Resurrection | The Pauline Epistles

The following belongs to a series entitled “An Introductory Biblical Theology of Resurrection.” Read other posts belonging to this series here.


The Pauline Epistles

Of all Biblical authors, the resurrection is most prolific in Paul’s writings.[1] Of first importance, Paul confesses the bodily resurrection and appearance of Christ (1 Cor 15:3-8; Gal 1:1; 1 Thes 1:10; 2 Tim 2:8). Christ is raised for the imputation of His righteousness to all who are united to Him by faith (Rom 4:25),[2] and lives to make intercession for all those for whom He died (Rom 8:34). But even more so, the central motif in Paul’s resurrection-framework is union with Christ.[3]

In Christ’s resurrection, the eschatological age has dawned on the scene of history. He is the “firstborn” (connoting supremacy; Col 1:18), and “firstfruits” (a portion representation the whole; 1 Cor 15:12-23; cf. Lev 23:9-14) of the dead “in Christ.” He is the “new Adam” (1 Cor 15:21-22, 45-49), in Him is the “new humanity” (Eph 2:15; Col 3:10-11), and all who are united to Him are a part of a new creation order (2 Cor 5:17). Not only have they died with Christ in reference to sin’s enslavement (Rom 6:1-14; Col 3:3), but they have also been raised to a newness of life (Rom 6:4; 5, 8, 11; Eph 2:4-6; Col 2:12-13; 3:1, 9-10)—a new sphere of existence characterized not by the flesh but by the Spirit (Rom 8:9)—by union with Christ who Himself has been raised “in the Spirit” (Rom 1:3-4; 1 Cor 15:45-49; 1 Tim 3:16; cf. 2 Cor 5:16) and made Lord (Rom 1:4; Eph 2:20-23; Phil 2:9-11; cf. 1 Cor 15:24-25). The resurrection of Christ provides the believer power (Eph 1:19-20; Phil 3:10) and motivation (Rom 6:12-14; 2 Cor 5:14-15; Col 3; Tit 2:11-12) for living the Christian life

Those who are resurrected inwardly (“realized resurrection”) will be resurrected outwardly as well (Rom 8:23)—one resurrection unfolding in two installments.[4] Since Christ has been raised, all who are in Him shall be raised (1 Cor 6:14; 15:12-23; 2 Cor 4:14; 1 Thes 4:14; 2 Tim 2:11). Believers are to strive towards this resurrection (Phil 3:10-11), which is their hope and encouragement (Rom 8:24-25; 1 Cor 15:58; 1 Thes 4:18). At Christ’s coming (1 Cor 15:23, 52; 1 Thess 4:13-17; cf. 2; Tim 2:18) they will receive their raised, transformed, imperishable, glorified bodies that accord to Christ’s and their new eschatological existence (1 Cor 15:35-53; Phil 3:20-21). Death will be defeated.[5]


[1] Therefore, only a brief survey is possibly here. For an excellent and detailed work on Paul’s theology of resurrection, see Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology (2nd ed.; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1987).

[2] John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), 156–157. Furthermore, the second clause—“raised for our justification” is necessary if the first clause—“delivered up for our transgressions”—is to mean anything (Rom 4:25; cf. 1 Cor 15:17). Effective death for sin apart from triumphant victory over death, sin’s wages (Rom 6:23), is mere nonsense. Consequently, genuine faith involves the conviction that Jesus was raised and made Lord (Rom 10:9).

[3] Consequently, resurrection language applied to the believer (i.e., “raised with Christ”) ought not to be designated exclusively and solely to one point within the ordo salutis. The language properly belongs to the motif of union with Christ and as such provides the source and basis of the believer’s entire salvific existence (Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption, 52, 133).

[4] Ibid., 60–61.

[5] In 1 Cor 15:54-57 Paul cites Isa 25:8 and the LXX translation of Hos 13:14, which significantly alters the MT’s originally condemning assertion to a favorable one.