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"How Are the Dead Raised Up?"
1 Corinthians 15:35-49
Wednesday AM Bible Study
March 19, 2008
Theme: Paul describes the nature of the body of the woman or man who will be raised up in Christ.
Paul has been defending the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ as an essential element of the gospel (vv. 1-11). Now, after having defended that doctrine against those who denied it (vv. 12-34), Paul sets himself to answer the specific "problems" that skeptics may raise about the doctrine of the resurrection of the believer, and its cause for hope in that believer's life.
I. THE QUESTION (v. 35).
A. Paul plays the part of a skeptic who asks, "How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?" This isn't a vain question. Many people in that part of the world would be in the habit of visiting the tombs of their lost loved-ones; and they would recognize that their bodies had decomposed. Such people would naturally want to know how it could be that such bodies could be made alive again.
B. Skeptics of the doctrine (which were clearly in the midst of the church; vv. 12, 33-34), would seek to discredit the doctrine by capitalizing on the fact of the decomposition or destruction of the body. They might ask how it could be that someone could be raised who had been, for example, eaten by wild beasts in the arena, or that had been burned in a fire? Skeptics in modern times, recognizing that the body is constantly experiencing growth and cellular replenishment, have mockingly asked if all our old fingernails and hair and dead skin would also be "raised".
II. THE ANSWER (vv. 36-49).
A. Paul answers the questioner by calling them "foolish one" or "ignorant one". He says this in such a way as to suggest that the answer is obvious to anyone who is sincere in wanting to know the truth. In answering, Paul points to parallels drawn from nature (vv. 36-41); suggesting that God has given mankind an answer to this question through the manner in which His created world works.
1. Paul, first points to the world of agriculture (vv. 36-38). He uses the second personal pronoun in the emphatic position (literally, "You—what you sow . . ."); to show that the skeptic himself would have common experience with these things. He begins by observing that nothing grows from the ground unless it first dies (John 12:24). And that which is planted is not the body that is to be grown, but rather the seed; and that God gives it the body He pleases that is appropriate to it. Note that the plant does not grow itself, but that God gives it growth.
2. Second, Paul points to the created world with respect to specific bodies (vv. 39-41). There is, in the animal kingdom, a body appropriate to each; and that the human body is distinct from those of the animal kingdom. Furthermore, there is a difference between celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies. And even among the celestial, there is a difference between the sun and the moon and the stars. The Greeks philosophers held to the idea of matter composed of atomic particles; and Paul is showing how that basic, material constitution of things (their "glory") is under the hand of God. If we were to put it in modern terms, we could say that the sovereign God is able to arrange the atomic particles of matter into whatever body He deems appropriate.
B. Then note the application Paul makes of these parallels from nature to the doctrine of resurrection (vv. 42-49).
1. He points to how there is a difference between the nature of the body that is sown in death, and the nature of the body when it is raised in life (vv. 42-45). He maintains a continuity between the body sown and the body raised; but it is first sown in corruption, then raised in incorruption; first sown in dishonor, then raised in glory; first sown in weakness, then raised in power; first sown as "natural", then raised "spiritual". The body raised must be constituted in such a way as to best serve its new condition.
2. He then points to the example of Adam and of Christ (vv. 45-47; quoting from Gen. 2:7). Adam is "the first man"; and he stands as the natural man. Jesus is "the last man"; and He stands as the Lord from heaven. Adam came first, then Christ; and this is offered as a parallel of the order of events in resurrection. The Greek philosophers taught that the spiritual came first; but Paul points to Adam and to Christ to show that this was not so.
3. Finally, Paul argues that as we have born the image of Adam, who whom we were first connected, we will now bear the image of Christ, who whom we are now united (v. 48-49; see also 1 John 3:2).
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