Jesus' Parables for Disciples
Ambrogio di Stefano Bergognone (ca. 1460-1523), Christ Risen from the Tomb (c. 1490), oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
The Corinthian church has another problem. They don't believe in the resurrection of the dead. Yes, they believe that Christ was raised from the dead, but they don't believe that this extends to the bodies of Christian believers.
Where did this thinking come from? Probably, they are reflecting a typical Greek dualism between spirit (good) and body (bad). This view seems to be reflected in Paul's mission to Athens before he went to Corinth.
"'... He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.' When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, 'We want to hear you again on this subject.'" (Acts 17:31b-32)
A group of the Corinthian believers probably believed that they had fully entered true "spirituality," since they had experienced the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Perhaps they felt that they had already entered some kind of angelic existence (13:1) in which the body was unnecessary and unwanted, and would finally be destroyed.550
Part of this dispute over the resurrection of the dead had to do with their acceptance of Paul's apostleship. A typical tactic is to undermine and discredit those with whom you disagree, so in this chapter Paul speaks again about his apostolic authority.
The Corinthians had a problem, but again, it has turned out to be a blessing for the wider Church of Christ, since this chapter contains some of the New Testament's most explicit teaching on the resurrection of the dead.
Paul approaches his argument as follows:
- Reestablishes the commonly-held belief that Jesus was raised from the dead (15:1-11).
- Shows the absurdity of their contradictory beliefs that Jesus was raised, but believers will not be (15:12-34).
- Explains the form in which the dead will be raised -- bodily (15:35-58).
Paul begins by establishing common ground. He reminds them of the gospel he had preached to them -- which included the resurrection of Christ.
"1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached551 to you, which you received552 and on which you have taken your stand553. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." (15:1-2)
You believed me when I preached the resurrection of Christ, Paul says. You received and accepted it, and it has become the basis of your faith. But now you need to continue in this faith.
Notice how important continued faith is to salvation. Sometimes we imagine that just saying the sinner's prayer entitles us to eternal life, even if we don't follow Christ in later years. "Hold firmly" (NIV, NRSV), "keep in memory" (KJV) is katechō, "to adhere firmly to traditions, convictions, or beliefs, hold to, hold fast."554 We need this corrective. Consider some similar New Testament passages.
"... If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel." (Colossians 1:23)
"He who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:3)
"And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." (Hebrews 3:6)
"But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." (Hebrews 10:39)
"The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." (Luke 8:15)
Some Christians have substituted a sloppy belief for the clear doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. Wayne Grudem begins his statement of the doctrine in this way:
"The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God's power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives...."555
Q1. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2) In what sense is our
salvation dependent upon us continuing in faith? Why is the doctrine of the
Perseverance of the Saints important for us to understand?
For Paul, belief in Christ's resurrection is a core part of our faith. Sadly, some liberal Christians in our day have abandoned a belief in Christ's resurrection.556 Now Paul repeats to them the core gospel that he had preached to them.
"3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." (15:3-8)
Paul presents this core gospel with two technical words, "received557" and "passed on558," which we saw in 11:23, when he relayed to them the Words of Institution of the Lord's Supper. "Received" and "passed on" refer to communicating an oral tradition accurately. What I heard from a reliable source, I also communicated to you without alteration.
Let's examine the core of gospel, summed up in verses 3, 4, and 5. Many believe that these verses constitute an early Christian creed, especially because of their balanced structure.
"For what I received I passed on to you as of
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
that he was buried,
that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve." (15:3-5)
- That Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.
- That Christ died for our sins -- in fulfillment of Scripture, especially, Isaiah 53.
- That Christ was buried -- that is, he actually died, not just appeared to die.
- That Christ was raised from the dead on the third day -- in fulfillment of Scripture, especially Psalms 16:10-11, Isaiah 53:10-12; and Hosea 6:2 (see Luke 24:27, 46).
Now Paul supports his assertion that Christ was raised from the dead with a list of witnesses to this fact, those who had seen him after the resurrection.
- Cephas = Peter (15:5a)
- The Twelve (15:5b)
- More than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep." (15:6)
- James, the brother of Jesus (15:7a)
- All the apostles (15:7b)
- Paul (15:8)
This is the only place in the New Testament where we hear of Jesus' appearance to the 500. What an occasion that must have been! Nor do we have a separate account of Jesus' appearance to his brother James, who became the leader of the Jerusalem church. Jesus' appearance to Paul is recounted several times in Acts (9:3-5, 17; 18:9; 22:18; 26:16; 2 Corinthians 12:1-6).
Q2. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7 ) What is the core of the gospel
according to this verse? Paraphrase it in your own words based on this passage.
Remember, Paul is still defending his apostolic authority. Here he begins with a humble approach to proving Christ's resurrection, stressing his unworthiness -- yet stressing that Jesus had appeared to him.
"8 And last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them -- yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed." (15:8-11)
Paul wasn't part of the generation of disciples who walked with Jesus in the flesh, so Paul refers to his spiritual birth as abnormal or untimely.559 Since the term "untimely birth" comes to mean figuratively, "freakish" or "the abortion," it may be that Paul deliberately introduces a word that the Corinthians themselves were using to put him down. Paul notes that he is "the least of the apostles," unworthy because of his sin of persecuting the church (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2). But, having taken the low place, he defends his apostleship vigorously.
