1 Corinthians 15:11

150305_abe_and_cap

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 1 Corinthians 15:11

Paul begins verse 11 with two conjunctions, “Therefore, whether.” The “therefore” covers all the way back to the first verses of the chapter which said –

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2

After that, he gave the pertinent points of the gospel message; the same message which is preached by all the apostles. It is these words which were preached and it is those same words that were believed by the Corinthians. Therefore, having believed, they are truly saved. Their belief was not grounded in a false gospel, but the true gospel, and their faith is not in vain.

This then explains the often-confused concept of verse 2. It is that verse which people incorrectly assume can mean a “loss of salvation” is possible. The reason is because they look at the verse out of context. The entire context of these first 11 verses shows us that this is not the case, but that salvation is eternal. If one believes, they are (emphatic) saved.

The word “whether” refers to the party who spoke the message – either himself or one of the other apostles. It didn’t matter which, it didn’t matter how they became apostles, it didn’t matter whether he was once a persecutor of the church, etc. Regardless of those issues, the message spoken was the same as from any or all of the apostles.

The word Paul uses for “preach” in this verse is kerusso. There are different words used in the Greek which are translated as “preach.” Of them, one indicates “to prophesy.” That would be a spiritual instruction or exhortation. Another would be to evangelize. This word in verse 11 means “to proclaim.” It indicates the stating of the facts of the message of the gospel. Paul has “proclaimed” them to those in Corinth and they are in unison with the proclamation of the other apostles. It is the one, only, true, and saving message; it is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Life application: Verse 2 of 1 Corinthians 15 took many surrounding verses to understand correctly. When citing individual verses, context must be maintained. If it is not, then a false understanding of what is being relayed may occur. In this case, salvation is conditioned upon belief in the true gospel message. If that message is heard, received, and believed, then it saves the one who believes… for all time!

Lord Jesus, I am so grateful that my salvation is not contingent upon anything I do after believing the gospel message. It was based on faith, and it is a done deal. And yet, I know that rewards in heaven are based on what I do now. So Lord, give me the wisdom, the desire, and the get-up-and-go gumption to do wonderful things in Your name. I long for a pleased look upon Your face when I come before You. May it be so! Amen.

 

1 Corinthians 15:10

150304_abe

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10

Previously speaking of his state of unworthiness as an apostle, Paul now shows the attention that he committed to the high honor that was bestowed upon him. He went from a persecutor of the church to a staunch defender and supporter of it. The cause of Christ became his sole passion (even his soul-passion) and desire. And so to show this contrast between his past and who he had become, he begins with the words “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”

His conversion was solely “by the grace of God.” He was on his way to Damascus to persecute the church, and on the way there the Lord appeared to him personally. There was nothing he did to deserve it. He was looking to destroy the notion of the Lord, but instead the Lord lavished His grace upon him in a personal appearance and calling. He could have been destroyed, but the Lord mercifully spared him.

And not only had the Lord spared him unto the calling of an apostle, but Paul notes that “His grace toward me was not in vain.” Grace which is taken for granted will be displayed in wasted effort. If you give a sluggard a thousand dollars (grace), it will be spent by the end of the day on useless things which will be in the garbage by the weekend. But if you give a thousand dollars to a diligent, energetic person who will strive to make a better life for himself, that same money will turn into a business, a home, education for his children, and an inheritance for his family.

The sluggard will soon be back, asking for more; the diligent soul will be back to repay what was given and to acknowledge your goodness to him. The Lord knew the man He was selecting and He knew the great and effective ministry he would produce. And so Paul was selected. In response to this act of grace, he notes that “I labored more abundantly than they all.”

All of the other apostles had been granted their title and ministry while Christ was alive. Though undeserving of their title, just as Paul was, they had grown into it and were comfortable with it. Paul, on the other hand, had it almost thrust upon him. He understood the weight of glory which had surrounded him and he knew that he could never repay the grace and mercy he received. And therefore he labored in a way that no other did. He who rightly perceives the grace he has received will show gratitude for it. Paul was such a person.

And yet, despite laboring with all of his effort for the cause of Christ, he was humble enough in his heart, and wise enough in his mind to proclaim that it was “not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Every breath a man takes is by the grace of God.

The gifts we possess are all grace. Paul understood this and used his past experience, his make up, his knowledge, and every part of who he was to work for Christ. It was all of grace and therefore it was all Christ. The selection was made and Paul understood what that meant. He notes this several times in his writings. A good example is to be found in Colossians –

“To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” Colossians 1:29

Life application: Can we boast about what we have received? Certainly not! And yet how often we do. Let us credit the glory to God in all things that we accomplish for Him. Let us exalt Christ who so effectively works in us for His good purposes and pleasure

Lord, I cannot take credit for anything I have done for You. The knowledge I possess is from the brain You have given me and the experiences You have granted for me. The money I have was from working with hands that You fashioned and with a physique which You designed. The time I live, the place where my feet are, and the very air that I breathe all came from You. And so how can I boast about the things which I have done in this life? It all stems from You. Use me according to Your wisdom; I am Your workmanship ready for service to You. Amen.

 

 

1 Corinthians 15:9

150303_eye_on_the_dome

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 1 Corinthians 15:9

In explanation of his previous verse where he said he was “born out of due time,” he now notes that “I am the least of the apostles.” He wasn’t claiming this in gifts received, work-effort put forth, or rank and status. He was an apostle equal to the others, he notes in 2 Corinthians 11 that he labored more than all the others, and he is noted throughout Acts and the epistles as having an overflowing abundance of the gifts of the Spirit.

What he is referring to is his deserving of respect and honor. His calling was out of the order of the other apostles and without prior education by Christ. He felt that because of this he was “not worthy to be called an apostle.” Specifically, during that time of spiritual darkness, he not only wasn’t neutral to the gospel, but he actually “persecuted the church of God.” His persecution of the church is noted in Acts 8 and 9, but he gives great detail of what this constituted in Acts 26 –

“This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” Acts 26:10, 11

He also mentions those areas of his life which he felt disqualified him from any esteem in his epistles, and he never seemed to quite forgive himself even though the Lord had washed him clean of all of his transgressions. Or it could be that he simply didn’t want to forget his past, lest he exalt himself above other sinners in need of a Savior. It could even be that he reminded himself often of his past so that he would never fall back into his old ways. Whatever his actual thoughts, he carried his past with him and he spoke of it freely.

Life application: All in Christ “have a past.” Some are “worse” than others, but James notes that one infraction of the law breaks the whole law. Therefore, we all stand guilty before God without the shed blood of Christ. Let us cling to this notion, not exalting ourselves over others, and in the hope of never returning to a life of sin. Let us live for Christ, exalting Him for His infinite grace and mercy.

Lord, I know that there needs to be a balance in how I approach those who have not yet called on Christ. Their sin is to be condemned and yet their souls need to be renewed. Help me to discern rightly between those who are perverse and antagonistic towards You, and those who are simply stuck in whatever addiction or perversion they are caught in. Help me be a light to the lost while still being firm towards the belligerent among us. It is often hard to know the right course, and so give me wise discernment in this, O God. Amen.

 

 

1 Corinthians 15:8

150302_mr-miner

Monday, 2 March 2015

Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. 1 Corinthians 15:8

Finally of those who had seen the risen Christ, Paul notes that “last of all He was seen by me also.” There is quite a bit to consider here. First, it demonstrates conclusively that what Paul saw was the same risen body which all of the other apostles saw. If this were not the case, then how could he assert that Christ was actually risen from the dead? He could have been a mere ghost, as was the case with the ghost of Samuel the prophet in the Old Testament. Rather, for Paul to claim having seen the risen Christ, it means that He was truly risen as a Man; it wasn’t some apparition or vision. This proves that the claims of cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses – that Christ was raised a “spirit-being” – are false. He was raised in a body, not merely as a spirit.

