When it comes to thinking through the body and soul of a person many have slipped into two extremes. The first is what I would call, “mystical escapism.” People who think like this would consider the material world as something the soul needs to be released from. For these people the body is dirty, filthy, and holds us back from our true potential. The result of this mystical escapism is people neglecting the world around them. In the midst of serious pain and suffering they do not realistically deal with it. The second is, “carnal hedonism.” These people would claim the material is all we have, therefore, enjoy it while you have it. For them there is no immaterial world, so all thoughts on the immaterial prevent us from enjoying what we have right in front of us. The result of this group is they are left without hope in this world. They seek self-pleasure no matter the cost to others. When pain and suffering come they have nothing to offer to people except, “enjoy what you have while you can.”
Paul addresses this issue in our text today. He offers us a third way, so we do not have to slip into these two extremes. The Bible has never asserted mystical escapism or carnal hedonism. Both of these groups we surfacing at the church in Corinth because their theology of the resurrection was off. They were asking questions like—READ I Cor 15.35. Therefore, I believe what Paul wants for us today is...
Theme: Only those who sow the seed of Christ will reap the benefits of an imperishable harvest.
1. The familiar resurrection—I Cor 15.35-41.
Paul begins to address the Corinthians concerns in I Cor 15.36 by continuing to use another agricultural metaphor that he has been using throughout I Corinthians. Paul’s hope, and my hope, is you have a basic understanding of some botany. Paul wants us to use general revelation knowledge to understand something about God. General revelation is the way God has chosen to reveal Himself through created order. Therefore, we can consider mountains, rivers, even human reason, everything in the material world to understand the immaterial world—the spiritual realm. In created order there is a familiar resurrection to us.
In I Cor 15.36-38 we see transformation in created order. If you have been in this world you have learned or seen a seed go into the ground and it come out later completely transformed. What went into the ground does not come out the same. The DNA is still the same, but not the form. The form before is destroyed to behold something that has been radically transformed. Isn’t it amazing to see a small seed go into the ground and come out a solid oak? There is a sense of mystery in God’s design in this—READ I Cor 15.38a.
But now in I Cor 15.39-41 we see various types of bodies. Paul wants us to understand that not all these “bodies,” or material manifestations, will be the same or have the same purpose. He illustrates this through reminding us that animals, birds, and fish all are in the material world but they do not all function the same. When explore this metaphor more we see these various bodies could not survive in the other body’s ecosystem. Fish were made for water, birds for the sky, and animals for the land. Therefore, when we consider earthly bodies they were not made for heaven, and heavenly bodies are not made for earth. Paul tells us both are glorious, but the glories are different. We should not marvel at one to the neglect of the other like the people of our dichotomy would do.
2. The unfamiliar resurrection—I Cor 15.42-46.
As we considered those truths it can still leave us with a sense of “what is Paul talking about?” So, while we see the hints of resurrection in created order we still have never seen a resurrection like the one we saw in the resurrection of Christ. We still have never seen a resurrection like the one we will see in the second advent of Christ. The resurrection Paul is describing is still unfamiliar to us.
READ I Cor 15.42-43—all we have seen is perishable, dishonorable, weak, and natural. While we see seeds buried in the ground and come out transformed they still can die. Because they are perishable then we know they are tainted by sin. Romans 8 tells everything in creation was subjected to futility—not just humanity. It also tells us it is waiting to be free from decay. Another way of saying that is it is waiting to free from dishonor, weakness, what we deem as natural. When death entered the world through humanity it spread to all of creation. So this unfamiliar resurrection Paul is describing is available in Jesus is not like the one we see in material world.
The resurrection Paul is describing is a transition from the natural world to the supernatural world—from the natural to the spiritual. The closet we have seen in this transformation, or transition, is after the resurrection of Christ. Examine with me how the apostle John describes this:
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’—John 20.26
The doors are locked and Jesus just appears to them. The author puts the details of the locked door in there to tell you he did not just come through the door. There is something supernatural about this. No one has ever seen a man walk through walls or appear out of thin air. Then we also know that after Jesus ascends into heaven that he makes a special trip back to earth for Paul in Acts 9. This is not just a man who died and was resurrected, but He was resurrected and never died again. This is truly unfamiliar to us.
Why is this so important to Christian belief? Because what is sown in Adam is not suitable for heaven. Our first father Adam brought sin, suffering, pain, agony, death, and decay into the world. All of these things are not suitable for heaven. All of these things prevent us from being in the presence of God. If were to come into His presence we would be wiped out. This is why our first parents were cast out of the garden. Only what is holy, pure, righteous, supernatural, spiritual can enter the kingdom of heaven.
3. The perfect resurrection—I Cor 15.47-49.
But Paul closes this section by demonstrating to us that this problem has been solved by God. The struggles of the first Adam have been defeated by the second Adam—the better Adam. The first Adam was taken from the dust, but the better Adam came from heaven. Therefore, when Jesus went into the ground what was sown was something different—something better. Those who belong to Christ no longer bear just the image of Adam, but the image of Christ. Were told from the beginning that this would happen—READ Genesis 3.15:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.—Genesis 3.15
The word “offspring” in the Hebrew can be translated “seed.” The seed that went into the ground would restore life, peace, rest, and prosperity to God’s people. But in order to be God’s people again they needed to be purchased. They had to be bought back. As Christians we call this “atonement.” The payment was the seed of Jesus body and blood. His body and blood went into the ground—it was buried. What comes out of the ground is something better. In Jesus we see the perfect resurrection—a resurrection the world has never seen.
In Jesus we have the refusing of heaven and earth. Therefore, now we can solve the problem we faced in the beginning—the dichotomy of heaven and earth—the spiritual and natural—the immaterial world and material world. Just like in the Garden God can walk among His people again:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away...“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.—Revelation 21.1, 3-4
Notice how it says, “new heaven and new earth.” It does not say just heaven or just earth. As Christians we care about the things of heaven, but we also care about the things of earth.
We cannot turn a blind eye to the things of this world, but we also must look at them in the light of truth—in the light of eternity. We do not view the body as filthy or dirty that we need to be set free from, no, we believe the body is a gift that needs to be set free from the bondage of sin. We also believe we cannot just do whatever we want with our bodies. No, our bodies have been given to us to glorify God with our bodies. Those who use their body to do whatever they want with end up hurting other people. Only in Christ can our concerns for this world truly mean something. If we want to sow the seeds of imperishable things then we need Jesus Christ—we need the Spirit of Christ. Let’s not forget what Paul told us toward the beginning of I Corinthians:
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 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...“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.—I Corinthians 2.12-16