Commentary on 1 Cor 15:12-20
Although the core of the Gospel proclamation was that Christ had been raised from the dead, there were Christians in Corinth who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.
For Paul, Christ’s resurrection, of which the apostles are witnesses, is the decisive proof of the future resurrection of all, which is something the Old Testament early on suspects and hopes for but eventually asserts quite plainly. This is why the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of faith. The risen Christ can be called the first-fruits, not only heralding but causing the resurrection of all Christians.
Paul throws down a strong challenge to the logic of the Corinthians’ doubts. He makes eight points to show the falseness of their position:
If there is no resurrection from the dead,
- then Christ himself has not been raised;
- all preaching of the Gospel is therefore useless;
- as is their faith in Christ, who, in this hypothesis, no longer exists.
- Paul and his colleagues are guilty of telling terrible lies when they say they have had a personal experience of the Risen Christ;
- and the faith of the Corinthians has no basis whatever.
- They are still in their sins which have not been forgiven when they were baptised.
- All their brothers and sisters who have died have gone into total oblivion.
- And, if faith in Christ is valid only for this life, then the Christians are among the most to be pitied for enduring so much hardship and persecution for something which ends in nothing.
None of this makes sense, concludes Paul. He categorically states his conviction that Christ has been raised from the dead and he is the ‘first-fruits’ who leads the way for all others who die his followers. It was the custom for the Jews to offer the first sheaf of the harvest to the Lord, as an acknowledgement that the whole harvest was his gift and would be used by his people in his love and service.
Similarly, Christ is the first ‘sheaf’ of the great harvest which will be gathered together by God to be with him forever. We too pray that we may be included in that great harvest.