“Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” – 1 Cor 15:11
The apostle Paul preached a mystery of Christ (Rom 16:25). The twelve apostles taught Christ according to prophecy (Acts 3:21-24).
However, they were both witnesses to the resurrection of the Lord.
Witnesses of the Resurrection
When the twelve saw the resurrected Lord, they were commissioned to witness his resurrection as a sign of his being the Messiah to Israel (Mat 12:40; Acts 1:22).
“And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” – Acts 4:33
On the other hand, Paul had nothing to do with the Lord’s earthly ministry, nor the commission of the twelve, since he was in unbelief through Acts 8 when he persecuted Peter’s little flock for blasphemy.
However, in Acts 9 Paul also witnessed the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as he appeared to him on the road to Damascus.
The Lord’s appearance to Paul was unprecedented. Paul (who was Saul at the time) was rejecting the Lord, and had no faith in him.
This all changed when the Lord by his grace appeared to Paul and saved him not by his works, but by the gospel of the grace of God (Eph 3:1-2).
It was by revelation that Paul was ordained an apostle to preach a dispensation of the gospel given to him by the Lord to the Gentiles (Col 1:25-27).
Paul’s gospel of the uncircumcision was different than Peter’s gospel of the circumcision (Gal 2:7).
The mystery of Christ given to Paul was kept secret from the prophets, whereas Peter’s message of prophetic fulfillment was the subject of the prophets.
However, both were witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection.
So We Preach
In order to deny the special revelation given to Paul, 1 Cor 15:11 is used as evidence that Paul preached nothing different from Peter.
Rather the verse shows only that Paul and Peter preached some things in common.
Both Peter and Paul taught Jesus as the Christ.
Both Peter and Paul taught that Jesus fulfilled the prophets.
Both Peter and Paul taught salvation by Jesus Christ.
Both Peter and Paul witnessed Jesus’ resurrection.
Paul says that Peter added nothing to his message, but Paul did have revelations from the Lord that Peter had not heard before (Gal 2:6; 2 Pet 3:15).
“For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” – Gal 1:12
Paul was the first to teach the mystery of Christ to Gentiles.
Paul first taught the glory of the cross to all men (Gal 6:14).
Paul first taught the formation of a new creature called the Body of Christ where there is neither Jew nor Gentile.
Paul was the first to teach free salvation to all based on the merits of Christ’s death and resurrection.
The Resurrection Problem in Corinth
The Corinthians were fighting amongst themselves about Paul’s special apostleship. They were also questioning the important doctrine of the resurrection.
The entirety of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 is a defense of the doctrine of the literal physical resurrection.
He begins by repeating the gospel he preached unto them first. It was not the twelve that preached the gospel to them, or any other apostle, but Paul.
Five times the word “I” is used in 1 Cor 15:1-3 to remind the Corinthians that it was Paul who received the gospel to preach to the Corinthians and by which they believed.
Paul’s gospel is clearly stated in 1 Cor 15:3-4:
“…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 Cor 15:3-4
Paul’s gospel is very different from the gospel of the twelve, as has been written about before.
After explaining his gospel, Paul makes the statement that, “ whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” (1 Cor 15:11).
If Paul had a different gospel than Peter, then what did they both preach?
The answer is found in the following verse:
“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” – 1 Cor 15:12
Peter and Paul both preached that Christ rose from the dead. They both witnessed his resurrection.
This is a fitting statement made to people who were questioning both Paul’s apostleship and the doctrine of resurrection. Paul says, “whomever you claim to follow, the resurrection is taught.”
Peter did not preach the mystery of Christ, nor did Paul preach the soon coming of the kingdom to Israel.
It would be wrong to think Paul and Peter taught every thing the same.
It is equally wrong to think Paul and Peter taught every thing different.
1 Cor 15:11 shows that both were witnesses of his literal physical resurrection from the dead.