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A STUDY IN THE FIFTEENTH CHAPTER OF THE FIRST
EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS.
In closing our meditations on the Epiphanies Preciousness of the Risen Lord, I do not think that we can do
of this Chapa more appropriate or profitable thing than to ponder St. Paul's Doctrine of the Resurrection as set forth in the Fifteenth Chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians. Probably no chapter in the Bible, unless we except the Twentieth of Exodus, has been oftener read in public than this. It is enshrined among the tenderest, most sacred associations of countless Christian households, serving as God's own panacea for centuries of grief, bringing solace and heavenly cheer to myriads of His bereaved ones. So comforting is it that we almost overlook the fact that it is also an elaborate argument. May the Spirit then especially help us as we study St. Paul's Doctrine of the Resurrection. And, first, the Gospel according to St. Paul : I. The Gospel
According Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye Verses 1-4. have received, and wherein ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I
to St. Paul.
preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain : for I delivered unto. you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” It is as though the Apostle had said : “ Brethren of Corinth, I have no new Gospel to announce to you. I tent, yea rather I rejoice, to reproclaim that same old Gospel which ye heard from my lips when I first visited you, that Gospel which ye then received to the joy of your hearts, that Gospel in which ye are standing to-day, that Gospel through which ye are being saved, if ye hold fast the blessed story as I announced it to you, unless indeed ye have been putting your trust in a fable. But it is not a fable: for I received it directly from the Risen Lord Himself. And the Gospel which I received from Him and made the theme of my preaching while among you and now reaffirm is this: CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, AND WAS BURIED, AND ROSE AGAIN THE THIRD DAY ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES.” Yes, it is the Gospel according to St. Paul. As such, it is the oldest creed in Christendom : for this Letter to the Corinthians is among the earliest Epistles of Paul, having been written before any of the Gospels. It is in the strictest sense “the Apostles' Creed." Christ's Death and Resurrection are the two great abutments of the cause-way between earth and heaven, the two great hinges on which turns the portal of the City of God.
Second : the Argument from Personal Testi- II. The Argumony: “ He was seen of Cephas, then of the
Personal Twelve : after that, He was seen of above five
Testimony. hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep : after that, He was seen of James : then of all the Apostles : and last of all He was seen of me also, 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: but by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain : but I labored more abundantly than they all : yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me : therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ, if it ever occurred, was an outward, historic, physical fact. As such, it was a matter of evidence or personal testimony. All Christendom admits that He was crucified. The pivotal question is this : Did He rise again? Accordingly His resurrection, like His death, is an affair of evidence. The world then is right in demanding physical, historic proof of His resurrection. Nor are we afraid to meet the challenge. If ever there was a statement demonstrated on the basis of personal testimony, that statement is this : Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The preceding pages are occupied with an examination of these testimonies. The Apostle in his argument which we now have in hand enumerates six distinct Epiphanies of the Risen Lord, and gives the names of some of the witnesses. He mentions
first the Epiphany to Peter-probably that of the first Easter morning : then the Epiphany to the Apostles—probably that of the first Easter evening: then the Epiphany to above five hundred brethren at once-probably that of the Galilean Mount: then the Epiphany to James--of that this is the only record : then the Epiphany to all the Apostles probably that of the Ascension : then lastly the Epiphany to himself on his way to Damascus. Concerning the Epiphany to the more than five hundred he adds this significant remark: “Of whom the greater part remain until now :” thus implying that if any one called in question the resurrection of Christ, a vast number of personal eye-witnesses of Him as risen were still living, ready to traverse the challenge. Observe also the pathetic humility with which the Apostle alludes to the Epiphany to himself: “ Last of all, He appeared also to me, as to the one born out of due time—the one untimely child of the Apostolic family : for I am the least of the Apostles, and am not worthy to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.” And yet, notwithstanding his profound humility, he has the sense of having been conspicuously successful as a proclaimer of the Glad Tidings : and so with a dignity alike lofty and lowly he adds : “But by the grace of God I am what I am : and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain: but I labored more abundantly than they all : yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Having said this in way of meek, dignified digression, he reverts to the fundamental truth with
which he had started : “ Whether then it were I or they, thus we preach, and thus ye believed.” It
” is as though he had said: “It matters not who proclaims the Good News, whether the greatest or the littlest of the Apostles : enough that the Good News that Christ died for our sins and rose again is proclaimed whether by great or small : enough that ye, Corinthians, accepted the Good News as true, and so are a Christian Church.” The summary of the Apostle's argument from personal testimony then is this : Multitudes of persons are still living who have actually seen the Risen Lord, and they stand ready to confirm my statement by their own personal testimony.
Third : the Corinthian Denial : “ Now if Christ III. The Corbe preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of Verse 12. the dead?” Strange question this to put to a Christian Church! And yet not so strange when we remember the elements of which the Corinthian Church was composed. First, there was the Jewish element: among them there were doubtless those who had been brought up in the Saddu- Acts xxii. 8. cean denial of resurrection and angel and spirit: and it was difficult for them, notwithstanding their conversion to Jesus Christ, to accept the literal resurrection of the dead: not that they denied the future life, but they denied the resurrection of the body. Secondly, there was the Gentile element: and this in its turn consisted of two parties : first, those who had been trained in the Greek schools of philosophy, saying with the Epicureans and Stoics whom Paul had met at Athens that a