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Proclaiming Christ and the Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15
by Doug Floyd

Paul is facing a challenge. In fact, he’s facing several challenges in several cities. The
basic challenge looks a bit like this. Paul enters a city and preaches the Gospel of Jesus
Christ who died for our sins, was buried, and raised again on the third day. When Paul’s
simple message of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior is proclaimed, people respond. Lives
are changed. Communities of faith are born.

The power of God working in and through the Gospel transforms individuals, families,
and even entire communities. The impact is so dramatic that long after Paul leaves, he
continues to hear reports of the people’s faith in Christ and it’s impact on their lives.

But then something strange happens. Someone else comes along after Paul and says
something like this, “Yes, Paul was right in as much as he knew. But there is more.”
Then they proceed to add their own little innovation onto the simple Gospel. In Galatia,
they suggest that circumcision and adherence to Jewish ritual law is the “something
more” that needs to be added.

There is a temptation to add something more to the simple Gospel. Often good things. If
I learn this form of spiritual prayer, I’ll be more holy. If I serve in this ministry, God will be
happy with me. If I have this spiritual experience, I’ll enter into the deep things of God.
While all these are good, they do not give me any more spiritual clout with God. My
status as a child of God comes in and through Jesus Christ alone. Various spiritual
disciplines or spiritual encounters or social service can all be proper expressions of my
faith, but my status is always rooted in Jesus Christ and Him alone.

The Corinthians are facing this problem of Jesus plus something more. Living in a
culture that tends to deny the goodness of the creation, they begin to think of the
spiritual realm as over and against the physical realm. Their “something more than
Jesus” becomes “spiritual knowledge” or “spiritual experiences.” Based on these these
“spiritual indicators,” they begin competing as to who is more spiritual.

This imbalance poisons their simple faith in Christ and threatens the communion of love.
Some have begun to suggest that the the resurrection of Jesus Christ does not extend
to His people. In their thinking, our spirits may rise to some higher state but our bodies
are temporary, lower forms of existence. In their minds, there is no resurrection of the
body.

By adding secret “spiritual knowledge” to the simple gospel of Jesus Christ, they’ve
added “something more” that threatens to deny the whole of the Gospel. Paul will argue
that to deny the resurrection of God’s people is deny to deny the resurrection of Christ.
Throughout his letters, Paul argues again and again that “we are in Christ” and “Christ is
in us.” In Christ’s death, we die. In Christ’s life, we live. So to deny our resurrection to to
break this unity, to suggest that Christ didn’t rise and to profess that we are not
redeemed from the curse of sin, which is death. Their enlightened state is actually a
false witness to the goodness of God and a denial of God’s power to redeem all of His
creation.

In chapter 15, Paul decides to remind of the power and goodness of the gospel while
warning them of the threat posed by their false spiritual insights. Every line of this
chapter is packed with insight into the glory of Christ and His people. In verse 1-11, Paul
explores three themes that seem to repeat again and again: the power of preaching, the
message of the gospel, and the role of witness.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you
received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to
the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as
of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance
with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in
accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the
twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of
whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James,
then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to
me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy 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 was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them,
though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or
they, so we preach and so you believed. 1

1. The Power of the Preaching (Echoing God’s Good Word)


Paul corrects the error of the Corinthian drift toward gnosticism by reminding them of the
gospel he preached. To preach literally means to evangelize or to proclaim Evangel,
“Good News.” Paul rehearses, remembers, reviews the Good News.

a. Paul doesn’t defend himself but simply proclaims the Gospel.


In verse 8, he mentions himself as “one untimely born.” This phrase can mean
miscarriage or abortion, and some writers believe that Paul is simply quoting a negative
nickname that has been applied to him by those who believe they have now grown
beyond Paul’s primitive understanding of the faith. Instead of defending himself, he
embraces the humiliation while emphasizing the gospel he proclaims is gospel he heard
from Jesus Christ.

1 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Co 15:1–11). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
b. Paul doesn’t defend the Gospel through rhetorical flourish.
He doesn’t try to dazzle the Corinthians with amazing speeches (which would be the
common approach at the time), but he simply declares gospel. In chapter 1, verses 17-
18, Paul writes,
17
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words
of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
18
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are
being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 2

Paul’s confidence is not in his ability to deliver the Gospel, but literally in God’s power
revealed in and through Gospel proclamation.
c. Paul’s confidence in Gospel is rooted in the Hebrew confidence in God’s Word.
The power of God’s Word is revealed in Genesis 1. Moses as the deliverer of God’s
Word in the Pentateuch, reveals the power of God’s Word of creative power. The same
creative power that God reveals when speaking the world into being, He also reveals
when speaking Israel into being.

As slaves of the world’s most powerful empire, Egypt, the Children of Israel seems
completely forsaken. God sends Moses (and Aaron) to deliver His Word. His Word
defeats the Pharaoh (and his gods), breaks the chains off His people, and leads them
through the Red Sea.

This trust in God’s Word appears all through the Pentateuch, but then resurfaces all
through the Old Testament. The Psalmist composes songs in Praise of God’s Word, the
Kings learn wisdom to rule in God’s Word, and the prophets call Israel back to God’s
Word. When Jesus comes, He fulfills God’s Word. He is the Word Made Flesh. He is the
very creative power of God in the midst of His people.

In and through Jesus, the world was created, and in and through Jesus the world is
redeemed. When Paul proclaims Gospel, He is truly proclaiming the power of God unto
salvation. We should not wait for a new power for the fullness of power and might and
glory has been revealed in Jesus.

d. When Paul proclaims Gospel, He is simply echoing God’s Good Word.


Created in God’s image, we are created to echo God’s Good Word. Because God
creates each of us with unique bodies and unique personalities, each of us will echo
God’s Word in unique ways. Created to echo God’s Word, each of us has an inherent
need toward expression.

2 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Co 1:16–19). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
When we are cut off from God’s love, this drive toward expression is confined to self-
expression and is trapped by our own selfish desires. Christ restores humanities
expression/echo in his own flesh. He fully and properly says the Amen to God’s Word.
Even as Christ has restored and fulfilled the human response to God, He is working it
our in our very flesh. As we read/speak the Word, sing/pray the Psalms, speak and
encourage one another in Psalms, Hymns and spiritual songs, we are learning to hear
and speak the “Amen” to God’s Good Word.

2. The Message of the Gospel (Good News is God News)


Paul proclaims the simplicity of Gospel, the Good News of God’s love for man. In verses
3 and 4, He proclaims “Jesus Christ died for our sins ‘in accordance with Scriptures,’
was buried and raised again on the third day ‘in accordance with Scriptures.’”

a. The Gospel offends humanity.


When Paul proclaims the Good News, he is proclaiming judgment at the same time.
When Christ says, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” It is a Word of
judgment for is exposes that we all have turned against God and hate him, it exposes
that we are blind and do not know what we do, it exposes that we are separate and
hopelessly lost outside of God’s Presence.

b. The Gospel is Foolishness to humanity.


In the proclamation of the Gospel, human wisdom is revealed lacking for it cannot
perceive the Wisdom of God. Thus we should never feel like we have to prop it up with
out own impressive reasoning or charismatic charm. As Paul writes in chapter 1,

18
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are
being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this
age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom
of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly
of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks
seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to
Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of
God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and
the weakness of God is stronger than men. 3

It is the Spirit of God who opens the ears and circumcises the heart to hear the Word
proclaimed.

3 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Co 1:18–25). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
6
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so
that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you
may live.4

11
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither
is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for
us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea,
that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may
hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your
heart, so that you can do it. 5

b. The Gospel is simple enough for a child to hear.


Jesus proclaims that the Father has revealed this Gospel to little children.
25
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that
you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to
little children; 6

Jesus welcomes the little children as disciples.

13
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.
The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to
me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he
laid his hands on them and went away. 7

Jesus says that we must become like little children to grasp this Gospel.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom
of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said,
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the
kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the
kingdom of heaven. 8

4 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Dt 30:6). Wheaton: Standard Bible
Society.
5 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Dt 30:11–14). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
6 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 11:25). Wheaton: Standard Bible
Society.
7 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 19:13–15). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
8 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 18:1–4). Wheaton: Standard Bible
Society.
c. The Gospel is expansive beyond the grasp of all humanity.
In an explosion of praise, Paul declares the wonder of God’s Good New is beyond our
grasp:
33
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable
are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.
Amen. 9

d. Paul points to how the simple Gospel that transforms human hearts will bring all
powers under subjection, even death.

20
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have
fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the
resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made
alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who
belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the
Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign
until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is
death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says,
“all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in
subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself
will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God
may be all in all. 10

As Paul reveals how death will be made a subject of Christ, he also reveals how the
Gospel impacts every detail of the cosmos, so the Gospel is truly at the heart of all
things and is bringing glory to all things. As he discusses the outworking of the Gospel,
he uses a metaphor of our current bodies as a seed that will one day fall into the ground
(death) and rise up as a new body that is even more glorious.

35
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they
come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37
And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat

9 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ro 11:33–36). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
10 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Co 15:20–28). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each
kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for
humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are
heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and
the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another
glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
42
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is
raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in
weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual
body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The
first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46
But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first
man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was
the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven,
so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man
of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Mystery and Victory
50
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor
does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall
not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised
imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the
imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable
puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to
pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God,
who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 11

Our human tendency as revealed the Corinthians and the Galatians is to diminish the
goodness and power of God revealed in the Gospel. Paul defends this goodness and
warns those who would add to this Gospel with their own innovations that draw our
attention away from God and toward human power and effort.

