1 Corinthians 15:22

    Are “the all who are vivified in Christ identical with the all who are dying in Adam? Some say yes, and others say no. By the words “made alive [or: vivified] in Christ,” does not Paul speak of that blessed, immortal life of the future, gained by Christ on behalf of sinners? Some say yes, and others say no.
    There are relatively few who say yes to both of these evangelical points, even though both seem clearly presented in this passage. Those who agree that the two occurrences of all in this verse are parallel and refer to the entirety of mankind generally deny that being made alive in Christ necessarily implies salvation. Those who affirm that this vivifying work of Christ is the glorious opposite of dying in Adam often insist that the all of the second part of this verse refers to fewer people than the all of the first half.
    The 19th Century commentator, H.A.W. Meyer, for example, points to the early commentators, Chrysostom, Ambroisiaster, and Theodoret, who “rightly understood” all as denoting “all without exception . . . in keeping with the quite universal [all] of the first half of the verse” (EXEGETICAL HAND-BOOK TO THE EPISTLES TO THE CORINTHIANS, 1st English Edition, 1883, pp.354,355). But Meyer denies that “vivify in Christ” means more than a general sort of resurrection, whether to eternal life or condemnation to hell.
    On the other hand, some years later, Professor G.G. Finlay, pointed out that being made alive is “wider in intention” than being resurrected, “as it imports not the mere raising of the body, but restoration to ‘life’ in the full sense of the term.” Finlay says the stress of the passage is not on all, which he then employs in his gloss of what Paul was trying to say: “The point is that as death in all cases is grounded in Adam, so life in all cases is grounded in Christ.” (THE EXPOSITOR’S GREEK TESTAMENT, vol.2, p.926).
    This presents a challenge to those who wish to remain orthodox in the true sense of being “right” in what is believed and taught from the Scriptures, and to those who claim to be evangelical, i.e., true to the evangel, or gospel, of Christ. If Paul meant “Even as all who are in Adam are dying, so also all who are in Christ will be made alive,” could he not have said so and still have the parallel construction? Most commentators today agree with Findlay that the Greek word for “make alive” means life in the full sense of the term, and that being made alive in Christ must refer to salvation. But because they deny that God’s will to save all will ever be achieved, they are willing to alter Paul’s wording in order to explain what he “really meant.”
    A.T. Robertson goes all the way in denying that Paul said what he wanted to say: “It is not easy to catch Paul’s thought here. He means resurrection (restoration) by the verb here, but not necessarily eternal life or salvation.” Hence Robertson agrees with Meyer in denying that being made alive in Christ is a matter of salvation. But he adds in agreement with Findlay: “So also [all] may not coincide in both causes” (WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, vol.4, p.191). Consequently, Robertson suggests Paul was telling us that not necessarily everyone who dies in Adam will be restored to a life that is not necessarily salvation.
    Surely this is neither the right way nor the evangelical way to deal with scripture, especially when Christ is being set forth in contrast to Adam. To all our fellow believers, whether pastors or teachers or laymen, we earnestly ask: What is meant by the word “all” in this verse, and what is meant by the verb “make alive” in its association with the phrase “in Christ”?
    We would greatly appreciate hearing from you on this matter.

Dean Hough 


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