So We Preach, So You Believed

Christ is Risen! The way you respond to that statement determines whether you have received the gospel in vain, or whether you are holding fast to the gospel and being saved. The Apostle Paul includes in his letter to the Corinthians a reminder of the gospel that he had preached, and which they had received. It had been reported to him that some who called themselves Christians in Corinth were saying that there was no bodily resurrection of the dead, so Paul wrote to remind them of the basic truths of the Christian faith.

In verses three through five, Paul declares four related truths, and places them in the highest position among all Christian beliefs. Number 1, in verse 3 – that He died for our sins. This one contains not just a historical fact (Jesus’ death), but it assigns theological meaning to that fact. Many people believe that there was a man named Jesus who died in the first century. Far fewer believe that the reason why He died was to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins. But to be a Christian means to believe that combination of historical fact and theological meaning, that Jesus died for our sins. Further, this happened in accordance with the Scriptures. Christ’s death and what it meant were in fulfillment of Biblical promises from the Old Testament Scriptures. Not only did it happen, but it happened the way the Bible said it would.

Number 2, from verse 4 – that He was buried. Jesus was so definitely dead that they buried Him. No one was still clinging to the hope that He might be alive. Christians believe that Jesus was buried in the grave, and left for dead.

Number 3, also from verse 4 – that He has been raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. Paul has shifted his tenses with this one – the first two are facts about past realities that are completed, but this truth refers to a state that is ongoing. Jesus’ body and soul were reunited and given new life on the third day, and He is still living that resurrected life. This too, Paul stresses, happened in accordance with the Scriptures, probably thinking of Hosea 6 or Psalm 16.

Number 4, showing up in verse 5, or really 5-8 – Jesus was seen by, or appeared to many different people. This fourth element is sometimes skipped over, but that would be fatal to Paul’s argument. So why is it of first importance that Jesus appeared?

It’s important because everyone knows that the gospel says that Jesus “rose”. What people are claiming is that this “resurrection” is not a bodily resurrection, but a metaphorical one, or a spiritual one. They are okay with points 1-3, as long as “resurrection” means something other than bodily resurrection. But a metaphor does not appear to people. And spirits don’t eat fish, like the resurrected Jesus does in Luke 24. His disciples do not encounter an apparition, but a flesh-and-blood man. This is why Paul then expands this fourth point by piling up these appearances – to Peter, to the twelve, to the five hundred (hey, they’re still alive – go ask them!), to James, to all of the apostles, and last of all, under special circumstances, to Paul himself, in order to turn the Persecutor into an Apostle.

So whether you heard these things from the greatest apostle or the least, these four truths about Jesus were what the apostles preached, and what disciples of Jesus believed. This is the beating heart of the gospel, the foundational, essential truths of the Christian faith. Believe these things, and believe that they are of first importance, and you are being saved through this faith. Stake your life on the fact that Christ died for your sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to many as proof that God raises the dead to life. Because of these truths, sins are forgiven. The grave is empty. Death is conquered. The resurrection of the body is a joyful reality. This is what we preach; this is what you believe: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.

Posted on Friday, April 10, 2015 by CJ Bowen