1 Corinthians 15:1–58: The Resurrection
The fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is one of the most important passages in all Scripture. First, the Apostle Paul outlines the gospel message in the clearest expression anywhere in Scripture (1 Cor. 15:1–11). Second, Paul confronts directly false teaching about the resurrection that is misleading and confusing Christians in the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 15:12–34). Paul is horrified that some Corinthians were teaching that there would be no resurrection from the dead (v. 12). Third, Paul explains the fullness of what the resurrection will mean, including nothing less than the exaltation of human nature from being equipped for earthly life, to being equipped for the heavenly life of full, face-to-face fellowship with God forever (1 Cor. 15:35–49). Finally, Paul celebrates the great mystery that God has revealed of the transformation that we will experience when Christ returns, with a final word of exhortation for believers to abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:50–58). In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul teaches that Christ is the firstfruits of God’s resurrection harvest.
1. What is the gospel? How does Paul talk about the gospel in this passage, and elsewhere? If someone asked you to explain the gospel, would your explanation match what Paul says about the gospel here? Specifically, why does Paul use the language of delivering and receiving a tradition when he talks about preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1a, 3)? Why must the gospel rest on historical fact if it is to have any value for us? What does it mean to “stand in” the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1b)?
2. What are some of the possible reasons that some in Corinth may have denied the resurrection of the dead (cf. Matt. 22:23; Acts 17:32)? What are some of the reasons that people deny the resurrection of the dead today? What are some of the ways that even professing Christians downplay or explain away the bodily resurrection of Christ? What would it mean for our faith to be “in vain” (v. 14)? What would it mean for our faith to be “futile” (v. 17)?
3. What does Paul mean by calling Christ “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20)? What does the Bible tell us about the Feast of Firstfruits in Leviticus 23:9–14? In what sense does Christ fulfill the Feast of Firstfruits? How does the Feast of Firstfruits foreshadow Christ’s redemptive work? How did death come into the world by or through a man (1 Cor. 15:21a)? How does resurrection come by or through Christ (1 Cor. 15:21b)?
4. Why must Christ destroy “every rule and every authority and power” (1 Cor. 15:24)? Why must Christ put every enemy under his feet (1 Cor. 15:25)? In what sense is Death the “last enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26)? Why must Christ transfer the completed kingdom to his Father (1 Cor. 15:24, 28)? Why is it important to clarify that Christ transfers the kingdom not by resigning his kingdom altogether, but “in a manner from his humanity to his glorious divinity” (Calvin)?
5. What does the Bible tell us about human nature, as God originally created it to be (cf. Gen. 1–2)? How is our “natural body” (1 Cor. 15:44, 45, 46) equipped for earthly life? In what sense was Adam’s natural, earthly nature sown “perishable,” “in dishonor,” and “in weakness” (1 Cor. 15:42–43)? Why did Adam need to be raised “imperishable,” “in glory,” and “in power”? How will our “spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44) be equipped for full, face-to-face fellowship with God forever?
6. What does it mean to be “steadfast” and “immovable” (v. 58; cf. Col. 1:23)? Practically, what might it look like to drift or to budge from the gospel? Is the gospel of the resurrected Christ a steadfast and immovable anchor in your life? What does it mean to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (v. 58)? If you were entirely confident that “in the Lord your labor is not in vain,” what is one area of your life that might change immediately?