And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you — a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. With what kind of body? But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.1 Corinthians 15:30-41
This passage from the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, part of the “Resurrection Chapter,” builds upon the previous verses, where Paul tells us that if people do not rise from the dead, then neither does Christ, and therefore, all preaching is futile and so is our faith (v. 14). He goes on and says that if we only have hope in Christ in this life – as in, we won’t rise from the dead ourselves – then “we are of all people most to be pitied” (v. 19). Finally, he reiterates that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, and then we get to this passage, where he again he talks about hope.
How could Paul have fought wild animals in Ephesus if he didn’t believe in a resurrection? How could he have suffered through the trials and persecutions he did, the imprisonments, unless he believed in a resurrection? This is exactly why Paul said we should be pitied if we follow this hope in Christ without any hope of a future beyond this world. Why are we subjecting ourselves to persecution, ridicule, imprisonment and torture, if there is nothing beyond this life of ours? If this life is all there is, then by all means, we should “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
That quote comes from Isaiah 22:13, and the prophet there was chastising the Israelites for failing to repent of their evil, and instead, choosing to make merry in the face of impending doom. God had called upon them to repent and wear sackcloth (v. 12), and instead, they decided to throw their hands up in the air, and say, “Well, tomorrow we die, so let’s just enjoy our last day.” Forget about repenting, let’s live for the moment.
And so, Paul is admonishing believers in Corinth for living with the same mindset: “This life is all we have, so let’s live a little! We aren’t going to be resurrected, so let’s make this life all that it should be!” And, because of this mindset, they were spending time with those of “bad company,” which was clearly corrupting their morals. The rend result was that the witness of their faith in Christ was indistinguishable from those with whom they were spending time.
Both the challenge of impending invasion facing the Israelites in Isaiah, and the view in Corinth that the resurrection was a pipe dream spoke to a lack of faith. Is God the great provider? Is God mighty and capable of turning away invaders? Is God mighty and capable of raising the dead, and therefore raising us to new life – one that brims with meaning and fulfillment? Or is God merely the purveyor of a new moral code, one that promises peace, tranquility, an abundant life and resurrection after death – but can’t really deliver?
In some ways, choosing to live this life to the fullest is an admirable one. It chooses to make the best out of what most would consider a finite existence. But it neglects the truth that our existence is not here merely for our pleasure, nor is this life here for our own sake. We are here because God has freed us from sin and granted us new life. God has given us the tools to live our lives, and live them abundantly.
Some focus on the hedonistic pleasures of this world because of our eventual death. Others, at times, focus too heavily on our eventual death and fail to live at all. But if there is a resurrection of the dead, then what do we really have to fear? Wild animals in Ephesus? Imprisonment? Ridicule for our beliefs? Torture? Or can we boldly go, with a “sober and right mind” into the world, proclaiming the Love of God by word and action, and live a little?
Mike is a jack of all trades. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a candidate for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. He attended Sewanee School of Theology for a year of Anglican Studies in the Fall of 2022, and graduated in May of 2023.