The apostle Paul had an extraordinary knack for taking objections to Christianity and transforming them into opportunities to present sound doctrine. That’s one of the reasons 1 Corinthians 15 has been so much fun to study. As you’ll recall from our last two weeks of going through the second part of this chapter, some people in Corinth have challenged the doctrine of physical resurrection. Paul has refuted them by using their own logic of arguing from nature. We’ll review the passage, and pick up where we left off last Monday.
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. ~~1 Corinthians 15:35:49 (ESV)
Having demonstrated the vast varieties of bodies within God’s creation, Paul now applies his illustrations to answer his critics directly, beginning with verse 42. Our earthly bodies, he explains, differ from our future resurrection bodies. That being the case, Paul’s application takes the direction of contrasting our earthly bodies with our heavenly (our resurrection) bodies.
Paul describes burial as the sowing of a seed, returning to the metaphor of verses 36-38. He reiterates that our earthly bodies are mere seeds, and therefore liable to corruption in their present forms. Indeed, our earthly bodies decay and disintegrate in the grave. When they are raised, however, no corruption will remain. Rather, our resurrected bodies will be imperishable!
Verse 43 details the teaching. In saying that our earthly bodies are sown in dishonor, Paul accentuates the idea that these bodies are less than our resurrection bodies will be. Cross-reference this verse with Philippians 3:21 to see him describe our earthly bodies as lowly. Yet these same bodies will be raised in glory, as Christ Jesus was!
Our physical weaknesses will not be present in our resurrection bodies, and neither will our susceptibility to sin. The power of the Lord will transform us so that we can live in an environment of perfect holiness!
Commentators agree that the Greek word here translated as “natural” refers to our animal functions such as breathing, sleeping, etc. Please, however, don’t misconstrue the use of this word as supporting the evolutionist idea that we are merely animals. Paul simply means that our physical bodies currently are subjected to animal functions and limitations.
Although our spiritual bodies will continue to be physical (remember Luke 24:39), it will be emancipated from its natural limitations for the purpose of spiritual service. The spiritual body, rather, is a physical body better suited for the glories of eternal life.
The obvious fact that we have natural bodies now assures Paul that we will have spiritual (though still physical) bodies in the resurrection. We, of course, don’t see the connection quite as readily. But then, Christ revealed these things to Paul so that Paul could teach us. Nevertheless, his argument would have made sense to his immediate critics, poking holes in their objections.
Let’s break here, and continue next Monday by looking at the first and second Adams. Meanwhile, I’d very much appreciate your insights and/or questions on the verses we’ve covered today. You can reach me on the Comments Section, The Outspoken TULIP Facebook page or Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you.