1 Corinthians 15:21
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) For since by man . . .—The image of the firstfruits is followed up by an explanation of the unity of Christ and Humanity. The firstfruit must be a sample of the same kind as that which it represents. That condition is fulfilled in the case of the firstfruits of the resurrection.

1 Corinthians

THE DEATH OF DEATH

1 Corinthians 15:20 - 1 Corinthians 15:21
; 1 Corinthians 15:50 - 1 Corinthians 15:58.

This passage begins with the triumphant ringing out of the great fact which changes all the darkness of an earthly life without a heavenly hope into a blaze of light. All the dreariness for humanity, and all the vanity for Christian faith and preaching, vanish, like ghosts at cock-crow, when the Resurrection of Jesus rises sun-like on the world’s night. It is a historical fact, established by the evidence proper for such,-namely, the credible testimony of eye-witnesses. They could attest His rising, but the knowledge of the worldwide significance of it comes, not from testimony, but from revelation. Those who saw Him risen join to declare: ‘Now is Christ risen from the dead,’ but it is a higher Voice that goes on to say, ‘and become the first-fruits of them that slept.’

That one Man risen from the grave was like the solitary sheaf of paschal first-fruits, prophesying of many more, a gathered harvest that will fill the great Husbandman’s barns. The Resurrection of Jesus is not only a prophecy, showing, as it and it alone does, that death is not the end of man, but that life persists through death and emerges from it, like a buried river coming again flashing into the light of day, but it is the source or cause of the Christian’s resurrection. The oneness of the race necessitated the diffusion through all its members of sin and of its consequence-physical death. If the fountain is poisoned, all the stream will be tainted. If men are to be redeemed from the power of the grave, there must be a new personal centre of life; and union with Him, which can only be effected by faith, is the condition of receiving life from Him, which gradually conquers the death of sin now, and will triumph over bodily death in the final resurrection. It is the resurrection of Christians that Paul is dealing with. Others are to be raised, but on a different principle, and to sadly different issues. Since Christ’s Resurrection assures us of the future waking, it changes death into ‘sleep,’ and that sleep does not mean unconsciousness any more than natural sleep does, but only rest from toil, and cessation of intercourse with the external world.

In the part of the passage, 1 Corinthians 15:50 - 1 Corinthians 15:58, the Apostle becomes, not the witness or the reasoner, as in the earlier parts of the chapter, but the revealer of a ‘mystery.’ That word, so tragically misunderstood, has here its uniform scriptural sense of truth, otherwise unknown, made known by revelation. But before he unveils the mystery, Paul states with the utmost force a difficulty which might seem to crush all hope,-namely, that corporeity, as we know it, is clearly incapable of living in such a world as that future one must be. To use modern terms, organism and environment must be adapted to each other. A fish must have the water, the creatures that flourish at the poles would not survive at the equator. A man with his gross earthly body, so thoroughly adapted to his earthly abode, would be all out of harmony with his surroundings in that higher world, and its rarified air would be too thin and pure for his lungs. Can there be any possibility of making him fit to live in a spiritual world? Apart from revelation, the dreary answer must be ‘No.’ But the ‘mystery’ answers with ‘Yes.’ The change from physical to spiritual is clearly necessary, if there is to be a blessed life hereafter.

That necessary change is assured to all Christians, whether they die or ‘remain till the coming of the Lord.’ Paul varies in his anticipations as to whether he and his contemporaries will belong to the one class or the other; but he is quite sure that in either case the indwelling Spirit of Jesus will effect on living and dead the needful change. The grand description in 1 Corinthians 15:52, like the parallel in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, is modelled on the account of the theophany on Sinai. The trumpet was the signal of the Divine Presence. That last manifestation will be sudden, and its startling breaking in on daily commonplace is intensified by the reduplication: ‘In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.’ With sudden crash that awful blare of ‘loud, uplifted angel trumpet’ will silence all other sounds, and hush the world. The stages of what follows are distinctly marked. First, the rising of the dead changed in passing through death, so as to rise in incorruptible bodies, and then the change of the bodies of the living into like incorruption. The former will not be found naked, but will be clothed with their white garments; the latter will, as it were, put on the glorious robes above the ‘muddy vesture of decay,’ or, more truly, will see the miracle of these being transfigured till they shine ‘so as no fuller on earth could white them.’ The living will witness the resurrection of the dead; the risen dead will witness the transformation of the living. Then both hosts will be united, and, through all eternity, ‘live together,’ and that ‘with Him.’ Paul evidently expects that he and the Corinthians will be in the latter class, as appears by the ‘we’ in 1 Corinthians 15:52. He, as it were, points to his own body when he says, recurring to his former thought of the necessity of harmony between organism and environment, ‘this corruptible must put on incorruption.’ Here ‘corruption’ is used in its physical application, though the ethical meaning may be in the background.

