ST. PAUL'S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS
Lesson 6
Part III: Correcting Problems in Liturgical Worship/Doctrine and Conclusion
Chapters 14-16

Holy Lord, Our Source of Eternal Life,
Give Your people's earthly shepherds a spirit of courage and right judgment. Also, Lord, give them the knowledge of truth and the self-sacrificial love to live as St. Paul lived in the image of Christ to his faith communities. By governing with fidelity to the teaching of Jesus Christ, those entrusted with guiding the Church will continue to build up Your people in a sacrament of unity, love, and peace for all the world to witness. Give those of us who are the members of the flock the will to bow in humility and obedience to the teachings of the shepherds of Mother Church. It is only through the Kingdom of the Church that we can continue in our mission to carry the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth, calling all nations and peoples to embrace Your divine gift of eternal life through Jesus our Lord and Savior. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. St. Paul, pray for us! Amen.

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Gladly and with the eyes of faith do all in the City of God look up to this great man, Paul, this athlete of Christ, who was anointed by Christ and instructed by him. With him he was nailed to the cross, and through him made glorious. This man was made a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. He lawfully carried on a great conflict in the theater of this world and strained forward to the prize of his heavenly calling.
St. Augustine, City of God, 14.9

It appears that the Corinthian Christians prided themselves on speaking in tongues as a sign of God's favor and as a means of direct communication with the Divine. However, they were abusing the spiritual gift just as they were abusing the agape meals. In Chapter 14, Paul gives directions to correct the abuse concerning the charism of speaking in tongues. He does not want their liturgical assembly to descend into disorder and an invitation to sin like pagan worship that was a pattern familiar to the Gentile converts. Pagan worship was known for the frenzied ecstasy and babbling of its members as well as banquets that degenerated into drunken orgies (1 Tim 6:20; 1 Pt 4:3-5).

1 Corinthians 14:1-5 ~ Prophecy is a Greater Gift than Speaking in Tongues
1 Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts, above all that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to human beings but to God, for no one listens; he utters mysteries in spirit. 3 On the other hand, one who prophesies does speak to human beings, for their building up, encouragement, and solace. 4 Whoever speaks in a tongue builds himself up, but whoever prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I should like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be built up.

In 14:1, Paul returns to what he introduced in 12:31a in striving for the greatest spiritual gifts. Paul's theme of eliminating factions that cause disunity and striving to build up and unify the community is the focus of this chapter. He advises the Corinthians to strive for the spiritual gifts of interpreting Scripture and discerning the will of God for His Church. However, the greatest of the spiritual gifts is love; our love for Christ and our love for one another.

In verses 2-5, Paul offers a series of contrasts that focus on the Corinthians' interest in speaking in tongues to the point of ignoring other gifts and their failure to appreciate the necessity of prophecy.

Question: What two kinds of communication does he identify that produce what two kinds of effects?
Answer: The two kinds of communication:

  1. The private speech of speaking in tongues directly to God in inarticulate words or sounds that cannot be discerned by others.
  2. The prophetic interpretation of tongues that communicates the intended meaning to others. The two kinds of effects are:
  3. Speaking in tongues when there is no interpretation results in only building up the individual.
  4. A prophetic interpretation of speaking in tongues builds up the Church.

1 Corinthians 14:5-12 ~ The Benefits of Interpretation and Revelation
6 Now, brothers, if I should come to you speaking in tongues, what good will I do you if I do not speak to you by way of revelation, or knowledge, or prophecy, or instruction? 7 Likewise, if inanimate things that produce sound, such as a flute or harp, do not give out the tones distinctly, how will what is being played on flute or harp be recognized? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 Similarly, if you, because of speaking in tongues, do not utter intelligible speech, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be talking to the air. 10 It happens that there are many different languages in the world, and none is meaningless; 11 but if I do not know the meaning of a language, I shall be a foreigner to one who speaks it, and one who speaks it a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves: since you strive eagerly for spirits, seek to have an abundance of them for building up the church.

Question: To clarify his point, what examples does Paul use from daily life?
Answer: He gives the examples of the tones and distinct or indistinct sounds of musical instruments (flute, harp, bugle/trumpet) and speaking in a foreign language. The sounds of musical instruments and words of foreign languages are meaningless if they cannot be understood.

8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?
A night watchman blew a distinctive trumpet or bugle signal to announce danger to the community, and soldiers blew trumpets to calling the army to prepare for battle.

1 Corinthians 14:13-19 ~ Interpretation is Necessary
13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray to be able to interpret. 14 [For] if I pray in a tongue, my spirit is at payer but my mind is unproductive. 15 So what is to be done? I will pray with the spirit, but I will also pray with the mind. I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will also sing praise with the mind. 16 Otherwise, if you pronounce a blessing [with] the spirit, how shall one who holds the place of the uninstructed say the "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks very well, but the other is not built up. 18 I give thanks to God that I speak in tongues more than any of you, 19 but in the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, so as to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

In verses 13-14, Paul describes speaking in tongues as an activity of the human spirit that is a kind of contemplative prayer in which the mind is not active and is at rest in conversation with God. He contrasts that inactivity with prophetic utterances in which God engages the mind of the individual and imparts words to share with the community.

I will pray with the spirit, but I will also pray with the mind. I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will also sing praise with the mind.
Paul recommends praying, giving thanks and giving praise to God in both the spirit and the mind.

how shall one who holds the place of the uninstructed say the "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?
It was the custom in the Jewish synagogue to answer an "Amen" of public agreement to a communal prayer. Answering "amen" is a tradition carried over into the Christian assembly of worship and continues to this day. "Amen" is from the Hebrew word eman and has the meaning "so be it," so it is," or "it is true." However, "amen" is an acrostic formed from the first letters of the Hebrew phrase "God is a trustworthy King" = "El Melech Ne'eman" (Talmud, Shabbat 119b). It appears for the first time in the Book of Numbers 5:22, and it is used as a response by a congregation to a prayer (Ps 89:53) or as a declaration (twelve times in Dt 27:15-28). Christ is called "the Amen" in Revelation 3:14 because He is God the trustworthy the King of kings and the realization of all the promises of God to humanity (see 2 Cor 1:20; CCC 1061-65).

Paul defends speaking in tongues as a genuine spiritual gift, but he again emphasizes that God's word of prophecy that comes to the mind of the interpreter to share with the congregation is far more valuable a spiritual gift because it benefits the Church.

1 Corinthians 14:20-25 ~ The Function of the Spiritual Gift of Speaking in Tongues
20 Brothers, stop being childish in your thinking. In respect to evil be like infants, but in your thinking be mature. 21 It is written in the law: "By people speaking strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners. I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to me, says the Lord." 22 Thus, tongues are a sign not for those who believe but for unbelievers, whereas prophecy is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 23 So if the whole church meets in one place and everyone speaks in tongues, and then uninstructed [idiotal] people or unbelievers should come in, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if everyone is prophesying, and an unbeliever or uninstructed person should come in, he will be convinced by everyone and judged by everyone, 25 and the secrets of his heart will be disclosed, and so he will fall down and worship God, declaring, "God is really in your midst." [...] = literal Greek from which we get the word "idiot."

Paul accuses the Corinthian Christians of being immature. They should be like innocent children with respect to their knowledge of evil, but mature in their understanding of the benefits of spiritual gifts and what actions builds up and unifies the Church.

21 It is written in the law: "By people speaking strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners. I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to me, says the Lord."
Paul quotes from Isaiah 28:11-12, editing the quote slightly to apply to the Corinthian situation. Paul worries about the danger of uninterrupted tongues for the members of the community who cannot obtain any benefit from the utterances. However, the greater danger is to the recent convert who might be turned away. In the passage from which Paul quotes, Isaiah had consistently warned the covenant people that unless they repented, they would perish at the hands of the Assyrians. The prophet warned if they persisted in not listening to God that He would communicate through "people speaking strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners" by bringing judgment upon them for their failures to listen to the voice of God through His prophet to keep their covenant promises. The "strange tongues" of the foreign Assyrian invaders was the sign of the fulfillment of God's judgment.

22 Thus, tongues are a sign not for those who believe but for unbelievers, whereas prophecy is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.
Question: What is Paul's point concerning the newly converted who are not yet firm in their faith or non-Christian "unbelievers" who witness an entire congregation speaking in unintelligible tongues?
Answer: Unintelligible tongues become a sign that mighty convince recent converts or "unbelievers" that Christianity is foolish and nonsensical. However, prophecy is a revelation of God to build up the faithful and encourage conversion since it is understood and is a sign that God is present in the assembly.

1 Corinthians 14:26-33a ~ Rules of Order in the Assembly
26 So what is to be done, brothers? When you assemble, one has a psalm, another an instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything should be done for building up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, let it be two or at most three, and each in turn, and one should interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, the person should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Two or three prophets should speak, and then others discern. 30 But if a revelation is given to another person sitting there, the first one should be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged. 32 Indeed, the spirits of prophets are under the prophets' control, 33a since he is not the God of disorder but of peace.

Question: What practical instruction does Paul give for keeping order in the assembly of worship?
Answer:

  1. Worship in the assembly should progress in an orderly fashion.
  2. Not more than two or three should speak in tongues and not at once but in turns.
  3. There should be someone present who can interpret the words of the speaker/speakers.
  4. If there is no one to interpret, there should be no public expression of tongues.
  5. Only two or three prophets should speak one at a time, and the others should discern the application of the prophetic message for the assembly.

1 Corinthians 14:33b-40 ~ The Role of Women in the Assembly
33b As in all the churches of the holy ones, 34 women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. 35 But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church. 36 Did the word of God go forth from you? Or has it come to you alone? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet or a spiritual person, he should recognize that what I am writing to you is a commandment of the Lord. 37 If anyone does not acknowledge this, he is not acknowledged. 39 So, [my] brothers, strive eagerly to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues, 40 but everything must be done properly and in order.

Paul is continuing to address problems within the liturgical assembly. In 11:4-5, Paul defended a woman's right to pray in the assembly, but in this passage, he deals with the problem of women taking an active role in the liturgy of worship. As the Church at Corinth began to attract more Gentile women, they may have expected to take on the same kinds of ministerial roles that women commanded in pagan worship served by priests as well as priestesses. In most cases of goddess worship, the ministers were predominately priestesses led by a high priestess. A role for women in the ministerial priesthood is not what Jesus established. Jesus did not establish a male priesthood because of cultural constraints. Jesus had women disciples who traveled with Him. For a Jewish Rabbi to have women disciples traveling with him was an unheard of practice in Jesus' time, but He demanded such a high standard of morality among His men disciples that women were protected in His service.

