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Bible Commentaries
1 Corinthians 15

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Verses 1-58


1 Corinthians 15:1-58

The doctrine of the resurrection. This chapter, and the thirteenth, on Christian love, stand out, even among the writings of St. Paul, as pre-eminently beautiful and important. No human words ever written have brought such comfort to millions of mourners as the words of this chapter, which form a part of the Burial Service of almost every Christian community. It is the more deeply imprinted on the memory of men because it comes to us in the most solemn hours of bereavement, when we have most need of a living faith. The chapter falls into six sections.

1. The evidence of Christ's resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).

2. The resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith in the general resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).

3. Results to be deduced from Christ's resurrection (verses. 20—28).

4. The life of believers an argument for the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:29-34).

5. Analogies helpful for understanding the subject (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).

6. Conclusion and exhortation (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The evidence of the resurrection of Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:1

Moreover. The δὲ of the original merely marks the transition to a new topic. The gospel. He here uses the word with special reference to the Resurrection, which is one of the most central and necessary doctrines of the "good tidings," and which always occupied a prominent place in St. Paul's preaching (Acts 17:18; Acts 23:6), as well as in that of all the apostles (Acts 1:22; Acts 4:2; 1 Peter 3:21). Ye have received; rather, ye received. The "also" is emphatic. The Corinthians had not been like Christ's "own," who "received him not" (John 1:11).

1 Corinthians 15:2

By which also ye are saved; literally, ye are being saved. It is as if some surprise was expressed at the necessity for again making known to them a gospel which

(1) he had preached and

(2) they also received; and

(3) in which they now stood fast (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 6:13); and

(4) by means of which they were now in a state of safety, they were of the class of sozomenoi (Acts 2:47). If ye keep in memory what I preached unto you. The order, which is peculiar, is, "In what words I preached to you, if ye hold [it] fast." Possibly the "in what discourse" depends on "I make known to you." The duty of "holding fast" what they had heard is often impressed on the early converts (1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Hebrews 10:23). Ye have believed; rather, ye believed; i.e. ye became believers. In vain. The word may either mean "rashly," "without evidence," as in classical Greek; or "to no purpose," "without effect," as in Romans 13:4; Galatians 3:4; Galatians 4:11. In this case they would have received the seed in stony places (Matthew 13:21).

1 Corinthians 15:3

First of all; literally, among the first things; but this idiom means "first of all." It does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, but is found in Genesis 33:2; 2 Samuel 5:8 (LXX.). This testimony to the Resurrection is very remarkable, because:

1. It is the completest summary.

2. It refers to some incidents which are not mentioned in the Gospels.

3. It declares that the death and resurrection of Christ were a subject of ancient prophecy.

4. It shows the force of the evidence on which the apostles relied and the number of living eye witnesses to whom they could appeal.

5. It is the earliest written testimony to the Resurrection; for it was penned within twenty-five years of the event itself.

6. It shows that the evidence for the Resurrection as a literal, historical, objective fact, was sufficient to convince the powerful intellect of a hostile contemporary observer.

7. It probably embodies, and became the model for, a part of the earliest Creed of the Church. For our sins; literally, on behalf of. The passage is remarkable as the only one in which "on behalf of" is used with "sins" in St. Paul. In 1 Corinthians 1:13 we are told that he died" on behalf of us" (Romans 5:8; see 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24). The expressions involve the image of Christ as a Sin Offering for the forgiveness of sins. According to the Scriptures. The chief passages alluded to are doubtless Isaiah 53:5, Isaiah 53:8; Daniel 9:26; Psalms 22:1-31.; Zechariah 12:10; together with such types as the offering of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-24.) and the Paschal lamb, etc. Our Lord had taught the apostles confidently to refer to the Messianic interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies (Luke 24:25, Luke 24:46 : Acts 8:35; Acts 17:3; Acts 26:22, Acts 26:23; John 2:22; John 20:9; 1 Peter 1:11).

1 Corinthians 15:4

And that he rose; rather, that he had been raised. The burial was a single act; the Resurrection is permanent and eternal in its issues. According to the Scriptures (Psalms 16:10; Isaiah 53:10; Hosea 6:2; Jonah 2:10; comp. Matthew 12:40; Matthew 16:4; Acts 2:31; Act 13:1-52 :340.

1 Corinthians 15:5

Was seen of Cephas (Luke 24:34). The appearances to the women (John 20:14, etc.) are omitted, as being evidential rather to the apostles than to the world. The twelve (John 20:19, John 20:26). Some officious scribes have in some manuscripts altered the word into" the eleven." But "the twelve" is here the designation of an office, and great ancient writers are always indifferent to mere pragmatic accuracy in trifles which involve nothing. To witness to the Resurrection was a main function of "the twelve" (Acts 2:23; Acts 3:15; Acts 10:40, etc.).

1 Corinthians 15:6

Above five hundred brethren at once. We cannot be certain whether this memorable appearance took place in Jerusalem or in Galilee. It is, however, most probable that this was the appearance on the mountain (Matthew 28:16, Matthew 28:17; comp. Matthew 26:32). Of whom the greater part remain unto this present. This sentence—a confident contemporary appeal to a very large number of living witnesses, by one who would rather have died than lied—is of the highest evidential value. It shows that the Resurrection was not "a thing done in a corner "(Acts 26:26). Fallen asleep. The beautiful and common word for death in the New Testament (Matthew 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 7:60, etc.). Hence the word "cemetery"—"a sleeping place."

1 Corinthians 15:7

Seen of James. The "James" intended is undoubtedly the only James then living, who was known to the whole Christian Church, namely, "the Lord's brother," the author of the Epistle, and the Bishop of Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18). James the son of Zebedee had by this time been martyred, and James the son of Alphaeus was never much more than a name to the Church in general. There is no mention of this appearance in the Gospel; but in the Gospel of the Hebrews was a curious legend (preserved in St. Jerome, 'De Virr. Illust.,' 2.) that James had made a vow that he would neither eat nor drink till he had seen Jesus risen from the dead, and that Jesus, appearing to him, said, "My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of man is risen from the dead." The truth of the appearance is strongly supported by the fact that James, like the rest of the Lord's "brothers," "did not believe" in Christ before the Crucifixion, whereas after the Resurrection we find him and the rest of "the Lord's brothers" ardently convinced (John 12:3-5; Acts 1:14; Acts 9:5, etc.). Of all the apostles (Acts 1:3; Luke 24:50). James the Lord's brother was only an apostle in the wider sense of the word.

1 Corinthians 15:8

He was seen of me also. The reference undoubtedly is to the vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:5; Acts 22:14; Acts 26:16). As of one born out of due time; literally, as to the abortive born. The word means "the untimely fruit of a woman," a child born out of the due time or natural course; and hence "diminutive" and "weakly." The Greek ektroma is represented by the Latin abortivus. St. Paul, when he remembered the lateness of his conversion, and his past persecution of the saints, regards himself as standing in this relation to the twelve.

1 Corinthians 15:9

For. This and the next verse are an explanation of the strong and strange term which he had applied to himself. The least of the apostles. In St. Paul there was a true and most deep humility, but no mock modesty. He knew the special gifts which he had received from God. He was well aware that to him had been entrusted the ten talents rather than the one talent. He could appeal to far vaster results than had been achieved by the work of any other apostle. He knew his own importance as "a chosen vessel," a special instrument in God's hands to work out exceptional results. But in himself he always felt, and did not shrink from confessing, that he was "nothing" (2 Corinthians 12:11). The notion that he here alludes to the meaning of his own name (Paulus, connected with παῦρος, φαῦρος, equivalent to "little") is very unlikely. In Ephesians 3:8 he goes further, and calls himself "less than the least of all saints," though even there he claims to have been the special apostle of the Gentiles. Because I persecuted the Church of God. This was the one sin for which, though he knew that God had forgiven him (1 Timothy 1:13), yet he could never quite forgive himself (Galatians 1:13). In my 'Life of St. Paul' I have shown from the language used, that this persecution was probably more deadly than has been usually supposed, involving not only torture, but actual bloodshed (Acts 8:4; Acts 9:1), besides the martyrdom of St. Stephen. We can imagine how such deeds and such scenes would, even after forgiveness, lie like sparks of fire in a sensitive conscience.

"Saints, did I say? with your remembered faces;
Dear men and women whom I sought and slew?
Oh, when I meet you in the heavenly places,
How will I weep to Stephen and to you!"

1 Corinthians 15:10

By the grace of God I am. what I am. And therefore he was "in nothing behind the very chiefest apostles." However humbly he thought of himself, it would have been mere unfaithfulness to disparage his own work (2 Corinthians 3:5, 2 Corinthians 3:6). I laboured more abundantly than they all. Because God wrought effectually in him (Galatians 2:8). The word used for "labour" implies the extreme of toil (Matthew 6:28 : Philippians 2:16), etc. But the grace of God. "It is God that worketh in you" (Philippians 2:13; Matthew 10:20; Colossians 1:29).

1 Corinthians 15:11

Whether it were I or they; namely, who preached this gospel to you. It is not his immediate object to maintain his independent apostolic claims, but only to appeal to the fact of the Resurrection which was preached by all the apostles alike. So. In accordance with the testimony just given (1 Corinthians 15:4-8). We preach. There are in the New Testament two words for "preaching." One is often rendered "prophesy," and refers to spiritual instruction and exhortation. The other, which is used here, is "we proclaim," or "herald" (kerusso), and refers to the statement of the facts of the gospel—Christ crucified and risen (1 Corinthians 2:2; Acts 4:2; Acts 8:5). Besides these, there is the one word for "to preach the gospel," or "evangelize."

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our faith in the general resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:12

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead. St. Paul sees that if One has risen from the dead, the fact of that miracle, taken in connection with the rest of the gospel, furnishes Christians with a sufficient proof that they shall rise. "For," he had already said to the Thessalonians, "if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him" (see the same argument in Romans 8:11). That there is no resurrection of the dead. These deniers of the resurrection are usually called "the Corinthian Sadducees." After the state of social and moral laxity of which we have been reading, we can scarcely be surprised at the existence of any disorder or anomaly in the Church of Corinth. Yet it comes with something of a shock on our paralyzed sense of astonishment to read that some of these Christians actually denied a resurrection! The fact at once proves two remarkable truths, namely,

(1) that the early Christian Church had none of the ideal purity of doctrine which is sometimes ecclesiastically attributed to it; and

(2) that there was in the bosom of that Church a wide and most forbearing tolerance. We have no data to enable us to determine what were the influences which led to the denial of the resurrection.

1. They can hardly have been Jewish. The mass of Jews at this time shared the views of the Pharisees, who strongly maintained the resurrection (Acts 23:6). If they were Jews at all, they could only have been Sadducees or Essenes. But

(1) the Sadducees were a small, wealthy, and mainly political sect, who had no religious influence, and can certainly have had no representatives at Corinth; and

(2) the Essenes, though they had considerable influence in Asia, do not seem to have established themselves in Greece, nor are we aware that they were hostile to the doctrine of the resurrection.

2. Probably, then, they were Gentiles. If so, they may have been

(1) either Epicureans, who disbelieved in a future life altogether; or

(2) Stoics, who held that the future life was only an impersonal absorption into the Divine. Both these schools of philosophers "jeered" at the very notion of a bodily resurrection (Acts 17:32). In 2 Timothy 2:18 we read of some, like Hymenaeus and Philetus, who erred, saying "that the resurrection was past already." These teachers were incipient Gnostics, who spiritualized the resurrection, or rather said that the term was only applicable to the rising from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. The Corinthian doubters seem from the arguments which St. Paul addresses to them, to have been rather troubled with material doubts which they may have inherited from their Gentile training.

1 Corinthians 15:13

Then is Christ not risen. If the possibility of a resurrection be generically denied, it cannot in any instance be true. Yet you admit as Christians that Christ rose! and his resurrection "has begotten us again to a lively hope" (1 Peter 1:3; see 2 Corinthians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; John 14:19).

1 Corinthians 15:14

Vain. You accepted our proclamation (kerugma), yet it would be utterly void if its central testimony was false. The word translated "then" has a sort of ironic force—"after all," or "it seems." The whole argument is at once an argumentum ad hominem and a reductio ad absurdum. Your faith is also vain. For it would be faith in a crucified man, not in the risen Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:15

We are found. The word means, "we are proved to be," convicted of being false witnesses. False witnesses of God; i.e. concerning God. St. Paul does not shrink from the issue. It is not one—it could not be one—between truth and mistake, but between truth and falsehood. We have testified of God that he raised up Christ; rather, the Christ. "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses" (Acts 2:32; Acts 4:33; Acts 13:30).

1 Corinthians 15:16

This verse is a repetition of 1 Corinthians 15:13, to emphasize the argument that the Christian faith in the Resurrection rests not on philosophic theory, but on an historic fact.

1 Corinthians 15:17

Vain; rather, frustrate. The word used (mataia) is different from the word used (kene) in ver 14. Ye are yet in your sins. Because a dead Redeemer could be no Redeemer. Christ's resurrection is the pledge of his Divine power. He was "raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25). It is only "as a Prince and Saviour" that "God hath exalted him to give repentance and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31; Romans 5:10).

1 Corinthians 15:18

Which are fallen asleep in Christ. Christians whose bodies have sunk into the sleep of death. Are perished. A notion which he feels that Christians must reject as utterly impossible. All that goodness, faith, tenderness, love, have not been dissolved to nothing.

1 Corinthians 15:19

If in this life only we have hope in Christ. The word to which "in Christ" should be joined is uncertain; the order st the original is, "If in this life in Christ we have hoped only." The "only" seems therefore to qualify the whole sentence: "If we have merely hoped in Christ, and that only in this life." We are of all men most miserable; literally, we are more pitiable than all men. The remark only has an absolute bearing when Christians really are suffering from persecutions, as they did in St. Paul's day (2 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:12). But to some extent all Christians have to bear their cross, and if all that they give up and suffer is sacrificed to a delusion, they deserve most pity in one sense, because they have been most conspicuously befooled. In another sense they are still the happiest of men; for their delusion, judged by its fruits, is more blessed than the dreary blank which is the only alternative.

1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Results to be deduced from the fact of Christ's resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:20

But now. Since the supposition that Christ has not risen involves so many suppositions which you will rightly reject as absurd, we may assume the eternal fact that Christ has been raised. And become the firstfruits of them that slept. As the wave sheaf (Leviticus 23:1-44. Leviticus 23:10), which was the firstfruits of the harvest, is also a pledge of the harvest, so Christ is the firstfruits and pledge of the resurrection of all mankind.

1 Corinthians 15:21

By man came death (see Romans 5:12, Romans 5:17; Romans 6:21, Romans 6:23).

1 Corinthians 15:22

As in Adam all die. All of us partake of Adam's nature, and are therefore liable to the death which that nature incurred as the law and condition of its humanity. In Christ shall all be made alive. It is St. Paul's invariable habit to isolate his immediate subject; to think and to treat of one topic at a time. He is not here thinking directly and immediately of the resurrection in general. In this verse, writing to Christians who are "in Christ," he is only thinking and speaking of the resurrection of those who are "in Christ." That any can be nominally "in Christ," yet not really so, is a fact which is not at present under his cognizance; still less is he thinking of the world in general. In other words, he is here dealing with "the resurrection of life" alone, and not also with the "resurrection of judgment" (John 5:26-29). Still, as far as his words alone are concerned, it is so impossible to understand the phrase, "shall all be made alive," of a resurrection to endless torments, that his language at least suggests the conclusion that "the principle which has come to actuality in Christ is of sufficient energy to quicken all men for the resurrection to the blessed life" (Baur, 'Life of St. Paul,' 2:219).

1 Corinthians 15:23

In his own order. The word in classic Greek means "a cohort." Here it must either mean "rank" or be used as in St. Clement ('Ad. Corinthians,' 1:37), in the sense of "order of succession." They that are Christ's. "The dead in Christ" (1 Thessalonians 4:16). At his coming. The word here used for the second Advent is Parousia, which means literally, presence. It is implied (apparently) both here and in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Revelation 20:5, that there shall be an interval—how long or how short we do not know—between this resurrection of the just and the final resurrection. But all the details are left dim and vague.

1 Corinthians 15:24

The end. That "end of all things," beyond which the vision of Christian eschatology does not look. When he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God. The "kingdom" delivered up is not that of the coequal Godhead, but the mediatorial kingdom. The Divine kingdom "shall have no end" (Luke 1:33, etc.), and "shall not pass away" (Daniel 7:13). But the mediatorial kingdom shall end in completion when the redemptive act has achieved its final end. When he shall have put down; rather, shall have annulled or abolished. All rule. Because then "the kingdoms of the world" shall all "have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15).

1 Corinthians 15:25

He must reign. He must reign in his mediatorial kingdom as the God Man. He hath put. The "he" probably means Christ himself (comp. Psalms 2:9; Hebrews 10:13), though it makes no real difference in the sense if we understand it of God, as in Psalms 110:1.

1 Corinthians 15:26

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. This rendering might imply that other enemies should still exist, though Death should be the last who would be destroyed. The original is more forcible, and implies, "Last of enemies doomed to annulment is Death;" or, as in Tyndale's version, "Lastly, Death the enemy shall be destroyed;" or, as in the Rhemish Version, "And at the last, Death the enemy scal be distried." The present, "is being annulled," is the praesens futurascens, or the present of which the accomplishment is regarded as already begun and continuing by an inevitable law. Death and Hades and the devil, "who hath the power of death," are all doomed to abolition (2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 20:14).

1 Corinthians 15:27

But when he saith. The "he" refers to God. This indirect method of quotation is common in the rabbis. The reference is to Psalms 8:7 (LXX.), and the words, spoken of man in general, are here Messianically transferred to the federal Head of humanity, the ideal and perfect God Man, Jesus Christ. (For the fuller explanation of the matter, see Hebrews 2:5-10.) He is excepted, which did put all things under him. So our Lord says, "All things are delivered unto me of my Father" (Matthew 11:7). The universal dominion of Christ is also insisted on in Eph 1:20-22; 1 Peter 3:22.

1 Corinthians 15:28

Then shall the Son also himself be subject, etc. The words can only be taken as they stand. The attempts to explain them have usually been nothing but ingenious methods of explaining them away. Of these the one usually adopted by the Fathers is the limitation of the statement to Christ's human nature (John 5:26, John 5:27, John 5:30) and mediatorial kingdom, just as we find in 1 Corinthians 11:3. The head of Christ is God." We can easily "darken counsel by words without knowledge" in dealing with this subject, and hide an absolute ignorance under a semblance of knowledge; but anything and everything which we can say in "explanation" of this self subjection of the Son to the Father is simply involved in the words which follow. That God may be all in all. "All things in all things" or "all things in all men." The words involve a complete and absolute supremacy. It is quite an easy matter for commentators to say that the scope of the words "must be confined to believers," if they chose to make "all" mean "some." Such methods often lead to an irreligious religionism and a heterodox orthodoxy. The reader will find the same phrase in Colossians 3:11. I confine myself to the comment of the profound and saintly Bengel: "There is implied something new, but also supreme and eternal. All things, and therefore all men, without any interruption, no created thing claiming a place, no enemy creating opposition, shall be subordinated to the Son, the Son to the Father. All things shall say, 'God is all things to me.' This is the consummation; this the end and summit. Further than this not even an apostle can go."

1 Corinthians 15:29-34

Arguments from the practices and lives of Christians. The three arguments used in these verses are: If there be no resurrection:

1. Why do some of you get yourselves baptized on behalf of your dead friends?

2. Why do we face lives of daily peril?

3. How would it be otherwise possible to resist Epicurean views of life?

1 Corinthians 15:29

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, etc.? This clause can have but one meaning, and that its obvious one, namely, that, among the many strange opinions and practices which then prevailed, was one which was entirely un-warranted-but which St. Paul does not hero stop to examine—of persons getting themselves baptized as it were by proxy for others who had died. Doubtless some of the deaths alluded to in 1 Corinthians 11:30 had happened to persons who had been cut off before they were actually baptized; and their friends had as it were gone through the rite in their stead, in the hope of extending to them some of its benefits. It is argued that St. Paul could not possibly mention such a practice without reprobation; but that is an a priori assumption not warranted by St. Paul's methods (see 1 Corinthians 10:8; 1 Corinthians 11:6). He always confines his attention to the question immediately before him, and his present object is merely to urge a passing argumentum ad hominem. There is nothing at all surprising in the existence of such an abuse in the medley of wild opinions and wild practices observable in this disorganized Church. It accords with the known tendency of later times to postpone baptism, as a rite which was supposed to work as a charm. We also find that the actual practice of baptism on behalf of the dead lingered on among Corinthians (Epiph., 'Haer.,' 28.7) and Marcionites. Tertullian accepts the words in their obvious sense in his 'De Praeser. Haer.,' 48, but accepts the absurdity of "the dead" meaning "the body" ("pro mortuis tingui est pro corporibus tingui") in his book against Marcion (1 Corinthians 11:10). St. Chrysostom tells us further that the proxy who was to be baptized used to be concealed under the bier of the dead man, who was supposed to answer in his name that he desired to be baptized. How perfectly natural the custom was may be seen from the fact that among the Jews also a man dying under ceremonial pollution was cleansed by proxy. The "interpretations" of this verse are so numerous that it is not even possible to give a catalogue of them. Many of them are not worth recording, and are only worth alluding to at all as specimens of the wilful bias which goes to Scripture, not to seek truth, hut to support tradition. They are mostly futile and fantastic, because they pervert the plain meaning of the plain words. It is a waste of time and space to give perpetuity to baseless fancies. Such are the notions that "for the dead" can mean "for our mortal bodies" (Chrysostom); or "for those about to die" (Estius, Calvin, etc.); or "over the dead" (Luther); or "to supply the vacancies left by the dead" (Le Clerc, etc.). Equally unwarrantable are the "explanations" (?) which make those who are being "baptized" mean those who are "passing through a baptism of suffering" (!). Not a single argument which is worth a moment's consideration can be urged in favour of any one of these, or scores of similar views. If we are to get rid of everything that is surprising on the ground that it is "immensely improbable," we may as well discard Scripture at once, and reconstruct early Christian history out of our own consciousness. It has been very usual to represent it as we think that it ought to have been, and not as it was. The disuse of this vicarious baptism among orthodox Christians may have been due to the discouragement of it by St. Paul when he went to Corinth, and "set in order" various erroneous customs (1 Corinthians 11:34).

1 Corinthians 15:30

Why stand we in jeopardy every hour? The verb means "Why do we incur peril?" The best comment on it will be found in 2 Corinthians 11:26. Cicero says ('Tusc. Disp.,' 2 Corinthians 1:15) that "no one would be so mad as to live in labour and perils if our instinctive anticipation of future life were taken away."

1 Corinthians 15:31

I protest. The particle of adjuration here used (νὴ) is found nowhere else in the New Testament. By your rejoicing. This is an erroneous translation. The words mean "by my glorying in you." St. Paul's one subject of earthly glory, his "hope, and joy, and crown of rejoicing," was the conversion of Churches (Romans 15:16, Romans 15:17). In Christ Jesus our Lord. His boasting was not a worldly boasting, but was sanctifled by its reference to the work of Christ. I die daily. St. Paul "died daily" a double death—the ever deepening death unto sin and unto the world; and the daily death of sufferings borne for Christ's sake (see 2 Corinthians 4:10, 2 Corinthians 4:11). It is the latter to which he here alludes. "For thy sake are we killed all the day long" (Romans 8:36).

1 Corinthians 15:32

After the manner of men. The phrase is a qualification of the strong metaphor, "I fought with beasts." It is equivalent to "humanly speaking." This is Chrysostom's view. It is the most reasonable, and accords with the use of the phrase in Romans 3:5; Galatians 3:15. Meyer, however, explains it to mean "with mere human motives." I have fought with beasts. Not literally, for in that case he would have mentioned it in 2 Corinthians 11:1-33. as one of his deadliest perils, and it must have been recorded by St. Luke in his full account of St. Paul's life at Ephesus. A Roman citizen was legally exempt from this mode of punishment. The word points to some special peril incurred in resisting the hostility of the worshippers of Artemis (Acts 20:19), but not to the tumult in the theatre, which did not happen till after this letter was despatched (1 Corinthians 16:8, 1 Corinthians 16:9). The metaphor is not uncommon. Thus in 2 Timothy 4:17 St. Paul alludes to Nero (probably) as "the lion." David often compares his enemies to wild beasts (Psalms 22:21, etc.). When his jailor informed Agrippa of the death of Tiberius, he did so in the words, "The lion is dead." St. Ignatius writes of the ten soldiers who were conducting him to Rome as "ten leopards." Epimenides, in the line quoted by St. Paul in Titus 1:12, spoke of the Cretans as "evil wild beasts," and the pseudo-Heraclitus gives this same uncomplimentary title to these very Ephesians. Let as eat and drink; for tomorrow we die. Perhaps the "if the dead are not raised" belongs to this clause. He means that such an Epicurean maxim, if never excusable, would at least be natural, if men could only look to life in the present. The sentiment is found on the lips of the despairing and the sensual alike in Isaiah 22:13, and in the writings of the heathen (Horace, 'Od.,' Isaiah 1:4, Isaiah 1:13-17, etc.). St. Paul would be all the more familiar with it because it formed the infamous epitaph of a statue of Sardauapalus, which he must have often seen in his boyhood at Anchiale, near Tarsus. It represented the debased king as snapping his fingers, and using almost these very words. It is strange that similar passages should be found even in the Talmud. Shemuel said to Rav Yehudah, "Seize and eat, seize and drink; for the world is like a wedding feast (soon over)" ('Eiruvin,' fol. 54, 1).

