But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every power. For he must reign until he has put all things in subjection under his feet. But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection’, it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all thing in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all. Otherwise, what will those people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptised on their behalf?
In these few verses Paul continues to explain the understanding of resurrection to the people of Corinth – the positive consequences of the resurrection. Paul contrasts Adam and Christ. In Adam, humankind as we are, the natural end is death. But “in Christ” death has been transformed. Christ is the start of a new humanity, our current failures are replaced with the possibilities of the future. Christ is the “first fruit” of this new humanity. Paul is relating this representation of Christ as the first fruit back to the Feast of First Fruits in the Old Testament. At the beginning of the grain harvest, the Israelites brought the first sheaf harvested and dedicated it to the Lord. This offering assured them that the rest of the harvest would follow. Christ’s resurrection is that first sheaf assuring us that we, the rest of the harvest, will follow.
Through Christ’s resurrection the defeat of all God’s enemies is set in motion and that includes death. But he says that everything has an order and writes that we must wait our turn.
Verse 29 has been considered by many to be one of the most confusing verses, with over 40 different interpretations. Paul continues to talk about the belief of some who are being baptised on behalf of the dead; was this a superstitious idea that you could not enter heaven unless you were baptised? Were relatives being baptised for those who had come to Christianity but died before they could be baptised? A belief in the resurrection has a motivating force on our lives and makes us do thing to help others and as Paul said, if we are not resurrected with Christ what was the point.
Believing in the resurrection has a great effect on you. It will change your life.
Lord, Through the death and resurrection of Christ I see your grace. Allow me to be a channel of your grace to all who I meet today. Allow me to be a motivating force to all who I meet today. Allow me to help all who I meet today. We pray this in the name of our resurrected Christ. Amen
Susan Henderson is an ordinand studying at the Scottish United Reformed and Congregational College as well as at the Scottish Episcopal Church Institute.