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The Good News I Cor. 15:1-11
By Heath Robertson from Expositing Light: Volume I, Nr. 2

In I Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul outlines the basic elements and history of the gospel of Christ in an effort to stop a rising false doctrine in which was advocated that there is no future resurrection. Whether there is an imminent danger of apostasy or not, it is important that Christians often remind themselves of this basic foundation to the faith. As can be attested by her history, the Church suffers when people begin to consider ineffective or fail to remind themselves of this message which Paul considered “of first importance” (I Cor. 15:3). So, through an examination of these eleven verses, we will try to refresh our minds to the pertinent facts of the gospel message which was “once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel…” (I Cor. 15:1). According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE), the English word gospel is “derived from the Anglo-Saxon word which meant ‘the story concerning God.’ In the New Testament the Greek word euaggelion, means ‘good news…’ It means a gift from God. It is the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins and sonship with God restored through Christ. It means remission of sins and reconciliation with God. The gospel is not only a message of salvation, but also the instrument through which the Holy Spirit works (Rom. 1:16)” (see: “gospel;” E-Sword edition.) There is no other biblical topic that more deeply concerns the relationship between God and man than the gospel. While it is true that Paul was addressing an issue among his readers, as was already noted, it is quite fitting that he should choose this as the last major concern in his letter.

Obviously, this was not the first time these readers heard the good news. In fact, it was Paul who originally “preached” it to them (I Cor. 15:1; Acts 18:1-8). His readers had “received” the gospel and now “stand” as “saved” people (I Cor. 15:1, 2). However, he makes it clear that their original obedience “saved” them from their past sins but only by holding “fast the word” until their end would they receive the “crown of life” (I Cor. 15:2; Acts 22:16; I Jn. 1:5-10; Rev. 2:10). So, an understanding of the implications of the gospel is just as important to those who have been God’s servants for many years as it is to those who have not yet become Christians.

“For I delivered to you… what I also received” (I Cor. 15:3). Obviously, when a person says or writes something, they either have to be the source of the information or repeating something they heard or read. This proclamation by Paul that the message he “delivered” to them was something that he had “received” was not an effort to avoid plagiarism but rather a reminder of the circumstances surrounding their original acceptance of the gospel. Both Jew and Gentile had, and still do have, personal and cultural boundaries to overcome in accepting the gospel (I Cor. 1:22, 23). However, God has never left a seeker with an honest heart (Lk. 8:15) without enough evidence to believe and obey. One of the strongest and most solid sources of evidence that testifies to the gospel message as being from God is the Bible itself. There is no way to explain a library of 66 books that were written by at least 40 men over a period of circa 1,600 years and in which is contained a continuous harmonious message except that it was inspired by God. However, the apostles began preaching over 60 years before the Bible was completed. What evidence did they have that their words were from God? Paul reminded the Corinthians in another place that “the signs of a true apostle were performed among you… by signs and wonders and miracles” (II Cor. 12:12). Thayer’s lexicon states that the word apostle (ἀπόστολος) means “one sent forth with orders” (E-Sword edition). With signs that could be performed by no man unless God granted him the power, the apostles proved themselves to be men sent by God with orders to preach the gospel! So, Paul reminds them that it was in this powerful way that he had originally “delivered” the gospel to them and that they “received” it.

It is easy to see why Paul considered the gospel “of first importance” as he begins with the fact that “Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:3). There are many things that a Christian is reminded of by this statement. First, my Creator expects something of me. I could not have sinned or missed the mark if there was no mark. The Scriptures expose in what way(s) I have missed the mark (Rom. 7:7; Eph. 5:13-17) and all people have (Rom. 3:23; I Jn. 1:8). I must also painfully remember that although God required me to die for my sins (Ezek. 18:20), the sinless Jesus was willing to die in my place (Rom. 5:6). In Christ we “see how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God” (I John 3:1).

“He was buried and… raised” (I Cor. 15:4). Any hope the disciples had in Jesus disappeared as that large stone was rolled in front of His tomb (John 20:9). However, three days after they laid Him in the tomb, somehow the guards were overcome and the stone rolled away and the body was gone (Lk. 24:1-3). The men guarding the tomb fainted, it seems (Matt. 28:4), because they saw a man whose “appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow” (Matt. 28:3). So, they could not offer an acceptable explanation (Matt. 28:11). The Sanhedrin council, with all their power, could not find the body of Jesus. So, they concocted and spread a theory that Jesus’ disciples stole the body (Matt. 28:12-15). It is ridiculous to think that the Roman soldiers would sleep at their post, much less that the disciples could get past them, move the stone, and remove Jesus’ body without waking them. Even so, Paul appeals to two strong pieces of evidence that undermines the stolen body theory along with all other theories man has come up with since then. He stated that all of this happened “according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3, 4). That is to say, Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection were prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures (Isa. 53; Ps. 16; 110 etc…). Also, Paul writes, “(Jesus) appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (I Cor. 15:5-8). The truth is, as Peter so boldly proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, “God raised Him up again… since it was impossible for Him to be held (by death’s) power” (Acts 2:24).

“By the resurrection,” Jesus was “declared the Son of God with power” (Rom. 1:4). Also, His sinless sacrifice combined with the power of the resurrection, Jesus enabled the believer to “appeal to God for a good conscience (forgiveness of sins)” through baptism (I Pet. 3:21). Thus, obedience to the gospel results in one being “born again to a living hope… to an inheritance… in heaven” (I Pet. 1:3, 4). Paul concludes, “So we preached and so you believed” (I Cor. 15:11). We must never forget, underestimate, or, God forbid, deny “the gospel, for it is the power of God to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16).

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