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1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Paul exhorts believers to hold firmly to the Gospel. It comes initially as information that is genuinely true and Christians may stand upon it with absolute confidence. It is grounded in accurate history and to embrace it does not entail any gullibility whatsoever whatever those who deny it and oppose it may allege.
Paul preaches the Gospel with definite certainty in its veracity and its power to salvage the sinful. “By this Gospel you are saved” (v3). The apostolic pledge of the efficacy the message concerning Jesus Christ is the incentive to persevering faith. He addresses the possibility that faith may be professed but not actually possessed within the heart. A superficial belief is in vain. It is found at the tip of the head but is not grounded in the soul.
Paul avers the twofold grasp of the apostolic report concerning the Redeemer he proclaims:
a) The tidings concerning Christ are solidly, soundly historical. The details of Jesus’ life and ministry are true. The supremely saving events related by his followers are indisputably real. Christ died, was buried, and rose again (vv. 3-4). The crucifixion was viewed by many - those who loved Jesus and those who loathed him sufficiently enough to kill him. His advocates and enemies stared at the same cruel cross. Roman soldiers saw him expire and certified his demise. Jewish dignitaries buried him. His body was not interred in the earth but laid on a shelf in a rich man’s grave (Joseph of Arimathea). In the cold, dank tomb the Savior was raised to life. The power of the Lord performed the Resurrection on the third day of his decease. The marvel amazed his friends and disciples. They observed together the wonderful work of God.
b) Peter the denier was especially summoned to see him. The twelve beheld him. Subsequently, five hundred of the band of brothers and believers saw him alive at the same time. This was no illusion - hundreds of people hallucinating together. When Paul was corresponding with the Corinthian church most of the observers were still alive and could guarantee their experience. James should be included on the list of witnesses, and also the totality of the remaining apostles following Judas’ suicide.
Finally, Paul adds his encounter with the risen Lord. He knows fully all that he is expatiating upon so convincingly. He knows nothing can be denied and that every fact must be declared. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance” (v3). Paul received the assurance of the disciples, the report of the five hundred, and then the confirmation of the Messiah’s personal appearance on the Damascus Road.
The interpretation of the death, burial, and rising again of the Lord Jesus is enunciated by the apostle. It is the primary principle of the Gospel - all Christian thought, understanding, and proclamation “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (v3). This theme is wide-ranging in its application, but it should never be overlooked that the essence of Christian faith and discourse is “Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23). God is best known through his Son nailed to the cross (here we see his heart and the direction of his power), and all things are to be viewed and evaluated through Christ, “who has become for us the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:30). Through belief of the Gospel the truth of history becomes the treasure of the heart.