Summary: The truths Paul shares and the grace-driven purpose of the cross effect not only our salvation, but how we live out the Christian faith and how we minister in the name of Jesus Christ.
The Cross Proclaims a Grace-Driven Purpose
(3) For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (5) and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (6) After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (7) Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, (8) and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
INTRODUCTION: A Biblically-correct view of history.
Steven Spielberg¡¦s movie, Saving Private Ryan, tells the story of an Army captain named John Miller (played by Tom Hanks) who in the aftermath of the World War II D-day invasion at Normandy Beach is ordered to find a solitary private among thousands of displaced soldiers. he must return Private James F. Ryan home to his mother, whose other three sons have just been killed in action.
Captain Miller and the small group of men assigned to him successfully locate Ryan, but then are forced to defend a strategic bridge against enemy tanks and troops. Captain Miller is fatally wounded. In his dying moments, he reaches out to Private Ryan, and with great emotion says, ¡§Earn this! Earn this!¡¨
Many years later as an older man, James Ryan stands in a veteran¡¦s cemetery tearfully looking at the tombstone of the man who saved his life. He wonders aloud if he has indeed earned the great gift he received.
Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ died on the Cross that we might live forever. In his final words he did not suggest that we could ever earn such a gift. Instead he cried triumphantly, ¡§It is finished!¡¨
There is much in our society that talks about being politically correct, even to the point of revising history, so that it glosses over the past by forcing today¡¦s perspective from one particular group. This results in a re-write of history that to the writer is ¡§politically-correct.¡¨
Paul¡¦s goal is not to be politically correct.
His goal with history is to provide a Biblically-correct view of history. Paul realizes that history is His Story, that is God¡¦s story of interaction that lifts up the cross and realizes the cross proclaims a grace-driven purpose. We are saved, not by what we do, but by what Christ has done. This is the message of the cross. This is the message of grace. In these verses from 1 Corinthians 15, Paul lays out 8 key historical points.
Paul¡¦s Key Historical Points -- First Things First
1. Christ died for our sins (vs. 3).
2. Christ was buried (vs. 4).
3. Christ was raised on the third day (vs. 4).
4. He appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve (vs. 5).
5. He appeared to more than 500 (vs. 6).
6. He appeared to James and the apostles (vs. 7)
7. He appeared to Paul (vs. 8).
8. This is for you (vs. 3).
Of the 8, this last one is my favorite, but what does this mean?
First, it means: 1. Only CHRIST is on the cross, and only GOD can build the church. Jesus says in, Matthew 16:18, ¡§And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.¡¨
It¡¦s not my church, it¡¦s not your church to run. This is Christ Lutheran Church. The key word is Christ. He is the one who gave life, that we might have life.
I was once given wise church leadership advice that went something like this, ¡§There is only one God, and you are not Him. I am not Him, either.¡¨
I could not die for your sins. Paul could not die for your sins. Martin Luther could not die for your sins, only Jesus the Christ could die for us. And, only God can build the church.
Second, the facts Paul shares means: 2. God calls PEOPLE to share the cross message. Notice what Paul says in, 1 Corinthians 15:3, ¡§For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.¡¨
Paul is saying the news is so good and so important, he could not keep to himself. You find a new restaurant, the food is great, the prices are low, don¡¦t you tell your friends about it? If we do that with food for the body, shouldn¡¦t we do that with the food that saves our soul? Paul does not hoard the gospel message, he passes it on. His mission was driven by the grace of the cross.