Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached 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: 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,
First Corinthians 15 presents us with a solid outline of the gospel. It is the apostolic tradition handed down to Paul, then faithfully handed down from Paul, and received as such by the Jesus believers at Corinth and by the Church at large. It is the message that we are called to believe, the message by which we are redeemed.

There is the crucifixion, the burial, the resurrection. “According to the scriptures” alludes to the Hebrew “backstory,” so these things did not happen in a historical vacuum but speaks of the fulfillment of God’s age-old promise and plan.

Paul then speaks at length concerning the resurrection of King Jesus bodily from the dead. It not just about Jesus, however, but also about us. Because Jesus the firstfruits from the dead, that guarantees our own bodily resurrection as well: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (v. 20).

There also is the coming again of the King, which is just as much a part of the good news: “But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (v. 23). And after that, the Consummation, when everything in heaven and on earth comes together as one. “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (v. 24).

When I was in Bible college, we stopped at the Cross, then on to the Resurrection, but then shot ahead to the Parousia (the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus). It was not until a number of years later that I began to understand the significance of the Ascension — King Jesus rising to His throne. At the right hand of the Father. In Matthew 28, we jumped to the Great Commission, in verses 19 and 20, but paid scant attention to verse 18, where Jesus declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” But that is a stunning declaration He made, and tremendously good news. It means that the reign of King Jesus has already begun. Not just in heaven but on earth as well.

In other words, the kingdom of God is here and now. By faith in Jesus, the King, we participate in His kingdom here and now. However, though it has already begun, it is not yet completely done. That will not happen until Jesus comes again. Then we will experience it forever when our bodies are transformed or resurrected, and incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). In the meantime, all things are currently in the process of being placed under His feet. “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25).

In view of all this, Paul concludes, “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 15:58).

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