Dear Brother Beebe: - A brother Parker, in Indiana, wrote me some time ago for my views upon the text, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” I Cor.15:22. I neglected replying with his request until now. I send a discourse delivered upon that subject in the Old School Baptist chapel in Lebanon, Ohio, on the second Sunday in May, 1894, which you may publish if you think proper.
My mind seems to rest upon this portion of the inspired word; and I shall endeavor, as God may give me ability, to speak words of comfort to the broken-hearted, a word in season to him that is weary, and point out springs of water to them that are thirsty, and rivers of milk and honey to them that are hungry. May the children all have ears this morning to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
This passage of the written word has been relied upon by false teachers to prove their vain imaginings and unholy speculations concerning the salvation of men. The Arminian ignorantly resorts to this quotation to hide the grossness of his schemes and give some face to his free-will absurdities; but when his Universalist brother puts in his claim for it, to bolster up his plan, the Arminian is forced to yield the ground to his more logical claimant, who, as the strong man armed, keeps his goods in peace until a stronger than he comes. This occurs when one who is skilled in the word of righteousness, whose understanding has been opened to understand the Scriptures, takes it in the light of the testimony of the Spirit, and presents it in its true relation to all other Scripture, to the faith, experience and knowledge of those who have been taught of God. It is then clearly seen that it is stolen goods in the hands of all those teaching a conditional system of salvation, and will not fit their scheme.
“As in Adam all die.” I shall first briefly discuss the word all, for upon this word mainly rests the perversion of this text, as well as that of many other portions of the Scriptures. This little word has been made to shoulder very weighty responsibilities. Many an elaborate discourse, many a zealous sermon, many a stirring exhortation, has been delivered solely at its expense. We have often heard men who have more zeal than knowledge, whose fanaticism outweighs their thoughts, and with whom logic is at a discount, and airy conclusions at a premium, in their bursts of enthusiasm and blind rage against the truth, assert in the most self conceited triumph that, a-l-l never spells part. They consider this a knock-down argument against unconditional, personal election, that fundamental principle of all Bible truth. They deem this foolish, meaningless assertion sufficient proof against the doctrine of particular redemption, special calling and final preservation, and hold it as an elenchus of the doctrine of offered mercy, offered love and offered salvation; but such puerile, empty, sweeping assertions can never be taken as argument by a mind that is accustomed in the least to think on these things. A-l-l does frequently and almost without exception spell part. All men in Ohio are but a part of the men in the United States; all the men in the United States are but a part of the population of the American continent; all christians are only a part of the people of the world. It is clearly seen that while this word always means all of something, it invariably means at the same time, a part of something. I have thus briefly spoken of the word all in a general way; let us now make the application to it in this test.
“As in Adam all die.” In regard to the all that die in Adam, there are but two positions possible: First, that all the human family die in him; and second, that all the saints of God die in him. So far as the fact of dying in Adam is concerned, the first proposition is true – all the human family die in him; and if the first be true, then the second is necessarily true, for the saints are a part of the family of Adam, and what is true of the whole, is true of every part of the whole. Now, to arrive at the truth of what is taught here, it remains only to determine which of these positions is embraced in the text. The Apostle has under consideration here, the resurrection of the just, and their final deliverance from this bondage of death. He is treating of the resurrection of the saints in their order. He modifies the expression, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” in the next sentence by saying, “Every man in his own order; Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” Here he stops short. Not a word is said about any one except Christ and them that are his. This clearly sets a limit to the word all. As all that are Christ’s die in Adam, so all that are Christ’s shall be made alive in Him. But suppose that all does mean all the human family, which is true as a fact, but not necessarily true from this text; this argues nothing for the Arminian or Universalist, as there is none made alive in Christ but them that are his. As in Adam, all that are in Adam die, even so in Christ, shall all who are in him be made alive. Even then if the first all does mean the whole human family, there is nothing in the wording of the text which teaches that the same all who die in Adam, are made alive in Christ. This must be proved, if it can be, from some other source.
