TEXT : 1 Corinthians 15:1 -11
TITLE: The Gospel in a Nutshell
Date: Lord's Day 12/03/2012
We are coming close to the end of this first letter to the Corinthians, but we still have some important ground to cover in Chapter 15 . It concerns the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ - a matter which some ( not all) in the Corinthian church had been questioning (see v 12) .In a strange way we can thank God that this had happened , for as a result we now have this strong teaching concerning the resurrection of Christ. For Paul, Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection. If you could prove that Christ has not been raised from the dead , then we shall see that our preaching is in vain and our faith is in vain (v 14) , and we would still be in our sin ( v.17) , and therefore we should be pitied , for we would be of all people the most deluded . Thank God then for the crises (especially theological crises) in the church which have led us to a sharpening of our focus upon the person and work of Christ . Today is such a time ! I also thank God, that in His providence we can consider this text which is so appropriate as we begin to think about Easter in our church calendar .
OUTLINE of Chapter 15
1. The resurrection is central to the Gospel ( 1-11)
2. The resurrection is questioned and the implications of this is worked out ( 12-19)
3. The resurrection is theologically explained ( 20-28)
4. The implications of denying the resurrection ( 29-34)
5. Questions about the resurrection body answered ( 35- 58)
1. The Resurrection is at the heart of the Gospel ( 15: 1-11 )
Vv 1,2 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
This group of people ( whom he calls ‘brothers’ – because they shared a common faith) had become the church of God that is in Corinth, …those sanctified in Christ Jesus (1:2) , when Paul had first preached the gospel to them, which they had received , and by which they were being saved ( present continuous tense – indicating that salvation is at one and the same time an accomplished event and an ongoing action ) . But you will note that Paul immediately adds a conditional clause , - “if you hold fast to the word ( the gospel) I preached to you ” . Their salvation – their claim to having received the gospel is made conditional upon their perseverance ! This deserves a short comment . This perseverance must not be ascribed to an ability within ourselves. This perseverance is there because God enables us to persevere. If there is no perseverance , there is no indication that a deposit of faith has been made into your account. So perseverance in our faith is a sign that the grace and power of God is indeed at work within us.
Notice then too how Paul counsels this deeply flawed church . He counsels them with great hope . He does not approach them with deep suspicion. No , no! He will believe the very best about them and the work of God in their lives. Love requires that. He himself taught this principle in 1 Cor 13:4-7 , BUT there can be no talk about true salvation , if there is no holding on to the word – the gospel. And when the essentials of that gospel are denied , such as in this case the denial of Christ’s resurrection, then the word preached to a people has been preached in vain ! Receiving the gospel means receiving Christ in the fullness of His person and work .
So , there are some people here in Corinth ( and at Eastside) in danger of not holding fast to that word.
We have seen how a lack of holding on to that word had led to the development of factions and groups , and a questioning of his teachings and apostolic authority; we have seen sexual immorality, taking each other to court , idolatry, abuse of the Lord’s supper etc , but in this chapter the apostle has to deal with something far more dangerous than these sinful manifestations. He has to deal with false teaching which strikes at the very heart of the gospel! It is this false thinking about the gospel which produces false living . May I remind you once again , that false living or sinful behavior is a secondary matter . It points to a far more serious issue ! Here was evidence that there were a number of people in the church had no grip on the gospel … it appears therefore as if they have believed in vain! hey are beginning to manifest as seed that had been sown on hard soil , shallow soil , soil that ‘choked’ any hope of life out of them . ( Matt 13:1-9)
Now note how Paul deals with this danger ! He reminds them of the primary truths which he first had preached to them , and which they had accepted
Vv.3&4 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,….
