1 Corinthians


9. The resurrection, 15:1-58

ii] Christ's resurrection - the source of our hope


In this passage Paul argues against those who believe in a spiritual resurrection of the dead rather than a bodily one. Paul's argument is simple: if we deny the bodily resurrection of believers, then we deny the resurrection of Jesus, which was bodily, and by implication, we deny the totality of our faith.


i] Context: See 15:1-11. In Step 2 of his argument, v12-34, Paul makes the point that to deny our own bodily resurrection is to deny the resurrection of Christ.


ii] Background: The Corinthian enthusiasts and their flawed understanding of the resurrection of the dead, 15:1-11.


iii] Structure: Christ's resurrection - the source of our hope:

Against the view that there is no bodily resurrection #2:


If Christ is risen, then the dead in Christ will also rise, v12.

Argument #1:

The consequences of denying a bodily resurrection, v13-19;

Christ was not raised from the dead, v13;

The apostolic preaching is worthless, as is faith, v14;

The apostles bear false witness in God's name, v15;

"You are still in your sins", v16-18;

"The destruction of all Christian hope", v19, R&P.


iv] Interpretation:

Paul continues his argument against the enthusiasts in Corinth who have adopted a spiritual understanding of the resurrection, claiming that "there is no (physical) resurrection of the dead." As already indicated, it seems likely that they are influenced by the platonic idea of the spirit leaving the body after death and reuniting with the divine life, or in Christian terms, going to be with Jesus. Of course, what the enthusiasts actually believed is a matter of ongoing debate.

So, in the first step of his argument, Paul makes the point that by denying a physical resurrection, the enthusiasts are, by implication, denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus. This then makes the apostolic preaching a lie and leaves believers in a state of sin. The denial of a physical resurrection involves the destruction of all Christian hope.


The common Platonic idea of resurrection: As already indicated, we are unsure of the actual problem that Paul is addressing. Are the enthusiasts arguing that there is no such thing as the resurrection of the dead, or possibly that it has already taken place and they missed out - see Background 15:1-11. It is most likely that they reject the notion of a physical resurrection of the dead, arguing for a spiritual resurrection. So, Paul's argument in this chapter confronts the commonly held platonic idea that at the time of death the spirit leaves the body to become part of the spiritual domain. It is probably true to say that most Christians hold this view and that those who have lost loved-ones can be very upset by any challenge to it. Yet, the Bible is quite clear on the subject, the resurrection of deceased believers occurs at the return of Christ, and that this resurrection is a transforming physical experience. So, an understanding of the resurrection in platonic terms is actually heresy.

We may best explain Biblical teaching on the resurrection of the dead by pointing to the fact that time is part of the creation and that God is not subject to it, and that therefore, those who are "asleep" in Christ are similarly not subject to it. Jesus cut through this ambiguity in time when he said to the thief on the cross, "this evening you will be with me in paradise", even though in time terms the thief still awaits his resurrection. In the thief's experience, it is that evening, it is the day of resurrection. So, there is a sense where all of us, alive and "sleeping", look to this evening. In fact, we are probably on safer ground if we see ourselves even now, raised up with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms, Eph.2:6. So much for time!


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 15:12

Arguments in favor of the bodily resurrection of believers: i] Logic tells us that if we do not rise, then Christ was not raised, and therefore everything we believe in is stupid, v12-19. In the opening verse Paul states, for the first time, the substance of the false belief held by some of the members of the Corinthian church. They had come to believe that "there is no resurrection of the dead." They obviously believed in the Greek notion of a spirit afterlife where the soul leaves the body after death, but did not believe in a bodily resurrection of the dead. Paul questions how it is that the Corinthians doubt the notion of a bodily resurrection when the gospel, which they have come to believe in, rests on the truth that Christ rose from the grave with a body which the apostles were able to see and touch.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, identifying a step in the argument; "Now, if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead", ESV.