Notice Paul's reliance upon grace.
"By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect." (15:10a).
He is not saying: "This is who I am: accept me as I am." Rather he is glorifying God's work. Sometimes we continue to beat ourselves up for past sins. But Paul's example is one of humility and of glorying in what God has done since his conversion. This is a healthy way of remembering his past sin, without letting it defeat him all over again.
Paul asks the Corinthians to observe that, having begun so low, he took advantage of God's grace and "worked harder than all of them." He's not saying, "I'm better than the other apostles, because I work harder," but he is pointing out that his labors and effectiveness in ministry are by no means less than the apostles that the Corinthians recognize. His effective ministry helps prove the authenticity of his apostleship. It is all by grace. He is not better. It was the grace of God working, Paul says.
Now Paul turns to prove the resurrection of the dead. He begins by noting that the Corinthians themselves believed in Jesus' resurrection. Now he points out the inconsistency -- carried to its logical conclusion -- of believing in Christ's resurrection but not the resurrection of believers.
"12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.
17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." (15:12-19)
"Futile" (NIV, NRSV), "in vain" (KJV) is mataios, "pertaining to being of no use, idle, empty, fruitless, useless, powerless, lacking truth."560 From time to time you've probably had doubts -- What if this about Jesus isn't really true? Dear friends, the real question comes down to the truth of the resurrection. If that is true, then you are saved. If Jesus wasn't raised, however, you have no hope of eternal life and you are stilling carrying your sins -- heavy, putrid, and unforgiven. People should feel sorry for you561 more than all others. Praise God, however, that at the basis of the Christian faith are the historical events of Jesus' death and resurrection -- and they are well authenticated!562
Paul has proved his point: "If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either" (15:16). Here's Paul's argument.
You preach Christ is raised from the dead
AND that there is no resurrection of the dead.
That is a logical contradiction.
If Christ has not been raised from the dead
- Our preaching is useless
- Your faith is empty.
- Paul is a false witness.
- You are still in your sins.
- Those Christians who have died are lost.
- You are to be pitied, since you have no eternal hope.
Paul may seem pedantic, but he is showing the foolishness of their insistence that the dead are not raised.
It's strange, but in our day many Christians believe in "going to heaven," but don't think in terms of the bodily resurrection. Some may not even believe in the resurrection to come -- which means that Paul's words are especially relevant today to reinforce a neglected aspect of Christian teaching.
Paul now turns to the second phase of his argument, that through the resurrection great blessings flow to mankind.
"20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come...." (15:20-24a)
The idea of "firstfruits563" involves the first pickings of the harvest, which according to Mosaic Law (Leviticus 23:17, 20) are presented to God. Christ is seen as the firstfruits in the sense that he is the first to rise from the dead.
Now Paul turns to a concept sometimes know as "federal headship," where one person represents the whole group. Adam was the progenitor of death; all who are "in Adam" die. Christ is the progenitor of life and resurrection; all who are now "in Christ" are "made alive564" by his Holy Spirit, and will rise from the dead.
The resurrection will come in stages, first Christ's resurrection, then at Christ's coming the resurrection of all who have given their allegiance to Christ. After that the end will come.
Now Paul shares with us what happens after his resurrection, nearly unique in Paul's writings, and one of the great passages of the New Testament, especially in terms of the significance of Easter.
Behind this passage is one of the great psalms.
"4 What is man that you are
mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet." (Psalm 8:4-6)
This passage was understood by the early church to refer to Jesus Christ for two reasons: (1) the phrase "son of man" which is Jesus' self-acclaimed title, and (2) the reference to Messiah's putting down his enemies that is echoed in the clearly-messianic Psalm 110:
"The LORD says to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet." (Psalm 110:1)
The writer of Hebrews refers to Psalm 8:6, with respect to the phrase, "put everything under his feet," noting the tension between what we see now and what will be when Jesus completes his mission.
"In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." (Hebrews 2:8b-9)
Paul refers to Psalm 8:6 in his Letter to the Ephesians as well.
"And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church...." (Ephesians 1:22)
Now in our passage, Paul refers to Psalm 8 as he gives us a panoramic glimpse of salvation history and the high points of the Kingdom of God at the end of time.
"24 Then the end565 will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until566 he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he 'has put everything under his feet.' Now when it says that 'everything' has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." (15:24-28)
Christ's role as Messiah is not only to save mankind through his death on the cross, but having done so and having been raised from the dead, to destroy God's enemies. As the fulfillment of the Davidic kings, he reigns for God on earth, until he has completed his mission.
Christ has come to "destroy" the devil and all his works (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). "Destroyed" (NIV, NRSV), "put down" (KJV) is katargeō, "to cause something to come to an end or to be no longer in existence, abolish, wipe out, set aside something."567 He did not come to contain evil or compromise with it. He came to destroy it. And where he exposes evil in our lives, his loving purpose is to eradicate it rather than tame it.
God's enemies here, "all dominion568, authority569, and power570," are elsewhere referred to as the "principalities and powers" (KJV), ruling demonic forces that have put the world in bondage. But Christ is over them! The resurrected Christ is seated at God's right hand in the heavenly realms,
"... far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." (Ephesians 1:20-21)
Christ is truly King of kings and Lord of lords.
