurrection. Especially the analogy of the seed sown from which vegetable life takes its rise, and to which the harvest of fruit is traceable. The manifest order subsisting in nature, and the progressive revelation of God himself, are in harmony with the Christian's hope.
IV. THE GLORIOUS PROSPECTS OF CHRIST'S PEOPLE. (Vers. 50-57.)
1. The mystery told. The inheritance of incorruptible and immortal blessedness.
2. The triumph foretold. Man's worst foes, sin and death, shall be vanquished, and that by the might of the Divine Conqueror, Christ.
V. CONSEQUENT EXHORTATION TO STEADFASTNESS. (Ver. 58.) Against apathy on the one hand, and enthusiasm on the other hand, Christians are warned. Labour is not in vain, for its fruits shall be reaped in eternity. Steadfastness and diligence are the appropriate attitude and habit of those who, believing that their Lord has risen, themselves look forward to the Divine, immortal life of heaven. - T.
I. THE SUBSTANCE OF APOSTOLIC DOCTRINE. Paul disclaims any pretension to a ministry of human learning or wisdom; he here as everywhere relies upon the facts which form the substance of his preaching and teaching.
1. The apostles proclaimed the death and burial of their Lord. These, indeed, were unquestioned historical facts, yet they lay at the basis of all their subsequent teaching, alike of doctrine, of promise, and of precept.
2. In conjunction with this they preached the resurrection of Christ. Whilst none denied that Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified, there were many who received the proclamation of his resurrection with incredulity and ridicule. But, however their preaching might be received, the apostles never wavered in their declaration that their Lord had risen from the grave.
3. These events were represented as a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy; what had happened was "according to the Scriptures." To the Jews such a representation would appeal with peculiar power; and the Gentiles would recognize in it the unity of the dispensations of God.
4. The purpose of these events was represented as being the pardon and abolition of the sins of those who believed. The explanation of this "mystery" was a matter of inspired doctrine; but the fact was published abroad to all who would hear the Word.
II. THE RECEPTION OF APOSTOLIC DOCTRINE.
1. In the case of true converts, this was not vain, unreasonable, frivolous. There are those who are ready to receive every new doctrine; and some such professed adherence to Christianity without any sufficient acquaintance with the truth, without examining its credentials, without counting the cost of their decision. But sincere Christians act reasonably and deliberately in their acceptance of the Word of life.
2. True converts were stable in their faith. Such is the teaching of this passage: "Wherein ye stand;" "Ye hold it fast." Deliberate acceptance and adhesion may be expected to be followed by tenacious retention of the truth. Stability in faith and godliness is the condition of the enjoyment of true blessing.
III. THE ULTIMATE AIM AND RESULT OF APOSTOLIC DOCTRINE. No reader of the New Testament can suppose that the first preachers of the gospel intended simply to convey information. Theirs was a moral, a spiritual aim; they sought the salvation of their fellow men - their deliverance from the curse, the bondage, the love of sin. Why was St. Paul so anxious that his hearers and his readers should receive and retain his teaching? It was because in his heart there glowed the flame of benevolence, because he desired above all things that his fellow-creatures should be rescued from the bondage of sin, and should rejoice in the liberty of the sons of God, and because he believed that this blessed result could be brought about only by their cordial reception of the gospel which it was his privilege and joy to preach. - T.
I. IT WAS A RECEIVED, NOT AN ORIGINATED, GOSPEL. "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received" (ver. 3). He tells us that he received it by "the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:12). He had the more confidence in it that it was not of himself, and we have also. It came from the very central Source of all. Paul's gospel of Christ came from Christ. Some preachers of the gospel are so able that they feel bound to originate. They throw a new light upon the truth instead of the old light. They preach, as they consider, a magnificent gospel, but it is unfortunately "of man," and thus worthless. Man can do many things, but he cannot make a gospel. When he tries he advertises his folly. With Paul, we should get as near as we can to the fountainhead - the streams are apt to become contaminated.
II. TWO CONSPICUOUS FEATURES.
1. The atoning death of Christ. Paul preached constantly, untiringly, supremely, the atonement (see his strong expression, 1 Corinthians 2:2). He laid greatest emphasis upon the death of Christ. The life was beautiful, full of teaching; but in the death was the propitiation for sin. He died for our sins; our sins were so great that they required his death! "He bore our sins in his own body on the tree." And the death of Christ did not come suddenly upon the world. It was "according to the Scriptures:" foretold by the prophets, as, for example, by Isaiah in the fifty-third chapter of his book. He had no sins of his own to die for; he died for ours. He "gave himself" for us.
2. The resurrection of Christ. This was the demonstration of the efficacy of his death, a proof that he conquered and was not conquered. The real triumph achieved in his death was manifested by his resurrection. A pledge of our resurrection through him. A token of his acceptance by God.
(1) The apostle laid stress upon the fact that Christ died. It was no swoon. A real death, and then a real resurrection. He "died" and "was buried" (ver. 4). He rose "the third day," so that for a day and part of two others he was in the sepulchre. Stone afterwards denied the actual death of Christ, and thus made void his resurrection. The apostle here anticipates their attack.
(2) That his resurrection accorded with prophecy. It was "according to the Scriptures" (see Psalm 16:10).
(3) That his resurrection was well attested by witnesses. Paul does not give here all the appearances of Christ after his death, but a selection.
(a) Appearance to Peter (Luke 24:34).
(b) To the twelve. Called by the familiar name "the twelve," though Judas was gone (Luke 24:33-36).
(c) To five hundred brethren. Possibly in Galilee, where intimation of his appearing had been given, and may have been widely known, occasioning a large gathering of his followers (Matthew 26:32 and Matthew 28:10, 16).
(d) To James. Probably James who presided over the Church at Jerusalem.
(f) To St. Paul. As of one born out of due time. The least of the apostles. A grand array of evidence, and yet not all. The writer and speaker could bear personal testimony. Most of the five hundred were alive and could be interrogated. Others had "fallen asleep" in hope of a glorious resurrection through him who had appeared to them after his own death and burial.
1. Men received it. (Ver. 1.) It arrested their attention. It convinced their judgment. It moved their heart. It was adapted to human want. It glorified ordinary live.
2. Men were saved by it. (Ver. 2.) It was the power of God unto salvation. Conscience was satisfied. Life was purified and ennobled. Christ was followed. God was feared and served and loved. Death lost its terror. "After death" was paradise.
3. Men stood in this gospel. (Ver. 1.) As long as they held to it they stood, and having done all, stood. Through it came a power which was "able to keep them from falling." Have we received this gospel? Do we stand in it? Are we saved through it? We need "hold it fast" (ver. 2, New Version) - grip it and keep gripping it. A mere assent will lead to "letting it slip." It has no power to save unless we hold it and it holds us. - H.
good news, and the word "gospel" may be thought of as including it all. There is, indeed, a tendency to limit the term to a portion only of our Redeemer's work, which needs to be resisted. The gospel is treated as if it were only the message of our Lord's sacrificial death. But that is, evidently, not the matter that is at all in the mind of the apostle when he wrote to the Corinthians of the "gospel which he preached unto them." He was thinking of the "gospel of the resurrection," and of those truths which rest upon the risen rather than upon the dying Redeemer. We plead, therefore, for a full comprehensive application of the term "gospel," as including -
I. THE GOSPEL OF THE INCARNATION. The "good news" that God is willing to take upon himself our human nature; to become a man among men; and to show to us that humanity is not hopelessly depraved, but is still within reach of the redemptive power of God. The "good news" that God's love is no mere sentiment, but a holy pity leading him to make effort and sacrifice in accomplishing the purposes which love can fashion.
II. THE GOSPEL OF THE MIRACLES. The "good news," thus illustrated for us is that there is no ill from which humanity suffers, no bitter and terrible and seemingly hopeless consequence of sin, which Divine love and power cannot reach. Even death itself, man's last enemy, is well within God's control. And the "good news" that God, in his gracious Fatherhood, is as mightily and wonderfully caring for us every day, as Jesus was caring for sick sufferers and imperilled disciples and bereaved friends.
III. THE GOSPEL OF THE HOLY LIFE. The "good news" that a man has actually lived here upon the earth "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." And that he will not only show us how to live as he did, but will give us the grace for so living. He left us the "example that we should follow his steps," but he gave us also to be partakers of that Divine nature in which alone the following of the example becomes possible.
IV. THE GOSPEL OF THE SACRIFICE. The "good news" that our sins have been borne for us; acceptable sacrifice for them has been offered. The demands of infinite righteousness have been adequately met. The hindrances to reconciliation have been effectually removed. And men now have "peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
V. THE GOSPEL OF THE RESURRECTION. The "good news" that God has signified his full acceptance of his Son. The "good news" that he who died for our sins lives to carry out his purpose of grace in our hearts. The "good news" that Christ "had risen again in order to communicate to us that new and Divine life whereby our own resurrection should be assured - a life which should make the human body, though laid in the grave, a seed from whence, in God's own good time, a new and more glorious body should arise." It is the gospel in this large and inclusive sense which has to be preached to men, and not a doctrine formulated by men respecting one part only of the "good news of God." They only preach the true gospel who can say with the apostle, "I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God." - R.T.
are saved, but there is a much truer and deeper sense in which it may be said that we are being saved. One of the most striking expressions of the Pauline idea of salvation as a present process, carried on within us, is found in Romans 5:10: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." Some adequate notion of the Pauline thought of salvation may be obtained by dwelling on the following three representations: -
I. THE BEGINNING OF SALVATION IS THE RECEPTION OF THE GOSPEL. Observe how the Christian teachers first demanded faith in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the beginning. We must accept of Jesus as the Sent of God, the Son of God, and the Saviour from sin. That beginning may be
(1) intellectual, - a persuasion, upon due evidence, that Christ is the Saviour; or it may be
(2) emotional, - a constraint of love to him who condescended, bore, and suffered so much for us, and whose personal history is such a fascination. Here is the initial stage, "Dost thou believe that Jesus is the Son of God?" You cannot be on the Christian platform at all unless you can give to that question a simple and hearty affirmative. But this is only a beginning. A man is not saved upon such a faith as that. There must be advance to spiritual apprehension of the relation in which Jesus stands to the individual and the individual may stand to him.
II. THE STATE OF SALVATION IS STANDING IN THE GOSPEL. It is apprehending that the Lord Jesus Christ has, by the perfection of his obedience and the sublime merit of his sacrifice, made a new standing ground before God for us. That he represents us. That he wins a place before God, and a relation with God, for us. That his personal rights are not exclusively personal, but are rights which he shares with us, or allows us to share with him, and we are "accepted in the Beloved." In the presence of law claim, we stand as "justified." In the presence of God's claim to perfect obedience, we stand, in Christ, as righteous. In the anticipations of a judgment day, we stand as already acquitted; for us "there is now no condemnation."
III. THE PROCESS OF SALVATION IS GIVING THE GOSPEL FREE ROOM TO WORK IN MIND, AND HEART, AND RELATIONS, AND LIFE. The gospel being conceived, not primarily as a set of principles, and duties, and counsels, but primarily as the spiritual and abiding presence of the Lord Jesus Christ with us, using truths, principles, experiences, duties, thoughts, and counsels, as need be, for the carrying on of his gracious work of moral perfecting. "This is the will of God, even your sanctification;" and we lose the holiest interest in that sanctification when we fail to realize that the Lord Jesus Christ is now actually present with us, carrying on and presiding over this work. We are being saved; and the exceeding solemnity of our common everyday life lies in this - Christ is in it, working at our salvation. The apostle therefore urges upon us that we must hold in quick and living memory the gospel of the present, working Saviour - risen that he might carry on to its full completion his redemptive work - and that to believe in vain is to profess belief, but give the faith no power to open our soul and life to the redeemings of the risen, living, and ever-present Saviour. - R.T.
for sin, in respect of sin, in gracious Divine relations to the pardon and removal of sin. It will be necessary to discuss fully the conceptions that are possible under this term for - for sin. Our preference for either one of the conceptions will depend on the school of theology to which we belong. For may mean in place of, or in respect of, or on account of, or with a view to the removal of. Scripture teachings should be appealed to, to fix what is the proper and precise meaning. The following may be consulted: - Old Testament. Genesis 22., Deuteronomy 9:24-26; Psalm 22.; Isaiah 53; Zechariah 12:10. New Testament: Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; Romans 5:8-10; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 Peter 1:19. The subject may be fully treated under three headings, and, as it should be a scriptural rather than a theological study, the statement of the headings should suffice.
I. OLD TESTAMENT ANTICIPATIONS OF THE DOCTRINE OF DEATH FOR SINS.
II. OUR LORD'S OWN TEACHINGS RESPECTING HIS DEATH FOR SINS.
III. APOSTOLIC VIEWS CONCERNING THE DEATH FOR SINS. If the Scripture passages be fully and fairly considered, it will be felt that the commonly accepted theological notions of our Lord's atonement for sin, need to be broadened and widened, and made inclusive of various possible relations. No one aspect of the death for sins need be conceived of as antagonistic to another. In the many sidedness of the relation lies the depth and the glory of the truth. - R.T.
1. Men denied the reality of our Lord's death.
2. Then they argued that the only resurrection possible to man is a spiritual regeneration and conversion.
3. By and by men said that the resurrection was no fact, only a myth that grew up, fashioned by the wishes of a credulous band of disciples.