ei + ind. "if"- introducing a conditional clause, 1st class, in the form of a question, where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, ..... then how can some of you say .......?" "If then the substance of the Christian message is that Christ has been raised from the dead", Barclay.

khrussetai (khrussw) pres. past. "preached" - [christ] is proclaimed, preached. Note the personal expression "Christ is proclaimed", although the sense is obviously "the message proclaimed about Christ", Cassirer

o{ti "that" - that. Here introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Paul's apostolic team preaches; "the message about Chirst is that ......"

ek + gen"[has been raised] from [the dead]" - from among [the dead he has been raised]. Expressing separation, "away from", or acting as a partitive genitive. The adjective nekrwn is without an article so possibly not "away from the dead", but rather "away from death." The force of the perfect passive eghgertai, "has been raised," gives the sense "raised and continues to live." We can see from this verse that "some" anti-Pauline teachers in the Corinthian church have spoken against a physical / bodily resurrection of the dead. Of course, Paul doesn't believe in a limited physical resurrection, as if what we are now will be what we are then. Indeed, there will be a wondrous metamorphosis of the body into a resurrection body, cf. v42-50. Yet, Paul does argue for a real physical rising. His argument is that Jesus rose from among the dead, and his rising was bodily, and therefore those in Christ will similarly rise bodily.

pwV "how come" - Interrogative particle, somewhat of an exclamation; "how is it possible", B&L.

tineV en uJmin "some of you" - certain in you. The preposition en + dat. here expresses association; "certain among you", although expressed as a partitive genitive, as NIV.

oJti "that [there is no resurrection]" - [say] that [there is not a resurrection]. Again serving to introduce a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what some of the Corinthians are saying, namely, that there is no resurrection of the dead.

nekrwn gen. adj "of the dead" - of dead, death. Both anastasiV, "resurrection", and "dead/death" are without articles, probably because together they specify a particular doctrinal view, that the resurrection of the dead is not to be believed. So here, the adjective serves as a substantive, "dead people", while the genitive may be verbal, objective, as NIV, or adverbial, reference / respect, or adjectival, partitive, limiting "resurrection." In 12a Paul says he preaches a resurrection anastaisiV ek nekrwn/ "resurrection of / out of / from among the dead", as compared to the Corinthian position which is that "dead people don't have future existence in bodily form."


ii] Argument #1 - The consequences of denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus, v13-19. In v20-28 Paul makes a connection with v1-11. The gospel, in which the Corinthians believed, focuses on the resurrection of Christ, whose life-giving power gives life to their being, both now and in the future.

a) If the dead are not raised then, by implication, Christ was not raised, v13.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, serving to introduce a logical step in the argument; "surely, if it be true that there is no resurrection of the dead", Cassirer.

ei + ind. "if" - Introducing a 1st class hypothetical conditional clause where the condition is assumed to be true for argument sake, "if, for the sake of argument, ..... then, ...." "The logic of his (Paul's) statement is that the alleged impossibility of a final resurrection must deny a particular example - that of Jesus", Naylor.

nekrwn gen. adj. "[no resurrection] of the dead" - [there is not a resurrection] of dead persons [neither christ has been raised]. The genitive as in v12 above.


b) If Christ is not risen, then the gospel is a worthless message, and a useless focus for faith, v14.

de "and" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a further step in the argument; "and it follows further that, ...", Cassirer.

ei "if" - if [christ has not been raised]. Hypothetical conditional clause 1st class, as v13.

ara kai ..... kai .... de kai ... " ... and so .... more than that ..." - then also [the preaching of us is in vain] and also [the faith of you]. Coordinative. The first kai is a variant and probably not original. Paul gives us a three part apodosis to the conditional, two logical conclusions in v14 and one in v15. If Christ did not rise bodily on the third day then (a) the totality of Paul's preaching ministry is worthless and (b) the Corinthians have believed a worthless message, and (c - v15a) Paul and his missionary team (the apostles?) are shown to have misrepresented divine truth. "Then in that case ...", Zerwick.