That battle with evil is still going on. Surely, in our day the gospel is being proclaimed in every tongue to every people group on earth, pushing back the forces of Satan. This is war, you are part of it, and Satan is pushing back. The twentieth century witnessed the death of more Christian martyrs than all the previous centuries combined.
The Book of Revelation chronicles this war in all kinds of images and figures -- the beasts, the false prophet, the dragon, the woman seated on the dragon, the kings of the earth, Babylon, the rider on the white horse, and Armageddon, to name a few. And we know that after Christ's 1,000 year reign on earth571 there will still be a final battle with Satan's forces (Revelation 20:7-10).
Christ continues to reign until "he has put all his enemies under his feet" (15:25). Just because the battle still rages doesn't mean that Christ is not on his throne. But there will come a time when the last battle has been fought, the last person won to Christ, the last enemy vanquished. Paul allows us to glimpse this last chapter.
"Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father ...." "... Then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." (15: 24, 28)
God sent his Son to redeem the world and destroy the works of the devil. He came as Regent on God's behalf -- Messiah, King -- to fulfill his mission. But when that is done, there is no longer a need for him to reign572 over such a Kingdom.573 And he "hands it over574" to the Father. That means that Christ gives it over, delivers it, entrusts it to the Father.
As the plan of salvation was nearly complete on earth, Jesus said,
"I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." (John 17:4-5)
"It is finished." (John 19:30)
Then Jesus' mission shifted to the heavenly realms, where he reigns over his church and defeats the principalities and powers on behalf of the Father (Ephesians 1:19-23).
But now it is done. And the Christ of all glory, who humbled himself to become a man and "became obedient to death -- even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8), now once again subjects himself to the Father -- even in all the glory the Father has showered upon him.
I've sometimes wondered about verse 28. If Christ finally subjects575 himself to the Father, does this mean that he is somehow inferior? What does this say about the Trinity? But as I've studied, I've learned that the doctrine of the Trinity declares that the Father and Son and Holy Spirit are equal in Person, but the Son and Holy Spirit are subordinate in role -- "ontological equality, but economic subordination," that is, "equal in being, but subordinate in role."576 That understanding of equality and role is apparent in the very words "Father" and "Son."
What I must learn from Jesus is humility,
"Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing...." (Philippians 2:6-7a)
Subordination, placing myself under another person, is hard for my pride. But it follows the consistent example of Jesus -- even at the end. Hallelujah!
Q3. (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) What does this passage
teach us about the subordination of the Son to the Father? How can that be
consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity?
Now Paul turns again to exhorting the Corinthians on the importance of a hope in the resurrection of the believers.
"29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I die every day -- I mean that, brothers -- just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'" (15:29-32)
Paul's argument is straightforward. If there is no resurrection, then some things we do make no sense.
- Baptism (15:29, see below), and
- Putting lives at risk for the gospel (15:30-32).
Paul's statement, "I die daily," probably means that "on a daily basis I face the reality of death."577 He is following Jesus' teaching,
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)
Though Paul didn't actually have to fight the beasts in Ephesus -- an experience he would not have survived -- that may have been a real threat at some point (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:8-10).
If there is no resurrection, no goal, no accountability, no reward, Paul is saying, then why not live for yourself like the world does. Paul quotes a cynical saying of his day -- "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (15:32b).
If you are familiar with the Latter Day Saints, you know that they've based a huge amount of genealogical work upon a doctrine of vicarious baptism for the dead based on 15:29. According to Mormon practice, one's genealogy is carefully researched. Then ancestors and family members who are not Mormons are baptized by proxy in a consecrated LDS temple. Since no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being baptized, according to Mormon doctrine, this gives their relatives the chance of entering the Kingdom, though they believe that those who have died may choose to accept or reject the baptism done on their behalf.
But this is not the only way to interpret 15:29. Three primary approaches seem to offer the best understanding -- and from an exegetical standpoint, they depend upon how you take the preposition hyper: The preposition hyper (with a genitive object) in the phrase, "for the dead," can be taken several ways, most commonly, (1) "in behalf of," but also (2) "because of," and (3) "about, concerning, with reference to." Let me explain.
- Vicarious baptism interpretation is that Paul's words reflect a Corinthian practice of baptizing catechumens who died before being baptized.578 This interpretation uses hyper in its most common sense, "in behalf of." The problem is that the New Testament contains no command to baptize for the dead, nor is there any historical indication of such a practice in the early church579 -- and it seems that Paul would condemn a practice that went against his teaching of salvation by grace through faith. To baptize vicariously implies a kind of magical view of baptism.
- Metaphorical baptism, that "baptism" is a metaphor for Paul's sufferings or for martyrdom, entering the place of the dead. Remember, Jesus had used baptism as metaphor of suffering (Mark 10:38). I find this difficult to grasp for this passage.
- Christian Baptism, that Paul is speaking of normal Christian baptism, taking hyper as "because of." He might mean, (1) because new believers are baptized to replace believers who had died, (2) baptism in order to be reunited with loved ones at the resurrection, or (3) new believers are baptized because of the influence of deceased Christians.580 Elsewhere, Paul taught that baptism by immersion is a symbol of burial with Christ to the old life and a resurrection to the new life (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12), though this may not be his reference here. Some kind of reference to Christian baptism of believers makes the most sense to me here, though admittedly it is a strange way to express it.
