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I Corinthian Chapter 15
Examination of the Apostle Paul’s
Resurrection Argument

 


An Essay
By
Michael Ivey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debate over the doctrine of resurrection of the dead began even before Jesus was born and persists to the present.  The Sadducees denied the dead live again before the Lord’s incarnation and continued doing so after he arose (See Mat 22:23, Acts 23:8).  It was also challenged by scoffers who said Christ’s death and resurrection changed nothing (See 1Cor 15, 2Pet 3:3-4). Opponents to Christianity constructed false accusations to deny Christ arose (See Mat 28:12-15).  Even within the church the resurrection was disputed by some (See 2Ti 2:18, 1 Co. 15).  Some suggested the resurrection was a minor, mostly unrecognized event that applied only to Christ and a few others (See 2Ti 2:18).   The debate continues today.   In their 1993 book The five Gospels: The search for the authentic Words of Jesus Robert Funk and the so called Jesus Seminar Fellows assert "in the view of the Seminar, he did not rise bodily from the dead; the resurrection is based instead on visionary experiences of Peter, Paul and Mary."  Others who today deny Christ arose suggest the account of His resurrection is either a metaphor for spirit life after death or else an outright myth.  New Age Gnostics, like their ancient counterparts, suggest the Lord’s resurrection was a purely spiritual phenomenon and not the raising and ascending into heaven of the same flesh and bone body of Jesus that was buried. The various arguments against the resurrection of the dead have a common underlying assertion.  They all imply belief in a literal resurrection of the bodies of the dead at the end of time has its basis in historical superstitions. 
 
In contrast, those who contend Christ arose and at the end of time there will be a general bodily resurrection of the dead by and large argue their belief is faith based.  They rely on scriptural accounts of Jesus’ resurrection found in the Gospels and interpretations of Old and New Testament scriptures as grounds to assert a general resurrection when Christ returns.  They also point to para-scripture writings by historians such as Josephus to bolster their belief Jesus arose.   However, for some this raises questions: Is faith another form of superstition?  If one relies on scripture as a basis for belief in the resurrection is his faith blind faith?  Are there rational grounds to support his belief?  
 
This essay seeks to address these questions.  We hope to show how the Apostle Paul used ethical, logical arguments supported by scripture, eyewitness accounts and the experiences of his audience as evidence to substantially prove there will be a general resurrection of the dead.  We hope to demonstrate that faith produces a phenomenon of spiritual and rational comprehension and conviction that supplies believers with well-being that is best described as joy.  As such, true faith is neither groundless nor blind.  It is informed (primarily by the gospel) and rational, grounded in reality that while not yet fully seen is never-the-less prudently discerned. 
 
In I Corinthian chapter 15 the Apostle Paul presents a thorough argument in support of belief in the resurrection.  He argued several assertions that are grounded in commonly held values and shared experiences with his audience plus detailed explanations as to how resurrection of the dead can reasonably occur.  The existence of Paul’s thoughtful defense suggests God does not intend we blindly believe.  Indeed, God’s word teaches scriptural investigation of what we are told about Him is noble (Acts 17:11). He instructs how to identify and avoid being influenced by false teachings (Mat 7:16-16, 1Pe 2:1, 1Jo 4:1).  The presence in scripture of well reasoned explanations, historically accurate accounts, warnings against false teachers with instruction in how to identify them, and praise for careful study all suggest true faith is neither groundless nor superstitious.  True faith rejects ignorance and blind acceptance as criteria for belief.  Furthermore, it is not formed by opinions based on one’s own ideas or philosophy about God.  To the contrary, the Lord expects us to listen to the gospel and study His word.  We are instructed to meditate, prayerfully think about what we have heard and read and develop well reasoned and defendable belief in Him.        
 
First Corinthians chapter 15 is the Apostle Paul’s primary refutation of denials the dead will be raised to live again.  The details of the assertions and grounds of Paul’s arguments provide Bible students with many of the principles of the doctrine of resurrection of the dead.  These details are frequently examined and interpreted and are the basis for much of what Christians believe concerning the resurrection.  This essay attempts to examine the details and effects Paul presented with particular focus on the structure of his arguments in an effort to understand how they support his contention the dead will arise. 
 
Paul’s approach to defend the doctrine of the resurrection of the saints was to demonstrate it has a vital relationship to the resurrection of Christ.  His reasoning is very simple: If there is no resurrection then no one arose; but if Christ arose others will likewise arise.  He addressed logical implications of non-resurrection by stating if the dead are not raised then Jesus, who was dead, is not arisen (V. 13).  Paul asserted if Christ is not risen preaching is vain, faith is vain, and those who claim Jesus is arisen are liars, not speaking truthfully about God (V. 14-19).  He pursues the logical course of non-resurrection arguments by linking the resurrection of Christ to forgiveness of sins. “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (V.17)   He concluded without the resurrection there is no salvation, noting the emotional impact of non-resurrection:  “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”(V.19)
 
While asserting the implications of non-resurrection the Apostle also presented arguments for belief in resurrection of the dead.  He began by reminding his audience how from the beginning he preached Christ’s resurrection to them (V. 3-4) and posed the question “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (V. 12)   His question asserts a vital touchstone relationship exists between the resurrection of the dead and the resurrection of Christ.  If one occurred then logically the other must also be so (V. 16).  The approach of linking resurrection of the saints to the resurrection of Jesus made Paul’s task of defending the future resurrection of the saints somewhat simpler.  If the two are directly linked then by proving the resurrection of Jesus he would logically prove resurrection of the saints.  An eventual resurrection of the dead at Christ’s second coming without linking it to Christ’s resurrection is more difficult to prove since there is no historical record of an event that is yet to occur.  By linking the two Paul needed only prove the fact of Christ’s resurrection in order to establish a reasonable basis for belief in a final resurrection.  Paul then discussed temporal benefits of the resurrection experienced by those who faithfully await Christ’s second coming (v. 30 - 34).  He closed with a description of details of the change that will occur in those who are raised to be with Christ (v. 35 – 56) and an exhortation for the Corinthians to lead thankful, purpose filled lives by serving God in all their labors (v. 57-58). 
 
Simply stated, the key assertions of Paul’s resurrection argument are:  1. Credibility of accounts of Christ’s resurrection; 2. Linkage of the resurrection of Christ to the resurrection of the saints; 3. Temporal benefits the faithful receive as a consequence of Christ’s resurrection; and, 4. Details of changes that will occur when the dead arise.  Considered together, Paul contended his assertions compose a sensible explanation that provided his audience of saints with reasonable grounds to believe a future resurrection would occur.

 Context

Before examining the four primary assertions Paul presented to gain agreement from his audience it is important we consider the context in which they are made.  This is because it is impossible to be reasonably assured we have accurately interpreted the author’s intended meaning unless we know something of the circumstances which influenced how and what he wrote.  In her book Rhetorical Criticism Exploration and Practice, Sonja K. Foss indicates the answers to three questions compose context in rhetorical argument.  They are:

1. Who is the speaker/writer? 
2. Who is the audience? 
3. What is the occasion of the speaking/writing? 

Answers to these questions provide insight into author’s meaning.  They speak to the expertise and/or authority of the author together with his understanding of the audience, the issue and surrounding circumstances. 
 
Knowing something of the speaker/writer can reveal his level of knowledge, special abilities and even his biases.  For instance, under normal circumstances we would not expect a first century author to heal someone who was critically ill or restore the dead to life.  If however, the author was known to have performed miracles one might reasonably conclude he possessed special abilities and knowledge.  This could provide additional grounds for credibility.  If the author has in the past demonstrated great conviction of his beliefs, even suffering persecution, this could be grounds for gaining concurrence.  If he and his audience have mutual experiences, past history, this could be grounds to support believability.
 
Information about the audience helps us better comprehend how the author approached his subject.  Knowing something of the culture of the audience may assist our understanding of why the author structured his arguments in a particular way, or what significance particular references, analogies or sayings may have had.  Examination of the audience may also reveal underlying issues that could potentially influence their acceptance or rejection of the author and/or his message.
 
Exploration of the occasion of the speaking/writing provides background regarding the issue the author is addressing.  It answers questions as to why it is an issue, what aspects are most troubling to the audience and what arguments may be generally accepted.  Understanding the occasion that prompted the author to speak/write can provide insight into what arguments would or would not have influenced the audience to agreement. 
 
