- Firstly, we see that Paul establishes what is true (vv.1-15) before he addresses the error. So for us, we need to be established in the positive truth before we can defend against falsehood.
- Secondly, he goes back to the foundation (gospel truths, v.1), and founds his doctrine on the scriptures (vv.3-4). Evil is always changing, taking on new forms to challenge each generation; “her ways are changeable” (Prov. 5:6). There are a million lies, but only one truth. If we look to the scriptures, we will never need to invent new arguments.
- Thirdly, the apostle takes the error out to its logical conclusion, and thereby shows the folly of it. He goes all the way into the Millennium and the Eternal State to make his point! We can be helped greatly by understanding the principle of a thing, then working it out to see its conclusion.
- Fourthly, Paul draws from a variety of sources to establish his position; the scriptures, eyewitness testimony, sound reasoning, personal experience, and then the creation itself. When the time comes to defend against evil doctrine, we need to give it a solid blow that will clinch the case. This is important, because evil doctrine spreads like yeast in a lump of dough (Gal. 5:9); like cancer or gangrene in the human body (2 Tim. 2:17).
- The Immutability of the Gospel (15:1-2)
- The Four Integral Facts of the Gospel: Including Resurrection (15:3-11)
- Seven Logical Consequences of Denying the Resurrection (15:12-19)
- Parenthesis: The Final Results of Resurrection (15:20-28)
- Practical Effects of the Resurrection (15:29-34)
- The Glorious and Heavenly Order of Resurrection (15:35-50)
- The Event of Resurrection and Notes of Victory (15:51-58)
The Immutability of the Gospel (15:1-2)
- What Paul had originally declared to the Corinthians, “which I announced to you…”
- What the Corinthians had received, “which also ye received…”
- What established the Corinthians’ standing before God, “in which also ye stand…”
- The means of the Corinthians’ present salvation, “by which also ye are saved…”
The Four Integral Facts of the Gospel: Including Resurrection (15:3-11)
The Testimony of the Scriptures (vv.3-4)
- Christ’s Death (v.3). He died “for our sins”. This brings out the vicarious aspect of atonement. Our sins were the cause of His death, and His death is what put our sins away. This was according to Old Testament scriptures, such as Isa. 53; “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, etc.” (Isa. 53:5).
- Christ’s Burial (v.4). The burial of Christ is the proof of His death. There was at least a full twenty-four hour period in which the Lord’s body lay in the grave. The Lord would not have been buried by His own disciples if He was not really dead. It does not say that the burial of Christ was “according to Old Testament scriptures”, because His burial was not the subject of prophecy. And yet the scriptures did speak of it in passing; e.g. Isa. 53:9; “And men appointed his grave with the wicked, but he was with the rich in his death” (Isa. 53:9).
- Christ’s Resurrection (v.4). The resurrection of Christ is essential to Christianity. Christ’s suffering and death was the payment of our debt, but His resurrection is the receipt that proves our debt was paid; “raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Not only is the resurrection critical to justification, but Paul shows that it is also critical to the resurrection of believers, because Christ is “risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). How is Christ’s resurrection according to the scriptures? The scriptures say the woman’s seed would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15); on “the third day” Isaac was received as from the dead in a figure (Gen. 22:4; Heb. 11:17-19); the Son of man who suffered death has been crowned with glory and honor (Psa. 8:5; Heb. 2:9); Jehovah would not suffer His Holy One to see corruption (Psa. 16:10); and Jehovah’s Servant would “see his seed” and “prolong his days” (Isa. 53:10). See also Psa. 22:21; 102:24.
- Christ’s Appearance after His Resurrection (vv.5-11). If the burial of Christ was the proof of His death, then the appearances of Christ are the proof of His resurrection! In the next seven verses, the Spirit lists out a number of eye-witnesses to whom Christ appeared after His resurrection.
The Testimony of Eye-Witnesses (15:5-11)
Early Eye-witnesses (vv.5-7)
Sleep is often used to describe the death of a believer, although it is never used to describe the death of an unbeliever. The original word is ekoimethesan; "a sleep that is induced by another". In 1 Thess. 4 we learn who it is that has induced the sleep... the Lord Jesus. What a precious thought! Death is not an accident. Jesus puts His saints to sleep, and He will wake them up with His own voice (John 5:28-29)! Scripture does not teach "soul-sleep", that a person is unconscious in the intermediate state. Both the rich man and Lazarus were conscious in the intermediate state (Luke 16:19-31). Those who teach "soul-sleep" leverage scriptures like Ecc. 9:5 ("for the dead know nothing") which speaks of the ignorance of the dead. That really speaks of ignorance as to things on earth; that which is "under the sun". No! Unbelievers who have died are conscious in their suffering, and believers who have died are "present with the Lord".During this time in Galilee, the Lord “shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias” (John 21:1).
The Apostle Paul as an Eyewitness (vv.8-10)
The Testimony of Eyewitnesses Sufficient for Faith (v.11)
Seven Logical Consequences of Denying the Resurrection (15:12-19)
Result #1: It Contradicts the New Testament Message (v.12)
Result #2: Christ is Not Risen (v.13)
Result #3: Our Personal Faith is in Vain (v.14)
Result #4: The Apostles are False Witnesses (v.15)
Result #5: We Are Still in Our Sins (vv.16-17)
Result #6: The Sleeping Saints Have Perished (v.18)
Result #7: We Have No Hope Beyond this Life: Most Miserable (v.19)
Parenthesis: The Final Results of Resurrection (15:20-28)
- For us. The resurrection of those who are Christ’s at His coming from among the dead (vv.20-23).
