Sunday, May 03, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "How Foolish!"

“How Foolish!”
May 3, 2009
1 Corinthians 15:35-49

We’ve been learning that there was a major problem at Corinth. Some of the professing believers at Corinth denied the reality of the resurrection. They were teaching in that church that true “spirituality” did not involve the body. And once you died (you might continue on in some ethereal disembodied state (who knows?) but that your body would not live again.

But that is not a Christian way to think. That teaching is not truth. That is a major heresy. A major problem that leads to all kinds of other problems.

And all of The Resurrection Chapter–1 Corinthians 15 is devoted to fixing it.

First, Paul reminded them that they already had believed a gospel that had a resurrection in it. (Vv.1-11)

Second, Paul explained to them that Christianity is futile if there is no resurrected Jesus. That’s what I told my hitchhiker. Vv.12-19.

Third, Paul burst out with a description of the blessings that Jesus’ resurrection has secured for those who believe. Vv.20-28.

Fourth–what we saw last week–Paul told them to not even bother with baptism, or suffering for Christ, or being good and moral at all if there is no resurrection. Vv.29-34. Just eat and drink and sin away if this is all there is!

And now today, in verses 35 through 49, Paul calls those who scorn the resurrection, “FOOLISH” and explains why they are fools to deny it.

The first verse of our passage needs to be read with a little bit of a sneering ridiculing attitude that mocks the resurrection-deniers at Corinth. V.35.

“But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ Paul’s answer (our title today): “How Foolish!”


And that’s what they were doing! If they weren’t talking with scorn in their voices, Paul probably wouldn’t have been so harsh back at them. But he calls them “foolish” to talk like that.

They were scornfully denying the resurrection.

Now, their reasoning probably went something like this: “Well I’ve never seen a resurrection! Tell me, what’s going to become of those who are maimed in this life? Will they grow back an arm or will they just come back without an arm? What if you are sawn in two? Will both halves come back to life (sounds painful!)? How are the dead going to be raised? What kind of bodies will resuscitated corpses enjoy? What about those who are cremated? Huh? What kind of bodies will they have?”

Do you know someone who talks that way? They think that your ideas about resurrection are “a bunch of hooey?” (As my brother likes to say.)

“Come on! Resurrection is hogwash. Completely un-scientific. Completely mythical. Completely unintelligible to our modern ears.”

In the day and age that you and I live in, people have so much faith in their scientific answers for everything that resurrection is an unintelligible category for them. They deny it without even trying it out as an idea.

And they miss the most important aspect of it–resurrection is from God.

We are not talking here about simple resuscitation. We are not talking here about mere re-animation. We are talking here about God’s plan for total resurrection!

Not Resuscitation, Not Re-animation, Resurrection!

That’s why Paul calls them fools.

A fool is someone who does not factor God into the equation.

Granted, without God, resurrection is silly. But if God is real, and God says that resurrection is the plan, we better sit up and take notice!

They scorned the idea of resurrection, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”

And Paul scorns them as foolish because they did not see God in it. “How foolish!” He says.

And then he explains why. We can split his explanation into two parts. The first is in vv.36-44.

Let me summarize it with these words:


“How foolish!” You obviously have not factored God into your equation!

“What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.”

Now follow this. Paul begins by arguing from something they all know about: seeds and plants. An integral part of God’s creation.

He says, our bodies right now are like seeds.

You are a seed! Turn to the person next to you and tell them, “You are a seed!”

Seeds have to die (they get plucked off of a life-giving plant and buried in the ground).
And then God changes them (transforms them) into something very different.

For Mother’s Day this year, I helped Heather build two garden boxes. They are 4 foot by 4 foot and 16 inches high. Don’t look too closely at the workmanship! But Heather is happy with them.

This weekend, I shoveled 2½ tons of topsoil into them for her to get started with her planting.

Do you think she planted a great big stalk of corn in there yesterday?

No, she put in little tiny seeds.

You don’t bury an oak tree; you bury an...what...acorn. You don’t bury a big live plant; you bury a seed. You bury something small, fairly ugly and “dead,” and then you get something tall, beautiful, and very alive.

Catch this. That’s how God has designed this world. And it’s like how He’s planned the next.

And God is very creative about it. V.39.

“All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.”

