I Corinthians 15: The Gospel of Peace
“Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures , that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . (I Corinthians 15: 1-4)
Here in these simple words is the heart, key and foundation of Christian faith. Gospel, as we know, means good news. The good news is about a real, historical person and what He has done and what it means.
We will spend this lesson investigating these verses, like Peter and John investigated the empty tomb. We want to understand what the gospel does and what it is. For every time everyone in the world writes down the year 2017, they are referring to how many years ago this God-Man Jesus Christ of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem. He is and will always be, in spite of those who do not believe, the most important and influential person who ever lived.
There are three elements, three facts of the gospel according to Paul. We need to understand these three elements. Paul says ‘what I received I passed on to you as of first importance’. Paul is saying this is the foundational fact to our understanding of what we have received. Who did Paul receive this from? In Galatians 1, Paul tells us: “I want you to know the gospel is not something man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”
The Corinthians, to whom Paul preached this gospel, received it, believed it and were saved. This is how we all become Christians. For by grace are saved through faith in the gospel. By this gospel we are saved. And Jesus said no one comes to the Father except by Him.
“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” Paul does not go into detail about the life of Jesus, about His teaching, ministry, or miracles, but goes immediately to His death. The end of His earthly life is the beginning of the message of the gospel. What is of first importance is the reason Christ died. In fact this is the good news. Christ died for our sins according to Scriptures. His death changed my life completely and radically. This single death over 2000 years ago is the beginning of the gospel and the most significant event in all of history. His death, in the eyes of Almighty God, allowed a Holy God to forgive me of my sins- past, present and future.
Peter writes: “ He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness, by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep gone astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”(I Peter 2: 24, 25) Isaiah told us we all, like sheep have gone astray, gone our own way. Isaiah also wrote: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
This is the good news. God did something for us at the cross. Jesus died in our place which when we believe and receive, God can then treat us in the way we do not deserve. For grace is truly God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. We are now holy and blameless in His sight. We have been adopted as His very own children through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure and will- in the praise of His glorious grace. In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He has lavished on us with wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1)
It was at that moment we enter into hope and freedom. I still remember the day this happened to me on September 16, 1977. I can also remember the next morning, a Saturday morning when my boss who I had been avoiding for weeks called and I answered the phone and confessed I was an alcoholic and had not been able to stay sober. He told me he has suspected this was the case. Expecting to get fired, he said are you going to stay sober and work? I said I was going to try as best I could. What freedom and peace I had found and no longer lived in fear of being discovered. In the days and weeks, and months and years which have followed I have come to realize- life without God is hopeless. I would soon discover the power of God’s Word and prayer. It is a journey I have been of for almost 40 years. The first step was of the first importance. In receiving the good news, on which I have taken my stand.
THE SECOND ELEMENT
Notice Jesus Christ dies for our sins in accordance to the Scriptures. In other words it was predicted centuries before it happened. It was predicted with amazing details. It was anticipated and it was fulfilled. He not only died for our sins, He was buried. We must not exclude this element for it is equally important for this reason: we not only died with Him, we were buried with Him. Over the years, some have tried to explain the resurrection as simply the fact Jesus did not die on the cross, but was in a coma, a ‘swoon’, a pulse so faint, it could not be detected. But he was actually alive. Yet we know his enemies testified to his death. And those who loved him and cared for and prepared his body for burials knew Jesus was dead. Joseph of Arimathea and the women and others handled his body with great tenderness as they prepared his body with grave clothes and embalmed him in the custom of that day with spices and placed him in a grave where he lay for three days.
They were shocked and in unbelief when they heard Jesus had risen from the dead, for they had seen his dead body. It is important to note Jesus was buried. For they would not have knowingly buried a man they loved if he was still alive. They accepted his death with great sorrow, the One they loved and had spent over 3 years with was in fact, dead. It was the end of their dreams. It was the end of something which had been like nothing else they had ever experienced. They had lost all hope for the One who was the source of their hope was dead, of that they were certain or they would have never buried Him. Never leave out this fact- the proof of death. For it was the death of Jesus which paid for our sins.
THE THIRD ELEMENT
“.. that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.” Let’s investigate this phrase which has appeared twice: ‘according to the Scriptures.’ Now remember, all Paul and the disciples had was the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. However the promise of the Messiah is clearly given in what we call ‘messianic prophecies’ of which there were hundreds of predictions made about His coming. These were made hundreds and even thousands of years before His coming reaching all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
As mentioned earlier, Isaiah 53 made prophecies which contained specific details. These prophecies have become known as the “Suffering Servant.” Not only did Isaiah say he would be ‘ striped for our iniquities’, he accurately predicted the Messiah would be silent in front of His accusers; be buried with the rich; and be with criminals in his death. Psalm 22 was remarkable also in details predicted centuries before they occurred: his hands and feet would be pierced, his bones would not be broken, and men would cast lots for his clothing. But Psalm 16 was quoted by Peter on his great sermon on the Day of Pentecost: “Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with your joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16: 10, 11)
And in Psalm 110 we read: “The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. The Lord will extend you might your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
Dr. Luke who was a very careful, meticulous historian and researcher wrote: “After His suffering, He (Jesus) showed himself to these men and gave them many convincing proofs that he was alive.: (Acts 1: 3) And John the Apostle wrote: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched- this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it and we proclaim to you eternal life.”
