Nothing is more central to the Christian faith than Christ’s resurrection. Yet, how exactly does his resurrection secure ours? In what way is his resurrection applied to our lives? Is the promise of our resurrection just divine fiat, or is there something more that unites us to Christ? And is the resurrection only a future reality or is there something present to it?
All these questions are addressed in 1 Corinthians 15:20–28. After showing the necessity of the resurrection for the gospel (vv. 1–11) and salvation (vv. 12–19), Paul explains the (theo)logic of the resurrection in verses 20–28. Picking up concepts (firstfruits and covenant headship) and cross-references from the Psalms (110:1 and 8:6), Paul explains the way in which Christ’s death raises us to life.
This Sunday we started to unpack these verses, next week we will finish this section. You can listen to the sermon online or read the sermon notes. Discussion questions and resources for further study are below.
1 Corinthians 15:20–28
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
- First Corinthians 15 is an important chapter on eschatology. What are the most important themes in the chapter? How might over attention to future events miss Paul’s original attention? See e.g., verses 1–2, 32–34, 58.
- “Inaugurated eschatology” has been called the standard evangelical theology of last things for the last fifty years, but what is it? What does it mean that the kingdom of God is already and not yet? (Already: Matthew 12:28; Luke 17:21; Not Yet: Matthew 25:34; Revelation 11:15).
- How does the resurrection center our gospel hope? Our theology of last things? What happens when other points of eschatology overshadow the resurrection? How can we keep the resurrection central in our doctrine, practice, church, ministry?
- Paul speaks of Christ as the firstfruits of the resurrection. What does this mean? What is the background of this passage? See article:Christ, the Firstfruits of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
- What is Adam’s relationship with Christ? What did Adam do? What effect did it have? Why does Paul introduce this typological analogy? (Hint: it begins to explain how the resurrection of one man explains the Jewish expectation of a national resurrection)
- How does Christ’s resurrection relate to us? How do (1) the firstfruits, (2) the Adam-Christ analogy, and (3) the gift of the Holy Spirit help us understand our “union with Christ.”
- How do we see the effects of Christ’s resurrection today (Romans 8:11; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 3:1–4)? What are the two ranks of people in verse 23? What are the two results of Christ’s resurrection? Though we didn’t consider vv. 25–28 in detail yet, how do they begin to explain the unfolding of Christ’s resurrection? See also Hebrews 2.
- What encouragements do you find in 1 Corinthians 15? What motivations to holiness (see again vv. 32–34)? How does it purify and unify the local church?
For Further Study
- D-Day and VE-Day by Fred Zaspel — The illustration of D-Day and V-Day was famously inaugurated by New Testament scholar Oscar Cullmann. In this article Reformed Baptist Fred Zaspel explains its powerful explanatory value.
- George Eldon Ladd on the ‘Kingdom and the Church” — Ladd is one of the most important biblical theologians of the twentieth century. This post highlights his already but not yet view of the kingdom and the church.
- Making All Things New: Inaugurated Eschatology for the Life of the Church by Benjamin Gladd and Matthew Harmon — Written by two New Testament scholars who agree on inaugurated eschatology but disagree on the timing of the millennium, this book gives a helpful treatment of eschatology’s place in the local church. Book Review by Oren Martin
- Martin Luther on Christ’s Resurrection and Ours
- Christ, the Firstfruits of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
- By Faith, Not by Sight by Richard Gaffin
- Resurrection and Redemption by Richard Gaffin
Soli Deo Gloria, ds