I sit at Jesus feet and listen. Did his voice have a deep timbre, a resonance? His eyes – they seem to be focused right on me and my heart.
“The entire history is focused on the events you have been reading about and will remember next weekend. All of creation waited with bated breath for that moment. The explosion happened on the Sunday. The one happening which gave everything else significance. The whole aim of my coming was salvation – the rescue of a dying world. But the act of rescue on the cross would have been meaningless without my resurrection. My resurrection placed the seal on the work I had done on the cross, to open heaven’s door so the new kingdom could be launched – the kingdom which you now all are part of. That is the visible sign of the greatest act ever– It is your guarantee and that of everyone who reads this blog with trust – allow it to transform you this Easter.”
Now to 1 Corinthians 15. In Roman’s and in Colossians, for instance, Paul launched his message with a focus on the gospel. What it’s message is and the power which is released through the preaching of that message. Here in this Corinthian letter, he gather’s these thoughts together here at the end. So, as we read the first 11 vv of this chapter we see his statement firstly in v1, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand”, bracketing the passage at the end in vs 11 with, “this is what we preach, and this is what you believed”. The real, full gospel lies then between these two statements.
Now notice the importance of this positioning. Against the background of all the mal-practices of the Corinthians, Paul wants to emphasize the importance of the gospel and draw it into the center of His reply to them. He wants to draw them back to the most important reality of their faith. Notice his emphasis on “which you have received and on which you have taken your stand” and “this is what you believed”.
Can you see the significance of what I am saying? You see the central tenet of Christianity is the gospel. In Paul’s words in Roman’s it is the “power of God for salvation of everyone who believes…” It is the main message of Christianity which holds everything else together. So, when there are things happening in the church which are wrong and questionable, it invariably starts with the people losing sight of this important fact.
Now let us look at what he says about the gospel. Firstly, vs 3, “he received it”. It was not his idea. Then he repeats twice that this message was “in accordance with the scriptures“. It was actually the culmination of the whole thrust of the bible up to Jesus’ coming. He, that is Paul regards this message then of “first importance”. (vs3)
The central message then of the gospel follows: “that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and on the third day he was raised.”
Christ’s death on the cross is the central, pivotal fact. The act that changed the world. However, if He had just died, no-one would have realized the reason or understood the full import of the purpose of His death. It was His resurrection that changed all that. It showed that He was Divine, God Himself. It proved that what He had set out to do had been accomplished. It changed what would just have appeared a laudable act into a supernatural, world shattering, historical earthquake which changed the world for ever. The two events are inseparable, Good Friday without Easter Sunday means nothing.
So why am I making such a huge issue of these facts that all of you surely know? It is surely, in knowing these facts so well that the danger is that they lose their charm and power, as we become more and more familiar with them. It is in remembering the basic gospel that we can fully appreciate the whole of Easter and it’s message.
I have emphasized this here to show you why Paul then goes ahead for the rest of this chapter discussing the resurrection. Driving it home, as it were so that every reader may embrace it and by believing it have their lives changed. And by emphasizing these facts to such a degree this acts as a counter to the many heresies out there. If every believer continually reaffirms the facts of the gospel and reminds themselves of them, their faith will grow stronger and stronger and they will be kept from going off on a tangent, like the Corinthians did.
So, friends why do you not spend the next week pondering these facts of the gospel and preaching them to yourselves. Yes, and maybe to someone else. So many people out there who claim to be Christians don’t actually really understand what happened on the cross and the importance of the resurrection. Maybe this is the time to initiate that discussion with someone. This week can also be an opportunity to read the rest of the chapter and understand why Paul makes such a fuss about the resurrection, in the light of these earlier vv. and I will discuss them in our next blog.
So, soak yourselves in these thoughts. Listen to what Jesus is saying to you and may each of you have a real sense of anticipation for next weekend. Let us pray for each other that Satan does not draw our attention away from this central issue.