1 Corinthians 15:46
The apostle has supported the Christian belief in the resurrection by adducing natural analogies, and these will always possess a certain measure of force for intelligent and reflective minds. But it is observable that he returns to what is the strongest ground of belief in the future life and all which it involves, viz. the personal relation of the Christian to his Divine and mighty Lord. The foundation of our hope is in the assurance of our Saviour, "Because I live, ye shall live also."

I. THE DESIGNATION OF CHRIST: THE LAST ADAM. This, though a rabbinical expression applied to the Messiah, has a truly Christian signification.

1. It implies our Lord's true humanity; he was a descendant of our first parents, and he was the Son of man.

2. It implies his federal headship, his representative character, and his peculiar authority. There is a new humanity created afresh for the glory of God; and of this the Lord Christ is the one rightful Ruler and Head.


1. This is in contrast with the description of the first Adam, "a living soul," so called in the book of Genesis. From our progenitor we have inherited the body and the animal and rational nature for which that body is a suitable vehicle.

2. This is indicative of the perogative of Christ to impart a new and higher spiritual life to humanity. We receive from him by the bestowal of his Spirit a nobler being, a being which allies us to God, and which fits us for the occupations and the joys of heaven. "In him was life." He did not however possess life only to retain it as his own, but in order to share it with his people. "I," said he, "am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

3. This is explanatory of the revelation of resurrection and immortality. The nature we inherit from Adam fits us for earth; the nature which we receive from Christ fits us for heaven. Adam is "the earthy," and they who dwell on earth share his earthy being and life; Christ is "the heavenly" and they who are made in his likeness and who share his character and spirit are qualified for celestial and eternal joys. - T.

Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural.

1. Nature. Not until the earth was complete did God create man, a spiritual being, "in His own image and after His own likeness," etc. Thus man stands at the head of the creation. By his physical organisation, which is natural, he is connected with all that is below him. But by his higher nature, which is spiritual, he is allied with God.

2. History. A nation is well advanced before it exhibits marked spiritual characteristics. Our own ancestors were rude men. Now the Anglo-Saxon race leads the world of thought.

3. The progress of revelation. The Old Testament histories and genealogies prepare the way for Christian doctrine. Bible study proceeds from the natural to the spiritual.

4. The development of religious life. "When I was a child I spake as a child," etc. The existence of such a principle suggests the necessity of great consideration for weakness. "We then that are strong ought to bear," etc. Weakness may be on the way to strength. Therefore it should be encouraged.

II. THE NATURAL CONDITIONS THE SPIRITUAL. The spiritual life must inevitably be affected by the natural life with which it is associated. What a help health is to the spiritual faculties! what a restraint sickness is! As dissipation enfeebles the body, it very soon weakens the mind. How distressing it is to see a really great man like Solomon or Alexander a slave to dissipation! We feel that this is robbery. The spiritual power of such men requires the best assistance of their natural powers. How much has been lost in this way!


1. The questions, What shall I eat? What shall I drink? What is the limit of indulgence? are answered here. The natural is for the spiritual, the spiritual governs the natural. That which is truly best for the spiritual must determine the activities of the natural.

2. The more spiritual classes cannot thrive if the less spiritual classes are neglected. The thought and the sympathy of the palace must enter the hut and transform it into a neat cottage. The thought and the sympathy of the hut must go out to the palace, that the helping hand of kindly interest may be grasped. The masses must be instructed. But if the masses need education, then surely they must be willing to be taught. Christianity urges all men to be considerate, the higher to consider the lower, the lower to consider the higher.

IV. THE NATURAL IS TO GIVE WAY TO THE SPIRITUAL. Not until the spiritual is completely realised does man discover the end of his existence. A tree lives, blossoms, bears fruit, and dies. It has accomplished the purpose of its existence. Not so, however, with man. He just begins to live when he dies. How emphatic are the words of Christ! "I am the Resurrection and the Life," etc. "I am come that they might have life," etc.

(H. M. Booth.)


