The resurrection of the dead is at the heart of “the Gospel.” This is the most important teaching, and fundamental to our faith. The resurrection of Christ from the dead played a major part in the ministry of the apostles, to the grief of the Sadducees among the Jews, to the scorn of the Gentile philosophers, but to the faith, hope, and comfort of Christians. This is the substance of the Gospel, upon which everything else depends, including the resurrection of Christians from the dead. Here are my “five loaves and two fishes” take on this (or rather my “two cents” worth).
The Corinthian church had been perplexed with subtle questions. This was a congregation torn by sects and parties. It is possible that in the midst of strife and division they were losing their grip on this great and vital truth of Christianity. It is easy for churches in our day, with so much focus on Church growth, spiritual gifts, church board strategic meetings etc, to give lesser importance and emphasis on the centrality of the Gospel. The Gospel seems to fade easily in the background.
The Gospel is often perceived as a “basic or elementary” doctrine which a person receives at the point of conversion and then grows into a more “advance” form of Christian spirituality etc. Hence our understanding goes that the Gospel is primarily for the non-believers; which a person receives at the point of conversion. And discipleship is for the Christian, who had believed the Gospel and now then grows into spiritual maturity. Yes, there is truth to this. We do grow. But the question is: What sort of spiritual maturity? It is plain to me, that this is a Red light warning for the spiritual health of the church. With so much talk on healthy churches, it is imperative that the Gospel should be at the fore-front of our church growth discussions. How can a church grow if it is not healthy? And
How can a church be spiritually healthy without an emphasis on the Gospel?
If the Gospel is not our primary concern for all of our spiritual lives and every dimension of church ministry, we will start to grow into something else, like legalism or some new form of liberalism that under-cuts, under-values and under-appreciates the Gospel. Following I Corinthians chapter 12 and 14 on spiritual gifts, with a focus on love in chapter 13, Paul opens up chapter 15 with these rather sobering words:1. 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.
The Corinthian church had greatly been blessed with spiritual gifts unlike anything we’ve seen in the history of the Church. But here, Paul reminds them of “the Gospel” which he “preached” to them, which they “received” and in which they stood. He reminds them that the Gospel is the foundation upon which the Church was started. It was by the power of the Gospel that they were converted. And it is by the Gospel that they are “being saved” to this present day. And it is by the power of the Gospel that they would be resurrected from dead to life.
The Importance & Centrality Of The Gospel: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,
If there is anything that the Church needed to “hold fast” to, it is the centrality of the Gospel. According to Paul, the Gospel is “of first importance” in the Church. The Gospel is this, “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.” The heart of the Gospel is that Christ died for our sins and was raised on the third day “in accordance with the Scriptures.” Nothing is of greater importance than the Gospel, as passed on to us by Paul and the rest of the apostles through the ages. The call of the church is to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1: 3). There is no greater miracle than this; and nothing is as important as Christs’ resurrection from the dead. Hence, it’s implications for all of life and ministry.
All That We Are And Do Comes From Grace: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.
When sinners are, by God’s grace, turned into new people, God causes the remembrance of our former sins to make us humble, diligent, and faithful (v.9). Paul ascribes to God’s grace all that was valuable in him (v.10). In the same way, we give all the credit to God for who we are and what we do today. It was grace that converted us as sinners; it was grace that gave us new identity in Christ; it is grace that brought us to where we are today! Whatever spiritual progress Paul made, both in his Christian life and ministry, was all owing to the grace of God. When true believers, though they are not ignorant of what the Lord has done in and through them, look at their whole lives, they are led to feel that none are so worthless as they are apart from the grace of God. All that we are and do is all owing to God’s sovereign grace in Christ.
We are what we are by the grace of God. All our growth comes about by the grace of God. We never out-grow our need of the Gospel. We grow deeper and deeper into it. Otherwise our churches might grow into something else (like legalism or neo-liberalism and so forth). We grow in the Gospel daily as individuals, and as a community of God’s people.
The Heart Of The Gospel: Resurrection From The Dead.
The resurrection from the dead- was absurd, according to Grecian ideas. “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked” (Acts 17:32). And, obviously, some were infusing this kind of skepticism into the church at Corinth. From 2 Timothy 2: 18, we learn that some regarded “the resurrection” had passed already, and, consequently, that there was nothing left but a spiritual resurrection. It is clear that this error had gained a footing in the Corinthian church (I Corinthians 15: 12). Hence Paul writes to answer this problem:13. But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. NOTE: Here is a list of characteristics that some “healthy” growing churches have been said to share. Among these wonderful traits, I have included just one thing at the very top of the list (highlighted): Grace-based and gospel-centered ministries. Empowering leadership Gift-oriented ministry Passionate spirituality Functional structures Inspiring worship service Holistic small groups Need-oriented evangelism Loving relationships. What do you think? Comments and suggestions welcome! Please use the comment box below!