The death of the saints in Adam, is their inheritance from him. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death hath passed upon all men, for all have sinned. The dissolution of this mortality is only the consummation of that death which hath already passed upon us. We are not simply under the sentence of death, waiting the execution, but death itself hath already passed upon us in reality. There is no power of will, no moral reform, no religious conjuring, no medical skill, that can deliver us from this death. Death reigns absolute, so far as his subjects are concerned; and his dominion is a broad one. The whole human family, the lower animals and vegetable kingdom, are territories where none disputes his sway or disturb his reign. There is no one so noble as to escape the common lot, none so ignoble as to be slighted, none so rich as to buy a reprieve, none so poor as not to be worth the taking; but all are swept away struggling, shuddering, resisting, pleading, by the merciless hand of death.
“The glories of our mortal state,
Are shadows, not substantial things.
There is no armor against Death;
He lays his icy hand on kings.
Sceptre and crown,
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made,
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.
Some men with swords may reap the field,
And plant fresh laurels where they kill;
But their strong nerves at length must yield,
They tame one another still.
Early or late,
They stoop to fate,
And must give up their murmuring breath,
When they, pale captives, creep to death.
The garlands wither on your brow;
Then boast no more your mighty deeds,
Upon Death’s purple altar now,
See how the victor-victim bleeds!
All heads must come,
To the cold tomb;
Only the actions of Christ the just,
Smell sweet and blossom from the dust.”
Death seems to be a necessity both in nature and in grace. Not that God was under necessity to so arrange, but that it seemed good in his sight to have it so. Its all pervading, irrestable, irrepressible reign throughout all countries, all ages and all departments of nature is enough to start the question in the thoughtful mind. Does not death serve some great economy in God’s universe? Is it a mere interloper that God would not have here? Is it not a provision of his own wisdom for carrying out his own design in creation?
Death is a necessity in the vegetable kingdom; for “except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” John 12:24. This is a specific statement, setting forth the principle of reproduction in the vegetable world. Everything that lives is an evidence that something died. The giant oak, adorning the majestic forest, is a living monument that marks an acorn’s grave; and the inscription read in every leaf and written in every bough is, “An acorn died.” Every speck of grass that gems the lawn, every flower that brightens and perfumes the garden, every crimson laden tree of the orchard, proclaims that something died.
The holy Apostle, in treating upon the resurrection of the dead, brought to his argument this universal fact of nature. “That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.” The Saviour, in speaking of the necessity of his own death, and the glory that should follow, used the same fact as an illustration in the words, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.” Death precedes quickening in the vegetable kingdom, and is essential to it. This same mysterious principle in a deeper and more hidden manner extends into the animal kingdom, and even reaches the kingdom of grace. The Saviour opened the door and gave us a glimpse of this mysterious chamber when he said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.” He applied the universal principle of reproduction in the vegetable kingdom to himself. He here gives us to understand that the process of reproduction exemplified in plant life was in some way wrapped up in him; and the principles of his death and our redemption by his blood are in some way illustrated by the death and quickening of a grain of wheat. Now this same saying may with propriety and truthfulness be transferred to Adam, for he is the figure of Christ. Except Adam had died, he would have abided alone, and the world would never have been peopled through him. Adam begat no children until death passed upon him in the sentence, “Dying thou shalt die.” This is strange indeed; but what is not strange when properly thought upon? Its being strange is no evidence against its truthfulness. Truth is always stranger than fiction sure enough. The process cannot be explained, the reason cannot be given, yet it is true. We are warranted in carrying this fact into the animal kingdom by a strictly scientific basis. The principle of reproduction, growth and repair, is found alone in vegetable life; it does not belong to the order of animal life. The difference between the tree and the animal is not that the animal does not possess vegetable life, but that the tree does not possess animal life.
The order of vegetable life endows the animal with the power of reproduction. When a bone is broken, it is the power of vegetable life that causes it to knit together again; and the same principle heals the wound that is made in the flesh or muscles of the body, and causes the hair to grow again when cut or plucked out, and the finger nails to grow again when trimmed. Animal life endows its possessor with the power of locomotion and instinct; but without vegetable life, there would be no reproduction growth and repair. Then, so far as the reproduction of his kind is concerned, it is found alone in the order of vegetable life, which is mysteriously combined with animal life, to make up an animal organism, or a human personality. Hence the same principle of death and quickening which is essential to plant reproduction lies deeply hidden in the fact and process of all animal procreation; hence it was necessary that Adam should die. It should be noticed again that death is not simply the dissolution of this mortality, but that this dissolution is but the consummation of that death which has been at work in our members from the time of our birth.
