1 Corinthians 15–16

“Lesson 40: 1 Corinthians 15–16,” New Testament Teacher Manual (2018)

Introduction and Timeline

It had been reported to Paul that some individuals in Corinth were teaching that there was no Resurrection of the dead (see 1 Corinthians 15:12). As one of the many eyewitnesses of the risen Lord, the Apostle Paul clearly and powerfully taught the Corinthian branch about the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and of all mankind. Since the epistles to the Corinthians were likely written before any of the Gospel narratives, Paul’s references to the final events of the Savior’s life and to His Resurrection (as found in 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; 15:3–8) are probably the earliest accounts of these events recorded in the New Testament.

Paul explained that the practice of baptism for the dead would have little meaning if there were no Resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15:29, 55–57). Paul also taught that there are three kingdoms of glory, which he compared to the sun, moon, and stars (see 1 Corinthians 15:40–41). As Paul concluded his epistle, he encouraged the members in Corinth to collect a generous donation to send to the poor Saints in Jerusalem (see 1 Corinthians 16:1). He also encouraged the spiritually faltering Corinthian Saints to “stand fast in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

New Testament Student Manual : Religion 211-212

Chapter Overviews

1 Corinthians 15

The reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was established by many witnesses, including the Apostle Paul. The Resurrection of all humankind is made possible through the Lord’s Resurrection. The practice of baptism for the dead affirms that there will be a Resurrection. Resurrected bodies are glorified, incorruptible bodies, and they vary in their degree of glory. The sting of death is overcome through Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 16

Paul encouraged Church members to be generous as he collected donations for the poor in Jerusalem. He reminded the Saints to be spiritually strong and to do all things with charity.

Suggestions for Teaching

1 Corinthians 15:1–34

The Reality of the Resurrection

On the board, write the following:

“The fundamental principles of our religion are .”

Invite a few short responses from the class. After several students have responded, display the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44):

Brother Joseph

“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 49).

Ask class members to briefly share their ideas about why the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection are the fundamental principles of our religion.

To help students understand why these events are fundamental to all other gospel doctrines, ask the following:

  • How are all other gospel doctrines only appendages to the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

  • Think of a particular gospel doctrine. How do the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ give meaning to this doctrine?

Help students understand the context of 1 Corinthians 15 by having students identify in 1 Corinthians 15:12 a challenge that faced members of the Church in Corinth. (Some members in Corinth were preaching that there would be no Resurrection.)

Invite your students to silently read 1 Corinthians 15:1–5, looking for the main points about Jesus Christ that Paul taught the Corinthian Saints. (Christ died for our sins, as prophesied in the scriptures; Christ was buried, and He rose again on the third day; the resurrected Christ was seen by witnesses.) As students respond, summarize their answers on the board.

Ask the class to look for similarities between Paul’s teachings in verses 1–5 and the statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Have students share their observations.

Call on a student to read aloud 1 Corinthians 15:5–9, while the class looks for evidence that establishes the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Ask students the following questions:

  • According to these verses, what evidence do we have that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?

  • Why do the testimonies of these witnesses continue to be relevant for us today? (They were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus Christ.)

  • As recorded in the scriptures, who else has seen the resurrected Savior and is therefore a witness of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? (Mary Magdalene, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the Nephites, Joseph Smith, and others.)

Invite class members to read 1 Corinthians 15:8–11, searching for how the testimony of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ influenced Paul. Ask them to share what they found. Then ask:

  • According to verse 11, what was one of the things that Paul and the other witnesses of the resurrected Christ did?

  • How do you suppose that seeing the resurrected Christ affected their preaching of the gospel?

Use the following questions to help students recognize that, like the Saints in Paul’s day, we can have a testimony of the reality of the Savior’s Resurrection.

  • How does knowing that there are many witnesses of the resurrected Jesus Christ strengthen your faith in Him?

  • Why is it important that we share the message that Jesus rose from the dead?

Write the following on the board:

If Jesus had not risen from the dead, then … (see 1 Corinthians 15:12–19, 29).

Since Jesus did rise from the dead, then … (see 1 Corinthians 15:20–28).

Invite half of the students to silently read 1 Corinthians 15:12–19, 29, looking for what would have happened if Jesus had not risen from the dead. Invite the other half of the class to silently read 1 Corinthians 15:20–28, looking for blessings that have come as a result of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. After you have given students sufficient time to read, ask for volunteers to explain what they learned. Remember to encourage hesitant students to participate.

Ask students to read 1 Corinthians 15:20 and note the words “firstfruits of them that slept.” Ask students to share what they think these words mean. To clarify the meaning, you may want to have a student read the student manual commentary for 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23. To emphasize the importance of the doctrine of Resurrection, consider having students read the student manual commentary for 1 Corinthians 15:12–19.