c) If Christ has not been raised (on the basis of their argument that the dead are not raised) then the apostolic gospel is a lie. "We are bearing false witness in God's name, as those sent from God", Fee.

de kai "more than that" - but/ and and. Introducing the third part of the apodosis of the conditional sentence which commenced at the beginning of v14. "And (as a further consequence) we are found ...", R&P.

tou qeou gen. "about God" - [we are found false witnesses] of god. Usually treated as an objective genitive, as NIV, so Fitzmyer; "false witnesses about what God did or did not do", "concerning God", Thiselton. Yet, it is more likely subjective, "false witnesses claiming to be from God", Rodgers, although not "false witness in the service of God" because as R&P point out, Paul did testify to the truth, namely that God "raised Christ from the dead", so Conzelmann. Probably best taken as adjectival, possessive, "we are bearing false witness in God's name, as those sent from God", Fee.

oJti "for" - because. Introducing a causal clause; "because we testified ..."

kata + gen. "about [God]" - [we witnessed] according to = against [god]. Possibly "concerning / about God", although usually + acc. - a common classical sense, although a rare use in the NT. Expressing opposition seems best; "witnessing against", Fee. "Having given false testimony against God."

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing the content of the false witness; "namely, that God raised Christ from the dead."

ton Criston "Christ" - [he raised] the christ. Accusative direct object of the verb "to raise." The article possibly gives the sense "the Christ of whom we have all along been speaking", R&P.

o}n pro. "[but he did not raise] him" - whom [he did not raise]. The syntax of the relative clause introduced by o}n is complex. What we actually have is a hypothetical conditional clause, 1st. class, introduced by eiper + ind. expressing a factual / real condition for argument sake, although not true in fact, ie., some Corinthians think it is true that the dead are not raised. So, the sense of the protasis is "if, for the sake of argument, the dead / dead people are not raised." The sense of the apodosis is "then ouk hgeiren, he / God did not raise, w}n, whom = Christ." Sitting with eiper is ara. Edwards, Barrett, Thiselton, ...cf., BDF, 454, think a classical usage applies here, "as they say", so producing the sentence "if, as they say, the dead are not raised, then God has not raised Christ."


d) If Christ has not been raised, then "you are still in your sins." To deny the resurrection is to undermine Christ's redemptive work which rests on both a cross and an empty tomb., v16-18.

ei gar + ind. " for if" - if indeed [dead persons are not raised neither christ has been raised]. As above, 1st class hypothetical conditional clause, "if, for the sake of argument, ...... then ...." With this verse Paul untangles the awkward syntax of the conditional clause in v15b and repeats it.


de "and" - but/and. Transitional; Thiselton, Berkeley, .. opts for a contrasting step in the argument, "but if Christ has ...." An epexegetic sense may be intended; "The point is this, if Christ was not raised to life, your faith is useless."

ei + ind. "and if" - and if [christ has not been raised]. As above, 1st class hypothetical conditional clause, "if, for the sake of argument, ...... then ...." Again we have a three part apodosis: then i] "your faith is futile"; ii] "you are still in your sins" and in v18, iii] the dead in Christ are lost.

uJmwn gen. pro. "your [faith]" - [the faith] of you. This use of the genitive is usually treated as verbal, subjective, "the faith that you exercise", B&L, but adjectival, possessive is just as acceptable.

mataia adj. "is futile" - is empty, vain, futile, pointless. Predicate adjective. "Then your trust is based on an empty promise of the cruelest kind", Junkins.

en + dat. " in" - [you are still] in. Expressing sphere, caught in the sphere of sin, "at the mercy of your sins", Barclay, "under the power of your sins", B&L, and thus "your sins have never been forgiven", Phillips. Paul draws out an interesting implication when he links the resurrection of Christ with the forgiveness of sin, for as the gospel clearly states, "Christ died for our sins". At first sight, the washing away of sin, forgiveness and thus, right standing in the sight of God, is achieved by the death of Jesus, not by his resurrection to life. The forgiveness of sins is certainly achieved by Christ's sacrificial death, yet its life giving power is made effective through the resurrection of Christ. Justification is achieved for the believer through the death and resurrection of Christ, Rom.4:25, 5:10. His rising to life releases a life-giving power which both justifies and sanctifies the believer. His life saves us. To deny his resurrection is to undermine salvation itself. "You are still living in your sins", CEV.

uJmwn gen. pro. "your sins" - [the sins] of you. As with "your faith" the genitive is usually treated as verbal, subjective, but again possessive is acceptable.