Now, the saints of God in their mortal state, in their natural personality, were created in the earthly Adam; and when death passed upon him, it passed upon them. They are the production of a body of death; consequently they must die. This death, with all its attendant circumstances, its prodigious economy in all nature, cannot possibly be the accident of a day, the result of the mistake of free-will, or anything of that kind. This would be the blindest fatalism, the sternest doctrine of chance. Death plays too stupendous a part in all the affairs of this world, both in the physical and moral spheres, and shines too bright in the everlasting covenant, to be a mere interloper in God’s universe. Faith looks upon it as a provision of infinite wisdom, a gracious providence, ordained by the Creator to fulfill his own eternal purpose, both in providence and in grace. The whole process of Christian experience is a struggle between life and death, sin and holiness, corruption and incorruption; and the whole summing up of christian hope is that we shall one day be delivered from this bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
“Even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” The all referred to here, are clearly they that are Christ’s, the whole election of grace. The resurrection of the saints as here brought to view, is in Christ. This resurrection is but the triumphant consummation of something long gone before. It is the harvest of grace, sown in Christ before the foundation of the world. It is “the divine far-off event to which the whole creation moves.” Death in Adam, and life in Christ is the fundamental idea of the New Testament Scriptures, the golden text of the gospel of grace, the master key to christian experience. In treating upon the same theme, the same inspired writer has recorded, As by the disobedience of one man many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Men are made righteous by the obedience of Christ, upon exactly the same conditions upon which they were made sinners by the disobedience of Adam.
Adam’s sin and disobedience reached us by virtue of our vital relationship to him. Upon no other condition could we possibly have been made sinners by his disobedience. If we had not been in him, virtually in him, of the same life with him, then this disobedience would not, could not, have reached us at all. Upon exactly the same condition the obedience of Jesus reaches his people and makes them righteousness. When the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, he took upon Himself the seed of Abraham, the election of grace. They were made members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones in his incarnation, by virtue of the grace and life that were given them in Him, according as they were chosen in him before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before God in love. He was the ark of God’s covenant; and when he struggled with temptations; when he suffered for sins; when he died upon the cross, when he descended into Hell, they were safely housed in him, and brought safely through it all. They paid tithes in him, became dead to the law by his body, reconciled to God by Him. By virtue of this oneness of life, this vital relation to him, his perfect obedience, his suffering and triumphant resurrection, are all accounted unto them, and reaches them most effectually, and shall make them all righteous.
As to the certainty of the saints all being made alive, is just as certain as their death in Adam. Who can question the certainty of death? Is it not this certainty that strikes terror to the heart of all living? Are there any conditions between us and death upon which death can be brought or stayed? There is no way of escape. According to the inspired record of eternal truth, there is no reason to doubt the certainty of life in Christ. Inasmuch as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. The one is just as certain as the other. Jesus himself said, “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”
It is not the will of our heavenly Father that any of these little ones who fall asleep in Christ shall perish. All our sins have been put away by Him, and he has redeemed us unto God by his blood. By the one offering he hath perfected us forever. We are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God; and when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we shall appear with him in glory. He hath loved us with an everlasting love; He hath chosen us to salvation; He hath appointed us to glory; He hath ordained us to eternal life; He hath predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son; He hath laid down his life for us; we are reconciled to God by his blood; we are washed, sanctified, justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. Our destiny is indissolubly linked with the destiny of Jesus. How can this incomprehensible work of grace fail? Faith embraces it all, and rests in this finished work of our Redeemer, and looks forward with joy and gladness to the final consummation of it all. The resurrection of the dead is the crowning result of the work of Christ and God’s purpose of salvation. Then shall be brought to pass the saying, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?” “I will redeem them from death, I will ransom them from the power of the grave.” Death will be swallowed up in victory.
May God give us grace to trust him, and to walk humbly before him, and in patience and hope await the great day of our final, eternal deliverance.
H. M. Curry.