1 Corinthians 15 Bible Commentary (2024)

CompleteConcise

In this chapter the apostle treats of that great article ofChristianity—the resurrection of the dead. I. He establishes the certainty ofour Saviour's resurrection (v. 1-11). II. He, from this truth, sets himselfto refute those who said, There is no resurrection of the dead (v. 12-19).III. From our Saviour's resurrection he establishes the resurrection of thedead and confirms the Corinthians in the belief of it by some otherconsiderations (v. 20-34). IV. He answers an objection against this truth, andtakes occasion thence to show what a vast change will be made in the bodies ofbelievers at the resurrection (v. 35-50). V. He informs us what a change willbe made in those who shall be living at the sound of the last trumpet, and thecomplete conquest the just shall then obtain over death and the grave (v. 51-57).And, VI. He sums up the argument with a very serious exhortation to Christians,to be resolved and diligent in their Lord's service, because they know theyshall be so gloriously rewarded by him (v. 58).

Verses 1-11

It is the apostle's business in this chapter to assert andestablish the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, which some of theCorinthians flatly denied, v. 12. Whether they turned this doctrine intoallegory, as did Hymeneus and Philetus, by saying it was already past (2 Tim.2:17, 18), and several of the ancient heretics, by making it mean no more than achanging of their course of life; or whether they rejected it as absurd, uponprinciples of reason and science; it seems they denied it in the proper sense.And they disowned a future state of recompences, by denying the resurrection ofthe dead. Now that heathens and infidels should deny this truth does not seem sostrange; but that Christians, who had their religion by revelation, should denya truth so plainly discovered is surprising, especially when it is a truth ofsuch importance. It was time for the apostle to confirm them in this truth, whenthe staggering of their faith in this point was likely to shake theirChristianity; and they were yet in great danger of having their faith staggered.He begins with an epitome or summary of the gospel, what he had preached amongthem, namely, the death and resurrection of Christ. Upon this foundation thedoctrine of the resurrection of the dead is built. Note, Divine truths appearwith greatest evidence when they are looked upon in their mutual connection. Thefoundation may be strengthened, that the superstructure may be secured. Nowconcerning the gospel observe,

I. What a stress he lays upon it (v. 1, 2): Moreover,brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached to you. 1. It waswhat he constantly preached. His word was not yea and nay: he always preachedthe same gospel, and taught the same truth. He could appeal to his hearers forthis. Truth is in its own nature invariable; and the infallible teachers ofdivine truth could never be at variance with themselves or one another. Thedoctrine which Paul had heretofore taught, he still taught. 2. It was what theyhad received; they had been convinced of the faith, believed it in their hearts,or at least made profession of doing so with their mouths. It was no strangedoctrine. It was that very gospel in which, or by which, they had hithertostood, and must continue to stand. If they gave up this truth, they leftthemselves no ground to stand upon, no footing in religion. Note, The doctrineof Christ's death and resurrection is at the foundation of Christianity.Remove this foundation, and the whole fabric falls, all our hopes for eternitysink at once. And it is by holding this truth firmly that Christians are made tostand in a day of trial, and kept faithful to God. 3. It was that alone by whichthey could hope for salvation (v. 2), for there is no salvation in any othername; no name given under heaven by which we may be saved, but by the name ofChrist. And there is no salvation in his name, but upon supposition of hisdeath and resurrection. These are the saving truths of our holy religion. Thecrucifixion of our Redeemer and his conquest over death are the very source ofour spiritual life and hopes. Now concerning these saving truths observe, (1.)They must be retained in mind, they must be held fast (so the word istranslated, Heb. 10:23): Let us hold fast the profession of our faith.Note, The saving truths of the gospel must be fixed in our mind, revolved muchin our thoughts, and maintained and held fast to the end, if we would be saved.They will not save us, if we do not attend to them, and yield to their power,and continue to do so to the end. He only that endureth to the end shall besaved, Mt. 10:22. (2.) We believe in vain, unless we continue and perseverein the faith of the gospel. We shall be never the better for a temporary faith;nay, we shall aggravate our guilt by relapsing into infidelity. And in vain isit to profess Christianity, or our faith in Christ, if we deny the resurrection;for this must imply and involve the denial of his resurrection; and, take awaythis, you make nothing of Christianity, you leave nothing for faith or hope tofix upon.

II. Observe what this gospel is, on which the apostle lays suchstress. It was that doctrine which he had received, and delivered to them, enproµtois—among the first, the principal. It was a doctrineof the first rank, a most necessary truth, That Christ died for our sins, andwas buried, and rose again: or, in other words, that he was delivered for ouroffences and rose again for our justification (Rom. 4:25), that he wasoffered in sacrifice for our sins, and rose again, to show that he had procuredforgiveness for them, and was accepted of God in this offering. Note, Christ'sdeath and resurrection are the very sum and substance of evangelical truth.Hence we derive our spiritual life now, and here we must found our hopes ofeverlasting life hereafter.

III. Observe how this truth is confirmed,

1. By Old-Testament predictions. He died for our sins, accordingto the scriptures; he was buried, and rose from the dead, according to thescriptures, according to the scripture-prophecies, and scripture-types. Suchprophecies as Ps. 16:10; Isa. 53:4-6; Dan. 9:26, 27; Hos. 6:2. Suchscripture-types as Jonah (Mt. 12:4), as Isaac, who is expressly said by theapostle to have been received from the dead in a figure, Heb. 11:19.Note, It is a great confirmation of our faith of the gospel to see how itcorresponds with ancient types and prophecies.

