Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com. In this week’s lesson the Apostle Paul has written to the church at Corinth to absolutely dispel and dismiss the idea that resurrection is just of the spirit and not the body. He writes this letter about twenty years after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some of the Corinthians didn’t believe in a physical bodily resurrection. Paul writes to lay out the evidence that if there is no physical body resurrection then Jesus Christ was not resurrected and if Jesus wasn’t resurrected then our Christianity is in vain. The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central tenant and the crux of the Christian faith. Paul outlines actual people who witnessed the resurrected Christ. In this way he proves that they can attest to the resurrection of the body of Christ. Paul is outlining evidence of the resurrection of the body, not the spirit. Everything we believe as Christians rests on the fact that Jesus Christ arose from the grave. After all the evidence he has already laid out, the only conclusion to draw is that Jesus Christ was resurrected in physical body form. The resurrection of Jesus is a public fact that is witnessed by hundreds of people. And he knows that we would in fact, be resurrected with a new body. Some key ideas surrounding this week’s text includes the terms:
The book of 1 Corinthians is written by the Apostle Paul. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that “Early in the year 50 CE, some twenty years after Jesus’ crucifixion and perhaps seventeen years after his own call to become an apostle, Paul arrived in Corinth and preached the gospel with apparent power.” After this initial visit some years later Paul would write the letter we call First Corinthians. Nelson’s Bible Handbook explains “it is reasonably certain Paul wrote four letters and paid perhaps three visits to the church in Corinth. … He wrote a letter that has since been lost that apparently failed to achieve its purpose. Some time later Paul learned (1 Cor 1:11; 16:17) that the sexual problems persisted, along with many others.” So the first letter he wrote is lost, the second letter he wrote is what we call First Corinthians. According to Nelson’s, the third letter “in which he spared no punches in his contest with the willful Corinthians has also been lost.” Nelson’s also notes that “many scholars believe (the third letter) has been attached to 2 Corinthians and preserved as chapters 10-13.” So the first letter is lost, the second letter is what we call First Corinthians, the third letter is likely lost also, and what we call Second Corinthians is likely the fourth letter to the church at Corinth. This is all evidence that the Apostle Paul is clearly deeply invested in the church at Corinth. He organized this church and wants to see them growing and abiding in Christ but they seem to face significant challenges along the way.
The Baker Encyclopedia of The Bible explains “the main concern of Paul is the unity of the church. It also notes several problems within the church including:
- Self centeredness resulting in building cliques
- Flaunting knowledge and liberty in the face of others scandalized by it.
- Selfish displays in the services
- Along with other pagan practices, lax sexual ethics
- A problem accepting resurrection of the body.
The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that 1 Corinthians “is structured around a series of problems and several issues dominate the letter.” Our text for this week addresses one of those issues. This week’s text deals with resurrection. Westminister’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines resurrection as “God’s raising of Jesus Christ from the dead (Acts 2:32; 4:10; Gal. 1:1). Also, the future rising of all persons prior to the final judgement (John 5:25-29; 1 Cor. 15; Rev. 20:4-15).” The NISB explains that part of the issue Paul addresses in today’s text is the idea that “resurrection is something spiritual and present, not really an overcoming of death.” Evidently, some of the Corinthians believed the resurrection was not a physical resurrection of the body but just of the spirit. In other words the body would remain deceased and only the disembodied spirit would be resurrected. A spiritual resurrection does not reflect the way Jesus Christ was resurrected. Paul needed to dispel and completely dismiss the idea that resurrection meant anything other than resurrection of the body. Paul knows that we would in fact, be resurrected with a new body.