Taken together this information produces a contextual backdrop for understanding why the author approached his subject in a particular way, why he may have emphasized one point while only mentioning another, why he used certain analogies, examples or lines of reason.  Context then serves as a roadmap by which one may navigate thru arguments, grounds, qualifiers and conclusions of the rhetorical artifact to arrive at a soundly reasoned, defendable explanation of the author’s intent.  Without contextual understanding there is no rational basis to assert original meaning because context is the foundation for all argumentation of the author’s original meaning.
 
Speaker/Writer: It is unnecessary to rely on outside sources to discover the author of the first letter to the church at Corinth unless one presumes scripture contains error.  Since we reject this notion we assume the salutation of the letter accurately reveals it source.  The first verse of the letter identifies its author, “Paul, called to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ thru the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother.”  The epistle was written by the Apostle Paul with some degree of assistance, probably of a ministering sort, given by Sosthenes.  Sosthenes may have been a former ruler of the Jewish Synagogue in Corinth (See Acts 18:1-17).  If this is correct it is likely he could have provided Paul with additional information about the conditions in the church there.  Assuming this is the Sosthenes who was once a ruler among the Jews in Corinth it could be his name was included to gain the attention of some in the church who opposed Paul (See V. 12).  Nevertheless, there is no reason to presume Sosthenes had any significant role in composing the letter.  Mention of his name implies he was with Paul when the letter was written and it can be inferred he agreed with its content.  However, his mention does not imply he was a co-author and neither can this be reasonably inferred since nothing more is mentioned of Sosthenes.
 
Paul identified himself as an Apostle.  It is possible his intent was to remind the readers of his authority. His audience likely understood Apostles were personally taught by Christ.  Paul reminded them he had met Jesus (See V. 8).  Apostles also possessed extraordinary power from God to perform miracles and demonstrated special knowledge about God and salvation. We also know according to scripture Paul was divinely inspired to write the letter, although it appears unlikely the Corinthians understood this at the time (See 2Ti 3:16).  It is doubtful Paul mentioned he was an Apostle to promote himself to the Corinthians. Later in the letter he confessed he thought himself the least of the Apostles (See V. 9).  Furthermore, Paul began most of his epistles by identifying his office.  Mention of his position in the church perhaps was intended to remind his audience he possessed apostolic authority; that by virtue of his office he was authorized to address issues in any of the churches using the special knowledge and greater wisdom given the apostles by God.
 
Paul was familiar with the Church at Corinth.  He established it and remained there preaching for eighteen months (See Acts 18:11).  His personal knowledge may have given him additional insight into the issues and personalities that troubled the church.  This may be inferred from the numerous personal references to members contained in the letter including the houses of Chloe and Stepanus, Paul’s’ recollection of those he baptized and mention of Sosthenes, Fortunatus and Achaicus.    Also, he would have known who could provide accurate and unbiased descriptions of the situation.  His firsthand knowledge would have helped him better understand what approaches to arguments were most applicable and effective. 
 
While members of Corinth Church may not have fully understood the significance of Paul being an apostle, we who have access to the New Testament can understand he was divinely inspired to write the letter (See 2 Ti 3:16). This is true regardless of whether the Corinthians understood it.  We realize he did not simply express his opinions to the Corinthians.  His arguments were the product of special knowledge and wisdom received directly from God (See Gal 1:11-17).  However, there is no scriptural evidence to support a notion divine inspiration occurred in a vacuum of ignorance and thoughtlessness.  Evidence suggests Paul was a diligent student of God’s word (See Act 22:3, 2Ti 4:13).  Distinct writing styles, differences in methods of reasoning, and indications of authors’ personalities tend to refute the idea God simply input data into His apostles unthinking minds which they robotically output to others.  It is more likely He perfected skills, gave faultless wisdom and empowered their minds to inerrantly form and present His word; which, in this case is a persuasive defense of the doctrine of resurrection of the dead. 
 
Additional contextual development of Paul will be discussed as we address his arguments.
 
Audience:  The letter is addressed to God’s Church at Corinth.  More specifically Paul limited its application to “them that are sanctified in Jesus Christ called to be saints.”  He expanded his audience to include “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” From this salutation we can infer Paul’s arguments and instructions are directed specifically to born again individuals including members of the Church at Corinth and others located everywhere who call on Jesus, believing he is Christ.
 
The significance of Paul limiting his audience to those who are born again and calling upon the name of Jesus is two-fold.  First, assertions he made concerning his audience were not intended to be applied to any who are not born again.  Second, Paul’s arguments were not designed to gain adherence or agreement from anyone who is not already born again and already calling on the name of Jesus.  This point is pivotal to the approach Paul employed to gain agreement.  Unless someone already believes Jesus is Christ, they cannot reasonably believe his resurrection provides a basis for believing in their own resurrection.  Further more, Paul indicated elsewhere in the letter his arguments have a spiritual quality to their meaning that is misunderstood and rejected as nothing more than foolish expression to all who are not born again (See 1Cor 2:14).  
 
Corinth was located in southern Greece about 50 miles from Athens. It was known for its wealth and the immoral behaviors of its citizens.  It was conquered by Rome in 146 B.C. and around 44 B.C. Julius Caesar rebuilt the city.  Worship of Greek gods was restored and flourished during Roman rule.  The largest and most important temple was dedicated to Aphrodite.  Sexual immorality was both a major source of revenue and a religious practice for Corinth’s most important pagan cult.  R. E. Glaze in the Holman Bible Dictionary summarizes Corinth as “a cosmopolitan city composed of people from varying cultural backgrounds. Being near the site of the Isthmian games held every two years, the Corinthians enjoyed both the pleasures of these games and the wealth that the visitors brought to the city. While their ships were being carried across the isthmus, sailors came to the city to spend their money on the pleasures of Corinth. Even in an age of sexual immorality, Corinth was known for its licentious life-style.”   
 
The church was composed of both Jewish and Gentile members although it is generally believed the Gentile element prevailed.  Paul first met Acquila and Priscilla at Corinth (See Acts 18:2) and Apollos went to there after Paul’s departure (See Acts 19:1).  The church was surrounded by a pagan culture that placed great importance on humanist philosophies, particularly hedonism which teaches pleasure is the chief good.  No doubt, her Gentile members were products of this culture and to some extent continued to embrace it.
 
Occasion:  The occasion of the writing of this letter was in response to several troubling issues facing the church.  Paul stated he received some of his information about the church’s problems from those of the house of Chloe.  It is also possible Sosthenes may have come to Paul to acquaint him with their troubles.  Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus had also recently visited Paul from Corinth.  With so many coming to see him and probably providing information it is reasonable to believe Paul understood the issues and personalities that were disturbing the church. 
 
We will not address the several problems in detail, but list them in the order Paul presented to provide some insight into why this church was struggling.  The church suffered from factionalism (Ch. 1 & 3), philosophy of men supplanting the authority of the gospel (Ch. 1 & 2), spiritual immaturity and preacher worship (Ch. 3 &4),  tolerance of immoral behavior in the church (Ch. 5 & 6), going outside church authority to settle disputes between brethren (Ch. 6), issues pertaining to marital relationships (Ch. 7), dietary disputes (Ch. 8), resentment against Paul’s authority (Ch. 9), abuse of the communion service (Ch. 10), confusion in the worship service (Ch. 10), misuse of gifts (Ch. 12), and denials and questioning of the doctrine of resurrection of the dead (Ch. 15).  From this list it is evident this church was in crises.  Furthermore, they were attempting to deal with their troubles using worldly philosophies rather than gospel instruction (See Ch. 1, 2, 3:18-20). 
 
Considered together these issues present a picture of a church that was attempting to serve two masters, God and man.  Evidence suggests some number of members continued to embrace and exercise cultural values of Corinth’s pagan society while also trying to serve God.  This was impossible because the two masters had opposing values. (When we use the word values we mean many beliefs that together form a philosophy that is the primary influence for behavior.)  The effect was disorder in both faith and practice which brought about confusion and division.  Their efforts to balance devotion to man and God resulted in a humanist or, man-centered view of God.  It made God man-like.  This view limits perceptions of God to what pleases man to believe about Him and what he imagines God can do.  It is a humanistic model in which conviction to believe is primarily influenced by how one feels about what he presumes to know.  In this circumstance even when the Corinthians wanted to believe in the resurrection their perceptions of God made it difficult because challenges to the doctrine by false prophets made them feel uncomfortable, and feeling bad was sufficient grounds to at least seriously question or even reject belief. 
 
