Scripture Reading: 1 Cor. 15:45-58

In this message we shall continue to consider the definition of resurrection and then go on to see the victory of resurrection.

B. A Spiritual Body
with Christ’s Heavenly Image

Verse 45 says, “So also it is written, The first man, Adam, became a living soul; the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.” Adam became a living soul through creation with a soulish body. Christ became a life-giving Spirit through resurrection with a spiritual body. Adam as a living soul is natural; Christ as a life-giving Spirit is resurrected. First, in incarnation, He became flesh for redemption (John 1:14, 29). Then in resurrection He became a life-giving Spirit for imparting life (John 10:10). He had a soulish body like Adam through incarnation. He has a spiritual body through resurrection. His soulish body has become a spiritual one through resurrection. Now He is a life-giving Spirit in resurrection, with a spiritual body, ready to be received by His believers. When we believe into Him, He enters our spirit, and we are joined to Him as the life-giving Spirit. Hence, we become one spirit with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). Our spirit is made alive and resurrected with Him. Eventually our present soulish body will also become a spiritual body in resurrection just as His body is (vv. 52-54; Phil. 3:21).

Verse 45 implies both creation and the new creation. Adam, the first man, was the head of the old creation. When God created him, Adam became a living soul. This means that he became a person, a human being. In Hebrew the word for Adam means man. Because God created Adam a living soul, his main part was the soul, which is for the old creation. Today, in principle, if we live in our soul, by our soul, or for our soul, we are in the old creation. The soul is the center and lifeline of the old creation. A person may be moral, but if he lives in the soul, he still belongs to the old creation.

Christ being the last Adam implies a termination and conclusion of the old creation. The old creation ends with a man, the last Adam. This Man who terminated the old creation became in resurrection a life-giving Spirit. Now this Spirit is the center and lifeline of the new creation.

The old creation was created by God. The new creation, however, comes into being not by creation, but by resurrection. Therefore, verse 45 implies two creations: the old creation with man as a living soul to be the center and lifeline, and the new creation in resurrection with the life-giving Spirit as the center and lifeline.

Many Christians today are short of revelation, of the proper spiritual vision, and oppose us when we say that Christ as the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit. But to deny that Christ is the life-giving Spirit is equal to denying the reality of resurrection. The life-giving Spirit is the life pulse of Christ’s resurrection. If Christ had merely been resurrected with a body and did not become a life-giving Spirit, His resurrection would not mean nearly as much to us. It would simply be an objective fact unrelated to life. It could then be compared to the resurrection of Lazarus. The resurrection of Lazarus was merely an act of resurrection; it did not produce, bring forth, anything related to life. But Christ’s resurrection is absolutely a matter related to life, for in resurrection He became a life-giving Spirit.

Most Christians believe in resurrection simply in an objective way. To them the resurrection of Christ is nothing more than an objective act, an act which is not related to the members of the Body of Christ. Those who have this understanding of Christ’s resurrection also regard His ascension strictly in an objective way. They do not realize that the ascension has something to do with us subjectively. From the point of view of some Christians, both the resurrection and ascension of Christ have nothing to do with us as far as life is concerned. On the contrary, both are objective facts accomplished by Christ. They hold to these facts as part of their fundamental beliefs.

Resurrection was not merely an objective act accomplished by Christ. It is very much related to us subjectively. Through incarnation Christ became a man; He became us. Therefore, incarnation was much more than an objective fact. It was a process that brought God into humanity. The principle is the same with the process of resurrection. Resurrection was not merely an act in itself; it was a process to bring forth the life-giving Spirit. Through the process of resurrection, the Man who ended the old creation became the life-giving Spirit, the germinating element of the new creation.

Very few Christians have seen that Christ in resurrection is a life-giving Spirit. Andrew Murray, however, understood something concerning this. He wrote about it in his masterpiece, The Spirit of Christ, in the chapter entitled, “The Spirit of the Glorified Jesus.” The Spirit of the glorified Jesus is actually the Lord Jesus Himself in resurrection and in glory. When He entered into resurrection, He became the Spirit who gives life. This life-giving Spirit is the essence to germinate a new creation. The germinating element of the new creation is the resurrected Christ as the life-giving Spirit.

Traditional Christian theology opposes the truth that Christ has become a life-giving Spirit. In the opinion of many, this is heretical. Actually, it is a truth found in the depths of the Word of God. Eventually, the truth will prevail.

First Corinthians 15:45 is a great verse. To repeat, this verse implies the old creation with the soul as the center and the new creation with the Spirit as the center. This Spirit is nothing less than Christ, the Triune God. Actually, the life-giving Spirit is the processed Triune God. God has passed through the process of incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Now in resurrection He is the life-essence to germinate the new creation. We have become the new creation germinated by the Triune God as the life-giving Spirit. In The Economy of God we emphasize the human spirit and Christ becoming the life-giving Spirit. The highest definition of resurrection is that it is the process by which Christ, the last Adam, became a life-giving Spirit.

