If death is truly the end of your life, then what would be the meaning and value of any human pursuit? If there is no resurrection, what would be the point of all life’s efforts? Without the resurrection, rituals for the dead are meaningless and risks for the sake of ministry are worthless.
“Why bother?” That’s a common question for us to ask ourselves. We live in a world plagued with futility, and our efforts are often undone. Sometimes this question of “Why bother?” can take deeper roots, though. People can become hopeless as they think about their life and the struggle of it – and especially the ending of it, knowing that we are going to die.
If death is a period at the end of the sentence of your life, then what would be the meaning and value of any human pursuit? If there is no resurrection, what would be the point of all life’s efforts? If there’s no foundational reason to think this matters, we quickly lose motivation and hope.
1 Corinthians 15:29-34 argues that if there is no resurrection, then it’s true: there is no meaning or value to our efforts. Now thankfully we know that the resurrection is true and that there is meaning and value to our lives.
Without the Resurrection, Rituals for the Dead Are Meaningless
The first point that Paul makes in this section of Scripture is: if there is no resurrection, rituals for the dead would be meaningless.
Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?
Now, no one knows exactly what Paul is talking about here, but his point is that the Corinthians were rejecting the idea of the resurrection, yet they had some sort of hopeful ritual related to those who had already died. Their behavior was inconsistent with their beliefs.
The resurrection gives room for meaningful rituals for those who have died (1 Thess. 13-14). That’s why Christian funerals are extremely meaningful and powerful times.
Without the Resurrection, Risks for the Sake of Ministry Are Worthless
In verse 30, Paul shifts the spotlight to himself. He says, “Why are we in danger every hour?” (v. 30) Why would you put yourself in any danger for the cause of Jesus Christ if there was benefit only in this world?
Paul’s ministry was dangerous (read 2 Cor. 11:23-28). He was willing to subject himself to this kind of life because he believed in the resurrection. And he goes on to say in verse 31, “I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!”
Self-sacrifice is the calling for every Christian – not just great apostles like Paul. Jesus tells us that “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). There would be no point to this if the resurrection weren’t true.
Running the Race
Paul had a hard time in his ministry, and often, his favorite metaphor for the Christian ministry is a race (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:8-14; also Heb. 12:1-2). His deeper argument comes in the second part of verses 32 and verse 33:
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
If the dead are not raised, we might as well just party it up – that’s the best we can live for. The Corinthians seemed to be hanging out with people who were leading them to believe that the highest good they could attain in life was the pleasures of today. They were stopping at false finish lines.
This is the same danger we face. We might feel that our finish line is retirement. For others it might be when the kids are finally grown and gone, or when you reach a certain savings goal, or maybe just when you get to the weekend. But these are all mirages. We have eternally significant work to do because the resurrection is real.
So does this mean we can’t enjoy anything? No – there is a place for enjoying God’s blessings and even resting. But that’s not the pure goal of our life right now. We are running a race. So if you’re resting for the race, good – but if you’re trying to escape from the race, then that’s bad.
At the end of this passage, it gets real practical in verse 34. “Wake up from your drunken stupor …” How have we succumbed to the drunken stupor of our age, living like the resurrection isn’t true. “… and do not go on sinning.” How have we allowed sin to become a practice in our life? What sins have embraced and need to repent of? “For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.” If we don’t have any taste for the race, we need to ask ourselves if we know God at all. If we have no desire for things that are greater than our personal safety and comfort, we have to wonder if we know God at all.
- How do you tend to feel about your life’s efforts? Why?
- What do you believe about the resurrection of the dead?
- If the resurrection were false, would anything we do have value?
- If the resurrection weren’t true:
- Why would rituals for the dead (e.g., funerals) be meaningless?
- Why would risks for the sake of ministry be worthless?
- What does it look like to “die every day” for Christ?
- Is it wrong to sit back and enjoy life sometimes?
- How is the Christian life like a race?
- Do you have a desire to run the race?
- What are some false finish lines in your life?
- In what ways are you living like the resurrection isn’t true?
- What sins have you embraced that you need to repent of?
- Do you have a desire to seek things greater than personal comfort and happiness?