Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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1 CORINTHIANS - Chapter 15

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1 Corinthians 15

Supplemental Commentary:


Christ's resurrection was difficult for pagans to believe.  When the Athenians heard it some began to sneer (Act 17, 32); Festus thought Paul mad when he spoke of it (Acts 26, 24).  At Corinth some questioned the fact of our resurrection, others also the resurrection of Christ (12).

15, 1-11:  Christ's Resurrection.    1.  Being saved: the process is continual from the first grace through perseverance to glory.    4.  According to the Scriptures: Christ's death is foretold in Isa. 53, 4-9; His burial and resurrection in Isa. 53, 9; Pss. 6, 3; 15, 10; Jonas 2, 1 f (cf. Matt. 12, 40).    5.  He appeared to Cephas: i.e, Simon Peter (Luke 24, 34).    6 f.  In the Gospels there is no specific mention of the apparition to the five hundred brethren nor of the one to James.  The accounts are nowhere complete.  The appeal to many living witnesses is forceful.    8.  Born out of due time as an apostle, a witness to the Resurrection (cf. 9, 1).  This may refer either to the fact that he was chosen before he was properly prepared, or to the fact that he was selected after Christ's earthly life during which the others received their mission.

15, 12-19:  The False Doctrine.  Paul sees an inseparable connection between the resurrection of Christ, our resurrection, faith, and the remission of sins.  (1)  If the dead do not rise neither has Christ risen: this is clear if resurrection is denied as a possibility; but Paul probably means that our life is one with Christ's, so that if we do not rise, it is because He has not risen.  (2) If Christ did not rise, our faith is vain, because the Resurrection is at once an object of faith and the strongest proof for the truth of faith, and the habit of faith is the beginning of life.  If the preaching of the Apostles was false in this, their claim to infallibility in the truths of faith is wrong.  (3) If Christ has not risen . . . you are still in your sins, because the Resurrection is the necessary triumphal complement of the death on the cross; if the resurrection of Christ does not give us eternal life, neither does the death of Christ save us from the death of sin.  Then Christians who sacrifice pleasure for future hopes are most to be pitied.  Cf. Rom. 4, 25.

15, 20-28:  Christ the First-fruits.    20-23.  Just as by being one with Adam, the physical and moral head of the human race, sin began in us and its principal punishment, death, so Christ, our new head, brings grace and life.  He as first-fruits has risen, bringing promise of the full harvest---our resurrection.    24-28.  Although Christ has merited the subjection of all evil, not all things will be subjected to Him till the end of the world (Heb. 2, 8), when the last enemy, death, will be destroyed and proper order restored (cf. 11, 3).

15, 29-34:  Practical Faith.  Christians show by their actions that they believe in a future life.    (a) 29.  Baptism for the dead, received by substitution without sacramental value for a dead catechumen who had been baptized only in desire.    (b) 30 f.  Paul's sacrifices show hope of a future life.    32.  Fought with beasts: probably not to be taken literally of being thrown to the beasts, because it was forbidden to inflict this punishment on a Roman citizen.  Paul was now suffering strong opposition at Ephesus (cf. 16, 9; Acts 19, 13-40).    33.  This proverb counteracts the slogan of the worldly given in the previous verse.

15, 35-44a:  The Mode of the Resurrection.  One reason for objecting to the resurrection of the body was the difficulty of understanding how a corrupted or corruptible body would rise to an incorruptible life (35).  Paul does not pretend to explain exactly the manner of the resurrection, but he shows by comparison how this objection does not disprove the fact.    37 f.  The seed in the ground dies and yet produces a body which, though different, is one with the seed: wheat seed produces  only the wheat plant, rye seed only the rye plant, etc.  The same applies to various kinds of animal flesh (39).  This variety of plants and animals and also of the heavenly bodies (40 f), each with its individual characteristics reflecting the divine glory, points to the omnipotence of God who can surely change our bodies from corruption to incorruption, from an instrument of sin to a sharing in the divine glory (42 f).  God can do this in such a way that the spiritual body is in some way identical with the natural body (44a).

15, 44b-49:  The Natural and the Spiritual Body.    45.  Paul again contrasts the first head of the human race, Adam, with the final head, Christ.  Using the words of Gen. 2, 7, Adam became a soul, but Christ became a spirit.  In Paul's terminology the "soul" (like the flesh) represents the natural man in his weakness, "spirit" the man elevated by grace which is the seed of glory (cf. 2, 10-16).  While Adam is living, Christ is life-giving.  At the Resurrection the spirit of Christ, i.e., His grace, became life-giving, continuously generating His life of grace in us.    47-49.  As we naturally resemble our father who came ultimately from the earth, so also we must resemble our heavenly Father whose life is mirrored by Christ who came from heaven (Matt. 5, 48; John 14, 8 f).    49.  Some manuscripts give let us bear as a statement of fact: "we shall bear."

