Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 15

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-4

The Gospel Received By the Corinthians

Paul reminded the Christians at Corinth of the good news, or gospel, they had accepted. The resurrection served as the very foundation upon which their hopes were built. Because Jesus died for their sins and God raised him again, their sins were washed away. The apostle assured them that so long as they remained faithful, they would gain heaven through that faith in God's resurrected Son, unless their faith was empty, or founded upon a myth ( 1Co_15:1-2 ).

Paul's message was not of his nor any other man's invention. God had revealed the truth to Paul (11:23; Gal_1:11-12 ). Christ's death was in behalf of all who would follow his will ( Mat_20:28 ; Act_20:28 ; Tit_2:14 ; 1Pe_2:2 ). The Old Testament prophets had foretold Christ's death and the rejection he would experience in dying ( Isa_53:5 ; Isa_53:10 ). Prophets also spoke of his burial ( Isa_53:9 ). Jesus' resurrection was also predicted hundreds of years before it took place ( 1Co_15:3-4 ; Psa_16:10 ; Hos_6:2 ; Jon_2:10 ).

Verses 5-7

Men Who Witnessed the Resurrection

Other witnesses, besides scripture, testified to the fact that Jesus was raised. The two disciples who talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus knew Peter had seen Jesus ( Luk_24:34 ). The eleven, when Thomas was not present, saw Jesus when they assembled behind closed doors on the first day of the week. Eight days later, when Thomas was with them, they saw Jesus again ( Joh_20:26-29 ).

On one occasion after the resurrection, more than five hundred saw Jesus. Though some of those had died by the time of this writing, many were alive and could have testified to what they had seen. It is not certain when this appearance took place as there does not seem to be any other record of the occurrence. Nor do we know when Jesus appeared to James, who likely was the Lord's brother ( Gal_1:19 ). The last appearance to all the apostles was on the day the Lord ascended ( Act_1:4-11 ; Luk_24:44-51 ). This is likely the one Paul mentioned ( 1Co_15:5-7 ).

Verses 8-11

When Paul Saw Jesus

The record of Christ's appearance to Paul is found in Act_9:5 ; Act_22:6-8 ; Act_26:14-18 . McGarvey says, "The other apostles had three years and a half filled with instruction, and so were fully developed in their office; while Paul became a disciple in an instant, and received his instructions briefly by revelation." So, Paul describes himself as a weak, premature baby. This memory humbled him and may have made him work all the harder. After all, he knew Christ came to die so that he could save sinners and Paul was among the forgiven ( 1Ti_1:13 ).

The confession of his mistakes would have left Paul open to attack. However, he went on to show that God's grace took him from a low state and made him great, thus making him work all the harder. A resurrected Christ was the theme of all apostolic preaching, including Paul's because they realized the powerful grace found there. The Corinthians had believed in the Lord who overcame death ( 1Co_15:8-11 ; see Act_2:22-36 ; Act_3:12-15 ; Act_4:8-12 ; Act_10:34-40 for some of the sermons preached by the apostles). There was no reason for them to doubt the foundation of their faith!

Verses 12-19

An Empty Hope Without A Resurrected Lord

Since the Corinthian brethren had accepted the fact of Christ's resurrection, as supported by the verses we studied in the last lesson, the apostle wondered why some were saying there was not a resurrection? Anyone denying the general resurrection, had to deny that Jesus was raised ( 1Co_15:12-13 ; 1Th_4:13-14 ).

If Jesus was not raised, the preaching of the apostles was in vain. Too, the faith of all who believed that preaching stood on a worthless foundation ( Mat_12:39-40 ; Rom_1:4 ). In fact, Paul said their faith was vain, which literally means empty or void. If the dead are not raised, then Christ was not raised. If Christ was not raised, then the apostles had lied about what God had done. They would have been falsely accusing God of doing something he never did ( 1Co_15:14-15 ; Act_2:32 ; Act_17:30-31 ).

