Some argue that Calvinism and 1 Corinthians 15:22 are contradictory because 1 Corinthians 25:22 says, “in Christ shall all be made alive.” They argue that this verse contradicts the doctrines of limited atonement and unconditional election. However, there is really only one valid interpretation of the term, “all,” in this verse and this interpretation does not at all contradict Calvinism, limited atonement, or unconditional election—in fact, it supports the doctrines of Calvinism.
1 Corinthians 15:22 and Calvinism
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.1 Corinthians 15:22
The argument is that since the first use of the term “all” (in reference to Adam) clearly refers to every single person in the world, then it follows that the second use of the term “all” must also be referring to every single person in the world.
Calvinism’s Answer to 1 Corinthians 15:22
This verse simply cannot be using “all” in exactly the same manner in both places. If Jesus made “all” alive in the sense that he made every single person in the world “alive,” then every single person in the world would be saved. But, Jesus clearly teaches that this is false—every single person in the world will ”’not”’ be saved.
Instead, the obvious interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:22 is that “all” who are ”’represented”’ by Adam as their federal head—i.e., every single person in the world—die, and “all” who are ”’represented”’ by Christ as their federal head—all who have faith in Christ, or, God’s elect—will be made alive.
The person who says that “all” in both places in 1 Corinthians 15:22 must be referring to every single person in the world is essentially saying that 1 Corinthians 15:22 teaches universalism, which is clearly unbiblical.
To read more about a very similar verse, see [[Calvinism and Romans 5:18 – “justification and life for all men”]].
Commentaries on 1 Corinthians 15:22 and Calvinism
ESV Study Bible
1 Cor. 15:22 in Adam all die. See Rom. 5:12, 14–15, 17; Eph. 2:1, 5. in Christ shall all be made alive. See Rom. 5:17, 21; 6:4; Eph. 2:5–6. By divine appointment, Adam represented the whole human race that would follow him, and his sin therefore affected all human beings. Similarly, Christ represented all who would belong to him, and his obedience therefore affected all believers (see note on 1 Cor. 15:23).
1 Cor. 15:23 at his coming. When Christ returns, all his people from all time will receive resurrection bodies, never again subject to weakness, illness, aging, or death. Until that time, those who have died exist in heaven as spirits without bodies (see 2 Cor. 5:8; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 6:9). Those who belong to Christ demonstrates that the “all” in relation to Christ in 1 Cor. 15:22 does not imply universalism.1
ESV MacArthur Study Bible
The two “alls” are alike only in the sense that they both apply to descendants. The second “all” applies only to believers (see Gal. 3:26, 29; 4:7; Eph. 3:6; cf. Acts 20:32; Titus 3:7) and does not imply universalism (the salvation of everyone without faith). Countless other passages clearly teach the eternal punishment of the unbelieving (e.g., Matt. 5:29; 10:28; 25:41, 46; Luke 16:23; 2 Thess. 1:9; Rev. 20:15).2
HCSB Study Bible
15:21-22 Paul presents a parallel of necessary effects. Through one man, Adam, death came to humanity. If this is ever to be reversed, it must be done so through like kind: a man. God has appointed just such a man: Jesus Christ, who is fully divine and fully human. Through His resurrection the promise of resurrection comes to a new humanity “in Christ.” The second occurrence of the word all refers to all those who are joined to Christ through faith.
15:23 Jesus’ resurrection precedes and makes certain the resurrection of those who belong to Christ at His coming.3
Johann Albrecht Bengel
Πάντες ἀποθνήσκουσιν, all die) he says, die, not in the preterite, as for example, Rom 5:17; Rom 5:21, but in the present, in order that in the antithesis he may the more plainly speak of the resurrection, as even still future. And he says, all. Those who are in the highest degree wicked die in Adam; but Paul is here speaking of the godly, of whom the first fruits, ἀπαρχὴ, is Christ, and as these all die in Adam, so also shall they all be made alive in Christ. Scripture everywhere deals with believers, and treats primarily of their resurrection, 1Th 4:13-14: and only incidentally of the resurrection of the ungodly.—ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ, in Christ) These are the emphatic words in this clause. The resurrection of Christ being once established, the quickening of all is also established.—ζωοποιηθήσονται, they shall be made alive) He had said; they die, not, they are put to death; whereas now, not, they shall revive; but they shall be made alive, i.e. implying that it is not by their own power.4
The Meaning of “All” and “World”
The meaning of words such as “all” and “world” is not as simple as Arminians sometimes assert. More often than not, the Bible uses the words “all” and “world” to refer to groups of people, rather than to every single individual person. To read more, see Calvinism and the Meaning of “All” and “World.”
- ESV Study Bible, 2008 (Crossway). Taken from the Online Version at www.esvbible.org
- John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible 2010, Crossway. Taken from the online version at www.esvbible.org
- HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible®) Study Bible 2010, Holman Bible Publishers. Taken from the online version at www.mystudybible.com
- Johann Albrecht Bengel’s Gnomon of the New Testament. See “Resources.”