The theme of the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is “The Resurrection.” Paul writes about Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead, he notes the consequences which would follow if there were no resurrection, and he speaks of the future resurrection which will occur when the Christ comes again.
We want to look at the first eight verses of this chapter, noting the truth which Paul communicates about the gospel. What does this section of Scripture reveal about the gospel, the good news of salvation through God’s Son? First, let us consider verses one through four:
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
The gospel is a message that can be preached. It is the message which Paul preached in Corinth (15:1). Jesus charged His followers to declare that message to every person in the world (Mark 16:15). That is what the Lord’s church is all about – telling others the good news about Jesus and His salvation. In a world of disturbing and depressing activities, the gospel is always a needed message. The world could use some good news, and God’s gospel supplies the best news anyone could ever hear!
Here are some things that those who hear the gospel can do with it: the gospel message can be believed (15:2), received (15:1), stood in (15:1), and held fast (15:2). In fact, those words describe how every human ought to respond to the gospel: believe it, receive it, stand in it, and hold fast to it. The sad reality, though, is most people choose not to believe and receive the gospel. Equally tragic is the truth that among those who initially accept the gospel, there are many who at some point in their lives stop following it. Their latter state (not submitting to the gospel) is worse than their original condition before they obeyed the gospel (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Salvation is by the gospel (15:2). That reminds us of Romans 1:16, where it is written, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” If you and I care about the souls of lost people, and if we want to know what is available to get their attention and save them from sin, there is no need to spend fruitless hours trying to come up with something fascinating. God already has supplied what saves man’s soul from sin and it is the good news of salvation through Jesus. Brethren, the gospel has the power to change people’s thinking, change their lives, change their relationship with the Lord, and change their eternal destiny. The gospel saves! The Bible says so.
Paul declares these gospel facts: (1) the Christ died for our sins, (2) He was buried, and (3) He rose again the third day (15:3,4). Each of those facts is substantiated in the record of Jesus’ earthly life which is given by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Jesus not only died, He died for our sins, dying in our place that we might be redeemed through His blood. He died for our sins “according to the Scriptures” (15:3), as His death was foretold in Old Testament prophecy (Isaiah 53:4-6).
When Jesus’ soul went to Hades after His death, it did not remain there. Why not? Because He was raised from the dead! (Acts 2:27-31). When? On the third day, which was the first day of the week (Mark 16:1,2,9).
Let us go back and quote the next four verses in 1 Corinthians (following Paul’s references to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection):
5, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
There were witnesses of the gospel – hundreds of them! (15:5-8). After Jesus rose from dead, He was seen by His followers on multiple occasions. According to 1 Corinthians 15:6, in one instance over five hundred people saw the risen Savior. Seeing Him with their own eyes qualified them to speak as witnesses about that event (Acts 22:15). The resurrection of Jesus is a verifiable historical event.
1 Corinthians 15:18 reminds us of the greatness of God’s gospel. We thank God for the wonderful news that sinners can be saved through Jesus’ sacrifice, and we thank Him for the gospel’s power. It is special!
— Roger D. Campbell