Two Adams

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #181

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–22).

From the time of Adam on down, the saints of God had been gathered to their fathers. They had fallen asleep. They had returned to the dust. Christ descended to death, just as they had, but after a brief time in the grave, He returned to life again. Paul says here that He did this as the firstfruits of those slept. Those who had slept represented a huge amount of seed in the ground, and the Lord Jesus came back from the dead as the harbinger of what was to come.

It was fitting that a man would bring about the resurrection of the dead because it had been a man who had brought about the problem of death in the first place. What Paul says here makes an implicit comparison between Adam and Christ, a comparison he makes explicit in the next breath. All men die because they are in Adam, and in the same way, and on the same principles, everyone who is in Christ will be made alive.

A Pitiable Lot

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #180

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:18–19).

If the dead are not raised, then those who have died in Christ are dead and gone. If the dead are not raised, then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have simply perished. If our hope in Christ is only a “this life” thing, then Christians truly are a pitiable lot. We, of all men, are most to be pitied. We are miserable, because we are consoling ourselves in our current miseries with a future glory that will never happen.

Paul says elsewhere that our current sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. But, of course, this only makes sense if that future glory really is revealed in us. If nothing of the sort is going to happen, if the dead are not raised, then we are letting far too many opportunities for pleasure pass us by.

Logic and Liberation

“Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:15–17).

If the dead are not to be raised at the end of history, then Christ could not have been raised in the middle of history. And if there is no resurrection, the Christian faith is vanity. Moreover, Paul continues, if the dead are not raised, then those who testified that God had raised the dead in Christ are guilty of bearing false witness on behalf of God. If the dead are not raised, then God could not have raised the dead. And if the dead are not raised in Christ, then Christian faith is vain, and all Christians are still in their sins. Deliverance from sin is dependent upon deliverance from the dead.

One other important point needs to be made about this passage. Throughout Paul is assuming the absolute authority of logic. For his apostolic argument, he is dependent upon the authority of right reason. If the dead are not raised, then Christ, being dead, could not have been raised. If dead, then not raised. Christ was dead . . . If P, then Q. P, and so therefore Q. This is modus ponens, and therefore valid.

If right reason is not a reflection of the absolute and holy nature of God, then we are still in our sins.

As Futile as That

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #178

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:12–14).

Given that the fundamental Christian proclamation is that Jesus came out of the tomb on the third day, how is it that some people in a Christian congregation were maintaining that there is no resurrection of the dead. They appear to be maintaining this about a future general resurrection, but Paul pushes the logic of their position out to the end. If there is no resurrection of the dead at the end of history, then there certainly was no resurrection of the dead in Jesus in the middle of history. And if Jesus was not raised in the middle of history, then our preaching is as vain as that of an Episcopalian bishop, and our faith is as futile as that of a congregation of mainline Presbyterians who got their liberal on.

Untimely Born

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #177

And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” (1 Cor. 15:8–11).

Here we have one of those brief autobiographical snippets that we find in Paul’s letters from time to time. Paul acknowledges that his vision of the resurrected Lord was an untimely one. For one thing, it occurred after the Ascension. Paul is not ashamed to say as far as the other apostles were concerned, he brought up the rear. He was the least of the apostles, and he knows that he did not deserve to be numbered among them because he had been a persecutor of the church of God.

Nevertheless, God’s grace had reached him, and he could confess that this was just the way it was. The grace that God had bestowed on him was not a fruitless grace, but Paul had wound up doing more than all the rest. If the other apostles had begun running when the starter’s pistol went off, Paul didn’t start running until much later. Nevertheless, he started running eventually, and he passed the others up. At the same time, Paul is careful to note that this was not his doing—had it been left up to him, he would have been still persecuting the church. The reason he was able to do this is that the grace of God given to him enabled it. But, whoever it was, the other apostles or Paul, they all preached the same message, and the Corinthians had all believed this message.

An Objective Gospel

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #176

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, 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: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:3–7).

The gospel is something that occurs outside of us, independent of us. For all those reading these words, the gospel was enacted many centuries before any of us were born. This being the case, as it was in the first century, the gospel spreads by means of being “delivered.” Paul here outlines the objective content of what it was that he received, and then in turn delivered to the Corinthians.

The first is that Christ died for our sins. The second is that He did so in fulfillment of the Scriptures. The third was that He was buried. The fourth is that He rose again on the third day. The fifth is that this also was in accordance with the Scriptures. The sixth was that He was seen by a succession of witnesses, beginning with Peter and working down to James, with hundreds of witnesses involved.

The chapter began with Paul saying that the Corinthians were to continue to believe this message, to stand in it, and to hold it in memory. That was the appropriate response to this gospel; this is the gospel for which that was the appropriate response.

This then is the content of the gospel that must be faithfully preached. Christ died as a sin substitute, He died as a predicted sin substitute, He was in the grave for three days, meaning that He was dead beyond all question, He rose on the third day, He rose on the third day as predicted by the prophets, and He was seen alive after that by hundreds of people.

This is the message that will be announced and declared by faithful preachers until the end of the world, and this is the message that lazy preachers instinctively shirk, and the message that dishonest preachers always try to circumvent.

Persevere In What?

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #175

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:1–2).

Paul now comes to his great summary of gospel truth. He declares to them as brothers the gospel that he had previously preached to them. Their response to this preaching was two-fold—they had received what he had declared, and they had taken their stand in what he had said. This gospel—preached and received—was a gospel that would save them, provided they kept what he had said in memory. If they had not kept this gospel in memory, then their belief would have been in vain.

I am not saved from drowning by having had a lifejacket on once. I am saved from drowning—if I am in the water—by putting on a lifejacket and by keeping it on. This is why we hold to the perseverance and preservation of the saints, which is not exactly the same thing as “once saved, always saved.” Of course, if someone is truly once saved, then they are truly always saved. That is true enough, as far as it goes. But there is a category that Paul knew about—believers who had believed “in vain”—who would fit very nicely in the modern category of someone who got saved at a revival once and who has been cavorting with the devil since then. We believe that the elect, once regenerate, will in fact persevere to the end. But they will, by God’s grace, persevere in holiness to the end.

Decent and Orderly

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #174

If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor. 14:37–40).

Paul has set down the standards of decorum in worship. These standards apply as much to the spiritually gifted as to anyone else. In fact, here Paul makes clear that they apply especially to the spiritually gifted. If a man is a prophet or otherwise quite spiritual, he might be tempted to think that these celestial impulses of his trump the apostolic parameters. If a man thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, then let him prove it by obeying the words that the Spirit inspired. It is no good at all when men claim to be driven by the wind of the Spirit as they sail into direct disobedience of the Spirit. Letting the Spirit quench us is not quench the Spirit.

If someone is still disposed to argue the point, Paul simply relegates him to his ignorance. Paul finishes the thought by saying that prophesy should be earnestly sought, and that tongues ought not to be forbidden. It is worth mentioning again that while tongues are legal tender, counterfeit tongues—being counterfeit—are not legal tender. To refuse to accept a counterfeit bill is not a denial of legal tender laws, but rather a support of them. To deny yamayama tongues is not the same thing as forbidding to speak with tongues.

The basic principle is then stated again. A Christian worship service ought to be decent and orderly. God is to be worshiped with reverence and godly awe.