What does 1 Corinthians 15:19 mean?
ESV: If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
NIV: If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
NASB: If we have hoped in Christ only in this life, we are of all people most to be pitied.
CSB: If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.
NLT: And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
KJV: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
NKJV: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
Verse Commentary:
What would be the point of a version of Christianity in which Christ was never raised from the dead? People who do not believe in resurrection from the dead must confront this essential question. The picture is bleak. If Christ was not raised from the dead, then the gospel is false and those who teach it are liars. Those who believe it have wasted their time and are still unforgiven by God for their sin and bound for hell. Those who have already died suffer in that eternal death already.

Perhaps this group of misled Corinthians believed in annihilation of both body and spirit at death, as many in the culture believed. If so, they would have viewed the benefits of faith in Christ to be limited only to this life before absolute death. Paul begins here to reject that any such experience would be worthwhile. If our hope in Christ is a hope that ends with our physical death in this life, what a waste of time!

This lament is especially poignant for people like Paul, who suffered extreme persecution for their faith. If Jesus Christ was not literally raised from the dead, then the physical and emotional abuse Paul suffered was truly pointless (2 Corinthians 11:24–28). Here, again, reason and logic shine through in Christianity: if there is no life to come, it makes sense to view people who believe in it with pity. Some today do exactly that. Paul says they are right to do so—if Christ and those who follow Him are not resurrected to new life.

Of course, this is not the end of Paul's logical process. The same logic that makes Christians "pitiable" for their faith and suffering, if Christ is not raised, makes their experiences meaningful and worthwhile if Christ is risen. Thankfully, He is risen, indeed (Matthew 28:6)!
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 15:12–34 describes all the implications for Christians if there is no resurrection, at all. Most importantly, that would mean that Christ was not raised from the dead. If Christ was not raised, then Paul's preaching of the gospel was false, and the faith of those who believed it was worthless. All remain in their sins. Christ, though, was raised from the dead, and when He returns for those who are His, all who have died in Christ will be resurrected to new life, as He was after the crucifixion. Finally, Christ will reign on earth before delivering the kingdom to the Father.
Chapter Summary:
Paul provides thorough teaching about the resurrection of Christians from the dead. This is a direct counter to some group of Corinthians who did not believe in such a resurrection. He shows that natural death is not the end of life for Christians; it is the last step before receiving a glorified, resurrected body like that of the risen Christ. That ''spiritual'' body will be as different from our current bodies as a star is from a fish. In that moment, for all who have believed in Christ, living and dead, death will be defeated for good.
Chapter Context:
In chapters 12, 13, and 14, Scripture focused on the concept of spiritual gifts and how best to use them. This follows several other ideas where Paul corrected errors in the Corinthians' thinking. Chapter 15 contains extensive teaching on one last issue about which some Corinthians were confused or misled. Apparently, they harbored some doubts about the physical resurrection of Christians from the dead. After clearing up these confusions, Paul will address various other items, of a less doctrinal nature, and close out his letter.
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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