Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Imperishable Seed

I recently came across an interesting factoid that ties well into an important spiritual truth. In 2005, scientists planted a seed that had been discovered in 1965. The seed had been found in the ruins of Masada, an ancient Judean fortress located in modern-day Israel, and has been carbon-dated as being 2000 years old. Incredibly, it sprouted and has been growing ever since. And it is additionally interesting that the plant is a Judean date palm. That particular variety has been extinct since the 14th Century, so it represents not only new life for a single plant but also the "resurrection" of an entire species.

It seems entirely fitting that this seed was dropped during the time of Christ, because it perfectly illustrates the nature of the new life that Christ has given those who trust in Him. On hearing this story, I was immediately reminded of 1 Cor. 15:42–54. The pertinent passages say,

So it is with the resurrection of the dead: sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body…. What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruption... the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality. When this corruptible body is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

In combination with this goes 1 Pet. 1:23–24, telling believers that

You have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. For
All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like a flower of the grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.

There is a lot you could unpack in these verses, but the thing that sticks out to me is this concept of “imperishability.” Other translations use the term “incorruptible,” meaning that it cannot decay. Faith in Christ brings a seed of life that cannot die.

We can take this agricultural imagery pretty far. The life of the Christian in this world is like fruit that is buried in the ground. That fruit, that body, is decaying all the time. It is the nature of mortal existence that we are always physically and morally failing. And eventually, it disappears entirely. But the seed of the resurrection life is not subject to the same rules. Our desire for it is supposed to be that it grows quickly and produces new fruit. The good works we do, the things done for God in the power of His Spirit, are evidence of the life within us. Some do more, some less, but we are never more than sprouts. Full maturity only comes about when we receive the upward call of Christ.

As the Judean date palm shows us, however, some seeds lie dormant. They can show no signs of life for years on end, appearing dead. But it is still possible for them to grow because the spark of life is still in them. I believe there are many Christians like that. They heard the gospel and trusted that Jesus gave them eternal life. In the moment they did so, they received it and that seed was born. Sadly, they go on from there to live a life not worthy of the word. They engage in the corrupt practices of this world and show no signs of what is within them.

That does not change the fact that it remains within them. The imperishable seed is buried, it is quiet, but it is not dead. It cannot die because it does not depend on the actions of the individual. It is rooted in the finished work of Jesus Christ, who died and was buried and rose again to offer salvation to all those who accept it.

Fruitless Christians are worthless to this world, but that does not mean they are lost. They are only waiting. They can wake even now to the possibilities and begin to live the life God offers them while still on this side of death. But even if they do not, death will still lead to life when God gives them a new body in the likeness of His Son. However long it takes, they will live.

Of course, I do not want to be taken wrong. I cannot tell you if you are saved, or if a loved one is. Certainly, it is not a healthy sign if someone claims to be a Christian but does not do any of the things Christians are called to do. It is even worse if they say they are not a Christian at all. There is no way for me to be certain what decision someone has made. All I am saying is that if the decision was genuinely made to trust in the Lord, then the result of eternal life is guaranteed. That does not excuse us for being complacent. It does invite us to be comforted. We can know that if God has planted it, it will grow. If 2000 years is not enough to snuff out the life in a simple date seed, why should we expect less from the one who gave His life for us? There is liberation in knowing that, and hopefully, inspiration that will encourage us to begin to break through our shells. It is never too late.

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