Whatever Paul was referring to, he uses it as an example to help the Corinthians see the logical inconsistency between their baptismal practice and a rejection of the resurrection.
Paul has quoted a common phrase of the time -- which leads him to a short aside about the danger of partying with unbelievers.
"32b If the dead are not raised, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.' 33 Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.' 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God -- I say this to your shame." (15:32b-34)
Paul exhorts these partyers, "Do not be misled...." (15:33a), just as he had earlier in 6:9a.581 Many people deceive themselves, even though they know better deep inside. Don't kid yourself!
Let's examine Paul's core teaching here:
"Bad company corrupts good character." (NIV)
"Bad company ruins good morals." (NRSV)
"Evil communications corrupt good manners." (KJV)
Paul has been trying to get the Corinthians to stop going to feasts in the temple because of the temptation to idolatry. But partying with pagans ("bad company582") also introduces the danger of ruining good moral character,583 and this partying may well involve sins of idolatry, not to mention drunkenness and licentiousness. The verb is phtheirō, "destroy, ruin," here, "ruin or corrupt something by misleading tactics."584 Paul's words recall a proverb:
"He who walks with the wise grows wise,
but a companion of fools suffers harm." (Proverbs 13:20)
If you've ever tried to correct a person who is living in some kind of sin, you often get an excuse: "God doesn't mind if I do this. He understands. After all, I'm only human." But Paul has an answer:
"There are some who are ignorant of God -- I say this to your shame." (15:34b)
In plain words, Paul is telling them: You just don't know what you're talking about!
Paul has discussed the inconsistency of believing in Jesus' resurrection but denying the resurrection, and its implications for believers. Now he approaches the nature of this resurrection.
"35 But someone may ask, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?' 36 How foolish!" (15:35-36a)
Paul is anticipating common questions that are being used to discard the idea of a resurrection, assuming, I guess, that if Paul can't explain the mechanics of the resurrection, then it really isn't true.
Apparently, the Corinthians thought of resurrection in terms of reviving a corpse. How could that be? After a few years a corpse has decayed and turned back to soil. We, in a scientific age, would add the observation that its molecules can no longer be recovered together. Moreover, the same molecules could now be part of another human body. So Paul goes to some length to demonstrate that a resurrected body can have clear continuity with the physical body, without being merely a revived corpse. It is a new, different sort of body altogether.
Jesus' resurrection body could be recognized (when Jesus wanted it to be) and could relate to the physical world of touching, walking, and eating, but it transcended the physical world. It could appear and disappear and pass through locked doors. It had continuity with Jesus' physical body -- visible from the nail marks in his hands -- but it was something more, on a different plane entirely. The resurrected body is not the reviving of a physical body, but a transformed body.
Paul teaches this by demonstrating from nature that when you plant a seed, it has to "die" by being buried in the ground. But what results from that seed is different, much larger than a seed, and greatly multiplied in the number of seeds it can produce.
"What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body." (15:36b-38)
Jesus has said something similar concerning his resurrection, using a saying that was common among the Pharisees who defended the doctrine of resurrection against the Sadducees who rejected it.
"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:23b-24)
The point is, the resurrected body won't be just like the seed; it will be greater.
To his opponents who insist that they can't conceive of such a resurrection body, Paul argues that there are many kinds of animals and heavenly bodies, each with its own unique glory.
"39 All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor." (15:39-41)
Now Paul applies his parables of seeds, animals, and heavenly bodies.
"42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." (15:42-44)
Paul makes four comparisons to help us conceive of the resurrection body.
|Human body||Resurrection body|
|"natural body"||"spiritual body"|
The human body can seem to us beautiful and glorious at its physical peak, but beauty fades, strength turns to weakness, and the human corpse will decompose like any organic tissue. The resurrection body, on the other hand, is immortal and imperishable, it is powerful, and glorious. Even at its peak of perfection, the human body does not compare in glory to the resurrection body.
Paul contrasts the "natural body" with the "spiritual body." Each expression contains the word sōma, "the living body."590 The adjective "natural" (psychikos, from which we get our word "psychic") pertains to the life of the natural world and whatever belongs to it, in contrast to the realm of experience whose central characteristic is pneuma ('spirit'). Psychikos here means "natural, unspiritual, worldly." In verse 46 it is "the physical" in contrast to "the spiritual." 591 The "spiritual body" uses the adjective pneumatikos, "of spirit," that is, "having to do with the (divine) spirit, caused by or filled with the (divine) spirit, pertaining to or corresponding to the (divine) spirit."592
The core nature of the human body is physical. The core nature of the resurrection body is spiritual.
Exactly what does that mean? We don't fully know. The only example we have is of Jesus' resurrected body. It looked and felt like his physical body. It could take in food. But it could appear and disappear at will, pass through locked doors, and was no longer subject to death. In a similar way as angels, the resurrection body can relate to a physical world -- even the "new heavens and new earth" (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1) when it needs to, but it can also relate to heaven and the spiritual world.
Now Paul explains it in terms of "federal headship" or "corporate personality" as he did in 15:22, being "in Adam" and "in Christ." The First Adam, of course, is our progenitor, Adam of Garden of Eden fame. The Last Adam is Christ our resurrected Lord, the "Son of Man" who came to save and redeem man by becoming like us (Philippians 2:7).
