Skip to content

The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 15:4-11


Many Infallible Proofs!
1st Corinthians 15:4-11

Paul is dealing with the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. The nature of the doctrinal unfaithfulness in Corinth is indicated in verse 12, Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
He has already reemphasized the need for adherence to sound doctrinal principles, showing us that there are four points of doctrine which are absolutely essential if we are to decide whether a profession of Christian faith is really valid. A true Christian will believe in the Authority and Inspiration of the Scriptures, the Total Depravity and Sinfulness of Mankind, rendering him in need of a Saviour from sin. He will recognize that this salvation can only be obtained from Faith in Christ, who died for sinners, and who rose again from the dead.
The Reformers would have summed up Paul’s basic non-negotiable creed in five statements. Sola Scriptura, (the Scriptures alone) Sola Fides (by faith alone) Sola Gratia (by grace alone) Sola Christus (by Christ alone) and Sola Deo Gloria (for God’s glory alone). While we may agree to disagree on more minor matters, these creedal statements are the only basis for true Christian fellowship and unity, and cannot ever be compromised.

So, you can see that by casting doubt upon the doctrine of the resurrection, the Corinthians were placing themselves at the very edge of apostasy and heresy.

If their doctrinal infidelity was not corrected, the very basis of fellowship between the Corinthians and the rest of the churches would have broken down, and the unity of the body destroyed. The Corinthians were already internally divided, now they were in danger of an even greater division! Paul begins his corrective teaching by establishing the truth of the actual and bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

The Witness of Contemporaries!
The first point that Paul makes is that the physical resurrection of Jesus was witnessed by a large number of people, some of whom were still alive at the time of writing, and presumably the Corinthians, would have been aware of them, even if they had not actually met them. Now we should note that Paul does not mention all of the post resurrection appearances of Christ, merely enough to prove the point that He had indeed risen from the dead. Let’s see some of the specific witnesses that Paul lists:-

• Jesus appeared to Peter! And that he was seen of Cephas, Now, notice that both Mark and Luke record that Peter was an eyewitness of the resurrection of Christ. Mark 16:7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. Luke 24:34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. Do you remember the circumstances of Peter at the time of the death of Christ? Do you remember how peter followed the Lord into the palace of the High Priest, where he stood warming himself at the fires of the enemies of the Lord? Do you remember how he denied the Lord three times, each with growing anger and vehemence? Do you remember how Peter felt as the Lord Jesus looked upon his traitorous face? Luke 22:59-62 And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. Peter had miserably failed his Lord and master, and he had failed the Lord at the time when Jesus needed him most. Peter needed to meet the risen Lord! He needed an encounter with the living Lord to rekindle his faith and to assure him of forgiveness! And when that encounter had occurred, what a great testimony Peter could give to the forgiveness and love of the Lord!

• Jesus appeared to groups of Disciples!
o The apostles, or the ‘twelve.’ then of the twelve We see this occurrence in the Gospels. Luke 24:33-36 John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. Charles Hodge tells us that after the apostasy of Judas, the apostles were spoken of as the ‘twelve’ even though at that time there were only eleven of them.

o The five hundred men. After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. Now there is no Gospel record of this event, but that does not in any way cast doubt upon it. John tells us specifically, in John 21:25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. Hodge believes that this was a formally appointed meeting, made known as extensively as possible to the followers of Christ! Who could resist coming to a meeting like that! Oh, if men could really grasp that the risen Christ was present, in all His power and authority in our meetings, would they not flock to them! There would be queues at the doors of the churches! Groshfide comments that these witnesses are truly great in their number, and that this great number represents the church of that time. Christ is present in the midst of His Church!

• Jesus appeared to James! After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles The James referred to here is probably the brother of Jesus, the leader of the Church at Jerusalem. (This would be verified by the reference to James and the Apostles. Since Paul has already mentioned the ‘Twelve’ – the smaller group of original disciples, this other group, the Apostles, would be that wider apostolic group of whom James of Jerusalem was a member and leader.) James had always been somewhat doubtful about the person and ministry of Christ, John 7:5 For neither did his brethren believe in him. Thus the very family of Jesus misunderstood Him, and perhaps even sided with His opponents and enemies! Yet after the resurrection, James and the other half brothers of Jesus are to be seen with the other disciples! Acts 1:14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. What a tremendous personal transformation! It was a transformation which was apparent to any who cared to see, and it was truly confirmed when James was prepared to lay down his own life for the risen Christ!

