About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapters 15

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   ch. 15:1-12     ch. 15:12-35    ch. 15:35-58     

The Resurrection Of Christ (ch. 15:1 - 11)


To begin this chapter, church history tells us that from verse 3 to verse 6 was actually a first generation Christian creed.  That is to say, Paul was quoting a common creed of the early church, maybe the first creed of the New Testament church. 


Chapter 15 is the beginning of the end of Paul’s letter.  After saying all that he has said, he now wants to “remind them of the gospel he preached”.  He says that this gospel was received by them and they presently stand solidly in their faith that is based on this gospel.  


In verse 2 Paul says that these people are “saved”  by this gospel if they “hold firmly to the word” that Paul preached.  This means that salvation is based on trust in Jesus and the word of the gospel.  As long as you continue to trust, you are saved.  If you decide not to trust, then you lose your salvation, and as Paul says, “you believed in vain”.  You cannot depend on past faith.  You depend on present faith.  If someone trusts Jesus for his salvation for 50 years and then decides to stop trusting, his 50 years of faith is in vain.  It will not help him on the day of judgment.  


Paul says, “what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; Christ died for our sins…”  Paul received this gospel from Jesus directly through great revelations as he says so plainly in his letter to the Galatians.  He then passed this good news on to people like those in Corinth, and as Paul says here, this is of great importance. 


aul points out that Christ died, He was buried, and He rose from the dead on the third day and He appeared to many people.  Jesus appeared to Peter, the twelve and at one time another 500 people.  Paul is stating these facts to give credence and proof to the resurrection of Jesus.  

Note also in verse 8 that Jesus appeared to James, which most all Bible teachers understand to be the physical brother of Jesus.  This is interesting.  Can you imagine just how James would have felt.  I doubt if we can.  Here he knew Jesus as his brother, and maybe wacky brother from his standpoint, and now, James views Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.  How weird this must have been for him.  Paul says that Jesus appeared to James.  We do not know what Jesus and James talked about.  It sure would be nice if we could have known what Jesus told James and how James responded, but we don't. My guess is that one thing Jesus told James was the he would be one of the leaders of the Jewish church.  Many would say that James would not just be "one of the leaders" of the Jewish church, but "the leader" of the Jewish church, at least the church that was in Jerusalem .  


It is interesting to note that not too many years after Jesus rose from the dead, some of those who saw Him alive after His death had passed on themselves, and were with Jesus already. 


In verse 8 he states that “last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born”.  The KJV uses the words “born out of season”.   All of the other people that Paul mentions who saw Jesus alive after His death saw him before He ascended into Heaven.  Paul saw Him well after the ascension.   For this reason Paul says that he was “abnormally born”, or “born late”.  By saying this, Paul includes himself as part of the group who originally saw the resurrected Christ.  Even though he was born late, He is no less important or valuable than those who were born early. 


When Paul uses the word "lastly" here that might suggest that he indeed was the last of the original apostles, that special group of apostles.  We know that there were other apostles in New Testament times, but the original, including Paul were special.  I'm not sure that Paul would have used the word "lastly" if there wasn't a distinction between the original apostles and other apostles.  Paul clearly ranks himself with the original apostles, yet as one being born out of season.  


Some believe that after Judas killed himself, and when the eleven drew lots to choose his successor  that this was a mistake on their part.  These people would believe that Paul was the one who really took Judas’ place in the twelve. They would use these verses in chapter 15 to help solidify their thinking. 


Paul feels that he was “the least of the apostles”, not because he was born out of season but because he persecuted Christians.  Yet in verse 10 he says, “yet by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect”.  This is all that anyone can say.  If we have achieved anything in the Lord, it is all by His grace and His grace alone.  Paul puts no confidence in his abilities.  He puts all his confidence in the grace of God.  And God’s grace was not without effect.  God’s grace in his life was not in vain. 


