“Thus also it is written: the first man, Adam, became a living soul; the last Adam (became) a quickening Spirit.” ().
In the attempt to understand the meaning of this passage, it is important to bear in mind, that the writer of this epistle to the Corinthians is here defending the great truth of the glad tidings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the resurrection from the dead. Take this truth out of the gospel and it is no longer glad tidings having the approval of God. The preacher is then truly marked and branded a liar; his gospel is empty, faith is empty and the believers are then of all people the most miserable. But, thanks be to God, such is not the case. Christ is, indeed, risen and He has become the first fruits of them that have fallen asleep!
For by man came the transgression and the penalty of death. Thus also by man came the resurrection of the dead. One of our number, born from a woman and made under law has come to lift us out of sin and death. He died according to the Scriptures and He arose again the third day according to the same Scriptures!
That is good tidings. It is the glad tidings of good things, which shall be unto all the people, unto all the men of God’s good pleasure. Wherefore, we must be steadfast, immoveable in the Lord, always abounding in His work, knowing that our labor and travail is not vain in the Lord!
Such is the general setting of our text.
The more particular setting of our text within this general scheme is that Paul is here giving a reply to the infidel and skeptic to two questions. The first is: the nature of the body that shall be ours in the resurrection. The other is: the manner of the” resurrection act itself. Two distinguishable questions. Yet, they are questions, which are most closely related. One can hardly speak of the one without touching upon the other.
To understand the nature of our body that shall be ours after the final resurrection Paul shows us some very sharp contrasts.
First of all, there is the contrast of our body now as it is by virtue of sin and death; as it is now in the state of corruption, mortality, weakness and dishonor. The body that shall be ours will in no wise bear anymore the effects of sin and death. It will be a body that is immortal, incorruptible, full of power and glory. All the effects of sin and death will be no more.
However, it will not be a body that brings us back again in the position of the human race in the first Adam. If we may hypothetically think away sin for a moment, and, further, think of the whole human rate as it came forth out of Adam never having fallen; as always having remained standing at the tree of life then there would have been no sin. But then we would not yet have come to the body that shall be ours in the resurrection in the Last Adam, who became the quickening Spirit.
For there is a natural body and there is a spiritual body. And the spiritual is not first, but the natural and then the spiritual.
This contrast of the natural (psychical) body in the first Adam and the Spiritual (pneumatical) body in the last Adam is the contrast in our text. And, we may well add, it is a pivotal question. Here we have the fundamental and all-controlling lines of history. Here the believer lifts up his weary head in hope and finds sweet rest and repose in the eternal good pleasure of God, and in His wisdom and matchless design in all things.
What is this contrast?
It is the Christological design of God already” in Genesis 1-3. Christological design? “We read nothing of the Christ as yet in Genesis 2,” someone may interrupt! Adam knew nothing of it, as yet. He simply had the command to live by, didn’t he? Why speak of Christological design in Genesis 2, while in reality we read of the revelation of Christ only at Genesis 3, where the announcement is made to the Serpent, that his head will be crushed by the seed of the woman?
We answer: because the Word of God itself teaches us that this design was there; it was there even in God’s intention. It was not merely there as a backdoor held open, like our fire escape! It was there in God’s design. The natural, says Paul in verse 46-47, is first and then the spiritual. In God’s design, in His design it was thus!
Someone may say: but was this then God’s original, primordial design? And I answer with an emphatic: Yes! Thus we read in: “Making known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him unto a dispensation of the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in heaven and the things upon the earth, in him. . .” And, again, we read in : “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through Him and unto Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist (hold together). And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn of the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” And we cannot fail to add verse 19 (idem) “For it was the good pleasure (of the Father) that in Him should all the fullness dwell, and through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross, through Him, I say, whether things upon the earth or things in heaven.”
