John Wesley's Explanatory Notes
Verse 2. Ye are saved, if ye hold fast - Your salvation is begun, and will be perfected, if ye continue in the faith. Unless ye have believed in vain - Unless indeed your faith was only a delusion.
Verse 3. I received - From Christ himself. It was not a fiction of my own. Isaiah 53:8,9.
Verse 4. According to the scriptures - He proves it first from scripture, then from the testimony of a cloud of witnesses. Psalms 16:10.
Verse 5. By the twelve - This was their standing appellation; but their full number was not then present.
Verse 6. Above five hundred - Probably in Galilee. A glorious and incontestable proof! The greater part remain - Alive.
Verse 7. Then by all the apostles - The twelve were mentioned 1 Corinthians 15:5. This title here, therefore, seems to include the seventy; if not all those, likewise, whom God afterwards sent to plant the gospel in heathen nations.
Verse 8. An untimely birth - It was impossible to abase himself more than he does by this single appellation. As an abortion is not worthy the name of a man, so he affirms himself to be not worthy the name of an apostle.
Verse 9. I persecuted the church - True believers are humbled all their lives, even for the sins they committed before they believed.
Verse 10. I laboured more than they all - That is, more than any of them, from a deep sense of the peculiar love God had shown me. Yet, to speak more properly, it is not I, but the grace of God that is with me - This it is which at first qualified me for the work, and still excites me to zeal and diligence in it.
Verse 11. Whether I or they, so we preach - All of us speak the same thing.
Verse 12. How say some - Who probably had been heathen philosophers.
Verse 13. If there be no resurrection - If it be a thing flatly impossible.
Verse 14. Then is our preaching - From a commission supposed to be given after the resurrection. Vain - Without any real foundation.
Verse 15. If the dead rise not - If the very notion of a resurrection be, as they say, absurd and impossible.
Verse 17. Ye are still in your sins - That is, under the guilt of them. So that there needed something more than reformation, (which was plainly wrought,) in order to their being delivered from the guilt of sin even that atonement, the sufficiency of which God attested by raising our great Surety from the grave.
Verse 18. They who sleep in Christ - Who have died for him, or believing in him. Are perished - Have lost their life and being together.
Verse 19. If in this life only we have hope - If we look for nothing beyond the grave. But if we have a divine evidence of things not seen, if we have "a hope full of immortality," if we now taste of "the powers of the world to come," and see "the crown that fadeth not away," then, notwithstanding" all our present trials, we are more happy than all men.
Verse 20. But now - St. Paul declares that Christians "have hope," not "in this life only." His proof of the resurrection lies in a narrow compass, 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. Almost all the rest of the chapter is taken up in illustrating, vindicating, and applying it. The proof is short, but solid and convincing, that which arose from Christ's resurrection. Now this not only proved a resurrection possible, but, as it proved him to be a divine teacher, proved the certainty of a general resurrection, which he so expressly taught. The first fruit of them that slept - The earnest, pledge, and insurance of their resurrection who slept in him: even of all the righteous. It is of the resurrection of these, and these only, that the apostle speaks throughout the chapter.
Verse 22. As through Adam all, even the righteous, die, so through Christ all these shall be made alive - He does not say, "shall revive," (as naturally as they die,) but shall be made alive, by a power not their own.
Verse 23. Afterward - The whole harvest. At the same time the wicked shall rise also. But they are not here taken into the account.
Verse 24. Then - After the resurrection and the general judgment. Cometh the end - Of the world; the grand period of all those wonderful scenes that have appeared for so many succeeding generations. When he shall have delivered up the kingdom to the Father, and he (the Father) shall have abolished all adverse rule, authority, and power - Not that the Father will then begin to reign without the Son, nor will the Son then cease to reign. For the divine reign both of the Father and Son is from everlasting to everlasting. But this is spoken of the Son's mediatorial kingdom, which will then be delivered up, and of the immediate kingdom or reign of the Father, which will then commence. Till then the Son transacts the business which the Father hath given him, for those who are his, and by them as well as by the angels, with the Father, and against their enemies. So far as the Father gave the kingdom to the Son, the Son shall deliver it up to the Father, John 13:3. Nor does the Father cease to reign, when he gives it to the Son; neither the Son, when he delivers it to the Father: but the glory which he had before the world began, John 17:5; Hebrews 1:8, will remain even after this is delivered up. Nor will he cease to be a king even in his human nature, Luke 1:33. If the citizens of the new Jerusalem" shall reign for ever," Revelation 22:5, how much more shall he?