2. By the testimony of many eye-witnesses, who saw Christ afterhe had risen from the dead. He reckons up five several appearances, beside thatto himself. He was seen of Cephas, or Peter, then of the twelve, calledso, though Judas was no longer among them, because this was their usual number;then he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, many of whomwere living when the apostle wrote this epistle, though some had fallen asleep.This was in Galilee, Mt. 28:10. After that, he was seen of James singly, andthen by all the apostles when he was taken up into heaven. This was on mountOlivet, Lu. 24:50. Compare Acts 1:2, 5-7. Note, How uncontrollably evident wasChrist's resurrection from the dead, when so many eyes saw him at so manydifferent times alive, and when he indulged the weakness of one disciple so faras to let him handle him, to put his resurrection out of doubt! And what reasonhave we to believe those who were so steady in maintaining this truth, thoughthey hazarded all that was dear to them in this world, by endeavouring to assertand propagate it! Even Paul himself was last of all favoured with the sight ofhim. It was one of the peculiar offices of an apostle to be a witness of ourSaviour's resurrection (Lu. 24:48); and, when Paul was called to theapostolical office, he was made an evidence of this sort; the Lord Jesusappeared to him by the way to Damascus, Acts 9:17. Having mentioned this favour,Paul takes occasion from it to make a humble digression concerning himself. Hewas highly favoured of God, but he always endeavoured to keep up a mean opinionof himself, and to express it. So he does here, by observing, (1.) That he was oneborn out of due time (v. 8), an abortive, ektroµma,a child dead born, and out of time. Paul resembled such a birth, in thesuddenness of his new birth, in that he was not matured for the apostolicfunction, as the others were, who had personal converse with our Lord. He wascalled to the office when such conversation was not to be had, he was out oftime for it. He had not known nor followed the Lord, nor been formed in hisfamily, as the others were, for this high and honourable function. This was inPaul's account a very humbling circ*mstance. (2.) By owning himself inferiorto the other apostles: Not meet to be called an apostle. The least,because the last of them; called latest to the office, and not worthy to becalled an apostle, to have either the office or the title, because he had been apersecutor of the church of God, v. 9. Indeed, he tells us elsewhere that hewas not a whit behind the very chief apostles (2 Co. 11:5)—for gifts,graces, service, and sufferings, inferior to none of them. Yet somecirc*mstances in his case made him think more meanly of himself than of any ofthem. Note, A humble spirit, in the midst of high attainments, is a greatornament to any man; it sets his good qualities off to much greater advantage.What kept Paul low in an especial manner was the remembrance of his formerwickedness, his raging and destructive zeal against Christ and him members.Note, How easily God can bring a good out of the greatest evil! When sinners areby divine grace turned into saints, he makes the remembrance of their formersins very serviceable, to make them humble, and diligent, and faithful. (3.) Byascribing all that was valuable in him to divine grace: But by the grace ofGod I am what I am, v. 10. It is God's prerogative to say, I am that Iam; it is our privilege to be able to say, "By God's grace we arewhat we are." We are nothing but what God makes us, nothing in religion butwhat his grace makes us. All that is good in us is a stream from this fountain.Paul was sensible of this, and kept humble and thankful by this conviction; soshould we. Nay, though he was conscious of his own diligence, and zeal, andservice, so that he could say of himself, the grace of God was not given himin vain, but he laboured more abundantly than they all: he thought himselfso much more the debtor to divine grace. Yet not I, but the grace of Godwhich was with me. Note, Those who have the grace of God bestowed on themshould take care that it be not in vain. They should cherish, and exercise, andexert, this heavenly principle. So did Paul, and therefore laboured with so muchheart and so much success. And yet the more he laboured, and the more good hedid, the more humble he was in his opinion of himself, and the more disposed toown and magnify the favour of God towards him, his free and unmerited favour.Note, A humble spirit will be very apt to own and magnify the grace of God. Ahumble spirit is commonly a gracious one. Where pride is subdued there it isreasonable to believe grace reigns.

After this digression, the apostle returns to his argument, andtells them (v. 11) that he not only preached the same gospel himself at alltimes, and in all places, but that all the apostles preached the same: Whetherit were they or I, so we preached, and so you believed. Whether Peter, orPaul, or any other apostle, had converted them to Christianity, all maintainedthe same truth, told the same story, preached the same doctrine, and confirmedit by the same evidence. All agreed in this that Jesus Christ, and him crucifiedand slain, and then rising from the dead, was the very sum and substance ofChristianity; and this all true Christians believe. All the apostles agreed inthis testimony; all Christians agree in the belief of it. By this faith theylive. In this faith they die.

Verses 12-19

Having confirmed the truth of our Saviour's resurrection, theapostle goes on to refute those among the Corinthians who said there would benone: If Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some amongyou that there is no resurrection of the dead? v. 12. It seems from thispassage, and the course of the argument, there were some among the Corinthianswho thought the resurrection an impossibility. This was a common sentiment amongthe heathens. But against this the apostle produces an incontestable fact,namely, the resurrection of Christ; and he goes on to argue against them fromthe absurdities that must follow from their principle. As,

I. If there be (can be) no resurrection of the dead,then Christ has not risen (v. 13); and again, "If the dead rise not,cannot be raised or recovered to life, then is Christ not raised, v. 16.And yet it was foretold in ancient prophecies that he should rise; and it hasbeen proved by multitudes of eye-witnesses that he had risen. And will you say,will any among you dare to say, that is not, cannot be, which God long ago saidshould be, and which is now undoubted matter of fact?"

II. It would follow hereupon that the preaching and faith of thegospel would be vain: If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, andyour faith vain, v. 14. This supposition admitted, would destroy theprincipal evidence of Christianity; and so, 1. Make preaching vain. "Weapostles should be found false witnesses of God; we pretend to be God'switnesses for truth, and to work miracles by his power in confirmation of it,and are all the while deceivers, liars for God, if in his name, and by powerreceived from him, we go forth, and publish and assert a thing false in fact,and impossible to be true. And does not this make us the vainest men in theworld, and our office and ministry the vainest and most useless thing in theworld? What end could we propose to ourselves in undertaking this hard andhazardous service, if we knew our religion stood on no better foundation, nay,if we were not well assured of the contrary? What should we preach for? Wouldnot our labour be wholly in vain? We can have no very favourable expectations inthis life; and we could have none beyond it. If Christ be not raised, the gospelis a jest; it is chaff and emptiness." 2. This supposition would make thefaith of Christians vain, as well as the labours of ministers: If Christ benot raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins (v. 17), yet underthe guilt and condemnation of sin, because it is through his death and sacrificefor sin alone that forgiveness is to be had. We have redemption through hisblood, the forgiveness of sins, Eph. 1:7. No remission of sins is to be hadbut through the shedding of his blood. And had his blood been shed, and his lifetaken away, without ever being restored, what evidence could we have had thatthrough him we should have justification and eternal life? Had he remained underthe power of death, how could he have delivered us from its power? And how vaina thing is faith in him, upon this supposition! He must rise for ourjustification who was delivered for our sins, or in vain we look for any suchbenefit by him. There had been no justification nor salvation if Christ had notrisen. And must not faith in Christ be vain, and of no signification, if he bestill among the dead?

III. Another absurdity following from this supposition is that thosewho have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. if there be no resurrection,they cannot rise, and therefore are lost, even those who have died in theChristian faith, and for it. It is plain from this that those among theCorinthians who denied the resurrection meant thereby a state of futureretribution, and not merely the revival of the flesh; they took death to be thedestruction and extinction of the man, and not merely of the bodily life; forotherwise the apostle could not infer the utter loss of those who slept inJesus, from the supposition that they would never rise more or that they had nohopes in Christ after life; for they might have hope of happiness for theirminds if these survived their bodies, and this would prevent the limiting oftheir hopes in Christ to this life only. "Upon supposition there is noresurrection in your sense, no after-state and life, then dead Christians arequite lost. How vain a thing were our faith and religion upon this supposition!"And this,

IV. Would infer that Christ's ministers and servants were ofall men most miserable, as having hope in him in this life only (v.19), which is another absurdity that would follow from asserting noresurrection. Their condition who hope in Christ would be worse than that ofother men. Who hope in Christ. Note, All who believe in Christ have hopein him; all who believe in him as a Redeemer hope for redemption and salvationby him; but if there be no resurrection, or state of future recompence (whichwas intended by those who denied the resurrection at Corinth), their hope in himmust be limited to this life: and, if all their hopes in Christ lie within thecompass of this life, they are in a much worse condition than the rest ofmankind, especially at that time, and under those circ*mstances, in which theapostles wrote; for then they had no countenance nor protection from the rulersof the world, but were hated and persecuted by all men. Preachers and privateChristians therefore had a hard lot if in this life only they had hope inChrist. Better be any thing than a Christian upon these terms; for in this worldthey are hated, and hunted, and abused, stripped of all worldly comforts andexposed to all manner of sufferings: they fare much harder than other men inthis life, and yet have no further nor better hopes. And is it not absurd forone who believes in Christ to admit a principle that involves so absurd aninference? Can that man have faith in Christ who can believe concerning him thathe will leave his faithful servants, whether ministers or others, in a worsestate than his enemies? Note, It were a gross absurdity in a Christian to admitthe supposition of no resurrection or future state. It would leave no hopebeyond this world, and would frequently make his condition the worst in theworld. Indeed, the Christian is by his religion crucified to this world, andtaught to live upon the hope of another. Carnal pleasures are insipid to him ina great degree; and spiritual and heavenly pleasures are those which he affectsand pants after. How sad is his case indeed, if he must be dead to worldlypleasures and yet never hope for any better!

