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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 15:15-19 To be pitied…

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, July 13, 2023

15 We are then found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it were true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is for nothing and you are still in your sins, 18 and then those who have died in Christ are lost. 19 For if we have hoped in Christ only for this life, we are to be pitied more than all men.

We can’t help but notice all the times Paul says “if” in these verses. Everything is if this, then that, and if that, then this. But don’t forget to notice the other important word at the beginning of verse 15 and in a couple of places in verses 19: “we.” Paul is preaching to Christians, believers who really do trust the article of faith that Jesus rose from the dead. There were some Corinthians or others who were questioning this, but Paul is guiding all of them to trust in their simple, childlike faith. As we would say, remember the last three sentences of the creed: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” None of this is the case if Jesus did not rise from the dead.

“We are to be pitied more than all men” if Christ has not been raised. Think of what a Christian goes through—what Paul went through! “I have worked much harder,” he wrote, “been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a day and a night on the open sea” (2 Corinthians 11:23-25). And what have you had to put up with, to suffer, on account of your faith? We have all had hard words with relatives or neighbors. As a missionary I had doors slammed in my face, dogs chased and attacked me, people called the police to try to have me arrested for “peddling the gospel door to door.” Thieves stole from me and my family. Neighbors stopped talking to us. None of that was as serious as anything Paul went through, but it was hard enough at the time.

So imagine if whatever suffering we go through would be all for nothing. Paul’s series of “what if” questions walks us through just how bad this would be. It’s not just that lives of Christians would seem like a waste, but consider just how terrible it would be if there were no resurrection from the dead.

First: If the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised. Christ gave up his life to atone for our sins, but if there is no resurrection at all, then his act was for nothing.

Second: If the dead are not raised, then our preaching is for nothing. What would all of the difficulty of preaching be for if there were no resurrection? If there were nothing waiting for us on the other side of the grave, why do we preach about godly living at all? Why not let our people live like wild animals and do whatever they want instead of patiently correcting their behavior by guiding them toward repentance?

Third: If the dead are not raised, then your faith is futile, and there is no reason that the church has kept millions of people content with their lot in the world, helping them find contentment in hardship, comfort when there is death and disease, help when there are questions and doubt. The evolutionists and atheists want to crush and destroy the church, but they have no plan to help or comfort the poor people that such an act would leave wandering in the world like sheep without a shepherd. The brash scientists and pseudo-scientists who “roam through the earth, going back and forth in it” would only sneer at them and abandon them to their pain and grief.

Fourth, if the dead are not raised, then all preachers and teachers are “the devil’s buffoons and liars,” as Luther says, who truly would be leading everyone to hell with no promise of heaven. Why not? Because everyone would still be in their sins, and the devil doesn’t care who ends up in hell with him as long as he will have company. For everyone who died with the hope of salvation through Christ would be lost forever, beginning with Adam and Eve, Abraham, and every other believer to the end of time.

This last point is really the one Paul wants to make above all the rest: If there is no resurrection, then there is no forgiveness of sins. The punishment for sin would remain, and we would all have special cages in hell waiting for us, furnished and decked out with razors and spikes and sharpened rasps and the unquenchable flames that the prophets proclaim (Isaiah 66:24).

But as the Scriptures teach and our Catechism affirms: “Christ’s resurrection assures us that he is our Redeemer.” All our sins are covered by his blood. All the suffering that should have been in store for us was laid on his head, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). “But now Christ is risen, and this is conclusive evidence that the Father accepted the sacrifice of his Son for the reconciliation of the world” (Koehler, A Summary of Christian Doctrine, p. 103-104). His resurrection does not make us justified in the sense that his blood did, but assures us that our resurrection is absolutely as certain as our own birth. Just as we were born in the flesh from the womb of our mothers, so also we will be born from the tomb of our fathers, for we were first reborn of water and the spirit in our baptism. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit… so that we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5,7).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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