Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15
By C.H. Spurgeon
There were people in the Apostles' days
who had an idea that there was no resurrection. Paul endeavours refute
the idea, and teaches the Corinthians that there was a resurrection
from the dead. From the 1st to the 11th verse he proves the
resurrection of Jesus Christ, and upon that grounds the doctrine of the
resurrection of the just.
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you
the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye 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."
Now, we expect to hear a whole list of
doctrines when the apostle says "I declare unto you the gospel;" but
instead of that, he simply tells us of the resurrection of Jesus, for
that is the very marrow of the gospel, the foundation of it—that Jesus
Christ died and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.
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."
That is the whole of the gospel. He who
perfectly understands that, understands the first principles; he has
commenced aright. This is the starting point if we wish to learn the
truth, "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
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
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from
the dead is one of the best attested facts on record. There were so
many witnesses to behold it, that if we do in the least degree receive
the credibility of men's testimonies, we cannot and we dare not doubt
that Jesus rose from the dead. It is all very easy for infidels to say
that these persons were deceived, but it is equally foolish, for these
persons could not every one of them have been so positively deceived as
to say that they had seen this man, whom they knew to have been dead,
afterwards alive; they could not all, surely, have agreed together to
help on this imposture: if they did, it is the most marvellous thing we
have on record, that not one of them ever broke faith with the others,
but that the whole mass of them remained firm. We believe it to be
quite impossible that so many rogues should have agreed for ever. They
were men who had nothing to gain by it; they subjected themselves to
persecution by affirming the very fact; they were ready to die for it,
and did die for it. Five hundred or a thousand persons who had seen him
at different times, declared that they did see him, and that he rose
from the dead; the fact of his death having been attested beforehand.
How, then, dare any man say that the Christian religion is not true,
when we know for a certainty that Christ died and rose again from the
dead? And knowing that, who shall deny the divinity of the Saviour? Who
shall say that he is not mighty to save? Our faith hath a solid basis,
for it hath all these witnesses on which to rest, and the more sure
witness of the Holy Spirit witnessing in our hearts. "And last of all,"
says the apostle, "he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due
time: for I am the least of the apostles." We should not have thought
Paul proud if he had said, "I am the greatest of the apostles," for he
occupies the largest portion of the sacred Scriptures with his
writings; and he preached more abundantly than they all. There was not
one who could exceed Paul, or even come near him in his arduous
labours; yet he says,
For I am the least of the apostles, that
am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of
When he looked upon the mercies that God
gave to him he always recollected how little he deserved; and when he
found himself preaching, oh! with what pathos did he preach to the
ungodly, for he could always close up:—"But I obtained mercy, that in
me first Christ might show forth all long-suffering as a pattern to
them that believe." Have I a persecutor here? Let him know that his sin
is a most damnable sin that will sink him lower into hell than any
other; but even for him there is mercy, and abundant pardon; for Paul
says he obtained mercy even though he persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am:
and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I
laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God
which was with me." Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach,
and so ye believed."
But by the grace of God I am what I am."
That is about as far as most of us can get; we shall never get any
further. "By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace which was
bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than
they all." Then he stops himself: "Yet, not I, but the grace of God
which was with me." We should always take care that we do not take any
of our good works to ourselves: they are the effects of grace within
us. If we once get putting the crown on our own heads we shall soon
have heavy heads for our trouble; but if we put them all on the head of
Jesus, he will honour us if we honour him. Having thus proved the
resurrection of Christ, he goes on:
Now if Christ be preached that he rose
from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of
the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ
not risen! And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and
your faith is also vain.
Yea, and we are found false witnesses of
God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he
raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise
not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith
is vain; ye are yet in your sins:",
Perhaps it does not strike you at first
sight that there is an indissoluble connection between the resurrection
of Christ and that of all his people; perhaps you do not see the marrow
of the argument. The apostle says, "If the dead do not rise, then
Christ did not rise; and if Christ did rise, then all the dead will
rise." Do you see how it is? Why, because Christ and human nature are
now so linked together that what Christ did, he did as the
representative of all his people. When Adam sinned, the world sinned,
and the world died. "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made
alive." Christ could not rise except as the representative of his
people; and "if Christ rose," says Paul, "then his people will rise;
and if he did not rise then we shall not rise, because we are one with
him; and if we do not rise Christ did not rise, because we are one with
him." See here a connection which cannot be broken,—that if Christ
rose, then must the dead rise also. This brings another argument
Then they also which are fallen asleep
in Christ are perished."
How do you like that thought?
If in this life only we have hope in
Christ, we are of all men most miserable."
