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Redemption Of The Body

Romans 8: 23

In verse 15, Paul has said that all true Christians have received "The Spirit of Adoption."
We become sons of God through Christ the Son.
We receive a new life, a spiritual life from God through Christ.

That new life vitalizes and dominates our very nature.
We have received "The Spirit of Adoption," and by it we cry, "Abba Father."

But the body still remains subject to "the law of sin and death."
The body remains in bondage and is waiting for the "adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."
This text, in harmony with Paul's whole teaching, looks forward to the climax of the work of redemption,
and declares that until that change is effected, the condition of the Christian is imperfect,
and is waiting, and often groaning.

Before the gospel came, men's belief in a future life was vague and powerless, mainly because
it had no gospel of the resurrection, and nothing tangible to lay hold on.
The gospel has made the belief in a future state infinitely easier and more powerful, mainly because
of the emphasis with which it has proclaimed an actual resurrection for a future bodily life.

The gospel's great proof of resurrection is drawn from the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
and of his ascension in bodily form into heaven.
When He rose from the dead and ascended upon high, He did so as "The first-born among many brethren."

It is this which gives the gospel its power, and thus transforms a vague and shadowy conception of immortality
into a solid faith, for which we have already a historical guarantee.

What does redemption of the body mean?

The key to understanding this doctrine is to understand that redemption means revelation.
For the Biblical writers "body" or "flesh" is simply a synonym for "man."

Resurrection of the body means resurrection of man.

The redeemed body is a consequence of Christ's indwelling Spirit.
It is not the natural result of death or resurrection, but is the outcome of the process begun on earth,
by which, "Through faith and the righteousness of faith," the Spirit is life.
The context distinctly enforces this view by its double use of "adoption," which in one aspect
has already been received, and is manifested by the fact that "now are we the sons of God,"
and in another respect is still "waited" for.

The Christian still waits for the completion of that sonship in a time when the regenerated spirit
will no longer dwell in the clay cottage of "this tabernacle," but will inhabit
a congruous dwelling in "the building of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
All that Scripture says about "rising in glory" is said about believers.

It is not enough to die in order to "rise glorious."
"If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you,
He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies
by His Spirit that dwelleth in you
." (Romans 8: 11)

This resurrection to life eternal is not promised for all mankind.
For those who are not believers, it will be a resurrection to eternal death and no glory.
"Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life
and some to shame and everlasting contempt
." (Daniel 12: 12)

The only way which leads to the resurrection of glory is the way of faith in Jesus Christ.
He will deliver us by the indwelling of the Spirit of life in Him from the law of sin and death.
Nor will His transforming power cease till it has pervaded our whole being with its dynamic energy,
and we at last shall stand before our Father, like Christ -- redeemed in body, soul, and spirit.

Paul gives us a penetrating insight into this theme concerning the redemption of the body
in the great resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15.

Before we look at that great chapter, let us pause long enough to say something very needful.
We must not preach more than the Bible tells us:

Some wise scholar has said, "It is unwise for Christians to claim any knowledge
of either the furniture of heaven or the temperature of hell; or to be certain about any details
of the Kingdom of God in which history is consummated
."
Not even the Biblical writers claim such knowledge: "It does not yet appear what we shall be." (1 John 3: 2)

Let us remember, we cannot expect to find one neat Biblical timetable for the future.
Nor can we expect to combine all the relevant texts into one neat scheme
describing the way everything will happen.
We will not find a text that tells us just when and how these things will happen.
We cannot know and do not need to know.

In the last analysis -- this is all we know:
God in Christ stands at the end of history in general.
God in Christ stands at the end of the life of every individual person.

With that in mind, let us look at the great resurrection chapter 1 Corinthians 15.
In fact, let us look at two questions in that great chapter.

Paul says, "But some will say, how are the dead raised?"
And, "With what manner of body do they come?"

Notice, that these questions are concerned with the manner, rather than with the fact, of resurrection.
The fact is denied because the manner is not understood.
(The manner: "How?" "With what body?")

Here in Corinth the inability to comprehend the manner or the method of the resurrection
has resulted in a denial of its possibility.
That is what the questions mean.

The questions:

How?
In what way are the dead raised up?
We've seen death come.
When death comes the process of disintegration sets in, and soon the entire body will be dust
and dissolved into the elements.

What sort of body?
Paul says, "Thou foolish one..."
Then he keeps the two questions together and begins with that most remarkable illustration from nature (v. 36-38).

Take a simple grain, a bare grain in your hand and look at it was what Paul was saying.
You put it in the ground and it dies --and it comes again -- not the body you put into the ground -- but a new body.

Paul asked us to look at nature, and is saying to us -- there is no greater mystery
in the resurrection of the human body than in the new life from the body of that withered dry grain.

Paul was saying, "You foolish one -- are you going to say,
'There are mysteries here I cannot fathom, therefore I do not believe in resurrection?'
Then, you may also say that you do not believe in the harvest of the sowing of bare grain
because you do not understand the process
."

There is no greater mystery than when you put into the ground a seed that soon comes back in new life.
And there is no greater mystery in the resurrection of the body than there is in that coming again
of the the new body of the resurrection.

All of this is the work of God!

Then, Paul says, "God giveth it a body even as it pleased Him, and to each seed a body of its own."

What shall we do with the mystery?
We will leave it with God! "God giveth it a body."
That is the solution of the mystery.

"How are the dead raised?"
The answer: "God giveth it a body, as it hath pleased Him."

Paul goes on to take these things and apply them.

So is the resurrection body -- and we have that wonderful little passage in vs. 42 through 44.

Look at the contrasts Paul gives 2 Corinthians 5 between the earthly body and the body of glory.
"The earthly house of this tabernacle" -- a clay hut which lasts but for a time,
and "The building of God, the house not made with hands and eternal."

This leads us to a confident and peaceful hope. The life that is beyond death is not ours because we possess some immortal quality that death cannot destroy.
We have that life because God gives us His eternal life. (Romans 2: 7)
We do not have this eternal life because we are strong enough to conquer death.
We have this new life because Christ is, and because He has triumphed over death for us. (2 Timothy 1: 10)

So, we as Christians, are not optimistic about ourselves and our potentialities.
We are optimistic about God and what He can and has done and will do.

When will this resurrection take place?
Immediately at the death of every individual or at the fulfillment of all history?

Here we run into two problems which ought to warn us not to expect or desire to know too much at this point.
One problem is of the development and apparent inconsistency of Biblical thinking about the future
and the symbolical character of what it says.
On the one hand we are told that immediately at death we may expect to be with Christ
(Luke 23: 43; Philippians 1: 23; 2 Corinthians 5: 9).
On the other hand it is suggested that there is something like a waiting until all the dead
are raised at once on the last day. (1 Thess. 4: 13-18)

The Classical Reformed Confessions solve this problem neatly by combining
the doctrines of immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the dead.

At death, the soul of every person is judged and goes on to its eternal destiny,
while his body remains in the grave.
On the last day the body is raised again and reunited with the soul for a final judgment
(Westminister Confession XXXIV; Belgic Confession, Article XXXVII)

This theory can be criticized for several reasons:

Its separation of body and soul is not Biblical.
While it does combine various elements of the Biblical hope, the Bible itself does not give us this neat system.
The Confession devises an artificial solution to a problem the Bible itself is content to leave unanswered.
This theory hopelessly confuses the categories of time and eternity.

After death, a person is beyond our creaturely categories of space and time.
Present and future and time between them (as well as the spatial categories of up and down) no longer apply.

The Bible recognizes this when it says that "With the Lord one day is as a thousand years" (2 Peter 3: 8),
and that the "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Hebrews 13: 18)

Events which from our point of view seem widely separated in time may from the standpoint
of "God's Eternal Now" occur simultaneously.

One theologian, Emil Brunner, puts it this way:
"The New Testament bears witness both to departing and being with Christ,
and to the appearing of the glory of Christ and His world of the resurrection as one and the same hope.
He, who believes in Jesus as the Christ, knows that both things are true: I go to Him and He comes to the world
."

Without even trying to spell out the details, is it not better to leave it at that as the New Testament itself does?

Conclusion:

The person who does not take death seriously -- the person who does not realize
what dying means -- the one who is not terrified of it -- the one who has not had enough joy in life
and does not fear the end -- the one who has not yet understood that this life is a gift of God
-- that person cannot grasp the significance of "resurrection".

For this word, "resurrection," is the answer to death's terror -- the terror that this life
does come to an end, and in the midst of life we are surrounded with death.

We, who are in Christ, can thank our Heavenly Father that because Christ lives, we shall also live.
This life of ours will be changed -- "Sown a natural body -- raised a spiritual body."

So, the person who does not know what death is does not know what the resurrection is.
"Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."
That is life eternal!

Our death is put to death.
We are, in fact, already dead.
The terror we face is already behind us.
"If we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him." (Romans 6: 8)

The Christian hope is the seed of eternal life.
In Jesus Christ I am no longer at the point at which I can die -- in Him our body is already in heaven.
1 Corinthians 6:15: "Know ye not that your bodies are members of Christ."

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@aol.com