1 Corinthians 15:33

Be net deceived. Do not be led astray by such specious maxims. They can only arise from that too great familiarity with the heathen against which I have already put you on your guard. Evil communications corrupt good manners. An iambic line from the 'Thais' of Menander, and perhaps taken by Menander from a play of Euripides. More accurately it means "evil associations corrupt excellent morals." According to the best reading (χρηστὰ, not χρησθ), St. Paul does not quote it as an iambic, and in itself it does not offer the least shadow of proof that St. Paul was familiar with classic literature. It is just such a line as he might have seen carved on the Hermae of any Greek town, or preserved in any chrestomathy or gnomology which may have chanced to pass through his hands. His other classic quotations (from Epimenides, Titus 1:12; and Aratus or Cleanthes, Acts 17:28) are of the same common and proverbial character. It is very unlikely that he would have deliberately quoted from the immoral play of a corrupt comedian like Menander. (For the sentiment, see 2 Timothy 2:16-18.)

1 Corinthians 15:34

Awake to righteousness. The word rendered "awake" means "awake at once from a drunken sleep." This verb does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The word rendered "awake" in Ephesians 5:14 and Romans 13:11 is a different one. The metaphor, however, occurs in the simple verb in 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 1Th 5:8; 2 Timothy 4:5; 1 Peter 5:8, etc. The word rendered "to righteousness" is literally an adverb, righteously. It may mean "as is fit." And sin not. Here the present tense, "be not sinning," is contrasted with the instantaneous aorist, "awake." Have not the knowledge. The original is stronger, "have an ignorance." They have not a vacuum of nescience, but a plenuum of ignorance. I speak this to your shame; rather, I am speaking to shame you. The object of all I am saying is to excite your shame—not, as in some previous instances, "to spare you."

1 Corinthians 15:35-49

Material objections answered.

1 Corinthians 15:35

But some man will say. The objection is that of some philosophical materialist. The resurrection of the body was a difficulty alike to Sadducees and Gentiles. St. Paul meets this difficulty by natural analogies, which are intended to show that the resurrection body, though identical with the mortal body so far as the preservation of personal identity is concerned, is yet a glorified body, so that the objections urged on the ground that it is impossible to preserve the same material particles which have passed into dust, are beside the mark. St. Paul gives no sanction to the coarse physical conceptions of the resurrection which described the human being as rising (to use the words of the Christian poet Prudentius) "with every tooth and every nail." How are the dead raised up? This question is one which, of course, admits of no answer. And with what body do they come? literally, with what kind of body? St. Paul, while he only answers the question indirectly and by analogy, implies that the resurrection body is the same body, not so much by way of material identity as of glorified individuality.

1 Corinthians 15:36

Thou fool. The expression is too strong, and it is unfortunate that in English it seems to run contrary to the distinct censure of such language by our Lord. But here the Greek word is aphron, "O unreasonable!" (the nominative is used for the vocative); Vulgate, insipiens; Wickliffe, "unwise man." It is merely a reproach for neglecting to exercise the understanding. The word "fool!" (more) forbidden by our Lord (Matthew 5:22) has quite a different meaning, and implies quite a different tone. It involves moral depravity or obstinacy (Matthew 7:26; Matthew 23:1-39. Matthew 23:17, etc.). The milder aphron is used in 2 Corinthians 11:16, 2Co 11:19; 2 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 5:17; and by our Lord himself. That which thou sowest. The "thou" is emphatic. It merely means "Even the analogy of human sowing ought to remove thy difficulty." The growth of the seed shows that there may be personal identity under a complete change of material conditions. Is not quickened, except it die. The metaphor is used by our Lord (John 12:24, "Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit"). It is also found in the Talmud.

1 Corinthians 15:37

Not that body that shall be. This deep remark should have checked the idly and offensively materialistic form in which the doctrine of the resurrection is often taught. But bare grain. Wickliffe, "a naked corne." In this passage, almost alone in all his Epistles, St. Paul, who does not seem to have been at all a close observer of external phenomena, uses metaphors drawn from natural life. His usual metaphors are chiefly architectural and agonistic—derived, that is, from buildings and games. That he was not a student of nature arose, no doubt, partly from his Semitic cast of mind, but chiefly from his being short sighted, and from his having spent most of his early life in large cities. It may chance; if it so happen, (see note on 1 Corinthians 14:10). The English word "chance" occurs but four times in the whole Bible (1 Samuel 6:9; Ecclesiastes 9:11). In Luke 10:31 the words rendered "by chance" mean rather "by coincidence."

1 Corinthians 15:38

But God giveth it a body. The material body of each living organism results from those laws of assimilation which God has made a part of His secret of life. They are not the life, only the instrument and expression and manifestation of the life. The "life" is the individual identity. The life of Hamlet is not in its essence the physical life of "the machine which is to him Hamlet," but the spiritual life which is linked on earth to that perpetual flux of material particles which we call the body, but is independent of those particles. As it hath pleased him; literally, as he willed. And in the word "as" lies the scope for all theories about the part played by what are called "natural laws." Their action is a part of God's will. To every seed his own body. Each of the seeds sown is provided with a body of its own, which is not identical with the seed, bat results from the germ of life in the seed.

1 Corinthians 15:39

All flesh is not the same flesh. In other words, animal organisms differ from each other, just as do the vegetable. Another… of beasts. "The germinal power of the plant transmutes the fixed air and the elementary base of water into grass or leaves, and on these the organic principle in the ox or the elephant exercises an alchemy still more stupendous. As the unseen agency weaves its magic eddies, the foliage becomes indifferently the bone and its marrow, the pulpy brain and the solid ivory. That which you see is blood, is flesh, is itself the work, or shall I say the translucence of the invisible energy which soon surrenders or abandons them to inferior powers (for there is no pause nor chasm in the activities of nature) which repeat a similar metamorphosis according to their kind: these are not fancies, conjectures, or even hypotheses, but facts" (Coleridge, 'Aids to Reflection ').

1 Corinthians 15:40

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial. The words are often misunderstood. The "celestial bodies" are not the sun, moon, and stars of the next verse—for that would be a false antithesis to "bodies terrestrial"—but bodies (or organisms) which belong to heavenly beings, such as the resurrection body of our Lord and of glorified saints, or even in some sense of angels (Matthew 22:30).

1 Corinthians 15:41

There is one glory of the sun. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun" (Matthew 13:43). The point of the illustration is the difference between the earthly and the resurrection body; not the supposed differences between the saints themselves in glory. This is not a question under consideration, and St. Paul, as we have seen, is not in the habit of mixing up half a dozen different questions in the same immediate argument. St. Augustine says of the saints, "Their splendour is unequal; their heaven is one." This may be very true, but to deduce it from this verse is to press into the argument an illustration used for another purpose. Tertullian's comment is very unhappy. He makes "men" mean servants of God; "beasts," Gentiles; "birds," martyrs; "fishes," those who have been baptized; the "sun," Christ; the "moon," the Church, etc. One star differeth from another star in glory. All the righteous shall shine as "the brightness of the firmament and .. as the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:3), and their future bodies shall differ from their present, as one star differs from another.

1 Corinthians 15:42

So also is the resurrection of the dead. In like manner the dead, when raised, shall have bodies which differ from their body of humiliation (Philippians 3:21). It is sown in corruption. "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:19). It is raised in incorruption. The word means strictly, "incorruptibility." The resurrection body will not be subjected to earthly conditions (Luke 20:35, Luke 20:36).

1 Corinthians 15:43

It is sown in dishonour. "The awful and intolerable indignity of dust to dust." In glory. "Though ye have lieu among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove, that is covered with silver wings, and her feathers like gold" (Psalms 68:13). The expression shows that, throughout, St. Paul is thinking exclusively of the resurrection of the saints.

1 Corinthians 15:44

A natural body. The adjective is the word ψυχικόν, which is so difficult to translate; it means a body only animated by the psyche, or natural life. The word is sometimes in our Authorized Version rendered "carnal." A spiritual body. The apparent contradiction in terms is inevitable. The thing meant is a body which is not under the sway of corporeal desires or of intellectual and passionate impulses, but is wholly dominated by the Spirit, and therefore has no desire or capacity to fulfil the lusts of the flesh. There is. The better supported reading (א, A, B, C, D, F, G), is, if there is a natural body, etc. The existence of the one is no more impossible than the existence of the other.

1 Corinthians 15:45

The first man Adam was made a living soul (Genesis 2:7). The last Adam. A rabbinic expression also for the Messiah. A quickening Spirit. "The Son quickeneth whom he will" (John 5:21; comp. John 6:23). The best comment on the expression will be found in Romans 8:2, Romans 8:11. Christ is "a quickening," i.e. a life giving, "Spirit," here mainly in the sense that we shall only be raised by "the power of his resurrection" (John 5:24, John 5:25), but also in the sense that his Spirit dwelleth in us, and is our true Life.

1 Corinthians 15:46

That was not first which is spiritual. The imperfect precedes the perfect.

1 Corinthians 15:47

Earthy. Made of" the dust of the ground" (Genesis 2:7). Is the Lord from heaven. The words "the Lord" are a gloss, not found in א, B, C, D, E, F, G. The verse remarkably resembles John 3:31, and probably oral reminiscences of our Lord's discourses were current among the apostles long before the Gospels were written. Tertullian attributes the insertion of "the Lord" to Marcion.

1 Corinthians 15:48

As is the earthy, etc. Men resemble their first parent Adam; Christians, their spiritual Redeemer, Christ (Philippians 3:20, Philippians 3:21).

1 Corinthians 15:49

We shall also bear the image of the heavenly (for the fact, see Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2). For "we shall bear," the best manuscripts (א, A, C, D, E, F, G, etc.) read "Let us bear." Our reading is, however, supported by B, and this is just one of the cases in which manuscript evidence (or as it is called "diplomatic evidence") has a minimum value, and other evidence (paradiplomatic) is decisive. For

(1) the pronunciation of the indicative and subjunctive at that time was almost identical, because in conversation the vowels seem to have been much slurred; and

(2) there was a universal tendency to substitute hortative for direct forms, with a view to edification (as in 1 Corinthians 14:15; Romans 6:2, Romans 6:8; 2 Corinthians 5:11, etc.). Here the exhortation would ruin the texture of the argument.

1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Conclusion and exhortation.

1 Corinthians 15:50

Now this I say. This sums up my meaning. Flesh and blood. Our mortal nature and human organism; our "earthly house of this tabernacle" (2 Corinthians 5:1; Luke 20:35). Inherit incorruption. A body liable to corruption, with all its loathly accompaniments, cannot enter into the "inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 1:4).

1 Corinthians 15:51

I show you a mystery. I make known to you a truth now made known to me by revelation. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. There is a great diversity of readings in this verse, noticed even by St. Jerome and St. Augustine. St. Jerome says that all the Latin manuscripts had "we shall all rise," and that the Greek manuscripts wavered between "we shall all sleep" and "we shall not all sleep." Some Greek manuscripts had "we shall all rise, but we shall not all be changed." This reading cannot be right, for it contradicts the next verse. There is little doubt that the reading of the Authorized version is right. It accounts for all the variations. They arose from a desire to shelter St. Paul from an apparent mistake, since he and his readers did all sleep. But

(1) St. Paul may have written under that conception of the imminence of Christ's personal return which he expresses in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, where he evidently imagines that the majority of those to whom he was writing would be of those who would be "alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord;" or

(2) even if he no longer entertained that expectation, the "we" may naturally apply to the continuity of the Christian Church. For in 2 Corinthians 4:14 he uses "us" of those who shall die and be raised. The universal expectation of the immediate return of Christ in the first century rose

(1) from their non apprehension of the truth that the close of the old dispensation was the "coming" to which our Lord had primarily referred in his great eschatological discourse (Matthew 24:34), and

(2) from the fact that watchfulness was intended to be the attitude of the Church, and the day and hour of Christ's coming were kept absolutely unrevealed (Matthew 24:36; Matthew 25:13).

1 Corinthians 15:52

The trumpet shall sound. The Lord, he says, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, "shall descend from heaven with… the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God." The trumpet is, of course, only a natural symbol. It is also found in rabbinic writers, and in the Old Testament (Zechariah 9:14), as well as in Revelation 11:15. We shall be changed. The dead shall be changed by resurrection, the living by transition, into a glorified body. St. Paul, dealing with the essence of the question as it bore on the difficulties of his readers, says nothing here

(1) of those who will arise to judgment, or

(2) of any intermediate condition.

As to the former question, he scarcely ever alludes to it with any definiteness, but seems with deliberate choice to contemplate the final and absolute triumph of good (Romans 8:19-23; Romans 11:30-36). To the intermediate state he does not here allude. He is here only speaking of death and glorious resurrection. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 he says all that he has to say on this latter question. It was not prominent in the minds of the early Christians, who, as Calvin says, were awaiting the return of Christ "from hour to hour."

1 Corinthians 15:53

This mortal must put on immortality. When we are "clothed upon" by our "house from heaven," and have put off "this tabernacle," in which we groan being burdened, then "mortality will be swallowed up of life" (2 Corinthians 5:3, 2 Corinthians 5:4, where we also find the metaphor of a robe of immortality, mixed up with the metaphor of a building).

1 Corinthians 15:54

Death is swallowed up in victory. A free citation from the Hebrew of Isaiah 25:8. The words "into victory" are the LXX. rendering in other passages (Amos 1:11; Amos 8:8) for the Hebrew lanetsach, foreverse The metaphor, "is swallowed up," implying "the swallowing of the all swallower," is found in the rabbis (comp. Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:15).

1 Corinthians 15:55

O death, where is thy sting? A triumphantly fervid exclamation of the apostle, loosely cited from Hosea 13:14. The apostles and evangelists, not holding the slavish and superstitious fetish worship of the dead letter, often regard it as sufficient to give the general sense of the passages to which they refer. O grave, where is thy victory? In the best attested reading (A, B, C, D, E, F, G), "death" is repeated, and in the best manuscripts this clause precedes the last. But if the reading, "O Hades," were correct, our translators, since they held it here impossible in accordance with their views to render it by "hell," ought to have taken warning, and seen the pernicious inapplicability of that rendering in other places where they have used it to express this same Greek word. Here "Hades" has probably been introduced into the Greek text from the LXX., which uses it for the Sheol of the original.

1 Corinthians 15:56

The sting of death is sin. Because death is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). Death is represented as a venomous serpent. The strength of sin is the Law. The best comment on this expression is to be found in the Epistle to the Romans; see especially Romans 4:15; Romans 7:10-12. It must be admitted that this passing allusion to a distinct doctrine does not seem, at first sight, to harmonize with the glorious unity of the subject. No one can read it without a slight sense of jar, because it seems to introduce the element of dogmatic controversy. But this sense of incongruity is removed when we remember how intensely St. Paul felt that man is confronted with the horror of a broken Law, which at once reminds him of a Being infinitely holy, and of his own self condemnation (Romans 7:1-25; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18.). It is the sense that the Law in its deathful aspect is annulled, and the sinful soul delivered, which prompts the outburst of the next verse.

1 Corinthians 15:57

Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory. The victory consists in the defeat of death by the Resurrection, and the forgiveness of sin through Christ's atone-merit, and the nailing to his cross of the torn and abrogated Law which made us slaves to sin and death (Colossians 2:14). "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Romans 8:37). Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Who, by fulfilling the Law, has robbed it of its condemning power (Romans 8:1), and by his death "hath destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil" (Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:15).

1 Corinthians 15:58

Therefore. Seeing that you ought not to despair, but to share in this confidence of triumph. Steadfast. Firmly fixed in your own conviction (Colossians 1:23; 2 John 1:9). Unmoveable. By others (Ephesians 4:14). Abounding in the work of the Lord. Doing diligently and ungrudgingly the work of your lives, which is his work. That your labour is not in vain. The thought of the verse is the same as that of Galatians 6:9, "And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."

Some general facts are very observable in this glorious chapter. 1. One is that St. Paul does not meet doubt by angry denunciation, or by crushing it with the iron mace of impatient authority. What would now be thought of Christians who denied the resurrection? Doubtless they were net mere speculative deniers of the resurrection, like Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Timothy 2:17), but recent Gentile converts, who could not get over their pagan difficulties. Yet St. Paul meets them by personal appeals, by helpful analogies, by lofty reasoning, by the glowing force of inspiring convictions. Instead of taking refuge—more ecclesiastico—in anathema and excommunication, he meets error by the counter presentation of ennobling truth. 2. Another noteworthy fact is that St. Paul's hope of the resurrection rests, like all his theology, on the thought that the life of the Christian is a life "in Christ." 3. A third is his superiority to false analogies—like those of the butterfly and the phoenix—which sufficed many ancient reasoners. Even Christian writers like St. Clement of Rome continued to appeal to the phoenix as a proof of the resurrection. The greatest ancient thinkers—like Tacitus—believed in the existence of that fabulous bird, and even in the genuineness of a specimen of it which had been exhibited at Rome. Was there no "grace of superintendency" at work which prevented the sacred writers from adopting the universal error of their day? Had St. Paul appealed to the phoenix, centuries of Christian writers would have continued to maintain the existence of that creature; and science, laughing the belief to scorn, would (most unjustly) have made any allusion to it a proof of mental weakness, and of the falsity of the doctrine which it was supposed to Proverbs 4:0. A fourth point to be observed is the wisdom with which St. Paul holds himself aloof from speculative fancies, tie does not, like Plato, appeal to the doctrine of "reminiscence" (anamnesis), or of unfulfilled ideas. He does not, like Kant, build any argument on man's failure to obey "the categorical imperative" of duty. He points to the sinless Man—to the fulfilled idea of Christ. His argument, which all could understand, is summed up in the words, "Ye are Christ's, and Christ is risen." Your resurrection from the death of sin to the life of righteousness is a pledge of your participation in Christ's resurrection from the grave.


1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The apostolic gospel.

"Moreover, brethren," etc. On all hands we hear persons talk about the simple gospel. And it appears to us that, in the majority of cases, the expression means nothing more than a few crude notions which the speaker has received, or possibly formed, about the gospel. Some men's "simple gospel" is an offence to reason, a dishonour to God, and, curse to Christianity. The passage under review presents to us Paul's "simple gospel." And let us look at Christianity as here indicated. We observe—

I. THAT CHRISTIANITY IS BASED UPON HISTORICAL FACTS. It is not founded upon human reason—upon any of its primitive axioms or logical conclusions. It is not founded upon human imagination; it is neither an ingenious hypothesis to account for any phenomena, nor a poetic myth to adumbrate any truth. It is based on facts.

1. These facts are personal. They are connected with a person, and that person is not Socrates, Plato, nor Caesar, but one whom Paul calls Christ. It is founded upon the personal history of one, and but one, individual, and that is Christ.

2. These facts are few. He "died," he was "buried," and he "rose." These facts are compendious facts; they imply many more, and may be reduced even to less. The resurrection of Christ involves the whole; and in the subsequent verses of this chapter, Paul uses it as such.

3. These facts are well attested. After his resurrection, Paul tells us here that he "was seen of Cephas," of "the twelve," then of "five hundred," and then of "me also." No facts on record are better attested than these.

II. THAT CHRISTIANITY IS DESIGNED FOR THE REMOVAL OF EVIL. Why did these facts take place? What is the aim of the whole? He "did for our sins." The great end of Christianity is to "put away sin" from the world, to put it away from the hearts, literature, institutions, customs, and governments of mankind. Let sin be put away, and all evil is put away; natural evil is but the effect of moral. Philosophically, there is no system on earth suited to destroy man's sinful disposition and to change his heart but Christianity, and historically nothing else has ever done it. Let the fact ring louder and louder through the world, that the grand end of Christianity is not the formation of creeds, however correct, nor the organization of societies, however scriptural; but it is to "put away sin."

III. THAT CHRISTIANITY IS TO BE PREACHED WITH THIS DESIGN. "By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory [hold fast] what I preached unto you," etc. Paul preached that they might be saved, but they could only be saved as they renounced and hated sin. The passage suggests three ideas in relation to Paul's preaching with this view.

1. He preached Christianity convincingly. He says, "The gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye... received." They believed his gospel; then he must have convinced them by arguments. Christianity in preaching is to be commended "to every man's conscience."

2. He preached Christianity scripturally. He showed those facts in the light of the Scriptures, "according to the Scriptures."

3. He preached Christianity humbly. The expression "born out of duo time" evidently indicates his humility; and then in the next verse he says, "Nor I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle," etc. We thank God for such a system as this—a system built not on propositions, but on facts, personal, few in number, but well attested. Such facts are most palpable and attractive; a system which cures the evils of the moral world by taking away its sins. Let it be preached, as Paul preached it—convincingly, scripturally, and humbly.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Terrible conclusions resulting from the denial of two great gospel facts.

"Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, it so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in rids life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." In this paragraph the apostle refers to two great facts fundamental to Christianity, and peculiar to it as a system of religion. The one is the general resurrection from the dead, and the other is the resurrection, of Christ himself. In order to make clear Paul's process of reasoning here, I see no better way than to exhibit the conclusions which he draws from the denial of these facts.

I. Conclusions resulting from the denial of the GENERAL RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD. These conclusions are threefold.

1. The non resurrection of Christ. "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen." If you can demonstrate the impossibility of men coming to life again after they have been buried, then you prove, of course, that Christ has not risen. What is true of the whole is true of all the parts. If no man can rise from the dead, then Christ is still numbered amongst the dead. There were evidently men in the Church at Corinth who, like the Sadducees, denied the doctrine of a future resurrection. Hence Paul informs them that doing so is tantamount to the denial of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, which fact he had proclaimed amongst them.

2. That departed Christians are no more. "Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." They also, as well as others. If dead men do not rise, then our fellow disciples who have departed this life, and who believed in a risen Christ, are no more. Those thousands who from the day of Pentecost accepted Christ, lived according to his teaching, and who quitted this world, have perished. Can you believe it? Are they quenched in eternal midnight?

3. That there is no more pitiable condition in this life than that of Christians. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." How many things are implied in this language! It is implied that there are men in a pitiable condition on this earth; it is implied that the pitiable condition exists in different degrees; it is implied that the degrees of pitiableness are regulated by hope. Man is always hoping; man is always, therefore, enduring one of the greatest elements of suffering, viz. disappointment. It is implied that the hope of a Christian, if false, will make him of all men the most to be pitied. Of course it is not intended to teach that, apart from the resurrection of Christ, man has no evidence of a future state, nor that, on the supposition that there is no future life, the practice of virtue is not to be preferred to that of vice. It is implied that the higher the object of our hope, and the more of the soul that goes into it, the more overwhelmingly crushing will be the disappointment. The man who has thrown his whole soul into Christianity, and who reaches a point where he is convinced of its imposture, is at that moment "of all men the most miserable."

II. Conclusions resulting from the denial of CHRIST'S RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD. There are three conclusions here resulting from the denial of this fact.

1. That apostolic Christianity is vain. "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." It is vain, void, an empty phantom, a worthless fiction. The resurrection of Christ was the foundation stone in the temple of Paul's teaching. Take that stone away, then it falls and becomes worthless rubbish. But not only is preaching vain, and your faith vain, we ourselves are "false witnesses." We are impostors. Can you believe this? What motives have we to impose? The supposition either that they taught falsehood, that the disciples believed falsehood, or that they were "false witnesses," is eternally inadmissible. Hence Christ did rise from the dead.

2. That the faith of the disciples was vain. "Your faith is also vain." What a wreck of faith is involved in the denial of Christ's resurrection! Then

(1) faith in the credibility of historic testimony is vain. On what stronger historical testimony can any fact rest than that of the resurrection of Christ? Then

(2) faith in the accuracy of philosophic deduction is vain. The rapid progress of Christianity in the Roman empire m its first stages, and its subsequent influence throughout the world, reveal a mass of phenomena which you cannot account for if you deny the resurrection of Christ. Then

(3) faith in the moral value of character is vain. Did a nobler character than Christ's ever exist? And yet if he rose not, then is he an impostor. Then

(4) faith in the righteous government of God is vain. If a being so transcendently excellent as Christ is to be crushed forever in the grave, where is the justice of Heaven? Verily, if our faith in the resurrection of Christ is vain, of what worth is any faith?

3. That the followers of Christ are still in their sins. It is here implied that faith in Christ can alone take men out of their sins. This is a fact grounded on history, consciousness, and the gospel. But the Christians at Corinth were conscious that they had got out of their sins, to a certain degree at least. "Such were some of you; but ye are washed," etc. Consciousness the highest ultimate argument, protested against Paul's hypothesis that they were still in their sins; hence it goes to verify the fact of the resurrection of Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:20-23

The resurrection of Christ.

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." These verses lead us to contemplate the resurrection of Christ as an established fact, as a significant fact, and as an influential fact.

