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Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible Coke's Commentary
1 Corinthians 15
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tcc/ 1-corinthians-15.html. 1801-1803.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
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1 Corinthians 15:1. Moreover, brethren, &c.— After St. Paul had left the Corinthians, some among them denied the resurrection of the dead, though he had strongly inculcated that doctrine. He therefore confutes their objections by Christ's resurrection, which the number of witnesses yet remaining who had seen him, put past all question; besides the constant inculcating of it by all the Apostles every where. From the resurrection of Christ thus established, he infers the resurrection of the dead; shews the order they shall rise in, and what sort of bodies they shall have. It is well known, that the primitive Christians were often insulted by the heathen philosophers for their hope of a resurrection, which one of them ridiculously enough calls "the hope of worms." See 2 Timothy 2:18. Others taught that virtue was its own necessary reward, in such a manner as tended to overthrow the strongest of all natural arguments for a future state; namely, that which is taken from such an unequal distribution of rewards and punishments here below. If, biassed by these vain pretences of the heathen philosophers, or seduced by any Jewish teachers of Sadducean principles, the Christians were tempted so to refine on the doctrine of the resurrection, as in effect to explain it away, it shews the propriety of this Apostle's setting himself to prove the resurrection of the faithful principally, and a resurrection in general only, or chiefly, by implication.
1 Corinthians 15:2. By which—ye are saved.— "By which you are brought into a state of salvation; into the way of being completely and eternally saved." The next clause should be rendered, If you retain those joyful tidings which I delivered unto you. The words rendered unless, εκτος ει μη, are remarkable, and may suggest the thought expressed 1 Corinthians 15:17. So the first two verses may be a transition; as if he had said, "I preach the same gospel still, and I hope you will retain it: yet I have reason to fear that some of you entertain notions which tend quite to enervate it." Some would render εκτος ει μη with a comma, making it an exception to the former clause,—but if not,—if you do not retain what I have preached,—you have believed in vain. See 1 Timothy 5:19.
1 Corinthians 15:4. And that he rose again the third day.— It has been questioned, where the scriptures foretel that Christ should rise from the dead on the third day. Some think there is a parenthesis: so that the meaning will be, "He rose again according to the scriptures, and this on the third day." Others refer to Psa 16:10 which says, He should not see corruption in the grave, as expressive of this, because bodies begin to putrify on the fourth day. Bishop Warburton refers this to the representative sacrifice of Isaac. Isaac, says he, was the representative of Christ dying for us; his carrying the wood represented Christ carrying his cross; his father's bringing him safe from mount Moriah, after three days, during which the son was under condemnation of death, represented the time that Christ continued dead; and the father plainly received him under the character of Christ's representative, as restored from the dead; for as his being brought to the mount, his being bound and laid on the altar, figured the sufferings and death of Christ, so his being taken from thence alive as properly figured Christ's resurrection; nay, even the very time of his resurrection from the dead
1 Corinthians 15:5. Then of the twelve.— It is certain, that neither Judas nor Thomas was there, and probably James might be absent, (see on 1 Corinthians 15:7.) But as the council of twenty-three among the Jews might be said to be assembled if the greater part were present, though the number might not be complete; so the company might be called the twelve, though we should suppose a fourth part to have been absent. See Mark 16:14.Luke 24:36; Luke 24:36. John 20:26.
1 Corinthians 15:6. Above five hundred brethren at once.— This was probably in Galilee, where our Saviour had a very great number of disciples; and though there were no more than a hundred and twenty assembled at Jerusalem when Matthias was chosen, yet it does not follow that there was no such number in Galilee, where it appears, from the whole tenor of the gospel, that our Lord's disciples abounded very much. This, therefore, is so far from being an objection to the truth of our Saviour's resurrection (as Chubb and others would urge), that it is a glorious proof of the contrary. Had it been an imposture, so many false hearts and tongues could never have acted in concert; nor would they all have kept the secret, which remorse, interest, and perhaps often torture, might urge them to divulge: especially as there had been one traitor among the twelve; on whose account, had they been conscious of a fraud, a general suspicion of each other's secrecy must have arisen. See Ditton on the Resurrection, and Prideaux's Letter to a Deist, p. 241.
1 Corinthians 15:7. Then of all the Apostles.— The change of phrase from that in the conclusion of the 5th verse, is very remarkable, and probably intimates, that they who were there called the twelve, (that is, the greatest part of the company who used to be so denominated) were not, even the whole eleven. On which circumstance a probable conjecture is grounded, that James might, by some accident, have been detained from meeting his brethren, both on the day of the resurrection and that day se'nnight; and likewise at the time when Christ appeared to the five hundred: and that he might in this respect be upon a level with them, our Lord appeared to him alone, after all the appearances mentioned before.
1 Corinthians 15:8. As of one born out of due time.— A birth which comes before its time, (the name which St. Paul here gives himself,) is usually sudden and unexpected, and is also weak and feeble. The former part applies so St. Paul's being made a Christian and an apostle, though it be in regard to the latter that he humbly stiles himself one born out of due time.
1 Corinthians 15:9. For I am the least of the Apostles, &c.— "For how much soever I be now enriched, and advanced to gifts and graces, and in the honours of the apostolate; and how eminent and successful soever my labours and sufferings have been in the execution of that office, I really am in myself, and in my own account, the very least and most contemptible of all the Apostles of Christ; yea, less than the least of all saints, (Ephesians 3:8.) utterly unworthy of any favour, much more of so high and honourable a station in the church: Nay, on the contrary, I justly deserved to have an eternal brand of infamy set upon me; because I was all along, in the days of my unregeneracy, and blind zeal for judaism, a most obstinate unbeliever, and a most bitter enemy to, and outrageous persecutor of, the church (Acts 8:3; Acts 9:1,) which God has erected as a peculiar people to himself, and which he owns and blesses, and will be glorified in and by."
1 Corinthians 15:10. Was not in vain.— Instead of was not in vain, &c. some render the passage has not been in vain; for I have laboured.
1 Corinthians 15:12. How say some among you? &c.— This may well be understood of the head of the contrary faction, and some of his disciples. First, because St. Paul introduces this confutation by asserting his mission, which these his opposers would bring in question. Secondly, because he is so careful to let the Corinthians see that he maintains not the doctrine of the resurrection in opposition to these their new leaders, it being the doctrine which he had preached to them at their first conversion, before any false Apostle appeared among them, and misled them about the resurrection. Their false Apostle was a Jew, and in all appearance judaized; may he not also be suspected of Sadduceism?—For it is plain that he did, with all his might, oppose St. Paul, which must proceed from some very great difference in opinion at the bottom, as there are no footsteps of any personal provocation.
1 Corinthians 15:13. Then is Christ not risen.— The argument on which the Apostle dwells in so copious a manner, would appear to be of great moment, whatever the principles were by which the doctrine of the resurrection was assaulted. It could not be said, that that was in its own nature impossible which was accomplished in Christ; and it would prove that the hope of a resurrection was not, as the Gentiles represented it, a mean and sordid hope, since it was accomplished in the Son of God. See on 1 Corinthians 15:1.
