1 COR. 15:1-20: “Things of First Importance Doctrinally

By

Jim Bomkamp

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1.                  INTRO:

1.1.         In our last study we finished looking at Paul’s exhortation to the church concerning how spiritual gifts are to be expressed and supervised within the church meetings, which was really a several part study beginning in chapter 12

1.2.         In our study today, we are going to begin in chapter 15.  In this chapter, we can see that Paul is concerned because he has heard either from Cloe’s people or some other source that some in the church in Corinth are wavering in their belief in the essential doctrines that a person must believe in order to come to salvation through Christ, and thus he attempts to remind the Corinthians of these teachings he had already taught them when he had been their pastor.  Paul then reiterates for the Corinthians the most essential doctrines of the Christian faith in chapter 15

1.2.1.  Paul tells the Corinthians that these are the essential truths that must be believed in order to be saved

1.2.2.  There are many things about which we Christians might disagree and yet maintain fellowship with each other, however in this chapter Paul lays out some doctrinal essentials that we must believe if in fact we are truly Christians

1.2.3.  Paul tells the Corinthians that they will be saved if they hold fast to these doctrines

1.2.4.  Paul tells them that these doctrines are accepted into our Christian belief system because they are according to the scriptures, in other words because the Old Testament taught these essential truths

2.                 VS 15:1-2  - 1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,  2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. -  Paul tells the Corinthians that he is now going to make known to them ‘the gospel’ or “good news” by which they are saved

2.1.         In America today, there is a real popular idea that is promoted in all of the media organizations that it does not matter what someone believes, that all faith is good, and that faith in and of itself is what is important.  We Christians are pressured on every side to be tolerant of others beliefs and lifestyles, even when they are alternative lifestyles which are contrary to what the scriptures teach us to about how we are supposed to live.  Dave Hunt in his new book, “An Urgent Call To A Serious Faith,” points out how that this emphasis upon tolerance in our nation today has actually caused us to be narrow-minded, A conviction that there is a definite way to heaven is not tolerated in this day of professed tolerance because it assumes that all roads don’t lead to the same place, that truth does exist, and that there is a distinction between what is right and what is wrong.  Instead of such old-fashioned convictions, ecumenical broad-mindedness is the new wave for the new millennium.  We are expected to set aside the rational necessity of being certain about our eternal destiny in favor of a mindless tolerance that promises only to avoid religious arguments in this life but offers no sensible assurance for the next…And to be tolerant of a false hope which has deceived multitudes and will lead them to destruction can hardly be the stance of one who truly loves others…In his landmark book, The Closing Of The American Mind, Chicago philosophy professor Alan Bloom pointed out that the one virtue in America these days seems to be openness to anything and everything as equally valid behaviors or points of view.  Any and every opinion is greeted with equal tolerance—not conviction, but tolerance.  It would be unacceptable dogmatism in most circles today to say that truth exists.  That would mean that those who did not accept it would be wrong—and not one must be wrong.  Dr. Bloom points out that we have become so open to everything that our minds have been closed to the idea that something may indeed be true and something else false.  The closing of the American mind through openness!  That is exactly what is happening in the post-rational era which has overtaken our universities and seminaries and the thinking of many church leaders.”

2.1.1.  Paul is very specific in this chapter about what are the essential truths a person must believe in order to be saved. 

2.2.         Paul is writing this chapter of 1 Corinthians in order that he might soberly point out the very clear distinctions of the ‘gospel’ message that he preached, which is the only message by which a person might be saved.  The Corinthians had come to salvation through believing not just any random faith-based idea, but the God-ordained truth concerning Jesus Christ.

2.2.1.  Imagine a minute that I were to be on a flight upon a jet liner and during my flight a message came across the intercom that the pilot had fallen over dead from a heart attack and that there was no one to fly the plane.  Then the plea would come, “Is there anyone who would be willing to talk with a flight instructor by radio and land the plane?”  I would think to myself, I can do this, after all even though I don’t know how to fly a plane surely I can follow the directions of a flight instructor and land the plane, after all I’ve seen people on television who have done this.  So, I go to the cockpit, sit in the pilot’s chair and put on the radio headsets to talk with the flight instructor.  Now, I want you to know that I’m going to pay very close attention to ever detail that the flight instructor tells me over the headset, because you see this is a life or death situation.  Likewise, if I were tomorrow to go into the hospital for an open heart surgery to replace a valve in my heart, I’m going to be concerned that the doctor follow the procedures for this operation very closely because, again you see this is also a life or death situation.  Paul in this chapter is telling the Corinthians the most essential doctrines of the Christian religions, the ones that a person must believe if they are going to be able to go to heaven and have eternal life.  These doctrines provide for us life or death choices, for if we believe them and yield our lives to the Lord Jesus we will inherit eternal life.  However, if we ignore or refuse to believe them we will spend eternity in Hell.    

