1 Corinthians 15:19
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1 Corinthians 15:19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ — We, who are exposed to such a variety of dangers and sufferings, for his sake; we are of all men most miserable Ελεεινοτεροι, most to be pitied; that is, if we look for nothing beyond the grave. But if we have a divine evidence of things not seen; if we have a hope full of immortality; if we now taste the powers of the world to come, and see the crown that fadeth not away; then, notwithstanding all our present trials, we are more happy than all men. Some have argued from this verse, that if there were no future state, piety and virtue would make men more miserable in this world than they otherwise would be. But, as Dr. Doddridge observes, it is evident the apostle is not speaking here of the case of good men in general, if their hopes of future happiness should be disappointed; but of the case of the first Christians, and especially of the apostles and other preachers of Christianity, amid the hardships and persecutions to which they were continually exposed. If they had not known that there was a state of immortal felicity and glory before them, and if they had not been supported amid their various sufferings with a well-grounded and lively hope of it, they must have been peculiarly miserable. For besides all the external calamities to which they were exposed, they must have been perpetually subjected to the upbraidings of their own minds, for sacrificing every view of happiness in this world or another, to advance what they knew to be a pernicious falsehood. It must be observed, the apostle does not say, that if there should be no resurrection of the body, the Christian could only hope in Christ in this life; for if the soul be immortal, and may be happy after its separation from the body, that would not follow. But he argues thus: If Christ is not risen for our justification, we are yet under the guilt of sin, 1 Corinthians 15:17; and if so, both soul and body must perish after death, 1 Corinthians 15:18; and then the hope of Christians must terminate with this life, which being more especially to many of them a life of misery, by reason of the sufferings to which their faith here often exposes them, they would of all men be most miserable. Macknight considers the apostle as answering an objection, which he supposes the reader to have made in his own mind, namely, this: “The apostles know that Christ hath not risen, and that there will be no resurrection of the dead, but they preach these things for the sake of some present advantage.” “To this Paul replies, If in this life only we have hope, &c., we are of all men the most miserable — Because, by preaching Christ’s resurrection, we expose ourselves to every possible present evil, and if there is to be no resurrection of the dead, there is no future state in which we can enjoy anything. This argument is levelled against the Sadducees, who, believing the soul to be material, affirmed that it perishes with the body; and will have no existence after death, the body being never to be raised. The apostle’s argument is equally conclusive on supposition that the soul is immaterial, and that it will exist and enjoy [happiness] after death, although the body is not raised. For if the apostles were false witnesses and impostors, they could look for no happiness from God after death.”

15:12-19 Having shown that Christ was risen, the apostle answers those who said there would be no resurrection. There had been no justification, or salvation, if Christ had not risen. And must not faith in Christ be vain, and of no use, if he is still among the dead? The proof of the resurrection of the body is the resurrection of our Lord. Even those who died in the faith, had perished in their sins, if Christ had not risen. All who believe in Christ, have hope in him, as a Redeemer; hope for redemption and salvation by him; but if there is no resurrection, or future recompence, their hope in him can only be as to this life. And they must be in a worse condition than the rest of mankind, especially at the time, and under the circumstances, in which the apostles wrote; for then Christians were hated and persecuted by all men. But it is not so; they, of all men, enjoy solid comforts amidst all their difficulties and trials, even in the times of the sharpest persecution.If in this life only we have hope in Christ - If our hope in Christ shall not be followed by the resurrection of the dead and future glory, and if all our hopes shall be disappointed.

We are ... - Doddridge, Macknight, Grotius, and some others, suppose that this refers to the apostles only, and that the sense is, that if there was no resurrection, they, of all people would be most to be pitied, since they had exposed themselves to such a variety of dangers and trials, in which nothing could sustain them but the hope of immortality. If they failed in that they failed in everything. They were regarded as the most vile of the human family; they suffered more from persecution, poverty, and perils than other people; and if, after all, they were to be deprived of all their hopes, and disappointed in their expectation of the resurrection, their condition would be more deplorable than that of any other people. But there is no good reason for supposing that the word "we," here, is to be limited to the apostles. For:

(1) Paul had not mentioned the apostles particularly in the previous verses; and,

(2) The argument demands that it should be understood of all Christians, and the declaration is as true, substantially, of all Christians as it was of the apostles.

