Sermon for Sexagesima Sunday, February 24th, 2019
The Lessons: Psalm 37:1-11, 40-41; Genesis 45:3-11, 15; 1 Corinthians 15: 35-38, 42-50; Luke 6:27-38
The Text: 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
The Topic: The heavenly nature of the resurrection body
Little Johnny’s dad was the pastor of a small church in the Midwest. One day he told Johnny that a very important church leader, a bishop, was coming to the church and would be staying with them in their home. Little Johnny became very excited about meeting the bishop. “What do I get to do?” he asked.
“Your job,” father answered, “will be to take his morning tea up to the guest room.”
“What shall I say?” little Johnny asked.
“Just remember to say, ‘It’s the boy, my Lord, it’s time to get up.’ ”
Little Johnny was very excited. He rehearsed his lines, repeating them over and over. Finally the day came, and little Johnny had learned all his lines. At the appointed hour, the bishop’s tea and a biscuit were set on a tray and given to little Johnny to take to the guest. Knocking on the visitor’s door, the boy became so excited his lines got all mixed up, so when he finally spoke, out came, “It’s the Lord, my boy, and your time is up.”
(From The World’s Greatest Collection of Church Jokes, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.)
Perhaps this bishop was reminded unexpectedly of the imminence of the Day of the Lord, but we would all do well to remember the Day of the Lord, the Day of Resurrection, could come at any time. Are we ready for it?
The Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is not often preached except during Eastertide, but as the Second Lesson/Epistle deals with it, I think it would be good to broach the subject today.
THE EARTHLY BODY AND THE SPIRITUAL BODY
The questions which lead to St. Paul’s teaching on the nature of the resurrection body are these: “How are the dead raised up? With what kind of body do they come?” (1 Cor. 15:35). To these questions which someone might ask, St. Paul’s reply is “Thou fool!” (KJV) or “What stupid questions!” (REB). But the Greek term he uses may simply be translated like this: “You are not reasoning intelligently.” He then explains what he means: the seed that you sow does not come to life unless it dies first, a principle the Lord Jesus Christ refers to in John 12:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (KJV). By being sown in the ground, a seed’s life as a seed ends, and a new plant sprouts from that seed. This is the first dimension of the comparison. The second is that the seed planted differs from the plant that springs up from it.
Now these principles of seeds and the plants that grow from them apply to the resurrection of the dead, and the ways they apply are expressed in the series of contrasts we find in verses 42 – 44 of this chapter. Let us examine these contrasts.
A STUDY OF CONTRASTS BETWEEN THE EARTHLY AND THE SPIRITUAL BODY
In the first of these, St. Paul describes the body as sown “in corruption, but raised in incorruption” (v. 42, KJV). In modern terms, we would say it is sown as a perishable thing, but raised as an imperishable thing (REB). The human body as we know it is subject to aging, to sickness and to death, but the human body raised at resurrection is imperishable, and cannot ever age, or become sick, or die. God will create it to be immortal. This also implies the answer to the question about what age Christian’s bodies will be when they rise from the dead. The answer is surely that they will all be in the prime of youth, and unable to become old.
The second of these contrasts is that the body is sown in dishonor, but raised in glory (1 Cor. 15:43a). Another word for “dishonor” here is “humiliation” (REB). Death humbles the body, as age, or sin, or sickness, or injury, or an accident, or violence, mars it. It is not in such a state that the body is raised. God creates a flawless body, raising it in glory and honor.
The third contrast is that of weakness and power (1 Cor. 15:43b). The body is weak, and Isaiah admits that even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men fall (Is. 40:30). The human body has its limitations, and we discover more of them as we age, but the body given to the faithful at the resurrection is given power, so that it never grows weak.
The fourth contrast is between the physical body which we now have, and the spiritual body of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:44). Now by “spiritual body,” St. Paul did not mean “spirit,” since then there would be no resurrection, simply the immortality of the soul, or spirit, as Plato taught. So fundamental to Christian doctrine is the belief in the resurrection, that St. Paul emphasizes the point again, by saying, “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:44b, KJV). The Revised English Bible here in this part of the verse more closely represents the conditional sentence in the Greek, “If there is such a thing as a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” This amounts to the same as saying, “Since there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.”
Now we shall gain insight into the nature of the spiritual body the faithful will receive at the resurrection, if we pay attention both to this passage and to the passages in the Gospel accounts that describe the appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples after his resurrection. In these appearances, we see that the body of Jesus after his resurrection could disappear and reappear, and was not limited by physical barriers, such as locked doors (John 20:19). Yet the crucifixion scars were still visible on his body (John 20:26-29). We see that he had flesh and bones and could eat food (Luke 24:36-43). To emphasize that the physical body comes before the spiritual body, St. Paul writes of the first Adam being a living human being, and of the last Adam (a term for the Lord Jesus Christ) being “a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45). Just as the second Adam came after the first Adam, so the spiritual body does not come first, but is created by God after the death of the physical body and at the resurrection. The earthly man, or first man, is of the earth, and physical, but the second man is from heaven. As we have borne the image of the earthly man by living as human beings on earth, so we who have believed in the Lord shall bear the image of the heavenly man (1 Cor. 15:49). To sum up, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor can the perishable possess the imperishable (1 Cor. 15:50, REB). For this reason, all Christians must be born again, or born from above, or born of the Holy Spirit, so that God may raise them all to life on the last day.
Are you sure that you have the hope of the resurrection from the dead? Have you been born from above, born of the Holy Spirit? The hope of the resurrection of the body, and of eternal life, is a glorious hope! Make sure that you have it by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and obedience to Him!