The Natural Body and the Spiritual Body
1 Corinthians 15:42-45
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:…

At first the phrase "a spiritual body" seems a contradiction in terms. "Body" and "spirit" are not only distinct in our thoughts, but opposite.


1. He has taught us that one life, one flesh, one glory, may take many forms; the same flesh: it clothes itself in many forms in man, in beasts, in fishes, in birds, modified by the external conditions in which it is placed. So, also, there is one glory of light; but it takes many and diverse forms in the suns, the moons, the stars. And that bodies answer to the quality of the inward life, and are adapted to it, and to the conditions in which it is to act. This is the law of the universe.

2. Let us illustrate this.

(1) Take the parable of the Grain of Wheat. The seed is cast into the ground. In the husk are whatever the vital germ needs for its sustenance; and these, by the process of fermentation, are reduced to the very state in which the germ can most easily assimilate them. Its roots strike downwards, the stem springs upward, and soon we get the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear. And this new body, no less than the old, has all that it needs for the nourishment of its life, and is no less exactly adapted to its conditions. But how vast the change! From an earthly, it has become an aerial body, which draws vigour and comeliness from the bountiful heavens.

(2) Take the Greek parable of the butterfly. Psyche, the butterfly, has two bodies. First, it is a worm, creeping slowly on the earth, ugly, liable to be crushed, destroying the leaves on which it feeds, and the fruit which they should shelter. Finding itself grow sick with age, it spins its own shroud, coffin, grave, all in one — to prepare for its resurrection. At length, when the appointed time has come, out of the body of the crawling worm there breaks a new body, all the old imperfections taken away. Instead of creeping on the earth, it flies; for ugliness, it is clothed in beauty; instead of destroying that on which it feeds, it now feeds on the delicate fragrant flowers, and fertilises them by carrying pollen from plant to plant: the lovely flowers paying a willing tribute to the yet higher loveliness of the flower angel.

(3) Once more; as I stood looking at my marine aquarium one hot summer day, I saw on the surface of the water a tiny creature — half fish, half snake — not an inch long, writhing as in a mortal agony. I was stretching out my hand to remove it, lest it should sink and die and pollute the clear waters; when lo, in the twinkling of an eye, its skin split from end to end, and there sprang out a delicate fly. Balancing itself for an instant on its discarded skin, it preened its gossamer wings, and then flew out of an open window. Afterward I saw the marvel repeated again and again, and thus I learned that on sea as on land God bears perpetual varied witness to the mystery of the resurrection.

3. Therefore we may fairly assume that this universal law holds good of man, that he too will pass into a new form, a form more heavenly and spiritual, as his capacities are spiritualised and he rises into more heavenly conditions.


1. The Greeks called the soul psyche, as well as the butterfly. And as psyche stood for soul, of course psychical stood for soulish, or of the soul. So St. Paul speaks here of a soulish and of a spiritual body, just as elsewhere he speaks of a soulish and a spiritual man. He held, as Aristotle held before him, and as the ablest metaphysicians still hold, that man is composed of body, soul, and spirit. He meant —

(1) By the soul all of intelligence and emotion which we possess in common with other animals, though in higher degree.

(2) By the spirit, our moral nature; the higher reason and conscience. With him the psychical man is the man in whom the psyche rules; the man who is intelligent, but uses his intelligence for ends bounded by time and space; but the spiritual man is the man in whom the spirit rules; in whom conscience, faith, love, are supreme.

2. St. Paul holds that so long as we remain soulish men, we have the very body adapted to our present stage of life and to the conditions of our life. But he also holds that if we live in the spirit, and walk in the spirit, we thus develop capacities and graces to which the present body gives neither full scope nor adequate expression. Therefore it is that, like the seed which has the life of wheat in it, our bodies must be sown in the earth that they may spring up heavenly bodies. Therefore it is that, as the caterpillar, which has in it the germ of a nobler life, lies down in death that its life may pass into a new aerial body, so we must lie down in the grave that, shedding these earthly husks, we may be clothed upon with a spiritual body, incorrupt, immortal, strong, glorious.

3. Our present body only imperfectly expresses our spiritual life; it veils from us many of "the things of the Spirit," it impedes us in the pursuit of spiritual excellence. When the spirit is willing, how often is the flesh weak! The more spiritual we are, so much the more do we feel that we are in bondage to the flesh, and crave that spiritual body which, instead of veiling and clogging, will further and express all that is highest in us and best. How bright and animating the hope, then, that one day we too shall have a body as quick and responsive to the spirit in us as the mortal body to the soul, a body whose organs will minister as delicately and perfectly to our spiritual capacities, energies, virtues, graces, as the senses now minister to the energies and passions of the soul!

(S. Cox, D.D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

WEB: So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption.

Our Spiritual Bodies
Top of Page
Top of Page