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1 Corinthians 15

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Resurrection of Christ The Risen Christ, Faith's Reality The Gospel of Christ's Death
and Resurrection
The Resurrection of Christ The Fact of the Resurrection
15:1-11 15:1-11 15:1-11 15:1-2 15:1-8
      15:3-7  
      15:8-11  
        15:9-11
The Resurrection of the Dead The Risen Christ, Our Hope The Significance for Us of the Resurrection Our Resurrection  
15:12-19 15:12-19 15:12-19 15:12-19 15:12-19
  The Last Enemy Destroyed      
15:20-28 15:20-28 15:20-28 15:20-28 15:20-28
  Effects of Denying the Resurrection      
15:29-34 15:29-34 15:29-34 15:29-32 15:29-34
      15:33-34  
The Resurrection Body A Glorious Body The Nature of the Resurrection The Resurrection Body The Manner of the Resurrection
15:35-41 15:35-49 15:35-41 15:35-38 15:35-38
      15:39 15:39-44a
      15:40-41  
15:42-49   15:42-49 15:42-49  
        15:44b-49
  Our Final Victory      
15:50-58 15:50-58 15:50-57 15:50 15:50-53
      15:51-57 A Hymn of Triumph Conclusion
        15:54-57
    15:58 15:58 15:58

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. It is obvious from the context that Paul is reacting to a local potential heresy that denied the resurrection of the dead (which most Jews would have agreed with). Several theories have been postulated as to the possible origin:

1. incipient Gnostic (see Glossary) ideas which emphasized the dualism between spirit (i.e., God, which is good) and matter (i.e., material things, which are evil)

2. those asserting that the resurrection has already occurred (cf. II Tim. 2:17-18).

 

B. This is the definitive passage in the NT on the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of believers. It must be remembered that this passage was probably written before any of the Gospels were written down.

 

C. Notice Paul's pastoral emphasis in the way this doctrinal chapter ends, v. 58. This is similar to I Thess. 4:18. Paul always brings doctrine down to daily living and serving. Truth informs lifestyle!

 

D. It helps to see the overall structure of this long chapter. Dr. David King, a colleague at East Texas Baptist University, has a good outline from his class notes:

 

"IV. Growing mature Christians requires an understanding of faith in the resurrection (15:1-58).

1. Introduction: (15:1-11)

a. The Gospel itself is based firmly on the resurrection of Jesus (15:1-8). 

(1) The basic facts of the gospel (the Kerygma) concern the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (15:3-4).

(2) The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus prove beyond any doubt that Jesus rose from the dead (15:5-7).

(3) Paul magnifies the grace of God which allowed him to be among the witnesses of Jesus' resurrection (15:8-11).

2. The basis of the doctrine of our resurrection is the resurrection of Jesus (15:12-34).

a. Some say that He did not rise from the dead. What are the implications of that (15:12-19)?

(1) Our preaching is without value (15:12-14).

(2) Your faith is futile (15:14 & 17).

(3) We are false witness of the truth of God (15:15).

(4) You are still in your sins (15:17).

(5) Those believers who have died are lost forever (15:18).

(6) All believers are to be pitied (15:19).

b. But Christ has been (and still is!) Risen! What are the implications of that (15:20-34)?

(1) He is the first-fruit of a coming harvest (15:20).

(2) Christ, the man, overcame death which was introduced into the world by the first man, Adam (15:21-22, cf. Rom. 5:12-21).

(3) The resurrection is divided into two parts: the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of others (15:23).

(4) Death will be overcome by resurrection and all will be subject to God, the creator of all (15:24-28).

(5) Believers are baptized in faith believing in both a spiritual and a physical resurrection (15:29).

(6) We can face all kinds of danger without fear, for if we die, we shall live again and be judged, according to our deeds (implied) so we must be careful how we live (15:30-34).

3. The doctrine of the resurrection of believers is reasonable. Paul answers some of their questions (15:35-57).

a. How are the dead raised? Answer: By the power of God, just as God raises plants from seeds (15:35-38).

b. What kind of body do they have? Answer: A different kind of body suitable to the different kind of life we will live in eternity (15:39-41).

(1) God has created different kinds of bodies for life in this world (15:39-41).

(2) The resurrection body is a new kind of body (15:42-44).

Imperishable instead of perishable,

Glorious instead of humiliated

Powerful instead of weak

Spiritual instead of animal (or physical)

(3) The nature of the resurrection body is clarified by contrast with the natural body which leads Paul to a contrast between Adam and Christ (15:45-49, cf. Rom. 5:12-21).

c. When will all this take place? Answer: When Jesus comes again (15:50-57).

(1) A change is necessary for all (15:50).

(2) We shall all be changed instantaneously (15:51-52, cf I Thess. 4:14-17).

(3) It will happen when God's trumpet sounds (15:52-cf. I Thess. 4:16).

(4) When the change has taken place complete victory over death will be ours in Jesus Christ (15:53-57).

4. Conclusion: The result of belief in this doctrine is steadfastness in service because we know that our service is not in vain (15:58)"

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:15:1-2
  1
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

15:1

NASB"Now I make known to you"
NKJV"Moreover. . .I declare to you"
NRSV"Now I would remind you"
TEV"And now I want to remind you"
NJB"I want to make clear to you"

Paul has structured his letter around several questions that the church at Corinth had sent him (cf. 7:1,25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1) with the phrase "now concerning" (i.e., peri de). Chapter 15 begins with de. Is it possible that this discussion concerning the resurrection was not a question which the church asked, but a situation that Paul was made aware of and also wanted to address?

This is a present active indicative form of gnōrizō, which means to make known, reveal, or declare. However, Paul was not giving new information (cf. 12:3), but a doctrinal summary organizing the gospel he had earlier preached to them.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KERYGMA OF THE EARLY CHURCH

▣ "brethren" Paul often uses this word to denote a new aspect of his topic or a change of subject, as he does here (cf. 1:10; 2:1; 3:1; 4:6; 8:12; 10:1; 11:33; 12:1; 14:6,20,26; 15:1,58; 16:12,15).

