Paul gives the Corinthians (and us) a further glimpse of the bodies that believers in Christ will have when they are resurrected. But first he finishes his argument regarding the existence of resurrection in general.
There is still speculation today over what Paul was referring to when he referenced those being “baptized for the dead”.(v.29) There are several possibilities for what was being done, but an important point to remember is that Paul is not necessarily approving of this practice, which was apparently being done in Corinth. He was using their own customs to point out the contradiction in their beliefs. “If there is no real life after death, why are you doing anything on behalf of the dead?”
Paul also points out his own life, marked by repeated suffering. If he was making up the fact that he saw Jesus alive after the crucifixion, he would have no motive to go through all the suffering he endured. (v.30-32) If the resurrection is a lie, then we should all “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”, as Paul quotes from Isaiah 22:13, where this attitude is contrasted with a need and desire to turn from sin and follow God.
In verse 33, Paul quotes a secular poet that the Corinthians would be familiar with, reminding them to stay away from people who influence their thinking wrongly, as they had obviously allowed to happen. He tells the Corinthians to become “sober-minded”. The Corinthians had stopped thinking critically as they were introduced to new ideas. As a result, they began to believe things that were false and even had some in their community who didn’t know who God was. (v.34) It’s vital that we care about the truth and think logically as each idea, new or old, is evaluated and presented. If we don’t, we may even discover that we or some in our church communities lack an understanding of some of the most basic truths of the Bible.
The hypothetical questions Paul asks in verse 35 are assumed to be coming from someone who is asking them to make a point or to express skepticism. (“Resurrected bodies, are you kidding me? What kind of body could a dead person possibly make use of?”) This is why Paul responds with the phrase “How foolish” or “You fool”, a common phrase utilized during philosophical debates of that time period.
Paul then compares resurrected bodies to seeds. To get plants, we don’t plant plants. We plant seeds. And just as Christians die and are buried, only to one day be resurrected with new bodies, a seed is buried and ceases to be a seed (dies) as it grows and turns into a plant.
There will be both a sense of commonality and difference between each person’s resurrected body, just like all living creatures have flesh of some kind, but there are significant differences between the flesh of various creatures. There will be some commonality between the pre-death body and the resurrected body, but there will also be very significant differences. (v.38-42)
For believers, resurrected bodies will be imperishable (in the Greek, literally “incorruptible”), glorious (meaning they will display perfectly the reflection of God’s character and be all God intended them to be), powerful (specifics are not indicated, but the Greek means “strong capability”), without animalistic or sinful tendencies (this is what the Greek word for “spiritual” here means), and this new body is just as real as the old one!(v.42-44)
Although the destiny of the Christian is to have a body like Christ’s resurrected body, we first have to live in our natural bodies, inherited from Adam and corrupted by his sin and the sinful tendencies we have inherited from him.
“Flesh and blood” was a common phrase used to refer to mortality, not specifically flesh and blood. In our current state, we are not fit for eternal, sinless existence. So believers will all be changed for compatibility with eternal existence, both those who are dead and those who are alive at the moment this transformation occurs. This change will happen instantly and all believers will be given bodies that will never die.
This event will be a fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8, which Paul quotes and explain here. Sin is the poisonous sting that brings about death. It is because of Adam’s sin and our sin that we die. And sin is given its power by the law, which is impossible for us to keep and only showcases our sin. (See Romans 7:7-12)
The incredible truth we can be thankful for is that we don’t have to claw and scrape our way into eternal life. We couldn’t if we tried. But Jesus has won this victory for us! (v.57)
So, knowing that our future is secure if we trust in Christ, we can focus our energies on being firm in our trust and doing the kind of work God has given us to do in this life; work that will express his love to others and lead them to trust in Jesus as well. Investing our lives in that kind of work will never be in vain. (v.58)
Next Time- Finishing up 1st Corinthians!
Coffee House Question
Why do you think we give so much priority to pleasure in our current life instead of our life in eternity? What practical steps can we take to change our outlook a little?