“And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”
Alternative history novels explore what life would be like today if a major event in human history turned out differently. For example, Harry Turtledove’s Southern Victory explores what the United States would have been like if the South had won the Civil War. Philip K. Dick likewise wrote The Man in the High Castle, exploring what life would look like in America if the Nazis and Japanese had been victorious in WW2.
In 1 Cor 15:12-19, Paul writes about alternative history too. What if Jesus had not risen from the dead? What difference would that make in our lives?
Paul says that if Christ had not risen from the dead, then our faith is futile. What is that?
Futile means hopeless, powerless, ineffective, worthless.
Faith is a conviction that something is true.
The faith of which Paul is speaking here is our faith that we will live forever in God’s kingdom in resurrected bodies, including the promise of eternal rewards for faithful service (see 1 Cor 15:58).
If our conviction of what is to come is not true, then what we believe is based on a lie, a terrible lie.
On October 25, 1994, Sarah Smith’s two little boys believed that their mom was strapping them into their car seats for their own safety. They were convinced that she would take care of them. But then she got out of the car and pushed it into the lake, and the water rose and killed them both. Instead of preserving their lives, she destroyed their lives. The boy’s faith in their mother was futile since their mother was mentally unstable and was not worthy of their trust.
Our faith is misplaced if we think there is a rosy future out there when there is nothing at all. If death is the end of all conscious existence, then Christianity is a terrible hoax.
When Sharon and I were newly married I thought I could change the oil in my car and thereby save money. I made one little mistake and I ended up with six quarts of oil on the floor of the garage.
Well, all the oil in the world won’t do your engine any good if the oil filter isn’t tightened down. So, too, the death of Christ does no good if He didn’t rise from the dead. Faith in a dead savior is futile, just as faith in oil lying on my garage floor is worthless.
In verse 32, Paul quoted from Isa 22:13. He said, “If the dead do not rise, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!’” In other words, if this life is all there is, then forget about the next life—which is a myth—and just get as much pleasure out of life now. Laying up treasure for the life to come is stupid if there is no life to come.
It should not be missed that when Paul is discussing the futility or power of faith, he is talking about persuasion of what is true. He is obviously not talking about submission, commitment, turning from sins, obedience, or anything other than being convinced of the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.
Those who say that saving faith is not persuasion, but that it involves a willful component, are at odds with the Biblical understanding of faith. Faith is persuasion. It is not a willingness to turn from our sins. It is not turning from our sins. It is not a willingness to obey. It is not obedience. It is not a decision to follow Christ. We sing a song at our church that says, “Faith is just believing what God has said He’ll do.” We certainly see that in 1 Cor 15:12-19.
Resurrection Sunday is not something that we should think about once a year. Or once a week even. It should be on our minds daily, hourly, moment-by-moment. It should be so a part of our view on life that everything we say and do is influenced by our belief that Jesus rose, and so will we.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the most powerful event in human history. It gives meaning and purpose to our lives. Thank You, Lord, for dying for our sins and for rising from the dead. And thank You for the promise of glorified bodies and everlasting life. We believe You!