The specific nature of the denial of resurrection of the dead is unclear based upon the content of the letter.  Elsewhere in scripture three arguments against the resurrection are refuted.   In 2 Timothy 2:18 Paul criticized Hymenaeus and Philetus for teaching the resurrection had already occurred.  They were likely teaching the full extent of resurrection of the dead occurred when graves opened and several arose after Christ arose (See Mat 27:52-53).  Peter refuted the argument of those who contended that because the resurrection had not already occurred it would never occur (2 Pet 3:3).  And John, in his first general epistle, dealt with the false teachings of the Gnostics who denied bodily resurrection based upon their assertion that matter is innately corrupt and therefore Christ did not come in the flesh or else left his flesh in the grave when he arose (See 1 John 4).  Whatever the specific nature of the denial in the case of the Corinthians, it is evident denying bodily resurrection was a common tactic of those who denied Jesus is Christ.
 
Neither can reasonably infer their questioning of the resurrection rose to the level of complete rejection by any but those who actually claimed there was no resurrection.  Belief is often accompanied by some degree of unbelief.  Where belief ends unbelief begins. This is because by its nature belief is different from knowing.  For example, I may say I know I can walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water.  However, I actually only believe this based upon several presumptions that are unproven until I actually complete the task.  I presume I can still walk. I presume to know there is water in the kitchen and a glass available.  Past experience also plays a role.  If my presumptions are based on past successes and to the best of my knowledge nothing has changed, I have great conviction to believe (be certain) I can perform the task again. Thus, what I may say I know is actually what I believe based upon what I presume to know.  This was the horn of the dilemma of the father who tearfully pleaded to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”  He believed the Savior could heal his son, but he also doubted (See Mark 9:17-24).  Christ hadn’t yet healed the child and the father’s recent experience with the disciples who had failed to heal his son increased his doubt.  He wanted to believe but also had doubt because past experience wouldn’t allow him to presume to know to the point that conviction to believe overcame his inclination to doubt. 
 
It is conceivable, based upon Paul’s response the situation at Corinth was similar.  They were troubled by doubt about the resurrection.  They likely believed in it but lacked sufficient confidence in their belief to suppress inclinations to doubt (excluded are those who evidently were false professors, having never truly believed and were asserting there was no resurrection).  In addition to the effects of a humanist view of God as previously discussed, it is possible their lack of conviction was due in part to insufficient information and understanding to assure them what they believed was true.  So, when their belief was attacked and they could not respond with arguments to refute the attack their doubt increased.  I base this on statements made by Paul.  He indicated in verse 2 they believed in the resurrection when he first preached it to them.  He also implied in verse 31 they were receiving benefits, rejoicing, as a consequence of believing in the resurrection.  And finally, he cautioned them to remain steadfast and unmovable, not abandoning belief in the resurrection, in verse 58.  We will investigate these points in greater detail as we proceed. (With this assertion of the condition of belief among the Corinthians in mind, for the remainder of this essay when we talk about their belief and unbelief we mean conviction to believe and conviction to doubt.)


Paul’s Argument

Credibility Assertions  

Paul never explicitly stated his audience should believe in the resurrection simply because he said it is so.  Furthermore, there is no evidence the Corinthians understood Paul’s letter was divinely inspired and infallible.  Rather, he presented several arguments as grounds to support his credibility thereby implying his claim should be accepted.  Paul developed his creditability argument with four assertions.  They are:

1) His resurrection teaching is consistent. It is unchanged since the first time he taught it. 

2) He is credible because his message is supported by historical precedent established by scriptures. 

3) Eyewitnesses can confirm what he is telling them is true.

4) Others, including the other Apostles have related the same facts and explanations.  Underlying each of these assertions is Paul’s resurrection message itself.  He reminded the audience his message is Jesus died for their sins according to prophecy, was buried, and on the third day arose, according to prophecy. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (V. 3-4).
  
Consistency: Paul’s first credibility assertion was his message is consistent.  The grounds or basis for this assertion is presented in verse 1.  Paul stated; “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand.”  This statement implies his message is believable because it is unchanged in as much as he was telling his audience the same thing he had always preached.  Paul implied he never changed his explanation of the resurrection by adding something new. Nor did he omit or contradict anything he said in the past.  He leaves the inference to be drawn that non-resurrection was something new since it was not what he taught when they first believed.  In citing his own consistency Paul invoked the common values of stability and steadfastness; that, those who consistently tell the same story are more believable than those who change their message to promote something new.  By implication he asserted if they believed his message in the past and he has continued to preach the same thing they should not stop believing.
  
Scriptural/Historical Precedent:  Paul asserted his message of a risen Savior is consistent with historical precedent of scriptural precept regarding resurrection of the dead.  In verses 4 and 5 he claimed his preaching conformed to commonly accepted scriptural interpretations pertaining to the resurrection of the Christ.  “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…”  (Paul’s audience likely understood his mention of scriptures referred to Old Testament prophecies. The New Testament was neither yet assembled nor referred to as scripture at the time Paul wrote his epistle to the church at Corinth.)   His repeated use of the term “according to the scriptures” implies a high regard for scripture as both precedent for doctrinal beliefs, probably based on a shared value of scriptural infallibility.  We do not know what scriptures Paul used when he first taught the Corinthians about resurrection of the dead.  However, within this chapter he used scripture as historical precedent to gain agreement.  His mention of Adam as man’s representative and source of original sin is an example of teaching according to the scriptures.  He also referred to Old Testament scripture in verses 45 (Gen 2:7), 54 (Isa 25:8) and 55 (Hos 13:14) as grounds to support his teaching.  The authority of scripture, which contains prophecy indicating Christ would be raised from the dead, was a shared value of Paul and his audience of historical precedent for belief in the precept of resurrection.  It provided grounds for Paul’s argument that the resurrection of Christ Jesus and a future resurrection of the saints are essentially connected. 
  
Paul’s use of scripture to assert historical precedent is worthy to note in light of a renewed interest in church history.  Historic precedent for faith and practice must be traced back to scriptural instruction else it cannot rightly be asserted the word of God is the only rule of faith and practice.  Furthermore, if every principle of faith and practice is presented in scripture then nothing written since that relates to faith and practice qualifies as precedent. Therefore, what this or any other writer, whether in the past or present, has written about God or His kingdom can only be received if readers are reasonably sure the writing is consistent with precedents established by scripture.  This is why the Bereans were described as more noble. They were noble in their pursuit of understanding God’s word in that they listened with eagerness and zeal to the preacher and then diligently compared what they heard to scripture as the final authority.
    
Eyewitness Accounts: Paul also asserted credibility by reminding his audience of the testimonies of eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Christ.  “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”  This argument infers the resurrection of Jesus was a well known and factual event that could not be successfully refuted based upon the large number of people who witnessed it and also the integrity of those who saw Him alive after the crucifixion.
 
Paul used integrity as grounds to assert credibility by noting Peter, James and the other apostles were eyewitnesses to the Savor’s resurrection.  He mentioned Peter first.  Unlike Paul, who frequently found it necessary to defend his apostleship, Peter’s status as an apostle was unquestioned.  He was with the Savior from the beginning.  He received personal instruction from Jesus after He arose, to feed His sheep.  By citing Peter as one who witnessed the resurrection of the Savior, and implying he and Peter teach the same thing, Paul used the prestige of Peter’s reputation to strengthen his argument for credibility.  He also noted all the Apostles saw Jesus, implying their experiences confirmed Peter’s testimony whose testimony, in turn, confirmed Paul’s. 
 
Paul next mentioned a large number of witnesses saw Christ arisen and implies their accounts are consistent with his testimony.  Paul’s statement “the greater part remain unto this present,” is a veiled implication that his audience can check the truth of what Paul consistently preached with facts available from many witnesses who saw Christ after he arose. 
 
