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Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

1 Corinthians 15

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Verses 1-58

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 . I declare unto you the gospel by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you. We have here an epitome of the whole gospel, comprising essentially the death of Christ as a sacrifice for sin, and his triumphant resurrection from the dead; these are truths which lie at the foundation of all human hope. The promise of salvation so often repeated to sincere and faithful souls, must always be kept in view. Mark 16:16. Romans 1:16. What consolation can be stronger to the conscious mind? Faith saves because it justifies and sanctifies, it also overcomes the world, and is the presage of eternal life.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 . How that Christ died for our sins and that he rose again the third day. That he should rise again was expressly foretold by David, Psalms 16:10; and by Isaiah 53:10. It has been asked, where is the Hebrew scripture which foretels the resurrection of Christ on the third day? The Socinians, unable to find any such scripture, propose to correct St. Paul in the following manner; “that Christ rose according to the scriptures, and that on the third day.” They see no difficulty in sacrificing important scriptures to get St. Paul out of trouble.

We reply, that Isaac was raised up from the altar on the third day, and Jonah from the deep in the same space of time; and if symbolical prophecy has any force, these figures must also have their weight. A prophet has said, “The Lord hath smitten us, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” Hosea 6:1-3. Rabbi Abarbanel understands the two days, of the two flourishing dispensations, after the first, and after the second temple. The third day will be sub templo futuro exsuscitabit nos, when he shall raise us up, under the future temple, and when we shall live in his sight, persevere in his worship, and not die; neither shall our land be desolate. The jews understood this prophecy to have a final reference to the resurrection of the dead, the day when all our woes shall be healed.

But what are the comments of the christian fathers on this prophecy? These have been collected by Tirinus as follow. “All the holy fathers and orthodox doctors contend, that this text refers to Christ; to the redemption and resurrection from the death of sin, to the everlasting life of righteousness, grace, and glory, which shall come on the whole world by Christ after two days; that is, a few days, or short time; say about six hundred and ninety years, which should flow from Hosea’s time till the death of Christ. So St. Cyril, Arias, Vatablus, and others expound the passage. On the same text we may add, Tertullian, Origen, Lactantius, Cyprian, Jerome, Augustine, Gregory, Rufinus, Nyssen, Theodoret, and other catholics. Nay, the old Hebrews, as cited by Galatin, prove the resurrection of Christ from the first day of his passion, from the second in the sepulchre, and the third day, as cited by St. Paul, on which he rose from the dead.” After these citations of Tirinus, what more can we ask. We have much weight from the synagogue, and the full weight of the christian fathers.

1 Corinthians 15:5 . He was seen of Cephas, (the surname of Peter) then of the twelve. Paul omits the women who watched at the sepulchre. Mary, the most disconsolate, saw him first. Peter, heart-broken Peter, in the course of the day, saw him next. In the evening he appeared to the ten, still called the twelve, Thomas being absent. The two returning from Emmaus confirmed their joy. Dr. Lightfoot is I think unique in the supposition, that Peter and Cleophas were the two that went to Emmaus. Of the twelve, he was seen again when Thomas was present, and of seven when they went a- fishing, and finally when he led the twelve to mount Olivet, and ascended to heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:6 . He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, on “a mountain of Galilee,” as stated by Matthew 28:16-18, “where Jesus had appointed.” Here were a cloud of witnesses to assure and to comfort the church.

1 Corinthians 15:7 . He was seen of James. No doubt this was James the brother of John. In the gospel of the Nazarenes, which in the main agrees with that of Matthew, we find an addition, that James having made a vow that he would neither eat nor drink till assured that the Lord was risen, and that “Jesus brought him bread and wine, and said, eat and drink, for the Son of man is risen from the dead.”

