Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 27, 2014
Last week, we took a break from studying the Sermon on the Mount, and we focused our attention on the explicit Gospel. In doing so we looked at 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and I asked two questions, what is the Gospel and why is it “of first importance.” Sunday night as I was beginning to reset for another week, I was debating if I should turn back to the Sermon on the Mount or not, for there is so much in the passage of 1 Corinthians 15 that I glazed over due to time constraints. Therefore I decided that we need to hang out in this text and focus more on the Gospel for two more weeks and then we will return to the Mountain. So with that said, let us read our text, pray and then see what God wants to show us.
In the midst of that that chain, that progression that I just laid out, is a gap. The gap lies between the gospel being preached and the Gospel being received. The Greek word behind “receive” is paralambanō this means to take, to join to one’s self, to make it yours. One way that this word, paralambano, is used is in the context of marriage. It is the word used by the angels to encourage Joseph to take, or receive, Mary as his wife after he found out she was pregnant.
We are told very clearly and directly in our text that the way you receive the Gospel and therefore all of the benefits that flow from the Gospel is by believing. Look at verse 2 and verse 11.
This is one of those times when you are reading scripture that its helpful to understand what the passage does not say. The passage does not say that you are saved if you come to church. It does not say you will be saved if you are baptized. It does not say that you are saved if you take communion. It does not say you are saved if you are a good person. It does not say you are saved if you are a republican.
It says very explicitly you are saved from the wrath of God by believing, believing that Jesus died for you, a sinner, and that he was raised from the dead. That’s it. Believe. Scandalous isn’t it?
Just so we are clear, this is not the only place we see this in the Bible. Here is a small sampling of other passages in the Bible that say the same thing.
Within the Church of Galatia there were people who called themselves Christians. They sang the songs, they were baptized, they were “good people,” but they said that believing in Jesus wasn’t enough. They said in addition to accepting Jesus you had to, also jump through specific religious hoops. They said that you still had to work, or earn, grace. This is, by the way, an oxymoron. If you earn something it is a wage, not grace. In essence, what these fake Christians were saying is that Jesus didn’t really give you a gift, he just gave you a discount on your salvation. It was like an Easter day sale. You still had to pony up and provide some cash in the form of righteous acts. This blasphemy was the main issue that caused Paul to write one of the most stinging books in the Bible.
Many of you may be saying, we get it, stop beating a dead horse. Do we? Do we get it? Do we understand that nothing we do can make God love us more or less? Do we get that nothing we do can make us more attractive to God. Do we understand that we are saved by faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone? Do we really believe 1 Corinthians 15, John 3:16, Romans 1:16, the book of Galatians? I am not sure that we do.
One of the primary means by which Satan undermines the Glory of Christ is by convincing you that Christ is not enough; that Jesus just wasn’t able to rescue you; that Jesus can only save you so far. Satan attempts to strip the glory of Christ and tries to convince you to take some glory for yourself. Why does he do it? Because he wants you in hell with him.
This is what we call false religion. It is the form of religion, but is lacks power. It lacks the Gospel. It takes the Gospel and makes it pointless.
Understanding that it is faith alone that is the means to accept the gift is so crucial, for you don’t receive it, if you don’t believe it. Do you here that? You don’t receive forgiveness, if you don’t believe that through Christ you are forgiven. You don’t receive eternal life, if you don’t believe Jesus purchased it for you.
Why is it this way? Why does God set up redemption through believing in Christ? It has everything to do with Glory. God created this universe to display his glory. Isaiah 48:11 says that God will not give his glory to another. This includes the glory of saving sinners.
But if instead when you are standing before the judgment seat of God and God asks you on what basis you shall avoid Hell you say, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” Get ready for eternal joy.
Folks, it is time for a reformation. It is time for us to nail the 95 thesis on our hearts and to get back to the Bible and read the words of Paul, John, and Jesus. We must see 1 Corinthians 15 for what it says. The Bible is so clear, that it amazes me when people try to save themselves by religion. Religion does not save. Jesus saves. Amen?