1 Corinthians 15



The Resurrection of Christ (15:1-11)

1-2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word. To believe means to hold firmly to the word, that is, to Christ. It means to remain in Christ (John 15:4-6). It means to continue in [God’s] kindness (Romans 11:22). If we do not believe in this way, then we have believed in vain.

If we do not remain in Christ, there will be no spiritual fruit in our lives. If there is no fruit, that means our faith is dead (see James 2:14,17 and comment). If our faith is “dead,” then surely we will have believed in vain (verse 2). Man cannot be saved by a faith that is dead!

True faith is a very deep thing. How easily we say: “I believe,” but have no real faith. Let us always remember that true faith means to remain in Christ. If we do not remain in Christ, our faith will be lost—and so will we.

3 In verses 3-4, Paul briefly summarizes the Gospel which he has preached to them (verse 1). According to the Scriptures,56 Christ died for our sins (Isaiah 53:1-12). He bore our punishment; and through His sacrif ice—that is, through His death—we receive forgiveness for our sins (see Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 2:24 and comments).

4 But Christ did not die and remain buried like other men. His body remained in a tomb for three days, and then He rose from the dead. He came to life again. The tomb in which He had been buried was found empty! This is a fact of history. Because Jesus Christ rose from the dead—that is, because of His resurrection—we know that He is the living God. And because He rose from the dead, we know that He has the power to raise us from the dead also, and to give us eternal life (see Romans 8:11; Ephesians 2:4-7).

This is why Christ’s resurrection is so important. If Christ had remained lifeless in the tomb, our faith would be worthless. of what use to us is a dead Savior? (verse 14). For this reason let the whole world know that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! He has conquered both sin and death.57 He has obtained the victory; and through Him, we too have obtained victory over sin and death (verses 54-56).

According to the Scriptures, Jesus was raised on the third day (Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 53:10-12). Being raised on the third day is mentioned in the Old Testament book of Jonah (Jonah 1:17). The prophet Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. Jonah remained in the fish’s stomach for three days. Then on the third day, the fish vomited Jonah up, and Jonah was saved. In Matthew 12:38-42, Jesus compares Himself with Jonah.

From the beginning, Christ knew that He would die and then be raised from the dead on the third day. At least three times He told His disciples in advance what was going to happen to Him (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34).

5 How do we know for sure that Jesus rose from the dead? First of all, we know it because of the empty tomb. But the empty tomb in itself is not sufficient proof, because someone could argue that Jesus’ body was not raised but stolen! (see Matthew 28:11-15). The greatest proof that Jesus rose from the dead is the fact that after His death He appeared to men.

Among the disciples, Jesus appeared first to Peter (Cephas), His chief disciple (Luke 24:33-34). Then Jesus appeared to all of His disciples together (Matthew 28:16; John 20:19). He did not appear in a vision or a dream; He appeared in His own body—His risen transformed body (see Luke 24:36-39; John 20:24-28).

6 Even having said this much, it could still be argued by an unbeliever that Jesus’ twelve disciples were lying, that they had simply made up this story about Jesus’ resurrection. But the five hundred people mentioned in this verse who saw the risen Jesus with their own eyes could not have been lying. How could so many people have invented such a story and then stuck with it? That many people could never have agreed on what to say if their story had been false. No, what all those people reported was the truth: they had indeed seen the risen Jesus with their own eyes! Jesus had appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time—and that didn’t even include women and children. And twenty years later, when Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, most of those five hundred witnesses were still alive. If Jesus had, in fact, not risen from the dead, Paul could not have written these words; there were too many people still around who would have called him a liar! And if anyone doubted Paul’s word, there were all these witnesses to go to in order to check out Paul’s story. Paul would never have dared to lie in this way—even if he had wanted to. No, Jesus’ resurrection is an absolutely true and proven fact of history. Indeed, in all the history of the world there has never been a greater or more important event than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul says here that a few among those five hundred brothers have fallen asleep. Notice that when believers in Christ die, they don’t really die; they just “go to sleep.” And after they have “slept” for a while, they will be awakened (see 1 Thessa-lonians 4:13-18).

