For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1Co 15:3-8)
Here we have a twofold message – evangelistic and apologetic. We are given the sum of the Gospel in that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead in victory. Then we are given the apologetic, that there were eyewitnesses to the resurrection. Consider that over 500 saw Christ after the resurrection, most of whom were alive at the writing of this letter. What an easy claim to disprove if it was not the truth. Yet with all of the animosity towards Christ and Christians, nobody was able to debate this evidence.
When speaking to unbelievers it’s important to first see if they’re even honest about wanting truth. Ask them, “What evidence would you accept for Christ?” For most would accept the evidence here cited for any other historical fact…but unbelievers will generally accept nothing as evidence for the Christian God.
The last part of this passage is very important in correcting some modern theological movements that claim the office of “Apostle” still exists. Those who adhere to this theological error claim that Christ can still be seen, and therefore the Apostle is an office still in force. But consider that Paul says he was “last of all” to have Christ appear to him. After Paul Christ has not appeared to any, so says the Word of God.
If you’re asked why Christianity is truth, don’t answer with mundane emotionalism…rather answer with the evidence of an empty tomb!
Let this Christ – the Christ who died for you, and rose in victory – guide you in all that you do. Remember that you serve a King who has conquered all things. And as the Church militant we are to affect His rule in all things, especially in our own lives.
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1Co 15:9-10)
Paul gives us an honest estimation of himself – unworthy to be an apostle because he persecuted the Church. He also shows us the result of God’s grace coming into his life – he worked harder than any of the other apostles by God’s grace.
It’s important to have an honest view of who we are. Our flesh is very quick to puff up our pride whenever it can, but a true sense of who we are comes from a proper apprehension of how God’s grace has affected us. Paul understood that nothing good dwelt in his flesh…
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. (Rom 7:18)
Whatever good was in Paul was there by God’s grace. It was a grace that was given to someone who was undeserving, which is true of all of us. Why then does Paul set himself below the other apostles, claiming to be least of them; while at the same time he sets himself above them in works, claiming to work harder than any of them?
This disparity reveals a wonderful truth about grace. Those who consider themselves deserving of God’s grace will not be as affected by it as those who consider themselves undeserving. Consider what our Lord says…
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”… Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luk 7:41-43,47)
Take time today to correct any mistaken notion you have about your merit to receive Christ’s grace. Don’t consider your sins of little account, but understand that they were serious enough to require the shed blood of Christ. Your sins didn’t require any less of a sacrifice than those sins that you may consider more grievous.
Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1Co 15:11-20)
Paul’s whole argument for the resurrection focuses on Christ. Christ is the cornerstone for all of our faith. If there is no resurrection, then Christ has not risen from the dead. This is the same teaching that the Sadducees promulgated. But as Christians, our whole faith is centered on the Christ of the Bible. If we can’t believe in the resurrection then we can’t believe in the Christ who was resurrected. And if we do believe in the resurrection of Christ then the corollary is that we should believe in the resurrection of all mankind as well. Paul calls the resurrection of Christ the “firstfruits” of those who have fallen asleep (i.e. those who are dead). Certainly if Christ was resurrected, and He is the firstfruits, then it follows that we will be raised as well.
Paul paints the resurrection from the dead as a focal point of the Christian life. This puts our hope square on the promise of Christ rather than on our present circumstances. Rather than a redemption of the soul without the body, it puts our hope in the complete redemption of both body and soul. There are mystics who believe that the soul must be free from the body, but the Bible clearly teaches that the body is part of who we are and it will also be redeemed. What a wonderful teaching! What an awesome God we have, one who is not relegated to the dimension of spirits, but is God over all….spirit and corporeal.
Ask yourself today how much importance you place on the resurrection of the dead. Look with an open heart at this passage and see that it’s a core doctrine, without which our faith is futile. Wield the Sword of the Spirit with faith that you may cut out all doubt that the enemy has placed in your mind.
Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1Co 15:30-32)
Take note of the confidence that Paul gets in the resurrection. This is not merely some doctrine that he mentally ascents to, but rather it has an effect upon his life. Paul is willing to put his life at risk because he is sure that the resurrection from the dead awaits him. Paul goes so far as to say that he dies every day…he is always putting his life on the line for Christ and His Gospel. In the giving of our lives here and now to the Gospel of Christ, there is much gain in the resurrection. We must be willing to lay all out before Christ and give Him preeminence in everything. We ought not to consider our lives worth having if we are not using it to further God’s glory. Consider what our Lord tells us…
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mat 16:25)
Are you willing to die daily for Christ? Are you willing to die to your earthly desires and put all that you have towards accomplishing the desires of God? Or are you the kind of professed Christian who spends their precious life in things that will profit nothing…in eating, drinking, and all the other “entertainments” the world has to offer?
Consider carefully how you live your life for the day of your death has already been ordained. It’s time we rise from the dead works of the flesh to the living hope of the resurrection.
…”Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Eph 5:14-18)
Don’t be led astray: bad relationships destroy good character. Wake up from your drunken stupor to righteousness without sins; because some possess no knowledge of God. What I say should embarrass you. (1 Cor 15:33-34, my translation)
As social creatures we long for others to have relationships with. The ultimate relationship between humans is that of a husband and a wife, where the two become one flesh. God’s joining the two into one produces a sharing of character traits after a while. Eventually each spouse exhibits traits of the other and vice-versa.
To a lesser degree, this sharing of character traits happens in every person-to-person relationship. Think about the groups that you socialize in and how you’ve picked up certain key phrases that you never would have picked up outside of the group. This points to a sharing of something much deeper than bare words, but a sharing of ideas and character traits with the group as a whole.
Knowing that our character is made in such a way that it subsumes the character of those in relation to it, we must be very careful whom we allow into a close relationship with us. That’s what Paul is getting at in the passage. If we know that hanging out with folks who have a foul mouth will corrupt our speech, it is good not to hang out with such.
Ask yourself these questions: Are you a good or a bad influence on others? Are there others in your life who are a bad influence on you? What are you prepared to do to correct any of these relationship problems in your life?
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. (1Co 15:35-38)
Anticipating arguments against the resurrection from the dead, Paul draws a parallel from the natural world. By showing that we do, in fact, have examples similar to the resurrection in nature, he shows that it is not as far-fetched as first impressions may imply. The thrust of his apologetic is that you can just as easily ask, “how are the dead raised?” as you can ask, “how does a buried seed grow into a plant?”
Though the example given in nature is a parallel, it is also limited. The picture of a seed growing into a plant is part of God’s providential governing over His creation. The resurrection from the dead is God’s miraculous working upon His creation.
We notice that Paul describes the seeds as growing into “its own body.” This is an important aspect of the resurrection of our bodies. If we die without Christ, we will be raised without Christ to eternal destruction in the fires of Hell, under God’s all-consuming wrath. If we die with Christ, we will be raised with Christ to eternal life in perfect communion with God as we have been redeemed from the power of sin and death.
What kind of body will each of us have? We are not told except to say that it’s up to God. It is far safer not to speculate on godly matters when they fall outside of the scope of Scripture. Calvin was once asked what God was doing before the creation account of Genesis 1; to which he replied, “making hell for the curious.”
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deu 29:29)
Take time today to consider the hope that awaits us – the resurrection from the dead. We will have resurrected bodies that match our already resurrected souls. We will be complete in body and soul, and we will be without sin and temptation. What a wonderful truth to meditate on!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1Pe 1:3-5)
For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There 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. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1Co 15:39-45)
This passage is one of marked distinctions: different kinds of flesh, earthly and heavenly bodies, earthly and heavenly glory, perishable and imperishable, dishonor and glory, weakness and power, natural and spiritual.
This clears up some of what Paul said when comparing the resurrection with seeds growing into plants. It’s as if he’s saying, “Though they are parallel, there is also a great distinction between the example I gave of the seed and what will take place at our resurrection.”
A seed is planted naturally and the plant grows naturally, all being earth-bound and under the direction of God’s providence. In our resurrection we are buried naturally, but we are resurrected miraculously by the power of God, not by anything in the natural realm.
A seed is sown perishable, and the plant grows and perishes. But in our resurrection, though we are buried perishable, we are raised imperishable unto everlasting life, never to see the destructive powers of sin and death again.
We are such frail creatures that the smallest bacteria can infect us and bring us to the grave. We are certainly buried in weakness. But we are raised in power, by the very power that raised Christ from the dead.