Paul says that “he worked harder than all of them”.  Who is he talking about here?  He is talking about Peter, James and the rest of the apostles.  What he is saying is most likely true.  It would seem from Scripture, although each man had his calling, Paul was hard at work, more than the rest.  Yet he claims that it really wasn’t him doing the work.  He was driven and motivated by the grace of God.  God showed grace towards Paul and as a result God’s grace drove Paul in his ministry. 


Yet “whether it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what we believe”. (ch.15:11)  After saying what he just said, unless it sounds like boasting, Paul concludes that it really doesn’t matter.  Whether the gospel was preached by him or the others, the gospel was preached and believed.  That was the important thing.  This is how Paul always thinks.  He puts himself  last.  He always puts the gospel first.  



The Resurrection Of The Dead (ch. 15:12 - 34)


It appears by what Paul says in verse 12 that some of the Corinthians believed that there was no such thing as the resurrection from the dead.  I am sure that Paul left this subject to the end of his letter because the other issues that he addressed were somewhat secondary to this problem.  The fact that Christians and non-Christians alike would be resurrected was key to the gospel.  Of course those who do not believe in Jesus will be resurrected to eternal damnation.  We all will be resurrected, just to different places.  Sometimes Christians speak as if only the saved will be resurrected, but that's not so. 


Our resurrection as Christians is important to the gospel because it is based on the fact that Jesus Himself was resurrected from the dead.  Paul says in verse 14 “that if there is no resurrection from the dead, then not even Christ was resurrected”.  Then he says that “if Christ has not been resurrected then our preaching is useless and  so is your faith”.  Paul is saying that if you don’t believe there will be a future resurrection of the saints, then how can you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, and they clearly did believe that.  Paul is saying that there is no logic to their thinking.  If they were correct, then Paul's way of life and his preaching is useless, one big mistake, one big waste.  And furthermore, the Corinthians faith is useless as well.  Once again, their logic is not sound. 


Besides this, Paul says that if Christ has not been raised then all who have preached, including himself  “are false witnesses to God”.  They are spreading lies about God and His ways. 


Paul’s logic goes like this.  If you believe that there is no resurrection from the dead, then Christ Himself could not be raised.  If this is the case, then our preaching is in vain, our faith is in vain, we all are still lost in our sin, and those who have already died in Christ are lost as well.  


If you don't accept a physical resurrection from the dead, then there is no logic in believing that Jesus rose from the dead.  There's also no logic in believing that He died, or even came to earth in the first place, because His message was an eternal message.  John 3:16 says it clearly, "believe and you will inherit eternal life'.  If there is no resurrection of the dead, there is no eternal life, and what Jesus said was wrong, and that means Jesus was not who He says He was.  So, to believe in no resurrection of the dead is to be illogical.    


Some Corinthians most likely believed that Christ and the gospel was good for this life alone, so Paul says in verse 19, “if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men”.  Do you see what Paul is saying here?  The gospel and what Jesus has done for us extends way beyond this life.  If it didn’t, it would not be worth it.  Obviously for Paul this would be extra true since he gave his life for the sake of the gospel.  He laid down worldly joy and satisfaction in order to spread the good news.  Paul lived an extremely hard and difficult life and so he would naturally say that if the gospel did not extend into the next life, he would be pitied.  It would have been better for Paul to have just enjoyed himself instead of suffering all that he did, if that was the case.  


To me, in the last few decades of the 20th century much has been spoken about the Kingdom of God in the here and now.  Much has been taught about the “good life” we have in Christ now.  The “abundant life” that Jesus speaks about in John 10 is interpreted in many areas of the church as being for now.  This way of thinking has excluded the importance of the next life.  It stresses the present reality of the Kingdom of God almost to the exclusion of the reality of the Heavenly Kingdom to come, when in fact this life is like a brief breath when compared to eternity.  This is what Paul is getting at.  Eternity is more important to Paul than this life.  That is why he could lay aside the joys of this life.  He knew he would be resurrected to a much better life.  


