The church in Corinthian was divided into factions, socially and theologically. Some members fancied themselves as spiritually superior. There were grave moral errors concerning marriage and idolatry. It sounds remarkably similar to the church today.
Chapter 15 focuses on unbelief. Many of the Corinthians were offended by the idea of the resurrection. It was not spiritual enough. It seemed unlikely to them. Ancient people knew that corpses did not rise again, nor were they expected to—dead people stayed dead. So they declared that resurrection really meant the soul went to heaven. They denied bodily resurrection and said, "When we die we go to heaven to be with God." This, too, sounds remarkably similar to the church today.
Paul responds by reminding them: I "handed on" to you what I had "received." Paul is not the creator of the faith, he is its servant, passing to the Corinthians that Christian Tradition in which the church “stands” and by which we are being saved—if we continue to hold it firm. Paul realized faith is a struggle and believing included loyalty or faithfulness. The tradition he sites has four elements: Jesus died for our sins and was buried, Jesus was raised and appeared to various people—with two references to Scripture; that is kata graphes "according to the writings." Crucifixion was a horrible way to die. The resurrection experience had to be as real to them as His death had been. Their despair at His death was so deep that His closest students shamefully denied Him and fled to hide. The words "He appeared" refer to the stunning experiences many had had which confirmed the unimaginable—He is alive. There is a deeply personal and transformative experience behind the words Paul quotes.
Paul's witness list provides substantial verification of the resurrection. Lots of people saw Jesus. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the unbelievers and critics. The four Gospel accounts differ significantly in detail, though all agree that Mary Magdalene was the central figure on that morning. Yet, Paul makes no mention of any women so some say this proves it is all a lie. They miss the point. Paul is quoting from an authoritative list of church leaders. He is focused on the faith of the church in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, not the isolated details of the event. The proof is sufficient. As Luke puts it in Acts 1 “after His passion Jesus showed Himself alive to them by many tekmerion (convincing, indisputable, certain proof) appearing to them and speaking to them.” Paul and the Gospel writers are not trying to detail the facts of a singular moment; rather, they are illustrating for us the profound reality of Jesus’ victory which was demonstrated over a period of time for a large number of people.
We believe, so it is the closing words which concern us. We are no better than Paul. We, too, are the least. We are unfit to be called apostles. By the grace of God, we are what we are. So we must proclaim so that others believe.
There is increasing hostility to the ancient faith in our society, sometimes even within the church. We need strong faith and courage to love and follow Jesus. We need even more faith and courage to proclaim Jesus. Today, in the light of resurrection faith, we reflect on the foundation for our courage in the face of any rejection.
Jesus died for our sins, according to Scripture.On the third day, Jesus was raised, according to the Scriptures, and appeared to many men and women. Many....
This Jesus is the true King of Israel and the only Savior of the world.
God is with us, we are His Kingdom people. And we have been entrusted with the task to continue that ministry until He returns in glory.
[+so let us pray for the Holy Spirit to help us faithfully proclaim in word and deed+]