4. And then the scientific people thought to bury the old truth forever out of reach, by declaring that the resurrection of bodily forms which have once decayed is simply impossible; all decaying matter goes to the formation of fresh life, and the bodies of dead men really become, over and over again, constituents of the bodies of living men. But the question which concerns us first of all is not - How can these things be? but - Is there sufficient evidence and proof? The matter may be beyond present explication, but it is not therefore untrue, nor can we be justified in refusing to accept an adequately sustained historical fact, because the fact is surrounded with scientific and moral difficulties. True science bids us accept without questioning every well-ascertained fact. Now, the verses before us declare two facts:
(1) Christ really died;
(2) Christ really rose from the dead. We affirm that we have -
I. ADEQUATE PROOF OF THE REAL DEATH. Illustrate:
1. The nature of the death, from ruptured heart.
2. The testing spear thrust.
3. The distinct attestation of the Roman centurion, and subsidiary testimony of the Roman soldiers, who did not break our Lord's legs.
4. The actual burial in the tomb.
II. ADEQUATE PROOF OF THE REAL RESURRECTION.
1. Scripture antecedent cases show the possibility of resurrection from the dead. Our Lord's resurrection does not stand alone.
2. The various appearances of our Lord.
3. His special manifestation to St. Paul. - R.T.
messengers was not enough; they were to be witnesses also, for the "Holy Ghost shall come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." These men felt that they were Christ's chosen witnesses, and that their testimony was the chief agency employed by the Spirit to save the world. It was natural, then, for St. Paul to begin his argument on the resurrection of the body by calling attention to the fact that the risen Christ "was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve." For the space of forty days he manifested himself at intervals to their senses, and during this intermediate period - a special dispensation to the disciples, differing widely from all that went before or came after - their education as witnesses, and particularly as witnesses of his resurrection, was carried on to the verge of completeness at Pentecost. In fact, Pentecost was the forty days consummated. And was this great training merely in the historical fact that he had risen? Forty days were not needed for this. Twenty-four hours after he had reappeared, all the twelve, except St. Thomas, were firm believers of the fact. But they were to feel the connection between his resurrection and death as spiritual truths of the highest moment, truths of the Divine government, truths of holy sentiment, and thus fitted for the full dispensation of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?" The heart, the burning heart, the heart of saving faith, - this is the distinctive type of experience now, and, for the first time, Christian emotion as to its essential quality is brought into notice. St. Paul enumerates the witnesses: St. Peter, the twelve, the five hundred brethren, St. James; and adds, "all the apostles." Then he mentions himself: "Last of all, he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." Could he speak of this in the way simply of historical summation? Not he; memory was too active, feeling too acute, humility and gratitude too profound, for a bare logical statement. In an instant, the devout soul hastens to acknowledge what it never lost an opportunity of expressing - its sense of God's mercy in calling him, a persecutor of the Church of God, to the apostleship. "By the grace of God" - words often abused since he used them, but most sacred and glorious as he uttered them - "by the grace of God I am what I am." That grace had not been bestowed in vain; nor does he hesitate to say that be had "laboured more abundantly than they all," and then "I" sinks out of sight, and it is all of grace. Notice the stages of the idea: born untimely; least of the apostles because he was guilty of persecution; the only man among them who stood against this dark background, but the light in the foreground is the more resplendent for that; not ashamed to confess his utter unworthiness in order to magnify the grace of God, and this grace deserving the entire honour of the more abundant labour. What an insight into the man! If, as we suppose, the hours when this chapter was written were extraordinary even in his wonderful mental history; if there was a fuller and closer interblending of his faculties than he had ever experienced; if human knowledge and culture then brought to inspiration their largest and richest tribute, and if inspiration brought to them its mightiest quickening; - what could be more striking than the fact that in this very period of exaltation, when intellect was in the splendid array both of its endowments and acquisitions, and when the power of speech had suddenly possessed itself of new facilities of expression, he cannot proceed without pausing to bow his heart in adoration before the God of grace! Uppermost, indeed, was the thought of him who had "died for our sins," and the glory of Christ risen as personal to him and his apostleship was the grace shown to him as a persecutor of the Church of God. And we who read his glowing words, what finer privilege can the unfoldings of the human soul in literature give us, what privilege so fine as this in which the apostle of the Gentiles, rising above the levels of all common experience, speaks from a height which would be the abode of silence save that humility would offer its homage to the grace of Christ! The nobility of the man displays itself here; for, though labouring "more abundantly than they all," yet he claims no more than to be one of the witnessing company of the apostles. After all, it is not the individual testimony of St. Peter, St. James, St. Paul, but the concurrent and united evidence, that is the important fact. Years intervened between the forty days and the scene on the road to Damascus, and he comes with his later testimony to join the group of the earlier witnesses. "Whether it were I or they" - we are all agreed as to the appearance of the risen Lord - "so we preach, and so ye believed." - L.
I. OUR LORD HIMSELF HAS SET THE EXAMPLE OF DESIGNATING DEATH AS SLEEP. In speaking of Jairus's daughter, he said, "The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth;" and of Lazarus he said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." As on both these occasions he was misunderstood, it would seem that the usage was not a familiar one. But as he spake, it was natural and right that his disciples also should speak.
II. DEATH TO THE CHRISTIAN IS SLEEP, FOR IT COMES AT THE CLOSE OF THE DAY'S TOIL. "After life's fitful fever he sleeps well," is language which Shakespeare uses with reference to the murdered Duncan. But how far more appropriate is such language when used with reference to those who have served God faithfully and diligently during many years, and who rest from their labours! "David, after he had served his own generation, fell on sleep;" and the expression is one suitable in application to every true servant of the Divine Lord.
"How blest the righteous when he dies! III. DEATH TO THE CHRISTIAN IS SLEEP, FOR IT IS THE LIBERATION OF THE SPIRIT FROM EARTH AND ITS COMMUNION WITH HEAVEN. The body of the slave or of the exile may be still and silent in slumber, and the spirit may in the visions of the night wander to the congenial scenes of home, and may imagine the renewal of broken ties and the resumption of suspended joys. And in this sleep is the emblem of that death through which Christ's people, absent from the body, are present with the Lord. On earth and in the life of the body, during the walk of faith, it sometimes seems that the beloved Saviour is far away, and that eternal joys are imaginary and remote. But when the frame sinks into the slumber of dissolution, the spirit wings its flight to the land where Jesus is, and where are pleasures forevermore. IV. DEATH TO THE CHRISTIAN IS SLEEP, BECAUSE IT IS FOLLOWED BY THE GLORIOUS AND EVERLASTING AWAKENING. "An eternal sleep" is the expression of the heathen poets, not of the Christian teacher. On the contrary, the whole argument of this chapter is to banish such a notion, and to substitute for it one far more bright and blessed and far more true. Even the ancient prophet foretold that many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake to everlasting life. And we know that "Christ hath been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep." It shall be an awaking which shall fill the saints with surprise and satisfaction and infinite joy, and which shall be a new and marvellous revelation of the love and life of God to natures purified and glorified. - T.
III. DEATH TO THE CHRISTIAN IS SLEEP, FOR IT IS THE LIBERATION OF THE SPIRIT FROM EARTH AND ITS COMMUNION WITH HEAVEN. The body of the slave or of the exile may be still and silent in slumber, and the spirit may in the visions of the night wander to the congenial scenes of home, and may imagine the renewal of broken ties and the resumption of suspended joys. And in this sleep is the emblem of that death through which Christ's people, absent from the body, are present with the Lord. On earth and in the life of the body, during the walk of faith, it sometimes seems that the beloved Saviour is far away, and that eternal joys are imaginary and remote. But when the frame sinks into the slumber of dissolution, the spirit wings its flight to the land where Jesus is, and where are pleasures forevermore.
IV. DEATH TO THE CHRISTIAN IS SLEEP, BECAUSE IT IS FOLLOWED BY THE GLORIOUS AND EVERLASTING AWAKENING. "An eternal sleep" is the expression of the heathen poets, not of the Christian teacher. On the contrary, the whole argument of this chapter is to banish such a notion, and to substitute for it one far more bright and blessed and far more true. Even the ancient prophet foretold that many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake to everlasting life. And we know that "Christ hath been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep." It shall be an awaking which shall fill the saints with surprise and satisfaction and infinite joy, and which shall be a new and marvellous revelation of the love and life of God to natures purified and glorified. - T.
I. AN ASSERTION OF PERSONAL HUMILITY.
1. Paul occupied a singular position among the apostles, inasmuch as he had not, like the others, been privileged to enjoy the society of the Divine Lord during his earthly ministry, but had been called by Christ long after the Ascension.
2. Paul took shame to himself because he had persecuted the Church of God, which had been constituted through the labours and zeal of the other apostles and their colleagues. On these two grounds he deemed himself the least of the apostles, and even unworthy of the apostolic name. Such humility is rare; it secures the approval of him who regards the lowly and raises them up, who exalts the humble and meek; it commends itself to the Master who requires a childlike spirit as a condition of entrance into the kingdom, and who pronounces a blessing upon the meek.
II. A CLAIM OF OFFICIAL EMINENCE.
1. The apostolic office and dignity are attributed to the free favour of the Giver of all. "By the grace of God I am what I am." This was in accordance with Paul's own teaching that "God hath set some in the Church, first apostles." An honour like this, functions such as it involved, authority such as was connected with it, could come only from God. It is well forevery servant of Christ to accustom himself deliberately and constantly to trace up his possessions and his trust to the Divine Lord and Author of blessing.
2. Paul acknowledged that the gifts bestowed upon him had been diligently and faithfully employed. Grace had been given, and grace had been found not vain or void. That is to say, opportunities, advantages, endowments, had all been used in such a manner as that they had been continued and increased. Growing years had brought enlarged powers and enlarged usefulness and influence.
3. Paul claimed pre-eminence in labour. His calling, as the apostle of the Gentiles, involved long journeys, many hardships and privations and perils. His ardent temperament, his burning love to his Lord, his grateful and consecrated disposition, led him to undertake and to perform more than had been undertaken and performed by others. It was a necessity alike of his position and of his temperament. Yet it is observable that he no sooner claimed to be first in toil, than he reminded himself that what he did was not his doing, but the fruit of God's grace towards him. If humility passes into self assertion, self assertion returns to humility. - T.
I. HONESTY. How faithfully Paul speaks of himself! How candidly he acknowledges the circumstances connected with his apostleship! Yet he had the greatest reason to magnify his authority to the Corinthians. They were ready, many of them, to twist anything to his disadvantage. But ha is not moved by this. To him the end does not justify the means; he must have "means" perfectly unquestionable. His candour and truthfulness are striking. He is a man of transparent honesty, as every Christian man should be. Whether honesty be the best policy or not, it is the only Christian policy.
II. CONTRITION. As a man becomes spiritually great, he has keener regret for old delinquencies. Paul cannot forgive himself for persecuting the Church of Christ. That act becomes more glaring in its sinfulness the nearer he draws to the "Light of the world." Little saints - little sins. No sin is little except to the purblind. The more perfect our acceptance before God, the more perfect our condemnation of ourselves.
III. BOLDNESS. Paul does not shrink from testimony or deed. People may call him "a turncoat," but not now being a child, he has put away the childish thing of being appalled by epithets - epithets which, in his present condition, can really mean only praise, whatever they may be intended to mean. A man who has true and high "fear of God" has little fear of man. The truly great in Christian life are afraid only of being afraid to witness for Christ. Christian courage is a fine quality.
IV. DILIGENCE. The truly great Christian is a hard worker. He must do something for his Lord, whatever his circumstances. If he be stretched on a sick bed he will toil there, in conversation or prayer, or in repressing anything that may dishonour Christ, such as irritability, repining, etc. Many professors can believe anything and do nothing. A ton of their piety would be dear at the cost of a bad farthing. There are some microscopic saints, who ever want "to be fed," but all their feeding seems to come to nothing. Instead of being "labourers in the vineyard," they are only pickers of the grapes. The great Paul was a great worker; he "laboured more abundantly than they all." If we would be great we must be diligent. "The hand of the diligent maketh rich" (Proverbs 10:4).
V. LOVE. This is very apparent in Paul's case. His heart is going God-ward with the penning of every word. His contrition was related to his love. He felt that he had been forgiven much, and so he loved much. Love to God made him diligent, and perhaps in no one was love to man more strikingly exemplified than in this apostle. As we grow great we grow in love, because, as we grow spiritually great, we grow like God, and God is love. If our religion does not mellow and soften us and extend our sympathies, we have got hold of the wrong religion.
VI. HUMILITY. We cannot be great unless we are little. To go up we must go down. The true Christian is one who has become a "little child." Paul ascribes everything to God's grace, nothing to himself. This was a very true and accurate division; it represented things as they really were. The great Christian sees things as they are; the little Christian, as they are not, but as he would like them to be. The little Christian thinks himself to be a great Christian, and the great Christian thinks himself to be a little one. As we rise, God seems greater and greater, and we little and still more little, until at last he becomes "all in all" and we become "nothing." There is a greater gap between God and Gabriel in Gabriel's thought than between God and Judas in Judas's thought. We cannot boast of our salvation, for God has saved us; nor of our works, for his grace has wrought them through us. - H.
