Exposition of 1 Corinthians 16:19-24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus

1 Corinthians 16:19-24

19 The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. 20 All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.

22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

When Paul mentions the churches in the province of Asia (1 Cor. 16:19), he is again sending actual greeting but also making the Corinthians see that they are part of the larger body of Christ. Let them look above not only their factional divisions but also outward to see the bond of love between Christians everywhere. The Roman province of Asia was located in what is now western Turkey.

The role of Aquila and Prisca (a shortened form of Pricilla) is notable. Acts 18:1-3 informs us that Aquila was a Jew who, along with his wife Pricilla, was expelled from Rome (probably as a Christian) in A.D. 49, when Emperor Claudius closed down a Roman synagogue because of continuous disturbances centering on the figure of Christ.[1] They emigrated to Roman Corinth where they met Paul, another tent-maker, and both hosted him and worked with him in the trade. They also joined Paul in Ephesus, where a church met in their home.

Anthony Thiselton approvingly describes the research of another scholar concerning Pauls stay in Corinth: Murphy-OConnor convincingly paints a picture of Aquila and Prisca having their home in the loft of one of the shops around the market square (approximately 13 ft. x 13 ft. x 8 ft. without running water) while Paul slept below amid the tool-strewn workbenches and the rolls of leather and canvas.[2] Are you feeling the hardship?

Though Paul dictated his letter to a professional scribe or secretary, he could not resist writing a greeting in his own hand (1 Cor. 16:21). This was all typical. One of Pauls scribes actually identifies himself in Rom. 16:23.

Verses 22-24 serve as a sharp conclusion to the entire letter. The purpose of such a rhetorical conclusion was to reinforce the argument of the letter with emotional force. Here the vocabulary emphasizes Jesus Christ, love, and either the grace or the judgment that all will receive when Christ returns.

It seems most probable that in verse 22 the verb love refers to covenant loyalty. Covenant loyalty essentially amounts to obedience, just as Jesus emphasized with his disciples: If you love me, keep my commands (John 14:15). In the Old Testament, the result of maintaining covenant loyalty to God was blessing, while breaking the covenant resulted in curses. The curse is expressed by the famous Greek noun anathema, which has been adopted into English most frequently in reference to a person who has been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

Thiselton summarizes: Paul has reproached the [message] of the cross and the content of the gospel through the array of pastoral, ethical, and theological issues that bubble away at Corinth: Come on, he concludes; are you in or are you out?[3] The return of Christ will resolve this question once and for all.

Come, Lord! represents the Aramaic term Maranatha. Generations of Christians have echoed this appeal.

Paul closes by mentioning the grace represented uniquely by Jesus Christ and Pauls own special love for all who are joined to Christ (verses 23-24). Amen!

Copyright 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 1343.

[2] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1343.

[3] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1351.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15:44b-52 Like the man from heaven

1 Corinthians 15:44b-52

[44a It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.] 44b If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Gordon Fee explains Pauls starting point in 1 Cor. 15:44 by saying: Paul now applies the analogy of the differing kinds of bodies from vv. 39-41. Thus, instead of describing how the body is sown, the two adjectives natural (Greek psychikos) and spiritual (Greek pneumatikos) are used with the noun body (Greek soma) to describe its present earthly and future heavenly expressions respectively.[1] This will allow him a way to bridge the conceptual gap between the two different spheres of existence. He does so by using two steps that would have been understood and accepted by his first-century audience:

1. He connects the Greek adjective psychikos (NIV natural) in 1 Cor. 15:44 to a related Greek noun psyche(NIV being, ASV of 1901 soul) in the Greek translation of Genesis 2:7, the creation of Adam. Newer English versions say that Adam became a living being and older English versions say living soul. In this verse, Adam receives both a body and an earthly life.

2. Adam is used as a representative of all humanity; his name means mankind. The people of Roman Corinth were very comfortable thinking in representative/corporate terms rather than the radically individualistic thinking which characterizes our own culture.

