1 Corinthians 15:1
Moreover indicates a change of subject. "Declare unto you," or remind you, is somewhat emphatic. What St. Paul brings to memory are certain fundamental ideas which he does not hesitate to call "the gospel," the glad tidings of God to the world. It was the same gospel he had preached unto them, the same they had accepted, the same in which they stood. By it these Corinthians were saved, present and future, if they adhered to their faith, unless indeed their faith was "in vain." Was this faith a vain thing? Was it possible that it was an illusion? How could this be when they had embraced it, stood in it, felt its power to save, and rejoiced in its blessedness? The power of this gospel lay in these facts, viz.: Christ had died, had been buried, had been raised from the grave; and these had occurred for a special purpose and agreeably to pre-announcement of Divine revelation. What was the specific object of Christ's death? He died "for our sins." In this he was the Christ of God, the Messiah, the Anointed, the Jesus of Nazareth, who, as "the righteous Servant of the Father," was ordained to "bear their iniquities." It was not, then, a common death. It was not a death brought about as to its main end by the disappointment of his nation because he had refused to be a secular king. It was not the death of a martyr. Worldly influences, earthly agencies, Satanic power, appear in the immediate and circumstantial connections of his crucifixion. His arrest was an act of human violence; his trial was twofold, Jewish and Roman; his execution was Roman; and yet all this array of man's hate and skill and successful wickedness passes out of sight, and is lost in a view infinitely higher. Judas could not have betrayed him, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrim could not have condemned him, Pilate could not have given him over to the Pharisees and Sadducees, unless Christ himself had permitted them to control the manner and incidents of his death. The death itself, as to its motive, spirit, and aim, occupies the whole mind of the apostle. Man and man's instrumental relation to it fade from view, and it is with him a vicarious, expiatory, propitiating death, deriving its reason, character, and value from a single consideration - a death for our sins. On no other basis could he regard the gospel as glad tidings. And how had the knowledge of this as a doctrinal reality come to him? He had "received" it from Christ himself, who had appeared personally to him at midday. The historical facts of his death, burial, and resurrection had been known to him; for Saul of Tarsus could not have been ignorant of these things as events involving the nation. Mysteriously, too, he had felt their impression in vague ideas, in vaguer fears; out of unconscious depths, sounds had throbbed as strange pulsations on the inner ear; and so sharp had been the call to thought and reflection, as for the Lord Jesus to remind him on the way to Damascus that he had been kicking against the goads which had pierced his conscience. His conversion was sudden and marvellous. Sudden and marvellous it could not have been but for the long and acute goading that had opened his heart to the hand of the Divine Healer. Yet this preparatory work of conviction was all within himself, under the Spirit's agency. What he knew of Christ's death was not from the historical fact alone, but from the doctrinal truth couched in the fact, and this saving truth he had received. It was a revelation to his soul, a direct and assuring manifestation from the Lord Jesus. To be an apostle, he needed this immediate communication from heaven, this peculiar intensifying of conviction and conversion. Means and methods suited to others were not adapted to his case. Notorious as he had been in the championship of the national Church - the forlorn hope of Sadduceeism and Pharisaism, the young hero whose fanatical strength was adequate to replenish the wasting and well nigh exhausted forces of the Sanhedrim - it was not for him to go over to Christ in some quiet way by meditation, by laborious inquest of soul, by those high resolves which often have their birth from the womb of solitude. No; he must be signally converted, for his own sake and for the sake of others. The change was a momentous affair in the history of the Jewish Church no less than the Christian Church, and, accordingly, he speaks of himself as having "received" the grace of God in an exceptional manner. But were human means disowned? Was naturalness set at nought or even depreciated? Not so; what he "received" was altogether in unison with the true creed of Israel as contained in the records of her national faith. "According to the Scriptures," argues he, was the truth of Christ's death which I "received." Above the effulgence that flashed from the Syrian noon upon his eye, there was another light, and it spread all over Pentateuch, Psalms, prophecies. What, indeed, Gamaliel stood for, but was not; what Sadducee and Pharisee ideally meant, but utterly failed to make real; what priest and scribe had been designed to represent, but had hidden under carnal observances; what temple and sacrifices had been set apart to commemorate and prefigure, but had obliterated in sign and symbol; - all these were now illumined. "According to the Scriptures," which he had learned when a boy in Tarsus, and had come to Jerusalem that he might enlarge and perfect his knowledge of these holy writings; "according to the Scriptures," which St. Stephen had expounded before the Sanhedrim when the shadow of death retreated before the glory descending upon the youthful saint from the "Son of man standing on the right hand of God;" "according to the Scriptures" that Ananias had explained to him at Damascus, when "there fell from his eyes as it had been scales," and, in no long time, the inner eyesight was made clear and strong. Thus it was that providence in the past became providence in the present, the Holy Ghost alike in each, and Tarsus, Jerusalem, and Damascus brought, though seemingly so wide apart, into the unity of his soul's development. Verily, a wondrous scheme of personal history, recognizing home and parents, life in "no mean city," life in the metropolis that was venerated as the glory of the elect nation, life in the leadership of an assault on the young Church, and forever memorable in her annals because of the crown of martyrdom then first won; a marvellous interweaving of the natural and supernatural as warp and woof in one and the same fabric. Back to the original promise spoken in Eden that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; back to the early institution of sacrifice, and thence on to the organization of the Divine idea in a most solemn and august ceremonial that allowed no day to escape its impressive symbolization; all through penitential psalms and instructive prophecies. The great doctrine was present everywhere that "without shedding of blood there is no remission," that "he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows," and that "the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." No emaciating criticism here; no destructive intellect; no disposition inclining St. Paul to obscure Christ in the shadow of the Jewish nation, and minimize his figure to the smallest dimensions consistent with any faith at all. No such taste and temper had this man, fresh from the schools and master of the theology of his times. Nor is it other than one of his very marked peculiarities, that he so frequently cites his thorough and familiar acquaintance with the Scriptures, and that from first to last in his Epistles, he is quite as much a commentator of the Old as an exponent of the New. The two grand hemispheres of religious thought formed one globe in him. From the one to the other, he passed with unobstructed step. Over the immense domain, divided and cut up to so many other minds, adverse or even hostile sections to not a few honest souls; over all this stretch of diversified territory, there was to St. Paul the very perfection of unity. His footsteps never missed their pathway; his eye never lost a landmark. For him, Christ was in Eden, in Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Hosea; and the Old Testament was what it was and all it was because Christ was in every one of its doctrines and institutions. The present Christ to him - the Christ of Damascus, and Arabia, and Jerusalem, and Athens, and Ephesus, and Corinth - was the Christ of the past, and he was this because he was the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Is it like]y, then, that we shall find too much of Christ, and especially as it respects the legal bearings of his death, in the Old Testament? Clearly St. Paul did not think so. "According to the Scriptures" was prefatory, and essentially so, to the logic, sentiment, fervour, of the grand argument he was about to make. What was this argument to be? A defence - the defence - of the doctrine of the resurrection of the human body. Observe now that the historical fact of the Lord's resurrection was not in debate. No one of the Corinthians denied or even doubted that. What, then, was in controversy? This it was, viz.: Did the doctrine involved in the Lord's rising from the dead apply to all? Was there to be a general resurrection? From this point of view, we see why in the present case he laid such stress on his dying for our sins. It was not death as an ordinary termination of life, but death considered in this exclusive instance as an atoning death, as a vicarious and expiatory offering, as a complete and perfect satisfaction to law and justice. It is this death that stands so closely related to his resurrection, and through it to our resurrection. Taking merely an ethical view of the matter, and confining ourselves to what Jesus of Nazareth taught, and to the example of moral excellence he set before men, we can see no reason why he should have risen. He added nothing to morality, nothing to example, nothing to a high and self-sacrificing manhood, by returning to life and reappearing at sundry times to his disciples during the forty days. On the other hand, looking at his death as penal "for our sins" - we can understand why, if he was "delivered for our offences," he should be "raised again for our justification." Without the resurrection, we could not be assured whether he died simply and solely as a good man, the best of men, or as the Son of God to expiate our sins. If, indeed, law and justice have been satisfied by the sacrifice, let them express in an authoritative and sovereign manner, clear of all liability to misapprehension, and assuring to the most eager solicitude, that the penalty has been paid and a full pardon for guilt in man made possible. Precisely this was accomplished by Christ's resurrection, and thus the scars of Calvary, preserved upon his person, were shown to the disciples as the signs of victory over "hell and death." He rose, furthermore, on "the third day." Though it was not Christ's habit to fix times and seasons, yet he was careful to settle the day of his resurrection. Again and again he announced the date of the event. Friends, in their overwhelming dismay, forgot it, or if some remembered it, as the two who journeyed to Emmaus, it was clouded by grief and distrust. Foes remembered it and provided a guard for the sepulchre, and his foes were the first to know that he had risen, and that, too, from their own soldiers. There was no ethical reason for him to rise on the third day or on any other day, but, viewing his death as penal, its purpose instantly answered when he died, we can see congruity between the two facts, "the third day" being his own appointment and a proof that he had died, not as a mere man, but as the eternal Son of God. St. Paul repeats, "according to the Scriptures," i.e. Christ's resurrection had been foretold. "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Psalm 16:10). Christ's death, burial, and resurrection hold together, and their congruity is determined by the fact that "the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." To these truths the apostle gave prominence in the opening of his argument. Logically, they had to assume that commanding position, and emotionally they could have no other. And therefore, "first of all," he delivered these doctrines. They took precedence of all else; they were the data foreverything in Christianity; they were "the gospel." So that if he was about to dwell on a topic which should evoke his power to the utmost, nor leave a faculty of his mind disengaged nor a sensibility unmoved, he would "first of all," as he had done in his preaching, rest his whole cause on Christ dying and rising as the Redeemer of the human race. - L.







Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel.
I. CHRISTIANITY IS BASED ON HISTORICAL FACTS, not on human reason or imagination; it is neither an ingenious hypothesis to account for any phenomena, nor a poetic myth to adumbrate any truth. It is based on facts. These facts are —

1. Personal. They are connected with a person, and that person is not Socrates, Plato, nor Caesar, but Christ.

2. Few. He "died," He was "buried," and He "rose." These facts are compendious facts, they imply many more.

3. Well attested (vers. 4-8). No facts on record are better attested than these.

II. CHRISTIANITY IS DESIGNED FOR THE REMOVAL OF EVIL.

1. He "died for our sins."

2. It is to "put away sin" from the hearts, literature, institutions, customs, and governments of mankind; natural evil is but the effect of moral.

3. Philosophically, there is no system on earth suited to destroy man's sinful disposition and to change his heart, but Christianity; and, historically, nothing else has ever done it.

III. CHRISTIANITY IS TO BE PREACHED WITH THIS DESIGN (ver. 2). Paul preached that they might be saved, but they could only be saved as they renounced and hated sin. Paul preached Christianity —

1. Convincingly, "which also ye received." They believed his gospel; then he must have convinced them by arguments. Christianity is to be commended "to every man's conscience."

2. Scripturally. He showed those facts in the light of the Scriptures, "according to the Scriptures."

3. Humbly, "born out of due time, .... the least of the apostles," etc.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

I. THE RECEPTION OF THE GOSPEL BY THE CORINTHIANS, AND THE USE WHICH THEY MADE OF IT (vers. 1, 2).

1. Paul brought glad tidings with him to Corinth, and proclaimed them everywhere — in the synagogue, in the workshop, in the market-place.

2. Nor did he preach without effect. Many might listen incredulously, and others resist, but many "received" his glad tidings.

3. In that gospel these Corinthians were now "standing." Their ancient superstitions had passed away, and they "stood" upon the rock — "Jesus Christ," and the hope of a resurrection. That reception of his apostolic message was not only the pledge of blessedness in the great hereafter, it indicated their present security. Now they were safe. The strong swimmer, battling with the waves of a stormy sea, may be living, and not without hope; but not until his feet touch the beach may he whisper to himself, "Now I am safe!" So these Corinthians had been "saved," but their Christian work was not then over. The saved Christian is not to stand still and think of doing nothing more. "Keep in memory" might rather be translated "firmly maintain." Without this they had "believed in vain."

4. Here, then, we are presented with the apostle's ideas of evangelical conversion. It was a process of preaching on his part followed by these steps on theirs — reception, belief, steadfast adherence. "What Paul taught, that must ministers teach still. What the Corinthian Christians "received," etc., that must we receive, stand upon, and adhere to, or risk the salvation of our souls.

II. THE THE TRUTH WITH WHICH HE DESIRED THAT THEIR MINDS SHOULD BE ESPECIALLY OCCUPIED (vers. 3, 4). In these words we have plainly an epitome of the gospel. He himself had "received" this gospel, and felt it to be the power of God unto his own personal salvation; and now he declared that he had "delivered" it to them as equally available for theirs. Nay, he did so "first of all," i.e., as the chiefest and most important statement in the gospel message. What was the all-important truth?

1. It was that "Christ had died for our sins." There was something in that death which possessed an atoning virtue, and this was "according to the Scriptures "(Isaiah 53).

2. In token of the reality of Christ's death Paul affirms that He was "buried."

3. In token also that His atoning work was completely effectual, "He rose from the dead the third day."

(J. Cochrane, A.M.)

PAUL'S GOSPEL IN ITS SUBSTANCE. "How that Christ died," etc. "Good news" must; be the record of a fact. And this is the great peculiarity and the great blessedness and sign of the universal adaptation of Christianity, that it is first and foremost, the story of things that happened on this green solid earth of ours. It is not airy speculations coming from the clouds, it is not a mere morality or republication of man's duty, with new emphasis, and with sweeter or more terrible sanctions. There is a theology underlying it, deducible from it, and which must be deduced from it. There is a system of morality in it, but the beginning of everything is the story of a life, the history of plain facts. And how else can God be revealed? You cannot reveal a person by anything but deeds. And further, for ever and ever it remains a fact that the highest form in which you and I can conceive of, or be taught of God, is the form of man. The beginning of the gospel is the story of the Christ. Christ is Chistianity; and its first form is neither morality, nor theology, nor philosophy, but simple history, Still further, there is another thought here, and that is that Paul's gospel, fastened, as its central fact, on the death and accompanying burial, and the consequent resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is the vital centre of the gospel. There! if you tear that out; of it, you have no life left in it; and its morality will never get itself executed, and the fair pattern will never be reproduced, and we shall have but one more of the tragical multitude of systems that have promised to us glorious crowns and left us in the dust. And there is one more point to be noticed, and that is Paul's gospel carried, as an integral part of itself, the explanation of the meaning of death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. "How that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures." What is it that changes the historical fact into an historical proclamation of the good news of God? Is it the bare statement "Jesus Christ died"? Is that a gospel? Is it any more a gospel than the statement that Socrates died, or that anybody else died? The only statement about Christ's death that makes it a gospel is that He died for our sins.

