Thursday, September 17, 2009

9/17/09- 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 The gospel of first importance

1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But 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. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (1 Cor. 15:1-11)

Calvin abridged: “Now I would remind you, brothers” Paul now speaks on another subject- the resurrection- the belief of which among the Corinthians had been shaken by some wicked persons. It is uncertain if the Corinthians stopped expecting a future life or denied the resurrection of the body. The Sadducees thought of nothing but the present life, and the human soul but a breath of wind. Paul seems to imply the Corinthians were bewitched with the mad dream of the Sadducees who had the audacity to declare openly that humans do not differ from a brute. “hold fast to the word I preached to you”- He asks them to recollect what they had learned before they were led away. He calls the doctrine of the resurrection the gospel. Paul amplifies this three times- “which I preached to you” “which you also have received” and then the substance. He calls the gospel the resurrection, for if the resurrection is taken away they have no religion left in them, no assurance of faith or faith at all. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received”
He does not mean that he related what he had heard from the report of others, but that it was what had been enjoined upon him by the Lord. It is the duty of an apostle to bring forward nothing but what he has received from the Lord, so as from hand to hand.
“That Christ died…buried. Raised…”- He mentions his death and burial so that we may know that as he was like us in these things, he is also like us in his resurrection. “for our sins”- by taking our curse upon him he might redeem us from it. Christ’s death was a sacrifice for expiating our sins- a satisfactory penalty, so we might be reconciled to God. 5 “he was seen by Cephas’- he now brings forth eye witnesses who saw the accomplishment of what Scripture had foretold. He does not mention everyone, for he makes no mention of women. “he appeared to the twelve”- How could he call it twelve when there were only eleven remaining since Judas died? Twelve is the title for the apostles as “the Centumviri” of Rome were more than 100 [cent=100] but 102. “Last of all to one untimely born, he appeared to me.”- This was an argument for establishing the resurrection. He was not giving himself credit for he confesses his own unworthiness- as he was “born prematurely” which speaks of his sudden conversion.

Thoughts: The gospel is summed up with the death, burial, and resurrection. This was what was passed on by the eyewitnesses to the resurrection. Calvin indicates that the gospel here is described as the resurrection- which is the whole subject of 1 Corinthians 15. Paul repeats what he had already said in 1 Corinthians 11 that he was delivering to them what he had received. Scholars today would call this the oral tradition. But Calvin (and probably Paul) would call this revelation. Calvin emphasized not what Paul heard from others- but what Paul received from the Lord himself (as “one untimely born”). The preaching of the gospel is emphasized here. The core of preaching is not psychology, or smooth-sounding words, or words telling of God’s blessing upon us, but the death-burial-and resurrection. What is left out? The birth and life of Christ, the teachings of Christ are left out of this formula. While Christmas is important to us, and the events in Christ’s life- Easter is the core of the good news- the gospel. For it is in Easter that we learn we are forgiven and have eternal life. Other religious teachers may have lived kind, gracious, and helpful lives, and taught with wonderful wisdom. But it is the sacrificial death-the sure burial-and the hopeful resurrection that distinguishes from other great human beings and confirmed Christ’s life and teaching. In this pluralistic and post-modern age in which we say it really doesn’t matter what you believe, and we emphasize this life only- Christians do not need to forget their identity and distinctiveness that is found in the good news- the gospel. The world may think philosophically that it makes no difference- or that Christ did not really die for the sins of those who believe, or the ultimate miracle of the resurrection- but in our hearts we know the difference. We do not need to be ashamed of speaking it- as Paul was not ashamed of God’s grace. In our hopeless age, the world needs to hear less of pop-psychology and more of real hope found in the cross and resurrection. Paul said it was of first importance. It is more important than the fame of Kanye West or Beyonce, or Michael Jackson, or the political power of Sanford, Wilson, or Obama. Human fame and power- eventually fade. Who remembers a king who lived in the 400s or 500s? How many Roman emperors- who supposedly ruled the world- can you name? Fame and power and the the things of human power that we act as if are so important- are not nearly as important as the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ which may apply to each of us 2,000 years later.

Prayer: Help us to recollect what is of first importance Lord. Keep us focused on your Easter which also means our own forgiveness and resurrection.

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