DOES 1 CORINTHIANS 15:11 DISPROVE DISPENSATIONAL BIBLE STUDY?
by Shawn Brasseaux
In this study, I, a Bible-believing dispensationalist, will gladly address 1 Corinthians 15:11, a verse religionists use to deny dispensational Bible truths. Beloved, we should not and do not fear God’s truth; we eagerly teach, defend, and believe it. However, we must first read it… within its context. Anything else is “vain jangling,” empty chatter, worthless speech.
Anti-dispensationalists use various and sundry Bible verses in order to salvage traditional Bible interpretation. Lest the denominational doctrine—the church tradition—be lost, religious people openly rebel against God’s Word rightly divided. They look for any verses that even seem to hint at supporting a church tradition, and then they will immediately quote those verses. They might not understand what God is doing today, they may not understand how to be saved from their sins or where to find their doctrine in the Bible, but they certainly know what Bible verses to use to support their denomination and they quickly quote them. Such a mishandling of Scripture is sure to cause misery in this life, and unavoidable accountability to God in the next! Beloved, may we be ever so careful with God’s precious Word and the precious souls we impact with it.
Years ago, on social media, I noticed a “familiar name” posting anti-dispensational-Bible-study comments in a “religious forum.” What a strange incident! While still professing to be a “grace Bible teacher,” this person had already abandoned a local grace church, had already begun his own church, and had already launched a campaign to discourage people from using dispensational Bible study! In this particular instance, he was using 1 Corinthians 15:11, claiming that dispensationalists ignored it because it disproved their position. In his mind, the verse taught that Peter and Paul preached the same Gospel message (Galatians 1:23 is similarly misused as well), and he also argued that Peter had preached to Paul’s converts in Corinth. He completely ignored the context of the verse he was quoting. Such pathetic ignorance, such reckless words, especially since this man spent many years in a right-division grace church! Here, dear friend, I will gladly look at 1 Corinthians 15:11, and I will rejoice in its truth. I do hope that you can rejoice with me in the simplicity of God’s Word.
After outlining the Gospel of the Grace of God—“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)—Paul begins his argument for the validity of Christ’s literal, physical, visible resurrection. He does this because some of the Corinthians were claiming that Jesus Christ did not arise from the dead. Verse 12 tells us: “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” The 58 verses of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 address the necessity of Jesus’s resurrection, with the concluding verses examining our future resurrection (commonly called “the Rapture,” when all members of the Body of Christ are redeemed physically, whether bodily resurrected [from the deceased in Christ] or bodily transformed [for the living in Christ]). Thus, the general context of 1 Corinthians 15:11 is the doctrine of bodily resurrection, especially that of Jesus Christ. This is the first key to understanding the meaning of the verse in question.
We want to now examine the verses that precede 1 Corinthians 15:11 to get a more in-depth grasp of the thought-flow of the discussion. After mentioning Jesus’ resurrection in verse 4, Paul lists the witnesses of that resurrection: “ And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:  After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.  After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.  And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.  For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.  Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.”
Our current discussion involves the last verse, “Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” Having just read the previous verses, we know that the pronoun “I,” of course, is referring to the Apostle Paul; the pronoun “they” obviously signifies the 12 apostles of Israel mentioned in verses 5-7 (“Cephas,” “the twelve,” “James,” “all the apostles”); and the pronoun “ye” applies to the Corinthian believers. But, is 1 Corinthians 15:11 saying that Peter and Paul preached the same Gospel message? Does 1 Corinthians 15:11 mean that Israel’s 12 apostles preached that alleged “one Gospel” to the Corinthians? (While space does not permit an exhaustive explanation here, there are plenty of Bible verses that clearly distinguish Peter and Paul’s messages; please refer to our Bible study linked at the conclusion of this article. Here, in this study, we are focused on the question of the preaching of Peter and Paul as it relates to 1 Corinthians 15:11).
WHAT EXACTLY WERE PETER AND PAUL PREACHING IN 1 CORINTHIANS 15:11?
As noted earlier, Peter and Paul had two separate Gospel messages (again, this involves many verses to consider, so please see our study linked at the end of this article for more information). Still, there were some similarities between what Peter preached and Paul preached: they both preached Jesus Christ (Peter—Acts 2:22-38 et al.; Paul—Acts 13:23-41 et al.), they both preached He was the Son of God (Peter—Acts 3:26 et. al; Paul—Acts 9:20 et al.), they both preached He died for sins (Peter—1 Peter 1:18-19 et al.; Paul—1 Corinthians 15:3 et al.), and they both preached He resurrected (Peter—Acts 3:15 et al.; Paul—Acts 17:31 et al.). But, the meanings of these doctrines were different in those separate programs; stated another way, the specific implications of these doctrines with respect to the prophetic and mystery programs, were different. Considering the fact that 1 Corinthians 15:11 is situated in the Bible’s great resurrection chapter, what do you suppose Peter and Paul would be preaching together in verse 11? “Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” It is not difficult to understand. Peter and Paul both preached Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
Whether it was Paul preaching the resurrection of Christ, or any of Israel’s apostles preaching the resurrection of Christ, the doctrine of physical resurrection was being preached (simply put, dear readers, that is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:11). Again, the preaching of Christ’s resurrection was not exclusive to Paul’s ministry, but it had one meaning in Israel’s program (her apostles’ preaching) and another meaning in our program (Paul and his associated apostles’ preaching). In light of the chapter, Paul was arguing that many people had witnessed Christ’s resurrection firsthand, and these witnesses were preaching Christ’s resurrection, so the Corinthians should not doubt that Jesus literally arose from the dead. They were to accept Jesus’ resurrection as a true, literal, historical event; in fact, they could even go interview firsthand many of the 500 witnesses (they were still living at the time)!