In verse 20 Paul asserts that “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead”.  The Corinthian logic was faulty.  Paul simply states the fact here that Jesus was resurrected. Not only that, but He is the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep”.  This means that Jesus was the first of many who would  be resurrected. 


Paul introduces Adam into his argument at this point.  He says that “in Adam all died”.  This means that because of Adam’s sin, all experienced death in all of its fullness.  In like manner then, “in Christ all will be made alive”. (ch. 15:22)  Paul himself is attempting to be logical in his argument.  One man caused us all to die, and one man can cause us to live into eternity. 


In verse 23 Paul says “but each in his own turn…”  By this he means that first Jesus was raised, then when He returns at the end of the age, those who belong to Jesus will be raised as well.  Note the word “belong”. 


Paul is speaking of a time line here in verses 23 to 28.  First Jesus returns.  He takes those who belong to Him.  He “destroys all dominion, authority and power”, both satanic and  worldly.  He then destroys the last enemy which is death.  Then after all of this is completed He hands the Kingdom of God over to His Father and He Himself will become subject to God.  Jesus’ pre-eminence  in the universe will end and God the Father’s pre-eminence will take over again. 


Note verse 25.  It says, “He (Jesus) must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet”.  This verse is very similar to Acts 3:20 that says, “He (Jesus) must remain in Heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything…”   Right now God the Father is secondary to  Jesus in the universe.  Acts 2:36 says that God has made Jesus “both Lord and Christ”.  Jesus is the Lord of all there is by God’s sovereign choice. Jesus must remain Lord, must remain in Heaven, must reign until God  restores everything, which would include having victory over death, the final enemy.  


Verse 25 states that Jesus "must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet".  I ask.  "When will this take place'?  A quick reading of the book of Revelation clearly shows that all enemies don't get taken care of until the end of the thousand year rule or reign of Christ on earth.  All of Jesus' enemies aren't dealt with at His return.  Satan isn't finally dealt with until the end of the book of Revelation.  Therefore, I believe the "reigning" spoken of here in verse 25 is in reference to Jesus reigning on earth for one thousand years.   


All things are not restored until the last enemy being death is conquered.  At that time all things are restored and Jesus hands all things back over to His Father’s care and authority, and Jesus Himself will sit at the feet of God the Father.  This will take place at the end of the thousand years of Jesus' rule on earth. 


Acts 3:20 is the key Scripture that Restoration  Theology uses to base their thinking on.  If I am therefore correct in my thinking, and especially how Acts 3:20 can be linked to  1Cor. 15, then Restoration Theology is incorrect. 


In verse 27 Paul makes one thing clear and that is that when he says everything will be put under Christ’s feet, that does not include God Himself.  Paul goes on to say in verse 28 that when all things are put under Christ’s feet then “the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put everything under Him (Jesus), so that God may be all in all”. (so that God may have the pre-imminence  in the universe)  


In verses 20 to 28 Paul tells the Corinthians his view on future events.  In verse 29 he returns to refuting their argument that there is no resurrection.  Apparently some of the Corinthians water baptized people for those already dead.  He says that if there is no resurrection “what will those do who are baptized for the dead”?  Once again, their logic fails.  If they don’t believe that there will be a future resurrection, why are they performing proxy baptisms for dead people.  It makes no sense.  The dead are dead and gone, never to exist again.  Why would anyone even consider being baptized for dead people?  


Furthermore in verse 30, if there is no resurrection, “why do we endanger ourselves every hour”, Paul asks.  He says, “I die every day – I mean that” (ch. 15:31)  Paul lives a hard life.  He considered it like a daily death.  And he said, “I mean that”, or as I would say, “I really mean that guys”.  One of the hardships he faced was fighting “wild beasts” he said, and if he did that for “human reasons” alone, he has gained absolutely nothing.  He is trying to impress on his readers that there is a future resurrection.  If there wasn’t, then his life is wasted. 


