“With What Body do They Come?”
I Cor. 15:35-44
It is perhaps the skeptic asking: if there is a resurrection, what kind of bodies will men have as Philosophers now as the Sadducees then, ridiculed the idea of a resurrection by such questions. Paul ushers the question to the front (vs. 35). Fool, says Paul, our bodies will be changed. They will be raised, but CHANGED, (vs. 36-44).
The leading answer to the question is therefore: our bodies will come forth from the grave. They will be our bodies but yet they will be vastly different. It is improper to ask inquisitively about what manner of bodies we will have afterwhile. We receive what God wants to tell us about the hereafter. For the rest we wait until we ourselves are changed. We have no further answer to the skeptic than the answer of our faith, and over against their ridicule we set up the “thanks be to God”. So there will be a change.
You see it before your very eyes in the seed. (vs 36). You sow IT, them IT dies and finally IT is made alive, that is, it rises above the ground as a plant. The change is evident (vs 37-38). You sow a kernel of wheat, not the stalk. The stalk comes later for God gives to each seed a body as it pleases Him. Hence out of the wheat seed comes the wheat plant. Plant a tulip bulb and out comes a beautiful flower. Out of the cozy creek bottom a lily bulb changes into a beautiful white blossom. God does this. The botanist and the horticulturist look on while the park custodian plants the bulbs, but God works the change. (Thou fool, cannot that same God effect the resurrection change?)
We shall have changed bodies, for look a moment at the varieties God has on hand. Round about us we see not the monotony but amazing variety (vs. 39- 42). Every flesh is not the same as every other. When God crested things He was not limited. He made men, He made beasts, He made fishes and He made birds, and He gave each a body as it pleased Him. Then there are the heavenly bodies, such as mountains and trees, etc. They differ in appearance and brilliance. Even the sun, moon and stars differ in glory.
And why should it be thought ridiculous then that the body we have now will be changed into something else, something different, something more glorious?
So also is the resurrection (vs 42).
It looks like this when it is put into the ground: corrupt, repulsive, powerless. It looks quite different when the power of God through the resurrected Christ raises it from the grave. Then it is incorruptible, glorious and strong. Now it is exposed to disease, is perishable, in the coffin it is repulsive and powerless. In the resurrection it is beautiful, imperishable, attractive, like unto the glorious body of Christ (vs 43). Into the grave it goes, a natural body, i.e. a physical body, adapted to serve as an instrument of our present soul. Bound to the earth, needing food, clothing and medicines. But it is raised a spiritual body. Delivered from the present bondage, it will be wholly quickened and made subservient to the glorified spirit. Eyes, ears, minds, everything, CHANGED. It will be our present body that is raised. We will not be spirits, but body and soul, to make us perfect image-bearers of the glorified Christ. “Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29). So Christ is raised. Changed. And the children of God shall be changed with Him after Him. This reaches its fulfilment in the final resurrection. And nothing is too wonderful for the Lord. Let men prate about: how are they raised, or ask: how can it? If men ask this question in sincerity and modesty there is plenty of answer in these words of God. But if men ask impudently we shall testify of what God has taught us to believe and give account of the hope that is in us. Regeneration has already effected in our lives a tremendous change, for we are said to be “new creatures”. But when the regeneration of all things has come, our present bodies too shall become “new”. God HAS raised Christ and we, who believe in Him, shall follow Him into the Renewal of all things.
Questions for Discussion
1. Vs. 42 speaks about “sowing” the body. What do you think about the practice of cremation?
2. Why is the questioner of Vs 35 called “fool” in Vs 36? This holds for all impudent questions concerning the how and the what manner of the resurrected bodies. We have but one answer to the “wisdom of the world” and that is “fool”.
3. How does faith in this coming resurrection effect your walk an daily life? E.g. at the death-bed, at the grave side, etc.
Thanks be to God.
I Cor. 15:45-58
In our present passage we are going to reach the Doxology. A doxology which we sing among the graves. We can talk with Death. We are more than conquerors. Thanks be to God. In infinite wisdom and goodness He has made known to us His Counsel. The great Purpose, from before the foundations of the world, according to which He ordained the Fall, had us bear the image of the earthly, gave us unto Christ raised Him from the dead and raise the elect with and in Him. So that we shall move on from the first things to the last things, from the earthly to the heavenly. All of it through the great grace of God. That heaven might resound with a doxology. That doxology must begin here, while we still face the last enemy.
The excellence of Christ (vs 45, 47).