Paul indicated he too, saw Jesus.  But, before doing so he mentioned James also saw him.  “After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”   It may seem redundant for Paul to mention James and then note Jesus was seen of all the Apostles.  However, James was another apostle of some note with Paul’s audience.  It was common knowledge he was the brother of the Lord (See Gal 1:19).  In addition he was considered a leader. Paul mentioned in Galatians that James together with Peter and John seemed to be pillars, or men of great standing (Gal 2:9).  By specifically mentioning James in proximity to his own experience of seeing arisen Christ Paul borrowed credibility from this pillar and brother of Jesus to bolster his believability.  At the same time he deferred to all the Apostles as better witnesses than he by testifying he was not fit to be called an Apostle.  This statement invokes the shared value of appropriate humility.  Paul used this opportunity to demonstrate he was not using his claim of knowledge of the resurrection for self-promotion.     
 
Agreement with others:  Paul restated the consistency argument in verse 11 then added additional grounds for acceptance of his credibility by noting others were preaching the same message; “Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.”  Indicating he was not the only one preaching resurrection of the dead strengthens Paul’s credibility in light of who he asserted was preaching the same message.   It was the other Apostles as he previously identified in verses 5-7.  He identified them as fellow preachers in verse 10; “but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”  The phrase “they all” directly refers to the Apostles as mentioned in the verses leading up to Paul’s statement in verse 10.  Once again, Paul borrowed the esteem in which the Corinthian brethren held the Apostles to claim credibility by insisting he and they were preaching the same message.

 Linkage Assertions

It is evident from his statement in verse 17 “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” that Paul believed salvation rests squarely on the validity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is not surprising considering the Savior had previously identified a vital link between his work on Calvary to redeem the elect and his resurrection.  He prophesied his death while emphasizing his resurrection on several occasions.  (See Matthew 12:38-40, 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19, Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:32-34, 14:28, 58, Luke 9:22, John 2:18-22, 12:32-34.)  Also, Paul had seen Jesus on the Damascus road and thereby knew he had risen in fulfillment of atonement prophecy.  Additionally, the request by Jewish leaders that Pilot post a guard at the Savior’s burial site until after the third day is evidence Christ had publicly announced he would arise after the crucifixion.
 
Paul understood Jesus associated resurrection of the saints to his own resurrection.   He knew the Savior had declared when he was lifted up at Calvary (implying his death and resurrection), he would draw all the elect to him (John 12:32).  He knew Jesus told the Apostles he would depart after his death to prepare a place for them that where he was they would also one day be (John 14:1-3).  Paul would likely have known Jesus told the Apostles he would meet them again in Galilee after he arose (Mat 26:32).   He would also have known the Savior expressed a direct link between his own resurrection and the future resurrection of the saints when He responded to Martha the sister of Lazurus.  When Martha agreed with Jesus by stating her brother would live again in the resurrection the Savior replied, “I am the resurrection.”  With this short declaration Jesus identified himself as the essential component from which the resurrection draws all its meaning and by which its vital effect will proceed.

 Asserting a link exists between the resurrection of Christ and resurrection of the saints presented an interesting challenge for Paul.  While he could point to many eyewitness accounts as grounds to assert Jesus had arisen no such evidence existed with regard to resurrection of the saints.  None had died and arisen in such a manner as the Savior.  He could not cite numerous witnesses who could testify how they had seen many arisen, glorified saints. To overcome this difficulty the Apostle compared Adam and Christ.  He used Adam’s example as grounds to suggest if similar patterns exist in Adam’s and Christ’s circumstances then what is true for one can reasonably be true for the other.  This logic permitted Paul to apply values of singularity and representation to Christ that his audience held regarding Adam.  By singularity we mean a single act or phenomenon can have far reaching consequences; and by representation we mean one thing or in this case, person, can affect many others.  In addition to this logos, or logical argument Paul incorporated a pathos argument which called upon his audience to consider their own spiritual experiences and emotional reactions.
 
Paul began his linkage argument in verse 12 with the question: “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?”  The question implies it is flawed logic to contend there is no resurrection if Christ is arisen.  Next, he considered the logical consequence of Christ not being raised.  He declared if Christ is not risen preaching is vain, faith is vain, preachers and Apostles are untrustworthy, there is no salvation, death is final and man’s condition is miserable (verses 13-19).  His emphatic presentation explicitly asserts an unrisen Christ has a calamitous effect in which life is meaningless, filled with insecurity, hopelessness, and misery and concludes with the finality of the grave.  The likelihood of miserable circumstance absent a risen Savior is implicitly understood by Paul and his audience to result from original sin.  While the structure of this argument is postpriori reasoning, serious consideration of the effects Paul described could invoke significant emotional impact.  Feelings of emptiness, distrust, hopelessness, misery and fear of death can produce a persuasive pathos effect on one’s thinking.  And because of their own struggles with sinning, it was likely Paul’s audience understood the significance of this argument.
 
He used their understanding of sin nature and more specifically the origin of sin with Adam as a basis to imply all who are represented in Adam die because of his single act of sinning.  It is likely this assertion was a commonly held belief by Paul’s audience. If accepted, this argument served as grounds for his assertion that all who are represented in Christ shall be made alive because of his single act of resurrection. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”(Verses 21.22) 
 
The initial source of sin was the result of a single act of one person.  To Paul’s audience, Adam was proof the behavior of one person can impact others who come later.  By presenting a generally accepted example of singularity and representation, that a single act by one person can have broad and profound effect Paul was able to assert that in the same way Adam’s transgression brought sin to many, all who are embraced in Christ’s resurrection will be resurrected.  The logic of his argument is simple and eloquent: All die because of Adam therefore all will arise because of Christ.  He used his audience’s common experience and general agreement that sin began as the consequence of a single act by Adam to persuade that resurrection of the dead will occur based on a single act by Christ.  The passage also implies a concept of representation.  In Paul’s argument all represented in Adam die therefore all who are represented in Christ will be raised from the dead.  Verse 23 builds upon these principles by alluding to Christ as the prototype for resurrection.  When taken with the previous statement Paul’s audience could reasonably infer that Adam as the federal head of humanity by his disobedient act was the firstfruits of sin.  With this in mind they could understand what Paul meant when he described Christ as the firstfruits of resurrection.  In other words, as Adam was the first sinner of all sinners who followed, Christ is the first resurrected of all who will follow him in resurrection. (An interesting inference can be drawn from Paul’s comparison of Adam and Christ.  He used Adam and original sin as a basis to assert the principles of representation and singularity to Christ and resurrection of the dead.  Rejecting the doctrine of original sin logically eliminates it as grounds to assert resurrection of the dead thereby rendering Paul’s argument fallacious. This is because an assertion cannot stand if it is based on a false premise.  Furthermore, if Paul’s argument is flawed then scriptural infallibility is also false).
 
Paul continued the linkage discussion by addressing the issue of why the resurrection of the saints is yet to occur.  It is because Christ has not yet come again.  The final fruit of resurrection will ripen at his coming, when the end occurs and all the kingdom is delivered up to the Father.  Then, all enemies, including death, will be ultimately subdued and God receives all glory and is seen all glorious. (Verses24-29)
 
As he transitioned into a benefits argument Paul again employed a well reasoned pathos argument to persuade his readers.  In verse 29 he reflected on the ceremony of baptism which symbolically imitates the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  He posed the question, “if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?”  Logically, baptism cannot represent an event that never occurred.  It cannot symbolize the resurrection of Christ if he did not arise.  According to context, Paul’s message is specifically directed to persons who had been baptized.  No doubt for most, their baptismal ceremony was a spiritually significant event and thereby emotionally satisfying.  The implication of his question is if Christ is not arisen their baptisms were meaningless and could not produce spiritual fulfillment and emotional satisfaction.  In this way Paul logically calls on their experiences with baptism as testimony to oppose the notion there is no resurrection.  However, in addition to the logic of his argument their positive experiences with baptism also provided potent pathos based grounds to support belief in resurrection of the dead.  Simply put, the Corinthians would not have wanted to believe their baptisms were meaningless.
 
Transition to the benefits argument concludes with another powerful logos/pathos assertion.  Having reasoned that because of his belief in the resurrection he was willing to be made a public spectacle when he opposed powerful foes at Ephesus (V. 30), in verse 31 Paul protests any doubt his audience might still have based upon joy they and he both had.  “I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”   Paul noted the source of this joy is “Christ Jesus our Lord.” He further indicated he possessed this joy despite the devastating effects of sin, “I die daily.”  Paul’s declaration implies to have joy while dying is impossible unless it is given as a consequence of hope in the resurrection based upon belief in a resurrected Savior.
 
