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most miserable (pitiable) of all men – who? and why?

14-07-2014 - Posted by Andre Piet

images13 In 1Corinthians 15, Paul elaborates on the assertion of some of the Corinthians that there is no resurrection of the dead. After he has shown, in verses 4-8, that Christ’s resurrection is a historically documented fact (supported by hundreds of eyewitnesses), he clarifies, beginning with verse 12, what would be the fatal consequences of the erroneous beliefs of these Corinthians. Point by point:

  •  then Christ has not been raised either. (:13);
  • then is our preaching vain (:14);
  • then your faith is in vain, also (:14);
  • then we also, are found to be false witnesses of God (15);
  • then your faith is worthless (:17);
  • then those having fallen asleep in Christ, are lost (:18);
  • then we are the most miserable (pitiable) of all people (:19);

Please note that Paul continually alternates between we and your. That is important in order to properly understand the strength of the argument in verse 19.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (KJV)

When Paul says, “then…we are of all men most miserable (pitiable)”, he is not referring to the believers in general, but to himself and his fellow-workers, in distinction from the Corinthians. We see this distinction in the following references taken from 1Corinthians 15:

  • what shall those be doing who are baptizing? (:29)
  • Why are we also in danger every hour? (:30)
  • Daily am I dying. By this boast of yours… (31)
  • I fight wild beasts in Ephesus (32)
  • If the dead are not being roused, we may be eating and drinking, for tomorrow we are dying. (:32)
  • To your shame am I saying it. (:34)

The Corinthians enjoyed a fairly luxurious life, while Paul and his fellow-worker had given up everything for the Evangel. Read the corrective words Paul, earlier, had said to the boastful Corinthians (1Cor.4):

8 Already are you sated, already are you rich, apart from us you reign. And would that you surely reign, that we also should be reigning together with you! 9 For I suppose that God demonstrates with us, the last apostles, as death-doomed, for we became a theater to the world and to messengers and to men. 10 We are stupid because of Christ, yet you are prudent in Christ. We are weak, yet you are strong. You are glorious, yet we are dishonored. 11 Until the present hour we are hungering also and thirsting, and are naked and are buffeted and unsettled and toiling, working with our own hands. 12 Being reviled, we are blessing; being persecuted, we are bearing with it; 13 being calumniated, we are entreating. As the offscouring of the world we became, the scum of all things, hitherto. 14 Not to be abashing you am I writing these things…

The argument of 1Cor.15:19 does not apply to the Corinthians. Why would they be considered being the “most miserable of all people”? They were rich and were respected, they were considered wise and had influence. No, then Paul and his fellow-workers. They were “the scum of the world” and their testimony of the resurrection earned them only poverty, scorn, nakedness, hunger, a roaming existence and torture. Assuming that there would be no resurrection of the dead, then they would rightly be called “the most miserable of all people”.