II. PAUL'S GOSPEL IN ITS POWER. He specifies two of its mighty influences upon men: "Wherein ye stand... by which also ye are saved." First, the reception of that gospel into our hearts enables us to "stand." In that gospel, received into our believing hearts, we get firm footing for our lives; a certitude. Men all around us are saying, "Who will show us any truth? What are we to believe about God, about men, about the relations of the two? What are we to think of the destiny of humanity? What are we to think of the future?" The answer lies here. "Christ died for our sins"; Christ is risen again for our salvation. In that truth, grasped, fed upon, unfolded as the germs unfold themselves in the sweet May-days, will be found the answer to all perplexities, the certainties amidst all shifting opinion, the basis upon which a whole life's thinking may be reared, the ground of all true morality, the sum and substance of all real theology, the germ of prophetic anticipations of the fortunes of men and of individuals. Again, the word is employed in another aspect. That gospel of Christ, received into a man's heart, enables him to resist. "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth." Then there is another aspect here of the power of Paul's gospel in that familiar word — "By which ye are saved." "By which also ye are being saved" would be a truer translation. It is a process lifelong, and that process, including deliverance from all forms of evil, whether sin or sorrow, and investiture with all possibilities of good, whether righteousness or happiness, begins with the reception of Christ into the heart, and steadily runs parallel, with the increased reception of His grace, until the grey dawn passes through all the shades of saffron yellow, and rosy pink, and pearly white, and comes at last to the colourless completeness and unsetting radiance of the midday sun.

III. PAUL'S GOSPEL, IN ITS CONDITIONS. "If ye keep in memory," or more correctly, "If ye hold fast what I preached unto you." "Unless ye have believed in vain." First, there must be a solid faith, not a faith which is lightly and without due cause taken up. There is such a thing, you know, as the seed being sown upon stony places, with an inch of earth above a great lateral shelf of rock. And just because the rock, into which the seed can never penetrate, retains much of the heat of the midday sun, and warms the film of earth above it, it grows quickly. So in a man's heart, the Word may be sown, it may strike down its little rootlets, and very soon come to an impenetrable layer of rock. And just because it cannot get any deeper it begins to germinate at once, "and anon with joy they receive it." "Such endure but for a while." They believe rashly, without due consideration. Their faith is not the deliberate act of the whole man. It is a momentary emotion that produced it. There is no adequate perception of the facts which it grasps, or of the necessities from which it seeks to be delivered. "Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord." But then do not forget that faith may be genuine though it be feeble; and that all which I have been saying about a shallow confidence has no bearing upon people simply because they find that their faith is not what it ought to be; or subject to many a sad break and gap. Again, remember the other condition here, viz., the continuous grasp of the truth which makes the essence of the gospel. "Ye are being saved, if ye keep hold of what I preached to you." The gospel works upon us as long as we think about it, and keep it in our hearts, and not one instant longer. The polestar will guide you as long as you look at it; but if your eyes are wandering away to the will-o'-the-wisps upon the marsh, or to the comets that flash across your sky, you will lose your guide, and wander into the darkness. It is whilst you believe that the gospel is saving you. And, remember, that continuous grasp of God's truth cannot keep up without a continuous effort. I have seen conjurers that have said to a man, "Take that coin in your hand. Close your hand upon it. Are you sure you have got it? Yes!" "Certain it is there?" "Certainly." "Open your hand!" Gone! Ay! And the world, the magician world, conjures his faith out of many a professing Christian man's clenched hand. And when he opens it — and perhaps he does not open it till he gets before the throne — an empty palm. Where is his faith? Tighten your grasp, "lest at any time you should let them slip."

(A. Maclaren, D.D.)

I. OF ITS FACTS.

1. Declared by competent witnesses.

2. Preached to us.

II. OF ITS EXPERIENCE.

1. We have received.

2. We stand in it.

III. OF ITS HOPES.

1. It can save us fully and for ever.

2. If we hold it fast by faith.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

? —

I. FAITHFULLY, according to the Word of God.

1. Which is simple in its details.

2. Absolutely true.

II. OUT OF PERSONAL. EXPERIENCE.

1. This gives confidence.

2. Conveys life.

III. HUMBLY.

1. With a consciousness of unfitness.

2. In dependence upon Divine grace.

3. With a full recognition of the labours of others.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

1. Because this chapter forms part of the Funeral Service, and every syllable stands associated with some mournful moment in our lives, is one reason why the exposition is attended with some difficulty. It sounds more like stately music heard in the stillness of night than like an argument.

2. The subject, like almost all the others treated of in this Epistle, had been forced upon the apostle by the heresies which had crept into the Corinthian Church. Note the great difference made by the apostle between moral wrong-doing and intellectual error. When incest had been committed the apostle at once commanded expulsion, but here he only expostulates with and endeavours to set the heretics right.

