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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : 1 Corinthians 15:35-50

Commentary On Corinthians Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

1 Corinthians 15:35-50

35. But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?

35. Sed dicet quispiam: Quomodo suscitabuntur mortui? quali nutem corpore venient?

36. Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:

36. Demens, tu quod seminas, non vivificatur nisi mortuum fuerit.

37. And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:

37. Et quod seminas, non corpus quod nascentur, seminas, sed nudum granum: exempli gratis, tritici, nut alterius cujusvis generis:

38. But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

38. Deus autem illi dat corpus, quemadmodum voluerit, et unicuique seminum proprium corpus.

39. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

39. Non omnis caro, eadem caro: sed alia caro hominum, alia vero cato pecudum, alia volucrum, alia piscium.

40. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

40. Sunt et corpora coelestia, sunt corpora terrestria: quin etiam alia coelestium gloria, alia terrestrium.

41. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.

41. Alia gloria solis, alia gloria lunae, alia gloria stellarum: stella a stella differt in gloria:

42. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

42. Sic et resurrectio mortuorum. Seminatur in corruptione, re surgit in incorruptione:

43. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:

43. Seminatur in ignominia, resurgit in gloria: seminatur in infirmitate, resurgit in potentia:

44. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

44. Seminatur corpus animale, resurgit corpus spirituale: est corpus animale, est et corpus spirituale.

45. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

45. Quemadmodum et scriptum eat, (Gen 2:7,) Factus est primus homo Adam in animam viventem, ultimus Adam in spiritum vivificantem.

46. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.

46. Sed non primum quod spirituale est: sed animale, deinde spirituale.

47. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.

47. Primus homo ex terra terrenus, secundus homo, Dominus e coelo.

48. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

48. Qualis terrenus, tales et terreni, et qualis coelestis, tales et coelestes.

49. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

49. Et quemadmodum portavimus imaginem terreni, portabimus et imaginem coelestis.

50. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

50. Hoc autem dico, fratres, quod cato et sanguis regnum Dei hereditate possidere non possunt, neque corruptio incorruptionem hereditate possidebit.

35. How will they be raised up? There is nothing that is more at variance with human reason than this article of faith. For who but God alone could persuade us that bodies, which are now liable to corruption, will, after having rotted away, or after they have been consumed by fire, or torn in pieces by wild beasts, will not merely be restored entire, but in a greatly better condition. Do not all our apprehensions of things straightway reject this as a thing fabulous, nay, most absurd? Paul, with the view of removing entirely this appearance of absurdity, makes use of an anhypophora, that is, he brings forward by way of objection, in the person of another, what appears at first view to be at variance with the doctrine of a resurrection. For this question is not that of one who inquires doubtingly as to the mode, but of one who argues from impossibility -- that is, what is said as to the resurrection is a thing incredible. Hence in his reply he repels such an objection with severity. Let us observe, then, that the persons who are here introduced as speaking, are those who endeavor to disparage, in a way of scoffing, a belief in the resurrection, on the ground of its being a thing that is impossible.

36. Thou fool, that which thou sowest The Apostle might have replied, that the mode, which is to us incomprehensible, is nevertheless easy with God. Hence, we must not here form our judgment according to our own understanding, but must assign to the stupendous and secret power of God the honor of believing, that it will accomplish what we cannot comprehend. He goes to work, however, in another way. For he shows, that the resurrection is so far from being against nature, that we have every day a clear illustration of it in the course of nature itself -- in the growth of the fruits of the earth. For from what but from rottenness spring the fruits that we gather out of the earth? For when the seed has been sown, unless the grains die, there will be no increase. Corruption, then, being the commencement and cause of production, we have in this a sort of picture of the resurrection. Hence it follows, that we are beyond measure spiteful and ungrateful in estimating the power of God, if we take from him what is already manifest before our eyes.

37. Thou sowest not that body that will spring up. This comparison consists of two parts -- first, that it is not to be wondered that bodies rise from rottenness, inasmuch as the same thing takes place as to seed; and secondly, that it is not at variance with reason, that our bodies should be restored in another condition, since, from bare grain, God brings forth so many ears of corn, clothed with admirable contrivance, and stored with grains of superior quality. As, however, he might seem to intimate, by speaking in this way, that many bodies will therefore rise out of one, he modifies his discourse in another way, by saying that God forms the body as it pleases him, meaning that in that also there is a difference in respect of quality.

He adds, to every seed its own body By this clause he restricts what he had said respecting another body; for he says that, while the body is different, it is in such a way as to retain, nevertheless, its particular kind.

39. All flesh is not, etc. Here we have another comparison leading to the same conclusion, though there are some that explain it otherwise. For when he says, that under the name of flesh is comprehended the body of a man as well as of a beast, and yet the flesh in those two cases is different, he means by this that the substance indeed is the same, but there is a difference as to quality. The sum is this -- that whatever diversity we see in any particular kind is a sort of prelude of the resurrection, because God clearly shows, that it is no difficult thing with him to renew our bodies by changing the present condition of things.

41. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon Not only is there a difference between heavenly bodies and earthly, but even the heavenly bodies have not all the same glory; for the sun surpasses the moon, and the other stars differ from each other. This dissimilarity, accordingly, appears in the resurrection of the dead. A mistake, however, is commonly fallen into in the application; for it is supposed that Paul meant to say, that, after the resurrection, the saints will have different degrees of honor and glory. This, indeed, is perfectly true, and is proved by other declarations of Scripture; but it has nothing to do with Paul's object. For he is not arguing as to what difference of condition there will be among the saints after the resurrection, but in what respect our bodies at present differ from those that we will one day receive.

He removes, then, every idea of absurdity, by instituting this comparison: The substance of the sun and moon is the same, but there is a great difference between them in point of dignity and excellence. Is it to be wondered, then, if our body puts on a more excellent quality? |I do not teach that anything will take place at the resurrection but what is already presented before the eyes of all.| That such is the meaning of the words is clear from the context. For whence and for what purpose would Paul make such a transition, were he now comparing them with one another in respect of the difference of their condition, while up to this point he has been comparing the present condition of all with their future condition, and immediately proceeds with that comparison?

43. It is sown in corruption That there may be no doubt remaining, Paul explains himself, by unfolding the difference between their present condition, and that which will be after the resurrection. What connection, then, would there be in his discourse, if he had intended in the first instance to distinguish between the different degrees of future glory among the saints? There can, therefore, be no doubt, that he has been, up to this point, following out one subject. He now returns to the first similitude that he had made use of, but applies it more closely to his design. Or, if you prefer it, keeping up that similitude, he figuratively compares the time of the present life to the seed-time, and the resurrection to the harvest; and he says, that our body is now, indeed, subject to mortality and ignominy, but will then be glorious and incorruptible. He says the same thing in other words in Philippians 3:21

Christ will change our vile body,
that he may make it like to his own glorious body.

44. It is sown an animal body. As he could not express each particular by enumerating one by one, he sums up all comprehensively in one word, by saying that the body is now animal, but it will then be spiritual. Now that is called animal which is quickened by (anima) the soul: that is spiritual which is quickened by the Spirit. Now it is the soul that quickens the body, so as to keep it from being a dead carcase. Hence it takes its title very properly from it. After the resurrection, on the other hand, that quickening influence, which it will receive from the Spirit, will be more excellent. Let us, however, always bear in mind, what we have seen previously -- that the substance of the body is the same, and that it is the quality only that is here treated of. Let the present quality of the body be called, for the sake of greater plainness, animation; let the future receive the name of inspiration. For as to the soul's now quickening the body, that is effected through the intervention of many helps; for we stand in need of drink, food, clothing, sleep, and other things of a similar nature. Hence the weakness of animation is clearly manifested. The energy of the Spirit, on the other hand, for quickening, will be much more complete, and, consequently, exempted from necessities of that nature. This is the simple and genuine meaning of the Apostle; that no one may, by philosophizing farther, indulge in airy speculations, as those do, who suppose that the substance of the body will be spiritual, while there is no mention made here of substance, and no change will be made upon it.

45. As it is written, The first Adam was made Lest it should seem to be some new contrivance as to the animal body, he quotes Scripture, which declares that Adam became a living soul, (Genesis 2:7) -- meaning, that his body was quickened by the soul, so that he became a living man. It is asked, what is the meaning of the word soul here? It is well known, that the Hebrew word nphs, (nephesh,) which Moses makes use of, is taken in a variety of senses; but in this passage it is taken to mean either vital motion, or the very essence of life itself. The second of these I rather prefer. I observe that the same thing is affirmed as to beasts -- that they were made a living soul, (Genesis 1:20, 24;) but as the soul of every animal must be judged of according to its kind, there is nothing to hinder that a soul, that is to say, vital motion, may be common to all; and yet at the same time the soul of man may have something peculiar and distinguishing, namely, immortal essence, as the light of intelligence and reason.

The last Adam. This expression we do not find anywhere written. Hence the phrase, It is written, must be understood as referring exclusively to the first clause; but after bringing forward this testimony of Scripture, the Apostle now begins in his own person to draw a contrast between Christ and Adam. |Moses relates that Adam was furnished with a living soul; Christ, on the other hand, is endowed with a life-giving Spirit. Now it is a much greater thing to be life, or the source of life, than simply to live.| It must be observed, however, that Christ did also, like us, become a living soul; but, besides the soul, the Spirit of the Lord was also poured-out upon him, that by his power he might rise again from the dead, and raise up others, This, therefore, must be observed, in order that no one may imagine, (as Apollinaris did of old,) that the Spirit was in Christ in place of a soul. And independently of this, the interpretation of this passage may be taken from the eighth chapter of the Romans, where the Apostle declares, that the body, indeed, is dead, on account of sin, and we carry in us the elements of death; but that the Spirit of Christ, who raised him up from the dead, dwelleth also in us, and that he is life, to raise up us also one day from the dead. (Romans 8:10, 11.) From this you see, that we have living souls, inasmuch as we are men, but that we have the life-giving Spirit of Christ poured out upon us by the grace of regeneration. In short, Paul's meaning is, that the condition that we obtain through Christ is greatly superior to the lot of the first man, because a living soul was conferred upon Adam in his own name, and in that of his posterity, but Christ has procured for us the Spirit, who is life.