"45 So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven." (15:45-48)
You can see echoes of the creation account in Paul's language.
"The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).
Notice the contrasts that Paul makes:
|First Adam||Last Adam|
|"living being"593||"life-giving594 spirit"|
|"of the dust of the earth"||"from heaven"|
|"earthly man"||"the man from heaven"|
Paul displays the contrasts, and then says,
"And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven." (15:49)
We look like Adam (and Eve) now -- the earthly man. But at the resurrection we will look like Christ, the Heavenly Man. As the Apostle John said,
"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)
Paul now concludes his argument so far with a summary and application. What we read what may seem strange in light of the Greek preference of the spirit for the body. But Paul is apparently speaking to self-proclaimed "spiritual" people who imagine that they have already reached their glorified state, what theologians call "realized eschatology." Not so, says Paul.
"I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." (15:50)
When the Kingdom of God comes in all its glory, the resurrected saints will be its heirs.
Now Paul fast-forwards to the coming of Christ when this resurrection will take place, to explain how this will happen.
"51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed -- 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (15:51-52)
Let me tell you one of God's secrets595, says Paul. We won't all die -- "sleep" is a common euphemism for death. Of course, those who have died will be raised at Christ's coming with new bodies. That he had already taught them.
There's a similar passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16 (written a bit earlier than 1 Corinthians) that talks about the resurrection at the coming of Christ. But the Thessalonians' concern was that those who had died will somehow miss out on Christ's coming. So to the Thessalonians he explained,
"14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first." (1 Thessalonians 4:14-16)
In the Thessalonians passage Paul comforts them that those who have already died in Christ won't miss out. In fact, they'll be the first to be resurrected. But to the Corinthians, who are concerned about the form of the resurrection, Paul says, "the dead will be raised imperishable" (15:52b), that is, with resurrection bodies.
Now Paul explains to the Corinthians about the form of those who are still living at the time Jesus returns -- instant transformation.
"We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.... The dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (15:51-52)
"Changed" is allassō, "to make something other or different, change, alter,"596 derived from the adjective allos, "other."597 We will all be changed; first, the dead will rise from the earth transformed, and then we who are alive when Christ returns will be changed from our flesh-and-blood state to have resurrection bodies like Jesus' resurrection body.
We're also told two things about the timing of this resurrection.
"... In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (15:52)
1. The resurrection will happen instantaneously. "Flash" (NIV), "moment" (NRSV, KJV) is the adjective atomos (from which we get our word "atom"), meaning, literally, "uncut." It refers to a unit that it cannot be further subdivided or cut because of its smallness, "indivisible." Here it means "in a moment," the smallest slice of time imaginable,598 that is, in a slice of time so quick that it cannot be more brief. The second figure of instantaneous action is expressed by the phrase "in the twinkling of an eye," that is, the quick glance, the instant movement of the eye from one point to another.599
When this all happens, it will happen very quickly. Jesus said it "will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other." (Luke 17:24; cf. Matthew 24:27).
2. The resurrection will come according to God's own schedule.
"... At the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound...." (15:51b-52a)
"Trump/et" is salpinx, "trumpet," a wind instrument, made of bronze or iron with a mouthpiece of horn, and broadening out to a megaphone. The word also refers to "the sound made or signal given by a trumpet, trumpet-call, trumpet-sound." Trumpets were used in war to summon to battle, to form ranks, to attack, to pursue, and to signal the return home.600
Ever since the prophets we read about the sounding of the trumpet on the Day of the Lord.
"Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy hill.
Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming.
It is close at hand." (Joel 2:1)
"The great day of the LORD is near --
near and coming quickly....
a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities
and against the corner towers." (Zephaniah 1:14a, 16)
"And in that day a great trumpet will sound.
Those who were perishing in Assyria
and those who were exiled in Egypt
will come and worship the LORD
on the holy mountain in Jerusalem." (Isaiah 27:13)
"And he will send his angels with a loud
and they will gather his elect from the four winds,
from one end of the heavens to the other." (Matthew 24:31)
"For the Lord himself will come down from
with a loud command,
with the voice of the archangel
and with the trumpet call of God,
and the dead in Christ will rise first." (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet,
and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
'The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,
and he will reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:15)
Our text says:
"... at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound,
the dead will be raised imperishable, and
and we will be changed." (15:51b-52a)
There is no lack of Bible prophecy teachers who are happy to explain to us exactly how and when this will all happen. One in a long series of Bible teachers predicted the day and time of Christ's coming in 2011 -- and was wrong, twice.601
Dear friends, we don't know exactly when Christ will come. We are told it will be "soon," and that we are to be ready. Until then we're to be about Christ's work here on earth. But when Christ comes, he will come when the Father is ready.
The Father will give a command to the angel, who will blow the final trumpet, a trumpet-call that will be heard around the world. And at that instant, that flash, that "twinkling of an eye," Christ will come.
In that instant the dead will rise to meet him with resurrection bodies, and the rest of his disciples who are still alive will suddenly feel a change as their flesh-and-blood bodies are changed into resurrection bodies. These bodies will fit us for the Kingdom that will now pervade all.
These bodies will never again feel cold or blistering heat. They will never again become sick and waste away. They will never grow tired or be injured. And they will never again feel the tears of grief and the emotions of shame. We will be changed! And it will be wonderful!
