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"The Essential Proclamation"
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Wednesday AM Bible Study
February 20, 2008
Theme: Paul asserts that the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is an essential proclamation of the gospel message.
In Paul's letter, he has dealt with problems of fellowship in the church (chps. 1-4), of moral life in the church (chps. 5-10), and of worship in the church (chps. 11-14). And now, in chapter fifteen, he deals with the problem of doctrine in the church—specifically, the problem of false teaching regarding the resurrection.
Apparently, some were rising up in the church who were denying that there was such a thing as a resurrection (v. 12); and perhaps they were doing so as those who were not even believers at all (v. 34). Their teaching was causing harming the faith and the moral character of others (v. 33). Paul treats this denial with utmost seriousness—as an attack on the fundamental truth of the gospel itself.
First, he presents the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ as a first principle (vv 1-11). Then, he deals with the substance of hope this doctrine gives to the Christian faith itself (vv. 12-33). He answers the arguments that had been raised against the doctrine (vv. 34-53); and asserts the final victory that the resurrection gives us (vv. 54-57). Paul then closes with a statement of the practical motivation this doctrine should give the believer (v. 58).
I. PAUL REMINDS THE CORINTHIANS OF THE GOSPEL HE HAD PREACHED TO THEM (vv. 1-2).
A. Paul, literally, "makes known" the gospel he had preached to the Corinthians (v. 1). It was not something that they didn't know; but it was clearly something that they needed to be reminded of in a strong way. It had been preached to them; and they had received it; and it is that in which they stand by faith in the grace of God. To deny it is to cut the feet out from under one's self with respect to hope (see verses 17-19).
B. The gospel is that which saves (Romans 1:16-17); but only if it is held fast as that word that had been preached (v. 2). To have believed in vain may be a reference to the failure of the Corinthians to hold true to it (see Galatians 3:4); but most likely, this is a reference to the failure of the gospel itself IF the resurrection—upon which it rests— were not a fact.
II. ESSENTIAL TO THIS GOSPEL IS THE PROCLAMATION THAT CHRIST ROSE BODILY (vv. 3-4).
A. The gospel that Paul preached was something that he asserts he was given (v. 3). He only delivered what had been revealed to him (see Galatians 1:11-12). If it were man- made, the doctrine of the resurrection would never had been made a part of it.
B. The three essentials that Paul mentions are: (1) the death of Christ, (2) His burial—which is an essential assertion to His resurrection, and (3) His bodily resurrection on the third day. Note that Paul says that this was all according to the Scriptures (see Isaiah 53:11- 12; Psalm 16:10). The preaching of the gospel is not the preaching of the gospel if the resurrection is denied.
III. THE BODILY RESURRECTION IS PROCLAIMED AS AN EYE-WITNESSED FACT OF HISTORY (vv. 5-11).
A. Paul does not present the resurrection as a "spiritual" thing. He presents it as a fact that had eyewitness testimony (vv. 5-8). He was seen by Peter, then by "the twelve" (minus Judas), then by over five-hundred of the brethren at one time (probably in Matthew 28:16-17). Some of that five-hundred were still alive at the time Paul wrote; and their testimony could be verified. Many had "fallen asleep" though; and Paul here uses a term that underscores the hope of the resurrection (because those who "sleep" will one day "awaken"). Then he asserts that Jesus was seen alive by James, then by all the apostles, and then finally by Paul himself.
B. Paul stresses his own eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (see Acts 9), because his resolute faith was a demonstration of the reality of the resurrection. Given the fact that Paul was so antagonistic to the faith, there was no other way to explain his remarkable ministry as an apostle except by the fact that he truly did encounter the living Christ (vv. 8-10). In this, he also expresses his humble gratitude that God had chosen him to proclaim this great truth.
C. Paul closes with the affirmation that, whether it had been through himself or through the other apostles, the resurrection was essential to what they consistently preached and to what the Corinthians had been called to believed (v. 11).
* * * * * * * * * *
It may seem like a strong thing to say in our 'tolerant' age; but it's absolutely in keeping with what Paul teaches in these opening verses and throughout this chapter: Anyone who proposes to preach the gospel, but who consciously denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, is a false teacher who preaches a false gospel! Such a preacher denies the preaching of the apostles. If Jesus' resurrection was only a "spiritual" one, as some teach—if Jesus only "rose in the hearts of His followers" and nothing more—then He did not rise at all! The Christian faith is then a fraud, the apostles were liars, and we are still without hope in our sins (vv. 12-19).
But the good news is that He has been raised bodily. And by faith in Him, we have been begotten again by God the Father "to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3). Let the full message of the gospel—including the proclamation of Jesus' literal, bodily resurrection—be that gospel on which we stand!
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