I. AN ESTABLISHED FACT. Paul asserts this fact with a spirit of triumphant certitude. This her is established:

1. On the testimony of the most competent witnesses. A competent witness is one who has a thorough knowledge of the facts whereof he affirms, and such an invincible love for truth as would render it utterly impossible for him to misrepresent them. The apostles were witnesses of this type.

2. On the very existence of Christendom. What gave birth to that domain amongst the peoples of the race called Christendom? The gospel; and the truth of the gospel rests on the resurrection of Christ.

3. On the consciousness of genuine disciples. Such consciousness attests that they are "not in their sins," that they have got more or less free from their thraldom and dominion, and they feel that this deliverance came from the gospel.

II. A SIGNIFICANT FACT. "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." The reference here is to the "firstfruits" of the harvest which were offered by the priests unto the Lord (see Leviticus 23:12-19). Those firstfruits were both an earnest and a sample of the full harvest at hand. Hence Christ's resurrection was regarded:

1. As a pledge of the resurrection of those who were dead. As he rose so will all rise.

2. As a pattern of the resurrection of those who were dead. The sheaf waved before the Lord was a specimen or sample of what remained in the field to be gathered in. "Our vile bodies shall be fashioned and made like unto his glorious body."

III. AN INFLUENTIAL FACT. "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Between the influence of Adam and that of Christ on the race, there is a resemblance and a contrast.

1. A resemblance. The resemblance is in its extensibility. Though Adam's influence upon the race may be more extensive at present than that of Christ, it is not more extensible. It has in it the power of extending over the whole race down through all times, and it will so do.

2. A contrast. The influence of the one is destructive; the influence of the other, quickening. "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." If by death here bodily death is meant, then the idea is that Christ will quicken to life all that have died. But what does it mean to be in Adam and in Christ? There is, at any rate, one sense which we can understand in which we are in them; that is, in the sense of character. Without figure all men live in the characters of others—children live in the character of their parents, pupils in their masters, the present generation in the preceding. The characters of the men of past ages constitute the moral atmosphere of existing men. In Adam's character, the character of selfishness, carnality, unbelief, all unregenerate men live today; his principles pulsate in all hearts. In the character of Christ, in his self sacrificing love, spotless purity, and holy reverence, all the godly live today. Now, those who live in the character of Adam must die, not merely in the sense of the dissolution of the soul from the body, but in the more awful sense of the dissolution of the soul from God; whereas those who live in the character of Christ live by a vital connection with the eternal Fountain of all life. The influence of Adam's character on the race is destructive; that of Christ's is quickening and restorative. "All shall be made alive." Shall there be a universal restoration?

1 Corinthians 15:24-28

Christ resigning his administration.

"Then cometh the end," etc. By the "end" here, I presume, is to be meant the redemptive reign of Christ. It means that when Christ, in the exercise of his mediatorial government, has subjugated all the powers of moral evil, he will deliver up his commission to God, who will then be acknowledged as the absolute Ruler of all. The following are some of the truths that the passage suggests:—

I. That THE GOVERNMENT OF OUR WORLD IS ADMINISTERED BY CHRIST. The New Testament is full of the doctrine that Christ reigns over our world. This doctrine explains several otherwise inexplicable things in the history of man.

1. The perpetuation of the human race on the earth. Death was threatened on Adam the same day on which he should sin. He sinned, and died. not that day, but lived for centuries, and became the father of an immense and ever multiplying family. And why? The Biblical doctrine of mediation is the only principle that explains it.

2. The coexistence of sin and happiness in the same individual. Under the government of absolute righteousness, we should antecedently expect that such an association would never exist. We are told that there is perfect happiness in heaven, and we can understand it, because perfect holiness is there. But here there are sin and happiness, comparative holiness and great suffering. The mediative government is the only principle that explains this.

3. The offer of pardon and the application of remedial influences to the condemned and corrupt. Under a righteous government how is this to be explained? It is explicable only on the ground that "he is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour," etc.

II. That Christ conducts the government of our world IN ORDER TO PUT DOWN ALL HUMAN EVILS. There are two classes of evil referred to here.

1. Moral. "All rule, all authority and power." Sinful principles are the moral potentates of this world. Christ's government is to put them down from governments, Churches, books, hearts, etc.

2. Physical. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Death is the totality of physical evils. Christ will destroy this.

III. That when these evils are entirely put down, CHRIST WILL RESIGN HIS ADMINISTRATION INTO THE HANDS OF THE EVERLASTING FATHER. The time will come when moral evil shall be entirely exterminated from the earth, and when death shall be swallowed up in victory. Christ, having finished the work that was given him to do, resigns his office. "Then cometh the end."

IV. That when Christ shall have resigned his administration, GOD "WILL BE ALL IN ALL." What does this mean?

1. He will treat all men after this on the ground of their own moral merits. From the Fall up to this period, he had treated them on the ground of Christ's mediation; but now, the mediation removed, each man shall reap the "fruit of his own doings."

2. All men after this will subjectively realize the absolute One as they have never before. The atmosphere of their nature purified, he shall appear within them as the central orb, making the finite manifest and glorious in the conscious light of the Infinite.

1 Corinthians 15:29

The Church world.

"Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?" etc. There is a Church world—a world inside, the general world of mankind, and in many respects distinct from it; a community of men whose principles, spirit, aim, character, and destiny distinguish them from every other class of human society. They are called a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people. They are united to each other as stones in one building, as branches in one root, as members in one body. The text presents this Church-world to us in three aspects.

I. AS THINNED BY DEATH. The text speaks of those who are "baptized for the dead." Death was in the Church in the days of the apostle, and it has been ever since. The great law of mortality which extends over men in general enters this realm and operates here. The spiritual intelligence, the moral virtues, the godly devotions, and the social usefulness of this Church realm constitute no barrier to the entrance of death. There is, however, great difference between the aspects and effects of death as he appears and works in the world of mankind.

1. He appears in the Church world as the messenger of mercy; outside, as the officer of justice. Outside he appears to men as the stern officer of insulted justice, to drag the criminal to retribution; here as the messenger of heavenly mercy, to snap the chains of the prisoner, to terminate the trials of the afflicted, and to introduce the disciples of Christ to the joys of immortality.

2. He leaves behind in the Church world consolation for the survivors, but outside unmitigated sorrow. What have the widow of the wicked husband, the child of the ungodly parent, to console their bereavement? Nothing. Death leaves the social wounds he has created in the outside world to bleed and rankle without any balm. Not so in this Church world: here is abundant consolation. "Sorrow not as those that are without hope."

II. AS REPLENISHED BY CONVERSION. "What shall they do which are baptized for the dead?" This is confessedly an obscure expression, and has given rise to many and conflicting interpretations. Some say that Paul refers to an old custom in the Church of vicarious baptism, that is, baptizing survivors for those who had died. without having received the ordinance of baptism; others, that the word "baptism" is to be taken in the metaphorical sense in which our Saviour sometimes employed it, as representing over, whelming sufferings; and that Paul meant to say, "Why should men be baptized with such sufferings, if there be no resurrection of the dead?" Others say that the baptism spoken of is the baptism of the Spirit, and refers to conversion of the soul by the Spirit of God. There are many other opinions, but this is not the place for critical inquiries. I accept the last mentioned idea, namely, conversion. By those who are "baptized for the dead" I understand those who, from pagan darkness, were converted by the gospel and were admitted into the visible Church, there to fill up the place of those who, by martyrdom or otherwise, had been called away by death. The new convert then took the place of the departed saint. Thus conversions in the Church replenish the losses caused by death. No sooner is one Christian removed from his station than another is raised up by God to supply the loss, Since the apostolic day, what myriads of able preachers, evangelists, theologians, reformers, and distinguished saints have passed away! Still the Church goes on, and. their places are all occupied. As Joshua succeeded Moses; Elisha, Elijah; Eleazar, Aaron; so one man is ever raised up in the Church to take the place of another. This succession:

1. Affords a lesson to us for humility. The man of most brilliant talents, distinguished position, and extensive usefulness in the Church has nothing whereof to flatter himself; however important he may be, the Church can do without him. When he falls, others are ready to step into his place, having been baptized for the dead.

2. Affords a lesson to us for encouragement. God's redemptive plan will go on, whatever happens to individual agents. "He has buried his workmen," says Charles Wesley, "but carries on his work." Let us learn to trust God rather than his most distinguished servants. The treasure is only in "earthen vessels"—vessels that must crumble.

III. AS LIVING IN HOPE. "What shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?" This language implies that the hope of a future state, era resurrection, was a vital thing in the experience of the Church, and so it has ever been, so it is, and so it ever will be. The Church lives in hope. It reckons "that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glories that shall be." It is "waiting for the adoption;" it is looking "for the blessed appearing." We must not mistake Paul's meaning, however. He does not mean to say that the religion of Christ is of no service to men if there be no future state. Let us answer his two questions—the what and the why.

1. What shall they do? We venture to reply, not renounce religion, but continue faithful forever. Should there be no future, Christian virtue is good. You will lose nothing by it should you be annihilated; in that case you will not feel the disappointment, but you will gain immensely by it, even in the present life. "Godliness is profitable unto all things."

2. Why are they, then, baptized? We answer, because the claims of religion are independent of the future state. Were there no heaven, no hell, we should be bound to be truthful, honest, benevolent, God loving.

1 Corinthians 15:30, 1 Corinthians 15:31

Daily dying.

"Why stand we," etc.? The apostles, in their efforts to extend the gospel, endured great afflictions and involved themselves in terrific perils, and if there be no future life, Paul asks, why should they have done so? "Why stand we in jeopardy every hour?" Why should we thus "die daily"? But there is a daily dying in the case of every man.

I. There is a daily dying that is INEVITABLE to humanity.

1. There is a daily dying of our corporeal frame. In each human body the seed of death is implanted, the law of mortality is at work. The water does not more naturally roll to the ocean than the human frame runs every moment to dissolution. Life streams from us at every pore. This fact should teach us:

(1) That worldly mindedness is an infraction of reason. What a monstrous absurdity it is to set our supreme affections upon objects from which we are departing every moment. As the ship of the emigrant in full sail is bearing him every moment further and further from his native shore, so destiny is bearing every man further and further from his connection with this earth, No anchor can stop this ship of destiny.

(2) That sorrow for the departed should be moderated. Why indulge in grief for those who are gone? Their departure was in obedience to the resistless law of their nature, and that same law is daily bearing us whither they are gone.

(3) That Christianity is an invaluable boon to mortals. It does two things; it teaches us that there is a future worm of blessedness, and points us the way by which that blessed world is reached.

2. There is a daily dying of our social world. We live not only with others, but by them. Without society we might exist, but live we could not. Our contemporaries are the objects of our sympathies, the subjects of our conscious life; they engage our thoughts, they affect our hearts, they originate our motives, they stimulate our conduct, and all this is much of our life. But this social world in which we live., and by which we live, is dying daily. The social circumstances which feed our life are changing every day. The thoughts, the love, the grief, the anger, the fear, the hopes, which were once elements of life to us, have passed away because the objects of them have gone.

3. There is a daily dying of our mental activity. The motives that influence us to action are elements of life, and they are constantly dying. For example, the leading purpose that a man has is, for the time, one of his strongest motives of action, but the leading purpose of every man is a dying thing. It is dead as a motive both when it is frustrated, as is constantly the case, and also when it is fully realized. A realized purpose has lost its motivity. Thus we die daily in mind.

II. There is a daily dying that is OPTIONAL to humanity. This optional death is of two kinds, the criminal and the virtuous.

1. There is the criminal. There are noble things in man that are dying daily, for which be is responsible. In the depraved soul, sensibility of conscience, generosity of impulse, elasticity of intellect freedom of thought, spirituality of feeling—these, that constitute the highest life of man, die daily in the corrupt soul. The sinner is constantly murdering these, and their blood cries to Heaven for vengeance. "To be carnally minded is death."

2. There is the virtuous. There are certain things that men should and ought to crucify—selfishness, sensuality, love of the world, etc. The highest life of man is a daily dying to all that is mean, false, mercenary, unspiritual, and uncharitable. The apostle felt this when he said, "I," that is, my carnal self, "am crucified with Christ;" nevertheless, "I," that is, my spiritual self, "live," etc.

1 Corinthians 15:32, 1 Corinthians 15:33

Beasts at Ephesus.

"If after the manner of men," etc. The words lead us to consider four subjects.

I. A LOW JUDGMENT of human nature. "Beasts at Ephesus." There is no good reason for supposing that Paul meant literally beasts. By wild beasts he means men gross and savage in wickedness. Paul was not alone in classifying such men with irrational brutes. John the Baptist called some of his hearers "vipers," and the great Preacher compared some such men to swine. The Bible speaks of wicked men in two stages lower than humanity.

1. The sensual. The sensual state is a state where the senses rule the soul. Are not the mass of men in this state?

2. The devilish. Men have the power of getting lower than the beasts. By the faculty of imagination they can kindle their passions into a diabolical heat, and by bringing the elements of nature into new combinations they can generate and nourish unnatural appetites.

II. A FIERCE STRUGGLE for human nature. "I have fought with wild. beasts at Ephesus." Like all the apostles of truth, Paul fought with men for men.

1. The battle was inevitable to his mission. He was the messenger of truths which struck directly against their prejudices, habits, greed, etc.

2. The battle was most benevolent on his part. Love, not anger, was its inspiration. He fought for them by fighting against their prejudices and their sins.

3. The battle was most unequal in circumstances. Numbers, authority, wealth, and influence were all arrayed against one. A penniless foreigner fought against the whole city. In moral battles numbers are an inferior consideration. One man in truth may conquer a nation in error.

III. A GREAT PROBLEM for human nature. "What advantageth it me?" On the assumption that there is no future life, what advantageth it all this struggle for truth? The apostle does not say either that there would be an advantage in a godly struggle for truth, were there no future life, nor that such a struggle was to be conducted with a view of advantage, He puts the question, and leaves it to be answered. Our answer will be:

1. That on the assumption that there is no future life, godliness wilt be of physical advantage to man. The habits of life promoted by Christianity are conducive to bodily health and longevity.

2. That on the assumption that there is no future life, godliness will be of mental advantage to man. It generates sentiments, starts trains of thought, etc., which yield to the mind a happiness which nothing else on earth can afford.

3. That on the assumption that there is no future life, godliness will be of social advantage to man. Christianity has proved itself to be infinitely the best system for promoting the peace of families, the order of society, the prosperity of nations.

IV. A SOLEMN TENDENCY of human nature. "Be not deceived: evil communications [company] corrupt good manners." Man is a social being; he lives in and by society. Observe:

1. There is "evil company" in the social world. There are those who are drawn together in fellowship simply on the ground of evil doctrines, dispositions, plans, purposes, pleasures, etc.

2. There is an instinct in "evil company" to corrupt. Evil is a self-propagating power. Those who have yielded to temptations become the tempters of others.

3. There is a susceptibility in most to be corrupted. Hence the exhortation, "Be not deceived." "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; he that is the companion of the fool is foolish." Feltham well says," One rotten apple will infect the store; the putrid grape corrupts the whole sound cluster. If I have found any good companions, I will cherish them as the choicest of men, or as angels which are sent as guardians to me. If I have any bad ones, I will study to lose them, lest by keeping them I lose myself in the end."

1 Corinthians 15:34

Moral resurrection.

"Awake to righteousness, etc. Observe—

I. THE CONDITION FROM WHICH MAN IS SUMMONED. It is represented by a "sleep." What is this moral sleep? There are three points of resemblance in this condition that warrant the figure.

1. Insensibility. How insensible is man in sleep! He has lost all consciousness. The great world of life is shut out from him. So it is with the moral sleeper. There is a world of realities round the sinner, of the most grand and solemn description. Yet he is dead to all. He is not conscious of his spiritual being. He does not feel that he has a soul.

2. Fictitiousness. If the mind of the natural sleeper act, it is in a world of pictures. Objects flit before it that have no real existence. The life of the moral sleeper is highly fictitious; it is a life of dreams; it is a great lie.

3. Transitoriness. Sleep is not a permanent state. It has its seasons. And so it is in relation to the soul. There is a dark spiritual night brooding over the moral sleeper, but there is a spiritual morning forevery moral sleeper to awake in.

II. THE STATE INTO WHICH WE ARE SUMMONED. "Awake to righteousness," or "wake up righteously."

III. THE VOICE BY WHICH WE ARE SUMMONED. This may be regarded as God's voice to man in all times and in all lands. Wake up to the right. To the right in politics, commerce, religion, and in all departments of life. Realize the right, embody the right. The crime and curse of humanity is that it is gone from the right.

1 Corinthians 15:35-44

The resurrection body.

"With what body do they come?" The question which Paul puts into the mouth of the ancient sceptic assumes the fact of a general resurrection of mankind. And why should we not assume this fact? "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?" Incredible! Has not he who has engaged to do it all sufficient power? Scepticism parades the difficulties connected with the work of the resurrection. Let them be a million times more than the fancy of the infidel can figure to himself, will they amount to anything as an argument against its accomplishment? Nay, the difficulty of a work should always be estimated by the capacity of the agent engaged to perform it. What is impossible for one being to perform, can be achieved by another with the greatest facility. Where Omnipotence is the agent, the talk about difficulties is manifestly absurd. What would baffle and overmaster the combined power of all created existences, Almightiness can effect by a single fiat. "Is there anything too hard for the Lord?" Incredible! Changes are constantly going on in the creation bearing some resemblance to the event. Spring is a resurrection of buried life. Unnumbered graves, some that have been sealed for centuries, are opened every hour by the warm touch of the vernal ray. Incredible! It meets the universal longings of the human heart. The cry of all generations is this: "We would not be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up in life." The world's heart waits "for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." Incredible! It is unmistakably stated in that gospel which has been demonstrated Divine. To the question, "If a man die shall he live again?" we have in the Bible replies the most varied, expressive, and full. The subject of the general resurrection is a very extensive one; it has many branches, and touches a vast variety of truth. In the light of the apostle's statements, I infer the following answers to this question:—

I. With a body not IDENTICAL WITH THAT WHICH DESCENDED TO THE GRAVE. "Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die," etc. Not a few of the advocates of the doctrine of the resurrection have exposed it to the ridicule of the sceptic and the contempt of the philosopher by representing the resurrection body as the literal reorganization of the buried dust. To work upon the passions of the unreflecting and the vulgar, the sensuous poem and the declamatory pulpit have given representations of the resurrection most extravagant in their materiality and their grossness. The particles of the buried body, which through the course of centuries have undergone innumerable transformations, and been separated from each other wide as the poles asunder, are described as coming together in the last day to take the very same place in that very same body as was conveyed to the grave. In poetry we have an example in such lines as Blair's—

"Now monuments prove faithful to their trust,
And render back their long committed dust;
Now charnels rattle, scattered limbs, and all
The various bones, obsequious to the call,
Self moved, advance: the distant head, the feet
Dreadful to view, see, through the dusky sky
Fragments of bodies in confusion fly;
To distant regions journeying there to claim
Deserted members and complete the frame."

Science, of course, laughs all this to scorn. It tells us how the human body, as to the particles that compose it, is in a state of perpetual flux; that portions of it are streaming off every moment from every pore; that at the end of seven years not one atom shall be found in the body which was there in the beginning, and that at the end of seventy years a man will have had no less than ten different bodies. It tells us how that no sooner is the body dead, than the various particles begin to liberate themselves from each other, and in the course of time mix themselves up as parts of other existences; how they form the grass upon which the cattle browse, flow in the stream, and become the fruit and flesh on which their children live. So that, in the course of ages, the same particles might have formed the frames of a thousand different men. It tells us, moreover, that millions of men have had no graves. In some of the Oriental nations the dead are not buried, but burned, and in the process of combustion the greater portions of the body pass into invisible gases, and are lost in the immensity of the atmosphere, while the handful of ashes that remain are borne away on the four winds of heaven. Now, it is our happiness to know that not on this point, any more than on any other, does the Bible teach what true science repudiates. "That which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be." There is a difference between the dead seed sown, and the living plant that springs from it. You drop into the earth a bare grain, and what comes up? Not a bare grain, but a green stalk, which grows, perhaps, to a tree with many branches, rich foliage, lovely blossoms, and delicious fruits. There is not a particle on that tree of the bare grain that you buried. It will be thus with the resurrection body; it will not be the bare grain that was put into the earth, but something else, that will come up. The resurrection body will be no more identical with the buried one than the majestic tree of the forest is the same in particle or bulk as the acorn from which it sprang. "With what body do they come?" The apostle enables us to reply further—

II. With a body that WILL HAVE SOME ORGANIC CONNECTION WITH THAT WHICH WAS DEPOSITED IN THE DUST. The plant, though very dissimilar to the bare grain, has a vital connection with it. It grows out of it, and is of the same order; there is an unbroken continuity. If the resurrection of the body from the grave means anything, it must mean that something from the old body comes up and takes a fresh form. What else is meant by such expressions as this: "All that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man and come forth"? It is true that this connection between the buried and the raised body is far more inexplicable than the connection between the buried grain and the up growing plant, or between the chrysalis and the moth. In neither of these cases is life really extinct; death is only apparent. There is an unbroken continuity traceable from the smallest seed to the mightiest tree, from the embryo in the shell to the monarch of the air. But no continuity is traceable between the raised and the buried man; there seems an awful break. Still it exists. Whatever theories are accepted as satisfactory, we hold to the scriptural fact that the new body will have an organic connection with the old; otherwise, the resurrection of the body is nothing but a pure fiction. Further, in answer to the sceptic's question, "With what body do they come?" the apostle's language enables us to give another reply.

III. With a body WHICH GOD IN HIS SOVEREIGNTY WILL BESTOW. "God giveth it body as it hath pleased him."

1. That God clothes life. "To every seed his own body." There is no doubt that in the universe there is life unclothed by matter. It may be so with the angels: it is so, I trow, with God himself. It is true we know nothing of life only by its clothing. Around us there may be immeasurable oceans of naked life, but we only know something of the embodied. No science has yet told us what life is.

2. That God clothes life with the fittest body. "All flesh is not the same flesh." Life has boundless varieties, but God gives to each its fitting body. Paul points to the life of "beasts" and "fish," and "birds;" to each he has given bodies. The hare and the elephant, the wren and the eagle, the minnow and the leviathian, all have bodies fitted to the peculiarities of their distinctive life.

3. That God clothes life according to his own pleasure. "Giveth it a body as it has pleased him." He chose the form, the hue, the gait of each life. Our resurrection body will be as it "hath pleased him." Then it will be beautiful, for he is the God of all taste, the Fountain of all beauty, the Standard of all Aesthetics. Then it will be useful, for he is the God of benevolence. Exquisitely suited to our present sphere are the bodies through which he streams into us the most exquisite sensations, and through which we convey and work out the best things within us. It will be glorious. "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars:" so also with the resurrection of the just. Once more, to the question of the sceptic the apostle answers—

IV. With a body THAT SHALL BE A VAST IMPROVEMENT UPON THE OLD ONE. "It is sown in corruption." Between the buried body and the resurrection body we have a series of antitheses, showing the vast superiority of the one to the other.

1. The one is corruptible, the other is incorruptible. "It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption." Our present frames are frail and dying. The resurrection body will be incorruptible; it will be deathless as the immortal spirit itself.

2. The one is degraded; the other is glorious. Our present corporeal system is dishonoured, but it is raised in glory. How great the difference between the corrupting seed and the stately plant and full-blown flower!

3. The one is weak, and the other is powerful. How feeble is our present body! It is not like the oak that can stand the storms of centuries, but like the frail flower that withers in an hour. It is raised in power—power that shall never fatigue with labour or wear out by time.

4. The one is natural; the other is spiritual. The present body is called a "natural body," probably because it is more the organ of the animal than the spiritual; and the future body the spiritual, because it will be the organ of the intelligent and immortal mind. Man has in him two principles of life—the animal, which connects him with the material and local, and the rational, which connects him with the spiritual and the infinite. The body of the one falls at death, and will be required no more; the perfected body of the other will be taken up at the resurrection, and will be continued forever. What is death to him who has this hope? Not the king of terrors, but the angel of immortality bearing to him the passport of an ever blessed future.

1 Corinthians 15:36

Man: his birth, death, and resurrection.

"Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die." I shall take the verso as suggesting three great facts in man's existence.

I. MAN'S BIRTH. The text suggests—I do not say it was intended to teach—that man's birth is a sowing of his existence in the earth. The sowing of the grain of which the apostle speaks is not, I think, so analogous to the burial of his body as to the birth of his existence. The sowing of the grain takes place before its death. It dies after it is sown. But in the burial of the body the man has previously died. Birth, and not burial, then, must be considered as sown. Man, at birth, is sown into the earth like seed, in two respects.

(1) The seed existed before it was sown; man existed before he was born.

(2) The seed required sowing in order for its development. Man required birth into this world in order for the development of his powers. What the soil is to the seed the external universe is to the soul—the developing agent. As a seed, however, man differs from all other germinant existences on this earth in several respects.

1. He has a self-formative power. The germs of all other life run into forms by the necessity of their nature. The grain has no power of determining what shape it shall take in its growth; man has. Man has the power of determining whether he shall grow into a beast, a fiend, or an angel.

2. He has boundless possibilities. All other germinant existences on earth exhaust themselves in their growth. The time comes when they reach their culmination and decay sets in. Not so with man. He is a seed that shall grow forever. At birth, then, we are sown into this world—immortal seeds we all are which the hand of the great Husbandman scatters over the earth.

