Week 15– The Resurrection and Its Implications
1 Corinthians 15:1-58
By Aaron Barnes
“Hi! My name is Paul. And I want you to know the most important thing about me and honestly, about life in general…” Okay, okay. You got me. My name isn’t Paul. My name is Aaron. Haha! And no, that’s not how I really introduce myself to new people. But I sometimes wonder if that’s how Paul used to do it. You know? As we get into this week’s study guide, listen to how he begins Chapter 15. In verse three, he says that he told them on the front end what was MOST important and that was the gospel of Jesus Christ. Fulfilling the Old Testament scriptures, Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth as a man. He lived a perfect and sinless life, he died and was buried, and then God raised him from the dead. I sometimes wonder how that conversation goes. Paul walks into a city and after taking in the culture for a bit, begins to share with them who Jesus is and why that matters. Then he walks them through the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and the implications that has for the Corinthians and for all believers for all time. Have you ever stopped to ponder this reality? Does the resurrection of Jesus matter? If it does, what are the implications for us today? For tomorrow? SPOILER ALERT: YES! Jesus’ resurrection matters. Yes, it has HUGE implications for us today and also for tomorrow. After all, Paul even goes as far as to say these very things in verse nineteen. The gospel of Jesus, specifically his resurrection, means hope for the believer for today and tomorrow!
Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 together
- What does this passage say about God, who He is, and what He does? (Father, Son, and Spirit)
- What does this passage teach me about me?
- What comfort/promise/challenge can I take away from this passage?
- How will I respond or live differently because of what I’ve read?
Passage Specific Questions
- What is one of the first things that you want to know about someone when you first meet them? Why do you think that is so important to you?
- How long are you friends with someone before you share the gospel with them? Why do you wait? What do you think that has to say about where you place your hope?
- Since Jesus was resurrected and we can look forward to our resurrection in the future, what are the implications of the resurrection for us today? How does that, or how should that influence our decision making process?
15:1-11 – As a loving friend, and even a spiritual father, Paul brings the Corinthian church a reminder as to what has already been taught to them and what they have already received…The Gospel! How often do we remind ourselves of what Jesus has done for us and in us? Stop and think about it. Whether it has been five minutes, five years, or fifty years, it is good for us to recount the many things that God has redeemed us from and delivered us to as we have attempted to faithfully and obediently follow him. God is good, y’all. His grace for us never ceases to amaze me. His mercies are new every morning. God, because he IS good, causes all things to work together for his glory and our eternal good. Our limited understanding of that reality is exactly what it sounds like, limited. Only in our daily pursuit of him will we ever begin to understand some of the complexities of life. It is in the knowing of him that we begin to understand and grow in our knowledge of ourselves. It cannot be the other way around. If we seek to know God by knowing ourselves more, we will be destined to a cyclical madness of confusion and despair. Why is that? Because there has to be more to this life than what we can see and know. We talk of this quite often. The truth is the same for followers of Christ and those that do not yet follow him. We can all look around and see that there are things we cannot explain. Can we study them in order to hopefully understand them one day? Sure. Will we ever fully exhaust the things to be known in this world? I do not think so. In the same way, we can all look around and see that there is so much brokenness in this world. We are all both contributors to and impacted by this brokenness. With that being the case, it would not only make logical sense, but also have to be the case that since we are all affected by and cause brokenness, then in order for brokenness to be reconciled, something (read, someone) outside of us has to step in and do for us what cannot be done by us. That someone is God the Father, through his only son Jesus. Jesus came to us because we could not get to him. In obedience to the Father, he came to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Thanks be to God, for his matchless grace in sending Jesus, for sending his apostles, for sending the many that have gone before us, empowered by his Holy Spirit that we might have the opportunity hear the gospel of Jesus, read the gospel in Scripture, and be redeemed through belief in Christ.
Paul is not worried about repeating himself. This is something that he has done repeatedly throughout his letters to the churches that he has visited. And as I asked earlier I now ask again, how often do we bring ourselves and others back to that simple and also profound truth, that God would humble himself and come down to us in order that we might be able to go to him? That’s good stuff y’all. What Paul does for the remainder of the chapter is correct some false teachings about the resurrection of Jesus, remind the Corinthian church that (in Christ) they have hope for today and tomorrow, and finally to build a case for believers and their hope in a bodily resurrection.
