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1 Corinthians 15:5-11 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 48 secs

Resurrection Witnesses; Paul; Grace; 1 Cor. 15:5-11

Starting in verse 4 Paul begins to marshal evidence. The problem here for the Greeks was they didn't believe in the physical bodily resurrection, it wasn't part of their culture, it wasn't part of their background. In fact, just the opposite was true. Because of the influence of Platonism, the philosophy of Plato, they did not believe the material world was important. They believed the physical body was a secondary, lesser existence than that which was in the ideal world and physical existence was a sort of imprisonment for the soul in time in this physical body, but once you died then you were freed from this imprisonment in a physical body and you were released back to heaven where the soul had its primary and best existence. So to say that the body would be raised from the dead went completely against all of Greek thought and culture. They did not believe in the importance of physical bodily resurrection. The Corinthians didn't understand resurrection and so Paul is having to straighten that out in this study.

In order to do that he is going to marshal an array of witnesses. He wants to make a point, so he is going to bring witness in after another witness in order to demonstrate his point. The first witness is the Scripture, the Old Testament prophecies. It was prophesied by God that there would be this resurrection related to the Messiah. There are three references that Jesus referred to, the first being the sign of Jonah, a typological reference, Jonah 1:17. Psalm 16:10 has to do with bodily corruption which takes place following death. This reference in only to Jesus Christ. It is not to David, David is in the tomb even today, his body has gone through corruption. Isaiah 53:10, "prolong his days" is resurrection.

There were numerous witnesses to Jesus' resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:5 NASB "and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." These mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 are not all the witnesses and Peter was not the first one to witness the resurrection, but he is the first one Paul mentions. This is a very brief summary of what took place. Actually, Jesus appeared to numerous people. Peter was the third person to witness the resurrection but Paul emphasizes Peter because he was the one who had denied the Lord, and Paul mentions him first because the emphasis in this whole passage is on grace, that the resurrection of Christ is part of the grace of the gospel.

To whom did Jesus appear after the resurrection? First of all He appeared to Mary Magdalene, and this is recorded in Mark 16:9-11 and John 20:11-18. Mary was coming to the tomb to wrap His body in more spices because they had been in a hurry to prepare the body after they had taken Him down from the cross. After His appearance to Mary Magdalene there were other women coming to the tomb to help her in wrapping and preparing the body and Jesus appeared to them as well. This is recorded in Matthew 28:9, 10. Then we know He appeared to Peter alone. We are not told that the Lord appeared to Peter anywhere, but what we are told is that on the fourth appearance He appeared to one disciple, not one of the twelve but one other student of the Lord, a believer named Cleopas, and an unnamed disciple on the road to Emmaus. This is a remarkable record in Luke 24:13-32 because Jesus doesn't identify Himself. Somehow He veils His Himself so that they don't recognize Him and He begins to ask them about all the events of the past couple of days in Jerusalem. They are going to go through all the details but they don't really understand who Jesus is. So because they are disturbed and confused the Lord then begins to go through the Old Testament, through prophecy after prophecy to show that all the things that had just transpired in Jerusalem were all prophesied in the Old Testament. Then when they arrived at Emmaus they suddenly realized who He was and then He left. Then when they report this what is recorded in Luke 24:34 is that they make the comment that He had already appeared to Peter. So we are never told about the Lord's appearance to Peter. That must have been quite a conversation took place when the Lord appeared to Peter and Peter realized that he was forgiven for his sins and for denying the Lord. But we are not given the details, we are just told that He had already appeared to Peter. So we know He appeared to Peter before He appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Then, fifth, He appeared to the twelve. They are called "the twelve," even though they are missing one. That tells us that the term, "the twelve," had become a sort of technical designation for the disciples. Judas is gone, he is off the scene. Yet in 1 Corinthians 15:5 Paul says Jesus was seen by Cephas, then to the twelve, but there are only eleven. The term "twelve" is a technical terms for the disciples, even if there had only been ten they were still being called the twelve. It was just a nickname for the team. Thomas wasn't there at first and it is later that Jesus appears to all of them, including Thomas, and that was the sixth appearance. John 20:26-29.

The seventh appearance: he appears to seven of the disciples by the Sea of Galilee, John 21:1-23. The eight appearance is mention in 1 Corinthians 15:6 NASB "After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep." So those 500 were all witnesses of the resurrection; most of them are still alive. The term "fallen asleep" is from the Greek verb koimao [koimaw]which means to fall asleep but it is used figuratively as an idiom for the believer's body going into the grave. It is not talking about soul sleep. When the believer dies he is instantly face to face with the Lord. 1 Corinthians 11:30 uses the term "sleep" when Paul warns the Corinthians about the fact that they had been abusing the Lord's table and that for this reason many were sick and weakly among them, "and many sleep." There that is a term for the sin unto death; they had died physically. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 talks about the fact that when the Rapture comes those who are asleep, the dead in Christ, will rise first.

The ninth appearance is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:7 NASB "then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles." This is when the Lord appears to His half brother James and it is not mentioned in any of the Gospel accounts. Both James and Jude both trusted the Lord after the resurrection, and James became the leader in the church in Jerusalem. Acts 1:14; Galatians 1:19. The tenth appearance was to the disciples at the ascension. Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8. Again and again and again the disciples witnessed the resurrected Jesus Christ.

The eleventh appearance was to Stephen, Acts 7:55, 56. His twelfth appearance was the appearance to Paul in Acts chapter nine. This is when Paul was saved, when the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned him on the road to Damascus. 1 Corinthians 15:8 NASB "and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also." This phrase "untimely born" is the Greek word ektroma [e)ktrwma] which literally means an abortion, a premature birth, or a miscarriage. The term was used as an insult in the ancient world to refer to someone who has some sort of deficiency in the way he was born. So Paul refers to his salvation as an abortion because it was out of time, it wasn't like the other apostles. He emphasizes the fact that he was the one who was persecuting the church and that he is the least of all worthy to be saved. The emphasis there is grace. 1 Corinthians 15:9 NASB "For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." We have seen that an apostle was not an office in the church, it was a spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts are given by the Lord Jesus Christ and distributed by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. In Acts chapter one we have an example of what happens when good intentions get ahead of themselves and people start trying to solve problems without divine authorisation: the election of Matthias.

1 Corinthians 15:10 NASB "But by the grace of God I am what I am…" It had nothing to do with his achievements prior to salvation.  "…and His grace toward me did not prove vain…" His grace saved Paul for a purpose, and Paul has been fulfilling that purpose as an apostle. "… but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." Paul worked. If you are really grace oriented you will grow as a believer by means of the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will get involved in Christian service; you will fulfil your role in your spiritual gift in the body of Christ. [11] "Whether then {it was} I or they, so we preach and so you believed." In summary, in verse 11 Paul says no matter who communicated the gospel to you it all had the same basis, that is that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for your sins and Christ was raised again on the third day according to the Scriptures. This is what we preach and what we believe.