3. In the present day this error arises out of materialism. Now the unbelief of those distant ages was something very different from this. But the Corinthians denied the resurrection of the body because they believed that matter was the cause of all evil; and they hailed the gospel chiefly because it gave them the hope of being liberated from the flesh with its corrupt desires. They regarded the resurrection therefore as a figurative expression. The apostle now controverts this error, and he does it by a twofold line of argument.

I. BY HISTORICAL PROOFS OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST (vers. 4-8).

1. The Christian doctrine was not merely immortality, but resurrection; the historical fact of Christ's resurrection being the substantial pledge of ours.

2. There are two forms in which it is conceivable that Christianity may exist — essential and historical. Suppose, e.g., that without the aid of Christ, a man could arrive at the chief Christian doctrines — the Fatherhood of God; that it is a Divine Spirit which is the source of all goodness in man; that the righteousness acceptable in His sight is not ceremonial but moral goodness, etc., he would have arrived at the essence of Christianity. And history tells us that before the Redeemer's advent there were a few who, by the aid of the Spirit of God, had reached to a knowledge which is marvellous to us. By historical Christianity, however, we mean not those truths abstractedly, but considered as actually existing in the life of Christ. Reverence for persons precedes the belief in truths. A few remarkable exceptions have reached truth without knowing Him who is the Truth, but this is not the rule. Those truths which you hold deepest, you have gained not by the illumination of your intellect, but first by trusting in some great or good one, and then, through Him, by obtaining credible evidence of those truths. Take, e.g., the doctrine of the resurrection. The times when it seemed almost incredible to us were those in which we began to despair of human nature — when some great crime or meanness had set us wondering why such beings should be permitted to live hereafter. And the moments when we believed most strongly in it were the moments when we felt assured that human perfectibility was no dream, since we saw the evidence of a goodness most like God's which could not be limited by death. Carry on this principle, and then you have the very spirit of historical Christianity. For we do not believe that there shall be a life to come merely because there is something within us which craves for it, but because we have believed in the life and death and resurrection of the Man of Nazareth. Our Christianity is not merely the abstract truths which Christ taught, but Christ Himself.

II. BY THE ARGUMENT "REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM" (vers. 13-20). "If there be no resurrection —

1. Then is Christ not risen. It is an absurdity to believe that that man perished. The Son of Man grounded His pretensions on this, that He should rise again from the dead. If, then, He did not, He was an impostor; and you are driven to this, that a holy life is not a whit more certain of attaining to God's truth than a false one.

2. The Christian faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Except in the belief of the resurrection the quitting of sin is impossible. "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die," is an inevitable conclusion. And you are driven also to this, that, just as all other religions have failed in redeeming man from sin, the Christian religion has also failed. It has become the fashion to hold that in proportion as a belief in the resurrection enters into our motives, right-doing loses its value, that he alone can do any really good work who disbelieves in a life hereafter, because he alone does good for its own sake and not from the hope of reward. But —(1) In removing the hope of the life to come you have taken away all that makes life worth possessing, or mankind worth living for. Why should we labour for beings scarcely higher than the "half-reasoning elephant"?(2) To do right Christianly is not doing so for the sake of happiness in the world to come, but for life. "It is more life and fuller that we want."

3. The apostles would be found false witnesses. There is something touching in the manner in which the apostle writes this. That he should be a false witness! He does not leave room for supposing the possibility of a mistake. It was either true or false. James, Cephas, the twelve, the five hundred, either had or had not seen the Lord Jesus; Thomas either had or had not put his finger into the print of the nails; either the resurrection was a fact, or else the apostles were intentional false witnesses before God. Now there is a certain instinct within us generally which enables us to detect when a man is speaking the truth. Truth has a certain ring by which it may be known. Now this chapter rings with truth; and before you can believe that there is no resurrection, you must believe that this glorious chapter was written by one who knew at his heart that he was speaking what was false. Another witness to this fact was the Apostle Peter. There are two things which rarely go together, courage and falsehood. There are circumstances in which a brave and honest man may be betrayed by the sudden force of temptation into a dereliction from the truth, and such a thing had occurred in the life of St. Peter. But after his bitter repentance he went forth and stood as upon a rock, protesting that he knew that the Lord was risen. There must he a cause given for this. Can we believe that the man who laid his hand on the axe, or he who asked that he might be crucified with his head downwards, as unworthy to die as his Redeemer died, that his life was a systematic and continued falsehood kept up to the very last; and that the brave, true man with his dying lips gave utterance to a lie?

4. Those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished, i.e., the noblest of the human race have lived — only to die for ever. You are required to believe, moreover, that they attained to this excellence by believing what was false, namely, the resurrection; so that we are driven to this strange paradox — that by believing that which is false we become pure and noble, and by believing that which is true we become base and selfish! Believe this who can!

(F. W. Robertson, M.A.)

