The Expository Files

Sown in Weakness; Raised in Power!

1 Corinthians 15

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 Corinthians.

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 true!

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 at all?
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