2.2.2.  Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ as he says in Rom. 1:16 for it is only this gospel that has the power to bring people to salvation, “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek”. 

2.2.2.1.As we will emphasize in this chapter, it is the resurrection of Christ which gives the gospel its power to save people.

2.2.3.  In the New Testament, we see that when people convert to Christianity by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior by faith, that the scriptures testify they were “immediately” saved. 

2.2.3.1.Salvation then is something that a person receives at a moment in time, and something for which he then can have assurance that when he leaves this life that he will go to be with God in heaven. 

2.2.3.2.A man’s salvation is not something that he might wishfully hope that he will be granted when he leaves this life, but rather it is a personal possession received at that very moment of receiving Christ. 

2.2.3.3.Also, it is not a process that a person goes through, nor is it a possession that a person becomes worthy of after trying to live a God-fearing life for a period of time.  A guilty wretched sinner receives eternal salvation the very moment he asks Christ into his life. 

2.3.         Eternal Salvation is received at a moment in time by a believer when He receives Christ as Lord and Savior, and yet this salvation is seen in the scriptures with three aspects to it:   the PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE:

2.3.1.  PAST

2.3.1.1.We are immediately saved from our sins, and the penalty of the debt of sin that we owe to the Lord.

2.3.1.2.Here are just a few of the many verses from the New Testament that show that assurance of eternal salvation was something that was a present possession of believers in Christ:

2.3.1.2.1.Acts 2:47: “…And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

2.3.1.2.2.Acts 16:31:  “31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.””

2.3.1.2.3.Rom. 8:24:  “24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?”

2.3.1.2.4.Rom. 10:13:  “13 for “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.””

2.3.1.2.5.2 Cor. 6:2:  “2 for He says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you” ;behold, now is “the acceptable time,”  behold, now is “the day of salvation””

2.3.1.2.6.Eph. 2:8-9:  “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”

2.3.1.2.7.Titus 3:5:  “5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”

2.3.2.  PRESENT

2.3.2.1.We are being saved from the power of sin in our life daily as we reckon our old man dead to sin and our new man being alive to God.

2.3.2.2.The New Testament uses this present sense of being saved in verses such as the following:

2.3.2.2.1.1 Cor. 1:18:  “18 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

2.3.2.2.2.2 Cor. 1:6:  “6 But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer.”

2.3.2.2.3.2 Cor. 2:15:  “15 For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”

2.3.2.2.4.Phil. 2:12:  “12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

2.3.3.  FUTURE

2.3.3.1.We will one day be saved from the presence of sin when Jesus comes for His church and gives us a new resurrected body like His which will be of power and glory.

2.3.3.2.The New Testament uses this future sense of receiving salvation in verses such as the following:

2.3.3.2.1.1 Peter 1:5:  “5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

2.3.3.2.2.1 Thess. 5:9:  “9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2.3.3.2.3.Heb. 9:28:  “28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

2.3.3.2.4.By receiving Christ we are receiving the salvation of our very souls which would otherwise be damned to an eternity separated from God in Hell.  We see this in verses such as 1 Peter 1:9, “9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

2.4.         In this verse, Paul tells the Corinthians that he is going to make known to them the gospel, or “good news”, which he had already preached among them, and which they had already received and believed.  For the most part, the Corinthians were ‘standing’ on, or ‘believing’, the essentials of Christian doctrine.  Those who had been saved had been saved by believing those essential truths of the ‘gospel’ which Paul lays out in this chapter.  They must have surrendered their lives to Christ and believed these things or they wouldn’t have been saved.

2.5.         Paul tells the Corinthians that they will be saved if they hold fast to the gospel as they received it, the gospel which is primarily based upon Jesus’ death upon the cross for the sins of mankind and His bodily resurrection.  If they deny these essential truths, they will end up to have had that faith which cannot save anyone, that faith which Paul says in this verse ‘is in vain’.

2.5.1.  There are many people whom the scriptures reveal have a faith in Jesus, however it is not a faith of the saving kind, not a saving faith. 