Verses 20-34

In this passage the apostle establishes the truth of theresurrection of the dead, the holy dead, the dead in Christ,

I. On the resurrection of Christ. 1. Because he is indeed thefirst-fruits of those that slept, v. 20. He has truly risen himself, and hehas risen in this very quality and character, as the first-fruits of those whosleep in him. As he has assuredly risen, so in his resurrection there is as muchan earnest given that the dead in him shall rise as there was that the Jewishharvest in general should be accepted and blessed by the offering and acceptanceof the first-fruits. The whole lump was made holy by the consecration of thefirst-fruits (Rom. 11:16), and the whole body of Christ, all that are by faithunited to him, are by his resurrection assured of their own. As he has risen,they shall rise; just as the lump is holy because the first fruits are so. Hehas not risen merely for himself, but as head of the body, the church; and thosethat sleep in him God will bring with him, 1 Th. 4:14. Note, Christ'sresurrection is a pledge and earnest of ours, if we are true believers in him;because he has risen, we shall rise. We are a part of the consecrated lump, andshall partake of the acceptance and favour vouchsafed the first-fruits. This isthe first argument used by the apostle in confirmation of the truth; and it is,2. Illustrated by a parallel between the first and second Adam. For, since byman came death, it was every way proper that by man should come deliverance fromit, or, which is all one, a resurrection, v. 21. And so, as in Adam all die,in Christ shall all be made alive; as through the sin of the first Adam allmen became mortal, because all derived from him the same sinful nature, sothrough the merit and resurrection of Christ shall all who are made to partakeof the Spirit, and the spiritual nature, revive, and become immortal. All whodie die through the sin of Adam; all who are raised, in the sense of theapostle, rise through the merit and power of Christ. But the meaning is notthat, as all men died in Adam, so all men, without exception, shall be madealive in Christ; for the scope of the apostle's argument restrains the generalmeaning. Christ rose as the first-fruits; therefore those that are Christ's(v. 23) shall rise too. Hence it will not follow that all men without exceptionshall rise too; but it will fitly follow that all who thus rise, rise in virtueof Christ's resurrection, and so that their revival is owing to the man ChristJesus, as the mortality of all mankind was owing to the first man; and so, as byman came death, by man came deliverance. Thus it seemed fit to the divine wisdomthat, as the first Adam ruined his posterity by sin, the second Adam shouldraise his seed to a glorious immortality. 3. Before he leaves the argument hestates that there will be an order observed in their resurrection. What thatprecisely will be we are nowhere told, but in the general only here that therewill be order observed. Possibly those may rise first who have held the highestrank, and done the most eminent service, or suffered the most grievous evils, orcruel deaths, for Christ's sake. It is only here said that the first-fruitsare supposed to rise first, and afterwards all who are Christ's, when he shallcome again. Not that Christ's resurrection must in fact go before theresurrection of any of his, but it must be laid as the foundation: as it was notnecessary that those who lived remote from Jerusalem must go thither and offerthe first-fruits before they could account the lump holy, yet they must be setapart for this purpose, till they could be offered, which might be done at anytime from pentecost till the feast of dedication. See Bishop Patrick on Num.24:2. The offering of the first-fruits was what made the lump holy; and the lumpwas made holy by this offering, though it was not made before the harvest wasgathered in, so it were set apart for that end, and duly offered afterwards. SoChrist's resurrection must, in order of nature, precede that of his saints,though some of these might rise in order of time before him. It is because hehas risen that they rise. Note, Those that are Christ's must rise, because oftheir relation to him.

II. He argues from the continuance of the mediatorial kingdomtill all Christ's enemies are destroyed, the last of which is death, v. 24-26.He has risen, and, upon his resurrection, was invested with sovereign empire, hadall power in heaven and earth put into his hands (Mt. 28:18), had a namegiven him above every name, that every knee might bow to him, and every tongueconfess him Lord. Phil. 2:9-11. And the administration of this kingdommust continue in his hands till all opposing power, and rule, and authority,be put down (v. 24), till all enemies are put under his feet (v. 25),and till the last enemy is destroyed, which is death, v. 26.

1. This argument implies in it all these particulars:—(1.)That our Saviour rose from the dead to have all power put into his hands, andhave and administer a kingdom, as Mediator: For this end he died, and rose,and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living, Rom. 14:9.(2.) That this mediatorial kingdom is to have an end, at least as far as it isconcerned in bringing his people safely to glory, and subduing all his and theirenemies: Then cometh the end, v. 24. (3.) That it is not to have an endtill all opposing power be put down, and all enemies brought to his feet, v. 24,25. (4.) That, among other enemies, death must be destroyed (v. 26) orabolished; its powers over its members must be disannulled. Thus far the apostleis express; but he leaves us to make the inference that therefore the saintsmust rise, else death and the grave would have power over them, nor would ourSaviour's kingly power prevail against the last enemy of his people and annulits power. When saints shall live again, and die no more, then, and not tillthen, will death be abolished, which must be brought about before our Saviour'smediatorial kingdom is delivered up, which yet must be in due time. The saintstherefore shall live again and die no more. This is the scope of the argument;but,