1 Corinthians 15:8 . Last of all he was seen of me also, in the vision on the way to Damascus, three times repeated. Acts 9:3-5; Acts 9:17; Acts 22:6; Acts 22:14. 1 Corinthians 9:1. He saw the Holy and Just One, which made him a full witness of his glory, that he might testify it to the gentiles. Thus this first of characters examined the witnesses of the resurrection with enlightened regards, on men, on things, on prophecies; and if our unbelievers would examine them with the same care, and in the same spirit, the issue would also be the full assurance of faith and of comfort. The grace conferred on Paul was great, and his more abundant labours corresponded with the glory of his calling.

1 Corinthians 15:19 . If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. The apostle here puts the consequences of denying the resurrection in their strongest forms. The gospel lost… the witness perjured… the dead perished! If so, what fools then are we to fight with beasts in every city, to be often in jails, scourged of the Romans, and whipped by the Jews! But thanks be to God, and let heaven and earth rehearse the song, THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST IS NO PROBLEM OF THE SCHOOLS: ALL IS CERTAINTY OF EVIDENCE, AND GLORY OF OPERATION.

1 Corinthians 15:20 . Now is Christ risen the firstfruits of them that slept. His resurrection occurred on the day after the jewish sabbath, the very day when the sheaf, the firstfruits of the barley harvest, was offered to the Lord, a happy figure of Christ, the first-begotten from the dead, on which account our Saxon fathers call the festival Erist, or Easter.

1 Corinthians 15:22 . As in Adam all die, for all have sinned in him, and the children follow their fathers to the tomb, but with the gracious hope of a resurrection, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:25 . He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet, conformably to the oath of his installation, in the hundred and tenth Psalm. Examine the glory of his kingdom under the following texts, where he fills Jehovah’s throne. Zechariah 6:13. Psalms 2:0. Isaiah 9:6-8. Daniel 2:44. In this throne he has a name above every name, and is worshipped by every creature in heaven and on earth. Thus the Father hath put all things under him. He must therefore reign till he has completed his mission, before he delivers up the mediatorial kingdom to God, even the Father, as the fountain of deity. The cessation of time for repentance, and of office in regard of Christ, induces no change either in his divine or human nature.

1 Corinthians 15:28 . Then shall the Son also himself be subject to Him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. The kingdom in its consummation shall be perfect and glorious, and the will of the people lost in the will of Christ, who in his adorable person shall inherit all “the glory he had with the Father before the world was.” The subjection, comprising the mystical body of Christ, respects no more than the surrender of the mediatorial office, the work being fully completed. It is a surrender only, if we may use the running words of the Greek and Latin fathers. Nempe quatenus homo est, even so far as he is man, that God may be all in all. The last phrase is a frequent idiom of speech. The Romans said, as in Lucan, Omniæ Cæsar erat: Cæsar was all.

1 Corinthians 15:29 . Baptized for the dead. Here a hundred critics stop to deliver their opinion, and give us about a dozen glosses of a custom perfectly understood when St. Paul wrote, but now doubtful. Erasmus, following Chrysostom and Ambrose, says, that men having died without baptism, through neglect, or suddenly, some of their friends were baptized for them. Lightfoot refers the text wholly to the baptism of martyrdom; and St. Paul certainly here connects it with the sufferings of saints. But Beza applies it to ablutions or baptisms practised on the bodies of the dead; and he cites the case of the good women who washed and anointed the body of Tarquin, to prove that this was a patriarchal custom. And most assuredly the decencies of burial, and the monuments which the ancients erected over the dead, implied a belief of the resurrection. Now, if we take it into consideration, that St. Paul was here addressing the infidel gentile, or the doubtful christian, the argument of Erasmus and of Lightfoot would have little weight with them; but this of Beza would confer the weight of high antiquity on the christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body. Heinsius has a very long and learned note on this text. His arguments turn chiefly on the name which persons receive at their baptism, a mark of honour to the deceased; and by consequence to be baptized for the dead is to be baptized in hope of the resurrection of the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:32 . If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, when Demetrius, and the manufacturers of Diana’s shrines, were, like lions, resolved to tear me to pieces, was I not unwise to expose myself to men less merciful than the wild beasts? Acts 19:0. Why throw away a life which may enjoy many comforts, if there be no life to come? If otherwise, all preaching and all belief are vain.