In verse three, Paul points to the Old Testament scriptures as proof that Jesus had to be crucified for the forgiveness of sins. It is not just a pretty cool idea that he would do this, but actually necessary. Something must be done in order for sin to be dealt with. In order for sins to be forgiven, blood must be shed. The first sign of this is in Genesis 3:21. Once Adam and Eve had sinned, they realized their nakedness and experienced for the first time ever, shame. This shame led them to attempt to cover their nakedness with the only thing they could find at that time. What they used were leaves from a fig tree. I am not sure if you know how the cycle of life works, but leaves that are pulled from a tree do not last long. They are perishable and will quickly fade. So are our attempts to cover our shame and guilt. Then God steps in. Following the gospel proclamation in Genesis 3:14-15, God takes an animal and kills it so that he might clothe Adam and Eve’s failed attempt to clothe themselves. Were the animal skins better than the fig leaves? Yes. Will the animal skins wear out over time? Yes. This is not a permanent fix for their sin. However, it is a foreshadowing of what was to come. God would once again step into time and offer the sacrifice that all sacrifices pointed to. He would once and for all do away with sin by covering our sin with his Son’s righteousness. This is where Paul begins his ministry and he continues to bring his people back to this truth.
In verses five through eight, Paul points to the factual bodily resurrection of Jesus. He does this by appealing to five different people or groups of people who were witnesses to the resurrection. Jesus appeared to Cephas (Peter), to “the twelve,” then a large group of people, his half-brother James, and then to Paul. Much like we would today when we are attempting to retell something that truly happened and we want to REALLY make our point, we tell people to go ask so-and-so because of their firsthand account. Some of that large group of people (500) that Jesus appeared to were no doubt still alive. Yes, there were possibly several who had already died. But there were people that could attest to the validity of Paul’s claim.
15:12-58 – Verses 12 through 34 are Paul’s way of expressing how important it is that since Christ has been bodily resurrected, those who have believed on Christ and died will also be resurrected. This is THE thing that we hope in. Why? Because if Jesus was crucified and buried, but not resurrected, then we are believing in nothing. He was just another good teacher, another good man that did good things, and has died. However, since we know that he was resurrected, then we also can have faith, knowing that we too will be resurrected once we die and are buried. It is hope in the future that should drive our urgency and our fervency in sharing the gospel message. Because Jesus is who the Old Testament has prophesied him to be and because he achieved what he came to achieve, we can have hope for tomorrow. In verse 19, Paul says that if our hope is only in today, we are to be pitied more than all other people. However, we have a hope for today and a hope for the future. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul tells the Corinthian believers that their “inner being” is renewed daily. He goes on to say in 2 Corinthians 5 that all who are in Christ are new creations, the old person is gone and the new things have come. This takes place as we daily pursue Christ through biblical community. In Romans 12:2, we are told to renew our minds, and we do that by by reading the Bible. By living this way, God is sanctifying us. This daily and ongoing sanctification takes place by the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives as we actively participate with him in obediently following him. In Colossians 3, we are told to “put on Christ.” Since we are identifying ourselves with him as Christians, we should live like him through the power of his Holy Spirit. Part of that is making life choices that reflect that inner change. We are not supposed to act as if nothing is different about us. Our lives and the way we make decisions about our lives should look different from when we did not know Christ. Why is that? Why should our lives look different? Because we are alive, IN Christ! There was a point when we were dead in our sins. We could not do anything to change our position. We weren’t dying. We weren’t simply just in need of behavior change. We were d-e-a-d, DEAD! But now we are alive in Christ. We have been raised “up with him.” In that, we were dead and now we are alive, we think, act, talk, look, are different.
Paul says that we will be resurrected because Christ was resurrected. If this were not true, then we should all just do what we want and not give one more thought to this life or the life to come. If all we are is “dust in the wind” (nod to the classic rock band Kansas), then we have the opportunity to sow our wild oats and live as we want to and not as we ought to. Right?! Because it wouldn’t make much sense for us to pursue a righteous lifestyle if it were all a sham, a hoax. However, it is not a hoax. Paul points out that he is consistently in hard places because he preaches the truth of Christ. If it were not true, why would he daily put his life on the line? He wouldn’t. The other apostles do this as well. If this were not true, if Jesus were not raised from the dead, why would they be willing to die? They wouldn’t. No one would ever willingly lay their life down for something they know to be a lie. It just doesn’t hold up. But they would lay their life down for a cause, a person, a truth. And that’s exactly what they did. They believed wholeheartedly that all things concerning Jesus were true. Therefore, they were willing to lay down their lives so that others might come to know the truth.