2.5.1.1.We see this truth in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower and the various types of soil described.  In that parable each of the soils except the soil by the wayside typifies those who have come to believe in Jesus, yet everyone who believed of the various soils will eventually show that they have had a spurious conversion by falling away, except that is, those who are of the “good soil”. 

2.5.1.2.We see this truth in Matt. 7:20-23 where Jesus says, 20 "So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness'”.

2.5.1.3.In the second chapter of the book of James we read that James attempts to reveal that true saving faith produces results in a person’s life.  He writes in Ja. 2:26 that “…faith without works is dead,” indicating that if anyone has the true type of faith that their life will be changed.  Works are not required for salvation, but they are the result produced by coming to salvation. 

2.6.         In this verse, Paul tells the Corinthians that there is salvation for them in Christ, as long as they continued to believe in Him and these essential doctrines, and as along as they continued to commit themselves to Him as their Lord and Savior.

2.6.1.  This reminds me very much of what Paul wrote in Hebrews 2:1-3 about how we must be careful not to wander away from the gospel doctrines which we have received and believed for salvation, “1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense,3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.”

2.6.1.1.In these verses, Paul uses an analogy of a boat that is moored at a dock and yet because it is not secured properly it ends up drifting out to sea. 

2.6.1.2.Drifting away from believing in those essential doctrines that must be believed for a person to come to salvation would indicate that a person has never truly had saving faith in Christ!

2.6.2.  We Christians must also continue to walk with Christ if we are to have that assurance of our salvation.  There is assurance of our salvation only as we are obedient to Jesus as our Lord and master. 

3.                 VS 15:3  - 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, -  Paul begins to tell the Corinthians the things of first importance doctrinally, and to begin he states here that we must understand that Jesus did in fact die for our sins, and that happened according to the Scriptures

3.1.         Paul likewise tells the Corinthians that these doctrines which were of prime importance to the church he had ‘received’ by direct revelation of Christ. 

3.1.1.  Receiving this revelation shows that Paul qualifies as an apostle. 

3.1.2.  Also, we need to see that Paul was not the originator of these doctrines, but merely a messenger boy for the King of Kings.

3.2.         In this verse, Paul next tells the Corinthians that Christ died for our sins ‘according to the Scriptures’.  The Old Testament scriptures were full of Messianic references, both for Christ’s first and second comings to the earth.  Over 300 of these prophesies from the Old Testament were fulfilled in His first advent to the earth.  In Luke 24:27, we read that on the road to Emmaus the resurrected Christ, whom the two disciples did not recognize initially, went through the Old Testament scriptures and revealed to them the verses which referred to Christ’s coming to earth the first time to die on the cross for the sins of the world, 27 And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures”.  Here are some of the prophetic Old Testament references to Christ dying for the sins of the world:

3.2.1.  The first Old Testament reference to Christ dying for our sins is found in Gen. 3:15 where it is written that the seed (singular) of the woman would bruise the serpent on the head, “15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed;  He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.””

3.2.1.1.Christ is that singular seed prophesied in this verse who would descend from Eve and who would vanquish once for all the serpent, the Devil.

3.2.2.  In Isaiah 53:1-11 we see that the death of Christ for the transgressions of mankind is so clearly revealed, “1 Who has believed our message?  And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground;  He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.  3 He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;  And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried;  Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.  5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities;  The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.  6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way;  But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.  7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth;  Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before   its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.  8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away;  And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living, For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?  9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.  10 But the Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief;  If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.  11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied;  By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.”

3.2.3.  In Dan. 9:24-27, Daniel wrote and informed us of the remaining prophetic timetable for God completing all of His deeds relating to the issuing in of the Messiah and the procuring of salvation for mankind:  “24 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.25 “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.””

3.2.3.1.Note in these verses how the coming of the Messiah to the earth is directly linked to the finishing of transgression, making an end of sin, and making atonement for iniquity!

3.3.         In the New Testament we read in numerous places about how Christ died on the cross for our sins so that we might be saved through Him:

3.3.1.  Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:24 about how that Christ had born our sins in His body on the cross, “24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”

3.3.2.  We see this reflected in the preaching of the apostles in the book of Acts:

3.3.2.1.Acts 3:18-21: “18 “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled.19 “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you,21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.”

3.3.2.2.Acts 26:22-23:  “22 “And so, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place;23 that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.””

3.4.         One thing that I do want to point out and it is really important in order for us to truly see the evidence the scripture gives us for believing that Christ raised from the dead, and that is that Paul writes here that Jesus ‘died’. 