II. MAN'S DEATH. His death is here represented as a reduction of the body to earth, not the reduction of himself. "That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die." In the grain it is not the germ, but the husk, the shell, which dies. The wrappage of the germ was made to rot. Nothing was necessary to the development of the life which it contained. The human body is the mere shell and wrappage of the man. It was made to die. Death is an essential element in the constitution of the world. It is in all material existences. It has been said that one-seventh of our earth's crust is comprised of limestone, and limestone contains the sepulchres of departed existences. We feed on death, and by our own death become food for future existences. The husk is not the germ, the body is not the man. It is his house that must crumble, it is his garment that must wear out.

III. MAN'S RESURRECTION. What is his resurrection? A springing up of his being from the earth. After the death of the grain there is a resurrection of the seed that comes forth into new forms of life and beauty. It is not the husk that rises, but the germ. After the burial of the body the man comes forth into new life. The body rots, the man rises. Whether Paul refers here to the resurrection of the body from the grave or not, one thing is clear, that at death there is a real resurrection of the soul. As when the husks of the seed rot in the earth the seed itself is quickened, so when the body falls into the dust the soul springs forth into new life—a life of woe or bliss, according to its moral character. There is a resurrection, a standing up of every soul at death. "The dust returns to dust., the soul to God who gave it." Will the body itself rise from the grave after it has gone to dust? It may, and we see some evidence to enable us to cherish the cheering hope. Whether this be a delusion or not, one thing is certain—the soul rises up at the fall of the body to its dust, and this is a most real and solemn resurrection. We "know that when the earthly house of this our tabernacle is dissolved, we have a building of God above, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

1 Corinthians 15:41

Diversity in the heavenly inhabitants.

"One star differeth from another star in glory." The idea of Paul unquestionably is that there is as great a variety amongst redeemed men in the celestial world as there is in the orbs of heaven, that saint differs from saint as star from star in the midnight vault. We offer three remarks on this subject. Such a variety is—


1. It is sustained by all analogy. Variety reigns through every part of nature, not only in celestial, but in terrestrial spheres. No two objects are exactly alike. This variety reveals the illimitable inventiveness of the Divine mind, and gives to the universe its eternal freshness and transporting charms.

2. It meets the instinctive love for the new in human souls. All souls loathe monotony and crave for the fresh. A dead uniformity would crush out its life.

3. It agrees with the varieties found amongst men here. No two minds are alike here. They differ in the kind and measure of faculty, differ in the educational processes through which they have passed, differ in the positions which they occupy in relation to all objective truths and realities. Is it conceivable that all these varieties can be lost in the higher world, that all souls will run into a common mould?

4. It accords with the general teaching of the Scriptures. Paul speaks of the temple of the good as composed of gold, silver, and precious stones. Christ refers to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, as sustaining the most honourable positions at the heavenly feast. Ay, ay, there must be varieties there. There are the speculative in mind and the practical, the imaginative and the logical, the intuitive and the philosophical; there are those who have been advancing in intelligence and power for millenniums, and those who have just commenced their heavenly studies, with those of every intervening stage. Such a variety is—

II. ESSENTIAL TO SOCIAL BLESSEDNESS. Suppose a society, all of whose members shall be exactly alike in temperament, in experience, in attainments, in articles of faith, in modes of thought, and in forms of expression. Could there in such a circle be any social enjoyment? What one thought, all thought; what one felt, all felt: why, such a state of things would be incompatible, not only with social enjoyment, but with social life. The monotony would become intolerable. The utmost variety in speculative thought is compatible with unity of heart; and the larger variety in spiritual temperament and conception in any circle—where all hearts are one—the higher the social enjoyment. Most unwise, most unrighteous, most impious, have been the attempts of ecclesiastics to force on all men the same system of thought and form of worship. Such a variety is—

III. CONSISTENT WITH THE HIGHEST UNITY. "One star differeth from another star in glory."

1. Whatever variety in the stars, they have one centre. Some larger, sonic smaller, some dimmer, some brighter, some moving more quickly, and some more slowly, yet all move round the same central orb: so with sainted souls. Whatever their diversities, they revolve round one great centre—God. God in nature and God in Christ.

2. Whatever variety in the stars, they are. controlled by one law. Attraction moves all, regulates all, keeps each in its place and speed. One law, the law of love, rules all sainted souls above, however illimitable their varieties.

3. Whatever variety in the stars, they fulfil one mission. They all catch the light from the central orb, and flash their borrowed radiance abroad through all their spheres. So with souls above. They are all the recipients and reflectors of Divine light and love.

1 Corinthians 15:45

The two Adams.

"The first man," etc. A specification of some of the points between the two Adams of resemblances and of dissimilarity will suggest a line of spiritual thought at once interesting, instructive, and practical.


1. The existence of each rose not in the ordinary course of nature. Neither came by the ordinary laws of human generation. The first was formed out of the dust of the earth, and derived his spirit from the breath of God. The second was conceived of the Holy Ghost. The pedigree of each is unparalleled in the history of the race.

2. The existence of each commenced free from the slightest taint of sin. The first was created in the image of God; all his faculties were well balanced and free from all bias to wrong. The latter was "harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners."

3. The existence of each had a nature capable of temptation. Temptability is an attribute of all created intelligences. Where there is no power to go wrong there is no virtue in keeping right. The first Adam was tempted, and he was conquered; the second was tempted, and he triumphed.

4. The character of each exerts a momentous influence upon the whole race. The character of the first generated a moral atmosphere in which myriads of his posterity were born and brought up—an atmosphere of sensuality, ambition, selfishness, unbelief, etc. The character of the second generated a moral atmosphere into which his true disciples enter by faith in him—an atmosphere that is morally salubrious, sunny, and invigorating. He who lives in the first atmosphere is stilt in Adam and is earthly. He who lives in the second atmosphere is Christly and is spiritual.


1. The one had a sublimer connection with God than the other. Adam at first was a Divine man, the offspring, representative, and steward of God. The second was God Man. God was in him in a special sense, unfolding truths, working miracles, and reconciling the world unto himself. He was God "manifested in the flesh." The one yielded to the devil; the other conquered him. The first gave way to the tempter; the second stood against him, resisted him, and bruised his head.

2. The one possessed a higher type of moral excellence than the other. The character of the first was innocence, not holiness. Holiness implies intelligence, convictions, efforts, habits, etc. This had not Adam; hence he gave way to the first and simplest temptation. This holiness Christ had in the sublimest degree; and he triumphed over principalities and powers of evil, and made a "show of them openly."

3. The influence of the one upon the race has been infinitely pernicious, that of the other infinitely beneficent. The first planted that upas, whose pestiferous branches have spread over all the men that have been and that are, and whose poisonous fruit all have tasted and been injured. The other planted that tree of life, which is growing day by day, and is destined to grow until its branches, bearing fruit for the healing of the nations, shall spread over the world and give life to all.

4. The moral influence of the one is destined to decrease, of the other to increase. Though the moral influence of the first Adam has been universal and imperial for ages, and is so still, it is destined to contract in its dimensions and to weaken in its power. The influence of the second, on the contrary, is to widen its sphere and increase its power, until it shall encompass the wide world, and strike the highest moral inspirations into all souls. "Where sin abounded, grace will much more abound." The kingdoms of our God shall become the kingdoms of his Christ, and he shall reign forever.

1 Corinthians 15:46-49

The two grand types of character.

"Howbeit that was not," etc. The words show—

I. That man has set before him TWO MORAL IMAGES OR TYPES OF CHARACTER—the "earthy" and the "heavenly." These two are essentially distinct in the spring and spheres of their activities.

1. The one is sensuous, the other spiritual. The earthly man is material, partially developed, and gross.

(1) In his views of happiness. All his pleasures are of a sensuous order.

(2) In his views of wealth. He knows of no man that is rich but he who possesses worldly property.

(3) In his views of dignity. The only honourable man to him is he who occupies the highest worldly position, and who moves in the mere pageantry that dazzles the sensual eye. He is, in one word, a man of the flesh. He sees only the fleshly, appreciates only the fleshly, enjoys only the fleshly. On the contrary, the other is spiritual. He lives behind the visible phenomena, realizes the spiritual, the eternal. To him the invisible is the only reality, moral excellence the only wealth and dignity. Though in the world, he is not of the world. He has his citizenship in heaven.

2. The one is practically selfish, the other is benevolent. The earthly man is controlled in everything by a regard to his own pleasures and aggrandizements. Self is the centre and the circumference of all his activities, at once the lord of his faculties and the god of his worship. All outside of himself—even the universe itself—he values so far and no further than as it serves him. On the contrary, the heavenly man is benevolent. The social element within him controls the egotistic; his personal feelings are submerged in the ever-rising seas of sympathy with humanity and God. Like Christ, he "pleases not himself," and, like Paul, he would be "accursed" to help others.

3. The one is practically atheistic, the other is godly. The earthly man sees nothing but natural law, order, etc. "God is not in all his thoughts." The universe to him is only an eternal or a self-produced and self-regulating machine, a house that either has never had a builder or whose builder has deserted it. The other—the heavenly man—sees God in all; like the psalmist, sets him before him; like Enoch, walks ever with him. Such are the two images or types of character that are set before every man.

II. That man DOES BEAR THE ONE, HE SHOULD BEAR THE OTHER. Account for it how you like, every man, in the first stages of his life, bears the image of the "earthy." He is sensual, selfish, godless. This fact, which is too obvious to need or even to justify illustration, is at once the crime and the calamity of the race. But whilst we do bear this image at first, we should strive to bear the other. "We shall also" (or as Dr. Davidson renders it, "let us also") "bear the image of the heavenly." Let us do it:

1. Because it is right. This heavenly image, embodying all virtue, realizes the soul's highest ideal of excellence. It is just that for which we unconsciously hunger, and for which we shall hunger forever unless we get it.

2. Because it is practicable.

(1) We have the model in its most imitable form. Christ is the model. He was pre-eminently spiritual, benevolent, godly; and never was there a character more imitable than Christ's—the most admirable, the most transparent, and the most unchangeable. We can never imitate a character that we cannot understand, admire, and find always the same. Christ was all this.

(2) We have the means in the most effective forms. The gospel reveals the model, supplies the motives, and pledges the spiritual influences of heaven.

3. Because it is urgent. To do this is the grand mission of life. Unless the work is fulfilled, our existence becomes a failure and a curse. To pass from the "earthy" to the "heavenly," is to pass from darkness to light, from sin to holiness, from Satan to God, from Pandemonium to Paradise.

CONCLUSION Here is a test of character. Conventional evangelism concludes that all who adopt certain tenets, join certain sects, and attend to certain religious ordinances are of the heavenly type and fold. A tremendous mistake is this! Without uncharitableness, it must be confessed that the vast majority of what are called Churches bear the image of the earthly; they are selfish, sensuous, and practically godless. Here also is a guide for preachers. Unless you get men from the earthly to the heavenly type of life, what boots your sermons, with all their ratiocination and rhetoric? Get their souls out of the earthly into the heavenly, and in the heavenly go on building up a character suited to the higher hierarchies of being.

"So build we up the being that we are.
Thus drinking in the soul of things,
We shall be wise perforce: and while inspired
By choice, and conscious that the will is free,
Unswerving shall we move, as if impelled
By strict necessity—along the path
Of order and of good. Whate'er we see,
Whate'er we feel, by agency direct
Or indirect, shall tend to feed and nurse
Our faculties, shall fix in calmer seats
Of moral strength, and raise to loftier heights
Of love Divine, our intellectual soul."


1 Corinthians 15:50-54

Corporeal transformation.

"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 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, Death is swallowed up in victory." Paul here speaks of a bodily transformation flint is indispensable, certain, instantaneous, and glorious.

I. Here is a transformation that is INDISPENSABLE. "This I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." Its indispensability is not for this state of things, but for the state of bliss in the celestial world. "Flesh and blood," of course, means our mortal nature. "Cannot inherit the kingdom of God," the heavenly world. He does not say why it cannot—whether the state of the atmosphere, or the means of subsistence, or the force of gravitation, or the forms and means of vision, or the conditions of receiving and communicating knowledge, or the nature of the services required. He does not go into reasons, but boldly states the fact that it could not be. "Flesh and blood" can no more exist yonder, than the tenants of the ocean can exist on the sun burnt hills. In such corporeal transformations there is nothing extraordinary, for naturalists point us to spheres of existence where they are as regular as the laws of nature.

II. Here is a transformation that is CERTAIN. "Behold, I show you a mystery." The word "mystery" here does not point to the unknowable, but to the hitherto unknown. What the apostle means is—I state to you as a fact that which has not hitherto been fully known, viz. that "we shall all be changed." "We shall not all sleep." Had Paul an idea either that he himself would escape death, or that the resurrection-day was just at hand? If he had, he here shows himself, as in some other places, not infallible, but otherwise; for he did die, and at that period the resurrection-day was far away in the abysses of the future. His words, however, clearly teach:

1. That some would be living when the day dawned. "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of man: they ate, they drank," etc.

2. That both those who were living in the earth and sleeping in the dust would undergo corporeal transformation. "We shall all be changed.

III. Here is a transformation that is INSTANTANEOUS. "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," that is, in the shortest conceivable period. At a moment when the living population least expects it, the blast of the "trumpet" shall be heard, and the transformation be effected. "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night," etc.

IV. Here is a transformation that is GLORIOUS. "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." The transformation is from mortality to immortality, from the dying to the undying; "death will be swallowed up in victory." "The idea," says one, "may be taken of a whirlpool or maelstrom that absorbs all that comes near it." The sense is, he would remove or abolish death forever from mankind.

1 Corinthians 15:53

The mind exchanging the mortal for the immortal

"And this mortal must put on immortality," etc. Paul uses this language in relation to the body. What he means, I presume, is that the mortal shall be exchanged for the immortal. To lint on "immortality" upon mortality is scarcely conceivable. But the receiving of the immortal instead of the mortal is what we can appreciate, and what we may well desire. When the apostle calls upon us elsewhere to put on the "new man," he means exchange the "old man" for the new—the old moral character for the new and Christly character. It may be both lawful, I think, and perhaps useful to use the words in another sense than that in which Paul employs them. We may apply them not to the material part of human nature, but to the mental and moral. And because such an application may prove suggestive of practical thoughts, we shall now view them in this light. There is much in the human mind, in its ideas, principles of action, character, etc., that is essentially mortal, and that must sooner or later be exchanged for the immortal. We observe, then—

I. That what is mortal in its SYSTEM OF THOUGHT must be exchanged for the immortal. All errors of judgment are mortal; they are perishable, and sooner or later must perish. And what system of human thought is not intermixed with ideas not true to fact?

1. Look at systems of philosophy. Many old systems of philosophy have already died out, because of the errors that were found in them; and existing systems, because they are often contradictory one to another, reveal their errability, and consequently must die. What is changing is mortal. All schools of psychological science, the sensational, the idealistic, the mystic, and the eclectic, are shifting as the clouds. It will not, it must not be always so; the mortal must "put on" the immortal, the true must take the place of the false in the realm of thought.

2. Look at systems of theology. How contradictory one toward another in many things are most of the systems of theology now prevalent! And what is worse, how contradictory are they to some of the most vital things embodied in the life and teachings of Jesus as recorded by the four evangelists! Many of the old systems have died. Some are dying now, and all will sooner or later die; for they axe rotten with error. The mortal must "put on" the immortal. Human souls will one day have the "truth as it is in Jesus."

"Our little systems have their day;
They have their day, and pass away."

II. That what is mortal in the ELEMENTS OF HUMAN CHARACTER must be exchanged for the immortal. Analyze the character of unrenewed men—alas! the vast majority, not only of the human race, but even of professing Christians—and you will find moral principles that must die out if there be a God of justice and benevolence in the universe. Such principles, for example, as avarice, envy, pride, malice, ambition, and selfishness, which is in truth the root of all evil. The human mind was never formed to be inspired, or indeed to be influenced in any measure by these. The fact that they are antagonistic to the moral constitution of the human soul, to the character of the Maker and Manager of the universe, and to the order and well-being of all, show that they must sooner or later die out of existence. I have the hope that human souls will one day put off this mortal and "put on" the immortal—"Righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost," etc. "Marvel not that I say unto you, Ye must be born again."

III. That what is mortal in the INSTITUTIONS OF HUMAN LIFE, must be exchanged for the immortal.

1. Our political institutions are mortal. Human governments are constantly dying. They spring up and flourish for a certain time, and then are swept from the earth. The unwisdom in their method of management, the unrighteousness of some of their laws, the avarice, the tyranny, and haughtiness of those in power, and their constant fattening upon the over-taxed millions, give mortality to governments. Man will one day put off these mortal governments and put on the immortal, the government of common sense, common justice, common benevolence. Men are craving not for the aristocratic or democratic, but for the theocratic, the reign of God, which is the reign of honesty and love. "The kingdoms of this world will one day become the kingdoms of our Lord," etc.

2. Our ecclesiastical institutions are mortal. Whether they are Papal, Episcopal, Wesleyan, or Congregational, they are more or less mixed with error and must die. The great "cloud of witnesses," the Church of the Firstborn, reached their blessed destiny before churches or chapels existed. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Indeed, whatever institutions, political, ecclesiastical, or social, that have in them a mixture of error, unwisdom, and injustice, must be exchanged for the immortal, namely, a "kingdom that cannot be moved."

IV. That what is mortal in the types of HUMAN GREATNESS must be exchanged for the immortal. In all men there is, in more or less intensity, a thirst for greatness, but their ideas or types of greatness widely differ. Some see the highest greatness in the millionaire, some in the triumphant conqueror, some in the man with a crown on his head, some in the fools who boast of their ancestry and their high-sounding titles. But such types of greatness as these are utterly false. They agree neither with reason nor the conscience of humanity. Because they are false they are mortal, and they will have to be exchanged for the immortal. The time will come when men will regard Christ as the only true type of greatness. They will give him the "Name above every name." In all things in their dally life and conversation, he will have the preeminence.

CONCLUSION. What a glorious change awaits humanity! St. Paul speaks of the resurrection of the body, an event which is confessedly mysterious: it may be far, far distant, and this we have no power to hasten or impede. But there is a more glorious resurrection—a resurrection of the human soul from the false, the unrighteous, the impure, to the true, the right and the holy—a resurrection, thank God, taking place every day in the world, and a resurrection which all men may either hasten or impede—their duty the former, their crime the latter. "Awake to righteousness and sin not."

1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Death in idea.

"O death, where is thy sting?" etc. These words, which are a shout of victory evoked by what has preceded, suggest to us the popular and the Christian ideas of death. Notice—

I. THE POPULAR IDEA. The language implies that the bulk of the race view death not as the writer did; that the idea to them had a "sting" a "victory," and a connection with felt guilt.

1. The popular idea has a sting. "O death, where is thy sting?" This is a vivid personification of the last enemy. The world sedulously shuts up its heart against the idea; but there is not an individual into whose bosom it does not force its way at times, and like a serpent it stings. There is no idea that stings an ungodly man like the idea of death.

2. The popular idea has a victory. It not only stings like a serpent, but crushes like a conqueror. I speak not of the victory which death obtains over the body, but I speak of a more crushing "victory" than this—a victory over the soul. Whenever the idea takes possession of a worldly mind, it is a victor; the soul is prostrated, the man is unmanned.

3. The popular idea has a felt connection with sin. "The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the Law." The sinner's sense of guilt will be according to his knowledge of Law, and the terror of death will be according to his sense of guilt. It is felt guilt that gives a "sting" and "victory" to the idea of dying. All that is horrific in the idea starts from a sin-stricken conscience. Such, then, is the popular idea of death. Wherever, whether in Christian or heathen lands, in ancient or modern times, Christianity is not received in its moral significance and spirit, you find it.


1. The idea has neither "sting" nor "victory." "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? By implication they once existed, but they are gone.

2. The Christian idea has, instead of "sting" and "victory," rapture and triumph. "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory." The victor has become the victim; the anguish of the sting has given place to the ecstasy of the song.

3. The Christian idea comes to man through one medium. The old terrific and popular idea of death has given way to a bright and a glorious one, "through our Lord Jesus Christ." How does Christ give this idea? By awakening in the soul a new spiritual life. But how does a new spiritual life do this? Because it involves the following things:—

(1) A stronger sympathy with the God of our destiny than with any other being. Where there is a moral oneness with that God in "whose hand our breath is," there never can be any dread of death. But a dread of God must give a dread of death.

(2) A stronger sympathy with the spiritual than with the material. Much of the fearfulness of death springs from the idea of separation from the dear objects of our attachment. Wherever, therefore, the supreme attachments are on the material, the idea of death must be distressing on account of the separation it involves; but where the most sympathy is with the unseen and the eternal, death will be regarded, not as severing connections, but as uniting them in closer fellowship.

(3) A stronger sympathy with the future world than with the present. Where the prevailing sympathies of me soul are with the Divine, spiritual, and the future, the idea of death will be bright and jubilant. This threefold sympathy, then, is essential in the nature of things to the existence of this felicitous and triumphant idea of death.

1 Corinthians 15:58

The work of works.

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." "Therefore." This is the practical conclusion of the sublime argument which Paul had conducted on the resurrection, in the preceding verses. All true doctrines lead to practice. "Therefore"—because death is not your end, because you are to live body and soul in a future state—"be ye steadfast."

I. The work of soul restoration is SPECIALLY DIVINE. It is "the work of the Lord." The work of the Lord is illimitable. The universe is his handiwork, and all its movements are his operations. Providence is his work. But the "work" referred to in the text, viz. the spiritual restoration of mankind, is in a special sense his. It is his great work. Isaiah speaks of it as a creation that will eclipse in glory the material universe. Jesus always spoke of it as the great work.

1. Think of the preparation for this work. Four thousand years were occupied, involving a long series of sacrifices, priests, seers, miracles, as preliminary.

2. Think of the sacrifices made to accomplish this work. Christ came into this world, and the Incarnate lived, suffered, and died here, etc.

3. Think of the unceasing agency of the Divine Spirit in order to effect this work. He is always striving with men from age to age and in all lands.

4. Think of the wonderful results of this work. Millions of lost souls redeemed to the knowledge, image, fellowship, and service of Almighty God. What is the value of one soul? What is the influence that one soul can exert on the universe? This, then, may emphatically be called the "work of the Lord." It is the field which he—the great Husbandman—has been cultivating. He will make it one day his choicest garden. It is the temple which he—the great Architect—has been building; it will excel in glory all former structures. It is the "new creation" which he is accomplishing; before it will pale into dimness all other productions.

II. The work of soul restoration DEMANDS THE MOST EARNEST EFFORTS OF MANKIND. "Steadfast, unmovable." There are some works of the Lord in which we cannot engage. We cannot help to control the ocean, guide the stars, or even create a blade of grass, but here we are "labourers together with him."

1. Our labour must be invincible. The two words, "steadfast" and "unmovable," express this. So many are the impulses within, so many are the forces without, opposing the work, that nothing but an invincible determination can carry us through. We must have a purpose strong enough to bend and subordinate everything to itself. "This one thing I do," says Paul.

2. Our labour must be abounding. "Always abounding." The spirit of this work should reign in us, everywhere and at all times. As the parental element inspires the mother, and mingles with all her domestic arrangements and pleasures, so this spirit must inspire us and mingle with all our undertakings. It should sweeten our daily toil and breathe into our recreations and amusements. The distinction between the secular and the spiritual is a theological fiction. Religion in a man is either everywhere or nowhere, everything or nothing. Labour and business, as well as the gospel, are means of grace. As the life of the plant requires the tempest to bend its fibres, as well as the calm to yield it repose, so the religious life requires for its development the rough element of worldly business as well as the smoother influences of spiritual devotion.

III. The work of soul restoration MUST INEVITABLY SUCCEED. "Forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." There are two kinds of vain labour.

1. That which aims at a worthless end. Therefore, if it succeeds, it is useless.

2. That which is directed to a good end, but can never realize it, simply because it is too indeterminate and feeble. But here is a work that must succeed. Every true thought, every earnest prayer, every godly deed, carry in themselves success. As all the elements and forces of this world go to build up a new stratum around the globe's surface, for geologists of coming ages to study, so all that I do and think and say in the work of the Lord goes to give blessedness to my being. Inasmuch, therefore, as you cannot fail in this work, labour.

IV. The work of soul restoration will FULLY REALIZE ITS SUCCESS IN THE FUTURE WORLD. "Therefore," says Paul, "were this life our all, our spiritual labour might be considered vain." What boots our striving after knowledge, our efforts to build up a noble character, if the grave be our end? But there is a future, and in it there is a full reward. All the waters of holy thought and effort we now receive into our being go to make a well within us that shall spring up to everlasting life.