1 Corinthians 15:17. Ye are yet in your sins.— The word sin is frequently used for the punishment due to sin; and in that sense it should be understood here: "Ye are yet liable to the punishment of your sins." It is the constant tenor of scripture, that atonement for the sins of the world was made by our great High-priest uponthe cross; that his death was our ransom, and his blood the price paid for it: so that when we consider the ransom, which includes our justification, with respect to Christ, the author of it, it must be ascribed to his death and passion;—but as to ourselves, our title and interest in this common salvation being grounded in faith, our justification, though purchased by the blood of Christ, must be appropriated to ourselves through faith in that blood. For the same Apostle who has told us that we are justified freely through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, has likewise told us, that God hath set him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. For this reason we are said to be justified by faith; not that our faith is the purchase of justification, which we owe to the blood of Christ alone; but because through faith we obtain the benefit of the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ. Now, though the death of Christ was the reconciling of the world to God, yet the resurrection of Christ is the crowning point of our hope and faith in him; even of our faith in his blood, by which he made a propitiation for our sins: and therefore, although Christ died for our offences, and made atonement for our sins, yet since our faith in his death, and our hope in his blood, (by which hope and faith we are justified,) are built upon the truth and credit of his resurrection, it is very properly said that he rose again for our justification. For the death of Christ would have been no justification to us, nor could we have had hope or faith in it, but for the power and glory of the resurrection, which has wiped awaythe scandal and ignominy of the cross, and made it both a divine and rational act of faith to hope for life and immortality from him, who himself once died upon the tree. Thus we learn from St. Paul, that if Christ be not risen, our faith is in vain; we are yet in our sins. Whence we gather that faith in the death of Christ, not grounded on the assurance of his resurrection, is a vain faith, and such a one as cannot deliver us from our sins: nay, that the death of Christ could not have been a propitiation for sin without his resurrection, he expressly teaches in the next verse:—Then they also, which are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished.
1 Corinthians 15:18. Fallen asleep in Christ.— "All deceased Christians, not excepting the most excellent of them, who have died for their religion. They have lost their life and being together, on this supposition, in the cause of one, who, if still among the dead, must have been an impostor, and a false prophet."
1 Corinthians 15:19. We are of all men most miserable.— Most pitiable. Doddridge. It is quite foreign to the purpose to argue from this text, as some have done, that if there were no future state, holiness and virtue would make men more miserable than they would otherwise be. It is evident that St. Paul here speaks not of the case of good men in general, if we could possibly suppose that their hopes of future happiness should, after all, be disappointed; but of the case of the Apostles, and other first preachers and professorsofChristianity,if,amidstalltheir hardships and persecutions, they were not supported by this hope. To be a Christian, in those days, was to be an example of well-tried holiness and virtue, of true wisdom, and of consummate fortitude; to be exposed to scorn, to infamy, and to death; to be pointed at as a fool, a madman, an enthusiast; to be reviled as an atheist, and an enemy to all religion; to be punished as a robber and murderer; to lose fame, and friends, and comfort; and to be exposed to every thing at which human nature shudders, and which a person of the greatest courage, unassisted by divine grace, would certainly endeavour to evade. Destitute therefore of the hope of the resurrection amid these sufferings, they must have been perpetuallysubjected to the upbraidings of their own minds, for sacrificing every view of happiness in this world, to advance what they knew to be a pernicious falsehood. Perhaps there never was a set of men on earth so wretched as they must have been on this supposition.
1 Corinthians 15:20. But now is Christ risen, &c.— It is a great mistake to imagine that the Apostle is employed throughout this chapter in proving a resurrection: the proof lies in a very narrow compass, chiefly from 1Co 15:12-19 and almost all the rest of the chapter is taken up in illustrating, vindicating, or applying it. The proof is, indeed, very short, but most solid and convincing;—that which arose from Christ's resurrection. Now that not only proved a resurrection to be in fact possible, but, which was much more, as it proved Christ to be a divine teacher, it proved the doctrine of a general resurrection, which he so expressly taught. It was natural too for so good a man as St. Paul to insist on the sad consequences which would follow, with respect to himself and his brethren, from giving up so glorious a hope; and the cordial manner in which he speaks of this, is a noble internal argument, which every reader of sensibility must feel. Instead of—become the first fruits of them that slept, some render the passage—the first fruits of them that are fallen asleep. The first fruits was a small part, first taken and offered to God, and which sanctified the whole mass that was to follow. See on 1 Corinthians 15:18.
1 Corinthians 15:24. When he shall have put down all rule.— Shall have abolished, or deposed. The word καταργεομαι generally signifies divesting a thing of some power, whether lawful or usurped, which it formerly had, and of reducing it to an incapacity of exerting that power any more. Thus it is used of Satan, Heb 2:14 of death, here and 1Co 15:26 of temporal princes, 2Ti 1:10 and 1 Corinthians 1:28; 1Co 2:6 and of the ceremonial law, Ephesians 2:15.
1 Corinthians 15:28. Then shall the Son also himself be subject, &c.— "When the Father shall have subjected all things to him, so that it shall appear to every eye that he is indeed Lord of all, then shall the Son also himself be subject to him, who subjected all things to him, by a public act in the midst of this most august assembly; giving up as it were his commission to preside as universal Lord in the mediatorial kingdom, as having answered the end for which it was given him, in the completesalvation of all his faithful saints; whom he shall then introduce into a state of the greatest proximity to God, and most intimate converse with him, that God, the Trinity, may be, and that he may appear to be, all in all: that they all may enjoy complete and everlasting happiness, in the full communication of the divine favour to them for ever." It appears evidently, that the kingdom to be given up is the rule of this lower world, which is then to be consumed; and that it may notseem as if a province of Christ's empire was destroyed, his mediatorial government, undertaken in avowed subserviency to the scheme of redemption, Eph 1:10 and completed in the glorification of all his faithful people, shall close in the most honourable manner. God will declare the ends of it fully answered; and the whole body of his saints shall be introduced by him into a state of more intimate approach to, and communion with, the tri-une God, than had been known by the spirits of the blessed in their separate state. Upon the whole, we must remember here, that Christ is spoken of in his mediatorial capacity, and that it follows in the nature ofthings, that his mediatorial kingdom must cease, and be given up, when the greatend of his mediatorial government is completely answered; so that no possible objection can be hence derived against the true Divinity of the second Person in the ever-blessed Trinity, who being God before the creation of this world, and, consequently, before he assumed the office of the Redeemer of men, will and must remain God over all, blessed for ever, when the great designs of that office are entirely completed. Accordingly, it is very observable, that, though the apostle had expressly mentioned God even the Father, 1Co 15:24 as the Person to whom Christ was to give up the kingdom, which he received from him; yet he here speaks of God absolutely, without the personal restriction, as all in all. See Jones's Catholic Doctrine of a Trinity, ch. 1 art. 15, 39, &c. Bp. Brown's Procedure of the Understanding, and the Inferences drawn from 2 Corinthians 13:14.
