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New Testament Letters

1 Corinthians, Chapters 15-16, Closing with the Gospel

INTRODUCTION: Paul's first letter to the Corinthians has a little over 9,400 words in the King James Version and his letter to the Romans is approximately the same length, as the longest letters in the New Testament. It would take 45 to 60 minutes to read aloud either letter at a moderate rate, to allow for the various comprehension levels of the listeners. It may have been that the Corinthian church first heard the letter read aloud for several hours with pauses at various points, or it may have been read straight through. The letter may have then been read in part or in whole for review at a number of subsequent gatherings. Much of the content of the letter merits repeated review in order to understand and apply the overall guidance Paul gave for the assembly of saints. The church of our present time has much more access as individuals and as a congregation to Scripture; so we should praise our Lord as we prosper spiritually from applying His Word in our lives to become more like Christ. It would be very common for this letter written by Paul to be covered in a fairly lengthy series of messages from the pulpit in a church today.

NOTE: All scripture is from the Bible in Basic English unless otherwise indicated.


A - VICTORY THROUGH CHRIST'S DEATH, BURIAL, AND RESURRECTION!

1 Corinthians 15 "1 Now I am going to make clear to you, my brothers, what the good news was which I gave to you, and which you took, and on which your faith is based, 2 By which you have salvation; that is to say, the form in which it was given to you, if it is fixed in your minds, and if your faith in it is not without effect. 3 For I gave to you first of all what was handed down to me, how Christ underwent death for our sins, as it says in the Writings; 4 And he was put in the place of the dead; and on the third day he came back from the dead, as it says in the Writings; 5 And he was seen by Cephas; then by the twelve; 6 Then by more than five hundred brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, but some are sleeping; 7 Then he was seen by James; then by all the Apostles. 8 And last of all, as by one whose birth was out of the right time, he was seen by me. 9 For I am the least of the Apostles, having no right to be named an Apostle, because of my cruel attacks on the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God, I am what I am: and his grace which was given to me has not been for nothing; for I did more work than all of them; though not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 If then it is I who am the preacher, or they, this is our word, and to this you have given your faith."

COMMENTS: Paul returned to writing about the gospel that Christ is the foundation for the faith possessed by the Corinthians as for all believers, which had given them salvation from sin and death. It needed to remain fixed in their minds in the form Paul presented so it would not be ineffectual in their daily living. Paul reminded them that this "good news" handed down to him was that Christ fulfilled scripture when he died for the sins of those who believe, was buried, and then arose to life on the third day. Certain Psalms passages and certain portions of writings of the prophets such as Isaiah, could provide the scriptural support for Paul's teaching. Then Paul made reference to people who had seen Christ after he arose from the tomb, many of whom were still alive at the time Paul wrote this letter. . Paul said he was approached by Christ only after His resurrection, unlike the eleven who walked with Jesus before his death on the cross. . Paul said he had no right to be an Apostle because he had cruelly attacked the church of God. But it was the grace of God that had made Paul what he had become, and that grace allowed him to do more work for God than the other Apostles. So, whether Paul or another Apostle preached the word, it is that word about Christ as the anchor of faith for all who believe.

B - THE GOSPEL IS NOT GOOD NEWS IF THERE IS NO RESURRECTION

1 Corinthians 15 "12 Now if the good news says that Christ came back from the dead, how do some of you say that there is no coming back from the dead? 13 But if there is no coming back from the dead, then Christ has not come back from the dead: 14 And if Christ did not come again from the dead, then our good news and your faith in it are of no effect. 15 Yes, and we are seen to be false witnesses of God; because we gave witness of God that by his power Christ came again from the dead: which is not true if there is no coming back from the dead. 16 For if it is not possible for the dead to come to life again, then Christ has not come to life again: 17 And if that is so, your faith is of no effect; you are still in your sins. 18 And, in addition, the dead in Christ have gone to destruction. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most unhappy. 20 But now Christ has truly come back from the dead, the first-fruits of those who are sleeping. 21 For as by man came death, so by man there is a coming back from the dead. 22 For as in Adam death comes to all, so in Christ will all come back to life. 23 But every man in his right order: Christ the first-fruits; then those who are Christ's at his coming. 24 Then comes the end, when he will give up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he will have put an end to all rule and to all authority and power. 25 For his rule will go on till he has put all those who are against him under his feet. 26 The last power to come to an end is death. 27 For, as it says, He has put all things under his feet. But when he says, All things are put under him, it is clear that it is not said about him who put all things under him. 28 And when all things have been put under him, then will the Son himself be under him who put all things under him, so that God may be all in all."