- For Christ. The final and ultimate victory of the Second Man over all enemies (vv.24-28).
God will finally “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). All the “sin of the world” will be taken away by the Lamb of God (John 1:29). God will bring out of death something for His own glory. We get this in the riddle that Samson put forth to the Philistines; “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle” (Jdg. 14:14). It is something the flesh will never understand… it goes beyond the thoughts of the natural man. The “eater” (or, lion) is death; the “meat” is blessing. The “strong” is Satan, and the “sweetness” is glory.
The Final Results for Believers: Raised at the Rapture (vv.20-23)
It is impossible to sever “all” in either case from their representative head: only “all” in Adam’s case embraces the entire race, whereas “all” in the case of Christ as necessarily attaches to His family alone.2
The Millennium and the Eternal State (vv.24-28)
The kingdom began when Christ ascended to heaven. It couldn't have started before that, because He had not yet taken His place in heaven. It says "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom…" (Luke 19:12). He will take the kingdom in power at the appearing (Rev. 11:15), and He will deliver up the kingdom to God at the end of the 1000 years (1 Cor. 15:24). To summarize: Christ received the kingdom at His ascension, He will take it at His appearing, and He will deliver it up at the end of time.Read more…
- Psalm 110 speaks of Jehovah putting Messiah’s enemies under His feet, and that Christ is even now patiently waiting for that time. It refers to the beginning of the thousand years. In other words, Christ will be given (“take” in Rev. 11:16) His kingly power at the appearing, but He will at that time just begin to trample His enemies under His feet.
- Psalm 8 speaks of God putting all things under the feet of the glorified Son of man. This will happen at the beginning of the Millennium, but we can see by Spirit’s emphasis of “all things” (v.27a) that it comprehends more than the Tribulation judgments. Every rebel will be consumed, Satan and his host will be cast into the lake of fire, the wicked dead will be judged, and finally death itself will be annulled. This will be completed at the end of the thousand years.
Note: Psalm 8 is quoted in 1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 1, and Hebrews 2. Hebrews 2 informs us that Psalm 8 hasn’t been completely fulfilled yet. Half the psalm is fulfilled now because He is crowned with glory and honor, but the other half is still future, for we do not see everything put under His feet. Psalm 8 is the cornerstone of Paul's doctrine concerning the glory of Christ.
“Were there, for example, a blade of grass that was not subjected to His power in blessing, Satan would have got an advantage over Christ, over His rights, and over His inheritance”.4
The Eternal State. There are only three passages that describe the eternal state: Rev. 21:1-8, 2 Pet. 3:10-13, and 1 Cor. 15:24-28, although there are other minor references to it, such as "the eighth day" (Lev. 23:36, 39), possibly "the everlasting kingdom" (2 Pet. 1:11) would include it, and the "reconciliation of all things" (Col. 1:20). The eternal state is the end of all God’s purposes for the glory of Christ and the blessing of man. This is when God will have reconciled "all things" unto himself (Col. 1:20), and God will be "all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).There are really only three scriptural names for the eternal state:
Practical Effects of the Resurrection (15:29-34)
The Glorious and Heavenly Order of Resurrection (15:35-50)
Skeptics of the Resurrection Answered (15:35-41)
Botanical: Seeds are Planted in the Ground, but Spring Up as Plants (vv.36-38)
Zoological: God Created many different Types of Flesh (v.39)
Geological & Astronomical: God Created many different Terrestrial & Celestial Bodies (vv.40-41)
The Relative Glory of the Last Adam & Second Man and the Resurrection Body (vv.42-50)
- It will never decay. Free from the effects of sin, our resurrection bodies will not be subject to deterioration. “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruptibility”.
- It has no shame. The shame of our nakedness causes us to need clothing today. But in that day, we will be fit for the very presence of God in all His glory. We will be glorified even before we stand at the judgment seat of Christ! “It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory”.
- It has no weakness. Our bodies of humiliation are subject to injury and sickness, as well as certain physical laws and limitations, but our resurrection bodies will be free of those things. This is how the resurrected Jesus could appear in their midst, the doors being shut. “It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power”.
- It is suited to heaven. Our present bodies are natural in that they are suited to natural things, but our resurrection bodies are suited to heaven. “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body”.
- The first man was tested under a series of dispensations up to the cross, which was the final test. There the first man and all his worldly wisdom crucified the Lord of Glory, and thereby proved himself to be an irrecoverable failure. All those in Adam’s fallen race take their character from the head of that race. The only way to escape that order is to be transferred into another race! Read Rom. 5:12-21.
- The Second Man is a person… our Lord Jesus Christ! He is of a heavenly order and origin; and there is no failure with Him. In the fulfillment of God’s purposes, God will show how Christ, as Second Man, will succeed in all of those principles under which the First Man has utterly failed. Read more…
The Event of Resurrection and Notes of Victory (15:51-58)
- Flint, Annie. God Hath Not Promised. 1866-1932.
- Kelly, William. Notes on the First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. Bible Truth Publishers, 1975.
- Darby, J. N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. G. Morrish, 1940.
- Darby, J. N. Lectures on the Hopes of the Church of God. Lecture 1. Geneva, 1840.
- Kelly, Thomas. How pleasant is the sound of praise. Little Flock Hymnbook #317. 1769-1855.
- Kelly, William. Notes on the First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. Bible Truth Publishers, 1975.
- Darby, J.N. And is it so! Little Flock Hymnbook #18A. 1881.