The Gospel Core
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Theme: The Resurrection
This week’s lessons provide us with evidences to support the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Our study of 1 Corinthians brings us to chapter 15, the most comprehensive chapter in the New Testament on the Resurrection. The first portion of this chapter, verses 1 through 11, deals with the truth of the Resurrection. The second section, found in verses 12 through 34, deals with the importance of the Resurrection. The third section, verses 35 through 49, deals with the Resurrection body. It answers some questions that the people in Corinth probably had. And then the final section, beginning with verse 50 and going through the end, deals with the victory which is ours through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The conclusion is found at the very end, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15 is a rather neat little sermon in miniature, because the Apostle Paul in his conclusion gets back to what he intimated at the beginning. There he said that this doctrine of the Resurrection is that which was preached to them, which they received, and on which they had taken their stand. So, when he gets to the end, he says, “Therefore, my dear brothers, continue to stand.”
Now apparently, this doctrine of the Resurrection was being denied by some of the alleged Christians in Corinth. We don’t know anything about them. There are some people who have said that they were probably Sadducees who had become Christians or pretended to be so. But that is sheer speculation. The only reason someone might suggest that they were Sadducees is because the Sadducees denied a bodily resurrection. But there’s nothing at all in this chapter to suggest that was really the case. It is far more likely to suppose that this was simply an outcropping of what would be very understandable in the thinking of anybody who had been raised in a Greek tradition.
The Greeks had a certain approach to philosophy, which, in one of its most fundamental premises, said that anything that was of the flesh was perishable and evil. Everything that was good was in the realm of the mind or spirit. They believed that the way to salvation was to get rid of the body and to live in the realm of the spirit. The closest approach you could have to salvation in this life was to live in the realm of the mind and deny the body. That gave rise to a number of different heresies because, you see, if the body is evil and only the spirit is good, then the divine Christ, the Son of God, could not have taken unto himself a human body, because that would be the equivalent of saying that God became evil or took evil to himself. And so there was a tendency in Greek Christianity, to deny the incarnation in its fullest sense. We see that in other areas as well. There was a whole movement of heresy in early Christianity known as Gnosticism that did precisely that.
So it is far more reasonable to think that it was out of this kind of Greek cultural background that the denial of a bodily resurrection arose. Whether it was that background or whether it was because of something else that we don’t know anything about, it really does not matter, because, here, for the benefit of the Church in all ages, the Apostle Paul states that the Resurrection is the essence of Christianity. It is a core part of the Gospel, so someone who denies the Resurrection or fails to understand it does so at the peril of his or her own soul.
What was the problem Paul was addressing in 1 Corinthians 15?
What did the Greeks believe about the flesh? To what heresies did this give rise?
What is the core of the Gospel?
Gnosticism: A heresy that was characterized by the central doctrine that all matter is evil and that freedom comes through knowledge.
On a separate sheet of paper, write a rough outline of 1 Corinthians 15, using today’s lesson. Keep this outline nearby and fill in more details as you continue to study this week.