There is great comfort for us all in the choice of people to whom Jesus showed Himself alive. Peter was a failure. James was a doubter! Both had hurt the Lord by their actions and displeased Him by their unfaithfulness. How many times have let the Lord down, as we walk the Christian pathway? Yet He has never let us down, and He always forgives us when we pray!

The Witness of Contrast!
So, the proof of the resurrection, in this passage is that there were so many reliable eye-witnesses. There is yet another witness, and that is Paul himself. For the benefit of the Corinthians, Paul holds up his own life for their scrutiny, and asks them to examine the great change that has occurred in him, and ask themselves would such a change have really happened, if Jesus had not truly risen from the dead. Look at how Paul underlines the contrast between his past life and his present:-

a) Christ’s last post-resurrection appearance. And last of all he was seen of me also as of one born out of due time. Paul is a true apostle, and is the last apostle! He saw the Lord, and no-one has seen Him in that sense ever since! It is one of the reasons why we do not have apostles in the church today. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why he is ‘born out of time’ for he is the last apostle to be brought into this world. All the other apostles had a ‘formative period’ of training as they journeyed with Christ. Paul was ‘forced into the work’ as one born prematurely!

b) Paul’s life-changing conversion. Now Paul emphasises the dramatic change that has happened in his own life, through his personal encounter with the risen Jesus. He was:-
a. More sinful than we could ever believe. as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God Look very carefully at Paul’s description of his own pre-regenerate state. He says firstly that he was one, ‘born out of time,’ There is another way to look at Paul’s statement. The Greek text will give us a clue. The word translated ‘out of time’ is the Greek word. A transliteration would produce ‘out of trauma.’ Literally, it is a reference to an abortion! The Amplified Bible translates this perfectly, for it reads, “He appeared to me as one prematurely and dead-born (No better than an unperfected foetus among men).” What a strange thing to say, but Paul is trying to impress upon the Corinthians the deadness of his unregenerate state! Before he met the Lord on the Damascus Road, Paul was, spiritually speaking, nothing more than a shapeless formless lifeless piece of human waste! Even as an apostle, Paul is still conscious of his background in Judaism where he persecuted the Christians, and he calls himself the ‘least of the apostles.’ The memory of those sins never left Paul, even though he had been forgiven.
b. More effective than any saint. but I laboured more abundantly than they all And yet as an apostle, Paul’s ministry was more effective than any other apostle! Perhaps the key to Paul’s effective ministry was his own humility! We see some of the so-called apostles of today, and we see men who project an image of self importance, sometimes even arrogance, and they stand in front of their TV cameras in their expensive clothes and boast of all their great projects and their successes, and call for more money from their followers. What a difference when we compare them with Paul! He would never have recognized any of them!

c) God’s transforming power. Twice in this verse Paul speaks of the wonderful grace of God, which changed his life.
a. The Grace of God in salvation! But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain. Do you see that Paul did not suddenly decide that his way of life was wrong, nor did he turn over a new leaf and start to live a better life. Paul’s amazing transformation was due entirely to the grace of God! God’s grace is that ‘unmerited favour’ which God bestows upon undeserving sinners! Like another wretched sinner and persecutor of men, Paul could have said, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see!” And do you see that God’s Grace is never bestowed in vain! The Reformers referred to God’s saving grace as ‘irresistible.’ The Savoy Declaration reads “All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased in his appointed and accepted time effectually to call by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.”
b. The Grace of God in service! yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. There are some who say that they could never be a Christian because they could ‘never keep it.’ They are absolutely right. The true Christian is not sustained in the service of the Lord by his own efforts, but by the grace of God! So it was with Paul!

So Paul himself was a living testimony to the risen Lord! We must ask whether we are such witnesses! Does my life reflect the Grace of God in salvation and in sanctification as Paul’s did? Do I constantly return thanks to the Lord for the difference He has made to me? The metrical version of Psalm 40:2 reads, “He took me from a fearful pit and from the miry clay, and on a rock he set my feet, establishing my way”

The Witness of Concord!
Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. Paul’s final appeal in his quest to establish the fact of the resurrection of Christ is an appeal to the unity of the Church on the matter. Paul says, “The eyewitnesses proclaimed the resurrection, I have preached the resurrection, you have received the doctrine of the resurrection.” There is unanimity in the early church. Jesus is risen, and there is no disputing the matter!

So Paul has prepared the ground for what is to come. Some of the Corinthians cannot work through the progression from the resurrection of Christ to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead on the last day. Now Paul is ready to explain to them that because Jesus is risen, we shall rise also!

From → Sermon Notes

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: