We really must read today’s passage from 1 Corinthians with the whole of chapter 15, wherein Paul urged the Corinthian Christians to understand the crucial reality of actual resurrection of the dead – first, the resurrection of Jesus; second, the resurrection of followers of Jesus. Some in the church in Corinth denied the resurrection of the dead. In verses 30 through 34, Paul completed his argument, begun in verse 1 of this chapter, for the reality of resurrection. Basing his position on the actual resurrection of Jesus, Paul maintained that God will raise followers of Jesus to new life after death. Paul staked his life and the lives of all Christians, not on a good and wise yet dead teacher, but on the living Jesus!
Then, having insisted on the fact of the resurrection of Jesus and the eventual resurrection of followers of Jesus, Paul in verse 35 moved into discussion of the nature of resurrection. It is as if he wrote, “I have explained why we must believe in Jesus’ actual resurrection and in the actual resurrection of followers of Jesus after death. Now, let us explore what this resurrected state will be like.” Beginning in verse 35, and continuing through the rest of chapter 15, Paul pictured, as best he could from the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, the wondrous nature of the resurrected state believers will enjoy after death.
Why did Paul argue all of this so passionately? Why is this crucial for him, for the Corinthians, for us?
If there is no resurrection, then Jesus has not been raised. If Jesus has not been raised, he is just dead. If he is just dead, someday we will be just dead. If Jesus has not been raised, and we will not be raised, we are in the same state now in life as if Jesus had never been born. We are lost in our sinfulness and mortality. We have no hope, not in this life nor in any other life. Sin and death sum our life.
But – thanks to God! – he did raise Jesus to new and glorious life. God will raise us, in Jesus, to new and glorious life. Crucified and raised, Jesus overcomes sin and death. Hence, his resurrected life sums our life. And so, in Jesus, we do have hope amid our sinfulness and mortality!