7 Jesus also appeared to James, His own brother, who later became the main leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). He also wrote the New Testament letter called “James.” At first James had not believed in Jesus (John 7:5). But after Jesus’ resurrection, James and Jesus’ other younger brothers believed in Him (Acts 1:14).

Jesus also appeared to all the apostles. Here Paul means not only the original twelve apostles (disciples), but also other leaders of the Jerusalem church who became known as apostles.

8 After His resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for forty days, during which time He appeared to all the people mentioned above. Then He ascended into heaven. Only after Jesus ascended did He appear to Paul. This is why Paul says here that last of all [Christ] appeared to me also (see Acts 9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18).

Paul says he was like one abnormally born. According to the context, Paul was born “late,” because Christ appeared to him last of all. But Paul actually writes here that he was like one born suddenly “before” the proper time; that’s the meaning of the Greek expression Paul uses. That is, he was born “prematurely.” And just as a premature baby cannot be considered a normal baby, so Paul is saying that he cannot be considered a normal apostle—that is, he does not deserve to be called an apostle (verse 9). And the main reason Paul does not deserve to be called an apostle is because he persecuted the church of God (verse 9).

From verse 8 we can see the sign or stamp of a true apostle. Most of the apostles58 saw the risen Christ with their own eyes, and from this experience they received a special inspiration and compulsion to go out into the world and witness to Christ and preach the Gospel.

So far, we have discussed two proof s that Jesus indeed rose from the dead, that His resurrection is indeed a historical fact: one, His tomb was empty; and two, He appeared to many people after His death. There is also a third proof, and this proof comes from the lives of Jesus’ twelve disciples (apostles). Recall, at Jesus’ arrest, His disciples all fled and hid (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50). They were filled with fear. Their leader had died. Now they were afraid that the Roman soldiers would come looking for them and put them to death too. Therefore, they hid in a house and locked the door (John 20:19).

But then what happened to those disciples? Somehow their lives were dramatically changed. One moment, they were filled with fear; the next moment they were fearless. One moment, they were hiding; the next moment they were out witnessing to Christ! And in Paul’s case, one moment he was persecuting the church; the next moment he was preaching the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire. What happened to these men to change their lives so amazingly? There is only one answer possible: the risen Christ had appeared to them. And not only that, after Christ had ascended to heaven, He sent to them the Holy Spirit, from whom they received the power to be His witnesses throughout the whole world (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4,14,41).

Finally, there is a fourth proof of Christ’s resurrection. For almost two thousand years millions upon millions of Christians have themselves experienced through the Holy Spirit the presence and power of the risen Christ. Let us ask ourselves: Is the risen Christ alive in us? if so, we are the greatest proof of all that Jesus has truly risen from the dead!

9 Paul could never forget how he persecuted Christ’s church in the beginning (Acts 8:3; 9:1-2; 22:4-5; 26:9-11; Galatians 1:13). That is why he says he doesn’t deserve to be called an apostle.

10 Even though Paul calls himself the least of the apostles (verse 9), still he was a true apostle. He spoke to the churches with the full authority of an apostle (1 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1). But Paul also says that it was solely by God’s grace and mercy that he became an apostle (see Gal-atians 1:15-16). Not only that, God’s grace was continuing to work in Paul’s life. Paul had worked harder than all of them—that is, harder than all the other apostles. But Paul’s great works had not really been done by him, but rather by the grace of God working in him (see Galatians 2:20).

11 However, says Paul, no matter who does the preaching, the Gospel is one. And for all who believe this Gospel, it is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18).

The Resurrection of the Dead (15:12-34)

12 Because we know that Christ has been raised from the dead, we know that the dead will be raised also.

Some of the Corinthians did not believe in the RESURRECTION of the dead. Most Greeks believed that only man’s spirit went to heaven. They believed that after death the body was completely destroyed forever. But Paul says here that that belief is false; because, when Jesus rose from the dead, His body rose too.

13-14 And if Christ has not been raised (verse 14), then where is the power of the Gospel to save us? The power doesn’t exist. And if the power of the Gospel doesn’t exist, then our faith is useless.

