Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: 1 Corinthians Studies|
Chs.15 & 16
Chapters 15 & 16
Chapter: 1 Cor 15
Passage: 1 Cor 15:1-11
A. Find Out:
1. What do we need to do with the Gospel? v.1,2
2. What are the basics of it? v.3,4
3. To whom did Jesus appear after resurrection? v.5-8
4. What did Paul feel about himself and why? v.9
5. Yet why was he what he was? v.10
Remember so far in the last three chapters Paul has been speaking about gifts of the Spirit and their use when the church comes together. As he comes to the end of that it is as if he now says, “OK, that's all very important but remember the most important thing - the Gospel - get everything else in perspective, it's the Gospel that is most important, not what goes on in your meetings! (he's also paving the way for what will follow - see tomorrow)
Note first of all, in verse 2, the warning - the Gospel is valid ONLY if you keep holding on it. If you no longer rely on it or live according to it, it doesn't matter what profession you made, it will be of no avail.
Next he goes on to give the FACTS of the Gospel, the things that happened in time-space history on which we base all our beliefs: that the Christ, Messiah, Promised One came, and died in our place, was buried and was raised on the third day. Take away any of those pieces and you no longer have the Gospel. Those are the key essentials. In a sense the most important part among all the important parts, is the resurrection and that's why Paul reminds us of the witnesses (including himself) who saw the risen Jesus. The resurrection story is factual history with genuine witnesses. Always remember that!
A. Find Out:
1. What had some of them been saying? v.12
2. If that was true what follows? v.13, 16
3. If that also was true, then what also follows? v.14
4. And what would that make Paul? v.15
5. And if all that were true where would that leave us? v.17
6. And what about those who have died already? v.18
Paul now addresses yet a further problem that had arisen in the Corinthian church. Some had obviously been saying that there was no such thing as resurrection from the dead. This was a doctrine that the early church firmly believed in, indeed the whole concept of eternal life means life that continues on after death. If there is no resurrection of the dead then a number of things logically follow, says Paul.
First, Christ could not have been raised from the dead. If he wasn't raised from the dead then our faith in him is futile and the Father hasn't ratified his ministry and we cannot be sure that our sins have been dealt with on the Cross. Any hope we might have in a future inheritance in heaven with God would be a baseless hope, and those who have died already have just gone and there is no hope for them either. No, we may think that the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead is not the most important things in Christian belief, but Paul shows us that it is vitally important and goes to the very heart of our salvation in Christ, and is the very hope of any future life with Christ.
For further references to this subject see: Dan 12:2, Jn 5:28,29, Acts 24:15, Mt 25:31-46, 1 Thess 4:16. The Bible clearly teaches that all will be raised after death to face God, and then comes either eternal life or death.
A. Find Out:
1. What is Christ rising from the dead? v.20
2. How does resurrection from the dead come? v.21,22
3. When will it happen? v.23
4. What will Jesus then do? v.24
5. How long must he do what? v.25
6. What will be the last thing to be destroyed? v.26
Continuing to discuss the whole matter of resurrection, Paul now asserts that Christ's resurrection is the proof that God does raise the dead, and what he did for Christ He will eventually do for us. When we speak of resurrection here the Bible means the resurrection of the body, not the spirit. When we die our spirit goes to be with Christ immediately (see Lk 23:43 ) but our bodies which will go into the ground at death, and will decompose, will be reconstituted in a new way when Jesus returns to inaugurate the final phase of his mission.
Paul is quite clear about this here: this will take place when Jesus returns. When that happens he will destroy all enemies, including death, and bring a new eternal kingdom, with all his followers having new bodies in a new heaven and new earth - see Rev 21. Revelation 20 seems to indicate a period between Christ's return and the new heaven and earth, yet many interpret these things in different ways. Suffice it to say that at some point in our eternal destinies Christ will give us new bodies like his new body, presumably to enjoy a more glorious “material existence” than we can know now. It's a mystery - you'll have to wait and see! What we can be sure of is that however it will work out, it will be for our eternal blessing - it will be great!
A. Find Out:
1. What question does Paul now pose? v.29a
2. What were some people doing? v.29b
3. What did Paul say happened to him? v.30,31
4. What example does he give? v.32
5. What principle does he state? v.33
6. What does he instruct and why? v.34
Paul, continuing to discuss resurrection of the dead, now refers to the practice of some of being baptised on behalf of the dead. When a person had become a Christian but had died before they had chance to be baptised, some felt they should complete that person's salvation by being baptised on their half. Now Paul is not endorsing that practice (and neither should we) but he simply says what is the point of that if those people don't believe in resurrection after death.
Then he says, almost as a throwaway aside, and I die every day! What does he mean? He isn't clear. He may mean that his lifestyle puts his life at risk frequently and he counts on there being life after death, or he may mean that figuratively his life is thrown away and given back to him on a daily basis. The former is more likely because of the quote he uses from Isa 22:13.
He then chides them for moving into an area of unbelief, which is sin, and says it is only because of the bad company that some of them are keeping that they have come into a place of doubt and unbelief. Come on, he says, wake up, come to your senses, come back to the truth.