3.4.1.  He didn’t appear to be dead, but was really alive.

3.4.2.  He didn’t just go unconscious and then later revive. 

3.4.3.  If the gospels reveal anything about the events that occurred on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, they reveal that He had to have died.  After receiving being beaten with fists, beaten with rods, given 39 lashes with a Cat-of-9-tails, being hung on the cross for 6 hours, having the Roman soldiers be so convinced of His death that they didn’t break His legs to bring about a quick death, and having His side pierced with a sword that entered all of the way into His heart so that water and blood poured out, we know that Jesus had to have died.

4.                 VS 15:4  - 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, -  Paul tells us that the next primal doctrine is the fact that Christ was buried and then rose from the dead on the third day

4.1.         This is one of the foundational verses concerning Christ in the New Testament.  The gospels tells us that the body of Jesus was procured by Joseph of Arimathea, who was a member of the Sanhedrin and a secret disciple, and that he took the body and buried it in one of the tombs that he owned.  However, it was on the third day afterward that Jesus was raised. 

4.2.         Jesus predicted that He would rise after three days, and then He came through with His promise.  This is the one sign that Jesus said that He would give to men when they kept asking Him for a sign, John 2:18-22, “18 The Jews therefore answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, seeing that You do these things?”19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”20 The Jews therefore said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.22 When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken.”

4.3.         The doctrine of the resurrection of Christ formed the foundation of all that the apostles preached and taught after Christ was resurrected. 

4.3.1.  The first two sermons preached after that time had the bodily resurrection of Christ as their theme. 

4.3.2.  The resurrection of Christ was the key to Christian doctrine because through seeing that Christ was raised from the dead Christians come to understand that when Christ was resurrection He conquered sin, death, hell, the grave, and the Devil. 

4.3.3.  Belief in the resurrection was such a primary doctrine of the Christian faith, that without believing in Christ’s bodily resurrection, Paul taught in Romans 10:9 that a person could not be saved, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. 

4.3.4.  A dead Jesus could save no one.  He could at best only provide us a good example to follow.

4.4.         Paul writes here that it was ‘according to the Scriptures’ that Christ rose from the dead, and in the Old Testament we find the resurrection of Christ prophesied to occur in Psalm 16:8-10, which is a Messianic Psalm that predicted that the Messiah’s body would not be corrupted after His dying,  “8 I have set the Lord continually before me;  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;  My flesh also will dwell securely.10 For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol;  Neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.”

4.5.         We Christians ought to be encouraged by the evidence that God has left to us that Christ did in reality rise from the dead.  Since the details from scripture as well as secular history (primarily the Jewish historian Josephus) provide so much support for the belief in Christ’s resurrection, we Christians must be confident that through our faith in Christ as our Lord and Savior, that we have the assurance of our eternal salvation.

4.5.1.  Through the evidence that supports Christ’s bodily resurrection, we Christians can be assured of the fact that the scripture’s testimony concerning Christ is true and that He in fact has conquered sin, death, hell, and the grave.  Therefore, we have the hope that we too can be conquerors of sin, death, hell, and the grave through Him!

5.                 VS 15:5  - 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. -  Paul tells the Corinthians that the resurrected Jesus appeared to Peter

5.1.         None of the gospels reveal a time when Christ personally revealed Himself to Peter, however we must believe that this truly did happen.  Since Peter had before Christ’s resurrection denied knowing Jesus three times, and because of Peter’s primary leadership role amongst the apostles, Jesus evidently thought it necessary to spend some time personally alone with Peter.

5.2.         Paul says in this verse that Jesus also appeared to ‘the twelve’, although there were only eleven apostles at the time of Christ’s appearances to them.  So, the 12 must just refer in general to their office.

6.                 VS 15:6  - 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; -  Paul tells the Corinthians that the resurrected Jesus appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time, although some of those have now gone to be with the Lord

6.1.         The gospels do not record this event of Christ appearing to five hundred of the brethren at once, and so we must conjecture when this appearance might have been.  It may have been at His ascension, or it may have been in Galilee, as immediately upon His having been discovered as resurrected, Jesus told His disciples to all go and gather in Galilee where He would appear to them.

6.2.         Paul tells the Corinthians that this bunch of witnesses is a pretty credible bunch since most of them are ‘remaining’ still alive, that is, they have not ‘fallen asleep’.

7.                 VS 15:7  - 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; -  Paul tells the Corinthians that the resurrected Jesus appeared to His half-brother James, then to all of the apostles

7.1.         The James referred to here is most probably not James, one of the “sons of thunder”, nor James the Less, the son of Alphaes, but rather Jesus’ half-brother who later comes into a prominent ministry as the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. 

7.1.1.  Before Christ’s resurrection the scriptures record that Jesus’ brothers were not believing in Him, so it appears that perhaps in this appearance of Jesus to His half-brother James, that it must have resulted in his conversion.

7.1.2.  James, the half-brother of Jesus, went on to become the pastor of the church in Jerusalem after Peter had initially headed the young church.

7.2.         Paul says here that Jesus next appeared to the apostles.  He had just before said that Jesus appeared to the twelve.  We know that Jesus appeared to the apostles once when Thomas wasn’t in their company, and then a week later on Sunday He again appeared to them.  This may be that second appearance which Paul is referring to in this verse.

8.                 VS 15:8  - 8 and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. -  Paul tells the Corinthians that the resurrected Jesus last appeared to him personally

8.1.         In this verse, Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus appeared to him last of all His post-resurrection appearances, and therefore Paul says of himself that he was ‘untimely born’. 

8.2.         All of the other appearances to men and women occurred before Christ’s ascension up to heaven. 

8.3.         For a few years after Christ had resurrected, we read in the book of Acts that Paul did not believe in Christ and was a vehement persecutor of the church.  Then, Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and he was converted and called into ministry.

9.                 VS 15:9-10  - 9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. -  Paul tells the Corinthians that he is unworthy to have been called an apostle because he had originally been a persecutor of the church

9.1.         Paul was very humbled by his pre-Christian life since he had persecuted the church, and evidently had been primarily responsible for the martyred deaths of several of the saints.  Paul says that he is the ‘least of the apostles’, and that he also is ‘not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God’.

9.2.            Paul did not belittle what God had done in his life in any way however, and thus he says that ‘by the grace of God I am what I am’.

9.3.            Paul says that God did not waste His time in extending His grace to Paul in salvation through faith in Christ, but on the contrary Paul honestly knew that he had worked and labored harder than any of the other men called as apostles.  Paul had been called to a life of hardship as an itinerant preacher, and he often had suffered severe persecution (which he outlines in the book of 2 Cor.).

9.4.         Paul says that he cannot take credit for any of the many things that the Lord had done through his life and ministry, because after all it was actually ‘God’s grace’ in His life that was working. 

9.4.1.  Paul wrote in chapter 2 of Philippians that in his Christian life he was merely working out in his life what Christ had already worked in.

9.5.         Paul should be the example for those who are humbled because of their past lives of sin.  We Christians should be like Paul who knew just how unworthy he was to receive any of the Lord’s grace and mercy, but also we ought to realize that by His grace we are standing and we can be obedient and courageously do all the things that He calls us to do.

10.            VS 15:11  - 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. -  Paul tells the Corinthians that regardless of which of their leaders it was that had preached this gospel to them, this is the message that they believed when they came to salvation

10.1.    Paul tells the Corinthians in essence in this verse that all of the apostles had taught the same gospel message of Christ’s bodily resurrection, a message which the Corinthians, and all true believers, had received.

11.            VS 15:12-13  - 12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; -   Paul asks the Corinthians how it could that if Christ has been raised from the dead that there could be some among them teaching that there is no resurrection of the dead?

11.1.    The people in the church in Corinth believed that Christ had been resurrected, however there were some in the church in Corinth who believed that there was to be no resurrection of believers.  I have already discussed in chapters 1 and 2 about the influence of secular philosophy upon the Corinthian church.  There were perhaps several strains of philosophy that had influenced certain of the people in the church.

11.1.1.Perhaps there were some Sadducees who had come into the church, and the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead in the afterlife.

11.1.2.Perhaps there were some who were influenced by the various pagan religions that taught various non-truths concerning the afterlife.

11.1.3.Perhaps there were some who were influenced already at this early date by the beginnings of Gnostic philosophy. 

11.1.3.1.The Gnostics believed the concept of dualism, which taught that matter was evil and spirit was good.  This belief influenced them in several ways.  Concerning Christ, they believed that He became God at His baptism when the Holy Spirit fell upon Him.  He could not as man be filled with deity, so He had to become fully God at His baptism.  They even believed that after His baptism that when He walked He didn’t leave footprints.  They also believed that He didn’t really die upon the cross, but only appeared to die, for after all God couldn’t die.  They likewise didn’t believe that He was bodily resurrected, but rather that He was spiritually resurrected.  Concerning people in the world, they didn’t believe that people could ever be bodily resurrected because the body was evil.  The Gnostics mistakenly preached hope in Christ only in this life.

