1 Corinthians 15:16-18 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
Paul continues his logic in these verses through the use of conditional statements (if the first part is true, then the second part must also be true) as he attempts to remind the Corinthians of the core doctrine of resurrection and the importance of connecting this doctrine to the resurrection of the body. The Corinthians may have spiritualized the idea of resurrection based on what Paul taught, for example, in Romans 6:4-11. Paul writes in v. 16 that what Christ experienced through resurrection was not a one time event only for him but was a prelude for what all who are found in him will also experience. Christ’s resurrection verifies the whole idea of resurrection. If Christ was raised, then those who identify with him in crucifixion will also experience the power of resurrection like he experienced.
In v. 17, Paul adds the important connection between Christ’s resurrection and the plan of salvation. In the protasis of the conditional statement, if Christ has not been raised gives a negative hypothetical situation. Paul is showing the Corinthians the futility of denying bodily resurrection. If this first part is true, for argument’s sake, then their faith is useless and there is no forgiveness of sins. They are doomed to judgment. There is no hope for them. This is really a test of their faith. They need to trust in the message that they received. Their eternal outcome depends on it.
Paul’s next step in v. 18 connects their denial of resurrection to the outcome of those who have already died. This gets more personal. There may have been family members or friends within the church who had died. The hope is that these people will have eternal life. However, if there is no resurrection, then those how have died have “perished.” This word has the connotation of no hope, with the implication of no eternal life. Paul’s logic necessitates the connection of the body to eternity. He will work on this logical connection later in this chapter because he will need to explain how our physical existence transitions into a spiritual existence while still preserving the doctrine of resurrection. Resurrection is part of the promise of eternal life. It is the root of Christian hope.
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