“The Gospel Declaration”
(an examination of 1 Corinthians 15:1-8)
Near the end of the longest of the New Testament epistles, the inspired writer speaks to his first century audience by saying that it is his desire and plan to fully declare the gospel of Jesus Christ. In making that statement, Paul goes on to outline some major components of the gospel message that was important for early followers to understand but also important for 21st century Christians to never forget and remember as we try to live out the gospel message and share it with others.
Paul uses the text to teach a very clear, fundamental lesson -- only the gospel can save us! (vs. 2). No other doctrine, set of beliefs, or compilation of religious or social advice can cause a person to be saved. Only the gospel, the same thing that the inspired apostle said was "the power unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). Like the early followers, we should never be ashamed of the simplicity of the gospel message--it's all that was ever needed and still needed in order for men to escape the damnation that comes from our sinfulness.
In verse three, Paul establishes two important facts about the gospel message. The first is that Christ died for our sins. Jesus did not die because of His sins. Jesus did not die because God's plan failed. Jesus Christ was the willing lamb who died as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind -- period. Secondly, Jesus' death was according to, "the Scriptures." Long before sin entered the world and long before the world was created and long before humans lived, God had planned for a marvelous sacrifice that would showcase His love and provide us the model by which we can serve Him and others.
Of course, if verse three wasn't followed by verse four, there would be a serious problem for us as men and women of faith. Paul says that Jesus "rose again the third day." Men die all the time and that's no cause for us to really take notice. But for someone to bring Himself back from the dead, well that does merit our attention!
What's equally important is the fact that Paul follows up verse four with four additionally important "proof verses" wherein he outlines the countless men who didn't merely "hear about" the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth was witlessness it with their own ideas. Our faith in Jesus Christ is indeed faith, but not an "empty" or meaningless faith that hopes on a the chance that something really did happen. Instead, we have a faith that is truly grounded in rock-solid evidence wherein men saw exactly what happened some 2,000 years ago.
When we declare the gospel message to others, let's make sure we remember what that really means and involves. We are not just sharing some happy news about this life, but instead are sharing the greatest news ever about a Savior that lived, died, and now lives forever. That's exciting news indeed!