But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?"
According to nature, or by analogy, the argument has to proceed if the objectors are met. The new standpoint is promptly taken, and St. Paul and the philosophical critics are face to face. Who are these that have gathered before the eye of his imagination in that humble room in Ephesus, the proud and lordly city, whose commerce connected it with every land, and whose wealth was the wonder and envy of the world? Near by was the magnificent temple of Artemis, renowned over Ionia and far beyond, safe too in its renown, since no art of man could surpass its pillars of Parian marble, its doors of cypress wood, its roof of cedar resting on columns of jasper, and the great masterpieces of painting and sculpture by which it had been enriched. Likely enough, one who could quote from Menander, Aratas, and Epimenides, knew something of Anacreon, Thales, Heraclitus, and others associated with Ionia and Ephesus. Would not some of these illustrious thinkers rise before his vision when he began to meditate on the questions growing out of the relations between soul and body, questions on which Greek intellect had expended its subtlest power of investigation? And would not that memorable day in Athens flash back upon him from Mars' Hill, when he confronted the philosophers with the doctrine of the resurrection, some mocking, others saying, "We will hear thee again of this matter"? However this may have been, it is certain that St. Paul understood perfectly the objections made by Greek philosophy to the resurrection, as to the "how" and "with what body" - the general and the specific bases of Greek hostility to the doctrine so near his heart. To answer the two interrogatories" how?" and "with what body?" - is the work now in hand. St. Paul had just closed an appeal by the sharp cry of "Awake to righteousness," as if intent on arousing the Church from stupor. Now, however, he begins with "Thou fool," or rather, "Fool," expressing no harshness, but simply the want of wisdom. The analogy is stated at once: "That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die" - reminding one of similar words spoken by the Lord Jesus (John 12:24). The seed you sow has to die, to pass into decay and dissolution, its component parts separated, before the germ can disengage its life and begin to sprout. Like that seed, your body dies. Like that, your body by dying enters on a condition preparatory to living. If life thus proceeds from dissolution, the general question "how" is met by the likeness between the decay of the seed and the body. The body of the seed dies, but it has a principle of life which springs thereby into active existence. Then, the contrast having been first presented between death and life, he advances to the second point: "With what body do they come?" Not the old body; nothing can be clearer than that, for the destruction of the former body supplies the conditions for the process of deliverance from decay, and institutes the work of quickening. And what is the issue of the new process? It is a new body, for "thou sowest not that body that shall be;" if thou didst, what reality would be in the sowing; what foundation for the hope of the husbandman; what work for the providential agency of nature? On the supposition of the same body in the seed-grain dying and growing, the resemblance would be to sleep rather than death, and, consequently the analogy as here used would break down at the start. Hence the statement so essential to the parallelism: thou sowest not the future body, but a body for transformation. It is "bare grain" which is put into the ground. This is your work as a husbandman; but God is there to perform his part., and "God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him." Admitting that God gives the new body according to his pleasure, does it follow that this act is arbitrary because it is sovereign? Is nature set aside? Are the former laws that made that seed the kind of seed it was, overthrown under the sod? Is it death to the economy of production, or is it production for reproduction? And he answers, God giveth "to every seed his own body." On the one hand, the continuity of nature is preserved, the particular character of the seed is not lost; and, on the other hand, the new growth is something unlike that which dies, for God has given it a different body. Similarity and contrast are both maintained. Is the identity destroyed? Nay. Is there a distinction between the body that dies and the body that lives? Yea. Identification must not conflict with dissimilarity; dissimilarity must not antagonize identification. Seen in this light, the change is one of form. Before death, there was body living; in death, body decayed and resolved into its elements; after death, body reconstructed. The identity lies in the fact of body; the difference in the substance, properties, and form of body. If so, what is there incredible in the resurrection? By analogy, it is a possible event. Nature authenticates a principle which may find application to the human body; and if you ask, "With what body do they come?" the reply is that it will be a new body, one of a higher form, one from him who "giveth to every seed his own body." Observe, then, the fact of the resurrection is not rested on analogy. The use of the analogical argument here is not for that purpose. Christ's resurrection establishes the fact of a general resurrection. But this having been assured, analogy is employed to show the consonance thereof with reason, by pointing out a correspondence between it and the germination of seed. And how beautiful as well as truthful is this use of nature! Enlightened from another source, even by the Spirit of God, St. Paul is in a position to see the God of nature as the God of the resurrection. He goes to nature and asks, "Have you anything like this?" And she points him to the growing harvest, a few months ago "bare grain," and says, "So shall thy dead live! Our heavenly Father has not been content to give us great facts alone, but has superadded images, analogies, illustrations; and the grander the truth, the more clear and copious its kindred associations. That sense of correspondence which exists in us all, and is a mainstay of our convictions, is continually addressed by him, and by thousands of ties he binds together his Word and his works. Inspired teachers exhibit their wisdom in the way they read and interpret nature. Scripture is not written for minds shut up in themselves, the order and grace of the universe hidden from them. Sensational consciousness is just as much a part of religion as spiritual consciousness, and, accordingly, an eminent teacher like St. Paul honours his office by appealing to nature. He wrote for the senses no less than for the spirit, and hence we find him (ver. 39) widening the scope of analogy. And whither shall he tend? What is the objective point aimed at? The identity of the resurrection body with the dust and ashes of the grave - is that the goal of his thought? Nay and yea. Look on the gross side of identification, on the interminable disputes about bones and material particles, and the answer is nay. Look on the higher and far truer side of identification, and the answer is yea. As to the first, had the advocates of the dust and ashes theory existed in his day, he would perhaps have said, Fool!" Happily for us, we know that identity as applied to the body means the persistent adhesion to the same idea in the plan and purpose of organization, so that while the particles of matter in the corporeal structure are ever coming and going, and are as short lived as the ephemera of a summer day, such is the law of constancy beneath this variation that identity is no wise disturbed. St. Paul first takes up diversity of animal organisms. To show that the question is not about the retention and revivification of former constituents of the body, but a question solely of body and its capacity to assume such a form as God might be pleased to give, he states," All flesh is not the same flesh." Men, beasts, fishes, birds, differ in flesh. It is all flesh, but very unlike. What then? If body be capable of such variety in bodies, if you have such an interval as appears between man and bird, what limit will you put on body as to organization? Creative power is manifested in matter as matter; creative power makes its most wonderful manifestation in the countless shapes and adaptations of