"Christ not risen!" What follows? Apostolic "preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain." This is pressing the matter home with startling energy. But how could the logical consequence be otherwise? Christ Jesus, Son of God, had assumed man's physical nature, had been born of a woman, had eaten and drunk and grown like other men, had conformed to the laws of human corporeity, had been "made under the law" of providence, and taken all its requirements upon himself; and hence, if "made like unto his brethren," he rose from the dead just as he had been incarnated, under the general law of humanity. From the beginning to the end, no break occurred in his career; it was human throughout, and just as human when he rose from the grave as when born of the Virgin Mary. To be sure, a glory beyond the human was in him and around him - the glory of the eternal Sonship - but the human was never lost or swallowed up, never even obscured, by the mysterious awe of the Divine investing him. In this view of the matter, Christ rose because he was a man among men, and by virtue of a law which found in him its highest manifestation, just as all other laws of humanity had realized in him their sublimest expression. But what of our preaching as apostles? If he has not risen (risen he cannot be unless there is a general resurrection), then "we are found false witnesses of God." Nothing else but false witnesses, "because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not." Deluded men we cannot be; victims of excited and overwrought senses; innocent enthusiasts; - all this is impossible; and we are downright deceivers. Is this credible? Go back and read the roll of testifiers: St. Peter and the twelve, the outstanding fact of their testimony being Jesus and the resurrection; then the five hundred brethren, next St. James, and I myself. Can you Corinthians believe a thing as absurd as this, that we are all false witnesses? So much for apostolical preaching. He had put their preaching as apostles and the faith of these Corinthians in the same category; they were each "vain," that is, "empty, groundless, unreal" (Kling). Now, then, he urges that if there be no resurrection, "Christ is not raised." If Christ be not risen, what object has your faith? To believe in his atoning death, you must believe in the necessary sequel and counterpart of that death, his resurrection, since the two facts are inseparably united. Admit his death, deny his resurrection, and "ye are yet in your sins." Is this credible? On the hypothesis of no literal resurrection, three things up to this point of the argument have been made clear, viz. Christ's death was in vain, apostolic preaching of Christ crucified was in vain, and Christian faith was in vain. What a new Ecclesiastes is here! "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." But was this all? If a denial of man's resurrection necessitated the rejection of Christ's resurrection; if the loss of his resurrection swept away his atonement, seeing that there was no proof of its validity, and hence no assurance of pardon and peace; if the nullification of the atonement destroyed the value of preaching and the worth of believing; - could there be any addition to the amount and quality of these dreadful consequences? Yes; the train of evils following this new doctrine of no resurrection was lengthened out still further; for "they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." All departed Christians are lost. There is no heaven for them, and the touching words, "fallen asleep in Jesus," are mocking rhetoric. Again, the thought recurs - Was this credible? Another vanity must be superadded: affection for the departed, the tenderest and holiest of all human feelings, that which perfects the love unable to obtain its complete growth while the object lived to the eyes and was clasped in the arms; this most beautiful and noble affection is idle sentimentality, for they have "perished." At this point something more than logical reasoning is involved. The deepest instinct of the soul in its human relationships is in issue. Is this instinct a cheat, a falsehood? We, the apostles and the five hundred brethren, are not the only "false witnesses," but your nature, the very core of your nature, is a deceit and mockery. You have lost your Christ and his apostles, lost your faith, lost your friends. Nothing precious is left; you dare not trust your firmest instincts. "Most miserable!" Could there be a greater torture? "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." The hope of being with him hereafter, of seeing and enjoying him, of becoming more and more like him, - this is our heaven of anticipation; the crown is "a crown of righteousness;" the eternal reward is nearer and fuller communion with him. But this hope is all vain. Himself uncrowned, himself left to the dishonour of the grave, what can Christ be to you and what relief afford you - you of all men most wretched? Other men resign themselves to their dreams of earthly joys, seek the pleasures of sense and find them, fall down and worship Satan and get their kingdoms of power and wealth and passion. These you have denied yourselves and put far from your pursuits. Heaven has been enough for you. But lo! this heaven is a vain hope, a fleeting creature of fancy, and you are the victims of a supreme folly, the lowest on earth in hopeless misery. This mournful picture is not allowed to detain the eye, for St. Paul immediately says (ver. 20), "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." There is the fact of his resurrection; there is also the doctrinal import of the truth with respect to believers; so that after showing the absurdity of the opposite view, be now lays down a positive assertion in conformity with the first stage of his argument. Christ has risen, but in what character and relation? The answer is, "The Firstfruits of them that slept." A vast harvest is in the future, and he is the Firstfruits. Was not the first sheaf a specimen of the matured field, a thank offering to the God of providence, a pledge of the full ingathering? In all things he was to have "pre-eminence," and consequently in this, that he was "the first begotten of the dead." Previous resurrections had occurred, but in no sense were they "firstfruits," since no representative or mediatorial character appertained to them, nor did they involve the idea of a Divine covenant. The significance of Christ's return to life is that, having been "reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." The specialty of his vicarious sacrifice gives specialty to his resurrection, which is the beginning of his exaltation to be a Prince and a Saviour, "for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." And in this, humanity appears historically no less than prospectively: "Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." It is, in each instance, a race fact he is contemplating, and he sees the race as existing in the natural headship of Adam and in the spiritual headship of Christ. "As in Adam all die" a natural death, "even so in Christ shall all be made alive" - restored to existence as it consists in the union of soul and body. Further on, St. Paul specializes the difference between Adam and Christ; here and in the context, it is the similarity of attitude towards the human family which he presents. To see the unlikeness, we must first see the resemblance, and, accordingly, he institutes a parallel between the two, Adam and Christ, as preparatory to the divergence which he introduces when discussing other aspects of the resurrection. The union of body and soul, by which human nature is constituted, belongs in itself to the natural order of the universe, and therefore offers a common platform on which Adam and Christ alike stand, the one as causing death, the other as the restorer of life forfeited. St. Paul never loses sight of nature and natural order. Everything that he says of Christianity either asserts or implies something back of Christianity. If, as often happens, he describes it as a scheme of restoration, there is always an original system, vast in reach and compass, to which it is subordinate. And if, as frequently occurs, he is showing that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," reference is still had to a primary or normal condition as having been transcended by substituting a higher for a lower form of life. In congruity with this habitual method of thought, fundamental to all his other habits of mind, and without which he could not have been the thinker he was, he traces here the resemblance of Adam and Christ in their respective headships of the human family. But has Christ such an identification with our race as to put his resurrection, time and circumstances considered, on a level with our rising from the dead? No; he stands alone. "Every man in his own order." There is an order, a rank, a succession, and the headship of Christ is attested as before in the figure of the "firstfruits." "Afterward they that are Christ's at his coming;" the long interval between the first and second coming of Christ illustrating his majesty as the risen Lord, and ripening a harvest worthy of him as the "firstfruits." If, then, the ages are to witness the success of his power as "a Prince and a Saviour," and if the final demonstration of his glory as exalted to the right hand of his Father be reserved for the resurrection of his saints and its attendant events, this result must be of the nature of a consummation. Viewed as a system within a system, it must be limited by conditions, must have instruments and agencies, must have various adjustments of means to ends, and the ends in turn accommodated to ulterior purposes, all which go forward to an era of grandeur. A perpetual scheme of this kind is inconceivable. It involves the trial of certain definite and clearly announced principles, the coworking of God and man, the test operation of peculiar motives and sentiments; in brief, the idea of probation in the most educative and august shape it could assume. Are we the only learners in this school? Worlds have brotherhood as well as men, and the network, too delicate for any eye to see all the filaments even here, is spread over spaces unmeasured by the visible firmament. It is a mediatorial economy under which we live, nor can any reader of the New Testament doubt that the universe is affected in some way, though the manner and extent are mysteries, by this mediatorial rule. Inasmuch, then, as it is mediatorial, this system cannot be permanent, and hence "every man in his own order" presents the conception of a successional development, which must, at some period, reach its crisis and pass away. "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." What is it that shall terminate? The previous verses (20-23) throw some light on this subject. Humanity is represented therein as to its contrasted forms, and these forms are Adam and Christ. Contrast is our chief mode of knowing objects in this world, and we are unceasingly dependent on its activity. It is a mark, however, of the weakness of our faculties and the limited sphere in which they are confined. Now, these contrasted forms of humanity as embodied in Adam and Christ shall vanish away, because they belong to our knowing "in part" and are only disciplinary for that "which is perfect." All the conflict between our nature in Adam and our nature in Christ having ended, and its connections with preternatural agents having come to a close, and that close triumphant on the side of the Lord Jesus, every sign of this sort of rule, authority, and power, shall disappear from the universe. We may venture to suggest that some hint of this is given in the forty days. The posthumous life of the risen Christ has dropped off the outward marks of its former rule, authority and power. No discussions are held with scribes and Pharisees; no snares are laid to entangle him; no repelling on his part the charges of sabbath breaking, confederation with Beelzebub, and blasphemy in claiming to be the Son of God; but the battle has closed, and the Victor fresh from the grave is victor over Sanhedrim and Herod and Pilate, and henceforth the Holy Spirit orders the struggle between the forces of good and evil. But on a far wider arena, and with an infinitely grander display of majesty, will the Lord Jesus Christ consummate his victory over earth and hell when he resigns to God the Father his delegated sovereignty as the Mediator. As in the forty days no winds and waters were to be stilled, no demoniac crossed his path to call forth his power, no exertion made in the exercise of authority and rule over those inimical to his divinity, but conflict was swallowed up in conquest; so now, the end having been attained of mediatorial government and all opposition put down, what befits him so royally as to resume the ancient characteristics of his Sonship as the second Person in the holy Trinity and take the glory of eternal ages back, long ago resigned, to his bosom? Does this require that his humanity shall be laid aside? By no means. Turn again to the forty days. Humanity then manifested in him a semi-glorified state. Over time and space he was conqueror, nor was he amenable to any law of flesh and blood, but enjoyed the immunities of a "spiritual body." Yet, notwithstanding, he was most human, and in his voice the old tones were tenderer and sweeter, so that Mary k , and symbolize the redeemed sanctity of each, there is good reason for jeopardy; otherwise none at all. By his love for this Church, by his joy in its members, he protests that his own jeopardy is so great as to warrant the statement, "I die daily." Outward circumstances beset him with so many perils and the inward pressure was so heavy and constant, as that he suffered like a dying man, day by day. To particularize; if (metaphorically) he had "fought with beasts at Ephesus," what advantage was it if the dead rise not? Was he facing all these terrible risks, hour by hour, to preach a gospel that left Christ imprisoned in the sealed grave of the Sanhedrim, and that it was vain to preach and vain to believe, and that made baptism a nullity? Was it for this that he underwent so much distress? "Let us eat and drink." If the body has no part or lot in the grace of Christ, and has no future, let us make the most of its enjoyments in the present life. "Tomorrow we die." No punishment can be inflicted on the body hereafter, since it has no hereafter; "Let us eat and drink." And yet beware; deception is always possible, and deception is certain in this instance. "Evil communications corrupt good manners;" so that poet and apostle, Menander and St. Paul, are at one as it respects association and intercourse, and their effects on practical life. Then follows the warm exhortation: "Awake to righteousness" - "an exclamation full of apostolic majesty" (Bengel) - "and sin not." Such views as he had condemned came from a want of the knowledge of God. More than this, it was humiliating that such errors were found among the Corinthians. "I speak this to your shame." The argument, as conducted to its present point, has included a number of particulars, each luminous in itself, each reflecting light on the general course of the idea foremost in his mind; and from the wide range, reaching to the end of the mediatorial kingdom, he returns to himself as daily dying for the sake of these truths. On the other side, what is the landing place? It is, in Epicurean morality and practice, the deception and corruption and shame of "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die." And as he comes back from this extensive circuit of thought, convictions far more profound than earthly logic, and emotions deeper than earthly love, press themselves into utterance while he reminds these Corinthians how far astray they had gone, "not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God." - L.
I. A GREAT QUESTION. Everything connected with "after death" is of high interest to us, but this, whether the professed Messiah and Saviour burst the bands of death or was held captive by them, is of the very highest moment. Christ rested his claims upon his resurrection; if it failed, they failed. His rising from the tomb was the demonstration of his Divine Sonship (Romans 1:4). His witnesses were to be witnesses of his resurrection, as of an all important event (Acts 1:22). His resurrection was the seal of the power of Calvary. It gave authority to all his teaching. It corroborated the antecedent miracles.
II. A DISPUTED QUESTION. Disputed from the first, when the absurd rumour was spread that his disciples had stolen his body away in the night, and that men sound asleep had witnessed the depredation! Around this central point of Christian faith have surged floods of controversy. It was and is natural that the citadel of Christianity should be fiercely attacked. Every conceivable supposition has been made to explain away the evidence. But this remains, that greater miracles have to be taken for granted by deniers than by believers. Our faith need not be shaken one whit by the onslaught; the truest and best things in the world have ever been the favourite targets of the devil and his archers.
III. A VITAL QUESTION. With the answer Christianity stands or falls. This the apostle willingly admits. Note what amongst other things is involved in the denial of the resurrection of Christ.
1. The falsity of the witnesses.
(1) Yet everything these witnesses say and do has the savour of sincerity. They live lives of humility, purity, unselfishness; and in support of the asserted fact of the resurrection are willing to die. Yet if they knew their statement to be false, they had nothing to gain, but everything to lose, by making it.
(2) They must have been false, not deceived. The circumstances of Christ's repeated appearances, as narrated by the evangelists, render it inconceivable that the witnesses should have been victims of illusion or Imposture.
(3) False witnesses of God. Their sin was directly against the Eternal. They blasphemously asserted that he had done what they knew he had not.
(4) Their condition was most deplorable; ver. 19, "If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most miserable." For we have said it is not hope of Christ's resurrection that we possess, but our solemn testimony in God's sight has been that we were personal witnesses of the resurrection of Christ. Our claim has been, not hope, but certainty. Now, if we only have the former whilst we have professed to possess the latter, how great is our criminality! how miserable is our condition! how dread must be our future! We have been guilty of the basest misrepresentation in a matter of the highest moment. Other interpretations of ver. 19 seem to involve, what most Christians will strenuously deny, that if Christianity be a delusion, the condition of the believer in the present life is more miserable than that of the unbeliever.
