1 Corinthians 15:16-19
16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.
17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!
18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
If all that Jesus Christ ever did was to teach people to love one another, then His ministry was an empty shell. He will have labored in vain, because people inherently do not love. We are proud and petty and selfish, and we withhold our love “for personal reasons”–never remembering that we were told simply to love, not to love with conditions. God’s love knows no such restrictions, His mercy no restraint, and so when He felt the time was ripe, He sent His only Son into the world to do more than just teach, to do much more than simply point the way to a better society. What Christ did was to die for the sins of all men, and then He was raised again on the third day. His death and resurrection are the center of the gospel, not the end or periphery. All our faith and hope are built around the atonement for our sins and the promise of new life.
But there are some who focus so much on Christ’s teachings about love that His death has little meaning. In fact, some pastors and lay people are so concerned with trying to improve this world or leading people to new mortal lives that they lose sight of the fact that we are just sojourners here. Good works are indeed good, but if they do not point to the hope of Christ, then they are empty works. A new life in this world is a good thing, too, but a new life AFTER this world is far better. After all, anyone can offer a meal or bind a wound, but only Jesus Christ can save a man’s soul.
1 Corinthians 15:1-5
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,
2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
The gospel, the “good news” is not “Love one another,” it is that Jesus died and rose again on the third day. And this hope we have is tied intricately to believing in that Resurrection, knowing in faith that we, too, shall one day partake of that eternal life. If Christ merely lived and then died, then He was no better–and in some ways He was worse–than any other feel-good teacher out there. For many have preached that we should love and forgive one another, but only Christ lived and died and lives again to bring us the forgiveness of God.
16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
Anyone can condemn the world and say, “You people don’t love enough.” Or one might say to men, “You need to love each other more.” That’s easy. But Christ demonstrated the love of God by dying for us while we were yet sinners. (Romans 5:8) And then He showed God’s truly amazing grace and mercy by rising again to defeat death and bring us new life.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Through Christ we come to God the Father. Through Christ’s death, we are redeemed from sin and unworthiness. Through Christ’s resurrection, we are ourselves raised again into new life. But if Christ was not raised on the third day, then His death was in vain, and His message about eternal life and about peace with God is a lie. And if Jesus’ message was a lie, then we are indeed “of all men the most pitiable.”
But by the testimony of many witnesses, we know that Christ lives. By the testimony of His Spirit in the lives of believers, we know that His promise of a Helper and Comforter was true. By the testimony of lives transformed by the gospel, we know that the good news does indeed bring us closer to God.
And so we do not hope only in this life for healing, we do not hope only in this life for a better world and a better way. No, our hope is fixed upon the bodily resurrection of the dead, anchored to the promise of our eternal life–a life free of the pains and wounds and disease and evil of this world. Our hope in Christ is not that all men should love one another but that all men should repent and believe in the gospel and thus be saved unto everlasting life.
21 This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
22 Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
Our hope is not in vain, it is not simply that we shall know physical healing now. Yes, we can and should pray for healing and miracles, for we know that God does not wish to consume us with His wrath but to save us with His mercy. God’s compassion will not fail us, for He is faithful even when we are not. And because of God’s faithful mercy, we can have hope. We can live in hope and suffer in hope and rejoice in hope. This God whom we worship is a God who raises people from the dead! How can that not give us hope?
8 I have set the LORD always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Let us therefore keep the Lord always before us–His life, His death, His resurrection–and rest securely in the hope we have in Him. Let us pray with confidence for the total healing of our lives, knowing that this God who saves is a God who heals, a God who provides, a God who is God Almighty. There is our hope, there our faith, there our blessed assurance. And since we know that Christ rose again, we are not of all men the most pitiable, but we are instead the most envied, for in God’s great mercy and love we have received the greatest gift of all: eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.
Holy Father, our hope rests secure with You, for we know that Jesus died and was raised again, that the testimony of the Gospels is true from start to finish. This blessed assurance gives us hope, and hope give us perseverance, and perseverance brings us closer to Jesus, who for the joy set before Him suffered death on the Cross. So, Lord God, I will in hope set my eyes upon Jesus, set my eyes on my Risen Lord, set my eyes on faith in Your mercy and compassion, set my eyes on Your healing grace. For I know–truly KNOW–that the resurrection of Christ my Lord shall one day also be mine. Amen.