“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
(1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
I want to look at a text concerning the gospel. My hope is that our salvation will not be assumed because of church attendance or family relations, but that it will be assured because of personal faith in Christ and true biblical repentance. First Corinthians 15 tells us a few things about the importance of the gospel message in Paul’s preaching and in the life of a church. Observe:
1.) Paul preaching shows the urgency of the message. 2.) The church’s response shows the necessity of the gospel message. 3.) Their standing in faith shows the certainty of the promises in the message. 4.) The gospel message itself saves sufficiently. 5.) The warning shows the conditionality of the message.
1. Paul’s urgent preaching of the gospel
When we observe Paul’s life we know he was the most influential man for the church who ever lived (other than Christ, of course). He preached and preached and nothing could stop him. The fact that he was willing to preach even if it meant his own harm–even death–shows that the message was urgent in his mind. This shows that the gospel concerns matters far bigger than this short life. Let us observe just a couple examples, all from the Corinthian letters, that show Paul’s urgency in his preaching
a.Paul determined to know nothing among them but Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2).
b. Paul’s attitude was that of, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor 9:16).
c. Also, “I believed therefore I have spoken” (2 Cor 4:13).
d. He was compelled to speak both by the fear of the Lord (2 Cor 5:11) and the love of God (v. 15). (“Therefore, knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men,” “For the love of Christ compels us.”)
2. The Church’s necessary response to the gospel
Every time we preach there will be some who receive and some who do not. In John 1, He came to His own but His own did not receive Him; those who receive are children of God. In John 6, many walked away because of His teaching, but His disciples stayed because He had the words of life. In Acts 28, after preaching concerning Jesus many Jews left, and others believed. Second Timothy 2, Paul endured all things for the sake of the elect–those who will receive. First Corinthians 1 explains that to the Jews the cross is a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles it is foolishness, but to the called it is the power and wisdom of God.
Regardless of what the response is, it is clear everyone must respond. That the Corinthians received the message shows us that there needs to be a response to the message heard. Nobody is saved because their family is Christian, or they were raised in the church all their lives; we must respond to the gospel message by faith!
There is another caution to be heeded. The response to the gospel cannot be, “I am not receiving the gospel, but I am also not rejecting it!” For by not receiving the gospel you are rejecting it! John 3:18 (emphasis mine) says, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Even before hearing the good news of Christ’s work, men are already in rebellion against God.
3. The certain promises of the gospel
After explaining the gospel, Paul devotes almost all of the rest of the chapter to describing the truth of Christ’s resurrection, and the subsequent guarantee of the future resurrection. After arguing that if the resurrection isn’t true then our faith and all of life is vain, he states, “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” (v. 58, emphasis mine). We can stand immovable in our faith because we know that Christ is raised and He is coming back! And so we put all of our confidence in those truths; “all our eggs are in one basket,” so to speak.
Hebrews 6:19 calls our hope in God an anchor, and one that is sure and steadfast. “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.” Within the context, we see that we can stand on two grounds; one is the word of promise given to Abraham and his heirs, and the second is the oath which confirms this promise. Peter calls our salvation a living hope because Christ was raised (1 Peter 1:3). Just as Paul did, so Peter also points his readers to Christ’s resurrection as the guarantee of their own. What solid ground we stand on!
4. The sufficient salvation of the gospel
The gospel saves because it is the remedy to our biggest problem! Our sin is an infinite debt which demands an infinite payment. Christ’s blood is of infinite worth, which removes the guilt of our sin from our account. Not only this, but the gospel also provides us with the life we couldn’t live. For Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. First Corinthians 1:30 shows that everything is provided for us in Christ: “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.”
Christianity is the only religion that gives us the necessary God-man we need. No man could save us, for none of us are perfect, so our Savior had to be God; our Savior had to die, and since God cannot die, our Savior also had to be a man. Our gospel offers this God-man, Jesus Christ, who both came to us on God’s behalf, and approaches God on ours.
5. The conditional warning of the gospel.
“…by which also you are saved, IF you hold fast the word which I preached to you, UNLESS you believed in vain.”
This is scary! The fact that one can believe in vain–or as some say, “believe in our head but not in our heart”–ought to lead us to examine ourselves, to be sure that we are truly trusting in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for our salvation. That warning is why I constantly study and review the gospel. In many churches nowadays, salvation is assumed. The preachers won’t preach the gospel or address sin because they figure, “Well this person has gone to church all their lives, of course they’re saved!”
So in light of this strong warning, ask these questions about yourselves, and about your children:
1. Was the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection preached to you? and do you preach it to your children?
2. After hearing about your sin and need of a Savior, and God’s offer of eternal life, did you receive the gospel message? Are you sure your children have genuinely done so also
3. Knowing that Christ is raised, do you stand in the promises of God? Do you demonstrate for your children a higher hope in heavenly things than in earthly well-being?
4. Has the gospel of Jesus Christ saved you? Is this your only hope and stay? Are you sure your children are resting in Christ’s work more than family ties?