matter. And, accordingly, St. Paul's meaning is that you cannot argue from the structure and particles of the body here to the organization of a spiritual corporeity. But you can believe in new and higher forms, since "all flesh is not the same flesh." How far, then, has the argument progressed? To this landing place: body here, body hereafter, body capable of a nobler type of existence. But he proceeds to use another illustration. Hitherto he has been mundane in his view; now he enters on the upper realm. Celestial bodies, bodies terrestial, exist in the universe, and do they present contrasts on a far broader scale than those we see in the flesh of men and other animals? Ay; the diversity now is one of glory. Celestial and terrestrial bodies share different degrees of glory. The sun is a sun in its glory, and its splendour is its own. Moon and stars have their glory, and by this unequal distribution of radiance they impress us when we gaze on the firmament. Just here, then, the movement of the apostle's mind takes a sudden spring It bounds afar, and it is no longer form, no longer seed and harvest, nor animal organisms, but it is the splendour of form that absorbs his contemplation. Long ago the royal psalmist had poured forth his wonder and adoration in the nineteenth psalm, that sublime hymn which chants "the glory of God" in the firmament and keeps the throbbing pulses of the human heart in the rhythm of the universe. And now - the eye dilated and the resplendency full upon it - hearken to the instant utterance: "So also is the resurrection of the dead." "Sown in corruption" - earth and its earthliness; "it is raised in incorruption" - earth and its earthliness left in the grave. "Sown in dishonour" - its humiliations all upon it, and demanding speedy removal from sight and commitment to darkness lest it be loathsome; "it is raised in glory," and bears a likeness to him whose "countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." "Sown in weakness" - always in a state of infirmity and as a corpse, "powerless and unable to resist corruption" (Bloomfield); "it is raised in power," and made capable of receiving plenitude of energy from the will of the spirit and answering all possible uses of mind. "Sown a natural body" - as in life so in death, a part of the material order, and subjected to its conditions, and never able to escape its limitations, so "natural" that this very apostle, "caught up to the third heaven," had to suffer "a thorn in the flesh" that he might not be "exalted above measure," - "it is raised a spiritual body," and, if once a body that represented the soul, now a body that is in perfect sympathy with spirit as the highest organ in man for communion with God. The last antithesis is so important as to demand restatement: "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." Notice that the term "body" as used here derives its import as to its character or quality, not from anything in itself, but from its subsidiary relations, in the one case being "natural," "psychical," as connected with the soul, and, in the other, as contradistinguished from the "psychical" or "soul body," represented as the "spiritual body." What does the clear discrimination made by the apostle between the two forms of body require of us? A primary recognition of the difference between soul and spirit as determinative of the difference between the body natural and the body spiritual. Without entering into metaphysics, we may remark that the soul is that form of mind which connects man with the senses and the outer world of the senses, while the spirit is that form of mind which connects man with unseen and eternal objects. If this distinction were not real - a distinction that often develops in the feeling of most painful contrariety - how shall we explain our consciousness; how understand the amazing inconsistencies into which we fall; how give any account of moods and transitions, reactions, and rebounds? The fact of difference is plain to every student thinker: the nature of it is difficult, perhaps impossible to make obvious in language. Is there not a poetry that finds access to the innermost life, and a poetry that goes no further than the external intellect and its correlated sensibilities? And of painting, sculpture, music, eloquence, are there not everywhere two vividly marked divisions, so that while the one kind is very palpable to the soul, the other is felt rather than known, and works by hints and intimations more than by communications actually defined? Still more as to persons: who has not known some individuals that always called forth by their presence the best within him? whereas there were others whose tones and looks were solicitations to evil? Only a few consciously note these experiences, and still fewer analyze them, but assuredly they are facts of life, and life would be barren of its most advantageous suggestions, were it otherwise, Now, it is this difference between soul and spirit which St. Paul employs to give the contrast in the verse: "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." In this world, the body is so organized as to correspond to the soul; in the resurrection, the new corporeity will represent the spirit. Would you see how a great Christian thinker weaves into one pattern thoughts from nature and from Scripture? Ver. 45 presents St. Paul in these words: "It is written." Nature, though prolific of types, shadows, parables, cannot long detain him, and now he returns to the Mosaic account of the creation in the first and second chapters of Genesis. "Adam was made a living soul" (ch. 2:7). Animal he was in corporeal organization, placed at the head of the animal kingdom, sovereign over all creatures and things, and, moreover, much else, for he was the image of God in his reason, intelligence, and moral nature. He had a soul in him, and, it was God's breath. It was in the fact that he is the only Biblical writer who calls Christ by the name of Adam; while, at the same time that they stand in such close connection with humanity, the contrast between them is forcibly given. What Adam was is expressed in "living soul" as the starting-point or initiation of human nature, the designation expressing the predominant aspects of his earthly position and his candidacy as a being in God's image for a much loftier development. By the "life-giving spirit," we understand Christ in the power and glory of his resurrection, when "he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men," chief of which was the Holy Ghost. The "natural" precedes the "spiritual;" and what a philosophy of the universe opens in this single idea! The natural in law and government, the "do this and live," the special rule and the special test, the appeal to the senses and the sense intellect, and the primal guardianship of conscience by means of fear over moral interests - the natural in social relations - the natural in the motives to obedience and the uses of God's grace and the offering of worship - must lead the way, since by no other method apparent to us could humanity attain its high destiny. "Afterward that which is spiritual." First the natural, afterward the spiritual, - this is the order in everything that concerns man. Every one of his attributes, such as perception, reasoning, volition, faith, love, obeys this paramount law.; and the miracle of life is, whenever the Divine plan is carried out, that man is seen, as Milton describes the lion in Eden, extricating himself from earthly entangle merits and winning his freedom. St. Paul multiplies the forms of this idea. "Of the earth, earthy," was Adam; "the second man is of heaven;" and as we bear here "the image of the earthy" in body and soul, so shall we bear "the image of the heavenly." Slowly the likeness of Adam fades even now under the fashioning band of God. Natural law is made subservient to spiritual law, so that while the senses decay and the other animal functions abate more or less, the diviner sensibilities acquire the vitality thus disengaged and expand with new vigour. Providence cooperates with grace. And thus, line after line, lineament after lineament, disappearing from the "living soul," and also from the lower functions of the body, there comes out in its stead "the image of the heavenly." Our growing years, if we are consecrated to God, are all on the side of Christ, and are all helpers and auxiliaries to prepare us for the fulness of spiritual life in a spiritual body. - L.