God is not constrained by customs of the times; He establishes customs and practices for all generations. Nor is Paul imposing his ideas on the Church. In other letters, he upholds the equality of women with men in service to Christ where he writes there is neither Jew nor Greek nor man nor woman to distinguish one Christian from another (Gal 3:28). All are equal members of the "priesthood of believers" (see CCC 784, 941, 1119, 1141, 1143, 1268, 1273, 1546-47, 1591). The ministerial priesthood, however, is a different matter for a very sound theological reason.

34 women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home.
Paul may be referring to Jewish ritual law or halakha. The Sinai Covenant limited the priesthood to men who were the descendants of Aaron (Ex 28:1; 40:11-15), and women were forbidden from participation in the rituals of worship in the Temple even if they could claim Aaronic descent. They were also separated from men, limited to the Court of the Women, and they could only approach the altar in the inner court if they came to offer a sacrifice. However, in the synagogues, women occupied the same space, but they sat on one side of the assembly room and men on the other.

In the New Covenant order, while women sit with men, Paul wants the community to understand that not everything has changed concerning the separate role of men and women in the liturgy of worship. He writes in verse 36: he should recognize that what I am writing to you is a commandment of the Lord. The ministerial priesthood still belongs to men according to what Christ established as the governing authority of the Church through the men who stand before the assembly of the faithful as His personal representatives to the people.

Question: What is Christ's relationship to the Church and what is His role in the liturgy of worship? How is God the Son's relationship to His Kingdom of the Church the same as God's relationship to Israel? See Ez 16:8-14; Hos 2:18, 21-22; Mt 9:15; Jn 3:29; Heb 7:26-28; 8:1-3; Rev 19:6-9; CCC 1539-41, 1544-48, 1551.
Answer: Christ is the Bridegroom, and the Church is the Bride. It is the same symbolic relationship as under the Old Sinai Covenant where Yahweh was Israel's divine Husband, and Israel was His chaste Bride. Jesus is also the High Priest of the liturgical assembly with His ordained priestly ministers standing as His representatives before the congregation as Christ, our High Priest, offers the sacrifice of Himself in the Eucharist.

Did the word of God go forth from you? Or has it come to you alone?
The answer to the two rhetorical questions is "No." They did not receive a separate word from God pertaining to women speaking in the assembly of worship, and they are not granted a right that the other faith communities do not have. The order of worship in the assembly comes from the hierarchy of the Church led by Peter and the Apostles who served as the Church's first Vicar and Magisterium.

According to Paul, women should not take part in the charismatic activity of speaking in tongues in the assembly (verses 14 and 34; 1 Tim 2:11-12), nor can they exercise authority over the congregation in the role of the ministerial priesthood. Their conduct should reflect the role as their husbands' supportive partners in life (Gen 2:18; 1 Tim 2:13) and as members of the congregation. With their husbands, they support the ministry of the priest who represents Christ the Bridegroom and High Priest of the sacred assembly who calls His spotless Bride to a sacred union with Him in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Women are equal members with men in the priesthood of believers as the Bride of Christ that is the community of the faithful. However, it is the ordained priest of the ministerial priesthood who stands in Persona Christi (in the Person of Christ) before the people. Paul's warning concerning women preaching is also probably formed by the knowledge of the role of women in pagan worship where female goddess and the priestesses were prevalent. Such a role for Christian women would upset the necessary symbolic imagery of Christ the Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride. It is the fulfillment of the imagery St. John witnesses in Christ's return to collect His Bride the Church in Revelation Chapter 19.

In conformity with his views in 1 Corinthians, Paul will write St. Timothy, A woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Further, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. But she will be saved through motherhood, provided women persevere in faith and love and holiness, with self-control (1 Tim 2:11-15). His point is that woman's primary role is to act as God's partner in perpetuating generations of believers until Christ returns. It is in saying "yes" to that partnership with God that she advances the cause of her salvation.

Also, keep in mind that in Paul's time the vast majority of women did not receive an education and could not read or write. The Catholic Church was the first institution to actively promote the education of women. Paul had a high regard for women. He mentions them in his letters and had women on his missionary teams. Most of the faith communities were in the homes of women like Chloe whose "household" send Paul the letter outlining problems at Corinth. In Paul's letter to the Romans, he names his friend Priscilla, who he affectionately calls Prisca, before her husband, and in his conclusion to the letter he names ten women, including Phoebe to whom Paul entrusted with the delivery of his letter.

Chapter 15: The Doctrine of the Resurrection

The flesh is the hinge of salvation.
Tertullian
(2nd century Roman Christian lawyer and priest remembered as the father of Catholic Apologetics)

Avoid profane, idle talk, for such people will become more and more godless, and their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have deviated from the truth by saying that the resurrection has already taken place and are upsetting the faith of some.
2 Timothy 2:16-17

As a consequence of original sin, humanity must suffer bodily death, from which man would have been immune if Adam hadn't sinned. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered physical death for us in submission to the will of God the Father. By His self-sacrificial death, He has conquered death and has restored to humanity the reunion of the immortal soul with an immortal and imperishable body at the end of time for both the righteous and the wicked who He will judge upon His return. The bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as Tertullian rightly wrote, is the hinge upon which humanity's salvation turns. To deny Jesus' bodily Resurrection and His promise to return to raise all the dead is to deny Christ.

