During the past several years it has been the privilege of the undersigned writer to have given expository essays on several Chapters of the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians.
I believe that a perusal of the past issues of The Standard Bearer will bear out that I have written separate series of essays on I Corinthians 1-4; I Corinthians 7; I Corinthians 12-14, and other separate essays on other texts in this epistle.
When one writes continuously, and for many years, it is heartening, to say the least, to receive word from a reader that he or she enjoys, or has enjoyed a certain series of articles from one’s pen. Occasionally the undersigned receives such comments. I would like to take this opportunity to thank these readers for such expressions of appreciation. Although one does not live by applause it nevertheless gives added impetus for new and other series of articles when such appreciation is expressed.
Recently a, reader requested that I write on I Corinthians 15. Since I am now finished with the exposition of Romans 14, 15, I will at this time comply with that request. I do so because I believe that this chapter contains very much matter of real and vital instruction concerning the hope of the Gospel of Christ. It is rich in implication concerning the meaning of the resurrection of Christ, and concerning our blessed resurrection, and lastly, but not least, concerning the truth of the resurrection as it is the cardinal factor wherein God becomes all in all in the whole creation in Christ.
Permit us to quote the first section of this fifteenth chapter of the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. It reads as follows:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you, first of all, that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he arose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve . . . Wherefore whether it were I or they, so we preach and so ye believed.”.
Looking at this section, these first eleven verses, we believe that we should call attention to the following salient points.
Pauls Concern For The Truth Of The Gospel.
(Verses 1, 2, 11)
Paul indicates at the very outset in these verses, that, in this chapter, he is touching upon the very heart of the gospel. When some, in the church at Corinth, said that “there is no resurrection out of the dead” they were not simply denying some peripheral detail, some matter lying at the outer circumference of the gospel, but they put the knife at the jugular vein of the truth of the gospel. Deny the truth and the fact of the resurrection and one denies the very glad-tidings of salvation itself. It is because of this that Paul labors to establish once more in the mind of the Corinthian saints what he and the other apostles had preached, and what they had believed. He ends this section with the very terse saying, “Wherefore whether it were I or they, so we preach and so ye believed.”
Indeed that is elegantly and concisely stated. —
We do well, therefore, to take a bit more careful notice of Paul’s point of departure in this chapter.
This point of departure is twofold. And thus Paul establishes the Status Quo in the church. Paul makes a point of it to insist that whatsoever he had preached in their midst it was what he “had received.” When he first came to Corinth on his second missionary journey (see Acts 18) he “delivered” to them what he had received from the Lord. He had come to them as an ambassador, as a herald in the name of Christ. He had determined to know nothing among them save Jesus Christ and him crucified, with all of its implications. And he had faithfully performed the task of such a messenger of Christ. Do we not read in Acts 18:5, “and when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.” And, again, do we not read of Apollos, in Acts 18:28 that “he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the Scriptures, that Jesus was the Christ” ?
Particularly two points were the chief subject in this convincing of the people that Jesus was the Christ. It was that this appears in his death and in hisresurrection.
Such had been the central theme of all Paul’s preaching. That had been the very heart of it. He preached this as one unit. The one belonged with the other in the gospel story of redemption. This is very beautifully expressed in Romans 4:25, where we read, “who was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification.” This certainly means that because we were sinners, Christ died for us. It was a vicarious death. And that Christ might come forth from the grave to proclaim to us that our sins are no more, and to give us immortality and life.
What a sordid commentary on human nature that Paul must, with might and main, defend this position of the gospel, and that so soon after he had preached it to them. Fact is, that due to the Jewish leaders Paul was not even welcome in this church. They looked at him askance. But he will defend the central truth of the gospel, nonetheless. The love of Christ constrains him.