COMMENTS: Paul wrote that no one who claims faith should say there is no resurrection of the dead, if the gospel says that Christ came back from the dead. If there is no resurrection, then Christ did not arise, and faith in him is absolutely futile. Furthermore, the Apostles are liars because they preach that Jesus Christ in fact arose from the grave, which cannot be true if there is no resurrection. And again, sin has not been removed if Christ has not conquered death, for death is the final penalty for sin. And Those who have died having faith in Christ have gone on to permanent destruction. If faith in Christ is only for the present life, then those who claim faith in Christ have no "good news." Paul firmly declared that Christ has truly come back from the dead, the first-fruits of those who are "sleeping." In Adam, the created forerunner of all mankind, death came; and through trust in Christ all will return to life. This will be in the order set by God, with Christ as the "first-fruits;" then all who belong to Christ at His coming. Then Christ will give the kingdom over to God the Father, and all other opposing rule and authority will cease to exist as they are put under His feet. The last power to come to and end will be death, and the triune God will be all in all.

C - DON'T BE TRICKED BY FALSE WORDS

1 Corinthians 15 "29 Again, what will they do who are given baptism for the dead? if the dead do not come back at all, why are people given baptism for them? 30 And why are we in danger every hour? 31 Yes, truly, by your pride in me, my brothers in Christ Jesus our Lord, my life is one long death. 32 If, after the way of men, I was fighting with beasts at Ephesus, what profit is it to me? If the dead do not come to life again, let us take our pleasure in feasting, for tomorrow we come to an end. 33 Do not be tricked by false words: evil company does damage to good behaviour. 34 Be awake to righteousness and keep yourselves from sin; for some have no knowledge of God: I say this to put you to shame."

COMMENTS: I will not attempt to say that I can give any clear explanation to what Paul wrote in verse 29. But if that baptism represented an expression of hope for renewed life in Christ after death, then it follows that for Paul to be in danger during much of his ministry was part of the truth that when "to live is Christ, then to die is gain," which he later wrote to the Ephesians. . Paul shared a secret which had been revealed to him for a future time, that not all will experience death of the body, but all believers will receive that eternal spiritual body. In the very moment when the heavenly trumpet sounds, the dead in Christ will arise, and all believers still living will be changed to be free from the power of death forever. This is consistent with the design of God for mankind: the law of God cannot be fully kept by mankind, failure to keep the law is sin before God, and the penalty for sin is death. What a joyful statement Paul made that we can offer all praise to God who gives us strength to overcome through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore Paul addressed his readers as dear brothers, encouraging them to be strong in purpose and unmoved, ever doing the work of the Lord, because they could be certain that their work would not be without effect in the Lord.

D - COLLECTION OF OFFERINGS ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK

1 Corinthians 16 "1 Now about the giving of money for the saints, as I gave orders to the churches of Galatia, so do you. 2 On the first day of the week, let every one of you put by him in store, in measure as he has done well in business, so that it may not be necessary to get money together when I come. 3 And when I come, I will send the men of your selection with letters to take the money you have got together to Jerusalem. 4 And if it is possible for me to go there, they will go with me. 5 But I will come to you after I have gone through Macedonia, for that is my purpose; 6 But I may be with you for a time, or even for the winter, so that you may see me on my way, wherever I go. 7 For it is not my desire to see you now, on my way; because it is my hope to be with you for some time, if that is the Lord's pleasure. 8 But I will be at Ephesus till Pentecost; 9 For a great and important door there is open to me, and there are a number of people against me. 10 Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without fear; because he is doing the Lord's work, even as I am: 11 See then that he has the honour which is right. But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me: for I am looking for him with the brothers. 12 But as for Apollos, the brother, I had a great desire for him to come to you with the brothers, but it was not his pleasure to come now; but he will come when he has a chance."