Paul’s objection to the presence of joy in the Corinthians if the dead rise not in a context of the reality of dying daily due to sin is based upon his own understanding (the wages of sin is death) and experience (I die daily) with sin in relation to hope in the resurrection.  Having observed joyfulness in the Corinthians and based upon his own experience, Paul knew joy can only be present in the face of pending death as a consequence of belief in Jesus’ resurrection which gives rise to hope in one’s own resurrection.  Paul built his argument on a previous assertion that without hope in Christ men are miserable (See V. 19). 
 
An inference can be drawn from his protest assertion that his audience did actually believe in resurrection of the dead.  Perhaps they were confused because they did not adequately understand why they believed and could not defend it when challenged by false prophets who said there is no resurrection.  This evidently caused questions or perhaps even doubt about the resurrection.  But it cannot be reasonably concluded their questions and/or doubts constituted unbelief to the point of outright rejection of the teaching.  According to Paul’s logic, had this been the case they would have been miserable, not joyful.  However the Corinthian saints were experiencing temporal benefits which Paul’s argument implies occur as a consequence of believing in the resurrection.   
 
This argument exercised pathos persuasion in that it reminded the reader of a pleasing experience, in this case joyfulness, as grounds to assert it is correct to believe in resurrection of the dead.    

 Benefits Assertions

 Paul began his benefits argument in verse 2 by asserting his audience is saved as a consequence of believing in the resurrection of the dead. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”   However, he placed two qualifications on being saved: 1. His readers must keep in mind and by inference continue to trust in the message Paul taught when they first believed; and, 2. They must have truly believed when they first claimed to believe.  These two qualifications contribute to Paul’s meaning of saved.  Those who are saved as Paul meant comply with these two stipulations. 
 
In order to better understand what benefits Paul meant when he used the word saved it is helpful to remember he was refuting unbelief in the resurrection.  This is to say he wasn’t merely attempting to prove the resurrection is real; his goal was to have his audience believe in it.  He wanted them to retain, or else reclaim benefits he credited to those who believe in the resurrection.  He reasoned those who believe and continue to believe are kept safe by benefits resulting from their belief.  But what did Paul specifically mean when he spoke of being saved? The answer to this question is found in his description of the benefits he associated with the consequences of belief and also the negative consequences of unbelief. 
 
All expressions and/or consequences of salvation originate and apply based on principles of eternal redemption by the blood of Christ.  However, this does not mean every expression of salvation has eternal consequence.  All who are saved thru new birth can pray to the Father.  But while new birth is a principle of eternal salvation it is not the sole basis for God granting prayerful petitions. For instance, God forgiving daily sinning does not occur simply because one who is born again asks Him to do so.  Jesus taught there is a stipulation, or condition which must first be met in order to receive forgiveness from God. To have our daily sins forgiven we must first forgive others of their sins against us (Mat 6:12-15).  Thus, while God forgiving sin is based on the principle of eternal atonement, in the case of forgiveness of daily sins its application carries a prerequisite, or condition to which one may or may not comply.  Jesus explicitly taught if there is compliance to the stipulation then God forgives us and if there isn’t He doesn’t.  Thus, the possibility forgiveness will actually be granted rests on the willingness of the petitioner to comply with a condition Jesus indicated must first be met.  Furthermore, the fact Jesus instructed we should pray in this way infers compliance to the stipulation may or may not occur as a function of one’s will.  If one is somehow always or even eventually and unavoidably compelled to forgive his brother there would be no point in Jesus telling us we must forgive others in order to receive forgiveness from the Father.  If those who are born again are unavoidably compelled to forgive others there is no logical basis to teach a prerequisite that forgiving others must occur before God forgives us.  Such a teaching might explain why one hasn’t received a sense of forgiveness from God.  But it would not teach the appropriateness of voluntarily forgiveness if the basis for doing so is that we are unavoidably compelled to forgive as an effectual consequence of having been born again.
 
The same line of reason found in Jesus instructions concerning prayer can be applied to Paul’s benefits argument.  He, like the Savior, identified a stipulation, or condition which must be met to receive and maintain the salvation he was considering.  He indicated one is saved if he believes and continues believing in the resurrection.  However, if belief and continued belief in the resurrection is an unavoidable effect of new birth then all who are born again do believe and will always believe.  If this were so, Paul’s whole effort to teach the appropriateness of believing in the resurrection would be senseless.  Why would he reason with the Corinthian brethren to persuade them to believe if they could not avoid believing?   His assertion they are saved as long as they remember, or continue to believe is based on a flawed premise if belief in the resurrection is an unavoidable consequence of eternal salvation.

Paul began his benefits argument in verse 2, as previously noted, by asserting the gospel possesses a saving quality.  He declared the Corinthian brethren were saved if they continued to believe the message he first taught, assuming they truly believed in the first place.  This is similar to an assertion he made regarding the gospel in Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”  In both instances Paul linked salvation and belief.  In the Roman epistle he declared the just live by faith.  This is a reference to Habakkuk 2:4, “…the just shall live by his faith” This statement is presented in contrast to one who is proud and lacks a right heart toward God.  It indicates one who is justified lives according to his faith in God.  Paul included this text in Romans 1 to assert the power of the gospel to save applies to those who conduct their lives based on faith in God.  From this we can understand he affirmed the gospel possesses a saving power for those who are just and as a consequence faithfully live according to gospel instruction.  It is likely Paul had the same concept in mind, of the power of the gospel to save, when he instructed the Corinthians the message he first preached to them of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ possessed saving qualities that are retained as long the message is believed.
 
Paul developed his concept of saving benefits delivered to those who believe the gospel throughout his argument.  The premise of this argument is those who truly believed in the resurrection as a consequence of hearing the gospel and continue to believe are kept safe by the influence their belief has on their attitudes and behaviors; that, they are saved by certain qualities that are the effects of believing in the resurrection.  He asserted these qualities include courage (V.30, 31), joy (V. 31), good manners (V.33), attitudes of thankfulness and victory (V. 57) and optimistic purpose of life (V.58).  He further implied faith in the resurrection including engaging in godly behaviors keeps believers safe from undesirable consequences of unbelief that include a meaningless system of faith (V. 14), absence of both a faith and rational basis to claim eternal salvation (V. 17), misery (V. 19), pointless discipleship (V. 29), pointless life (V. 32), corrupt manners or lifestyle (V. 33), willful ignorance (V. 34), and fear of death accompanied by a sense of defeat by death (V.56). 
 
Courage: The quality of courage is inferred from Paul’s question in verse 30: “And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?”  This question implies willingness to face danger for one’s belief in Christ.  It infers His resurrection is the basis for hope in one’s own resurrection.   It suggests both Paul and the Corinthins were in danger as a result of being Christians. 

 Joy:  In verse 31 Paul associated a quality of joy with those who believe in the resurrection.  He did so by implying their displays of rejoicing are indications Christ is arisen.  “I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”  The implication of this statement counters an earlier declaration made in verse 19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”  His protest conveys the idea rejoicing is a benefit of believing in the resurrection.  In this way Paul asserted those who are joyous are so because they believe Jesus arose.  Additionally, the clause “I die daily” may suggest suffering can be joyfully endured by those who have hope in their resurrection after death.

 Good Manners:  Paul’s statement in verse 33 includes a quote from one of the Corinthian’s own Greek poets named Menander, “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” This is an exhortation that is also grounds to support Paul’s assertion that belief in the gospel, and specifically belief in the resurrection, keeps one safe.  The exhortation begins with the warning “Be not deceived.”   This may be a reference to the deceivers who taught there is no resurrection.  He warned the Corinthians to not be taken in by false teachings.  But Paul’s warning asserts more than rejecting false teaching. The word communications as Paul used it means more than verbal discourse.  It carries the thought of social intercourse or companionship.  He warned the Corinthians to not keep company with those who promote false teachings.  He asserts doing so will result in immorality.  As mentioned previously, Corinth was a pagan city known for its immorality.  It is likely the ungodly values of the city’s culture had a role in influencing the behaviors and attitudes that were causing problems in the church.  If this is so it is reasonable to infer Paul’s assertion regarding not keeping company with ungodly persons extended beyond those in the church who continued to reject the resurrection.  It likely his warning also included refraining from comradery with anyone in the community whose beliefs and behaviors opposed godliness.  Simply put, Paul implied keeping company with the ungodly can entice one to engage in ungodly behavior. 