But because Christ has indeed risen from the dead, we know with certainty that He is God. We know that He is the living Lord. We know that His teaching is true. We can put our complete faith in Him. And our faith is not useless, because through our faith we too shall receive that same power which raised Christ from the dead and seated Him with God in heaven (see Ephe-sians 1:19-21).

15-17 And if Christ has not been raised … you are still in your sins (verse 17). To be in your sins means to be condemned, to be unsaved (Ephesians 2:1,4-5). It is because Christ has risen from the dead and conquered sin that He is able to save us from our sins. Christ’s resurrection is the proof of His power to save men.

18 If there is no resurrection, then those believers who have diedare lost indeed.They will remain buried. Their faith will have been a hoax! (see 1 Thessalonians 4:14).

19 If there is no hope of being resurrected after death, then Christians are certainly to be the most pitied of all men. After suffering abuse and persecution in this life, they then would have no hope of reward in the next. Rather, it would be better not to be a Christian!

However, in verse 20, Paul says: But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. Let the Corinthians not doubt it. Because the resurrection of Christ is their hope—and ours (1 Peter 1:3).

20 Christ was the first man to rise from the dead. Therefore, Paul calls Him the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Because He rose from the dead, all Christians will also rise. They will be the “later” fruits (verse 23).

According to the Old Testament, the Jews of fered the firstfruits of every harvest to God. By means of that of fering, the rest of the harvest was made holy (Leviticus 23:914). Therefore, we can understand from this that Christ is the “firstfruits” of the harvest—that is, the church; and that through the of fering of His body, the church is made holy.

21-22 Death came through Adam, the first man. In the same way, the resurrection of the body—or redemption of the body (Romans8:23)—camethroughJesusChrist. Because of Adam’s sin, all men are born sinners and are condemned to die (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6; Romans 3:9-10). Because of Christ’s righteousness, all who are in Christ (verse 22)—that is, believers—will be made righteous and receive eternal life (see John 11:25-26; Romans 5:12,15-19; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 and comments).

23 According to this verse, we believers will be raised up when he (Christ) comes—that is, at the end of the world.

24-25 When Christ comes again, He will destroy all the dominion, authority and power of evil, both in heaven and on earth (see Psalm 110:1; Mark 13:26; Ephesians 1:20-23; Philippians 2:9-11 and comments).

After conquering all His enemies, Christ will hand over His kingdom to God (verse 24); that is, He will give back to God all the authority which God had given Him (Matthew 28:18). Then, at that point, the world will end.

According to these verses, then, the end of the world will be like this. First, Christ will come again. Then Christ will reign until all His enemies are destroyed. Then all believers in Christ will be raised. After that, the world will end.

26 How will Christ “destroy” death? The answer is this: through the resurrection of the body. When believers die, they don’t really die but rather “go to sleep.” At the end of the world, we shall be “wakened up.” That is when death will finally be destroyed. Thus, for believers, death has lost its sting (verses 55-56). From now on we need not fear, we need not despair.

27 Paul here quotes from Psalm 8:6. God has put everything (including death) under his (Christ’s) feet—that is, under Christ’s authority (see Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 2:6-9).

28 When all enemies are conquered—death, sin, Satan—then Christ will hand over His authority, His kingdom (verse 24), to God. And finally He will hand Himself over to God; He will make Himself subject to God. God has given to Christ all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Therefore, after His work is finished, Christ will give His authority back to God.

Christ’s entire purpose was to glorify God, so that God might be all in all (see Romans 11:36). This is the purpose of all creation—the creation of the world and the creation of each one of us—that God through the world and through us might be glorified, that He might be all in all (see Matthew 5:16; John 17:4; 14:12-13; Ephesians 1:12-13; Revelation 4:11).

29 This verse is difficult to understand. It’s possible that some of the Christians in the Corinthian church were taking baptism on behalf of believers who had died before they’d had a chance to be baptized. Nothing else is written about this custom in the Bible.59

If there is no resurrection, there is no point in taking baptism for someone who has died. It certainly won’t benefit the dead person!

30 If there is no resurrection, why should we Christians risk death? asks Paul. Rather, let us try to live as long as possible, because after we die there’ll be nothing to look forward to (see verse 14).