2. The apostle drops several hints in the course of it which itwill be proper to notice: as, (1.) That our Saviour, as man and mediator betweenGod and man, has a delegated royalty, a kingdom given: All things are putunder him, he excepted that did put all things under him, v. 27. As man, allhis authority must be delegated. And, though his mediation supposes his divinenature, yet as Mediator he does not so explicitly sustain the character of God,but a middle person between God and man, partaking of both natures, human anddivine, as he was to reconcile both parties, God and man, and receivingcommission and authority from God the Father to act in this office. The Fatherappears, in this whole dispensation, in the majesty and with the authority ofGod: the Son, made man, appears as the minister of the Father, though he is Godas well as the Father. Nor is this passage to be understood of the eternaldominion over all his creatures which belongs to him as God, but of a kingdomcommitted to him as Mediator and God-man, and that chiefly after hisresurrection, when, having overcome, he sat down with his Father on his throne,Rev. 3:21. Then was the prediction verified, I have set my king upon my holyhill of Zion (Ps. 2:6), placed him on his throne. This is meant by thephrase so frequent in the writings of the New Testament, of sitting at theright hand of God (Mk. 16:19; Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1 etc.), on the righthand of power (Mk. 14:62; Lu. 22:69), on the right hand of the throne ofGod (Heb. 12:2), on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in theheavens, Heb. 8:1. Sitting down in this seat is taking upon him the exerciseof his mediatorial power and royalty, which was done upon his ascension intoheaven, Mk. 16:19. And it is spoken of in scripture as a recompence made him forhis deep humiliation and self-abasem*nt, in becoming man, and dying for man theaccursed death of the cross, Phil. 2:6-12. Upon his ascension, he was madehead over all things to the church, had power given him to govern and protect itagainst all its enemies, and in the end destroy them and complete the salvationof all that believe in him. This is not a power appertaining to Godhead as such;it is not original and unlimited power, but power given and limited to specialpurposes. And though he who has it is God, yet, inasmuch as he is somewhat elsebesides God, and in this whole dispensation acts not as God, but as Mediator,not as the offended Majesty, but as one interposing in favour of his offendingcreatures, and this by virtue of his consent and commission who acts and appearsalways in that character, he may properly be said to have this power given him;he may reign as God, with power unlimited, and yet may reign as Mediator, with apower delegated, and limited to these particular purposes. (2.) That thisdelegated royalty must at length be delivered up to the Father, from whomit was received (v. 24); for it is a power received for particular ends andpurposes, a power to govern and protect his church till all the members of it begathered in, and the enemies of it for ever subdued and destroyed (v. 25, 26),and when these ends shall be obtained the power and authority will not need tobe continued. The Redeemer must reign till his enemies be destroyed, and thesalvation of his church and people accomplished; and, when this end is attained,then will he deliver up the power which he had only for this purpose, though hemay continue to reign over his glorified church and body in heaven; and in thissense it may notwithstanding be said that he shall reign for ever and ever(Rev. 11:15), that he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and ofhis kingdom there shall be no end (Lu. 1:33), that his dominion is aneverlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, Dan. 7:14. See also Mich.4:7. (3.) The Redeemer shall certainly reign till the last enemy of his peoplebe destroyed, till death itself be abolished, till his saints revive and recoverperfect life, never to be in fear and danger of dying any more. He shall haveall power in heaven and earth till then—he who loved us, and gave himselffor us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood—he who is so nearlyrelated to us, and so much concerned for us. What support should this be to hissaints in every hour of distress and temptation! He is alive who was dead,and liveth for ever, and doth reign, and will continue to reign, till theredemption of his people be completed, and the utter ruin of their enemieseffected. (4.) When this is done, and all things are put under his feet, thenshall the Son become subject to him that put all things under him, that God maybe all in all, v. 28. The meaning of this I take to be that then the manChrist Jesus, who hath appeared in so much majesty during the wholeadministration of his kingdom, shall appear upon giving it up to be a subject ofthe Father. Things are in scripture many times said to be when they are manifestedand made to appear; and this delivering up of the kingdom will make itmanifest that he who appeared in the majesty of the sovereign king was, duringthis administration, a subject of God. The glorified humanity of our Lord JesusChrist, with all the dignity and power conferred on it, was no more than aglorious creature. This will appear when the kingdom shall be delivered up; andit will appear to the divine glory, that God may be all in all, that theaccomplishment of our salvation may appear altogether divine, and God alone mayhave the honour of it. Note, Though the human nature must be employed in thework of our redemption, yet God was all in all in it. It was the Lord'sdoing and should be marvellous in our eyes.

III. He argues for the resurrection, from the case of those whowere baptized for the dead (v. 29): What shall those do who are baptized forthe dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they baptized for the dead?What shall they do if the dead rise not? What have they done? How vain a thinghath their baptism been! Must they stand by it, or renounce it? why are theybaptized for the dead, if the dead rise not? hypertoµn nekroµn. But what is this baptism for the dead? It isnecessary to be known, that the apostle's argument may be understood; whetherit be only argumentum ad hominem, or ad rem; that is, whether itconclude for the thing in dispute universally, or only against the particularpersons who were baptized for the dead. But who shall interpret this veryobscure passage, which, though it consists of no more than three words, besidesthe articles, has had more than three times three senses put on it byinterpreters? It is not agreed what is meant by baptism, whether it is to betaken in a proper or figurative sense, and, if in a proper sense, whether it isto be understood or Christian baptism properly so called, or some otherablution. And as little is it agreed who are the dead, or in what sense thepreposition hyper is to be taken. Someunderstand the dead of our Saviour himself; vide Whitby in loc.Why are persons baptized in the name of a dead Saviour, a Saviour who remainsamong the dead, if the dead rise not? But it is, I believe, and instanceperfectly singular for hoi nekroi tomean no more than one dead person; it is a signification which the words havenowhere else. And the hoi baptizomenoi (thebaptized) seem plainly to mean some particular persons, not Christians ingeneral, which yet must be the signification if the hoinekroi (the dead) be understood of our Saviour. Someunderstand the passage of the martyrs: Why do they suffer martyrdom for theirreligion? This is sometimes called the baptism of blood by ancients, and, by ourSaviour himself, baptism indefinitely, Mt. 20:22; Lu. 12:50. But in what sensecan those who die martyrs for their religion be said to be baptized (that is,die martyrs) for the dead? Some understand it of a custom that was observed, assome of the ancients tell us, among many who professed the Christian name in thefirst ages, of baptizing some in the name and stead of catechumens dying withoutbaptism. But this savoured of such superstition that, if the custom hadprevailed in the church so soon, the apostle would hardly have mentioned itwithout signifying a dislike of it. Some understand it of baptizing over thedead, which was a custom, they tell us, that early obtained; and this to testifytheir hope of the resurrection. This sense is pertinent to the apostle'sargument, but it appears not that any such practice was in use in the apostle'stime. Others understand it of those who have been baptized for the sake, or onoccasion, of the martyrs, that is, the constancy with which they died for theirreligion. Some were doubtless converted to Christianity by observing this: andit would have been a vain thing for persons to have become Christians upon thismotive, if the martyrs, by losing their lives for religion, became utterlyextinct, and were to live no more. But the church at Corinth had not, in allprobability, suffered much persecution at this time, or seem many instances ofmartyrdom among them, nor had many converts been made by the constancy andfirmness which the martyrs discovered. Not to observe that hoinekroi seems to be too general an expression to mean only themartyred dead. It is as easy an explication of the phrase as any I have metwith, and as pertinent to the argument, to suppose the hoinekroi to mean some among the Corinthians, who had been taken off bythe hand of God. We read that many were sickly among them, and many slept(ch. 11:30), because of their disorderly behaviour at the Lord's table. Theseexecutions might terrify some into Christianity; as the miraculous earthquakedid the jailer, Acts 16:29, 30, etc. Persons baptized on such an occasion mightbe properly said to be baptized for the dead, that is, on their account. And thehoi baptizomenoi (the baptized)and the hoi nekroi (the dead)answer to one another; and upon this supposition the Corinthians could notmistake the apostle's meaning. "Now," says he, "what shall theydo, and why were they baptized, if the dead rise not? You have a generalpersuasion that these men have done right, and acted wisely, and as they ought,on this occasion; but why, if the dead rise not, seeing they may perhaps hastentheir death, by provoking a jealous God, and have no hopes beyond it?" Butwhether this be the meaning, or whatever else be, doubtless the apostle'sargument was good and intelligible to the Corinthians. And his next is as plainto us.

