1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,
2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.
Whether or not the Corinthians assembly had questioned Paul on the subject of the resurrection, we do not know. Apparently a report had reached him that there were false teachers in Corinth who were teaching error concerning the resurrection. Possibly some of the converts in the assembly were Sadducees, and the Sadducees did not believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead. It is more likely that some of the Greek members had brought their belief on the subject over into the church. Study Acts 17:18-34. — Greene, page 481.
What Paul is saying in these verses is that, if there is no resurrection from the dead, there is no validity to what he preached or to their salvation, and no grounds for their belief. Romans 10:9-10
The phrases “if ye keep in memory” and “unless ye have believed in vain,” by no means teach that the saved may be lost again. The “if” is a hypothesis as in verse 16. Of course they remembered the great basic truths he had taught them, but they were acting as if they had forgotten them, even doubting the resurrection of the body. And, as verses 13-14 declare: “if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen. And if Christ be not risen, then … your faith is also vain.” — Stam, page 245.
first of all (v.3) — first in importance
for (v.3) = on behalf of — as a sacrifice for
sins (v.3) = lit. “a missing of the mark”
according to the Scriptures (vs.3-4) — the prophecies of Christ’s death and resurrection in the Old Testament
The resurrection of Christ, like His death, was “according to the Scriptures.” It is depicted in the Levitical feasts and in the typical persons and is declared in the prophetical statements of the Old Testament. In each of the three great ages of the divine economy are to be found foreshadowings of the resurrection. It is found in Enoch in the patriarchal age; in Elijah in the Levitical age; and now its great prototype, the resurrection of Christ in the Christian age. — Laurin, pages 272-273.
buried (v.4) — Romans 6:1-4 says that we have been buried into the baptism of His death and burial.
rose again (v.4) — tense indicates action with continuing results
seen (v.5) = bodily seen — not appeared as in a vision
the twelve (v.5) — a title for the group by this time. Judas was not with them, nor was Thomas the first time, but Paul isn’t going into details here, just making the case.
over five hundred brethren (v.6) — the occasion is unrecorded
sleep (v.6) — This metaphorical use of the word sleep is appropriate because of the similarity in appearance between a sleeping body and a dead body; restfulness and peace normally characterize both. The object of the metaphor is to suggest that as the sleeper does not cease to exist while his body sleeps, so the dead person continues to exist despite his absence from the region in which those who remain can communicate with him, and that, as sleep is known to be temporary, so the death of the body will be found to be. Sleep has its waking, death will have its resurrection.
That the body alone is in view in this metaphor is evident, (a) from the derivation of the word koimaomai, from keimai, to lie down; cp. Isaiah 14:8, where, for “laid down,” the Septuagint has “fallen asleep;” (b) from the fact that in the New Testament the word resurrection is used of the body alone; (c) from Daniel 12:2, where the physically dead are described as “them that sleep in the dust of the earth,” language inapplicable to the spiritual part of man. — Vine, page 106.
The list of those who saw the resurrected Christ (vs. 5-8) is offered as proof. That many people, on that many occasions, could not have been mistaken. And most of them were still alive as Paul wrote this. And Paul’s list didn’t include everyone who saw Him.
James (v.7) — probably the Lord’s brother, although Stam thinks it was the apostle.
The good news of the gospel is not only the death of Christ. The cross alone is bad news. Only the resurrection makes it good news. For had Christ failed to atone for every single sin His death would have been an absolute failure, for He would have remained in death. If one single sin of mankind which God laid upon Christ had been left unpaid, Christ could never have arisen from the dead. The Bible plainly declares: … the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
One single sin, therefore, was enough to demand eternal death. But by the resurrection of Jesus Christ we are assured that every sin was paid. God’s demands were fully met and the work indeed is finished. — DeHaan, pages 167-168.
Since Socrates, Greek philosophy was well-acquainted and well-enamored with the immortality of the soul, but they spurned the idea of a resurrection of the body. Paul had experienced this scorn for the resurrection on the Areopagus. — Bultema, page 118.