▣ "the gospel" Paul parallels the concept of "gospel" with "the word I preached to you" (v. 2). In Hebrew thought there was a power to the divine word (e.g., Gen. 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24; Ps. 33:6,9; Isa. 55:11; John 1:1). This then is a metaphor for the content of Paul's preaching, not simply a way of referring to vocalization.

This verse has a cognate accusative, literally "the gospel which I gospeled to you."

These are my comments on "gospel" from my commentary, Gospel According to Peter, vol. 2, p. 8 (see online at  www.freebiblecommentary.org

"With Mark probably being the first written Gospel, this is the first use of the term euangelion (cf. 1:14,15; 8:35; 10:29; 13:10; 14:9) by a Gospel writer (Paul's use in Gal. 2:2 and I Thess. 2:9 would be chronologically earlier). It is literally "the good news" or "the good message." This obviously reflects Isa. 61:1 and possibly 40:9 and 52:7. Its grammatical form can be understood as (1) the message given by Jesus or (2) the message about Jesus. Number 2 is probably the intended meaning. However, the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, published by IVP, says "The genitive ('of') is probably both subjective and objective: Jesus proclaims the gospel and it proclaims his story" (p. 285). The Jerome Biblical Commentary says "Mark's use of the word 'gospel' is akin to that in Paul where it can mean either the act of proclaiming or the content of what is proclaimed."

▣ "which also you received" This term is used by the Jews of "passed on traditions" (cf. v. 3; 11:23; 15:3; Mark 7:4; Phil. 4:9; I Thess. 4:10; II Thess. 3:6). Paul was passing on what he received (i.e., the gospel, cf. v. 3) from Christ (cf. Gal. 1:12,16; Acts 9:1-22; 22:3-16; 26:7-18). Before Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, he was a receiver of the gospel himself. This is an aorist active indicative. Although Jesus died for all human sin, it is obvious from this passage and others (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9-13) that each person must personally receive God's free offer (cf. v. 11) of salvation. The gospel involves (1) the welcoming of a person; (2) believing truths about that person; and (3) living a life in emulation of that person.

▣ "in which also you stand" This is a perfect active indicative, which denotes completed action in past time that has become a permanent state. It speaks of the necessity of perseverance (see Special Topic at 1:21).

SPECIAL TOPIC: STAND (HISTĒMI)

15:2 "you are saved" This is the present passive indicative, "being saved" (cf. 1:18; II Cor. 2:15; I Pet. 3:21; 4:18). Salvation is a process toward Christlikeness.

See SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (GREEK VERB TENSES) at 3:15.

▣ "if" This is a First class conditional sentence, which implies that they would "hold fast" to the truth of the gospel, which he preached to them, but it adds a note of contingency by a second "ei" (i.e., unless). This seems to parallel Jesus' Parable of the Soils (cf. Matt. 13) and John's discussion in I John 2:19 of those who were in the fellowship, but left.

There were those factions in Corinth who by their actions, attitudes, and theology showed they were never believers! They rejected (1) Paul's gospel; (2) Paul's apostolic authority; and (3) merged the gospel into Roman culture, whereby the culture became dominant! Cultural Christianity is always weak and sometimes not Christian!

However, please note that contextually Paul is asserting his confidence that he has that the Corinthian believers are true believers.

1. Aorist tense, v. 1, "received"

2. Perfect tense, v. 1, "in which also you stand"

3. First class conditional sentence, v. 2, "since you hold fast"

 

▣ "unless you believed in vain" "If you hold fast. . .in vain." The word "vain" (eikē) means "to no purpose" (cf. Gal. 3:4; 4:11). It is obvious from Matt. 13:1-9,18-23, and John 8:31-59 that false professions are a reality of religious life (see SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI) at 6:9). This phrase forms the fourth in a series which describes necessary elements of the Christian life: acceptance, position, progress, and continuance. Salvation is a process which involves repentance, faith, obedience (both initially and ongoing), as well as perseverance. See Special Topic: The Need to Persevere at I Cor. 1:21.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:15:3-11
  3
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

15:3 "I delivered to you" This refers to (1) Christian witness that Paul received (i.e., from Stephen, Acts 7; from Ananias, Acts 9:10-18; and from persecuted Christians, Acts 9:1-2; I Cor. 15:9) or (2) direct revelation from the Lord (cf. 11:23; Acts 9:1-22; 22:3-16; 26:9-18; Gal. 1:12). Paul passed on the gospel truths he had received. Paul was not an innovator, but a faithful witness who applied the gospel truths to the new Gentile situations.

▣ "first importance" This is the only Apostolic gospel summary. Our modern gospel summaries, like the Roman Road (i.e., 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:9-13), are modern selections taken from larger inspired writings. Paul wants to remind them of the essentials of the gospel (see Special Topic: The Kerygma at 15:1).

Paul's gospel summary:

1. Christ died for our sins

2. Christ was truly dead and buried

3. Christ was raised from the dead

4. We know these are true because He appeared to many people over many days

 

▣ "Christ died for our sins" The term "Christ" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew term Messiah, which meant an anointed one. This term, without the usual "Jesus Christ" or "Lord Jesus Christ" or "Christ Jesus" shows the primitive origin of Paul's tradition, where Jesus is affirmed as the Jewish Messiah, the Promised One see SPECIAL TOPIC: MESSIAH at 1:23). In all probability, Paul received this from Ananias and the other believers in Damascus after his conversion.

This is an aorist active indicative. "Jesus paid a debt He did not owe and we owed a debt we could not pay" (cf. Gal. 3:13; I John 4:10).

The preposition "for" (huper) meant "on behalf of"; it was often used synonymously with another Greek preposition, anti, which meant "in the place of." This was a reference to the vicarious, substitutionary atonement (cf. Isa. 53; Mark 10:45).

