1 Corinthians 15 v 35 - 49

One of the many great things about Paul was his willingness to write and speak about difficult subjects. In previous chapters, he has written about marriage and singleness, the role of women in the first century Church, the way of peace in the use of charismatic gifts and the commitment to purity in a city renowned for vice. Here he tackles the issue of the resurrection body. Now it appears that the person asking the question in verse 35 is asking it in a ridiculing way, otherwise it is a perfectly reasonable question. Remember that the Greeks believed in the pure and eternal soul, but the body as a repository of all things evil. Upon death, the soul is free to fly. Paul reminds his readers that Christians believe in the resurrection of the body, in many ways like Christ, the first fruits of all who have been raised from death to eternal life. The resurrected body of Jesus could be touched and He could eat and speak, He could walk through walls and was seemingly of a rather different appearance-note Mary Magdalene's confusion, the two men on the road to Emmaus not recognising Him and so on. However, Jesus' body still contained the marks of His death-the holes in His hands and feet, the scar on His side.

Paul here writes assuming that death will be followed by burial and Christians have asked me about cremation and if that will prevent their resurrection. The body in the ground is slower to decay than in a furnace, but the result after some years is the same. Having seen dead bodies, I would say that the soul leaves the body on death-there is to me clearly a loss of something when someone dies-and is then given a new spiritual body about which Paul writes here. Given the times in which Paul lived and their lack of our knowledge of human anatomy, Paul does a great job of describing the new body, using images from Creation to help his readers understand. He writes that this new body will be exactly what God knows that we need and we will be like Christ! However, he also draws four contrasts which shed light on our future state:

1. The present body decays; the future body won't. There will be a permanence to beauty.

2. The present body is in dishonour; the future body will be in glory. Our bodies will no longer be slaves to our passionate desires, but the instruments of pure service to God.

3. The present body is weak; the future body will be powerful. We are so often frustrated because we are what we are. But in the life to come all limitations will be gone.

4. The present body is a natural body; the future body will be a spiritual body. We will be so filled with the Holy Spirit that we will be able to render perfect worship and service and love.

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