31 I die every day, says Paul. This can have two meanings. First, it can mean that Paul is ready to die every day. He endangers himself every hour (verse 30). He faces death all day long (Romans 8:36).

The second possible meaning is this: Paul’s old self is dying every day (Romans 6:6). That is, Paul is crucifying his old sinful self every day, so that he might live a righteous life. He is “denying himself’ and “taking up his cross daily” (Luke 9:23).

Paul “glories over” the Corinthians. They are his spiritual children, and like any father, he is proud of his children. But he glories over them in Christ Jesus. The Corinthian church was the fruit of Paul’s work in Christ; therefore, he is ready to die for them every day (see 1 Thessalonians 2:1920).

32 If there is no resurrection, why should we take risks for Christ? Paul had faced great risks in Ephesus.60 He had fought wild beasts. If he had done this for merely human reasons and not for spiritual reasons, he would have been foolish indeed. What would he have gained by becoming a meal for wild beasts!

Paul had suffered much at the hands of men. And according to this verse, he had even been forced to fight with wild animals. In the Roman Empire, one of the ways of executing criminals was to let lions eat them.

Here Paul quotes from Isaiah 22:13. “Let’s enjoy ourselves today, because tomorrow our life will end.” Even in Isaiah’s time, this was a common saying among worldly men, and it has been a common saying ever since. And indeed, if there is no reward in the next life, it makes sense to follow this saying and get all the advantage one can out of this life!

What is to be gained by dying for Christ? Paul asks here. What will be gained is the resurrection of the body and eternal life. Therefore, it is better not to run after the pleasures of this life, lest we lose the reward that awaits us in the next.

33 When Paul mentions “bad company” here, he is thinking mainly of those who deny the resurrection. Such people spend their lives eating and drinking and enjoying themselves. They are worldly; they love only the things of this world. Do not be misled by them. Do not associate with them, Paul advises, lest they corrupt your character.

But we believers seek our reward in heaven. Let us not be misled by those who say that the only rewards are here on earth.

34 Come back to your senses, Paul tells the Corinthians. Let the Corinthians not deny the resurrection. Let them not seek their reward in this life; to do so is a sin.

Those who deny the resurrection deny God’s promises; they are ignorant of God.

The Resurrection Body (15:35-58)

35 How can a dead body come to life again? the Corinthians asked. Does the corpse itself rise up out of the ground where it was buried?

36 Paul calls this a foolish question. Then he gives the illustration of a seed. When we plant a seed in the ground, it’s not the seed that rises up but a plant. That’s how our resurrected bodies will be.

When we plant a seed in the ground, we “bury” it—much as we bury a corpse. In a sense, the seed dies; it is destroyed. But then, a little later, new life arises out of that seed.

Our physical bodies are like that seed. Whether our bodies are burned or buried, it makes no dif ference. No matter what happens to our physical bodies, we shall receive new resurrected bodies.

It’s the same with our spiritual life. Like that seed, our old sinful self must die (see John 12:24; Romans 6:3-7 and comments). Only after that can we be spiritually reborn (John 3:3) and receive new spiritual life (Romans 8:11).

37-38 We are now like seeds. When we die, out of us will come a glorious resurrected body. Just as the plant is more glorious than the seed, so our resurrected body will be more glorious than our present body.

God will give each person a new body. God is the giver of both the seed and the plant. God is the Creator of every living thing; He is the source of all life. How can the Corinthians doubt that there is a resurrection? Every year they sow seeds and see new plants spring from the ground. If God can bring new life out of a tiny perishable seed, then He can surely bring new life out of our bodies.

39-41 There are many kinds of bodies, both heavenly and earthly (verse 40). Each kind of body has its own splendor. In the same way, each of our resurrected bodies will have its own splendor (verse 42).

42-44 Our present bodies are like seeds that will soon be sown in the ground—that is, burned or buried. A corpse is perishable (verse 42); it is characterized by dishonor and weakness (verse 43). Our new bodies will be imperishable; they will be characterized by glory and power.

Our new bodies will be spiritual (verse 44). What that means in detail is uncertain. For example, will we eat and drink in heaven? Christ ate and drank with His disciples after His own resurrection (Luke 24:39-43). What we do know for certain, however, is that our new bodies will never die (see John 6:40,63; 11:25-26).