But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?I. These words meant, "HOW CAN THE DEAD BE RAISED UP?" Let us try to find an answer to it.
1. If any man really believe in the existence of a Great First Cause, his answer would at once be, "With God all things are possible." He who built the house, and allowed it to be pulled down, can rebuild it. But we should not rest the answer upon this.
2. What has been done can be. Now, we affirm — and it is the subject of this chapter — that there is now passed into the heavens a man who was once dead — Christ. And this fact rests upon the irrefragable evidence adduced in this chapter; and this evidence is such that when a great infidel went to work to prove Christianity untrue, it ended in his being convinced, by the candid examination of it; and Gilbert West's book is a standing evidence of the truth of the resurrection. We answer the question, "How are the dead raised up?" by saying, It has been done. What God has done He can do again.
II. But the question may mean the curious inquiry as to THE MANNER OF THE RESURRECTION. With what body will they rise? Will it be the same body that was buried? Will all its particles be the same? Will the ashes of Wickliffe, e.g., that, after the body was dug up and burned, were thrown into the river, which carried them into another river, which carried them into the sea — will all those ashes be brought together? Now I shall answer this by showing that when we shall be raised —
1. We shall know that we are the same persons that lived. It is a fact well known that our bodies are continually changing. Unless there were particles being continually taken up, how would the meals that we regularly take to repair the waste, increase the size of the body? The boy of seven, the youth of fourteen, the young man of twenty-one, and the full-grown man of thirty, has really and truly had a fresh body every seven years. Yet which of us is not conscious that we are the same persons that we were as little children — not the same pieces of matter, but the same persons? And this is necessary for the judgment. It is a principle of English law that it is the person that did the offence that must be tried for it. Twenty years may have elapsed since the murderer did the deed; the hand that shed the blood may have been changed in that time; yet he is the same man, knows that he is the same, and is answerable for the crime that was done twenty years ago. We shall, in this sense, be the same, and have to give account of the things done in the body.
2. Others will know us to be the same. The great missionary Moffat, in one of his journeys, fell in with an African king, and began to tell him of the resurrection; and as he went on he saw that iron man's face begin to work convulsively; and when the king could speak he said, trembling all over, "What! do you say that I shall see the men whom I have slaughtered in battle?" He seemed as if he saw before him the victims of his courage, as he had thought, but of his cruelty, as he now began to think. At the great day others will know us, however changed we may be. Seducer, you shall recognise the woman whom you have flung heartless on a cold world, and left to vice, misery, and an early death. Tempter of youth, you shall recognise the thoughtless boys you enticed from duty, and they shall know you. Infidel, you shall recognise those whose little faith you sapped by specious arguments, whose little hope you took away. Hume is related to have shaken the faith of his mother, and when that mother was dying, finding that his arguments would not support her, she sent for him to tell her again what he had told her before, for she found she was sinking into eternity with nothing under her feet. Hume shall meet his mother, and his mother know her son that did this unfilial work upon the soul. And you who are really Christians, you shall recognise every one of those whom you lead to Christ.
3. And yet we shall be changed.(1) From corruption to incorruption. Decay is sown in our blood, and when we are laid in the grave we are sown in corruption; when we are raised we shall be incapable of decay.(2) From dishonour to glory. "It is sown in dishonour." Who of us does not know that? But when the body is raised it will be in the glory of Christ as He shone on the Mount of Transfiguration.(3) From weakness to power. How soon are we tired! How soon does our mind exhaust our body! How soon are we wearied with work and with pleasure too! But when these bodies are raised they will be incapable of fatigue, and capable of exertion such as we cannot dream of now. "They rest not day nor night."(4) Suddenly — in the twinkling of an eye — at the last trump. Conclusion: "They that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of condemnation."
(W. W. Champneys.)Philippians 3:21): — When the fact of the resurrection has been established, there remains a number of very interesting and important questions concerning the manner and the time of the resurrection, and the relation of the resurrection-body to the present one. These questions are not simply for the delectation of our curiosity, because clear views of the nature of our future life and of the transformation which our present life is to undergo through the energy of the power of Christ cannot fail to influence our present life and to inspire us with enthusiasm for the Lord whose glory we are to share.
