If Only For This Life We Have Hope…

I wanted to share a few thoughts around a particular passage, mainly 1 Cor 15:19. This specific verse is found within a context where Paul gives the Corinthians a summary of the gospel – which is based in the story of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah, and his death and resurrection. Paul then proceeds to lay out some teaching about the resurrection – first of Christ as prototype, then that of all believers.

I’ll post a smidgen of verses here:

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But, as I said earlier, I want to hone in on vs19 and what it communicates.

When many focus in on vs19, they use it to mainly preach of the hope we have for the future. And, in connection with the Easter theme of Christ’s resurrection, we proclaim how futile our faith is if Christ only died and did not rise from the dead (vs14 & 17). Our communication is that, if Christ didn’t rise, then nothing would exist after death. Therefore, we can only eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. No access to the future.

All this is correct. But it doesn’t actually begin there. Read the verse again.

If only for this life we have hope in Christ…

Our faith and following of Christ does not start in the ‘afterlife’, in the age to come when all things are consummated. Oh, yes, for certain it embraces that, and embraces it to the full. And if it did not, our faith would be truly in vain.

But our hope begins here. God’s promises unfold today. The rule of God’s way comes now.

I know most Christians would say, ‘Ah, yes. We already believe that. Eternal life starts now, not just when we die.’

But how much has this affected our hope for now? And what does this mean outside ourselves, outside our own personal engagement of hope?

Are we embracing a theology that merely gives us hope for the future? Or do we identify with Paul that, ‘in this life we have hope in Christ’? And if we identify hope in this life, how deep and wide is that hope, beyond our own personal salvation experience? Is it a redemptive vision for all things, even beyond ‘souls’?

We are called to see that Christ’s resurrection was a pointer to what all God’s people would participate in for the future. And it gives a foundation of hope to stand upon. But that foundation begins now. That hope, for our lives, even for this planet, begins now. Not fully, but now. And it is these words of Paul in 1 Cor 15:19 that incorporates this reality as well.

If only for this life we have hope in Christ…

Let’s start here and move out towards the future, even bringing the hope of the future into today. And let’s see that hope imparted beyond our a personal hope for now and the future, but to all people and all things.

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One thought on “If Only For This Life We Have Hope…

  1. Good post (as usual). I think this really ties into the description you gave of the Gospel, which isn’t the cross (although that was the means), but the Kingdom of God being established on earth, and that men can become part of it NOW. The Kingdom of God is not something that’s COMING, it’s already here and we should feel part of it. And in being part of it, it changes our view of this world, and of those who have not had the chance to be part of it yet. Live like a true citizen of God’s Kingdom NOW!

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