1 Corinthians 15 Reflection 2

By Gerry Straker, 02 May 2020

1 Corinthians 15 Reflection 2

In 1 Corinthians 15 Reflection 1 we saw just how important the resurrection is:

  • God will grow us like seeds 15:36-38
  • God has already created glorious things 15:39-41

We are carrying on where we left off...

3. God will recreate us in the image of the heavenly man 15:42-49

We live in a world that is obsessed by our body image. Dieting, dying our hair, doing our make up, clothes, conditioning in the gym, cosmetic surgery even, are all part and parcel of life today. Even if you’re not into those things, I’m prepared to bet that you hate photos that don’t show you in a good light. Most of us don’t like the sound of our voices, or seeing videos of ourselves either.

Our bodies are telling us by their imperfections and ageing what Paul tells us in 15:42 – ‘what is sown is perishable’. We’re not so much living as dying. ‘The body is sown in dishonour’ (15:43), whatever glory, status or role we had in this world, it is lost when we die. ‘The body is sown in weakness’ (15:43). There’s the back ache, the chronic illnesses, the gammy leg. Some just lurch from one thing to another. Or our health problems just keep adding up over time. Even if we enjoy good health, death is the moment of total weakness.

This is the body that goes into the ground. Like seeds our bodies are sown into the ground. But God, on Resurrection Morning, will raise our bodies imperishable, glorious, powerful, and spiritual! Everything this body isn’t, our new body will be.

  • Imperishable: we will not be dying, but living, and we wlll not die again, we will live forever! Just like Jesus.
  • Glorious: we will reflect God’s glory fully in our brilliant bodies. Just like Jesus’ body.
  • Powerful: we will not have weakness, frustration, limitation, struggle, pain any more. Our new bodies will be wonderful. Just like Jesus’ body.

For the Greek thinking of the time, bodies were bad. But Paul says these new bodies are going to be fantastic. Resurrection doesn’t mean more of the same with all the problems. It means radical transformation into something far better.

The Lord Jesus is our model. He’s the firstfruits of the harvest. And his beaten and battered body was taken up and used for his new body which was restored and amazing. Our bodies will be like His glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21).

Did you know the body you have now was never intended to be the finished article? That’s what 15:44-49 are about. ‘It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.’ (15:44). Paul explains here that our ‘first creation’ bodies need to be re-created, glorified, to fit the finished new creation. Paul quotes Genesis 2:7 ‘The first man Adam became a living being’ (15:45) – this is before the Fall. The natural body is a good thing (Genesis 1:31), but it wasn’t finished.

From Adam we inherit a natural body (a very good thing), fit for this creation. But the last Adam, the life-giving Spirit, the heavenly man Jesus, will give us spiritual bodies. We bear Adam’s image, we will bear Jesus’ image. Jesus gives to His people what He was given – a spiritual body. Think about Jesus’ body: it was physical, he could eat, drink, cook, be touched. But it was also spiritual: he could walk through locked doors!

Jesus gives us these physical and spiritual bodies fit for the renewed creation. Revelation 21 tells us among other things:

  • there will be a new heaven and a new earth,
  • the sea will be no more,
  • and God will dwell with His people.

At the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and God separated them, there was a barrier. ‘The waters that were above the expanse’ (Genesis 1:7). And God came down to visit Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8).

But when the new heavens and the new earth come, there will be no more sea (Revelation 21:1); no more barrier between earth and heaven. God won’t visit, he will live with His people. God will remake the heavens and the earth and they will be joined together.

And so, on Resurrection Morning, we won’t go off to heaven, rather, the new heaven is coming down to the new earth: heaven and earth will be united. That means we will need bodies fit for that new creation - physical bodies and spiritual bodies, like Jesus’ body.

Did you know heaven is not how the Bible describes our future? If you go through every instance of heaven in the Bible, over 250 of them, only 3 or 4 times is it possibly referring to our future as Christians.[1] Yes, our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), we have a heavenly calling (Hebrews 3:1), our inheritance is kept there (1 Peter 1:4), but we are not, ultimately, going to heaven!.[2] That’s not really how the Bible uses the term.

