Sown in Weakness — Raised in Power!
Francis Bourdillon, 1864
1 CORINTHIANS 15:42-49.
"So also is the resurrection of the dead.
It is sown in corruption — it is raised in incorruption.
It is sown in dishonor — it is raised in glory.
It is sown in weakness — it is raised in power.
It is sown a natural body — it is raised a spiritual body.
There is a natural body — and there is a spiritual body.
And so it is written, "The first man Adam was made a living soul"; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy — the second man is the Lord from Heaven. As is the earthy — such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly — such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy — we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
This "so also" refers to what goes before. The apostle has been likening the resurrection of the body, to the springing up of seed. The seed falls into the ground and seems to die — but after a time it springs up again — yet not as it was before; it is no longer a seed; it is now a plant, a plant of wheat or of something else, according to what the seed was.
"God gives it a body, as it has pleased Him." What was sown in the ground was nothing but a little seed — but God makes it grow into a plant or a tree — just of that size and shape which He pleases, and every different seed becomes a different plant or tree.
"So also," he says, "is the resurrection of the dead." There is a likeness between the two cases. It is God who works in both. There is no difficulty with Him. He who can make a little seed that has lain long in the ground, spring up and become a plant — can also raise to life a body that has long lain in the grave.
The grain of wheat was but a little thing when it was sown, and then it lay long in the ground and to all appearance rotted and died. But now it springs up as a green blade and grows into a beautiful plant and bears an ear which becomes food for man.
In the same way, the body dies. Sense and feeling and breath leave it. It must be buried. It is laid in the grave — and there goes to corruption. But it will be raised again, and then it will go to corruption no more, for it will rise incorruptible.
The bodies that we now have are mortal bodies — bodies which are not fit to live forever, bodies which must die and decay. Not so the bodies that will rise again. They will never die. They will be immortal — made to live forever. It is a natural body which dies and is laid in the grave — it is a spiritual body which will rise again. A great change will have taken place. Instead of a dying body — the body will now be an undying one.
He speaks also of the body being sown, or buried, in dishonor and in weakness — and raised in glory and in power. Now it is dishonor and weakness, that it cannot live any longer and that it must be buried out of sight and go to decay. On the other hand, it is glory and power, that it will hereafter be able to live forever, and that in a far more beautiful and glorious state than ever before.
But we may take the words also in another way. Very often a person suffers much before death, and is brought very low. Long sickness has worn and wasted his frame; he has not the strength of a child; another's hand must even turn him on his bed; he is torn by a distressing cough; his breathing is labored; perhaps he suffers sharp pain, and it may be that his body is full of sores — painful to himself and trying to all around him. In such a case, those who wait on him, seeing how much he is reduced and how greatly he suffers, often say, "It will be a happy release when God takes him home!"
And they say truly, if he is indeed a child of God — and more truly perhaps than even they themselves are aware. Yes, it will be a happy release — a blessed change! "It is sown in dishonor — it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness — it is raised in power."
No more pain or weariness,
no more distressing nights and days,
no more of what is full of anguish to himself,
no more of what is offensive to others —
no more of this when once the last breath has been drawn.
The worn body will be laid in the grave, at rest from suffering — and the spirit will return to God who gave it. At length the body itself will rise again, all glorious and strong. Not a trace of suffering will be left on the face, not a remnant will there be of weakness or disease. The body that will rise, will be free from all infirmity — a glorious body, made to live with God forever. The same person, but clothed with a new body. The very same person as lay on that bed of pain and was buried in the silent grave; the same — yet how different! "Sown in dishonor — raised in glory. Sown in weakness — raised in power."
This will be when the Lord from Heaven comes. He was "the first-born from the dead." He conquered death and the grave. "Now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of those who sleep." "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." We shall rise with Christ. We shall rise to meet Him when He comes. We shall rise in His likeness.
At present we have only natural, physical bodies. "The first man Adam was made a living soul" — and he sinned and died. Our present bodies are such as his was. "The last Adam was made a quickening spirit." The last Adam means the Lord Jesus Christ, and "quickening" means making alive. He will quicken us, or make us alive. He will give us life for the body again. But not such bodily life as we have now — a dying life. He will give us a better life — and a spiritual body.
"The first man is of the earth — earthy. The second man is the Lord from Heaven." Adam is the first man — and the Lord Jesus Christ is the second. The children of Adam are like their father: "As is the earthy — such are they also that are earthy." But those who are the children of God in Christ Jesus, will be far different: "As is the heavenly — such are those also who are heavenly." We all now have natural and corruptible bodies like our first father Adam — but the children of God will have heavenly bodies hereafter; for "as we have borne the image of the earthy — we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
Here, then, is great comfort — a blessed hope — a sure and happy prospect! Pain and sickness, weakness and weariness, are not forever. Grant that the sickness is unto death — grant that the days of mourning are at hand — yet what is death to the believer? It is no longer the king of terrors — but a gate, a passage, a change, a falling asleep. Death is to such a one . . .
the gate of Heaven,
the passage from time — to eternity,
the change from a sinful world — to a sinless world,
the passing from a valley of tears — to the place where God shall wipe all tears away,
a falling asleep in Jesus,
to be with Him forever — and to be like Him,
to "bear the image of the heavenly."
Wonderful — yet true! Wonderful, that such as we should have so bright a prospect. We, with our poor, frail, suffering bodies — we, so unworthy, so sinful, so helpless. Yet it is all true. The Lord Jesus has gone before to prepare a place for those who love Him. He said in His prayer, "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world!" (John 17:24). And John writes thus: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is!" (1 John 3:2).
"As we have borne the image of the earthy — we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." The one is as sure as the other, to every true believer. And thus the very weakness of the body — the pain, the weariness, the sickness which we suffer while yet we bear the image of the earthy — may strengthen our hope of being freed from them all forever; and instead of bearing the image of the earthy, of hereafter bearing the image of the heavenly!