“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand.”
1 Corinthians 15:1
The true church has consistently testified to the power of the Resurrection.
Kenneth Scott Latourette observed in his History of the Expansion of Christianity: “It was the conviction of the resurrection of Jesus which lifted his followers out of the despair into which his death had cast them and which led to the perpetuation of a movement begun by him.”
This statement was true for the church at Corinth, even with its many problems. The apostle Paul opens his well–known chapter on the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 by implicitly affirming the Corinthians’ testimony to that doctrine. Simply by receiving the gospel and having their lives transformed, the believers at Corinth demonstrated the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. And that resurrection is what empowered the gospel. Paul did not need to explicitly remind the Corinthians of Christ’s rising to life until verse 4, “He was raised on the third day.” The apostle was confident at the outset that the Corinthians had already believed in the truth of the Lord’s resurrection.
The fact that the Corinthian church continued to exist, though beset with problems of immaturity and other weaknesses, was a solid witness to the power of the gospel of the risen Christ. Only a living Savior could have converted some of the hardened sinners of Corinth—extortioners, idolaters, the sexually immoral—into a community of the redeemed. Paul was concerned and distressed about many of the things that did and did not happen in the church at Corinth, but he did not hesitate to call the core group of members there “brethren.”
In spite of many challenges from skepticism, persecution, heresy, and unfaithfulness, the church through the centuries has continued to testify to the reality of Christ’s resurrection. The true church celebrates that truth often, not just on Easter Sunday. Actually, because the church gathers on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (when Jesus rose), we remember the Resurrection every week. Praise the Lord for that reminder the next time you worship on the Lord’s Day.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God that His church was faithful in the past to testify to the truth of the Resurrection.
For Further Study: Read Acts 4, and list some things that suggest a testimony to the power of the Resurrection.
The Testimony of the Church
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (15:1–2)
The first testimony is not stated explicitly but is implied. The very fact that the Corinthian Christians themselves, and all other Christians everywhere, had received the gospel and believed in Jesus Christ and had been miraculously changed, was in itself a strong evidence of the power of the gospel, which power is in the resurrection of Christ.
By addressing them again as brethren (cf. 1:10; 2:1; 3:1; 10:1; etc.) Paul assures those to whom he writes that he recognizes them to be fellow Christians. The term not only expresses his spiritual identity with them but also his love (cf. 15:58).
The apostle tells them that what he is about to say is nothing new to them, but is simply the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received. Not until verses 3–4 does he specify what the heart of the gospel is: “that Christ died for our sins … and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day.” The point of the first two verses is that the Corinthian believers were themselves living evidence that this doctrine was true. The fact that they came out of the spiritual blindness and deadness of Judaism or paganism and into the light and life of Christ testified to the power of the gospel, and therefore to the power of the resurrection. It also testified that they already believed in the truth of Christ’s resurrection. It was the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that Paul had preached to them, that they had received, and in which he assures them they now stand and by which they are saved, delivered from sin’s power and condemnation. Because of the reality of Christ’s resurrection and of their trust in it, they were now a part of His church and thereby were evidence of the power of that resurrection.
Paul’s qualifying phrase—if hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain—does not teach that true believers are in danger of losing their salvation, but it is a warning against non–saving faith. So a clearer rendering would be, “… if you hold fast what I preached to you, unless your faith is worthless or unless you believed without effect.” The Corinthians’ holding fast to what Paul had preached (see 11:2) was the result of and an evidence of their genuine salvation, just as their salvation and new life were an evidence of the power of Christ’s resurrection. It must be recognized, however, that some lacked the true saving faith, and thus did not continue to obey the Word of God.
Paul’s teaching about the security of believers was unambiguous. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Rom. 8:29–30; cf. vv. 35–39; 5:9–10; 9:23; 1 Cor. 2:7; etc.). It is only by God’s power that we are saved and only by His power that we are kept saved. Our salvation is kept by Christ’s holding us fast, not primarily by our holding Him fast. Our holding onto Him is evidence that He is holding onto us.
A professing Christian who holds to orthodox doctrine and living and then fully rejects it proves that his salvation was never real. He is able to let go of the things of God because he is doing the holding. He does not belong to God and therefore God’s power cannot keep him. Such a person does not hold fast the word because his faith is in vain. It was never real. He cannot hold fast because he is not held fast.
Our Lord repeatedly spoke of sham believers who had useless, non–saving faith. The parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1–23) tells us that some of the seeds of the gospel fall on shallow or weedy soil, and that tares often look like wheat, but are not (13:24–30, 34–43). Jesus spoke of many kinds of fish being caught in the same net, with the good being kept and the bad being thrown away (13:47–50). He spoke of houses without foundations (7:24–27), virgins without oil for their lamps, and servants who wasted their talents and so were “cast out” (25:1–30). He warned of gates and paths that seem right, but that lead to destruction (7:13–14).
