In the Sunday school class I teach we are studying 1 Corinthians. As I work my way through chapter 15, I have become more and more impressed on how Paul’s treatise on the message of the gospel and the doctrine of the resurrection is in fact the climax and major theme of the epistle. Paul addresses several problems in the church in chapters 1-6 and then in chapters 7-16 addresses questions they had asked of the apostle. What becomes clear is that much of their disunity flowed out of bad theology. They had misunderstood the message and ministry of the gospel (1:18-4:21) and it led to factions in the church. The church was preoccupied with all kinds of things except what was essential to right faith and practice. Their misunderstanding of the gospel manifested itself by failing to see the ramifications of the doctrine of the resurrection which some in Corinth were denying. Paul corrects their deficiencies of the nature of the gospel when he unpacks 15:1-4 in the rest of the chapter. Paul made known to them the gospel by declaring that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, he was buried, and was raised from the dead three days later, according to the scriptures. He then demonstrated the folly of what was at stake if there was no resurrection, namely, that Christ therefore was not raised and that they were still in their sins.
One might wonder if the doctrine of the resurrection was so essential to his message, why did Paul wait so long to introduce it. Today I read Calvin’s commentary on chapter 15. He wrote, “Paul did not wish to introduce a subject of such importance, until he had asserted his authority, which had been considerably lessoned among the Corinthians, and until he had, by repressing their pride, prepared them for listening to him with docility.”