Paul and Resurrection

by Donald Webb

We are going to find an interesting relationship between the Paul's presentation of resurrection in the book of Acts and his presentation of resurrection and his Epistles. The one thing to keep in mind about Paul's Acts ministry is that as Luke recorded the events in the book of Acts he did so with a view to the apostasy or the unbelief of the nation Israel. That is primarily with the book of Acts says from beginning to end-fell account of the fall and setting aside of Israel. Everything Luke recorded, including he is a record of Paul's Ministry in Acts, was related to the fall of Israel.

Paul's Ministry as recorded in and the book of Acts was not to minister the kingdom program to the nation Israel to warn them of their and their impending blindness and to announce to them that God had sent salvation to the Gentiles under a new dispensation. We learn of Paul's Apostleship and message primarily from his Epistles, many of which were written in the Acts period. Paul definitely had a ministry to the the Jews during the Acts period, but it was not to offer them the kingdom but rather to warn them and provoke them to jealousy with the message of grace.

This is the explanation for Paul's presentation of resurrection in the book of Acts. Five separate times Paul directly referred to resurrection in the book of Acts, and one time he indirectly referred to it, giving him more references than Peter! Yet, Paul was not offering the kingdom to the Jews. He was testifying that Christ's resurrection had indeed taken place and that resurrection was the proper hope of this unbelieving nation. He preached this because that is where he had to start with the Jewish audience before going on to the truth of the message of grace.

Paul's apostleship was indeed to proclaim the gospel of grace and justification by faith to all men without distinction. But as he came to the various cities, he was also to warn and provoke the Jews. Therefore, he began with them the way he had to-preaching first Christ and his resurrection as the basis of Israel's hope. This was the first step they needed to take in preparation to hear that further truth that Paul was sent to proclaim.

Considering the reason that Luke recorded the events in the book of Acts, we would expect to see mostly accounts of Paul addressing the Jews by the first generally referring to Christ's resurrection as their hope. This is exactly what Luke recorded.

In Paul's Epistles we want to notice a completely different resurrection, which is for believers, members of the body of Christ. The two primary chapters in the Pauline Epistles on this subject are 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. Both of these passages deal with an event that involves resurrection, but this event and resurrection are unique to this dispensation of grace. ... But in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul deals extensively with the specific resurrection of the body of Christ. We call this resurrection the rapture.

Through Peter, Christ's resurrection was viewed as it related to Israel's hope of resurrection and in the millennium. But in Paul's Epistles Christ's resurrection is viewed as it relates to this secret program for the church, the body of Christ, and our resurrection into the heavenlies. That is precisely why in this chapter Paul can refer to the resurrection as a prophetic event and yet relate it to our secret hope by calling it a mystery.

As we approach this chapter we noticed that there was a particular problem which Paul addressed. The Corinthians were a very problematic group that Paul had to rebuke for many problems. But the particular error dealt with in this chapter was one that was perhaps their most serious doctrinally.

Having accepted the gospel through Paul's preaching, they had to come to the point where some of them were denying the resurrection. We can understand how some believers might develop problems in certain areas and failed to act as they should. We can even see how some might have problems with the failure to rightly divide the word as they should. But for a group of grace believers that have been saved under the ministry of Paul to deny it truth of resurrection-is it possible? Can that actually happen? Indeed, it can, and it did!

This should cause us to realize the danger of not accurately teaching and standing for the fundamental truth of the word of God, rightly divided! It is no wonder that Paul tells us to guard the unity othe Spirit in the bond of peace. Can the leaders who have embraced the grace message today actually come to the place where they will begin to deny such fundamental truth as the resurrection? The Corinthians were living proof that it could happen, and therefore, we need to be faithful to stand for the truth and rebuke those who let the great truths of God's word slip from their grasp.

Paul opened chapter 15 by declaring that gospel which he had preached unto them and which they had received. They had actually embraced these very truths of which resurrection was so important and in which they now stood.

