1 Corinthians 15
The resurrection after all is that which is the full and perfect deliverance from the whole effect and consequence of sin. At the same time it shews that what God has predestinated us to is an entirely new estate and condition of things altogether. Nothing is more important than that we should clearly apprehend what it is God is about; whether He is correcting the old thing, or setting up an entirely new thing. Now the resurrection shews that God is not bringing about a modification of the scene in which we are, but that He is bringing in a totally new power. The discernment of this has the most important effect upon the way of life, the modes of seeking to do good, the objects and efforts of Christians. Christ went about doing good, and we are of course to follow His example; but what of the state of things around did Christ correct or set right when down here? Nothing! The very result of the Lord’s coming into the midst of the Jewish nation was just this, that they rejected, hated, and crucified the Prince of life and Lord of glory. The Lord Jesus went about doing good, but seemingly in vain. Still none of God’s counsels have failed; but as to the outward result, the Lord said, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought,” Isa. 49:5. And so far as the outward scene went, in which He laboured, there was no kind of restoration; for the more love Christ manifested, it only brought out more fully man’s hatred to Him. “For my love they are mine adversaries.”
The resurrection introduces an entirely new scene, so that Paul says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” Now it is a very difficult thing for men to submit their minds to this truth, because it plainly tells man that, in himself as man, he is totally and utterly ruined. It is quite true, and I fully admit, that naturally man has great and wonderful faculties; and faculties which, it may be, will be much more developed than they now are. But still, with all this, man morally is utterly ruined and lost. Paul opens out in this chapter what the character and power of resurrection is, the resurrection of the just being the subject of it, although that of the unjust is also glanced at. It is not merely God acting in sovereign power, which can take a dead thing out of the state of death; but by virtue of association with the life of Christ we have participation in Christ’s resurrection. It is not only that we are blessed, but blessed with Christ. If He lives, we also live together with Him. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” If He is the righteousness of God, “we are made the righteousness of God in him.” If He is heir of glory, we are “joint-heirs together with him,” and “where he is, there shall we also be.” If He is the Son, we are sons also. “I ascend to my Father and your Father.” We are put, through grace, into this wonderful place of sons; so that it is a real thing; and having thus been brought by adoption from a state of sin to that of sons, the Holy Ghost is given to us as the power of our enjoyment of it. Such is the marvellous place into which we are brought, even that of everlasting companionship with Christ, “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” Man down here on the earth “disquieteth himself in vain”; for wonderful as his natural faculties may be, as soon as his “breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish.” What then becomes of his wondrous faculties? All is gone; for there is no fruit whatever reaped by himself. The man may have directed the world, but what of that, if death comes in and writes nothingness on all his powers? Another may come after him and improve upon what he has done, but it is all gone as regards himself for ever, although the man has a moral responsibility in connection with it all.
In this chapter the apostle was meeting the minds of those who had cast doubts on the resurrection, but not on immortality. A man will cast doubts on the resurrection, while he will speak of his immortality and magnify himself in it because it is me. It is I that am immortal. But if I am the dead thing God raises from the dead, what then—where am I? Why my pride is brought down, and God’s power is brought in and exalted. Therefore if I am talking of immortality, I am talking of myself; but if talking of resurrection, I am wholly cast on God.
Resurrection is connected with death (I now speak of believers), but it is the coming in of God’s power to deliver from the power of death; not merely an escape from my sins, but a full and perfect deliverance from all the consequences of my sins, so that even the very dust of my body will be raised in divine glory. In Christ’s death I also get another truth, which is, that my resurrection is consequent on Christ’s death and resurrection. I share in it as forgiven; for Christ quickens me, in virtue of having put away my sins. “And you being dead in your sins hath he quickened together with Christ, having forgiven you all trespasses,” Col. 2:13. We are partakers of the life in which Christ is risen; so that I have a life totally discharged from all question of sin; for I cannot have life without having forgiveness, and hence rest and peace. Christ had an unchangeable life as Son of God; but He died as a man; for there was complete evidence given through many incontrovertible proofs that He was really a dead man, and that He was raised from the dead and seen of “witnesses chosen before of God.” How entirely Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man is seen by His being raised from the dead. All the gospel rests on the resurrection of Christ. There is no gospel at all, unless there is the resurrection. This is a point of the deepest interest, shewing how really Christ entered into the case. So truly was Christ dead in consequence of our sins, that if He did not rise from the dead, then all is utterly gone for ever. But so completely was Christ a dead man for us, that if He is not raised from the dead, no man can ever be raised. And if dead people are not raised, then is Christ not raised. Yet we know He could not be holden of death; that were impossible. It is most important for us clearly to see and understand this, that our faith and hope may be “in God which raiseth the dead.” Thus everything that could possibly come between the sinner and God has been entirely removed—the burden of sin on the soul— God’s wrath against sin—Satan’s power—the weakness of man in death. Christ put Himself under all this. “He bore our sins,” for He cried “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” By grace Christ put Himself entirely in our place. He who knew no sin was made sin for us. All my sins are therefore entirely gone: He bore them all on the cross, and went down under the power of death, and rose again without them. Has death any more power over Him? No, for He is risen in the power of an endless life. But still He has been there on account of our sins, and has entirely put away the sin that took Him there, having risen without them. What then can there be between me and God which Christ has not entirely put away? Nothing. Seeing then that Christ has so completely acted out this condition before God, death is no longer death to me; it has lost its power and its terror too; for now death to me is simply “departing to be with Christ.” It is to be “absent from the body, present with the Lord”; it is but the getting rid of a mortal body.