Of all men most miserable - More to be pitied or commiserated than any other class of people. The word used here (ἐληινότεροι elēinoteroi) means, properly, more deserving of pity, more pitiable. It may mean sometimes, more wretched or unhappy; but this is not necessarily its meaning, nor is it its meaning here. It refers rather to their condition and hopes than to their personal feeling; and does not mean that Christians are unhappy, or that their religion does not produce comfort, but that their condition would be most deplorable; they would be more deserving of pity than any other class of people. This would be:

(1) Because no other people had so elevated hopes, and, of course, no others could experience so great disappointment.

(2) they were subjected to more trials than any other class of people. They were persecuted and reviled, and subjected to toil, and privation, and want, on account of their religion; and if, after all, they were to be disappointed, their condition was truly deplorable.

(3) they do not indulge in the pleasures of this life; they do not give themselves, as ethers do, to the enjoyments of this world. They voluntarily subject themselves to trial and self-denial; and if they are not admitted to eternal life, they are not only disappointed in this but they are cut off from the sources of happiness which their fellow-men enjoy in this world - Calvin.

(4) on the whole, therefore, there would be disappointed hopes, and trials, and poverty, and want, and all for nothing; and no condition could be conceived to be more deplorable than where a man was looking for eternal life, and for it subjecting himself to a life of want, and poverty, persecution, and tears, and should be finally disappointed. This passage, therefore, does not mean that virtue and piety are not attended with happiness; it does not mean that, even if there were no future state, a man would not be more happy if he walked in the paths of virtue than if he lived a life of sin; it does not mean that the Christian has no happiness in "religion itself" - in the love of God, and in prayer, and praise, and in purity of life. In all this he has enjoyment and even if there were no heaven, a life of virtue and piety would be more happy than a life of sin. But it means that the condition of the Christian would be more "deplorable" than that of other people; he would be more to be pitied. All his high hopes would be disappointed. Other people have no such hopes to be dashed to the ground; and, of course, no other people would be such objects of pity and compassion. The "argument" in this verse is derived from the high hopes of the Christian. "Could they believe that all their hopes were to be frustrated? Could they subject themselves to all these trials and privations, without believing that they would rise from the dead? Were they prepared, by the denial of the doctrine of the resurrection, to put themselves in the condition of the most miserable and wretched of the human family - to "admit" that they were in a condition most to be deplored?

19. If our hopes in Christ were limited to this life only, we should be, of all men, most to be pitied; namely, because, while others live unmolested, we are exposed to every trial and persecution, and, after all, are doomed to bitter disappointment in our most cherished hope; for all our hope of salvation, even of the soul (not merely of the body), hangs on the resurrection of Christ, without which His death would be of no avail to us (Eph 1:19, 20; 1Pe 1:3). The heathen are "without hope" (Eph 2:12; 1Th 4:13). We should be even worse, for we should be also without present enjoyment (1Co 4:9). The apostle here argueth the resurrection of believers from a new head. It is not reasonable for any to imagine, that those who believe in Jesus Christ should of all others be the most miserable; but this they must be, if there be no resurrection from the dead. He enlargeth upon this head or argument further, 1 Corinthians 15:30,31. The reason of it is, because it must then follow, that they could have no hope in Christ beyond this life; and the condition of the apostles, and the generality of Christians, at least in those first and furious times, was a most afflicted state and condition. The apostle was in jeopardy every hour, 1 Corinthians 15:30, he died daily, 1 Corinthians 15:31. If any say: How doth this follow? For their souls might be in glory, though their bodies, once dead, were not raised? It is answered:

