Paul’s practice in 1 Corinthians has been to address issues in the Corinthian church one by one, moving on to a new topic once he has finished speaking on another. Having dealt with various matters related to corporate worship in chapters 11–14, the Apostle now begins to look at a new issue, which happens to be the central issue of the Christian faith. We are talking, of course, about the resurrection, which is Paul’s focus in 1 Corinthians 15.
Verse 12 names the problem that the Apostle addresses—namely, that some of the Corinthians were saying that “there is no resurrection of the dead.” Exactly what form this denial took has been the subject of some debate. It is clear enough that some Corinthian believers held that there would not be a bodily resurrection of the dead, but the reason for this belief is less evident. Most likely, some Corinthians believed that they had already entered into the fullness of their final existence and that there was no aspect of redemption left to be applied to them. They thought that they had received the full inheritance of salvation, so there was no need for their bodies to be raised from the dead.
Paul sets out in chapter 15 to correct this false view. He begins by going over what he and the Corinthians who denied the bodily resurrection of believers held in common—namely, the gospel and particularly the resurrection of Jesus. Although some of the Corinthians disbelieved in the resurrection of Christians, they did affirm the resurrection of Jesus. The Apostle will go over these facts in verses 3–11, but in today’s passage he identifies what he is about to say as “the gospel” and says the Corinthians have received it. By this gospel believers are “being saved,” indicating that salvation, considered in a broad sense, is an ongoing reality in the life of the believer. In our conversion we are set apart unto God and declared righteous in Christ (justification), which guarantees our eternal life. Thus, it is true that we have been saved already and are secure in grace forever (Eph. 2:8–10). Nevertheless, until we receive our glorified bodies, there is a sense that salvation is ongoing as we more and more die to sin and live to righteousness (Rom. 8:12–17). We are “being saved” as the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit make us increasingly like Jesus. Consequently, the gospel is not something we believe just once but is something we must continue to hold on to in our hearts and minds (1 Cor. 15:1–2).