IV. He argues from the absurdity of his own conduct and that ofother Christians upon this supposition,

1. It would be a foolish thing for them to run so many hazards(v. 30): "Why stand we in jeopardy every hour? Why do we exposeourselves to continual peril-we Christians, especially we apostles?" Everyone knows that it was dangerous being a Christian, and much more a preacher andan apostle, at that time. "Now," says the apostle, "what foolsare we to run these hazards, if we have no better hopes beyond death, if when wedie we die wholly, and revive no more!" Note, Christianity were a foolishprofession if it proposed no hopes beyond this life, at least in such hazardoustimes as attended the first profession of it; it required men to risk all theblessings and comforts of this life, and to face and endure all the evils of it,without any future prospects. And is this a character of his religion fit for aChristian to endure? And must he not fix this character on it if he give up hisfuture hopes, and deny the resurrection of the dead? This argument the apostlebrings home to himself: "I protest," says he, "by yourrejoicing in Jesus Christ, by all the comforts of Christianity, and all thepeculiar succours and supports of our holy faith, that I die daily,"v. 31. He was in continual danger of death, and carried his life, as we say, inhis hand. And why should he thus expose himself, if he had no hopes after life?To live in daily view and expectation of death, and yet have no prospect beyondit, must be very heartless and uncomfortable, and his case, upon this account, avery melancholy one. He had need be very well assured of the resurrection of thedead, or he was guilty of extreme weakness, in hazarding all that was dear tohim in this world, and his life into the bargain. He had encountered very greatdifficulties and fierce enemies; he had fought with beasts at Ephesus (v.32), and was in danger of being pulled to pieces by an enraged multitude,stirred up by Demetrius and the other craftsmen (Acts 19:24, etc.), though someunderstand this literally of Paul's being exposed to fight with wild beasts inthe amphitheatre, at a Roman show in that city. And Nicephorus tells a formalstory to this purport, and of the miraculous complaisance of the lions to himwhen they came near him. But so remarkable a trial and circ*mstance of his life,methinks, would not have been passed over by Luke, and much less by himself,when he gives us so large and particular a detail of his sufferings, 2 Co.11:24, ad fin. When he mentioned that he was five times scourged of theJews, thrice beaten with rods, once stoned, thrice shipwrecked, it is strangethat he should not have said that he was once exposed to fight with the beasts.I take it, therefore, that this fighting with beasts is a figurative expression,that the beasts intended were men of a fierce and ferine disposition, and thatthis refers to the passage above cited. "Now," says he, "whatadvantage have I from such contests, if the dead rise not? Why should I diedaily, expose myself daily to the danger of dying by violent hands, if the deadrise not? And if post mortem nihil—if I am to perish by death,and expect nothing after it, could any thing be more weak?" Was Paul sosenseless? Had he given the Corinthians any ground to entertain such a thoughtof him? If he had not been well assured that death would have been to hisadvantage, would he, in this stupid manner, have thrown away his life? Could anything but the sure hopes of a better life after death have extinguished the loveof life in him to this degree? "What advantageth it me, if the dead risenot? What can I propose to myself?" Note, It is very lawful and fit fora Christian to propose advantage to himself by his fidelity to God. Thus didPaul. Thus did our blessed Lord himself, Heb. 12:2. And thus we are bidden to doafter his example, and have our fruit to holiness, that our end may beeverlasting life. This is the very end of our faith, even the salvation of oursouls (1 Pt. 1:9), not only what it will issue in, but what we should aim at.

2. It would be a much wiser thing to take the comforts of thislife: Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die (v. 32); let us turnepicures. Thus this sentence means in the prophet, Isa. 22:13. Let us even livelike beasts, if we must die like them. This would be a wiser course, if therewere no resurrection, no after-life or state, than to abandon all the pleasuresof life, and offer and expose ourselves to all the miseries of life, and live incontinual peril of perishing by savage rage and cruelty. This passage alsoplainly implies, as I have hinted above, that those who denied the resurrectionamong the Corinthians were perfect Sadducees, of whose principles we have thisaccount in the holy writings, that they say, There is no resurrection,neither angel nor spirit (Acts 23:8), that is, "Man is all body, thereis nothing in him to survive the body, nor will that, when once he is dead, everrevive again." Such Sadducees were the men against whom the apostle argued;otherwise his arguments had no force in them; for, though the body should neverrevive, yet, as long as the mind survived it, he might have much advantage fromall the hazards he ran for Christ's sake. Nay, it is certain that the mind isto be the principal seat and subject of the heavenly glory and happiness. But,if there were no hopes after death, would not every wise man prefer an easycomfortable life before such a wretched one as the apostle led; nay, andendeavour to enjoy the comforts of life as fast as possible, because thecontinuance of it is short? Note, Nothing but the hopes of better thingshereafter can enable a man to forego all the comforts and pleasures here, andembrace poverty, contempt, misery, and death. Thus did the apostles andprimitive Christians; but how wretched was their case, and how foolish theirconduct, if they deceived themselves, and abused the world with vain and falsehopes!

V. The apostle closes his argument with a caution, exhortation,and reproof. 1. A caution against the dangerous conversation of bad men, men ofloose lives and principles: Be not deceived, says he; evilcommunications corrupt good manners, v. 33. Possibly, some of those who saidthat there was no resurrection of the dead were men of loose lives, andendeavoured to countenance their vicious practices by so corrupt a principle;and had that speech often in their mouths Let us eat and drink, for to-morrowwe die. Now, the apostle grants that their talk was to the purpose if therewas no future state. But, having confuted their principle, he now warns theCorinthians how dangerous such men's conversation must prove. He tells themthat they would probably be corrupted by them, and fall in with their course oflife, if they gave into their evil principles. Note, Bad company andconversation are likely to make bad men. Those who would keep their innocencemust keep good company. Error and vice are infectious: and, if we would avoidthe contagion, we must keep clear of those who have taken it. He that walkethwith wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed,Prov. 13:20. 2. Here is an exhortation to break off their sins, and rousethemselves, and lead a more holy and righteous life (v. 34): Awake torighteousness, or awake righteously, ekneµpsatedikaioµs, and sin not, or sin no more. "Rouseyourselves, break off your sins by repentance: renounce and forsake every evilway, correct whatever is amiss, and do not, by sloth and stupidity, be led awayinto such conversation and principles as will sap your Christian hopes, andcorrupt your practice." The disbelief of a future state destroys all virtueand piety. But the best improvement to be made of the truth is to cease fromsin, and set ourselves to the business of religion, and that in good earnest. Ifthere will be a resurrection and a future life, we should live and act as thosewho believe it, and should not give into such senseless and sottish notions aswill debauch our morals, and render us loose and sensual in our lives. 3. Hereis a reproof, and a sharp one, to some at least among them: Some of you havenot the knowledge of God; I speak this to your shame. Note, It is a shame inChristians not to have the knowledge of God. The Christian religion gives thebest information that can be had about God, his nature, and grace, andgovernment. Those who profess this religion reproach themselves, by remainingwithout the knowledge of God; for it must be owing to their own sloth, andslight of God, that they are ignorant of him. And is it not a horrid shame for aChristian to slight God, and be so wretchedly ignorant in matters that so nearlyand highly concern him? Note, also, It must be ignorance of God that leads meninto the disbelief of a resurrection and future life. Those who know God knowthat he will not abandon his faithful servants, nor leave them exposed to suchhardships and sufferings without any recompence or reward. They know he is notunfaithful nor unkind, to forget their labour and patience, their faithfulservices and cheerful sufferings, or let their labour be in vain. But Iam apt to think that the expression has a much stronger meaning; that there wereatheistical people among them who hardly owned a God, or one who had any concernwith or took cognizance of human affairs. These were indeed a scandal and shameto any Christian church. Note, Real atheism lies at the bottom of men'sdisbelief of a future state. Those who own a God and a providence, and observehow unequal the distributions of the present life are, and how frequently thebest men fare worst, can hardly doubt an after state, where every thing will beset to rights.

