The Spiritual Body
February 12th, 1956 @ 10:50 AM
1 Corinthians 15:35-49
THE SPIRITUAL BODY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:35-52
2-12-56 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to; you are following, the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled, The Resurrection Body, The Spiritual Body.
In our preaching through the Bible we are in the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter. And if you have your Bible you can turn to that chapter and you can follow the message as it is delivered this morning. We begin reading the passage at the thirty-fifth verse, and I read through the fifty-second verse. First Corinthians, the thirty-fifth verse through the fifty-second verse. And the whole passage concerns the spiritual body, the resurrection body, what kind of a body we have when we are raised from the dead. First Corinthians 15:35:
But someone will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?
Foolish one, that is, you have not thought it through that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die;
And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may be wheat, or some other.
But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed, to everyone, his own body. Body, now we are talking about a spiritual body.
All flesh is not the same flesh, there is one of men, another of beasts, another of fish, another of birds.
There are celestial bodies, as well as terrestrial bodies, heavenly bodies, like mundane bodies, the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
There is one glory of the sun, another of the moon, another of the stars; and one star differeth from another in glory.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, raised in incorruption:
Sown in dishonor; raised in glory: sown in weakness, raised in power;
Sown a natural body; raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body. Look at it, you live in one, there is also a spiritual body.
It is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last was made a quickening spirit.
Now that is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural. He made Adam out of mud first; then He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and after, that which is spiritual.
The first man is of the earth, earthy, made out of dust: the second man is the Lord from heaven.
As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
Now this I say, brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
But I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but all of us shall be changed, we will have to be changed
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we all shall be changed.
[1 Corinthians 15:35-52]
Now that is the passage, if you leave your Bible open, we are going to take and preach through that whole passage.
The doctrine of a resurrection of the dead is a doctrine peculiar to Christianity. By the feeble light of nature, the ancient pagan world was able to spell out the immortality of the soul. But the doctrine of the immortality of the body, the resurrection of the body, was a revelation of the Christian faith.
When Paul stood before the court of the Areopagus, on the hill of Areopagus, on Mars Hill, standing there before the highest tribunal of the Athenian country, he stood there and began to speak to them about Iēsous and Anastasis. They thought a male and a female goddess, male god, female goddess, like Jupiter and Juno, like Isis and Osiris, like Venus and Adonis, and when he talked to them, had Paul spoken of the immortality of the spirit, had he discoursed to them about the spirit world, about the world where the gods lived, about the world beyond the River Styx, had he spoken to them about living in light of another world, why, those philosophers and those learned men would have turned to one another and said, "That is right. I believe that."
Another one would have said, "That is according to Plato. Plato said that the great idea that lies back of everything is spiritual." They would have discoursed and said, "That man is a brilliant and a smart man. He is a great philosopher. He has probed the profound depths."
That is what they would have said. But instead, when the apostle Paul stood on Mars Hill in Athens and spake to that high tribunal he began to discourse about the resurrection of the body, about the raising up of flesh and bone. And when he did that the Epicurean philosophers laughed outright. It was a guffaw. It was a "Ha, ha! Such an inanity, such ridiculous, unbelievable silliness!" And they, laughing, turned away. And the Stoic philosophers were a little more courteous. They bowed out, saying, "We will hear thee again of this matter. Unusual. Very strange. But we will come back again. We will see you again." And they turned away.
It is an incredulous doctrine, and the question is asked incredulously, "How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?" Why, the fish eat the thing. The great old trees send their roots down into the thing. The worms devour the thing. It turns back to dust. It is an incredulous doctrine. "How are the dead raised up? And with what kind of a body do they come?"
Now I am just like those Epicurean philosophers. It is a silly inanity in itself. I am just like those Stoic learned philosophers, "I am busy about other things. I will hear thee again of this matter." To me it is an unusual thing, vastly, eminently, preeminently so, this doctrine of the resurrection of the body."
Well, I am a Christian and the Bible says the revelation of God is that the cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith is this very thing. "If there is no resurrection of the dead", now, this is last Sunday’s sermon,
If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ is not raised:
And if Christ be not raised, our faith is vain, our preaching is vain,
We are found false witnesses of God…
We are still in our sins.
Then they that have fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
And we are of all men most pitiable and most miserable.
But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that sleep.
[1 Corinthians 15:13-20]
I repeat, it is a cardinal and central and pivotal doctrine, and I am a Christian. So, it behooves us who are Christians to look at it. Very wonderfully, marvelously is there a revelation here, and this is it.