2. All preaching of the gospel is vain. Instead of the proclamation of the truth, it becomes the dissemination of a lie. It is empty, unreal, has no basis. The gospel so rests upon Christ's resurrection that, when one succumbs, the other must share the same fate.
3. Faith is vain. It must be useless to trust to one whose word has already failed. To build our hopes upon one whose most solemn assertion has fallen to the ground would be nothing but sheer madness. The "Lord Jesus Christ," indeed, disappears, and we have left, as the object of our faith, only one like to ourselves.
4. Living believers are unsaved. Christ, we read, "was raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25); but if he did not rise, we are not justified. In penalty and power sin still attaches itself to us. And yet we feel that the burden has gone and that the power is broken! How can these things be?
5. The dead in Christ are perished. Not annihilated, but before God without a Mediator! God and the future remain if Christ did not rise, but those who have fallen asleep in Christ, believing on him, have found in him no help, have found through him no pardon. With all their sins upon them, they have entered into the presence of their Maker and Judge. What a relief to turn to the confident utterance of Paul, "But now is Christ risen from the dead" (ver. 20)! How thankful should we be for the clear, satisfactory, conclusive evidence of Christ's resurrection which we possess! And careful should we be not to hold loosely, or to deny, some doctrine which may seem of comparatively small importance, because we cannot understand it fully or because it conflicts with our prejudices. Much more may be involved than we think of. Some of the Corinthians denied the resurrection of the body, but appear to have been willing and desirous to accept the rest of the gospel revelation. They, perhaps, did not see how the single denial destroyed the whole fabric. But Paul shows that if the resurrection of the body be denied, the resurrection of Christ must be, and that this involves the destruction of the claims of Christ as the Messiah and Saviour and the entire overthrow of the gospel. - H.
I. FAITH IN CHRIST'S DEITY LARGELY RESTS UPON THE FACT OF HIS RESURRECTION.
1. If Jesus had not risen from the dead, his own recorded predictions would have been falsifed. On several occasions he had foretold that his violent death should be followed on the third day by his resurrection. Had this not taken place, his word would have been discredited, and all confidence in his Deity would naturally have been destroyed.
2. If Jesus had not risen from the dead, he would have been proved inferior to death. The argument of the apostle was a very powerful and effective argument - that, being not only David's Son, but David's Lord, it was not possible that he should be holden by death, that his body should see corruption. But had he remained in the grave, a very different impression concerning his nature would necessarily have been produced upon the minds of his disciples, and the world could never have been convinced of his Messiahship and divinity.
II. FAITH IN CHRIST AS A SAVIOUR RESTS UPON THE FACT OF HIS RESURRECTION.
1. This appears in the customary publication of the gospel by the inspired apostles. They preached that Jesus was "raised to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel, and remission of sins."
2. The resurrection of Christ is a token of the acceptance by the Father of that redemptive work of Christ whereby forgiveness is secured to those who believe. And it is the condition of the exercise of those mediatorial functions which are still discharged in the court of heaven, the presence of God.
3. The resurrection is a spiritual power in the hearts of those who believe it, a power of newness of mind, of holiness, of life immortal. They who die with Christ unto sin, and are crucified with him unto the world, risen with Christ, live in his heavenly and resurrection life.
III. FAITH IN CHRIST AS THE FIRSTFRUITS OF THE GENERAL RESURRECTION RESTS UPON HIS RISING FROM THE TOMB. There is observable a marvellous contrast between the hopelessness of the heathen and the confidence of Christians in the prospect of death. To those who believe the gospel, the victory of Immanuel over death and the grave is the pledge of the final triumph of the good, is their consolation when they are bereaved of their Christian kindred and associates, is their confidence and inspiration in the prospect of their own departure to be with Christ. - T.
has risen from the dead, and in doing so he has become the Firstfruits of them that slept.
I. CHRIST'S RESURRECTION PRECEDES THAT OF HIS PEOPLE. The doctrine of the future life, obscure in the earlier periods of revelation, was made known with growing clearness as ages passed on. But it was Christ who "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." Not only by his explicit teaching, but by his own victory over the grave, did our Saviour bring to mankind an assurance of eternal life. And, in point of time, he led the way for his faithful followers and friends.
II. CHRIST'S RESURRECTION IS EVIDENCE OF THE DIVINE AND QUICKENING POWER WHICH SHALL RAISE HIS PEOPLE AFTER HIM. The presence of a Divine power of life was manifest when, on the third day, the Lord of glory rose victorious from the tomb. If before it was doubtful whether in the universe there resided such a life-giving energy, such doubt was now dispelled. The same Divine might which raised the Leader can raise the followers too. The sun which has ripened the sheaf which is presented as the firstfruits of the harvest has warmth and vital geniality to mature the crop that clothes the vastest plain; and the Spirit of life which quickened the crucified One will raise up us also to be glorified with him.
III. CHRIST'S RESURRECTION IS UNTO THE SAME BLESSEDNESS OF LIFE WHICH IS APPOINTED FOR HIS PEOPLE. Our Lord did not rise to renew the humiliation and the sufferings of this earthly existence; he rose a Conqueror to live and reign in glory. And the purpose of infinite grace is that, where the Master is, there also shall his disciples and servants be. We may share his weakness and his woe, but we shall share also his might and his blessedness; we may bear his cross, but we shall also wear his crown.
IV. CHRIST'S RESURRECTION IS THE EARNEST OF HIS PEOPLE'S IMMORTAL LIFE, "Death hath no more dominion over him." And those for whom he both died and rose again live in him and live forever. "There shall we ever be with the Lord." "They go no more out." It is to the glory of the Lord and Husbandman when the firstfruits are brought into the temple and offered upon the altar. But the glory of that day shall be yet greater when the harvest shall be completed, and when the garner of God shall be filled with the rich spiritual produce of the earth. - T.
I. ITS CAUSE. Christ - the second Adam. Through the first Adam, death; through the second Adam, the resurrection from the dead. We see how much depends upon Christ, how much upon his resurrection. Through him we expect to rise; but if he did not rise, how can we rise through him? "But now is Christ risen," and so our prospect is unclouded. He has passed through the grave to make a way for us. He found the bonds of death strong; we shall find them broken. He lives, and through him we shall live also. He has conquered the grave whilst in our nature, and now holds it as conquered for us to pass through.
II. ITS UNIVERSALITY. "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Adam was the first head and representative of the human race; he fell, and one of the consequences of his fall was the grave for all men. Christ was the second Head and Representative, and through him comes to all the race deliverance from the grave. In neither has the personal, responsible act of men, apart from their representative heads, a place. The disadvantage through Adam and the advantage through Christ come to all men, apart from their choice or desert. But this only applies to physical death and the recovery from that death. Personal sin and personal repentance and faith have issues unaffected by the general headship of Adam and Christ. The just and the unjust die through Adam; the just and the unjust rise through Christ: but they do not rise to the same future. What follows upon personal transgression and impenitence will be borne in the body delivered from death; and, similarly, that which follows upon personal repentance and belief in Christ.
III. ITS ORDER.
1. Christ. First, as the cause. He is "the Firstfruits" - the earliest and the most costly and the most precious of the harvest. And also the pledge of the general harvest. He is the Firstfruits presented and accepted, and we who are in him shall be accepted also, for we shall be "like him."
2. The saved. "They that are Christ's." This is after the resurrection of Christ; how long after we are not told. But it will be "at his coming." In his first advent we have redemption; in his second advent, resurrection. "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" (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
3. The rest of mankind. "Then cometh the end" - the end of the resurrection - the rising of those that remain, as well as the end of the dispensation. The lost have the place of least honour. They were "first" in many things in life, but now they are "last."
IV. ITS MODE.
1. By the sound of a trumpet. (Ver. 52; see Matthew 24:31.) The dead shall hear, for the summons shall be of God. Those who stopped their ears on earth will not then be able. "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28, 29).
2. Sudden. This seems to be suggested by ver. 52. The change of the living will be sudden; the change of the dead also. Men generally die slowly; they will be raised from the dead instantly. The dead have been long in gathering - how many centuries have passed, how many more, perhaps, to come! - but probably in "the twinkling of an eye" will they be delivered from death. This strikingly illustrates Christ's power over the grave - how completely he has conquered, and holds in subjection, death.
V. ITS VICTORY. It will be a triumph. It will show forth the victorious might of Christ. He triumphed in his own resurrection; that triumph will be consummated in the completion of the resurrection, when all, of every race and colour, are raised by his power.
VI. ITS CONCOMITANTS. The following seem here to be closely connected with the final resurrection: -
1. The universal victory of Christ. He shall conquer, and conquer all that now oppose him. "All rule, all authority and power," must fall before him. All enemies shall presently be under his feet. The powers of evil now seem great and strong, the kingdom of righteousness comparatively small and feeble; but at that day Christ will be King, and to him "every knee shall bow."
2. The destruction of death. The destroyer shall be destroyed. The shock of the great resurrection will be too much for his kingdom. The death bonds long since broken by Christ shall then be burnt. Man's mortality shall cease forever. Death shall die and know no resurrection.
3. The delivering up of the kingdom by Christ to the Father. Christ, as Mediator and Administrator of the kingdom of God, will then have completed his special work, and the direct rule of God as God will be reinaugurated. Christ will still remain as God Man, the Head of his own people, and as one in the Godhead will participate in the Divine reign.
4. The subjection of the Son to the Father. As he was before his mediatorial work began. One with the Father ("I and my Father are one") in nature, but voluntarily subordinate as a son to a father. The Son as such will not be conspicuous in rule as now, but God will be "all in all." The united Deity will reign as one, and in the Deity the Son is subordinate in position to the Father. - H.
I. FIRSTFRUITS SHOW THE POSSIBILITY OF HARVEST. So Christ, as a human being, showed the possibility of resurrection. Imagine that the fields had never waved with harvest, and that in this springtime the seeds were first sown. How men would watch for the result! Some stalks may be ripened early in the sheltered warm corner. It is enough to rest our hearts: we know there can be golden grain waving over all the field. So the grave field is sown with the living seeds; and Christ is a seed sown among them. Lo! long before the others, one single blade appears. And the one says, "Wait patiently awhile." Man can rise. One day the grave fields of earth will be rich with the golden harvests of the resurrection life. This firstfruit comes to tell us that it can be so.
II. FIRSTFRUITS ASSURE OF THE CERTAINTY OF HARVEST. So Christ, as the representative human Being, assures the certainty of resurrection. Take a handful of seeds - say a handful of seemingly dead seeds from a mummy case. Try if they have life by placing one of them in the soil. If one lives, all will live. It is a firstfruit which pledges a harvest. So it is with Christ. The relation in which he stands to men makes him the test of their resurrection. "If a man die, shall he live again?" Who shall answer that question? Is there a living and undying germ in that body which we bury out of our sight? Try. Take one and let it be representative. Take the Man Christ Jesus. Describe his burial, and the glory of the Easier morning when he rose. But on what grounds do we affirm that what is true of one will be true of all the others? It may be urged that one instance often suffices to establish a law. But, further, God's Word declares that Christ occupied a special place in relation to man. He was constituted his Representative. The human race has two heads, Adam and Christ. One covers the race for death, and one for life - the eternal life. Did all die in Adam? Then, verily, all shall be made alive in Christ. And certainty is added to bare possibility, and death has lost its great terror.
III. FIRSTFRUITS UNFOLD THE CHARACTER OF THE HARVEST. So Christ, as the model Christian, declares the character of the resurrection. Christ bore relation to the whole world; he is representative Man. But he bore a special relation to his own people; he is the representative Christian, Therefore we have two things in his resurrection:
(1) the bare fact;
(2) the glorious character of the fact.
Firstfruits show the character of coming harvest. Illustrate by our thoughts and fears as we see the firstfruits thin, blighted, speckled; or standing well, clean, strong, and full. What hope, then, is there in Christ's resurrection, regarding him as the First fruits from the dead? What will our coming life be if it is like his during the forty days he tarried with us?
1. Christ's forty days showed that the new life will be beyond the limiting conditions of humanity. It will be to our old life as flower to seed.
2. Christ's forty days showed the new life will have the old recognitions and the old sympathies. Jesus was in feeling the same.
3. Christ's forty days showed the new life to be a deathless and eternal life. This is the truth of the ascension. Once out of the death-grasp, death is done away. Impress
(1) the importance of all moral seed sowings, as directly bearing on the resurrection life;
(2) the duty of fixing firmly our oneness to Christ, our Representative and Head;
(3) the joy of cherishing a good hope of the great awaking. - R.T.
