Summary: We live now confident of a future in a resurrected body.
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Scripture references are from the New Living Translation.
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I saw a noteworthy bumper sticker on a car Thursday afternoon. Actually the car I saw had about six unusual bumper stickers – but the one that grabbed by attention had the words BORN AGAIN in a fairly good size font. And then below it at about half the size were the words AND AGAIN AND AGAIN...
BORN AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN – a not so subtle creedal reference to belief in reincarnation – the Eastern idea that the true essence of a person resides in his or her spirit and that the body we carry around is really just incidental to who we are. And indeed our spirits will get new bodies because after we die our spirits will be re-incarnated or recycled into some other body.
And the type of body you get depends on your karma. If you have been a good and decent person you will come back with a better bod. But if you’ve been nasty – sucking more out of life than you’ve given – your karma is such that you’ll have a less prestigious body the next time around. Perhaps you’ll be a snail in my garden.
By the way, according to recent polls by both the Georges – George Gallup and George Barna – about 30% of all Americans believe in reincarnation.
Gallup also found that 20% of all self-described born-again / Evangelical Christians say that they believe in reincarnation. This, of course, makes absolutely no sense whatever because the idea of reincarnation is antithetical or contrary to the gospel – and that which the church has believed throughout the ages.
We have a much higher view of the human body than what you find in Eastern thinking or even what you might find in the ancient Greek way of thinking. Greeks didn’t believe in reincarnation but they believed that the essence of a person is spirit and that the more quickly you divorce yourself from the physical material realm the better off you are.
The incursion of these twisted views of the human body provides the backdrop for the Apostle Paul’s words here in 1 Corinthians 15.
A couple of weeks ago, when we were looking at the first half of this chapter, Pastor Dan suggested that perhaps the Corinthian Christians had adopted a Gnostic world view – that is, an extreme form of Greek thinking which really devalues the body.
Indeed, if it wasn’t Gnosticism it was something along those lines was a definite problem in Corinth and Paul is writing to straighten these guys out.
So we come to our passage this morning, 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, mindful that we’re stepping into the middle of an argument over the value of bodies.
For the sake of simplicity (and this is not the simplest passage in the Bible) I have summarized Paul’s thoughts here under the heading 4 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR NEW BODY.
Now, I am aware that some of you are going to check out pretty early on. Wow – some of you are slipping off right now. I can se it happening right before my very eyes!
You could care less about what happens to your body – especially after you’re dead! You’re just hoping to find enough duct tape, bailing wire, and aspirin to keep the thing running now.
Some of us are consumed with other pressing issues – keeping a marriage going, finding a job, staying out of debtor’s prison.
I understand. But if you indulge me a bit and hang in here I think you’ll see that what Paul says about your future body actually has an impact on how you deal with the stresses and the crises that confront you now.
So here it is – #1 – WE LOOK FORWARD TO A RENEWED BODY.
On the message guide I highlighted verse 44 – but really this whole line of thought starts at verse 35. Turn there if you have a Bible with you.
“But someone may ask, ‘How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?’”
This is a bit of a rhetorical question. Here’s the “Boydston not-quite literal translation”. “Some of you might be scoffing at the idea that bodies have long term importance (as just spelled out in the first half of the chapter). ‘Really, now,’ you say, ‘if the dead are raised what kind of bodies will they have? Aren’t they going to stink beyond anything that deodorant can cover. And they’re going to look as ugly as well, you know what. Partially decayed faces. Detached bones. You get the point. Why would you want to mess with a physical resurrection? What kind of body would you end up with?’” – My rendering of verse 35.