Verse 25. He must reign - Because so it is written. Till he -the Father hath put all his enemies under his feet. Psalms 110:1.
Verse 26. The last enemy that is destroyed is death - Namely, after Satan, Hebrews 2:14, and sin, 1 Corinthians 15:56, are destroyed. In the same order they prevailed. Satan brought in sin, and sin brought forth death. And Christ, when he of old engaged with these enemies, first conquered Satan, then sin, in his death; and, lastly, death, in his resurrection. In the same order he delivers all the faithful from them, yea, and destroys these enemies themselves. Death he so destroys that it shall be no more; sin and Satan, so that they shall no more hurt his people.
Verse 27. Under him - Under the Son. Psalms 8:6,7
Verse 28. The Son also shall be subject - Shall deliver up the mediatorial kingdom. That the three-one God may be all in all - All things, (consequently all persons,) without any interruption, without the intervention of any creature, without the opposition of any enemy, shall be subordinate to God. All shall say, "My God, and my all." This is the end. Even an inspired apostle can see nothing beyond this.
Verse 29. Who are baptized for the dead - Perhaps baptized in hope of blessings to be received after they are numbered with the dead. Or, "baptized in the room of the dead"-Of them that are just fallen in the cause of Christ: like soldiers who advance in the room of their companions that fell just before their face.
Verse 30. Why are we - The apostles. Also in danger every hour - It is plain we can expect no amends in this life.
Verse 31. I protest by your rejoicing, which I have - Which love makes my own. I die daily - I am daily in the very jaws of death. Beside that I live, as it were, in a daily martyrdom.
Verse 32. If to speak after the manner of men - That is, to use a proverbial phrase, expressive of the most imminent danger I have fought with wild beasts at Ephesus - With the savage fury of a lawless multitude, Acts 19:29, &c. This seems to have been but just before. Let as eat, &c. - We might, on that supposition, as well say, with the Epicureans, Let us make the best of this short life, seeing we have no other portion.
Verse 33. Be not deceived - By such pernicious counsels as this. Evil communications corrupt good manners - He opposes to the Epicurean saying, a well - known verse of the poet Menander. Evil communications - Discourse contrary to faith, hope, or love, naturally tends to destroy all holiness.
Verse 34. Awake - An exclamation full of apostolical majesty. Shake off your lethargy! To righteousness - Which flows from the true knowledge of God, and implies that your whole soul be broad awake. And sin not - That is, and ye will not sin Sin supposes drowsiness of soul. There is need to press this. For some among you have not the knowledge of God - With all their boasted knowledge, they are totally ignorant of what it most concerns them to know. I speak this to your shame - For nothing is more shameful, than sleepy ignorance of God, and of the word and works of God; in these especially, considering the advantages they had enjoyed.
Verse 35. But some one possibly will say, How are the dead raised up, after their whole frame is dissolved? And with what kind of bodies do they come again, after these are mouldered into dust?
Verse 36. To the inquiry concerning the manner of rising, and the quality of the bodies that rise, the Apostle answers first by a similitude, 1 Corinthians 15:36-42, and then plainly and directly, 1 Corinthians 15:42,43. That which thou sowest, is not quickened into new life and verdure, except it die - Undergo a dissolution of its parts, a change analogous to death. Thus St. Paul inverts the objection; as if he had said, Death is so far from hindering life, that it necessarily goes before it.
Verse 37. Thou sowest not the body that shall be - Produced from the seed committed to the ground, but a bare, naked grain, widely different from that which will afterward rise out of the earth.
Verse 38. But God - Not thou, O man, not the grain itself, giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, from the time he distinguished the various Species of beings; and to each of the seeds, not only of the fruits, but animals also, (to which the Apostle rises in the following verse,) its own body; not only peculiar to that species, but proper to that individual, and arising out of the substance of that very grain.
