Wednesday, February 23, 2011

the gospel: of first importance

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
1 Corinthians 15:3-5

The gospel is the central core of thought for Christianity. It is the basic saving message found only in Christ that we preach and celebrate in all that we do. Paul's summary of it is straightforward. It is always good to be reminded on what we are all about.

Paul saw the death of Christ as a substitutionary atonement. Christ died for our sins. That is the core of the gospel. We are in need of a savior. Our sin separates us from God. It is that fact that imperils our souls. That is why Jesus came and that is why He gave His life. He died for our sins.

The earliest Christians also clearly saw the substitutionary atonement of Christ as an event taught throughout the scriptures. It was the fulfillment of a plan that God had revealed in His Word. Thus the phrase "in accordance with the Scriptures" is a vital piece of the gospel message. Jesus was not killed in a travesty of justice as a failed moral teacher. He willingly gave His life in submission to the Father's will so that we might be redeemed from sin.

The earliest Christians also put much credence in the historical reliability of this truth. Paul goes into detail to affirm that Jesus was buried in a real tomb and that He rose again the third day. This was witnessed by people that at the time of the writing of this letter was still assessable. Most of these witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus could be found. They could be talked to and interviewed. This was factual information and Paul covers it in detail, not in exaggeration! He admits that of the 500 who witnessed Christ in one appearance, some had now died. His point was that the definitive mark of the gospel, the resurrection, was verifiable.

It is the TRUTH of the gospel that makes it compelling. The historical accuracy of the fact that Jesus lived and died are without any serious question. No historian today would commit intellectual suicide by saying Jesus never lived. Of course He did. And the facts around His crucifixion are reliable as well. They match historical data for the times in fine detail. The witnesses to His resurrection are so many, that the amount of time it would take to discredit each one has easily been part of history. Yet no one has been able to do it successfully. It is because this is the central reality each human being was born to hear, and that God desires we understand. It is of first importance.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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