1 Corinthians 15:1-4


"Moreover" indicates a change of subject. "Declare unto you," or remind you, is somewhat emphatic. What St. Paul brings to memory are certain fundamental ideas which he does not hesitate to call "the gospel," the glad tidings of God to the world. It was the same gospel he had preached unto them, the same they had accepted, the same in which they stood. By it these Corinthians were saved, present and future, if they adhered to their faith, unless indeed their faith was "in vain." Was this faith a vain thing? Was it possible that it was an illusion? How could this be when they had embraced it, stood in it, felt its power to save, and rejoiced in its blessedness? The power of this gospel lay in these facts, viz.: Christ had died, had been buried, had been raised from the grave; and these had occurred for a special purpose and agreeably to pre-announcement of Divine revelation. What was the specific object of Christ's death? He died "for our sins." In this he was the Christ of God, the Messiah, the Anointed, the Jesus of Nazareth, who, as "the righteous Servant of the Father," was ordained to "bear their iniquities." It was not, then, a common death. It was not a death brought about as to its main end by the disappointment of his nation because he had refused to be a secular king. It was not the death of a martyr. Worldly influences, earthly agencies, Satanic power, appear in the immediate and circumstantial connections of his crucifixion. His arrest was an act of human violence; his trial was twofold, Jewish and Roman; his execution was Roman; and yet all this array of man's hate and skill and successful wickedness passes out of sight, and is lost in a view infinitely higher. Judas could not have betrayed him, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrim could not have condemned him, Pilate could not have given him over to the Pharisees and Sadducees, unless Christ himself had permitted them to control the manner and incidents of his death. The death itself, as to its motive, spirit, and aim, occupies the whole mind of the apostle. Man and man's instrumental relation to it fade from view, and it is with him a vicarious, expiatory, propitiating death, deriving its reason, character, and value from a single consideration—a death for our sins. On no other basis could he regard the gospel as glad tidings. And how had the knowledge of this as a doctrinal reality come to him? He had "received" it from Christ himself, who had appeared personally to him at midday. The historical facts of his death, burial, and resurrection had been known to him; for Saul of Tarsus could not have been ignorant of these things as events involving the nation. Mysteriously, too, he had felt their impression in vague ideas, in vaguer fears; out of unconscious depths, sounds had throbbed as strange pulsations on the inner ear; and so sharp had been the call to thought and reflection, as for the Lord Jesus to remind him on the way to Damascus that he had been kicking against the goads which had pierced his conscience. His conversion was sudden and marvellous. Sudden and marvellous it could not have been but for the long and acute goading that had opened his heart to the hand of the Divine Healer. Yet this preparatory work of conviction was all within himself, under the Spirit's agency. What he knew of Christ's death was not from the historical fact alone, but from the doctrinal truth couched in the fact, and this saving truth he had received. It was a revelation to his soul, a direct and assuring manifestation from the Lord Jesus. To be an apostle, he needed this immediate communication from heaven, this peculiar intensifying of conviction and conversion. Means and methods suited to others were not adapted to his case. Notorious as he had been in the championship of the national Church—the forlorn hope of Sadduceeism and Pharisaism, the young hero whose fanatical strength was adequate to replenish the wasting and well nigh exhausted forces of the Sanhedrim—it was not for him to go over to Christ in some quiet way by meditation, by laborious inquest of soul, by those high resolves which often have their birth from the womb of solitude. No; he must be signally converted, for his own sake and for the sake of others. The change was a momentous affair in the history of the Jewish Church no less than the Christian Church, and, accordingly, he speaks of himself as having "received" the grace of God in an exceptional manner. But were human means disowned? Was naturalness set at nought or even depreciated? Not so; what he "received" was altogether in unison with the true creed of Israel as contained in the records of her national faith. "According to the Scriptures," argues he, was the truth of Christ's death which I "received." Above the effulgence that flashed from the Syrian noon upon his eye, there was another light, and it spread all over Pentateuch, Psalms, prophecies. What, indeed, Gamaliel stood for, but was not; what Sadducee and Pharisee ideally meant, but utterly failed to make real; what priest and scribe had been designed to represent, but had hidden under carnal observances; what temple and sacrifices had been set apart to commemorate and prefigure, but had obliterated in sign and symbol;—all these were now illumined. "According to the Scriptures," which he had learned when a boy in Tarsus, and had come to Jerusalem that he might enlarge and perfect his knowledge of these holy writings; "according to the Scriptures," which St. Stephen had expounded before the Sanhedrim when the shadow of death retreated before the glory descending upon the youthful saint from the "Son of man standing on the right hand of God;" "according to the Scriptures" that Ananias had explained to him at Damascus, when "there fell from his eyes as it had been scales," and, in no long time, the inner eyesight was made clear and strong. Thus it was that providence in the past became providence in the present, the Holy Ghost alike in each, and Tarsus, Jerusalem, and Damascus brought, though seemingly so wide apart, into the unity of his soul's development. Verily, a wondrous scheme of personal history, recognizing home and parents, life in "no mean city," life in the metropolis that was venerated as the glory of the elect nation, life in the leadership of an assault on the young Church, and forever memorable in her annals because of the crown of martyrdom then first won; a marvellous interweaving of the natural and supernatural as warp and woof in one and the same fabric. Back to the original promise spoken in Eden that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; back to the early institution of sacrifice, and thence on to the organization of the Divine idea in a most solemn and august ceremonial that allowed no day to escape its impressive symbolization; all through penitential psalms and instructive prophecies. The great doctrine was present everywhere that "without shedding of blood there is no remission," that "he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows," and that "the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." No emaciating criticism here; no destructive intellect; no disposition inclining St. Paul to obscure Christ in the shadow of the Jewish nation, and minimize his figure to the smallest dimensions consistent with any faith at all. No such taste and temper had this man, fresh from the schools and master of the theology of his times. Nor is it other than one of his very marked peculiarities, that he so frequently cites his thorough and familiar acquaintance with the Scriptures, and that from first to last in his Epistles, he is quite as much a commentator of the Old as an exponent of the New. The two grand hemispheres of religious thought formed one globe in him. From the one to the other, he passed with unobstructed step. Over the immense domain, divided and cut up to so many other minds, adverse or even hostile sections to not a few honest souls; over all this stretch of diversified territory, there was to St. Paul the very perfection of unity. His footsteps never missed their pathway; his eye never lost a landmark. For him, Christ was in Eden, in Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Hosea; and the Old Testament was what it was and all it was because Christ was in every one of its doctrines and institutions. The present Christ to him—the Christ of Damascus, and Arabia, and Jerusalem, and Athens, and Ephesus, and Corinth—was the Christ of the past, and he was this because he was the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Is it like]y, then, that we shall find too much of Christ, and especially as it respects the legal bearings of his death, in the Old Testament? Clearly St. Paul did not think so. "According to the Scriptures" was prefatory, and essentially so, to the logic, sentiment, fervour, of the grand argument he was about to make. What was this argument to be? A defence—the defence—of the doctrine of the resurrection of the human body. Observe now that the historical fact of the Lord's resurrection was not in debate. No one of the Corinthians denied or even doubted that. What, then, was in controversy? This it was, viz.: Did the doctrine involved in the Lord's rising from the dead apply to all? Was there to be a general resurrection? From this point of view, we see why in the present case he laid such stress on his dying for our sins. It was not death as an ordinary termination of life, but death considered in this exclusive instance as an atoning death, as a vicarious and expiatory offering, as a complete and perfect satisfaction to law and justice. It is this death that stands so closely related to his resurrection, and through it to our resurrection. Taking merely an ethical view of the matter, and confining ourselves to what Jesus of Nazareth taught, and to the example of moral excellence he set before men, we can see no reason why he should have risen. He added nothing to morality, nothing to example, nothing to a high and self-sacrificing manhood, by returning to life and reappearing at sundry times to his disciples during the forty days. On the other hand, looking at his death as penal "for our sins"—we can understand why, if he was "delivered for our offences," he should be "raised again for our justification." Without the resurrection, we could not be assured whether he died simply and solely as a good man, the best of men, or as the Son of God to expiate our sins. If, indeed, law and justice have been satisfied by the sacrifice, let them express in an authoritative and sovereign manner, clear of all liability to misapprehension, and assuring to the most eager solicitude, that the penalty has been paid and a full pardon for guilt in man made possible. Precisely this was accomplished by Christ's resurrection, and thus the scars of Calvary, preserved upon his person, were shown to the disciples as the signs of victory over "hell and death." He rose, furthermore, on "the third day." Though it was not Christ's habit to fix times and seasons, yet he was careful to settle the day of his resurrection. Again and again he announced the date of the event. Friends, in their overwhelming dismay, forgot it, or if some remembered it, as the two who journeyed to Emmaus, it was clouded by grief and distrust. Foes remembered it and provided a guard for the sepulchre, and his foes were the first to know that he had risen, and that, too, from their own soldiers. There was no ethical reason for him to rise on the third day or on any other day, but, viewing his death as penal, its purpose instantly answered when he died, we can see congruity between the two facts, "the third day" being his own appointment and a proof that he had died, not as a mere man, but as the eternal Son of God. St. Paul repeats, "according to the Scriptures," i.e. Christ's resurrection had been foretold. "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Psalms 16:10). Christ's death, burial, and resurrection hold together, and their congruity is determined by the fact that "the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." To these truths the apostle gave prominence in the opening of his argument. Logically, they had to assume that commanding position, and emotionally they could have no other. And therefore, "first of all," he delivered these doctrines. They took precedence of all else; they were the data foreverything in Christianity; they were "the gospel." So that if he was about to dwell on a topic which should evoke his power to the utmost, nor leave a faculty of his mind disengaged nor a sensibility unmoved, he would "first of all," as he had done in his preaching, rest his whole cause on Christ dying and rising as the Redeemer of the human race.—L.

1 Corinthians 15:5-11

Apostolic testimony to Christ's resurrection, and testimony of others.

A prominent feature of Christ's plan was to train the apostles to be his witnesses. Conceive what this involved: on their part, a discipline of the senses as inlets of the mind, close and patient attention, constant revisals of impressions, contentedness under mystery, boldness of statement, heroism in adhering to testimony. Along with these qualities, an experience of the truth in Christ as a transforming power was to impart a peculiar character to all they affirmed, so that Christ Jesus, living, dying, risen, exalted, glorified, was to be seen in them as well as through them. On the part of Christ, what condescension and sympathy, what painstaking, what persistent efforts, were necessary to make these rude Galileans competent to the duties of testifiers! "Ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." To be messengers was not enough; they were to be witnesses also, for the "Holy Ghost shall come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." These men felt that they were Christ's chosen witnesses, and that their testimony was the chief agency employed by the Spirit to save the world. It was natural, then, for St. Paul to begin his argument on the resurrection of the body by calling attention to the fact that the risen Christ "was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve." For the space of forty days he manifested himself at intervals to their senses, and during this intermediate period—a special dispensation to the disciples, differing widely from all that went before or came after—their education as witnesses, and particularly as witnesses of his resurrection, was carried on to the verge of completeness at Pentecost. In fact, Pentecost was the forty days consummated. And was this great training merely in the historical fact that he had risen? Forty days were not needed for this. Twenty-four hours after he had reappeared, all the twelve, except St. Thomas, were firm believers of the fact. But they were to feel the connection between his resurrection and death as spiritual truths of the highest moment, truths of the Divine government, truths of holy sentiment, and thus fitted for the full dispensation of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?" The heart, the burning heart, the heart of saving faith,—this is the distinctive type of experience now, and, for the first time, Christian emotion as to its essential quality is brought into notice. St. Paul enumerates the witnesses: St. Peter, the twelve, the five hundred brethren, St. James; and adds, "all the apostles." Then he mentions himself: "Last of all, he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." Could he speak of this in the way simply of historical summation? Not he; memory was too active, feeling too acute, humility and gratitude too profound, for a bare logical statement. In an instant, the devout soul hastens to acknowledge what it never lost an opportunity of expressing—its sense of God's mercy in calling him, a persecutor of the Church of God, to the apostleship. "By the grace of God"—words often abused since he used them, but most sacred and glorious as he uttered them—"by the grace of God I am what I am." That grace had not been bestowed in vain; nor does he hesitate to say that be had "laboured more abundantly than they all," and then "I" sinks out of sight, and it is all of grace. Notice the stages of the idea: born untimely; least of the apostles because he was guilty of persecution; the only man among them who stood against this dark background, but the light in the foreground is the more resplendent for that; not ashamed to confess his utter unworthiness in order to magnify the grace of God, and this grace deserving the entire honour of the more abundant labour. What an insight into the man! If, as we suppose, the hours when this chapter was written were extraordinary even in his wonderful mental history; if there was a fuller and closer interblending of his faculties than he had ever experienced; if human knowledge and culture then brought to inspiration their largest and richest tribute, and if inspiration brought to them its mightiest quickening;—what could be more striking than the fact that in this very period of exaltation, when intellect was in the splendid array both of its endowments and acquisitions, and when the power of speech had suddenly possessed itself of new facilities of expression, he cannot proceed without pausing to bow his heart in adoration before the God of grace! Uppermost, indeed, was the thought of him who had "died for our sins," and the glory of Christ risen as personal to him and his apostleship was the grace shown to him as a persecutor of the Church of God. And we who read his glowing words, what finer privilege can the unfoldings of the human soul in literature give us, what privilege so fine as this in which the apostle of the Gentiles, rising above the levels of all common experience, speaks from a height which would be the abode of silence save that humility would offer its homage to the grace of Christ! The nobility of the man displays itself here; for, though labouring "more abundantly than they all," yet he claims no more than to be one of the witnessing company of the apostles. After all, it is not the individual testimony of St. Peter, St. James, St. Paul, but the concurrent and united evidence, that is the important fact. Years intervened between the forty days and the scene on the road to Damascus, and he comes with his later testimony to join the group of the earlier witnesses. "Whether it were I or they"—we are all agreed as to the appearance of the risen Lord—"so we preach, and so ye believed."—L.

1 Corinthians 15:12-34

Denying the resurrection from the dead, and what the denial involves.

Some of these Corinthian Christians denied that there would be a literal resurrection. They understood little or nothing of the idea of the body, of its uses intellectually and morally regarded, and of its partnership with the soul in all that concerned present probation and future reward. What had Grecian philosophy taught them? That the body was the seat of evil. What had Grecian art taught them? To admire the body for sensuous purposes as a gratification to aesthetic tastes. And what had idolatrous worships shown them? The body degraded to the lowest vileness. Yet, indeed, Christianity had assured them that the body was "the temple of the Holy Ghost," and, no doubt, St. Paul in his former preaching had instructed them in the sanctity of the body, "according to the Scriptures." But here they were explaining away the doctrine, and entirely unaware of what they were doing. "It was not materialism, but an ultra-spiritualism, which led the Corinthians into error" (F. W. Robertson). "Fascinated, perhaps, by its plausible appearance of spirituality, glad to get rid of the offence of a carnal and material immortality, and fain to take refuge in the more refined idea of the soul's recovered independence of the body here, and its entire emancipation from the body hereafter" (Dr. Candlish). Whatever the influences at work upon their minds, the results were obvious to St. Paul. And to convince them of what a fatal error they had fallen into if their disbelief were logically carried out into its consequences, he proceeds to inquire of them how it was that Christ could be preached among them as One risen from the dead, if there were no general resurrection. What consistency was there in believing that the Lord of humanity had risen, Lord of its body no less than of its soul, and yet this humanity in the race must be dislocated, body and soul sundered forever, and soul alone be the survivor of death? This is the starting point, Christ the Representative, the federal Head, the Image of humanity as well as the Image of God. If there be no general resurrection, "then is Christ not risen." The argument is from a broad, universal principle to a particular case under that principle, the former being the resurrection of man, and the latter that of the Son of man. By legitimate inference, therefore, supposing there were no resurrection for man, Christ was still in his grave. "Christ not risen!" What follows? Apostolic "preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain." This is pressing the matter home with startling energy. But how could the logical consequence be otherwise? Christ Jesus, Son of God, had assumed man's physical nature, had been born of a woman, had eaten and drunk and grown like other men, had conformed to the laws of human corporeity, had been "made under the law" of providence, and taken all its requirements upon himself; and hence, if "made like unto his brethren," he rose from the dead just as he had been incarnated, under the general law of humanity. From the beginning to the end, no break occurred in his career; it was human throughout, and just as human when he rose from the grave as when born of the Virgin Mary. To be sure, a glory beyond the human was in him and around him—the glory of the eternal Sonship—but the human was never lost or swallowed up, never even obscured, by the mysterious awe of the Divine investing him. In this view of the matter, Christ rose because he was a man among men, and by virtue of a law which found in him its highest manifestation, just as all other laws of humanity had realized in him their sublimest expression. But what of our preaching as apostles? If he has not risen (risen he cannot be unless there is a general resurrection), then "we are found false witnesses of God." Nothing else but false witnesses, "because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not." Deluded men we cannot be; victims of excited and overwrought senses; innocent enthusiasts;—all this is impossible; and we are downright deceivers. Is this credible? Go back and read the roll of testifiers: St. Peter and the twelve, the outstanding fact of their testimony being Jesus and the resurrection; then the five hundred brethren, next St. James, and I myself. Can you Corinthians believe a thing as absurd as this, that we are all false witnesses? So much for apostolical preaching. He had put their preaching as apostles and the faith of these Corinthians in the same category; they were each "vain," that is, "empty, groundless, unreal" (Kling). Now, then, he urges that if there be no resurrection, "Christ is not raised." If Christ be not risen, what object has your faith? To believe in his atoning death, you must believe in the necessary sequel and counterpart of that death, his resurrection, since the two facts are inseparably united. Admit his death, deny his resurrection, and "ye are yet in your sins." Is this credible? On the hypothesis of no literal resurrection, three things up to this point of the argument have been made clear, viz. Christ's death was in vain, apostolic preaching of Christ crucified was in vain, and Christian faith was in vain. What a new Ecclesiastes is here! "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." But was this all? If a denial of man's resurrection necessitated the rejection of Christ's resurrection; if the loss of his resurrection swept away his atonement, seeing that there was no proof of its validity, and hence no assurance of pardon and peace; if the nullification of the atonement destroyed the value of preaching and the worth of believing;—could there be any addition to the amount and quality of these dreadful consequences? Yes; the train of evils following this new doctrine of no resurrection was lengthened out still further; for "they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." All departed Christians are lost. There is no heaven for them, and the touching words, "fallen asleep in Jesus," are mocking rhetoric. Again, the thought recurs—Was this credible? Another vanity must be superadded: affection for the departed, the tenderest and holiest of all human feelings, that which perfects the love unable to obtain its complete growth while the object lived to the eyes and was clasped in the arms; this most beautiful and noble affection is idle sentimentality, for they have "perished." At this point something more than logical reasoning is involved. The deepest instinct of the soul in its human relationships is in issue. Is this instinct a cheat, a falsehood? We, the apostles and the five hundred brethren, are not the only "false witnesses," but your nature, the very core of your nature, is a deceit and mockery. You have lost your Christ and his apostles, lost your faith, lost your friends. Nothing precious is left; you dare not trust your firmest instincts. "Most miserable!" Could there be a greater torture? "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." The hope of being with him hereafter, of seeing and enjoying him, of becoming more and more like him,—this is our heaven of anticipation; the crown is "a crown of righteousness;" the eternal reward is nearer and fuller communion with him. But this hope is all vain. Himself uncrowned, himself left to the dishonour of the grave, what can Christ be to you and what relief afford you—you of all men most wretched? Other men resign themselves to their dreams of earthly joys, seek the pleasures of sense and find them, fall down and worship Satan and get their kingdoms of power and wealth and passion. These you have denied yourselves and put far from your pursuits. Heaven has been enough for you. But lo! this heaven is a vain hope, a fleeting creature of fancy, and you are the victims of a supreme folly, the lowest on earth in hopeless misery. This mournful picture is not allowed to detain the eye, for St. Paul immediately says (verse 20), "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." There is the fact of his resurrection; there is also the doctrinal import of the truth with respect to believers; so that after showing the absurdity of the opposite view, be now lays down a positive assertion in conformity with the first stage of his argument. Christ has risen, but in what character and relation? The answer is, "The Firstfruits of them that slept." A vast harvest is in the future, and he is the Firstfruits. Was not the first sheaf a specimen of the matured field, a thank offering to the God of providence, a pledge of the full ingathering? In all things he was to have "pre-eminence," and consequently in this, that he was "the first begotten of the dead." Previous resurrections had occurred, but in no sense were they "firstfruits," since no representative or mediatorial character appertained to them, nor did they involve the idea of a Divine covenant. The significance of Christ's return to life is that, having been "reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." The specialty of his vicarious sacrifice gives specialty to his resurrection, which is the beginning of his exaltation to be a Prince and a Saviour, "for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." And in this, humanity appears historically no less than prospectively: "Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." It is, in each instance, a race fact he is contemplating, and he sees the race as existing in the natural headship of Adam and in the spiritual headship of Christ. "As in Adam all die" a natural death, "even so in Christ shall all be made alive"—restored to existence as it consists in the union of soul and body. Further on, St. Paul specializes the difference between Adam and Christ; here and in the context, it is the similarity of attitude towards the human family which he presents. To see the unlikeness, we must first see the resemblance, and, accordingly, he institutes a parallel between the two, Adam and Christ, as preparatory to the divergence which he introduces when discussing other aspects of the resurrection. The union of body and soul, by which human nature is constituted, belongs in itself to the natural order of the universe, and therefore offers a common platform on which Adam and Christ alike stand, the one as causing death, the other as the restorer of life forfeited. St. Paul never loses sight of nature and natural order. Everything that he says of Christianity either asserts or implies something back of Christianity. If, as often happens, he describes it as a scheme of restoration, there is always an original system, vast in reach and compass, to which it is subordinate. And if, as frequently occurs, he is showing that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," reference is still had to a primary or normal condition as having been transcended by substituting a higher for a lower form of life. In congruity with this habitual method of thought, fundamental to all his other habits of mind, and without which he could not have been the thinker he was, he traces here the resemblance of Adam and Christ in their respective headships of the human family. But has Christ such an identification with our race as to put his resurrection, time and circumstances considered, on a level with our rising from the dead? No; he stands alone. "Every man in his own order." There is an order, a rank, a succession, and the headship of Christ is attested as before in the figure of the "firstfruits." "Afterward they that are Christ's at his coming;" the long interval between the first and second coming of Christ illustrating his majesty as the risen Lord, and ripening a harvest worthy of him as the "firstfruits." If, then, the ages are to witness the success of his power as "a Prince and a Saviour," and if the final demonstration of his glory as exalted to the right hand of his Father be reserved for the resurrection of his saints and its attendant events, this result must be of the nature of a consummation. Viewed as a system within a system, it must be limited by conditions, must have instruments and agencies, must have various adjustments of means to ends, and the ends in turn accommodated to ulterior purposes, all which go forward to an era of grandeur. A perpetual scheme of this kind is inconceivable. It involves the trial of certain definite and clearly announced principles, the coworking of God and man, the test operation of peculiar motives and sentiments; in brief, the idea of probation in the most educative and august shape it could assume. Are we the only learners in this school? Worlds have brotherhood as well as men, and the network, too delicate for any eye to see all the filaments even here, is spread over spaces unmeasured by the visible firmament. It is a mediatorial economy under which we live, nor can any reader of the New Testament doubt that the universe is affected in some way, though the manner and extent are mysteries, by this mediatorial rule. Inasmuch, then, as it is mediatorial, this system cannot be permanent, and hence "every man in his own order" presents the conception of a successional development, which must, at some period, reach its crisis and pass away. "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power." What is it that shall terminate? The previous verses (20-23) throw some light on this subject. Humanity is represented therein as to its contrasted forms, and these forms are Adam and Christ. Contrast is our chief mode of knowing objects in this world, and we are unceasingly dependent on its activity. It is a mark, however, of the weakness of our faculties and the limited sphere in which they are confined. Now, these contrasted forms of humanity as embodied in Adam and Christ shall vanish away, because they belong to our knowing "in part" and are only disciplinary for that "which is perfect." All the conflict between our nature in Adam and our nature in Christ having ended, and its connections with preternatural agents having come to a close, and that close triumphant on the side of the Lord Jesus, every sign of this sort of rule, authority, and power, shall disappear from the universe. We may venture to suggest that some hint of this is given in the forty days. The posthumous life of the risen Christ has dropped off the outward marks of its former rule, authority and power. No discussions are held with scribes and Pharisees; no snares are laid to entangle him; no repelling on his part the charges of sabbath breaking, confederation with Beelzebub, and blasphemy in claiming to be the Son of God; but the battle has closed, and the Victor fresh from the grave is victor over Sanhedrim and Herod and Pilate, and henceforth the Holy Spirit orders the struggle between the forces of good and evil. But on a far wider arena, and with an infinitely grander display of majesty, will the Lord Jesus Christ consummate his victory over earth and hell when he resigns to God the Father his delegated sovereignty as the Mediator. As in the forty days no winds and waters were to be stilled, no demoniac crossed his path to call forth his power, no exertion made in the exercise of authority and rule over those inimical to his divinity, but conflict was swallowed up in conquest; so now, the end having been attained of mediatorial government and all opposition put down, what befits him so royally as to resume the ancient characteristics of his Sonship as the second Person in the holy Trinity and take the glory of eternal ages back, long ago resigned, to his bosom? Does this require that his humanity shall be laid aside? By no means. Turn again to the forty days. Humanity then manifested in him a semi-glorified state. Over time and space he was conqueror, nor was he amenable to any law of flesh and blood, but enjoyed the immunities of a "spiritual body." Yet, notwithstanding, he was most human, and in his voice the old tones were tenderer and sweeter, so that Mary knew him when he spoke her name, and in his manner there was a more precious condescension, which St. Thomas felt when he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God." The human body as it goes downward towards the brutes loses its native properties as the companion of the soul. The human body as it goes upward towards God increases its capacity to enshrine and show forth the spirit. What limit exists to this capacity, we know not. But we may well believe that Christ's humanity, though the Mediatorship cease to exist, will be associated forever with his Sonship. And under what conditions shall this termination of the Mediatorship occur? When the "last enemy shall be destroyed." And that enemy is death. This closes the protracted warfare. It began with his victory over the grave, it ends with his triumph over all graves. "Death itself there dies." By the subjection of the Son to the Father, we understand, then, that it is the incarnate Son who is thus subordinated, and that this interferes in no way with the human relation sustained to his people. Less than Son of man he can never be, any more than less than Son of God. But just as his semi-glorified state during the forty days endeared him all the more to the disciples, and that too while they felt him removed from the old forms of social contact, so this last and most resplendent display of Christ's Godhead will elevate the humanity of his saints into a fuller assimilation to himself. The new distance will be only a new nearness, for God shall be "all in all." The next verse (verse 29) introduces an abrupt change: "Else ['since' or, 'again'] what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?" Various interpretations have been put on this obscure passage, none of them free from difficulties. "Posthumous baptism by proxy," or the baptism of a living person for a friend who had died unbaptized; baptism in the sense of "being immersed in sufferings;" or, again, as signifying "a vicarious occupancy of the position once filled by a deceased person;" or, once more, as applied to all believers,—are the leading explanations offered. Whatever the meaning is of being "baptized for the dead"—whether it was a superstitious custom which had sprung up in the Church and was condemned by the apostle, or, the ordinary and proper use of this sacrament—it is not necessary for us to determine in order to see its connection with the argument. In any view of the matter, baptism was an unmeaning thing, if there were no resurrection. Solemnize it as they might, practise it with reference to the affectionate memories of the dead, administer the holy rite altogether with respect to the living, but, nevertheless, the living and the dead were in the same category, unless there were a resurrection. Why are we risking so much by our baptism as a profession of Christian faith? Why this useless and irrational "jeopardy"? Plainly enough, jeopardy has a Divine meaning for the living—a meaning, too, that every grave illustrates and enforces, if baptism is a sacrament—and, unquestionably, we do well to incur the risks, provided there be a general resurrection. But the dead body, what of that? And the living body, what of this? I write to you, Corinthians, of no disembodied existence. I write of no immortality of spirit as spirit. I have nothing to do with that. Baptism has nothing to do with that; our memory of the dead is no abstract memory of their souls, but of body and spirit as forming their human nature. And now, if baptism recognize the union of body and spirit, and symbolize the redeemed sanctity of each, there is good reason for jeopardy; otherwise none at all. By his love for this Church, by his joy in its members, he protests that his own jeopardy is so great as to warrant the statement, "I die daily." Outward circumstances beset him with so many perils and the inward pressure was so heavy and constant, as that he suffered like a dying man, day by day. To particularize; if (metaphorically) he had "fought with beasts at Ephesus," what advantage was it if the dead rise not? Was he facing all these terrible risks, hour by hour, to preach a gospel that left Christ imprisoned in the sealed grave of the Sanhedrim, and that it was vain to preach and vain to believe, and that made baptism a nullity? Was it for this that he underwent so much distress? "Let us eat and drink." If the body has no part or lot in the grace of Christ, and has no future, let us make the most of its enjoyments in the present life. "Tomorrow we die." No punishment can be inflicted on the body hereafter, since it has no hereafter; "Let us eat and drink." And yet beware; deception is always possible, and deception is certain in this instance. "Evil communications corrupt good manners;" so that poet and apostle, Menander and St. Paul, are at one as it respects association and intercourse, and their effects on practical life. Then follows the warm exhortation: "Awake to righteousness"—"an exclamation full of apostolic majesty" (Bengel)—"and sin not." Such views as he had condemned came from a want of the knowledge of God. More than this, it was humiliating that such errors were found among the Corinthians. "I speak this to your shame." The argument, as conducted to its present point, has included a number of particulars, each luminous in itself, each reflecting light on the general course of the idea foremost in his mind; and from the wide range, reaching to the end of the mediatorial kingdom, he returns to himself as daily dying for the sake of these truths. On the other side, what is the landing place? It is, in Epicurean morality and practice, the deception and corruption and shame of "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die." And as he comes back from this extensive circuit of thought, convictions far more profound than earthly logic, and emotions deeper than earthly love, press themselves into utterance while he reminds these Corinthians how far astray they had gone, "not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God."—L.

