Is 1 Corinthians 15:22 A Problem For Arminians?




A few times in past discussions with Calvinists, they have brought up 1 Corinthians 15:22 as a passage to stump me whenever I made arguments for God’s universal salvic will and unlimited atonement. 1 Corinthians 15:22 says “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” The argument that this presents a dilemma goes something like this; if “All” means “All without exception” rather than “all kinds”, then we drift into universalism. But universalism is unbiblical. Universalism contradicts the scriptures which say that not all people will be saved (e.g Matthew 7:13-14). But if “all” truly means every human being in existence, then that’s what we’re driven to because of this passage. On the other hand, to accept the interpretation that this only means “all kinds” of people would be agree with the Calvinist that “all” does not have to mean “all”, and that would seem to remove the power of the passages that seem to suggest salvation was made possible for every human being who will ever live.

But does have the Calvinists really cornered us? I don’t think so. Let me explain why. First, let’s take a look at the passage again.

"For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”- 1 Corinthians 15:22

We know that the “all” used in relation to Adam is in fact, all men. We interpret this kind symbolic statement with the background facts. The same goes for the next part where all shall be made alive in Christ. This is the plan unfolding unto mankind, those in Christ shall live. In context again, we know not all will repent, but Christ's plan was still for all mankind (see John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 2:4-6, Hebrews 2:9), even if not everyone partakes (John 3:18).

The crucial word in this passage is "in Christ". Everyone "In Christ" shall be made alive. Not everyone will be "In Christ". In order to be "in Christ" you have to genuinely accept Him as your Lord and Savior and follow Him. Those who don't do that are not "In Christ" and therefore, are not made alive.

However, every person without exception is "In Adam" because we inherited his sin nature, and that's why we're sinners. This is made all the more clear in the NLT which reads like this; Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.”