1. That it still must hold as to their bodily, fleshy part.

2. That those who denied the resurrection of the body, denied also the immortality of the soul.

3. That Paul speaketh upon the supposition of the Divine ordination; God having so ordered it, that the death of Christ, without his resurrection, should be of no avail to us to save either soul or body; and that our souls and bodies should not be separately, but jointly, glorified upon their re-union in the end of the world: 1 Peter 1:3, we are said to be begotten to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ,.... The object of a believer's hope is not any creature, man, or angel; nor any creature enjoyment, as gold and silver; nor any creature righteousness, moral, legal, and civil; nor any external privilege, or profession of religion; but Christ alone as a surety, Saviour, and Redeemer; his person, blood, righteousness, sacrifice, and fulness: and what they hope for in him are, all grace, and the supplies of it; the forgiveness of their sins, the justification of their persons, eternal life and salvation; grace here, and glory hereafter; for all which they have great reason and encouragement to hope in him; but if their hope in him was only in this life, or whilst this life lasts; if they had not hope in death, that they should live again, and after death for the resurrection of their bodies; or if they hoped in Christ only for the things of this life, or as the Arabic version renders it, "if we from Christ, and by him, expect happiness in this world only"; if our hope in him is bounded with this life, and confined to the things of it, and does not reach to the things of another life, the things of eternity, the invisible glories of another world, to be enjoyed in soul and body;

we are of all men the most miserable; which may have respect not only to the apostles, though eminently true of them, who had little of the comforts of this life, being continually exposed to hardships and persecution for the sake of Christ; were set forth as a spectacle to angels and men; were accounted the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things; and suffered many indignities, and great reproach and affliction, and that for asserting the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead; but is also true of all others that hope in Christ, and believe in him; for these not only deny themselves the pleasures, honours, and profits of this world, but are exposed continually to the hatred, reproach, and persecution of it; they are chastised by God as other men are, that they may not be condemned with the world, and yet they must be condemned, if Christ is not risen; they are harassed and distressed by Satan, who follows them with his temptations and suggestions, which are so many fiery darts, which give them great pain and uneasiness, when others are unmolested by him; they groan under a body of sin they carry about with them, and desire and long to be unclothed, that they might be clothed upon with glory and immortality; and yet these very desires and earnest longings after a blessed eternity do but add to their misery, if there is no foundation for them, and they will at last be frustrated: these are the sad conclusions, and wretched absurdities that must follow, upon the denial of the resurrection of the dead, and of Christ.

{9} If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

(9) The third argument which is also taken from an absurdity: for unless there is another life, in which those who trust and believe in Christ will be blessed, they are the most miserable of all creatures, because in this life they would be the most miserable.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 15:19. Sad lot of the Christians (not simply of the apostles, as Grotius and Rosenmüller would have it), if this οἱ κοιμηθέντες ἐν Χ. ἀπώλοντο turn out to be true! “If we are nothing more than such, as in this life have their hope in Christ,—not at the same time such, as even when κοιμηθέντες will hope in Christ,[41]—then are we more wretched,” etc. In other words: “If the hope of the future glory (this object of the Christian hope is obvious of itself, 1 Corinthians 13:13; Romans 5:2), which the Christian during his temporal life places in Christ, comes to nought with this life, inasmuch as death transports him into a condition through which the Christian hope proves itself to be a delusion,—namely, into the condition of ἀπώλεια,—then are we Christians more wretched,” etc.

