1 Corinthians

15:1-11

9. The resurrection, 15:1-58

i] The faith once delivered to the saints

Argument

In the passage before us, Paul supports his argument in favor of a bodily resurrection of believers by establishing the resurrection of Christ is fundamental to the gospel. This truth is the message proclaimed by Paul and all the apostles. It is this truth which saves all believers and is the life-force of Paul's own life.

 
Issues

i] Context: In chapter 15 Paul deals the issue of the bodily resurrection of the dead and does so within the context of the gospel and Christ's bodily resurrection. It is clear that some members of the Corinthian church doubted the bodily resurrection of the dead in Christ, although obviously believing in a spiritual afterlife, possibly along platonic lines, as widely believed today - the soul leaving the body after death. The argument proceeds in three steps:

 

a) Paul argues that at the center of the gospel is the resurrection of Christ, v1-11. He sets out to remind the Corinthian believers of "the consensus of preaching and testimony that he shares with the apostles and other resurrection witnesses", Sloan.

 

b) Paul makes the point that if our bodies are not raised in the last day, then Christ was not raised, v12-34. Paul is not arguing that the resurrection from the dead involves the resuscitation of a dead corpse. It is possible that the Corinthians have come to see the resurrection in these terms, an idea Paul will address in his beautiful illustration of the sprouting wheat.

v12-19. Logic tells us that if we do not rise, then Christ was not raised, and therefore everything we believe in is stupid.

v20-28. Yet, the substantial truth of our faith is that Christ did rise from the dead, and because he lives we will live also.

v29-34. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then why are we bothering to live the Christian life? We might as well eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

 

c) Paul tackles the issue of how the body will be raised and what form it will take, v35-58.

v35-44. Paul uses the analogy of seeds and different kinds of bodies. First, with the sown seed and the sheaf there is continuity, but also transformation. Second, all bodies are designed to adapt to their environment. The resurrection body will be transformed to suit its heavenly environment - it will be swma pneumatikon, "a spiritual body";

v45-49. Paul develops these two points further with an Adam-Christ analogy. There is a real continuity between our physical body and our resurrection body, but at the same time there is transformation. We share, and will share, the likeness of both Adam and Christ;

v50-58. Paul finally argues that transformation is essential for a believer to be able to enter the glory of heaven.

 

ii] Background: It is likely that Paul was told about the problem some members of the Corinthian church had with regard the resurrection, rather than being one of the questions he was asked in the letter sent to him. The actual theological heresy infesting the Corinthian congregation is unclear. Calvin suggested that some in the congregation held the common view of the time that death is the end of life; there is nothing beyond. The Sadducees held this view and secularists like the Epicureans promoted it widely. On accasions Paul's argument seems to address a straight forward denial of a resurrection to life after death, cf., v29-32. Still, in the end, Calvin was "undecided" as to whether this was the heresy infesting the church and we share with him in his indecision!! Chrysostom argued that the heresy consisted in the belief "that the resurrection had taken place a long time ago." Luther accepted this argument and it is widely followed today, although in various forms. It is possible, although unlikely, that they thought that a bodily resurrection had actually taken place and they had missed out. What is more likely is that their Greek Platonic world-view had led them to the idea that a rotting corpse has nothing to do with what is spiritual and imperishable. Some church members had clearly developed a form of higher spirituality. Having received the Spirit, along with the sign of tongues, they seem to have practiced a form of realized eschatology, already risen, and were now looking forward to the time when their spirit would be released from the body and become part of an eternal spiritual reality. So, the body is but refuse to be cast away at life's end - there is no need for a bodily resurrection. In addressing this heresy Paul counters the Platonic world-view of his readers with the Biblical perspective of a transformed bodily resurrection in the last day. Jesus was raised and transformed into a personal living being rather than an amorphous impersonal spirit, and we will be so raised and transformed.

