Dear radio friends,
Corinth, a church organized through the mission labors of the apostle Paul, was troubled. It was troubled by carnal divisions among her members, by gross sexual immorality, by a proud self-importance. It was troubled by bloated opinion of spiritual gifts, by the corruption of the Lord’s Supper into gluttony and drunkenness, and by worship services in Corinth that were chaos. For all of these problems the apostle Paul brought the Word of God, a Word intended to humble the church in repentance beneath the cross, and to restore them to the gospel of Christ crucified and risen.
In the book of I Corinthians Paul is an example to us of one who loved the church, who labored tirelessly, unceasingly, to correct and to admonish and to show the church the excellent way that they are to walk.
But amid all the troubles that confronted the church of Corinth there was something worse. There were those who said that there is no resurrection of the dead. The apostle Paul asked them in the fifteenth chapter, “How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” We do not know the particulars of who these people were, but the point is that in I Corinthians 15 we have in the Scriptures an eloquent, bold, and glorious defense of the truth of the resurrection in Christ. Paul, in that chapter, summons up argument after argument to show that if there is no resurrection, then there is no atonement for sin, no reconciliation with God, no gospel. Without the resurrection we are without hope in the world.
So, as the church of Jesus Christ we do not negotiate, we do not accommodate the truth of the resurrection to the objections of unbelief. But we stand upon the rock of faith and declare: “Now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”
The apostle Paul, however, will not separate the truth of the resurrection from all the problems that Corinth was experiencing. He says to them, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, what is the point of it all?” In verse 30 of I Corinthians 15, he asks, “Why stand we in jeopardy every hour?” What advantage is it to me if the dead rise not? In effect the apostle is saying, “All the labor, all the pouring out of my heart, all the endurance, all the patience, all the firmness to address your problems, to deal with your sins and to correct the sins of God’s people — all of this, what is the worth of it if Christ is not risen?”
We may apply that to the history of the church. All the struggles of God’s people, all the sacrifice, all the loss of reputation and of life, all the suffering and persecution, all the teaching, all the preaching, all the services — what is this all worth if Christ is not risen from the dead?
You may apply it to your own life personally. All the energies that you put into the Christian life, all the love for the church, all the desire to maintain the church and the truth, all the desire to live as a member of Jesus Christ in the love of God on earth and to live a holy life — what is this all worth if Christ is not risen from the dead?
It is not worth anything. For, you see, the resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith. The Scriptures declare: “But now is Christ risen from the dead.” Look at it positively. That means that all of the labor, all the struggle, all the Christian life, all the efforts, all the sacrifice, everything involved in the church and everything involved in the Christian life — it is all worth it! Our labor is not in vain because the Lord is risen. The resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith.
In verse 35, which I read to you, the apostle Paul gets right down to it. He confronts the basic objection of the human mind to the resurrection of the dead. That objection is this: How is it possible, what kind of body is that? And, especially, the objection means this: you cannot mean the resurrection of this body. How are the dead raised up, with what body do they come? is the question.
Mankind, and you and I of ourselves, would ask: Do you mean the continued existence of the soul? We can believe that. There are people who talk about reincarnation. There is a lot of interest in spirits and the beyond and communicating with those who are gone beyond. We can appreciate that — that something of a man, his soul or spirit or ghost, somehow continues.
But the body? The flesh and blood that has been laid in the grave or incinerated into ashes? The body, which rots and stinks and decays and is broken down by microorganisms and worms? The body of a loved one laid in a coffin? There is no movement. The eyes become sunken. That body shall live? How is that possible?
Remember the apostle Paul in the second missionary journey when he stood in the city of Athens before the world’s philosophers and he had an attentive audience. When he declared to them that there is one God, and this one God is the creator, and this one God will confront men, and this God is not physical but is spiritual who will judge men. But then he came in his sermon to these words: “God hath raised Jesus from the dead.” And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked and others said, “We will hear thee again of this matter.” You see, man cannot attain of himself to the truth of the resurrection of the dead. But the Word of God can. The infallible Scriptures give us an explanation. They give us an explanation for our comfort and for our practical living in the body.
The apostle declares that the body of the Christian will also be raised by the power of Jesus Christ. This is in all of the Scriptures, of course. Job knew this already and said in Job 19:26, “Though worms destroy this body, my body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” The apostle Paul declared in Philippians 3:21 that “Christ shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” How will He do that? “According to his own power whereby he is able to subdue everything to himself.” We shall be changed!
But the question still remains: How are the dead raised up? How is it possible for life to come out of death? How is it possible for a corrupt and decayed dust-body to be restored? And, still more, with what body do they come — what kind of body is it — what will it be like? We know what it is like now — we need to breathe, eat, rest. These bodies grow old, they bleed, they are subject to disease. Is that the kind of body we will have again? Would it not be better that we simply concede that our souls are preserved in a different body created out of different materials? Is it not really absurd to think that this our present body shall go beyond the grave?
Now listen to God’s Word as it insists that the identity of the resurrection body is this my body — changed, marvelously reconstructed, but this body. What does the Word of God say? “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” “That which thou sowest,” says the apostle, “is not quickened except it die.”
The Word of God is answering our questions. How are the dead raised up? First of all, remember the Lord’s words to the Sadducees (Matt. 22:29): “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” You see no dilemma in the resurrection of the body when you believe the Scriptures and the power of God. How are the dead raised up? By the power of God! The apostle says, God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him. If you wonder how the body of the child of God who dies, and whose very grave is lost after centuries roll over; how the body of a soldier killed on the battlefield and his blood soaked into the ground and now is gone forever — if you wonder how is it possible for that body to be traced, here is the answer: Is there anything too hard for the Lord? God will raise it up. Here is the answer: Divine omnipotence and omniscience will do it. Divine omnipotence, the all-power of God, aided with divine omniscience, God’s perfect knowledge. By His power and knowledge God will raise the body.
But the question is: with what body then do they come forth? And here the apostle uses the figure of a seed: That which thou sowest is not quickened (made alive) except it die. And that which thou sowest thou sowest not that body that shall be. It may chance of wheat or of some other grain.
What is he saying? He is saying that a seed of wheat is put into the ground and it dies. The exterior part of it decays and forms the life that the germ of the wheat seed has so that the wheat comes forth. The seed dies, with the exception of that particle almost too small to be seen — that germ of wheat. Now, one has no doubt that that which is arising is the very seed, the same seed that was sown. So our bodies, as they now consist, are going to die. But by the power of God that body shall be raised in newness of life. That body shall, with the trump of the angel, arise in a far more glorious form. The identity of the body is preserved. The body shall awake. The body of the child of God shall awake from the bed of silent dust and cold clay and it shall be made glorious. Make no mistake, the very body that is sown in the earth shall spring forth to eternal life.
But it shall spring forth gloriously, through a change that is unimaginable to us. The very flesh and blood that was buried, the very flesh and blood that was burned, that was lost, the very eye that closed in death and the very hand that grew still and cold —these shall live again. They shall rise.
Biology tells us that our bodies are changing and that every few years we really have a different body. There is the continual wearing away of the flesh and replacing of skin and even bone! Yet I am the same. So also God shall watch over our bodies and He shall raise them again by the power of Jesus Christ. Remember this.
Remember this in a practical sense — the very body in which you live, in which you believe in Jesus Christ, shall one day be raised, and you shall be in this body glorified before the presence of God. You shall walk in it on the streets of gold in the new Jerusalem. Remember this, that you yield your body now as instruments unto righteousness and that you care for your body. Your body is redeemed. It is not the servant of sin. What care we ought to have for our human bodies! Our human body is not something that we should starve or stuff. It is not something that we should use to tantalize and tickle our lust. But our human body is the gift of God. It is a great gift of God. It is as precious to God as your soul. He will redeem it. And He calls you to live in it now to His honor and to His glory.
But it shall be a glorious transformation, a transformation that is beyond our ability to comprehend in this day. Our bodies now are in corruption. They are in dishonor. They are in weakness. But when they are raised in Jesus Christ, they shall be raised in incorruption, in glory, and in power. Our bodies are now a natural body. They are made for this earth, for this present time. But they shall be raised a spiritual body. They shall be made for the time which is to come, for eternity.
We shall be raised body and soul through Jesus Christ. For Christ arose from the dead with the mortal life in His body. And all those who are in Him, God also shall raise from the dead.
That is a glorious gospel. That is a gospel that is declared to us as the gospel of God. You, child of God, will be raised.
In glory, just as now, there shall not be two bodies exactly alike. The body of Paul will not be like Peter. And Andrew will not be like John. When Christ arose, He preserved in His body His own identity. So also we shall all stand in our own identity, in glory, but we shall all again be redeemed. We shall be alike in that we shall all be raised in glory. But we shall not all be clones one of another. We shall stand forth in the glory of God’s grace, which is shown in many sons brought to glory. We shall know Isaiah from Jeremiah. We shall together glorify God, but we shall all be different. Different, not in resurrection, but different in the uniqueness of our own body. The identity of the body is preserved. How this ought to encourage us to endure our trials in this present life. How this ought to direct us in the care of our bodies in this present life.
And how this speaks of how awful it is for the wicked. For the wicked, too, the Bible declares, shall be raised from the dead. Those who know not Christ, those who repent not — they shall also be raised in the body. But they shall be raised in order that, body and soul, they might be damned in the pit of hell. That is the truth of the Scriptures, too. We tremble before it and we declare, “Flee from the wrath that is to come.” Evil living in the body, giving the body over to sin, living a life without repentance and filling the body with the lust of the flesh, giving your eyes unto lust and your lips to drink down drunkenness and your ears to listen to ungodliness — those eyes, those lips, those ears, they also then shall be subjected to the wrath of God. The lips shall drink down the wrath of God. The eyes shall be filled with horror and the ears shall listen to the groans of the damned. The call of the gospel is: Repent. Fear God, said Jesus, who is able to cast both soul and body into hell.
But for the child of God in Jesus Christ there is no fear. There is great joy. There is great anticipation. We believe this, by the grace of God.
May grace give us that highest wisdom, so that we may look upon the cross and see Jesus Christ who has died for me and now is risen from the dead and is ascended up into heaven, who is the power of the living God who controls all things. And, belonging to Him, we need never fear. Ours is the victory now (we have the forgiveness of sins). We have the presence of God. We have the oath of God’s faithfulness to us. He shall preserve us. But then we will have more. In death our soul shall be taken into His very presence. Then we will have yet more. The body that is laid into the cold earth, that body, too, the Lord shall take for Himself in the day of His glory when He returns.
So the gospel to you, child of God, is this: Hope to the end. Never be ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ. Live unto Him and live in the assurance of the resurrection of soul and body to everlasting life. And all of this — by the grace of God alone.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy holy Word, and we pray that it might be a blessing now unto our souls. Through Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.