Regarding Israel’s program, the Bible quotes the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:29-32: “ Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.  Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;  He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.  This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.” The Apostle Peter and the 11 apostles of Israel preached that Jesus Christ was raised again to sit on David’s throne. Peter witnessed the resurrection of Christ firsthand, and he preached it (1 Corinthians 15:5,7).
When it comes to our program, the Apostle Paul preached in Romans 4:24-25: “ But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;  Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” The Apostle Paul preached Jesus Christ was “raised again for our justification,” resurrected to give us a right standing before God. Never once did Paul make reference to Jesus Christ being raised to sit on David’s throne. Paul met the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, and he preached Christ’s resurrection as well (1 Corinthians 15:8).
Israel’s apostles, particularly Peter, preached Jesus’s resurrection (Acts 2:24-32; Acts 3:15; Acts 4:10; Acts 10:40; 1 Peter 1:3,21; 1 Peter 3:18,21). Paul preached Jesus’s resurrection (Acts 13:30-37; Acts 17:3; Acts 25:19; Acts 26:23; Romans 1:3-4; Romans 4:24-25; et al.). Again, Christ’s resurrection was preached by both Israel’s apostles and Paul and apostles associated with his ministry, but the overall meaning of Christ’s resurrection differed in each program and message.
IS 1 CORINTHIANS 15:11 SAYING THAT ISRAEL’S TWELVE APOSTLES PREACHED IN CORINTH?
As I noted earlier, someone once attempted to use 1 Corinthians 15:11 to say that Peter and the 11 preached in Corinth. This individual desired to undermine Paul’s special ministry, to make Paul’s ministry the same as Peter’s ministry. Still, this individual and those who agree with him are on shaky theological ground, because they do not have one verse to support their interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:11!
Save for Cornelius (Acts chapter 10), the Bible is clear that Peter had no ministry to Gentiles. In Acts chapter 15 (companion passage of Galatians chapter 2), Peter himself learned that he had no ministry to Gentiles anymore; he gathered that Paul was now God’s man to reach the lost Jews and lost Gentiles. Peter was not preaching to any Gentiles after Acts chapter 10, and there is nothing in Scripture to indicate Peter or any of Israel’s other apostles ever visited Corinth. The Scriptures actually indicate the opposite: “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision” (Galatians 2:9).
According to this verse, Apostles Peter, James, and John (Acts chapter 15 onward) confined their ministry to the “circumcision” (Israel’s believing remnant), and they agreed that Paul and Barnabas would go to the “heathen” (lost Jews and lost Gentiles). This is important because Paul first visited Corinth in Acts chapter 18. This we see the 1-Corinthians 15:11-quoting-anti-dispensationalist was duplicitous, wresting the Scriptures to his own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16). By Acts chapter 15, Apostles Peter, James, and John had already confined their ministry to Israel’s little flock; Paul did not preach in Corinth until Acts chapter 18! Had Peter already converted the Corinthians, Paul would have no reason to preach 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 to them!
“Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” is not referring to Peter and the 11 preaching to the Corinthians, but rather Peter and 11 preaching Christ’s resurrection in general. The point Paul is making here is Christ’s resurrection; it is not a defense of the ministry endeavors of the 12.
In summary, what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 15:11 is that both he and Israel’s apostles preached bodily resurrection as a true doctrine, and the Corinthians originally accepted/believed that doctrine as true in the form of the Gospel of Grace (Jesus died for our sins, buried, and resurrected; verses 3-4). Unfortunately, verse 12 says that some Corinthians were then misled to deny bodily resurrection (probably due to the pagan culture around them that denied it). Paul simply defended the doctrine of bodily resurrection by affirming that both he and Israel’s apostles preached it as true, and so they the Corinthians needed to embrace it as true, too.
Dear friends, before we attempt to defend a denomination, we need to remember that we should be loyal to God’s Word, the Holy Bible, and not try to undermine its layout by haphazardly selecting and quoting verses simply because they appeal to us. It will save us much heartache and misery if we not rob ourselves of the Bible’s clarity and enjoyment. After all, only God’s words will remain forever (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33)—denominational systems and the traditions of men will pass away!
» Does not Acts 15:11 disprove dispensational Bible study?
» Did Peter and Paul preach the same Gospel?
» Can you compare and contrast Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry?