Welcome back to my study/review of 1 Corinthians. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
1 Corinthians 15:42-49
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Paul continues explaining the resurrection, here focusing on the difference between the natural and the spiritual bodies. We’ll begin by looking at the note from Ellicott’s Bible Commentary, at verse 42:
(42) So also is the resurrection of the dead.—Here follows the application of these analogies to the subject in hand. As there is in the vegetable growth, in the varieties of animal life, and in the diversities of form assumed by inorganic matter, an identity preserved amid ever-varying form or variety of “body,” so a change in the form or glory of our organism which we call our “body” is compatible with the preservation of personal identity. The “it,” the personality, remains the same—now in corruption, then in incorruption; now in dishonour, then in glory; now in weakness, then in power.
As the note states, this section begins with the transition from the examples Paul gave in the previous verses. The Pulpit Commentaries addresses verse 42 as follows:
So also is the resurrection of the dead. In like manner the dead, when raised, shall have bodies which differ from their body of humiliation (Philippians 3:21). It is sown in corruption. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19). It is raised in incorruption. The word means strictly, “incorruptibility.” The resurrection body will not be subjected to earthly conditions (Luke 20:35, Luke 20:36).
The note refers to the verses from Luke 20:
35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
We see here that spiritual bodies are immortal. “They cannot die anymore.” There are some other examples from the Resurrected Jesus that are illustrative;
Luke 24: 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
Jesus was able to not be recognized and then he was able to disappear from sight. Also from Luke 24:
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
We likely lack the vocabulary, or sufficient surrounding details, to describe what is happening here, but we are told that Jesus simply appears in the room. His new body – which eats and can be touched – simply appeared in the room like the disciples believed that a ghost might.
Spiritual bodies are immortal, seem to be capable of disguising themselves from mortal eyes and perhaps are also able to perform something like teleportation? These differences from natural bodies are significant. Yet, the resurrected Jesus was still Jesus.
Returning to the text, from The Pulpit Commetnaries:
It is sown in dishonour. “The awful and intolerable indignity of dust to dust.” In glory. “Though ye have lieu among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove, that is covered with silver wings, and her feathers like gold” (Psalms 68:13). The expression shows that, throughout, St. Paul is thinking exclusively of the resurrection of the saints.
A natural body. The adjective is the word ψυχικόν, which is so difficult to translate; it means a body only animated by the psyche, or natural life. The word is sometimes in our Authorized Version rendered “carnal.” A spiritual body. The apparent contradiction in terms is inevitable. The thing meant is a body which is not under the sway of corporeal desires or of intellectual and passionate impulses, but is wholly dominated by the Spirit, and therefore has no desire or capacity to fulfil the lusts of the flesh. There is. The better supported reading (א, A, B, C, D, F, G), is, if there is a natural body, etc. The existence of the one is no more impossible than the existence of the other.
The natural body is perishable and dishonorable. It comes from dust and returns to dust. The spiritual body is immortal, powerful, and raised in glory. Paul states definitively that both types of bodies exist. This point is a foundation of the faith. Continuing, from Ellicott:
(45) And so it is written.—Better, And so it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul: the last Adam became a quickening spirit. The quotation which follows here is from Genesis 2:7, and it is the latter part of that verse which is quoted. The Rabbinical explanation of that passage was—that God breathed into man the breath of life originally, but that man became (not “was made”) only a living soul, i.e., one in whom the mere human faculties held sway, and not the spirit. He became this lower thing by his own act of disobedience. Here, then, St. Paul, contrasts the two Adams—the first man and Christ—from whom we derive our natural and our spiritual natures, and our natural and spiritual bodies. The first Adam became, by his disobedience, a mere living soul, and from him we inherit that nature; the second Adam, by his obedience, became a life-giving spirit, and from Him we inherit the spiritual nature in us. The same verb which is expressed in the first clause must be understood in the second clause. The same thought is expressed in Romans 5:19.
If through one man came humanity’s fallen status, then through another man, Jesus, came its restored status. Christ was necessary to restore man’s ability to freely choose his or her destiny. Without Christ, man is doomed to Adam’s nature. With Christ, man can choose Christ’s nature and His resurrection. We continue to have free will, though, so the latter is not forced upon anyone.
Christ refers to this restoration of choice in John 3:
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Paul explains this further. Continuing in Ellicott:
(46) Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual.—Here a further thought is introduced. There is not only a variety of bodies—and that variety regulated by adaptability to their state of existence—but there is an ordered sequence in that variety. As the Adam was first from whom we derive the natural body and soul, and the Adam was last from whom comes our spiritual nature, so there will be the like order in regard to our bodies. The natural body first in this life—the spiritual body afterwards in the next life.
Christ also discusses this order in John 3:
3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Man is born naturally, then must be born a second time spiritually. The second birth is a choice and is the thing that allows man to enter the kingdom of God. Thus, as Paul has been explaining, the Resurrection (first Christ’s as the firstfruits, then those who believe in Him) is the entire point.
Returning to The Pulpit Commentaries:
Earthy. Made of” the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). Is the Lord from heaven. The words “the Lord” are a gloss, not found in א, B, C, D, E, F, G. The verse remarkably resembles John 3:31, and probably oral reminiscences of our Lord’s discourses were current among the apostles long before the Gospels were written. Tertullian attributes the insertion of “the Lord” to Marcion.
On a personal note, the English Standard Version of these verses occasionally make me think that I should go by something other than “Dusty.” Man of Dust, indeed.
These verses are building to Paul’s point here. Christianity is a transition from bearing the image of the first Adam to bearing the image of the second Adam. From Ellicott:
(49) We shall also bear the image of the heavenly.—Better, let us bear also the image of the heavenly. Such is the reading of the best MSS. The words transport the thoughts of the reader to the future glory, and, at the same moment, show a light on present duty. The resurrection life is to be begun in us even now. “If by any means we can attain to the resurrection of the dead” (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:21).
Verse 49 focuses our attention on the idea of being an image bearer. That concept originates in Genesis:
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
The work of Christ through the Resurrection restores to humanity the possibility of its original status. The purpose of the Resurrection is to undo the Fall, for those who believe. This is why Paul said earlier in the chapter that without the Resurrection, Christians are pitiable.
As the chapter continues on, Paul revisits the discussion surrounding the Second Coming – which as we have previously seen pulls heavily from Christ’s teachings during His ministry (as shown in Matthew 24.) I will attempt to cover some more eschatological perspectives when we cover those verses.