Yahweh revealed His promise of the resurrection of the dead to His people progressively:

  1. He told Moses, Thus shall you say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you (Ex 3:15). God's personal relationship with the Patriarchs continued after their death and points to the promise of resurrection. In Jesus' time, the Pharisees believed in a future resurrection of the dead, but the Sadducees did not. Jesus quoted Exodus 3:15 to the Sadducees to refute their rejection of a bodily resurrection (Mk 12:26-27).
  2. By the time of the Judean Maccabees in the second century BC, there was a general belief in the future resurrection. Prior to their execution, the Maccabean martyrs confessed: ...the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws... It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the God-given hope of being restored to life by him ... (2 Mac 7:9, 14).
  3. Jesus linked faith in the resurrection of the dead to his own person when He said, "I am the resurrection and the life" (Jn 13:25). It is Jesus who will raise up to eternal glory on the last day those who have believed in him, who have been baptized in His name (Mk 16:16), and have recognized and consumed His glorified body and blood (Jn 5:24-25; 6:40, 54).

See CCC 988-1019.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 ~ Paul's Mission to Share the Gospel
1 I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the Gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. 2 Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I handed on to you as of first importance which I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; 4 that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; 5 that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living thought some have fallen asleep. 7 After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, not fit 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 has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Paul begins his exhortation on the doctrine of the resurrection by reminding the Corinthian Christian community of the "good news" of the Resurrection that he preached to them through which they are "being saved" so long as they remain faithful (see the same present perfect tense in 1:18).

The Greek Christians of Corinth were having difficulty accepting the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead because it was a concept with which the Greeks were completely unfamiliar. In 15:1-58, St. Paul gives a compelling argument supporting the bodily resurrection of Christ from the grave. Paul reminds them that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the core doctrine of Christian faith (verses 1-3, 12). It is the supreme argument in favor of the divine nature of Jesus and His God-ordained mission (proclaimed by Jesus Himself in, for example, Mt 16:21-28; 17:25-27; 20:17-19).

In verses 3-8, Paul tells the faith community of Corinth that he received his basic message directly from Jesus Christ, and he faithfully passed on the same message to them:

  1. Jesus died for our sins in accordance with what was prophesied in the Scriptures.
  2. Jesus was buried and laid in a grave as proof of His physical death.
  3. Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day "in accordance with the Scriptures" and appeared to many people as proof of the historical fact of His resurrection.

He states that Christ could not have died for sinners if he had been a sinner himself. That Jesus died for our sins "according to the Scriptures" is testimony to Jesus' sinlessness. He did not die the death of sin but of the body, and we became brothers and sisters through the work of Christ in His earthly life, death, and resurrection. St. John Chrysostom preached: "For we became brothers through the work of Christ in his earthly life and death. After all, what is the Gospel but the message that God became man, was crucified, and rose again? This is the same message that the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary, what the prophets preached to the world, and what all the apostles truthfully proclaimed" (Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, 38.2).

In writing that these events are "according with the Scriptures," Paul is referring to Old Testament passages that Jesus said were written about Him and foreshadowed the Resurrection event (see Lk 24:25-27 and 44-47). For example, see Jonah chapters 1-2 which Jesus referred to and applied to Himself in Matthew 12:39-40; Isaiah's Suffering Servant passages, Hosea 6:1-2 and Psalm 16:9-10 and 118, among others).

Then in verses 5-8, Paul lists those to whom the resurrected Christ appeared:

  1. Jesus appeared to St. Peter (Paul calls him "Cephas," the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic name Jesus gave him, "Kepha," in Greek "Petros," in English Peter).
  2. Jesus appeared to the other eleven Apostles (Paul still gives them the title "the Twelve" since by the time he has written this letter, there are again twelve with the election of Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot in Acts 1:21-26).
  3. Jesus appeared to five hundred other disciples some of whom are still alive.
  4. Jesus appeared to St. James who became Bishop of Jerusalem (not James Zebedee or James son of Alpheus because these are listed as Apostles).
  5. Jesus appeared to "all the other apostles" probably refers to the Emmaus disciples and the woman disciples.
  6. Finally, Jesus appeared to St. Paul (see the three accounts of Paul's conversion experience in Acts 9:1-19; 22:3-16 and 26:2-18).

In verses 8-11, Paul refers to his dramatic encounter with the risen Christ on the Damascus Road and his call to discipleship. It is a call he says he didn't deserve because he was a persecutor of Christians for the Jewish Sanhedrin (Acts 8:3; 9:1-2). Paul writes 9 For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. That he is the "least" probably refers to Paul's position as the last apostle directly chosen by Christ and not because he was inferior in any way to the others, which he clearly does not believe.