 An inference that can be drawn from Paul’s exhortation is those who believe in the resurrection exercise good manners, or moral behaviors, as a consequence of acting in accord with their faith.  So, if one truly believes in the resurrection and is thus influenced to act in accord with his faith in God, he is saved from adopting an ungodly lifestyle along with its resulting grievous consequences.

 Thankfulness and Victory:  In verse 57 Paul expressed thanks to God for victory, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  The grounds for his gratitude and sense of victory are based upon his attitude toward death. In the verses immediately preceding this statement Paul mentioned the sting of death and victory of the grave will be effectually overcome by the resurrection.  However, this portion of the expression, which mentions thankfulness, implies belief in the resurrection helps us experientially avoid fear as we face the reality of death and the grave.   In the phrase “giveth us the victory,” giveth is in the present tense, active voice and participle mood.  With this in mind, the verse is interpreted to mean:  Thanks be to God who is giving us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  This interpretation suggests Paul intended those who believe in the resurrection are given a sense of victory from God as long as they believe.  Paul’s exclamation, “Oh Death where is thy sting, Oh grave where is thy victory” expresses victory over a vanquished opponent.  However, his earlier statement in verse 26, that the last enemy to be destroyed shall be death, indicates death is not yet destroyed.  Nevertheless the Apostle thanked God for victory over the grave because belief in the resurrection robs death of its sting and thereby denies the grave of victory in the experience of those who accordingly believe.  The accomplishment of the resurrection does this in fact.  But here, Paul asserted God gives resurrection blessings to believers before the resurrection occurs.

 Thankfulness is a blessing Paul understood.  In each of his pastoral letters he specifically thanked God for the converted saints they are directed to.  He was thankful for his ministry (see 1Ti 1:12). In the epistle to the Hebrews he described thanksgiving as an offering of “sacrifice of praise to God” and instructed his audience to give thanks continually (See Heb 13:15).  As the former chief persecutor of God’s church he could appreciate the blessings of eternal life with which came forgiveness of his sins.   He thanked God for deliverance, his own deliverance and that of others’ also; and, was likely thankful it is God who delivered.  This is because Paul knew the Lord is all powerful and immutable.  Therefore he could count on God’s blessings to temporally bless and not fear their loss as long as he fulfilled the conditions God places on their receipt.  He was thankful for the blessing of victory over death and also for assurance that God is not fickled, moody, petty, selfish, absentminded nor in any way whimsical in granting and sustaining blessings to those who are faithful.
Optimistic Purpose of Life:  In verse 58 Paul builds upon the benefits of having a sense of victory over death and its resulting thankfulness to include a benefit of enjoying an optimistic attitude about one’s purpose in life.  He asserted those who are unwavering in their belief of resurrection of the dead and therefore determined to know and do God’s will are assured their efforts are meaningful to God.  “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”  Such optimism is a benefit that saves believers from paralyzing fear and hopeless despair when faced with life’s worst circumstances.
 
In Romans chapter 8, Paul similarly and more fully developed the concept of a victory mentality Christians have as a result of a life view from the perspective of believing in the resurrection.  “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  This statement implies a connection exists between risen Christ and an appropriate attitude by the Roman brethren as “more than conquerors.”  With a resounding “Nay” Paul asserted there is no circumstance however difficult, painful or seemingly final that can in any way impact God’s love.  He thereby refuted the notion it is appropriate to embrace the sense of confusion, disappointment and frustration David expressed in the 44th Psalm when he complained to God, “Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” Paul’s assertion can infer those who believe in the resurrection do not endure suffering by becoming angry or with a sense of injustice, or even senseless resignation.  Rather, they see the trials and tribulations of life as opportunities to faithfully and courageously engage in discipleship skirmishes which attest to their inclusion in the resurrection; and by which they gain greater appreciation and are encouraged daily by the victory over death Christ attained on their behalf.

Details Assertions

  In his last argument Paul anticipated objections from those who contend resurrection of the dead is too fantastic to be believed.  Using a dialectic style, beginning in verse 35 he posed and then answered questions opponents might raise. “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?”  Paul responded by noting such doubtful contemplation was foolishly based upon unsound reasoning.  “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” (V. 36-38).  His response indicates a reasoning individual would understand God displays in nature how a thing can die and then live again as it pleases Him. 

 This argument asserts a principle of change applies to the resurrection, that the body which goes into the grave will experience profound change when it is raised.  Paul’s grounds for asserting this principle is God’s omnipotence, “But God giveth,” and sovereignty, “as it hath pleased him.” 

 He also used examples in nature as grounds for asserting a change will occur; noting how God had all ready created many different kinds of bodies including men and beasts, fishes and birds, celestial and terrestrial, sun and moon, and different kinds of stars (See V. 39–41).  Paul indicated each possess a different glory, or its own unique quality of dignity and excellence.  This is significant grounds for Paul’s assertion when considering the differences in the bodies he listed.  Some, such as men and beasts are relatively short lived.  Others, like the sun and moon have existed for millenniums.  Terrestrial bodies are affixed to earth, celestial bodies move across the vast expanse of space.  And, Paul asserted each body within every category of bodies, of men, beasts, fishes, birds, etc. is different.  To emphasize this he pointed out stars are different from one another.  Indeed, simple observation reveals they vary in size, intensity and the paths they travel.  All of these differences were generally known in Paul’s day and could be easily understood by his audience.   The one thing all these bodies have in common is they were created by God as it pleased Him.  The implication of this argument is God has already demonstrated in nature His ability and will to create different bodies as He pleases; and this being so, it is reasonable to believe He can and will effect change in the bodies of the saints in the resurrection.

 Building on his assertion that God has already demonstrated the ability and will to create different bodies Paul argued the nature of the change which will occur in the resurrection. “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:  It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:  It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” (V. 42–44).   His argument presents the change in contrasting terms, corruption in contrast to incorruption, dishonor in contrast to glory, weakness in contrast to power and natural in contrast to spiritual.  The last sentence of verse 44 suggests the contrasts identify distinctions between what is a natural body and what is a spiritual body.  The language also asserts natural and spiritual bodies both exist.

 Closer examination of the language Paul employed to cite the differences between natural bodies and spiritual bodies may provide additional insight into what he understood about the nature of change he asserted.  The following explanation is based upon examination of the Greek language from which the letter was translated as provided by Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament.  

 The old body goes into the grave perishable and perishing, phthora (Str. 5356).  It will be raised, aphtharsia (Str. 861) immortal, unperishing and perpetually imperishable.  It goes in a useless and cast off object atimia (Str. 819), but will be raised, doxa (Str. 1391), a prized object of splendid blessedness and distinction. It is sown an inanimate and impotent lump astheneia (Str. 769), but will arise, duminas (Str. 1411), a mighty work instilled with undepletable virtue, dignity and strength from God.  It is sown, psuchikos (Str. 5591), an animal body requiring air and food for sustenance, subject to animal appetites and passions (See Ecc. 3:19-21).  It will be raised, pneumatikos (Str. 4151), a body that is higher than man but inferior to God. 

 In verse 47 Paul continued to assert there are two distinct bodies by indicating resurrected Jesus is the prototype, spiritual body, “the second man is the Lord from heaven.”  His use of present verb tense suggests Paul was describing Jesus as he believed him to be at the time he wrote the letter.  Aside from the principle of inerrancy that accompanies divine inspiration Paul’s face-to-face experience had occurred some years after the Lord ascended back to heaven after his resurrection.  Thus, Paul’s use of the present tense suggests the Jesus now in heaven is the same who had ascended into heaven in the presence of the other Apostles, then later came from heaven to appear to Paul on the Damascus road.  From this Paul’s audience could reasonably infer the resurrected spiritual bodies of the saints will have material existence as does Jesus Christ.  Furthermore, this spiritual body is unlike the natural body which is sustained by an animal nature which wears down and perishes in its every system, organ, cell and molecule thus returning to dust.  His readers could understand resurrection spirit bodies will be complete in all their parts, as was Christ when he offered to be probed and prodded by Thomas to prove he was material and not a spirit, ate in order to demonstrate he was flesh and bone and retained all his members, when he ascended into heaven in the presence of the Apostles, and finally as he appeared to Paul (See Luke 24:39-42, John 20:27, Act 9:3-17, 22:6-10, 26:13-16, 1Co 15:8).  Thus, Paul argued the animal nature that animates the natural body and is sustained in and by its organs and systems by material consumption and biological function is not the life force of the body in the resurrection.  When the body is changed Paul asserted it acquires a spiritual and eternal life force that is Christ like.   