1 Corinthians 15:35-50

Objections to the resurrection; replies thereto; conclusions involved.

How far has St. Paul come on the path he has been treading? Beginning with the "many infallible proofs" of the forty days, and adding the appearance of the Lord Jesus to him, he had convicted those of an absurdity who denied a general resurrection. On various grounds, the view they held was incredible. The moral consequences of their belief were set forth. True logic and pure morality condemned their departure from that "righteousness" which only exists by virtue of "the knowledge of God" If the one class of thinkers whom he had answered had etherealized a fundamental, historic fact into a sheer fiction, so that a great truth was utterly lost, another class of thinkers stood arrayed against the doctrine itself, and refused its acceptance on the score of its unreasonableness. Nature, they claimed, was on their side. Nothing that died lived again. The whole economy of the material world was opposed to it. A grave was a grave forever. Heaven and earth bore witness that death was death, and could never be other than death. Now, the body is a part of the physical kingdom, and, as such, has well known properties, and is subject to certain laws. Well, he will discuss it on their ground. In the previous branch of the argument, the basis was "according to the Scriptures," and he had constant occasion to say, Christ, Christ Jesus, Christ Jesus our Lord, Christ as the Firstfruits, Christ in contrast with Adam, Christ as Mediator, Christ as the second Person in the Trinity. But there is a change, a noteworthy change, now, and for some verses Christ is not named. According to nature, or by analogy, the argument has to proceed if the objectors are met. The new standpoint is promptly taken, and St. Paul and the philosophical critics are face to face. Who are these that have gathered before the eye of his imagination in that humble room in Ephesus, the proud and lordly city, whose commerce connected it with every land, and whose wealth was the wonder and envy of the world? Near by was the magnificent temple of Artemis, renowned over Ionia and far beyond, safe too in its renown, since no art of man could surpass its pillars of Parian marble, its doors of cypress wood, its roof of cedar resting on columns of jasper, and the great masterpieces of painting and sculpture by which it had been enriched. Likely enough, one who could quote from Menander, Aratas, and Epimenides, knew something of Anacreon, Thales, Heraclitus, and others associated with Ionia and Ephesus. Would not some of these illustrious thinkers rise before his vision when he began to meditate on the questions growing out of the relations between soul and body, questions on which Greek intellect had expended its subtlest power of investigation? And would not that memorable day in Athens flash back upon him from Mars' Hill, when he confronted the philosophers with the doctrine of the resurrection, some mocking, others saying, "We will hear thee again of this matter"? However this may have been, it is certain that St. Paul understood perfectly the objections made by Greek philosophy to the resurrection, as to the "how" and "with what body"—the general and the specific bases of Greek hostility to the doctrine so near his heart. To answer the two interrogatories" how?" and "with what body?"—is the work now in hand. St. Paul had just closed an appeal by the sharp cry of "Awake to righteousness," as if intent on arousing the Church from stupor. Now, however, he begins with "Thou fool," or rather, "Fool," expressing no harshness, but simply the want of wisdom. The analogy is stated at once: "That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die"—reminding one of similar words spoken by the Lord Jesus (John 12:24). The seed you sow has to die, to pass into decay and dissolution, its component parts separated, before the germ can disengage its life and begin to sprout. Like that seed, your body dies. Like that, your body by dying enters on a condition preparatory to living. If life thus proceeds from dissolution, the general question "how" is met by the likeness between the decay of the seed and the body. The body of the seed dies, but it has a principle of life which springs thereby into active existence. Then, the contrast having been first presented between death and life, he advances to the second point: "With what body do they come?" Not the old body; nothing can be clearer than that, for the destruction of the former body supplies the conditions for the process of deliverance from decay, and institutes the work of quickening. And what is the issue of the new process? It is a new body, for "thou sowest not that body that shall be;" if thou didst, what reality would be in the sowing; what foundation for the hope of the husbandman; what work for the providential agency of nature? On the supposition of the same body in the seed-grain dying and growing, the resemblance would be to sleep rather than death, and, consequently the analogy as here used would break down at the start. Hence the statement so essential to the parallelism: thou sowest not the future body, but a body for transformation. It is "bare grain" which is put into the ground. This is your work as a husbandman; but God is there to perform his part., and "God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him." Admitting that God gives the new body according to his pleasure, does it follow that this act is arbitrary because it is sovereign? Is nature set aside? Are the former laws that made that seed the kind of seed it was, overthrown under the sod? Is it death to the economy of production, or is it production for reproduction? And he answers, God giveth "to every seed his own body." On the one hand, the continuity of nature is preserved, the particular character of the seed is not lost; and, on the other hand, the new growth is something unlike that which dies, for God has given it a different body. Similarity and contrast are both maintained. Is the identity destroyed? Nay. Is there a distinction between the body that dies and the body that lives? Yea. Identification must not conflict with dissimilarity; dissimilarity must not antagonize identification. Seen in this light, the change is one of form. Before death, there was body living; in death, body decayed and resolved into its elements; after death, body reconstructed. The identity lies in the fact of body; the difference in the substance, properties, and form of body. If so, what is there incredible in the resurrection? By analogy, it is a possible event. Nature authenticates a principle which may find application to the human body; and if you ask, "With what body do they come?" the reply is that it will be a new body, one of a higher form, one from him who "giveth to every seed his own body." Observe, then, the fact of the resurrection is not rested on analogy. The use of the analogical argument here is not for that purpose. Christ's resurrection establishes the fact of a general resurrection. But this having been assured, analogy is employed to show the consonance thereof with reason, by pointing out a correspondence between it and the germination of seed. And how beautiful as well as truthful is this use of nature! Enlightened from another source, even by the Spirit of God, St. Paul is in a position to see the God of nature as the God of the resurrection. He goes to nature and asks, "Have you anything like this?" And she points him to the growing harvest, a few months ago "bare grain," and says, "So shall thy dead live!" Our heavenly Father has not been content to give us great facts alone, but has superadded images, analogies, illustrations; and the grander the truth, the more clear and copious its kindred associations. That sense of correspondence which exists in us all, and is a mainstay of our convictions, is continually addressed by him, and by thousands of ties he binds together his Word and his works. Inspired teachers exhibit their wisdom in the way they read and interpret nature. Scripture is not written for minds shut up in themselves, the order and grace of the universe hidden from them. Sensational consciousness is just as much a part of religion as spiritual consciousness, and, accordingly, an eminent teacher like St. Paul honours his office by appealing to nature. He wrote for the senses no less than for the spirit, and hence we find him (1 Corinthians 15:39) widening the scope of analogy. And whither shall he tend? What is the objective point aimed at? The identity of the resurrection body with the dust and ashes of the grave—is that the goal of his thought? Nay and yea. Look on the gross side of identification, on the interminable disputes about bones and material particles, and the answer is nay. Look on the higher and far truer side of identification, and the answer is yea. As to the first, had the advocates of the dust and ashes theory existed in his day, he would perhaps have said, "Fool!" Happily for us, we know that identity as applied to the body means the persistent adhesion to the same idea in the plan and purpose of organization, so that while the particles of matter in the corporeal structure are ever coming and going, and are as short lived as the ephemera of a summer day, such is the law of constancy beneath this variation that identity is no wise disturbed. St. Paul first takes up diversity of animal organisms. To show that the question is not about the retention and revivification of former constituents of the body, but a question solely of body and its capacity to assume such a form as God might be pleased to give, he states," All flesh is not the same flesh." Men, beasts, fishes, birds, differ in flesh. It is all flesh, but very unlike. What then? If body be capable of such variety in bodies, if you have such an interval as appears between man and bird, what limit will you put on body as to organization? Creative power is manifested in matter as matter; creative power makes its most wonderful manifestation in the countless shapes and adaptations of matter. And, accordingly, St. Paul's meaning is that you cannot argue from the structure and particles of the body here to the organization of a spiritual corporeity. But you can believe in new and higher forms, since "all flesh is not the same flesh." How far, then, has the argument progressed? To this landing place: body here, body hereafter, body capable of a nobler type of existence. But he proceeds to use another illustration. Hitherto he has been mundane in his view; now he enters on the upper realm. Celestial bodies, bodies terrestial, exist in the universe, and do they present contrasts on a far broader scale than those we see in the flesh of men and other animals? Ay; the diversity now is one of glory. Celestial and terrestrial bodies share different degrees of glory. The sun is a sun in its glory, and its splendour is its own. Moon and stars have their glory, and by this unequal distribution of radiance they impress us when we gaze on the firmament. Just here, then, the movement of the apostle's mind takes a sudden spring It bounds afar, and it is no longer form, no longer seed and harvest, nor animal organisms, but it is the splendour of form that absorbs his contemplation. Long ago the royal psalmist had poured forth his wonder and adoration in the nineteenth psalm, that sublime hymn which chants "the glory of God" in the firmament and keeps the throbbing pulses of the human heart in the rhythm of the universe. And now—the eye dilated and the resplendency full upon it—hearken to the instant utterance: "So also is the resurrection of the dead." "Sown in corruption"—earth and its earthliness; "it is raised in incorruption"—earth and its earthliness left in the grave. "Sown in dishonour"—its humiliations all upon it, and demanding speedy removal from sight and commitment to darkness lest it be loathsome; "it is raised in glory," and bears a likeness to him whose "countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." "Sown in weakness"—always in a state of infirmity and as a corpse, "powerless and unable to resist corruption" (Bloomfield); "it is raised in power," and made capable of receiving plenitude of energy from the will of the spirit and answering all possible uses of mind. "Sown a natural body"—as in life so in death, a part of the material order, and subjected to its conditions, and never able to escape its limitations, so "natural" that this very apostle, "caught up to the third heaven," had to suffer "a thorn in the flesh" that he might not be "exalted above measure,"—"it is raised a spiritual body," and, if once a body that represented the soul, now a body that is in perfect sympathy with spirit as the highest organ in man for communion with God. The last antithesis is so important as to demand restatement: "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." Notice that the term "body" as used here derives its import as to its character or quality, not from anything in itself, but from its subsidiary relations, in the one case being "natural," "psychical," as connected with the soul, and, in the other, as contradistinguished from the "psychical" or "soul body," represented as the "spiritual body." What does the clear discrimination made by the apostle between the two forms of body require of us? A primary recognition of the difference between soul and spirit as determinative of the difference between the body natural and the body spiritual. Without entering into metaphysics, we may remark that the soul is that form of mind which connects man with the senses and the outer world of the senses, while the spirit is that form of mind which connects man with unseen and eternal objects. If this distinction were not real—a distinction that often develops in the feeling of most painful contrariety—how shall we explain our consciousness; how understand the amazing inconsistencies into which we fall; how give any account of moods and transitions, reactions, and rebounds? The fact of difference is plain to every student thinker: the nature of it is difficult, perhaps impossible to make obvious in language. Is there not a poetry that finds access to the innermost life, and a poetry that goes no further than the external intellect and its correlated sensibilities? And of painting, sculpture, music, eloquence, are there not everywhere two vividly marked divisions, so that while the one kind is very palpable to the soul, the other is felt rather than known, and works by hints and intimations more than by communications actually defined? Still more as to persons: who has not known some individuals that always called forth by their presence the best within him? whereas there were others whose tones and looks were solicitations to evil? Only a few consciously note these experiences, and still fewer analyze them, but assuredly they are facts of life, and life would be barren of its most advantageous suggestions, were it otherwise, Now, it is this difference between soul and spirit which St. Paul employs to give the contrast in the verse: "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." In this world, the body is so organized as to correspond to the soul; in the resurrection, the new corporeity will represent the spirit. Would you see how a great Christian thinker weaves into one pattern thoughts from nature and from Scripture? 1 Corinthians 15:45 presents St. Paul in these words: "It is written." Nature, though prolific of types, shadows, parables, cannot long detain him, and now he returns to the Mosaic account of the creation in the first and second chapters of Genesis. "Adam was made a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). Animal he was in corporeal organization, placed at the head of the animal kingdom, sovereign over all creatures and things, and, moreover, much else, for he was the image of God in his reason, intelligence, and moral nature. He had a soul in him, and, it was God's breath. It was therefore God like. It was a capacity for whatever was good about him, and for whatever was best above him, in the order of creation to which humanity belonged. But he was put on trial, and he failed; his capacity sank instead of rising; it narrowed and shrank within the body, and then and there ended the possibility of the "living soul" having as such a Divine history of progress and perfect development. We are leaving St. Paul, however, who remarks, in juxtaposition to the statement touching Adam, "the first man," that "the last Adam was made a quickening [life giving] spirit." How intimately associated in his mind were the two, Adam and Christ, is seen in the fact that he is the only Biblical writer who calls Christ by the name of Adam; while, at the same time that they stand in such close connection with humanity, the contrast between them is forcibly given. What Adam was is expressed in "living soul" as the starting-point or initiation of human nature, the designation expressing the predominant aspects of his earthly position and his candidacy as a being in God's image for a much loftier development. By the "life-giving spirit," we understand Christ in the power and glory of his resurrection, when "he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men," chief of which was the Holy Ghost. The "natural" precedes the "spiritual;" and what a philosophy of the universe opens in this single idea! The natural in law and government, the "do this and live," the special rule and the special test, the appeal to the senses and the sense intellect, and the primal guardianship of conscience by means of fear over moral interests—the natural in social relations—the natural in the motives to obedience and the uses of God's grace and the offering of worship—must lead the way, since by no other method apparent to us could humanity attain its high destiny. "Afterward that which is spiritual." First the natural, afterward the spiritual,—this is the order in everything that concerns man. Every one of his attributes, such as perception, reasoning, volition, faith, love, obeys this paramount law.; and the miracle of life is, whenever the Divine plan is carried out, that man is seen, as Milton describes the lion in Eden, extricating himself from earthly entangle merits and winning his freedom. St. Paul multiplies the forms of this idea. "Of the earth, earthy," was Adam; "the second man is of heaven;" and as we bear here "the image of the earthy" in body and soul, so shall we bear "the image of the heavenly." Slowly the likeness of Adam fades even now under the fashioning band of God. Natural law is made subservient to spiritual law, so that while the senses decay and the other animal functions abate more or less, the diviner sensibilities acquire the vitality thus disengaged and expand with new vigour. Providence cooperates with grace. And thus, line after line, lineament after lineament, disappearing from the "living soul," and also from the lower functions of the body, there comes out in its stead "the image of the heavenly." Our growing years, if we are consecrated to God, are all on the side of Christ, and are all helpers and auxiliaries to prepare us for the fulness of spiritual life in a spiritual body.—L.

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

Concluding argument and exhortation

If "flesh and blood" is "corruption," and cannot inherit "incorruption," what then? Educate the present body to the offices of the mind; let every function do its legitimate work, and every organ be faithful to the organism; refine, beautify, ennoble it by all natural and providential agencies; it is, nevertheless, "flesh and blood," and inherits "corruption." No such corporeal structure could go to heaven unchanged. The earthly body of Jesus Christ, which was fully adequate to the pro-resurrection state of humiliation, sorrow, death, and fitted him to show forth the Father, bad yet to be changed by the resurrection before he, though "holy, harmless, undefiled," could ascend to the dominion of the universe. If, then, our "flesh and blood" be so debased by its mortality, by its animal connections, by its habits and functions, "Behold, I show you a mystery," a truth once concealed but now revealed by the Spirit, that those who are alive when Christ comes at the last day "shall all be changed." No graves shall open to receive and then restore them. Land and sea shall give up their dead, and, simultaneously therewith, the living shall be instantly transformed, rising out of their mortality and corruption into immortality and incorruption. What a scene here for picturesque description! But the apostle was too wise and reverent to indulge his imagination. The sublimity gathered no images about itself. Words for its splendid conceptions were not asked, nor were poetic transports suffered to obtrude on the awful glory of the hour. Yet there was speech, yet there was rapture, and the utterance and the feeling partook in full measure of the grandeur of the occasion. It was not the voice of imagination and its emotions, but the voice of pure and devout passion that exclaimed, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" The battle has been fought, the victory won; and the victory is most glorious in this, that it is the gift to God to us, and a gift "through our Lord Jesus Christ." For what would a deliverance from mortality and debasement be to a Christian if won by his own arm, and what would heaven be if it were an outgrowth and final efflorescence of earthly culture and progress? "Through our Lord Jesus Christ:" this is the joy of the triumph, and this the heart of heaven. And "therefore" follows with the exhortation to his beloved brethren to be constant, enduring, abundant in the Lord's work, since they were well assured that their devotion to this labour, with its burdens, cares, and sacrifices, could not be "in vain in the Lord." It is a "therefore," indeed, and such a one as he had never bad an opportunity to use before, nor would ever find just such an occasion to repeat. The thanksgiving, the tender appeal, the entire outburst, stands alone among all those effusions with which his grandest hours are imperishably associated. It has happened again and again that in some grave crisis of a nation, or when the fortunes of the human family seemed to be touching an epochal period, there has been some Demosthenes or Burke to plead for the hope of a better future for the state; or some Savonarola, Luther, Knox, Hilton, to lift up a prophetic voice in behalf of the Church. But it fell to the lot of St. Paul to write the fifteenth chapter of the First Corinthians, to make an argument proof against every assault, to set forth the argument with such force and in such amplitude as to bring nature from the vegetable and animal kingdoms about us and from the remote heights of the firmament, so as to put her testimony in alliance with his logic in favour of the most precious of all truths, the doctrine of a perfected and immortal humanity in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can it be irreverent in us to borrow the language of his own exultant faith and say, "Thanks be to God, which giveth" to Christianity the "victory" over materialism and false spiritualism. Body is the meeting ground of matter and mind; they have met, they have united; they separate to meet again in a nearer and holier fellowship, and they meet to be together forever. Soul is spirit in its rudimentary life, in the childhood of thought and beauty and affection, in a state of trial and discipline, but its instincts, greater incomparably than its abilities, show their prophetic outreachings towards the infinite and eternal. So far as our dim reason can perceive, a fully developed spirit could not exist in a mortal body, nor a soul exist in an immortal body. Soul and body, each "natural" for this life; spirit and a "spiritual body" for the "kingdom of God." "Thanks be to God."—L.


1 Corinthians 15:1-58

The exposition and defence of the resurrection.

This chapter stands, as it were, by itself in the Epistle, and indeed in the Scripture. The Gospels relate the fact of our Saviour's rising from the dead; but St. Paul in this passage, remarkable alike for closeness of reasoning, for fervent of eloquence, and for elevation of spiritual treatment, writes as the theologian of the resurrection. In opposition to false teachers who had arisen in the Corinthian Church, the apostle maintains the fact of Christ's resurrection to be the basis of Christian faith, practice, and hope; and especially deduces from the historical event the expectation of a glorious immortality, then and ever the possession of the Church, and destined to be the possession of humanity.

I. THE FACT OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION IS PROVED AND PREACHED. (1 Corinthians 15:1-11.) This is here exhibited as:

1. The substance of Christian preaching.

2. The fulfilment of Old Testament predictions.

3. Verified by the witness of the apostles and of five hundred brethren.

4. Attested by Paul himself.

5. Believed and professed by the whole Church of the Redeemer.

II. INFERENCES FROM THIS FACT. (1 Corinthians 15:12-28.)

1. Destructive inferences. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19.) The resurrection of Jesus is represented as conflicting with and altogether overthrowing the belief inculcated by false teachers, that the dead rise not.

2. Constructive inferences. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28.) The Lord Christ, as a risen Saviour and King, is represented as the Firstfruits of the spiritual harvest, and as the supreme Governor and Controller of the universe.


1. Christian practice, and especially the endurance of opposition, persecution, and martyrdom, can only be accounted for by the power of a belief in worlds to come. Nothing is more evident than that the apostle himself, and many of the early Christians, came under the influence of this new and mighty power, making of them nothing short of new men.

2. Natural analogies support the doctrine of the resurrection. Especially the analogy of the seed sown from which vegetable life takes its rise, and to which the harvest of fruit is traceable. The manifest order subsisting in nature, and the progressive revelation of God himself, are in harmony with the Christian's hope.


1. The mystery told. The inheritance of incorruptible and immortal blessedness.

2. The triumph foretold. Man's worst foes, sin and death, shall be vanquished, and that by the might of the Divine Conqueror, Christ.

V. CONSEQUENT EXHORTATION TO STEADFASTNESS. (1 Corinthians 15:58.) Against apathy on the one hand, and enthusiasm on the other hand, Christians are warned. Labour is not in vain, for its fruits shall be reaped in eternity. Steadfastness and diligence are the appropriate attitude and habit of those who, believing that their Lord has risen, themselves look forward to the Divine, immortal life of heaven.—T.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

The apostolic doctrine.

It is interesting and valuable to have in these words from St. Paul's own pen a confirmation of the statements of the inspired historian, St. Luke, regarding the preaching by which the first moral victories of Christianity were achieved.