For they were then persecuted, cast to
the wild beasts, shut up in prison; and if this life were all, what
would be the value of the Christian religion? If would only make men
But now is Christ risen from the dead,
and become the first-fruits of them that slept. 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."
It is no use for the Arminian to strain
this, and say that it proves that every one receives grace through
Christ. It says no such thing; it simply says, "die" and "live."
Everybody shall live at the resurrection. But every man in his own
order: Christ the first-fruits: afterward they that are Christ's at his
coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the
kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule
and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all
enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is
Here the great proof flashes out—
if death is to be destroyed, then there
must be a resurrection, for death cannot be destroyed until the very
bones of the saints are delivered from the strongholds of the enemy.
For he hath put all things under his
feet. But when he saith, All things are put under him, it is manifest
that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all
things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be
subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in
We are not to suppose, when we read that
Jesus Christ will deliver up his kingdom to God, even to his Father,
that he will therefore cease to be God or cease to be a King.
Understand this; God the Father gave to the Son a Mediatorial Kingdom
as Man-God; but the Father was just as much God when he had given him
that kingdom; it was his own special kingdom which he, as the Man-God
Mediator was to take, and God the Father lost no glory by giving it to
him. When Christ shall have worked out all his Mediatorial purposes,
when he shall have finished the salvation of all his elect, he will lay
the crown of his Mediatorial Kingdom at the feet of God, and, as the
Man-Mediator, he too will be subject unto the great Jehovah, the
Three-one; then there will be no Mediator any longer, since there will
be no necessity for any mediation, but we shall all be gathered in one,
even the things that are on earth and the things that are in heaven—one
in Christ Jesus. Then Christ will have his kingdom as God, but as
Mediator he will have no kingdom. It is a destruction of office, not of
person, nor yet of honor; it is a laying aside of his official
capacity, not in any degree a diminution of his glory and honor.
Else what shall they do who are baptized
for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized
for the dead?"
This text has had thirty or forty
explanations. Doddridge and a great many more think it refers to the
practice, when a martyr died, for another person to come forward and
fill the offices which he held, and so to be "baptized for the dead;"
but the meaning I like best is: What shall they do who are baptized
with the certainty that they are not baptized to live a long while, but
that immediately after baptism they will be dragged away to
die—baptized in the very teeth of death? For as soon as any one was
baptised, the Romans would be looking after him, to drag him away to
death. Thus they were many of them baptised as if they were being
washed for their burial, and dedicating themselves to the grave. They
came forward and said, "O Lord, I give myself unto thy service—not to
serve thee here below, for that the enemy will not let me do, but since
I must die, I will be baptized and brave it all; I will be baptized
even for death itself." Well, what shall these do who are baptized in
the certain prospect of death if the dead rise not? "Why are they then
baptized for the dead?"
And why stand in jeopardy every hour? I
protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die
daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus,
what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for
to-morrow we die."
It does not say that Paul did fight with
beasts at Ephesus; but a great many others did. It was a common
practice to put Christians to the lions, giving them a short sword, and
bidding them fight for their lives; and sometimes, strengthened by God,
they fought manfully, and come off alive. But "if," says Paul, "I have
fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise
not?" I might as well give up my religion; then I could lie down and be
at peace. "Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die." Oh! wicked
Paul! to quote from a heathen poet! How disgraceful. If I were to
repeat a verse, and it looked as if Shakespere or any profane author
ever wrote such a thing, how criminal! say you. But I like good things
wherever I find them. I have often quoted from the devil, and I dare
say I shall often quote from his people. Paul quoted this from Meander,
and another heathen poet, who wrote far worse things than have been
written by modern poets, and if any of us who may have stored our minds
with the contents of books we wish we had never read, and if there be
some choice gems in them which may be used for the service of God, by
his help we will so use them.
Be not deceived: evil communications
corrupt good manners. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the
last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised
incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
Christ is coming, and he will find some
alive on the earth, and those who are alive will not die. Paul was so
full of the Second Coming, that he says: "We shall not all sleep." He
did not know but what Christ might come while he was writing the
letter. And we are so earnestly looking for Christ, that we too are
constrained to say,
"We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be
changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump:
for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised
incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
For this corruptible must put on
incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality, 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. But
thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus
What a shame it is, when we sometimes
attend a funeral and hear that magnificent portion of Scripture read
over by a chaplain without heart, or soul, or life—the quicker he can
get through the service the better. Oh that such noble words should be
so awfully spoiled by men who know nothing about them!
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye
stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."