“If… then…” statements are linking words that introduce conditions. For example: “If you obey me, then you shall be my treasured possession” (Exodus 19:5). The condition of being God’s treasured possession, is that his people were to obey him. That of course has massive bearing on the whole OT and God’s dealings with his people.
However, “if… then…” statements can equally be said to introduce cause and effect: “If you eat too many doughnuts (cause), then you will get sick (effect).” Or in the example from Exodus 19:5: “If God’s people obeyed him (cause), then it would result in them being God’s treasured possession (effect).” Such is the case also in 1 Corinthians 15:12-34, and when recognised it opens up the passage beautifully.
IF there is no resurrection, THEN not even Christ was raised, v.13.
IF Christ was not raised, THEN our preaching is in vain, v.14.
IF Christ was not raised, THEN your faith is in vain and you are still in sin, v.15, 17.
IF Christ was not raised, THEN those who have fallen asleep have perished, v.18.
IF we only have hope in this life, THEN we are to be pitied, v.19.
IF the dead are not raised, THEN why are people baptised on their behalf?, v.29.
IF the dead are not raised, THEN why am I in danger every hour?, v.30.
IF the dead are not raised, THEN let us eat and drink, v.32.
These “if then” statements (some are implied more than stated) form the basis of Paul’s logical argument.
IF there is no resurrection of Christ or Christians:
THEN it is vain to preach the Gospel or to suffer for the Gospel;
THEN faith is in vain because it cannot remove sin;
THEN hope for eternity is in vain, and life should be enjoyed now!
However, what these “if then” statements allow us to do, is to see the argument in reverse.
IF there is a resurrection (of Christ and Christians):
THEN there is gain in preaching and suffering,
THEN there is gain in putting your faith in Christ because it leads to forgiveness,
THEN there is gain in pursuing godliness, since it honours the risen Lord of v.20-28,
THEN there is gain in having hope, and that makes our labour full of purpose, v.58!
Without the resurrection, ALL IS VAIN; but on the other hand, the resurrection of Christ and of Christians assures us that ALL IS GAIN:
faith, hope, godliness and preaching. Let’s get on with it then!