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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 15:35-49; With What Kind of Body?

05/31 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 With What Kind of Body?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150531_1cor15_35-49.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

35 Ἀλλὰ ἐρεῖ τις· Πῶς ἐγείρονται οἱ νεκροί, ποίῳ δὲ σώματι ἔρχονται; 36 ἄφρων, σὺ ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ ζῳοποιεῖται ἐὰν μὴ ἀποθάνῃ· 37 καὶ ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ τὸ σῶμα τὸ γενησόμενον σπείρεις ἀλλὰ γυμνὸν κόκκον εἰ τύχοι σίτου ἤ τινος τῶν λοιπῶν· 38 ὁ δὲ θεὸς δίδωσιν αὐτῷ σῶμα καθὼς ἠθέλησεν, καὶ ἑκάστῳ τῶν σπερμάτων ἴδιον σῶμα. 39 οὐ πᾶσα σὰρξ ἡ αὐτὴ σάρξ, ἀλλὰ ἄλλη μὲν ἀνθρώπων, ἄλλη δὲ σὰρξ κτηνῶν, ἄλλη δὲ σὰρξ πτηνῶν, ἄλλη δὲ ἰχθύων. 40 καὶ σώματα ἐπουράνια, καὶ σώματα ἐπίγεια· ἀλλὰ ἑτέρα μὲν ἡ τῶν ἐπουρανίων δόξα, ἑτέρα δὲ ἡ τῶν ἐπιγείων. 41 ἄλλη δόξα ἡλίου, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα σελήνης, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα ἀστέρων, ἀστὴρ γὰρ ἀστέρος διαφέρει ἐν δόξῃ. 42 Οὕτως καὶ ἡ ἀνάστασις τῶν νεκρῶν. σπείρεται ἐν φθορᾷ, ἐγείρεται ἐν ἀφθαρσίᾳ· 43 σπείρεται ἐν ἀτιμίᾳ, ἐγείρεται ἐν δόξῃ· σπείρεται ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ, ἐγείρεται ἐν δυνάμει· 44 σπείρεται σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἐγείρεται σῶμα πνευματικόν. Εἰ ἔστιν σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἔστιν καὶ πνευματικόν. 45 οὕτως καὶ γέγραπται· Ἐγένετο ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος Ἀδὰμ εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν· ὁ ἔσχατος Ἀδὰμ εἰς πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν. 46 ἀλλ’ οὐ πρῶτον τὸ πνευματικὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ ψυχικόν, ἔπειτα τὸ πνευματικόν. 47 ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος ἐκ γῆς χοϊκός, ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ. 48 οἷος ὁ χοϊκός, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ χοϊκοί, καὶ οἷος ὁ ἐπουράνιος, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ ἐπουράνιοι· 49 καὶ καθὼς ἐφορέσαμεν τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ χοϊκοῦ, φορέσομεν καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ ἐπουρανίου.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Paul is defending the resurrection. He asks the question:

1 Corinthians 15:12 …how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

And this chapter is a careful and logical defense of the resurrection. In verses 1-7, he demonstrates that the resurrection is an essential part of the gospel message. In verses 8-11, he holds up himself up as a life radically transformed by God’s resurrecting grace. In verses 12-19 he lays out devastating consequences on believers if the resurrection were not historical. In verses 20-28, he parallels Christ with Adam; where Adam brought death, Christ brings life. In verse 2932 he points to the incoherence of baptism and suffering in Christian service if there is no resurrection. In verses 32-34, he warns of the moral dangers of unbelief in the resurrection.

In verses 35-49, he answers the naturalistic objection to the possibility of the resurrection. In verses 50-53 he argues for the necessity of resurrection for participation in the kingdom of God, in verses 54-57, the prophetic necessity of the resurrection, and in 58, the meaningfulness of the Christian life because of the resurrection. This chapter is all about the resurrection. And in this section, Paul gives us beautiful insights into what the resurrection will be like.

Foolish Questions or Foolish People?

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person!

