The epistle reading for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity begins one of the most elegant passages of Holy Scripture, because Paul demonstrates that God will certainly raise us from the dead. Some in the congregation claimed that there was no resurrection, much like the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23; Acts 23:8) or Greeks (Acts 17:32). Paul goes on to show that if there is no resurrection, then Christ Himself has not been raised from the dead. If Christ has not been raised, then there is no Christian hope whatsoever. Jesus Himself proves beyond all doubt that God will raise us up on the Last Day.
This short reading from the beginning of the chapter serves as the preface to this argument. It is the Gospel which Paul preached to them. Interestingly, this Gospel appears here as a thing, so to speak. It is something preached, which means that it can be handed on. It is something received, which means that it goes from one person to another. It is something to stand on, which means that it exists as an external hope. It is something which saves, and who can save themselves even in a worldly sense? To hold on to this Gospel is to hold on to the Word. To reject the resurrection is to eviscerate the very Gospel. Such a denial literally destroys everything in the process.
Paul points to some of the things which he passed on to the Corinthians. Statements like this occur in other places of Scripture, such as the response for firstfruits in Deuteronomy 26:5-11. Likewise, telling future generations what the Lord has done in the past carries forward the hope of Israel (Deuteronomy 6:20-25; Psalm 78:4-8). This is also why Paul emphasizes that these things happened “in accordance with the Scriptures.” God is faithful in His promises. As He has done in generations past, so will He do in generations to come. Past faithfulness proves future promises.
Through Christ would have been vindicated even without appearing to anyone, He appeared to them “by many proofs” following His resurrection in order to strengthen them (Acts 1:3). Paul does not list all of them here, and the fact that the appearance to the five hundred at once shows up nowhere else in Scripture shows that even the Gospels do not record all of them. Paul alludes to them for the same reason that the Gospel writers only allude to a few: they serve a rhetorical point. Here, after appearing to so many, Jesus also appears to Paul last of all. He is one “untimely born,” or perhaps stronger, “miscarried,” because prior to his dramatic conversion he persecuted the Church. Instead of coming to the fullness of time, being born as the others had into the faith, Paul violently rejected Christ, only to be converted through pure grace. It is likewise only by grace that Paul proclaimed that message, and only in grace can Paul claim to have worked harder than anyone.
Yet whether the Gospel came through those worthy to be called apostles, the ones timely born, or through those unworthy like Paul, it came by grace all the same. The message of the Gospel does not depend on the messenger, though this does not negate the need for holiness. Paul boasts in the grace of God, not in his sin, which he recognizes as making him a spiritual miscarriage. Despite that, the faith remains the same. Christ has been raised from the dead so that we too will be raised from the dead. Christ died for our sins so that our sins would not hold us in the grave. Grace abounds so that God is glorified in all things.