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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
Welcome to HBS and to our study of 1 Corinthians, verse-by-verse, and rightly divided.
In chapter 15 Paul is responding to a group of Believers that denied the resurrection of the body (15:12-13). Unless this dissent is curtailed, if not eliminated altogether, it could destroy the hope of other Believers in this assembly, and prove to be much more than a discouragement to the unsaved in their midst who were seeking Truth.
Paul probably wrote this letter before any of the four gospels were written. Chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians is the authoritative chapter in the New Testament re: the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the first fruits of those who are asleep and the resurrection of Believers that will follow in stages. There isn’t another one like in the Bible.
Paul has a lot more to teach us, so if you’ll please open your Bible at 1 Corinthians 15:30, we’ll start today’s Bible lesson where Paul argues, “Why are we in danger every hour?” Paul, a Jew and a Roman citizen, was not received affectionately or treated respectfully when he came preaching his gospel in the cities and town he visited, and the same could be said for his co-workers (Acts 22:20-22).
In 2 Corinthians 11:26-28 Paul explains the meaning of verse 30: I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.” (See 2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
This is Paul’s point. To believe wholeheartedly that God raises the dead is a tremendous encouragement to endure suffering, trials, and tribulations now (Romans 8:18). The fact that Paul understood and believed this enabled him to tolerate those times of great mental and physical pressure, when as he put it, he “fought wild beasts at Ephesus” (Acts 18:19, 26). Paul was a Roman citizen and no Roman citizen could be forced to fight in the arena, so Paul is figuratively saying while he went about doing the Lord’s work in Ephesus it was like entering the arena to fight wild beasts. This is a euphemistic statement for struggling with human passions or those who stood in opposition to him and his gospel. If you’ve ever tried to reason or talk sensibly to someone about Jesus Christ and the Cross and were not able to move beyond their emotions, “feelings,” or their personal beliefs, whether religious or philosophical, then you have some idea what Paul is saying here.
If the dead are not raised, “LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE.”
This was the philosophy of Epicureanism in that day. In a nutshell, this was an ancient Greek philosophical system taught by a man named Epicurus. It emphasized the “goal” of achieving a happy and content life in the here and now, rejecting the superstitious fear of the gods and any notion of an afterlife.
The Epicurean philosophy was warmly received in Paul’s day, as it is today. You may be familiar with some of their popular slogans: “Live it up.” Party like it’s 1999,” “You can have it your way.” “If you’ve got the time; they’ve got the beer! “God is dead!” “We are gods;” per Oprah Winfrey, “There are many ways to heaven…,” etc.
In response to this heretical seed permeating the Corinthian church, Paul explained that Christ’s resurrection was the key to the gospel that saves and that in order for Believers to receive their final salvation, their bodies would have to be resurrected: Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly(v49).
Now let’s take a good look at verses 33-34.
1 Corinthians 15
33: Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Bad company in the Greek language is Homilia– (pronounced: hom-il-ee’-ah), Noun, Strong’s Greek #3657, meaning – companionship, association.
34: Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
Paul said, “Do not be deceived.” The Greek word for deceived is Planao (pronounced: plan-ah’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #3657, and it means – to cause to stray; to lead astray, to lead away from the truth. This is the same phrase the Lord used at the beginning of His Olivet Discourse, in answer to His disciples question, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (Matthew 24, 25 - KJV) In other words, Jesus said be alert, deception (to be led away from the truth) before I return will be the norm.
What is truth? Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). On the last night before His betrayal and His death, Jesus was preparing His disciples for the “long” and “troubling” days ahead. For three years they had followed Him and were learning from His teaching and from His example. They had placed all their hope in Him as the Messiah, yet they still did not understand how He was going to accomplish Israel’s deliverance from Roman oppression. At the Last Supper, Jesus began speaking about His departure which led to questions from His disciples… (John 13:33).
When Jesus said He was the truth, He was in effect saying, “I am the only truth” (Psalm 119:42). In His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus reminded His followers of several points of the Law, and then said, “But I say to you… in effect equating Himself with the Law of God; the single trustworthy standard of righteousness. For Jesus said, “I came to fulfill the Law and the prophets… (Matthew 5:17). Jesus, as the incarnate Word of God (John 1:1), is the source of all truth.
Now, people have stumbled over Christ and His statements in John 14:6 since day one. They deny the truth and argue that there is more than one way to heaven. The Corinthian church certainly falls into this category. Paul learned through Chloe’s letter (1 Corinthians 1:11) that some of the Believers in this church were searching other avenues for truth; they did not accept Jesus Christ or His apostles as the source of all truth. They looked to the philosophy of man, i.e. opinion or theory, for answers to the concerns of life over God’s Son; that way being “too narrow” for these folks (Matthew 7:13-14).