The Apostle closes his long argument and revelation with a burst, almost a shout, of triumph. Glowing words of old prophets rush into his mind, and he breathes a new, grander meaning into them. Isaiah had sung of a time when the veil over all nations should be destroyed ‘in this mountain,’ and when death should be swallowed up for ever; and Paul grasps the words and says that the prophet’s loftiest anticipations will be fulfilled when that monster, whose insatiable maw swallows down youth, beauty, strength, wisdom, will himself be swallowed up. Hosea had prophesied of Israel’s restoration under figure of a resurrection, and Paul grasps his words and fills them with a larger meaning. He modifies them, in a manner on which we need not enlarge, to express the great Christian thought that death has conquered man but that man in Christ will conquer the conqueror. With swift change of metaphor he represents death as a serpent, armed with a poisoned sting, and that suggests to him the thought, never far away in his view of man, that death’s power to slay is derived from-or, so to say, concentrated in-sin; and that at once raises the other equally characteristic and familiar thought that law stimulates sin, since to know a thing to be forbidden creates in perverse humanity an itching to do it, and law reveals sin by setting up the ideal from which sin is the departure. But just as the tracks in Paul’s mind were well worn, by which the thought of death brought in that of sin, and that of sin drew after it that of law, so with equal closeness of established association, that of law condemnatory and slaying, brought up that of Christ the all-sufficient refuge from that gloomy triad-Death Sin, Law. Through union with Him each of us may possess His immortal risen life, in which Death, the engulfer, is himself engulfed; Death, the conqueror, is conquered utterly and for ever; Death, the serpent, has his sting drawn, and is harmless. That participation in Christ’s life is begun even here, and God ‘giveth us the victory’ now, even while we live outward lives that must end in death, and will give it perfectly in the resurrection, when ‘they cannot die any more,’ and death itself is dead.

The loftiest Christian hopes have close relation to the lowliest Christian duties, and Paul’s triumphant song ends with plain, practical, prose exhortations to steadfastness, unmovable tenacity, and abundant fruitfulness, the motive and power of which will be found in the assurance that, since there is a life beyond, all labour here, however it may fail in the eyes of men, will not be in vain, but will tell on character and therefore on condition through eternity. If our peace does not rest where we would fain see it settle, it will not be wasted, but will return to us again, like the dove to the ark, and we shall ‘self-enfold the large results of’ labour that seemed to have been thrown away.15:20-34 All that are by faith united to Christ, are by his resurrection assured of their own. As through the sin of the first Adam, all men became mortal, because all had from him the same sinful nature, so, through the resurrection of Christ, shall all who are made to partake of the Spirit, and the spiritual nature, revive, and live for ever. There will be an order in the resurrection. Christ himself has been the first-fruits; at his coming, his redeemed people will be raised before others; at the last the wicked will rise also. Then will be the end of this present state of things. Would we triumph in that solemn and important season, we must now submit to his rule, accept his salvation, and live to his glory. Then shall we rejoice in the completion of his undertaking, that God may receive the whole glory of our salvation, that we may for ever serve him, and enjoy his favour. What shall those do, who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Perhaps baptism is used here in a figure, for afflictions, sufferings, and martyrdom, as Mt 20:22,23. What is, or will become of those who have suffered many and great injuries, and have even lost their lives, for this doctrine of the resurrection, if the dead rise not at all? Whatever the meaning may be, doubtless the apostle's argument was understood by the Corinthians. And it is as plain to us that Christianity would be a foolish profession, if it proposed advantage to themselves by their faithfulness to God; and to have our fruit to holiness, that our end may be everlasting life. But we must not live like beasts, as we do not die like them. It must be ignorance of God that leads any to disbelieve the resurrection and future life. Those who own a God and a providence, and observe how unequal things are in the present life, how frequently the best men fare worst, cannot doubt as to an after-state, where every thing will be set to rights. Let us not be joined with ungodly men; but warn all around us, especially children and young persons, to shun them as a pestilence. Let us awake to righteousness, and not sin.For since by man came death - By Adam, or by means of his transgression; see 1 Corinthians 15:22. The sense is, evidently, that in consequence of the sin of Adam all people die, or are subjected to temporal death. Or, in other words, man would not have died had it not been for the crime of the first man; see the note on Romans 5:12. This passage may be regarded as proof that death would not have entered the world had it not been for transgression; or, in other words, if man had not sinned, he would have remained immortal on the earth, or would have been translated to heaven, as Enoch and Elijah were, without seeing death. The apostle here, by "man," undoubtedly refers to Adam; but the particular and specific idea which he intends to insist on is, that, as death came by human nature, or by a human being, by a man, so it was important and proper that immortality, or freedom from death, should come in the same way, by one who was a man. Man introduced death; man also would recover from death. The evil was introduced by one man; the recovery would be by another man.