I. THE FIRST ADAM REGARDED AS A RACE HEAD, OR REPRESENTATIVE. Show how the race is bound up in him. Whether or not he be the actual race father, this is certain, "God has made of one blood all nations to dwell upon the earth," and the blood is Adam's, the type is Adam's, the whole bodily and mental functions are precisely Adam's, and God is pleased to deal with the race through this Adam, making him the race's test man, and laying the race under the burdens that were laid upon him. If we force the idea of our individuality into an undue strength, we shall resist the idea that any man can carry us with him so as to win for us blessing or woe; but if we duly estimate the solidarity of the human race, and what this involves for the good of the race, we shall be willing to accept the idea, and the consequences, of this mediation or representation. The standing of humanity before God is settled by the standing of Adam. The disabilities of humanity come as the disabilities of Adam, the consequences of his failure. It may even be that what we call death, as distinguished from simple change and passing, is due to Adam's fall. And our very character may be said to be deteriorated through Adam's triumphant wilfulness. We do not say that our relations with the first Adam are limited to these representative ones, but we do say that these are the prominent relations, and those which enable us to apprehend the similar relations of the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. THE SECOND ADAM REGARDED AS A RACE HEAD, OR REPRESENTATIVE. Observe that the first Adam was directly born of God, not of any previous human being; and so, we are taught, was the Lord Jesus, though his full kinship with our humanity is brought home to us by his having a human mother. He, then, is a fitting new Race Head, and God is pleased to deal with him in our name, and his dealings with him cover, carry, and include us, as those for whom he stands. Work out:
1. How Christ stood for us as penitent sinners, and won for us full pardon.
2. How Christ presented, in our name, perfect obedience, and won for us full acceptance.
3. How Christ asked for us life eternal, and gained the unspeakable gift. He is himself the type and the model of the new human race, the race that hates sin, and loves righteousness, and seeks God; and every one of us who makes Christ stand for him thereby pledges himself that he will give himself no rest until he is in everything just what Christ represents him to be. And so "in Christ shall all be made alive." - R.T.
I. CHRIST'S RIGHT TO REIGN. This is grounded upon:
1. His Divine nature and authority.
2. His moral right and qualifications.
3. His definite appointment by the Father.
4. His mediatorial sufferings and sacrifice.
II. THE SUBJECTS OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM. They are spiritual and willing subjects. He cares nothing for a pretended loyalty or a merely outward obedience. His aim is to gain a dominion over human hearts, and thence to rule human society.
III. THE FOES WHOM CHRIST'S REIGN SUBDUES. These he is to put under his feet. They may be enumerated:
4. Irreligiousness and worldliness.
5. Vice, crime, and sin.
6. All false and corrupt religions.
IV. THE MEANS BY WHICH CHRIST'S REIGN IS ADVANCED AND HIS FOES SUBDUED.
1. The weapons are the truths of the gospel, the exhibition of the righteousness and love of God.
2. The agency is that of believing, sympathizing, and consecrated natures. The kingdom comes by the labours and the courage and enterprise of the spiritual subjects.
3. The power is that of the Holy Spirit of God.
V. THE PERIOD OF CHRIST'S REIGN.
1. It commenced at our Lord's ascension, when he was "raised to be a Prince and a Saviour," "from henceforth expecting, etc.
2. It has been constantly advancing, the kingdom has been extending its boundaries, and the number of the subjects has been multiplying.
3. It will not terminate until victory shall have been gained over every foe. "Thy throne is forever and ever." Only when all opposition is vanquished, shall the Son himself yield the dominion, and God shall be all and in all. - T.
Acts 2:24; vers. 21, 55, 56; Ephesians 4:8; 2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 1:18). By that resurrection he abolishes death, and gains the mastery over all that death symbolizes to us.
I. CHRIST IS THE CONQUEROR OF DEATH ITSELF. It was no design of Christ's to destroy death altogether, and pluck from it its commission to the human race. He left it still to bite, but took away its sting, its hopelessness, and its relation to human sin. We shall die though Christ has conquered death; but death has now become the messenger of our Saviour, who would call us to himself, not the foe who drags us down to our doom. Even while this may be said, it must be admitted that death keeps a bitter enemy, dreaded still by men, even Christian men. We are impressed with the certainty of its coming. "There is no discharge from that war." The exceptions have been so few, and they have been made on such distinct grounds, that none of us can hold one moment's hope that we shall escape it. There is the humbling power of an irresistible destiny hanging over us all. And the certainty is blended with a most painful uncertainty as to the time or mode of its appearing for us. Death may be lurking in every journey. Morning, noon, and night it chooses for its visits. It "reaps the bearded grain," and the scythe sweeps down also "the flowers that grow between." Death can also put on repulsive and hideous forms. It can come as accident, as loathsome disease, as plague. And the separations it makes from loves and friendships add greatly to the bitterness with which we think of it. No wonder that so many of us are "all our lifetime in bondage, through fear of death." Then he who would be the Saviour of men must do something to deliver men from the power and fear of death. He must deliver men from that part of death which has come as a consequence of sin. In our human nature he submitted to death, when it grasped him in its most dreadful forms; but when he was fairly in its grasp, he lifted up his power - as Samson, when he awoke, snapped asunder the cords that bound him - he broke asunder the bars and gates; he "led captivity captive;" and rose, showing us our foe conquered, his arrows broken, his sting gone. Looked at now from Christ's point of view, the aspects of death are all changed. It is still "certain," but only because the Father wants all his children gathered safely home. It is still "uncertain," but only because such uncertainty is an important part of the Father's training. It puts on "repulsive forms," but only because Christian love needs severe testings. It involves "separations," but earthly separations are necessary to perfect the unities of heaven, whence they go no more out forever. So, for the Christian, death is already virtually destroyed.
II. CHRIST IS THE CONQUEROR OF THAT WHICH DEATH SYMBOLIZES TO US. Scripture personifies death, and makes it the embodiment of all human ills. "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death," some kind of death. All trouble is a little death; all disease is a little death. These things are symbolized in physical death.
1. Death is our ideal of loneliness. It is our great lonely time. Our best beloved must stand back from the gate while we go through alone. There are many lonely times in the course of our lives. Times when friends forsake; times of doubt; times of grief. But Christ, in mastering death, the height of loneliness, mastered all lesser phases of it for us. He is with us in death, and we know that we can be nowhere alone - he is with us.
2. Death is the ideal of all bad, untoward circumstances. We think of it as the sad time, when all things seem to be against us. But life is full of such times. Still, our Lord is the Master of all circumstances, and however wild and wanton the storms of life may seem, he holds the helm, and will bring us through to the desired haven.
3. Death is the great sorrow, the ideal of all sorrows. But to him who rose from the dead it is given to wipe the tear from every eye, to quiet every heaving heart, and shed abroad the "peace that passeth understanding." For the disciples of Christ death - the bitter, stinging thing death - is gone; and there is nothing whatever left now in the world that can be overwhelming. Christ conquered all our foes when he conquered death. - R.T.
I. THE REVELATION OF THE SON IS TEMPORARY. That is, of the Son regarded as the mediatorial and redemptive Agent. There is a doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ, but with it this passage does not deal. God may employ on his mission a servant or a Son. In either case the mission is defined in character and limited in time. Whatever Jesus, as the Son of God, came to earth to do, it was a precise mission, having a temporary character. It had two stages.
1. One of earthly manifestation. We know how that was limited to a few years, and at its close he passed, accepted, into heaven.
2. One of spiritual influence. Within that we live, but it is no more abiding than the other, and our text describes its close.
II. THE REVELATION OF THE HOLY GHOST IS DEPENDENT ON THAT OF THE SON, AND IS ALSO TEMPORARY, He is the redemptive Agent who follows up and applies the work of Christ; and is only needed while the redemptive work has to be done. Here, again, no reference is intended to the sublime operations of God of a spiritual kind apart from those exerted in the redemption of man.
III. THE POINT OF THE PRESENT REVELATION OF GOD TO US IS THE RECOVERY OF MAN'S WILL AND HEART TO GOD. It is a moral purpose that is sought. The recovery first of the man himself, and then of his surroundings. This is fully argued in the passage from which the text is taken, and in Romans 8.
IV. WHEN THE REDEMPTIVE DESIGN IS FULLY ACCOMPLISHED, THE MEDIATORIAL OFFICE MAY CEASE, But it only ceases because the end it sought is reached, the mission is fulfilled, and the mediatorial office can be lost in the glory of the relationships into which it will have brought man, and all human relations. "When the last hindrance, the last enemy, is removed, which prevents the entire entrance of God into the soul, we shall see him face to face, know him even as we are known, awake up satisfied in his likeness, and be transformed into pure recipients of the Divine glory. That will be the resurrection." - R.T.
I. THE FOLLY OF SELF DENIAL AND SUFFERING FOR CHRISTIANITY. These must be branded as imbecile; yet they have ever seemed most sublime. But if there be no resurrection (the resurrection of the body being vital to the gospel and all its hopes, as Paul has shown in preceding verses of this chapter), the argument for such conduct fails. Why order one's life for a future which will never be realized? Why suffer for a lie as though it were a truth? There were some who had been "baptized for the dead" - an obscure expression, but probably meaning baptized to take the place of those who had suffered martyrdom. Why should these court so stern a fate if Christianity were a deception? The apostle had "fought with beasts at Ephesus" - probably figurative, to express his contest with beastlike men. He "died daily" in his faithfulness to his commission as a preacher of - what? Ah! upon the what depended everything. According to the answer, Paul was an utter fool or a marvellously heroic saint. If there was no resurrection, and if therefore the gospel fell to the ground, he was undoubtedly the former.
II. THE REMOVAL OF RESTRAINTS FROM INDULGENCE AND VICE. The denial of the doctrine of the resurrection involved the denial of the gospel, and with this perished the hope of salvation. Christians thus became as men of this world, having no bright hope of the hereafter. Consequently the check upon natural appetite was removed. Common sense would seem to favour a life of Epicurean pleasure. If there be no hope concerning the world to come, let us make the best of the world that now is: "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die." "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." The apostle is not supposing that there is no future existence. By "the resurrection" in this chapter he means the resurrection of the body, but he shows that with the rejection of this doctrine Christianity is destroyed, and here he is showing that if Christianity be destroyed the incentives to a pure and virtuous life are removed. His thought seems to be that, apart from Christianity, there is nothing in the world which will constrain men generally to live great and noble and self-denying lives. And this is a matter for our most serious reflection. If Christianity be done away with, what is there which will restrain men from indulgence and vice? No other religion can compete with Christianity; if it falls, all religion is doomed. Can philosophy do the practical work required? Alas! it is possible to be a very excellent philosopher and a very poor moralist. Will general education restrain men? It will, when cleverness and goodness mean the same thing, but not before! Will art and refinement effect what is needed? The palmiest days of art have been the days of most glaring obscenity, and refinement has shown over and over again how easily it allies itself with brutal lust. If Christianity falls, the prevailing doctrine amongst men must be, "let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die."
II. CAREFULLY SHOULD WE GUARD AGAINST EMBRACING THIS FATAL OPINION. We may find difficulty in believing the doctrine; we shall find disaster in rejecting it.
1. The apostle notices one thing very likely to lead us astray. "Evil communications [or, 'evil company'] corrupt good manners" - a line borrowed from the Greek poet Menander. "Can a man touch pitch and not be defiled?" Many mix amongst the ungodly, confident in strength, and fall. We need remember that, in our present state, we are more easily influenced towards the wrong than the right. Our minds are not equally poised. There is already a bias. Strange that those who are so bold to venture into the atmosphere of moral evil shun that of physical evil. A professing Christian will company with an arrant unbeliever, but not with a man suffering from small-pox.
2. Sin must not be yielded to. (Ver. 34.) Those who live in sin easily persuade themselves of the truth of anything which they would like to be true. As denial of the resurrection leads to sin, so sin leads to the denial of the resurrection. Sin blinds the intellect as well as corrupts the heart.
3. If we have been at all betrayed, we should at once seek to recover our position. "Awake to righteousness," or, "awake up righteously." We are more than half asleep if we deny that for which there is abundant evidence. We need to rub our eyes or to ask the great Physician to touch them. "Awake," or "be sober." The condition of those who deny the resurrection is one of carnal intoxication. In denial our faces are towards evil; in assent and reception we turn towards righteousness. "Righteousness" in the world depends, according to the apostle, upon the reception of this doctrine, because with it stands or falls Christianity itself.
4. Denial involves ignorance of God. (Ver. 34.) To the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, Christ said, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). Men say, God cannot do this thing; but with him "all things are possible." True knowledge of God marvellously helps our faith. We doubt and question, not because we know so much, but because we know so little. The Corinthians boasted much of their knowledge; here Paul charges them with gross ignorance. - H.
I. BAPTISM INTO CHRIST IS BAPTISM INTO SUFFERING. It may be shown
(1) that this was the fact in apostolic days;
(2) it has been the fact in every Christian age, sometimes more and sometimes less manifestly, and
(3) though it may take on milder forms, it is still as true as ever that "they who will live godly must suffer persecution," and "through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom." It may be argued that there is even a necessity for this, if the exclusive demands of the Christian profession are estimated in view of the antagonistic claims of the world, in which Christian profession finds a sphere.
II. BAPTISM INTO SUFFERING MAY BE EVEN UNTO DEATH. Of this God keeps illustration forevery age. There are no martyr ages. Men die for Christ by overwork, by exposure, by peril, nowadays, as truly as when our fathers burned at stakes and died in prisons. The Martyns, and Williamses, and Browns, and Pattisons, are the proofs that still baptism into Christ may mean baptism unto death.
III. SUFFERING MAY BE BORNE, AND DEATH MAY BE ENDURED, THROUGH FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION. There is a sufficient sustaining motive. Without a clear and full belief in the life beyond, men may well say that Christians are mad to put themselves under such painful limitations and endure such accumulated suffering. "If the future were no Christian doctrine, then the whole apostolic life - nay, the whole Christian life - were a monstrous and senseless folly. Grant an immortality, and it all has meaning; deny it, and it was in Paul a gratuitous folly." Impress what baptism into Christ pledges for us now. Show what forms of trial and suffering it may involve for us now. And urge what a sublime light of meaning on present trial is shed from the Christian revelation of the resurrection life, with Christ. - R.T.