In verse 33, Paul addresses what may have been taking place with false teaching. He tells them to not be deceived. There were some teachers in that time teaching a spiritual resurrection, but not bodily resurrection. Paul lets them know that this is not true and then goes on to prove this in the remainder of the chapter. He illustrates his point with a seed. When you plant a seed, that seed dies. The fruit of that seed is similar to, but not the same as the seed that was planted. What comes from the seed is something new. The same is true with us. As we die and are buried, although our spirit will be with God, we will receive new and glorified bodies when Christ comes the second time. That body will be like Christ’s. It won’t be the same as his, but similar to his.
Paul refers to the bodily resurrection of Christ as the first fruits of what was to come. Some think that Paul may be alluding to the Feast of First Fruits that took place during the Passover. This was a time when the Israelites would, in faith, offer a sacrifice of the first fruits of the crops. They were forbidden to eat of the first fruits. They offered this to God, in faith that he would continue to provide for them in the months to come. In this same way, Jesus is referred to here as the first fruits of what was to come. Because he was resurrected body and spirit, so too will we be resurrected both body and spirit. This is important because our body is like that of the natural world. It is perishable and will waste away. In order for us to be with God bodily, we need new glorified, resurrected bodies that are imperishable and incorruptible. Because Jesus was resurrected in this way, we too will be resurrected in this way. No longer do we fear death. No longer do we fear pain. Why? Because pain and death are no longer the end for us. Will we and should we mourn friends and family members as they pass away? Yes. It is right and good to do so, for it should point us to the day when we will be reunited with them along with our Savior and King!
At the end of the chapter, Paul makes a very timely and profound statement. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 5:58). In a world that is marked by brokenness, pain, and relative “truth,” and in a society that glories and praises individuals that are proponents of “you do you,” we can find ourselves tempted to bend our beliefs to blend into society. Because after all, who wants to listen to a crotchety old geezer talk about his old fashioned ways of life? Who wants to live destined for a life of restraint and rules? “Not me,” says society. “I will make my own decisions and live my best life, right now. After all, isn’t that what God wants for me? He wants me to be happy! Why else would he give me these desires?” As Paul encourages the Corinthian church, so too do I want to encourage us all. Be true and faithful. Follow God. Be consistent. Know Jesus and make him known. Live the life that is consistent with all of Scripture. Even if you do not want to submit to the authority of Scripture, it is necessary if we want to be with him. Will we have family members and friends disagree with us and attempt to get us to bend on Scripture by appealing to our emotions? Yes. Most definitely. Will that be difficult to walk through? Yes. For sure. However, as Paul said to them then, so I will say now, our work for the Lord is not in vain. God is good, y’all! Things may not always feel like we want them to feel. We may not always have the opportunities we think we should have, but that doesn’t change his goodness. Let us not seek to bend on truth for the sake of the here and now. Let us be mindful of tomorrow. Let us be a people who seek to truly know Jesus, his words and ways, and let that drive how we make him known to those that he brings to us.
The Main Point
Jesus was resurrected body and spirit. Because of this truth, we have hope for today and tomorrow. Knowing Jesus and making him known is driven by the fact that the gospel is true. This truth should motivate and inform our thoughts and actions.
A Few Relevant Scriptures
- Isaiah 53 – This scripture prophecies of what Jesus will ultimately suffer in order to provide reconciliation for all believers.
- Daniel 12 – A prophecy concerning the resurrection and what was to come. Daniel did not fully understand what was being said, but knew that God would fulfill his words.
- Colossians 3 – Put on the new life in Christ. Our new life should look different from the life we had before Christ.
- Ephesians 2 – We were dead. God made us alive through Christ.
 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
 2 Corinthians 5:17
 Colossians 3:1-17
 Ephesians 2:1-3
 Ephesians 2:5-10
 Erik Raymond. The Corinthians’ Surprising Familiarity with the Old Testament