 

iii] Structure: In confronting the heresy that there is no resurrection of the dead, Paul begins by reminding the Corinthians of the tradition which they received and believed, v1-2. Paul then outlines the gospel tradition, 3-4. followed by a catalogue of resurrection appearance, v5-7, including the extraordinary appearance of the risen Christ to Paul himself, v8. This leads Paul to speak of his apostolic authority, v9-10. Paul ends in v11 where he began in v1-2; this is the tradition which he preached and they believed.

 

iv] Interpretation - The gospel, 11:3-5: The gospel tradition presented in the second half of v3 through v5 is worthy of further investigation. There are two primary statements of fact which are each supported by a secondary supporting fact. The primary statements of fact are given weight by the phrase "according to the scriptures." This phrase affirms that the primary statements are a fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures.

a) "Christ died for our sins." The Messiah suffered and died to atone for the sins of the lost, Isaiah 53. This concept of a suffering Messiah who dies on behalf (instead of) the people of God, is certainly not dominant in the Old Testament. The teaching is not even dominant in the gospels. Jesus' institution of the Lord's Supper makes the link, while the only other clear statement of the doctrine of the atonement is found in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45. Paul, who is the interpreter (exegete) of Jesus, explicitly teaches the doctrine of the atonement as part of the gospel tradition. Jesus dies as the lamb of God who bears our guilt. His death is substitutionary - he dies as a substitute. Jesus dies that we might be forgiven and so find acceptance before God. He dies for our sins. Jesus' death on the cross doesn't just deal with our past sins. It is essential to understand that Jesus' death deals with sinfulness as such. Not only is our rebellion forgiven, but our ongoing rebellion is forgiven. Jesus makes it possible to stand before God eternally acceptable in his sight because sin, past, present and future, is divinely covered.

b) "That he was buried." This secondary statement of fact supports the primary truth that Christ died.

c) "That he was raised on the third day." The meaning of the clause is found in the sense of the verb "raised" - Jesus, having been raised, is still alive. The center of the gospel is found in a risen and living Messiah, whose life can be ours, both in our day to day living for him, and in eternity. The basis of this transfer of Christ's life-giving power, is found in his original substitutionary act. He dies for us, that we might live for him. It is very difficult to find any Old Testament texts to support the resurrection, so in what sense is it "according to the Scriptures"? Most likely the phrase should be taken in a general sense. Old Testament theology points to a living, as well as a life-giving Messiah, Psalm 16:8-11, 110:1.

d) "And that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve." This secondary statement of fact supports the primary truth that Jesus was raised. This most likely concludes the gospel tradition, as received by Paul. Interestingly, the tradition passes over the women and makes Peter the first witness, cf. Luke 24:34. Is this Jewish chauvinism - women are not trustworthy witnesses? Also, the "twelve" were at the most 11, Luke 24:36. Obviously, the term came to identify the apostles as a group.

 

v] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 15:1

Arguments in support of the proposition that the dead in Christ will be bodily raised at the parousia: i] Central to the truth of the gospel is the bodily resurrection of Christ, v1-11. Paul wants his readers "to understand that all Christians will be raised from the dead (or changed if they are alive at Christ's coming), which means that the victory of sin and death is only temporary; God will defeat the last enemy. While graveyards may remind one of the brevity of life, the resurrection ensures the brevity of death", Garland.

de "now" - but, and, now. Transitional connective, introducing the next step in the argument, here a major step; "now".

gnwrizw pres. "I want to remind [you] of" - I make known. The present tense is durative - Paul desires to remind his readers. Serving to underline what is about to be said; "I draw your attention", Barrett.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - Dative of indirect object; "I make known the gospel to you."

to euaggelion (on) - "the gospel" - the important message. The word is used of an important communication such as a message from the battlefront. Most often used in the NT for God's important message to humanity concerning the realization of his covenant promises in Christ. Often referred to as "good news", although it is only good news for those who believe.

kai "- ... and" - [which] also. Here adjunctive, such that the two relative clauses serve to compound what Paul wants to say about the gospel; "which also you received and on which also ....."

paralabete (paralambanw) aor. "you received" - As with "preached", the aorist tense of this verb is punctiliar, expressing a completed action - Paul preached the gospel to them and they received it. Probably not of receiving a tradition here, but rather responding to the gospel, accepting it: "which you accepted", Phillips.