Paul testifies that it was the grace of God that forgave him for his past sins and made him fit to fulfill his mission as Christ's chosen instrument to call the Gentiles to salvation. It is the same grace that prepared the Old Testament prophets Moses and Isaiah as well as St. Peter for their missions. It is the same grace that prepares each of us to accept our call to discipleship and to carry forward our mission to share the Gospel of salvation. God will not call us without equipping us for success.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 ~ The Blessed Hope of Eternity
12 If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. 15 Then we are also false witnesses to God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised, 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all.

Some among the Christian community at Corinth have evidently been denying the promise of a bodily resurrection at the time of Christ's Second Coming. Paul answers these false claims with his argument in favor of a bodily resurrection at the end of the Age of Man and the inconsistencies and false logic of an argument against it. He forcefully defends the resurrection of Christ as an essential truth of Christian faith, and he states that by rising from the dead Christ completes God's work of redemption.

His basic argument is stated twice in verses 13 and 16. In verse 16 he writes: If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised... His point is if there is no such thing as a bodily resurrection, then it has not taken place even in the case of Jesus' bodily resurrection. His second point, in verses 17-19, points to the grave consequence of this denial in that unless Christ is raised bodily from the death, their faith does not save them, and they are condemned never to be bodily resurrected with Christ.

Question: What are St. Paul's indirect arguments supporting Christ's resurrection by pointing out what a bad situation we would be in if Jesus had not risen from the dead? See verses 14-19.
Answer: If Christ had not risen from the dead then:

  1. The Apostles would be false witnesses and their preaching invalid (verses 14-15).
  2. Our faith would be in vain since we would still be lost in sin (verse 17).
  3. Therefore, our hope of eternal life would be in vain (verses 18-19).

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 ~ Christ the Firstfruits of the Resurrection
20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. 22 For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall al be brought to life, 23 but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; 24 then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death, 27 for "he subjected everything under his feet." But when it says that everything has been subjected, it is clear that it excludes the one who subjected everything to him. 28 When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will [also] be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.

St. Paul concludes the argument he began in verses 12-19 in verse 20 with a triumphant assertion of the reality of Christ's bodily resurrection and the positive implications and consequences. He calls Christ the "firstfruits" of the resurrection. Under the Law, the first fruits harvested were the portion of the harvest offered in thanksgiving to the Lord and implied the consecration of the entire harvest that will follow (Lev 23:10-21; Dt 26:1-11). Christ's resurrection is not an end in itself. Its completion lies in the continuation of the whole harvest that is ourselves. At Christ's return, all humanity will arise bodily as the completion of the great human harvest in God's call to the Last Judgment that will end for the just in eternity with Christ in His heavenly kingdom (Mt 13:39b-43; 1 Thes 4:16; Rev 20:11-15).

Question: In verses 21-22, St. Paul draws a parallel between what two men?
Answer: He draws a parallel between the first man, Adam, who brought sin and death into the world (Gen 3:19b), and Jesus Christ, the new Adam who conquered death.

Through Christ "all will be made alive" because of Jesus' death on the Cross: For since death came through a human being [Adam], the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being [Christ]. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life... (verses 21-22).

Following St. Paul's link between Adam and Christ, the Fathers of the Church found a connection between Adam's side and Jesus' side, which was pierced by a spear in the crucifixion.1 The Gospel of St. John records that when a Roman soldier pierced Jesus' side with a lance blood and water came out (Jn 19:34). The Church Fathers interpreted the creation of woman from Adam's body in Genesis 2 (who was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh as Adam said in Gen 2:23) as a foreshadowing of the creation of the Church, which has always been personified as a woman. St. John Chrysostom wrote: "I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments, the Church is born ... As God then took a rib from Adam's side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way, Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death" (Baptismal Instruction, 3.17).

Question: In verse 26, who does Paul is the "last enemy"?
Answer: Paul writes that the "last enemy" is death.

Death is the ultimate enemy because of the effect of sin in the universe (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:56). Christ will defeat death that is the result of sin where it rules in our physical bodies. The destruction of death is concretely the "coming to life" (verse 22) of "those who belong to Christ" (verse 23).

27b "for he subjected everything under his feet." But when it says that everything has been subjected, it is clear that it excludes the one who subjected everything to him. 28 When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will [also] be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.
In verse 27, Paul refers to two Old Testament texts from Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 8:7:

 

28 When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will [also] be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.
Paul writes that when Christ's work is completed, He returns to the Father, submitting all His work of redemption into the hands of God the Father. In this statement, Paul erases any misunderstanding that Jesus is a God who is separate from God the Father. Sent by God the Father as a man, God the Son completes His mission by raising the dead and bringing them with himself to the Father, "so that God may be all in all."

The Resurrection of the dead will be the ultimate triumph of Jesus to whom God the Father gave all authority over the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Dan 7:13-14; Rev 19:16). The imagery Paul uses is like that of a king's son who conquers a distant kingdom for his kingly father and returns in triumph to present his victory to his father. In is his humanity, which He shares with human beings and creation, Jesus submits Himself to the Father so that the Father may glorify Him in His divinity that is equal to God the Father since they are One.

