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"Each One in His Own Order"
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
Wednesday AM Bible Study
March 5, 2008
Theme: Paul places the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead in the greater context of the redemptive plan of God for the ages.
In this passage, Paul continues his argument in defense of the resurrection by showing how it fits in to the greater context of God's redemptive plan. This passage should not only give us hope in the light of the ultimate conquest of death through the resurrection of our Savior; but also inspire us with a sense of wonder at the plan of God to bring all things under Himself.
I. JESUS' RESURRECTION IS AS THE FIRSTFRUITS OF THOSE WHO SLEEP IN HIM (vv. 20-22).
A. Paul follows the dismal affirmation he makes in verse 19—that if we have hope in Christ in this life alone we are of all men most pitiable—with the joyous affirmation of the fact of Christ's resurrection from the dead ("But now . . .!"). He uses the perfect tense to affirm that Christ's resurrection is a once-for-all fact (v. 1).
B. He affirms Jesus as "the firstfruits" of those who have "fallen asleep" (see 1 Thess. 4:13- 18). The "firstfruits" (Leviticus 23) were symbolic not only of the best of the harvest, but also of the promise of more to come. Likewise, Jesus' resurrection is our guarantee that we, too, will be raised (John 14:19; 1 Corinthians 15:49).
C. Paul goes on to demonstrate that it is appropriate that Jesus, as a member of the human family, be the prototype and guarantee of our resurrection. It was through man that death came; and it is through a Man that the resurrection from the dead should also come (Romans 5:12-21). Jesus is presented as the new head of the race; and so, as in Adam all die, so in Christ all shall be made alive (see 1 Corinthians 15:45). This is not meant to convey a universalist conception of salvation—that is, that all humanity will be saved; because it the resurrection spoken of is only of those "who are Christ's at His coming" (v. 23).
II. THE RESURRECTION OF THOSE WHO SLEEP IN CHRIST FOLLOWS A PRESCRIBED ORDER OF EVENTS (v. 23-26).
A. There is an order in the resurrection. First, Christ is raised as the firstfruits. Afterwards, those who are His at His coming (see Revelation 19:14; 20:4; see also 1 Corinthians 15:46-49).
B. Following this, comes "the end"; which is the conclusion of the millennial reign of Christ described in Revelation 20:7ff. All things (as an absolute necessity) must be brought under Christ's feet (Psalms 8:6; see also Philippians 2:9-11); and this must include the last great enemy "death". If death is not brought under subjection to Christ, then death has won and is able to keep those who are His. The Bible tells us of its ultimate conquest (1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Revelation 20:11-15).
III. THE ORDER OF EVENTS LEADS TO THE SUBJECTION OF ALL THINGS TO GOD THE FATHER (vv. 27-28).
A. The submission of all things to Christ naturally excludes the One (that is, the Father) who subjects all things to Him (v. 27). When all things are finally subjected to Christ, then Christ will subject Himself to the Father (v. 28). This doesn't mean that one member of the trinity is greater in nature than the other; but only speaks of the relationship that the members of the triune Godhead holds with each other. The Son is equal to the Father, but is willingly submitted to Him.
B. As a result of the submission of Christ (under whom all things have been placed) to the Father, the Father then is proven to be "all in all". The work of "redemption" is then completed in the fullest sense.
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This helps us understand why the resurrection is essential to the preaching of the gospel (vv. 1-11). By proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in all its fullness, we act as "ambassadors for Christ"; and as though "God were appealing through us", we appeal to people everywhere on Christ's behalf to "be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).
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