"But God," look at thirty-fifth verse, "How are the dead raised up? With what body do they come?’" Look at that thirty-eighth verse, "God giveth it a body, to every seed, every kind, heaven and earth, after His own likeness, God giveth it a body."
Our ultimate answer is the one we start off with, "But God, but God." When Paul was pleading the Christian faith before King Agrippa, he said; listen to him, "Agrippa, why should it be thought a thing incredible to you that God should raise the dead?" God does it. God created matter out of nothing, He did it by fiat. He spake and matter was. This world you see around you, He created it out of nothing. And out of that matter, out of the dust of the ground, He formed Adam, you. God did it.
And so as Paul discusses it here, what kind of a body are we going to have in that resurrection? How is it that the dead are raised up? How could such an incredulous thing ever be? First, Paul uses an analogy from nature, "Foolish one, that which thou sowest did not quicken, except it die. And what you sow is not that body that it is going to be: but it dies a wheat, a piece of grain, a corn, it dies, then God raises it up, and giveth it a body as it has pleased Him, to every seed after his body."
So his first analogy of the resurrection is springtime. Every spring is another sermon from God on the power of the Spirit to raise from the dead. Here are trees that looked so dead, so dead, and they blossom in glory. You wait, Dallas turns, down these parkways, to a solid redbud avenue. Glorious. Where were those flowers, and where were those redbuds and where were those Easter lilies, and where were those jonquils?
Oh! In this dead cold of a wintertime, and that seed that looks so lifeless, that little seed planted in the earth, and in the springtime God will raise it up, and it will live and flower and fruit again. That is God! And it is a miracle in any man’s eyes! And no man can explain that. That is his analogy in nature.
To show you how people are, how we are given to those things, though we do not understand them, I saw a picture one time in this last war. There was a cordon of police who were fighting and losing the fight against a horde of starving people. The United States had sent to a starving population a great trainload of wheat, and the trainload of wheat was for seed. But when the trainload came into that starving section, why, people maddened by hunger and losing their senses of reality; they overwhelmed the police. They tore those great cars open, and they gathered up that wheat and took it away and ate it.
It was a tragedy! Why? Because every farmer knows you must die; you must plant that seed. It must be buried in the ground or it cannot live again. And every farmer does it. He takes precious seed, costly seed, and he plants it in the soil to let it decay, to let it die, in order that it might glorify in a more marvelous harvest.
All right, that is his first analogy, "With what body are we raised from the dead?" He finds an analogy in nature. There is life from the dead. Muck and mire and dirt and filth and stink and fertilizer, and out of that putrid mess, and the richer the soil, the more marvelous does it grow, out of that, those marvelous, glorious flowers and fruits. I do not see it, but there it is.
All right, his second analogy. His second analogy here is an identity in diversity: all flesh is not the same flesh; there is one of man, of beast, of fish, of bird. There are even celestial bodies, as well as mundane, earthly, terrestrial bodies. And the glory of one is not the glory of the other, but they all differ in glory.
Paul looks around him, and there is a phenomenon in the way God has created this world. Why, you do not plant wheat and it comes up rye. And you do not plant maize and it comes up millet. But God gives every one of those seeds a body as it pleases Him, and they are all different.
And then about our flesh: man will produce a man, and it will be man’s blood with a certain count of genes on the chromosome, and that is the number of a man, 48 of them. And every other beast will have another kind of blood, and it will have another kind of number of genes on a chromosome. And the fish and the fowl and everything, God gives it its own body. And then He turns up to the glory of the heaven, and says that even that is not the same up there in glory. There will be one star, and it will look this way; another star, and it will look that way, and the earth looks this way, and all of that looks that way. How God has diversified this thing!
Now he says that is the way we are in glory, that is the way we are in the resurrection. He says we are going to be identified, but greatly differ, just like we do here, just like we do here.
Why, over there in the resurrection God is going to have a separate body for everybody. Moses is not going to be Elijah, and Elijah is not going to be Moses. God makes them to differ. George Whitefield is not going to be John Chrysostom, and John Chrysostom is not going to be George Whitefield. And you are not going to be that fellow, and that fellow is not going to be you. God is going to make you to differ. It is going to be you. It is going to be you.
Well, how could God create that many bodies? Man alive, how does He make the snowflakes? Think how many snowflakes fall in the wintertime. Think how many snowflakes have fallen in the uncounted eons of all time, and every snowflake is different from every other snowflake! He makes all unalike. God likes to do things like that, just overwhelm you with His marvelous, incomparable, indescribable power!