Paul goes as far to say that if there is no resurrection I might as well stop preaching the gospel and “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”.  The same for us.  If there is no resurrection, why are we laying aside all the pleasures of this life.  We might as well eat, drink, party and live a carefree life.  It will make no difference in the end because once we die, it is all over.  The sad thing today is that many Christians are actually living as if there is no life after death, even though they believe differently.  Many Christians are caught up in the so-called good life on earth and ignoring the more important things of God. 


In verse 33 Paul says, “do not be misled, bad company corrupts good character. Come back to your senses as you ought and stop sinning”.  It would appear to me that those who believed that there was no future resurrection did eat and drink and most likely committed adultery.  Maybe the man who slept with his father’s wife thought this way.  Maybe those who got drunk in church thought this way.  


Paul says that “there are some who are ignorant”.  Some of these people indeed think and act this way, but there actions will have eternal consequences because there is a future resurrection of the dead, and what you do now makes a difference in eternity.  


Paul uses the word "ignorant" a number of times in his writings.  He's talking about not being educated in the truth when he uses this word.  This tells us how important it is to be educated in Biblical truth, but as I say over and over again, post-modern influence on Christianity is making people today "Biblically illiterate".  Paul would be totally disgusted with this trend.  


The Resurrection Body (ch. 15:35 - 58)



If you read and understand Paul’s letter to the Romans you will see that he is very good at presenting and defending his point of view.  He often anticipates questions that would be asked.  He therefore asks these questions in advance and then answers them before his reader can ask him personally.  


In verse 35 Paul anticipates the Corinthians asking, “how are the dead raised?  With what kind of body will they come”?   He has just tried to prove that there is a resurrection of the dead and so these questions would naturally be the next question to discuss. 


Before he answers this question he says, “how foolish”.  Even though he was the one who brought the question up, he asked it on their behalf.  He says the question is foolish, you should know better than to ask it.  


Paul relates the answer to planting a seed.  You plant a seed which will grow into something altogether different than the seed you plant.  You don’t plant a full grown tulip in order to have a tulip grow.  You plant a bulb, and from the bulb a tulip grows.  


A  seed has to be buried in the ground before it can grow into a plant.  Our earthly body when dead and buried becomes the seed for the new resurrected body.  With this in mind, Christians really do not have to fear death.  It is really the process of becoming someone new.  


Paul continues on by saying that “not all flesh is the same”. (ch. 15:39)  There is a difference between humans, animals, fish and birds.  This is quite obvious.  Once making the point that not all flesh is the same here on earth he then can make his second point.  That is, there is a difference between earthly bodies and heavenly bodies. Both earthly and heavenly bodies have their own “splendor”, or beauty as he puts it.  Even in lifeless things like the sun and moon and star, they all have their own beauty. 


As there is a difference between the splendor or beauty between the sun and moon so there is a difference between the beauty of our earthly body and our heavenly body.  Our earthly body “is sown” Paul says in verse 42.  Our earthly body is the seed that is planted.  It is in the process of “perishing” he says.  There is much talk in some circles today concerning living in perfect health if you can believe for that.  I don’t believe Paul believed in this kind of “hyper faith”.  He clearly points out that this body we are now in is in the process of perishing.  It is in the process of dying, this is God’s plan.  Yet once our perishing body is planted into the ground it will raise to an “imperishable” state.  It will never experience death again.  


There are some other comparisons that Paul makes between the two types of bodies.  Now, in this life, our bodies have a measure of “dishonour”.  Our bodies lend itself to sin and decay which is not very honourable, but this will not be the case in the next life.  Our bodies will be full of honour and “glory”. 


Our bodies are presently “weak” Paul says.  Yet when the resurrection comes our bodies will be full of “power”.  There will be no comparison to what we now have for a body.  Sin will no longer have control over our new bodies in the next life.  


Paul says that our bodies are “now natural”, but in the future we will have a “spiritual body”.  Just what this spiritual body might look like is somewhat  unclear, still Paul calls it a spiritual body.  I tend to think of this spiritual body in terms of the spiritual body that Jesus had after He rose from the dead.  