The distinction between the natural body and the spiritual body in this passage should not be misunderstood as referring to a resurrection that is ethereal. Rather “spiritual” here carries the meaning of quality rather than substance. This resurrected body will indeed be corporeal, but it will be in perfect unison with the will of the Holy Spirit …always walking after the spirit rather than the flesh.
As we look to the hope of the resurrection that awaits us, take courage that God will bring you to that end if you have faith in Christ. Understand that it is not only the resurrection that we look forward to, but also to the sanctifying grace of God that works in our lives even now. We are daily brought closer and closer to the reality of our resurrection, and this is evidenced in a life that grows in sanctification and piety.
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1Co 15:45-49)
The natural man, Adam, was first; while the last Adam, Christ, came after. This is the general order of things, and it’s the specific order within the context of redemption. Not only was Adam first and Christ after, but we are born in the flesh first and born of the Spirit after.
We first have the natural state inherited from Adam. This is described as “natural,” “from earth,” “of dust.” What a picture of the natural state of man in a fallen world! What a picture of weakness and meaningless. The natural things from the earth are so frail that they all wither and die…whether plants or animals. Dust has no meaning apart from something that we want to get rid of and wipe clean. But thanks be to God that it doesn’t end there…
Those who put their faith in Christ take part in a new birth….in the resurrection of the soul…
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (Joh 3:5-6)
So it is that those who are regenerated move from this imperfect state to a more perfect state in Christ. And while the natural man is born in corruption and will only inherit corruption in eternity, the regenerated man is born in the Spirit and will inherit Heaven and its glories with Christ…
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Rom 8:16-17)
Those who are born in the Spirit will be glorified together with Christ, but those who remain in the flesh will share in nothing but shame. However, in both cases God will be glorified. In those condemned to the eternal fires of Hell, God will be glorified in His justice. In those who share in the inheritance of Christ, God will be glorified in His mercy.
Since we know that God will be glorified in all things, consider carefully how you walk in this world. He has revealed His will to us in the Scriptures, and we are to understand what that will is and live by it.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph 5:15-17)
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (1Co 15:50-53)
The overarching point of this passage is that we must have a resurrected body in order to inherit the kingdom of God. Many of the pagan religions believed that the body was a prison for the soul. They taught that when we die our souls are released from that prison. These pagans would consider the resurrection a terrible state to dwell in for eternity because our souls would be once again in prison to a body.
This is not the teaching of God in the Bible. As people we are both body and soul, and if we were to dwell in heaven without a body then we would not be truly and completely human. The Scriptural teaching is set up against that of false religions in that it puts actual human beings in Heaven with God rather than disembodied spirits.
The Gnostics were a heretical group who also had issues with the body/soul and physical/spiritual relationships. They believed that everything of the physical world, which would include our body, was evil…and that it was only the spiritual that was good. This heresy has a warped view of Christ as they teach that He could not have had a real physical body, else He would partake of the evil of the physical world.
Let’s be careful not to place our hope on being free of our body, but rather hope in the resurrection from the dead, when our soul and body will be together in the glories of Christ. Let us with Paul say…
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2Co 5:1-4)
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1Co 15:54-58)
What a blessed hope we have! Death, the mortal enemy of man, has no victory over us. Jesus Christ, our king, was victorious over death as He overcame it in His resurrection. Death cannot gain victory over those who are found in Christ because Christ has already gained the victory for them.
Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses… (Rom 5:14)
Outside of Christ death is victorious over us and rules over us as a reigning king. But once God raises us to life in Christ, the power that death held over us is cast off, and we reign with Christ…
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Rev 20:4)
Not only has death lost its power to reign over us as our lord, but it has also lost the sting that it once had.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Php 1:21-24)
To die is no longer to feel the pangs of its sting, but has rather turned into “gain.” It’s gain because when those who are Christ’s die they go into the presence of Christ in Heaven, which is an exceedingly great joy.
It all centers on Christ – both life and death. That’s why the Scriptures say “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” If in our earthly lives we serve His kingdom and seek His glory, then in death we will have great gain.
Since Christ died for those who place their faith in Him, He tasted the sting of death for us…in our place. The sin that gives death its great sting was taken on by our Lord at the cross as our sins were placed upon Him so that He would endure the punishment that was rightly ours to bear.
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