That is what it is going to be in the resurrection, you are going to have you. It is going to be different from you. And you are going to be you, and you are going to be different from you, "Everyone after his own likeness." That is God; that is the way the Lord does it.
"But Preacher, it says there we’re going to be changed," "Behold I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we are all going to be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." Well, what kind of a change is that?
All right, this is the kind of a change is that: that change is a spiritual change, it is a resurrectional change. It is not a personal change. It is not that I am going to be somebody else or something else. I am going to be me, and you are going to be you, and we are going to be us – if these fine, educated, intellectual schoolteachers will forget the grammar – that is it, that is it. We are going to be changed, but the change is not going to be in the, it is not going; we are going to be something else. It is not going to be personal. We are going to be changed spiritually. We are going to be changed resurrectionally.
There is a natural body, but that will not do up there. There is a great law that God made in this universe, which is this: That every creature has to fit its environment. And if it does not, it dies. You stick me out in the middle of the ocean a hundred feet deep, and I die! But you put a fish down there a hundred feet deep, and he would just swim around, and he likes that. But stick him up here in this pulpit, and that fish will gasp and die! Every beast, every creature, every man, every living thing, has to fit its environment. And so the fish is made for the sea, and a man is made to walk on the earth, and a bird is made to fly in the air.
Now that is the way with us in glory. You can’t fit heaven! Man, you in heaven? Why you? It would be terrible. You would get sick. You would get old. You would get feeble. You would get decrepit. You are full of evil thoughts. You are full of sin. You are getting ugly. You are getting worn out. You are getting blind. You are getting bald. You are getting everything. You in glory? Why, it would be terrible! And the older you get, the more terrible it is. Finally, you cannot even look about, cannot even walk, could not even go anywhere. That would be awful. "Brethren, this I say, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." You’ve got to be changed to fit that celestial, heavenly, glorious environment.
Now that is what is going to happen. We are going to be changed. We are all going to be changed. Those that have fallen asleep in Christ, they are going to be raised, changed. And we who are "alive and remain unto His coming, we are going to be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible," they first, then we who are alive, "we shall all be changed."
Now that change is a marvelous thing. Oh, how glorious! But it is not an unthinkable thing. It is not an impossibly unimaginable thing. I can see a little of that right here. Look at matter. Here a dead, inert rock, and dirt by its side. And right over there is water. If I had never seen water, and all that I ever saw of matter was like a rock and like earth, why, to see matter, to see matter, creation, shimmer, to see it liquid, mobile like water, it is a marvelous thing. There is one kind of matter, a rock, solid. There is another kind of matter, and it shimmers and it moves and it is liquid, and you can pour it, it is malleable. And then here is another kind of matter. I wave my hand through it. This earth is filled with matter, all kind of gaseous substances, oxygen and hydrogen and nitrogen, I do not know what all, I just wave my arms through it. But I cannot see a piece of it, but it is there. Sometimes the wind will get a hold of it and soar! And it is a hurricane and it is awful, and you cannot see it, but there it is. Is not that a marvelous thing of matter?
All right, look at this thing: pretty soon I see that matter, and it will start growing. And it will start growing, and that is a plant. Is not that a marvelous thing, a plant, but it is matter, too? And look at that thing, and the matter changes again. And it is a little amoeba, it is a little paramecium, it is a tadpole, it is a bug, it is a frog, it is an insect, it is a fowl, it is a bird, it is a monkey, it is an ape, it is a gorilla, it is a man. Now I do not say it goes up that way, but I say, there it is all around me, all around me. Some people say their ancestors hung from their tails in the trees. That is all right for them; mine did not. We just differ.
But it is a marvelous sight to see. It is a wonderful thing. I see it in our daily lives. Here I am, living and breathing and loving and hating and feeling and preaching and exhorting and looking at you and thinking, and all of that. And yet, what am I? I am the beans and potatoes and the hot dogs and the hamburgers and the mustard and the relish and the beans and all of that that I have eaten. That is what I am. That is what you are. And every seven years you are altogether new. Every little, old particle has been replaced with another particle. And God created all of that out of what you ate. But you see, you took inert dead substance and ate it and assimilated it, and it was quickened into life and it became you.