The death of Christ was a recurrent theme in Paul's writings. He used several different terms and phrases to refer to Jesus' substitutionary death:

1. blood (cf. I Cor. 11:25,27; Rom. 3:25; 5:9; Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Col. 1:20)

2. gave Himself up (cf. Eph. 5:2,25)

3. delivered up (cf. Rom. 4:25; 8:32)

4. sacrifice: (cf. I Cor. 5:7)

5. died (cf. Rom. 5:6; 8:34; 14:9,15; I Cor. 8:11; 15:3; II Cor. 5:15; Gal. 5:21; I Thess. 4:14; 5:10)

6. cross (cf. I Cor. 1:17-18; Gal. 5:11; 6:12-14; Eph. 2:16; Phil. 2:8; Col. 1:20; 2:14)

7. crucifixion (cf. I Cor. 1:23; 2:2; II Cor. 13:4; Gal. 3:1)

 

▣ "according to the Scriptures" This refers to the OT because none of the NT was written by this time except possibly Galatians and Thessalonians. The use of this phrase in vv. 3-4 asserts the prophetic (cf. Luke 24:27) and the predetermined redemptive plan of God (cf. Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 13:29, see Special Topic at 1:21).

However, it is possible that Scripture here refers to one of the Gospels (or the words of Jesus circulating separately from the later Synoptics). It is uncertain when they were written, and when they were circulated among the early churches. If the phrase does refer to a Gospel account, then "on the third day" could refer to Jesus being raised on Sunday, the first day of the week and, by Jewish reckoning, three days.

15:4 "He was buried" He was truly dead!

▣ "on the third day" There is no clear OT attestation to "the third day." However, it was part of the kergyma (cf. Mark 10:34; Luke 24:46; Acts 10:40, see Special Topic at 15:1). Some see it referring to Jonah 1:17 or Ps. 16:10, however, Jesus' comments (cf. Matt. 12:40) seem to relate it to Jonah's experience in the great fish.

▣ "He was raised" This is a perfect passive indicative, used so often in this chapter (cf. vv. 4,12,13,14,16,17,20). This Greek verb tense speaks of Christ's continuing status as "the risen One" and the passive voice speaks of God the Father's actions in raising Him from the dead. This asserts the Father's approval of the life, teachings, and sacrificial death of Jesus. The NT often attributes the works of redemption to all three persons of the Godhead:

1. God the Father raised Jesus (cf. Acts 2:24; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34,37; 17:31; Rom. 6:4,9; 10:9; I Cor. 6:14; II Cor. 4:14; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12; I Thess. 1:10)

2. God the Son raised Himself (cf. John 2:19-22; 10:17-18)

3. God the Spirit raised Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:11).

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE RESURRECTION

15:5 "He appeared" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: JESUS' POST-RESURRECTION APPEARANCES

▣ "Cephas" Paul usually calls him by this name in his Corinthian letters (cf. 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:50, but in Galatians he calls him both Cephas (cf. 2:9) and Peter (cf. 1:18; 2:7,8,11,14). Paul never calls him Simon.

It is amazing that the first person (after the women at the tomb) the resurrected Christ appears to is the very one who had denied Him three times, the very one who preached the first sermon of the Church at Pentecost. Jesus marks him out for special emphasis in Mark 16:7, where the Apostles are told to meet Jesus in Galilee. This surely shows the love, understanding, forgiveness, and restoring powers of Christ. Much of John 21 is describing Peter's restoration to leadership.

▣ "the twelve" The western family of Greek manuscripts (i.e., MS D [Codex Bezae]), as well as the Vulgate, have "eleven." The term "Twelve" became a technical term for the Apostolic group. Paul never used this word in any of his other writings. Some think this implies that vv. 3-7 may have been a catechismal summary of the early church.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NUMBER TWELVE

15:6 "He appeared to more than five hundred brethren" This may refer to Matt. 28:16-20, especially v. 17, which shows that the Great Commission was given to the whole church, not just a few leaders. Paul's emphasis in v. 6 is the historical reality of the resurrection. If one did not believe, there were numerous eye witnesses to testify.

▣ "until now" Jesus was cricified in the mid 30's and I Corinthians was written in the mid 50's, so in this twenty-year span many of the ones personally impacted by the words and deeds of Jesus were still alive and witnessing!

▣ "fallen asleep" Paul follows Jesus' usage (cf. Matt. 27:52; John 11:11,13) and OT usage (cf. Dan. 12:2) of sleep as a euphemism for death.

15:7 "James" This refers to the Lord's brother who did not believe in Him until after the resurrection (cf. Mark 3:21; John 7:5). All of his family were present in the Upper Room (cf. Acts 1:14). This James was identified as the Lord's half-brother (cf. Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3), in order to differentiate him from James the Apostle, part of the inner circle, who was killed very early (cf. Acts 12). For several generations the Church in Jerusalem had a physical relative of Jesus as its leader. Several biblical passages (cf. Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; I Cor. 15:7; and James 1:1) indicate that James was a very important leader in the Church in Jerusalem. Paul is the only one to mention the appearance. This shows how much detail is omitted in the NT about Jesus' teaching and actions. We have all we need to trust Him and follow Him, but not enough for a complete history of His life.

SPECIAL TOPIC: JAMES, THE HALF-BROTHER OF JESUS

▣ "to all the apostles" Since the Twelve are mentioned in v. 5, this seems to refer to a wider use of the term. James seems to be an "apostle" in the same sense as Barnabas (cf. Acts 14:4, 14); Andronicus and Junias (or Junia, cf. Rom. 16:7); Apollos (cf. II Cor. 4:9); Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25); or Silvanas and Timothy (cf. I Thess. 2:6; Acts; 18:5).

It is possible to argue that Cephas is mentioned separately from the Twelve so "all the Apostles" could refer to the Twelve also.

