Summary: The truth never loses its power but people can lose their grip on the truth. The struggles in the Corinthian church made it clear to Paul that they needed to refocus their attention on the gospel.
Of First Importance
Text and Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
The truth never loses its power. People, however, often lose their grip on truth. The struggles in the Corinthian church made it clear to Paul that they needed to refocus their attention on the gospel.
The Greeks did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. When Paul preached the resurrection at Athens, some of the people actually laughed at this doctrine (Acts 17:32). The Greek philosophers taught that the body was the prison of the soul, and the sooner the soul was set free in death, the better off a person would be. The Greeks looked upon the human body as a source of weakness and wickedness, and they could not conceive of a body that continued to exist after death. It was this kind of thinking that Paul had to deal with in writing to the Corinthian believers. He brought his letter to a close with a vigorous proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They were wandering; Paul called them back to the center.
Like the Corinthians, we can’t afford to stray from Christ. Every claim about Christianity has roots in His resurrection. What we believe about this life and the afterlife depends on what we believe Jesus did with death. God’s Word calls us back to the center.
I.The Gospel Paul Preached
1 Corinthians 15:1-2 “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”
A.The message had saved them
1.The gospel message that he had preached to them, that they had received, on which they had taken their stand was the message that had saved them.
a.Paul wanted to remind them of that gospel, because apparently some (probably false teachers) had been distorting it. In fact, some of the Corinthians had come to believe that there would be no resurrection of the dead (15:12).
2.Not only was the church in Corinth having problems with unity (as Paul tried to clear up in the previous chapters), it was also dealing with basic problems of theology. This, too, could tear apart the church. As an apostle who had himself seen the risen Christ (15:8), Paul took these Corinthian believers back to the basics of the message that they had welcomed and received.
b.Because acceptance of that gospel had saved them, they should hold firmly to it.
B.Delivered as of first Importance
1 Corinthians 15:3-5 “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
1.Paul had received the gospel message from Christ himself, as had all the other apostles; then he passed on to all his listeners that same message. These words indicate the careful and literal way that Christian teachers passed on tradition from one generation to the next. The central theme of the gospel is given here. The three points that are of first importance are as follows:
a.Christ died for our sins. Without the truth of this message, Christ’s death was worthless, and those who believe in him are still in their sins and without hope. However, Christ as the sinless Son of God took the punishment of sin, “dying for sin” so that those who believe can have their sins removed.
b.He was buried. The fact of Christ’s death is revealed in the fact of his burial. Many have tried to discount the actual death of Christ, from the false teachers of Paul’s day to false teachers today. But Jesus Christ did die on the cross and was buried in a tomb.
c.He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Christ “was raised” permanently, forever; his Father raised him from the dead and He lives today. He came back to life from being dead in a grave “on the third day” as noted in the Gospels (Friday afternoon to Sunday morning - three days in Jewish reckoning of time).
2.In this summary we note two things:
a.The events took place “according to the Scriptures”; as predicted and in full harmony with earlier revelation.
b.The phrase “according to the Scriptures” refers to the Old Testament prophecies regarding this event, such as Psalm 16:8-11 and Isaiah 53:5-6. Christ’s death on the cross was no accident, no afterthought. It had been part of God’s plan from all eternity in order to bring about the salvation of all who believe.
The doctrine of personal resurrection is not developed in the OT. Yet it clearly is present, and was taught by the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Undoubtedly, the clearest statement in the OT is found in Daniel 12:2: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake; some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”