You may have heard that there are no stupid questions. That may be true, but the person who ask the questions may be a fool. In verse 35, Paul frames two questions, and his response to those questions is ‘Fool!’ You fool! The questions are not foolish, and Paul will answer them. But the motive behind the questions betrays the heart of a fool. The questions are asked not in order to find an answer, not to gain wisdom, but to prove a point. They are asked to make Paul’s belief in the resurrection look foolish. These are those who say there is no resurrection of the dead. They ask ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ Are disintegrated, decomposed, rotting corpses really going to come back to life? Is grandma, who is pushing up daisies, really going to one day reclaim her molecules from the person who ate the cow that ate the daisies? The questions are intended to make the belief in the resurrection look absurd, and to ridicule anyone who holds to this belief. But Paul is not intimidated. These people are like the people in Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, ‘The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.”’ So Paul says it as it is ‘You fool!’ Your questions stem from an unbelief in God. In the previous verses, Paul pointed to the disastrous moral consequences of unbelief in the resurrection, and the root of this unbelief, that ‘some have no knowledge of God.’ If God is God, if God is omnipotent and sovereign, if God is a God who keeps his promises, then the resurrection will be no trouble for him at all. Paul’s response is similar to Jesus’ response to the Sadducees who asked him a similar question to demonstrate the irrationality of the resurrection;

Mark 12:24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?

In answer to these questions, Paul points them back to God, the sovereign God who does all that he pleases, who accomplishes all that he desires.

Psalm 135:5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. 6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

In this section, Paul brings us back to Genesis, to the first chapters of the creation narrative. He quotes Genesis 2:7 in verse 45, but the creation narrative is the background of everything he says.

Consider Seeds

He starts with seeds. (Day 3)

Genesis 1:11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

This is similar to what Jesus said in John 12 about his own death and resurrection, and that of his followers:

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Seeds are not meant to sit on a shelf. They are meant to go into the ground. God made the earth to ‘sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.’ If you had never seen a mighty Midwest oak tree, solid and strong, giving shade, what would you think of an acorn? Could you guess what might come up if you put it in the ground? Or if you happened upon a dry brown whirligig – those little helicopters, would you ever imagine the beautiful maple in its autumn blaze of orange? What about a wrinkly hard pit with a bitter nut inside? If you had never tasted a sweet juicy luscious peach, could you imagine it if someone described it to you? I have a box of garden seeds in my basement. Some of the packets were open and they spilled. There are some flat white discs of various sizes, tiny black specs, various sizes of teardrop shapes, small round spheres in different shades from brown to tan. If I dumped them all out on the table, how well do you think you would do describing the kind of plant and fruit that would come from each of them? Lettuce, spinach, broccoli, tomato, cucumber, pumpkins, squashes, hot peppers of all different shapes and colors. What if you had never planted a garden? If I put in front of you a flat oblong black seed and asked you to draw me a picture of what you think would come up if you put it in the ground, would you ever imagine a wild green vine with large lobed leaves and large green striped fruit with bright pink watery insides? It’s just a hard black thing. [Fig tree seed illustration]

Sovereign Grace

1 Corinthians 15:36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

Notice Paul’s focus here. His focus is on God who chooses and God who gives. God gives the kind of body to each seed that he has chosen. From creation he ordained peach pits to grow peach trees with peaches, watermelon seeds to sprout vines with watermelons, carrot seeds to grow carrots, fig seeds to grow enormous fig trees with sugary sweet fruit. God gives each a body as he has chosen. There are infinite varieties of shapes and sizes and colors and flavors of plants and flowers and fruits. What a seed will become is unimaginable when looking only at the seed. God gives each a body as he has chosen. He is infinitely creative and wise and good. God is the giver. The resurrection is part of the good news. The good news is a message of grace, a generous God who gives to sinners what we don’t deserve, what we couldn’t earn, what he freely gives. In verses 8-10 Paul held himself up as a trophy of God’s transforming resurrecting grace ‘By the grace of God I am what I am’. God is the giver in creation. God is the giver in resurrection.

Consider Flesh

Paul still has in mind the creation account in Genesis.

On the Fifth Day:

Genesis 1:20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. …

On the Sixth Day:

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.

Paul is looking at the variety of kinds of flesh, each suited for its own environment, fish to live in the sea, birds to live in the air, animals to live on the land, and man to rule over them all. The amazing diversity and variety we see in the animal kingdom is ample evidence that God is more than capable of designing a body suitable for any kind of environment, from deep sea creatures to salt water to fresh, birds with structures capable of soaring and migrating, land animals suited for jungle and tropical and desert and polar climates. If God in his infinite creativity can imagine bodies suitable for survival in such diverse environments, surely he can design a body suitable for life in the resurrection.

