The Gospel Core
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Theme: The Resurrection
This week’s lessons provide us with evidences to support the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I think it is interesting that, although Paul’s concern in this chapter is to talk about the Resurrection, when he mentions the fact that Jesus Christ appeared to him last of all, Paul’s mind immediately thinks of the grace of God. Before he met the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul was a proud man. He had come from centuries of Jewish tradition. And he believed that if anybody had any right to stand before God, it was he. When he looked back over his life, he could declare, as he does in the third chapter of Philippians, that he was born a Hebrew of the Hebrews, an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day, and then, in addition to all of those things that he had inherited, there was the fact that he was a Pharisee, the strictest sect of the Jews. He had also been zealous in the pharisaic cause, which he had demonstrated by persecuting the church. And as far as the righteousness of the Law he stood before God blameless.
And then he met Jesus Christ. And he realized that when he thought he was most doing the work of God, he was actually opposing it. He was fighting Jesus himself, the Son of God, the Savior. He recognized what a sinful man he was, and from then on his teachings are characterized by humility. And we find Paul saying, “Because I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. And yet it’s by the grace of God that I am what I am.” That’s what the Gospel core leads us to.
If you don’t think in terms of the Lord Jesus Christ dying for your sin, and being buried, and then being raised on the third day according to the Scriptures to declare in a public way that God has accepted his sacrifice on your behalf – if you don’t begin with that core of the Gospel – then you are like Paul before his conversion. Some think that the way to get by is by doing as many good things as one can because God will surely take note of that. Of course he does. But that kind of religious pride has been one of the curses of human history. When you recognize that your sin was such a terrible thing in the sight of God that God himself in the Person of his Son had to come and die for you, submitting to the death of the cross for you, then you are humbled before him, and you too can say, “It is only by the grace of God that I am what I am.”
People have a way of putting off the Gospel, and they do so by relativizing truth so that, although we claim that this is true, they say, “Well, that’s just true for you. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with me. I do what pleases me. You do what pleases you.” Some time ago I spoke in a church in Memphis, and I said something along that line. About a week later, I got a letter from a man who said, “Just after you spoke, I was on the way to California on an airplane. And I was sitting next to a man on the plane. And I began to witness about Christ and his resurrection. And his reply to me was just what you had said in your message in Memphis: ‘I’m glad it’s meaningful for you. That just isn’t my bag.’ ” He had written to me to ask, “How do you deal with a situation like that?”
It is one of the devil’s triumphs that he has so relativized truth that the true claims of Christianity can be heard by many people and shrugged off as if it does not make any difference whether a thing is true or not. I responded to the man that the only answer I know is that we must keep on stating these claims. By the grace of God, truth is such a thing that it does tend to work its way into the human heart and demand a response. It did in Christ’s day. Jesus spoke the truth. And people wanted to dismiss it. But he continued to speak it. And they were faced with that great crisis, whether they were to hear the truth as it came from Jesus himself, or else, setting their face against that truth, oppose him and his claims and fight him necessarily unto death.
Paul had the same experience in his day. And that is essentially what we face today. That is what you face today if you have not yet come to terms with Gospel teaching. Christianity says, “This is not merely a philosophy. This is historical truth. Jesus, Son of God, died on the cross for your sin. And he was buried. And he rose again from the dead on the third day. And there were witnesses of these things.” You have to come to terms with that. Is that true? If that’s true, then Jesus is who he claimed to be. And the great challenge of life is to dismiss a claim like that. But I do not think you can. I think it is far better to bow the knee to Christ, and accept him on his terms, and enter into the joy of his salvation.
To what does the Gospel core lead us?
Read Philippians 3:1-11. Why does Paul consider all his good works as loss?