Q4. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 ) What does this passage
teach us about Christ's coming? In what ways does it encourage us?
"53 For the perishable must clothe
itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When
the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with
immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:
'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'" (15:53-54)
To describe this transformation, Paul uses the metaphor of putting on clothes602, which means the taking on of characteristics. Bodies that die and decay, no longer will. Our bodies that are subject to death603, no longer are.
Paul's quote, "Death has been swallowed up in victory" draws on Isaiah's prophecy, with echoes all the way to Revelation 21:4.
"On this mountain he will destroy the shroud
that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 25:7-8)
The "last enemy" (15:26) death will be no more. Hallelujah! Paul can't seem to help jeering at death:
"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?" (15:55)
The words come from Hosea's prophecy about resurrection:
"I will ransom them from the power of the
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?" (Hosea 13:14)
Paul's response is intensely theological.
"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (15:56)
Paul wrote a whole treatise in Romans 7 to explain how the law seemed to activate sin in us, but here it is compressed into a single sentence. Then Paul breaks into rejoicing:
"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (15:57)
His rejoicing recalls the rejoicing at the conclusion of his treatise on the law and sin at the end of Romans 7:
"Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24b-25a)
Paul concludes this chapter on resurrection with an encouragement to the Corinthians to be inspired by the truth of the resurrection and its guarantee of life -- and reward -- beyond this life. This is one of my favorite verses, one that I originally memorized in another translation, which I will use as the basis of my exposition of it.
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (15:58, RSV)
My beloved brethren. The Apostle Paul addresses us as his dear family -- brothers and sisters604. Christians are part of a family that cares deeply for one another. The church is the visible expression of that caring love. And though we sometimes feel alone, we belong to the family of God.
Be steadfast605, that is, don't always be moving around. Each of my children, at the age of nine or ten, have come down with what my wife and I call "tapping disease." They drum their fingers on the dinner table, swing their feet, tap their feet. Constant motion. They don't settle down. It can drive a parent crazy!
Unmoveable606 means "not to be moved from its place." Perhaps people have called you "stubborn." You can be stubbornly opposed to God's will. That's bad. But you can be stubbornly, doggedly devoted to God, so that circumstances and people don't distract you from him. That's good. Call it persistent. Call it faithful.
Always abounding in the work of the Lord. The word translated "abounding" means "exceeding a fixed number or measure," "over-and- above."607 Some people do what is expected. Others, out of love, go far beyond that. Their lives pour out and overflow. "Doing what?" you ask.
The work608 of the Lord, is the answer. Do you have any loafers at work? People who only do the minimum, and only that if the boss is looking over their shoulder? And who takes up the slack? You and the other conscientious workers.
God's work is the same way. Just a few of the ways we do His work, build His kingdom here on earth, is to teach our children about Jesus at home and at Sunday school. We serve as an usher or choir member on Sundays. We encourage those believers who are down. We make a meal for a family when one of the parents is sick. We exercise our spiritual gifts. A church is a caring body. But when loafers don't pull their part of the load, the load falls on others to do -- or it just doesn't get done at all.
My sister, my brother, this is a word for you: be "always abounding in the work of the Lord." Always. Over-and-above.
Knowing that in the Lord your labor609 is not in vain.610 Some people hate washing dishes because more dirty dishes magically appear over night. Sweeping and vacuuming are the same way. Things never stay clean. Someone is always tracking dirt on your carpet. Is there no end? You get discouraged.
But God keeps track of our faithfulness to his work. He sees us serving him when no one else sees. And seeing us "hanging in there" brings joy to his heart. Our Christian service is not done in vain for three reasons:
- Kingdom-building. Christ's kingdom is built on your service, stone upon stone, act of kindness upon teaching the junior boys' Sunday school class, upon serving refreshments, upon spending time with a grief-stricken believer.
- Joy. Seeing your faithful service brings joy to God's heart.
- Reward. God will reward you for your faithfulness, even when no one else sees. His ledger book gets fresh notations every time you serve Him. In a word, your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Yes, I get discouraged and so do you. But God keeps bringing us back to this verse to buck us up and help us to see the importance of faithful service. Don't give up. Your labor in Christ is not in vain.
Q5. (1 Corinthians 15:58) Why do we sometimes get
discouraged serving the Lord? What does this exhortation contain to encourage
and motivate us?
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In this chapter Paul has laid out for us the core of the Christian faith, proved that Jesus himself was raised, explained a bit what the resurrection of believers will be like, and given us a glimpse of the glory of the resurrection that will take place when Christ returns. It is a chapter full of lessons for disciples, of encouragement to serve Christ now, and of hope in the resurrection to come. Amen.
Father, thank you for this wonderful chapter and all that it teaches us. I pray that you'll replace our misty view of "heaven" with your Scriptural view of the resurrection of the dead. That you will refocus our hope in You and in Christ's coming. Grant it, I pray, in Jesus' name. Amen.
"By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:2)
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect." (1 Corinthians 15:10a)
"If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:17)
"The last enemy to be destroyed is death." (1 Corinthians 15:26)
"Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'" (1 Corinthians 15:33)
"The body that is sown is perishable, it is
it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory;
it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." (1 Corinthians 15:42b-44a)
"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed -- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)
550. Fee, 1 Corinthians, p. 715.
551. "Preached" (NIV, KJV), "proclaimed" (NRSV) is euangelizō, "bring good news, announce good news," here, specifically, "proclaim the divine message of salvation, proclaim the gospel" (BDAG 402, 2aα).