Consider the Glory of the Heavens

Paul moves back to day four of creation

Genesis 1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

He draws a contrast between the heavenly and the earthly. Where God in his all wise creativity can make bodies suitable for land, sea, and air, all different earthly environments, he can also design bodies designed for the heavens or what we would call outer space. Even here we see evidence of variety and creativity. Sun, moon, stars, planets, variety in brightness and size and color and intensity, each designed for its own environment.

Of the Soul / Of the Spirit

Paul has drawn from days 3, 6, 5 and 4 of creation, looking at botany, biology and astronomy to demonstrate that whatever the environment, God has proven himself more than capable of providing a body suitable for that environment.

He now picks up his illustration from seeds and draws some conclusions. There is continuity with what is sown, but there is also radical discontinuity. The pear seed will not grow tangerines or turnips. The pear seed will grow a pear tree. There is an organic unity between the seed sown and the plant that erupts from the ground. But the appearance and characteristics of the naked seed are nothing at all like the tree that grows from it, or the fruit it produces.

1 Corinthians 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. …

There is continuity between what is sown and what is raised. But there is also radical transformation. The contrasts are laid out here. Our present human bodies are subject to decay, they are subject to shame and dishonor, they are weak, and they are natural or soulish. The resurrection will change all that. What was once subject to decomposition will be incorruptible. What was once subject to shame will be clothed in glory. What was once impotent will be characterized by resurrection power. What was soulish or natural will be spiritual.

What does Paul mean by this last contrast between natural and spiritual? What is a spiritual body? We might think a spiritual body to be an oxymoron, a logical contradiction like immaterial material. A body is the physical manifestation of something. Paul has been talking about different kinds of bodies – stars, fish, birds, plants, beasts, humans. When we hear ‘spiritual’ we might equate that with invisible or immaterial or non-physical, but that is not the case. A spiritual body is not a body made up of spirit any more than a soulish body is a body made up of soul. If we contrast a steel ship with a wooden ship, we are talking about what the ship is made of, but if we talk about a steam ship in contrast to a sailing ship, we are contrasting not what they are made of, but what they are powered or energized by. The natural body is the body that is energized by the soul or natural life, or we might say the psyche, but the spiritual body is the body energized by the spirit. Paul made this distinction back in chapter 2.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.

There, as here, the natural person is the person controlled by the soul, the psyche, or natural life. The spiritual person is the person controlled, empowered and enlightened by the Spirit of God.

This comes again from Genesis.

Genesis 2:7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

The breath of life made man a living soul or psyche, a living being with natural life. Paul again picks up his contrast between the first Adam and the last Adam.

1 Corinthians 15:44 …If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

But where Adam was given life, Christ became the life-giver. Where Adam was given natural life, Christ gives spiritual life. He gives the Spirit to all who believe in him.

1 Corinthians 15:46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.

There is a clear sequence. The natural life comes first. The bare seed must go into the ground and die before it bursts forth in resurrection life. We are not spiritual beings first. We begin as natural beings. We become spiritual beings, beings empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Paul now returns to the heaven/earth contrast that he brought up in verse 40.

1 Corinthians 15:47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Jesus said:

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John contrasted himself with Jesus:

John 3:31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.

Jesus came down from heaven, from his Father. Adam was made of dust. We come from dust. We are perishable, shameful, weak, and natural, controlled by the natural life. We have borne the image of the man of dust. Again Paul has Genesis in mind. Genesis 5 tells us that ‘Adam …fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image’. But if we transfer our allegiance to Christ, we are given new spiritual life, we belong to Christ and we will bear his image. Where the first man brought death, the second man brings life. He is imperishable, glorious, powerful, governed by the Spirit.

Because God is God, the resurrection is certain. We will be transformed, we will be raised incorruptible, clothed in glory and power, with the fruit of the Spirit in full bloom. I’ve heard people ask about the resurrection – how old will we be? If we have any disabilities or imperfections, will they be fixed? I think these are the wrong kind of questions. We will be like a bare seed that bursts up out of the ground in a glorious blossom. I will still be me, unique, different from anyone else, identifiable. But I will transformed. Romans 8 tells us that we are ‘predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son’

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We were created to bear the image of the invisible God. On that day we will bear the image of Jesus. We shall be like him.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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May 31, 2015 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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