1 Corinthians 15:29-34 ~ Abuses of the Sacrament of Baptism and Practical Advice
29 Otherwise, what will people accomplish by having themselves baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, then why are they having themselves baptized for them? 30 Moreover, why are we endangering ourselves all the time? 31 Every day I face death; I swear it by the pride in you [brothers] that I have in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If at Ephesus I fought with beasts, so to speak, what benefit was it to me? If the dead are not raised: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." 33 Do not be led astray: "Bad company corrupts good morals." 34 Become sober as you ought and stop sinning. For some have no knowledge of God; I say this to your shame.

Apparently, some of the Corinthians are abusing the Sacrament of Baptism by offering themselves in a second baptism for dead relatives. Paul is not condoning the practice; he is condemning it. It is the misinterpretation of Paul's remarks that Mormons use in baptizing the dead.

Question: What is Paul's point concerning their practice of baptizing the dead?
Answer: Paul's point is not only is baptizing by proxy for the dead foolish, but if they don't believe in the bodily resurrection why do they bother to baptize the dead?

When Paul writes that every day he faces death, he may be speaking figuratively in that every day of our earthly lives is a step closer to physical death. Or his reference is literal (verse 32), and he is referring to enemies (beasts) who oppose him in Ephesus and want to kill him

Paul quotes from Isaiah 22:13b:"Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" and from the Greek dramatist Menander, "Bad company corrupts good morals."2 That Paul is familiar with Greek literary works suggests he may have received a classical Greek education as well as studying Sacred Scripture and Jewish traditions.
Question: What is Paul's point in quoting from Isaiah 33:13b, after which he urges the Corinthians to avoid sin that comes through keeping bad company? Read Is 22:12-13.
Answer: Like Isaiah, Paul urges the Corinthians Christians to repent their sins and to obey the Lord. If they, like the covenant people of Isaiah's time, continue to sin and develop a fatalist approach to life in refusing to repent and mend their ways, they too will face divine judgment.

Paul writes in verse 34 that those who do not fear the Lord and fail to repent have no real knowledge of God.

1 Corinthians 15:35-44 ~ The Manner of Resurrection
35 But someone may say, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?" 36 You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind; 38 but God gives it a body as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for human beings, another kind of flesh for animals, another kind of flesh for birds, and another kind for fish. 40 There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the brightness of heavenly is one kind and that of the earthly another. 41 The brightness of the sun is one kind, the brightness of the moon another, and the brightness of the stars another. For star differs from star in brightness. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. 43 It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If here is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.

In 15:35-58, Paul answers two questions concerning the resurrection:

  1. How will the resurrection take place? Verses 35-49
  2. What will be the condition of the resurrected body? Verses 50-58

Paul answers the questions in reverse order. First, he addresses the condition of the resurrected body and uses the example of the necessity of a seed "dying" and being buried in the earth for it to one day grow fruit. What is buried in the earth is far different from what it will become. This miracle of nature is a work of God in the same way God's work of grace in the human body will transform it into something different and better in the resurrection. In the same way an acorn is transformed into an oak but retains the identity nature gave it, our resurrected bodies will still be our own, and we will retain our personalities. We are ourselves, but we become the best of ourselves as God intended.

In Matthew 13:43, speaking about the condition of the righteous at the Last Judgment, Jesus said: Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. However, Paul writes just as there is a difference in brightness among the heavenly bodies, each risen body will differ in glory from the others.

Question: In verses 42-43, Paul makes what four contrasts concerning the resurrection of the dead?

Answer:

  1. That which is sown corruptible becomes incorruptible.
  2. That which is sown dishonorable is raised glorious.
  3. That which is sown weak is raided powerful.
  4. That which is sown natural is raised spiritual.

1 Corinthians 15:45-49 ~ Bearing the Image of Christ
45 So, too, it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living being," the last Adam a life-giving spirit. 46 But the spiritual was not first; rather the natural and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, earthly; the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly, and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.

Paul now quotes Genesis 2:7 from the Septuagint Greek translation. All the descendants of the "first Adam" have inherited his human nature in a body formed from the dust of the earth and destined to perish and return to dust (Gen 2:7). Jesus is the "new Adam." He took on human nature in a body that could be destroyed, but in His resurrection from the grave His divinity triumphed over His human nature. When He returns in glory, He will share His bodily resurrection with us in its perfection and immortality.

Commenting on verse 46, St. Augustine wrote: "It is called a spiritual body not because it has become a spirit but because it is in such a way subject to the spirit, to fit it for its heavenly abode. That every kind of earthly weakness and imperfection is changed into a heavenly permanence" (De fide et symbol, chapter 6).

In this present life, Christians are called to reflect the image of "the heavenly one" by reproducing the life of Christ in our lives. Having died to sin through the Sacrament of Baptism, the Christian has already been raised with Christ to a new life (Col 3:1-4). St. Paul writes that Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father that we too might walk in newness of life. Since the risen Christ shall never die again, we also must consider ourselves dead to sin so that we might live eternally with him in glory (cf. Rom 6:4-11 and 1 Thes 5:10).

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 ~ The Resurrection Event and A Hymn of Triumph Over Death

50 This I declare, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality. 54 And when this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about: "Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Now Paul turns to the first question: How will the resurrection take place. He gives a description of the resurrection event at Christ's return: Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. Paul uses the term "fall asleep" for death. It is only sleep because it is not a permanent death.

Question: Paul's description is similar to his description in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16. Comparing the two accounts, how does Paul describe the resurrection event?