I. INFIDELITY AND IMMORALITY ARE OFTEN ASSOCIATED. It would be unjust to charge all unbelievers with vice; but there is no injustice in pointing out that the natural tendency of infidelity is both to shake the foundations of virtue and to snap the restraints upon vice. If there be no righteous God, no moral law, no future retribution, all sanctions to virtue and uprightness of heart and conduct are removed, except such as are imposed by civil society. Where external penalties are removed, or where they can be evaded, it is not reasonable to expect that the bulk of men will deny themselves, check their appetites and passions, and practise the difficult virtues of justice, chastity, and benevolence. And it cannot be concealed that in most cases the prevalence of infidelity opens the flood gates of all iniquity. The Corinthian false teachers seem to have taught that, the body being perishable, sins of the flesh are immaterial and unimportant, and thus to have given countenance to the maxim of Epicureanism, "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die."
II. INFIDELITY AND IMMORALITY ARE CONTAGIOUS AND CORRUPTING. By appealing to what is base and selfish in human nature, the champions of error and self indulgence lead especially the young who come under their influence away from the stern steep road of virtue into "the primrose path of dalliance." None are more contemptible than those blasphemers and voluptuaries who, having grown grey in the service of Satan, make it their aim to corrupt and debauch the young and inexperienced. By casting aspersions upon religion, by insinuating doubts, by representing the pleasures of sin, and, above all, by an example of irreligion, profanity, and vice, such persons make themselves a moral plague and pestilence in human society.
III. INFIDELITY AND IMMORALITY SHOULD THEREFORE BE DISCOUNTENANCED AND ESCHEWED. For the sake of our own welfare, for the sake of the family, the Church, and society, it is needful that we should be upon our guard against those evil associations which have a tendency to corrupt even good manners and morals. And, on the other hand, those whose influence has been exerted against the cause of virtue and religion may well be reminded that they cannot perish alone, that their example will probably be injurious and even ruinous to others; so that if there remain in them any spark of pity and unselfishness, they may well be entreated to immediate and sincere repentance, for the sake of others as well as of themselves. - T.
I. MAN CANNOT AVOID CONTACT WITH EVIL MEN. We must meet them in business, and in all the various forms of life association; and we cannot keep ourselves free from their contaminating influence. We are like transplanted trees; the bad atmosphere for us is all around us, and the question is whether our vitality is strong enough to thrive even under the bad influence. Illustration of this point is very abundant and ready to hand. It applies to evil thought as well as evil life.
II. MAN MAY AVOID FRIENDSHIP WITH EVIL MEN. We can put firm limitations on the character of our relationships. Much of the practical wisdom in ordering our life is shown in doing so.
III. MAN MAY BE PRESERVED FROM THE INFLUENCE OF EVIL MEN. Mainly in three ways.
1. By due watching and care.
2. By adequate culture of the spiritual life into vigour and strength.
3. By cherished dependence upon the guardings of Divine grace. A man may be in the world, and not of it.
IV. MAN MAY BE A CORRECTIVE POWER ON EVIL MEN. Man may stand in three relations to evil.
1. He may yield to it.
2. He may stand aloof from it.
3. He may master it. The last is at once the relation that is safe; and the relation to which the Christian man is called, and for which he is endowed. - R.T.
According to nature, or by analogy, the argument has to proceed if the objectors are met. The new standpoint is promptly taken, and St. Paul and the philosophical critics are face to face. Who are these that have gathered before the eye of his imagination in that humble room in Ephesus, the proud and lordly city, whose commerce connected it with every land, and whose wealth was the wonder and envy of the world? Near by was the magnificent temple of Artemis, renowned over Ionia and far beyond, safe too in its renown, since no art of man could surpass its pillars of Parian marble, its doors of cypress wood, its roof of cedar resting on columns of jasper, and the great masterpieces of painting and sculpture by which it had been enriched. Likely enough, one who could quote from Menander, Aratas, and Epimenides, knew something of Anacreon, Thales, Heraclitus, and others associated with Ionia and Ephesus. Would not some of these illustrious thinkers rise before his vision when he began to meditate on the questions growing out of the relations between soul and body, questions on which Greek intellect had expended its subtlest power of investigation? And would not that memorable day in Athens flash back upon him from Mars' Hill, when he confronted the philosophers with the doctrine of the resurrection, some mocking, others saying, "We will hear thee again of this matter"? However this may have been, it is certain that St. Paul understood perfectly the objections made by Greek philosophy to the resurrection, as to the "how" and "with what body" - the general and the specific bases of Greek hostility to the doctrine so near his heart. To answer the two interrogatories" how?" and "with what body?" - is the work now in hand. St. Paul had just closed an appeal by the sharp cry of "Awake to righteousness," as if intent on arousing the Church from stupor. Now, however, he begins with "Thou fool," or rather, "Fool," expressing no harshness, but simply the want of wisdom. The analogy is stated at once: "That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die" - reminding one of similar words spoken by the Lord Jesus (John 12:24). The seed you sow has to die, to pass into decay and dissolution, its component parts separated, before the germ can disengage its life and begin to sprout. Like that seed, your body dies. Like that, your body by dying enters on a condition preparatory to living. If life thus proceeds from dissolution, the general question "how" is met by the likeness between the decay of the seed and the body. The body of the seed dies, but it has a principle of life which springs thereby into active existence. Then, the contrast having been first presented between death and life, he advances to the second point: "With what body do they come?" Not the old body; nothing can be clearer than that, for the destruction of the former body supplies the conditions for the process of deliverance from decay, and institutes the work of quickening. And what is the issue of the new process? It is a new body, for "thou sowest not that body that shall be;" if thou didst, what reality would be in the sowing; what foundation for the hope of the husbandman; what work for the providential agency of nature? On the supposition of the same body in the seed-grain dying and growing, the resemblance would be to sleep rather than death, and, consequently the analogy as here used would break down at the start. Hence the statement so essential to the parallelism: thou sowest not the future body, but a body for transformation. It is "bare grain" which is put into the ground. This is your work as a husbandman; but God is there to perform his part., and "God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him." Admitting that God gives the new body according to his pleasure, does it follow that this act is arbitrary because it is sovereign? Is nature set aside? Are the former laws that made that seed the kind of seed it was, overthrown under the sod? Is it death to the economy of production, or is it production for reproduction? And he answers, God giveth "to every seed his own body." On the one hand, the continuity of nature is preserved, the particular character of the seed is not lost; and, on the other hand, the new growth is something unlike that which dies, for God has given it a different body. Similarity and contrast are both maintained. Is the identity destroyed? Nay. Is there a distinction between the body that dies and the body that lives? Yea. Identification must not conflict with dissimilarity; dissimilarity must not antagonize identification. Seen in this light, the change is one of form. Before death, there was body living; in death, body decayed and resolved into its elements; after death, body reconstructed. The identity lies in the fact of body; the difference in the substance, properties, and form of body. If so, what is there incredible in the resurrection? By analogy, it is a possible event. Nature authenticates a principle which may find application to the human body; and if you ask, "With what body do they come?" the reply is that it will be a new body, one of a higher form, one from him who "giveth to every seed his own body." Observe, then, the fact of the resurrection is not rested on analogy. The use of the analogical argument here is not for that purpose. Christ's resurrection establishes the fact of a general resurrection. But this having been assured, analogy is employed to show the consonance thereof with reason, by pointing out a correspondence between it and the germination of seed. And how beautiful as well as truthful is this use of nature! Enlightened from another source, even by the Spirit of God, St. Paul is in a position to see the God of nature as the God of the resurrection. He goes to nature and asks, "Have you anything like this?" And she points him to the growing harvest, a few months ago "bare grain," and says, "So shall thy dead live! Our heavenly Father has not been content to give us great facts alone, but has superadded images, analogies, illustrations; and the grander the truth, the more clear and copious its kindred associations. That sense of correspondence which exists in us all, and is a mainstay of our convictions, is continually addressed by him, and by thousands of ties he binds together his Word and his works. Inspired teachers exhibit their wisdom in the way they read and interpret nature. Scripture is not written for minds shut up in themselves, the order and grace of the universe hidden from them. Sensational consciousness is just as much a part of religion as spiritual consciousness, and, accordingly, an eminent teacher like St. Paul honours his office by appealing to nature. He wrote for the senses no less than for the spirit, and hence we find him (ver. 39) widening the scope of analogy. And whither shall he tend? What is the objective point aimed at? The identity of the resurrection body with the dust and ashes of the grave - is that the goal of his thought? Nay and yea. Look on the gross side of identification, on the interminable disputes about bones and material particles, and the answer is nay. Look on the higher and far truer side of identification, and the answer is yea. As to the first, had the advocates of the dust and ashes theory existed in his day, he would perhaps have said, Fool!" Happily for us, we know that identity as applied to the body means the persistent adhesion to the same idea in the plan and purpose of organization, so that while the particles of matter in the corporeal structure are ever coming and going, and are as short lived as the ephemera of a summer day, such is the law of constancy beneath this variation that identity is no wise disturbed. St. Paul first takes up diversity of animal organisms. To show that the question is not about the retention and revivification of former constituents of the body, but a question solely of body and its capacity to assume such a form as God might be pleased to give, he states," All flesh is not the same flesh." Men, beasts, fishes, birds, differ in flesh. It is all flesh, but very unlike. What then? If body be capable of such variety in bodies, if you have such an interval as appears between man and bird, what limit will you put on body as to organization? Creative power is manifested in matter as matter; creative power makes its most wonderful manifestation in the countless shapes and adaptations of matter. And, accordingly, St. Paul's meaning is that you cannot argue from the structure and particles of the body here to the organization of a spiritual corporeity. But you can believe in new and higher forms, since "all flesh is not the same flesh." How far, then, has the argument progressed? To this landing place: body here, body hereafter, body capable of a nobler type of existence. But he proceeds to use another illustration. Hitherto he has been mundane in his view; now he enters on the upper realm. Celestial bodies, bodies terrestial, exist in the universe, and do they present contrasts on a far broader scale than those we see in the flesh of men and other animals? Ay; the diversity now is one of glory. Celestial and terrestrial bodies share different degrees of glory. The sun is a sun in its glory, and its splendour is its own. Moon and stars have their glory, and by this unequal distribution of radiance they impress us when we gaze on the firmament. Just here, then, the movement of the apostle's mind takes a sudden spring It bounds afar, and it is no longer form, no longer seed and harvest, nor animal organisms, but it is the splendour of form that absorbs his contemplation. Long ago the royal psalmist had poured forth his wonder and adoration in the nineteenth psalm, that sublime hymn which chants "the glory of God" in the firmament and keeps the throbbing pulses of the human heart in the rhythm of the universe. And now - the eye dilated and the resplendency full upon it - hearken to the instant utterance: "So also is the resurrection of the dead." "Sown in corruption" - earth and its earthliness; "it is raised in incorruption" - earth and its earthliness left in the grave. "Sown in dishonour" - its humiliations all upon it, and demanding speedy removal from sight and commitment to darkness lest it be loathsome; "it is raised in glory," and bears a likeness to him whose "countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." "Sown in weakness" - always in a state of infirmity and as a corpse, "powerless and unable to resist corruption" (Bloomfield); "it is raised in power," and made capable of receiving plenitude of energy from the will of the spirit and answering all possible uses of mind. "Sown a natural body" - as in life so in death, a part of the material order, and subjected to its conditions, and never able to escape its limitations, so "natural" that this very apostle, "caught up to the third heaven," had to suffer "a thorn in the flesh" that he might not be "exalted above measure," - "it is raised a spiritual body," and, if once a body that represented the soul, now a body that is in perfect sympathy with spirit as the highest organ in man for communion with God. The last antithesis is so important as to demand restatement: "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." Notice that the term "body" as used here derives its import as to its character or quality, not from anything in itself, but from its subsidiary relations, in the one case being "natural," "psychical," as connected with the soul, and, in the other, as contradistinguished from the "psychical" or "soul body," represented as the "spiritual body." What does the clear discrimination made by the apostle between the two forms of body require of us? A primary recognition of the difference between soul and spirit as determinative of the difference between the body natural and the body spiritual. Without entering into metaphysics, we may remark that the soul is that form of mind which connects man with the senses and the outer world of the senses, while the spirit is that form of mind which connects man with unseen and eternal objects. If this distinction were not real - a distinction that often develops in the feeling of most painful contrariety - how shall we explain our consciousness; how understand the amazing inconsistencies into which we fall; how give any account of moods and transitions, reactions, and rebounds? The fact of difference is plain to every student thinker: the nature of it is difficult, perhaps impossible to make obvious in language. Is there not a poetry that finds access to the innermost life, and a poetry that goes no further than the external intellect and its correlated sensibilities? And of painting, sculpture, music, eloquence, are there not everywhere two vividly marked divisions, so that while the one kind is very palpable to the soul, the other is felt rather than known, and works by hints and intimations more than by communications actually defined? Still more as to persons: who has not known some individuals that always called forth by their presence the best within him? whereas there were others whose tones and looks were solicitations to evil? Only a few consciously note these experiences, and still fewer analyze them, but assuredly they are facts of life, and life would be barren of its most advantageous suggestions, were it otherwise, Now, it is this difference between soul and spirit which St. Paul employs to give the contrast in the verse: "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." In this world, the body is so organized as to correspond to the soul; in the resurrection, the new corporeity will represent the spirit. Would you see how a great Christian thinker weaves into one pattern thoughts from nature and from Scripture? Ver. 45 presents St. Paul in these words: "It is written." Nature, though prolific of types, shadows, parables, cannot long detain him, and now he returns to the Mosaic account of the creation in the first and second chapters of Genesis. "Adam was made a living soul" (ch. 2:7). Animal he was in corporeal organization, placed at the head of the animal kingdom, sovereign over all creatures and things, and, moreover, much else, for he was the image of God in his reason, intelligence, and moral nature. He had a soul in him, and, it was God's breath. It was in the fact that he is the only Biblical writer who calls Christ by the name of Adam; while, at the same time that they stand in such close connection with humanity, the contrast between them is forcibly given. What Adam was is expressed in "living soul" as the starting-point or initiation of human nature, the designation expressing the predominant aspects of his earthly position and his candidacy as a being in God's image for a much loftier development. By the "life-giving spirit," we understand Christ in the power and glory of his resurrection, when "he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men," chief of which was the Holy Ghost. The "natural" precedes the "spiritual;" and what a philosophy of the universe opens in this single idea! The natural in law and government, the "do this and live," the special rule and the special test, the appeal to the senses and the sense intellect, and the primal guardianship of conscience by means of fear over moral interests - the natural in social relations - the natural in the motives to obedience and the uses of God's grace and the offering of worship - must lead the way, since by no other method apparent to us could humanity attain its high destiny. "Afterward that which is spiritual." First the natural, afterward the spiritual, - this is the order in everything that concerns man. Every one of his attributes, such as perception, reasoning, volition, faith, love, obeys this paramount law.; and the miracle of life is, whenever the Divine plan is carried out, that man is seen, as Milton describes the lion in Eden, extricating himself from earthly entangle merits and winning his freedom. St. Paul multiplies the forms of this idea. "Of the earth, earthy," was Adam; "the second man is of heaven;" and as we bear here "the image of the earthy" in body and soul, so shall we bear "the image of the heavenly." Slowly the likeness of Adam fades even now under the fashioning band of God. Natural law is made subservient to spiritual law, so that while the senses decay and the other animal functions abate more or less, the diviner sensibilities acquire the vitality thus disengaged and expand with new vigour. Providence cooperates with grace. And thus, line after line, lineament after lineament, disappearing from the "living soul," and also from the lower functions of the body, there comes out in its stead "the image of the heavenly." Our growing years, if we are consecrated to God, are all on the side of Christ, and are all helpers and auxiliaries to prepare us for the fulness of spiritual life in a spiritual body. - L.