By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory of what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (1 Corinthians15:2).

This salvation is not soul salvation. Here in says they are saved, "... If ye keep in memory what I preached on to you. . . " The salvation of our souls it is not dependent upon our memories of the gospel but upon of the faithfulness of Christ and the promise of God. What Paul was talking about here was their salvation (deliverance) from error or false doctrine. By keeping in mind the truth they had been taught and which they have also received, they would be saved or preserved from going astray as to doctrinal truth.

Paul then actually reviewed for them the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. This, of course, was according to the scriptures and meant that Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection were not the mystery (secret) of which Paul was made the minister. But as Christ is preached according to the revelation of the mystery, the cross becomes the center of the gospel of grace which concerns a secret calling and dispensation.

Paul then gave specific proof and documentation that Christ was seen of a great number of brethren after his resurrection. Finally, Paul brought the issue home to these Corinthians by saying:

And last fall he was seen as me also, as of one born out to due time (1Corinthians 15:8).

This significance of Paul's being born out of due time (Greek, aborted) and being the last one to see the Lord is very important to the Corinthians; it was by Paul's that they had received the gospel of grace. Paul represented such a contrast from his life as a prosecutor of Christ to the Apostle of his grace that they had to agree that it was the reason Christ who had made this change-both in him and in them!

Paul contrasted when he was in verse 9 with what he is now in verse 10, and the resurrection of the Lord was all that could account for the miracle of Paul's conversion and ministry. Thus, the meaning of Paul's been "born out of due time" had to do with God aborting him from a path of rebellion and destruction that would have only lead to judgment-for both him and the nation of Israel. The "due time" was that of judgment, and Paul's salvation represented God intervening with the dispensation of grace. Thus, the Corinthians knew well the resurrection of Christ and all its wonderful significance. Having reviewed all these facts for them, Paul "lowered the boom":

Now If Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say among you that there is no resurrection of the dead-(1 Corinthians 15:12).

What an indictment! They had absolutely no response except to acknowledge they had erred concerning the truth.

1 Corinthians 15 is the most comprehensive treatise in the word of God on the subject of resurrection. And the rest of the chapter Paul looked at the ramifications of resurrection. The structure of this chapter as a whole concerns the subject of resurrection in light of the mystery:

There are many areas here worthy of study, but we want to make careful note of the fact that for us as members of the body of Christ resurrection is directly related to the revelation of the mystery:

Behold I shall you a mystery: We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52)

The important thing to see is that Paul said "behold I show you a mystery" he was not using this term mystery loosely. He was obviously not referring to the general truth of resurrection in the statement because ... the resurrection of Christ and resurrection of men in general were foretold in prophecy. But what was not foretold in prophecy was the special resurrection for the body of Christ. This is that unprophesied resurrection, the secret resurrection which it is the exclusive hope of the body of Christ, something not revealed to men of other ages.

Just as the revelation of the mystery concerning God's special purpose to build the body of Christ was not revealed before Paul, so the truth of the resurrection of this body was also a secret never before made known. That is exactly why Paul could say " I show you a mystery." This was a secret! It was something about which the 12 Apostles and all of the prophets before them knew nothing! It was not their hope, but it was specifically the hope of the church, the body of Christ.

The resurrection of Christ was no mystery, but the preaching of Christ raised from the dead according to Paul's gospel certainly was (Romans 16:25; 2Timothy 2:8)! Israel looked to the resurrection of Christ prophetically as the hope of the resurrection into the kingdom at Christ's second coming.

We as members of the body of Christ look to the resurrection of Christ according to the secret purpose revealed through Paul. The hope of our resurrection is to go to glory His secret coming , which is before his second coming for Israel! Our resurrection is before the prophetic program resumes for the nation of Israel. Their prophetic program starts again with the Great tribulation, which is part of Israel's day of the Lord.

From: Basic Bible Doctrines
Written by: Donald Webb
Published by: Day of Grace Ministries
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West Lafayette, IN 47906-8004