Summary: God promises us the ultimate extreme makeover – transforming our natural bodies into perfect spiritual bodies in which we will live forever.
"Extreme Makeover" is a popular show that takes people who do not meet the standards for good looks, and through extreme measures of plastic surgery, dental work, eye surgery, and whatever else is needed, turns ugly ducklings into babes and hunks, thus freeing them to live happily ever after. God promises us the ultimate extreme makeover – transforming our natural bodies into perfect spiritual bodies in which we will live forever.
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?”
This seems like a logical question to ask, and we are grateful that it is raised since Paul takes the time to explain. But it is not a mere question of curiosity. The very reason that the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead was rejected by some in the Corinth Church is the repugnance they felt at the idea of corpses being resuscitated. Kind of a “zombie-phobia.”
We’ve talked about the Corinth saints believing that they had spiritually arrived, what with their cool spiritual gifts and the higher plane of spiritual wisdom they had obtained. All that was hindering their complete ascension into spirituality was their bodies. To shed their bodies was their hope for full freedom. Now here is Paul talking about putting these vulgar shells back on. Just what kind of body does he have in mind? To such persons, Paul gives his answer. That’s why he starts off with a strong address: 36 You foolish person!
To explain the resurrected body, Paul starts off with two analogies: seeds and kinds of bodies. First, the seeds.
What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.
In a sense, a seed comes forth from fruit that has died. It is then buried, i.e. planted in the ground. The result is a resurrection of new life. So it is with the body. It dies, is buried, and it will rise with new life. But more to the point is that it rises in a different form. Just as it is not a big seed that comes up out of the ground, but a new plant, so it is that the body raised takes a new form as well.
Then comes the analogy of God having created different kinds of bodies:
39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of 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.
Consider flesh: our bodies are different from the bodies of horses, which are different from the bodies of geese, which are different from the bodies of catfish. Each has a body that fits their way of life. Look at other kinds of bodies: there are heavenly bodies, such as the sun, moon, and stars. They differ from the types of bodies found on the earth such as already mentioned. But then they also differ from one another in glory, i.e. in the degree and way that they shine. Again, each is fitted with the kind of body that serves the purpose God has given it. As Paul stated in verse 38, God gives to everyone the body that he chooses.
This is an important point. It is God who gives what he chooses to give. The Corinthians are hung up with the idea that a dead body must rise as it already is. Paul’s point is that the issue is now how a body rises, but who raises it and for what purpose. The sovereign God will do what he pleases, and if he chooses to raise a body in a new form, he will do so.
In the remaining verses Paul applies his analogies. Follow the series of contrasts:
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. The body that is sown in burial is a perishable body. It decays into dust and ashes. Does it bother you that your body gets ill, that it grows old? Does it worry you to know that you have “passed your prime” and your body will only be able to do less? Does it bring fear to know that your body will die? Then know, that when you rise in Christ you will take on a body that will never get sick, never grow frail, that will never experience death.