1 Corinthians

Made like Christ. 15:45-49


In Chapter 15, Paul argues against those who deny the physical resurrection of the body. There were some in the Corinthian church who believed that they were a spiritual elite. So for them, the body was an impediment to the spiritual self, something to be denied and cast off at death. In our passage for study Paul develops the idea of continuity and transformation, both in our association with Adam, the earthly person, and Christ, the heavenly person.

The passage

v45-46. Paul continues to develop the argument outlined in verses 42-44, namely, that there is continuity between our earthly body and our heavenly body, but at the same time there is transformation; "it is raised imperishable." He now goes on to develop the point made in v44b, namely, that "if there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." Seeing we now possess this "natural body", there must also be a "spiritual body" - a body which can inherit eternal life, a body that can rightly enter heaven (for flesh and blood, the natural body, cannot enter heaven). Paul develops his argument by expounding Genesis 2:7. He makes the point that there are two human forms - The first Adam and the last Adam (cf. v22, Adam and Christ). The first Adam was formed as a living being, a living soul. He was a life-having person formed for existence in the world. The second Adam was God breathed, a life-creating spirit. He was a life-giving person formed for existence in the heavenlies. This second Adam is the resurrected Christ and he came after the first Adam. As Adam is the representative person for all who have an earthly body, so the resurrected Christ is the representative person for all who will have a heavenly body.

v47. Using the imagery of human creation, a creation from the dust of the earth, Paul gives an image of the stuff from which the second Adam, the resurrected Christ, is made. He possesses a spiritual body which finds its origin in heaven. Paul is not defining Christ's origin as such, he is just describing the element of his being; his body is spiritual - of the heavenly domain.

v48. The implication of Paul's argument now comes to a head. The resurrected Christ, who is the last Adam, will change (transform) our "mortal bodies into the likeness of his glorified body", Phil.3:21. Through our identification with Christ we will become as Christ is. The form of the first Adam, the earthly person, is our form. The form of the last Adam, the person from heaven, is the form of those "who are of heaven." Because we are "in" Christ, we will become as Christ is.

v49. Paul finally encourages his readers to live as those who already possess the resurrection body of the person from heaven. There is a translation problem with this verse. Note the alternate reading in the NIV: "so let us bear the likeness of the man from heaven." This is the better reading. Paul is encouraging his readers to be what they are, Christ-like, heavenly men and women.

Made like Christ

To "bear the likeness of the man from heaven" in the day of resurrection is certainly a wondrous gift to look forward to. Yet, the Bible asks us to bear that image now. "Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so let us put on the likeness of the heavenly man", ICor.15:49.

Of course, in a sense, we already possess the image of the man from heaven:

First, we are identified with Christ in his resurrection, so therefore, we already possess what Christ possesses; we possess it in him. As Paul explained in Ephesians, "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus", Eph.2:6. We might better say, we already possess the image of the person from heaven because even now we dwell with him in heaven.

Second, we possess the image of the person from heaven here and now, in that his Spirit has taken residence in our being; he possesses us. Christ's being is now infusing us. We are infilled with the Spirit of God. As we trust in the renewing power of the indwelling Spirit, so we are changed into the likeness of our risen Lord; we become like Christ.

The Bible encourages us to put on that image, to be it, if you like. We must therefore ask, what does this exhortation imply in every-day practical terms? What does it mean to "bear" the likeness of Christ in our own bodies?

Paul doesn't actually tell us what he means, but his words are surely ethical in nature. In v58 Paul concludes with an ethical punch-line. Seeing you are like the man from heaven, "stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord." Bearing the image of our risen Lord involves living for God in our personal walk with him, in the love of the brotherhood and in our outreach to broken humanity. In simple terms, it is discipleship.

Since we are alive through our union with Christ, and thus motivated to live a life worthy of our Lord, let us bear the image of our risen Lord.


1. In what sense will we be like Christ in the day of resurrection?

2. What action could we take tomorrow to put on the likeness of Christ?

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