Now as to his calling Christ the last Adam, the reason is this, that as the human race was created in the first man, so it is renewed in Christ. I shall express it again, and more distinctly: All men were created in the first man, because, whatever God designed to give to all, he conferred upon that one man, so that the condition of mankind was settled in his person. He by his fall ruined himself and those that were his, because he drew them all, along with himself, into the same ruin: Christ came to restore our nature from ruin, and raise it up to a better condition than ever. They are then, as it were, two sources, or two roots of the human race. Hence it is not without good reason, that the one is called the first man, and the other the last. This, however, gives no support to those madmen, who make Christ to be one of ourselves, as though there were and always had been only two men, and that this multitude which we behold, were a mere phantom! A similar comparison occurs in Romans 5:12

46. But this is not first, which is spiritual. |It is necessary,| says he, |that before we are restored in Christ, we derive our origin from Adam, and resemble him. Let us, therefore, not wonder, if we begin with the living soul, for as being born precedes in order being born again, so living precedes rising again.|

47. The first Adam was from the earth. The animal life comes first, because the earthy man is first. The spiritual life will come afterwards, as Christ, the heavenly man, came after Adam. Now the Manichees perverted this passage, with the view of proving that Christ brought a body from heaven into the womb of the Virgin. They mistakingly imagined, however, that Paul speaks here of the substance of the body, while he is discoursing rather as to its condition, or quality. Hence, although the first man had an immortal soul, and that too, not taken from the earth, yet he, nevertheless, savoured of the earth, from which his body had sprung, and on which he had been appointed to live. Christ, on the other hand, brought us from heaven a life-giving Spirit, that he might regenerate us into a better life, and elevated above the earth. In fine, we have it from Adam -- that we live in this world, as branches from the root: Christ, on the other hand, is the beginning and author of the heavenly life.

But some one will say in reply, Adam is said to be from the earth -- Christ from heaven; the nature of the comparison requires this much, that Christ have his body from heaven, as the body of Adam was formed from the earth; or, at least, that the origin of man's soul should be from the earth, but that Christ's soul had come forth from heaven. I answer, that Paul had not contrasted the two departments of the subject with such refinement and minuteness, (for this was not necessary;) but when treating of the nature of Christ and Adam, he made a passing allusion to the creation of Adam, that he had been formed from the earth,, and at the same time, for the purpose of commending Christ's excellence, he states, that he is the Son of God, who came down to us from heaven, and brings with him, therefore, a heavenly nature and influence. This is the simple meaning, while the refinement of the Manichees is a mere calumny.

We must, however, reply to another objection still. For Christ, so long as he lived in the world, lived a life similar to ours, and therefore earthly: hence it is not a proper contrast. The solution of this question will serve farther to refute the contrivance of the Manichees. For we know, that the body of Christ was liable to death, and that it was exempted from corruption, not by its essential property, (as they speak,) but solely by the providence of God. Hence Christ was not merely earthy as to the essence of his body, but was also for a time in an earthly condition; for before Christ's power could show itself in conferring the heavenly life, it was necessary that he should die in the weakness of the flesh, (2 Corinthians 13:4.) Now this heavenly life appeared first in the resurrection, that he might quicken us also.

49. As we have borne Some have thought, that there is here an exhortation to a pious and holy life, into which Paul was led by way of digression; and on that account they have changed the verb from the future tense into the hortative mood. Nay more, in some Greek manuscripts the reading is phoresomen (let us bear,) but as that does not suit so well in respect of connection, let us adopt in preference what corresponds better with the object in view and the context. Let us observe, in the first place, that this is not an exhortation, but pure doctrine, and that he is not treating here of newness of life, but pursues, without any interruption, the thread of his discourse respecting the resurrection of the flesh. The meaning accordingly will be this: |As the animal nature, which has the precedency in us, is the image of Adam, so we shall be conformed to Christ in the heavenly nature; and this will be the completion of our restoration. For we now begin to bear the image of Christ, and are every day more and more transformed into it; but that image consists in spiritual regeneration. But then it will be fully restored both in body and in soul, and what is now begun will be perfected, and accordingly we will obtain in reality what we as yet only hope for.| If, however, any one prefers a different reading, this statement will serve to spur forward the Corinthians; and if there had been a lively meditation of sincere piety and a new life, it might have been the means of kindling up in them at the same time the hope of heavenly glory.

50. Now this I say This clause intimates, that what follows is explanatory of the foregoing statement. |What I have said as to bearing the image of the heavenly Adam means this -- that we must be renewed in respect of our bodies, inasmuch as our bodies, being liable to corruption, cannot inherit God's incorruptible kingdom. Hence there will be no admission for us into the kingdom of Christ, otherwise than by Christ's renewing us after his own image.| Flesh and blood, however, we must understand, according to the condition in which they at present are, for our flesh will be a participant in the glory of God, but it will be -- as renewed and quickened by the Spirit of Christ.

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