The correct reading is ΕἸ ἘΝ Τῇ Ζ. ΤΑΎΤῌ ἘΝ Χ. ἨΛΠ. ἘΣΜ. ΜΌΝΟΝ. See the critical remarks. In ἘΝ Τ. ΖΩῇ ΤΑΎΤῌ the main emphasis falls upon Τῇ ΖΩῇ, as the opposite of κοιμηθέντες (comp. Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 3:22; Php 1:20; Luke 16:25), not upon ΤΑΎΤῌ (so commonly); and ΜΌΝΟΝ belongs to the whole ἘΝ Τ. Ζ. Τ. ἘΝ Χ. ἨΛΠΙΚΌΤΕς ἘΣΜΈΝ, so that the adverb is put last for emphasis (Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. ii. 5. 14, ii. 6. 1), not simply to ἐν τ. ζ. ταύτῃ, as it is usually explained: “If we are such as only for this life (‘dum hic vivimus,’ Piscator) have placed their hope in Christ,” Billroth. This trajection of μόνον would be in the highest degree violent and irrational. The perfect ἨΛΠΙΚΌΤΕς indicates the continued subsistence during this life of the hope cherished; 2 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Timothy 4:10, al. See Bernhardy, p. 378; Ast, ad Plat. Legg. p. 408. Comp. the ἔολπα so frequent in Homer; Duncan, Lex., ed. Rost, p. 368. That the hope has an end with the present life, is not implied in the perfect (Hofmann), but in the whole statement from εἰ on to ΜΌΝΟΝ. The participle again with ἐσμέν does not stand for the tempus finitum, but the predicate is brought into peculiar relief (Kühner, II. p. 40), so that it is not said what we do, but what we are (Hoffer). Comp. as early as Erasmus, Annot. As regards ἐν Χριστῷ, comp. Ephesians 1:12; 1 Timothy 6:17; the hope is in Christo reposita, rests in Christ. Comp. πιστεύειν ἐν; see on Galatians 3:26. Rückert is wrong in connecting ἘΝ Χ. with ΜΌΝΟΝ (equivalent to ἘΝ ΜΌΝῼ Τῷ Χ.): “If we in the course of this life have placed our whole confidence on Christ alone, have (at the end of our life) disdained every other ground of hope and despised every other source of happiness, and yet Christ is not risen … is able to perform nothing of what was promised; then are we the most unhappy,” etc. Against this may be decisively urged both the position of μόνον and the wholly arbitrary way in which the conditioning main idea is supplied (“and if yet Christ is not risen”). According to Baur, what is meant to be said is: “if the whole contents of our life were the mere hoping,” which, namely, never passes into fulfilment. But in that way a pregnancy of meaning is made to underlie the ἨΛΠΙΚΌΤΕς, which must have been at least indicated by the arrangement: ΕἸ ἨΛΠΙΚΌΤΕς ΜΌΝΟΝ ἘΣΜῈΝ Κ.Τ.Λ.

ἘΛΕΕΙΝΌΤΕΡΟΙ ΠΆΝΤ.
] more worthy of compassion than all men, namely, who are in existence besides us Christians. Comp. the passages in Wetstein. Regarding the form ἐλεεινός, which is current with Plato also (in opposition to Ast) and others, instead of ἘΛΕΙΝΌς, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 87; Bornemann, ad Xen. Anab. iv. 4. 11, Lips. In how far the Christians—supposing them to be nothing more than persons who build their hope upon Christ so long as they live, who therefore after their death will see the hope of their life concerning the future δόξα vanish away—are the most wretched of all men, is clear of itself from their distinctive position, inasmuch, namely, as for the sake of what is hoped for they take upon themselves privation, self-denial, suffering, and distresses (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17 f.; Colossians 3:3), and then in death notwithstanding fall a prey to the ἈΠΏΛΕΙΑ. In this connection of the condition until death with the disappointment after death would lie the ἐλεεινόν, the tragic nothingness of the Christian moral eudaemonism, which sees in Christ its historical basis and divine warrant. The unbelieving, on the contrary, live on carelessly and in the enjoyment of the moment. Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:32, and see Calvin’s exposition.

[41] The conception of the ἐλπίς does not so coincide here with that of the πίστις, as Lipsius assumes, Rechtfertigungsl. p. 209.