I. ITS PLACE IN THE CHRISTIAN CREED.

1. What did Paul mean by the resurrection of Christ?(1) He meant His rising from the grave with a body glorified or made fit for the heavenly life He had entered. Flesh and blood cannot enter upon that life, but must pass through a process which entirely alters its material.(2) But yet he always speaks as if there were some connection between the natural and the spiritual body, and regards the body of Christ as that into the likeness of which the bodies of His people are to be transformed. Now we can only suppose that the body which was laid in the sepulchre was transformed into a spiritual body by a process which differed from that which is to operate in ourselves only by its rapidity. We do not understand the process, but all along the line which marks off this world from the spiritual world mystery broods. There are in nature many forces of which we know nothing, and it may one day appear to us most natural that the spirit should clothe itself with a spiritual body. As the life that is in the body now assimilates material and forms the body to its particular mould, so may the spirit hereafter. Paul refuses to recognise any insuperable difficulty here.

2. What was the position occupied by the Corinthians?(1) In that day the resurrection was denied by materialists, such as the Sadducees, who believed that mental and spiritual life are only manifestations of physical life and dependent upon it. But many who opposed materialism held that the resurrection of the body if not impossible was at all events undesirable. To be free from all connection with matter was an essential element in their idea of salvation.(2) In our own day the resurrection of Christ is denied from both points of view. It is said that Christ lay in His grave, and the elements of His body have passed into the bosom of nature, as ours will before long; but His spirit lives, perhaps in us. On the other hand, it is said that although the body of Christ remained in the tomb, His spirit survived death, and lives a disembodied but conscious and powerful life. But what the apostles saw was a veritable body that could stand handling and whose lips and throat could utter sound. Besides, if we accept either view we are at once confronted with the difficulty that Christ's glorification is not yet complete. If Christ now sits at God's right hand in perfect human nature, it is not as a disembodied spirit, but as a complete person in a glorified body. And it must also be remembered that the primitive faith and restored confidence in Christ to which the very existence of the Church is due, were created by the sight of the empty tomb and the glorified body.

3. Consider the place which our Lord's risen body had in Paul's conversion. The idea of a crucified Messiah had been abhorrent to him, but from the moment when he saw the risen Lord he understood, with the rest of the disciples, that death was the Messiah's appointed path to supreme spiritual headship. So from the first Paul put the resurrection of Christ forward as an essential and fundamental part of the gospel he had received. "If," says Dr. Fairbairn, "it be true that no living Christ ever issued from the tomb of Joseph, then that tomb becomes the grave, not of a man, but of a religion, with all the hopes built on it and all the splendid enthusiasms it has inspired." It is not difficult to perceive what it was in the resurrection of Christ which gave it this importance.(1) It was the convincing proof that Christ's words were true, and that He was what He had claimed to be. "Destroy this temple," He said, "and in three days I will raise it again." As Jonah had been lost for three days and nights, but had thereby only been forwarded in his mission, so with our Lord. In order that His claim to be the Messiah may be understood, it was necessary that He should die; but in order that it might be believed it was needful that He should rise. The apostles evidently accepted the resurrection as God's great attestation to the person and work of Christ. It changed their own thoughts about Him, and they expected it would change the thoughts of other men. They could now confidently say, "He died for our sins, and was raised again for our justification."(2) There is disclosed by it a real and close connection between this world and the next. There is no need now of argument to prove a life beyond; here is one who is in it. It is "by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead that we are begotten again unto a lively hope."(3) In it we see at once the norm or type of our life here and of our destiny hereafter. Holiness and immortality are two inseparable aspects of the Divine life we receive from Christ. His Spirit is the source of both (Romans 8.). The hope that uplifts and purities every part of the Christian's character becomes a living hope, full of immortality, in all who are now actually drawing their life from Christ. Therefore does Paul so continually hold up to us the risen life of Christ as that to which we are to be conformed.

II. ITS PROOF. As a preliminary to the positive evidence here adduced, it may be remarked that we have no record of any contemporary denial of the fact, save only the story put in the mouths of the soldiers by the chief priests. The authorities resolved there should be no tampering with the grave, and accordingly had set their official seal upon it and placed a guard to watch. Their action after the resurrection proves that the tomb was empty, while their previous action proves that it was emptied by the actual rising of Jesus. So when Peter affirmed it before the Sanhedrin no one was hardy enough to contradict him; or why did they not prosecute the disciples for breaking the official seal? What hindered them from bringing proof that there had been no resurrection? If the body was still in the grave nothing was easier than to produce it; if the grave was empty, as they affirmed, because the disciples had stolen the body, no more welcome handle against them could have been furnished to the authorities. But they could not in open court pretend any such thing. It is admitted on all hands that the disciples had a bona fide belief that Jesus had risen; how was that belief produced? To this there are three answers.

1. That the disciples saw our Lord alive after the crucifixion, but He had never been dead. This answer is plainly inadequate. —(1) As not in harmony with the facts. His death was certified by the surest authority. Though the soldiers see that Jesus is dead, they make sure by a spear-thrust, and Pilate would not give up the body until he had received the necessary certificate that the sentence of death had been executed.(2) As an explanation. The Person the disciples saw was not a crushed, defeated man, who had death still to look forward to, but one who had passed through and conquered death, and was now alive for evermore.