I. WHAT, THEN, ARE THE PRINCIPLES OF THE RESURRECTION AS GIVEN IN THE WORDS BEFORE US?
1. Take first of all the passage in Philippians, and you will find it assert the following principles —(1) In the resurrection the spirits of the just will appear not in a disembodied, but an embodied, state.(2) Between these two bodies there is a relation of continuity.(3) The transformation is effected through a spiritual energy within us. The word here translated "working" has an intensely "inward" significance. It means in-working, a working in the heart of things, and particularly in the spiritual processes of life. The "working of the power by which Christ subdues all things to Himself" is the spiritual force with which He floods the centre of things, and so leavens and transforms the whole. So the power that forms the new body must be sought in spirit.(4) The complete resurrection-body is not existent until the final appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.(5) The power and principle of this resurrection have their type and origin in Christ.
2. Now, if you turn to the passage in Corinthians, you will find several of these principles over again, with some supplementary matter.(1) The transition from the body of humiliation to the body of glory is effected through a development which is in the truest sense natural, that is, in accordance with the laws of ideal human life.(2) The natural and the spiritual body are not to be conceived as consisting of identical particles, but as different stages in a process of development, which are said to be identical owing to the continuity of the life that fills them.
II. Having these definite principles to check and to direct us, we wish to EXAMINE IN THE LIGHT OF THEM SUCH CONCEPTIONS AS ARE, OR MAY BE, FORMED OF THE MANNER IN WHICH THE RESURRECTION-BODY SHALL COME INTO BEING AND BE UNITED TO THE SPIRIT TO WHICH IT BELONGS. The Scripture-phrase, "the resurrection of the dead" does not refer either to spirit or body in separation from one another, but to the reappearance of the complete human life in a state of glory. The theory that flings the body away as a temporary fetter, and denies it a share in the resurrection-life is clearly and emphatically condemned. It is in violent opposition to the whole genius of Christian thought. It is foreign to all that we know of the mind of Jesus Christ and His apostles. The "ego" of Christ's conception is certainly not an independent spiritual essence, whether embodied or disembodied. It is always the entire life in its association of soul and body. Whether He directs his attention to this life or the next, the human "unit" is always a complex one. How, then, is the resurrection-body produced, and what is its relation to the body which is placed in the grave? If we turn to our principles we shall find that they clearly contradict the resurrection of the identical particles laid in the grave. The whole spirit of the passage in Philippians is in opposition to it, for instead of the idea of an inert mass being indued with life again after a long period of death, the passage glows with the conception of a continuous energy, and a great transformation effected by an informing process of life. The passage from the epistle to the Corinthians is still more explicit in its testimony. For the two principles we found there, viz., that the resurrection-body is produced by a development in accordance with true laws and processes of life, and, that it does not reproduce the identical particles of the earthly body — are both in direct contradiction to the commonly received theory of the resurrection. Probably the misconception has arisen through mistaking the bearing of Paul's beautiful series of antitheses respecting the resurrection. When Paul says, "It is sown .... It is raised," he is not speaking of the body only, but of the entire man as be appears first in the earthly, and afterwards in the heavenly, state. It is this earthly life of ours that "cannot be quickened except it die," and that through death shall inherit incorruption. The transition, therefore, is one of spirit and life. It is a living transition from the present living association of soul and body to a higher form of such association, the development of the "higher" body requiring as its necessary condition the death of the lower body, as the living seed flings off its old body that a higher embodiment of the life of the seed may take its place. Some obscure questions remain, which may become clearer to Christian thought by and by. They are such as these: Does the new body co-exist at any period with the earthly body, and has it already reached any stage of development at the hour of death? Or is it at death only a "latency," ready to leap into full development and activity at the appearing of Jesus Christ? If so, how will this non-development affect the present life of the blessed dead? These questions open up a vast field of thought that has scarcely been entered except by one here and another there. But we may lay down one thing more as clear and certain, namely, that the full development of the "body of glory" will not take place until the Lord appears.
III. I trust that this discussion will have impressed upon you that THE SCRIPTURE-TEACHING CONCERNING THE RESURRECTION-BODY TRENCHES UPON GREAT QUESTIONS OF DIVINE POWER AND GLORY, AND EMBODIES GREAT PRINCIPLES OF TRANSFORMATION AND DEVELOPMENT THAT MAY WELL IMPRESS OUR IMAGINATION, AND, EVEN THOUGH BUT OBSCURELY UNDERSTOOD, MAY PROFOUNDLY INSPIRE OUR LIFE.
1. One result of this faith is, that it gives fulness and substantiality to our future life. The human body is no encumbrance fastened upon the spirit, like a fetter on powerful wrists, so that the spirit would be more complete without it. God never loaded a life with a useless encumbrance of that kind. Rather, the body is necessary for the complete life of the man, to give it individuality and fulness. We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed — such an anticipation would be too shadowy and ghostly.
2. Belief in the resurrection-body is ultimately bound up with faith in the foundations of Christianity. I do not say that disbelief in the full resurrection of the dead is at once and always attended by disbelief in the central truths of Christianity. Fortunately or unfortunately, men are not always consistent, and may for a time hold together beliefs that are destructive of one another. Yet I have no doubt that disbelief in a resurrection-body is a logical denial of the foundations of Christianity, and must be constantly exerting an influence that tends to draw away a man from the heart of Christian truth. For it must be noted that the distinguishing feature, the very soul of Christianity is belief in a person. Jesus is infinitely more than a mark in history to suggest noble ideas. He is life, and the certainty of life for us. In Him we see, in full view on the stage of human life, the battle of humanity fought and won. If any one attenuates the saints' future life into an intangible "ego" he cannot heartily believe in that living, I may almost say earthly, portraiture of immortality which Christ gave. Generally you will find such an one attach ever lessening importance to the earthly life of Jesus, until His Christianity is a philosophic rationalism, with the name of Christ meaninglessly attached to it.
3. The Christian view of the resurrection sets great value on our present life, even on its physical relations. Therefore, it is able to say with an authority of its own: Give to God the full service of body, soul, and spirit, for eternity shall glorify you in the whole range of your life.