In 1964, when we were working on our hymnal, one brother advised us not to publish the hymns on Christ as the Spirit. He admitted that the Bible reveals that Christ is the Spirit. However, he said that because most Christians would not accept this teaching, we should not include hymns on this matter in our hymnal. I told him that I would never force anyone to follow my teaching, but that I did need the liberty to teach the truth from the Bible. I went on to point out that our goal is first to save sinners by preaching the gospel; second, to edify the saints and build them up through proper teaching so that they may grow in life; third, to take the unique ground of the church to establish local churches; and fourth, to have the fellowship of all the churches as one Body. I said that as long as our work has these four aspects, we have the same aim and the same goal. I also told him that I have a heavy burden concerning the matter of Christ being the Spirit and that I have no choice except to minister according to this burden. I told him that I must declare that Christ today is the life-giving Spirit. It is not up to me whether others will accept this teaching or reject it. At the time of Martin Luther, not everyone accepted the truth of justification by faith. If Luther had been hesitant on this point, how could there have been a Reformation? I told him strongly that I am not afraid of opposition.

I do not want anyone to follow me blindly. Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ” (11:1). If I follow Christ, if I follow the Bible, if I follow the truth, then you should follow me. Likewise, if you follow Christ, the Bible, and the truth, I should follow you. In this manner, we should follow one another. This is what we endeavor to do in the Lord’s recovery.

Some who oppose the claim that Christ today is the life-giving Spirit try to make an issue of the fact that 15:45 does not use a definite article, that this verse speaks of a life-giving Spirit and not of the life-giving Spirit. However, the crucial matter here is not whether the article is definite or indefinite; it is the clear mentioning of the life-giving Spirit. Do our opposers believe that there are two Spirits who give life, the Holy Spirit and the life-giving Spirit? It is heretical to teach that there are two life-giving Spirits, two Spirits who give life. The more I speak on Christ becoming the life-giving Spirit, the more bold, assured, and encouraged I am. It truly is according to the divine revelation that Christ, the last Adam, became a life-giving Spirit.

To say that the last Adam became the life-giving Spirit is similar to saying, according to John 1:14, that the Word became flesh. Notice that there is no article before the word flesh. Would it make any difference if this verse said, “The Word became the flesh”? In either case, flesh or the flesh, the meaning is the same. In the same principle, the lack of the definite article is not crucial in 15:45. To repeat, the vital matter is the life-giving Spirit.

Christians may admit that certain matters are found in the Word, but, being afraid of man, they may not have the boldness to stand for the truth. Because of the influence of tradition, they do not stand fully for the truth. Certain ones who oppose us have admitted that the Son is called the Father in Isaiah 9:6, but they would not say this because of tradition. Others may follow tradition, but we care only for the Bible, the pure Word of God.

In verse 46 Paul says, “But the spiritual is not first, but the soulish; after that the spiritual.” The spiritual here denotes Christ, the second Man; the soulish denotes Adam, the first man (v. 47). According to human understanding, tradition, and practice, we should follow the one who is first, not the one who is second. This was the reason that Paul deliberately says in this verse that the soulish and not the spiritual is the first. The spiritual is the second. If we take the way of the Bible, we should follow the second and not the first. For example, should you follow Cain or Abel? We certainly should not follow Cain, the first; we should follow Abel, the second. Furthermore, at the time of the Passover, it was the firstborn who were slain. This indicates that God’s judgment is upon the firstborn. The same principle applies to the first creation and the new creation. God does not want what is first; He wants what is second.

In verse 47 Paul continues, “The first man is out of the earth, earthy; the second Man is out of heaven.” Out of the earth denotes the first man Adam’s origin, and earthy denotes his nature. Christ is not only the last Adam, but also the second Man. The first Adam is the beginning of mankind; the last Adam is the ending. As the first man, Adam is the head of the old creation, representing it in creation. As the second Man, Christ is the Head of the new creation, representing it in resurrection. In the entire universe there are these two men: the first man Adam, including all his descendants, and the second Man, Christ, comprising all His believers. We believers were included in the first man by birth and became part of the second Man by regeneration. Our believing has transferred us out of the first man into the second. As a part of the first man, our origin is the earth and our nature is earthy. As part of the second Man, our origin is God and our nature is heavenly. Out of heaven denotes both the second Man Christ’s divine origin and His heavenly nature.

Verse 48 says, “As is the earthy, such also are they that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” The earthy refers to the first man Adam, who is earthy. “They that are earthy” denote all of Adam’s descendants, who, like Adam, are earthy. “The heavenly” denotes the second Man Christ, who is heavenly. Likewise, “they also that are heavenly” denote all the believers in Christ, who, like Christ, are also heavenly. Once we were earthy, but now we are heavenly.

In verse 49 Paul declares, “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” As a part of Adam, we have borne the earthy man’s image through birth. As a part of Christ, we shall bear the heavenly Man’s image in resurrection. This indicates that just as we have been born in Adam as the earthy man, so we shall also be resurrected in Christ as the heavenly Man. Such a resurrection is our destiny. It is as sure as our birth and should never be questioned.

Today we are bearing two images, the image of the earthy and the image of the heavenly. We may take as an illustration of our situation a caterpillar that is in the process of becoming a beautiful butterfly. Sometimes the caterpillar in us can be seen; at other times the butterfly is somewhat evident. Eventually, by resurrection, we shall fully emerge from the cocoon as butterflies. No longer shall we be ugly caterpillars—we shall be beautiful butterflies bearing Christ’s image. According to Philippians 3:21, the body of our humiliation will be transfigured into a body of glory and be like Christ’s body. This will take place by resurrection and in resurrection.