The power of the resurrection is distinctive; and it is of great importance to see this. God’s eye rested on the blessed One who had glorified Him about man’s sin; so that He takes Him from amongst the dead up to Himself. We see a whole course of sin had gone on to the full accomplishment even of putting God’s Son to death on the cross. But over all this evil Christ gained so complete a victory, and so thoroughly glorified every attribute of God about man’s sin, that God’s eye rested on this blessed and righteous One with complete satisfaction. And thus, as He said, was the world convinced of righteousness, “because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more.” But now, we who believe see Him—that is, by faith; being quickened together with Him, having all trespasses forgiven us. For God does not raise a saint to condemn him—no; but to make him a partaker of all Christ is. For Christ has accomplished a righteousness on which God has set His seal, in that He raised Him from the dead. God’s eye being fixed on this accomplished righteousness, this object of His love, He took Him up to Himself; and having quickened us together with Christ, we are made partakers of it. Were there no resurrection, it would be complete abandonment by God; for He is not the God of the dead but of the living. And “if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” For if Christ be not raised, our preaching is vain; we have not been preaching the truth of the gospel, but preaching a He: and your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
But now comes a full burst of testimony to this accomplished work: “Now is Christ risen from the dead.” Thus the righteous and beloved One is raised out of this scene into an entirely new one, even that of becoming the first-fruits of them that slept. For if Christ be raised, His saints must be raised, as a Head cannot be raised without a body: it would be monstrous. There is then the broad statement in John 17, “Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” The resurrection comes in, not by the power of God only, but also by man. “For since by man came death, by man also came resurrection from the dead.” It is the Man Christ Jesus coming in in power. Every created thing, the whole universe, is to be wholly put under this righteous Man, this now glorified Man, the second Adam. He only is excepted which did put all things under Him—that is, God the Father.
As spiritual men, we now belong to the Last Adam, being content now to suffer with Him, that we may be glorified together with Him. “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” Christ had the heart to come down to us. He did not throw down the blessing to us from heaven, but He came Himself to bring it. Such was His wondrous love—a love which was stronger than death. Now He is set down at the right hand of God, expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. Meanwhile He is gathering out His joint-heirs—His friends. Christ came in grace, and took our place as sinners; and now takes us up to His place of righteousness: for to sit with Him on His throne is to be our place; and this through a real living association with Himself. He is the First-born among many brethren. He wrought the work alone, but He takes His power with the many. We may be burdened, groaning in conflict: still we have certainty. The Holy Ghost is the witness of what Christ has done for us; we are “made the righteousness of God in him.” What a thought, that I have this standing before God, though vile in myself! In virtue of this I hate sin, because it is so different from what I actually am there.
All power in heaven and earth is given to Christ. All are to be brought under His power. Not only will His saints bow before Him—who do it now with delight, in the power of a new life; but His enemies must bow before Him. He is gathering His friends now, but His enemies will be dealt with by-and-by. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. The wicked dead are glanced at here; for when death’s power is destroyed, the wicked dead must all rise, as being no longer holden of it. What a different resurrection will this be to the resurrection of the saints, in virtue of their association with Christ in the power of the Holy Ghost! Rom. 8:11. Then, when all things are made subject, and Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, the mediatorial reign will be at an end, because God will be all in all. Therefore Christ will not be ruling as the mediatorial man then; but Christ the man will never cease to be “the first-born among many brethren.” Subjection is man’s perfection. Therefore Christ’s subjection as man results from His perfection. “Then also shall the Son himself be subject.” This is most blessed, that for ever and for ever He will be in our midst—He whose heart is love—He who, as the Man of sorrows here, brought down God’s love to us! He will take His place in our midst as the second Adam, as the Head and Source and Channel of every blessing.
If I am now joying in God, it is in virtue of being risen with Christ, God’s perfect delight. Why is it that God has given us so full a revelation of these things as He has by His word and Spirit, but that we might know and enjoy them now in our souls? as David says, “For thy word’s sake and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things to make thy servant know them,” 2 Sam. 7:21. God has given us intelligence of these things, that knowing and enjoying them we may be sanctified by them. The simple child who loves his father knows more about the relationship than the philosopher who might write volumes on the subject. The child would be astonished that one should be unable to understand that love of the father which he as an affectionate child was living in the enjoyment of, but still he might not be able to explain it. Unless we are in the relationship, we can never enter into the feelings which result from it. The relationship is not formed in heaven. The fruits of it will be enjoyed there, but the relationship is formed here on the earth; while the one who is known and loved as a father, being in heaven, the child wishes to be there, as it is very natural for the child to be with the father. Fellowship is more than inheritance. It is most blessed to have the inheritance beneath our feet, but it is much more blessed to have fellowship with God as our Father above us. We have poor foolish hearts needing to be exercised; but still we have accomplished glory, accomplished righteousness, and all in virtue of the accomplished work of Christ, so that our hearts bow before Him. The reason of all this blessedness is— “That in the ages to come he might shew forth the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” The more faithfulness there is in us, the more sorrows doubtless; but then there will be consolations abounding. Only let us take up the cross, and if it be really the cross, we shall find Jesus with it, and the earnest and spring of glory in our hearts.
The power then which delivers us from wrath, from sin, and from Satan, is the resurrection of Christ in virtue of His accomplished righteousness, and thus we are brought into fellowship with Him. Our portion, whether in suffering down here or in glory up there, is all in Christ, as the One risen from the dead. The Lord keep our hearts full of rejoicing, crucifying the flesh, and as being dead to law, sin, and the world. We live to God in the same power in which Christ lives. The Lord give us thankful hearts for His unspeakable mercy.