The Nature of the Gospel – 1 Corinthians 15:1-47 min read
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
The Gospel is far more than a massage preached at a revival meeting; it is more than God’s pathway to salvation. It is that – and thankfully so! – but it is so much broader in its scope. God designed it to be Truth that carries on in our lives from the point of salvation unto the endless ages of eternity, and as long as we live upon this earth amidst false doctrine God will hold us responsible in how we pass down this Truth. Therefore, it is absolutely vital to understand the nature of the Gospel, seeing as we are stewards of it.
I. The Preaching of the Gospel
Paul begins his section by looking back to how the Corinthian believers heard the gospel in the first place – through his preaching. Notice:
- It was doctrinal in nature. We know this by the fact that the doctrine of the resurrection, which he would explain later in the chapter, was the same that he taught the Corinthians at the beginning. Any man entrusted with the public ministry of the Word must understand faithfulness to Scripture’s clear teachings. Paul was confident in what he preached, and he remained in that. Can we with confidence preach what we do? Or is our understanding of Truth weak and relativistic?
- It was grace-centred. Though not in our section, we see in verse ten “by the grace of God I am what I am.” No labourer in the gospel can remain true unless he understands that his competence is of God. The man who forgets grace compromises an entire future of fruitfulness that comes by the gospel. Since we know that a foundation in the gospel starts from the preaching of it, and since we also know that the preaching of the gospel is by grace, we understand that the assembly’s foundation in the gospel is totally of grace: we must not forget the goodness of God.
II. The Consistency of the Gospel
The reason Paul could preach the same message in this chapter as he had at the beginning is because by nature the gospel is changeless. The same that was true at the beginning will still remain true until the end. Because it is, in fact, the teaching of Christ, it reflects the nature of Himself: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
But why must we understand this? Because if we do not, we are subject to becoming as the Galatians – “So soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel, which is not another.” If God has entrusted us with certain Truth, we are responsible to keep it. Has God commanded repentance? Let us preach repentance. Has God raised His Son bodily? Then let us preach the bodily resurrection. Has God exalted His Son as Lord over all? Then let us preach Christ the Lord. It is quite simple: God gives us truth – we keep it in the exact way He has given it to us. Despite the attitude amongst modern evangelicals, we do not compromise doctrine – ever. Now, we may compromise our opinions or such, because they are man-ordained. But when it comes to doctrine, since it is of God, when we compromise we act as if the world’s opinion is more important than God’s Truth, which is true regardless of whether anyone believes it or not.
III. The Memory of the Gospel
So then, we are faced with doctrine – the Truth of the Gospel. And it is not dormant fact, but it has real effects. In fact, it is the very foundation of the local assembly, for it is that “wherein ye stand.” When we change the immutable Truth of God, we compromise the very foundation upon which we build into God’s assembly. But do we not read in 1 Corinthians 3 that Christ is the foundation? Exactly! By this we know that the Gospel is really the teaching of the Person of Christ; and therefore, our response to the gospel as believers reflects our response to Christ.
Because of the absolute vitality of the message, he urges the people of God to “keep in memory what I preached,” for it is only then that we can stand in the gospel. We cannot stand in a teaching that is not constantly upheld and taught. God has ordained that there be continual gospel preaching in the assembly, both to unbelievers and to the saints. Enough with trying to continually boost the self-esteem of the audience, which seems to be so prevalent and concentrated upon in most churches; let us rather have a Godly passing down of Truth, of the Gospel. How we keep the Gospel in our memory and in our preaching defines how the next generation view Christ. We only stand in Him if we preach Him consistently.
IV. The Authority of the Gospel
But how do we go about doing this? Well, how did Paul do it? He preached the Gospel on the authority of God. He emphasizes that it was a message “which I also received” and “according to the Scriptures.” Never does the Gospel go beyond this, and never does it fall short of this. Some today would claim the Gospel is the ability to heal. Some would say it is the opportunity for prosperity. Some would say it is the ability to speak in unknown tongues. But this is not the Gospel: it is man’s taking Scripture out of context to exalt his own preferences. The gospel is something we receive directly from and only from God, and when we preach anything other that what we have received, we step out of the sphere of gospel preaching and into the sphere of preaching false doctrine and even heresy.
And so, in each of our assemblies, what must we have? We must have the preaching of Scripture – the authority from God. What then? The preaching of Scripture. And after? The preaching of Scripture. We must have Biblical teaching so that what the next generation receives is firm and that which will endure in substance. If we reject this, we have believed for nothing, for this is the root of true Christian discipleship. Also, how can we claim to have believed if we weren’t going to be committed to what we were believing? It is contradictory to claim to believe that which we don’t uphold.
V. The Substance of the Gospel
Now as we close, what exactly is it that we are to pass down? Well, in its core, the message is the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Christ on the authority of God’s Word. This is the basic message we preach to unbelievers. Then, when we are saved, God desires that we delve further into the Truth we were first rooted in – this is why Romans, Hebrews, Colossians, and such epistles exist. We must seek to understand more of the Gospel – more of the Person of Christ. And in reality we are responsible to know what we believe doctrinally, for we see Paul’s question in verse 12, “Now, if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” He asked this, because there is responsibility on our part to be competent in Biblical doctrine and continually go deeper into it. There is so much more in Scripture to be learned that just that we have eternal life. We will never exhaust the beauties of Christ, and therefore we must get a good start looking into them through the revelation of Himself – His Word. Perhaps, then, it would be profitable to close with the words of the Hebrew writer.
(5:13) For every one that uses milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (6:1) Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgement. And this will we do, if God permit.