Life After Death (1 Corinthians 15:35–49)

sermon photoLife After Death (Sermon Audio)

Few passages are more exhilarating than 1 Corinthians 15 and its promise of resurrection life. For those who trust in Christ, Paul says what is buried in the dust will be raised in glory. Taking up a variety of images, he describes the indescribable in verses 35–49— namely the way in which children of Adam formed from the dust of earth are raised to life in Christ to share his heavenly glory.

In Sunday’s message I took time to explain how Paul makes his argument to skeptics in Corinth. Looking to creation, to the way in which seeds come to life, and to the way dust becomes glory, I tried to follow and flesh out Paul’s argument. You can listen to the sermon online or read the sermon notes. Discussion questions and further resources—including Andrew Peterson’s lyrical eschatology—are listed below. Continue reading

Raised with Christ: How the Dead Come Alive

Over the last few days, I’ve been reading Richard Gaffin’s By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of SalvationHalfway through, the point that has had the most impact on me is his section on resurrection and union with Christ. His major point is that when Christ was raised from the dead, we who are in union with Christ, were raised too. Leaning on the firstfruits imagery of 1 Corinthians 15:20, he shows how Paul understood Christ’s resurrection as of a piece with our resurrection.

The implications of this are manifold, but let me mention three:

(1) In Christ, we experience the resurrection now in our “inner man” as God makes us alive in Christ (Eph 2:5). Thus, the resurrection is not simply a future reality for the Christian, it is a present reality. The future has been pressed into the present, such that Christ’s resurrection becomes ours and makes us alive, when the resurrected Christ sends his Spirit to enliven our dead souls.

(2) The bodily resurrection that we will experience when Christ returns is not a different or second resurrection. Rather, the resurrection of believers in the future is part of the same harvest. Like Christ, we will be sown into the ground, to be raised on the last day (not the third day), but in truth, we have full assurance of this resurrection because Christ has been raised from the dead.

(3) Those who are made alive in their inner man are the ones who will be physically resurrected at the second coming. To say it more forcefully, only those who have resurrection life now (expressed in faith, repentance, spiritual fruit, etc.) will be raised with Christ then, when the harvest is completed.

Altogether, his thoughts have been swirling in my mind as I prepare to preach Romans 4:25 this Sunday: “Christ was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” It is a glorious reality that Christ’s resurrection not only vindicates his righteousness (1 Timothy 3:16), but his justification/vindication is my justification/vindication by means of union with him.

Keeping all that in mind, I came across this video (HT: Glen Scrivener) which wonderfully depicts with “lightning bolt cords” the way that Christ’s resurrection raises me and you (if you are in Christ) from the dead. Take five minutes to watch, and marvel at how God justifies us by the death and resurrection of his Son.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Poythress on Biblical Theology and Biblical Theologies

Vern Poythress, in the Westminster Theological Journal (70/1 [2008] 129-42), writes a thought-provoking article about different “Kinds of Biblical Theology.”  His aim is “to reassess the present-day possibilities for biblical theology’s relation to systematic theology” and to show how one cannot be done without the other.  To start, Poythress sketches a brief history of the term, “biblical theology,” contrasting Geerhardus Vos with Johann Gabler and James Barr.  Following Vos, and leaning on the earlier work of Richard Gaffin, Poythress argues for reading the Bible with attentiveness to the divine unity of ‘biblical theology’ and nuanced recognition of the different ‘biblical theologies’ espoused by various biblical authors.   He compares biblical theology to a historical, linear representation of Scriptures, while systematic theology attempts to encircle various biblical themes into logical spheres.  Both approaches are necessary and heuristically viable, and both should be employed by biblical exegetes.

Moreover, Poythress encourages faithful systematicians and biblical theologians to use both BT and ST to read the Bible.  This two-fold approach coheres with the unity and diversity, the history and the logic of the Scripture.  Speaking of this, he writes cautioning against oversimplifications in biblical theology:

Why not write the theology of Paul with resurrection and union with Christ as a central organizing theme, while a theology of the Synoptics would have as a central theme the coming of the kingdom of God? Then a theology of Hebrews would focus on the superiority of Christ, particularly in his high priestly ministry; a theology of John might make central the theme of the revelation of God in Christ; a theology of Revelation might choose theophany and spiritual war as central; a theology of James might make wisdom central; a theology of 1 Peter might choose suffering for Christ as central. A theology of 2 Thessalonians–why not contemplate such a thing?–might make central the hope for the Second Coming. A theology of the Pastoral Epistles might choose the theme of gospel ministry as central.

In laying out such a proposal, Poythress encourages us to read the Bible more carefully.  Affirming Scripture’s divine origin, inspiration, and coherence, he cautions that we should not force themes, systems, or concepts on the Bible. Instead, we should read each Spirit-breathed book, author, and genre with attention to the details of the text. BT and ST should work together to unpack the riches of God’s Word, and we should boldly proclaim the spiritual unity and contextual diversity that is found in God’s redemptive history.

May we do so with power and precision. 

(HT: Justin Taylor)