(John Thomas, M.A.)body do they come?" Paul's answer is —
I. NOT IN THE SAME AS THAT WHICH WAS DEPOSITED IN THE GRAVE. The old body is destroyed. The death of that seed from which the plant springs is the mere destruction of its husk. Its hidden life, something altogether distinct from its clothing, germinated and broke through its husky garb, which dissolved in the earth. So "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven." The gross is gone for ever.
II. WITH A BODY THAT WILL HAVE AN ORGANIC CONNECTION WITH THE BURIED ONE. The oak, though it has not a particle of the old acorn in it; the butterfly, though it has not a particle of the grub egg from which it sprung in it; the stalwart man, though he has not one particle of that matter which he had when an infant on his mother's knee, has an organic connection with it. So Paul virtually says of the resurrection body, though it has nothing in it of the old materials, it has a casual connection with it. What is that mystic thing which connects the acorn with the oak, the man with the infant? Tell me that, and I may perhaps tell you that which connects the resurrection body with that which was buried. We know that seeds that have been buried in darkness for thousands of years, will, when brought into the genial air and sunbeam, break into life; may it not be that in the human body there is an invisible, indestructible germ — what the old Jew called the "immortal bone," and Goethe the "monad" — that will spring to life when, by the interposition of Heaven, all the graves of the world shall be thrown open? Is there an undying embryo in this gross body of ours out of which will spring one day a glorious body?
III. WITH A BODY WHICH GOD IN HIS SOVEREIGNTY WILL BESTOW.
1. God clothes life. "To every seed his own body." There is no doubt that in the universe there is life unclothed by matter. It may be so with the angels; it is so with God. Around us there may be immeasurable oceans of naked life; but we only know something of the embodied. No science has as yet told us what life is.
2. God clothes life with the fittest body. "All flesh is not the same flesh." Life has boundless varieties, but God gives to each its fitting body. The hare and the elephant, the wren and the eagle, the minnow and the leviathan, all have bodies fitted to the peculiarities of their distinctive life.
3. God clothes life according to His own pleasure. "Giveth a body as it hath pleased Him." He chose the form, the hue, the garb, of each life. Our resurrection body will be as it "hath pleased Him." Then —(1) It will be beautiful, for He is the God of all taste, the Fountain of all beauty, the Standard of all aesthetics.(2) Useful, for He is the God of benevolence. Exquisitely suited to our present sphere are the bodies we now have.(3) Glorious. "There is one glory of the sun," etc.; so also with the resurrection of the just.
IV. WITH A BODY THAT WILL BE A VAST IMPROVEMENT ON THE OLD ONE. Paul attributes three predicates to the present body — corruption, dishonour, weakness: to the resurrection body, three predicates — immortality, glory, and power. What an improvement!
(D. Thomas, D.D.)I. THIS QUESTION WE HAVE ALL ASKED.
1. At death something goes out of the body — that which vitalised it, that which we could not touch, nor weigh, nor measure. No sooner has this something gone, than the body immediately begins to return to its dust. Nothing can arrest it. We may make a mummy of it, but a mummy is not a body. In the British Museum are many specimens of mummies. They excite no human interest, only appeal to curiosity and create aversion.
2. The necessity for this material body of ours arises from the fact that we belong, temporarily at least, to a material world. Without such bodies we could not see, or feel, or touch, or recognise this world. It would not exist for us.
3. Recall what Paul says elsewhere in other parts of his letters about the body. Writing to Roman Christians, he calls it a "body of death." To the Corinthians he speaks of it as a wild beast to be kept in subjection. To the Philippians he speaks of "this body of our humiliation." And yet, when we have said everything to its disadvantage, we cannot withhold a recognition of the wonderful way in which the body sympathises with and serves the purpose of the mind and spirit. The old Greeks recognised its lines of beauty in their Dianas and Apollos. They lived intelligently and artistically for the body. But they proved to the world that the service of the body, even when artistically pursued, issues in enfeeblement, effeminacy, and corruption. Art refines to a degree, but only to a degree. They who talk of regenerating men by opening art museums and multiplying picture galleries must be people with but little reflection. In Athens of yesterday, and in Paris of to-day, we have the most salacious of all populations. When, however, we study the body under the influence of the mind and spirit, how admirable it often is — revealing and concealing the thought of the mind — the feeling of the soul! suggesting to us how possible it is to elevate even this body, and treat it as if it were a temple — a temple of the Holy Spirit of God.
4. This body is a body of humiliation, and yet it suggests a body of a very much higher and nobler kind. As the mind develops, as the heart enlarges, this body becomes more and more unadapted to it. Age is not of the mind and heart; it is of the body only. Spiritually-minded men do not become in feeling and spirit old, like men of the world. There is nothing that preserves juvenility like true piety. There is nothing ages men and women like the opposites of the graces of the spirit. Envy, hatred, jealousy, un-charitableness — these bring the wrinkles into the face, and the age into the soul.
II. BUT THE BODY THAT IS, IS THE ONLY FORERUNNER OF THE BODY THAT SHALL BE. All the way through this chapter the apostle is fighting the thought that we ourselves put into the phrase "disembodied spirits."
1. He goes to nature and finds a suggestion there. Why, even in nature, he says, you sow not the body that shall be, only a bare grain — the vital element that rises above the earth takes to itself a body suited to it. Every vital thing has in it a tendency to gather to itself a bodily form suited to its necessities and conditions. The grub in its grub state is embodied in one form and way; by and by, as it advances in its life, that body is no longer suited to it, but a new body is developing: soon it seems to die into its chrysalis state; but, lo, an entirely new creature, no longer with the limitations of the grub body, emerges; a creature that now sports in the air, and no longer crawls on the earth. It has its own body, but how different from the grub body; yet there is a vital connection between the one and the other. Each stage in it has been preparing for the next. And everything has its own body suited to its state and environment. And not sameness, but variety, is the order of creation. There are terrestrial bodies — bodies that belong to earth. There are celestial bodies — bodies that belong to the heavens. And each and all of these have their special glory and beauty. A star is of one order, a sun of another, but each has its own glory. And so with bodies. There is a body that belongs to man in his state of dishonour. Another which belongs to him in his state of glory.
