1 Corinthians 15:3-5 Firm foundations

According to Romans 1:16 the gospel is ‘the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes’.  As a result, Satan is always active, trying to pervert the gospel and to prevent sinners hearing the way of salvation.  The attacks on basic truths take various forms – in Corinth the attack was on the Christian’s hope of resurrection.  Paul replies with an assertion of the unshakeable facts of the gospel, the truths which we must rest upon and defend.  We consider 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 Firm foundations.

1. The revelation

Paul makes clear that the gospel he preached was not of his own devising: it is ‘what I received’ (v3).  He had not invented the gospel – once he had tried to destroy it.  His source was not the other apostles – see Galatians 1:12.  The gospel message was God-given.  Paul knew the facts about Jesus, but their significance was directly revealed.  The gospel we have is inspired truth about the saving acts of God in Jesus Christ.  Unless God had revealed these things, they would have been a mystery to us.  The Lord’s promise to the apostles regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit was, ‘he will guide you into all truth’ (John 16:13).  We can have total confidence in the gospel.  It requires faithful communication.  ‘I passed on to you’ uses the technical term for handing on the deposit of truth.  It is so precious it must be transmitted carefully, omitting nothing.

2. The crucifixion

Note ‘as of first importance’ – the focus is on the key elements of the gospel.  Much more could be said – these things must be said.  The very heart of the gospel is ‘Christ died for our sins’.  It was not an unfortunate tragedy, but the culmination of the eternal plan of God to save sinners.  The cross was the goal of Jesus’ life on earth (John 12:27).  His death is bound up with human sin which merits the wrath of God.  He is the Lamb of God (John 1:29), the sacrifice offered to satisfy the demands of God’s law and to obtain forgiveness.  The wrath of God was turned aside and he could cry in triumph ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30).  It is the mercy and grace of God that brought Jesus to die for us – ‘for the ungodly’ (Romans 5:6).  As a result ‘we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins’ (Ephesians 1:7).  This was no afterthought on God’s part, but was ‘according to the Scriptures’, often mentioned in prophecy.

3. The resurrection

After his burial (v4) – proving the reality of his death – ‘he was raised on the third day’, the great demonstration of the power of God.  It was a resurrection in victory over sin, death and Satan.  The resurrection proves that he really has dealt with sin.  The empty tomb is the proof that salvation has been accomplished.  There can be no doubt about the reality of the resurrection.  There were numerous appearances of the risen Lord to a variety of people (v5-8), including to Paul himself.  He ‘has been raised’ (lit., implying he continues as the living reigning Lord.  This is the foundation of our eternal hope – he is the ‘firstfruits’ of our resurrection (v20).  We have hope for this life and for eternity.

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