1. Progression is the law of all life.

2. So man was created in a lower condition with the prospect of advancing to a higher.

3. Natural life, so far from rendering a nobler life doubtful, much rather justifies the hope of it (vers. 45, 46).


1. Apparently they are distinct, as in the first and second Adam (vers. 47, 48).

2. But they are really the same nature under different forms (vers. 49)

3. Hence when the earthly is lost in the heavenly humanity is still essentially the same.

III. THE SPIRITUAL LIFE IS THE GLORIFICATION OF THE NATURAL LIFE. Man's destiny is immortality (ver. 50). The present mode of life (flesh and blood) is temporary, therefore must the natural be glorified that man may live for ever.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Many an objector, on hearing the saying of ver. 44, might say, Why should not God create the perfect spiritual life at once? St. Paul in answer applies a general law of the universe to the case before him. It would be contrary to the Divine order in God's creation, which is first the natural, and afterward the spiritual. Consider —

I. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THIS LAW. This is disclosed —

1. In the order of creation. Note the principle of gradation on which the universe arose in Genesis. And this is confirmed at every step by science. First, the formless earth, then the green herb, then the lowest forms of animal existence, then the highest types, then man, the last and noblest. And then, perhaps, an age to come, with a higher and nobler race of beings.

2. In the progress of the Jewish nation. Recollect their origin. They were a nation of slaves. Originally, too, they were of a rude, hard stock, and became in Egypt and in Palestine sensual, idolatrous, and money-loving. You are reminded of one of those trees whose exposed roots are seen gnarled and twisted, hard as iron, more like rock than wood, and yet whose foliage above is rich and noble: below extends the basis of the coarse and natural, above are manifested the beautiful and spiritual. By slow gradations did this nation of slaves rise into a spiritual people.

3. In the progress of the human race. St. Paul says, Adam was "of the earth, earthy"; and again, he calls him "a living soul," that is, a natural man — a man with intelligence, perception, and a moral sense, with power to form a society and to subdue Nature to herself. The fall, then, was a step downwards from innocence, but also it was a giant step in human progress. It made goodness possible: for to know the evil, and to conquer it and choose the good, is far nobler than a state which only consists in our ignorance of both. Until the step of nature has been passed, the step of spirituality cannot be made. Thus did the race begin to share in the spiritual; and among many nations, and by means of many men, was the progress of mankind evolved; but their light was too scattered, and their isolated lives imparted little life. So the next stage in the progress of the race was the coming of Christ, the spiritual Man, whose prerogative it was, not as the first Adam, to live in Eden for Himself, but as the second Adam, to die on Calvary for others; not as the first Adam, to receive happiness, but as the second Adam, to confer life. It was no longer the natural man, but the quickening Spirit, that represented the race to God.


1. Our natural affections precede our spiritual. According to the two great commandments, in the order of importance the love of God is first; in the order of time the love of man. Love to man also begins lower down. We do not love our neighbours first, nor embrace the race in our affection all at once; we ascend from a lower point. The table given on Sinai only specifies one kind of love, but in the fifth commandment they all lie as the furture oak-tree lies in the acorn; the root of all the other developments of love is love and honour unto parents. "The child is father to the man." The friend, the husband, the citizen are formed at the domestic hearth. Out of human love grows love to God. For a time the father represents God to the child. He is to train the affections which afterwards shall be given to God; and the brother those which shall expand hereafter for Christ. You cannot force love to God.

2. The moral precedes the spiritual. There is a time when the Adam is formed within us, when the Christ begins to be formed, when we feel within us the sense of "Christ in us, the hope of glory," when the "living soul," as ruler of the man, gives place to the "quickening spirit." But there are two slates through which we pass.(1) It was through temptation that the first Adam fell from a state of nature. It was through temptation, too, that the second Adam redeemed humanity into a state of grace.(2) Through sorrow.

(F. W. Robertson, M.A.)

