Summary: An Analysis Of I Corinthians 15
To religious progressives wanting to at least acknowledge the morality of Jesus without having to acknowledge His rightful place as the Lord of the their lives, the resurrection of the body is viewed as a disposable dogma more suited for less scientific times when the masses of humanity were less capable of comprehending the harsh realities of life. Often the believer confronts this kind of thinking in contemporary academic forums such as the Quest for the Historical Jesus and the like. However, this attempt to undermine this teaching goes back even further among beloved historical figures from the past such as Thomas Jefferson who exorcised from the pages of the Bible those passages attesting to the miraculous truth. However, by analyzing I Corinthians 15, the believer is assured that the Resurrection is perhaps the most important doctrine in the pages of Scripture.
In verse 1, Paul points out that what he is about to teach is not some new doctrine pulled out of the sky but rather a reminder of the fundamental Gospel on which believers in the church have taken their stand often without regard to earthly consequences. In verse 2, Paul makes it known that the Gospel is not just a set of intellectual propositions but rather the message through which the believer is saved if they "hold firmly to the word I have preached to you" outside of which there is no hope.
Sometimes when confronted with the complexities of both daily life and raging religious debates, it is easy to neglect and even forget about the basics upon which our faith rests. Thus, in verses 3 and 4 Paul provides the Corinthians with a recap of the basic Gospel message which he summarized as the following: "that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scripture, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."
Either in an attempt to lull believers into lowering their discernment or, as in the case of the Neo-Orthodox to curry favor with the elites of academic theology, occasionally one will find that the cultured despisers of the old time religion will allow those comforted by traditional religious language to speak of some kind of belief in Christ's Resurrection. However, these propagandists turn around and insist that at best the Resurrection be understood merely as a metaphorical or spiritual event meaning Jesus simply went on living in the memories of those that loved him or in a manner outside of verifiable empirical history.
In verse 5, the reader is told that the risen Christ appeared to Peter and then the Twelve. This is also a summation of Gospel accounts such as John 20 where Jesus appeared to His disciples in the Upper Room.
Some skeptics might dismiss such encounters, claiming that the Disciples were so fraught with grief and so beside themselves that they imagined seeing Jesus. However, from verse 6, we learn that Jesus appeared to over 500 believers and it is highly doubtful you could get 500 Jews to agree on anything unless they had witnessed it for themselves. And though it might carry slightly less resonance with us as it did for the Corinthians, at one time one could ask these 500 if what Paul wrote was true or not as at that time most of the witnesses were still alive.
In verse 7, it is pointed out that Jesus appeared to James. While the testimony is powerful that Jesus appeared to over 500 people, the resurrected Christ is further authenticated by appearing before his earthly half-brother who would have been more qualified than the 500 as a family member to expose someone masquerading as Jesus.
While this report of what others experienced is sufficient to establish the veracity of Christ's resurrection as a concrete historical event, in court first hand eyewitness testimony is considered a very powerful form of evidence. As such, in verse 8, for that reason Paul claims Christ appeared to him as well.
But whereas most would consider themselves superior to others if they had a tangible firsthand encounter with God, in verse 9 Paul does not consider himself worthy of being an apostle and views himself as the least among them because of his past persecution of the Church. This itself has implications in the life of the average person.
Often, some put off accepting Christ as their personal savior by claiming that Jesus would never accept them because of all the wicked things they have done. However, by accepting Paul into the ranks of apostleship, the average sinner is shown that, if we confess the error of our ways and repent of them under the shed blood of Christ, as I John 1:9 tells us, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."