2. The natural body is the type and promise of the spiritual body, but it is not the spiritual body. It has the same relation to it as the terrestrial has to the celestial, as corruption has to incorruption, etc. Everything lower points to a higher. Man is never disembodied; all through time he is an embodied spirit, and when he has sloughed off his time body, his earth body, he has still a body, but one suited to him in a way and to a degree to which this body has never been suited (vers. 48, 49). All earth forces and powers and laws have been in our earth body. Like the earth, it has been subject to the law of gravitation and decay, to constant change. We have borne the image of the earthy. "We shall also bear the image of the heavenly." The one is not complete without the other. The spirit of man in its next stage of being will have a body suited to it. Not a body subject to all the diseases, infirmities, neuralgias, aches, and pains to which this is subject. Every one shall have his own body, the body suited to express his inward character; but it shall be as superior to this present material body as the body of the butterfly is to that of the grub.
(Reuen Thomas, D.D.)
I. THE DIFFICULTIES IN WHICH THAT FACT SEEMS INVOLVED. The resurrection is exhibited in the Bible, not as a speculative truth, but as so intimately bound up with our salvation, that to prove it false were to prove the human race unredeemed (vers. 16, 17). It were useless, then, to adduce proofs from revelation, seeing that we have it explicitly declared that, unless the dead rise, Christianity would be reduced into fable. The question, then, is whether there lie such objections against the resurrection as make it incredible, and thus justify us in rejecting the testimony of Scripture.
1. Can we demonstrate that the resurrection falls without the limit of possibility, and that the effecting of it would overpass Omnipotence? If we are not prepared with such a demonstration, it is childishness to argue against the resurrection from its difficulty. If the Bible had ascribed it to a finite agent, reason might fairly have argued that the disproportion between the thing done and the doer furnishes ground enough for rejecting the statement. But will any one declare that the resurrection exceeds the capability of Him who is to achieve it? No man who admits that God created everything out of nothing should hesitate to admit that God can raise the dead.
2. We allow, however, that this general demonstration is scarcely sufficient for the case; and we proceed, therefore, to consider certain difficulties which still suggest themselves. We begin by warning you against the idea that, provided the soul be hereafter united to a body, it will matter nothing whether it be the same body which it tenanted on earth. The grand use of the resurrection is that the same beings may stand in judgment as have here been on probation; but they are not the same beings unless compounded of the same body and soul. But our bodies, it may be said, are here perpetually changing. Yes, but such change in no degree interferes with the thorough sameness of the person. Suppose a man to have committed a murder, and that after thirty years the guilt is brought to light, and the assassin put on trial, what would the judge and jury say if the criminal should plead that, because in thirty years his body had been often changed, he was not the same person as committed the murder? And supposing, that in place of being discovered by his fellow-men, the murderer had remained undetected till arraigned at the judgment bar of Christ, in what body must he appear in order that the identity of the man may be rigidly preserved? Certainly it will not be necessary that he appear in the very body which he had when he took away a fellow-creature's life; nothing is necessary but that his soul be clothed in matter which had once before clothed it. It is unquestionable that the same matter must enter at different times into the construction of different bodies; nourished by seed, which seed is itself nourished by the earth, which earth is the receptacle of the dust of human kind: it is indeed possible that there are component particles in the arm which I now lift which have entered successively into the limbs of men of bygone generations, and that the portion wrought up into the members of the men of one age will yet again be moulded into flesh. And if the same matter may belong successively to different men, to whom shall that matter belong in the resurrection? We observe on this that the man is the same man if his future body be composed of particles which at any time have made up his present. It is not necessary that all the dust which hath ever been wrought into his corruptible members should hereafter be wrought into his incorruptible: indeed, we know not how small a portion of the same matter may suffice for the preservation of identity: this we know, that the man is the same man in the vigour and efflorescence of health, and when wasted by long sickness into a skeleton: the abstraction at one time, and the addition at another, of large masses of animate matter, interfere not at all with personal identity. Hence it is evident, that, even if much which now belongs to my body belonged at other times to the bodies of other men, there may yet be enough belonging exclusively to myself, and kept distinct by the omniscience and omnipotence of God to cause, when wrought into a dwelling-place for my soul, that I shall be the same individual who now pleads in the earthly sanctuary, and tells his fellow-men of re-opened graves and quickened generations.
II. WHAT ANSWER MAY BE GIVEN TO THE QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT? The grand characteristic of our resurrection bodies is to be likeness to the glorified body of Christ (Philippians 3:21). Now there is every reason for concluding that Christ when transfigured appeared in that glorified humanity in which He now sits at the Father's right hand. And if Christ, when transfigured, exhibited humanity in its glorified condition, we learn that our bodies, though made wondrously radiant, shall be distinguished, as now, the one from the other, by their characteristic features. The Saviour was not so altered as not to be known. And if we would examine more minutely into the change which shall pass upon our bodies, enough is told us in this chapter.
1. "It is sown in corruption": the principle of dissolution is in this framework of matter, and, whatever for a time its comeliness and vigour, it is the heir of death, and must say to corruption, "Thou art my father," etc. But "it is raised in incorruption," imperishable and unchangeable.
2. "It is sown in dishonour." Here the body is a degraded thing, and the grand business of a Christian is to "crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts." But "it is raised in glory": no longer the seat of unholy propensities, no longer furnishing inlets by its senses and appetites for manifold temptations.
3. "It is sown in weakness." Who feels not how the body is now a clog upon the spirit, impeding it in its stretchings after knowledge, as well as in its strivings after holiness? But "it shall be raised in power": no longer needing rest, no longer subject to waste, the body shall be an auxiliary to the soul in all her searchings after truth.