Paul is saying that God is very creative! And God is very powerful!

And if God can make bodies that have feathers for flying, and fins for swimming, and fur for keeping warm, and DNA for passing on genetic code, then He can prepare a new resurrection body with new properties. If God can make rivers and ravines, moon rocks, and sunfire, and stars with varying colors and sizes and qualities, then God can certainly raise up resurrection bodies that are suitable for heavenly living.

Do you see that? To deny that is to deny God’s transforming power and plan.

Someone who says, “I don’t understand how it could be.” doesn’t understand the first thing about God.

God is so creative. And He is so powerful. He can do whatever He wants.

And He has planned a transforming resurrection.

Get this, folks, even if I am missing you on all these other points, the new body that God has planned for you (if you believe in Jesus) can be identified with the one you are presently in (there will be a “kernel of continuity” with your present body), but your new body will be significantly changed, significantly transformed. God has a plan, by His power, to transform your body into a Resurrection Body.

Got it?

You are a seed.

Your body is a seed.

And there is a kernel of continuity between what you are now and what you will be then. The same you!

But you will also be transformed.

Did you know that?

I think many Christians don’t think about the resurrection at all. They only think of dying and going to heaven–as if the intermediate heaven that is right now is the new heavens and new earth that are to come.

But a disembodied experience is not our future!

Our bodies are seeds to be planted and then transformed into a glorious new plant.

And starting in v.42, Paul gives us a preview of what that transformation will be like.

A preview of coming attractions! V.42

“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Whoa. This is some good stuff. Now remember, you and I in our bodies are seeds.

And unless we are part of the generation present when Christ returns [...And I hope we are! More on that next week! Unless we are a part of the generation alive when Christ returns...] then we will all die. We will be seeds that are sown, buried, put in the ground.

But that will not be the end. God has more power than that. God has more planned than that!

God has a resurrection planned! And there will be at least 4 major differences in our resurrection bodies. The new plant will be different from the bare seed in at least 4 ways:

#1: (v.42) We are sown perishable. That means dead, decaying, corruptible. My hair is falling out, my biological clock is ticking down, slowly (sometimes faster than others) I’m falling apart, perishable.

But when I am raised, I will be imperishable. God’s plan for me includes an undying, undecaying, incorruptible body! Wow!

#2. (V.43) We are sown in dishonor. Right now, our bodies die in dishonor (often gasping for our last breaths, all of our dignity gone). But then, our bodies will be raised in glory (no suffering; no sign of the corruption of age; bright, shining, new, glorious bodies). I think the point is that they will reflect God’s glory in ways that our present bodies don’t come close to. We will be raised in glory.

#3. (V.43.) We are sown in weakness. Our bodies die in weakness (you realize that no one ever dies strongly, right?!). But then, our bodies will be raised “in power.” God’s power. The power of a new, indestructible body. You and I can’t imagine the qualities and properties these new bodies will have! Power!

And #4. (V.44). We are sown in a natural body, we will be raised in a spiritual body.

Now, that does not mean that we are physical now and immaterial then. It means that our bodies are natural now and are going to be supernatural then. We die in a body that is fitted or suitable for natural living in this created order. We will be raised in a body that is spiritual, fitted, and suitable for living in the coming Spiritual world order.

This is the probably the most important difference between our present bodies and the ones to come. But it’s the hardest to explain.

Though we now have the Spirit resident inside of our bodies (amen!), our bodies are still natural. But then (when the acorn sprouts out in the oak of resurrection), our bodies, themselves, will be spiritual, that is, perfectly responsive to the Spirit.

I know that these are very abstract concepts. I think they have to be because we are dealing here with something unlike anything we have ever experienced or will ever experience until it happens. No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has planned.

The best illustration I can come up with is that right now the perfect software for your bodily computer is already running on it. “Holy Spirit Infinity Version.” But your bodily hardware is barely suitable to run that software. “Human Body, Adam Version.1"

And the resurrection is your “upgrade.” You will be given a harddrive that is perfectly in-sync with the “software of the Spirit.”

Does that make sense? I hope, at least a little.

No longer perishable.
No longer dishonored.
No longer weak.
No longer merely natural.

