“If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
1 Corinthians 15:19
Without Christ’s resurrection, our individual Christian lives would be pathetic exercises in futility.
In ancient times the strongest swimmer among the sailors on a ship was called the archegos, a Greek word that means “front–runner” or “pioneer.” If as the ship approached shore, it got caught in waves so strong that a safe landing was doubtful, the archegos would fasten one end of a long rope to the ship, tie the other end around himself, jump into the water, and guide the ship to land. Once on land, he would secure the rope to a rock or tree. Then the other passengers could disembark and use the rope as a safety tether to reach the shore.
Jesus is our archegos. If He didn’t overcome death and make a way possible for us to do the same, we would have nothing more to look forward to than life on earth, which would leave us with no brighter hope than the typical unbeliever (Rom. 6:23).
The archegos illustration shows us once again the crucial importance of Christ’s rising from the grave. Without the Resurrection, Christianity loses its doctrinal strength, as we saw in yesterday’s study. Furthermore, the Christian life would become futile and pathetic if we could not point to the truth of the Resurrection. If our Lord were still in the tomb, He could not help us regarding eternity or our earthly ministry. We would have nothing to justify our efforts in Bible study, preaching, teaching, witnessing, or any activity of Christian service.
However, God the Father did raise “Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:24–25). Because Christ lives, we too shall live (John 14:19). This great certainty should give us all the confidence and motivation we’ll ever want or need as we serve our Lord and risen Savior, Jesus Christ.
Suggestions for Prayer: Based on the reality of the Resurrection, ask God today to give you fresh incentive to be His faithful servant.
For Further Study: Read Luke 24:1–12. What immediate effect did knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection have on Mary Magdalene and the other women? ✧ How did their reaction differ from most of the disciples’?
Christians Would Be the Most Pitiable People on Earth
In light of the other consequences, the last is rather obvious. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only [and we have; ei with the indicative] we are of all men most to be pitied. Without the resurrection, and the salvation and blessings it brings, Christianity would be pointless and pitiable. Without the resurrection we would have no Savior, no forgiveness, no gospel, no meaningful faith, no life, and no hope of any of those things.
To have hoped in Christ in this life only would be to teach, preach, suffer, sacrifice, and work entirely for nothing. If Christ is still dead, then He not only cannot help us in regard to the life to come but He cannot help us now If He cannot grant us eternal life, He cannot improve our earthly life. If He is not alive, where would be our source of peace, joy, or satisfaction now. The Christian life would be a mockery, a charade, a tragic joke.
A Christian has no Savior but Christ, no Redeemer but Christ, no Lord but Christ. Therefore if Christ was not raised, He is not alive, and our Christian life is lifeless. We would have nothing to justify our faith, our Bible study, our preaching or witnessing, our service for Him or our worship of Him, and nothing to justify our hope either for this life or the next. We would deserve nothing but the compassion reserved for fools.
But we are not to be pitied, for Paul immediately continues, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (15:20).
15:19 If Christ is not risen, then living believers are in as wretched a condition as those who have died. They, too, have been deceived. They are of all men the most pitiable. Paul is here doubtless thinking of the sorrows, sufferings, trials, and persecutions to which Christians are exposed. To undergo such afflictions for a false cause would be pathetic indeed.
19 The essence of hope is that it looks forward to the future, and the ultimate future that believers anticipate is a new heaven and a new earth, and glorified bodies like Christ’s glorified body (Php 3:21). It is a hope that reaches beyond life as we know it now. Thus Paul says here, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Why so? Most likely because we are living a lie! We have a hope that will turn out to be a false hope, and that on which we set the entire focus of our lives will come to nothing. That would indeed be very sad!
 MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 413–414). Chicago: Moody Press.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1805). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 395). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.