A few weeks ago, as part of our Band study, we were reading in 1 Corinthians and I came across this statement from Paul in chapter 15:
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.1 corinthians 15:12-19
As I was reflecting on what Paul was saying and doing some additional study, I came across an accompanying story that John Piper told in his book Desiring God. He recounted a story by Richard Wurmbrand who told of a Cisterian monk who was interviewed on Italian television. The interviewer asked the monk:
What if it proves that Christianity isn’t true in the end? How will you and the monks in your order feel about having spent a life in utter silence and seclusion?
And the monk responded this way:
Holiness, silence, and sacrifice are beautiful in themselves, even without the promise of reward. I still will have used my life well.
There is something within each of us that makes us think that the monk’s response is good and noble. There is something within us that makes us think that being a religious person is a good thing. Even if our faith turns out to not be true as the TV interviewer suggested… Even if the entire reason that the man has spent his life in silence and servitude is all a lie, it still seems right in our human reasoning that he will have had a good life. Do you agree?
That is certainly what the monk seems to think. He says that holiness is beautiful in itself. But if there is no resurrection, there is no holiness, is there? Are you not still just plagued by the sins that you have committed throughout your life? We aren’t holy people. We are all sinners. There is no holiness within us unless God makes us holy.
The monk says that silence is beautiful in itself. I have to admit, I enjoy spending time in silence, but I also know that we are made to be social, so silence, instead in this case, is a discipline that allows us to focus on God, listening to His voice, allowing us to closely listen to the Holy Spirit that is speaking within us. Silence is a wonderful discipline, but it isn’t a way of life if there is no resurrection. It is simply silence for no reason. If there is no resurrection, there is no Holy Spirit to speak to you.
And finally, the monk says that sacrifice is beautiful in itself. Really? In this life, we should sacrifice for others even though there is no resurrection? Even if there is no life after this life? Shouldn’t I, given that I only have a few years of life to live, instead live to get and take and obtain everything that I possibly can? Shouldn’t I live to get the greatest amount of pleasure that I possibly can? I only have one life – I should live it up for all that it is worth!
So, let’s speak frankly… Paul says that if there is no resurrection, we should be pitied. We have simply wasted the life that we have.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then neither will we. We are still in our sins and we have been giving a false testimony to others about the hope that is within us.
If there is no resurrection, then it is all a lie. There is nothing to hope for. All is lost.
But Jesus was raised from the dead. His disciples and more than 500 people saw him, touched him, spoke with him, and ate with him. They even went on to die because of what they had seen and told to others. We not only celebrate the resurrected life that defeated death, this is our hope. This is our faith.
Only if we hope in life over death can it make sense to live in the way that Jesus called us to live.
Yes, he called us to holiness.
Yes, he called us to listen to the Holy Spirit in silence.
Yes, he has called us to sacrifice.
But even more than those ideals suggested by the monk, Jesus called us to die for him. To die for the sake of the Gospel. He doesn’t call us to fight, but to proclaim freedom in Christ and receive the consequences of this proclamation.
Paul was right. If there is no resurrection, we should be pitied for living as Jesus called us to live. But the resurrection is true, and we can put our faith in this historical fact, living not just for today or for this short life that we have here on earth, but for eternity.