I. BUT WE OUGHT NOT TO BE STAGGERED BY ANY FACT WHICH IS THE SUBJECT OF DIVINE REVELATION. God will assuredly justify himself and fulfil all his promises. Though we do not see how he will do so, he does. He sits higher than we do. When Ezekiel was asked, "Can these bones live?" he did not reply, "It is utterly preposterous and absurd," but "O Lord God, thou knowest;" and when God asserted that they could and should, Ezekiel obediently prophesied upon and unto them (Ezekiel 37:3). Our Lord's words should ever ring in our ears, "With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).
II. CONSIDER THE IMPERFECTION OF OUR PRESENT KNOWLEDGE. HOW very little we know! Our knowledge is extremely superficial; we know no one thing thoroughly. Our knowledge is extensive in this sense, that we know a very little about a great many things. How ignorant we are of the nature of matter, spirit, life! How unfit to dogmatize! yet how ever ready to do so! Like children, we say, "It can't be;" and we speak with infinite confidence because we cannot understand how it can be. The theory cannot be made up out of our superficial information. The mountain won't go into our bucket!
III. THE LIMITATION OF OUR FACULTIES. Our powers are very great viewed in one aspect, very little indeed viewed in another. As long as we possess only our present faculties we shall do well to guard against the flippant use of "impossible."
IV. HOW SOME DIFFICULTIES CONNECTED WITH THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY MAY BE REMOVED. We have two indicated in this passage.
1. How can the dead live? If our bodies die, are placed in the grave, dissolve, mix up with surrounding earth, is it not incredible that they should live again? "How can these things be?" The apostle has a very pertinent retort. He directs the objector to a very familiar operation and result. Seed is sown in the ground, a living plant springs up. The seed placed in the ground apparently perishes. As placed in the earth it is seen above it no more. Much of its substance decays and unites with the ground in which it lies. And yet there is the plant of the same nature, and called by the same name. There is here death and then life. In fact, only as the seed is sown, only as it seems utterly to perish, decompose, and be hopelessly lost - only thus is the beautiful result attained. So the death of this body may be necessary (speaking after the manner of men) to the beauty and glory of the resurrection body. That which seems to be a difficulty may be an essential link in the chain - essential, that is, unless a special miracle is wrought, as may be in the case of those alive at the coming of Christ (ver. 52). They will be "changed" suddenly - we know not how, through what process. Christ's body, which saw no corruption, was evidently changed. Paul does not assert that sowing seed and its result are parallel in all points to the death and resurrection of the body. He uses it as a helpful illustration. If our experience did not cover the sowing of the seed and the upspringing of the plant, perhaps our faith would be as greatly tried, if we were called upon to believe in its possibility, as we are now in the case of the resurrection of the body.
2. "With what body do they come?" One common form of this difficulty is - how is it possible for us to have at the resurrection the same particles in our body which we now have? Apart from the dissipation of these particles in the earth or sea, they may actually belong to the bodies of a great many different people! Amongst cannibals, for example. And amongst civilized people as well; for animals and plants receive in various ways particles which once helped to constitute human bodies, and these animals and vegetables being eaten, the particles in question become constituents of other human bodies. How can this apparently insuperable difficulty be met? Simply by saying that it is a difficulty originated by the objector, and has no basis in Divine revelation. We are not told that the earthly body and the resurrection body shall consist of the same particles. In fact, the apostle seems expressly to combat such a notion; for he says," Thou sowest not that body which shall be" (ver. 37), and in ver. 50, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." But then, if not the same particles, what particles? what form? The apostle meets this by reference to the Divine power as now seen in creation: "All flesh is not the same flesh." There are celestial bodies - the organisms of angels - bodies, yet greatly differing from the terrestrial bodies. The light of the "lamps of the firmament" greatly varies in glory and beauty. So there will be great contrast between the body now and then. God by what he has done shows what he can do, and so this part of the difficulty vanishes. But the greater part remains. If the resurrection body has not the same particles now possessed, how can it be the same, and how can there be any fitness in speaking of the resurrection of the body? Our experience supplies a sufficient answer. Sameness of particles is not essential to identity. The particles in our present body are in constant flux. At no two moments do we possess precisely the same: we are always throwing off some and taking on others; and, separated only by the interval of a few years, science leads us to conclude that the body has lost all the old particles and is constituted entirely of fresh ones. Yet bodily identity does not disappear. The resurrection body will be identified with our present body. As with the seed, to each a "body of its own" (ver. 38). Identity is in this life a great mystery to us; we cannot tell now what is necessary to it. But there is nothing in our partial knowledge of it which should lead us to doubt the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. With larger knowledge apparent difficulties doubtless would disappear. The resurrection body will be very different to the present whilst identified with it. God will give a body as it shall please him (ver. 38). Note: It is no mark of wisdom to deny the resurrection of the body. The inspired apostle addresses the denier as "Thou fool." Many priding themselves in wisdom tumble into the morass of folly. - H.
I. THE CREATOR, WHO APPOINTS THE DEATH OF THE SEED AS PREPARATORY TO THE LIFE OF THE PLANT, MAY APPOINT THE DEATH OF THE EARTHLY BODY AS THE PREPARATION FOR THE LIFE OF THE HEAVENLY BODY. The analogy is sometimes misunderstood, and it is supposed that, according to Paul, the dead body of the man is really the seed of the resurrection body. This is not the case. But the apostle is evidently reasoning as did our Lord when he said, "Except a corn of wheat," etc. The death of the seed followed by the life of the plant is a figure of the death of the Saviour followed by the prevalence of his doctrine, and the vast extent of his personal, mediatorial influence. And so here, we are reminded that God's ways are not as our ways, that it pleases him to bring life out of death, and that he is able to make death the step towards a new and higher life.
II. THE CREATOR, WHO GIVES TO EVERY SEED A BODY OF ITS OWN, CAN PROVIDE THE GLORIFIED SPIRIT WITH A VESTURE AS SUITABLE TO THE HIGHER STATE AS OUR EARTHLY ORGANISM IS SUITABLE TO THE PRESENT LIFE, There is a great disparity between the grain of corn and the plant of wheat when green in spring or golden in harvest time; a greater disparity still between the acorn and the giant oak of the forest. One seed gives life to a fragrant, radiant, delicate flower; another to a rich and luscious fruit; another to a lordly tree. One seed is more adapted to a temperate climate, another to the tropics; one grows best upon the mountain slope, another in the sheltered vale. The resources of Omniscience and Omnipotence are strikingly apparent in the prodigality, diversity, and adaptation of vegetable life. Such considerations are a rebuke to our incredulity, which arises from an undue conceit of our own wisdom, and a lack of just humility. We may ask, "How are the dead raised? and with what body do they come?" All nature supplies the answer, inasmuch as it tells us that the Creator and Lord of all is never at a loss for means to execute his purposes and to fulfil his promises. When the time comes for this body to be laid aside, to be taken down, there shall be provided for the glorified and happy spirit "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." - T.
1. Within our present earth sphere the term "body" is comprehensive. The apostle speaks of bodies of bird, fish, beast, men, - in all cases the body being determined by the relation to the material world which is desired; but we can properly speak of distinct body, or form, in relation to intellectually moral or spiritual life. These are within the bodily form, but can be conceived as distinct, from it.
2. There is no necessary reason for limiting the term "body" to our earthly sphere. Wherever any spirit is, if it desires relation with any form of created existence, it must have a form, a body, for the purposes of that relation. The various conceptions we may have of body beyond our earth sphere need careful study. It may further be shown how the diversities of body, and bodily capacity, help us to understand the possibility of different degrees of glory, and yet in each case a fulness of glory. Happiness is here varied and limited by capacity. It must be thus varied and limited anywhere. How the term "spiritual" can be applied to body we may be helped to apprehend by three things:
(1) the angelophanies of the Old Testament;
(2) the incarnation of the Son of God;
(3) the forty days which our Lord spent in the resurrection body. - R.T.
I. THE GLORY OF THINGS TERRESTRIAL.
1. Slight. Showy, but delusive. Money, human learning, earthly power, worldly pleasures, - these are attractive, but the glory of the best of them is small. Innumerable testimonies have been borne to this fact, difficult for those to credit who are captivated by the gaudiness which they mistake for glory.
2. Marred. When we speak of earthly things we think of them in their highest perfection; our conception is apt to be ideal. Experimentally we find that the natural glory is greatly marred.
3. Uncertain. The flame flickers and darkness is threatened. Much depends upon our health, surroundings, position, as to whether things terrestrial have glory in relation to ourselves. Changes are often sudden and complete, and that which erewhile we pronounced glorious becomes simply detestable. That which pleases us today may disgust us tomorrow. Alas! with things terrestrial there is no improvement upon intimate acquaintance.
4. Brief. At best the glory is short lived. The sun soon goes down. When most needed the glory often disappears.
5. Unsatisying. Something more glorious is ever craved for. The more glorious may be expected from that which is of the earth, and when not found in it, the disappointment is often bitter. Earthly things have a firework glory.
II. THE GLORY OF THINGS CELESTIAL.
1. Great. Solid and substantial, not flash),. This is natural, for they are of God. In their glory there is more of substance than of shadow.
2. Not fluctuating. They are fixed stars, not meteors. There is in them certainty, They are stable.
3. Increasing. In our experience. We discover fresh glory ever. In things terrestrial we soon come to the end of the tether; in things celestial we never do. We ever find more to excite our wonder and to cause us delight.
4. Eternal. The glory abides undimmed, and shall blaze forth forever. We are immortal, and as long as we endure shall the glory of those celestial truths which Christ reveals to us.
5. Satisfying. The cry of the soul is responded to. There is no disappointment. The feeling of unsupplied want vanishes. At last the soul is at rest.
III. THINGS CELESTIAL MAY BE SECURED IN THE LIFE TERRESTRIAL. Christ brings them to us here. The "strait gate" admits us to them. The Holy Spirit reveals them. In Christian worship and work we begin to enjoy them.
IV. THE RELATIVE GLORY SHOULD INFLUENCE OUR CHOICE. When we may have the better, it is folly to choose the worse. We may have both if we will not be absorbed unduly by the inferior. But amidst the glory of the terrestrial we have to choose the glory of the celestial, and to place it first. This is the better part. Moses is a splendid example of wise choice, and Abraham, and Paul, who counted all terrestrial things but loss that he might secure the celestial. - H.
I. IT WILL BE:
1. Incorruptible. Our body now is corruptible, tending towards decay and dissolution, bearing the marks of injury, disease, age. It becomes more corruptible at death. But the resurrection body will have no such tendencies, be subject to no such influences.
2. Glorious. Our present body is a body of dishonour. The marks of the curse of sin are upon it. In the grave it becomes very inglorious. Paul calls it "our vile body" (Philippians 3:21). The resurrection body will be in striking contrast - a body of glory and beauty, like unto the glorious body of the Son of man.
3. Strong. Now our body is weak, subject to enervating sickness, and when "sown" as a corpse is the very perfection of weakness. But the resurrection body will possess fulness of strength, abundant energy, never diminishing vitality.
