1 Corinthians 15:5-11
And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:…
A prominent feature of Christ's plan was to train the apostles to be his witnesses. Conceive what this involved: on their part, a discipline of the senses as inlets of the mind, close and patient attention, constant revisals of impressions, contentedness under mystery, boldness of statement, heroism in adhering to testimony. Along with these qualities, an experience of the truth in Christ as a transforming power was to impart a peculiar character to all they affirmed, so that Christ Jesus, living, dying, risen, exalted, glorified, was to be seen in them as well as through them. On the part of Christ, what condescension and sympathy, what painstaking, what persistent efforts, were necessary to make these rude Galileans competent to the duties of testifiers! "Ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." To be messengers was not enough; they were to be witnesses also, for the "Holy Ghost shall come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." These men felt that they were Christ's chosen witnesses, and that their testimony was the chief agency employed by the Spirit to save the world. It was natural, then, for St. Paul to begin his argument on the resurrection of the body by calling attention to the fact that the risen Christ "was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve." For the space of forty days he manifested himself at intervals to their senses, and during this intermediate period - a special dispensation to the disciples, differing widely from all that went before or came after - their education as witnesses, and particularly as witnesses of his resurrection, was carried on to the verge of completeness at Pentecost. In fact, Pentecost was the forty days consummated. And was this great training merely in the historical fact that he had risen? Forty days were not needed for this. Twenty-four hours after he had reappeared, all the twelve, except St. Thomas, were firm believers of the fact. But they were to feel the connection between his resurrection and death as spiritual truths of the highest moment, truths of the Divine government, truths of holy sentiment, and thus fitted for the full dispensation of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?" The heart, the burning heart, the heart of saving faith, - this is the distinctive type of experience now, and, for the first time, Christian emotion as to its essential quality is brought into notice. St. Paul enumerates the witnesses: St. Peter, the twelve, the five hundred brethren, St. James; and adds, "all the apostles." Then he mentions himself: "Last of all, he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." Could he speak of this in the way simply of historical summation? Not he; memory was too active, feeling too acute, humility and gratitude too profound, for a bare logical statement. In an instant, the devout soul hastens to acknowledge what it never lost an opportunity of expressing - its sense of God's mercy in calling him, a persecutor of the Church of God, to the apostleship. "By the grace of God" - words often abused since he used them, but most sacred and glorious as he uttered them - "by the grace of God I am what I am." That grace had not been bestowed in vain; nor does he hesitate to say that be had "laboured more abundantly than they all," and then "I" sinks out of sight, and it is all of grace. Notice the stages of the idea: born untimely; least of the apostles because he was guilty of persecution; the only man among them who stood against this dark background, but the light in the foreground is the more resplendent for that; not ashamed to confess his utter unworthiness in order to magnify the grace of God, and this grace deserving the entire honour of the more abundant labour. What an insight into the man! If, as we suppose, the hours when this chapter was written were extraordinary even in his wonderful mental history; if there was a fuller and closer interblending of his faculties than he had ever experienced; if human knowledge and culture then brought to inspiration their largest and richest tribute, and if inspiration brought to them its mightiest quickening; - what could be more striking than the fact that in this very period of exaltation, when intellect was in the splendid array both of its endowments and acquisitions, and when the power of speech had suddenly possessed itself of new facilities of expression, he cannot proceed without pausing to bow his heart in adoration before the God of grace! Uppermost, indeed, was the thought of him who had "died for our sins," and the glory of Christ risen as personal to him and his apostleship was the grace shown to him as a persecutor of the Church of God. And we who read his glowing words, what finer privilege can the unfoldings of the human soul in literature give us, what privilege so fine as this in which the apostle of the Gentiles, rising above the levels of all common experience, speaks from a height which would be the abode of silence save that humility would offer its homage to the grace of Christ! The nobility of the man displays itself here; for, though labouring "more abundantly than they all," yet he claims no more than to be one of the witnessing company of the apostles. After all, it is not the individual testimony of St. Peter, St. James, St. Paul, but the concurrent and united evidence, that is the important fact. Years intervened between the forty days and the scene on the road to Damascus, and he comes with his later testimony to join the group of the earlier witnesses. "Whether it were I or they" - we are all agreed as to the appearance of the risen Lord - "so we preach, and so ye believed." - L.
Parallel VersesKJV: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: