1Co 15:32-34 “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.”
There is no record that has been found that indicates that Paul actually ever fought with beasts. At the same time, there is no doubt that he was in jeopardy many times whether from literal beasts or the beastly behavior of men who opposed the gospel. It seems likely that Paul had in mind a situation described in Acts 19:24-31.
We find in this account that two of Paul’s companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, were taken by an angry mob and rushed into the theater. When Paul would have entered the theater to intervene, he was stopped by some of the disciples. We fail to realize today how fearful a situation this was to be rushed into the theater.
When we think of a theater, we think of somewhere that a play is being performed or a movie being shown. While the theater was considered a place of entertainment in Ephesus, it was often a grisly entertainment. It was in the theater that men were either cast in defenseless to be devoured by wild beasts or else inserted into the arena with armor and weapons to battle a wild beast for their freedom.
Paul was literally in danger of the possibility of such an occurrence taking place in his life. He faced this danger because he was declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ, including the resurrection from the dead. His argument to the men at Corinth was why would he put himself at such risk for a myth? If the dead be not raised, then why should Paul place his very life in jeopardy? It would be more reasonable to take the path of the Epicureans: let us take our pleasure here while we may.
Paul then calls such an attitude an evil communication. He warns us that we cannot take an attitude of having our fill of the pleasures of life and expect to live righteously at the same time. This type of doctrine will corrupt (ruin) the good behavior that results from believing and living the truth of the gospel. His admonishment to “Be not deceived” seems to indicate that they were guilty of self-deception because they did not want to acknowledge the truth of God (Rom 1:21).
The scripture makes it plain in many places (including Paul’s writings) that we are sinners, and that sin is condemned in the flesh. However, when we awake (come to ourselves) to the truth of the righteousness of God, we no longer love sin. To know the righteousness of God and deny it is shameful. To know the righteousness of God and refuse to bear testimony of it, allowing others to think that we agree with their error, is shameful.
We, as believers that the dead rise, need to exemplify the life of Christ. Our lives should mirror our conviction that there is something beyond this life that is greater than our ability to tell. We should never be ashamed of walking by faith in those things that we do not yet clearly see. Awake to righteousness and declare that we know why we fight this fight of faith.
May God grant that we never bring shame to the truth of His righteousness!