1 Corinthians 15:29. Else what shall they do, &c.— "Such are our views and hopes, as Christians; else, if it were not so, what should they do who are baptized in token of their embracing the Christian faith in the room of the dead, who are just fallen in the cause of Christ, but whose places are filled up by a succession of new converts, who immediately offer themselves to succeed them, as ranks of soldiers that advance to the combat in the room of their companions,who have just been slain in their fight. If the doctrine that I oppose be true, and the dead are not raised at all, why are they, nevertheless, thus baptized in the room of the dead, as cheerfully ready, at the peril of their lives, to keep up the cause of Jesus in the world?" It would be almost endless to enumerate, and much more to canvass, all the interpretations which have been given of this obscure phrase, υπερ των νεκρων . There is no reason to believe that the superstitious custom, mentioned by Epiphanius, of baptizing a living person, as representing one who had died unbaptized, is here referred to; it is more likely to have arisen from a mistake of this passage than to have been so early prevalent. Mr. Cradock's supposing it to allude to washing dead bodies, neither suits the grammar, nor really makes any significant sense. The primitive Christians were accustomed, in general, to reserve the baptizing of adults for solemn occasions, particularly for Whitsunday. But it is not at all improbable, that when any eminent Christians died, especially martyrs, some were chosen out of the catechumens who were preparing for baptism, and, in honour of these eminent saints, and to fill up their places, were baptized for the dead. Dr. Whitby, by the words, for the dead, understands, "for that Jesus, who, according to their doctrine, must still be dead;" and he observes, that the plural οι νεκροι is frequently used in scripture, when one person is spoken of; and that the resurrection νεκρων — of the dead in general, is thrice mentioned by this Apostle, when speaking of the resurrection of Christ alone. See the Reflections.
1 Corinthians 15:31. I protest by your rejoicing.— "I protest by your joys, which I do so cordially take part in that I may call them my own."
1 Corinthians 15:32. If after the manner of men, &c.— St. Paul was a Roman citizen, and pleaded his privilege as such, and therefore the chief captain was afraid because he had bound him; for, as Cicero says, Facinus est vinciri civem Romanum, scelus verberari;—that is, "it is wicked, or unlawful, to bind a Roman citizen;—it is villainous to scourge him," that is, "to examine him by scourging." This was at Jerusalem; but he had done the like before at Philippi. Now, if he pleaded his privilege on these lesser occasions, would he not much more have done it on such an occasion as this which is specified in the text? Besides, who could order it? The provincials had no such power; and the governor would not venture to inflict such a punishment on a Roman citizen, from which he was exempt by their laws: and especially he would not have attempted it at that time, which was the beginning of Nero's reign, while he governed well, and very moderately. Nor does any time appear in the course of the history which can well be assigned for it; for when St. Paul came first from Ephesus, he stayed but a little while, and left them in quiet, Acts 18:19.; and upon his return thither, when the Jews endeavoured to prejudice the multitude against him, he taught in the school of Tyrannus; and though he continued there two years, we hear of no riot till the affair of Demetrius. After this he immediately left the city, and went into Macedonia. There is a like difficulty as to the place;—for to suppose it to have been in the theatre, as some have done, seems wholly without foundation. Theatres were designed for scenical entertainments, such as plays, musical concerts, the contests of poets and orators; and sometimes their publiccouncils were held there. But they were no ways fitted, nor indeed safe, for contests with wild beasts. The amphitheatres were the usual places for those shows: nor do we find mention made in ancient writers of any amphitheatre at Ephesus; though had there been one, and St. Paul had been exposed in it, it is scarcely probable but we should have heard of it. Moreover, had the Apostle been thus engaged, it is difficultto apprehend how he could have escaped without a miracle. For those who conquered the beasts were obliged to fight with men till they were killed themselves. This was the barbarous custom at that very time, as we learn from Seneca, epist. 7. It seems most reasonable, therefore, to understand the expression as metaphorical, and that he alludes to the tumult raised by Demetrius. He uses the like metaphors, and with respect to the same thing, ch. 1Co 4:9 and again, 1Co 15:13 alluding to another custom. And in Acts (Act 20:29) speaking of the Ephesians, making use of the same trope, he says, I know this, that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. As to the expression κατα ανθρωπον, the sense seems to be, humanly speaking; and so it is used by Chrysippas, and the phrase κατ' ανδρα by AEschylus, as Grotius remarks upon Romans 3:5. See also Gal 3:15 the relations which Nicephorus and Theodoret give us, of an encounter which St. Paul had with wild beasts on the theatre at Ephesus, have been so far regarded by Dr. Whitby, that he contends for the literal interpretation of this passage; in favour of which it is also urged, that had he spoken of brutal men, he would rather have mentioned the assault made upon him at Lystra, where he was stoned, and supposed to be dead. But the danger of being pulled to pieces might be greater at Ephesus: It had happened very lately, and as the scene was much nearer Corinth, it might be more natural for him to mention it here. The silence of St. Luke in his history as to so memorable an event as a combat with beasts must have been, and St. Paul's omitting it in the large catalogue of his sufferings, 2Co 11:23 together with his knownprivilege as a Roman citizen, which would probably, as to be sure it should legally, have protected him from such an insult, do all favour the figurative interpretation; and the expression κατα ανθρωπον, after the manner of men, or humanly speaking, has a propriety on this hypothesis, which it cannot have on the other, and seems to be quite decis
Let us eat and drink, &c.— If the dead rise not at all, the Epicurean maxim might seem to be justified: "Let us make the best of this short life, which is the whole period of our being; and, giving up those sublime sentiments and pursuits which belong not to creatures of so short and low an existence, let us eat and drink, since we are to die as it were to-morrow or the next day; for, so little is the difference between one period of such a life and another, that it is scarcely worth while to make the distinction." It should be observed, that St. Paul writes all along upon a supposition, that if such proofs as he had produced of Christ's resurrection were not to be depended upon, we could have no certainty at all with respect to any future existence. And though it must be acknowledged, that the natural arguments for the immortality of the soul, and future retributions, carry with them great probability, yet the degree of evidence is by no means comparable to that which the Corinthians must have had of Christ's resurrection, with which our own has so necessary a connection: and, consequently, had these proofs been given up, what might have been pleaded in favour of the other, would probably have made very little impression. It is scarcely necessary to observe, that the Apostle is not here speaking his own sentiments, but arguing according to the Epicurean or Sadducean notions of those who, denying a future state, urged as a natural consequence, that man in that case had nothing more to do than to make the best he could of the present life. St. Paul could not, for a moment, admit of such a supposition. He was too firmly grounded in the belief of a resurrection, to allow for one moment any reasoning built upon the idea of its falsehood; and therefore we may observe, that he immediately adds to the sentiments which he puts into the mouth of his opposers, Be not deceived, &c. 1 Corinthians 15:33. Consequently, all the absurd and blasphemous reasonings of Chubb, drawn from this passage, are grounded upon the most false and indefensible principles. St. Paul, in every page of his writings, shews too great a regard to holiness and virtue, for us ever to believe that he could think, upon any hypothesis, a life of impurity and vice preferable to them.
1 Corinthians 15:33. Evil communications corrupt good manners.— The original words are a quotation from the works of Menander, and are an Iambic verse. Accordingly Dr. Doddridge very well translates them thus:
"Good manners are debauch'd by talk profane."
