13 March 2015

1 Corinthians 15:39-50

“It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” (v. 44)

Psalm: Psalm 121


Today we move onto another controversy around resurrection for the Christians in Corinth. Again Paul is thorough in responding to their challenges and issues. However, his response to issues for the Corinthians in this letter later became a battleground between what we now understand as Christians and Gnostics (very inaccurately portrayed in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code).

It seems some of the Corinthians believed that because they had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and had received a variety of spiritual gifts that their physical bodies and physical existence were no longer needed, they had achieved resurrection into a spiritual body and the rest could be left behind (or at least it did not matter what they did with it).

Paul presents a number of different reasons as to why this is not the case. In many ways it mirrors the state of the kingdom of God. Christians understand that Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God at Easter but it is not yet complete, that is still to come.

In a similar way, Paul says resurrection has begun through the work of the Holy Spirit creating a spiritual body but for resurrection to be complete physical bodies also need to be raised. Both spiritual and physical are needed.

This became a major battleground as the Church tried to prevent a takeover bid by the Gnostics in the 2nd century. Gnostics believed in secret knowledge (a common theme to a number of Gnostic Gospels is that the writer alone was told the secrets of Jesus). Contrary to The Da Vinci Code revision of history these were debated and rejected by the wider Church, not just Emperor Constantine. The Gnostics believed that 'Christ' and the historical Jesus were two separate realities that united at Christ's Baptism. The 'Christ', they said, became united to the historical man Jesus. For them, the spiritual Christ, not the man, is the focus of Paul's theology. Hence, they also believed that we need to become spiritual beings and leave our bodies behind.

To Ponder

  • Do you find the idea of having both a Spiritual and physical body helpful? Why? Or why not?
  • In what ways might Paul's teaching about the need for both physical and spiritual bodies address beliefs in our society? (New Age Spirituality? Hedonism?)

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in the Leicester North Circuit based in Syston, Leicester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.