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First Corinthians

We Shall All Be Changed

1 Corinthians 15:35-58

It is a most serious matter. The teaching of the church, from the earliest days, is that the dead in Christ shall rise on the last day. We hear little of this these days; but this should not be. The resurrection of the dead is one of the central doctrines of the faith.

(1 Cor 15:35-47 NIV) But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" {36} How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. {37} When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. {38} But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. {39} All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. {40} There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. {41} The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. {42} So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised 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} So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being" ; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. {46} The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. {47} The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.

Everything by analogy

St. Augustine pointed out the central difficulty. He was speaking of the Trinity, but the point applies elsewhere. God, and the things of God, are so far above us that we cannot speak of them with great precision. Often we can speak of them only by analogy. So it is here. Paul introduces the subject to the Corinthians by analogy, so that they might more clearly understand.

When you sow, it dies

This was a society that was quite familiar with agriculture; the analogy would have been a homely one to them. But it has two points:

· If there is to be a bodily resurrection, there must be bodily death. At least in potential – and for most of us, in actuality – the body must die. Otherwise, the discussion makes no sense.

· More importantly, the process is according to the plan and wisdom of God. He arranges nature in this way; he arranges our resurrection in this way. So the matter is under his control, just as nature is under his control.

When it rises, it is different

It is an agricultural fact that seeds tend not to look too much like the plants they produce – something these folks would have known. (I am no gardener; we’ll have to take that one on faith). But again we can learn from this:

· First, this difference is clearly as God designed it. We see this variation in the universe, which is his creation. We shall see a difference between the mortal bodies in which we now reside and the eternal bodies then.

· Indeed, the difference is according to the purpose of God. We plant particular seeds to obtain particular plants. “Mystery seeds” are weeds. So we know that God has a particular purpose in these bodies.

What will it be like?

Paul in this section gives us some of the characteristics of the resurrected body.

· It will be imperishable. That is to say, it will last “forever.” Presuming that time continues (I have no information on the subject) it will not change. We will be like God in that we will be eternal – but human, in that we will have bodies.

· It will be glorious. What that means precisely is yet hidden from us, but as someone put it, “If you walked into the room in your resurrected body, the rest of us would be tempted to fall down and worship you.” (Remember how the angels usually began their conversations with “fear not?”)

· It will be powerful. We do not know much in the way of details (our Lord seemed to walk through walls when he felt like it; walking on water is another item) but it will seem to us as if we were indeed powerful.

· It will be a body of an utterly different type: spiritual, not physical. Not a ghost; not a transparency, but completely different. Which makes it very difficult to describe, I would think.

The example and the power: Christ

(1 Cor 15:48-58 NIV) As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. {49} And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. {50} I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. {51} Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- {52} in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. {53} For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. {54} When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." {55} "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" {56} The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. {57} But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. {58} Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

One of the most powerful yet simple doctrines of the New Testament is this: Jesus Christ was a man such as we are. He is also God, completely. But because he had a body like ours, we shall have a body like his. From his words and example, what do we know about this body?

· We are told we will be “like the angels.” In one sense, this means that sexuality (and the submission of women to men) ceases. Angels, like God, are always referred to as “he.” But should this also not imply a great power?

· The body is distinctly tangible. This is one of the difficulties with art work; angels seem to be transparent to some artists. They are not; their bodies are always shown as “solid” in both Old Testament and New Testament. Indeed, they are frequently mistaken for men – at first.

· These bodies are clearly recognizable. Christ tells Thomas to put his hands in the nail prints. So evidently we will be able to know one another by sight – or whatever the equivalent might be.

· But these bodies are also given great power. Christ simply prevents the disciples on the road to Emmaus from recognizing him.

The victory is his

All of this takes place because of the Cross. The paradigm Paul gives us here is worth noting:

· The power of the law is sin. That is to say, if there were no law, there would be no sin. We do not consider an eagle guilty of murder when it pounces upon and kills a rabbit. No law, no sin. But the law came; therefore there is sin. Whether that law is from Mount Sinai or on our consciences, we have it.

· The punishment of the law is death. God, the Holy One, cannot remain with sin. His is eternal life; therefore, sin merits death.

· But Christ triumphed over both. By bearing our punishment – as only one who is sinless could – he broke the power of law over us. Therefore the punishment is no more – and the resurrection must happen.


All this is well and good, you might think, but of no practical use. It is to counter that thought that Paul concludes this section with one little verse which tells you what to do about it.

Stand firm

What does he mean by that? I submit at least three meanings for your consideration:

· You know the difference between right and wrong – do not fall into the trap of assuming that “God will forgive – it’s his hobby.” Rather, flee from sin in your life.

· Take your stand for righteousness. When all others about you are in the “get along, go along” mode, throw the anchor into the stream and hold your position.

· Finally, do not be deflected from right doctrine. It does matter what you believe. Therefore, study the Scriptures so that your firm stand will be an informed one.

Give yourselves fully to the work

There are three things to note in that sentence: the adverb, the noun and the verb:

· The adverb is “fully.” So many of us are half-hearted in our service for Christ. You would not accept half-hearted service in those who supply you with their services; what makes you think Christ will accept it from you?

· The noun is “work.” God is not fond of slackers (physical or intellectual). Remember that it is work, and not just whatever spare moment you just happen to be able to put into it. Plan for it; make it part of your daily life.

· The verb is “give.” Do not participate as if you had been extorted into it. Rather, look at your work for Christ as a gift you are able to bring to God.


Your “labor is not in vain.” God will reward those who sacrifice for him. He rewards:

· Steadfastness. Those who remain strong for him will be rewarded.

· Work. Those who work for him will be rewarded.

It is an awesome thing, the resurrection to come. No doubt our knowledge is incomplete. No doubt that, on the day, this lesson will seem pale and puny in comparison to the real thing. But let us remain steadfast, work hard as our gift to the Lord – until the real thing arrives.

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