Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 23 2013 - 1 Corinthians 15:1-28 – Resurrection

Paul is addressing a number of issues that need correcting in the church at Corinth. In this chapter he turns his attention to the subject of the resurrection since some at Corinth were saying that there was no resurrection from the dead. The philosophers at Athens who had mocked Paul’s message thought the idea of the resurrection of the body crude and absurd. The Christians at Corinth whom Paul is addressing shared similar views; they probably thought resurrection unnecessary and unspiritual. They had believed that Christ would save them through death; that at death their spirits would rise to be with God and that they could wish for nothing more. Why hope for an exhausted body to be raised from the dead? Why hope to return to the kind of life they had been glad to leave behind? Many contemporary Christians are of much the same mind.

Paul is shocked that Christians can adopt such a view of things. Firstly he reminds his readers that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is foundational to the message of the gospel – without it, there is no good news. Paul argues that if Christ did not rise from the dead then our preaching is just so much hot air and our faith is no more than wishful thinking. But, says Paul,

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

The gospel message is rooted in the historical event of Jesus’ death and resurrection – and Paul reminds the Corinthians that many who witnessed this event remain alive to bear testimony to it. This historical event lies at the heart of the gospel because it is good news about God’s plans for this world and his goal for all of human history. Yes, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead gives us hope in the face of death, but it’s not just hope for the disembodied spirit; it’s far, far more than that.

Death came into the world through sin. It formed no part of God’s original purpose for his creation. It is the undoing of the work of God, for God is the giver of life. But sin and death do not, and shall not, have the last word. Christ died for our sins. His death was real – he was buried in a tomb. But on the third day he rose again from the dead, breaking the power of sin and death. The man who suffered death on our behalf is now seated at the Father’s right hand in his resurrection body – a piece of earth already shining with the glory of heaven. He is in the place of power and must reign until all his enemies are crushed beneath his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Death will be destroyed at his return when all who have died will be raised again to life. Those who have believed in him will forever share in the fullness and glory of his resurrection life in a world that will also share in resurrection.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” Our death is certain – unless the Lord should return in our lifetime. But it is equally certain that death shall not have the last word, for Christ is risen from the dead and, by the grace of God, we also shall share in his resurrection life. So we live, not in the shadow of death, but in the light of resurrection.

Risen Saviour, all my hope is in you for my life today and for the resurrection life to come. Help me to live as one who has died to sin and who has entered already into the resurrection life of your kingdom.

Peter Misselbrook