As King Solomon said, “There’s nothing new under the sun…” The calendar changes; the years come and go, but the way the majority of people think and act rarely changes. Today a series of court decisions prohibit the teaching of Creationism or intelligent design in public schools, whilst Evolutionism is widely accepted as truth by more than 32% of America’s citizens and even some churches. To teach Creationism is now a crime but it’s acceptable to teach Evolutionism as fact in schools and colleges across this land, even though Charles Darwin, himself, said it was only a “theory.” (See excerpt below)
“Even Charles Darwin thought his own theory was "grievously hypothetical" and gave emotional content to his doubts when he said, "The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder." To think the eye had evolved by natural selection, Darwin said, "Seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree." But he thought of the same about something as simple as a peacock's feather, which, he said, "makes me sick.” Of course, anyone who has knowledge of the intricacies of the human eye and other living structures immediately realizes the problem Darwin sensed. How could an organ of such an intricate magnificence ever have an originated via random chance?” Oller and Omdahl (CH) Page 274
This is why Paul quotes Scripture (Proverbs 13:20), reminding them that Bad company corrupts good morals, drawing wisdom from God’s Word of truth, and commanding them to Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
In effect, Paul is saying, “Come to your senses, and stop sinning.” Obviously, those Believers who denied the resurrection of the body were also living godless lives. Paul, in closing this section of his argument, says to their shame that some of them have no knowledge of God. These folks had no real knowledge of God; they were stumbling around in the dark… This is a subtle, sarcastic statement from Paul to those Corinthians who thought so highly of knowledge and yet their actions and attitudes showed they had no true knowledge of God at all. For Paul writes, to truly know God and what kind of God He is: is a blessing beyond comprehension (Philippians 3:10).
Let’s take a look at this next section containing verses 35-41.
35: But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?”
36: You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies;
37: and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else.
38: But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.
39: All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.
40: There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another.
41: There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
The Bible student has to understand verse 35 to appreciate what Paul writes thereafter. The passage, the preceding context, and Paul’s reply all make it clear that the question raised in verse 35 does not constitute a sincere inquiry, but an objection, i.e. a challenge by an unbeliever.
The “man” asking the question here does not merely “ask,” he “rudely says,” How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?
This question stems from the belief that the dead body goes into the ground, returns to dust, and the dust may be scattered somewhere down the line; how then can it be restored? Or, the individual may have been devoured by wild beasts while on a hunting trip in the forest, the body may have been consumed in a house fire, it may have been lost in the sands of the desert, or an individual could be drowned at sea, in every one of these instances the body no longer exists. How can it be re-molded into the same human body?
Since the arguments advanced by those who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead (15:12) strike a blow at the hope held dear by every true Believer, and to those who are unsaved but seeking the Truth, our Apostle Paul proceeds to describe “how” the believing dead are raised and “with what body” they will “come” or emerge from their state of death.
Let’s go to verses 36-38.
In Paul’s retort, he uses an analogy from nature to help get his point across: You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.
The Bible defines a “fool” as someone who fails to take God into account. Such a person excludes God from consideration. One has to remember, since God is God, bodily resurrection is NOT a problem - for nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26).
Here we see Paul, one with intelligent faith, responding to an unbeliever, one with blind unbelief. Then, as it were, he says, it’s obvious you’ve placed your trust in worldly wisdom, the mental manipulation of man’s knowledge such as biology, chemistry, philosophy, etc.; those sciences that scream the resurrection of the dead is impossible at you. Since you love science, consider this truth: That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies… (Paul’s remark is not actually a scientific statement; it’s an agricultural metaphor of new life from hard, seemingly dead seeds, planted in the earth. Paul’s saying the Believer’s body is like that “seed” the farmer placed into the ground which grows into a resurrected body. When you bury the body of a Believer, you are “sowing” a “seed” that will come out of the earth as a resurrected “transformed” body.)
Go ahead and present all your so-called evidence against the resurrection of the dead, then, look around you; open your eyes and witness for yourself the overwhelming evidence that the Creator God is constantly bringing the dead to life. Look and see how foolish your unbelief in God is; the grasses, the flowers, the plants, the trees, all of them are new, fresh bodies, in which dead seeds have come to life again and again. How, can the resurrection of the dead be impossible? Our Lord, referring to the necessity for His death, made a similar declaration which the Apostle John recorded for anyone who is interested in knowing the Truth: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 12:24 - KJV)
That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies
One morning our pastor told us a Believer need not fear death. He said, lightheartedly, he didn’t fear death; he just didn’t want to be around when it came, quoting Woody Allen. Everyone born into this world arrives with one appointment already pre-scheduled in their Day Planner, and that appointment is with death. We’re just not aware of the details. The only exception to this rule is those folks who will be alive at the Lord’s coming for His Church, i.e. at the Rapture.
Our Apostle Paul has been pointing out to the unbeliever and to the doubters as well that nature itself teaches us two obvious lessons about death and resurrection.
1: Death is a necessary part of the process. It’s not an obstacle to resurrection. If something is going to be raised from the dead, it has to die first. The body, like the seemingly dead seed, must die before it can be resurrected.
2. The body that is resurrected is different from the one that was planted. What does the farmer sow? Not that body which is to be but a bare grain, not that fresh, living, golden stalk of corn that waves so freely in the breeze, but a dead, dry, hard, wrinkled, corn kernel, as dead as the rock lying next to it. But what happens to the dead corn kernel, folks? The Creator God brings it to life and gives it a body just as He wished, living, fresh and golden-crowned! This isn’t fantasy; this is reality, as nature reveals on a regular schedule and as God planned.