 In verses 45-50 Paul built upon his assertion from verse 44 that two kinds of bodies exist. “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”   He described differences between Adam and Christ as grounds to assert the distinctions between the two bodies and that natural preceded spiritual. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.  Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.  As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”  Paul employed figurative language, first man and last man (Adam is the Hebrew word for man, Str. 0120) to distinguish differences between Adam and Christ while at-the-same-time suggesting they are in some way alike.  It is clear from verse 47, “the second man is the Lord from heaven,” he meant Christ when he referred to the second Adam.   Adam and Jesus were fundamentally similar and at the same time profoundly different.  They were similar in that both had material existence.  They were both flesh and blood.  They were profoundly different in that Adam was given life and therefore not self-sustaining whereas Jesus as God is a quickening Spirit who is self-existent and the giver and sustenance of eternal life. 
 
There is no clear indication Gnosticism was a problem in the church at Corinth at the time Paul wrote this letter.  However, Gnostics were certainly around and did later cause confusion in the church.  Paul would soon be fighting Gnostic heresy in the Colossian Church.  So it is probable he was already familiar with their false teachings when he wrote this letter.  John presented a lengthy refutation against Gnosticism in I John.  When Paul was inspired to write this letter God certainly knew Gnostic blasphemy would trouble the first century church and rise up in our day in a mystical New Age version.  It is reasonable to believe the Lord inspired Paul to defend the doctrine of resurrection of the dead using arguments that also refute Gnostic teachings which oppose a literal, bodily resurrection of the dead when the Savior returns. 

 The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia identifies eight characteristics of ancient Gnosticism.  (Volume 4, pages 548-9) 

The following may be regarded as the chief points in the characteristics of the Gnostic systems: 

(1) A claim on the part of the initiated to a special knowledge of the truth, a tendency to regard knowledge as superior to faith, and as the special possession of the more enlightened, for ordinary Christians did not possess this secret and higher doctrine. 

(2) The essential separation of matter and spirit, the former of these being essentially evil, and the source from which all evil has arisen. 

(3) An attempt at the solution of the problems of creation and of the origin of evil by the conception of a Demiurge, i.e. a Creator or Artificer of the world as distinct from the Supreme Deity, and also by means of emanations extending between God and the visible universe.  It should be observed that this conception merely concealed the difficulties of the problem, and did not solve them. 

(4) A denial of the true humanity of Christ, a docetic Christology, (which looked upon the earthly life of Christ and especially on His sufferings on the cross as unreal. 

(5) The denial of the personality of the Supreme God, and the denial also of the free will of man. 

(6) The teaching, on the one hand, of asceticism as the means of attaining to spiritual communion with God, and, on the other hand, of indifference which led directly to licentiousness. 

(7) A syncretistic tendency which combined certain more or less misunderstood Christian doctrines, various elements from oriental and Jewish and other sources. 

(8) The Scriptures of the Old Testament were ascribed to the Demiurge or inferior Creator of the world, who was the God of the Jews, but not the true God. Some of these characteristic ideas are more obvious in one, and some of them in others of the Gnostic systems.

 In Gospel Gleanings Vol. 21, No. 20, Elder Joe Holder provides additional insight indicating the Apostles Paul and John defended the incarnation of Jesus against Gnosticism.

 If we accept the majority view—I do—that John wrote his letters near the end of the first century, we should consider that Gnostic heresy was making a concerted effort to invade and take over Christianity, but the apostles and early Christians soundly rejected it.  In Colossians 2:20-23 Paul confronted and rejected a core Gnostic error.  The whole first general letter of John (First John) confronts docetic Gnosticism, a specific form of Gnosticism that rejected the whole idea of the Incarnation.  These people taught that God could not become anything material, but they could not wholly deny the Incarnation in the presence of many eyewitnesses. Therefore they had to explain the Incarnation so as to avoid its true implications.  They taught that Jesus appeared to be material, to live in a material human body, but it was only an appearance.  In fact, according to them, He never was really flesh and blood; rather He appeared in a “spirit body” or some such form as to leave the impression that He was material, but He really wasn’t.  One of the dominant and unifying themes of First John is a frontal assault against this heretical idea.  In fact John introduces us to the word “antichrist” in this context when referring to those who rejected the idea that He really came in the flesh.

 Paul also addressed the order of the appearance of natural and spiritual bodies.  Natural precedes spiritual, “Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.”  He used the Adam/Christ example as grounds for this assertion.  The first Adam was of the earth and was choikos (Str. 5517), made from earth.  After the first Adam the second appeared. He was the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven.  Paul may have used this argument to address objections to the resurrection from those whom Peter would describe as scoffers (See 2Pe 3:3).  These suggested the crucifixion had changed nothing; that because Christ had not yet come again there would be no resurrection.  The logic of Paul’s argument refutes an argument that the presence currently of only natural bodies means there will be no spiritual bodies in the future.  His example could not be refuted.  His audience knew Adam preceded Christ that, in his example, natural preceded spiritual.  They also knew a long period of time transpired between Adam and Christ.  Furthermore, in as much as his audience is composed of “them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (v. 1) their own experiences confirmed what Paul asserted.  They all could understand they had natural life before they were spiritually born again in Christ.

In verses 48 thru 50 Paul concluded his argument of the nature of change by comparing the existence of natural and spiritual bodies as earthy and heavenly.  “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.  And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”  He argued that as the first man Adam was earthy so also are all who are earthy like Adam, possessing natural bodies; and likewise, in that the second Adam, who is Christ, is heavenly so also are those who are heavenly like Christ, possessing spiritual bodies.  He then asserted a principle of equal certainty; that in as much as his audience bears the earthy image they will assuredly one day possess the heavenly image.  He concluded with a final assertion that change will occur in the resurrection.  “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.”  The statement clearly implies the natural body of man, in the image of the first Adam, does not enter heaven.  Its meaning is clarified in the final clause “neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.”  The likely intent of Paul’s statement is to give final emphasis to necessary change that must occur in the resurrection.

Paul did something extraordinary in his next statement.  He implied he was about to disclose secret, special knowledge; “Behold, I shew you a mystery.”  He was about to tell them something they could not have reasoned from his previous arguments.  Paul revealed some saints will be alive on earth when the resurrection occurs. “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”  This was truly a new wrinkle in his argument.  Up to this point one could reasonably assume everyone would be dead when the resurrection occurs, that it would literally be an event in which the dead and only the dead will arise.  This is how it was with Christ.  He arose from the dead.  Yet Paul now indicated some will be alive when the great event happens.

He also revealed the change will be instantaneous.  It will occur in “the twinkling of an eye,” as quickly as light reflects off the eye, in a flash, literally at the speed of light.  In that instant, at 3x108 m/s or 300,000k/m per second the trump of God will herald Christ’s coming and the change will occur.  Paul described the sequence of events occurring in that moment, “the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.”  Then, corrupt bodies become incorrupt when mortal flesh shall put on immortality.  Although Paul’s description could be understood by his audience it is unlikely they could fully appreciate its meaning.  They had no method to measure the infinitesimal timeframe in which the change will occur.  Human experience cannot fathom what it is to be incorrupt and immortal.  However, they did have Christ as the prototype.  They could think of His love and kindness, power and perfection and the glory of his resurrection and gain some appreciation of how it will be when Jesus returns.   Without Christ’s example there is no framework for thinking about the resurrection.
Perhaps knowing the technical details he had just presented would leave them wondering and possibly not fully appreciating its significance Paul defined the resurrection in an experiential way the Corinthian saints, indeed all the saints of God can truly appreciate; “then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.”  The first part of the thought is from a quote found in the book of Isaiah.  “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isa 25:8).  Paul’s audience could understand the ancient prophet referred to a time of great affliction when the Lord miraculously would deliver the suffering from the hands of the wicked.  It will be a time of joy when the terrible fact and significance of death is devoured by the spoils of victory in Christ and there will be no guilt nor dwelling on past sorrows.