There is more in this latter passage which is worthy of quotation. We hope to refer to later on. But for our present purpose, what we have quoted is sufficient. It is surely evident that the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the renewal of all things, the reconstitution of all things is no accident, but that it is the eternal, sovereign and incomprehensible and all glorious purpose of our God and maker!
Yes, God made the psychical (natural) first and then the pneumatical, the spiritual.
The line as drawn by Paul inwe must keep before our mind in our study here of I Corinthians 15:45.
And what do we then, to speak more particularly, notice?
There are two poles in history, if I may so speak. It is the natural, the psychical in Adam, who is out of the earth, earthy (not earthly!). He is earthy, for he is taken out of the earth. And this earthy is contrasted with the heavenly. The other pole is the second, the Last Adam, after whom no other Adam can come, Who was made by God a quickening Spirit.
Let us try to see this.
The text says: the first Adam was made a living soul, (egeneto . . . eis psucheen zoosan). And Paul adds too: “Thus it is written”. And we believe it was written for our comfort and instruction, for us, I say, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. It is written, in order that, when we stand at the grave’s brink (and who does not?) we by faith in Christ crucified, dead and buried might read of the Christological design and motives of God, as He created all things into Christ, who is the firstborn of all creation!
Let us not be affrighted by so rich a display of sovereign wisdom and good-pleasure for our salvation in Christ. Neither let us be told, that this design of God makes history meaningless. Rather let us humbly acknowledge, that this alone gives the meaning of History. And by faith let us see our place in it all, even at the mouth of the grave, and let us shout: O death, where is thy sting, O grave, where is thy victory. Then by faith we lean in the everlasting arms of God in the Son, the man Jesus, and die happily. Meanwhile we shall labor and travail, knowing that in Him our labors are not vain! History has meaning, it has the meaning of the realization of the summing up of all things in Jesus Christ our Lord. He must be the firstborn of all creation as the firstborn out of the dead!
That is the meaning of history.
It is the wisdom of God in Christ crucified.
Thus it is written. It is written in. And this word is here, in the text, administered in its Christological design to the church of God in the ends of the ages. That is why it was written. It was written up to the very present moment. It was penned by a holy man, moved unto this not by himself, but he was moved by the Holy Spirit. God would have us know this Word. And it must be preached to us by Paul. That which is written must be interpreted in the light of all of God’s works, in the light of the all controlling design of God in dealing with a man in our transgression, and also with a man in our resurrection.
And thus it is written.
It was thus written down through the centuries.
But now it is not only written in the less understandable form of Genesis 2, taken by itself, but it is also written as interpreted by the apostle.
Genesis 2 tells us of the creation of Adam. No, it does not tell us everything. It does not tell us everything that God would do with this Design. But all that God does further in His Christological-Soteriological purposes is built on this, it uses this. It uses it not as an after-thought, as it clear from Colossians 1 quoted above, but He uses it as the foundation of the building, the house eternal in the heavens.. The natural (psychical) is first, then the spiritual.
This is not dry dogmatics! This is the administration of the secrets of God concerning our salvation to our comfort.
A good supralapsarian sermon is indeed a comforting sermon in the ends of the ages!
To preach well on Genesis 2 is to preach well on.
That is really Eschatological preaching. Not simply preaching about the last things! But preaching the last things as the things of Him Who tells the end from the beginning. Just as one may preach a sermon or two a year on the topic election, without having election as the very heart-beat in the preaching, so also one may preach about the ends of the ages in a very Arminian and Dispensational way, without really preaching the Consummation of all things in heaven and on earth, as spoken of in Ephesians 2 and as outlined by Paul in!
It is now some fifteen years ago that the writer of these lines wrote an article in the Standard Bearer on the subject: “Election-Preaching and the Preaching of Repentance”. When one really preaches repentance from sin he is also preaching on election. He is then possibly not preaching on election, but his preaching then has the heartbeat of God’s elective grace in it. So, too, one who preaches well on Genesis 2 he really preaches an eschatological sermon. Thus it is done by Paul in. Saying: “And thus it is written!”