CHRIST AS “LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT”??

PMT 2017-026 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

A Reader’s Question

Recently a reader wrote to me regarding an article by Sam Frost that I published. He commented:

“Thank you for sharing this! Mr. Gentry, I enjoyed your book Before Jerusalem Fell. As far as ‘full’ and ‘partial’ preterism; I have a lot to learn and am still undecided. If Jesus will literally return in a physical body, could you please explain 1 Cor.15:45 to me?”

Thanks for reading. And for writing. I appreciate your studying God’s word. And I certainly hope and pray that you won’t drift away from historic, orthodox Christianity!

The Interpretive Problem

What does 1 Corinthians 15:45 say that might confuse folks and encourage an aberrant movement? The Mormons love 1 Corinthians 15:29; the hyper-preterists love 1 Corinthians 15:45. This passage reads:

“So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

How are we to understand this? Was Paul teaching us that Christ left his material body behind in becoming a non-material spirit-being? And that we also are to anticipate the same? Not at all! Has the universal, historic, orthodox, public, systematic, corporate church been mistaken since its very beginning? Absolutely not! What then is going on here?

The Proper Understanding

What Paul is doing in 1 Cor. 15 is arguing for the physical resurrection of Christ (vv. 4–7, 12–14, 16–17). He does so in order to drive home an important point that is being overlooked by many gnostic trouble-makers in the Corinthian church (a church filled with much error). He is concluding an argument he began several chapters earlier.

He is pointing out the great glory of the resurrection of Christ and how it impacts our own ultimate resurrection. He contrasts “soulish” (Greek, psuchos) bodies and “spiritual” (Greek, pneuma) bodies. That is, he is contrasting bodies controlled by the”soul” and its natural animal appetites over against glorified bodies no longer controlled by animal appetites, but by spiritual realities.


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In v. 45 he is pointing out that Christ is the last (final, perfect) Adam and that his influence is superior to the first Adam. The first Adam simply became a living “soul” with basic animal needs, such as food, water and so forth. This is why it was necessary for God to put Adam in a garden and give him food to eat (and water to drink). This physical life comes also with the potential for lustful desires which can overthrow the spiritual calling of God. Hence, God’s testing of Adam regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:15-17). Adam eventually succumbed to such a desire, resulting in the Fall (Gen. 3). Thus, Paul is pointing out that Adam was simply a living person with no inherent power to perfect his descendants. The first Adam, then, was merely a life-receiving being. He could not give the perfect life.

But the Last Adam (Christ) did not simply exist as a living soul (psuchos), a living person; he did not simply receive physical life. Rather he was also the source, the giver of the true perfect, spiritual life that is controlled not by animal appetites, but by God and his will. Therefore, Paul points out, our future resurrection body will be a body controlled by spiritual realities (a “spiritual” body) and not subject to the fallen world of the “soulish” desires like Adam who succumbed to temptation by desiring to eat what God had forbidden (Gen. 3). (The “spiritual body” is no more made of spirit than a Coca-Cola bottle is made of Coca-Cola.)

Thus, Paul’s point in v. 45 and following is: the Spirit-controlled life only comes from Christ the giver of that high spiritual life that perfectly glorifies God. And the fullness of that Spirit-controlled life comes only at the resurrection when the new, Spirit-animated body arises to its final, eternal form with no further capacity to sin and fall.


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A careful study of the biblical material defining the gift of tongues.
Shows they were known languages that served to endorse the apostolic witness
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Consequently, in chapter 15 Paul is rebuking those at Corinth who are infected with gnostic ideas and who therefore are claiming they have finally reached the full pneumatic-stage of existence and all that is involved in Christianity. He is pointing out that they have not. They are not already perfect in their daily lives. They must await the final resurrection which was prepared for in Christ’s historical resurrection.

Thus, he would say, even though we now have the Spirit in anticipation of the final order, we are not so fully controlled by the Spirit as to have “finally arrived” in perfection. This must await the final order. For now we must keep striving against sin. This is why he can write in Romans 8:23: “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

Paul has been building this argument since the in-depth references to the pneumatika, the spiritual gifts, in the preceding chapters (1 Cor. 12-14). He has been rebuking several errors of the gnostics, such as their claim that physical prostitution is irrelevant to the Christian life (1 Cor. 6:15-16), that physical, intimate relations with one’s spouse are unnecessary (1 Cor. 7:1-4), and so forth. Thus, 1 Corinthians 15:45 must be understood in terms of Paul’s larger argument and not divorced from its context.

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One thought on “CHRIST AS “LIFE-GIVING SPIRIT”??

  1. christopherlkauffman April 1, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Thank you for your very thoughtful response to my question!

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