1 Corinthians 15 Study Notes


15:1-58 This chapter represents the most comprehensive discussion of resurrection in the Bible.

15:1-2 Paul wants to make clear in the sense of reminding them. They are being saved by the gospel. Like the kingdom, salvation has both an “already” and a “not yet” quality to it. Salvation is a process in that it requires the continuity of belief, which is assured for those whose faith is genuine and not in vain.

15:3-4 These verses recount the basic gospel message as Paul delivered it in town after town.

15:5-11 Early Christian evangelists validated the certainty of Jesus’s resurrection by recounting his post-tomb appearances to authoritative eyewitnesses (e.g., Ac 2:32). Paul refers to himself as one born at the wrong time due to his late arrival in the chain of eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection (Ac 9:1-6).

15:12 Though it is uncertain what caused some Corinthian believers to deny the resurrection of the dead, Greeks viewed bodily death as final, with some saying the spirit survived disembodied. This view likely influenced the church at Corinth.

15:13-15 If Christ were not raised, then apostolic preaching of the resurrection was in vain, the Corinthians’ faith was void, and the apostles were false witnesses. “Faith” here refers to the content of the gospel message and is synonymous with “system of beliefs.”

15:16 A restatement, in reverse order, of the implications of the Corinthian skepticism regarding resurrection.

15:17-18 Christ’s resurrection is essential for our salvation. It is God’s “amen” to Christ’s “it is finished.” If Christ is not raised, death has not been conquered.

15:19 Christians should be pitied more than anyone if there is no resurrection, for in that case we have placed all our hopes in a falsehood. Christianity is fundamentally a resurrection faith.

15:20 Christ’s genuine, well-attested resurrection is the guarantee of our future resurrection. Firstfruits refers to the guarantee that Christ’s resurrection is the first-of-a-kind resurrection that promises others will follow in the end time (cp. Rm 8:23, where “firstfruits” can be translated “guarantee,” “first installment”). In this instance the phrase who have fallen asleep refers specifically to those who have died in Christ. For more general usage of “fallen asleep,” see note at 11:30-32.

15:21-22 Paul presents a parallel of necessary effects. Through one man, Adam, death came to humanity. If this is ever to be reversed, it must be done through like kind: a man. God has appointed just such a man: Jesus Christ, who is fully divine and fully human. Through his resurrection the promise of resurrection comes to a new humanity “in Christ.” The second occurrence of the word all refers to all those who are joined to Christ through faith.

15:23 Jesus’s resurrection precedes and makes certain the resurrection of those who belong to Christ at his coming.

15:24-28 The Son as the resurrected Messiah will conquer and subdue everything, including the last enemy—death. By saying he must reign, Paul touches on the set-in-stone divine plan assuring us that history will end in just this way: with God triumphant over all evil and God’s people reigning with Christ forever (1Tm 2:12).

15:29 Being baptized for the dead probably refers to the practice, apparently unique to the Corinthian church, of someone undergoing baptism on behalf of a believer who had died without undergoing baptism. Paul was not condoning this practice, and certainly Scripture nowhere directs us to conduct such baptisms. Paul simply pointed out that it was meaningless for the Corinthians to enact such practices if they disbelieved in the resurrection of the dead.


Greek pronunciation [ahp ahr KAY]
CSB translation firstfruits
Uses in 1 Corinthians 3
Uses in the NT 8
Focus passage 1 Corinthians 15:20,23

In ancient Greek, aparchē was often used in connection with the beginning of an event and was the formal term for birth certificate. In the Greek OT, aparchē was the term for firstfruits. The Israelites were to bring the firstfruits of their harvest to the priests to be presented before the Lord (Ex 23:16-29; Lv 23:9-14).

