Summary: Death came by one. Life came by one.
“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.”
This letter of Paul’s to the church in Corinth is full of corrections and clarifications. The church had many factions and frictions. Many of the worldly and pagan ideals and rituals had crept in because they had difficulty shedding their past interests and seeing the distinct difference between their new found faith and those old practices.
John MacArthur points out that; “Like many Christians today, the Corinthian believers had great difficulty in not mimicking the unbelieving and corrupt society around them.” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians, Moody Press, Chicago, 1984)
As is indicated in the fourteenth chapter of this letter, there was disharmony and disorder in the worship services. There was also confusion about the fundamental doctrines. Paul begins chapter 15 going back to the basics and explaining the gospel message to them once more. Then in verse 12 he begins his discourse on the resurrection, saying that some among them were denying that there was a resurrection at all. So from that verse and for the next 46 verses, to the end of the chapter, he argues for the resurrection in such an elegant manner that one of my wife’s secular text books in college included the 15th chapter of I Corinthians as one of the best examples in literature of persuasive writing.
By the time we get to verse 20 Paul has established very clearly that if Christ has not risen from the dead, then we’re all spinning our wheels. Worse than that, we’re fools to be pitied; perhaps Paul, more than anyone.
Here was this highly educated and devout Pharisee, prominent among his peers and zealous for his religion, comfortable in his self-righteousness and headed for a very promising future in this religious order.
Then he has his Damascus road experience, and from that day forward he is hunted, plotted against, slapped, insulted, bullied, whipped, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, starved, shipwrecked, falsely accused, maligned in every way, and all of this for the crime of preaching the resurrection!
If Christ is not raised from the dead, then Paul’s life was a pathetic waste, as have been the lives of countless millions since then and until now.
But my goal today is not to prove the resurrection, either Christ’s or the resurrection to come, which is really only a continuance of what began with His. Instead, I want to talk about what the resurrection ultimately means, namely, life, and not just life in general, but the kind of life that came by God’s Man.
DEATH CAME BY ONE
First it is important that we talk about how death came for the sake of contrast.
Paul said that ‘…by a man came death’.
Now did you hear that? By a man came death. Death came by a man.
Do you believe that the scriptures are divinely inspired and that they are true and without error? Do you believe that men wrote as God breathed and that the written Word of God is unambiguous and profitable for teaching about God?
Then, Christian, there is no place next to the Bible for teaching of evolution. There is no degree of compatibility. There cannot be some silly blending of the Creation account and the theory of evolution so everyone can be happy.
By a man and by his willful disobedience and by his disbelief and subsequent action, death came into the world. We are told this at the very beginning of the Bible, and we are told this again here in our text, and if it is not true then the whole Bible is not true.
The story of Adam and Eve cannot be symbolic of the general decline of mankind. If one physical man named Adam did not sin against God and His clearly spoken command and eat of a physical tree with physical fruit and thereby introduce sin into the world and death through sin, then throw your Bible in the trash and go have fun while you can, because none of it is true.
Now it naturally follows also that if the Bible is not true and none of it can be depended on for help in the now or the hereafter, then no one has the right to criticize another for their actions, or hold them accountable for any perceived wrong, since without the Bible we just make our own rules.
If we’re all just products of some primordial slime being struck by lightning and jump-starting organic life and then just by time and chance down the line here comes this species of two-legged, upright, thinking creatures, then there is no need for any universal moral code, because sooner or later each one of us is going to return to the ground, there won’t be anything left of us, and therefore all that matters is me and what I can get for myself right now, and you and your needs come in second at very best.