4. "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body." The body of the risen Redeemer, though certainly material, yet it had in a high degree the attributes of spirit, for it could be made invisible, and could enter a chamber with closed doors, thus proving itself no longer subject to the laws which matter now obeys; and so matter shall partake much of the independence of spirit, and the body be fitted for accompanying the soul in all her marchings over the area of the universe, and in all her divings into its most secret recesses. The natural body is a structure which belongs fitly to the natural man who "receiveth not the things of God." Conclusion: We are told nothing of the body with which the wicked shall come. The natural body may remain the natural, and if the resurrection consigns this to be sown a natural body and to be raised a natural body, you reach the summit of all that is terrible in conception; when you suppose the grave thus sending up the drunkard thirsting for wine where there is no wine, and the miser always hankering for gold where there is no gold, and the sensualist to be galled by the impress of voluptuousness where there may exist the sense, but not the objects, of concupiscence. Seeing, then, there is no escaping the resurrection, ought not each one of us to ask himself solemnly the question, "With what body shall I come — with the natural or with the spiritual?"
(H. Melvill, B.D.)
I. THE NATURE OF THE ARGUMENT. Analogy is probability from a parallel case. We assume that the same law which operates in the one case will operate in another if there be a resemblance between the relations of the two things compared. Thus, when Christ said, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground," etc. As in nature life comes through death, so also is it in the world of spirit. The law of sacrifice, which accounts for the one fact, will also explain the other. Thus St. Paul shows that the life of the seed is continued after apparent death in a higher form, and argues, that in like manner the human spirit may be reunited to form.
2. How far this argument is valid. It does not amount to proof; it only shows that the thing in question is credible. It does not demonstrate that a resurrection must be, it only shows that it may be.
3. Now, it is in this way that St. Paul concludes his masterly argument. He proves the resurrection from the historical fact, and by the absurdity which follows from denial of it, and then he shows that so proved, it is only parallel to the dying and upspringing corn, and the diverse glories of the sun, and moon, and stars. But it is not on these grounds that our belief rests. We fetch our proofs from the Word of God, and the nature of the human soul.
II. THE CREDIBILITY OF THE RESURRECTION.
1. There are two difficulties advanced.(1) The question, How are the dead raised? may be a philosophical one. We are told that the entire human body undergoes a complete change every certain number of years, and that it is dissolved in various ways. Those who are wise in such matters tell us that there is not a single portion of the globe which has not, some time or other, been organic form.(2) The other question is merely a sneer, "With what body do they come?" It is as if the objector had said, "Let there be nothing vague: tell us all about it, you who assert you are inspired."
2. Now, to these objections Paul replies. He discerns in this world three principles.(1) That life, even in its lowest form, has the power of assimilating to itself atoms: he takes the corn of wheat, which, after being apparently destroyed, rises again, appropriating, as it grows, all that has affinity with itself: that body with which it is raised may be called its own body, and let it is a new body.(2) The marvellous superabundance of the creative power of God. "There is one glory of the sun," etc.; and yet there is a difference between them. There are gradations in all these forms — bodies celestial and bodies terrestrial. Now, are we to believe that God's wisdom and power should be insufficient to find for the glorified spirit a form fit for it? We simply reply to the objection, "With what body do they come?" "Look at the creative power of God!"(3) The principle of progress. The law of the universe is not Pharisaism, the law of custom stereotyped. Just as it was in creation, first the lower and then the higher, so (ver. 46) at first we lead a mere animal life, the life of instinct; then, as we grow older, passion succeeds, and after the era of passion our spirituality comes, if it comes at all. St. Paul draws a probability from this, that what our childhood was to our manhood — something imperfect followed by that which is more perfect — so will it be hereafter.
3. St. Paul finds that all this coincides with the yearnings of the human heart (ver. 54). This is the substance of two prophecies, one in Isaiah, the other in Hosea, and expresses the yearnings of the heart for immortality. No man, in a high mood, ever felt that this life was really all, ever looked on life and was satisfied, ever looked at the world without hoping that a time is coming when that creation which is now groaning and travailing in bondage, shall be brought into the glorious liberty of the Son of God. And this feeling, felt in a much greater and higher degree, becomes prophecy. And when we look around, instead of finding something which damps our aspirations, we find the external world corroborating them. Then how shall we account for this marvellous coincidence? Shall we believe that God our Father has cheated us with a lie?
(F. W. Robertson, M.A.)
(Dr. John Pearson.)
I. IN THE RELATION OF THE SEED TO THE PLANT we recognise —
1. That death is, in some cases at least, necessary to the perpetuation of life.
2. That this perpetuation involves a development.
3. That this development is not automatic, but the consequence of a creative and beneficent act of God.
4. That in this act God appropriates indefinite material to produce the development of definite kinds.
II. THE ANALOGY OF THE VARIOUS KINDS OF FLESH teaches us that this limiting of the limitless in the formation and development of kinds consists in differentiating their physical constitution.
III. THE ANALOGY OF THE VARIOUS GLORIES IN SUN, etc., intimates that such a differentiation of nature implies a difference also in sphere of action. Conclusion: To apply all this to the subject in hand, it means —
1. That the believer's relation to Christ involves development.
2. That this development implies death as one of its conditions.
3. That this development is brought about "through God's creative and beneficent act.
4. That it is a development within the limits of kind.
5. That it involves a change in mode of existence.
6. That it necessitates and secures transference of the entire man into another sphere.
I. THE DEATH IS OFTEN A CONDITION OF NEW AND HIGHER LIFE. Paul first teaches us the parable of the seed (vers. 37, 38). Is that which thou sowest the body that will be? No: a new body springs from the corruption of the old, more complex, beautiful, and adapted to the higher region in which it has its life. But though the form of the grain be changed its identity is not lost. To each of the seeds God gives its own body. It you sow wheat, you reap wheat; if you sow barley, you reap barley, etc. The form is changed, but the identity is preserved. We draw no proof from the analogy; but we feel that it is not so difficult for us to conceive the resurrection of the body now that this natural resurrection of the seed is brought home to our thoughts. We see, e.g. —
1. That dissolution does not inevitably imply destruction, nay, that it affords no clear presumption of it even. Nothing sown is quickened except it die. And therefore, it may be that the dissolution of the body is not its destruction: it may pass through death to a form more comely and perfect, to a more fruitful service, to more life and fuller.
