A Review of I Corinthians 15.

Key Notes: Source of Paul's religion. Summary of Jesus' resurrection appearances. Paul's revelation comes later. Negative views of the resurrection. Christ vs. Adam, our representatives. Three resurrections at different times in history. Jesus is subordinate to the Father.

Did Paul invent Christianity?

15:1–3 “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.” The Corinthian received what Paul had received, not what he invented. Critics have accused Paul of a different Gospel than Christ preached, of essentially creating the New Testament. Paul would not agree. Long before his modern critics, Paul made it clear that what he wrote was not his invention. He had received it.

"…the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus.” (Acts.20:24)
“I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you.” (ICor.11:23)
“I want you to know, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached by me was not man’s Gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal.1:11–12)

For our sins?

15:3–5 Christ died. That is history.
Christ died for our sins. That is revelation, something we know only from God.
There is a gap between those who know that Christ died, and those who know that it was for our sins, for my sins. That attaches something that happened 2000 years ago to me. It makes all the difference in the world.

15:5–8  Paul lists six appearances of Christ (in order) after the resurrection. Plainly he is leading up to something which he did not state in the beginning of the chapter. What is notable about the people Jesus appeared to?

*Peter. Lk.24:34
*The Eleven (several times, with Judas gone). Matt.28:16; Mk.16:14; Lk.24:36–42; Jn.20:19–29
*More than 500, some still living.
*James, presumably the brother of Jesus.
*All the Apostles, presumably at the Ascension. Acts.1:3,4
*Lastly to Paul, on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:1–19

Jesus appeared ten times to the disciples over 40 days according to the record of Acts 1:3. He appeared to one, two, ten, eleven, and 500. You may be able to confuse one or two, but not the same group twice
and not 500 at once.

Paul left out the witness of Mary Magdalene (Mk.16:9;  Jn.20:11–18) presumably because the witness of women was not accepted in legal circles. But God preserved her testimony so that we would know that Jesus’ first resurrection words were to a woman.

It has been observed that three of the six visitations  were to people who had hurt Jesus by their rejection-- Peter, Jesus’ brother James (Jn.7:5), and Paul. He spoke to them individually.

15:8 Paul was an abortion? He describes himself as born out of the right time. The Greek word is used for abortion, born at the wrong time, miscarried, unfit. He came to Christ violently, as if torn from the womb of Judaism. He may have wished that he had been in the original Twelve, and did not have to carry the guilt of persecuting the Church. Unlike the other apostles, he did not have the privilege of maturing as an active disciple for three and a half years. He had a lot of work to do to come to the same degree of maturity. But special grace was given to him to go beyond the rest.

What were the philosophies that Paul had to counter in dealing with resurrection ?

15:12 Some Corinthians did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.
There would be a variety of reasons why people were doubtful. The after-life was a swirl of confusing ideas coming from Jewish, Greek, and Christian sources.

*The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. They relied on the teachings of the Pentateuch which does not give direct information about resurrection. The evidence for resurrection and eternal life are found in Job, the Psalms, and the Prophets.
*Plato believed in the immortality of the soul. He was an idealist. Matter was weak and corrupt. He considered the body a prison, and when it died, the soul was freed. Resurrection would be a return to prison!
Other Greek philosophers such as Lucretius understood that the human body, like the rest of the material world, was composed of atoms which went back into the earth to be recycled. They were materialists. There was no possibility of reuniting the same atoms again.
*Some Christians thought the resurrection was already past (IITim.2:18) Others later, thought the Day of the Lord had already come (IIThes.2:2), for example, after the destruction of Jerusalem (70AD), reading Matt.24:15.

Is it necessary to believe in the resurrection in order to be a Christian?

15:12–19 The resurrection is a key doctrine for Christians. Paul rightly says that without it we are all liars, our faith is futile and we are still in sin. It is probably not possible to be a Christian and disbelieve the resurrection. Romans 10:9 makes faith in Jesus’ resurrection one of two criteria for salvation.

15:20–2 Federal headship is hard to grasp. The comparison of Adam and Christ is extended in Romans 5. An outline of the two passages may simplify the concepts, which are admittedly difficult.

First, a comparison.

An original creation A unique generation
Created in image of God Gen.2:7 The image of God Col.1:15
Created sinless Gen.2:17   Created sinless Lk.1:35
Dominion over creation Gen.1:28 Dominion over creation ICor.15:27
Type of One to come Rom.5:14 The One to come
Tempted by Satan, yielded Tempted by Satan, victorious

Now the  contrasts.

  • In him all die ICor. 15:22
    • One trespass Rom.5:18
      • Many died Rom.5:15
      • Condemnation
      • Death Reigned
    • A living being
    • We have born his image
  • In Him all are made alive ICor.15:22
    • One act of righteousness Rom. 5:18
      • Much more, grace abounds
      • Justification Rom.5:16
      • Receive the gift; reign in life
    • A life-giving Spirit ICor.15:45
    • We shall bear his image ICor.15:4

The concept of corporate responsibility and representative headship help to explain the comparison. It is in decided contrast to our individualism, but something we intuitively understand about nations, corporations and churches. The corporation is an individual for legal purposes. It can be honored (Apple), humiliated (Enron), sued (McDonald), taxed, or ruined (Studebaker), although there may be  thousands of people involved.
Churches are represented by their pastors, states by their governors, nations by their premiers or presidents. Leaders are held responsible for what happens; their actions affect the lives of all under their supervision. Heb.7:1–10 uses this concept in another setting: Levi was “still in the loins” of Abraham when he gave tithes to Melchizedek. So Levi is thought of as paying tithes to Melchizedek through his ancestor Abraham.

If we understand the biblical analogy between Adam and Christ correctly
            All people are identified in Adam. He acted as our representative.
                        Result: all sinned: his original sin yielded death for all.
            All people are identified in Christ. He acted as our representative.
                        Result: redemptive grace available to all.
            All people voluntarily participate in acts of rebellion like Adam's. (This is implied.)
                        Result: our own iniquity yields death for all.
            All people may voluntarily participate in Christ’s atonement.
                        Result: justification and salvation for those who trust Him.

We may think that being charged with something Adam did is unfair, but then being forgiven for something Christ did is equally unfair. We cannot have one without the other.

How many resurrections will there be?

15:23 We understand that there are three resurrections in an order: first, then, and then.
 The order of the resurrections:
*Christ the first-fruits, the fore-runner (Heb.6:22), our pioneer. Heb.2:10
*Then at His Coming, those who belong to Him. IThes.4:16–17. “Blessed and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power….” (Rev.20:6)
*Then comes the end, when H destroys all rule, authority and power and finally death itself . The unrighteous dead are also brought to life and judged. Rev. 20:12.

Is Jesus subject to the Father? Will he always be?

15:28 The subordination of Christ to the Father is a key of His earthly existence.
“The head of Christ is God.” (ICor.11:3). See John 5 for Jesus own detailed account of His relationship to the Father. However, it is clear that the name “Son” applies for all eternity, and that He is eternally subject to the Father.

And we are eternally subject to Him.