4. Spiritual. Our present body is dominated by the animal soul; it is fitted for life in the lower world; it is an organism of flesh and blood (ver. 50); it is "of the earth, earthy." It is a "natural" body. But the resurrection body will be "spiritual," moulded by the Spirit, an organism adapted to the higher and spiritual life.
II. THOUGH SO DIFFERENT FROM, IT IS IDENTIFIED WITH, OUR PRESENT BODY. It is a new body and yet identified with the old. Not the same particles or form, yet our body. Note the apostolic expression: "It is sown;... it is raised." Much mystery is here. But perhaps the seed developing into a living plant conveys as much of the truth as we are capable of comprehending.
III. WE RECEIVE IT THROUGH THE SECOND ADAM, CHRIST. Through the first Adam we have our present body, and, through his sin and our own, not a few of its imperfections. The first Adam was a "living soul," endowed with an animal soul, the living principle of the body. His body was adapted for the lower life - for a life on earth. He was "of the earth, earthy." But the second Adam is a life-giving Spirit. If we are in him, he quickens our mortal body into glorious immortality. Through him we receive the spiritual body suited for the higher life. Contrasted with Christ, the characteristic of the first Adam is animal life, - the characteristic of Christ is spiritual life. We inherit from Adam what he had and was. So also we inherit from Christ what he had and was. The difference between the first Adam and the second causes the difference between our body now and our body at the resurrection.
IV. CIRCUMSTANCES ATTENDANT UPON ITS BESTOWAL. It will be assumed suddenly at the second coming of Christ. "The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible" (ver. 52). The living will be "changed" "in the twinkling of an eye" (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16). No slow process, as in the development of the present body, but suddenly we shall be "clothed upon."
V. WE SHOULD BE INTENSELY GRATEFUL FOR THIS GLORIOUS GIFT. This poor body we may be glad to lose. Certainly its imperfections. But what a life may we anticipate when we are "clothed upon with our house which is from heaven"! To be free from weakness, weariness, pain, decay, most of all from carnal cravings and fleshly lusts; to have abounding energy, perfect health, pure desires, and great and completed powers: - what service and pleasure we shall be capable of! This is "of the Lord." Is he our Lord? When we die shall we die in "Christ"? Can we humbly lay claim to this great gift as true, though imperfect, servants of the Master? - H.
I. THE DESIGNATION OF CHRIST: THE LAST ADAM. This, though a rabbinical expression applied to the Messiah, has a truly Christian signification.
1. It implies our Lord's true humanity; he was a descendant of our first parents, and he was the Son of man.
2. It implies his federal headship, his representative character, and his peculiar authority. There is a new humanity created afresh for the glory of God; and of this the Lord Christ is the one rightful Ruler and Head.
II. THE DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST: A LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT.
1. This is in contrast with the description of the first Adam, "a living soul," so called in the book of Genesis. From our progenitor we have inherited the body and the animal and rational nature for which that body is a suitable vehicle.
2. This is indicative of the perogative of Christ to impart a new and higher spiritual life to humanity. We receive from him by the bestowal of his Spirit a nobler being, a being which allies us to God, and which fits us for the occupations and the joys of heaven. "In him was life." He did not however possess life only to retain it as his own, but in order to share it with his people. "I," said he, "am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
3. This is explanatory of the revelation of resurrection and immortality. The nature we inherit from Adam fits us for earth; the nature which we receive from Christ fits us for heaven. Adam is "the earthy," and they who dwell on earth share his earthy being and life; Christ is "the heavenly" and they who are made in his likeness and who share his character and spirit are qualified for celestial and eternal joys. - T.
I. WHOSE IMAGE IS THIS? The answer to this question cannot be doubtful. The heavenly One, whose image Christians are to reflect, can be none other than the Divine Lord himself. There is a measure in which this resemblance is attained even upon earth, and many admonitions are addressed to Christians, to cultivate moral resemblance to their great and glorious Head. But in the future state hindrances to assimilation shall be removed; and "we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). As St. Paul expresses it elsewhere, we shall be "changed into the same image." So that the apostles agree as to what shall constitute the peculiar privilege and glory of the coming state of felicity.
II. IN WHAT DOES THIS IMAGE CONSIST?
1. It is a spiritual likeness, consisting not in the similarity of form or feature, but in that of character, of moral life.
2. It is a likeness in true holiness. God's holy Child or Servant, Jesus, is the model of all purity and perfection, and to be like Christ is to be holy even as he is holy.
3. It corresponds to God's original intention as to what man should be. He at first created man in his own image; and although that image was marred by sin, grace restores it; and the great Father and Lord of all beholds his original conception realized in the regenerated and glorified humanity.
III. BY WHOM IS THIS IMAGE PARTICIPATED?
1. Properly speaking, it will be apparent in all those who by Divine grace are brought upon earth to the enjoyment of Christian character and privilege, and who are led safely home to glory. It is the family likeness by which the spiritual children are identified.
2. There is a wider sense in which all the holy intelligences who people heaven may be considered as bearing this image. There are those who have not borne the image of the earthly, who from their creation have been citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, in whom appear the spiritual lineaments which are the mark of a Divine parentage and the earnest of a blessed immortality.
APPLICATION. That this image may be borne in all its brightness and beauty hereafter and above, its first rudiments must be traced here. The life of faith, obedience, and aspiration is the divinely appointed preparation for the glories and felicities of heaven. And no religion is of worth which does not form and cherish the spiritual likeness which alone can qualify for the employments and the society of heaven. - T.
I. THE GREAT CHANGE TO BE EXPERIENCED. Our earthly state is characterized by corruptibility and immortality. That this is so is indeed a rebuke to human vanity, yet it is unquestionable. An apostle terms our earthly vesture, "this body of our humiliation," and the designation is just. We live a dying life, carrying within us the seeds of our mortality. Vast and wonderful to contemplate is the change which shall take place in the passage from time to eternity. Incorruption and immortality shall be the vesture of the saved and glorified. The apostle, bearing about in his body the marks of the Lord. Jesus, must have anticipated with joy the promised release from earthly infirmities and sufferings, from all the troubles to which the burden of the body exposes the servant of Christ.
II. THE GREAT VICTORY TO BE WON. According to the view of St. Paul, there are three great enemies with whom the Christian has to contend, and conflict with whom mars the happiness and breaks the peace of this earthly condition. They are the Law, sin, and death. Sin is the goad with which death makes a thrust at the Christian soldier, and it is the Law which makes sin so sharp, powerful, and formidable a weapon. Over all these the glorified Christian has obtained a victory, in the might and by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Anticipating the conquest, the Christian, even here and now, rejoices in the assured defeat and discomfiture of his formidable foes. He seems already to drag them in triumph at his chariot-wheels, already to be more than conqueror through Christ who loved him.
III. THE GREAT THANKSGIVING TO BE CELEBRATED.
1. The Source and Author of victory is God himself. No lower but his could have defeated foes so mighty, so malicious and so crafty.
2. The Mediator of victory is the Lord Jesus Christ, who first conquered for us, and then conquers in and with us. His crucifixion, followed by his resurrection, gave the death blow to our enemy. This conviction may well give us courage in carrying on the spiritual war, and in looking forward to its issue with confidence and hope.
"Hell and thy sins resist thy course,
I. WE HAVE MANY BATTLES TO FIGHT, BUT THE ONE MOST DREADED IS THE LAST - THE CONTEST WITH DEATH. Life is a series of contests. The battles of childhood are by no means insignificant, and they are many. In every succeeding stage of life contests continue. Life is a changing but unbroken fight. The final contest is usually the most feared. Then generally
(1) the body is very weak;
(2) in much pain;
(3) thoughts of separation from loved ones and familiar scenes rack the mind;
(4) life opportunities are seen to be at an end;
(5) a sense of loneliness is experienced;
(6) we stand upon the margin of another world;
(7) the time for rendering up the life account is nigh;
(8) we approach our final destiny;
(9) we meet God.
II. IMPORTANCE OF THE ISSUE.
1. If we do not triumph, it is an evidence that we are still under the dominion of sin. Death is of sin (Romans 5:12), and if death is not conquered, sin is not. "The sting of death is sin" (ver. 56). Death conquers only because sin conquers. If sin be slain, death will be powerless.
2. If we are "in sin," we are "without Christ."
3. If we are without Christ, we are without a Redeemer.
4. If we are without a Redeemer, we perish. The death-contest is a great test of our condition.
III. THE CERTAIN TRIUMPH OF THE CHILD OF GOD.
1. Asserted. "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction" (Hosea 13:14). That which is so dreaded by many should not be feared by the believer. He has a Divine promise of victory.
(1) The triumph comes "through our Lord Jesus Christ." It is not to be achieved by our prowess. We have no strength for the conflict; our sufficiency is of him. Like Mary, we shall meet Christ at the sepulchre. Through him we shall conquer. Well may we offer heartfelt thanks to God (ver. 57), for "God so loved the world," etc.
(2) He satisfied the demands of the Law. "Sin is of the Law;" the Law condemns. Christ passed under the Law for us - bore the penalties of the broken Law; so that those in him are brought from under the Law. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1) "The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the Law; but we are not under the Law if we are m Christ. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14, 15).
(3) He has risen from the grave. The power of his redemption is thus confirmed. His dominion over death is demonstrated.
3. Exulted in. Before the battle begins, the child of God may rejoice in coming victory. And well may he do so, for this will at the same time illustrate his faith in his Redeemer and brighten all his earthly course. That which was dreaded as a disastrous defeat is rejoiced in as a glorious and all important victory.
4. Often illustrated. Christian biography is rich in death triumphs. Thomas Rutherford in the last fight exclaimed, "He has indeed been a precious Christ to me; and now I feel him to be my Rock, my Strength, my Rest, my Hope, my Joy, my All in all." When Paul heard the bugle call to the last of his many battles, he cried, "I am now ready to be offered up," etc.
IV. AN ARGUMENT FOR THE UNSAVED. Victory on the last battlefield comes alone through Christ. Without him our life will close in disaster and ruin. Suddenly the conflict may come upon us. - H.
I. WHAT IS THIS STING? It is the conscience of sin; the fear of our just deserts; the conviction that due avengements of wrong doing must come in the life beyond.
II. WHAT IS THE STRENGTH OF THIS STING? It is the revealed Law of God, which, we are sure, has its sanctions. It must take cognizance of our sin. Its punishments cannot have earthly limitations. Show that the redemption in Christ Jesus plucks death's sting away, because it quiets and satisfies the Law, and forgives and removes the sin. - R.T.
I. THE APOSTLE URGES BELIEVERS TO ABIDE IN THE FAITH.
1. We must be "in the faith." Only thus can we anticipate triumph. Unless we know Christ we shall not know the death victory. If we are not in the faith, death will triumph over us, and the marks of death's triumph we shall bear in all our future.
2. We must be steadfast in the faith. Not halting between two opinions of one mind today and of another tomorrow. We must choose decisively and be faithful to our choice. "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." That soldier is not worth much who has much loyalty today and none tomorrow. Vacillation in Divine things is a poor preparation for death. We must be steadfast
(1) to Christ personally;
(2) to his doctrine - including doctrine of resurrection, which Paul has specially in mind;
(3) to holy living.
3. We must be unmovable in the faith. Not turning aside ourselves, nor allowing others to turn us. Enemies will try to turn us - our great enemy preeminently. But we must be like limpets on the rock, which cling the more tenaciously the more we seek to dislodge them. Yet with these little creatures a sudden blow will generally remove them. So we must "watch." In such an hour as we think not the fierce temptation may come. We must hold to Christ and pray Christ to hold to us. He is able to keep us from falling.
II. THE APOSTLE URGES BELIEVERS TO BE DILIGENT IN THE LORD'S SERVICE,
1. We should engage in the work of the Lord. Some may think they had better concentrate their thoughts altogether upon themselves; woo delightful frames of mind; listen much to some captivating preacher; "sit and sing themselves away to everlasting bliss." Spiritual selfishness is a poor preparation for the last fight. Many Christians pamper themselves and become hopeless spiritual invalids. We must cultivate personal piety, but we may do this largely by robust Christian work. We need exercise. The spiritual sedentary life is prolific of spiritual ills. A Church of do nothings is always a hospital full of sick and complaining folks. Besides, the need of service is great, and the Master calls.
2. We should abound in the work of the Lord. We should not do as little as we can for Christ, but as much. How he "abounded" in work for us! It is the man who abounds in his work who is most fit to leave it; the diligent servant is the one most ready to meet his Lord. If we wish to be victorious over death by and by, we had need to be victorious over sloth and self seeking and indulgence now.
3. We should always abound in the work of the Lord. Our work is not to be by fits and starts; our consecration must be life consecration. Always on the same side, always serving the same Master.
4. We have much encouragement ever to abound in the work of the Lord. "Our labour is not in vain in the Lord."
(1) We may know this:
(a) By promise. "My word shall not return unto me void.
(b) By reason. The gospel, according to our judgment, meets the needs of men, and is likely to be accepted by not a few.
(c) By experience. Our own, perhaps; past work speaks in its results. The experiences of others; what vast effects have followed upon devoted service!
(2) It is not in vain; for:
(a) It pleases God. The true servant is never unsuccesful. He is always successful in pleasing his Master!
(b) It has its effect upon those immediately concerned. We say in natural things every cause produces its appropriate effect: so in spiritual. The result that we desired may not follow, but there has been an effect, as we shall perceive hereafter.
(c) It blesses ourselves. Few things are likely to do us so much good.
(d) It will assuredly bring its reward. But our labour must always be "in the Lord" - in his Name, in dependence upon his power, in prayer for his help, in desire for his glory. - H.