In verse 45 Paul brings Adam into the picture by quoting Gen. 2:7 that says, “the first man Adam became a living being”.  To this Paul adds, “the last Adam, a life giving spirit”.  Man was made from the dust of the earth and was a natural earthly man, but the new man, or last Adam (Jesus) is a “life giving spirit”, something altogether different.  Jesus is the first of this new man.  We will be like Him at a later date.   


Il quotes from the Genesis account as I've said when he uses the term "living being", (NIV) or, "living soul". (KJV)   The term "living soul" as used in Genesis 2:7 suggests that man is a soul.  All that comprises a man put together becomes a soul.   This was the Jewish way of viewing a man.  The Greeks defined man differently in later years.  Paul in 1 Tim. 5:23 uses the term, "spirit, soul, and body", as if to say that man is comprised of three parts which are, spirit, soul, and body.  Paul was thinking in terms of the Greek view of man here, not the Jewish view.  I'm not sure why Paul spoke this way, but I'm also not convinced that Paul viewed us as being the total sum of three parts.  Lots have been said about this over the years.  I'm not convinced to know what view is more correct.  I used to tend to lean towards us being made up of spirit, soul, and body, but now I lean more towards us being a soul.  


In verse 49 Paul says that we have “borne the likeness of the earthy man”, Adam.   In the resurrection we will “bare the likeness of the heavenly man”, Jesus Himself.  This is why I tend to think that our heavenly bodies will look like the body Jesus had after He rose from the dead.  But, this  assumes that His  body did not change into something different once passing through the clouds on his way to paradise.   


In verse 50 Paul states that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God ”.  Blood is that which gives us life in this age.  We will not need blood in our heavenly bodies.  You might remember Jesus saying after his resurrection  and “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as I do”.  Some say the resurrected body of Jesus is the type of body that we will have.  Jesus was recognizable.  He had flesh and bones.  He did not say He had flesh and blood.  His blood was shed on the cross.  Therefore after His resurrection, Jesus had flesh and bones, but no blood.  This is a little speculative but could possibly be true.  Anyway, Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God in the resurrection life.  Our bodies will be different when Resurrection Day comes.  It might be possible that spirit will take the place of blood in the next life.  It appears to me, and I certainly could be wrong, that our heavenly bodies will be spirit, with some kind of human like frame.   


Paul calls the resurrection a “mystery” in verse 51.  He says, , “we will not all sleep (or die) but will be changed…”  This change into our resurrected body will come at the “last trumpet” call.  This is in reference to the coming of our Lord Jesus. It is at that time that our perishable bodies will be changed in an imperishable and immortal body.  


When our bodies become new “death will be swallowed up”, (ch. 15:55)  The last enemy to be defeated by Jesus is death.  He will do this by giving all mankind eternal bodies.  Everyone will be raised, some for glory and some for damnation, some to live with Jesus, some to burn in the Lake of Fire .  


In verse 56 Paul says that “the sting of death is sin, and the power of death is the Law”.  This sounds like Paul’s letter to the Romans.  The Law has power over sin in that once we are told not to do something, it is our nature to do it anyway, and even do it more.  Once again, this is one of Paul’s main points in his letter to the Romans.   


Paul doesn’t leave us without hope when it comes to sin, death and the Law.  He says, “thanks be to God who gives us the victory”,  and this victory can only come “through our Lord Jesus Christ”. (ch. 15:57)  Like it or not, there is a measure of victorious living as Christians, even though we are in this mortal body.  


Paul concludes this chapter with an encouragement by telling them to “stand firm” and to keep working hard for the Lord, because their work “will not be in vain”.  The word “vain” is a word that Paul often uses.  He is always concerned about his life and work, that it is not in vain.  


When Paul speaks of work here, this tells me that he expected the Corinthians to work, as in, work in the service of the Lord.  They weren't just to be church attendees.  They might not have had to same work to do as he had, but work they had to do.  This is the same for us today.  We often think in terms in simply being a Christian, not working in the service of the Lord.    



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