“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins …, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures…” (vv. 3-4)

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Saturday 7 March 2015

Psalm: Psalm 119:97-112


Having written in some detail about spiritual gifts, Paul nowchanges the subject to remind his readers of the basis of theirfaith. In light of the issues about authority which have beenthrown up in this earlier discussion, it is significant that thegood news (or gospel) which they have received is that which Paulproclaimed to them; and it will continue to be the basis of theirsalvation if only they hold fast to it (verses 1-2) with animplicit warning against others who may seek to lead themastray.

Paul then outlines the basis of their belief in Christ in termsof that which he himself received. These are summarised in verses 3and 4 (above) and it is significant that Christ's death andresurrection are both "in accordance with the scriptures", for whenPaul was writing this would refer to the Hebrew scriptures (ie ourOld Testament). It is also possible that these verses echo an earlycredal statement which would have been more widely known across theearly Church (and which some New Testament scholars have termed the'kerygma', the basis of apostolic preaching).

Paul goes on to list the resurrection appearances of Christ;that he appeared first to Cephas (or Peter) then to the twelve(disciples) then to more than "five hundred brothers and sisters …most of whom are still alive" (v. 6) (which is a reminder that thisletter is one of the earliest documents to be found in the NewTestament, likely dating to AD54-55, and so within a generation ofthe death and resurrection of Christ). Then Christ appeared toJames and to the apostles and "last of all, as to one untimelyborn, he appeared also to me" (v. 8). This is Paul's own account ofhis conversion; it is noticeably more succinct than the accountfound in Acts 9 of the road to Damascus experience(although what he goes on to say about his previous persecution ofthe Church accords well with what is told in Acts.)

It is also significant that Paul includes his own experience inthis list of witnesses to the resurrection, so although he may beregarded as "the least", he is nonetheless to be included as one ofthe "apostles" (v. 9). Nor has his conversion been in vain, forPaul has "worked harder than any of them" in proclaiming thegospel, albeit that "it was not I, but the grace of God that iswith me" (v. 10). For as in his discussion of spiritual gifts, Paulis not only addressing matters of belief but also responding tochallenges to his authority and leadership by re-affirming his roleas one of the apostles.

To Ponder

  • Have you had a direct experience of the risen Christ, or doesyour faith rest on the testimony of others?
  • Does this matter? Why?
  • If your experience is the latter, what has led you to trust inothers' testimony?
  • If your experience is the former, how do you share it withothers in order to encourage them?
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