Verses 45-49 resume the discussion about Adam and Christ that began in 1 Cor. 15:21. Verse 45 refers to them as the first man Adam and the last Adam, meaning Christ, the founder and firstborn of the new creation. While Adam became a living being, Christ is a life-giving Spirit — capitalizing the word Spirit in agreement with NLT, HCSB, Thiselton and Garland. There is a huge difference between living and life-giving! In this context, life-giving refers primarily to resurrection of those who have died in Christ.

Anthony Thiselton reminds us that Adam is no ideal human; he stands for all that is fallen and destructive. Adams fall into sin set the pattern for all who descended from him and made the cross of Christ the utterly necessary ground of all our hope. The cross brings reversal, not merely degrees of improvement. Christ does not offer a return to Eden for a re-try; he brings us the promise of a new creation. Paul does not devalue the physical, which is Gods gift, but the natural is bound up with human sin and bondage, and there is no hope of full salvation without transformation by an act of the sovereign God.[2] That is why Christ died and rose again.

Verses 47-49 provide the theological logic for the transformation we will undergo in being resurrected. To aid our understanding of the second man is of heaven (1 Cor. 15:47), Thiselton says, Heaven is not a locality as such, but the realm characterized by the immediate presence and purity of the living God in and through Christ and the Spirit.[3] He also quotes a telling slogan: It is not that in heaven we find God, but that in God we find heaven.[4]

Garland does an outstanding job of explaining verses 48-49: If humans take the shape of the first Adam sown with a body made from dust that goes back to dust, then Christians will take the shape of Christ in their heavenly existence, who is from heaven and has a spiritual body. The last Adam, then, sets the pattern for all who will be resurrected and given a spiritual body for their new celestial habitat.[5]

It is in this way that Jesus says to us: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). Jesus Christ is the one portal that takes you from this realm of existence to that greater realm of eternal life with God. It is only those who are joined to Christ, those in Christ, who will rise in the likeness of the same resurrection he has already had. We must ask: have you given your allegiance to Jesus so that you will have this resurrection?

For now, we are like the Corinthians were then; we are vulnerable, fragile and fallible as human beings who have borne the image of the earthly man (1 Cor. 15:49a). Yet the Holy Spirit has come to live within us and has begun the transformation that makes us more like Christ, that guides us toward bearing the image of the man from heaven.

Verse 50 speaks in terms that are meaningful first to Jews and then to those of Greco-Roman origin. The idea that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God is pitched for Jewish ears; flesh and blood refer to our current physical existence. Nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable makes better sense to Greco-Roman Christians. Keep in mind that the physical decay bound up with the word perishable was even more obvious to the ancients than it is to us with our nice refrigerators.

The clause we will not all sleep (1 Cor. 15:51) makes use of the standard metaphor that Christians fall asleep, whereas unbelievers die. The we who will not all sleep (in death) quite simply refers to those Christians who will be living when Christ returns. But, regardless of whether Christians are alive when Christ comes or have fallen asleep, we will all be changed. The transformation that God provides for us in Christ is so powerful that it does not matter whether we are alive or dead when he comes.

Just how long is the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:52)? Thiselton informs us that the crucial word is used outside the New Testament [to] denote the rapid wing movement that causes the buzz of a gnat or the twinkling of a star.[6] We are talking about fast!

The last trumpet (1 Cor. 15:52) signals a mighty act of God and signals the passing of the present order of reality. This is one alarm that no Christian will sleep through! In that moment God will give us a body like that of Christ — an act that defies description.

Copyright 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 785.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 1284.

[3] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1287.

[4] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1287, footnote 138.

[5] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 737.

[6] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1295.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15:35-44a Far-reaching transformation

1 Corinthians 15:35-44a

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

Starting in verse 35, Paul deals with basic issues blocking the Corinthians from accepting and even embracing the resurrection. Rather than confronting them directly about their flawed ideas, Paul uses the rhetorical tactic of imagining that Someone will ask, How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come? (1 Cor. 15:35). In this way the issue of the body arises for the first time in relation to the resurrection. Even at this early stage, Paul plainly assumes that bodily resurrection is the only way it happens; we do not live with God as disembodied spirits of some sort.