2. That the disciples only thought they saw Christ, e.g. —(1) Some clever and scheming person may have personated Jesus. Such personations have been made, but never with such results. Imposture, in fact, does not fit the case before us at all; and the more we consider the combination of qualities required in any one who should personate the risen Lord, the more we shall be persuaded that the right explanation of the belief in the resurrection is not to be sought in this direction.(2) The disciples simply believed that such a soul could not become extinct. Quite so, they of course believed that His spirit was in paradise, and for that very reason fully expected to find His body in the tomb: which they did not.(3) Renan's account of the growth of this belief is that "the world, accustomed to attribute to its great men superhuman virtues, cannot admit that they have submitted to the death common to all. When Mahomet expired Omar rushed from the tent, sword in hand, and declared that he would hew down any one who should dare to say that the prophet was no more. Heroes do not die. So Jesus had lived so entirely in those who surrounded Him that they could but affirm that after His death He was still living." M. Renan forgets, however, that Omar was followed by Abu Bekr, who said, "Whoso hath worshipped Mahomet, let him know that Mahomet is dead, but whoso hath worshipped God that the Lord liveth and doth not die." Then, again, none of the apostles said that their Master was not dead. Besides, all these hypotheses omit altogether to explain how the disciples disposed of the tomb of our Lord, in which, according to this hypothesis, His body was still quietly reposing. Is there, then, no possibility of the disciples having been deceived? Had the belief in the resurrection depended on the report of one or a few who were anxiously looking for the resurrection of Jesus, then these might have persuaded themselves they saw Him. But what we have here to explain is how several persons, at different times, in various moods, came to believe they had seen the risen Lord. He was recognised not by persons who expected to see Him alive, but by women who went to anoint Him dead; not by credulous, excitable persons, but by men who would not believe till they had gone to and into the sepulchre. The resurrection formed no part of the Jewish creed regarding the Messiah; and the idea that the disciples were expecting it is contradicted by the narrative. There was not one person to whom our Lord appeared who was not taken wholly by surprise.

3. There remains, therefore, only the explanation that the disciples did see Christ alive after He had been dead and buried. The men who said they had seen Him were men of probity, whose lives and conduct are only to be explained by their having been brought in contact with the spiritual world in this surprising and solemnising manner. The testimony of Paul is conclusive. It is simply inconceivable that he should have abandoned all his prospects and entered on a wholly different life without carefully investigating the chief fact which influenced him in making this change. No saner or more commanding intellect ever headed a complex and difficult movement. There is no one of that generation whose testimony to the resurrection is more worth having, and we have it in the most emphatic form of a life based upon it. In fine, no one who takes a serious interest in all this evidence can deny that it would be quite sufficient to authenticate any ordinary historical event. The majority of the historical events are accepted on much slenderer evidence, and the evidence for this can be refused only on the ground that no evidence, however strong, could prove such a miracle. But those who reject it are compelled to accept a miracle equally astounding, viz., that those who had the best means of ascertaining the truth and every possible inducement to ascertain it, should all have been deceived, and that this deception should have been the most fruitful source of good, not only to them, but to the whole world.

(M. Dods, D.D.)

I. EXEGETICAL. There is the clear testimony of St. Paul, and the great distinction made by the New Testament between the description of visions and the narratives of our Lord's appearance.

II. PSYCHOLOGICAL. All likelihood is wanting for the supposition that so many and such very differently constituted persons should, even by hundreds at a time, have been simultaneously predisposed to see visions. There is the sudden and thorough change in the disciples' frame of mind, especially, too, the conversion of St. Paul; and finally the cessation of Christ's appearance.

III. DOGMATICAL. Whence should the idea of an isolated individual resurrection, hitherto foreign to their belief, arise in the minds of the disciples?

IV. CHRONOLOGICAL. Unanimous historical evidence points to "the third day," and this leaves no space for the gradual development of visions, or for the translocation of the first appearances in Galilee.

V. TOPOGRAPHICAL. There, in a well-known spot, stands the empty tomb, with its loud question, Where is the body? which neither Jew nor Roman attempts to answer, though investigation would have been easy.

VI. HISTORICAL. There is the immove-able belief of the disciples; their preaching, so full of victorious joy and martyr courage, there is the Christian Church founded on the rock of belief in Christ's death and resurrection. VII. MORAL There is the regeneration which followed the teaching of the apostles.

(Prof. Christlieb.)