A. Find Out:
1. What question did Paul foresee being asked? v.35
2. What analogy does he use? v.36-38
3. What does he then compare? v.39
4. And what else does he compare? v.40,41
5. What are the characteristics of our body as it dies? v.42-44
6. What are its characteristics when it is raised? v.42-44
In furthering his explanation about resurrection from the dead, Paul now goes on to describe the nature of the body that will be raised. First of all he says don't expect it to be like the dying body. He compares it first to a seed and the eventual plant. The grown plant is very different from the planted seed. Then he says, realise there are different sorts of body, as seen with animals, birds and people. There are many different sorts of body in God's creation and he refers to stars and planets. Then he describes the nature of the two bodies.
First the dying body: it is perishable (it decays), it is buried in dishonour (death is not a glorious thing), it dies in weakness (there is an ebbing away of life), it is the natural body (the material, body of flesh).
Next the raised body: it is imperishable (will not deteriorate), it is glorious (shares more of the nature of God), it is raised by power (it is the powerful work of God), it is spiritual (it is not limited to physical limitations).
Because some of these second descriptions are hard to understand, consider Jesus' body after his resurrection. At the very least it was not the same as before because now he was often not recognised, now he could walk through closed doors. No, now he was different.
A. Find Out:
1. How did the two Adams differ? v.45
2. What was the order? v.46
3. What were their two origins? v.47
4. How does this apply to us? v.48
5. So how will it work out? v.49
6. How doesn't it work? v.50
Still pursuing the subject of resurrection from the dead, Paul now distinguishes the life or ordinary man from that of Jesus. Adam was made from material matter by God breathing His spirit or breath into him. Later on Jesus came, the Son of God from heaven who was spirit (for God is spirit) who dwelt in a human body. When he returned to heaven he returned with a resurrected body which, though material in form, did not have the same characteristics and restrictions of a usual human body (a mystery!).
So, says Paul, when we became a Christian the life of God entered us and dwells within us so when we die, His Spirit with our spirit will eventually take on a new resurrected “body” that has the same characteristics as Jesus' resurrected body. An ordinary flesh and blood body, which relies on the heart to pump life around it and which winds down and decomposes, has no room in eternity, so God will give us a new body form that will be the perfect housing for spirit and which will not have the same deficiencies and limitations that our present bodies, affected by the effects of sin, have in this present world. Difficult to understand? Yes, but rest in the simple basics of what Paul is saying: we leave behind our old bodies and will receive new imperishable ones.
A. Find Out:
1. What does Paul maintain will happen and when? v.51,52
2. What will actually happen? v.53
3. How does Paul view that? v.54
4. What is the relationship of sin to death? v.56
5. Yet what is our position? v.57
6. So what does Paul exhort them to do? v.58
As Paul concludes his comments about resurrection of the dead he reiterates some of the basics of this doctrine. First it is a mystery, it is not something easily understood, it is a matter of revelation. Second, it will involve all Christians. Third, it will happen at a given time in God's economy (it may be at one all-embracing time in the “future” or it may be that the trumpet is the trumpet for the individual in their particular part of God's economy). Fourth, our perishable body will go to be replaced by an imperishable one.
The result of all this is that death is no longer the fear-making thing it is for so many. Sin is in every person, it is the sting-poison that guarantees death for every person (see Gen 2:17 which refers to both physical and spiritual death). The Law reinforces sin (see Rom 7) and just makes its effect even stronger, so death is the natural result for every person. But for us in Christ, the power of sin and the effect of sin have been drawn by Jesus and we are no longer bound by either. We are assured of a resurrected life with Christ in eternity. The effect on our daily lives must be that we are released from the fear of death and released into purposeful living knowing that all we do is part of the plan and purpose of God which will go on into a glorious eternity.
A. Find Out:
1. What subject does Paul now move on to? v.1a
2. What does he instruct them to do? v.1b
3. When does he encourage them to act? v.2a
4. What does he encourage them to do? v.2b
5. So what can happen? v.2c
6. How would it be dealt with? v.3,4
We are now given a rare insight into the life of the church. Paul often speaks about giving (see 2 Cor 8 & 9, Gal 2:10, Rom 15:25 -27, Acts 24:17) and it becomes clear that, because of the persecutions that took place, there were very real needs in the church in Jerusalem . He therefore encourages all the other churches to provide for them and that is obviously what is happening here.
He talks about the first day of the week, Sunday, when it seems the church came together (see also Acts 20:7) to remember Jesus together, on the day of resurrection instead of the old Jewish Sabbath. Therefore he says when you come together on that day put aside something each week so it mounts up and you don't have to have one big special offering when I come.
We also see here that Paul was intending to come to Corinth again sometime soon and then perhaps go to Jerusalem himself (see his journeys in “Establishing and Expanding” in this Series). But what are the main lessons here? First, the church was a caring and sharing church. Are we? Second, they were a planning church, planning to meet the need in a substantial way. Do we? Third, they were an obedient church, following Paul's instructions. Do we?
