by Mike Ratliff
3 παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις, ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον, ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς 4 καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NA28)
3 For I handed on to you among the first things that I received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures 4 and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The Christian’s walk is one in which we must take up our own crosses and follow our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. In this life we will have tribulation. However, in the midst of fiery trials we grow less self-oriented, less self-dependent, and less self-righteous while we learn that we must, at all costs, abide in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this time before our Lord takes us home, there will be much heartache, many crushing blows, and at times, it will seem that the world and those who follow it have all the cards and are on the way to winning by whatever means. However, as our Lord Jesus said on the night of his arrest leading up to his crucifixion, “ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶ εἰρήνην ἔχητε. ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ θλῖψιν ἔχετε· ἀλλὰ θαρσεῖτε, ἐγὼ νενίκηκα τὸν κόσμον.” Or, “These things I have spoken to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you have affliction, but be cheerful, I have conquered the world.”
Therefore my brethren, when you are dealt a wicked blow and find yourself in midst of a fiery trial and find that you have no comfort zones left, you are right where Christ wants you and where you need to be spiritually. Is it painful? Yes! Is it heart breaking? Yes, assuredly it is and can be devastating depending upon the circumstances. However, the very last thing we need to do as Christians is put on a brave face and pretend that we are not affected by whatever it is. We hurt, we are grieved, we may even become angry, but what we must not do is forget who we are in Christ, turning our backs on him while being consumed by the flesh. The best place to be during these times is in prayer before the throne of grace.
What is it that enables us to live this way? How can we take these blows that would devastate unbelievers while tearing families apart, and causing nothing but more wicked fruits of the flesh? Those who are in Christ are so because they have been saved by Grace through Faith (Ephesians 2:1-10). The message they believed is the Gospel, which we will look at the rest of this post.
Without a doubt, because of the pragmatism and man-centered influences that have invaded the Church since the late 18th Century, the clearly defined Gospel that the Apostles proclaimed has become muddled and accumulated a great deal of baggage. In this post, instead of looking at the negative examples in our time, we will look at what it really is and how it was proclaimed and how in that proclamation, God works in the regeneration of His people in the building of His Church.
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit 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 did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (NASB)
What is the gospel according to Paul in this passage? It is a message. He preached to the Corinthians a message, intact, that he had received from someone else. The Corinthians received that message and they now stood in the light of that message by which they were BEING saved as long as they held fast to the word he preached to them. What was the condition that they were NOT BEING saved by that message? It was that that they have believed in vain or for nothing. This brings to mind the parable of the sower where some seed fell on soil that looked good, but had no depth. This represented those who heard the gospel in vain. They received it with joy, but then when trials and tribulation came, they fell away. This is what Paul is talking about. These are not genuine believers.
In vv.3-4 we see where Paul got the message, the Gospel. From where did he get it? It was from the Scriptures, which was what we call the Old Testament. Our Lord’s death on the Cross for the sins of his people was in accordance with the Scriptures. His resurrection on the third day was in accordance with the Scriptures. Then in vv.5-8 we have the account of the witnesses of our Lord’s resurrection, which is part of the Gospel message. The Gospel message is the proclamation of the finished work of Christ on the Cross, his death there, his resurrection and the proof of that resurrection by all these witnesses. By his rising from the dead, this proves all his claims of deity and it also means all those promises of the Atonement are true and that is what makes the Gospel Good News.
My brethren, we live in a dark age, but never forget that Christ has never stopped building His Church. We all need refining and that sometimes means some pretty heavy blows and fiery trials. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Soli Deo Gloria!