2. When form is changed identity may be preserved. The grain rots and dies that the vital germ may be quickened and fed, and each grain takes its own new body: wheat remains wheat, and rice, rice. And so if we ask, "How are the scattered and vapourised particles of which our bodies are composed to be recovered and compacted into a new organism?" Nature replies, "That may not be necessary. Much may die and yet the vital germ may live." If we say, "We do not care simply to live, but to be ourselves," Nature replies, "To each of the seeds God giveth its own body, not another's. And therefore, though your new form may differ from the old, it may be that you will remain the same, and find the same friends about you, each in its own likeness, though enlarged and glorified. You may have exchanged the winter of seed-time for the golden splendours of an eternal summer; but nevertheless you may still be what you were."
II. THE SAME SUBSTANCE MAY TAKE VARIOUS FORMS.
1. Earthly bodies differ from each other (ver. 39). Men, beasts, fish, birds are all composed of flesh and blood. Yet this one flesh — how infinite its variety of forms!
2. If then of one flesh God can weave these infinite varieties of animal life, each exquisitely adapted to its peculiar element and conditions, can we suppose that His power is exhausted by the forms now visible to us? Is it not in accordance with all the teachings of Nature that, if at death men pass into a new element and new conditions of life, God should adapt their organism to its new conditions, that He should develop in it new faculties and powers?
3. Heavenly bodies differ from earthly (ver. 40). There is one matter as there is one flesh. Compare sun, moon, stars, planets, comets with the various orders of beasts, fish, birds, or with mountains, streams, trees, flowers; and how immeasurable is the diversity! Yet God made them all and made them of the same substance, and if it please Him, He can mould the identical substance of which all physical nature is composed into new forms. Nay, more; the matter of the heavenly bodies is in each case adapted to its conditions, and varies as these vary. And therefore the presumption is strong that if death should greatly change our conditions, our physical organism will change with them, and be adapted to them. If death should lift us to heaven, we may well believe that, as we were here adapted to an earthly lot, so there we shall be adapted, for a heavenly lot.
4. Heavenly bodies differ from each other (ver. 41). It is not simply that each of the heavenly bodies had its own light: it has its own glory, its peculiar characteristics, its proper excellence. From the earliest ages, when men tilled the fertile plans of Chaldaea, they have distinguished differences of light even in the planets — the blue ray of Mercury, the golden lustre of Venus, the red and bloody portent of Mars, the deep orange gleam of Jupiter, the leaden hue of Saturn. And these differences of light speak of differences of place, magnitude, structure. The one glory of the heavens is a complex of many different glories. And if of one substance God has woven the infinite and differing globes of light, how incommensurate our thought of Him, did we suppose that He could not out of the one substance of this mortal body weave many different bodies, each perfect in its kind and for its purpose, each answering to its conditions and rising as they rise!
(S. Cox, D.D.)
I. THE SENTIMENTS AND FEELINGS WITH WHICH WE SHOULD CONTEMPLATE THE CORN FIELDS, AS THEY GROW RIPE UNTO THE HARVEST.
1. Devout reverence and awe. I sympathise with Dr. Johnson, who uncovered his head whenever he passed a church, and worshipped with bare head in the corn fields. What a manifestation of the living God, in quiet, ceaseless, beautiful, benign energy!
2. Joyful gratitude. In everything give thanks, for a bad as well as a good crop; for thus God teaches us that man does not live by bread alone.
3. Practical brotherly kindness. The heart can scarcely fail to expand at the sight of the exceeding bountifulness of the great Father, into some joyful sense of oneness with all our brethren of mankind.
II. THE ANALOGIES WHICH THE CORN FIELDS SUPPLY; or rather the lessons which these analogies teach.
1. That much in the moral and spiritual world which appears to perish wholly, still lives, at least, in its issues and results. It is thus with our sins — thus with words and works of truth and charity.
2. That in order to the preservation and reproduction of life, there must be change, dissolution, death. This is true of institutions, forms of thought and doctrine, generations, persons, illustrated in the solemn law of self-sacrifice adduced (1 Corinthians 11:24, 25.)
3. That in preserving and developing truth and holiness in successive generations, and bringing all high and benign purposes to their issue, God does far more than man, operates more powerfully and constantly. "God gives it a body" (Mark 4:26, 27). It belongs to man to hope and quietly wait, as well as to work, and to remember that all great changes wrought in man, either in the community or the individual, resemble rather the processes and results of agriculture, than those of manufacture.
4. That results often little accord with, and far surpass our designs and expectations: "as it hath pleased Him." Illustrated in Protestantism, in the Divinely shaped result of Luther's attack on indulgencies; in the United States, in the result of the emigration of the Pilgrim Fathers; in what will be probably the issue of those efforts many are now making for church reformation. Let us be true to principles and trust in God for their future embodiment.
5. That, nevertheless, results are appropriate and fixed. God acts by law and not with caprice and fickleness. "To every seed his own body." Apply to individual conscience. "Whatsoever a man soweth," etc.
6. That the harvest of the world shall come. God's purposes ripen to their accomplishment as certainly as grain, in spite of exceptional cases, ripens for the sickle. "Be patient, therefore, brethren," etc.
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