By man came also - By the Lord Jesus, the Son of God in human nature. The resurrection came by him, because he first rose - first of those who should not again die; because he proclaimed the doctrine, and placed it on a firm foundation; and because by his power the dead will be raised up. Thus, he came to counteract the evils of the fall, and to restore man to more than his primeval dignity and honor. The resurrection through Christ will be with the assurance that all who are raised up by him shall never die again.

21. by man … by man—The first-fruits are of the same nature as the rest of the harvest; so Christ, the bringer of life, is of the same nature as the race of men to whom He brings it; just as Adam, the bringer of death, was of the same nature as the men on whom he brought it. Since by one man, viz. Adam, (who is also styled the Song of Solomon of God. Luke 3:38, because he had neither father nor mother), came man’s subjection to mortality, sicknesses, and death here, and eternal death and misery in another world; it pleased God that by one, who though he was the eternal, only begotten Son of God, yet was also made man, and was flesh of our flesh, the resurrection of those that are believers, and asleep in Christ, should come, Hebrews 2:14. For since by man came death,.... The first man, by sin, was the cause of death; of its coming into the world, and upon all men, by which corporeal death is here meant; though the first man also by sin brought a moral death, or a death in sin on all his posterity; and rendered them liable to an eternal death, which is the just wages of sin; but since the apostle is treating of the resurrection of the body, a bodily death seems only intended:

by man came also the resurrection of the dead; so God, in his great goodness and infinite wisdom has thought fit, and he has so ordered it, that it should be, that as the first man was the cause of, and brought death into the world, the second man should be the cause of the resurrection of life. Christ is the meritorious and procuring cause of the resurrection of his people; he by dying has abolished death; and by rising from the dead has opened the graves of the saints, and procured their resurrection for them, obtained for them a right unto it, and made way for it: and he is the pattern and exemplar, according to which they will be raised; their vile bodies will be fashioned, and made like to his glorious body; and whereas both in life and in death they bear the image of the first and earthly man, in the resurrection they will bear the image of the second and heavenly one: he also will be the efficient cause of the resurrection; all the dead will be raised by his power, and at the hearing of his voice; though the saints only will be raised by him, in virtue of their union to him, and interest in him, being members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

{12} For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

(12) Another confirmation of the same conclusion: for Christ is to be considered as opposite to Adam, that as from one man Adam, sin came over all, so from one man Christ, life comes to all. That is to say, that all the faithful, who die because by nature they were born of Adam, so because in Christ they are made the children of God by grace, they are made alive and restored to life by him.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 15:21. Assigning the ground for the characteristic ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμ. “For since (seeing that indeed, 1 Corinthians 1:21 f., 1 Corinthians 14:16; Php 2:26) through a man death is brought about, so also through a man is resurrection of the dead brought about.” We must supply simply ἐστί; but the conclusion is not (Calvin and many others) e contrariis causis ad contrarios effectus, but, as is shown by the διʼ ἀνθρώπου twice prefixed with emphasis: a causa mali effectus ad similem causam contrarii effectus. The evil which arose through a human author is by divine arrangement removed also through a human author. How these different effects are each brought about by a man, Paul assumes to be known to his readers from the instructions which he must have given them orally, but reminds them thereof by 1 Corinthians 15:22.

θάνατος] of physical death, Romans 5:12.

ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν] resurrection of dead persons, abstractly expressed, designates the matter ideally and in general. So also θάνατος without the article; see the critical remarks.1 Corinthians 15:21-22 explain the identification of the risen Christ with those sleeping in death, which was assumed by the word ἀπαρχή. It rests on the fact that Christ is the antitype of Adam, the medium of life to the race as Adam was of death. This parl[2338] is resumed in 1 Corinthians 15:46 ff., where it is applied to the nature of the resurrection body, as here to the universallty of the resurrection. These two passages form the complement of Romans 5:12-21; the antithesis of Adam and Christ—who represent flesh, trespass, death and spirit, righteousness, life respectively—is thus extended over the entire career of the race viewed as a history of sin and redemption.—“For since through man (there is) death, through man also (there is) a resurrection of the dead”: διʼ ἀνθρώπου, “through a man (qua man)”—through human means or mediation. For ἐπειδὴ, quandoquidem (Cv[2339]), see 1 Corinthians 1:21 f.; the first fact necessitated and shaped the second: man was the channel conveying death to his kind (Romans 5:12), through the same channel the counter current must flow (Romans 5:15, etc.).—This goes deeper than ἀπαρχή; Christ is the ἀρχή, the principle and root of resurrection life (Colossians 1:18).—“Through man” implies that Death is not, as philosophy supposed, a law of finite being or a necessity of fate; it is an event of history, a calamity brought by man upon himself and capable of removal by the like means.—ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ κ.τ.λ.: “For just as in the Adam all die, so also in the Christ all will be made alive”. The foregoing double διʼ ἀνθρώπου opens out into “the (representative) Adam and Christ”—the natural and spiritual, earthly and heavenly counterparts (1 Corinthians 15:45 ff.), the two types and founders of humanity, paralleled by ὥσπερκαὶ οὕτως (cf. Romans 5:12 ff.).—The stress of the comparison does not lie on πάντες, as though the Ap. meant to say that “all (men)” will rise in Christ as certainly as they die in Adam (so, with variations, Or[2340], Cm[2341], Cv[2342], Mr[2343], Gd[2344], Sm[2345], El[2346], referring to John 5:28 f., Acts 24:15): says Bt[2347] says, the absence of ἄνθρωποι tells against such ref[2348] to the race (contrast Romans 5:12; Romans 5:18), also the use of ζωοποιέω (see below). The point is that as death in all cases is grounded in Adam, so life in all cases is grounded in Christ (cf. John 6:53; John 11:25)—no death without the one, no life without the other (Aug[2349], Bg[2350], Hf[2351], Ed[2352], Hn[2353], Bt[2354]). πάντες = οἱ πολλοί (Romans 5:18 f.), as set in contrast with ὁ εἷς ἄνθρωπος.—Ζωοποίεω is narrower in extension than ἐγείρω (1 Corinthians 15:20), since the latter applies to every one raised from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:15 f., 1 Corinthians 15:35); wider in intension, as it imports not the mere raising of the body, but restoration to “life” in the full sense of the term (Hf[2355]; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:45, Romans 6:8; Romans 8:11; John 5:21; John 6:63),—an ἀνάστασιν ζωῆς (John 5:29). A firm and broad basis is now shown to exist for the solidarity between Christ and the holy dead (οἱ κεκοιμημένοι) affirmed in 1 Corinthians 15:20.

[2338] parallel.

[2339] Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii.

[2340] Origen.

[2341] John Chrysostom’s Homiliœ († 407).

[2342] Calvin’s In Nov. Testamentum Commentarii.

[2343] Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eng. Trans.).

[2344] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[2345] P. Schmiedel, in Handcommentar zum N.T. (1893).

[2346] C. J. Ellicott’s St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

[2347] J. A. Beet’s St. Paul’s Epp. to the Corinthians (1882).

[2348] reference.

[2349] Augustine.

[2350] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[2351]
J. C. K. von Hofmann’s Die heilige Schrift N.T. untersucht, ii. 2 (2te Auflage, 1874).

[2352] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[2353] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).

[2354] J. A. Beet’s St. Paul’s Epp. to the Corinthians (1882).

[2355] J. C. K. von Hofmann’s Die heilige Schrift N.T. untersucht, ii. 2 (2te Auflage, 1874).21. For since by man came death] Cf. Romans 5:12; Romans 5:17; Romans 6:21; Romans 6:23; James 1:15; and the narrative in Genesis 3.

by man came also the resurrection of the dead] Athanasius remarks that here we have not παρά but διά, as pointing out that even in Jesus Christ man was not the source, but the means of the blessings given to mankind in Him; that He took man’s nature in order to fill it, and through it us, each in our measure, with all the perfections of His Godhead. “As by partaking of the flesh and blood, the substance of the first Adam, we came to our death, so to life we cannot come unless we do participate in the flesh and blood of the Second Adam, that is, Christ. We drew death from the first by partaking of the substance; and so we must draw life from the second by the same. This is the way; become branches of the Vine and partakers of His Nature, and so of His life and verdure both.” Bp Andrewes, Serm. 2 on the Resurrection.1 Corinthians 15:21. Καὶ) also. ἐπειδὴ γὰρ, for since, has here its apodosis.Verse 21. - By man came death (see Romans 5:12, 17; Romans 6:21, 23).
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