Having noted this, he then proclaims that this visitation was not at all in a normal way. The term “as by one born out of due time” is insufficient and does not convey the meaning of the original. This makes it seem like the “timing” of his meeting is the main issue. Rather, the “state” of the visitation is what he is relaying. The Greek word is ektroma and it is rightly translated as “to the abortive born” (Pulpit Commentary).

This word properly means “abortion” or “stillborn.” It is used nowhere else in the New Testament, but the Greek translation of the Old Testament (and other ancient Greek writings) uses it several times to indicate exactly this, a stillborn. This is seen, for example, in Job –

“Or why was I not hidden like a stillborn child,
Like infants who never saw light?” Job 3:16

Paul’s words indicate his state at the time of becoming an apostle then. The other apostles knew Christ in His earthly ministry and grew in knowledge during that time. They matured in their walk. When the resurrection occurred, they were surprised, yes, but they were also able to process it in a mature manner. Paul on the other hand, saw Christ before he was brought to a state of maturity. Thus, he saw his status as an apostle as one of exceeding unworthiness. As Vincent’s Word Studies notes, he considered that he “had the same relation to that which was worthy of the apostolic office which an abortion has to a living child.”

We could question then, “How is this appearance and conversion pertinent to us in the church then?” Also, “Why did the Lord choose this manner of conversion for Paul, who is the one to set the parameters for the church age?” The answer to this is found in his words to Timothy –

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” 1 Timothy 1:13-16

Paul’s unworthiness, coming forth to belief as an abortive child, is a pattern to show us that the same great grace and mercy has been poured out upon us. We can look to Paul and see that God truly cares about each of us, sinners though we may have been!

Life application: God called you into His light when you were in a miserable, unworthy state. Live for Him now as one who is purified and holy. Act in a manner worthy of your new position in Christ.

O Lord, I look back on my life and wonder what it is that brought me to the saving knowledge of Christ. The sure answer is Your grace and mercy. I was so far away from You that nothing but His work could ever bridge the gap. And even since then, I’ve failed You so often. And yet, Your grace and mercy remain. Thank You for Your goodness to the sons of men who have simply reached out by faith and called on Jesus. Thank You, O God! Amen.

 

1 Corinthians 15:7

150301_fountain_in_yard

Sunday, 1 March 2015

After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 1 Corinthians 15:7

“After that” means after the appearance of Christ first to Cephas, then to the twelve, and then to the five hundred-plus brethren mentioned in the preceding verse. At some time after these appearances, He was also “seen by James.” This is not James the brother of John, who was already dead by the time Paul wrote this letter. Rather, it is James, the son of Mary and Joseph; the half-brother of the Lord and the leader of the Council of Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15. He is also the author of the book of James.

Paul notes the following in Galatians 1:18, 19 –

“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.”

It was probably during this time, when Paul explained his commission to the apostles, that James also told Paul that he had likewise been visited by the Lord after the resurrection. Because of this, he was qualified as an apostle. Like Peter’s testimony concerning Paul’s apostolic authority, Paul gives the same concerning James here. In other words, the Bible weaves together a solid tapestry which provides us all the assurance that we need to consider it reliable as a witness for the things of God.

Finally Paul notes, “then by all the apostles.” All who were considered apostles beyond the Twelve are who this is speaking of. When the visit occurred isn’t noted, nor is a specific number given. One speculation is that it is referring to the time of the ascension on the Mount of Olives. It is possible that these last mentioned might have been with Jesus at the ascension, thus appearing to them this one final time which is noted now by Paul.

Life application: Paul’s careful detailing of who saw Christ after the resurrection is given to bolster our faith. We have every assurance that the account is true and accurate. And so remember where these words are, and be prepared to defend your faith if it is challenged by a naysayer.

Heavenly Father, a lot of Your people have lost their lives at the hands of wicked people lately. And with the uncaring attitude of our leadership, it’s inevitable that these things will only increase in the days ahead. Should I be faced with an untimely demise because of my faith in You, I pray for strength to go out proclaiming my undying trust in the truth of Your word and in the Person of Jesus my Lord. Amen.