11.2.    Paul tells the Corinthians in these two verses that it made no sense for them to believe that Christ had risen from the dead and yet that they themselves would not be raised from the dead at His return to rapture them.  Paul teaches that the two resurrections, Christ’s and the resurrection of all of His followers, were inextricably linked.  You cannot have one without the other.  If Christ has been raised, then also all true followers of Him shall also be raised one day.  If they will not be raised from the dead at His return, then He has never been raised from the dead either.

12.            VS 15:14  - 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. -  Paul tells the Corinthians that if Christ has not been raised from the dead then his preaching and their faith are both in vain

12.1.    Paul tells the Corinthians that if Christ has not raised from the dead, then all of the preaching that he and all of the other apostles have done was in vain and accomplished nothing except to deceive people.

12.2.    Likewise, if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then to have ‘faith’ in Him as one’s Lord and Savior will accomplish nothing, since He is a dead savior who has not the ability to save anyone from anything.  All faith in Christ then would be in ‘vain’ or worthless and fruitless.

12.3.    We know that those who call themselves Christians must believe that Christ rose from the dead, otherwise faith in Christ, God, or His scriptures makes no sense whatsoever, it would all be ‘in vain’.

13.            VS 15:15  - 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. -  Paul tells the Corinthians that if Christ has not been raised from the dead then he and the other apostles are false witnesses against the Lord

13.1.    Paul tells the Corinthians in this verse that if Christ has not raised from the dead, then a very serious consequence of this is that he and the rest of the apostles are constantly bearing false witness of the things of God and are leading people astray.  In essence, they are lying about the things that Jesus said and taught, and about what happened to Jesus upon the cross and afterwards. 

13.1.1.If this were true, then they would surely be incurring God’s wrath in great proportions.

14.            VS 15:16-17  - 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. -  Paul tells the Corinthians that if Christ has not been raised from the dead then their sins remain unforgiven

14.1.    Paul says in verse 17 that if Christ has not risen from the dead, then the faith of the Corinthians as well as all other Christians is ‘worthless’, and has no value. 

14.2.    Paul tells the Corinthians that if Christ has not raised from the dead, then their sins are not forgiven and atoned for, and they will still have to stand before God on the basis of their sins, and as a result they will suffer His condemnation to Hell, for this is what they deserve because of their sins.

15.            VS 15:18  - 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. -  Paul tells the Corinthians that if Christ has not been raised from the dead then the believers in Christ who have died have perished for eternity

15.1.    In this verse, Paul tells the Corinthians that if Christ has not been raised from the dead, that all of the saints of the Old and New Testaments who have died are lost forever.  They aren’t in heaven with God, they aren’t forgiven and redeemed people, they are condemned to Hell.

16.            VS 15:19  - 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. -  Paul tells the Corinthians that if Christ has not been raised from the dead then those who are Christians are of all men most to be pitied

16.1.    Paul tells the Corinthians in this verse that if Christians have hoped in Christ in this life only, with no guarantee of any kind of a resurrected afterlife, then they of all men should be pitied the most.

16.1.1.If this is the case we Christians have suffered the loss of material comforts, worldly pleasures and pursuits, and endured persecution at the hands of men continually for no rational reason or purpose.

16.1.2.Paul who lived such a difficult life, especially due to the persecutions he endured, as well as all of the martyrs for Christ, have suffered so greatly for no good reason if Christ has not been raised.

16.2.    In this verse, Paul is hinting that if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then all men have to look forward to is this life, and therefore, they ought to live for the things of this life since this life shall offer all of the reward they shall ever receive.  If this be the case they should “eat, drink, and be merry” and forget living this difficult Christian life.

17.            VS 15:20  - 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. -  Paul reiterates to the Corinthians that Christ has been raised from the dead, and then he says that Christ is the ‘first fruits of those who are asleep’

17.1.    The first fruits are always the first to be picked from the harvest, and therefore Paul tells the Corinthians in this verse that Christ was the first one raised from the dead of all of God’s people who shall follow Him in that way.  Paul will go on to discuss how that one day when Christ returns for His church each and every Christian shall receive the same type of glorious resurrected body as Christ has.    

17.2.    However, we must never forget that Christ is to be first or pre-eminent in everything before all of His creation, and in that sense He is also a first fruit.

 

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