This section of 1 Corinthians 15 is a discourse on the resurrection of the dead. The apostle Paul writes to a church that in many ways resembles a church from modern times. Paul writes to confront division, heresy, and false teaching, and to encourage the Corinthian Christians to make faithful confession of the faith, and then to live it out as the church of Christ. Paul, relating as a father in the faith confronts the Corinthian church with a view of the resurrection or the lack thereof. The church at Corinth was in the heart of Greek culture. They saw the afterlife as something only for the soul. According to Greek philosophers, the soul was the real person, imprisoned in a physical body, and at death the soul was released. There was no immortality for the body, but the soul entered an eternal state. Christianity, in contrast, affirms that the body and soul will be united after resurrection. Thus many believers had a difficult time believing in a bodily resurrection. Paul wrote this part of his letter to clear up this confusion about the resurrection.
In the section immediately preceding our text (15:3-11), Paul recites of the tradition he has passed onto them. He narrates with special focuses on the death of Christ, resurrection and appearance to witnesses.
He then goes on to make it clear that resurrection is the claim of the Gospel 15:12-28. For if Jesus is not raised from the dead, he says, then neither will we be raised from the dead. If this were the case, then we would be misrepresenting God, in as much as the Christian message is the word that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. Paul goes on in this passage to say what the end result of denying the resurrection is. If Christ is not raised, then we will not be raised at the last day. If that is the case, then Paul's own preaching and the faith of Christians is in vain, a waste of time. We are even misrepresenting God; we are liars, Paul adds, if there is no resurrection, because from the beginning we have proclaimed that Jesus (not his spirit, or a part of his nature, but Jesus himself completely) has been raised from the dead.