Answer:

  1. A shout from the Lord and a trumpet call will announce Christ's sudden return from Heaven.
  2. The dead will arise first, and then those alive at Christ's coming will arise.
  3. The living and the dead will all be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord, and they will receive an incorruptible body.

Paul writes that death has been swallowed up in victory at the price of the death of the one who was sinless and who was able to condemn death to death (verse 54). In verses 54b-58, Paul offers a hymn of thanksgiving for our victory over death, quoting from Hosea 13:14 in verses 54b-55, "Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" He concludes his hymn in verses 56-57 by thanking God for the tremendous gift to mankind merited by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which comes from His victory over sin, death, and the devil.

In these verses, Paul summarizes his teaching on the connection between Mosaic Law, sin and death. Sin is the "sting" of death because death entered the world through the sin of Adam to do harm to all his descendants (see Rom 5:12). As humanity increased, sin grew. The Law of the Sinai Covenant (Law of Moses) defined sin, but it was incapable of providing the grace to enable man to avoid sin. In verse 58, St. Paul exhorts Christians to continue the fight by being "firm, steadfast, and devoted to the work of the Lord," and by knowing that our good deeds offered in a labor of love for the Lord are not in vain.

Chapter 16: Conclusion

 

1 Corinthians 16:1-4 ~ The Jerusalem Collection
1 Now in regard to the collection for the holy ones, you also should do as I ordered the churches of Galatia. 2 On the first day of the week each of you should set aside and save whatever he can afford, so that collections will not be going on when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I shall send those whom you have approved with letters of recommendation to take your gracious gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems fitting that I should go also, they will go with me.

The "holy ones" are the sanctified "saints" in training in the Corinthian community. The "first day of the week" is the New Covenant Sabbath; it is the "Day of the Lord," meaning the day of the Lord Jesus' resurrection. The Jewish Sabbath was the seventh day of the week, inaugurated on the seventh day of the Creation event (Gen 2:2-3). The New Covenant Lord's Day is the same day as the first day of the first Creation event and marks the commemoration of a new Creation in Christ Jesus.

This collection, gathered during the Sunday worship service, is for the Mother Church in Jerusalem. It is a very important symbolic gift for St. Paul because it represents the fruit of his labors among the Gentiles. If the date is 56 or 57, St. Peter has already established the headquarters of the Church in Rome. According to Bishop Eusebius' 4th century history of the Church, Peter was seven years in Antioch, Syria and then twenty-five years headquartered in Rome before his martyrdom in about 67 AD. The Christian communities in Rome are not poor like the church in Jerusalem where many widows and orphans rely on the church to feed and care for them (Acts 6:1). Paul's last trip to Jerusalem was to take the contribution from the Gentile Christians of Greece and Asia Minor as a gift of love to the Mother Church (Acts 24:14; Rom 15:25-32).

1 Corinthians 16:5-12 ~ Paul's Travel Plans and News of Other Ministers
5 I shall come to you after I pass through Macedonia (for I am going to pass through Macedonia), 6 and perhaps I shall stay or even spend the winter with you, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. 7 For I do not wish to see you now just in passing, but I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 I shall stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 because a door has opened for me wide and productive for work, but there are many opponents. 10 If Timothy comes, see that he is without fear in your company, for he is doing the work of the Lord just as I am. 11 Therefore, no one should disdain him. Rather, send him on his way in peace that he may come to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers. 12 Now in regard to our brother Apollos, I urged him strongly to go to you with the brothers, but it was not at all his will that he go now. He will go when he has an opportunity.

Verse 8 tells Paul wrote his letter from Ephesus on the coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). It seems he is spending Easter in Ephesus. He plans to stay there until the Feast of Pentecost in the late spring before traveling to northern Greece after which he plans to visit Corinth to gather contributions for the Mother Church before traveling to Jerusalem. The "brothers" Paul refers to are members of his missionary team. He is sending St. Timothy to them to correct the abuses he has mentioned in his letter.

Question: Who is Timothy? See Acts 16:1-3; 18:5; 19:22; 20:4; Rom 16:21; 1 Cor 4:17; 16:10-11; 2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1; 2:19-22; Col 1:1; 1 Thes 1:1; 3:2; 2 Thes 1:1; 1 Tim 1:3; 2 Tim 1:7; 2 Tim 1:7; Phlm 1
Answer: He is a beloved and trusted missionary companion of Paul. He was born at Lystra in Asia Minor, the son of a Jewish mother and Grandmother and a Greek father. He was the co-sender of six of Paul's letters and was the receiver of two of Paul's personal letters.

Question: Who is Apollos? Why do you think he declined to return to Corinth immediately? See Acts 18:24-28; 1 Cor 3:3-9; 4:6; Titus 3:13.
Answer: Apollos is the gifted orator from Alexandria befriended by Aquila and Priscilla. He taught the churches in Corinth and favorable impressed many. He declined the opportunity to return immediately probably because he wants to wait until there is a resolution to the problem with factions, and he does not want to increase the problem with his presence.

