Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: I wish we had more time!  We could take a week to study 1 Corinthians 15, but we have a little less than an hour, so let’s get moving on the topic of our eternal destiny!


     A.  Did you forget something important this week?  What do you use to help you to remember things?

          1. Are you more likely to forget little things than big things?  Or are you an “equal opportunity” “forgetter?”

          2. What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you because you forgot something?

     B. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Have the Corinthians forgotten something? (Paul says he wants “to remind” them.)

          1. What have
they forgotten?

     C. Paul says it is the “gospel” that may have slipped their mind.  Of the things that can slip your mind, where does the gospel rank as to importance? (Verse 3: “first importance.” Nothing is more important to remember than the gospel.)

          1. Why? (It is a matter of life and death (v.2 “you are saved”). Otherwise all of your “Christian” beliefs are held “in vain.” (v.2))

     D. If the Corinthians forgot something, they needed to be reminded. Remind me what Paul says constitutes the gospel of “first importance?”

          (1. Christ died
for our sins (v.3);

           2. He was
buried (v.4); and,

           3. He was
raised on the third day (v.4).)

     E. Do you really think the Corinthians “forgot” this, like you might forget to buy ketchup? (Think this is more like you might say to your children, “Have you forgotten the rule about picking up your clothes?”) 1. Staying with the analogy to children for just a minute, sometimes you “remind” your children of a rule that they never agreed they would follow. Is this a situation in which the Corinthians at one time had “bought into” the gospel? (Yes. v.1 “on which you have taken your stand.” Paul is saying, “You heard it, you accepted it, and now you seem to be forgetting it!)

     F. Did you notice that Paul ties the “events” of the gospel to “as the Scriptures said” (v.3) and “as the prophets foretold” (v.4). He also tells us in vv. 5-8 (which I will not read) all the people who saw Jesus after He arose from the grave.

          1. Why does Paul do that? (Paul approaches this like a lawyer.  In any litigation you have to deal with the “facts” and the “law.” You lose unless you are “right” on both of them.  In Paul’s “argument” he first tells us that the topic is of first importance, and then he explains why his view of the “facts” is absolutely accurate.  It was not only foretold, it has literally hundreds of eye witnesses — including him!  These people once accepted this truth, but now Paul feels the need to “reconvince” them of the point. What we really want to look at is his “law argument,” so let’s move on to that now.)


     A. Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.  After reading this, what do you think caused Paul to suggest that the Corinthians had forgotten the gospel? (Belief in the resurrection is a central point of the gospel.)

     B. What does Paul say (v.12) is the argument made by “the other side” on this issue? (There is (v.12) no “resurrection from the dead.”  Apparently some were concluding, as a theological matter, there was no resurrection.)

     C. Paul says this “no resurrection” theological/legal argument has enormous practical consequences for the gospel and our faith.  What are the logical consequences that Paul describes in these verses? Let’s set this up as a series of “If/then” statements.  Identify, so I can put them on the blackboard, all the “If/then” statements made by Paul in these verses:

(IF there is no resurrection of the dead,

THEN Christ was not raised from the dead.

IF Christ was not raised from the dead,

THEN your witness and your faith are worthless.

IF Christ was not raised from the dead,

THEN we are a bunch of false witnesses.

IF Christ was not raised from the dead,

THEN your sins are not forgiven!

IF Christ was not raised from the dead,

THEN your friends who have died are lost (and, come
to think of it, so are you!))

     D. As you look over these “If/Then” statements made by Paul, do you agree with the logic of each?  Does each one logically follow?
  1. Have you ever said that the Christian life is worthwhile even if it turns out we are wrong about who Jesus is?

a. Would Paul agree? (No. When Paul says (vv.14&17) your faith is “futile” or “useless,” he means your faith in what Jesus has and will do for you.  That does not undercut the superior lifestyle argument. However, when he says (v.19) that if we are wrong we are to be “pitied,” he is saying much more. Perhaps we do not see the “downside” of false faith because we have not completely given up the world. Perhaps we are doing what we would do anyway, and we just slap the label “Christian” on ourselves to make us feel better. Notice v.32. Fighting wild beasts (Christians thrown to the lions) is the ultimate in being unselfish: giving up your life. Living for the moment and ignoring others (“Let us each and drink, for tomorrow we die”) is the ultimate selfishness.  The more unselfish you are, the more pitiful your life if your faith is a false hope.)

     E. Read 1 Corinthians 15:20-26.

          1. What does
Adam have to do with this?

a. Does your answer have anything to do with calling Jesus (v.20) a “firstfruit?” (A “firstfruit” conveys the idea of more coming. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, they were the first of many sinners.  Jesus is the first of many who are saved.)

b. Because all became sinners “automatically” became sinful through Adam, are all “automatically” saved through Jesus? (Note v.23 says that the group of those Jesus saves are “those who belong to Him.”) (1) Do you belong because of what He did or because of what you did? (You are eligible to belong because of what He did. But I think the parallel (plus the reference to (v.25) “enemies”) infers that we must chose Him to be saved. It is not “automatic” and not all men
will be saved.)

c. Is there more than one “firstfruit?”