To increase students’ gratitude for the Resurrection of Christ, ask the following:

  • What feelings do you have when you realize that all of Heavenly Father’s children who come to earth will be resurrected?

Read 1 Corinthians 15:30–34 as a class, and discuss how knowing that all people will be resurrected can influence the daily behavior of members of the Church. As students share their ideas, help them understand this principle: Having a testimony that we will be resurrected inspires us to live the gospel with greater faith and purpose.

1 Corinthians 15:29

Baptisms for the Dead Were Practiced in Paul’s Day

Ask students whether any of them have been asked by a friend about baptisms for the dead. Invite them to tell the class how they responded. Ask a class member to read 1 Corinthians 15:29. Point out that this is the only passage in the Bible that mentions baptism for the dead. You may want to have a class member read the statement by President Howard W. Hunter in the student manual commentary for 1 Corinthians 15:29.

Explain that while members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understand the meaning of Paul’s reference to baptism for the dead, this verse does not explain why the ordinance is practiced today. As the head of the dispensation of the fulness of times, the Prophet Joseph Smith received revelations clarifying the meaning of the doctrine of salvation for the dead. One of these revelations is found in Doctrine and Covenants 128. Ask students to read Doctrine and Covenants 128:15. Then ask:

  • Why is the doctrine of redeeming the dead something that “cannot be lightly passed over”?

Then give students a moment to read Doctrine and Covenants 128:16–18, and ask:

  • What do you think is meant by establishing a “welding link” between us and our kindred dead? (Through the authority of the priesthood, generations of families can be sealed together.)

  • How has the link between you and your ancestors been strengthened as you have participated in baptisms for the dead and other temple ordinances?

Help students understand this principle: Through performing baptisms for the dead, we can assist in the work of salvation for the dead. You may want to share your testimony of this principle.

1 Corinthians 15:35–53

Paul Taught about Resurrected Bodies

Display some kernels of wheat or some other kind of grain, or show a picture of some kind of grain, and explain that Paul used grain as a metaphor to teach about the Resurrection of our bodies.

Have a student read aloud 1 Corinthians 15:35, and have the class underline in their scriptures the questions that Paul answered for the Corinthians.

Read with the class 1 Corinthians 15:36–38, and discuss how Paul used the image of a seed being planted in the ground to answer the questions found in verse 35. (Paul spoke of planting “bare grain” and eventually harvesting a whole plant or “body.” The planted seed typifies the mortal body, which after death and burial, will come forth in the Resurrection as a glorified, immortal body.) Help students recognize that until a seed is planted in the earth, which can be compared to dying, it will not grow into the plant it was meant to be.

To help students understand the Resurrection, ask questions like the following:

  • Why is death a necessary part of the plan of salvation?

  • Why is your eventual Resurrection essential to your eternal future?

As a result of this discussion, students should understand this doctrine: Death and resurrection are necessary steps in our eternal progression.

Invite students to read 1 Corinthians 15:40–44 and the student manual commentary for 1 Corinthians 15:39–44. Ask students to summarize the doctrines taught by Paul and the Prophet Joseph Smith. As a result of the discussion, make sure students understand these doctrines: Resurrected bodies will be glorious, incorruptible, and quickened by spirit. Resurrected bodies will have different degrees of glory.

You might invite discussion of these verses by asking:

  • Why do you suppose that there will be differences in glory among resurrected beings?

  • How can the doctrine of the Resurrection help us choose to live more righteously here on earth?

You may want to summarize 1 Corinthians 15:42–53 for students, highlighting the differences between mortal and resurrected bodies. To learn more about these verses, see the student manual commentaries for 1 Corinthians 15:42–44, 46, 50 and for 1 Corinthians 15:45, 49–53.

1 Corinthians 15:54–58

“Death Is Swallowed Up in Victory” through Jesus Christ

Write the word Death on the board.

Invite students to consider what concerns them most about death. Allow several students to share their thoughts, and then ask:

  • How can a person prepare for his or her own death or the death of a loved one?

Have a student read aloud 1 Corinthians 15:54–58, while the class follows along looking for how a person could prepare for death.

  • According to these verses, what can we do to be more prepared for death? (Repent, be steadfast in keeping the commandments, and abound in good works.)

  • What does the term “sting of death” mean to you?

  • According to 1 Corinthians 15:54–58, what does it mean to say that “death is swallowed up in victory”?

After students share their ideas, help them understand this doctrine, and consider writing it on the board: Because of Jesus Christ’s victory over death and sin, death will carry no permanent sting if we follow Him.

To help students feel the truth and importance of the doctrine of the Resurrection, invite them to think of a time of loss in their life when their knowledge of this doctrine was a blessing to them. Ask for volunteers to share their experiences.

As you conclude the lesson, express your testimony about the peace that comes because of our knowledge of the Resurrection.