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.
- 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 – “ Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 – “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain.”
- Step 1: The Gospel is preached to people
- Step 2: People receive the Gospel
- Step 3: Those who receive the Gospel stand in the Gospel. This is justification. Just picture standing before the judge.
- Step 4: Those who stand in the Gospel (justified) are being saved by the Gospel. This means that you will be resurrected like Jesus was resurrected.
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.
- Matthew 1:20 – “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take (paralambano) Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
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.
- 1 Corinthians 15:2 – “… unless you believed in vain”
- 1 Corinthians 15:11 – “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
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.
- Mark 1:15 – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
- John 1:12 – “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,”
- John 3:16 – “"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
- John 5:24 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
- John 6:47 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”
- Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”
- Ephesians 1:13 – “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
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.
- Galatians 1:9 – “As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
- Galatians 3:10 – “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith."
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.
- Ephesians 2:8-9 - “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
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?