1. The first impossible consequence may be called the argument from mind, and is thus expressed: "If there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not raised." What Paul really means to say is this: If there be no immortality of the soul, Christ is dead — the highest of minds has become extinct. It may seem as if this were a mode of reasoning which never would be used in modern times. A writer of our day would certainly put it differently; he would say, Are all the aspirations of the human soul to count for nothing — all the yearnings after moral purity, all the search for truth, all the thirst for beauty? To him the aspirations of the human soul were all fulfilled already in the image of a perfect mind. The life of the Son of Man was, for him, the synonym for all that humanity ever did, or even can do, in the path of greatness; it was aspiration crystallised into fact. Accordingly, when he says, if there be no immortality, Christ is dead, there is a deep significance in his words. It is quite equivalent to saying, what becomes of the dignity of man? The notion that Christ could be dead was to Paul a contradiction in terms. Sometimes a man gets his whole conviction of immortality from his inability to realise the death of a single soul. There are presences in this world so vivid and so strong that their removal by death dissipates the idea of death; they are our types of immortality. But what was Christ to Paul? To say He was a strong and vivid presence is to say nothing; He was a presence that literally filled all things. That such a being should cease to be was, for him, a contingency unthinkable, that God should suffer His Holy One to see corruption was a paradox unparalleled.

2. The second of those impossible conclusions which St. Paul derives from the denial of immortality is expressed in the words: "Your faith is vain." Put into modern form, his meaning is this: "If Christ be not raised" — if the highest imaginable powers of the human mind have been extinguished in death, then we have an anomaly in the universe — a faculty without an object. We must remember that, in the view of Paul, faith is not a mere act of credulity; it is a faculty, a power of the soul. This is shown by his tendency to oppose faith to sight, clearly implying that the former is an inner vision, as the latter is an outer vision. Wheresoever he turns he can find no other trace of a faculty without an object. Every sense has its environment, every power its appropriate field of exercise. Is the sense of the supernatural to have no object? The sense of the supernatural is what Paul calls faith — that faculty which looks "to the things that are unseen." These unseen things are to him at once the symbols and the proofs of immortality; they are not "temporal" but "eternal." If the existence of these be a delusion, then we have an eye without light, an ear without music, a hand without material to work upon, a sense of beauty without the symmetry to fill it; our faculty of faith is useless, objectless, vain. From this point of view it becomes easy to understand St. Paul's collateral statement, that "our preaching is vain." It is cruel to stimulate a sense of want which no scene of existence can ever gratify; to awake a power into being which no sphere of life will ever require is a process of education which can only lead to pain. The fact that no faculty can be vain is itself the proof that "Christ is risen."

3. This brings us to the third argument. It is different in its nature both from those that precede and from those that follow it. They are founded upon facts which appeal to the universal nature of man; this, in the first instance at least, rests on an historical experience of the apostle's own life and on an emotion induced by it. He says, If there be no resurrection, and if therefore the highest specimen of the human mind be dead, then I am found a false witness for Christ, to whose rising I testify. What Paul really means to say is: If there be no resurrection, I am myself an anomaly; "We are found false witnesses for God," i.e., for goodness — false witnesses for the immortality of self-sacrifice. Such is the paradox or impossible consequence, which Paul here designs to convey. One cannot but remark what a singular light St. Paul here unwittingly throws on his own character as a witness. He suggests even more than he means. He only wants to prove that he is not a false witness in relation to others; he powerfully impresses us with the additional conviction that he is not a false witness in relation to himself. For, as we follow him in the foregoing train of thought, we see that this man even in his Christianity is no fanatic.

4. St. Paul states his fourth argument thus: "If there be no resurrection, and if therefore Christ be not risen, ye are yet in your sins." It is an argument which is often misunderstood. Paul is speaking, not of a miserable consequence, but of an impossible consequence. What he means is really this: if there be no Christian immortality, there cannot be at this moment in the world a Christian life; ye are in this case yet in your sins: there is no power keeping you from evil. But your own experience tells you that this is not true; you are not in your sins. There is a life within you which is not part of your natural life, nor a product of that life — a spirit lusting against your flesh, a law of your mind warring with the law of your members. What is it? Whence came it? How do you explain it? If there be nothing but earth and the conditions of earth, in what manner shall we account for a sentiment which transcends those conditions? If there be no resurrection, you ought to be yet in your sins; how comes it to pass that you are not in your sins? To Kant the existence, of a moral law within the soul was the very demonstration of a life transcending the present order of being. St. Paul, instead of seeking the evidence of a risen Christ in the documents of antiquity, seeks it in the Church of his own day; nay, in himself as a member of that Church. He asks what it is that has given rise to this stream of Christian feeling, which is ever widening into an ocean of universal love. He cannot find a source for that stream in the soil of the natural life; for it flows in a channel the reverse of what we call natural. He is forced, therefore, to seek it in a life beyond nature; and the only such life he can find is that said to have been lived by the Son of Man. The evidence that Christ is risen is the consciousness that we are not in our sins.

5. We pass to St. Paul's final argument. He says: If there be no possible resurrection even of the highest life, if even Christ be not risen, then they that have fallen asleep are perished. This, then, is the argument from affection, since it is evident that here St. Paul directs his main appeal to the feelings of the heart. It would be unfair to say, however, that on this account it is less logical than his other arguments. The feelings of the heart are just as much facts of nature as the sensations of the body, and the intuitions of the intellect. St. Paul, therefore, has a perfect right to appeal to the human heart, whose instincts would be violated by the denial of immortality.

(G. Matheson, D.D.)

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