Verses 35-50

The apostle comes now to answer a plausible and principalobjection against the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, concerning whichobserve the proposal of the objection: Some man will say, How are the deadraised up? And with what body do they come? v. 35. The objection is plainlytwo-fold. How are they raised up? that is, "By what means? How canthey be raised? What power is equal to this effect?" It was an opinion thatprevailed much among the heathens, and the Sadducees seem to have been in thesame sentiment, that it was not within the compass of divine power, mortalesaeternitate donare, aut revocare defunctos—to make mortal men immortal, orrevive and restore the dead. Such sort of men those seem to have been whoamong the Corinthians denied the resurrection of the dead, and object here,"How are they raised? How should they be raised? Is it not utterlyimpossible?" The other part of the objection is about the quality of theirbodies, who shall rise: "With what body will they come? Will it bewith the same body, with like shape, and form, and stature, and members, andqualities, or various?" The former objection is that of those who opposedthe doctrine, the latter the enquiry of curious doubters.

I. To the former the apostle replies by telling them this was tobe brought about by divine power, that very power which they had all observed todo something very like it, year after year, in the death and revival of thecorn; and therefore it was an argument of great weakness and stupidity to doubtwhether the resurrection of the dead might not be effected by the same power: Thoufool! that which thou sowest is not quickened unless it die, v. 36. It mustfirst corrupt, before it will quicken and spring up. It not only sprouts afterit is dead, but it must die that it may live. And why should any be so foolishas to imagine that the man once dead cannot be made to live again, by the samepower which every year brings the dead grain to life? This is the substance ofthe apostle's answer to the first question. Note, It is a foolish thing toquestion the divine power to raise the dead, when we see it every day quickeningand reviving things that are dead.

II. But he is longer in replying to the second enquiry.

1. He begins by observing that there is a change made in thegrain that is sown: It is not that body which shall be that is sown, but baregrain, of wheat or barley, etc.; but God gives it such a body as he will,and in such way as he will, only so as to distinguish the kinds from each other.Every seed sown has its proper body, is constituted of such materials,and figured in such a manner, as are proper to it, proper to that kind. This isplainly in the divine power, though we no more know how it is done than we knowhow a dead man is raised to life again. It is certain the grain undergoes agreat change, and it is intimated in this passage that so will the dead, whenthey rise again, and live again, in their bodies, after death.

2. He proceeds hence to observe that there is a great deal ofvariety among others bodies, as there is among plants: as, (1.) In bodies offlesh: All flesh is not the same; that of men is of one kind, that ofbeasts another, another that of fishes, and that of birds another, v. 39. Thereis a variety in all the kinds, and somewhat peculiar in every kind, todistinguish it from the other. (2.) In bodies celestial and terrestrial there isalso a difference; and what is for the glory of one is not for the other; forthe true glory of every being consists in its fitness for its rank and state.Earthly bodies are not adapted to the heavenly regions, nor heavenly bodiesfitted to the condition of earthly beings. Nay, (3.) There is a variety of gloryamong heavenly bodies themselves: There is one glory of the sun, and anotherof the moon, and another of the stars; for one star differs from another star inglory, v. 41. All this is to intimate to us that the bodies of the dead,when they rise, will be so far changed, that they will be fitted for theheavenly regions, and that there will be a variety of glories among the bodiesof the dead, when they shall be raised, as there is among the sun, and moon, andstars, nay among the stars themselves. All this carries an intimation along withit that it must be as easy to divine power to raise the dead, and recover theirmouldered bodies, as out of the same materials to form so many different kindsof flesh and plants, and, for aught we know, celestial bodies as well asterrestrial ones. The sun and stars may, for aught we know, be composed of thesame materials as the earth we tread on, though as much refined and changed bythe divine skill and power. And can he, out of the same materials, form suchvarious beings, and yet not be able to raise the dead? Having thus prepared theway, he comes,

3. To speak directly to the point: So also, says he, isthe resurrection of the dead; so (as the plant growing out of the putrefiedgrain), so as no longer to be a terrestrial but a celestial body, and varying inglory from the other dead, who are raised, as one star does from another. But hespecifies some particulars: as, (1.) It is sown in corruption, it is raisedin incorruption. It is sown. Burying the dead is like sowing them; it islike committing the seed to the earth, that it may spring out of it again. Andour bodies, which are sown, are corruptible, liable to putrefy and moulder, andcrumble to dust; but, when we rise, they will be out of the power of the grave,and never more be liable to corruption. (2.) It is sown in dishonour, it israised in glory. Ours is at present a vile body, Phil. 3:21. Nothing is moreloathsome than a dead body; it is thrown into the grave as a despised and brokenvessel, in which there is no pleasure. But at the resurrection a glory will beput upon it; it will be made like the glorious body of our Saviour; it will bepurged from all the dregs of earth, and refined into an ethereal substance, andshine out with a splendour resembling his. (3.) It is sown in weakness, it israised in power. It is laid in the earth, a poor helpless thing, wholly inthe power of death, deprived of all vital capacities and powers, of life andstrength: it is utterly unable to move or stir. But when we arise our bodieswill have heavenly life and vigour infused into them; they will be hale, andfirm, and durable, and lively, and liable no more to any infirmity, weakness, ordecay. (4.) It is sown a natural, or animal body, soµmapsychikon, a body fitted to the low condition and sensitive pleasuresand enjoyments of this life, which are all gross in comparison of the heavenlystate and enjoyments. But when we rise it will be quire otherwise; our body willrise spiritual. Not that body would be changed into spirit: this would be acontradiction in our common conceptions; it would be as much as to say, Bodychanged into what is not body, matter made immaterial. The expression is to beunderstood comparatively. We shall at the resurrection have bodies purified andrefined to the last degree, made light and agile; and, though they are notchanged into spirit, yet made fit to be perpetual associates of spirits madeperfect. And why should it not be as much in the power of God to raiseincorruptible, glorious, lively, spiritual bodies, out of the ruins of thosevile, corruptible, lifeless, and animal ones, as first to make matter out ofnothing, and then, out of the same mass of matter, produce such variety ofbeings, both in earth and heaven? To God all things are possible; andthis cannot be impossible.