Paul affirms three cardinal truths ( of first importance – foundational truths ) : Christ died … Christ was buried … Christ was raised on the third day . This is the gospel in a nutshell , and this is what we affirm when we are baptized by immersion in response to our conversion :
1.Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. The Scripture to which Paul refers here are the OT scriptures . Prominent texts that point to the death of Christ of sinners are Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 . Both passages speak of the suffering Messiah , who gives His life in exchange for His sheep. On the cross our Messiah- Christ accomplished two things for us :
Firstly , He provided forgiveness for our sins. Because of our sin, we stood under the judgment of God. You can't get away from this in the Bible. Our problem is sin and Christ alone can be our Saviour. There is no one else who can justify us , because there is no one of such a stature . Because of who He is - a perfect man , He alone can be a perfect substitute. We should have received this just punishment , but Christ received it in our place. The punishment that should have been ours was transferred to Christ. This picture is seen in the Jewish sacrificial system. When a person sinned, he could take an animal to the temple and have it sacrificed for his sins. He would lay his hand upon the animal’s head symbolizing that he was transferring his guilt to the animal. This is called the substitutionary atonement. Just as the animal served as a substitute for the sinner, so Christ served as our substitute on the cross. (Theologians call this expiation)
Secondly , Christ appeased ( satisfied) God’s righteous wrath. The result is that God is no longer angry with you , the sinner (Theologians call this propitiation cf. Romans 3:22-26 )
2.“…that he was buried…”. There was a real, dead body in a real tomb on Easter Friday, and that same tomb was really empty on Easter Sunday morning! Generally speaking we make more of the death and the resurrection of our Lord . But Paul includes among the ‘gospel facts’ that Christ was buried ! Why is this important ? It tells us that Christ was dead ! He did not swoon or faint as Muslims would assert . Jesus was first whipped to near unconsciousness, so that He could not carry His cross ; then He was crucified; and then He died ; He was also stabbed by a soldier with a spear in the side to make sure that He was dead . Paul says , “Christ died…. Christ was buried…” .The Old Testament concurs : Isaiah 53:9 says, “And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death”. And so we see that just as Christ’s burial authenticated His death, so also it authenticated His resurrection. The fact that he was buried is important. It makes his death and resurrection real ! He did not recover from a coma. He rose from the dead with a physical resurrection body which was able to do amazing things , like … walking through doors that are locked (John 20:19)
3.“…that He was raised on the third day...” . This is the third crucial aspect of the gospel message, and it will be the one that Paul will refer to as he will address the false teaching concerning the resurrection which was making its rounds in the church. We shall consider more of that next time. Right now we will consider what Paul has to say in this section vv 5 -11
Vv 5-11 : Historical testimonies to the Resurrection of Christ
Paul reminds us again, firstly, that the matter of Christ’s resurrection is “in accordance with the Scriptures.” Peter at Pentecost, makes this point powerfully in Acts 2:24-28 , in which he shows us that this is a direct fulfillment of what David teaches us in Psalm 16:8-11. And then he makes this comment in Acts : “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:29-32).
Secondly, Paul reminds us that there is a host of witnesses to the resurrection appearances of Christ: vv 5-7 “… and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time , most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Thirdly , Paul himself testifies to seeing the now ascended Jesus, on his trip to Damascus. (Acts 9 ; 1 Cor 9:1 ) . He recalls (vv 8-11) : “ 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” Paul was apparently little regarded by some in the Corinthian church (cf. Ch’s 3 & 9) because he wasn’t one of the original 12 . He admits that he is in a sense the least of all the apostles because of his early persecution of the church , but he also firmly asserts that he is an apostle by the grace of God , and not only that, but due to the grace of God (and not because of himself) he is probably the most effective apostle! This is not boasting . This is because God enabled him to accomplish what he was able to do ! But in the end all this really does not matter. He and the other apostles all preach the same message – the message which the Corinthian had believed, and upon which they had taken their stand .
1. Our Gospel has historical roots . All this happened approximately 2,000 years ago in what is known today as Israel / Palestine and in a certain place (Palestine). At that time Jesus , the Son of God , the Son of man , miraculously conceived and born , living a sinless life , claiming to be God, speaking as no one did before , working miracles as no one did before , gave His sinless life to fulfill the ancient calling to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins (i.e. those who believe in Him). If these events did not occur then there is no gospel, there is no salvation , there is no Christianity- in fact it would be a cruel joke! But this is not a cunningly devised fable (2 Peter 1:16) . I am not sure that we always appreciate that Christianity is an historical religion and that it rests its message on events that happened in space and time. The history recorded in the Bible is real human history, beginning with Adam and Eve and culminating with the death , burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus – and finishing with another historical event : the second coming !
2. Our Gospel has a simple message ! Jesus died for our sins; He was buried; He was raised from the dead. This is what you must believe with all your heart , and you shall be saved . There is of course a lot of mystery surrounding this , but you don’t need to have a PHD is to believe in the Lord Jesus and what He has accomplished; a little child can understand this and trust in Christ !
3. The Resurrection of Christ secures our salvation ! Christ died for sins. He was buried, and our sins were nailed to the cross and we were buried with Him. But it is the resurrection that is the cherry on the top , because it speaks of life. We are not simply saved from sin. We are saved to live sinlessly for eternity with the risen Jesus as our King. It is this fact that is been challenged by some in the church – and it follows that those who deny the basic fact of the gospel cannot be saved by that gospel. The wrath of God remains upon them.
4. If you can affirm this gospel with your whole heart , then I ask you to come to the table prepared for us this morning , as we also at this time recite the Apostle’s creed.