It is in the history of the individual man that we find our best illustration of St. Paul's law. As babes and sucklings, our life is animal and instinctive, we are a mere complex of appetites — appetite for food, for warmth, for sleep: the mind is dormant. Soon however we begin to take notice, and to respond to notice; to imitate sounds; to pry into the nature of the things around us and their relation to us. Then we learn to name them, to speak about them, to like and dislike them. Intellect awakens; we master our first abstractions; we learn to put words for things. Our schooling commences; perception, imagination, memory, understanding are developed: all the intellectual facets of the soul are polished: and still we carry into this new stage of our life many of the animal and instinctive qualities of the earlier stage. After, and in much blended with, the intellectual comes the passionate era. We rise into that fine frenzy in which we live in another heart, in which we prefer, or fancy we prefer, another's good to our own. With love comes the long train — desire, envy, jealousy, hatred of rivals, indifference to former affections, ambition to shine and to please. It is the passionate stage of our existence. In and through all these earlier stages there may be the rudiments of spiritual life. We may have formed some conception of God, of His goodness; we may have felt some love, some trust in Him. But, as a rule, the proper life of the spirit is kindred within us, or becomes regnant within us, only after we have passed through the intellectual and passionate stages of our course. The spiritual is not first in us, but the psychical. Nay, however early we may begin to think of God and to love Him, it is obvious that we must have learned to think before we can think of God. that we must have learned to love before we can love God.

(S. Cox, D.D.)

The words show —

I. THAT MAN HAS SET BEFORE HIM TWO MORAL IMAGES OR TYPES OF CHARACTER. The "earthy" and the "heavenly." These two are essentially distinct.

1. The one is sensuous, the other spiritual.(1) The earthy man is material, partially developed —

(a)In his views of happiness. All his pleasures are of a sensuous order.

(b)In his views of wealth, viz:, worldly property.

(c)In his views of dignity, viz., the highest worldly position.(2) the spiritual man lives behind the visible phenomena, realises the eternal. To him the invisible is the only reality; moral excellence, the only wealth and dignity. Though in the world, he is not of the world. He has citizenship in heaven.

2. The one is practically selfish, the other is benevolent.(1) The earthy man is controlled by a regard to his own pleasures and aggrandisements. All outside of himself he values only so far as it serves him.(2) The heavenly man is benevolent. His personal feelings are submerged in the ever-rising seas of sympathy with humanity and God. Like Christ, he pleases not himself.

3. The one is practically atheistic, the other is godly.(1) The earthy man sees nothing but natural law, order, etc. "God is not in all his thoughts." The universe to him is only either an eternal or a self-produced and self-regulating machine, a house that either has never had a builder, or whose builder has deserted it.(2) The heavenly man sees God in all, like David, and, like Enoch, walks ever with Him.

II. THAT MAN DOES BEAR THE ONE; HE SHOULD BEAR THE OTHER. Every man, in the first stages of his life, bears the image of the "earthy." This fact is at once the crime and the calamity of the race. But whilst we do bear the one image at first, we should strive to bear the other because —

1. It is right. This heavenly image realises the soul's highest ideal of excellence. It is that for which we unconsciously hunger, and for which we shall hunger for ever unless we get it.

2. It is practicable.(1) We have the model in its more imitable form in Christ. He was pre-eminently spiritual, benevolent, godly; and never was there a character more imitable than Christ's — the most admirable, transparent, unchangeable.(2) We have the means in the most effective forms. The gospel reveals the model, supplies the motives, and pledges the spiritual influences of heaven.

3. It is urgent. To do this is the grand mission of life. Unless the work is fulfilled our existence becomes a failure and a curse. To pass from the "earthy" to the "heavenly" is to pass from darkness to light, from sin to holiness, from Satan to God.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

The method of God's working is upward progress. His path is "as the Shining light," etc.

I. IN THE CREATION OF THE MATERIAL WORLD. First, there was the globe without life; then a world filled with life and beauty. First the protozoans, molluscs, and sponges of the primeval world; after that, man created in the image of God.


1. There is helpless infancy. Physical, mental, spiritual forces, and wild passions sleep in that little nebulous mass like thunderstorms in the quiet clouds or summer.

2. By and by we arrive at youth, this blossoming season of our nature, the time of fancy.

3. After that comes manhood. There is now fulness of reason and strength and responsibility.

III. IN THE DISPENSATIONS OF REVEALED RELIGION. "The law was given by Moses; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Moses was an inspired man: Christ is "God manifest in the flesh." Moses was faithful as a servant over all his house — Christ as a Son in His own house, whose house are we; and the grace and truth are more excellent than the law. The law demands obedience, but gives no help to obey; the gospel creates within us new hearts which make obedience a delight. The law revealed sin; the gospel proclaims pardon. The law threatens; the gospel invites. The great promise of the law was," Thou shalt inherit the land"; that of the gospel is, "I give unto them eternal life," etc. The law was for one nation; the gospel is for the whole world. The law was the shadow; the gospel is the substance. The law was bondage; the gospel is liberty.


1. Faith in religion is easy in childhood. Little children fresh from the hand of God are not sceptics. They have the power of reverence and faith. For a time they worship father and mother. They never regard the material universe as a thing to be weighed, and understood, and measured. It is to them a solemn mystery. Being thus constituted, it is the easiest thing in the world to teach a child to utter words of prayer.

2. The young man discovers that much ignorance has mingled with the reverence of childhood, and has not sufficient experience to replace his early fancy with the solid structure of reality and truth. Besides, the powers of childhood become full in youth. Self-will is strong, and the whole republic of the passions is up in arms against the authority of reason and conscience. But Christ is there, and His voice is heard amid the arrogant and noisy voices of the flesh. There is a long struggle. The young man wavers; but, thank God! Christ perseveres, and the "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" shows that Christ has taken possession of his will.

3. The struggle is not yet over. A time of deep thought and anxious reflection arrives, and brings with it an intense desire to know the reason of faith, the basis of belief. The intellect demands greater evidence than is or can be given. It asks for demonstration. But during this time of intellectual revolt Christ is there; Christ speaks with authority and love, "Believe on Me when thou canst not know. Worship before the mystery; what thou knowest not now thou shalt know hereafter." Christ is victorious again, and the pride of the intellect subsides, and the mind bows before Christ, saying, "Thou art the power and wisdom of God; and I wish to be Thine for ever and ever."

4. After this comes old age — the best period of all by far. Childhood is untried innocence; youth little better than rebellion against Christ; manhood a struggle against intellectual difficulties and spiritual enemies; but as the years pass on, the man's whole nature is subdued and sanctified. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart. The peace of God, which passeth understanding, keeps his heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Joy unspeakable and full of glory flows in plentifully upon his spirit. By and by visitors from the unseen come and say, in tones never heard before, "Brother, come away." What is best in the tree is the last to get perfect.

V. IN THE INCREASE OF THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM IN THE WORLD. Here we may well ask, Can the gospel live and multiply? Think of China and India, whose very nature is engrained with their false religion and their fantastic philosophy. Can they be changed? But we need not go so far to seek difficulties. Think of the state of things here in England. Think, e.g., of the adoration of wealth and appearances. Can religion live in this dense atmosphere of worldliness? Think again of the unbelief of the age in which we live. There are unhealthy summer days when physical activity is almost an impossibility. A heavy, oppressive, stagnant atmosphere weighs down upon the land. That is a symbol of the spiritual atmosphere of Europe to-day. It is permeated with a spirit of unbelief. I ask again, then, Can Christianity live? Yes.

1. It has lived and increased in spite of the most determined opposition. After eighteen hundred years of trial and opposition, "the foundation of God standeth sure." The powers of men and the powers of darkness have exerted themselves to remove this foundation, but it standeth sure, in spite of persecution and in spite of criticism.

2. Christianity has affinities with all good things. Truth, virtue, love, science, philosophy, literature, are good, and the gospel is nearly related to all these. It creates them where they do not already exist; and where they exist, it inspires and promotes them. Nothing good dies. It is falsehood, and not truth; evil, and not good; moral deformity, and not moral beauty, that is going to disappear. The gospel is the grandest truth, the greatest good, the most beautiful revelation ever given to man; and therefore it cannot perish. "The word of the Lord endureth for ever."

3. We have the old promise of the Holy Ghost. Goethe's last words were, "More light! more light!" This is the cry of the age. It is not more external evidence that is needed, but more internal illumination, more power of spiritual vision in the minds of men. The light is here in Divine plenitude. Christianity is either supernatural or it is nothing. Christianity makes its way in the world by the coming of the Spirit of God into contact with the spirits of men. Conclusion: The progress is not rapid. But let the Church calm her heart. Let us learn to wait and work. And, above all things, let us not be afraid. "He that believeth shall not make haste." God's method is upward progress, and that upward progress is slow in its development. But the progress is certain, and the end is sure.

(T. Jones, D.D.)

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