We have just come off the Passion and Easter weeks and I’d like to point your minds to the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians. After writing about some very practical matters, the apostle Paul devotes the entire 15th chapter to the doctrine of the resurrection – a sure indication of the importance of this doctrine. If Christ has not been raised, the entire Christian faith falls apart, we Christians are the most pitiable people in the world, and the world is without hope.
But based on “scientific and philosophical” grounds, some members of the Corinthian church had problems with the whole idea of a bodily resurrection. It was an established “scientific” fact that dead bodies do not rise from the grave. No one had ever seen it happen, not in their own lives or in history. Once people were dead, they stayed dead. Furthermore, why would anyone want to come back from the dead and be reunited with their weak bodies? Contemporary philosophy taught that salvation consisted precisely in being liberated from the prison house of the body, so that you could be pure mind or spirit. Influenced by such evidence and such reasoning, some of the Corinthians had developed a doctrine of the resurrection of the soul. At conversion, we are spiritually resurrected to a new life, but we shouldn’t hope for a future physical resurrection. “They say that the resurrection has already taken place.” (2 Timothy 2:18)
Paul combats this heresy by carefully arguing that Christ has been physically raised from the dead and that his resurrection makes all the difference for us in the present and the future. “I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel … I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand”.
Note how carefully Paul describes the Gospel. It’s the word “I preached to you.” It’s what “you received,” in faith, when I preached it. It’s what you have “taken your stand on.” It is by this Gospel and none other, that “you are saved.”
The most succinct condensed statement of the gospel that Paul preached is: “I delivered to you … what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures”.
This was the gospel that Paul spent his entire Christian life preaching. This is the gospel we stand on. This is the gospel we must continue to proclaim. Any other version is false and will not save.
Pastor Robert Chew