Let’s move on to verses 39-40.
All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.
Paul wants the challenger (and every Believer as well) to know this Truth becomes more substantial when they realize the immensity of God’s creation. Paul expands his argument to include the creation event in Genesis 1, although these four different types of “flesh” appear in created order there, they appear in reverse order here.
“Let the water teem with living creatures, and let the birds fly above the earth” (Genesis 1:20).
“Let the land produce living creatures…” (Genesis 1:24).
“Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26).
In this context, Paul is saying, the “flesh” of men is made for walking, that of birds for “flying,” and that of fish for “swimming.” In essence, Paul is saying God designs bodies to fit the environment they will live and thrive in. Therefore, our resurrected bodies will be perfect for the environment of heaven. Earthly bodies equip us in every way to live on earth. We breathe earth’s oxygen, drink its water, and eat its produce. However, these earthly bodies are not suitable for heaven. Here Paul is referring to the first and second heaven. The first heaven is the sky above us where the birds fly. The second heaven contains the Moon, the stars, the planets, etc. The third heaven is where God resides. In order to explore the depths of the ocean you and I have to don special equipment. If you want to climb a mountain higher than 12,000 ft, you’re going to need oxygen because the air gets thinner the higher you climb. It goes without saying there isn’t any oxygen in outer space; that’s why our astronauts wear space suits. Our bodies are suited for the earth and nowhere else. To get Believers ready for heaven their bodies must undergo a change; a transformation.
Paul continues his argument in 15:40-41 saying:
There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
In the verses above, Paul contrasts the differences between the now, our earthly bodies and what will be, our heavenly bodies. Paul’s saying the bodies we have now cannot compare to our heavenly bodies. Our present body was created to last but a few years. Although people are living longer lives these days, thanks to the advances in medical science, and the desire of some people to remain “fit” by exercising and by eating a healthy diet; the stark reality is a man who reaches the age of 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 85. But once transformed, our heavenly bodies will equip us for a much higher level of existence. The Believer’s body will never wear out.
Let’s go to verses 42-44.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour, 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. There is a natural body, and there is also spiritual body. (KJV)
In this section Paul speaks of the profound and miraculous change that will take place in the Believer when he or she is raised from the dead. Paul lists four striking contrasts in the verses above. In each of these verses he uses the words, “It is sown… it is raised,” so that this unbeliever understands this transformation process will be brought about in the same body.
The “man” who challenged Paul’s belief in the resurrection of the dead had no real knowledge about the subject because he did not know God. All he understands and accepts as fact is when you die your body goes into the ground; end of story. But God says the Believer’s body is sown and it will be raised again.
For the sake of time, we’re only going to look at the first two contrasts this week. We’ll finish this section up next week when we return.
It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption – when we die, our bodies return to dust and disintegrate just as God told our fallen parents they would: “…By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)
With man’s fall from Grace all of God’s creation became subject to corruption. The flowers, plants, and trees and everything man constructs from them fall into decay, for God also said to Adam and Eve: “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Genesis 3:17). But the true Believer rests in this hope: while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).
So, Paul is saying while the Believer’s body, like all he or she can see or touch is decaying, returning to dust, and goes into corruption, this process will be reversed in the resurrection. It doesn’t matter if fire consumed the Believer’s body, if wild beasts devoured it, if he or she was buried at sea, or if they died in the desert and their remains were scattered to the four winds. It doesn’t matter where their body parts disappeared to or what state the remains are in; the same body that was sown in corruption will be raised in incorruptibility.
Believers rest in the fact that - no word from God will ever fail (Luke 1:37).
It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory – the unbeliever has no idea what Paul is talking about here, but the Believer knows or should know. Even though we’re saved by believing Paul’s gospel plus nothing else, and nothing can change that (Romans 8:1), the old man; our Adamic nature is with us 24/7/365. This body is the vehicle through which the Adamic nature operates. So, the message Paul is conveying with this phrase is the Believer’s body is sown having known sorrow and sufferings galore, but the Believer’s utmost desire should not be to finally be rid of these but to be rid forever of the temptation to sin. And, thank God, we will be and so much more for this body which is sown in dishonour will be raised in glory.
In our weakness, we have disappointed God numerous times, if we’re being honest with Him and ourselves. But God is faithful; we may be assured on the basis of God’s immutable Word that we will, by His grace, be arrayed in glory. For whom God justifies He also glorifies (Romans 8:30).
Paul writes: who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His (what) glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself (Philippians 3:21).
When the “glory of the Lord shone round the shepherds of old, they were “terribly frightened” (Luke 2:9). A wise person asks “Why is that, and why should mankind be terribly frightened” under the same circumstances? The answer is because God’s glory reveals our deepest, darkest, secrets, i.e. sin. Paul wrote: “Because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But, here’s the thing, the Lord Jesus Christ was “delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 4:25 – 5:2). “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” (Hebrews 6:19)
(To be continued)
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