A. Find Out:
1. Where was Paul intending to go? v.5
2. What did he want to do? v.6,7
3. Where was he at the moment? v.8a
4. What did he feel about that situation? v.8b,9
5. What instructions did he give about Timothy? v.10,11
6. What did he say about Apollos? v.12
Here we get further insight into the travels of Paul and some of the other apostolic men. Presumably written while on his third missionary journey (see Introduction and “Establishing and Expanding” in this Series), Paul is in Ephesus (see Acts 20) where he is having a much blessed time. For three months (Acts 20:8) Paul had opportunity to speak in the synagogue but when eventually rejected from there he carried on preaching and teaching in a nearby hall for the next two years! This was obviously a time of much blessing but it also evoked much opposition. Having established the church in Corinth on his previous journey (see Acts 18:1-18), when he had stayed for at least eighteen months, he has a desire to return to see them and help them, but he doesn't want it to be a fleeting visit.
As he feels he has to make the most of the opportunity in Ephesus he decides to sent Timothy to them to encourage them (see Acts 19:22). He also wanted Apollos also to go but for some reason he hadn't wanted to go at the moment. We see from this that there was no forcing men to go where they didn't want to go, but simply working as a team in however it worked out best. This part of the letter shows us the “domestic arrangements” of the apostles.
A. Find Out:
1. What five instructions does Paul now give? v.13,14
2. What does he say about Stephanas? v.15,16
3. What had he done? v.17,18
4. Who sent greetings? v.19-21
5. What strong word does he give about unbelievers? v.22
6. Yet how does he conclude? v.23,24
In his concluding words, Paul first of all exhorts in a number of ways: 1) Be on your guard - be watchful, 2) Stand firm - as you see the opposition that comes, hold on, 3) Be courageous - as you hold on and resist the enemy, don't be intimidated or give way to fear, 4) Be strong - you will need strength to resist, 5) Do everything in love - don't lose love in the battle, but maintain this essential characteristic in all you do.
Next he speaks about the three men who had come from Corinth with news and questions. The leader was Stephanas who had been one of the first converts and had gone on to give himself to the work of the Lord, serving the others. This is the mark of a leader, not that he is appointed to a position, but that he is open hearted to the Lord so that he is a first responder and then a main server. Such a person brings blessing wherever he goes.
Finally he brings greetings from churches that would be known to the Corinthians, and especially from Aquila and Priscilla who had once lived in Corinth (see Acts 18:1,2). The feel is of one part of the family greeting another part.
In this final group of 10 studies we have seen Paul:
In this last part of the letter, having just explained in detail about use of the gifts in the church, Paul has reverted to talking about the Gospel, as if to say, yes all these things are important, but the most important things to be concerned about are the facts of the Gospel - that Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the dead.
Having said that, he used this to enter into a teaching about the resurrection or the dead because he had been told (15:12) that some were denying there was any such resurrection. Paul shows that resurrection is a key part of the Gospel in respect of Jesus and because of that, it is also for us. Our eternal future involves being given a new body to enjoy, one that will not have the limitations we have now.
1. The Gospel is all important, and we need to fully understand it.
2. Christ rose from the dead, and so will we.
3. His body had new characteristics and so will ours.
4. This hope can give us confidence for living today.
5. Our future is secure in Christ.
Thank the Lord that our life today is but a small part of our eternal destiny in Christ, which is assured.
In the second half of this letter we have seen:
A. Our Limits on our Freedom Ch.10 & 11
B. Correct behaviour in Meetings Ch.12-14
C. Final Questions
As we conclude this set of studies in the second part of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians may we note the following:
1. Attacks on Unity
When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi he had cause to speak to them about the importance of unity and how to work at it (Phil 2:1-4). In this letter, at the beginning, he noted the divisions in the church, and then as he works his way through the letter, he highlights the various problems, most of which aid disunity! In the chapters of these studies we have seen how those with strong consciences were a problem to those who were weaker, how women had been disturbing the meetings, how some had been getting to the Lord's Supper before others and leaving the others out, how some had obviously been going overboard on spiritual gifts to the exclusion of others. All of these things speak of a young church that has not yet learnt that each and every person is important and is to be included and cared for wherever possible. Have we learnt the lessons in our church?
2. The Use of Spiritual Gifts
For those of us who believe the canon of Scripture, it can only be our unbelief or feelings of defensive inadequacy, that make some declare that the Holy Spirit doesn't move in the same way today as in the early church.
The apostle Paul, contrary to our often-defensive teaching, is not afraid to say earnestly desire spiritual gifts. Why? Because he knows it is the work of the Holy Spirit to build up and encourage the church supernaturally. It is only when we want to be in control that we deny this working of the Spirit, for He comes to reveal, to empower and to change. The need for gifts and ministries is just as strong today as it was two thousand years ago.
The challenge that comes to us therefore, is do we rely on the working of the Spirit through us, or would life just carry on as usual if the Spirit didn't exist? Are our meetings characterised by the life and vitality of the Holy Spirit directing, revealing and empowering in service. And in the midst of it all is Jesus pre-eminent and is his love being expressed? This is the sort of church that grows with the blessing of the Lord, expressing the Lord. Is that us?