1 Corinthians 15:34. I speak this to your shame.— May not this probably be said to make them ashamed of their leader, in whom they were so forward to glory? For it is not unlikely that their questioningand denying the resurrection came from their new Apostle, who raised such opposition against St. Paul. Instead of, Awake to righteousness, some read, Awake, as becomes righteous men.
1 Corinthians 15:35. Some man will say, How, &c.?— If we will allow St. Paul to know what he says, it is plain from his answers, that he understands these words to contain two questions: First, "How comes it to pass, that dead men are raised to life again;—would it not be better they should live on;—why do they die to live again?" Secondly, "With what body shall they return to life?" To both these he distinctly answers, 1. That those who are raised to a heavenly state, shall have new bodies; and next, that it is fit men should die, death being no improper way to the attaining of these new bodies. He shews that there is so plain and common an instance of this, in the sowing of all seeds, that he thinks it a foolish thing to make a difficulty of it; and then proceeds to declare, that as they shall have new bodies, so they shall have better bodies than they had before; namely, spiritual and incorruptible bodies. See Locke on the Human Understanding, b. 2 : 100: 27 and Ward's 48th Dissertation.
1 Corinthians 15:36. Except it die.— It has been objected to this, that if the seed die, it never bears fruit; but it is certain that the seed in general does consume away in the ground, though a little germen or bud, which makes a part of it, springs up into new life, and is fed by the death and corruption of the rest. So that these wise philosophers of our own, talk just as foolishly as the Corinthian free-thinkers whom they vindicate. See John 12:23-24.
1 Corinthians 15:38. To every seed his own body.— The Apostle seems more directly to speak of that as its proper body, which is peculiar to that species of grain; yet undoubtedly each ear has a peculiar reference to one individual, as its proper seed, in such a manner, as another of the same species has not: and what follows plainly suits such a view. God is said to give it this body as it pleases him, because we know not how it is produced; and the Apostle's leading thought is, that it is absurd to argue against a resurrection, on a principle which is so palpably false as that must be, which supposes us to understand the whole progress of the divine works.
1 Corinthians 15:39. All flesh is not the same flesh.— The scope of the passage makes it evident, that by flesh St. Paul here means bodies; as much as to say, that God has given to the several sorts of animals, bodies in shape, texture, and organization, very different one from another, as he has thought good; and so he can give to men at the resurrection,bodiesofvery different constitutions and qualities from those which they had before. Mr. Locke, instead of beasts, reads cattle, κτηνων .
1 Corinthians 15:41-42. There is one glory of the sun, &c.— Some would connect these two verses in the following manner: There is one glory of the sun, &c.—For one star differeth from another star, 1 Corinthians 15:42. So also in glory is the resurrection of the dead. But the clause, So also is the resurrection of the dead, should rather conclude the 41st verse. As if the Apostle had said, "Another kind of glory shall appear than human nature has known in its purest state, in any beauty of form, or ornaments of dress. There shall, indeed, as I intimated but now, be differences in the degree of that glory, correspondent to the different excellencies in the characters of good men, on whom it is to pass: but all shall experience a most illustrious and happy change." It should be observed, that the resurrection of the dead here spoken of, is not the resurrection of all mankind in common, but only the resurrection of the just. This will be evident to any one who observes that St. Paul having, 1Co 15:22 declared that all men shall be made alive again, tells the Corinthians, 1Co 15:23 that it shall not be all at once, but at several distances of time. First of all, Christ rose; afterwards next in order to him the just should all be raised, which resurrection of the just is that which he treats and gives an account of to the end of this discourse and chapter; and thus does not directly come to the resurrection of the wicked, which was to be the third and last in order: so that from the 23rd verse to the end of this chapter, all that he says of the resurrection, is a description only of the resurrection of the just, though he calls it here by the general name of the resurrection of the dead. That this is the case is so evident, that there is scarcely a verse from the 4lst to the end, which does not evince it. 1st, What in this resurrection is raised, St. Paul assures us, 1 Corinthians 15:43, is raised in glory, but the wicked are not raised in glory. 2nd, He says we (speaking in the name of all that shall be then raised) shall bear the image of the heavenly Adam, 1Co 15:49 which cannot belong to the wicked. We shall all be changed, that death may be swallowed up of victory, which God giveth us through our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1Co 15:57 which cannot likewise belong to the damned. And therefore we and us must be understood to be spoken in the name of the dead that will be Christ's, who are to be raised apart by themselves, before the rest of mankind. 3rdly, He says, 1 Corinthians 15:52, that when the dead are raised, they who are alive shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Now that these dead are only the dead in Christ, who shall rise first, and shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, is plain from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. 4thly, A farther proof whereof is, 1Co 15:56-57 in that their sins being taken away, the sting whereby death kills is taken away. And hence St. Paul says, God hath given us the victory, which is the same us or we who would bear the image of the heavenly Adam, 1 Corinthians 15:49, and the same we who should all be changed, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. All which places can therefore belong to none but those who will be Christ's, who shall be raised by themselves the second in order, before the rest of the dead. What St. Paul says in this 51st verse, is very remarkable, We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in the twinkling of an eye. The reason he gives for it, 1Co 15:53 is, becausethis corruptible thing must put on incorruption, and this mortal thing must put on immortality. How? Why by putting off flesh and blood, by an instantaneous change, because, as he tells us, 1 Corinthians 15:50, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; and therefore, to fit believers for that kingdom, those saints who are alive at Christ's coming, shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and those thatare in their graves shall be changed likewise, and so all the whole collection of saints, all the faithful members of Christ's body, shall be put into a state of incorruptibility, immortality, and glory, 1 Corinthians 15:52. Taking the resurrection here spoken of to be the resurrection of all the dead promiscuously, St. Paul's reasoning in this place can hardly be understood. But upon a supposition that he here describes the resurrection of the just only—that resurrection which he says, 1 Corinthians 15:23, is to be the next after Christ's, and separate from the rest, nothing can be more plain, natural, and easy than St. Paul's reasoning: and it stands thus; "Men alive are flesh and blood; the dead in the graves are but the remains of corrupted flesh and blood; but flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither can corruption inherit incorruption, that is to say, immortality: therefore, to make all those who will be Christ's, capable to enterinto his eternal kingdom of life—as well those of them who are then alive, as those of them who are raised from the dead, shall in the twinkling of an eye beall changed, and their corruptible shall put on incorruption, and their mortal shall put onimmortality: and thus God gives them the victory over death, through their Lord Jesus Christ." This is, in short, St. Paul's arguing here, and the account that he gives of the resurrection of the blessed. But how the wicked, who are afterwards to be restored to life, were to be raised, and what was to become of them, he here says nothing, as not being to his present purpose; which was to assure the Corinthians, by the resurrection of Christ, of a happy resurrection to all the faithful saints of God, and thereby to encourage them to continue steadfast in the faith which had such a reward. Nor is it in this place alone that St. Paul calls the resurrection of the just by the general name of the resurrection of the dead. He does the same, Philippians 3:11, where he speaks of his sufferings, and of his endeavours, if by any means he might attain unto the resurrection of the dead; wherebyhe cannot mean the resurrection of the dead in general; which, since he has declared in this very chapter, 1 Corinthians 15:22, that all men, both good and bad, shall as certainly partake of, as that they shall die, there needs no endeavours to attain to it. Our Saviour likewise speaks of the resurrection of the just in the same general terms of the resurrection, Matthew 22:30. And the resurrection from the dead, Luke 20:34-36, by which is meant only the resurrection of the just.