The fifteenth Chapter of First Corinthians deals with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the resurrection body. Our text this week comes from portions of each of those areas. At fifty-eight verses this chapter is the longest in First Corinthians. Just based on the length of this chapter, the subject of resurrection is clearly important to Paul. In fact, resurrection is central to our beliefs as Christians. If Christ didn’t rise from the grave, Christianity is vain. The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics affirms this view explaining that “the bodily resurrection of Christ is the crowning proof that Jesus was who he claimed to be, God manifested in human flesh. It continues “some have opted for a spiritual or immaterial resurrection body but the New Testament is emphatic that Jesus rose in the same physical body of flesh and bones in which he died.” So the resurrection of Jesus was a resurrection of his physical body and our resurrection will be of our physical bodies as well. Some important terms to consider about this text include:
Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
In last week’s lesson Second Isaiah wrote the first Servant Song that described God’s just servant. Second Isaiah wrote about a just servant who would bring a justice that as Townsend Commentary explained “connotes much more than judicial equity. In its broadest sense, it involves societal order in which the concerns of all are addressed.” That was the kind of justice that God promised in a just kingdom. Jesus the Christ, also known as the Messiah and the Saviour would be the one who would bring about this just kingdom. Isaiah wrote those words about 500 years before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In last week’s prophecy God knew the ending 500 years before the beginning. God was the one who created the heavens and the earth and all that dwell therein. When God inspired Second Isaiah to write chapter 42 God already knew. Likewise God continues to inspire us and to write the chapters of our lives just as God did with Isaiah. Last week helped us understand that in the person of Jesus Christ, God would send a light for the Gentiles. The servant of the LORD was an example of the very best of Godly leadership.” Townsend and Boyd’s Commentaries title this week’s lesson Resurrection Hope. Standard Lesson Commentary titles this week’s lesson A Resurrected Savior. The scripture text comes from 1 Corinthians 15: 1-8, 12-14, 20-23, 42-45.
Keep in mind that this issue is absolutely central to the existence of the Christian faith. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the example that we as Christians will follow as well.
What Takes Place in This Passage:
This lesson opens in chapter fifteen verse one with the Apostle Paul reminding the Church at Corinth of the good news or the gospel that he proclaimed to them. The KJV and the NIV use the word gospel whereas the NRSV uses “good news”. Westminster’s Dictionary of Theological Terms defines gospel as “the central message of the Christian church to the world, centered on God’s provision of salvation for the world in Jesus Christ. Also Gospel, one of the first four books in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John”. Of course, both terms have the same meaning. The central message of the Christian church is salvation through Jesus Christ and that is good news no matter how you slice it.
Verse one reads “Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand”. This good news, this gospel is what Paul preached, it is what the Corinthians have received, and it is the good news in which they stand.
Verse two continues the same thought reminding them that this is the gospel in which they were saved and are being saved. But Paul clarifies, “if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you – unless you have come to believe in vain.” The Pulpit Commentary notes that the phrase “in vain” may either mean “rashly,” or “without evidence,” as in the classical Greek. Or “to no purpose” or “without effect” as in Rom. 13:4.” At any rate the idea is that they need to hold onto and stand fast in the good news, the gospel that Paul has already proclaimed to them.
Verses three and four read “ 3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” Jesus Christ died for OUR sins, not his own sins. The death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the sacrifice that ended the sacrificial system. There is no need to sacrifice bulls, and rams, and doves, or anything else. Paul is reinforcing his authority here. He is gently reminding them that he didn’t just make this stuff up. Paul has been in the presence of Jesus Christ and he is an apostle. Paul is reminding them that the same gospel he passed along to them is the gospel that he received. He notes that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scripture. Last week we talked about the prophecy of the coming Messiah in Isaiah. Here Paul declares that Jesus Christ IS that Messiah, Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is the Savior. Last week we discussed Isaiah 42:1-9 which prophesied of the coming Messiah. This verse references scripture that prophesies of the crucified Saviour. Isaiah 53:5 comes to mind regarding the crucified Saviour. It reads “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.”
Verses five, six, seven, and eight read “5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 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.” Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus. It was a personal encounter that transformed the life of Saul. Some say his name was then changed to Paul. It’s more likely that Paul was his Roman name and Saul was his Jewish name. The Pulpit Commentary notes that “verse five omits the appearances to the women in John 20:14.” These women are in fact the very first to see and proclaim the resurrected Jesus. Luke 24:34 is where “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Being seen by Cephas (or Simon Peter), the twelve, more than 500 brothers and sisters at once, James and all the apostles is proof that the resurrection was not made up.
Actual people who witnessed the resurrected Christ can attest to the resurrection of the body of Christ and that is what Paul is proving. Paul is outlining evidence of the resurrection of the body. The resurrection of Jesus is a public fact witnessed by hundreds of people. In the KJV Paul notes that some have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians is written about twenty years after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. So some of these witnesses have died but many remain.
