“If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (I Corinthians 15:19)
How important is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? In this part of I Corinthians 15, Paul listed a number of consequences if He had not been raised: “our preaching is vain”; “your faith also is vain”; “those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished”; etc. Here in :19 he makes a very strong statement that should cause each of us to evaluate our faith:
“If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
In other words, Paul says, the primary rewards of Christianity are not found in this life. We derive them when we come to eternity, especially after the resurrection. So if there is no resurrection, we will miss those, and our faith, being only in this life, is “to be pitied.”
This runs counter to the teaching of many in America today, who assert that in Christ we can have our “best life now”. Many “brands” of Christianity teach similar things: that faith is always rewarded here with healing, prosperity, success, etc. Those kinds of rewards would make the Christian very profitable indeed — even if there WERE no resurrection!
But Paul did not seem familiar with this version of the faith. The kind of Christian he was involved in making is “to be pitied” if there were no resurrection — because their rewards were not found in this life. Paul himself went hungry, was thrown into prison, was persecuted, shipwrecked — and on and on. He certainly did NOT enjoy “his best life now.” He endured hardships in this life, with eternity in view. Thus if there were no resurrection, what a fool he was for suffering so much, needlessly.
Part of the problem many American Christians have is that many of us are not as committed to the Lord as Paul was. We are not serving in such a way as to bring any hardships upon ourselves. And we are most comfortable right here in our middle class surroundings. It does seem like many of us do indeed enjoy “our best life now.” Hopefully we aren’t. Because the blessings of the Christianity that Paul proclaimed were not found in this world.