1 Corinthians 15:42-44. It is sown in corruption.— "The body which has now in it such manifest principles of mortality and corruption, which consists now of such brittle and tender parts, that the least disease disturbs, and unfits them for their operations; which is now subject to so many casualties, and has its continuance depending upon the fit disposition of so many little and easily-disordered parts, that it is a greater wonder how we continue to live a day, than why we die after so few years' space;—this body shall, at the resurrection, be perfectly refined and purged from all the seeds of mortality and corruption. In a word, in respect to the faithful saints of God, this corruptible body shall spring up into an incorruptible and immortal substance, which shall be fitted to endure in perfect glory, as long as the soul to which it is united, even to all eternity. Further, that body which at death seems so base and abject, so vile and contemptible, shall at the resurrection be transformed into a bright, a beautiful, and glorious body;which, in comparison of the animal frame, may with sufficient propriety be called a spiritual body, as being an infinitely more pure and refined vehicle for the soul." The phrase Σωμα ψυχικον, 1 Corinthians 15:44, which we render a natural body, should be rendered, more suitably to the Greek, and more conformably to the Apostle's meaning, an animal body; for St. Paul is shewing here, that as we have animal bodies now, which we derive from Adam, endowed with an animal life, which, unless supported by a constant supply of food and air, will fail and perish; and at last, do what we can, will dissolve and come to an end: so at the resurrection, we shall have from Christ, the second Adam, spiritual bodies, which shall have an essential and naturallyinseparablelifeinthem,continuingandsubsistingperpetuallyofitself,without the help of meat, or drink, or air, or any such foreign support; without decay, or any tendency to a dissolution. Of which our Saviour speaking, says, That they who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, cannot die any more, for they are equal to the angels: and surely in this view, there can be no impropriety or absurdity, as some have urged, in the Apostle's calling this future nature and constitution, whatever it may be, a spiritual body, or a spiritualized frame.
Mr. Locke justly observes, that the time of man's being in this world is his being sown, and not when, being dead, he is put into the grave; because dead things are not sown; seeds are sown being alive, and die not till after they are sown: and this, I apprehend, best agrees with the Apostle's calling the body a natural or animal body, 1 Corinthians 15:44. But yet, as laying and burying the body in the earth, bears some resemblance to the sowing of seed; and as the body is much more remarkable for its corruption, weakness, and dishonour, after, than before it dies, I would not exclude a consideration of its state and condition when it dies and is laid in the grave.
See commentary on 1Co 15:41
1 Corinthians 15:45. The first man Adam was made a living soul;— An animal with life, ψυχη,— anima, whence animal in the preceding verses. See 1Th 5:23 and the note on Genesis 2:7. The last clause is not a quotation from Scripture, as some have thought, but what the Apostle adds on occasion of the quotation from Genesis; as if he had said, "Christ is the last Adam, as an illustrious type of the first (Romans 5:14.); and he hath in himself a Spirit, with which he quickeneth whom he pleases, and in what degree he pleases,—even all his faithful saints." See John 1:4; Joh 5:26 and the 21st and 26th verses of this chapter.
1 Corinthians 15:47. The first man is of the earth,— "The first man was from the earth, and so earthly: he was created out of the dust of the earth, and his body was only a mass of animated clay; in reference to which it was said, 'Dust thou art.' The second man of whom we speak, is the Lord from heaven: and whatever of earth there was in the composition of the body which he condescended to wear, it is now completely purified and refined into the most glorious form."
1 Corinthians 15:51. Behold, I shew you a mystery:— I tell you, &c. That is, "a doctrine hitherto unknown, and which you cannot now be able fully to comprehend; for we, the faithful saints of God, shall not all sleep,—shall not all be submitted to the stroke of death; but we shall all, the living as well as the dead, at the appearance of Christ, be changed in a most happy and glorious manner into the image of our Lord." See 1 Thessalonians 4:15.
1 Corinthians 15:53. For this corruptible, &c.— "For, in order hereunto, (το φθαρτον τουτο ) this very individual decaying and corruptible body, which is now liable to putrefaction, and will soon corrupt in the grave, must be new-built, and formed into a state of strength and vigour, of spiritual and incorruptible qualities: and this very body (το θνητον τουτο) which is of mortal frame, and, generally speaking, shall die, must be, not created anew, but happilyaltered by a proper resurrection of the same substance, and must put on the form of a glorious immortality."
1 Corinthians 15:54-55. So when this corruptible, &c.— Or, And when, &c. "When this glorious and long expected event shall be accomplished,—when this corruptible part of our frame shall have put on incorruption, &c. thenshall be fulfilled what is written, Isaiah 25:8. Death is swallowed up in victory; perfectly subdued and destroyed; and so happy a state introduced, that it would hardly be known that death had ever had any place or power among Christ's subjects; in the assured view whereof, the Christian may even now, in faith and hope, with the greatest pleasure, take up his song of triumph, Where is thy sting, O death?" The original has a kind of poetical turn, which seems in some measure to suit the sublimity of the sentiment; for the first of the clauses, 1 Corinthians 15:55, is an Ionic, and the second a Trochaic verse; and Mr. Pope has only transposed them, to make them, as they stand in our verses, the conclusion of one of his stanzas,—O grave! where is thy victory?—O death! where is thy sting? It is generally thought that these words are quoted from Hos 10:14 where see the note.
Inferences.—The death and resurrection of Christ constitute the grand foundation of our holy faith. It may well be the daily joy of our hearts to think how firm that foundation stands, and what various and convincing evidence we have, that as Christ became incarnate, visited this wretched world, and died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; that as he condescended to go down into the caverns of the grave, and lie there in the cold and silent tomb, humbled in the dust of death; so also, according to the same Scriptures, he was raised again on the third day. How thankful ought we to be, that such convincing proofs were given of his resurrection, demonstrated by such infallible tokens and repeated appearances to all the Apostles, who had every opportunity which the most scrupulous temper could demand of examining at leisure into its certainty! More than five hundred persons were witnesses to it at one time; witnesses, who for many years survived to attest this important fact, and corroborate our faith and hope in God, who quickeneth the dead. As therefore we have thus received, so let us stand fast in this doctrine; remembering that our salvation dependeth on our steadfastly and practically retaining it; and that if ever, on any considerations, we make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, we have believed in vain, and worse than in vain.
