I love 1 Corinthians 15! I know I have lots of favourite Bible passages, but this is definitely one of them. I love the way that Paul stretches his vocabulary and his understanding of the human body and the after life to give a series of images which are inspirational and visionary!
In these opening verses, Paul is reminding the church of the fundamental reasons for the Christian hope. Remember, that we looked at these words of Paul yesterday where he asserts that this is tradition which Paul is passing on, the Jewish Rabbi coming out of him! These are not words or ideas which have been made up by Paul, he is just the vehicle, to repeat them to groups of people who had never heard them before. Just as there is nothing new in life, so in one sense the Gospel remains the same, but is made new through the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
Anyway, Paul reminds his readers that Christ died for their sins, was buried, was raised from the dead-death could not hold Him for He had never sinned-and appeared to over 500 believers, lastly to him on the Damascus road. Those are the facts. Behind the sorrow and the joy, there are solid, historical facts.
A couple of notes here:
1. This letter was clearly written early in the life of the Church, generally reckoned as AD 50, around 20 years after Jesus' death, so that most of the 500 witnesses were still alive, they could vouch for Paul's words. ''If you don't believe me, then go and talk to Gaius, he will say the same as me!''
2. The consistency of the Apostles' message. ''Whoever of us you talk to or read their messages, it will be consistent and in agreement!'' Paul declares. We have observed this as we have studied letters from James, Peter, John as well as Paul.
3. It is all because of God's grace. Elsewhere, Paul stated that he was the chief of all sinners and it was God's grace illuminating the dark areas of his soul that had transformed him. Here was a man alive with purpose and drive! He states openly that he has worked harder than any of the other Apostles (!) but it is God's grace coursing through him which is the motivator. If it happened to him, then why not anyone!