Today we hear from Luther about the Epistle, specifically verse 20. The excerpt is from Luther’s Works, Volume 28 (Selected Pauline Epistles).
1 Corinthians 15:1–20
Read the propers for today in Lutheran Service Builder.
Note well that Paul refrains from calling those “dead” who will rise after Christ. No, he says that Christ is “the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” And yet he says that Christ arose, not from sleep but “from the dead.” For what was a true and eternal death prior to this and without Christ is now, since Christ has passed from death to life and has arisen, no longer death; now it has become merely a sleep. And so the Christians who lie in the ground are no longer called dead, but sleepers, people who will surely also arise again. For when we say that people are asleep, we refer to those who are lying down but will wake up and rise again, not those who are lying down bereft of all hope of rising again. Of the latter we do not say that they are sleeping but that they are inanimate corpses. Therefore by that very word “asleep” Scripture indicates the future resurrection.
And what is more than that, by calling Christ “the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” Paul wishes to signify that the resurrection is to be viewed and understood as having already begun in Christ, indeed, as being more than half finished, and that this remnant of death is to be regarded as no more than a deep sleep, and that the future resurrection of our body will not differ from suddenly awaking from such a sleep. For the main and best part of this has already come to pass, namely, that Christ, our Head, has arisen. But now that the Head is seated on high and lives, there is no longer any reason for concern. We who cling to Him must also follow after Him as His body and His members. For where the head goes and abides, there the body with all the members must necessarily follow and abide. . . . Now since Christ has passed over and reigns above in heaven over sin, death, devil, and everything, and since He did this for our sake to draw us after Him, we need no longer worry about our resurrection and life, though we depart and rot in the ground. For now this is no more than a sleep. And for Christ it is but a night before He rouses us from the sleep.
Devotional reading is from Luther’s Works, Volume 28 (Selected Pauline Epistles), pages 109–10 © 1973 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Video is of “Blessed Are They” © 2015 Concordia Publishing House.