It is matter of thankful joy, that St. Paul was added to this cloud of witnesses who attested the resurrection of Jesus;—that great Apostle, in whom the grace of God was so richly magnified; magnified peculiarly in that humility which he here expresses in so amiable a manner; calling himself the least of the Apostles, declaring that he was unworthy the name of an Apostle; and amidst all the labours and glories of this eminent station in the church, still keeping in his eye that madness, with which, in the days of his infidelity he had so grievously offended. And shall not we also learn of him to say, By the grace of God I am what I am?—Let us be solicitous that his grace bestowed on us be not in vain; and, ever bearing in mind them any sins of our unconverted state, and our great unworthiness since we have known God and been known of him let us labour in our Lord's service with proportionable zeal; and when we have laboured to the utmost, and exerted ourselves with the greatest fidelity and resolution, let us ascribe it to that divine agency which strengthened us for all; and say again, though some should esteem it a disagreeable tautology, Not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
Let us meditate with unutterable joy on the exaltation of our glorified Head,—of our gracious Sovereign, who has conquered death himself, and will make all his faithful saints partakers of his victory. He has received from his Father glory, honour, and dominion; and he shall reign till his conquest be universal and complete; shall reign till death be not only stripped of its trophies, but rendered subservient to his triumphs;—till all his purposes for his Father's glory and his own be fully accomplished.
But O! who can express the joy and glory of that day! when Christ shall give up the kingdom to the Father, and present unto him all his faithful subjects, transformed into his own image; a beautiful and splendid church indeed, for ever to be the object of the divine complacence; for ever to dwell in the divine presence, in a state of the greatest nearness to the tri-une God, who shall then be all in all!—Well may the expectation of this illustrious period cheer the Christian under his greater extremities, and make him of all men the most happy; when otherwise, on account of his sufferings in the flesh, he might seem of all men the most miserable. Well may this his rejoicing in Christ Jesus,—that sacred oath which this persecuted and distressed Apostle with so sublime a spirit here uses, encourage him to go on, though he be daily dying; though he were to encounter the most savage of mankind, and death itself in its most dreadful forms. Well may this knowledge of God, and of his exalted Son, and of his infinite love towards his faithful people, awaken us to righteousness, and deliver us from the bondage of sin.
God Almighty enable us to retain these noble principles of doctrine and action, and to guard against those evil communications, those sceptical and licentious notions, which would corrupt our spirits, which would enervate every generous spark kindled and animated by the Gospel; and, by bounding our views within the narrow circle of mortal life, degrade us from the anticipations of angelic felicity, to the pursuits of brutal gratifications.
We may learn from this incomparable discourse of the Apostle to curb that vain curiosity, which is so ready in matters of divine revelations to break out into an unbecoming petulance; and where we are sure that God declares the thing, let us leave it to him to overcome every difficulty that may seem to attend the manner in which it shall be effected. Nothing may be more useful for the conquering of this weakness, than to observe the operations of God in the works of nature, where he giveth to every seed, whether animal or vegetable, such a body as shall please him. Each is proper for its sphere, and beautiful in its connection and order, though the degree of their glory be different; yea, and thus all the diversity of glory, which shall at last be apparent among the children of God,—even the children of the resurrection, shall serve to illustrate the divine wisdom, and goodness, and faithfulness.
The alterations and process made in every instance will indeed be wonderful, when this mortal puts on immortality, and this corruptible puts on incorruption! O, let us for ever adore the divine goodness, that, when by our relation to the first Adam, we were under a sentence of condemnation and death, he was pleased, in his infinite mercy, to appoint that we should stand related to Christ, as the second Adam, in so happy a bond, that by him we may, if faithful unto death, recover what we have lost in the former; yea, and far more; so that, as we have borne the image of the earthly, we may also bear the image of the heavenly. May we all earnestly aspire after his blessedness, and remember that our bearing the image of his holiness is inseparably connected with the hope of so glorious a privilege!
Let us therefore endeavour, by cultivating holiness in all its branches, to maintain this hope in all its spirit and energy; longing for that glorious day, when, in the utmost strength of the prophetic expression, Death shall be swallowed up in victory; and millions of voices, after the long silence of the grave, shall burst out at once into that triumphant song, O death! where is thy sting?—O grave! where is thy victory? And when we see death disarmed, and the terrors of the law silenced, let us bless God for Jesus Christ, by whom the precepts of the law were perfectly fulfilled, and its penalty endured, that so we might not only be delivered from the curse, but called to inherit the blessing. Let it be considered as an engagement to universal obedience; and, in the assurance that whatever other labours may be frustrated, those in the Lord shall never be vain, let gratitude and interest concur to render us steadfast, immovable, and continually active in his service.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The resurrection of the dead being a chief article of the Christian faith, the Apostle, in this chapter, asserts and establishes the doctrine, in opposition to some false teachers who had attempted to undermine and overturn this glorious truth, 2 Timothy 2:17-18.
1. He reminds the Corinthians of that gospel which he had formerly preached unto them, which they had received from his lips, and in the faith of which they had hitherto in general persevered. By which also, he adds, ye are saved, if ye keep in memory, or hold fast, what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all, or among the most capital points of the Christian faith, and as the foundation on which all our hopes in time and eternity are built, that which I also received by immediate revelation, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, which had foretold his substitution and sufferings in the sinner's stead; and that he was buried; having truly tasted of death, he was laid in the grave; and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; being delivered for our offences, he was raised again for our justification; and in his resurrection we have an earnest of our own. And of the fact of his being risen we have the most authentic evidence, as I have told you that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve, which name they bore, though their original number, by the apostacy of Judas and the absence of Thomas, was not complete. After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep in Jesus. After that he was seen of James, the brother or near kinsman of the Lord; then of all the Apostles; all of whom were ready to seal their testimony with their blood; men, who could not be deceived themselves, nor could be under the least temptation of deceiving others, when they expected nothing but suffering and death in every tremendous shape for their fidelity. And last of all, he was seen of me also, that I might be an eye-witness of his resurrection, when called in so miraculous a way to the office and honour of an Apostle. Hereupon,
2. He makes a beautiful digression, with the deepest humility acknowledging his own unworthiness, and Christ's rich grace in calling and qualifying him for the work of the apostleship. He was seen of me, as of one born out of due time; despicable as an abortive foetus, and brought forth with violent pangs: for I am the least of the Apostles, utterly unworthy of the high honour, and last called to it; that am not meet to be called an Apostle, but deserved to have an eternal brand of infamy stamped upon me, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, his amazingly rich and unmerited grace, a happy alteration is wrought in me, and I am what I am, have obtained mercy, and have been called not only to the faith of the Gospel, but to the dignity of an Apostle; and his grace which was bestowed upon me, was not in vain, but wrought effectually; so that under the influence of it I laboured more abundantly than they all, undergoing greater hardships, exposed to greater dangers, and with the most unwearied diligence spreading the Gospel through the world. Yet not I, though constrained to vindicate my character, I impute nothing to myself, but to the grace of God which was with me, enabling me for his work, and crowning it with success. Therefore, whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed: all of us bore the same testimony to a crucified and risen Redeemer, and you professed to make him your whole dependance for pardon, grace, life, and salvation. Note; (1.) A gracious man remembers with deep humility those sad days when he lived in rebellion against God. (2.) Whatever we are or do, to the grace of God alone we are indebted for it, and he must have the glory. (3.) All true ministers of Jesus bring one message, determined to know nothing but Christ, and him crucified.