A better Bible word for our future is glory.[3] God’s glory that we will share in the new heavens and the new earth united. And to share in glory means whether we are dead or alive we need to be changed…

4. God will change us, ready for his Kingdom 15:50-53

The Kingdom of God is where God’s in charge, where everyone and everything does what he wants and that will be wonderful, an end to everything bad, an end to everything sad. It means everything as it was designed to be. It’s only going to be good all the time!

But we can’t be part of God’s kingdom as we are. With our flesh and blood as they are, we wouldn’t be fitting (15:50). And so Paul tells us a mystery (15:51). Something we couldn’t work out, but we need God’s messenger to tell us. Some people will still be alive when Jesus brings God’s Kingdom, ‘but, we shall all be changed’ (15:51), completely sorted, ‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye’ (15:52). If we’re dead we’ll be raised to life; if we’re still alive, we’ll be changed, and be fit for the Kingdom of God, just like that!

Jesus on earth was all about sorting people’s bodies out: he gave the blind their sight; the deaf their hearing; the lame their legs. And when he comes back he will sort our bodies out completely and permanently, just like his own glorious body. And then the final victory will be given us, at last…

5. God will give us the victory over death 15:54-57

When Jesus brings God’s kingdom and gives His people new bodies, then ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ (15:54-55)

As soon as we’re allowed, we’re going to have a Church party. We shall have Church together, singing, communion, a feast, music, hugs and holy kisses! What a party it will be. But this victory party will put all other parties in the shade. The victory over death, the day death dies.

The agonising sting is removed, death is powerless to harm us. because 'the sting of death is sin' (15:56) - sin brings death. God’s law is what exposes all of our sins and means we are worthy of death. Death is because of sin.

But ‘thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (15:57) Jesus Christ died for sins. And so death, the punishment for sin, is finished. By dying and rising, Jesus wins. He beat death, and he gives us the victory too! What a party that will be.

And, now, God gives us work to do 15:58

‘Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable’ (15:58). Because all these wonderful things are true, my dear brothers and sisters: stand firm, be steadfast, and don’t move from this gospel:

  • Christ died for sins
  • Christ was buried
  • Christ rose from the dead
  • Christ appeared to many

And now be ‘always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.’ (15:58)

Work you’ll want to do

Don’t you love being the first person with good news? 'That new book’s out…that new album’s out…Yvette and Zach have had their baby!’ Imagine if you were the first person with the news that the pandemic was over – you would love it. You’d be banging on people’s doors, hugging people, and getting the grand tour from Ben and Caz.

The work of the Lord is the brilliant joy of telling other people about Jesus’ resurrection and the victory they can share in too. Our whole lives shaped by the gospel: work, homes, families, with that glorious goal in front of us: the Day of Victory. Surely, this is work we’ll want to do?

Work that is hard

It will be demanding. We’re to be ‘always abounding’ in the work of the Lord! To give ourselves fully to this work. Remember that he is writing not to church workers but to all Christians in the Church.

Because of the resurrection, everything has changed. Our lives have been completely rebooted now, as we wait for resurrection morning. This work is not something we just dabble in, instead it shapes our whole lives!

We’re not going to want to invest in this life now as if it’s what counts. This life isn’t it, use it wisely for the next! Don’t hold back in your service of him.

Let me ask you:

  • are you going to be a Christian who works?
  • Is the Lord’s work your priority at this time?
  • How are you using your time?
  • Does serving the Lord shape your work, your home life, your schooling, your time off?

Work that is worth it

The resurrection of Christ has happened and Resurrection Morning is coming. Our work for Jesus at Church by the Bay is work that really counts! The sacrifices you make; the money you give; the time you spend; the doing of difficult things; serving people when you find it hard, or them hard; and trying to tell people about Jesus is all worth it. None of it is in vain. Because resurrection glory is our future, working to help others enjoy that is work that counts.

Serving the Lord is the true achievement in this life, it’s what life is for, and all of us can have this value given by God to our work for him.

[1] In the Bible, the word ‘heaven’ is used for the skies, the physical heavens and as the spiritual dwelling place of God that he has chosen.
[2] When a Christian dies their soul or spirit goes to be with Christ which is a far better thing (Philippians 1:20-23) but believers are waiting for their new bodies on Resurrection Morning!
[3] Romans 2:7, 10; 5:2; 8:17, 21; 1 Corinthians 15:40-43; Philippians 3.21; Colossians 1:27, 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:10, 12; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 5:1, 4, 10; Revelation 21:11, 23-24.

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