I. THE SUBSTANCE OF APOSTOLIC DOCTRINE. Paul disclaims any pretension to a ministry of human learning or wisdom; he here as everywhere relies upon the facts which form the substance of his preaching and teaching.

1. The apostles proclaimed the death and burial of their Lord. These, indeed, were unquestioned historical facts, yet they lay at the basis of all their subsequent teaching, alike of doctrine, of promise, and of precept.

2. In conjunction with this they preached the resurrection of Christ. Whilst none denied that Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified, there were many who received the proclamation of his resurrection with incredulity and ridicule. But, however their preaching might be received, the apostles never wavered in their declaration that their Lord had risen from the grave.

3. These events were represented as a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy; what had happened was "according to the Scriptures." To the Jews such a representation would appeal with peculiar power; and the Gentiles would recognize in it the unity of the dispensations of God.

4. The purpose of these events was represented as being the pardon and abolition of the sins of those who believed. The explanation of this "mystery" was a matter of inspired doctrine; but the fact was published abroad to all who would hear the Word.


1. In the case of true converts, this was not vain, unreasonable, frivolous. There are those who are ready to receive every new doctrine; and some such professed adherence to Christianity without any sufficient acquaintance with the truth, without examining its credentials, without counting the cost of their decision. But sincere Christians act reasonably and deliberately in their acceptance of the Word of life.

2. True converts were stable in their faith. Such is the teaching of this passage: "Wherein ye stand;" "Ye hold it fast." Deliberate acceptance and adhesion may be expected to be followed by tenacious retention of the truth. Stability in faith and godliness is the condition of the enjoyment of true blessing.

III. THE ULTIMATE AIM AND RESULT OF APOSTOLIC DOCTRINE. No reader of the New Testament can suppose that the first preachers of the gospel intended simply to convey information. Theirs was a moral, a spiritual aim; they sought the salvation of their fellow men—their deliverance from the curse, the bondage, the love of sin. Why was St. Paul so anxious that his hearers and his readers should receive and retain his teaching? It was because in his heart there glowed the flame of benevolence, because he desired above all things that his fellow-creatures should be rescued from the bondage of sin, and should rejoice in the liberty of the sons of God, and because he believed that this blessed result could be brought about only by their cordial reception of the gospel which it was his privilege and joy to preach.—T.

1 Corinthians 15:6

"Some are fallen asleep."

Sleep is a metaphor for death, which has been employed by the heathen poets, and by the rabbinical writers, as well as by the inspired penmen of the Old and New Testaments. But Christianity has given to the figure an especial sanction and an especial appropriateness.

I. OUR LORD HIMSELF HAS SET THE EXAMPLE OF DESIGNATING DEATH AS SLEEP. In speaking of Jairus's daughter, he said, "The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth;" and of Lazarus he said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." As on both these occasions he was misunderstood, it would seem that the usage was not a familiar one. But as he spake, it was natural and right that his disciples also should speak.

II. DEATH TO THE CHRISTIAN IS SLEEP, FOR IT COMES AT THE CLOSE OF THE DAY'S TOIL. "After life's fitful fever he sleeps well," is language which Shakespeare uses with reference to the murdered Duncan. But how far more appropriate is such language when used with reference to those who have served God faithfully and diligently during many years, and who rest from their labours! "David, after he had served his own generation, fell on sleep;" and the expression is one suitable in application to every true servant of the Divine Lord.

"How blest the righteous when he dies!
When sinks a weary soul to rest,
How mildly beam the closing eyes!
How gently heaves the expiring breast!"

III. DEATH TO THE CHRISTIAN IS SLEEP, FOR IT IS THE LIBERATION OF THE SPIRIT FROM EARTH AND ITS COMMUNION WITH HEAVEN. The body of the slave or of the exile may be still and silent in slumber, and the spirit may in the visions of the night wander to the congenial scenes of home, and may imagine the renewal of broken ties and the resumption of suspended joys. And in this sleep is the emblem of that death through which Christ's people, absent from the body, are present with the Lord. On earth and in the life of the body, during the walk of faith, it sometimes seems that the beloved Saviour is far away, and that eternal joys are imaginary and remote. But when the frame sinks into the slumber of dissolution, the spirit wings its flight to the land where Jesus is, and where are pleasures forevermore.

IV. DEATH TO THE CHRISTIAN IS SLEEP, BECAUSE IT IS FOLLOWED BY THE GLORIOUS AND EVERLASTING AWAKENING. "An eternal sleep" is the expression of the heathen poets, not of the Christian teacher. On the contrary, the whole argument of this chapter is to banish such a notion, and to substitute for it one far more bright and blessed and far more true. Even the ancient prophet foretold that many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake to everlasting life. And we know that "Christ hath been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep." It shall be an awaking which shall fill the saints with surprise and satisfaction and infinite joy, and which shall be a new and marvellous revelation of the love and life of God to natures purified and glorified.—T.

1 Corinthians 15:9, 1 Corinthians 15:10

Humility and self assertion.

No writer is more given to paradox than the Apostle Paul. An eager, impulsive nature is wont to realize vividly every side of truth that is presented, and seems consequently to fall into inconsistencies. But such a nature is usually remarkably sincere and trustworthy. Such was the case with the apostle, and no candid reader can doubt that the language of the text represents the real facts of the case.


1. Paul occupied a singular position among the apostles, inasmuch as he had not, like the others, been privileged to enjoy the society of the Divine Lord during his earthly ministry, but had been called by Christ long after the Ascension.

2. Paul took shame to himself because he had persecuted the Church of God, which had been constituted through the labours and zeal of the other apostles and their colleagues. On these two grounds he deemed himself the least of the apostles, and even unworthy of the apostolic name. Such humility is rare; it secures the approval of him who regards the lowly and raises them up, who exalts the humble and meek; it commends itself to the Master who requires a childlike spirit as a condition of entrance into the kingdom, and who pronounces a blessing upon the meek.


1. The apostolic office and dignity are attributed to the free favour of the Giver of all. "By the grace of God I am what I am." This was in accordance with Paul's own teaching that "God hath set some in the Church, first apostles." An honour like this, functions such as it involved, authority such as was connected with it, could come only from God. It is well forevery servant of Christ to accustom himself deliberately and constantly to trace up his possessions and his trust to the Divine Lord and Author of blessing.

2. Paul acknowledged that the gifts bestowed upon him had been diligently and faithfully employed. Grace had been given, and grace had been found not vain or void. That is to say, opportunities, advantages, endowments, had all been used in such a manner as that they had been continued and increased. Growing years had brought enlarged powers and enlarged usefulness and influence.

3. Paul claimed pre-eminence in labour. His calling, as the apostle of the Gentiles, involved long journeys, many hardships and privations and perils. His ardent temperament, his burning love to his Lord, his grateful and consecrated disposition, led him to undertake and to perform more than had been undertaken and performed by others. It was a necessity alike of his position and of his temperament. Yet it is observable that he no sooner claimed to be first in toil, than he reminded himself that what he did was not his doing, but the fruit of God's grace towards him. If humility passes into self assertion, self assertion returns to humility.—T.

1 Corinthians 15:17

A vain faith.

It often happens that men accept certain notions without realizing what they involve. So it seems to have been with those Corinthian Christians who lent too willing an ear to the false teachers who denied the resurrection of the dead. The apostle was justified in pointing out to such that their surrender of this great doctrine and revelation involved virtually the denial of the resurrection of Christ, and that this involved the denial of some of their most cherished beliefs and hopes. What the Lord Christ was to them he was because he was the risen and triumphant Saviour. To take away their faith in such a Saviour was to render their faith vain.


1. If Jesus had not risen from the dead, his own recorded predictions would have been falsifed. On several occasions he had foretold that his violent death should be followed on the third day by his resurrection. Had this not taken place, his word would have been discredited, and all confidence in his Deity would naturally have been destroyed.

2. If Jesus had not risen from the dead, he would have been proved inferior to death. The argument of the apostle was a very powerful and effective argument—that, being not only David's Son, but David's Lord, it was not possible that he should be holden by death, that his body should see corruption. But had he remained in the grave, a very different impression concerning his nature would necessarily have been produced upon the minds of his disciples, and the world could never have been convinced of his Messiahship and divinity.


1. This appears in the customary publication of the gospel by the inspired apostles. They preached that Jesus was "raised to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel, and remission of sins."

2. The resurrection of Christ is a token of the acceptance by the Father of that redemptive work of Christ whereby forgiveness is secured to those who believe. And it is the condition of the exercise of those mediatorial functions which are still discharged in the court of heaven, the presence of God.

3. The resurrection is a spiritual power in the hearts of those who believe it, a power of newness of mind, of holiness, of life immortal. They who die with Christ unto sin, and are crucified with him unto the world, risen with Christ, live in his heavenly and resurrection life.

III. FAITH IN CHRIST AS THE FIRSTFRUITS OF THE GENERAL RESURRECTION RESTS UPON HIS RISING FROM THE TOMB. There is observable a marvellous contrast between the hopelessness of the heathen and the confidence of Christians in the prospect of death. To those who believe the gospel, the victory of Immanuel over death and the grave is the pledge of the final triumph of the good, is their consolation when they are bereaved of their Christian kindred and associates, is their confidence and inspiration in the prospect of their own departure to be with Christ.—T.

1 Corinthians 15:20

The firstfruits of life.

There is a perceptible change in the tone of the apostle's writing just at this point. He has been reasoning upon the supposition, adopted by some even among the Corinthians, that the dead rise not, and showing that, if such is the case, the resurrection of Christ is a fable, and the faith of Christians vain and their hopes baseless. This course he has taken to show to his readers the awful consequences of the false doctrine introduced among them. But he suddenly breaks off; and commences in another strain. After all, the supposition discussed is incredible. For as a matter of fact, of history, of certainty, Christ has risen from the dead, and in doing so he has become the Firstfruits of them that slept.

I. CHRIST'S RESURRECTION PRECEDES THAT OF HIS PEOPLE. The doctrine of the future life, obscure in the earlier periods of revelation, was made known with growing clearness as ages passed on. But it was Christ who "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." Not only by his explicit teaching, but by his own victory over the grave, did our Saviour bring to mankind an assurance of eternal life. And, in point of time, he led the way for his faithful followers and friends.

II. CHRIST'S RESURRECTION IS EVIDENCE OF THE DIVINE AND QUICKENING POWER WHICH SHALL RAISE HIS PEOPLE AFTER HIM. The presence of a Divine power of life was manifest when, on the third day, the Lord of glory rose victorious from the tomb. If before it was doubtful whether in the universe there resided such a life-giving energy, such doubt was now dispelled. The same Divine might which raised the Leader can raise the followers too. The sun which has ripened the sheaf which is presented as the firstfruits of the harvest has warmth and vital geniality to mature the crop that clothes the vastest plain; and the Spirit of life which quickened the crucified One will raise up us also to be glorified with him.

III. CHRIST'S RESURRECTION IS UNTO THE SAME BLESSEDNESS OF LIFE WHICH IS APPOINTED FOR HIS PEOPLE. Our Lord did not rise to renew the humiliation and the sufferings of this earthly existence; he rose a Conqueror to live and reign in glory. And the purpose of infinite grace is that, where the Master is, there also shall his disciples and servants be. We may share his weakness and his woe, but we shall share also his might and his blessedness; we may bear his cross, but we shall also wear his crown.

IV. CHRIST'S RESURRECTION IS THE EARNEST OF HIS PEOPLE'S IMMORTAL LIFE, "Death hath no more dominion over him." And those for whom he both died and rose again live in him and live forever. "There shall we ever be with the Lord." "They go no more out." It is to the glory of the Lord and Husbandman when the firstfruits are brought into the temple and offered upon the altar. But the glory of that day shall be yet greater when the harvest shall be completed, and when the garner of God shall be filled with the rich spiritual produce of the earth.—T.

1 Corinthians 15:25

The reign of the Redeemer.

Even in his earthly humiliation, Christ was a King. Once the devil offered him the kingdoms of the world; once the people would have taken him by force and have made him their King. Such secular dominion he sought not, neither would accept. Yet he entered Jerusalem in royal state; before Pilate he confessed himself a King; and over his cross it was written, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Little notion had men during his ministry of the nature and extent of that dominion which should one day be his. Yet the apostles came to understand that not only the prophetic and the priestly, but also the kingly dignity and office, were appointed for him whose gospel they proclaimed.

I. CHRIST'S RIGHT TO REIGN. This is grounded upon:

1. His Divine nature and authority.

2. His moral right and qualifications.

3. His definite appointment by the Father.

4. His mediatorial sufferings and sacrifice.

II. THE SUBJECTS OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM. They are spiritual and willing subjects. He cares nothing for a pretended loyalty or a merely outward obedience. His aim is to gain a dominion over human hearts, and thence to rule human society.

III. THE FOES WHOM CHRIST'S REIGN SUBDUES. These he is to put under his feet. They may be enumerated:

1. Ignorance.

2. Error.

3. Superstition.

4. Irreligiousness and worldliness.

5. Vice, crime, and sin.

6. All false and corrupt religions.


1. The weapons are the truths of the gospel, the exhibition of the righteousness and love of God.

2. The agency is that of believing, sympathizing, and consecrated natures. The kingdom comes by the labours and the courage and enterprise of the spiritual subjects.

3. The power is that of the Holy Spirit of God.


1. It commenced at our Lord's ascension, when he was "raised to be a Prince and a Saviour," "from henceforth expecting, etc.

2. It has been constantly advancing, the kingdom has been extending its boundaries, and the number of the subjects has been multiplying.

3. It will not terminate until victory shall have been gained over every foe. "Thy throne is forever and ever." Only when all opposition is vanquished, shall the Son himself yield the dominion, and God shall be all and in all.—T.

1 Corinthians 15:33

Evil company.

This is one of several instances in which inspired writers have incorporated in their own compositions the language of current literature. The adoption of a line from Menander is a witness to the harmony between human reason and Divine revelation. From whatsoever source proceeding, truth and justice, wisdom and prudence, possess a Divine authority. We are encouraged to use the wisdom of so called profane writers even m enforcing spiritual truth.

I. INFIDELITY AND IMMORALITY ARE OFTEN ASSOCIATED. It would be unjust to charge all unbelievers with vice; but there is no injustice in pointing out that the natural tendency of infidelity is both to shake the foundations of virtue and to snap the restraints upon vice. If there be no righteous God, no moral law, no future retribution, all sanctions to virtue and uprightness of heart and conduct are removed, except such as are imposed by civil society. Where external penalties are removed, or where they can be evaded, it is not reasonable to expect that the bulk of men will deny themselves, check their appetites and passions, and practise the difficult virtues of justice, chastity, and benevolence. And it cannot be concealed that in most cases the prevalence of infidelity opens the flood gates of all iniquity. The Corinthian false teachers seem to have taught that, the body being perishable, sins of the flesh are immaterial and unimportant, and thus to have given countenance to the maxim of Epicureanism, "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die."

II. INFIDELITY AND IMMORALITY ARE CONTAGIOUS AND CORRUPTING. By appealing to what is base and selfish in human nature, the champions of error and self indulgence lead especially the young who come under their influence away from the stern steep road of virtue into "the primrose path of dalliance." None are more contemptible than those blasphemers and voluptuaries who, having grown grey in the service of Satan, make it their aim to corrupt and debauch the young and inexperienced. By casting aspersions upon religion, by insinuating doubts, by representing the pleasures of sin, and, above all, by an example of irreligion, profanity, and vice, such persons make themselves a moral plague and pestilence in human society.

III. INFIDELITY AND IMMORALITY SHOULD THEREFORE BE DISCOUNTENANCED AND ESCHEWED. For the sake of our own welfare, for the sake of the family, the Church, and society, it is needful that we should be upon our guard against those evil associations which have a tendency to corrupt even good manners and morals. And, on the other hand, those whose influence has been exerted against the cause of virtue and religion may well be reminded that they cannot perish alone, that their example will probably be injurious and even ruinous to others; so that if there remain in them any spark of pity and unselfishness, they may well be entreated to immediate and sincere repentance, for the sake of others as well as of themselves.—T.

1 Corinthians 15:36-38

Death and quickening.

Although the apostle deems himself to have established the fact of the resurrection of the dead, by proving the resurrection of the Saviour, and by showing that the resurrection of Christ's people is a consequence of their Lord's resurrection, he is quite sensible of the difficulties attaching to this belief. These are difficulties which all have felt, and with which many sincere believers find themselves often confronted. Believing the fact, we know not how to render it to our own minds; the manner of the fact is inconceivable, or at all events unimaginable. The apostle endeavours to assist us in the effort either to overcome the difficulty or reasonably to acquiesce in its partial continuance. He makes use of natural analogies. The world is full of mysteries; and we may trace some mysteries which are common to nature and to revelation.

I. THE CREATOR, WHO APPOINTS THE DEATH OF THE SEED AS PREPARATORY TO THE LIFE OF THE PLANT, MAY APPOINT THE DEATH OF THE EARTHLY BODY AS THE PREPARATION FOR THE LIFE OF THE HEAVENLY BODY. The analogy is sometimes misunderstood, and it is supposed that, according to Paul, the dead body of the man is really the seed of the resurrection body. This is not the case. But the apostle is evidently reasoning as did our Lord when he said, "Except a corn of wheat," etc. The death of the seed followed by the life of the plant is a figure of the death of the Saviour followed by the prevalence of his doctrine, and the vast extent of his personal, mediatorial influence. And so here, we are reminded that God's ways are not as our ways, that it pleases him to bring life out of death, and that he is able to make death the step towards a new and higher life.

II. THE CREATOR, WHO GIVES TO EVERY SEED A BODY OF ITS OWN, CAN PROVIDE THE GLORIFIED SPIRIT WITH A VESTURE AS SUITABLE TO THE HIGHER STATE AS OUR EARTHLY ORGANISM IS SUITABLE TO THE PRESENT LIFE, There is a great disparity between the grain of corn and the plant of wheat when green in spring or golden in harvest time; a greater disparity still between the acorn and the giant oak of the forest. One seed gives life to a fragrant, radiant, delicate flower; another to a rich and luscious fruit; another to a lordly tree. One seed is more adapted to a temperate climate, another to the tropics; one grows best upon the mountain slope, another in the sheltered vale. The resources of Omniscience and Omnipotence are strikingly apparent in the prodigality, diversity, and adaptation of vegetable life. Such considerations are a rebuke to our incredulity, which arises from an undue conceit of our own wisdom, and a lack of just humility. We may ask, "How are the dead raised? and with what body do they come?" All nature supplies the answer, inasmuch as it tells us that the Creator and Lord of all is never at a loss for means to execute his purposes and to fulfil his promises. When the time comes for this body to be laid aside, to be taken down, there shall be provided for the glorified and happy spirit "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."—T.

1 Corinthians 15:45

"The last Adam."

The apostle has supported the Christian belief in the resurrection by adducing natural analogies, and these will always possess a certain measure of force for intelligent and reflective minds. But it is observable that he returns to what is the strongest ground of belief in the future life and all which it involves, viz. the personal relation of the Christian to his Divine and mighty Lord. The foundation of our hope is in the assurance of our Saviour, "Because I live, ye shall live also."

I. THE DESIGNATION OF CHRIST: THE LAST ADAM. This, though a rabbinical expression applied to the Messiah, has a truly Christian signification.

1. It implies our Lord's true humanity; he was a descendant of our first parents, and he was the Son of man.

2. It implies his federal headship, his representative character, and his peculiar authority. There is a new humanity created afresh for the glory of God; and of this the Lord Christ is the one rightful Ruler and Head.


1. This is in contrast with the description of the first Adam, "a living soul," so called in the book of Genesis. From our progenitor we have inherited the body and the animal and rational nature for which that body is a suitable vehicle.

2. This is indicative of the perogative of Christ to impart a new and higher spiritual life to humanity. We receive from him by the bestowal of his Spirit a nobler being, a being which allies us to God, and which fits us for the occupations and the joys of heaven. "In him was life." He did not however possess life only to retain it as his own, but in order to share it with his people. "I," said he, "am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

3. This is explanatory of the revelation of resurrection and immortality. The nature we inherit from Adam fits us for earth; the nature which we receive from Christ fits us for heaven. Adam is "the earthy," and they who dwell on earth share his earthy being and life; Christ is "the heavenly" and they who are made in his likeness and who share his character and spirit are qualified for celestial and eternal joys.—T.

1 Corinthians 15:49

"The image of the heavenly."

According to the reading of the original which is adopted, this passage bears an indicative or an imperative meaning. If imperative, then it is an admonition to cultivate and perfect in our character and life, even now upon earth, the moral and spiritual image of the Divine Lord. If indicative and future, then it is an assertion that, in the coming time, the time of celestial glory, Christians shall bear the image of the heavenly.

I. WHOSE IMAGE IS THIS? The answer to this question cannot be doubtful. The heavenly One, whose image Christians are to reflect, can be none other than the Divine Lord himself. There is a measure in which this resemblance is attained even upon earth, and many admonitions are addressed to Christians, to cultivate moral resemblance to their great and glorious Head. But in the future state hindrances to assimilation shall be removed; and "we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). As St. Paul expresses it elsewhere, we shall be "changed into the same image." So that the apostles agree as to what shall constitute the peculiar privilege and glory of the coming state of felicity.


1. It is a spiritual likeness, consisting not in the similarity of form or feature, but in that of character, of moral life.

2. It is a likeness in true holiness. God's holy Child or Servant, Jesus, is the model of all purity and perfection, and to be like Christ is to be holy even as he is holy.

3. It corresponds to God's original intention as to what man should be. He at first created man in his own image; and although that image was marred by sin, grace restores it; and the great Father and Lord of all beholds his original conception realized in the regenerated and glorified humanity.


1. Properly speaking, it will be apparent in all those who by Divine grace are brought upon earth to the enjoyment of Christian character and privilege, and who are led safely home to glory. It is the family likeness by which the spiritual children are identified.

2. There is a wider sense in which all the holy intelligences who people heaven may be considered as bearing this image. There are those who have not borne the image of the earthly, who from their creation have been citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, in whom appear the spiritual lineaments which are the mark of a Divine parentage and the earnest of a blessed immortality.

APPLICATION. That this image may be borne in all its brightness and beauty hereafter and above, its first rudiments must be traced here. The life of faith, obedience, and aspiration is the divinely appointed preparation for the glories and felicities of heaven. And no religion is of worth which does not form and cherish the spiritual likeness which alone can qualify for the employments and the society of heaven.—T.

1 Corinthians 15:54-57

The victory of immortality.

In this, as in some other passages of St. Paul's writings, logic breaks into rhetoric, prose into poetry, reasoning into fervid exclamation. Anxious to convince, the apostle was nevertheless of a temperament too fervid to be restrained within the boundaries of argument. And when his soul was lifted up above the level of human thought, when inspiration carried him into the third heaven, then he could no longer discourse; but discourse kindled into song. If there is any passage in his writings fitted to fan the burning fire of feeling into the flame of enthusiasm, it is the sublime argument by which he seeks to give definiteness, point, certainty, and attractiveness to the life to come.

I. THE GREAT CHANGE TO BE EXPERIENCED. Our earthly state is characterized by corruptibility and immortality. That this is so is indeed a rebuke to human vanity, yet it is unquestionable. An apostle terms our earthly vesture, "this body of our humiliation," and the designation is just. We live a dying life, carrying within us the seeds of our mortality. Vast and wonderful to contemplate is the change which shall take place in the passage from time to eternity. Incorruption and immortality shall be the vesture of the saved and glorified. The apostle, bearing about in his body the marks of the Lord. Jesus, must have anticipated with joy the promised release from earthly infirmities and sufferings, from all the troubles to which the burden of the body exposes the servant of Christ.

II. THE GREAT VICTORY TO BE WON. According to the view of St. Paul, there are three great enemies with whom the Christian has to contend, and conflict with whom mars the happiness and breaks the peace of this earthly condition. They are the Law, sin, and death. Sin is the goad with which death makes a thrust at the Christian soldier, and it is the Law which makes sin so sharp, powerful, and formidable a weapon. Over all these the glorified Christian has obtained a victory, in the might and by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Anticipating the conquest, the Christian, even here and now, rejoices in the assured defeat and discomfiture of his formidable foes. He seems already to drag them in triumph at his chariot-wheels, already to be more than conqueror through Christ who loved him.


1. The Source and Author of victory is God himself. No lower but his could have defeated foes so mighty, so malicious and so crafty.

2. The Mediator of victory is the Lord Jesus Christ, who first conquered for us, and then conquers in and with us. His crucifixion, followed by his resurrection, gave the death blow to our enemy. This conviction may well give us courage in carrying on the spiritual war, and in looking forward to its issue with confidence and hope.

"Hell and thy sins resist thy course,
But hell and sin are vanquished foes;
Thy Jesus nailed them to the cross,
And sang the triumph when he rose."



1 Corinthians 15:1-8

The gospel which Paul preached.

