1 Corinthians 15:27-28 (that God may be all in all)

deathPaul next builds on his explanation of Psalm 8 —

(1Co 15:27-28 ESV) 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Paul is quoting from —

(Psa 8:3-9 ESV) 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,  4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [or God] and crowned him with glory and honor.  6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,  7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,  8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.  9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8 seems, on first reading, to be about humanity in general. But Paul takes the parallels “man” and “son of man” in v.4 and applies these to Jesus — taking Jesus as representing humanity as the ultimate human. “Son of man” in the OT just means “human,” but Jesus is the human par excellence.

N.T Wright comments (with paragraphing added to ease reading on the Internet),

The other biblical passage alluded to in this paragraph from 1 Corinthians 15 is Psalm 8:6 (LXX 8:7): ‘he has put all things in order under his feet’, panta hypetaxa hypo tous podas autou. This obviously echoes the reference, in Psalm 110:1, to things being put ‘under his feet’, but this is no mere surface allusion. Psalm 8 is the point at which the Psalmist picks up the story of Adam and Eve and celebrates the fact that, in creating human beings, God has given them dominion over all the works of his hands, ‘putting all things in subjection under their feet’.

Paul’s larger argument, begun in 1 Corinthians 15:21–22 and concluded in verses 45–49 (but an important theme through the whole carefully constructed chapter), is that in Jesus God has addressed and solved the problem of the sin of Adam and its effects. This, as we have seen, was the purpose of Israel’s election, according to a strong strain of thought running from the Pentateuch itself right through to rabbinic Judaism. In other words, the driving force of the whole chapter is that in Jesus the creator God has done that for which he called Israel. It is now Israel’s representative, rather than Israel as a whole, who constitutes the ‘true humanity’, under whose feet all things are placed in subjection. The role of the Messiah and the role of the Human dovetail perfectly.

N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 4:821.

In v.28, Paul hastens to clarify that the “everything” that will be subjected to the Messiah’s reign does not include God himself. Rather, Jesus is given all authority in heaven and on earth in order to defeat all of God’s enemies — but Jesus himself will remain in subjection to God.

Wright sees this verse as key to the Christian worldview —

Turning back to 1 Corinthians 15, we find Paul declaring that, as the goal of all history, God will be ‘everything in everything’, or if you like ‘all in all’ (15:28). This is one of the clearest statements of the very centre of the future-orientated New Testament worldview.

At this level, the problem with … any form of actual pantheism, is that it collapses the entire future into the present, and indeed into the past. God will be all in all. The tense is future. Until the final victory over evil, and particularly over death, this moment has not arrived. To suggest that it has is to collude with evil, and with death itself.

How then can we think wisely about God’s present relation to the created order? If God is indeed the creator of the world, it matters that creation is other than God. This is not a moral problem, as has sometimes been thought (if a good God makes something that is not himself, it must be less than good, and therefore he is not a good God for making it). Nor is it a logical one (if, in the beginning, God is all that there is, how can there be ontological room for anything or anyone else?). As we said earlier, if creation was a work of love, it must have involved the creation of something other than God. That same love then allows creation to be itself, sustaining it in providence and wisdom but not overpowering it. Logic cannot comprehend love; so much the worse for logic.

That, though, is not the end of the story. God intends, in the end, to fill all creation with his own presence and love. … God’s creative love, precisely by being love, creates new space for there to be things which are genuinely other than God.

The New Testament develops the doctrine of the Spirit in just this direction, but the future glimpse is already provided in Isaiah. In chapter 11, anticipating the ‘new creation’ passage in chapters 65 and 66, the prophet declares that ‘the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea’. As it stands that is a remarkable statement. How can the waters cover the sea? They are the sea. It looks as though God intends to flood the universe with himself; as though the universe, the entire cosmos, was designed as a receptacle for his love. We might even suggest, as part of a Christian aesthetic, that the world is beautiful, not just because it hauntingly reminds us of its creator, but because it is pointing forwards: it is designed to be filled, flooded, drenched in God; as a chalice is beautiful not least because of what we know it is designed to contain, or as a violin is beautiful not least because we know the music of which it is capable. I shall return to this later.

The answer to the pantheism of the evolutionary or progressive optimist on the one hand, and to the dualism of the gnostic or Manichee on the other, now begins to come into full view in the form of the cosmic eschatology offered in the New Testament. The world is created good but incomplete. One day, when all forces of rebellion have been defeated, and the creation responds freely and gladly to the love of its creator, God will fill it with himself, so that it will both remain an independent being, other than God, and also will be flooded with God’s own life. This is part of the paradox of love, in which love freely given creates a context for love to be freely returned, and so on in a cycle where complete freedom and complete union do not cancel each other out, but rather celebrate each other and make one another whole.

Tom Wright, Surprised by Hope, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2007), 112–114.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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2 Responses to 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 (that God may be all in all)

  1. rich constant says:

    that spells out open creation god understands possibilities, the father understands all possibilities.

  2. verghese joseph says:

    very useful explanation. thank you

    verghese joseph from bangalore

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