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The “heart and soul” of Paul's gospel
1Now for the fundamental truth of my teaching, — not mine, but what I received, the same that was given to me, and that I handed on to you, — 2the Gospel which supports you and is saving you, and will save you to the end, if your faith fail not! 3This is the heart and soul of that Gospel as I received it and gave it to you, and the whole of it is contained in this, that according to the meaning of the Scriptures 4the Christ died for our sins and was buried, and then according to the same truth of the Scriptures the Christ rose on the third day. 5The witnesses of this resurrection are first Cephas, then the twelve, 6then over five hundred brethren most of whom are alive at the present day, 7then James, then all the Apostles. These all saw him alive and triumphant after death, and the appearances were in the order I have mentioned. 8And last of all I myself saw the risen Christ, 9last as though I were the least and unworthiest of all, the persecutor that is to say of that divine Church of God, which is His infinite body. 10But the grace of God pierced even down to those depths where I lay, and made me such as I am, and abode with me, in my labours, labours exceeding those of all the others; for the grace of God has worked with me in an extraordinary manner in every way, not only in my first conversion from the lowest depths of opposition to God but in my subsequent labours. 11This then is the gist and burden of the message, I care not who it be that preaches it, whether I or they.
The Christ did conquer death
12Then what means this contention amongst some of you that the dead do not rise? 13-16But the Christ did rise. For death came through Adam, it came through a man, and through a man must come eternal life. If in Adam all die, then must death be conquered where it began, in a man. So rose the Christ from the dead. But if you say there is no resurrection from the dead, then neither did the Christ rise from the dead, and the whole of our teaching collapses, 17it falls to earth, empty, void, a perfect nothing, a falsity. 18The testimony we bear concerning God, namely, that He raised the Christ-man from the dead, has no meaning in it. 19If the Christ exists for this world only and has no eternal existence, we are the most miserable of all the dwellers on this planet!
20But the Christ has risen, and his rising is the commencement of a similar resurrection for the whole world. 21-22His re-appearance after death is like the first fruits of a mighty harvest. 23The increase and growth of this vast divine process will first include all who belong to him, when his eternal presence will become apparent throughout the world; 24and this process will continue till “the end” when there shall exist not one single power, influence or authority that moves contrary to His will, but everything will be subordinate to the infinite God and Father of All, the Creator. 25-27Everything that opposes must be reversed and subdued just there where it arose, namely in man on earth, until there be nothing left that opposes, and until death itself has been completely obliterated. That will be the end, when death is ended, and God is All-in-all, and even the Christ that saves and redeems exists only as the eternally perfect son subject to the infinite Father, there being no more enemies from which to save and redeem us, thus fulfilling the meaning of the Scriptures. For the reign of the Christ will continue on earth for a finite period, namely, until “He has made his enemies his foot-stool” (Ps. cx. 1), until all finite death-conditioned things are overruled. “He hath put all things under his feet” (Ps. viii. 6). 28All things, but not the Christ himself, for though the Christ has appeared amidst these things, he is not their subject, he is not conditioned by them, he is eternally, spiritually royal, existing only as subject to God, the All-in-all. 29That is the only significance of that practice which obtains amongst some of you, whereby the living are baptised on behalf of those already dead. It means that this progressive victory over death will ultimately include all who have died. The purpose of the Christ penetrates far beyond the little sphere of this life. But if you think that the Christ only comes to you on earth and for this life, what significance has this rite of baptism on behalf of those already beyond its pale? Unless they too are changed by the infinite operation of the Christ life, the rite is meaningless. And if the dead rise not, if there be no such victory and struggle at work, what is the significance of present struggles? 30-32I have faced the beasts in the circus before the crowd at Ephesus, I have run every risk, endured every danger, and won through them successfully — that is your boast, and the glory which you accord me for my service of the Christ; but if in this daily death of mine there is no underlying meaning, if it does not mean that even now Christ in me is fighting his victory over death, and successfully putting it under his feet and rescuing me from it, then what is the use of it all? I would rather say with the disobedient “Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we shall die” (Is. xxii. 13) for there is no longer any meaning in my struggles. Beware! Do not let sleep overtake you, and your spiritual perception be cheated and fade. 33This is the result, as the tragic poet says, of that “bad company that doth corrupt the good.” 34There are those in your midst who have no knowledge of God. Protect yourselves against their influence.