Now there is one other step, just one other step, that step that I see from the rock in the earth, to the water, to the plant, to the animal, to the man, one other step. Raise it on high and you are there. When Jesus said, "I am not a spirit. Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bone such as you see I have." And He said, "Children, have you here any meat, anything to eat?" And they give Him a piece of a broiled fish and an honeycomb. And He ate it. And it was lifted up to that final celestial step. When I eat, it is quickened into a mortal body. When the Lord ate, it went that other step; it was immortalized; it was glorified; it was transfigured; it was resurrected. That is what you are going to be. You. You.
Well, let us look at that body, you. First of all, I said it is this body, this body. The Bible here says "this body," this body. So when it is raised, it is going to be an identical body, it is going to be you.
I think the most beautiful story of all of those ancient mythological stories of the gods is the one of the gods of Egypt, Isis and Osiris. Isis, the beautiful, if you have ever seen the opera Aida, the heroine bows and worships and pleads before Isis. She was a beautiful queen-goddess, and she fell in love with Osiris. And the evil, you know, as those stories all go, and the evil took Osiris and scattered him over the earth, over the earth, tore him apart, in piecemeal scattered his body over the earth. And Isis, lovingly and tenderly, went all over the earth gathering the body of Osiris again and resurrected him, put him back together. And he lived in her sight forever. Now that is a myth. But I say, that is a beautiful myth. And it has in it the germ of a marvelous revelation in the Christian faith,
God my redeemer lives,
And ever from the skies
Looks down, and watches o’er my dust,
Till He shall bid it rise.
["Hope of Heaven by the Resurrection of Christ," by Isaac Watts]
There is not a more beautiful poem in the English language than Rupert Brooke’s, do you remember? "If I should die, think only this of me." He was a soldier, went away to the war, was killed in the campaign of the Dardanelles.
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign land
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed.
["The Soldier," by, Rupert Brooke, 1914]
I die; I go back to the earth, but God’s eyes from heaven, know where every particle of that dust, every atom of my being is, and this body is going to be quickened and raised again.
This second thing here the text says is that it is going to be raised imperishable. Look at it now, the forty-second verse, "It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption." A savage lives for this day, and just this hour in this day. A barbarian will live for this year and maybe for the next. A civilized, cultured, educated man will live for right now and for this lifetime. But a Christian will live forever, if he is a Christian. That is his faith.
It is the imperishable quality in a thing that makes it precious and so valuable. A dewdrop is as beautiful as any diamond. And sparkling out there in the morning sun, oh, what a glory of God is a dewdrop that in a moment is gone away. But it is not valuable like a diamond, because it is not imperishable. Nothing could be more beautiful than the bubbles. They are so airy, they are so light, they are so colorful. They shine like a rainbow in the sun. Then they are gone.
The glory of the resurrection is this imperishable body. "It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption." Down there in the dust of the ground, so decayed, so weak, so buried; but raised up, death can never touch it, pain can never enter it, no wicked enemy could ever slay it. It is imperishable: it is a resurrection body. Look at it again, "It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory." This resurrection body of ours, beautiful like the body of Christ. I can see a little of that, a little old, dirty, ragged, fuzzy, creeping worm. The things just mentioned make you want to crawl, so the most ghastly, unwelcome little critters I know, little old worms. Then he goes to sleep and he wraps a little coffin around himself, a little cocoon. And some of these days in the providence of God, out of that cocoon there breaks forth the most gloriously beautiful, shimmering, shining, colorful thing dancing in the sunbeam! That is God; that is God. We are going, says here, "sown in dishonor," a weak, blind, crippled, corruptible thing, "raised in glory", beauty like the body of Christ.
Now, I have not got time here to read it, but I wanted to read this morning, the body of Christ. It is described here in the first of the Revelation, what He looked like: clothed in a garment, head and hair white as wool, white as snow, eyes as a flame of fire, feet as though they burn in a furnace, His voice is as many waters, on and on and on.
Our body is like Christ’s, gloriously beautiful. Look again, "It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power." Weakness, it is all I know. Even my doubled fist finally loses its strength to hold, relaxes, and dies. The light goes out of my eyes. Age and decay, my faculties gone. Finally so weak and helpless, I cannot lift a glass of water to my lips, and finally cannot even breathe, and I die. "Sown in weakness, raised in power," a new body like the angels.
That is what Jesus said, we will be like the angels. Not that we are going to be angels; we are not going to be angels. We are going to be like the angels; raised in power. Why an angel, an angel, an angel can take iron and steel chains and break them like rotten strings, did so when he let Simon Peter out of prison. One angel, one angel went over to the great army of Sennacherib one night, one angel, and slew one hundred eighty-five thousand of Sennacherib’s troops, one angel.
