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Rector’s Letter April 2019

The Hope of the Resurrection

Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15.54-57

Easter is a time to encourage ourselves in the hope of the victory of God.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ was the definitive demonstration of God’s mighty power.  It showed that Christ had conquered sin, death, the devil and hell when he offered his life for the world on the cross.

The apostles taught that believing in the resurrection is crucial for eternal life.  In his first letter to the church in Corinth Paul builds his case for our own new, victorious, resurrection bodies on the Easter story – on the fact that Jesus died and rose again.  This fact of history became the basis of the Christian faith and the hope that Christians will experience their own resurrection and new life in God’s kingdom.  The good news of Good Friday and Easter is absolutely foundational.  It is the point of victory for the Church.

The early church of Corinth did not really understand this.  In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul has to answer those in the church who are doubting the resurrection and leading others astray.  The sceptical doubters were asking, ‘With what kind of body will the Christian dead come?’  It is a question I believe many would ask of Christians today.  ‘Surely the next world is a purely spiritual world?  Is a corpse really to be re-animated?!’

Paul insists that resurrection means transformation.  It is like a seed and a plant.  A seed is sown in the ground and it dies (so to speak).  But then it sprouts into new life and the plant which grows out of the soil has a totally different ‘body’ from the seed.  The seed has been raised in the transformed body of a plant.  The same is true, says the apostle, of the resurrection of the dead.  I will die, but when I am raised again, it will be with a transformed body.  I will not just be a reanimated corpse but will have a very different physical form.

Paul illustrates this teaching with various pictures (1 Corinthians 15.39–41).  There are different kinds of flesh: humans, animals, birds, fish.  There are earthly bodies and heavenly bodies.  There are also natural bodies and spiritual bodies – bodies that will have been raised after death.  Note: they are not just spirits – they are bodies.  But they are different to what they were in this world.  They are spiritual; they have been transformed.

The contrast Paul is making is not between bodies and spirits, which is what the doubters in Corinth were promoting.  It is between the natural bodies of this world and the spiritual bodies of the next world.  A resurrected body is a total person, not a disembodied ghost.  In the next world Christian believers will have spiritual bodies – just as Christ himself had after his resurrection.  The doubters in Corinth seemed to have questioned Jesus’ resurrection, as if it were not a bodily resurrection – as many still do today – as if the tomb was not empty.  Paul says No, Christ really did rise.  And this is the foundation of all Christian hope.  Believers will have resurrected bodies, because Christ had a resurrected body.  Let’s remember all that God has done for us this Easter.

With love and prayers in Christ,

Bill