Paul reemphasized the most important part of the argument, which is found in verse 13, by saying Christ cannot be risen if the dead cannot be raised! Without a general resurrection, the faith of those in the Corinthian church was vain and they were still in sin ( Rom_4:25 ; Rom_6:23 ). Anyone who had already died in the midst of such an empty belief was damned. The apostles had only experienced persecution and death because of their teaching about Jesus as a resurrected Lord. In such a pitiable state, they surely would have abandoned their belief if they had have known it had no support ( 1Co_15:16-19 ).

Verses 20-28

The Resurrection, A Victory Over Death

McGarvey says, "On the morrow after the Sabbath of the Passover a sheaf of barley (the earliest grain to ripen) was waved as first-fruits before the Lord. ( Leviticus 23:914 .) The first-fruits had to be thus presented before the harvest could be begun, and its presentation was an earnest of the ingathering. Now on this very day after the Sabbath Christ was raised as the first-fruits from the dead, and became the earnest of the general resurrection." Jesus, like that wave offering of first-fruits, signifies a general harvest of all who are in the grave ( 1Co_15:20 ).

Physical death came for all men as a consequence of Adam's sin. There was nothing anyone else did to deserve the appointment with the first death. Similarly, all, both those who have done good and those who have done evil, will overcome the grave because Christ did. However, in this chapter, Paul only considered the resurrection of the righteous because of the flow of the argument. Elsewhere, we learn all will be raised on the same day ( 1Co_15:21-23 ; Joh_5:26-29 ; Mat_13:36-43 only one harvest).

Death, and its authority, will be overcome at the resurrection. With the last authority, other than God, conquered, Jesus will then be free to turn his kingdom over to God (see also Mat_15:13 ). Jesus must reign in his kingdom until all enemies are overcome. Dan_2:44 clearly shows that his kingdom will overcome all other kingdoms ( 1Co_15:24-25 ).

Allen points out that Jesus will reign at God's right hand until the last enemy is destroyed ( Act_2:33-36 ; Act_5:31 ; 1Co_1:25 ). The apostle stated death will be the last enemy conquered. That conquest will come when all the dead are raised. Christ was given authority by the Father. All but the One who gave it are subject to Jesus' power ( 1Co_15:26-27 ). In Eph_1:19-22 , Paul spoke of God's mighty power "which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church" (see also Mat_28:18 ; 1Pe_3:22 ).

Jesus' stated purpose while he was on earth was to glorify God and do his will ( Joh_4:34 ; Joh_6:38 ; Joh_7:16 ; Joh_8:29 ; Joh_12:44 ; Joh_12:39 ; Joh_14:24 ; Joh_17:8 ; Joh_17:21-23 ). That glorification will finally be complete when all enemies are at Christ's feet. Then, he will turn all over to God, the Father ( 1Co_15:28 ).

Verses 29-32

Actions Which Cannot Be Explained Without a Resurrection

If there was no life after death, why were people baptized for the dead. In view of Paul's use of pronouns in this chapter, it appears there were false teachers in Corinth who baptized the living in behalf of some who had already died. In verse 1, Paul plainly used "I" to refer to himself. In verse 2, he spoke of the Corinthians as "you." Yet, in verse 29, he spoke of "they." Clearly, Paul had someone other than himself or the Corinthian brethren in mind when he wrote these words about baptism for the dead ( 1Co_15:29 ).

Of course, it can also be said that Christian baptism points to a hope of something better beyond the grave. By baptism, one dies unto sin and begins to live for Jesus ( Rom_6:3-11 ). Baptism is powerful because Jesus died and was raised again. Those who submit to baptism live in hope of the resurrection ( 1Th_4:13-18 ; 2Ti_4:6-8 ).

If there was no resurrection, why did Paul place himself in danger to preach the gospel? Paul was happy to face such danger, even death, because of those who believed his preaching. Yet, without a resurrection, Paul's facing of peril and fight with beasts (daily danger) was futile ( 1Co_15:30-32 ).

Verses 33-34

A Warning About False Teachers

As if to confirm our conclusion about false teachers who baptized the living for the dead, Paul warned the Corinthains to beware because wicked people with false teaching could turn them from following the truth. The apostle wanted them to shake off the drunken stupor in which evil had placed them. He hoped they would be shamed by their ignorance, concerning God and his ability, and change ( 1Co_15:33-34 ).

