If in Christ we have hope in this life only,
we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Cor. 15:19
This little verse has massive gospel implications. Paul had built his entire life on the gospel. His every ambition has for the advancement of the gospel. The consequences of his commitment to the gospel resulted in suffering, imprisonment, estrangement, and “the loss of all things.” The value he placed on the gospel was “of first importance” such he determined to nothing than”Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). When it came to his relationships, he called the Corinthians his “children” and him their father? How did this relationship come about? “Through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). He had no roots or identity in culture or tradition that was not shaped by the gospel. Therefore, to the Jews or to the Gentiles or to the weak, he endeavored to become like them that the gospel might be embraced and that he might “share in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:19-23).
Paul was a man who was obsessed with the gospel of Jesus Christ and centered his life on its glorious realities. His relationships could not exist apart from the gospel. His efforts would not be possible except for the power of the gospel. His sufferings would not make sense except for the vindication of the gospel. His joy and satisfaction in Jesus despite hardship and affliction was fueled by the ongoing work of the gospel. In short, if the gospel was not true and Jesus not raised, then everything in his life was a sham–an utterly pitiable sight.
The radical nature of the gospel caused Paul to live a radical life that confounded the skeptics and condemned the superficial followers of Jesus. If one’s life could make sense and seem plausible or normal apart from the gospel and the power of Jesus’ resurrection, you were at odds with the gospel tradition established by Paul and His companions. The gospel must central. It cannot be optional. Yet can it be said of us that our life is so wrapped up in the gospel that should you take it’s reality from us, our lives should most of all be pitied? How thorough is its work? To what degree is our identity, mission, significance, purpose, and relationships defined and shaped by the gospel?
If we had hoped in this life only is to eat, drink, and be merry–to live a normal life, the good life–just like everyone else who has given a cultural hat tip to Jesus but have not experienced gospel transformation, then what light have we to offer in a world of darkness or what salt to pour out in a world of decay? The hope and confidence we have in the gospel should plunge the depths of our soul and surface in satisfied lives in Jesus who are sent for His glory. The snapshot of gospel centrality in Paul’s life should be a reminder of our need for long-exposure in beholding the face of Jesus and becoming like Him in all ways, in all things, for one goal–the worship of Jesus.