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7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.


15:7

After that He was seen by James,

James was the half-brother of Jesus and head of the Jerusalem church. James had the same mother as Jesus but a different father. Remember James did not believe Jesus was the Messiah initially (Jn 7:5), but he believed when Jesus rose from the dead. Later, James wrote the book of James and referred to Jesus as the “Lord Jesus Christ” and the “Lord of Glory.” Paul regarded James as an apostle (Ga 1:18-21; 2:9). The Jerusalem church regarded James, Peter, and John as the three “pillars” of the church (Ac 15:13-21). James may have died in AD 62, so he was still alive at the writing of First Corinthians.

We must distinguish the James of this verse from James of the twelve (the son of Zebedee) martyred around AD 44.

then by all the apostles.

Jesus appeared to all the apostles in Acts chapter one. The word “all” in “all the apostles” refers to other apostles in addition to the twelve. Outside the city of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, Jesus spoke to the twelve and other apostles, then finally ascended to heaven before them all.

Ac 1:2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, 3 to whom (the apostles) He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. …11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

15:8

Then last of all He was seen by me also,

The Lord appeared to Paul on the Damascus road in His resurrected form, informing him that he persecuted the church of God and Jesus Himself. This was about two years after the ascension of Christ. That appearance of Jesus revolutionized Paul’s life. He turned from persecutor to preacher. This precipitous birth-conversion took some time to nurture, so God sent him to a desert experience for three years (Galatians 2) to put him on track spiritually. Ten years later Barnabas found Paul in Tarsus and the two of them began a ministry to the civilized world.

Ac 9:4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

1 Co 9:1 Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?

as by one born out of due time.

The phrase “born out of due time” refers to the metaphor of abortion, premature birth, or miscarriage. This was a term of derision. While other apostles formed the church, Paul persecuted the church, so his apostleship came after the twelve. We are to view him as an aborted fetus, a protagonist of Christ who came to Christ. His was an untimely, sudden spiritual birth too late to be identified with the twelve and the “gestation” of being with Christ in His earthly ministry.

15:9

For I am the least of the apostles,

Paul’s apostleship was not inferior to that of the other apostles, but his apostleship was “born out of due time.” Paul wrote First Corinthians in the middle of the first century. He was already the greatest missionary of the first century by this time.

who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Paul was not “worthy to be called an apostle” because he murdered and persecuted the church in its early days (Ac 22:4, 19; 26:9; Ga 1:13, 23; Ph 3:6; 1 Ti 1:13). As he says in the next verse, his ministry came by unadulterated grace, not by his personal worth.

PRINCIPLE:

The list of people who saw Jesus after His resurrection is impressive.

APPLICATION:

The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is based on eyewitnesses. There is no myth in this because the names of people in the list of this chapter could have refuted what Paul said. Some of these witnesses gave their lives for believing in Jesus’ resurrection. 

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