15:8

NASB, NRSV"as to one untimely born"
NKJV"as one born out of due time"
TEV"even though I am like someone whose birth was abnormal"
NJB"as though I was a child born abnormally"

These English translations show the general sense of this rare term. It is only used three times in the Septuagint (cf. Num. 12:12; Job 3:16; and Eccl. 6:3) for a miscarriage. The term implies an untimely, early birth. However, in this context, Paul seems to be describing his late addition to the Apostolic group (i.e., road to Damascus conversion, cf. Acts 9).

It is surely possible that this was one of the disparaging remarks of one or more of the factions at Corinth who rejected Paul's authority (i.e., he was not a regular Apostle). Paul acknowledges the grace of Christ in appearing to him amidst his persecution of the Church (cf. v. 10; Gal. 1:23). However, he is still in the select list of those to whom Christ appeared after His resurrection. Paul even may be asserting that he is the only one to whom the glorified (i.e., ascended) Christ appeared (cf. Gal. 1:15-16).

It is also possible that the term had a secondary meaning of "monster," which would have referred to Paul's vicious and repeated attacks on innocent believers (i.e., Acts 9:1-2, see Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 273). Paul may have coined this word himself since it describes his pre-conversion Jewish exuberance.

15:9 "the least of the apostles" Paul was so humbled by God's grace even amidst his persecution of Jesus' church. He often uses phrases like this to describe himself (cf. II Cor. 12:11; Eph. 3:8; I Tim. 1:15).

▣ "because I persecuted the church of God" (cf. Acts 9:1,13,21; Acts 22:4,19; Acts 26:10-11; Gal. 1:13,23; Phil. 3:6; I Tim. 1:13).

15:10 "by the grace of God I am what I am" "Grace" is fronted for emphasis (cf. Rom. 12:3; Eph. 2:8-9). All believers are what they are by the grace of God, but notice the needed balance on purposeful human action (cf. Phil. 2:12-13).

"did not prove vain" This is a different word from v. 2. As a matter of fact, Paul uses three different terms translated "vain" or "empty" in this chapter.

1. eikē, v. 2

2. kenos, vv. 10,14,48; II Cor. 6:1

3. mataios, v. 17; I Cor. 3:20

 

His point is that God's grace proved effective in Paul's ministry, of which the Corinthian church itself was an evidence and result.

"I labored even more than all of them" The context dictates that this refers to the other Apostles. Paul compares himself to other Apostles in Galatians because his apostolic authority was being challenged. It is probable that one or more of the factions was doing the same thing in Corinth. Paul had no quarrel with the Twelve. He just clearly asserts his own calling and authority!

See Special Topic on "even more" at II Cor. 2:7.

"yet not I, but the grace of God with me" There is a balance in Paul's theology between call, giftedness, and service relating to God's sovereignty. There is always a covenantal balance between these two ways of viewing one's effectiveness. Paul asserts that he worked harder than the other Apostles, but he also knew that God was the source, not himself. This same balance is seen between John 15:5 and Phil. 4:13, or Phil. 2:12-13.

15:11 Paul strongly asserts that the gospel he received and preached was the very same as the original Apostles preached. The very fact that he makes the claim shows what opposition he was facing at Corinth. Some were denying his apostolic authority and, even possibly, his gospel content.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:15:12-19
  12
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

15:12 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence, which implies Christ was being preached (cf. v. 11).

▣ "how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead" The source of this denial of the resurrection probably had its origin in Greek philosophy (i.e., Gnosticism, see glossary), which thought the physical body was the source of evil. It is textually uncertain whether they were denying the resurrection of Christ or the resurrection of all believers. This was not a unique problem in the early church (cf. II Tim. 2:18).

15:13 "if" This is another first class conditional. It is often called by grammarians a " simple" or "logical" condition (cf. vv. 13,14,15,16,17,19). Obviously in this verse Paul is using it to heighten his literary argument and not asserting that Christ has not been raised! But the logic in these next few verses is powerful. If Christ has not been raised then:

1. there is no resurrection at all, vv. 13,16

2. our preaching is vain, v. 14

3. your faith is vain, v. 14

4. they are false witnesses, v. 15

5. your faith is worthless, v 17

6. you are still in your sins, v. 17

7. those who have died have gone, v. 18

8. we are of all men most to be pitied, v. 19

This theological issue of the resurrection of Christ is no minor issue! He is alive or Christianity is a lie! This is a watershed doctrine!

15:14,17 "vain. . .worthless" These two different terms imply empty and fruitless. Without the resurrection the claims of the gospel message have no effect!

15:19 "if we have hoped in Christ in this life only" This is a first class conditional sentence. Paul is making the point that if Christ was not raised we only have hope (periphrastic perfect active) in this life because there is no afterlife-if Christ has not been raised!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:15:20-28
  20
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, 24then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

15:20 "But" What an important contrast!

"Christ has been raised" This chapter has often been called "the Resurrection Chapter." Both the resurrection of Christ and of His followers is the recurrent theme. The certainty and lasting results of this can be seen in the verb egeirō, which means to awaken, to raise up:

v. 12, perfect passive indicative

v. 13, perfect passive indicative

v. 14, perfect passive indicative

v. 15, aorist active indicative (twice)

v. 16, perfect passive indicative

v. 16, perfect passive indicative

v. 17, perfect passive indicative

v. 20, perfect passive indicative

v. 32, perfect passive indicative

v. 35, perfect passive indicative

v. 42, perfect passive indicative

v. 43, perfect passive indicative

v. 44, perfect passive indicative

v. 52, future passive indicative

Notice the consistent passive voice. The Triune God raises the dead. The perfect tense speaks of Jesus' past resurrection, which becomes a state of being. Believers share the reality of His resurrection and by faith, the assurance of theirs!

"those who are asleep" This is a perfect middle participle (cf. Matt. 27:52), which was a Hebrew idiom for death.