COMMENTS: Paul had a heartfelt concern for saints in Jerusalem who were impoverished due to conditions not within their control. That was first made evident early in his ministry at Antioch with Barnabas. Acts 11 "27 Now in those days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them, named Agabus, said publicly through the Spirit that there would be serious need of food all over the earth: which came about in the time of Claudius. 29 And the disciples, everyone as he was able, made a decision to send help to the brothers living in Judaea: 30 Which they did, sending it to the rulers of the church by the hand of Barnabas and Saul." The reference Paul made in his letter about the churches in Galatia is not found elsewhere, but his comment indicates instructions about regular collections were not first given to the Corinthians. The collections were to be accumulated so they could later be delivered to those in need by men chosen by the Corinthians, with letters written by Paul. If it would be possible for Paul to go, the chosen men would accompany him. Paul did not plan to come when this letter for Corinth was delivered because he wanted to be able to spend a longer period with them when he came, perhaps even the winter if that was the Lord's will. He planned to stay at Ephesus at least until Pentecost for he saw a great door open there, and a number of people were against him. Paul wanted the Corinthians to be ready to receive Timothy without any concerns; because he did the Lord's work even as Paul did and deserved to be treated with rightful honor. Then they should send him on his way in peace to join with Paul who would be looking for him with the brothers. Paul mentioned Apollos as a brother, and said he had desired that Apollos would have gone to Corinth with others; but it was not suitable for Apollos then, though a later time might work out. These comments indicate that Paul respected both of these men as fellow workers for the gospel.

E - BE UNMOVED IN FAITH AND DO ALL THINGS IN LOVE

1 Corinthians 16 "13 Be on the watch, unmoved in the faith, and be strong like men. 14 Let all you do be done in love. 15 Now I make my request to you, my brothers, for you have knowledge that the house of Stephanas is the first-fruits of Achaia, and that they have made themselves the servants of the saints, 16 That you put yourselves under such, and under everyone who is helping the Lord's work. 17 And I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for they have done what was needed to make your work complete. 18 For they gave comfort to my spirit and to yours: for which cause give respect to such people. 19 The churches of Asia send their love to you. So do Aquila and Prisca, with the church which is in their house. 20 All the brothers send their love to you. Give one another a holy kiss. 21 I, Paul, send you these words of love in my writing. 22 If any man has not love for the Lord, let him be cursed. Maran atha (our Lord comes). 23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. So be it."

COMMENTS: Paul began to close this letter by advising the Corinthians to be watchful: and this was important so they would avoid a variety of things he had mentioned throughout the letter: things harmful to them as individuals, and harmful in their treatment of other believers. Being watchful is necessary to be unmoved in the faith, and he wanted them to stand firm like men of strength, but to do everything in love. Paul made a request that the Corinthians accept the house of Stephanas as leaders because it was known they were the first-fruits of Achaia, and that they had made themselves the servants of the saints. Others who were helping the Lord's work with similar character and experience were also worthy of sharing in leadership. Paul wanted the Corinthians to know that he had been pleased that Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus had come to him. Their presence with him had given comfort to his spirit as they had done for the Corinthians, and for that reason they should receive respect.

Paul was still in Ephesus when he wrote that the churches of Asia sent their love to the Corinthians. Aquila and Prisca, and the church which was in their house, also sent their love. This couple had started a church after they traveled to Ephesus with Paul. They had met Paul when he began his eighteen month ministry in Corinth, as they had separately arrived there at about the same time. . Paul passed on the love sent by brothers in Christ, and advised that the Corinthians greet each other with a holy kiss, a warm expression of that time period. Paul wanted the readers to know that he had personally written this letter; and he used strong emphasis with his wording that the one who does not truly love the Lord remains accursed and the Lord's return is near. The contrast to that fearful end is that Paul wanted them to be in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Paul expressed his personal love to them in Christ Jesus as well.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

I thank you, LORD, for allowing me to study the words the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that the truth of the resurrection of Christ Jesus is the firm hope that I have for my own resurrection to eternal life with all those who await your appointed time. If there is no resurrection to everlasting life, then the Christ would be a liar and so would all of the apostles sent out with that message as the victory over sin and death. I thank you, LORD, that you have led me to the truth so I will not be led astray by those who deny any part of resurrection of the Christ, or of those who have received eternal life by grace through faith in the Savior of the world. Help me to be faithful in the guidance Paul set out for regular donations for the furtherance of the gospel, and to stand firm in my own genuine faith in Christ. May I do all things in love as Paul had emphasized in various ways. Marinatha, Amen.

Published 30 July 2018