552. "Received" is paralambanō, "receive," here with the idea of agreement or approval, "accept" (BDAG 768, 3b).
553. "Taken your stand" (NIV), "stand" (NRSV, KJV) is the very common verb histēmi, "stand." Here it can have the connotation of "to stand firm in belief, stand firm," of personal commitment in general, or "to be in a condition or state, stand or be in something," such as to stand in grace (Romans 15:2) or truth (John 8:44).
554. Katechō, BDAG 533, 2a.
555. Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 788. Grudem completes his definition, with these words "... and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again." While Calvinists and Arminians disagree on whether a truly born again person can lose his or her salvation, both agree that the true saints are those who persevere in their faith.
557. "Received" is paralambanō, "receive," which we saw in 15:1. Here it is used "of a mental or spiritual heritage, especially of mysteries and ceremonies that one receives by tradition (BDAG 758, 2bγ). It is used in a similar sense regarding the traditions concerning the Lord's Supper: "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you..." (11:23).
558. "Passed on" is paradidōmi, "convey," here, "to pass on to another what one knows," of oral or written tradition," hand down, pass on, transmit, relate, teach" (BDAG 762, 3).
559. "Abnormally born" (NIV), "untimely born" (NRSV), "born out of due time" (KJV) is ektrōma, originally, probably, "miscarriage," a birth that violates the normal period of gestation (whether induced as abortion, or natural premature birth or miscarriage, or birth beyond term) "untimely birth" (BDAG 313).
560. Mataios, BDAG 622.
561. "Pitied" (NIV, NRSV), "miserable" (KJV) is eleeinos, "pertaining to being deserving of sympathy for one's pathetic condition, miserable, pitiable" (BDAG 315).
562. See my book, Resurrection and Easter Faith (JesusWalk, 2007, 2011; jesuswalk.com/books/resurrection.htm). Also excellent is Josh MacDowell's updated, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Nelson, 1999).
563. Aparchē is a religious technical term, "first fruits, first portion" of any kind (including animals, both domesticated and wild), which were holy to God and were consecrated before the rest could be put to secular use (BDAG 98, 1bα). Paul uses the word three times in 1 Corinthians -- 15:20 and 23, and 16:15. Also found in Romans 8:23; 11:16; 16:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; James 1:18; Revelation 14:14.
564. "Made alive" is zōopoieō, "to cause to live, make alive, give life to," originally in classical Greek, "to propagate living creatures" (BDAG 232, 1a).
565. "End" is telos, "a point of time marking the end of a duration, end, termination, cessation," here, "the last part of a process, close, conclusion," especially of the last things, the final act in the cosmic drama, or "last in a series, rest, remainder" (BDAG 998, 2a and 4).
566. "Until" (NIV, NRSV), "till" (KJV) is achri, marker of continuous extent of time up to a point, "until" (BDAG 160, 1bα).
567. Katargeō, BDAG 526, 3, used here and again at verse 26.
568. "Dominion" (NIV), "ruler" (NRSV), "rule" (KJV) is archē, "an authority figure who initiates activity or process, ruler, authority" or "the sphere of one's official activity, rule, office ... domain, sphere of influence" (BDAG 138, 6 and 7). In the KJV this word is often translated "principalities" in the phrase "principalities and powers" (Romans 8:38; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 1:16; 2:10, 15).
569. "Authority" is exousia, "authority," in this case, "bearer of ruling authority," of human "authorities, officials, government," and here, of transcendent rulers and functionaries: powers of the spirit world" (BDAG 353, 5b).
570. "Power" is dynamis, "power," here, "an entity or being, whether human or transcendent, that functions in a remarkable manner, power" as a personal transcendent spirit or heavenly agent/angel. (BDAG 263, 5).
571. Amillennialists believe that the Church Age coincides with this 1,000 year reign.
572. "Reign" is basileuō, "to exercise authority at a royal level, be king, rule (BDAG 170, 1bβ).
573. "Kingdom" is basileia, "kingship, royal power, royal rule" (BDAG 168, 1a).
574. "Hands over" (NIV, NRSV), "shall have delivered up" (KJV) is paradidōmi, "to convey something in which one has a relatively strong personal interest, hand over, give (over), deliver, entrust" (BDAG 762, 1a). This is the same word used in a technical sense to pass on a tradition to another, which we saw in 11:23a and 15:3.
575. "Subjected" (NIV), "made subject" (NRSV), "subdued" (KJV) is hypotassō, "to cause to be in a submissive relationship, to subject, to subordinate" (BDAG 1042, 1a). Used three times in verse 28.
576. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pp. 251-252.
577. Fee, 1 Corinthians, pp. 768-769.
578. Fee (1 Corinthians, pp. 763-767) and Bruce (1 and 2 Corinthians, pp. 149) believe that 15:29 probably reflects some kind of vicarious baptism.
579. In early church history we see baptism for the dead mentioned three times, only in condemnation of the practice of a heretical group (Tertullian, Against Marcion 5.10; Chrysostom, Homilies 40, St. Ephiphanius, Against All Heresies 28).
580. John D. Reaume, "Another Look at 1 Corinthians 15:29, 'Baptized for the Dead'," Bibliotheca Sacra 152 (October-December 1995) 457-75.