Paul may also have been referring to another prophecy found in Hosea 13:14 in the last part of the statement. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” Paul’s statement challenged man’s conventional wisdom concerning death. It refuted any notion death is undefeatable and the grave a place where the vanquished are finally annihilated.  His audience would understand his meaning.  Living in a time when life was short and death sudden they knew the pain of separation from loved ones.  They knew the law of sin and death; that having brought on death, sin’s relentless course works decay until nothing is left but dust.  Conventional wisdom accepts, albeit with great dread, the eventual and utter victory of the grave. This then is the sting of death.  It is the exquisite pain of contemplating the persistent, unstoppable approach of cessation of awareness, ruin and finally nothing where one once existed.  It is the painful void of separation from all things living.  Grave’s victory is to change a once living being into its own image, nothing more than dust.
 
Paul’s message to the Corinthian saints asserts Christ’s victory over death gives eternal life to all for whom he died.  It is an unconditional and wholly eternal victory.  When death plunged its stinger into Christ at Calvary all its venom was spent.  Christ catapino (Str. 2666) swallowed up, literally devoured deaths’ fatal potion and went into the grave for the final battle.  But God’s power is a sufficient antidote to deaths’ terrible effect.  Christ arose.  And with its stinger spent and poison depleted death no longer wields its former power.  By virtue of Christ’s resurrection the sting of death is effectually gone for God’s saints; and for those who believe Paul’s message it is also gone experientially.  His exclamation implies the good news of deaths’ demise removes all dread from anticipation of death for those who believe and continue to believe through the gospel (see V. 2).  At best death can only bluntly bump against believers producing momentary suffering and sorrow.  But knowing its deadly sting is gone, dread and despair are consumed by joyous hope through faith in the resurrection of Christ and confidence of our own.

 Ever aware of the need to remind them of the source of victory Paul concluded his argument to the Corinthian saints with a statement of thanksgiving. “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  “Giveth” is in the present verb tense.  Paul asserted God is giving him and his audience the victory.  The implication of this is the benefits of the victory were at the time of his writing being given to saints who comply with the stipulations, or conditions established in the qualifying clause of verse 2 “ye are saved if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”  The meaning of Paul’s statement can be inferred to be: Be thankful to God for eternal life by Christ’s victory over death and the temporal benefits He is now giving you through belief of the gospel.
 
He concluded with an admonition and exhortation.  “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”  This statement asserts it was appropriate the Corinthian saints be settled and resolute in their belief in resurrection of the dead.  This is done according to Paul by filling their lives with God pleasing activities. The reason this is fitting is their efforts to serve God complimented by belief in the resurrection along with all it implies, gave purpose and meaning to life that is expressed as joy.

 Conclusion

 At the beginning of this essay we posed the question; is faith superstition, is it blind faith? Faith is superstition when it is based on beliefs that are not supported by evidence.  It is blind when it ignores evidence that contradicts belief.   Paul’s’ response to the Corinthians indicates faith is neither blind nor superstitious.  True faith substantiates concepts that are confirmed by evidence. 

 In Hebrews 1:11 Paul wrote; “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not yet seen.” His definition identifies two distinct components to faith.  They are hope and evidence.  Hope is spiritual essence whereas evidence is forensic validation, or rational proof.  Hope conceptualizes the thing that is desired but not yet seen and evidence confirms the concept is correct.  We hope in something that is unseen, in this case resurrection of our bodies.  We have some concept of the thing hoped for based on values, our beliefs of what is important.  Evidence then confirms or denies whether the concept, the object of hope, is valid.  It provides insight and gives reason for belief.  (As indicated previously, when we use the word values we mean many beliefs that together are a philosophy that governs behavior.) 

 As we have mentioned, the Corinthians likely were suffering the consequences of trying to serve two masters, embracing two value systems that opposed each other. Because of conflicting values their faith wavered.  Their flawed man-centered view of God gave them misunderstanding of the resurrection for which they hoped (things hoped for) that could not be sufficiently supported by evidence (evidence of things not yet seen) to give them conviction to be satisfied with their belief.  This is because a man-centered view of God imposes limits on Him that in man’s way of thinking cannot be overcome.  This makes belief in the resurrection difficult at best. 

 This may explain why Paul addressed several other issues before dealing with their doubts about the resurrection.  When he asserted “evil communications corrupteth good manners” Paul was striking at the root cause of their doubt.  Their bad behaviors, including the bad behavior of doubting the resurrection was an effect of the company they were keeping.  They unwittingly departed from God by attempting to incorporate the values of Corinthian culture into what they believed about God.  As a matter of course doing so moved them away from God.  Paul could understand this based on his own experience with bad manners when he persecuted the church.  He also would have understood what the Savior taught on the subject.  Jesus identified a link between bad behavior and doctrinal fallacy in his Olivet discourse to the Apostles.  Addressing the specific issue of the connection between bad behavior and doubting the resurrection Jesus stated; “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken” (See Mat 24:48-49).  Notice the sequence presented in this text.  First, the evil servant embraced a belief that contradicted God, “that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming.”  Then he misbehaved, “And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken.”  The root cause of his sinning was what he believed, or in this case disbelieved, about God.  His unbelief was a departure from God.  Then bad behavior followed.  The same relationship was presented by Paul in his epistle to the Galatians. “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” (See Gal 1:6–7.)  First they left Christ; then they moved to another gospel.  Like the Corinthians, the Galatians moved away from Christ to a man-centered construct of him when they accepted the false teaching of a man’s-works model for salvation. 

 By explicitly identifying fellowship with the ungodly as a source of the doctrinal problem concerning the resurrection Paul asserted the Corinthians needed to choose between God and man.  By choosing God they would rid themselves of the perverse values that were distorting their understanding of God’s character and ability.  With a single Christ-centered belief system the Corinthians would be able to identify the evidence Paul presented in his arguments and faithfully embrace doctrine that was vital to their temporal wellbeing.  It would provide them with still more evidence to faithfully correct the numerous misbehaviors troubling the church.  

 Aside from God’s judgment in such cases, Paul’s arguments demonstrate there is a logically negative consequence to trying to serve two masters.  While it may seem such a system allows one to choose what to believe, in fact it creates contradictions that complicate knowing what to believe.  In part this is because such a method constantly varies as social values change.  Doubt is the natural phenomenon of selectively choosing which values to employ to discover evidence since feelings is the primary method for deciding which values are appropriate.  Also, it is impossible to simultaneously believe in two opposing principles or concepts. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (See Mat 6:24).   Notice, the Savior didn’t say it is hard to serve two masters.  He said it is impossible. The Corinthians proved this.  Their attempt to serve God and man resulted in preferring man to God and holding on to man’s values while disregarding God’s values.  Belief in man increased while belief in God diminished until they could no longer believe in the resurrection without having serious doubts.

 This, I believe then is Paul’s message to his larger audience composed of “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.”  We are susceptible to inclinations to halt between two opinions (See 1Ki 18:21) to try to serve both God and man.  Everyday in many circumstances we are challenged by the culture that surround us to serve man and not God.  If we give in the negative impact can be pervasive.  This is because we part company with God when we attempt to use worldly values and tactics to serve Him.  Inclinations to serve man can spread beyond a single behavior or belief to influence all our behaviors and subvert our whole belief in God.  This causes joy to be replaced by misery, fear, distrust and loss of a positive sense of purpose to life.  We can avoid these unhappy consequences by avoiding comradery with people who do not love the Lord; and instead, surround ourselves with people who love God and are actively seeking to please Him.  This is best done in a local church environment where there is access to godly instruction through the gospel and where God’s saints supply good examples, encouragements and helps.  (Despite all their problems Paul did not recommend the members at Corinth Church disband, divide, or move their memberships.)  Paul’s reference to scriptural authority along with the fact his message is contained in the New Testament implies gospel instruction is our primary means to understand this or any other issues relating to faith and practice and how to best deal with them.

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.