For an introduction to this series, click here.
I know I am not going to be able to cover this whole chapter in one sitting. It might take three.
First of all Paul defines the Gospel and explains his role in the church and how he became an apostle:
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed." (15:3-11)
Paul was always troubled by his past, or at least it seems to me. It seems he always brought up the fact that he persecuted the church when describing himself. It's good to know that he was human just like we are.
Apparently there were some in the Corinthian church who questioned the resurrection of the dead. Paul is very insistent that you cannot be a Christian if you do not believe in the resurrection:
"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." (15:13-19, ESV)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central fact of the Christian faith. If Jesus did rise rise from the dead, then Christianity is meaningless. God would be a liar.
Not only that, but I want to spend some time on that last verse. Paul said that if Christianity was just a nice thing that people do, then it is worthless, and there is no point in messing with it. That is not the mindset of most people now. Most Christians believe the exact opposite today. They think that Christianity enhances their lives now, and heaven is just a bonus. That is not the attitude Paul had. Paul said my life is miserable here: I get thrown in jail, beaten, traveling by foot all over the Near East and Eastern Europe (you try walking from Jerusalem to Corinth), and for what? The hope of eternal life with the Lord Jesus. Paul was not sidetracked by seeking "his best life now," with apologies to Joel Osteen. He saw that the most important thing was seeking to be rewarded in heaven.
I think I will divide this in three. I had a bad night last night and I am trying to catch up.