Epiphany 7 – 20th February 2022
Throughout Epiphany, we have been exploring 1 Corinthians week by week. We are still reading Saint Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection. Here he returns to the contrasts between Christ, “the last Adam,” and the original Adam.
After last week’s passage about the resurrection, Paul addresses the questions, “How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come?” This leads him to distinguish among kinds of flesh, the kinds of “splendour” that they enjoy, and the “natural body” versus the “spiritual body.” Naming these contrasts lets him move into the one addressed in today’s passage, the differences between Adam and Christ (the last Adam), and what we inherit from each.
We will begin by highlighting the Earthly Body so we can then contrast it with the Heavenly Body. Following that, we will be bridge the Corinthian passage back into Luke’s Gospel and prepare us for next Sunday, The Transfiguration of Christ. That means we will look at The Heavenly Kingdom and our Earthly Responsibilities.
We need to start by explaining what we mean by earthly body. In scripture, the physical body is connected to a moral nature. Man is both physical and spiritual in the sense that spiritual represents what you cannot see. You cannot see your soul. You cannot see your mind. You cannot see your spirit. Yet that is who YOU are: you are spiritual being attached to a physical body until your body expires. That is when your spiritual being is released to face your Creator.
The point is Paul is describing the nature inherited from Adam and Eve’s rebellion. The physical body is not limited to earthly elements of hydrogen, oxygen, et. al. Attached to it is a moral being. The Gospel message is that human morality is not capable of attaining heaven. Only by God’s grace manifested through Jesus Christ can a human being obtain heaven.
The tone in Paul’s words suggest he is getting worn out with the Corinthians constantly asking questions. “You fools!” is a pretty powerful response. What was so wrong about their questions? Is it so unreasonable for them to ask for a bit more detail about the resurrection body? I think the apostle was burdened by having to defend the doctrine of God with people who supposedly believed in God.
The Corinthians remind me of the Western Church today. They were constantly trying to make God so small. Like many so-called Christians today, they assumed that God can only do things that we can understand! In so doing, we limit God to becoming nothing more than a super human. God is not superman. God is our Creator. And just as God created Adam, the first of earth’s human race, so God sent forth His Son to be the first in a new race of beings.
In our Bible study last week, I pointed out to the class how Paul indicates something to the Corinthian Church that is subtle yet major in our understanding of identity. With the birth of Adam and Eve, humanity was known as something distinguishable from the sons of God. But that changed with Abraham. Giving a covenant with Abraham that guaranteed the fulfilment with the promise to Eve, Scripture divided humanity into two parts: Jews and Gentiles. People of the Covenant and people outside of the Covenant. People descended from Joseph, Abraham’s grandson, and those descended from everyone else.
Paul’s teachings introduce a third division: the Church. 1 Corinthians 10:32 reads: “Give no offence to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God”. Did you catch that? Paul hints that the Church is a new type of human. “So if anyone is in Christ, there is new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
When comparing these statements to 1 Corinthians 15, there is a sense of a literal regeneration resulting in a different type of body. Just as Jews altered their body through circumcision and are distinguishable from Gentiles, so the Church has undergone a spiritual circumcision called an “operation” in Colossians 2:12 (Authorised Version). There we learn that being born again is a literal happening.
Your inner person composed of soul and spirit cannot be separated by human understanding. YOU are the person that exists inside that body. YOU are the one who lives through your body. But that YOU was born with a nature from Adam that is rebellious to its Creator. When you were born again, your spirit was placed in God’s Spirit and there was a “cutting away” – a spiritual circumcision – of your inner being from its physical nature.
God’s Spirit was placed in you to protect your spirit from that sinful nature. You have a living spirit. Those without Christ as their Saviour walk around with dead spirits: they are dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1).
So in 1 Corinthians, we have a promise that at some point in time, after your body has been planted into the ground, your spirit will return to raise it up from the dead. That body is described as being like Jesus’ (1 John 3:2). Jesus’ resurrected body was literal – it could eat fish – but it was also a different type of body for it could exit a sealed room.
What is the purpose of all this teaching? Paul states: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Corinthians 15:50, AV). That which is perishable – your earthly body – cannot inherit God’s kingdom which is imperishable.
The Corinthian passage is driving us to its Gospel response in Luke 6:27-38. That makes sense when you realise that Paul and Luke grasped something about Jesus’ teachings that the original 12 disciples missed. Luke has more to say about the Kingdom of God than Matthew, Mark, and John combined. What did Luke understand that the 12 missed? He understood the moral aspect of kingdom. When the disciples were looking for an earthly kingdom to come in Acts 1, Luke understood Jesus had to first prepare humanity by addressing its moral nature.
“Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
Paul understand that the kingdom of God is not food and drink – it is not physical – but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit – it is spiritual (Romans 14:17).
The Church is God’s spiritual kingdom on earth. We exist to prepare humanity for the coming kingdom where Christ returns to rule on earth. We are not here to rule over human government. We are here to offer healing for human morality. We stand in Christ’s stead and point persons who would receive salvation for their soul from God’s Son (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Lukes passage today is sober. Last week, we heard about his version of the beatitudes and how they differed from Matthew. In Luke’s version, it included woes with the blessings. There were warnings that accompanied the principles for happiness. In today’s passage, Jesus explains that if you want the blessings instead of the woes, you must love your enemies, not judge others, and be willing to forgive.
The earthly responsibilities we have as God’s Covenant people of the New Testament seem humanly impossible. And that is the point. We must be born again. We must be birthed into God’s Kingdom. We must be baptised in God’s Spirit to exercise these spiritual weapons that attack humanity’s nature. And as we strive to live the life exemplified by Jesus, we have a hope that one day we will be resurrected with the ability to live fully like Jesus.
The late R.C. Sproul was able to edit The Reformation Bible not too many years before passing into glory. Sproul was one of the greater reformed theologians in our time. I wanted to read from his theological note on “The Last Resurrection”.
The Bible clearly teaches a final resurrection of the bodies of the saints… Just as Jesus returned from the grave with His body, albeit changed, so shall our present bodies be resurrected though changed. A body may change its state without thereby destroying its identity… Our new bodies will be especially suited for eternal life in the kingdom of God. Our present bodies are not so adapted. Whatever changes are necessary will be made by the power of God… The new body of the reign will be a spiritual and a heavenly body. It will be adapted to a higher order of living, perhaps glowing and radiant in countenance not unlike Christ in His transfiguration.
Next Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday. We will now be able to approach it with new understanding. What makes you “glow” is the moral nature within you tapped into God’s Spirit. When you spend time with God, like Moses on Mt Sinai, you come away with a shining face. You have an attitude that is transformed. Your inner person effects how your outer person looks and acts.
Today, we have been encouraged to behave differently than the unregenerate. Where they see violence as a solution, we see non-violence as a source of power. Where they seen aggression as justifiable, we see love as a source of justice.
Do you love your enemies? Are you judgmental of others? Jesus promises forgiveness is a synergetic multiplier of goodness for your life.
Perfect Light of revelation,
as you shone in the life of Jesus,
whose epiphany we celebrate,
so shine in us and through us,
that we may become beacons of truth and compassion,
enlightening all creation with deeds of justice and mercy. Amen.