And what of those who have already died? Their end is clear. If our justification is realized through the resurrection of Jesus, and yet Jesus has not risen from the dead, then those who have already died are lost in their sinfulness and therefore lost eternally.

ara kai "then ... also" - then also. Introducing the third part of the apodosis of the conditional clause commenced in v16; "if the dead are not raised ..... then also .... ". Here inferential; "Then further, we are bound to conclude [that] ....", Barclay.

oiJ koimhqenteV "those ... who have fallen asleep in Christ" - the ones having fallen asleep. The participle serves as a substantive. This is a very beautiful euphemism for the dead. The Seventh Day Adventist church will often speak of "Soul Sleep" although this is not quite what Paul is referring to here, but none-the-less does capture the status of those who have died as believers. Rather than "sleep" in the grave, we "sleep" in the arms of Jesus. He knows us, cares for us, loves us and in the last day he will gather us up into his kingdom. To imagine ourselves sleeping in his arms is a Biblically correct and comforting way to describe the state of a deceased loved-one. He who knows the hairs of our head is well able to retain a record of our genes and memories, even our lost memories, and then, on that coming day, transform all that we are / were into our new resurrection body.

en + dat. "in [Christ]" - Expressing space/sphere, incorporative union; "in union with Christ."

apwlonto (apollumi) aor. "are lost" - are destroyed, perished. "Are utterly dead and gone", Phillips.


e) "The destruction of all Christian hope", v19. For a believer to deny the resurrection of the dead is to deny the resurrection of Christ. By taking this stance, not only have some of the Corinthian believers set aside the hope of their future resurrection, but they have lost their present hope in Christ; they have lost forgiveness of sins, their right-standing in the sight of God and thus their eternal salvation.

ei + ind. "if" - Introducing the last of the series of hypothetical conditional clauses, 1st class, as above; "if, for argument sake, ..... then we are more pitiful than all people"

monon adv. "only" - [in this life] only. The NIV has "only" modifying "this life", so Conzelmann, although it may modify "we have hope", "we only have hope", R&P, or even possibly it modifies the whole phrase / protasis, so Barrett, "if in this life we are those who have hoped in Christ only", Naylor. "If in this life we have nothing but a mere hope in Christ", Moffatt.

en + dat. "for [this life]" - in. Possibly adverbial, temporal, "during the span of"; "if our Christian hope does not reach beyond this life", Barclay. Note how the NIV has taken the preposition to stand for a simple dative of interest, advantage.

hlpikoteV esmen "we have hope" - we have hoped. The perfect participle with a present verb to-be possibly forms a periphrastic perfect construction, as NIV, "we have hope", so Fitzmyer, Thiselton, although the verb to-be usually proceeds the participle. It is possible that the verb to-be is copulative, joining the subject "we" with its predicate "the ones who hope", the participle functioning as a substantive (although there is no article), so "we are hopers", Barrett, also R&P. This sense would work well if "only" modifies the verb rather than "this life" = "we are only hopers", nothing more than hopers.

en + dat. "in" - in [christ]. Local, expressing space; of a hope that reposes in Christ.

eleeinoteroi (oV) adj. comp. "[we are to be] pitied more" - [we are to be pitied] more. Predicate adjective. The comparative "more pitiful" is used for the superlative "most pitiful", so "then in fact we are of all men the most pitiable", Cassirer.

anqrwpwn (oV) gen. "than [all] men / of [all] people" - of all [men]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive, but possibly adverbial, comparative.


1 Corinthians Introduction



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