Verses 35-41

"How Are The Dead Raised Up?"

Though they professed belief in God, the Corinthian brethren wanted to know how he would raise the dead. They also wondered what body would exist in the resurrection. The apostle explained that God accomplishes a resurrection yearly. Farmers sow a single grain expecting to receive the stalk, blade and head, or ear. God is wise and gives each grain a special body that is adapted to its own special needs. Obviously, God can work a resurrection and get great results ( 1Co_15:35-38 ).

Next, Paul turned to the second question, which was "with what body do they come?" He showed that there are many forms of fleshly creatures, yet they are all still considered flesh. The apostle then went on to say that there is a difference between the earthly bodies, just mentioned, and the heavenly bodies, yet all have bodies. Heavenly bodies may be angels, or the planetary bodies. Even the sun, moon, and stars have bodies, though they differ in appearance from one another and, certainly, from other bodies with which men are familiar ( 1Co_15:39-41 ).

Verses 42-49

The Glorified Body

The resurrection will be just like what occurs in farmers' fields all over the world. A seed, or body, that will die ( Gen_3:19 ) is planted, or buried, and is raised with a new specially designed body that will not decay. In a sense, it is still human flesh composing a body, but it is much better than before. It (the body) is buried because it will decay. It can also be described as being in dishonor and weak because it is a body of sin. When raised, it will not rot and those in heaven will not sin ( 1Co_15:42-43 ).

Just like this physical body is suited to a physical man living in a physical world, so will our spiritual body be specially suited to a spiritual world. Adam, as the head of the human race, was made a physical man suited to the physical world in which he would live. Christ was a spirit and as the head of a new race gives spiritual life. The physical body comes first to all, then the spiritual ( 1Co_15:44-46 ).

Our first body, like Adam's, will be suited to his earth. Our second body, like Christ's after the resurrection, will be suited to the spiritual world. Remember, each seed takes on a body best suited to its surroundings. All earthly bodies decay, while all heavenly bodies will be immortal, as Christ is immortal. Just as we all now bear the image of Adam, so shall all the just bear Christ's image after the resurrection ( 1Co_15:47-49 ; 1Jn_3:2 ).

Verses 50-58

The Greatest And Final Victory

Our fleshly bodies will have no place in heaven since it is an incorruptible place ( 1 Peter 1:34 ). God's apostle to the Gentiles was revealing something which had long been concealed when he said not all believers would die a physical death. Some would be changed from corruptible to incorruptible beings and then be caught up into the clouds to meet their Lord ( 1Co_15:50-51 ; see also 1Th_4:13-18 ).

The resurrection and change to incorruptible bodies would happen in an instant. First, the apostle said the trumpet will blow. Second, the dead will be raised with incorruptible bodies. Third, those saints still alive will be changed. To go to heaven, all must change. With the change of bodies at the resurrection, death's power over man will be gone. Death will be swallowed up this powerful moment ( 1Co_15:52-54 ; Isa_25:8 ).

With a loose quotation from Hos_13:14 , Paul joyously and triumphantly declared the resurrection to be the end of death and the fears it holds for mankind ( 1Co_15:55-57 ; see also Rom_5:12-15 ; Rom_7:7-12 ). McGarvey writes,

Death is here spoken of under the figure of a serpent. Sin is the bite or sting with which he slays men, and the power or poisonous strength of sin is found in the curse which the law pronounces upon the sinner. By the triple power of law, sin and death, the glory of man was brought to nought; but thanks are due to God, who restored glory to man through Jesus Christ. Christ gave man the victory over the law, for he nailed it to his cross ( Col_2:14 ); he gave him victory over sin, for he made atonement for sin ( Heb_7:27 ); and he gave his victory over death by his resurrection which is the earnest of the general resurrection. Wonderful threefold victory!

Because there is a resurrection, Paul urged the brethren in Corinth to not be swayed from their faith in Christ's gospel. Instead, he said they should hold to it knowing heaven would be their reward ( 1Co_15:58 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". 2014.