It is written in Gen. 2:7 that Adam came forth from the hands of God a living soul. Earthy therefore and made for the earthy scheme of things. Not so the last Adam, Christ. Both are Adams because they stand at the head of things but while the first Adam can bring us no more than what is “dustly’ the Other brings what is spiritual to His people. Christ as the living soul would not profit us, seeing that because of sin we have died. Christ regenerates us and brings us a life which is spiritual. Cf. Romans 8:10-11. Adam is out of the earth, earthy, Christ is from out of heaven. Not only is Christ thus but God raises us up with and in Christ. Head and Body cannot be separated. The natural is first (vs 46, 49). Regeneration has come. We bear the image of the earthly but in due time we shall shed that which is earthly and have bodies like unto the glorious Body of Christ Jesus. Then we shall bear the image of the heavenly. (vs 49). But since he speaks here of the one being first and the other coming later, it is evident again that Paul indicates that there must be a change. Flesh and blood, that is, corrupted bodies such as we now have, cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. They would not fit into the heavenly scheme of things. Corruption may not enter. We are heirs of the Kingdom, not by virtue of our flesh and blood, but by the virtue of Christ’s merit. Inheritance is always a gift, coming to us by testament. The Testator is Christ, the heirs are the elect-regenerate. They must be changed therefore, or the inheritance would fail.
And we shall be changed (51-53).
Even those who are still alive when the Lord finally stages His return. I show you a mystery, says Paul, I tell you something which until now has been hid from the ages . . . there will be some still alive when Christ returns. But, together with the dead, they shall be changed. In a moment. The trumpet shall sound (men shall hear the Voice of the Son of God, John 5:28) and the omnipotence of grace will reveal itself as perhaps never before, for in the twinkling of an eye, the Church shall be raised. God will raise individuals, indeed, but, as members of the Body. It is the Body that shall be raised. (John 6:39). The wicked shall also be raised but Paul is not bringing that into view here. He speaks about the Church. To take the place which God has ordained for His children, the corruptible must put on incorruption. When that shall be accomplished, then shall be fulfilled and consummated the saying of Isa. 25:8 that the Lord shall make a banquet for His people, tears shall be wiped away and death shall be swallowed up in victory.
Then comes the challenge (vs 55). Standing in that Grace and Promise we can talk to death instead of flee before him. Talking with the enemy in the gates. How dare we. Christ has conquered death, and we conquer. Death, where is thy sting, grave, where thy victory? Has not Christ condemned sin in the flesh, freed us from the condemnation of the law? (vs 56). What then can death do? The Catechism says something about this too. (Ques. 42)
Thanks be to God! Christ has the victory and it pleases Him to give us that victory through the living faith.
Therefore, Corinthians (vs 58) and Christians everywhere, endure persecution, hold fast the sound doctrine, abound in the work of the Lord (confessing His Name, etc.) Your toil, your travail is not in vain. There is the reward of grace. If death ended all things your labor would be vain, but now we run with patience the race which is set before us.
Questions for Discussion
1. “The image of the earthly” in vs 49 is that our creaturliness-insin, or what? When we are made to bear the image of the heavenly, will we still be creatures?
2. From the First Adam to the last Adam, cf Belg. Conf. Art. 17,18.
3. Considering the Whole Plan of God as passing before us in this chapter, and the promises herein contained, what does it mean that we are to “abound in the work of the Lord”?
The Care of all the Churches
I Cor. 16:1-12
“Now concerning the collection for the saints.” so begins Chap. 16. And there-with Paul touches upon another matter in which the Corinthian church needed instruction.
Likely the collection is for the church in Jerusalem, the Mother Church. Some suggest that their attempt at community-living (Acts 4:34-37) soon proved impractical, and poverty followed on the heels of an impractical theory. But why jump to such conclusions? I think Palestine was visited by a famine, a persecution or any such disaster. At least the Mother Church was in great need and not too ashamed to look for “charity”. Although the Jews, as a whole had little respect for Paul, and eventually persecute him, notice that the Paul who writes I Cor. 13, lives it. He seeks the welfare of the Jews, however much they seek his ruin. Love, in action. Paul alone does what Consistories, Classes and Synods do nowadays, he prescribes a collection for the needy church. He had already arranged such a collection to be gathered from among the Galatians (vs 1) and the Macedonians were to join in it. Now the Corinthians ought to put their shoulders to the task of charity also by actually giving of their increase for the poor in Jerusalem. As the doctrine of salvation has been carried to the Gentiles by Jerusalem, so now the Gentiles ought to carry back bread and clothes to Jerusalem. What unity. A collection is much more than a bag of money; it is an expression of love.
As for arranging this general collection, Paul directs that each Christian lay aside a little of what he has gained (in his business, etc.) to keep it with himself, and when the Sabbath comes to put it into the general treasury (vs 2). The Sabbath comes on the first day of the week, by New Testament reckoning, and on each such “first of sabbath” the children of God are to bring forward their liberality. Notice that Paul does not prescribe tithing. In due time Paul will come to Corinth and he wants the collection to be ready at that time (vs 3). Then they may send a committee to carry their liberality (original uses the word grace here) to the poor in Jerusalem. If the collection warrants it Paul will be ready to travel with them to Jerusalem (vs 4). And so the saints in need will have food, not only, but also a vivid demonstration or love and unity in the Body of Christ.