1 Corinthians 16:13-20 ~ Exhortation to the Community
13 Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. 14 Your every act should be done with love. 15 I urge you, brothers, you know that the household of Stephanas is the firstfruits of Achaia and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the holy ones, 16 be subordinate to such people and to everyone who works and toils with them. 17 I rejoice in the arrival of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, because they made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. So give recognition to such people. 19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca together with the church at their house send you many greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

Stephanas and his family (household includes children and slaves) were Paul's first converts in the Roman Province of Achaia (Greece). He is probably the one who brought the letter to Paul from Chloe's household in Corinth, and he, Fortunatus and Achaicus who came with him will probably return with Paul's letter.

Aquila and Pricilla are a married couple and Paul's good friends. Notice how Paul refers to Pricilla with an affectionate nickname. Aquila is originally from Pontus (Acts 18:2), but he and his wife lived in Rome until they left when Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews and Christians because of their disputes in 49 AD (Acts 18:2). Paul first met them in Corinth where they shared lodgings and worked together in the tent-making trade (Acts 18:2-3). They traveled with Paul to Ephesus where they helped in the evangelization effort, establishing a church home. It was probably there that they "risked their necks" to save Paul (Rom 16:4). After Claudius' assassination in 54 AD, the couple returned to Rome and Paul mentions them first in his greetings to the Roman Christians in Romans 16:3.

1 Corinthians 16:21-24 ~ Paul's Personal Greeting
I, Paul, write you this greeting in my own hand. 22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed. Marana tha. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus

Paul was dictating the letter to his personal scribe until this final section that Paul writes in his own hand. Paul pronounces a curse (literally, "anathema") against any who deny they owe their love and allegiance to Christ. The expression, also found in 12:3, is a formula for excommunication from the faith community. The Aramaic expression Marana tha, means "O Lord come!" and is a declaration of belief in the Resurrection and Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It was probably a declaration/plea used in early Christian liturgical worship services. If the letters are divided slightly differently, then the expression means "Our Lord has come" and becomes a declaration of faith. This interpretation is supported by what is a Greek equivalent of the acclamation in Revelation 22:20, "Amen, Maran atha," literally "Amen, our Lord has come, Jesus!" The word is only found in two places in the Bible: Revelation 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 16:22. Can you with confidence declare with all your heart and soul, "Amen Maranatha!"

Question for reflection or group discussion:
Did you notice that Paul is generous in giving credit to others who have a share in his ministry? He knows that he is not alone in his mission to share the Gospel of salvation. Then as now, it is teamwork that produces results. How can we foster that same spirit of teamwork in our faith communities?

Endnotes:

1. Genesis 2:21 specifies that God took "one of the tselaot (plural) from Adam." The plural form of the word implies that there were multiples of whatever a tsela (singular) was. That it was a bone can be deduced from Adam's description of the woman in Genesis 2:23 as "bone of my bone." Elsewhere in the Bible tsela designates a room or structure on the side of a building or a literal "side" as of a hill. The Greek Septuagint translates the Hebrew word tselaot/tsela as "ribs/rib." Paintings and mosaics of the crucifixion, especially in the Byzantine era, echo this interpretation. For example in the 11th century mosaic from the Church of the Dormition at Daphne, Greece, Christ's blood drips down on Adam's skull at the base of the cross. The water and blood from Jesus' side falls like an arrow in the direction of the Virgin Mary. Mary was called the "new Eve" from as early as the second century of the Church, and Mary was considered to personify the Church.

2. Menander was a famous and prolific Greek dramatist from Athens. He was born in 342 BC and died in 290 BC.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2017 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for this lesson (* indicated Scripture quoted in citation):

1 Cor 14:19, 34, 35 CCC 752* 1 Cor 15:26 CCC 1008*
1 Cor 15:3-5 CCC 186* 1 Cor 15:27-28 CCC 668*
1 Cor 15:3-4 CCC 639, 652* 1 Cor 15:28 CCC 1230, 294, 671, 674, 1050, 1060, 1130, 1326, 2550, 2804*
1 Cor 15:3 CCC 519, 601, 619, 624 1 Cor 15:35-50 CCC 646*
1 Cor 15:4-8 CCC 642* 1 Cor 15:35-37 CCC 999
1 Cor 15:4 CCC 627 1 Cor 15:42-44 CCC 1683*
1 Cor 15:5 CCC 552*, 641* 1 Cor 15:42 CCC 999, 1017*
1 Cor 15:7-8 CCC 857* 1 Cor 15:44-45 CCC 364*
1 Cor 15:8 CCC 659 1 Cor 15:44 CCC 999, 1017
1 Cor 15:9 CCC 752* 1 Cor 15:45 CCC 411*, 504*
1 Cor 15:12-14 CCC 991 1 Cor 15:47 CCC 504
1 Cor 15:12-13 CCC 996* 1 Cor 15:52-53 CCC 999
1 Cor 15:14 CCC 651 1 Cor 15:56 CCC 602*
1 Cor 15:20-22 CCC 655 1 Cor 16:1 CCC 752*, 823*, 1351*
1 Cor 15:20 CCC 632, 991 1 Cor 16:13 CCC 2849*
1 Cor 15:21-22 CCC 411* 1 Cor 16:15-16 CCC 1269
1 Cor 15:24-28 CCC 2855* 1 Cor 16:22 CCC 451, 671, 1130, 1403
1 Cor 15:24 CCC 668*