     F. Notice the timing of what is described in v.23. How does this impact on those who suggest that we go to heaven before the resurrection? (It sets up a clear order. First Jesus arose and went to heaven, then the rest of the “firstfruits,” then “when He comes” the rest.)

          1. Does v.23 create a problem for those who suggest that no one goes to heaven until a final general resurrection? (This tells us that there are “firstfruits” in addition to Christ.)

a. Do you know of any? (Moses, Jude 1:9, Matthew 17:3-4; Those raised at Jesus’ resurrection, Matthew 27:52-53)



     A. Read 1 Corinthians 15:35. I have a general rule to never watch horror movies, but some movie comes on the various TV channels from time to time that has dead people walking around. I think, but am not certain, it is a “cult” film called “Night of the Living Dead.” Am I right about that? In any event, that film creates the picture that is at the heart of this verse. What question do the Corinthians ask Paul about this “resurrection idea?” (Part of the attack on the “resurrection idea” was apparently the argument that the person resurrected would come out of the ground in his same old worn out body. Sort of stagger about like “the living dead.”)

     B. Read 1 Corinthians 15:36-44. What illustration does Paul use to teach us what kind of a “resurrection body” we will have? (Seed.(v.37))

          1. Does the seed process make any sense? Can you explain how part of a dead plant becomes a new, healthy plant? (Maybe somebody can, but I think I’m in the same boat as the Corinthians!  We have no clue how this happens.  But the fact that this improbable miracle happens all the time is Paul’s strongest practical argument that something like this (the resurrection) will happen to those who believe.)

          2. Why does Paul talk about the sun, moon and stars and their “bodies” (v.40-41)

a. Do you understand his point?  What relevance do the stars have to our bodies? (This is a very exciting idea. Paul seems to say that we now have a “perishable body” (v.42), but the body that is raised will be a body like the sun, moon and stars! (vv. 41-42) We go from a perishable body of flesh, to a “splendid” body like the stars!  We will have “star-power!”  How do you like that idea?)

     C. Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-57. When will we be changed? (v.52 — “the last trump.”  Can the idea that we have a conscious “spirit” that goes to heaven at our death be squared with this text?  If I suddenly transformed into a spirit, that would be a very big change for me.  If you agree this is a big change for you too, the idea of becoming a spirit at death means the change takes place before the “last trump.” This says the change is at the “last trump” — the second coming.)

          1. Is the “spirit” perishable or imperishable? (An immortal spirit is obviously imperishable.)

          2. Is your body perishable or imperishable? (Mine seems very perishable lately.  I drive one of the world’s biggest, heaviest cars (in part) for safety’s sake, yet this week I was nearly run over by an impatient driver while I was walking across my street!  Dying that way would be ironic!)

a. What does v.53 tell us takes on imperishability and immortality? (The perishable and the mortal! This does not “fit” the idea that an immortal spirit takes on (a formerly) perishable body. Instead, Paul seems to teach that our mortal body takes on immortality at the second coming.)

b.  The great majority of Christians believe that an immortal spirit (soul) leaves the body at death and goes to heaven (or somewhere a little warmer). Nelson’s Bible Dictionary (see, “resurrection”) affirms that this “spirit/body” dichotomy is an idea out of Greek philosophy and not the Old Testament.  The evidence of the Bible is that Christ had a bodily resurrection without His “spirit” going to heaven. (John 20:17 (“I have not yet returned to the Father.”)) Since those grieving are comforted by the idea that a loved one has gone to heaven, and since the Bible give us evidence that God has resurrected “first fruits” prior to the general resurrection, I refrain from arrogantly suggesting a specific location for a “departed” loved one.  Maybe they are one of the few heroes of faith (like Moses) who get “collected” (body and all) by God prior to the general resurrection.)

     D. For those of us not in the “Moses” class, what gives us comfort about our future after death? (v.57 — Praise God, He has defeated death and will give us everlasting life.  Whether my everlasting life starts shortly after death or at the second coming, the “sting” of death is gone. Whatever the timing friend, Jesus offers you and me the opportunity to live forever: as immortal stars!  Will you accept His offer?)

IV. NEXT WEEK: Praise and Promises.  We wrap up our study of 1

Corinthians! Whether my everlasting life starts shortly after death or at the second coming, the “sting” of death is gone. Whatever the timing friend, Jesus offers you and me the opportunity to live forever: as immortal stars!  Will you accept His offer?)

IV. NEXT WEEK: Praise and Promises.  We wrap up our study of 1