581. See also Galatians 6:7; Ephesians 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:10.
582. "Company" (NIV, NRSV), "communications" (KJV) is homilia (from which we get our word "homily") is a "state of close association of persons, association, social intercourse, company" (BDAG 705, 1).
583. "Good character" (NIV), "good morals" (NRSV), "good manners" (KJV) is two words, the adjective chrēstos, "pertaining to being morally good and benevolent," here probably, "reputable" (BDAG 1090, 3), and the noun ēthos (from which we get our English word, "ethos"), "a pattern of behavior or practice that is habitual or characteristic of a group or an individual, custom, usage, habit" (BDAG 435).
584. Phtheirō, BDAG 1054, 2b).
585. "Perishable" (NIV, NRSV), "corruption" (KJV) is the preposition en, "in," plus the noun phthora, "breakdown of organic matter, dissolution, deterioration, corruption" in the world of nature (BDAG 1054-55, 1).
586. "Dishonor" is atimia, "a state of dishonor or disrespect, dishonor," a state that would be a disaster in Greco-Roman society, in which civic-minded persons placed a high premium on honor (timē) and enjoyment of repute (doxa) (BDAG 149).
587. "Glory" is doxa, "glory," here, in contrast to "dishonor," probably, "honor as enhancement or recognition of status or performance, fame, recognition, renown, honor, prestige," as well as the sense, "the condition of being bright or shining, brightness, splendor, radiance" (BDAG 257, meanings 1b and 3).
588. "Weakness" is astheneia, "a state of debilitating illness, sickness, disease," as well as, "incapacity for something or experience of limitation, weakness" (BDAG 142, meanings 1 and 2a).
589. "Power" is dynamis, "potential for functioning in some way, power, might, strength, force, capability" (BDAG 262, 1).
590. Sōma, BDAG 984, 1b.
591. Psychikos, BDAG 1100, a.
592. Pneumatikos, BDAG 837, 2aβ.
593. "Living being" (NIV, NRSV), "living soul" (KJV) is the verb zaō, "to live" and the noun psychē (from which we get our word "psyche"), "(breath of) life, life-principle, soul," then, "that which possesses life/soul." (BDAG 1099, 1c). Paul probably used this phrase to echo the creation account.
594. "Life-giving" (NIV, NRSV), "quickening" (KJV) is zōopoieō, in classical Greek it is used in the sense of "to propagate living creatures." Here, "to cause to live, make alive, give life to," especially in a transcendent sense. We already saw this in 15:22.
595. "Mystery" is mystērion, "the unmanifested or private counsel of God, (God's) secret," the secret thoughts, plans, and dispensations of God (BDAG 662, 1b).
596. Allassō, BDAG 45, 1.
597. Allassō is used from classical Greek on down to mean, "to change, to cause one thing to cease and another to take its place" (Thayer 28), "to make 'other' than it is" (Friedrich Büchsel, TDNT 1:251).
598. Atomos, BDAG 149.
599. Rhipē, originally "a throwing, the swing or force by which something is thrust forward," sudden speed, "rapid movement," for example, of the eyes; the "casting" of a glance takes an extremely short time, "in the twinkling of an eye" (BDAG 906).
600. Salpinx, BDAG 911, 2; Gerhard Friedrich, salpinx, TDNT 7:71-88.
601. Harold Camping (1921-2013) predicted that Christ would return on May 21, 2011. When that didn't happen, he revised his prophecy to October 21, 2011. You can read more about him on Wikipedia.
602. "Clothe" (NIV), "put on" (NRSV, KJV) is endyō (in the middle voice), "to put any kind of thing on oneself, clothe oneself in, put on, wear something," here metaphorically, "of the taking on of characteristics, virtues, intentions, etc." (BDAG 334, 2b).
603. "Mortal" is thnētos, "pertaining to being subject to death, mortal" (BDAG 458), from thnēskō, "to die." "Immortal/ity" is athanasia, "immortality" (BDAG 23), from a-, negative particle + thanatos, "death."
604. "Brothers/brethren" is the plural of adelphos, where it applies to both genders -- "brothers and sisters" (BDAG 18, 1).
605. "Stand firm" (NIV), "be steadfast" (NRSV, KJV) uses verb "to be" with the adjective hedraios, "pertaining to being firmly or solidly in place, firm, steadfast" (BDAG 276), from a derivative of hezomai (to sit). It alludes to sitting in a chair rather than pacing around -- "fixed."
606. "Let nothing move you" (NIV), "immoveable" (NRSV), "unmoveable" is ametakinētos, "immoveable," from a-, negative particle + metakineō, "shift, change." (BDAG 53).
607. "Give yourselves fully" (NIV), "excelling" (NRSV), "abounding" (KJV) is perisseuō, "to be in abundance, abound," here, "be outstanding, be prominent, excel" (BDAG 805, 1bβ).
608. "Work" is ergon, "deed, action," then, "that which one does as regular activity, work, occupation, task" (BDAG 392, 2).
609. "Labor" is kopos, "trouble, difficulty," here, "to engage in activity that is burdensome, work, labor, toil" (BDAG 559, 2).
610. "In vain" is the adjective kenos, "empty," here, "pertaining to being without purpose or result, in vain" (BDAG 539, 3).
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