▣ "first fruits" This OT annual sacrificial ritual is discussed in Lev. 23:10ff. The first fruits in the OT were ripened sheaves of the barley harvest waved before the Lord in the Temple the day after the High Holy Sabbath of Passover Week, which would be Resurrection Sunday. They were given to show God's ownership of the entire crop. This is an OT type for the promise of the resurrection of all of Christ's followers! Paul uses this term again in 16:15 to describe the first believers in Achaia. He also uses it in Rom. 8:23 describing believers as receiving the Spirit, but anxiously waiting for the resurrection. Jesus is the first to be resurrected (cf. Col. 1:18), but in due time all of His followers will experience the same. In a spiritual sense we already have resurrection life (cf. Eph. 2:5-6).

SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRSTBORN

15:21-22 This is the Adam-Christ typology that will be followed up in vv. 45-48 (cf. Rom. 5:12-21; Phil. 2:6-11). In Adam all humanity has been affected by sin (i.e., death). In Christ, potentially all humanity can be affected by grace.

These ambiguous verses, along with Rom. 5:18-19, have caused some theologians to assert an eventual salvation for all humans. Others have seen it as referring to the resurrection of both the saved and the lost (cf. Dan. 12:2). In Adam all die; in Jesus all will be raised (i.e., some to reward, some to judgment). It seems obvious to me that Paul's writings, taken in context, demand a repentant faith response to be saved!

15:23-25 Some theologians assert that these verses confirm a pre-millennial concept of eschatology. However, this text is not a discussion of the millennium, but the resurrection. Death was defeated at the empty tomb, not a future temporal reign. We must be careful of our theological agendas driving the interpretation of a context. Paul never discusses a millennium, even in his discussion of the rapture (cf. I Thess. 4:13-18) nor of the Antichrist (cf. II Thessalonians 2). Neither did Jesus ever discuss a millennium, even in His eschatological discourses (cf. Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). There are several good books that give a summary of each current millennial position and that let the other positions point out the strengths and weaknesses of each.

1. Robert G. Clouse (ed.), The Meaning of the Millennium, Four Views

2. C. Marvin Pate (ed.), Four Views on the Book of Revelation

 3. Darrell L. Boch (ed.), Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond

See my comments at Revelation, chapter 20, online at www.freebiblecommentary.org

15:23 "His coming" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NT TERMS FOR CHRIST'S RETURN

15:24 "the kingdom" It is surprising how often this concept is used by Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. It is the subject of His first sermon and last sermon as well as the thrust of most parables. It is surprisingly used only twice in John's Gospel. It is the reign of God in believing human's hearts now that will one day be consummated over all the earth (see Special Topic at 4:20).

It is used by Jesus as the current presence of the kingdom of God in and through His own personal presence and teaching (cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; 11:12; 12:28; Mark 1:15; Luke 9:9,11; 11:20; 21:31-32). However, it is also linked to a future glorious consummation at His return (cf. Matt. 6:10; 16:28; 26:64). It is "the already/not yet" eschatological tension of the Gospels!

The specific reference to "the kingdom" is relatively rare in Paul's writings.

Romans - 14:17

I Corinthians - 4:20; 6:9; 15:24,50

Galatians - 5:21

Ephesians - 5:5

Colossians - 1:13; 4:11

I Thessalonians  - 2:12

II Thessalonians - 4:1,18

 

▣ "when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power" This refers to the angelic powers (eons in Gnostic thought) of this current evil age (cf. Rom. 8:38; Eph. 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:16; 2:10,15). This abolishment apparently occurs

1. theologically at the cross and resurrection

2. temporally at Christ's return

If this is true, then I Thess. 4:13-18 is the closest parallel in Paul's writings. Notice that after the rapture, believers are with the Lord forever (cf. I Thess. 4:17), which is the eternal kingdom of the Father (cf. Dan. 7:13-14).

For "rule" see Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ARCHĒ

For "authority" see Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: AUTHORITY (EXOUSIA)

This context may refer to the Gnostic eons. See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ANGELS IN PAUL'S WRITINGS

15:25 "He has put all His enemies under His feet" This is an OT idiom of complete victory (cf. Ps. 8:6; 110:1). In the OT the enemies were the surrounding pagan nations, but in the NT they are the angelic, spiritual powers hostile to God and His Christ. These evil powers influence humans to disbelief and rebellion. Jesus has fully defeated these powers by the cross and His resurrection. The final resurrection of all believers will mark the consummation of this victory!

There are two interesting books that try to define exactly what these "power(s)" refer to.

1. Hendricus Berkhof, Christ and the Powers

 2. Oscar Cullmann, Christ and Time

 

15:26 "The last enemy that will be abolished is death" This means "made null and void." Death is defeated (cf. II Tim. 1:10; Rev. 21:4). Death was not the will of God for mankind, but a result of the Fall (i.e., Genesis 3). The curse will be removed (cf. Rev. 21:3) as it is now defeated.

For the term "abolished" in vv. 24 and 26 see Special Topic: Katargeō at I Cor. 1:28.

15:27-28 The pronoun antecedents are ambiguous. Obviously this refers to an inner relationship within the Godhead (cf. 3:23; 11:3). Christ, the Son, is subordinate (but not unequal, cf. Col. 3:11) to the Father in His redemptive function within time (cf. Rom. 11:33-36).

15:27 This is a quote from Ps. 8:6 with an added allusion to Ps. 110:1. For "subjection" see note at 16:16 and Special Topic at II Cor. 9:13.

15:28 "when all things are subject to Him" When does this occur? This is the question! There are obvious time indicators throughout this paragraph.

