Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 20:35 mark.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Some form of the word “order” appears seven times in these few verses from 1 Corinthians 15. You might have missed it though, because it’s hidden in the translation “subject” or “subjection.” The Greek word literally means “to order under.” So if you’re subject to someone, you are “ordered under” that person. In this passage, we hear about the right order, the good order, the right and good order of all things.
That is clearly not what we see around us. We don’t see order, we see disorder: disorder in our families, disorder in our communities, disorder in our country and between nations; disorder in our churches. Things are not well-ordered, and we deal with the consequences of that disorder all the time. Paul proclaims to us that Jesus appeared in this world of disorder to put things back in order. And since this is God’s creation, to put things back in right and good order is to make things good and right for all creatures, including you and me. Jesus orders human life, along with all creation, within His own body in the resurrection. Paul says that Jesus is in fact raised from the dead, the first and the beginning of order restored.
He says that in response to the hypothetical that he raised in the verse just before, when he says that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then we are to be pitied above all people. If Jesus has not been raised in order to put things right again, then we might as well just go see what we can do ourselves. Make our plans, do what we can, and see if we can’t get some things back in order. We seem to think we can, anyway. We think if we get the right policy, or the right people, or the right politician, or the right actions, then everything will eventually, somehow, get back in order. But we should have enough evidence by now that it’s not going to happen. We’ve been trying our best for thousands of years, and look where it’s gotten us. Somehow disorder keeps coming out on top.
So God sends His Son into this world of disorder. The greatest signal of disorder in this creation is death, and the threat of death. I doubt I have to elaborate! And so Jesus takes into His own body all the disorder of death, which is caused by the disorder of sin, and He takes it all for Himself on the cross. He lets His own body be disordered by death in order to put an end to it. And when He rises from the dead, that is the beginning of all creation, including us in our bodies, being put back in order again.
Everything in its order: first Christ, then those who belong to Him, then all things. As Psalm 110 prophesies, God will put all things under His feet, so that He will be Lord of lords and God of gods. All authority and all power and all rulers and all kingships will be put under His feet, back in order. And then the last enemy, which He has conquered, will be destroyed and removed from creation. Then all order will be restored, and God will be all in all, even within the mystery of the Trinity. God will be all in all. Through Him, for Him, and in Him will be all things.
As Paul says in Ephesians, God has given Jesus as Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who who fills all things (Ephesians 1:20-23). And that means that the full and good order will be again, in the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness fully dwells. What happens to Jesus will happen to those who belong to Him. Because He has been raised from the dead, on the day of His Presence, we who belong to Him will be raised. And then there will be no more of that enemy, death. It had lordship over Jesus for those three short days, but it has no lordship over Him now. Now He is Lord even of death.
This is the last Sunday of the Church Year, and it reminds us that the end of this creation as it is is coming. We don’t see it yet, surrounded by the disorder of sin and death. But because Jesus is raised from the dead, having put all things right in His own Body; because He has been exalted to the right hand of God; and because all things will be subject to Him except the Father; we have the promise that the end of disorder is coming. And we will see creation put right, all things put in order.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 11/20/20