Christ the First Fruits
So many people live and work for the moment at hand, pushing any idea of eternity out of their minds. They squander their time, money and resources without a glance at their Creator. They seek satisfaction, security and significance in relationships, education, and materialism. Yet if you speak with them, you will quickly realize that they are not satisfied. This is why Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15 is so important. He exposes the lie that this life is all that matters by explaining the connection between this life and the next, particularly the connection between the present earthly body and the future resurrection body. It’s a chapter filled with hope grounded in Christ’s resurrection that challenges us to abound in the work of the Lord knowing that our labor is not in vain.
The Resurrection of Christ
Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand what is of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). Christ came. He lived a life of perfect obedience on our behalf. He died a cursed death in our place. He was buried. He was raised to new life. After appearing to hundreds of people He ascended into heaven and was exalted at the right hand of God the Father where He remains until He comes to judge the living and the dead. We too need to understand that the gospel is of primary importance and boldly proclaim the crucified and risen Christ to our families, neighbors, fellow students, and coworkers.
The Resurrection of Believers
Believers live with the glorious hope that our souls and bodies will be reunited upon Christ’s return when He raises the dead. He is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). The Feast of Firstfruits recognized God’s goodness to bring His people into the Promised Land and provide bountifully for them (Lev. 23:9-14). God’s people were to bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of their harvest to the priest so he could wave it before the Lord and Israel could be accepted before Him. Christ fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits through His life, death and resurrection. Upon His return He will raise believers up to new life, so that we can live with Him forever in the new heaven and new earth.
Paul’s belief in the resurrection was one of his greatest motivations to live for Christ and die to the things of this world. In contrast, the Corinthians lived for present worldly pleasures, as if nothing mattered on the other side of death (see 1 Cor. 15:29-34). If we’re honest, we too are guilty of living for today, thinking this life is all that matters. One look at our bank statements, resources, and calendars often reveals we are not living with an eternal perspective. Let us eagerly await the day when we will be raised to new life and behold our risen Lord and Savior in the new heaven and new earth.
The Resurrection Body of Believers
The resurrection of the dead is similar to a farmer sowing seed. God sows a perishable body that will die, but He raises an imperishable body that is fit for eternal life in the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:42). This perishable body is sown in “dishonor,” “weakness,” and “a natural body,” but it is raised in “glory,” “power,” and “a spiritual body” fit for glory (vv. 43-44). Our natural bodies of flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God because our bodies are perishable. But God will change each believer’s natural body into a spiritual body “in a moment” at Christ’s return and the dead will be raised with imperishable bodies that are able to live forever in the new Jerusalem (vv. 51-52).
When this occurs the death that entered the world through sin will be swallowed up in Christ’s victory (1 Cor. 15:53-55). Apart from Christ the sting of death cannot be removed and everyone stands condemned by the law, “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 56-57). In light of such a salvation, let us “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (v. 58).
Perhaps today you are weary and wonder if your work done for the Lord really matters. The children you poured yourself into seem far from the Lord. Your marriage that you’ve worked so hard at seems strained. Your teaching career hasn’t brought the opportunities to share the gospel you had hoped. Your ministry doesn’t seem to be bearing the fruit for which you had prayed. Be encouraged, dear believer. Look to “Christ the firstfruits” (1 Cor. 15:23). He is our hope and salvation. He gives us the grace to do the work He has called us to do. And He will come again to raise us from the dead.
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.