In the NT, aparchÄ“ refers figuratively to people as firstfruits in seven of eight occurrences (Rm 11:16 excepted). Twice Paul used aparchÄ“ in reference to the believers who were the first converts of a certain province (Rm 16:5; 1Co 16:15). A special group of believers in the end times are also called firstfruits (Rv 14:4). Believers receive the Spirit as the firstfruits of salvation (Rm 8:23), and this occurs through the power of God’s word (Jms 1:18). In discussing the resurrection, Paul referred to Christ as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1Co 15:20). Since Christ was the first to arise from the dead (v. 23), his resurrection is the basis for the resurrection of all believers.

15:30-31 “His point, of course, is that he is indeed crazy to put his life in constant jeopardy for the sake of others, if neither he nor they have hope in the resurrection” (Gordon D. Fee).

15:32 Wild beasts is almost certainly metaphorical for struggles Paul faced from human opponents of the gospel (Ac 19; 2Co 1:8-10).

15:33-34 “Bad company corrupts good morals” is a quote from the poet Menander. According to Paul “bad company” refers to those who deny the resurrection.

15:35-38 Paul compares human resurrection to the life-death-life cycle from agriculture. The seed body that dies gives rise to a totally different plant body, and yet there is retention of identity. So it is with our present bodies and our future resurrection bodies.

15:39-41 Paul elaborates here on the last part of v. 38.

15:42-44 Having reviewed differentiations within the created order (vv. 35-41), Paul turns to differentiations of the resurrected body. It was sown in corruption and will be raised in incorruption. The body changes from a perishable body (a natural body) to an imperishable body (a spiritual body), though one that has physical characteristics (e.g., Lk 24:39). It is sown in dishonor and weakness, and it will be raised a glorious, imperishable body.

15:45 The first man Adam received the breath of life, a life that would become corruptible and perishable. In contrast, the last Adam (Jesus) will impart life, granting believers an incorruptible, imperishable, eternal body.

15:46 Grammatically, the words the spiritual (Gk pneumatikon) and the natural (Gk psuchikon) are in the neuter gender. They refer to two kinds of bodies (cp. v. 44) and not to Adam or Christ. “Spiritual” (pneumatikon) here refers to a body brought to life by the last Adam, Christ.

15:47-49 Paul contrasts the first man Adam and those who have borne his image with the second man and those who will bear his image. The first man was made of earth (Gk choikos, “earthy”), an expression Paul coined in allusion to Gn 2:7. This language emphasizes the transitory nature of those who are related to the first Adam, with bodies that return to dust. The “second man” from heaven refers to Jesus in his glorified humanity, as God-man and Messiah, who is coming from heaven to impart imperishable eternal bodies to those who have borne the image of the man of dust.

15:50 Our earthly condition is such (flesh and blood and corruption, references to our perishable physical nature) that our Adamic bodies cannot inherit the kingdom, implying that they somehow must be changed.

15:51-53 Paul supports the above implication (v. 50) with an apostolic revelation that though not everyone will die (fall asleep; see note at v. 20) before Christ’s coming, those who are alive when he comes will all be changed. No one is transported to the eternal state unchanged.

15:52 In a moment (Gk atomos) signifies the smallest possible division of something, in this case time. Twinkling of an eye similarly implies rapidity. Such will be the swiftness of the transformation of the living when the last trumpet sounds at Christ’s return (1Th 4:16-17).

15:53 The body that bears the image of the man of dust (the first Adam) must inevitably be changed into the incorruptibility and immortality of the body that bears the image of the man from heaven (the second Adam); see vv. 47-49 and note there.

15:54-55 Paul conflates Is 25:8 and Hs 13:14 in this citation. The exchange of corruptible for incorruptibility comes only when death and corruption are swallowed up by Jesus Christ. This passage does not teach the doctrine of “soul sleep”—a suspended state for believers between physical death and the change into glorified bodies. Believers are with the Lord immediately after death (e.g., Lk 23:43; Ac 7:55-59; 2Co 5:1-8).

15:56 This verse represents a theological aside that Paul developed further in a letter he wrote some months after this present one (see Rm 7).

15:57 Christ brings not only victory over death in the resurrection but also victory over sin that leads to death.

15:58 Almost anything we do in this life is vanity (Ec 1:2-3), but labor in the Lord has eternal value.