4. He illustrates this by a comparison of the first and secondAdam: There is an animal body, says he, and there is a spiritual body;and then goes into the comparison in several instances. (1.) As we have ournatural body, the animal body we have in this world, from the first Adam, weexpect our spiritual body from the second. This is implied in the wholecomparison. (2.) This is but consonant to the different characters these twopersons bear: The first Adam was made a living soul, such a being asourselves, and with a power of propagating such beings as himself, and conveyingto them a nature and animal body like his own, but none other, nor better. The secondAdam is a quickening Spirit; he is the resurrection and the life, Jn. 11:25.He hath life in himself, and quickeneth whom he will, Jn. 5:20, 21. The firstman was of the earth, made out of the earth, and was earthy; his body wasfitted to the region of his abode: but the second Adam is the Lord fromheaven; he who came down from heaven, and giveth life to the world (Jn.6:33); he who came down from heaven and was in heaven at the same time (Jn.3:13); the Lord of heaven and earth. If the first Adam could communicate to usnatural and animal bodies, cannot the second Adam make our bodies spiritualones? If the deputed lord of this lower creation could do the one, cannot theLord from heaven, the Lord of heaven and earth, do the other? (3.) We must firsthave natural bodies from the first Adam before we can have spiritual bodies fromthe second (v. 49); we must bear the image of the earthy before we can bearthe image of the heavenly. Such is the established order of Providence. Wemust have weak, frail, mortal bodies by descent from the first Adam, before wecan have lively, spiritual, and immortal ones by the quickening power of thesecond. We must die before we can live to die no more. (4.) Yet if we are Christ's,true believers in him (for this whole discourse relates to the resurrection ofthe saints), it is as certain that we shall have spiritual bodies as it is nowthat we have natural or animal ones. By these we are as the first Adam, earthy,we bear his image; by those we shall be as the second Adam, have bodies like hisown, heavenly, and so bear him image. And we are as certainly intended to bearthe one as we have borne the other. As surely therefore as we have had naturalbodies, we shall have spiritual ones. The dead in Christ shall not only rise,but shall rise thus gloriously changed.

5. He sums up this argument by assigning the reason of thischange (v. 50): Now this I say that flesh and blood cannot inherit thekingdom of God; nor doth corruption inherit incorruption. The natural bodyis flesh and blood, consisting of bones, muscles, nerves, veins, arteries, andtheir several fluids; and, as such, it is of a corruptible frame and form,liable to dissolution, to rot and moulder. But no such thing shall inherit theheavenly regions; for this were for corruption to inherit incorruption, which islittle better than a contradiction in terms. The heavenly inheritance isincorruptible, and never fadeth away, 1 Pt. 1:4. How can this be possessed byflesh and blood, which is corruptible and will fade away? It must be changedinto ever-during substance, before it can be capable of possessing the heavenlyinheritance. The sum is that the bodies of the saints, when they shall riseagain, will be greatly changed from what they are now, and much for the better.They are now corruptible, flesh and blood; they will be then incorruptible,glorious, and spiritual bodies, fitted to the celestial world and state, wherethey are ever afterwards to dwell, and have their eternal inheritance.

Verses 51-57

To confirm what he had said of this change,

I. He here tells them what had been concealed from or unknown tothem till then-that all the saints would not die, but all would be changed.Those that are alive at our Lord's coming will be caught up into the clouds,without dying, 1 Th. 4:11. But it is plain from this passage that it will not bewithout changing from corruption to incorruption. The frame of their livingbodies shall be thus altered, as well as those that are dead; and this in amoment, in the twinkling of an eye, v. 52. What cannot almighty powereffect? That power that calls the dead into life can surely thus soon andsuddenly change the living; for changed they must be as well as the dead,because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. This is the mysterywhich the apostle shows the Corinthians: Behold, I show you a mystery; orbring into open light a truth dark and unknown before. Note, There are manymysteries shown to us in the gospel; many truths that before were utterlyunknown are there made known; many truths that were but dark and obscure beforeare there brought into open day, and plainly revealed; and many things are inpart revealed that will never be fully known, nor perhaps clearly understood.The apostle here makes known a truth unknown before, which is that the saintsliving at our Lord's second coming will not die, but be changed, that thischange will be made in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and at the soundof the last trump; for, as he tells us elsewhere, the Lord himself shalldescend with a shout, with a voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God(1 Th. 4:16), so here, the trumpet must sound. It is the loud summons ofall the living and all the dead, to come and appear at the tribunal of Christ.At this summons the graves shall open, the dead saints shall rise incorruptible,and the living saints be changed to the same incorruptible state, v. 52.

II. He assigns the reason of this change (v. 53): For thiscorruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.How otherwise could the man be a fit inhabitant of the incorruptible regions, orbe fitted to possess the eternal inheritance? How can that which is corruptibleand mortal enjoy what is incorruptible, permanent, and immortal? Thiscorruptible body must be made incorruptible, this mortal body must be changedinto immortal, that the man may be capable of enjoying the happiness designedfor him. Note, It is this corruptible that must put on incorruption; thedemolished fabric that must be reared again. What is sown must be quickened.Saints will come in their own bodies (v. 38), not in other bodies.

III. He lets us know what will follow upon this change of theliving and dead in Christ: Then shall be brought to pass that saying, Deathis swallowed up in victory; or, He will swallow up death in victory.Isa. 25:8. For mortality shall be then swallowed up of life (2 Co. 5:4),and death perfectly subdued and conquered, and saints for ever delivered fromits power. Such a conquest shall be obtained over it that it shall for everdisappear in those regions to which our Lord will bear his risen saints. Andtherefore will the saints hereupon sing their epinikion,their song of triumph. Then, when this mortal shall have put onimmortality, will death be swallowed up, for ever swallowed up, eisnikos. Christ hinders it from swallowing his saints when they die;but, when they rise again, death shall, as to them, be swallowed for ever. Andupon this destruction of death will they break out into a song of triumph.

1. They will glory over death as a vanquished enemy, and insultthis great and terrible destroyer: "O death! where is thy sting?Where is now thy sting, thy power to hurt? What mischief hast thou done us? Weare dead; but behold we live again, and shall die no more. Thou art vanquishedand disarmed, and we are out of the reach of thy deadly dart. Where now is thyfatal artillery? Where are thy stores of death? We fear no further mischiefsfrom thee, nor heed thy weapons, but defy thy power, and despise thy wrath. And,O grave! where is thy victory? Where now is thy victory? What has becomeof it? Where are the spoils and trophies of it? Once we were thy prisoners, butthe prison-doors are burst open, the locks and bolts have been forced to giveway, our shackles are knocked off, and we are for ever released. Captivity istaken captive. The imaginary victor is conquered, and forced to resign hisconquest and release his captives. Thy triumphs, grave, are at an end. The bondsof death are loosed, and we are at liberty, and are never more to be hurt bydeath, nor imprisoned in the grave." In a moment, the power of death, andthe conquests and spoils of the grave, are gone; and, as to the saints, the verysigns of them will not remain. Where are they? Thus will they raise themselves,when they become immortal, to the honour of their Saviour and the praise ofdivine grace: they shall glory over vanquished death.

