In this passage, Paul details the importance of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. He begins by defining the gospel that he preached to the Corinthians, that they believed, in which they stand as legally righteous before God, and by which they are saved if they persevere in believing it. However, if they do not persevere in believing it, they have not believed it so as to be saved.
In verse 3, Paul begins to explain why he is reminding them of the gospel: he delivered it to them as of first importance. That gospel is the good news that Christ died for the sins of people, that He was buried, that He came back to life three days after His death, that He appeared to Peter, and that he appeared to all of the twelve apostles. After this, he appeared to more than five hundred Christians at one time, to James, to all the apostles, and then to Paul. Paul says that Christ appeared to him as to one born in an untimely way because he is the least of the apostles, and not worthy to be called one because he persecuted the church. However, God’s undeserved favor made him who he is, and that favor caused him to labor more than all of the other apostles.
In verse 11, Paul says that the Corinthians believed the gospel. Thus, in verse 12, Paul asks them how some of them can say that there is no resurrection of the dead, since they received the message that Christ was raised from the dead. Then, he says that, if there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ has not been raised, and if He has not been raised, then the preaching of the gospel is worthless, and anyone’s faith in it is worthless. Furthermore, if Christ has not been raised, then the apostles are lying about God, and about Christ. In verse 17, Paul provides a result of the scenario in which Christ has not been raised: the Corinthians are still in their sins before God. In addition, if that is the case, then Christians who have died have gone to hell. Finally, Paul says, those who have hoped in Christ for this life only are those who deserve the most pity.
This passage is primarily intended to be read by believers in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you understand the gospel? The Apostle Paul explained it this way:
“. . . I make known unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-9
This is what Christ Himself said about the gospel:
“. . . God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:16-20
John the Baptist said this: “. . . he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on [stays directed toward] him.” – John 3:36
The Apostle Paul said this in Romans 2:4-16:
“. . . despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law; for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified; (for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them); in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ.”
This is what you must do to be forgiven by God: repent of the way you think about Christ and your sins, and depend only on Him, the God-man, His death to pay for your sins, and His bodily resurrection from the dead as the only reason for God’s acceptance and forgiveness. As some of Paul’s audience did, if you receive, take your stand in, and entrust your eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for your sins, and bodily resurrection from the dead, you will be saved.
“. . . if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13