Paul explains the resurrection
35And now you ask me, How? What is that body which dies not, but comes again? 36How can flesh and blood not perish for ever, but live on immortal? Does it seem so impossible? 37Yet even in nature we see the seed buried in the ground, becoming a shrivelled extinct husk, 38and out of that decay and dissolution springs the new body which the eternal power of God shapes and forms.
Different kinds of bodies
39We see every type and pattern of shape and form given to various existences as their bodies, we see the elements of flesh and blood taking on the form of every type of being, man, beast, fish, bird — all distinct and separate entities with appropriate bodies. 40On the same principle the form of body appropriate to the heavenly and spiritual things of God's creation is quite other than those which we see clothing things on earth. The things on earth all have their own special beauties, forms, types and their own splendour. And when we come to that which is spiritual and heavenly, we find that that too has its own appropriate expression and glory. 41The sun, moon and stars are glorious bodies, each with its own distinct glory and splendour. 42-44And the Spirit has in a similar manner its own appropriate distinct body, the spiritual species can by no possibility overrun into and mix with a distinct species of earthly things. Hence the contrast so difficult to grasp in the resurrection of the dead, whereby the spiritual species with its appropriate body appears in substitution of the former human expression of life. On the one hand weakness, corruption, dishonour, comparable to the body of a seed which rots and dissolves beneath the layer of soil; and on the other hand power, glory and incorruption, of which the green shapely stalk of corn may be taken as a simile. But the absolute distinctness of species on earth is a lesson to us, whereby the mind grasps the significance of the great spiritual category of things wholly distinct from the earthy. These things possess spiritual bodies and have no connection with earthy bodies. Their glory is distinct.
The distinction between Adam and Christ
45This is the distinction implied by the Bible between Adam, “formed of the dust of the ground,” who became “a living soul,” and that other man who is wholly spiritual with a spiritual body, 46and is conditioned by Spirit only, who gives him his appropriate form. 47This man is of heaven, not of earth, a different order of being, in a different state of existence from that of Adam. 48Now we have known the former man, and we shall also know that distinct and separate man who is a spiritual being. 49We have borne that image which is the appearance of an earthy physical man, we shall also bear that distinct heavenly stamp, the peculiar spiritual mode of being. 50-51For physical flesh and its laws are remote from the life and laws of the kingdom of God. Do not think that one can pass over into and inherit the other. Nature knows of no such amalgamation as that throughout her infinite being. 52Rather there must be a total and absolute change, a complete reversal of the mode of being, which is what the Scriptures imply by “the sounding of the last trump,” when in a timeless instant the spiritual order of being, 53the incorruptible and the eternal comes as a new order of life, a new dress, a new clothing, a new body for man. 54That is the moment at which death draws back its foot; it is at the coming of that new body and life and organism which declare and express the immortality and being of Spirit. Then is it that the words come true: “He hath swallowed up death in victory” (Is. xxv. 8). 55“Where is thy sting, O death? Where is thy victory, O grave?” (Hos. xiii. 14), 56because the law which constituted the peculiar life of the old flesh, the law which made that life perishable, and which was in itself the power of sin, antagonistic to the new law of life, that law has given place to the new nature governed by God. 57He gives us the victory through Jesus Christ, and to him arise our thanks and praise therefore. 58Hence no labour of ours is vain, hence we remain steadfast and unmoved, because the work is that of the infinite God, and His action is irrepressible, abounding and never vain.
The Resurrection of Christ
1Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance#15:3 Or you at the first: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas,#15:5 That is, Peter and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
9For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
The Resurrection of the Dead
12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For he “has put everything under his feet.”#15:27 Psalm 8:6 Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
29Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”#15:32 Isaiah 22:13
33Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”#15:33 From the Greek poet Menander 34Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.
The Resurrection Body
35But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”#15:45 Gen. 2:7; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we#15:49 Some early manuscripts so let us bear the image of the heavenly man.
50I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”#15:54 Isaiah 25:8
55“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”#15:55 Hosea 13:14
56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.