2. The foundation for this triumph is here intimated, (1.) Inthe account given whence death had its power to hurt: The sting of death issin. This gives venom to his dart: this alone puts it into the power ofdeath to hurt and kill. Sin unpardoned, and nothing else, can keep any under hispower. And the strength of sin is the law; it is the divine threateningagainst the transgressors of the law, the curse there denounced, that givespower to sin. Note, Sin is the parent of death, and gives it all its hurtfulpower. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, Rom.5:12. It is its cursed progeny and offspring. (2.) In the account given of thevictory saints obtain over it through Jesus Christ, v. 56. The sting of deathis sin; but Christ, by dying, has taken out this sting. He has madeatonement for sin; he has obtained remission of it. It may hiss therefore, butit cannot hurt. The strength of sin is the law; but the curse of the lawis removed by our Redeemer's becoming a curse for us. So that sin isdeprived of its strength and sting, through Christ, that is, by his incarnation,suffering, and death. Death may seize a believer, but cannot sting him, cannothold him in his power. There is a day coming when the grave shall open, thebands of death be loosed, the dead saints revive, and become incorruptible andimmortal, and put out of the reach of death for ever. And then will it plainlyappear that, as to them, death will have lost its strength and sting; and all bythe mediation of Christ, by his dying in their room. By dying, he conquereddeath, and spoiled the grave; and, through faith in him, believers becomesharers in his conquests. They often rejoice beforehand, in the hope of thisvictory; and, when they arise glorious from the grave, they will boldly triumphover death. Note, It is altogether owing to the grace of God in Christ that sinis pardoned and death disarmed. The law puts arms into the hand of death, todestroy the sinner; but pardon of sin takes away this power from the law, anddeprives death of its strength and sting. It is by the grace of God, throughthe redemption which is in Christ Jesus, that we are freely justified, Rom.3:24. It is no wonder, therefore, (3.) If this triumph of the saints over deathshould issue in thanksgiving to God: Thanks be to God, who giveth us thevictory through Christ Jesus, our Lord, v. 57. The way to sanctify all ourjoy is to make it tributary to the praise of God. Then only do we enjoy ourblessings and honours in a holy manner when God has his revenue of glory out ofit, and we are free to pay it to him. And this really improves and exalts oursatisfaction. We are conscious at once of having done our duty and enjoyed ourpleasure. And what can be more joyous in itself than the saints' triumph overdeath, when they shall rise again? And shall they not then rejoice in the Lord,and be glad in the God of their salvation? Shall not their souls magnify theLord? When he shows such wonders to the dead, shall they not arise and praisehim? Ps. 88:10. Those who remain under the power of death can have no heartto praise; but such conquests and triumphs will certainly tune the tongues ofthe saints to thankfulness and praise—praise for the victory (it is great andglorious in itself), and for the means whereby it is obtained (it is given ofGod through Christ Jesus), a victory obtained not by our power, but the power ofGod; not given because we are worthy, but because Christ is so, and has by dyingobtained this conquest for us. Must not this circ*mstance endear the victory tous, and heighten our praise to God? Note, How many springs of joy to the saintsand thanksgiving to God are opened by the death and resurrection, the sufferingsand conquests, of our Redeemer! With what acclamations will saints rising fromthe dead applaud him! How will the heaven of heavens resound his praises forever! Thanks be to God will be the burden of their song; and angels willjoin the chorus, and declare their consent with a loud Amen, Hallelujah.

Verse 58

In this verse we have the improvement of the whole argument, inan exhortation, enforced by a motive resulting plainly from it.

I. An exhortation, and this threefold:—1. That they should bestedfast—hedraioi, firm, fixed in thefaith of the gospel, that gospel which he had preached and they had received,namely, That Christ died for our sins, and arose again the third day,according to the scriptures (v. 3, 4), and fixed in the faith of theglorious resurrection of the dead, which, as he had shown, had so near andnecessary a connection with the former. "Do not let your belief of thesetruths be shaken or staggered. They are most certain, and of the lastimportance." Note, Christians should be stedfast believers of this greatarticle of the resurrection of the dead. It is evidently founded on the death ofChrist. Because he lives, his servants shall live also, Jn. 14:19. And itis of the last importance; a disbelief of a future life will open a way to allmanner of licentiousness, and corrupt men's morals to the last degree. It willbe easy and natural to infer hence that we may live like beasts, and eat anddrink, for to-morrow we die. 2. He exhorts them to be immovable, namely,in their expectation of this great privilege of being raised incorruptible andimmortal. Christians should not be moved away from this hope of this gospel(Col. 1:23), this glorious and blessed hope; they should not renounce nor resigntheir comfortable expectations. They are not vain, but solid hopes, built uponsure foundations, the purchase and power of their risen Saviour, and the promiseof God, to whom it is impossible to lie-hopes that shall be their most powerfulsupports under all the pressures of life, the most effectual antidotes againstthe fears of death, and the most quickening motives to diligence andperseverance in Christian duty. Should they part with these hopes? Should theysuffer them to be shaken? Note, Christians should live in the most firmexpectation of a blessed resurrection. This hope should be an anchor to theirsouls, firm and sure, Heb. 6:19. 3. He exhorts them to abound in the work ofthe Lord, and that always, in the Lord's service, in obeying theLord's commands. They should be diligent and persevering herein, and going ontowards perfection; they should be continually making advances in true piety,and ready and apt for every good work. The most cheerful duty, the greatestdiligence, the most constant perseverance, become those who have such glorioushopes. Can we too much abound in zeal and diligence in the Lord's work, whenwe are assured of such abundant recompences in a future life? What vigour andresolution, what constancy and patience, should those hopes inspire! Note,Christians should not stint themselves as to their growth in holiness, but bealways improving in sound religion, and abounding in the work of the Lord.

II. The motive resulting from the former discourse is that theirlabour shall not be in vain in the Lord; nay, they know it shall not.They have the best grounds in the world to build upon: they have all theassurance that can rationally be expected: as surely as Christ is risen, theyshall rise; and Christ is as surely risen as the scriptures are true, and theword of God. The apostles saw him after his death, testified this truth to theworld in the face of a thousand deaths and dangers, and confirmed it bymiraculous powers received from him. Is there any room to doubt a fact so wellattested? Note, True Christians have undoubted evidence that their labour willnot be in vain in the Lord; not their most diligent services, nor their mostpainful sufferings; they will not be in vain, not be vain and unprofitable.Note, The labour of Christians will not be lost labour; they may lose for God,but they will lose nothing by him; nay, there is more implied than is expressedin this phrase: it means that they shall be abundantly rewarded. He will neverbe found unjust to forget their labour of love, Heb. 6:10. Nay, he will doexceedingly abundantly above what they can now ask or think. Neither theservices they do for him, nor the sufferings they endure for him here, areworthy to be compared with the joy hereafter to be revealed in them, Rom. 8:18.Note, Those who serve God have good wages; they cannot do too much nor suffertoo much for so good a Master. If they serve him now, they shall see himhereafter; if they suffer for him on earth, they shall reign with him in heaven;if they die for his sake, they shall rise again from the dead, be crowned withglory, honour, and immortality, and inherit eternal life.

1 Corinthians 15 Bible Commentary (2024)
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