1 Corinthians 15:21-22
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.…
1. A friend we love, how distinct and individual seems to us all he says and does! And his most marked peculiarities become dear to us simply because they are his and his only.
2. And yet, if we go home with him, counter-discoveries greet us on every side. We see in his father whence came that look in the eyes, and in his mother that turn of the mouth, that shade of colour in the hair, and his voice in his young brother. But is he any the less a distinct character?
3. How deep our searching might go if we penetrated the hidden ground of our friend's life. And science could take up his mannerisms, and show us their exact parallel not only in the locality where he was born, but in the ancient homes of the English in the far north. Nor is it his body only into which these multitudinous influences have entered, but into his character and mind. We are using the stored experiences of bygone generations, and cannot throw off the domination of their hidden forces, for they lie at the most secret places of our souls. Old faces, long buried, look out of our eyes; voices from out of forgotten and unknown graves speak through our lips. Yet nothing of all this burdens us; we are ourselves; we miss nothing of our free manhood. We all of us live one life. Out of the same earth we grow, like plants out of a common soil, and each of us puts out our own colour, and shape, and scent. And it is by this unity of race that we effect a combined advance; civilisation is only possible, because the genius of each generation can be retained and transmitted.
4. But, then, we cannot accept the gains of heredity and refuse the losses. And why, then, are we perplexed, if, by this same habitual law, we all in Adam die? We men form one body; and to prohibit poison, once introduced, from spreading over the whole, would be done only at the cost of forbidding that body to perform its functions, at the cost of wrecking its structural life. Let Adam once have sinned, and we, who are in Adam, have the seeds of sin within us. Our freedom is all the more free when it acts under the uplifting pressure of a splendid inheritance; nor is it at all sensible of any diminution because its sin bears witness to the miserable story of a guilty stock.
5. "In Adam all die." Yes! but hidden in this very mystery is the possibility of a redemption. The transmission that makes for the corruption of all, can be turned to the needs and uses of the regeneration. God converts the conditions of the curse into the very instruments of the blessing. In Adam, it is true, all would die; but, then, in Christ, all may be made alive. So, in the Beloved Son, man becomes new-begotten of God.
6. And now let us measure His task. His virtue must imbed itself by roots as deep and strong as those by which sin has dug its dire fangs into the inherited flesh. It must pervade and embrace the entire bulk of fallen and human nature. Everything that is ours He must make His. And ours, now, was a life bound down under a curse, smitten with the blight of sorrow. Yet He became ours; wholly human, wholly knit into our common fate, implicated with us in all our woe. And yet, lo! He has brought with Him into our burdened days the new vitality. The entire movement in which we had found ourselves held is reversed.
7. As that old sin spread out its baneful influence, ring upon ring, circle upon circle, so this new life issues out over the whole, in circle after circle, in ring upon ring. There is the outermost ring of that dim heathen world which has been brought nigh, in the Risen Christ, to the Father. And they, even they, amid ugly and foul confusions, are not insensible to that strange stirring which is the movement within them of the resurrection — a movement blind yet prophetic — prompting them to deeds which Christ will yet own as His at the Last Day. And within that ring is the ring of a civilisation that, for all its miserable stains, has yet this mark of Christ upon it; it can never lose its hope — a hope that has in it always the power of a recovery. We cannot despair, though the Lord delayeth His coming. And within that ring is the ring of those who cling to Christ. The Lord knows them that are His, and He showers down favour upon them as they look up to Him. And within this ring, again, its very heart and core, is Christ's living Church. Christ's love beats like a great heart, pulse upon pulse, expelling that slow death which has crept over the body of humanity. And, thus, "in Christ, all are made alive." You and I, we are none the less free, because in Adam we all died; and then in Christ, in some strange recovery, achieved for and by God, we all were made alive. Just as we won the free exercise of our English name out of the very necessities which had made us English; so, out of our very bond to Christ, we win the energy to become free friends of Christ. Out of His action we are made free, and the more He does for us, the more we are enabled to do for ourselves. You are free this very minute to rise and follow Christ.
8. But such high freedom cannot but be perilous. It is not yours to choose whether you will rise with Christ or no. All rise with Him; all through Him are dragged through the darkness of the grave, and will stand before the judgment of God. As we must have died in Adam, so we must rise in Christ. And what is it, then, that strikes chill as fear upon our hearts? Can it, indeed, be that the freedom regained in Christ can itself be turned against the name of Him who inspires it? Yet this can be. We shall rise; but where will that order be in which we shall have placed ourselves? What if our approach to God be as the nearing of a great heat that scorches and kills? Holiness is as a fire to sin.
Parallel VersesKJV: For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.