Some of the Corinthians apparently had intellectually and/or outwardly acknowledged Jesus’ lordship, savior-hood, and resurrection, but had not trusted in Him or committed themselves to Him. They believed only as the demons believe (James 2:19). They acknowledged Christ, but they had not received Him, did not stand in Him, were not saved by Him, and did not hold fast to His word, which Paul had preached to them. As Jesus made clear in the illustrations just cited above, many people make positive responses of one sort or another to the gospel, but only genuine faith in Jesus Christ results in salvation.
Many people have useless faith. “Many” will say, “Lord, Lord,” in the day of judgment, but be excluded because of their empty, sham faith (Matt. 7:22–23; 25:11–12). Those who forsake Christ and His church prove that they never really belonged to Him or to His true Body (cf. 1 John 2:19). It is those who “abide in My word,” Jesus said, those who hold fast the word, who “are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31; cf. 2 Cor. 13:5; 2 John 9). The truly justified and righteous not only are saved by faith but continue to “live by faith” (Heb. 10:38). Obedience and continuous faithfulness mark the redeemed.
The fact that, despite their great immaturity and many weaknesses, the Corinthian church even continued to exist was a strong testimony to the power of the gospel. Who but the risen, living Christ could have taken extortioners, thieves, adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, liars, idolaters, and such thoroughly worldly pagans and transformed them into a community of the redeemed? Despite their shortcomings and failures, and despite the presence of false followers in their assembly, Christ lived in and through the true saints. Paul was ashamed of much of what they did and did not do, but he was not ashamed to call them brethren.
Though it is largely a subjective proof, the endurance of the church of Jesus Christ through 2,000 years is evidence of His resurrection reality. His church and His Word have survived skepticism, persecution, heresy, unfaithfulness, and disobedience. Critics have denounced the resurrection as a hoax and fabrication, but have never explained the power of such a fabrication to produce men and women who gave up everything, including their freedom and lives when necessary, to love and to follow a dead Lord! His living church is evidence that Christ Himself is alive; and He could be alive only if He had been raised from the dead.
H. D. A. Major, former principal of Ripon. Hall, Oxford, has written,
Had the crucifixion of Jesus ended his disciples’ experience of Him, it is hard to see how the Christian Church could have come into existence. That Church was rounded on faith in the Messiahship of Jesus. A crucified Messiah was no Messiah at all. He was one rejected by Judaism and accursed of God It was the Resurrection of Jesus, as St. Paul declares in Rom. 14, which proclaimed Him to be the Son of God with power (The Mission and Message of Jesus [New York: Dutton, 1946], p. 213).
Church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette wrote in History of the Expansion of Christianity,
It was the conviction of the resurrection of Jesus which lifted his followers out of the despair into which his death had cast them and which led to the perpetuation of the movement begun by him. But for their profound belief that the crucified had risen from the dead and they had seen him and talked with him, the death of Jesus and even Jesus himself would probably have been all but forgotten (vol. 1 [New York: Harper & Row, 1970], p. 59).
A follower of Buddha writes of that religious leader, “When Buddha died it was with that utter passing away in which nothing whatever remains.” Mohammed died at Medina on June 8,632, at the the age of 61, and his tomb there is visited yearly by tens of thousands of Muslims. But they come to mourn his death, not to celebrate his resurrection. Yet the church of Jesus Christ, not just on Easter Sunday but at every service of immersion baptism, celebrates the victory of her Lord over death and the grave.
15:1, 2 Paul reminds them of the good news which he had preached to them, which they had received, and in which they now stood. This was not a new doctrine for the Corinthians, but it was necessary that they should be reminded of it at this critical time. It was this gospel by which the Corinthians had been saved. Then Paul adds the words if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. It was by the gospel of the resurrection that they had been saved—unless, of course, there was no such thing as resurrection, in which case they could not have been saved at all. The if in this passage does not express any doubt as to their salvation, nor does it teach that they were saved by holding fast. Rather, Paul is simply stating that if there is no such thing as resurrection, then they weren’t saved at all. In other words, those who denied bodily resurrection were launching a frontal attack on the whole truth of the gospel. To Paul, the resurrection was fundamental. Without it there was no Christianity. Thus this verse is a challenge to the Corinthians to hold fast the gospel which they had received in the face of the attacks which were currently being made against it.
1 There is no peri de here (see Overview, 7:1–40), which more or less seals the fact that Paul is now responding to an issue that some visitors from Corinth have reported to him. As with some of the other topics dealt with in this letter, he starts answering the problem even before he defines it in v. 12. (Cf. a similar pattern in the discussion on eating sacrificed food in idol temples in chs. 8–10 and the problem about the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues and prophecy in chs. 12–14.)
Paul begins by telling the Corinthians that he is going to review for them the basic message of “the gospel” (euangelion, GK 2295). This is the good news that the apostle himself preached to them when he lived among them for eighteen months (Ac 18:1–18). It is the gospel that they eagerly accepted from him and on which they have taken their stand.
 MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 398–401). Chicago: Moody Press.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1803–1804). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 391). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.