In verse eight Paul is providing evidence of his own eye-witness account of having met the resurrected Christ. Paul is least of the apostles and unfit to be called an apostle because he persecuted the church of God. The fact that Paul was converted from a persecutor to a believer is more evidence why he should be believed. The text then skips to verse twelve through fourteen.
The previous verses deal with the resurrection of Christ. Verse twelve begins a section focused on the resurrection of the body. Verse twelve reads “12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised;” That’s important because life after this physical death is a central part of what we believe in the Christian faith. Some in the Jewish faith did not believe in resurrection. Paul has spent the previous verses laying out the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He begins verse twelve by restating that if Christ is proclaimed as raised “how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?” The evidence is clear. It is illogical and probably inconceivable in the mind of Paul that anyone could dispute the resurrection of the body. He makes the logical conclusion in verse thirteen that “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised.” After all the evidence he has already laid out, the only conclusion to draw is that Jesus Christ was resurrected in physical body form.
Verses thirteen and fourteen read “13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central tenet and crux of our Christian faith. Everything we believe as Christians rests on the fact that Jesus Christ arose from the grave. If there is no resurrection of the dead then Christ has not been raised. If there is no resurrection of the dead then we will not be raised. If there is no resurrection of the dead then Christianity is a fraud. In other words, if Jesus Christ did not arise for the dead then what’s the point. If there is no resurrection then as verse 18 and 19 says “ Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Our hope rests in a resurrected savior. The text then skips to verses twenty through twenty-three.
Verses twenty and twenty-one reads “20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;” When verse twenty says “the first fruits of those who have died” it is not an indication that Jesus is the first to be raised from death. Others have been raised from death in both the Old and New Testaments. Those include Elijah raising a young child in 1 Kings 17:22, the Shunammite woman’s son by Elisha in 2 Kings 4: 34, 35; Lazarus by Jesus in John 11, among others. Verse twenty-one reminds us that since death came through Adam, the resurrection of the dead would come through another human – Jesus Christ. Some things simply can not be explained. Adam and Eve is a good way to explain how humanity came to its sinful state. Adam was the progenitor of death. Adam is the federal head of death because of his disobedience in the Garden of Eden.
Verses twenty-two and twenty-three read “22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” Because of Adam’s sin, we NEED a Savior. Jesus Christ is the second Adam (vs. 47) and through Jesus we have a new start, a second chance. Now, instead of Adam being the federal head we have new life through Jesus Christ. The text then skips to verse forty-two.
Verse forty-two through forty-five reads “42 So it is 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 physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical 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. When verse forty-two says “what is sown is perishable” I am reminded of Psalm 51:5 which says “Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.” We were born in sin. We were born in sin but raised in the sinless righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Verse forty-four reminds us that there is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. This is an important distinction. Our spiritual body is raised in Jesus Christ. Several weeks ago I got an email from a subscriber that asked whether we immediately move into the presence to God when we die. No one can give a definitive answer because no one has ever come back to tell us. But there are several theories based on scriptural interpretation. But a simple answer that works for me, is that God is not constrained by the boundaries of time. In that way we move immediately into God’s presence when we die. I’m sure there are others out there who have put in some time to study this question. Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Verse forty-five closes our lesson helping us understand that Adam was a living soul but Jesus Christ was a life-giving spirit.
This covid-19 or Coronavirus pandemic is a reminder that you may think you are doing fine one day and in a better place the next day. Chapter fifteen closes by reminding us to “be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Only what you do for Christ will last and none of us know the day nor the hour we will draw our last breath. So whatever time we have left, whether we think it’s a long time or whether we think it isn’t, let us resolve to do the best we know how to do so that when our time comes. We will hear the words “well done, good and faithful servant.
Why is the resurrection so important for Jesus Christ and for each of us?
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week’s lesson returns to the Old Testament. Next week we continue to study justice in the context of God promising a just kingdom. The lesson for April 19, 2020 comes from Ester 7: 1-7. Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title next week’s lesson Injustice Will be Punished. Standard Lesson Commentary titles next week’s lesson An Executed Scoundrel.
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