Friday, March 16, 2012

1 Corinthians 15: 1-11 The Gospel in a Nutshell

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.

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