I. IT WAS A RECEIVED, NOT AN ORIGINATED, GOSPEL. "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received" (1 Corinthians 15:3). He tells us that he received it by "the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:12). He had the more confidence in it that it was not of himself, and we have also. It came from the very central Source of all. Paul's gospel of Christ came from Christ. Some preachers of the gospel are so able that they feel bound to originate. They throw a new light upon the truth instead of the old light. They preach, as they consider, a magnificent gospel, but it is unfortunately "of man," and thus worthless. Man can do many things, but he cannot make a gospel. When he tries he advertises his folly. With Paul, we should get as near as we can to the fountainhead—the streams are apt to become contaminated.


1. The atoning death of Christ. Paul preached constantly, untiringly, supremely, the atonement (see his strong expression, 1 Corinthians 2:2). He laid greatest emphasis upon the death of Christ. The life was beautiful, full of teaching; but in the death was the propitiation for sin. He died for our sins; our sins were so great that they required his death! "He bore our sins in his own body on the tree." And the death of Christ did not come suddenly upon the world. It was "according to the Scriptures:" foretold by the prophets, as, for example, by Isaiah in the fifty-third chapter of his book. He had no sins of his own to die for; he died for ours. He "gave himself" for us.

2. The resurrection of Christ. This was the demonstration of the efficacy of his death, a proof that he conquered and was not conquered. The real triumph achieved in his death was manifested by his resurrection. A pledge of our resurrection through him. A token of his acceptance by God.

(1) The apostle laid stress upon the fact that Christ died. It was no swoon. A real death, and then a real resurrection. He "died" and "was buried" (verse 4). He rose "the third day," so that for a day and part of two others he was in the sepulchre. Stone afterwards denied the actual death of Christ, and thus made void his resurrection. The apostle here anticipates their attack.

(2) That his resurrection accorded with prophecy. It was "according to the Scriptures" (see Psalms 16:10).

(3) That his resurrection was well attested by witnesses. Paul does not give here all the appearances of Christ after his death, but a selection.

(a) Appearance to Peter (Luke 24:34).

(b) To the twelve. Called by the familiar name "the twelve," though Judas was gone (Luke 24:33-36).

(c) To five hundred brethren. Possibly in Galilee, where intimation of his appearing had been given, and may have been widely known, occasioning a large gathering of his followers (Matthew 26:32 and Matthew 28:10, Matthew 28:16).

(d) To James. Probably James who presided over the Church at Jerusalem.

(e) All the apostles (John 20:26 or Acts 1:4).

(f) To St. Paul. As of one born out of due time. The least of the apostles. A grand array of evidence, and yet not all. The writer and speaker could bear personal testimony. Most of the five hundred were alive and could be interrogated. Others had "fallen asleep" in hope of a glorious resurrection through him who had appeared to them after his own death and burial.


1. Men received it. (Verse 1.) It arrested their attention. It convinced their judgment. It moved their heart. It was adapted to human want. It glorified ordinary live.

2. Men were saved by it. (Verse 2.) It was the power of God unto salvation. Conscience was satisfied. Life was purified and ennobled. Christ was followed. God was feared and served and loved. Death lost its terror. "After death" was paradise.

3. Men stood in this gospel. (Verse 1.) As long as they held to it they stood, and having done all, stood. Through it came a power which was "able to keep them from falling." Have we received this gospel? Do we stand in it? Are we saved through it? We need "hold it fast" (verse 2, New Version)—grip it and keep gripping it. A mere assent will lead to "letting it slip." It has no power to save unless we hold it and it holds us.—H.

1 Corinthians 15:9, 1 Corinthians 15:10

Traits of Christian greatness.

I. HONESTY. How faithfully Paul speaks of himself! How candidly he acknowledges the circumstances connected with his apostleship! Yet he had the greatest reason to magnify his authority to the Corinthians. They were ready, many of them, to twist anything to his disadvantage. But ha is not moved by this. To him the end does not justify the means; he must have "means" perfectly unquestionable. His candour and truthfulness are striking. He is a man of transparent honesty, as every Christian man should be. Whether honesty be the best policy or not, it is the only Christian policy.

II. CONTRITION. As a man becomes spiritually great, he has keener regret for old delinquencies. Paul cannot forgive himself for persecuting the Church of Christ. That act becomes more glaring in its sinfulness the nearer he draws to the "Light of the world." Little saints—little sins. No sin is little except to the purblind. The more perfect our acceptance before God, the more perfect our condemnation of ourselves.

III. BOLDNESS. Paul does not shrink from testimony or deed. People may call him "a turncoat," but not now being a child, he has put away the childish thing of being appalled by epithets—epithets which, in his present condition, can really mean only praise, whatever they may be intended to mean. A man who has true and high "fear of God" has little fear of man. The truly great in Christian life are afraid only of being afraid to witness for Christ. Christian courage is a fine quality.

IV. DILIGENCE. The truly great Christian is a hard worker. He must do something for his Lord, whatever his circumstances. If he be stretched on a sick bed he will toil there, in conversation or prayer, or in repressing anything that may dishonour Christ, such as irritability, repining, etc. Many professors can believe anything and do nothing. A ton of their piety would be dear at the cost of a bad farthing. There are some microscopic saints, who ever want "to be fed," but all their feeding seems to come to nothing. Instead of being "labourers in the vineyard," they are only pickers of the grapes. The great Paul was a great worker; he "laboured more abundantly than they all." If we would be great we must be diligent. "The hand of the diligent maketh rich" (Proverbs 10:4).

V. LOVE. This is very apparent in Paul's case. His heart is going God-ward with the penning of every word. His contrition was related to his love. He felt that he had been forgiven much, and so he loved much. Love to God made him diligent, and perhaps in no one was love to man more strikingly exemplified than in this apostle. As we grow great we grow in love, because, as we grow spiritually great, we grow like God, and God is love. If our religion does not mellow and soften us and extend our sympathies, we have got hold of the wrong religion.

VI. HUMILITY. We cannot be great unless we are little. To go up we must go down. The true Christian is one who has become a "little child." Paul ascribes everything to God's grace, nothing to himself. This was a very true and accurate division; it represented things as they really were. The great Christian sees things as they are; the little Christian, as they are not, but as he would like them to be. The little Christian thinks himself to be a great Christian, and the great Christian thinks himself to be a little one. As we rise, God seems greater and greater, and we little and still more little, until at last he becomes "all in all" and we become "nothing." There is a greater gap between God and Gabriel in Gabriel's thought than between God and Judas in Judas's thought. We cannot boast of our salvation, for God has saved us; nor of our works, for his grace has wrought them through us.—H.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Did Christ rise?

I. A GREAT QUESTION. Everything connected with "after death" is of high interest to us, but this, whether the professed Messiah and Saviour burst the bands of death or was held captive by them, is of the very highest moment. Christ rested his claims upon his resurrection; if it failed, they failed. His rising from the tomb was the demonstration of his Divine Sonship (Romans 1:4). His witnesses were to be witnesses of his resurrection, as of an all important event (Acts 1:22). His resurrection was the seal of the power of Calvary. It gave authority to all his teaching. It corroborated the antecedent miracles.

II. A DISPUTED QUESTION. Disputed from the first, when the absurd rumour was spread that his disciples had stolen his body away in the night, and that men sound asleep had witnessed the depredation! Around this central point of Christian faith have surged floods of controversy. It was and is natural that the citadel of Christianity should be fiercely attacked. Every conceivable supposition has been made to explain away the evidence. But this remains, that greater miracles have to be taken for granted by deniers than by believers. Our faith need not be shaken one whit by the onslaught; the truest and best things in the world have ever been the favourite targets of the devil and his archers.

III. A VITAL QUESTION. With the answer Christianity stands or falls. This the apostle willingly admits. Note what amongst other things is involved in the denial of the resurrection of Christ.

1. The falsity of the witnesses.

(1) Yet everything these witnesses say and do has the savour of sincerity. They live lives of humility, purity, unselfishness; and in support of the asserted fact of the resurrection are willing to die. Yet if they knew their statement to be false, they had nothing to gain, but everything to lose, by making it.

(2) They must have been false, not deceived. The circumstances of Christ's repeated appearances, as narrated by the evangelists, render it inconceivable that the witnesses should have been victims of illusion or Imposture.

(3) False witnesses of God. Their sin was directly against the Eternal. They blasphemously asserted that he had done what they knew he had not.

(4) Their condition was most deplorable; 1 Corinthians 15:19, "If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most miserable." For we have said it is not hope of Christ's resurrection that we possess, but our solemn testimony in God's sight has been that we were personal witnesses of the resurrection of Christ. Our claim has been, not hope, but certainty. Now, if we only have the former whilst we have professed to possess the latter, how great is our criminality! how miserable is our condition! how dread must be our future! We have been guilty of the basest misrepresentation in a matter of the highest moment. Other interpretations of 1 Corinthians 15:19 seem to involve, what most Christians will strenuously deny, that if Christianity be a delusion, the condition of the believer in the present life is more miserable than that of the unbeliever.

2. All preaching of the gospel is vain. Instead of the proclamation of the truth, it becomes the dissemination of a lie. It is empty, unreal, has no basis. The gospel so rests upon Christ's resurrection that, when one succumbs, the other must share the same fate.

3. Faith is vain. It must be useless to trust to one whose word has already failed. To build our hopes upon one whose most solemn assertion has fallen to the ground would be nothing but sheer madness. The "Lord Jesus Christ," indeed, disappears, and we have left, as the object of our faith, only one like to ourselves.

4. Living believers are unsaved. Christ, we read, "was raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25); but if he did not rise, we are not justified. In penalty and power sin still attaches itself to us. And yet we feel that the burden has gone and that the power is broken! How can these things be?

5. The dead in Christ are perished. Not annihilated, but before God without a Mediator! God and the future remain if Christ did not rise, but those who have fallen asleep in Christ, believing on him, have found in him no help, have found through him no pardon. With all their sins upon them, they have entered into the presence of their Maker and Judge. What a relief to turn to the confident utterance of Paul, "But now is Christ risen from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:20)! How thankful should we be for the clear, satisfactory, conclusive evidence of Christ's resurrection which we possess! And careful should we be not to hold loosely, or to deny, some doctrine which may seem of comparatively small importance, because we cannot understand it fully or because it conflicts with our prejudices. Much more may be involved than we think of. Some of the Corinthians denied the resurrection of the body, but appear to have been willing and desirous to accept the rest of the gospel revelation. They, perhaps, did not see how the single denial destroyed the whole fabric. But Paul shows that if the resurrection of the body be denied, the resurrection of Christ must be, and that this involves the destruction of the claims of Christ as the Messiah and Saviour and the entire overthrow of the gospel.—H.

1 Corinthians 15:20-28


I. ITS CAUSE. Christ—the second Adam. Through the first Adam, death; through the second Adam, the resurrection from the dead. We see how much depends upon Christ, how much upon his resurrection. Through him we expect to rise; but if he did not rise, how can we rise through him? "But now is Christ risen," and so our prospect is unclouded. He has passed through the grave to make a way for us. He found the bonds of death strong; we shall find them broken. He lives, and through him we shall live also. He has conquered the grave whilst in our nature, and now holds it as conquered for us to pass through.

II. ITS UNIVERSALITY. "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Adam was the first head and representative of the human race; he fell, and one of the consequences of his fall was the grave for all men. Christ was the second Head and Representative, and through him comes to all the race deliverance from the grave. In neither has the personal, responsible act of men, apart from their representative heads, a place. The disadvantage through Adam and the advantage through Christ come to all men, apart from their choice or desert. But this only applies to physical death and the recovery from that death. Personal sin and personal repentance and faith have issues unaffected by the general headship of Adam and Christ. The just and the unjust die through Adam; the just and the unjust rise through Christ: but they do not rise to the same future. What follows upon personal transgression and impenitence will be borne in the body delivered from death; and, similarly, that which follows upon personal repentance and belief in Christ.


1. Christ. First, as the cause. He is "the Firstfruits"—the earliest and the most costly and the most precious of the harvest. And also the pledge of the general harvest. He is the Firstfruits presented and accepted, and we who are in him shall be accepted also, for we shall be "like him."

2. The saved. "They that are Christ's." This is after the resurrection of Christ; how long after we are not told. But it will be "at his coming." In his first advent we have redemption; in his second advent, resurrection. "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

3. The rest of mankind. "Then cometh the end"—the end of the resurrection—the rising of those that remain, as well as the end of the dispensation. The lost have the place of least honour. They were "first" in many things in life, but now they are "last."


1. By the sound of a trumpet. (1 Corinthians 15:52; see Matthew 24:31.) The dead shall hear, for the summons shall be of God. Those who stopped their ears on earth will not then be able. "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28, John 5:29).

2. Sudden. This seems to be suggested by 1 Corinthians 15:52. The change of the living will be sudden; the change of the dead also. Men generally die slowly; they will be raised from the dead instantly. The dead have been long in gathering—how many centuries have passed, how many more, perhaps, to come!—but probably in "the twinkling of an eye" will they be delivered from death. This strikingly illustrates Christ's power over the grave—how completely he has conquered, and holds in subjection, death.

V. ITS VICTORY. It will be a triumph. It will show forth the victorious might of Christ. He triumphed in his own resurrection; that triumph will be consummated in the completion of the resurrection, when all, of every race and colour, are raised by his power.

VI. ITS CONCOMITANTS. The following seem here to be closely connected with the final resurrection:—

1. The universal victory of Christ. He shall conquer, and conquer all that now oppose him. "All rule, all authority and power," must fall before him. All enemies shall presently be under his feet. The powers of evil now seem great and strong, the kingdom of righteousness comparatively small and feeble; but at that day Christ will be King, and to him "every knee shall bow."

2. The destruction of death. The destroyer shall be destroyed. The shock of the great resurrection will be too much for his kingdom. The death bonds long since broken by Christ shall then be burnt. Man's mortality shall cease forever. Death shall die and know no resurrection.

3. The delivering up of the kingdom by Christ to the Father. Christ, as Mediator and Administrator of the kingdom of God, will then have completed his special work, and the direct rule of God as God will be reinaugurated. Christ will still remain as God Man, the Head of his own people, and as one in the Godhead will participate in the Divine reign.

4. The subjection of the Son to the Father. As he was before his mediatorial work began. One with the Father ("I and my Father are one") in nature, but voluntarily subordinate as a son to a father. The Son as such will not be conspicuous in rule as now, but God will be "all in all." The united Deity will reign as one, and in the Deity the Son is subordinate in position to the Father.—H.

1 Corinthians 15:29-34

Some things float follow upon the denial of the resurrection.

I. THE FOLLY OF SELF DENIAL AND SUFFERING FOR CHRISTIANITY. These must be branded as imbecile; yet they have ever seemed most sublime. But if there be no resurrection (the resurrection of the body being vital to the gospel and all its hopes, as Paul has shown in preceding verses of this chapter), the argument for such conduct fails. Why order one's life for a future which will never be realized? Why suffer for a lie as though it were a truth? There were some who had been "baptized for the dead"—an obscure expression, but probably meaning baptized to take the place of those who had suffered martyrdom. Why should these court so stern a fate if Christianity were a deception? The apostle had "fought with beasts at Ephesus"—probably figurative, to express his contest with beastlike men. He "died daily" in his faithfulness to his commission as a preacher of—what? Ah! upon the what depended everything. According to the answer, Paul was an utter fool or a marvellously heroic saint. If there was no resurrection, and if therefore the gospel fell to the ground, he was undoubtedly the former.

II. THE REMOVAL OF RESTRAINTS FROM INDULGENCE AND VICE. The denial of the doctrine of the resurrection involved the denial of the gospel, and with this perished the hope of salvation. Christians thus became as men of this world, having no bright hope of the hereafter. Consequently the check upon natural appetite was removed. Common sense would seem to favour a life of Epicurean pleasure. If there be no hope concerning the world to come, let us make the best of the world that now is: "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die." "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." The apostle is not supposing that there is no future existence. By "the resurrection" in this chapter he means the resurrection of the body, but he shows that with the rejection of this doctrine Christianity is destroyed, and here he is showing that if Christianity be destroyed the incentives to a pure and virtuous life are removed. His thought seems to be that, apart from Christianity, there is nothing in the world which will constrain men generally to live great and noble and self-denying lives. And this is a matter for our most serious reflection. If Christianity be done away with, what is there which will restrain men from indulgence and vice? No other religion can compete with Christianity; if it falls, all religion is doomed. Can philosophy do the practical work required? Alas! it is possible to be a very excellent philosopher and a very poor moralist. Will general education restrain men? It will, when cleverness and goodness mean the same thing, but not before! Will art and refinement effect what is needed? The palmiest days of art have been the days of most glaring obscenity, and refinement has shown over and over again how easily it allies itself with brutal lust. If Christianity falls, the prevailing doctrine amongst men must be, "let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die."

II. CAREFULLY SHOULD WE GUARD AGAINST EMBRACING THIS FATAL OPINION. We may find difficulty in believing the doctrine; we shall find disaster in rejecting it.

1. The apostle notices one thing very likely to lead us astray. "Evil communications [or, 'evil company'] corrupt good manners"—a line borrowed from the Greek poet Menander. "Can a man touch pitch and not be defiled?" Many mix amongst the ungodly, confident in strength, and fall. We need remember that, in our present state, we are more easily influenced towards the wrong than the right. Our minds are not equally poised. There is already a bias. Strange that those who are so bold to venture into the atmosphere of moral evil shun that of physical evil. A professing Christian will company with an arrant unbeliever, but not with a man suffering from small-pox.

2. Sin must not be yielded to. (1 Corinthians 15:34.) Those who live in sin easily persuade themselves of the truth of anything which they would like to be true. As denial of the resurrection leads to sin, so sin leads to the denial of the resurrection. Sin blinds the intellect as well as corrupts the heart.

3. If we have been at all betrayed, we should at once seek to recover our position. "Awake to righteousness," or, "awake up righteously." We are more than half asleep if we deny that for which there is abundant evidence. We need to rub our eyes or to ask the great Physician to touch them. "Awake," or "be sober." The condition of those who deny the resurrection is one of carnal intoxication. In denial our faces are towards evil; in assent and reception we turn towards righteousness. "Righteousness" in the world depends, according to the apostle, upon the reception of this doctrine, because with it stands or falls Christianity itself.

4. Denial involves ignorance of God. (1 Corinthians 15:34.) To the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, Christ said, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). Men say, God cannot do this thing; but with him "all things are possible." True knowledge of God marvellously helps our faith. We doubt and question, not because we know so much, but because we know so little. The Corinthians boasted much of their knowledge; here Paul charges them with gross ignorance.—H.

1 Corinthians 15:35-41

The resurrection of the body.

This doctrine has presented the greatest difficulties to many minds. Here faith has frequently found one of its severest tests.

I. BUT WE OUGHT NOT TO BE STAGGERED BY ANY FACT WHICH IS THE SUBJECT OF DIVINE REVELATION. God will assuredly justify himself and fulfil all his promises. Though we do not see how he will do so, he does. He sits higher than we do. When Ezekiel was asked, "Can these bones live?" he did not reply, "It is utterly preposterous and absurd," but "O Lord God, thou knowest;" and when God asserted that they could and should, Ezekiel obediently prophesied upon and unto them (Ezekiel 37:3). Our Lord's words should ever ring in our ears, "With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

II. CONSIDER THE IMPERFECTION OF OUR PRESENT KNOWLEDGE. HOW very little we know! Our knowledge is extremely superficial; we know no one thing thoroughly. Our knowledge is extensive in this sense, that we know a very little about a great many things. How ignorant we are of the nature of matter, spirit, life! How unfit to dogmatize! yet how ever ready to do so! Like children, we say, "It can't be;" and we speak with infinite confidence because we cannot understand how it can be. The theory cannot be made up out of our superficial information. The mountain won't go into our bucket!

III. THE LIMITATION OF OUR FACULTIES. Our powers are very great viewed in one aspect, very little indeed viewed in another. As long as we possess only our present faculties we shall do well to guard against the flippant use of "impossible."


1. How can the dead live? If our bodies die, are placed in the grave, dissolve, mix up with surrounding earth, is it not incredible that they should live again? "How can these things be?" The apostle has a very pertinent retort. He directs the objector to a very familiar operation and result. Seed is sown in the ground, a living plant springs up. The seed placed in the ground apparently perishes. As placed in the earth it is seen above it no more. Much of its substance decays and unites with the ground in which it lies. And yet there is the plant of the same nature, and called by the same name. There is here death and then life. In fact, only as the seed is sown, only as it seems utterly to perish, decompose, and be hopelessly lost—only thus is the beautiful result attained. So the death of this body may be necessary (speaking after the manner of men) to the beauty and glory of the resurrection body. That which seems to be a difficulty may be an essential link in the chain—essential, that is, unless a special miracle is wrought, as may be in the case of those alive at the coming of Christ (verse 52). They will be "changed" suddenly—we know not how, through what process. Christ's body, which saw no corruption, was evidently changed. Paul does not assert that sowing seed and its result are parallel in all points to the death and resurrection of the body. He uses it as a helpful illustration. If our experience did not cover the sowing of the seed and the upspringing of the plant, perhaps our faith would be as greatly tried, if we were called upon to believe in its possibility, as we are now in the case of the resurrection of the body.

2. "With what body do they come?" One common form of this difficulty is—how is it possible for us to have at the resurrection the same particles in our body which we now have? Apart from the dissipation of these particles in the earth or sea, they may actually belong to the bodies of a great many different people! Amongst cannibals, for example. And amongst civilized people as well; for animals and plants receive in various ways particles which once helped to constitute human bodies, and these animals and vegetables being eaten, the particles in question become constituents of other human bodies. How can this apparently insuperable difficulty be met? Simply by saying that it is a difficulty originated by the objector, and has no basis in Divine revelation. We are not told that the earthly body and the resurrection body shall consist of the same particles. In fact, the apostle seems expressly to combat such a notion; for he says," Thou sowest not that body which shall be" (verse 37), and in verse 50, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." But then, if not the same particles, what particles? what form? The apostle meets this by reference to the Divine power as now seen in creation: "All flesh is not the same flesh." There are celestial bodies—the organisms of angels—bodies, yet greatly differing from the terrestrial bodies. The light of the "lamps of the firmament" greatly varies in glory and beauty. So there will be great contrast between the body now and then. God by what he has done shows what he can do, and so this part of the difficulty vanishes. But the greater part remains. If the resurrection body has not the same particles now possessed, how can it be the same, and how can there be any fitness in speaking of the resurrection of the body? Our experience supplies a sufficient answer. Sameness of particles is not essential to identity. The particles in our present body are in constant flux. At no two moments do we possess precisely the same: we are always throwing off some and taking on others; and, separated only by the interval of a few years, science leads us to conclude that the body has lost all the old particles and is constituted entirely of fresh ones. Yet bodily identity does not disappear. The resurrection body will be identified with our present body. As with the seed, to each a "body of its own" (verse 38). Identity is in this life a great mystery to us; we cannot tell now what is necessary to it. But there is nothing in our partial knowledge of it which should lead us to doubt the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. With larger knowledge apparent difficulties doubtless would disappear. The resurrection body will be very different to the present whilst identified with it. God will give a body as it shall please him (verse 38). Note: It is no mark of wisdom to deny the resurrection of the body. The inspired apostle addresses the denier as "Thou fool." Many priding themselves in wisdom tumble into the morass of folly.—H.

1 Corinthians 15:40

The two glories.

The apostle appears to be referring to the differences between the organisms—the spiritual bodies—of the inhabitants of heaven and the bodies of human beings on earth. But in a wider sense we may understand his statement that "the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another." The glory of things belonging to a fallen world is one; the glory belonging to things of an unfallen world is another. The things of man fallen contrasted with the things of the God Man unfallen. The natural as opposed to the spiritual.


1. Slight. Showy, but delusive. Money, human learning, earthly power, worldly pleasures,—these are attractive, but the glory of the best of them is small. Innumerable testimonies have been borne to this fact, difficult for those to credit who are captivated by the gaudiness which they mistake for glory.

2. Marred. When we speak of earthly things we think of them in their highest perfection; our conception is apt to be ideal. Experimentally we find that the natural glory is greatly marred.

3. Uncertain. The flame flickers and darkness is threatened. Much depends upon our health, surroundings, position, as to whether things terrestrial have glory in relation to ourselves. Changes are often sudden and complete, and that which erewhile we pronounced glorious becomes simply detestable. That which pleases us today may disgust us tomorrow. Alas! with things terrestrial there is no improvement upon intimate acquaintance.

4. Brief. At best the glory is short lived. The sun soon goes down. When most needed the glory often disappears.

5. Unsatisying. Something more glorious is ever craved for. The more glorious may be expected from that which is of the earth, and when not found in it, the disappointment is often bitter. Earthly things have a firework glory.


1. Great. Solid and substantial, not flash),. This is natural, for they are of God. In their glory there is more of substance than of shadow.

2. Not fluctuating. They are fixed stars, not meteors. There is in them certainty, They are stable.

3. Increasing. In our experience. We discover fresh glory ever. In things terrestrial we soon come to the end of the tether; in things celestial we never do. We ever find more to excite our wonder and to cause us delight.

4. Eternal. The glory abides undimmed, and shall blaze forth forever. We are immortal, and as long as we endure shall the glory of those celestial truths which Christ reveals to us.

5. Satisfying. The cry of the soul is responded to. There is no disappointment. The feeling of unsupplied want vanishes. At last the soul is at rest.


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/1-corinthians-15.html. 1897.
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