2nd, Having proved the certainty of Christ's resurrection, he proceeds to shew the certainty of ours; refuting the opinion of those heretical teachers, who suggested that it was impossible, or that Christ did not rise in a public capacity, as the head and first-fruits of his faithful saints. Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? From which, if it were true, the following absurdities would necessarily follow:
1. If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen, notwithstanding all the prophesies, and the undoubted testimony of so many unexceptionable witnesses.
2. If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, useless, and unprofitable, the resurrection of Jesus being the grand truth on which the whole Gospel depends; and your faith is also vain; the doctrine on which it is built would have no solid foundation, and the hopes which you thence derive must disappoint and deceive you. Yea, and, on this supposition, we are found false witnesses of God, and must have made use of his sacred name to support a most impious falsehood; because we have testified of God, professing to act by his authority, and under his commission, that he raised up Christ to a glorious and immortal life, in token of the acceptance of his undertaking as the reward of his sufferings, and as he is the head of his faithful saints, who should follow him into his kingdom: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not: for it is evident, if the dead rise not, then it not Christ, who was once numbered among the dead, raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, and all the hopes arising from him are delusive: ye are yet in your sins, under the guilt and condemnation of them: for as there is no atonement for sin, but that which he offered, and on his resurrection the acceptance of his sacrifice depended, if he had continued in the grave, and seen corruption, we must have sunk into despair, and concluded his oblation unsatisfactory; nor could we have expected, that he who remained himself the prisoner of death, should ever be able to deliver us from the power of it.
3. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished, this being the necessary consequence of the above horrid supposition; for if Christ be not risen, their hope in him is vain; and then, though they died martyrs for his cause, they have departed with a lie in their right hand, and are lost for ever; than which thought nothing can be more shocking or discouraging to surviving Christians.
4. If this were the case, that in this life only we have hope in Christ, and after death have nothing to look for, we, who are Christians by profession, and especially the ministers of Christ, who stand most exposed to persecution and all kinds of suffering for his sake, are of all men most miserable; foregoing all the comforts and advantages of this life, and wading through a sea of difficulties and trials: and how absurd would this be, if after death we had no respect to the recompence of reward, and expected not a joyful resurrection! and who would ever seek to be crucified unto the world, and the world unto him, if he looked no farther than the grave, and hoped for nothing in eternity.
3rdly, The certainty of Christ's resurrection being proved, and the glaring absurdities demonstrated which must follow from a contrary supposition, the Apostle passes on to the effects of Christ's resurrection, as ensuring the resurrection of all the descendants of Adam, and especially the resurrection to glory of all the faithful saints of God.
1. Because Christ is risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept and shall sleep in him. He is the first-begotten from the dead, and the first-born of many brethren,—all the persevering saints, whom he will bring unto glory; and his resurrection is the pledge and earnest that all his faithful people shall live with him for ever. God, in raising him up, has given his saints, who persevere in the love of him, the assurance, that they shall be blessed and gathered in with him in their season: for since, or because, by man came death, which followed on the first sin, by man came also the resurrection of the dead, by the second man, the Lord from heaven. For as in Adam, our common parent, all die, involved in his guilt, and exposed to death, temporal, spiritual, and eternal; so in Christ shall all mankind be made alive; and especially all his faithful saints, who, by virtue of their union with him, shall be raised to a life of eternal glory. But every man in his own order, (εκαστος ) Christ first, and then his saints, shall each in their time, rank, and order, rise into glory—Christ, the first-fruits, who consecrates the harvest, and is the pledge of our resurrection; afterward they that are Christ's, at his coming, even all his faithful people.
2. The Apostle proves that we must rise, because death is among those enemies which the exalted Mediator shall destroy. Then cometh the end of the world, and of all the sorrows of the faithful, when, having gathered in all his persevering saints, he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, that mediatorial kingdom, the peculiar administration of which has been entrusted to him as the Son of man: when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power; abolishing every form of civil and ecclestiastical government, and subduing every enemy, human or diabolical, that tyrannized over his people; for he must reign, as Mediator, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed, is death, when the dead bodies of his faithful people shall be raised to immortal life, no more to see corruption. For he, even God the Father, hath put all things under his feet, and appointed him to be Head over all things to his church. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that this refers only to all created beings, and that he is excepted which did put all things under him; for God himself can be subject to none. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, and the ends of his Mediatorial kingdom answered in the complete salvation of all his faithful saints, both in body and soul, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him; he will then resign the peculiar government committed to him, surrendering himself as the Head of his church, and the members of his body mystical, into his Father's hands, to receive those eternal rewards which are due to him in virtue of his great atonement; that God may be all in all; and henceforth the delegated power and authority of Jesus, as Mediator, shall cease, and the one glorious God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, shall be the immediate fountain of dominion and blessedness to the church triumphant for ever.
3. He argues the certainty of the resurrection from the very baptism of Christians. Else what shall they do which are baptized? If there be no resurrection, how absurd and strange would it be to take up the Christian profession, when, if they had nothing in prospect after death, and here stood exposed to every misery, and the danger of daily martyrdom, they would seem merely baptized for the dead, and be of all men most miserable if the dead rise not at all. Why are they then baptized for the dead? Who with such a prospect would ever be prevailed on to embrace Christianity? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour, and ready to seal our testimony with our blood, if we had not the glorious hope of a better resurrection? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus, by all the comforts of Christianity, and as surely as that Spirit lives who is the author of them, I die daily, living continually in the nearest views and expectations of martyrdom. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, encountering men brutish and savage in their tempers, and have exposed myself to conflicts as dangerous as those which the condemned criminals sustain when obliged to encounter wild beasts in the public amphitheatres, what advantageth it me, what benefit could I reap from such perilous adventures, or what could ever induce me thus to hazard my life, if the dead rise not? Surely if this were the case, that nothing was to be hoped for after the grave, it would be our wisdom rather to adopt the principles of Epicurus, than of Christianity, and to say, Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die, and rather enjoy present pleasure, than suffer needless pain, if there were no hereafter, and death put an end to us for ever. Note; (1.) Nothing but the prospects of eternity can possibly engage any to the practice of Christianity. Till we have realizing views by faith of the things not seen, it is impossible that we should take up the cross of Christ. (2.) One great support in suffering is a respect to the recompence of the reward.
4. The Apostle closes this part of his discourse with a solemn caution. Be not deceived by those false teachers who endeavour to sap the foundation of your hopes: Evil communications corrupt good manners; the bad principles of these seducers could not but produce immoral practice; and to be connected and intimate with such men was dangerously infectious. Note; Bad company should be shunned as the plague. Awake then to righteousness; be on your guard, and see that ye walk as becomes your holy profession: for I perceive by these dangerous doctrines which have been introduced among you, that some of you have not the knowledge of God, and of his mind and will, as revealed in his Gospel. I speak this to your shame, that men of such bad principles and corrupt conversation should be among you, permitted as teachers, or suffered to communicate with the church as members. Note; We are blameable not only for the evils that we commit ourselves, but those which we connive at in others.