Jesus would say to the Jewish religious leaders of his day, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and they are they which testify to me.” (John 5: 39) Then in his 40 day ministry in his resurrected body, Jesus met with Cleopas and probably his wife, on the road to Emmaus of the very day He was resurrected.( Luke 24) And in their time together, Jesus ‘ beginning with Moses and with all the Prophets explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. He would also do the same with his disciples and we read in the same passage, Jesus told the disciples: “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. The Passover celebration the Lamb to be slain all pointed to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It was a plan created by Triune God before the foundation of the earth. First revealed in Genesis 3, and articulated by Abraham on Mount Moriah when he told Isaac, ‘God Himself will provide the Lamb for the offering.’ And in the last plague of Egypt, God went into great detail to explain to Moses how His people would be delivered from their bondage. They would slay a lamb on the 14th day at twilight and place the blood of the lamb on the doorpost of their dwellings. And God would see the blood and pass over that household.
There is also the very words of Jesus as recorded by Matthew in Matthew 16: “But who do you say I am? He (Jesus) asked. Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon Peter son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gate of Hades will not overcome it. “ Then we read, as Matthew remembers what happened and records: “ From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and the he must be killed and on the third day raised to life.” (Matthew 16: 15-21)
This is what the gospel is.
DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION.
Now when you become a Christian these three elements become a pattern which shows us how God is going to work within us. The first thing that happens is there must be death. Death is a separation. Something in us has to die when we become Christians. This is why we are told in detail and numerous times, we are crucified with Christ. We are told we must put off the old man. The old man and old way of living is to be reckoned dead with Christ. The old nature must die. Not rehabilitated, not turn over a new leaf, nothing will work but death. Our old nature cannot be resurrected. It must be crucified and buried. Your old nature was your god-a selfish, self-seeking nature. And it lived by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. It was like the Prodigal Son- who did not want his father to be boss over him, he wanted to be his own boss and do what was right in our own eyes. And so many of us were like the prodigal we followed after the life of pleasure. A way that seemed right to us. A broad way on which many others were traveling. Not all followed an immoral lifestyle like the younger brother the Prodigal. Some were moral like the elder brother who sought to find their way through hard work, and success in the world. They looked down on prodigals and immoral people. They like the Pharisees w had nothing to do with those people. Both sons were lost and the paths they had chosen for different reasons nevertheless, both led to destruction. The Pharisees, like the elder brother were self righteous. Both were ruled by self. This is why we must take up our cross daily. Remembering, ‘ we are crucified with Christ, ( past tense) nevertheless we live, ( present tense) but the life we now live in the flesh, we live by the faith of the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.’
How do we do this? By taking up our cross daily and reckoning our old nature dead and buried. We were raised with Christ to walk in the newness of life. In this way we appropriate the death, burial and resurrection personally in our present lives.
THE LAST OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET
The last Old Testament prophet would appear in the New Testament, his name was John the Baptist. His mission was to preach a message of repentance to prepare for the coming of the Lord, to make straight paths of Him. God revealed to John the Baptist this Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. And John the Baptist knew his mission was accomplished. He then told Andrew and Peter the day after the baptism of the Lord Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Operation Salvation had begun and continues to this day.
Now Paul will go on to verify this fact of Jesus’s bodily resurrection from the dead by telling us He was seen by over 500 eyewitnesses and specifies who some of those witnesses are. We will go into greater detail about the significance of this abundant evidence. For they are factual. Our faith does not rest upon a philosophy, it rests on actual facts which really occurred and have changed history and the lives of untold millions and millions of people of which I am one. I can testify to the fact He saved my life. And these facts cannot be taken away, as much as the father of lies wants to convince mankind and place a veil over the hearts of men and women. A veil which can only be taken away for anyone who turns to the Lord and there the veil is taken away. This is why Jesus said, ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened to you. For God will reward those who diligently seek Him.
TAKING YOUR STAND AND HOLDING FIRM
In the movie, “Braveheart”, facing an onrushing superior army, Mel Gibson in the role of Scottish hero, Wallace, exhorts his men to “ HOLD! “ This is what Paul is telling us to do- to HOLD FIRM. And William Wallace, at least in the movie, last word was FREEDOM! It was for freedom that Christ died for us- so that we might be free from the bondage of sin.
We are taking our stand and in this world where the very ground we stand on can become a slippery slope. It is interesting the pieces of armor we possess and the weapons which we have which are described as ‘not being weapons of the world, but on the contrary, they (our weapons) have divine power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10)
Paul lists the weapons and armor in Ephesians 6. His model for the armor is probably a Roman solider who guarded Paul in prison. Listen to Paul’s instructions: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the GOSPEL OF PEACE. “
The Roman solider wore a sandal which had spikes which enabled him to stand his ground. To dig in and have firm footing so he could fight the good fight.
This gospel if what we hold firmly to, the gospel which Paul preached and described simply here in these few verses. His death, burial and resurrection are what we believe. It was prophesized, anticipated and fulfilled.
Believe it to be saved, wise and prepared for this life and the life to come!
“It contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding.
Christ is the grand subject, our good the design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart and guide our feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred content. “ Gideon’s International.
I am forgiven because the Lord Jesus Christ asks His Father to forgive me as He was dying in my place. He created a way, a peace treaty ratified in His blood and when I believe and received it an eternal Peace Treaty was enacted and I had peace with God and the peace of God. The Gospel of Peace.