1 Corinthians 15:19 expresses the infinite bitterness of such a deception. In the right order of words (see txtl. note), μόνον is attached to ἠλπικότες (cf. Luke 24:21): “If in this life we have only had hope in Christ”—no present deliverance from sin, no future inheritance in heaven—“we are more than all men to be pitied”. for a hope without legitimate basis or ultimate fruition, Christians have sacrificed all material good! (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:30 ff., 1 Corinthians 4:11 ff.; Hebrews 10:32-39, Luke 18:22, etc.). ἠλπικότες ἐσμὲν = ἠλπίκαμεν (1 Timothy 4:10), with stress laid on the actual condition of those who have formed this futile hope. ἐν Χριστῷ points to Christ as the ground of Christian hope (cf. Php 2:19). ἐν τῇ ζωῇ ταύτῃ brings to mind all that the Christian forfeits here and now—losing “this life” for the vain promise of another, letting earth go in grasping at a fancied heaven; no wonder the world pities us!—Ed[2333] ad loc[2334] answers well the censure passed on the Ap., as though he made the worth of goodness depend on its future reward: (1) P. does not say “we are more worthless”—a good man may be very “pitiable,” and all the more because of his worth; (2) on Paul’s hypothesis (1 Corinthians 15:17), moral character is undermined, while future happiness is destroyed, by denial of the Resurrection.

[2333] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[2334] ad locum, on this passage.

19. we are of all men most miserable] Literally, more to be pitied than all men. Because of the sufferings and labours and persecutions they endured for a creed which was false after all. See notes on ch. 1 Corinthians 4:9-13.

1 Corinthians 15:19. Εἰ, if) The statement of those topics which are discussed at 1 Corinthians 15:20, etc., precedes this verse and 1 Corinthians 15:18 : and in this verse, there is a statement of those topics, which are treated of at 1 Corinthians 15:29-34.—ἐν, in) ἐν, as far as concerns, i.e. if our hope in Christ revolves so as to be fixed wholly within the bounds of this present life, only, μόνον.—ζωῇ, life) Scripture does not readily call this life, life; oftener, it call it αἰῶνα, the age: here it is spoken of after the manner of men, as Luke 16:25.—ἠλπικότες ἐσμὲν, we have hoped) we have believed with joyful anticipation of the future.—ἑλεεινότεροι, more miserable) the comparative degree is here in its strict sense: for if it had the force of the superlative, the article would have been put before it: We are more miserable than all men: the rest, viz. all other men, are not buoyed up with false hope, and freely enjoy the present life; we, if the dead rise not, are foolishly buoyed up with false hope, and through denying ourselves and renouncing the world, we lose the certain enjoyment of the present life, and are doubly miserable. Even now Christians are happy, but not in the things, by which the happiness of other men is maintained; and, if we take away the hope of another life, our present spiritual joy is diminished. Believers have immediate joy in God and therefore they are happy; but if there be no resurrection that joy is greatly weakened. This is the second weighty consideration; the first is, that the happiness of Christians is not placed in worldly things. By both of these weighty considerations, happiness from the hope of the resurrection is confirmed.

Verse 19. - If in this life only we have hope in Christ. The word to which "in Christ" should be joined is uncertain; the order st the original is, "If in this life in Christ we have hoped only." The "only" seems therefore to qualify the whole sentence: "If we have merely hoped in Christ, and that only in this life." We are of all men most miserable; literally, we are more pitiable than all men. The remark only has an absolute bearing when Christians really are suffering from persecutions, as they did in St. Paul's day (2 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:12). But to some extent all Christians have to bear their cross, and if all that they give up and suffer is sacrificed to a delusion, they deserve most pity in one sense, because they have been most conspicuously befooled. In another sense they are still the happiest of men; for their delusion, judged by its fruits, is more blessed than the dreary blank which is the only alternative. 1 Corinthians 15:19Only

To be taken with the whole clause, at the end of which it stands emphatically. If in this life we are hopers in Christ, and if that is all. If we are not such as shall have hope in Christ after we shall have fallen asleep.

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