1. after that (epeita), v. 23

2. then (eita), v. 24

3. when (hotav, twice), v. 24

4. until (achri), v. 25

5. when (hostan), v. 27

6. when (hostan), v. 28

Does this refer to

1. Jesus' death and resurrection

2. Jesus' ascension

3. Jesus' return/rapture

4. some aspect of the millennium

There is an obvious time sequence, but Paul is too ambiguous for any interpreter to declare with certainty. Often our presuppositions and systematic theologies shape this passage into any desired shape!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:15:29-34
  29
Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? 30Why are we also in danger every hour? 31I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. 33Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." 34Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

15:29 This verse has caused major problems in interpretation. We have no parallel passages in Scripture. We have no other reference for this practice in the early church, although there is some historical evidence about something similar being practiced among the heretics of the second and third century. We must admit we just do not know biblically exactly to what this refers. Some theories are:

1. new Christians baptized to take the place of dead Christians

2. new converts baptized because of their respect for a dead loved one

3. persons in catechism having died before being baptized were proxy baptized by living Christians

4. new converts were baptized over the graves of great Christians.

Hermeneutically several assumptions need to be applied to the interpretation of this verse.

1. It basically is in a series of examples/illustrations of the reality of the resurrection.

2. One does not build theology/doctrine on illustrations.

3. Since there is no clue to the exact historical reference, this text should not be emphasized or applied and surely not turned into a doctrine (i.e. Mormonism)

4. It is even contextually uncertain if Paul is affirming this practice or simply making an allusion to it (cf. TEV, NJB)

 

▣ "If" This is a first class conditional sentence used to make a strong counterpoint. The Greek text has the word holōs (actually) in this clause. See notes at 5:1.

15:31

NASB, NKJV"I affirm"
NRSV"that is as certain"
TEV"I declare this"
NJB"I swear"

This is not in the Greek, but in context the following phrase might be an oath formula. Paul uses oath formulas quite often to assert the truthfulness of his statements (cf. Rom. 9:1; II Cor. 1:18,23; 11:10-11,31).

"by the boasting in you which I have in Christ" Paul is asserting that his work in Corinth is an evidence of his labor for Christ. His labor has been worth it (cf. II Cor. 3:1-2; 7:4; 9:2-3). Paul's churches were an evidence of his apostleship and effectiveness.

▣ "I die daily" This phrase is placed first in the sentence for emphasis (cf. II Cor. 5:14-15; Gal. 2:20; I John 3:16). Verses 30-32 refer to the difficulties Paul faced in service to Christ (cf. II Cor. 1:8-10, 4:8-12; 6:3-10; 11:23-27). He knew it was worth it because he had personally seen the glorified Christ on the road to Damascus (cf. Acts 9:1-22; 22:3-16; 26:9-18). Paul's theology was informed by personal experience and personal revelation (cf. Acts 9:1-22; Gal. 1:11-12) and the Old Testament (his rabbinical training).

15:32 "If" Paul uses two First class conditional sentences to make the point. If there is no resurrection and no Christian reward, why was Paul willing to suffer daily for the gospel?

▣ "I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus" Paul does not mention this experience in his litany of sufferings in II Cor. 11:23-27, and because Paul was a Roman citizen, he should not have been forced to fight wild beasts. This must be a metaphor of the difficult spiritual situation that Paul encountered at Ephesus (cf. I Cor. 1:8-10). Some take this text literally and assert an imprisonment at Ephesus.

▣ "what does it profit me" Paul's labors for Christ are of no spiritual effect if there is no resurrection, either of Christ and thereby no resurrection for Paul. He labors for the gospel, but if the gospel is not true, there is no reward (i.e., no salvation, no resurrection, no eternal life, no fellowship with God, no reuniting with loved ones in heaven, cf. 15:12-19).

▣ "let us eat, and drink, for tomorrow we die" This was the motto of the Epicureans. It is also a quote from Isa. 22:13 (cf. Isa. 56:12; Luke 12:19). This is similar to the current saying, "You only go around once in life, so get all the gusto you can!" But, what if there is a resurrection? What if we do stand before a Holy God to give an account of the gift of life (cf. Dan. 12:2)?!

15:33 "do not be deceived" This is a negated present passive imperative. The church at Corinth was being led astray by false theology (cf. 6:9).

▣ "Bad company corrupts good morals" This seems to be a quote from the Greek prophet, Menander's Thais, relating to a prostitute. Some factions at Corinth were proud of their (1) Greco-Roman heritage or (2) sexual freedom. Paul intensifies their attitudes by quoting from their own philosophers (cf. vv. 32 and 33). Paul was raised in Tarsus, which was well known for its schools of Greek philosophy (cf Acts 17:28 and Titus 1:12). He was uniquely learned in rabbinical Judaism and secular Greek thought.

▣ "corrupts" See Special Topic at 15:42.

15:34

NASB"become sober-minded"
NKJV"awake to righteousness"
NRSV"come to a sober and right mind"
TEV"come back to your right senses"
NJB"wake up from your stupor as you should"

This is an aorist active imperative. This seems to mean, "come to your moral senses once and for all."

▣ "stop sinning" This is a present active imperative with a negative particle which usually means to stop an act in process. It is obvious that those who denied the resurrection were also living godless lives. Paul uses their immorality as a way to show the faulty validity of their theological assertion (i.e., no resurrection).

▣ "no knowledge of God" In English this is the term "agnostic." This was a subtle sarcastic remark to those who revered knowledge so highly. Their theology and actions clearly showed they had no true knowledge!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:15:35-41
  35
But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" 36You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. 39All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 40There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

15:35 "someone will say" This is Paul's use of a literary technique called diatribe. This question/answer format is also seen in the OT in Malachi and in the NT in Romans and I John. The subject of the literary work is carried forward by a dialog between the writer and a supposed objector. Here the argument is moved on to a slightly different theme. First, some of the factious groups denied the resurrection of Christ and thereby the resurrection of all believers. Now Paul addresses those who question the form of the resurrection body.