Paul is also coming to visit the Corinthians (vs. 5). Paul carries the care of all the churches (II Cor. 11:28). How readily you feel that in this passage. First there is the collection, for Paul concerned about all the churches. No he will come to pay hem an official visit. There were no trains and planes at that time, neither automobiles. He carried the care of all the churches, on foot. Sometimes he comes with the rod, sometimes with excommunication (I Cor. 4:21) but always as an ambassador of Christ. Originally, it seems Paul intended to go to Corinth first and then to Macedonia (II Cor. 1:16) but for one reason or the other he changed his mind and tells them that he will come to them when he has finished his tour through Macedonia (vs. 5). He intends to stay with them for a while (vs. 6) if the Lord permits. For the Lord has opened to him a great door (vs. 9) consisting probably in that the Lord has opened a way for him to Ephesus (vs. 8). Cf. Acts 19:1. The Lord gathers His Church and sends His Gospel and Paul rejoices to see a door opened. God must give the door-opening. We must seek and that requires great spirituality. Paul seems to desire to reach Ephesus soon for there are many “adversaries” trying to bar the door and prevent Paul’s preaching the Gospel there.
Paul is also sending Timothy (vs. 10. Cf. I Cor. 4:17). He wanted Apollos to go also, but Apollos did not wish to go at this time (vs. 12). He will come when his present labor allows it. Timothy is working the Lord’s work, receive him as such (vs. 10). Everybody is engaged in the work of the Lord, everybody is busy. God has given ready and willing servants and entrusted to them the care of the churches. And they are busy.
Questions for Discussion
1. There was a collection for the impoverished saints in a far-away place at that time. Do we have its equivalent in our worship today? Observe that the Catechism in Ans. 103 presents the “contribution for the relief of the poor” as something that “becomes the Christian” and is part of Sabbath observance. Discuss.
2. What is the meaning of the opened door in vs. 9? Is there such a thing in our day? Respecting our churches?
3. What is that: working the Lord’s work (vs. 10)?
I Cor. 16:13-End.
Exhortations, threatenings, greetings and salutations form the close of this letter to the Corinthians. Three times Paul refers to the element of love. He has devoted much of his epistle to
that factor, and the Spirit directs Paul to conclude with reminders. The greetings show how real is the communion of saints.
“Be strong.” So says Paul in vs. 13. Watch ye. Beware, keep your eyes open, be on your guard against error in doctrine or life. There is danger on all sides of us. We are on duty. Stand guard then and do not fall asleep. Stand fast in the faith. Not like a concrete post, but like a living tree; stand fast. Some in the congregation entertain errors. Do not be moved away from the certainty of the Christian faith. Quit yourselves like men, reveal that you are MEN, having the courage of your convictions and manliness to endure the consequences of taking such a position. Children are, as a rule, unstable, but you, be men. Be strong, exercise your faith by maintaining, defending and advancing the truth against every onslaught of evil. “And let all things be done in love.” So Paul reminds them of I Cor. 13 and exhorts that in their watching and standing, their manliness and aggressiveness they exercise love. Otherwise even these things cease to be virtuous and become hateful to the Lord.
You have a family in your church, writes Paul now, by the name of Stephanas (vs. 15), they are the first converts in Achaia. Paul had baptized this family (I Cor. 1:16). In Romans 16:5 Epaenetus is said to be the first-fruits of Achaia. Figure it out. Paul exhorts the church to submit themselves to such because they have set themselves to minister to the saints. In fact (vs. 16) they are to submit themselves to all who manifestly have the welfare of the church at heart. Good advice for our days too.
Several men from Corinth have called on Paul (vs. 17). They evidently carried the news from Corinth to Paul and they, as it were, represented the Corinthians. In that sense they supplied what was lacking. They brought personal contact. Paul was always vitally interested in how the churches were faring.
Then come the greetings. The churches of Asia salute you (vs. 19). This is not mere formality. This is communion of the saints. The saints of the Asiatic world are interested in and pray for the saints in the European world. They are one with them. They would gladly congregate with them but distance does not allow. Distance is the only thing keeping them apart. They send their greetings along with Paul. True ecumenicity. How ecumenical are we? Does your church ever send greetings?
Aquilla and Priscilla have a church in their house. At Rome as well as at Ephesus they opened their house to the saints. It evidently is not a large church but a church is not judged by its numbers.
In vs. 20 all the brethren are greeting you. All are at one with you in the faith. If they all greet you, you Corinthians must also greet each other with a holy kiss. Surprising how often Paul speaks of this fraternal kiss. It bespeaks love. There were party lines and dissensions in the church. Let the fraternal kiss indicate that the dissensions are gone. Then Paul salutes them by adding his personal signature to the letter. Before he closes he says: “cursed be anyone who does not love the Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 22). Anathema, that is, cursed be he. Maranatha, the Lord comes. He will judge them after Paul’s word and He will read them the sentence wherewith Paul had sentenced. That is the Key of the Kingdom. Grace be with you. My love be with you all.
So be it. Amen.
Questions for Discussion
1. What does the submitting mean in vs. 16?
2. Have we an equivalent of the “holy kiss” in our modern church life?
3. What benefit is it to the Corinthians to know that Paul’s love be with them all? (vs. 24).
End I Corinthians