2006-04-18 - Paul's Message
Paul had a way of spelling things out in ways that anyone could understand. When he was in Athens, he made use of the unknown god to make God known (Acts 17:22-33). He was a Jew for the Jews and a Greek for the Greeks. (1 Corinthians 9:22) In writing to the church at Corinth, Paul brilliantly laid out the core of his teachings.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (HCSB) Now brothers, I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it. 2 You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you-unless you believed to no purpose. 3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. 6 Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time, most of whom remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me.
Belief in this great news - the Gospel - is powerful. It is able to save our souls if we stand firm upon it according to verse two. Paul penned a nice little list of the basics - a creedal statement before the great creeds of the early church were ever made. By examining this piece by piece, we can see the basics of the Christian faith
Sometimes I believe we think Christ is Jesus' last name but it is not. It is a title. Christ was the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah. Both refer to the anointed Savior, which God's people have looked for since the fall. Andrew told his brother, "We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ." Then he led Peter to Jesus. (John 1:41-42) Jesus is the Christ. He is the Savior and redeemer of the world. If he is not that, then he is a sham and the gospel is just a good story. If Jesus is not the Christ, then he is a fake and a fraud and the New Testament is mere fantasy and fables. Would men die for such nonsense? Hardly - and yet, most of the Apostles and many other saints died for their belief that Jesus was the Messiah without recanting their faith.
"that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures"
From Genesis to Revelation the bible points out that sin causes death but Jesus took that death upon himself. In a follow up letter, Paul would later write, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21) He did not save the Jews from the Romans. He did not save humanity from disease and pestilence. If Jesus did not save us from sin and its doom then he was no Savior. If you'd like a few examples of scripture that said the Christ must die look at Psalms 22:1-31, Isaiah 53:1-12, Daniel 9:26, and Zechariah 12:10.
"that He was buried"
Jesus died and, like all dead men, he was buried. The soldiers that crucified him were sure of it according to John 19:33. The Jewish leaders were sure of it or they would not have asked for his body to be guarded. (Matthew 27:62-63) His disciples were sure of it or they would not have been so scared to see him. Jesus did not just faint and get revived as sects like the Gnostics tried to preach; Jesus died and was buried.
"that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures"
Thank God, the story did not end there. He paid for sin but he went beyond that. He conquered death. Because he lives, I need not fear what this world throws at me. Because he lives, I can face troubles with peace knowing that death would only bring me face to face with God. Again, scripture foretold that he would be resurrected; see Psalms 16:10 and Hosea 6:2. Forgiveness of sins debts would not mean much if that forgiveness was only for this temporal life. However, because he died and rose, forgiveness is eternal. It is ours forever.
"that he appeared"
This was no fictitious hoax it was historical fact; Jesus came back to life. Paul told the church to check it out for themselves when he said that many of the witnesses were still alive. Jesus Christ is alive and Paul could prove it. Just as Paul knew Jesus was alive because he had seen him, just as Thomas knew Christ was alive because he had seen him, I know he is alive because I have felt him in my heart.
Jesus Christ died for us and now he is alive for us - interceding for us. Christ is the one "that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." (Romans 8:34)
Hallelujah - Praise God. Jesus died for me. He was buried for me. He was raised for me. One fall September day in 1989, he appeared to me through eyes of faith. And one day, I will see him face to face. I cannot wait. What about you?
All scripture references from KJV unless otherwise noted