45 The first Adam became a living being—that is, an ordinary earthly man (Genesis 2:7). The last Adam (Christ) became a life giving spirit—that is, a spiritual man (see John 5:21; 6:33-35). Christ was not only a spirit; He was also fully a man. Christ is God Himself, who came to earth in the form of a man (see General Article: Jesus Christ).

46 First we receive our natural bodies; afterward we receive our spiritual bodies.

47 Adam was made from the earth (Genesis 2:7). Christ was born of the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 1:18; John 6:33,38 and comments).

48-49 From Adam we receive our earthly body. From Christ we receive our heavenly body.

Now we are like Adam. After our resurrection, we shall be like Christ (see 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2 and comments).

50 Paul says that flesh and blood (that is, unbelieving earthly man) cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Unspiritual earthly man will not enter God’s kingdom; he will not be saved. Because in order to enter God’s kingdom, man must first be changed (verse 53). And in order to be changed, the first step is to be born anew of the Spirit (see John 3:3,5-6 and comment).

All who truly believe in Jesus Christ are born again spiritually. Even in this world we begin the process of being changed, because when we are born again, we receive new life through the Holy Spirit. As soon as we believe in Jesus, we receive eternal spiritual life which begins right here on earth. But we will receive our resurrected bodies only after Jesus comes again at the end of the world (verses 22-23). At that time we shall be fully changed. Now we have received the Holy Spirit as an advance of what is to come (see 2 Corinthians 1:2122; Ephesians 1:13-14). Later we shall receive our full inheritance: namely, the resurrection, or redemption of our bodies (see Romans 8:23 and comment).

There will be no redemption of the body for those who do not believe in Christ. For them there will be no resurrection in heaven. Their resurrection will be in hell (see John 5:29 and comment).

51 Here a new question arises. When Christ comes again, what will happen to the believers who are alive at that time? Will they be resurrected too? Yes, says Paul.

52 At the time of Christ’s second coming, the dead will be raised instantly—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye. And we (the believers living at that time) will be changed. For the dead, this is called a “resurrection.” For the living, it is called a “change.” But it’s really the same thing. When Christ comes, both the dead and the living will get new bodies. This will occur at the last trumpet (Revelation 11:15)—that is, at the end of the world (see Matthew 24:27; Mark 13:26-27; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).

Jesus Himself was changed for a short time while He was here on earth (see Mark 9:2-10). At Christ’s second coming, we shall be changed in the same way.

53-54 In these verses, Paul repeats the thought of verse 42.

When the dead are raised, then death will truly be defeated. Death will be swallowed up in victory (Isaiah 25:8).

55 Here Paul quotes from Hosea 13:14.

56 The sting of death is sin. Sin is like the sting of a hornet. It is sin that causes death, eternal death (see Romans 5:12; 6:23).

But Christ has removed the “sting,” because He has forgiven our sin and taken our punishment—that is, death (see Mark 10:45; John 1:29; Colossians 1:14; 1 John 1:7; 2:2; 3:5 and comments).

The power of sin is the law. Sin receives its power to cause death from the law, because the law condemns to death all who sin (Romans 7:10-11).

57 Because Christ was resurrected, we also shall be resurrected. Because Christ obtained victory over death, we also shall obtain victory over death—that is, forgiveness of sins and eternal life. … thanks be to God! (see Romans 7:24-25; 8:1-2,10-11 and comments).

58 Here Paul comes to the final and main point of this entire chapter: Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm … your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Why is our labor in the Lord not in vain? Because we shall obtain an eternal reward when our labor is finished: namely, the resurrection and redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23)—or, more simply, SALVATION.

But, remember, it is not by our labor that we are saved, but by grace (Ephesians 2:89). We don’t receive salvation because of our labor; we labor because of our salvation. We labor in gratitude for what Christ has done for us. And our reward is waiting for us in heaven.

Therefore, Paul says: Let nothing move you. Let us not be discouraged. Let us not be overwhelmed by trouble or sorrow or persecution. Because there is nothing that can overcome us—not even death (see Romans 8:35-39). God has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (verse 57). Hallelujah!