"with what kind of body do they come" One source of the conflict concerning a resurrected body comes from the negative view of the physical body in some schools of Greek philosophy. The Greeks often viewed the material as evil (i.e., Gnosticism) and even worse, the physical body as the prison-house of the eternal divine spark or soul within all humans. This cultural/philosophical background came into direct conflict with Paul's Hebraic (i.e., Pharisaic) background of the affirmation of a physical, bodily after-life.

15:35-41 Paul uses a series of illustrations that show the continuity, and yet difference, between the physical body and the spiritual body.

1. seed vs. mature plant, v. 37

2. human vs. animal flesh, v. 39

3. heavenly body vs. earthly bodies, v 40

4. night lights vs. Sun light, v. 41

 

15:36 "You fool" People who claim to know God, but think and act in inappropriate ways are often characterized as poor thinkers! Paul's sarcastic comments, so frequent in I and II Corinthians, reveal this type of person. They were so confident that they possessed knowledge that they could not see nor recognize true knowledge!

SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR FOOLISH PEOPLE

15:37 "That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies" Paul again is following Jesus' words (cf. John 12:24). This is the use of phenomenological language (i.e., the way things appear to the five senses). This is not meant to be a scientific statement, but an agricultural metaphor of new life from hard, seemingly dead, seeds.

The term "unless" denotes a third class conditional sentence, which means potential action.

"perhaps" This is an incomplete fourth class conditional (cf. 14:10). Paul is asserting the possibility of different kinds of grain seeds.

15:39-40 "another. . .another" The first, used four times in v. 39 and three in v. 41, is allos and the next "another" is used three times in v. 40 and is heteros. The distinction between these two was explicit in classical Greek, but almost gone in Koine Greek. In this context the distinction seems to remain:

1. allos, another of the same kind (cf. vv. 39,41)

2. heteros, another of a different kind (cf. v. 40)

 

15:40,41,43 "glory" See SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at I Cor. 2:7.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:15:42-49
  42
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.

15:42-49 The Bible does not specifically or fully reveal the things related to the afterlife. Probably because we are not able in our fallen, temporal, earthly state to comprehend them. This paragraph discusses the resurrection body by comparing it to the earthly body. Yet, still it is not precise. All that can be said is that our new bodies will be perfectly prepared for life, fellowship, worship, and service of our God in the new age. In light of this, the exact form is irrelevant (cf. Phil. 3:21; I John 3:2).

15:42

NASB, NRSV,
NJB"perishable. . .imperishable"
NKJV"corruptible. . .incorruptible
TEV"mortal. . .immortal"

Often this term is used in the same context as its negated opposite (cf. Rom. 1:23; I Cor. 9:25; 15:50,53). Notice the parallel contrasts between our earthly physical bodies and our heavenly eternal bodies.

1. corruptible vs. incorruptible, vv. 42,50

2. dishonor vs. glory, v. 43

3. weakness vs. power, v. 43

4. natural body vs. spiritual body, v. 44

5. first Adam vs. last Adam, v. 45

6. image of the earthly vs. image of the heavenly, v. 49

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: DESTROY, RUIN, CORRUPT (PHTHEIRŌ)

15:43 "weakness" See SPECIAL TOPIC: WEAKNESS at II Cor. 12:9.

15:44 "if" The United Bible Societies' Handbook on Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians says this is not a first class conditional sentence, but a statement of fact (cf. p. 361). However, A. T. Robertson in Word Pictures in the New Testament asserts that it is a first class conditional (cf. p. 197). Grammar is not a science.

15:45 "The first man, Adam" This is a quote from Gen. 2:7. Jesus' mentioning of Adam (cf. Matt. 19:4; Mark 10:6; Luke 3:38) denotes his historicity. Jesus assumed the corruption of an initial pair named Adam and Eve. Paul's use of Adam-Christ typology, both here and in Rom. 5:17-21, demands a special creation of Adam and Eve. This may be a later creation (see my commentary on Genesis 1-11 (online at www.freebiblecommentary.org) , where I assert an old earth, but a relatively recent creation of Eden), but it seems to me it must be a special creation.

"the last Adam became a life-giving spirit" This must refer to the resurrection of Jesus. It is not meant to deny a physical aspect to Jesus' post-resurrection appearances, but to contrast the first Adam, whose actions caused death, with the last Adam, whose actions caused life, eternal life, resurrection life! This is an example of the Adam-Christ typology (cf. Rom. 5:12-21; I Cor. 15:21-22,45-49; Phil. 2:6-8).

▣ "a life-giving spirit" This is a good example of the difficulty in some contexts of knowing if "spirit" should be a small "s" (cf. Rom. 8:9; II Cor. 3:3; Gal. 4:6; I Pet. 1:11). The Bible uses the term pneuma in several different verses. See Special Topic: Pneuma at 12:1.

15:46 This is not an ontological statement, but a temporal statement relating to the first Adam and the second Adam (cf. v. 47). Physical human life precedes spiritual life!

15:47 "the second man is from heaven" There are several additions to this phrase in the Greek manuscripts. Most of them are an attempt to accentuate that Jesus is human like Adam, but more than human. Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 94-95, thinks these changes were a result of the doctrinal controversies within the church during the period when these manuscripts were being copied. He suggests the additions were purposeful, theological clarifications on the part of orthodox scribes.

15:49 "Just as we have borne the image of the earthly" This text occurs in early Greek manuscripts P46, א, A, C, D (i.e., aorist active subjunctive). The context seems to demand the text of the early Alexandrian manuscript B, which was, "We shall bear..." (i.e., Future active indicative). Both of these Greek words were pronounced similarly. The early manuscripts were often copied at one time by one man reading the text aloud and several men making written copies. Theologically the future indicative is preferable. The other verbs in context are future. It is a descriptive context, not hortatory (i.e., exhortation to action).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:15:50-57
  50
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory 55"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

15:50 "flesh and blood" This is a metaphor for humanity (cf. Matt. 16:17; Gal. 1:16; Eph. 6:12; Heb. 2:14).

