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.
Paul uses some interesting terminology here that is not apparent in our English translations. Paul says that he delivered to the Christians in Corinth that which he had formally received. Those two terms, deliver and receive are important because they describe what was the essential duty of a disciple toward a master. A disciple of an older rabbi was to receive from him that which was the wisdom of the rabbis, and then without altering it in any respect, to pass it on to those who would become his disciples. Their idea of knowledge was not what we think of. We think of an educated person as someone who is able to make up new things and develop ideas. That was not the rabbinic idea at all. Rather, they believed that the lore of antiquity was really the wisdom of God. And, therefore, a good disciple was one who just absorbed such wisdom word for word, memorized it, and then, without changing it in the slightest, passed it on.
There has been a tendency in recent scholarship to say that the writers of the Gospels, and even Paul in the Epistles, were essentially writing the stories that we find there as mere literary expressions. But that is not the way the Jews thought. Nobody would have paid attention to creative stories of that nature. Anything that was new was suspect just because it was new.
That is why the teachings of Jesus Christ are almost verbally repeated in the various Gospels. The reason all those texts sound so much alike is that the disciples did what any good student of a rabbi would do. When Jesus said something, they memorized it. And then they delivered it unchanged in the Gospels.
Now here is Paul using those terms. Paul is one who said on many occasions that what he spoke he had received from the Lord (see 1 Corinthians 2:13). It’s a great claim to inspiration. And yet, here’s the Apostle Paul, who, as an apostle, certainly has a direct claim to revelation. Nevertheless he counted it the greatest honor and privilege in the world to take the Word that he had received, word for word, and pass it on.
There is a sense in which that is what all of us do today. It is true that we try to communicate in the language of our time. Someone once said to me, “I listen to your sermons, because you seem to give a little twist at the end. You say something that’s unexpected.” I do that, I suppose, as a device to try to make it stick in people’s minds. We try to be creative in presenting things differently from how others present them. But that is a minor thing. The important thing is that, in our preaching, teaching, or simply in our witnessing, we deliver to others that which we first received. We are not trying to create a theology. We are simply delivering to others that which was first delivered to us, and which, if we trace it back through history, comes from the Lord Jesus Christ himself. So we say, “Don’t believe this because it’s new; rather, believe this because it is true.”
This is what happened, and this is what Christians down through all the ages have believed. Now, in these verses, Paul puts it in the simplest of terms. If you want the core of the Gospel, if you want it trimmed down to its basic necessities, that is what you find here. Some New Testament scholars call this the karigma. It’s a Greek word that means “proclamation,” the Gospel itself. Here it is in Paul’s terms: “What I received, I passed on to you as a first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” That’s the first thing.
The second point is that Christ was buried, and the third point is that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. It is interesting that he doesn’t say anything about the actual person of Christ. The whole doctrine of the Person of Christ is assumed. The doctrine of God is also assumed, because when Paul says that Christ is raised from the dead, it is God the Father who raised his Son. Paul says that this is the Gospel – the core of the Gospel – that concerns the work of Christ. The main focus is on the fact that Christ died for our sins, he was buried, and he rose again from the dead, according to the Scriptures.
What is the significance of the terms deliver and receive?
What is the karigma?
What three points does Paul put forth in his presentation of the Gospel?
Are you afraid to share the Gospel with people you know? You needn’t be. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a matter of your creation or “your opinion.” It is “that which was first delivered to us, and which, if we trace it back through history, comes from the Lord Jesus Christ himself.”