en perf. "on [which you have taken your stand]" - in, on [which also you have stood]. Local, expressing sphere. The phrase has a meaning more like "under the influence of which", B&L - "in which you stand as believers", Fee; "the message ...... that you believed and trusted", CEV.

 
v2

di + gen. "by [this gospel]" - through, by means of [which]. An instrumental sense is probably intended; "by means of the gospel."

swzesqe (swzw) pres. pas. "you are saved" - Probably a divine passive, God being the agent, while the present tense indicates ongoing action; "your salvation is being worked out", Phillips.

ei + ind. "if [you hold firmly to]" - Conditional clause 1st Class, where the stated condition is assumed to be true, as NIV; "if, as is the case, [you hold fast], then [you are saved]."

tini dat. "the [word]" - with what [word]. The dative may be local, space / direction, "to that word", instrumental, expressing means, "through which gospel you are saved by means of which word I preached to you", or possibly modal, expressing manner, "in the form of which I preached it to you." This interrogative pronoun is best taken here as a relative pronoun, but the clause is often rendered as a question; "do you still hold fast to the gospel I preached to you?", NEB. For meaning sake, best included in the conditional clause, as NIV; "provided you adhere to my statement of it", Moffatt.

ei mh "otherwise" - except, unless. Introducing an exceptive clause; "unless you believed in vain."

eikh/ adv. "in vain" - "Unless you believed without due consideration." Adverb of manner, "heedlessly".

 
v3

gar "for" - The NIV opts for a cause / reason sense although the conjunction here seems more likely to serve as a stitching device, or even to introduce an emphatic statement; "Well then, first and foremost I passed on to you ...", Cassirer.

kai "-" - [that which] also [I received]. Adjunctive; "also".

paredwka (paradidwmi) aor. "I passed on" - I handed on, delivered over, passed on. Paul here makes an interesting statement about tradition. He is not the author of the gospel, rather, he has "received" it and "passed" it on. The formation of this tradition comes from the apostles who heard Christ, learnt from him, and taught the truth to all who would hear. Paul has elsewhere made the point that he received the gospel firsthand from Jesus, although it is likely he means his particular interpretation of the tradition, namely, the gospel of God's grace manifested in his righteousness / his righteous reign / his setting everything right, realized in the fullness of life in Christ.

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object.

en prwtoiV (oV) "as of first importance" - in the prominent, first things. This adverbial prepositional phrase means simply that among all the things Paul taught the Corinthians, the gospel stood out as the most important piece of information he could give them. The reason is obvious; "by this gospel you are saved." It could also mean the first thing Paul taught them in time, or possibly that they were the first to hear it (Phillips), but importance seems best. "As a first essential I handed on to you", Barclay.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech, detailing the content of what Paul passed on; "namely that ......" Repeated in v4 and 5.

uJper + gen. "[Christ died] for [our sins]" - for, on behalf of. This preposition may express representation, extending to benefaction, or it may be used for anti, expressing substitution, "in place of, instead of." The debate comes down to whether Christ's death serves to expiate our sins, or propitiate our sins, cf. Isaiah 53, Gal.4:1. Fine tuning aside, what we have here is the first of four historical facts upon which the gospel rests, namely, that Christ died (aorist verb for a completed action) on/in behalf of our sins (an atonement statement), oJti, "that", he was buried (again aorist), oJti, "that", he was raised (perfect passive), and oJti, "that", he appeared to (aorist passive); see above.

kata + acc. "according to [the Scriptures]" - Expressing a standard; "in accordance with the Scriptures", NRSV.

 
v4

kai ..... kai "-" - and. Establishing a coordinate series.

oJti "that" - As v3.

etafh (qaptw) aor. pas. "he was buried" - Reinforcing the fact that Jesus was dead and that therefore his resurrection was bodily.

eghgertai (egeirw) perf. pas. "he was raised" - he has been raised. The perfect tense expressing the idea that Jesus was raised to life and still lives, while the passive is probably an example of the divine passive where God is the agent, although this feature in Greek is somewhat overplayed.