15, 50-58:  Final Glory of the Body.    51.  As this reads it would mean that although all shall rise, not all shall be changed to glory, for the wicked shall rise only for continued punishment.  This is scarcely a mystery (a secret of God).  The reading in most Greek manuscripts better fits the context: "We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed."    52.  This is connected with "we shall all be changed."  It shall be done quickly.  Trumpet signifies metaphorically a signal, or sign, (the voice of Christ, John 5, 28; the voice of an archangel, 1 Thess. 4, 16).    55.  O death, where is thy sting: some understand this as the sting that causes death, others take it better of the sting by which death hurts us.    56.  Sin and death go together (Rom. 5, 12) but it is only sin that can hurt us permanently.  The Law by pointing out sin without giving strength to resist it, tended to increase sin (Rom. 7, 13 ff).

Confraternity Bible:

Christ's Resurrection  1 Now I recall to your minds, brethren, the gospel that I preached to you, which also you received, wherein also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold it fast, as I preached it to you---unless you have believed to no purpose.  3 For I delivered to you first of all, what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and after that to the Eleven.  6 Then he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at one time, many of whom are with us still, but some have fallen asleep.  7 After that he was seen by James, then by all the apostles.  8 And last of all, as by one born out of due time, he was seen also by me.  9 For I am the least of the apostles, and am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.  10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace in me has not been fruitless---in fact I have labored more than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.  11 Whether then it is I or they, so we preach, and so you have believed.

The False Doctrine  12 Now if Christ is preached as risen from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ risen; 14 and if Christ has not risen, vain then is our preaching, vain too is your faith.  15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses as to God, in that we have borne witness against God that he raised Christ---whom he did not raise, if the dead do not rise.  16 For if the dead do not rise, neither has Christ risen; 17 and if Christ has not risen, vain is your faith, for you are still in your sins.  18 Hence they also who have fallen asleep in Christ, have perished.  19 If with this life only in view we have had hope in Christ, we are of all men the most to be pitied.

Christ the First-fruits  20 But as it is, Christ has risen from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  21 For since by a man came death, by a man also comes resurrection of the dead.

22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made to live.  23 But each in his own turn, Christ as first-fruits, then they who are Christ's, who have believed, at his coming.  24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when he does away with all sovereignty, authority and power.  25 For he must reign, until "he has put all his enemies under his feet."  26 And the last enemy to be destroyed will be death, for "he has put all things under his feet."  But when he says 27 all things are subject to him, undoubtedly he is excepted who has subjected all things to him.  28 And when all things are made subject to him, then the Son himself will also be made subject to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all.

Practical Faith  29* Else what shall they do who receive Baptism for the dead?  If the dead do not rise at all, why then do people receive Baptism for them?  30 And we, why do we stand in jeopardy every hour?  31 I die daily, I affirm it, by the very pride that I take in you, brethren, in Christ Jesus our Lord.  32 If, as men do, I fought with beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me?  If the dead do not rise, "let us eat and drink for tomorrow we shall die."  33* Do not be led astray, "evil companionships corrupt good morals."  34 Awake as you should, and do not sin; for some have no knowledge of God.  To your shame I say so.

The Mode of the Resurrection  35 But someone will say, "How do the dead rise?  Or with what kind of body do they come?  36 Senseless man, what thou thyself sowest is not brought to life, unless it dies.  37 And when thou sowest, thou dost not sow the body that shall be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or something else.  38 But God gives it a body even as he has willed, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.  39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but here is one flesh of man, another of beasts, another of birds, another of fishes.  40 There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but of one kind is the glory of the heavenly, of another kind the glory of the earthly.  41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.  42  So also with the resurrection of the dead.  What is sown in corruption rises in incorruption; 43 What is sown in dishonor rises in glory; what is sown in weakness rise in power; 44 what is sown a natural body rises a spiritual body.

The Natural and the Spiritual Body  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  45 So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  46 But it is not the spiritual that comes first, but the physical, and then the spiritual.  47 The first man was of the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven, heavenly.  48 As was the earthy man, such also are the earthy; and as is the heavenly man, such also are the heavenly.  49 Therefore, even as we have borne the likeness of the earthy, let us bear also the likeness of the heavenly.

Final Glory of the Body  50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood can obtain no part in the kingdom of God, neither shall corruption have any part in incorruption.  51* Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall all indeed rise, but we shall not all be changed--- 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise incorruptible and we shall be changed.  53 For this corruptible body must put on incorruption, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  54 But when this mortal body puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the word that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory! 55 O death, where is thy victory?  O death, where is thy sting?"

56 Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law.  57 But thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.


29: From this it seems that the Christians were accustomed to receive Baptism externally as substitutes for the catechumens who had received it only in desire.  It did not have sacramental effect, but was tolerated as being the performance of an act the catechumens desired but could not themselves receive.  It showed a belief in the Resurrection.

33: Quotation taken from "Thais," a play by Menander.

51: The meaning would be that while those who are living at the last day will not die, they must undergo the change spoken of in the previous verses, from the natural body to the spiritual body.