It seems that some Corinthian Christians were quoting a saying of questionable value. “Let us eat and drink,” the slogan invited, “for tomorrow we die!” (1 Cor. 15:32). If there is no resurrection, Paul observed, that advice is as good as any other. The old canard had been around for centuries. Unbelievers had recited it in Isaiah’s day (Isa. 22:13). It showed up again in a parable of Jesus–spoken by a man whom God called a fool (Lk. 12:19). Being old and popular do not guarantee that a slogan is either true or wise.
Whether Paul or the Corinthians cited this old saying first, the apostle clearly intended to caution them against its repeated, mindless use. He did so with a light hand, quoting a motto from the Greek poet Menander who warned that evil “companionships” corrupt good morals, but the same word can also mean “communications” (1 Cor. 15:33). Menander’s slogan about the power of slogans is saying both those things. And Paul is telling his readers to use caution in choosing their companions — and also the sayings by which they will guide their lives.
If the Corinthian Christians needed a motto to live by, Paul would create one of his own for them to use. It goes like this: “Come to your right mind and sin no more” (1 Cor.15:34). Now there’s a saying with substance, some words to live by to enjoy a good life. Especially for people who know that resurrection is coming.