What glorious gospel that Christ came forth on the third day, according to the Scriptures, because he died according to the Scriptures for our sins. CompareIsaiah 53:8-9; Luke 24:26. Does not the resurrected Christ say to the travelers to Emmaus, “Must not the Christ suffer all these things and thus enter into his glory.” And do we not read that “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” See also Luke 24:44. Thus it was according to the Scriptures that Christ arose from the dead on the “third day.” Is there not a remote reference to this already in such passages II Kings 20:5,Isaiah 54:7 and Hosea 6:2? And is not the prophecy of Jonah most explicit on this score where we read, “And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights”? (Jonah 1:17.) And does not our Lord himself interpret this as the sign of his own death and resurrection in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
Such was the gospel which Paul had received and such was what he had “delivered” to the church at Corinth. That determines what is truth in the church!
They who deny this are false teachers, and put the knife to the jugular vein; let none be deceived by them!
On the other hand such was also the truth in which the church “believed,” unless they had believed in vain. It was possible that they had only rejoiced for, a season, and that they had become confirmed apostates. But if they were not, then surely they were such that they were saved by the truth delivered unto them, and they were confirmed in this truth and stood in it, and they had indeed received it with believing hearts.
Thus the truth of the gospel is confirmed in their minds.
Such is Paul’s concern; such is his point of departure!
Besides, the truth of the Gospel, as sealed in the resurrection of Christ, is attested to by many reliable witnesses. Paul mentions them here in verses 5-10. He really has two classes of witnesses.
First of all there are the witnesses which we might call the regular witnesses. They witness Christ after his resurrection and before his ascension to heaven. They are given by Paul in the following order here:
1. First of all by Cephas (vs. 5).
2. Then by the “twelve” on the evening of the day of the resurrection. Compare also Luke 24 and John 20:19 (vs. 5).
3. Then He was witnessed by about five hundred brethren at once, the greater part of whom were still alive when Paul wrote these lines (vs. 6).
4. Then by James, the brother of the Lord (vs. 7).
5. Last of all by the apostles at the occasion of the ascension to heaven (vs. 8).
Secondly, Paul puts himself in a class of witnesses all by himself. He did not witness the risen Lord prior to his ascension to heaven. It was on the road to Damascus that Paul saw the Lord. Besides, the Lord himself appeared to Paul in Corinth in the night by a vision (Acts 18:9) and Paul indicates both in Gal. 1:1, and inI Cor. 11:23 that he had seen the Lord. It is true that he considers this his witnessing of Christ comparable to being as “one born out of due time” (a miscarriage) but this does not detract from the reliability of his having been a witness of the risen and glorified Lord, who was delivered for our offenses and raised for our justification.
Thus the truth stands attested.
In the marvelous providence of God Paul received this “vision” of Christ as a great mercy. What he is and has done is all the grace of God. And therein he glories.
Thus the foundation is laid for that which Paul will now “make known” unto the Corinthians. It should be noticed that Paul employs a rather peculiar term here in verse 1, when he says: “moreover, brethren, Ideclare unto you . . .” The verb “declare” is a translation of the term in Greek “Gnoorizoo,” which means: “to make known” and not simply to “call to mind.” The latter term is a translation of the verb “ana-mimneeskoo.” An instance of the latter we find in I Cor. 4:17: “. . . who shall put you in remembrance of my ways which are in Christ Jesus.” However, Paul would do more than simply put the Corinthians in remembrance of what he had taught them during his year and a half stay in their midst. He will “make known” unto them more in detail the implication of the resurrection of Christ for the entire plan of salvation, the ‘mystery of godliness. For the use of the term make known we refer to such clear passages as Rom. 9:22-23 ;John 15:15 and John 17:26.
In all of these passages mention is made of making known of something which was hitherto hid, and which is known only by revelation. Hence, Paul will reveal the fuller implications of the truth of the resurrection, which he had, indeed, preached to them while in their midst.
This is corroborated by a bird’s-eye view of this entire chapter. Paul will call attention, therefore, in the sequence of this chapter (verses 12-58) to the following points:
1. The central meaning itself for the gospel as such of the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Verses 12-19. 2. The meaning of the resurrection for Christ’s exaltation as the “First-fruits,” the subjection of all things under his feet, and for our deliverance from sin and death, that “God may be all in all.” Verses 20-28.
3. The meaning which the doctrine and fact of the resurrection has for Christian ethics. Verses 29-34.
4. The manner of the resurrection and the nature of the resurrection, as it transforms us into the immortality of Christ and the final victory over death.