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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 15:35-38 What kind of body?

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, July 25, 2023

35 But someone will ask, “How can the dead be raised? What kind of body are they going to come with?” 36 Fools! What you sow is not made alive unless it dies. 37 What you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body according to his will, and to each kind of seed its own body.

Another question the Corinthians had was, “How can the dead be raised?” Everyone knows that if you bury a dead animal and then dig it up again later, it won’t recover and come to life again. The same is true of people—not in this life, not in this world. But Paul takes an illustration from Jesus to let the Corinthians know that their logic is flawed: A seed. Jesus said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24). Just like an animal or a person, a seed that is planted in the ground will decay, but a seed will then spout and come to life. It can’t become what God wills it to become unless it dies. And so it is with the human body. We are different from animals, and what happens to us is reflected by a lowlier form of life: the plants. Like the plants, a human being will become something wonderful and more glorious, according to the will of God. First we die, then we rise again, gloriously.

We should pay attention to the grammar of verse 36. The word zōopoieitai (ζῳοποιεῖται) “made alive” is in the passive voice. Greek has three voices: active, middle, and passive. In the active, someone does a thing: Dan throws a ball. In the passive, something is done to someone or something else: A ball is thrown. In the middle voice, the subject’s self-interest is involved in some way: Dan throws a ball to himself. (I used the name Dan because it’s my brother’s name, and in my mind my brother is ten feet tall, and capable of throwing a ball over his house, running around the other side, and catching it behind his back while jumping over a rose bush and landing on one foot to avoid stepping on a baby bird—and making up a hilarious joke on the spot as he does it.)

Here, the passive voice tells us that the seed does not come to life of its own will; it is God’s will that does it. And so it is with the person who comes to life on judgment day. We will be brought to life because of God’s will; not because of any powers or abilities within us, nor anything naturally hidden in the flesh of mankind, but all on account of God’s will, God’s plan, and God’s merciful love.

Paul will continue about the difference between the bodies we have now—the bodies which are merely ‘planted’ in burial—and the glorified bodies we will have in heaven. Paul is making a comparison for the sake of illustration here, but certain things in his illustration may be said about our resurrected bodies here before we even see the comparisons between the raised bodies of the saved versus the raised bodies of the damned. More about that later. But now notice that, like any plant that grows from a seed, the seed has a material form and dimensions, a real existence, and so it will be with the glorified body in the resurrection. We will still have a material form and dimensions, a real existence, otherwise it would not be a resurrection of the flesh at all.

The wholeness and completeness of each of us is assured. Peter calls the healed body of the beggar in Solomon’s Colonnade a “complete healing” (holokleria, ὁλοκληρία, Acts 3:16), and a resurrection of the flesh will be at the very least such a “complete healing” in at least four ways:

First: We will have perfection and complete healing (resurrection and restoration) in those things without which human nature could not exist: form, and the essential material of body and soul (Matthew 10:28; Psalm 31:9).

Second: We will have perfection and complete healing (resurrection and restoration) in those accidental things with which human nature can exist without (such as fingers, toes, limbs, etc.) but which identify one’s essence and denote a certain quality and figure. The beggar Lazarus is shown to have fingers in heaven just as the rich man in hell is shown to have a tongue (Luke 16:24).

Third: We will have perfection and complete healing in those things that belong to the human nature extrinsically, since in the usual course of nature, human nature would not continue to exist, such as blood and saliva and other bodily fluids (humors). Otherwise, the rich man would not need to have his tongue cooled by Lazarus (Luke 16:24). Also, Jesus uses weeping with tears as a part of the imagery of hell “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13; Luke 13:28).

Fourth: We will have perfection and complete healing in the resurrection, but will we require things that have to do with adornment, such as hair? The definition of the resurrection implies that we will, but we also can be comforted (if this troubles anyone) that Christ appears with hair when he appears after his ascension (Revelation 1:14).

Do not miss the comforting phrase in verse 38: “God gives.” Whatever we will have in the resurrection will be a gift of God, not up to us, but in accordance with his will. Therefore whatever form anyone will have, it will be human, it will be that person’s own form, recognizable as him (Mark 9:4; Luke 16:23; Job 19:26-27), yet no longer subject to temptation or sin. This is the gift of God for eternal life, human life forever, with our Lord in heaven.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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