In this chapter the apostle proves the resurrection of Christ and with different arguments he establishes the resurrection of all men. Evidently another problem that had risen in the church was the denial by some of the resurrection (Vs.12: 2 Tim. 2:17, 18). The doctrine of the resurrection is a fundamental article of the gospel; without it we have no gospel (v.17; 2 Tim. 2:8). Much of the wrath and persecution that came upon the apostles from the Sadducees, the Jews, the philosophers and the Gentiles was because they preached the resurrection (Acts 17:31, 32; 24:14, 15,21).
(Vs. 1.) "Let me remind you, brethren (since it seems to have escaped some of you), of the gospel which I preached unto you when I first came among you. This is the gospel which you received with faith and joy - the gospel in which and for which most of you stand, though some of you have been seduced and warped by false teachers" (Gal. 1:6-9).
(Vs. 2.) "By believing and receiving the gospel of Christ, you are saved. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:15,16), but not unless you persevere (keep in memory what I preached) and continue in the faith of the gospel (Col. 1:21.23; Heb. 3:6, 13, 14). Unless you continue in faith, your profession (your so-called faith) is all in vain" (1 John 2:19).
(Vs. 3, 4.) "I delivered (or preached) unto you what I received from our Lord himself (Gal. 1:11, 12), how that Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, died that he might satisfy divine justice for our sins (Rom. 3:25, 26; Isa. 53:4-6), was buried and rose again the third day, and all of his work on our behalf was according to the Old Testament Scriptures. Every promise, prophecy and type recorded in the Law and the Prophets concerning the Messiah had its fulfilment in Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 24:27, 44, 45). The Old Testament contained the New Testament in picture and prophecy, and the New Testament is the Old Testament fully and plainly revealed (Acts 10:43).
(Vs. 5-7.) In these verses Paul calls forth the eye-witnesses of the resurrected Lord. The Scriptures say, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (2 Cor. 13:1). The Lord appeared to Simon Peter, then to the Twelve. (Though Judas was dead, they went by their original name, the Twelve - John 20:24.) Later Christ showed himself to more than five hundred brethren at one time (Matt. 28:16, 17). "Most of these people who saw him are still alive," Paul said, "but some are dead," for this epistle was written twenty-six years later. He appeared to James and then again to all the disciples when he was taken up into heaven (Acts 1:1-3, 9, 10).
(Vs. 8.) The last appearance of the risen Lord was to Paul (Acts 9:3, 4). To be an apostle one must have been an eyewitness of the glory of Christ and must have received his gospel directly from Christ. Paul had both credentials. His revelation of Christ came after the others (after Christ had risen and ascended) as an abortive birth or one born at the wrong time. His sight of Christ was not according to the pattern established with the other apostles.
(Vs. 9.) "I am the least of the apostles," not in office, dignity, gifts, or labour, but deserving the least esteem because he had not stood with the others in the early days but was (with the Pharisees) a persecutor of the name of Christ and the people of God (Acts 9:1-3).
(Vs. 10.) "By the unmerited favour and blessings of God, I am what I am." Paul defends his authority and magnifies his office by declaring that these gifts and grace bestowed on him were not fruitless and in vain, for he laboured more abundantly and had more success than any of the others. Yet he is careful to ascribe nothing to himself but all to the grace of God, which enabled him both to believe and to serve God (l Cor. 4:7; John 3:26, 27).
(Vs. 11.) Therefore, it matters not whether they heard those who saw Christ first or Paul, who saw him last. The subject matter of their ministry was the same namely, the incarnate, suffering, risen Redeemer. Christ, not the preacher, is the object of saving faith.
(Vs. 12.) If both the Old Testament and the New Testament declare his resurrection, if the apostles (who were eye-witnesses of his resurrection) preach the resurrection, if the gospel declares the absolute necessity of Christ's resurrection, how is it that some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? This is an absolute denial of the Scriptures, the gospel and the word of Christ's apostles.
(Vs. 13-19.) Then follow several severe consequences of such teaching:
1. "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen." Christ became a man, died in the flesh and was buried. If men do not live again, then he is not alive.
2. "If Christ be not risen, all of our preaching is in vain and amounts to nothing, and your faith in God is devoid of truth and will profit you nothing."
3. "We apostles and preachers have misrepresented God, for we have testified of God that he raised Christ from the dead, whom he did not raise, if the dead rise not" (Acts 2:23, 24, 32).
4. He repeats for emphasis, "If the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised." He is still in the tomb and proved to be an impostor.
5. "Your object of faith, Christ, is not raised; therefore, your faith is worthless, you are not saved, you know not God, you have no mediator, and you are still in a state of unregeneracy and guilt."
6. "Those of your number who have died believing in Christ and trusting him to save them are perished and eternally lost."
7. The fashion of this world fades and believers in Christ are persecuted, hated and cast down. Our hope is not in this world but in the world to come. If these promises are not true, our hopes are in vain and we are the most miserable and frustrated of all men.