3. The Role of Witness


As Paul defends the goodness of the Gospel, he warns the Corinthians of false witness
while also pointing toward true witnesses.

11 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Co 15:35–57). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
Some of the Corinthians are mixing gnostic heresies with the Gospel and beginning to
deny resurrection. They may believe in afterlife (which is common among the Greeks),
but they reject a bodily resurrection.

a. Paul challenges the Corinthians to hold fast to their witness.


In verse one, Paul shows how the Gospel has already worked in the hearts and lives of
the people, making them living witnesses to the power of the Gospel.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you
received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to
the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 12

Paul reminds the Corinthians of the witness that Gospel has already worked in their
midst: they received the Gospel; they stand in the Gospel; they are being saved by this
same Gospel to which they must hold fast. I do not think Paul means that because they
have accepted an error concerning resurrection that they are not holding fast. I think he
is showing them why the error of rejecting resurrection is antithetical to Gospel, and why
they must hold fast to this promise of bodily resurrection.

The word for “holding fast” (katéchō) is connected to the same word for catechism. It
means “sounding down” or echoing the Word of God within us: resounding in our heart,
soul, mind and strength. In this instance, Paul may also be drawing upon another
nuance of katéchō, which can be used to draw a ship toward shore. We tie off the rope
on the dock and “hold fast” as the ship pulls into dock.

b. Paul warns that rejecting resurrection is bordering on false witness.

12
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that
there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead,
then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our
preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be
misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom
he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 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 futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep
in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all
people most to be pitied. 13

12 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Co 15:1–2). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
13 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Co 15:12–19). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
Their denial drains the Gospel of its Goodness by taking away our hope. Paul warns
that rejecting bodily resurrection leads to rejecting Christ’s resurrection which denies
God’s union with humanity and denies humanity’s redemption. We are left in the same
darkness as the blind Greeks. Thus we might as well follow their lead and become
hedonists.

2
What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead
are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived:
“Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right,
and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your
shame. 14

c. False Witness is a serious offense in God’s eyes.


The ninth commandment warns against bearing false witness against our neighbor. To
witness against a neighbor could lead to their death. To be a false witness could result
in our own death.

When Moses sends 12 spies into the land of Canaan, 10 returns as false witnesses.
Instead of remembering the goodness of God in delivering them from the hand of
Pharaoh, they focus on the threat of the enemy, thus they are false witnesses for God’s
Goodness and God’s Power. Israel accepts their false witness, and God judges that
generation by letting them die in the wilderness.

When the serpent tempts Eve, one of his tools is false witness. He tempts Eve to
believe that God is not as good as He seems: He is withholding. By accepting the false
witness to God’s Character, Eve and Adam enter into rebellion against God.

d. Paul begins his confession by listing true witnesses.


3
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for
our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised
on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to
Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers
at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he
appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he
appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy 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 was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder
than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11
Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 15

14 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Co 15:32–34). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
As the writer of Hebrews proclaims, “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.”
Cephas, the twelve, some five hundred brothers and Paul himself are all witnesses to
the resurrection.

Christianity is a faith that is rooted in witness. While the witness of God’s people
reassures and encourages and is a key part of our faith. Their is another, great witness.
The Spirit of God Himself witnesses in our hearts that the Gospel is true, and we believe
because He has drawn us.

e. We are witnesses and are becoming witnesses to the Gospel.


As we proclaim Christ, we also witness to the Goodness of God. Yet, the same mouth
that blesses God also curses our brother. As James writes,

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who
teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if
anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his
whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide
their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are
driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of
the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a
world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole
body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind
of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by
mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of
deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people
who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and
cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth
from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers,
bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. 16

We give thanks to God, then we complain and question God. We rejoice. We grumble.
God’s love and light are revealed in our very limbs, but then human striving and
deception is also revealed in our very limbs. But Christ promises to present us
blameless before the Father,

24
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless
before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through

15 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Co 15:3–11). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
16 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jas 3:1–12). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and
now and forever. Amen. 17

Our current disintegration of body, mind, soul and strength is also reflected in a world
that is at war and filled with rumors of war. But the gospel is bringing the whole cosmos
into submission to Christ. And in the end, we will be true witnesses. For by His grace
alone, we will love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and we
will love our neighbor as ourselves. We will rise as glorious witnesses to the Goodness
of God.

With such a promise in mind, Paul exhorts us to press toward it even now:

58
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the
work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 18

17 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jud 24–25). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.
18 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Co 15:57–58). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society.