We will be transformed by the plan and power of God into imperisable, glorious, powerful, supernatural, spiritual bodies. That’s something to look forward to, isn’t?
And to deny it, is to deny God’s power and plan. And it would be utterly foolish.

The second part of Paul’s argument here fleshes out that last change: natural to spiritual. Paul wants to take that a step further. V.44.

“If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”

One follows the other like a seed and then the plant. V.45.

“So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’ [Genesis 2:7]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.”

Paul is taking us back to creation. Genesis 2:7 says that Adam (the first man and the first representative of our humankind) was given the breath of life from God and became a living being, that is, a person, a soul.

And then Jesus came to be the last Adam, that is, the new representative of a new race of humans appearing in the last days, and He became (in His resurrection) a “life-giving spirit.”

Now, again, that does not mean that Jesus’ resurrection was immaterial or ghostlike. It means that in His resurrection, Jesus got a transformed body that has new qualities that are even more better suited to live in sync with the Spirit–if you can imagine that!

And His new body now serves as the life-giving template, model, and paradigm of our new bodies that are on the way.

Jesus’ body is a spiritual body that guarantees by (its newly configured pattern) the new spiritual bodies expected by all who believe and follow Him. In that way, He is a “life-giving spirit.”

The comparison goes on. V.47.

“The first man was of the dust of the earth [Who’s that? That’s Adam], the second man [Who’s that? That’s Jesus] from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.”

Do you see the point?

If you came from Adam (and all of us did) then you have the things He had after the Fall, perishable, corruptible, weak, dying, dust-formed, natural bodies (and a sin-nature, too!).

But if you are in Christ (the second representative man who is starting a new humanity), then you will get what He has! A new resurrection body: imperishable, glorious, powerful, supernatural, and in perfect tune with the Spirit.

Do you see that? Don’t miss this.

I know that this is very abstract. That’s how Paul is in this passage. But it is glorious when you understand it.

Let me put it like this:

If you are in Adam, you have an “Adam-like” body (and all that goes with it).
If you are in Christ, you will have a Christ-like body (and all that goes with it).

This is a glorious truth.

But it raises two questions with which I’ll close.

#1. Are you IN the first Adam or IN the second Adam? Are you in Adam or in Christ?

Are you saved? I’m asking you, “Do you belong to Jesus Christ?” Have you recognized Him as Lord and asked Him to rescue you from your sins?

Because if not, all of what we’ve talked about today is not for you.

You cannot expect a body like Christ’s. You can expect conscious, eternal, torment in Hell.

Are you ready to die and meet your Maker? Or are you foolishly scoffing at the very idea of resurrection?

Repent now, while you still can.

Do you want a body like Christ’s that can be perfectly in-sync with the Spirit of God? Do you want perfect fellowship with God forever in a new body?

You must come to Christ on His terms and join His new humanity by trusting in His death and resurrection on your behalf.

And then you can expect with all certainty a glorious new resurrection body like the one Jesus has.

Come to Christ, right now.

Jesus Christ died, was buried, and then rose again to new life to give you new life if you will turn and trust Him.

The second question is for believers and is our third and last point.

Why live like dusty old Adam when you are going to be like spiritual, heavenly Christ?

That would be foolish!


That’s Paul’s point in v.49 (and you probably noticed that I think the margin reading in the NIV has it just right).

“And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, [so let us] bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”

Our time living like Adam should be over. Soon, the life-giving spirit called the Lord Jesus Christ is going to make us like Him. God (by His transforming plan and in all of His transforming power) is going to re-configure our bodies to be like the man from heaven.

So, why don’t we live like it right now?

Why don’t we live in anticipation of what we will be?

Why don’t we live holy lives of purity?
Why don’t we live with eternity’s values in view?
Why don’t we live like we’re going to soon have indestructible bodies?
Why don’t we live for the glory of God?
Why don’t we practice living in-sync with the Spirit of God?
Why don’t we make a break and stop living like dusty old Adam when we are going to be like spiritual, heavenly, Christ?

To do anything else would be foolish.

My question for you this morning is what behaviors, what attitudes, what relationships that you are caught up in right now are “dusty old Adam?” They should be on the way out.


On the way out.

And on the way in should be the likeness of Christ.

Adamlikeness on the way out.
Christlikeness on the way in.

“Let us bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”

Because anything less would be foolish.