THURSDAY, MARCH 29
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Paul reminds the large Greek culture church He founded of the essentials of the gospel He himself received – Jesus who died for their sins is very much alive
1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.
“Preached to you” – more accurately “made known”, gnorizo which sounds like our word ‘know’. The word is a gentle rebuke and reminder of the head to heart to action process. Judas Iscariot certainly knew the gospel but apparently had not received it and certainly did not take his stand on it. Paul implies not all in the Corinth church had taken the gospel to heart in a life-changing way.
2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
“You are saved” – The Greek construction means “continuing to be saved”. Receiving the gospel starts with a heart decision (v.1) but salvation is a rich word for the way God’s goodness and mercy follows us (Psalm 23) in the twists and turns of life: it is also ongoing.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…
This is a very early summary of the core truth that the early church preached – the kerygma, or proclamation, of the truth of the Gospel. He makes three fundamental assertions:
1. Paul is saying that he is not giving his position or sharing his ideas – he is passing on what he himself received.
2. He points out that it aligns with what the Scriptures have said. We can’t be sure of what exact passages he had in mind but Isaiah 53:5-6 and Psalm 16:8-11 are two probables.
3. There were many eyewitnesses to His death, burial and – importantly – resurrection. The Scriptures told of it. People, not just the apostles but a wider group were telling of it.
“Christ died for our sins” is saying that Christ was sinless – only a sinless person could die for another’s sins.
4 …that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…
Paul is taking pains to put to rest doubts that existed in people’s minds. No one seriously questioned that Jesus died. The fact of the Resurrection is central to Christian belief. Other religions venerate the life and works of a former person, now dead; Christianity in essence is not such a religion, but a relationship with God through the resurrected and living Christ Jesus.
“He was raised” is in agreement with Psalm 16:10 (which is quoted by Peter in Acts 2:25-32, his “this is that which was spoken” Pentecost Outpouring sermon. “On the third day” is a Jewish way of reckoning days. Three days could include part of Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday. Paul also could be reflecting Jesus’ words, Matt. 12:40 that relate three days in the tomb to Jonah’s three days inside the fish, Jonah 1:17.
5 …and that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.
Paul puts great emphasis on the Resurrection as a vital part of “the gospel I made known…” (v.1), “this gospel” (v.2), “what we preach… what you believed (v.11). There is the Good News of who Jesus is, the Good News of forgiveness by His blood on the Cross, but vitally the Good News of new life now, not just eternally, as those whose lives are in Christ Jesus, resurrected and real to us.
“To the Twelve” – a generic rather than numeric term. There is no mention of the women, and Judas was absent, possibly Thomas also.
The appearance to Peter, also referred to in Luke 24:34 and Mark 16:7. To the one in most disgrace, most grace was given.
6 After that, He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
This appearance was probably in Galilee, Matt. 28:10, 16-20.
7 Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles,
8 and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
The word means ‘miscarriage’. Paul, who was not good looking, 2 Cor. 10:10, may have been vilified by those opposed to his presentation of free grace with the taunt that he was one who was not so much born again, as miscarried.
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
Paul is aware of the high calling given to him as an apostle and at the same time his sense of unworthiness as formerly one of the hated religious ‘hit squad’ and a persecutor.
He worked – literally, laboured to the point of exhaustion – harder than anyone because he was so strongly aware of the grace of God and the love of God shown to him, the most unlikely candidate.
11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
The apostles are one in the message they proclaim and especially its strong evidence and emphasis on the Resurrection.
This passage is Paul’s summary of the central core of the Christian proclamation – which strongly emphasises the reality of the resurrection of Christ.
Is the way we present the Christian message today in line with what we read here? In particular, how much emphasis do we give to living in the awareness of Christ’s resurrection?
It is an interesting reflection on our present-day Christian practice, our church liturgy, our preaching and discipling, to hold up these verses as a snapshot of what the early church preached.
For reflection or as a discussion starter
Are we upholding and proclaiming the same message as the Early Church as we read here, or have we subtly toned-down or changed the emphasis of our message?
Also published on Medium.