Gordon Fee gives us an understanding of where the Corinthian thinking about resurrection began: The real concern behind their denial of the resurrection of the dead was an implicit understanding that that meant the reanimation of dead bodies, the resuscitation of corpses.[1] Apparently, the idea of returning to life as some sort of zombie did not play any better in Roman Corinth than it does with us today.

NIV is taking of the edge by translating Pauls response as How foolish! (1 Cor. 15:36). NET Bible has Fool!, ESV has You foolish person!, and Anthony Thiselton offers You nonsense person![2] David Garland helpfully points out that the idea of a fool has deep biblical roots.[3] A fool says in their heart, There is no God (Psalms 14:1). By not taking the creative power of God into account in relation to resurrection, the Corinthians are showing themselves to be fools.

Paul begins his demonstration of their deficiency by using a metaphor from farming: they plant wheat knowing that the seed must die in order to produce a crop and that the crop will look nothing at all like the seed (verses 36-37). Garland says, He intends only to underscore the change between the naked seed sown in the ground and what will be harvested.[4] Thiselton adds the idea that, in order to be transformed, we must go through a discontinuity — death — and be reanimated in a different mode of existence.[5]

The key to the transformation the seed undergoes in the ground is that God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each seed he gives its own body (verse 38). Thiselton brings out a vital point when he says, The key phrase remains God gives it a body just as he purposed, but the second principle is that of contrast, differentiation, and variety which simultaneously promotes a continuity of identity.[6] According to Gods creative purpose, we are not resurrected as clones but with our own distinct identity, just as we had our own individual identity in death. (Parenthetically, did you ever wonder why angels have names? It is because they are different individuals.)

Before we reach two more metaphors in verses 3940, it is important to note another likely Corinthian belief that stood in the way of their understanding bodily resurrection. Garland explains, The problem that must be resolved to the Corinthians satisfaction is how the polarity between the earthly sphere and the heavenly sphere is to be bridged.[7] Philosophers in that day taught that it was impossible for an earthly body to ascend to the celestial realm. Spoiler alert: God will do the impossible just as he did in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ! Thiselton says, What Paul aims to set before his readers is the conceivability, on the basis of a theology of God as creator of diverse orders of beings, of a sort of body . . . entirely outside our present experience.[8]

Paul shifts metaphors in 1 Cor. 15:39 by contrasting the different types of flesh: people, animals, birds, fish. This proves the principle Not all flesh is the same. Gods creative power is such as to provide what is needed to make each type different. Hold this idea until Paul draws them all together in verse 42. Verse 39 is one of the rare cases where the Greek noun sarx (flesh) actually means the material that covers the bones of a human or animal body.[9]

Another metaphor shift brings heavenly bodies into view in verses 4041. This enables him to introduce the Greek noun doxa (splendor or glory) by way of saying that the splendor of sun, moon and stars differ according to the order God has established. They differ, and each has its own measure of splendor.

As we enter verse 42, Thiselton lists the various elements Paul has established and will now use to make his case:

a. the discontinuity between the old body which is sown (v. 37) and the new body which is raised (v. 42);

b. the sovereign power of God to enact far-reaching transformation of his own devising, however unimaginable this may be to human mortals now (v. 38);

c. the variety of modes of existence that lie within the sovereign capacity of God to create; and

d. the continuity of identity suggested by such terms as each . . . its own body (v. 38).[10]

Paul now sets forth (vs. 42-44) four ways to contrast the body we possess in this earthly existence, the old creation, and the body we will receive after resurrection in the fullness of the new creation:

Sown in decay — raised in decays reversal

Sown in humiliation — raised in splendor

Sown in weakness — raised in power

Sown an ordinary human body — raised a body constituted by the Spirit.[11]

It is important to say that Paul affirms the biblical tradition of a positive attitude toward physicality as a condition for experiencing life in its fullness.[12] After all, it was God who gave us bodies in the first place. The new body that Christians will receive at the resurrection will not have any of the weakness and vulnerability associated with the old body.

Copyright 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Us

 


[1] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 776.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 1263.

[3] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 727.

[4] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 728.

[5] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 12634.

[6] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1265.

[7] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 730.

[8] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1268.

[9] BDAG-3, sarx, flesh, q.v.

[10] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1271.

[11] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1258, 127681.

[12] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1279.