It was in Athens that Paul stood on Mar's Hill and proclaimed Christ to the
philosophers. He made known to them "the unknown God" and pointed out that
they should know Him because "in Him we live and breathe and have our very
being." He said that we are "His offspring." (Acts 17:24-28). The
philosophers eagerly listened to these new ideas. This was their forte'.
They lived to hear "something new.” (Acts 17:19-21).
These were the wisest people on earth, gathered around Paul that day. Just
ask them! And then, as well as now, there were some things that were just
not in vogue to believe. I suppose it was the first century equivalent to
"political correctness." One thing that you just could not believe in and
still be accepted by this group was resurrection.
It was when Paul began to expound upon the resurrection of Christ that every
self-respecting philosopher began to sneer and mock (Acts 17:32). Some
wanted to hear more, but most did not. It wasn't the "in" thing to believe.
Instead, you were suppose to make fun of those who did believe in such
things, thus improving your standing with the group (that, unfortunately, is
still the way many people determine what they're going to believe).
Against this backdrop, we come to another Greek city; Corinth. The same
philosophies prevailed, and so special care was needed when addressing the
resurrection. The converts at Corinth were from backgrounds that rejected
the resurrection, so they needed help understanding and accepting the
concept. This is certainly why the largest single passage in the Bible which
deals with resurrection is found in the fifteenth chapter of First
The Resurrection of Jesus
They say “first things first”. With the gospel, Paul said the "first"
things (but not the only things) of the gospel are the death, burial and
resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). Paul emphasized that the
resurrection of Christ was not a new idea, but rather he appealed to the
ancient writings of the prophets as evidence of the validity of the
resurrection. It was “according to the Scriptures”, he said (cf. Psalm 16:8-
11; Isaiah 53:7-9; 10).
After citing the ancient prophetic Scriptures, Paul gave further evidence;
that Jesus had appeared to the apostles following His resurrection. He also
appeared to many others, including more than five hundred on one occasion.
And even better, most of those people who had witnessed the resurrected
Christ were still around at the time the first Corinthian letter is written.
They could be talked with; asked questions and, perhaps most importantly,
watched. If what they said was true, they would be willing to die for their
faith. We know from history that they were so willing. Their testimony is
Finally, Paul is able to add one more name to the list of witnesses; his
own. Paul, the one who had been the chief persecutor of the church, had seen
the church's risen Savior (vss.8-10). He invited an investigation of his
life as he challenged; "but I labored even more than all of them." Because
of what he had done to Christians before his own conversion, he was
compelled to expend his life telling others of the truth he now knew about
Jesus. In effect he was saying, "Why do you think I am so driven in this
work? It is because of what God has done for me despite what I had been."
Friends, do not delude yourselves; in the final analysis; the Lord has given
us as much as He gave Paul. We, too, are saved by grace. We, too, are just
as much forever in God's debt (Ephesians 2:8-10).
The Resurrection of Hope
(I COR 15:14; 20). Hope is necessary for inner peace. The promise of
resurrection as seen through the resurrection of Christ gives believers
undying hope. If this hope is untrue, then preaching and faith is vain. If
this hope is true, then preaching and faith is worth more than anything this
world can offer (1 Corinthians 15:14;20).
Part of the problem with people today is that they lack hope. Hope provides
life its anchor (Hebrews 6:19). Without it, life is unstable. It loses its
firm perspective on right and wrong as it loses its motivation to choose
right over wrong. If there is no hope, then why worry about moral decisions
Paul asserted that if his struggles with "wild beasts at Ephesus" (which is
the unflattering way he describes the unruly mob that had wanted to lynch
him) were only based upon a false hope concerning a false promise of
resurrection, that there is no profit in standing for one's principles under
threat. He says, if there is no resurrection it would be better to "eat and
drink for tomorrow we die" (1 Corinthians 15:32). Sadly, that fairly well
describes the life perspective of the godless today.
The Resurrection of the Righteous
Our hope is valid because Christ has been raised thus giving assurance that
one day our resurrection will follow (1 Corinthians 15:23). Of course, both
the righteous and the wicked will be raised (John 5:28,29); the righteous to
eternal life and the wicked to eternal judgment. But here, Paul does not
discuss the future of the wicked. He is concerned here about the future of
the righteous; that is, "those who are Christ's at His coming."
For the faithful, there will be a resurrection when Jesus comes. Then the
end (vs. 24) will come. This end is described as the removal of the physical
universe as we now know it and replacing it with a new realm (2 Peter
3:8-13; Revelation 21:1). Following "the end" will be a new beginning. Jesus
will "deliver up the kingdom to the God and Father..." (vs. 24) and the last
enemy, death, will have been conquered (vs. 26). At this time, all things
will be subjected to the Father, "that God may be all in all." (vs. 28). It
is in this sphere as the righteous dwell with God in their new, perfect home
that eternity will begin.
The Resurrection Body
It would do little good to live in a beautiful, eternal home if our bodies
continued to grow old and deteriorate (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). It would do
little good for us "of flesh and bone" to inherit something that is unusable
by "flesh and bone" (vs. 50). The resurrection of the body includes a
miraculous change in its nature. Even those who are still alive will undergo
this change "in a twinkling of an eye." (vs. 51,52). God has placed within
natural bodies an ability to adapt in a limited way, but natural adaptation
will not make our bodies what we need in "the new heavens and the new
earth." The power of God will (1 John 3:1-3).
The Resurrection Song
"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (I
Corinthians 15:55). With the last enemy defeated, the songs of the righteous
will express their joy as death itself, once so powerful an enemy, is
reduced to a has-been. This statement is taken from a song of praise for
God's favor that is recorded in Isaiah; (ISA 25:6-8). Thank God for the
victory with which He blesses His faithful ones!
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 12.2; February 2005