1 Corinthians 15:35-36 . Some will say, how are the dead raised up? Thou fool, αφρον , a man devoid of mind, unskilled in husbandry, when thou seest whole harvests grow from a few grains of corn; when thou seest the fowl burst the shell, and fly away. Limit not the Holy One of Israel. Is not all nature full of God, and full of mysteries?

1 Corinthians 15:45 . The last Adam was made a quickening spirit, by regeneration, as stated on John 5:25-26, and by calling the dead to life.

1 Corinthians 15:53 . This corruptible must put on incorruption. This beautiful figure shows how the soul shall leave all its weather-worn array of the desert behind, and put on immortality as a garment. The spiritual body shall need no support from perishable food. Its beauty and perfection shall assume all the forms of unfading glory.

1 Corinthians 15:54 . Death is swallowed up in victory. Our critics have examined these words with care, in the Greek and in the principal versions. Three of the readings claim our notice. The text of Isaiah 25:8, is ל נצח la-netsach, “he hath swallowed up death for ever.” It is the same in many other places where that word occurs. Must the sword devour for ever? 2 Samuel 2:26. Will he reserve his anger for ever? Jeremiah 3:5. Lamentations 5:20. Edom kept his wrath for ever. Amos 1:11. Job 36:7. In all the above places, the LXX elegantly read, εις νικος ,

“in victory.” The third reading is with a dipthong: νεικος , “contention,” which is the reading of Tertullian, of Ambrose, and of Jerome, designating the long-continued war with sin, and death, and the grave, or hell. Jerome also, in his epistle to John, bishop of Jerusalem, repeats the word, and reads contention also in his comment on Hosea 13:14; where for stimulus, goad, he has aculeus, sting. Theophylact, who is said to be the abbreviator of Jerome, reads, De manu inferni liberabo eos, de morte redimam illos. Ubi causa tua mors, ubi aculeus tuus inferni? I will liberate them from the hand of hades. I will redeem them from death. Where is thy victory, [cause] oh death? Where is thy sting, oh hades? [hell.] Ed. Basil, 1570.

This is indeed a most interesting passage, and personally interesting to all; for as yet, we are only spectators in dying, but soon must be called to act our part. To enter into the true spirit of Isaiah, of Hosea, and of Paul, we must regard death as a huge serpent, bearing a crown, and armed with a sting, which catches his prey in his fangs, and swallows it whole, after breaking its bones in his coil, being destitute of grinders for mastication. This boa constrictor swallows the giants; this Saturn devours all the children. He conquers, he reigns, and none can escape his fangs. His jaws, the grave, ever cry, “give, give.” All nations fly before him, and fly in vain, being more afraid of his sting, a guilty conscience, than of his power to destroy. The law, the violated law, gives strength and power to the sheriffs of heaven to pursue the culprits.

But amid his high career of conquest, the world and ages prostrate at his feet, he met with his victor, the woman’s Seed. The serpent trembling seized his prey, and bruised his heel with a mortal wound, but had no strength from the law to detain his sinless victim. The monster, as in Jonah’s case, was obliged, on the third day, to disgorge his prey. The Conqueror rose, put on immortality as a garment, and bruised the serpent’s head. He raised his arm, and gave his fiat, that sin and death should be no more. Oh death, I will be thy plagues. Oh grave, I will be thy destruction. Hosea 13:14.

1 Corinthians 15:57 . Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory, by the atoning sacrifice of Christ for sin; by the joys of remission, which remove the sting of death, and substitute the hope of glory; by uniting us to himself, the everliving head of his body the church; by making his own resurrection the pledge and earnest of ours. We have only to follow the Captain, and take the victory. And if this be the grace, what should be the song?


The resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting, are among the most consoling articles of our creed. The restoration of our corporeal nature is confessedly a mystery. But I know not that it is more mysterious than all the other marvels of nature. Mysteries, whether of nature or of revelation, are not liable to objection, provided the existence of the first be indisputable, and the revelation of the second be positive, and holy in its character. Why should it seem a thing incredible that God should raise the dead, seeing from a grain of wheat he raises up a harvest to feed his people. The flour of this grain dies or rots to nourish the germ till it can spread its roots in the earth; so the gross and nutritive parts of the body, common to all elements, rot in the grave, or are otherwise dissipated to manure the ground, or to feed voracious animals; but the identity of the body, those parts which are properly its own, however dissipated, are all at God’s command, and he can restore a world with the same voice by which he first created man. And as the body has been a companion of the soul in the whole course of vice and virtue, it is equitable that it should participate in the rewards or punishments of the life to come. The scriptures put the question beyond a doubt by asserting the resurrection in the most positive terms. Nearly a thousand persons were witnesses of the resurrection of Christ; and their sufferings and martyrdom prove the purity of their testimony. Hence the apostle’s inference of a general resurrection is as certain as the harvest which follows the firstfruits.

Every man shall rise in his own order. As the nurseryman takes up a tree in winter, and is unwilling to break the smallest fibre, so the dead shall rise according to patriarchal descent; and the confused groups and mixed nations inhabiting great cities shall be classed in their own line. Out of the throng, they that are Christ’s at his coming shall be claimed by the Lord; and in their glory we lose sight of the awful situation of the unregenerate.

The doubts and scruples of men must be removed by conclusive arguments. The gentiles often burned their dead, and regarded the resurrection as impossible; yet they deposited the ashes in urns, and preserved them in burrows on the hills. Now, these men asked a double question. How are the dead raised up; and with what body do they come? The power of God in renovating nature annually from the seeds of the earth, is a sufficient reply to the first enquiry. And as to the second, the body is sown in corruption, but it is raised in incorruption, free from disease and decay, it is raised in glory like the body of Christ, reflecting his lustre and beauty. It is raised in power, to transport itself with agility wheresoever it may please to go, and incapable of weakness and fatigue. It is raised a spiritual body, having no need of perishing food; and consequently, it will be a meet companion for the soul; for corruptible flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

With this august day, when the last trumpet of God shall bring the faithful ministers together, St. Paul anticipated the receiving of his spiritual children, as his crown of rejoicing. The soul educated in paradise, shall reënter a body of the noblest work which God ever made out of matter. Its beauty shall be angelic, and its lustre divine. No deformity, no maimedness shall disfigure the family above. Jacob, after many years of dejection and tears, refound his Joseph lovelier than he lost him; so it may be presumed, the weeping parents shall find their infant, not in meagre and diminutive stature, but in the fullest bloom and beauty of eternal youth. All heaven shall be but one family, and the banquet shall be eternal love.

St. Paul could not take leave of a subject so elevating, without an apostrophe of full triumph over all the enemies of man. Oh death, where is now thine envenomed and revengeful sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory? The victims are delivered from thy teeth, and revived with the health of eternal life. Yea, we ourselves, though groaning under thine overwhelming hand, already begin to insult thy expiring power, being cheered with that voice, Behold, I am alive for evermore.

The glorious resurrection of the body is a grand argument to diligence in faith and love. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. It is not revelation, but epicurean philosophy which degrades rational beings to seek their highest happiness in carnal joys. Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. It is the last brand of shame to those men, that they have not the knowledge of God. Our age, our country is crowded with those epicureans in practice. What else are all our crowded circles of dissipation and vanity? What else are our ball-rooms, and our theatres? Pleasure, pleasure is the idol of the day; and they sink with gay indifference down to everlasting fire. But the christian, believing in his God, and realizing eternity, sows in all the labours of divine charity, and reaps the harvest of eternal joy. Let us be steadfast and unmoved in this work.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.