But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.
Now, in chapter 15, verse 35 and following, Paul was likely addressing those who acknowledged that the Resurrection is true. This audience believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and as a result of their union with him, they would rise too. Nevertheless, this group still had questions about the resurrection of the body. They could not understand how, if we will be in heaven with new bodies, that will really be any different from life here on this earth. That is a very legitimate kind of question to ask, especially by those who were not deeply informed by the teaching of Scripture. So, that is what Paul is answering here.
What he said, essentially, is that while it is true that there is a genuine resurrection and that our bodies are raised, it is, nevertheless, also true that our bodies are changed, so that the bodies we have now are not the bodies that we are going to have in the resurrection. He went on to give a number of examples of that. He talked about sowing the seed in the ground and how it grows up to be something quite different from what you put in the ground. There is continuity there. The flower comes from the seed. The wheat comes from the seed that you plant, and so on. But what comes up out of the ground is different. There is a change. Then he talks about different kinds of flesh–the flesh of animals, and birds, and fish. He is reminding them that, in their own common experience, they see that all flesh is not the same.
Paul then went a step further, by contrasting heavenly bodies with earthly bodies. He talked about the sun and the moon and the stars. He said that they differ from one another. His argument is simply this: what is so incredible, then, in thinking about a resurrection body that differs substantially from the bodies we have now?
If at that point somebody had said to Paul, “Yes, but we still don’t understand it. We don’t see any resurrection bodies and we don’t really know what you’re talking about when you talk about a resurrection body. There’s much we don’t understand,” Paul would undoubtedly have pointed to Jesus. There is a resurrection body because Jesus rose from the dead. We know that his new body was not like the body that he had before the Resurrection because apparently it could come and go at will.
Additionally, it would seem, on one occasion at least, that his resurrection body actually passed through closed doors. And yet, it was still a physical body. Jesus offered to have Thomas touch him and see that it was really he–to put his fingers into the holes in Christ’s hands and thrust his hand into the wound in Christ’s side–a real body, yet different.
Paul would have been the first to say that he, himself, did not fully understand it. That is where the issue of knowing the Scriptures comes in. The believers at Corinth did not understand because they did not understand the Scriptures. Then, Paul points out, if after coming to know the Scriptures they still did not understand the Resurrection, it is because they knew so little about the power of God.
We might not understand how resurrection actually occurs. But we know from history and the example of Jesus Christ that God knows. Therefore, it is not an irrational thing for Christians simply to take their stand upon that, and say, “What I lack in understanding now, God in his own time will certainly provide.” During this last portion of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul passes from what is essentially an argument about the nature of the resurrection body to a statement of the victory that is ours because of the resurrection. It is a bit difficult to make a clear distinction where Paul shifts his focus. Regardless, he is conveying the fact that the resurrection is not an irrelevant matter because the fact that we are to be raised means that we are to be victorious. And that enemy over which we are to be victorious is the greatest of all enemies–the last enemy that will be destroyed–death.