▣ "inherit" This is a family metaphor describing our permanent fellowship with God. In the OT the Levites received no large land inheritance (only 48 Levitical cities), thus they were said to have YHWH as their inheritance. The NT transfers this (as it does many priestly activities) to all believers. See SPECIAL TOPIC: BELIEVERS' INHERITANCE at 6:9.

▣ "the kingdom of God" See note at 15:24.

15:51 "mystery" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD'S PLAN FOR REDEMPTION, "MYSTERY"

God has a unified purpose for mankind's redemption that even preceded the Fall (Genesis 3). Hints of this plan are revealed in the OT (Genesis 3:15; 12:3; Exodus 19:5-6; and the universal passages in the prophets). However, this inclusive agenda was not clear (I Cor. 2:6-8). With the coming of Jesus and the Spirit it begins to become more obvious. Paul used the term "mystery" to describe this total redemptive plan, which was once hidden, but now fully revealed (I Cor. 4:1; Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3; I Tim. 1:9). However, he used it in several different senses.

1. A partial hardening of Israel to allow Gentiles to be included. This influx of Gentiles will work as a mechanism (jealousy) for Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah of prophecy (Rom. 11:25-32).

2. The gospel was made known to the nations, all of whom are potentially included in Christ and through Christ (Rom. 16:25-27; Col. 2:2).

3. Believers will have new bodies at the Second Coming (I Cor. 15:5-57; I Thess. 4:13-18).

4. The summing up of all things in Christ (Eph. 1:8-11).

5. The Gentiles and Jews are fellow-heirs (Eph. 2:11-3:13).

6. Intimacy of the relationship between Christ and the Church described in marriage terms (Eph. 5:22-33).

7. Gentiles included in the covenant people and indwelt by the Spirit of Christ so as to produce Christlike maturity, that is, the restored image of God in fallen humanity (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; Col. 1:26-28).

8. The end-time AntiChrist (II Thess. 2:1-11).

9. An early church summary of the mystery is found in I Tim. 3:16.

 

▣ "we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed" This seems to assert that there will be Christians alive at the Second Coming (cf. I Thess. 4:13-18). Sleep is a biblical euphemism for death.

Does Paul expect to be alive at the Second Coming or is this an editorial "we" (alive at Jesus' return, I Cor. 15:51-52; I Thess. 4:15,17 or raised at Jesus' return, I Cor. 6:14; II Cor. 4:14; 5:1-10)? Like all NT authors and Jesus, he seems to have expected an imminent return of the glorified Christ. But only the Father knew the time (cf. Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7). Believers are to live every day in light of the hope of the Second Coming, but plan and train for kingdom activities as if it will be delayed.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ANY-MOMENT RETURN OF JESUS VERSUS THE NOT YET (NT PARADOX)

15:52 "in a moment" We get the English "atom" from the Greek term, which meant "undividable."

▣ "in the twinkling of an eye" This is used of the blinking of a star or the rapid movement of gnats' wings. The implication of these two terms is that Jesus' return will occur very rapidly once it begins. No time for last minute prayers.

▣ "at the last trumpet" This was an OT way of announcing the end-time events by means of the shophar (i.e., left ram's horn, cf. Isa. 27:13; Zech. 9:13; Matt. 24:31; I Thess. 4:16). It is surely possible that the trumpet was a metaphor for the voice of God (cf. Exod. 19:16,19; 20:18; Rev. 1:10), also used of prophets' voices (cf. Isa. 58:1; Heb. 12:19).

SPECIAL TOPIC: HORNS USED BY ISRAEL

15:54 This is a reference to Isa. 25:8, which is also alluded to in Matt. 5:11; I Pet. 4:14; Rev. 7:17; 21:4. Verses 54 and 55 are obviously Paul's way of taunting mankind's last great enemy-death, which has been completely vanquished in Christ's resurrection from the dead and His followers having been freed from sin's penalty and awaiting a certain resurrection themselves.

15:55 This is a reference to Hosea 13:14, which reverses the order by quoting the Septuagint. Most OT quotes in the NT are from the Greek translation of the OT. It was the Bible of the first century church.

15:56 In this verse Paul is asserting humanity's broken relationship with God caused by sin (cf. Genesis 3; Romans 2-3). This rebellion has caused us to feel estranged from the very One who made us for Himself.

Sin entered the world through a willful act of disobedience. The term "law" does not refer to the Mosaic Law, but to God's prohibitions in general. We are corrupt, but God has chosen to restore fellowship through Christ. What sin destroyed, Christ restores (i.e., permanent fellowship with God; the marred image is repaired).

15:57 "thanks be to God" This reminds me of Paul's cry in Rom. 6:17 and 7:25. It foreshadows Paul's great metaphor of a Roman triumphal march in II Cor. 2:14, as well as his outburst of gratitude in II Cor. 9:15. See Special Topic: Paul's Praise, Prayer, and Thanksgiving at II Cor. 2:14.

"victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" All spiritual victory comes through Christ and Christ alone! It has already come! Believers live in light of Christ's full and complete victory!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:15:58
  58
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

15:58 Paul concludes this tremendous theological discussion of the resurrection with a practical pastoral encouragement for the need for consistency and perseverance in our daily Christian lives. Eternal live has observable characteristics! There is one present imperative followed by two participles used as imperatives. It will be worth it all when we see Him and are welcomed into the eternal Kingdom!

"abounding" See Special Topic at II Cor. 2:7.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. List the four aspects of the Christian life found in vv. 1 and 2.

2. List the main tenets of the gospel found in vv. 3 and 4.

3. Why did Paul consider himself to be the least of the Apostles?

4. What was the basis of the members of the church at Corinth denying the resurrection.

5. What is the Adam-Christ typology?

6. What does it mean to baptize for the dead?

7. Will our resurrection bodies be humanoid?

 

Related Topics: Bible Study Methods