Verse 39. All flesh - As if he had said, Even earthy bodies differ from earthy, and heavenly bodies from heavenly. What wonder then, if heavenly bodies differ from earthy? or the bodies which rise from those that lay in the grave?
Verse 40. There are also heavenly bodies - As the sun, moon, and stars; and there are earthy - as vegetables and animals. But the brightest lustre which the latter can have is widely different from that of the former.
Verse 41. Yea, and the heavenly bodies themselves differ from each other.
Verse 42. So also is the resurrection of the dead - So great is the difference between the body which fell, and that which rises. It is sown - A beautiful word; committed, as seed, to the ground. In corruption - Just ready to putrefy, and, by various degrees of corruption and decay, to return to the dust from whence it came. It is raised in incorruption - Utterly incapable of either dissolution or decay.
Verse 43. It is sown in dishonour - Shocking to those who loved it best, human nature in disgrace! It is raised in glory - Clothed with robes of light, fit for those whom the King of heaven delights to honour. It is sown in weakness -Deprived even of that feeble strength which it once enjoyed. It is raised in power - Endued with vigour, strength, and activity, such as we cannot now conceive.
Verse 44. It is sown in this world a merely animal body -Maintained by food, sleep, and air, like the bodies of brutes: but it is raised of a more refined contexture, needing none of these animal refreshments, and endued with qualities of a spiritual nature, like the angels of God.
Verse 45. The first Adam was made a living soul - God gave him such life as other animals enjoy: but the last Adam, Christ, is a quickening spirit - As he hath life in himself, so he quickeneth whom he will; giving a more refined life to their very bodies at the resurrection. Genesis 2:7
Verse 47. The first man was from the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven-The first man, being from the earth, is subject to corruption and dissolution, like the earth from which he came. The second man - St. Paul could not so well say, "Is from heaven, heavenly:" because, though man owes it to the earth that he is earthy, yet the Lord does not owe his glory to heaven. He himself made the heavens, and by descending from thence showed himself to us as the Lord. Christ was not the second man in order of time; but in this respect, that as Adam was a public person, who acted in the stead of all mankind, so was Christ. As Adam was the first general representative of men, Christ was the second and the last. And what they severally did, terminated not in themselves, but affected all whom they represented.
Verse 48. They that are earthy - Who continue without any higher principle. They that are heavenly - Who receive a divine principle from heaven.
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Verse 49. The image of the heavenly - Holiness and glory.
Verse 50. But first we must be entirely changed; for such flesh and blood as we are clothed with now, cannot enter into that kingdom which is wholly spiritual: neither doth this corruptible body inherit that incorruptible kingdom.
Verse 51. A mystery - A truth hitherto unknown; and not yet fully known to any of the sons of men. We - Christians. The Apostle considers them all as one, in their succeeding generations. Shall not all die - Suffer a separation of soul and body. But we shall all - Who do not die, be changed - So that this animal body shall become spiritual.
Verse 52. In a moment - Amazing work of omnipotence! And cannot the same power now change us into saints in a moment? The trumpet shall sound - To awaken all that sleep in the dust of the earth.
Verse 54. Death is swallowed up in victory - That is, totally conquered, abolished for ever.
Verse 55. O death, where is thy sting? - Which once was full of hellish poison. O hades, the receptacle of separate souls, where is thy victory - Thou art now robbed of all thy spoils; all thy captives are set at liberty. Hades literally means the invisible world, and relates to the soul; death, to the body. The Greek words are found in the Septuagint translation of Hosea 13:14. Isaiah 25:8
Verse 56. The sting of death is sin - Without which it could have no power. But this sting none can resist by his own strength. And the strength of sin is the law - As is largely declared, Romans 7:7, &c.
Verse 57. But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory - Over sin, death, and hades.
Verse 58. Be ye steadfast - In yourselves. Unmovable - By others; continually increasing in the work of faith and labour of love. Knowing your labour is not in vain in the Lord - Whatever ye do for his sake shall have its full reward in that day. Let us also endeavour, by cultivating holiness in all its branches, to maintain this hope in its full energy; longing for that glorious day, when, in the utmost extent of the expression, death shall be swallowed up for ever, and millions of voices, after the long silence of the grave, shall burst out at once into that triumphant song, O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?