th/ hJmera/ th/ trith/ dat. "on the third day" - Dative of time. The sense of this phrase is the next day plus one.

kata + acc. "according to [the scriptures]" - Expressing a standard; "in accordance with." Of course, the scriptures do not speak directly of the messiah being raised from the dead on the third day. It is though often argued that the scripture in mind is Hosea 6:2 which speaks of the national revival of Israel, Christ being corporate Israel; "After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him", NRSV.

 
v5

oJti "that" - [and] that. As in v3.

wfqh (oJraw) aor. mid./pas. "he appeared to" - he appeared to / he became visible to . That is, Jesus rose from the dead and this reality was witnessed.

khfa/ (aV a) dat. "to Cephas" - Dative of indirect object / recipient, and this because Peter receives the action of Christ's appearing, rather than acting himself to see, ie. not "was seen by Peter", an instrumental dative / agency, cf. Wallace, p165, n.72. This construction, the aor. pas. wfqh + dat. is repeated through to v8 for "the twelve", "five hundred brothers", "James", "the apostles", and "one untimely born" (ie. Paul himself).

eita ... epeita ... "then ...... after that" - next .... then, thereafter ..... Here denoting a coordinate / correlative series - epeita is a compound form, epi + eita.

 
v6

epanw adv. "more than" - over, above. Obviously information that Paul had gleaned from the Jerusalem believers and which, even when writing some twenty years after the event, could still be verified.

efapax adv. "at the same time" - once for all, once, at one time. Temporal adverb. An interesting appearance finding no support in the gospels. Some have suggested Paul is alluding to Pentecost, but this seems unlikely. Others have suggested Paul means "over time", implying the number of those who witnessed Christ prior to his ascension, but that is not the sense of the adverb which serves to underline singularity.

ex + gen. "most of [whom]" - from [whom]. Here the preposition ek replaces a partitive genitive; "of whom."

e{wV arti "are still alive" - [the majority remain] until now. "Most of these have survived up to the present time."

de "though" - and, but. Here contrastive, usually taken to introduce a concessive clause, as NIV; "although some have fallen asleep."

ekoimhqhsan (koimaw) aor. pas. "fallen asleep" - fall asleep. A euphemism for the death of a believer. The image carries the sense that death for a believer is not permanent since we will rise to life (awake) in the day of resurrection. Soul sleep is not intended, rather that the death of a believer is not permanent.

 
v7 epeita .... eita .. "then ..... then ...." - As in v5.

Iakwbw/ dat. "to James" - The dative as for "Cephas", v5. Obviously, James, the Lord's brother, who became a leading figure in the Jerusalem church, but who was not a believer prior to Jesus' crucifixion.

pasin adj. dat. "to all" - Emphatic by position.

 
v8

de "and" - but, and. Here coordinative.

escaton adv. "last" - lastly. Best taken as an adverb, "lastly", the last of this list of believers who saw the risen Lord. Bruce suggests the last of the apostles; possibly temporal, even status, "the least of all the apostles." "Finally, he appeared to me", CEV.

pantwn gen. pro. "of all" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

kamoi adv. "[he appeared to] me also" - The construction kai emoi takes the sense "to me also." This adverb appears at the end of the Greek sentence, serving to underline the fact that Paul was also privileged to see the risen Lord.

wJsperei "as" - as though, as it were, sort of. Idiomatic comparative - wJsper + ei = "just as if."

ektrwmati (ektrwma) dat. "to one abnormally born" - the one untimely born. The dative as for "Cephas", v5. Usually understood as an abnormal birth or the birth of a dead fetus, but also possibly untimely birth, in the sense that Paul's ministry commenced without due gestation ie. he had not been with Christ from the beginning of his public ministry. Possibly in the sense that Christ's appearances had ceased since his ascension and therefore his appearance to Paul was "untimely". It was very gracious of God to appoint Paul as an apostle without this due gestation. Did the word actually originate with Paul's critics? Was there the suggestion that Paul was an unformed, even a freakish apostle?

 
v9

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul can be described as one "untimely born."

egw pro. "I [am]" - Emphatic by position and use.

oJ elacistoV (mikroV) + gen. adj. sup. "the least" - the smallest of. Of rank, and this because he persecuted the church. "The very least", Thiselton.

twn apostolwn (oV) gen. "of the apostles" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

oJV "-" who [is not worthy to be called]. The relative pronoun doesn't really take a causal sense as RV; "I am the least of the apostles that I am not meet to be called an apostle." "I am the least of the apostles, not deserving the name apostle", Berkeley

iJkanoV adj. "deserve" - qualified, sufficient, able, worthy, capable, competent. Predicate adjective. Possibly "competent", in the sense of not possessing the credentials or the background training of an apostle who had been with Jesus, or in the ethical sense, "worthy / fit" to serve as an apostle because of his persecution of the church.

kaleisqai (kalew) pres. inf. "to be called [an apostle]" - Epexegetic infinitive clarifying the intended sense of "[do not even] deserve / [I am not] worthy"

dioti "because" - Serving to introduce a causal clause; "because I caused the Christian to suffer", TH. "Seeing that I was a man who persecuted the church of God", Cassirer.

thn ekklhsian tou qeou "the church of God" - A universal descriptive of the church, rather than saying the church in Jerusalem. The genitive "of God" is probably adjectival, possessive.

 
v10

cariti (iV itoV) dat. "by the grace" - Instrumental dative, expressing means / cause. Paul is most likely referring to God's kindness in appointing him as apostle to the Gentiles, rather than to God's kindness in saving him.

qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - Either the grace that comes from God (genitive of origin, ie. ablative), or the God-like grace (genitive of description, ie. adjectival, limiting).

oJ rel. pro. neu. "[I am] what [I am]" - The "what" is Paul's apostleship .

hJ eiV eme "to me" - which [grace] was given to me. Extended to me; "toward me", NRSV.

ou kenh (oV) "[was] not without effect" - [being] not without content, substance, not empty, vain / not without success, results, effects, not fruitless. The second set of meanings is favored by BAGD.

alla "no" - but, on the contrary. Adversative force.

perissoteron adv. comp. "[I worked] harder" - even more, so much more. Paul is not arguing for total passivity here when it comes to the operation of God's grace. He had to push himself to "work harder", he had to apply effort for the gospel. Yet, this effort is better seen as a cooperating with the inworking Spirit of Christ. He didn't do it to get "brownie points" from God, to win his approval, make himself better, pay off God, or pay him back, or even to guarantee his standing in the sight of God, he did it because he was impelled by the life-giving power of his risen Lord. "I toiled harder than all the rest of them put together", Barclay.

autwn gen. pro. "than [all] of them" - The genitive is ablative, of comparison.

de "yet [not I]" - but, and. Here contrastive, possibly taking a concessive sense; "although not I."

alla "but" - Strong adversative - ouk ... alla, counterpoint, "not ... but ...."

sun + dat. "that was with [me]" - with [me]. Expressing association. Paul indeed has labored for the gospel as apostle to the Gentiles, but his work, and particularly the fruit of his work, is down to Spirit working in and through him.

 
v11

eite ..... eite ..... "whether .... or ...." - A coordinate conditional construction.

oun "then" - therefore. Possibly resumptive, "anyway", NJB, but probably inferential, drawing a logical conclusion, as NIV.

ouJtwV adv. "this is what" - thus, so, in this way. Taken as an adverb; "so we preach and so ye believed", RV. Most modern translations treat it as an adjective, which it can be; "this" = "this is the message that" = the message of the gospel.

khrussomen (khrussw) pres. "we preach" - The gospel tradition is preserved in the preaching of Paul, just as it is preserved in the preaching of the apostles. Both Paul and the apostles proclaim the resurrection of Christ.

episteusate (pisteuw) aor. "you believed". The action is punctiliar, the gospel believed at conversion; "this has been the foundation of your faith", Phillips.

 

1 Corinthians Introduction.

Exposition

 

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