We are going to be like the angels, raised in power, this body. You know, I can think I am in Hong Kong, now, preaching in there in Hong Kong. Now I am in Calcutta. Now I am in Ogbomosho. Now I am down there in Recife, Brazil. Now I am over there in Jakarta. I can just go like that. That is the way I am going to be in the resurrection. I will be there, and yonder, and there, with a speed and a rapidity of lightning like an angel: raised in power!
God is doing some great and marvelous thing on the other side of the universe. There we will be to wonder and adore at what God has done. "Raised in power, sown in weakness." Look at us now, growing older and aged and dying. But some of these days, raised in the power of God like Christ’s own glorious resurrected body.
I was reading this week and I came across one of the things that just cheered my soul. In the days of bloody Queen Mary there were two martyrs who were being burned at the stake. One was a blind man, and the other was a lame man, those two martyrs. And when they bound them to the stake, there they were, one lame and the other blind. And when the fellow came with a fagot and lit the fire, the lame man threw his staff away and turning to his blind brother said, "Courage, my friend. Courage, for today this fire is going to cure us both!" Oh, that is it! That is it! Blind, going to be, if not now; oh, going to be, if not now! Invalid, going to be, if not now. Decrepit and senile, going to be, if not now. Finally dead, going to be, if not now.
But there is another addendum, "Sown in weakness, raised in power. Sown in a natural body, raised a spiritual body." The first man was like Adam, earthy, but the second man is like the Lord coming down out of glory, and we are going to be like Him.
Now I have to quit. But the hope is a Christian’s hope. It is for those who look to Jesus. There is going to be a resurrection of the lost, of the doomed, of the damned, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, the time, the hour comes when they that are in the grave shall hear the voice of the Son of God" [John 5:28-29], they that believe and trust, to the resurrection of glory, of righteousness, of heaven, they that refuse the overtures of grace and mercy, to the resurrection of damnation, to the fire, to the torment.
O my brother, have you looked to Jesus? Are you in Christ, are you ready? Make it now, make it now. Listening on this radio, looking at the service on television, the day is just over there when this life is past, this body crumbles, when decay and weakness seize upon us.
But there is a hope in Christ. There is a promise in Jesus. Take Him! Believe in Him! Trust Him! He was raised from the dead, and the same power that raised up Christ will raise you up. We will live with Him, trusting, believing, yielding to His grace, His invitation, His appeal. Wherever you are today, would you make it now. "This day I accept the hope and the promise in Christ Jesus, my Lord."
And this throng of people here, somebody you, into that aisle and down here to the front, "Pastor, here I am and here I come. Today, by God’s grace and with His help, I trust Jesus as my Savior. I give Him my heart and my life, and here I am in repentance and faith, looking to Him, looking to Him."
And somebody you, into the fellowship of this church however God shall make the invitation, press the appeal; would you come? A whole family you, "Pastor, we are all here today. We are coming into the fellowship of the church." As God shall say the word, and while we sing the appeal, would you come and would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?
THE SPIRITUAL BODY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:35-52
A. Doctrine of resurrection of the dead peculiar to Christianity
1. Ancient pagan believed in immortality of the soul, some life beyond – but not resurrection of the dead body
2. Paul preaching on Mars’ Hill of the resurrection laughed at(Acts 17:32)
B. Resurrection a cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:13-20)
II. How are the dead raised, and what kind of a body is it?(1 Corinthians 15:35)
A. The answer – "But God, but Godâ€¦" (1 Corinthians 15:38)
1. Paul to Agrippa(Acts 26:8)
2. It is something God does
B. Paul uses three analogies
1. An analogy in nature(1 Corinthians 15:36-38)
2. An analogy in creation – identity in diversity(1 Corinthians 15:39-41)
a. In the resurrection, we shall be distinct
3. An analogy in teleology(1 Corinthians 15:50)
a. God fits the body for the environment in which it lives
b. We must be changed, remade
C. A spiritual body
1. Seems to be a contradiction(Luke 24:39)
2. God is going to quicken us one step higher
a. Food is quickened into you – miracle of assimilation
b. We shall eat in the resurrection (Matthew 26:29)
III. The marvelous transformation
A. Identity is preserved, kept(1 Corinthians 15:38)
B. Imperishable(1 Corinthians 15:42)
C. Sown in dishonor, raised in glory(Genesis 23:4, Acts 22:11, 26:13, Revelation 1:13-17)
D. Sown in weakness, raised in power
1. Like angels