4thly, Two plausible objections against the resurrection are here suggested. (1.) How are the dead raised up? what power is sufficient for such a work, to recover the scattered atoms? and (2.) With what body do they come? with the same identical particles, or in some other shape and form? In answer to the objector, the Apostle replies, Thou fool. Probably the persons who opposed the doctrine of the resurrection pretended to high attainments in science, and to reason as philosophers; but they proved their ignorance, rather than their wisdom, and erred, not knowing the scriptures, or the power of God.
1. That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die. The same Power, therefore, that every year raises, from under the clod where the seed was sown and corrupted, a plenteous harvest, can raise from the grave the body which has returned to its dust again; and it would be as absurd to object against the possibility of the one as the other.
2. As to the manner of the resurrection, and with what body we shall come from the grave, to continue the similitude, I answer, That which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, without any of that rich clothing which afterwards it produces, the blade, the ear, and then the full corn in the ear; it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain, which dies and revives again: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body; so ordering it, in infinite wisdom, that every seed produces its own species. In quality, indeed, the resurrection body will differ from the present, though in identity of person the same. Nor is this strange, when we see out of the same materials, that bodies of very different qualities are formed. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds; the substance is originally the same, though, by divine power, wonderfully diversified in quality. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial; but, though all formed of the first created matter, they greatly differ in excellence; the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another: such difference will there be between the present and the resurrection body, as between a clod and a star. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory, is of greater magnitude, and shines with greater splendor; so also is the resurrection of the dead. Such will be the difference between the saints in glory, according to their excellencies. We are raised by the same divine power which makes the corn vegetate; and that almighty hand which modifies the same matter in the different bodies around us, can make the like glorious difference between our present and our resurrection body, though the manner how, may be to us inconceivable. It is sown in corruption, from the day of its generation till it is putrified in the dust; it is raised in incorruption, incapable of putrefaction or dissolution. It is sown in dishonour; in life full of defilement, covered with shame; in death loathsome and most contemptible; it is raised in glory, like unto Christ's glorious body, shining as the stars for ever and ever. It is sown in weakness, is at present liable to a thousand infirmities, pain, weariness, sickness, accidents, and death; and in the grave must be a prey for worms; it is raised in power, vigorous and active, fit to join the immortal soul, and, without weariness, and without ceasing, to serve God in his temple for ever. It is sown a natural body, which needs the constant support of meat and drink, and sleep, like the beasts that perish: it is raised a spiritual body, requiring none of these animal refreshments. There is a natural body, such as we now possess; and there is a spiritual body, suited to the celestial world which is the inheritance of the saints. And so it is written, The first man Adam, from whom we derive our present body, was made a living soul, was endued with animal life, and required all those supports which we do: the last Adam, the Lord Jesus, was made a quickening Spirit, possessing life in himself, and the fountain of it to believers, having, since his resurrection, a spiritual body: and by virtue of his power, and the union of his faithful saints to him, he shall fashion their bodies like his own.
Howbeit, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual: Adam's animal body was first, Christ's spiritual body afterwards; and such is the order also established for the faithful, first to bear the natural, then to receive the spiritual body. The first man was of the earth, formed from the clay; and by his sin he became earthy, returning to the dust whence he came. The second man is the Lord from heaven, coming thence to take our nature upon him; and is now returned thither with his human nature glorified; and his faithful people may expect him to come from thence to make them like himself. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; as Adam's body was, so must our's be, who sprung from him, mortal and corruptible; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly; as many as are born from above, and made partakers of a divine nature, and are faithful unto death, shall be conformed in their bodies to their Lord, and shall shortly be glorified together. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, by nature the children of corruption, sprung from a fallen parent, and like him must return to dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly; as many as are by faith perseveringly united to Jesus, and renewed in the spirit of their minds, shall bear shortly his bright image in their bodies, as well as souls, for ever.
5thly, The Apostle,
1. Gives the reason of the change which he had described. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood, such as our bodies are at present, cannot inherit the kingdom of God; they are unable to bear the eternal weight of glory, and incapable of tasting the delights, or being employed in the services, of that blest world to which the faithful are going. Neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. The body must be refined from its corruptible dross before it can enter upon or enjoy the incorruptible inheritance.
2. He informs them of a secret unknown to them. Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep in the dust, but we shall all be changed; on as many of the saints as shall be found alive at Christ's appearing, a change will pass equivalent to death and resurrection, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, when the voice of Jesus shall awaken the dead. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed, the bodies of the faithful undergoing a happy alteration in their qualities, though preserving their identity; for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality, that they may be capable of enjoying that celestial happiness which Jesus has purchased and provided for all those who shall have followed him faithfully through the regeneration.
3. When this awful season comes, then shall death be for ever abolished. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Isaiah 25:8. Death is swallowed up in victory. And that king of terrors shall be so utterly destroyed, that he shall never more be able to lift his arm against one of the glorified saints; and, in the prospect of this happy day, the faithful soul can even now, in faith and hope, antedate her eternal triumphs, and, exulting, cry, O death, where is thy sting? I defy it. O grave, where is thy victory? I rise immortal, and tread thee beneath my feet for ever.
4. The ground of the believer's triumph is here declared. The sting of death is sin; this arms the monster with all his terrors; and the strength of sin is the law, binding over the transgressor to a future judgment; and not merely denouncing bodily death as the wages of sin, but passing sentence of eternal death, and consigning body and soul to hell. But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. In his adored name we lift up our banners; in his righteousness we make our boast, since he has died in our stead, he has led captivity captive; though the faithful see corruption in the grave, death cannot hold dominion over them; they shall rise glorious and immortal; and, through their great Redeemer's power and grace, come and reign with him in glory everlasting. Note; (1.) Death is no longer dreadful, when the sting of sin, through the atoning Blood, is taken out of the conscience. The faithful shall find, by the way of the grave, the golden gates of life and immortality, which open into the paradise of God. (2.) That which will be the subject of the everlasting praises of the righteous, should now be the matter of their songs.
5. He closes the whole with a warm exhortation, arising from the foregoing discourse. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, firm, and unwavering in the faith and hope of the gospel, especially in the great doctrines of the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus, with the blessed effects thence flowing, of the immortal life and glory of all the faithful; unmoveable by any of the artifices of Satan, or the craft of seducers; founded on the rock which storms assail in vain; always abounding in the work of the Lord, zealously and abidingly engaged in his service, cheerful, and willing to undergo any sufferings, in spite of every opposition, increasing with the increase of God; knowing, as the most assured truth, that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord, but that, perseveringly cleaving to him in faith, he will strengthen, uphold, and own you in life and in death, and, after death, raise up your bodies to immortal life, and bestow the never-fading crown of righteousness and glory upon you, the reward, not, indeed, of debt, but of grace. Note; (1.) Our practice will keep pace always with the strength of our faith; and the more realizing our views of eternal things are, the more vigorously shall we press towards the mark for the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus. (2.) It is the strongest encouragement to labour for the Lord, that the faithful soul is sure to succeed in his service. (3.) Whatever we do or suffer for Christ, we shall never regret in the day of the resurrection, and shall only then be ashamed that we have loved him no more, and served him no better.