Monday, October 3, 2011

The Gospel Paul Preached

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached [literally, “gospeled”] to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received. (1 Corinthians 15:1-3)
First Corinthians 15 gives us a good solid outline of the gospel, the “good news.” It is the message Paul received. The Greek word is paralambano and speaks of what has been handed down to, and taken hold of, by another. It was not an invention of Paul’s but something that was given to him. And Paul faithfully handed it down to others. This is the same gospel that had been handed down to the Jesus believers at Corinth, the same message that was announced by Paul and all the other apostles, the message that saves — rescues and restores — all who believe it.
That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
Here is the crucifixion, the burial and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. “According to the scriptures” alludes to the Hebrew back story. These things did not happen in a historical vacuum but continue the big story, the history of Israel recounted in the Old Testament. It fulfills the prophesies and promises God gave to Abraham and his descendants for the sake of the whole world.

Even the name Jesus and the terms Lord and Christ show that the gospel is a fulfillment, not an innovation, of what was begun in the story of Abraham. Though the phrase “Lord Jesus Christ” does not actually appear in 1 Corinthians 15 until the end, it is inherent throughout.
  • He is called Jesus, the English version of Yeshua, His name in Hebrew. “You shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Yeshua literally means “Yahweh Saves.”
  • He is called Messiah (from the Hebrew for “Anointed One,” and in Greek is Christos) because He is the “anointed one” God had long promised to Israel, the one anointed to be King.
  • He is called Lord, which speaks of His divinity as well as His authority. Jesus began His ministry announcing the “gospel of the kingdom,” that the kingdom of God was now at hand (Mark 1:14-15). By the end of His ministry, we discover that He Himself is the King.
When the Philippian jailer, who was not of Israel, fell on his knees before Paul and begged, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, and your house.” I see in this a super-condensed proclamation of the gospel: Jesus is the one who saves us from our sins, He is God’s promised and Anointed King over Israel and the world, and He is divine. If that is not how Paul actually condensed it in that sudden moment, it is at least how Luke condensed it in the telling, and all of it can be unpacked by the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Paul spends much time on the resurrection of Jesus and shows how it was not just about Him but also about all who believe in Him, for He is the firstfruits from the dead. His bodily resurrection guarantees ours as well.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
Here also, we see the coming again of King Jesus. For those who have entered into the “good news” by faith in Him, the announcement that He is King and that He is coming again is not a judgment to be feared but a joy to be embraced.

But Paul does not stop there, leaving a gap between the resurrection of Jesus and the return of the King. There is something that is happening in between that is a very important part of the gospel. King Jesus is reigning now and all things are currently being placed under His feet. The kingdom of God is now as well as later, already begun though not yet completely come.

When I was in Bible college, we stopped at the Cross, then we progressed to the Resurrection, and then we shot ahead to the Second Coming. It was not until a number of years later that I began to understand the significance of the Ascension, the King rising to His throne. In Matthew 28, we jumped to the Great Commission, in verses 19 and 20, and all but ignored verse 18, where Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” That is a stunning declaration and tremendously good news. It means that the reign of King Jesus has already begun, not just in heaven but on earth as well! We participate in that kingdom now, but we will also experience it forever in resurrected, incorruptible bodies.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:50-54)
In view of all this, Paul concludes, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58). It is all going somewhere; it all has tremendous significance. And it is all centered in King Jesus the Messiah.

Like the old gospel song says, “Ain’t that good news?”