THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION
By Rene Alanzo
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Key Verse 15:3,4
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”
Today we want to talk about the gospel. We specifically want to learn about what the gospel is all about. In brief, the gospel is Jesus’ death and resurrection. The gospel is also the pillar of the Christian faith and the way of salvation and eternal life.
Read verse 1. “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.” Paul was talking to the Christians of Corinth. They had at one time heard the gospel and they believed it from the heart. But somehow, after some time, they forgot what the gospel was all about. The gospel began to lose its meaning in their lives. The question is, how could such a thing happen to them when the gospel once meant everything to them? Let’s see.
Life was not so easy- especially for Christians. The world as usual was filled with temptations which attracted everyone. The temptation to have an easier and more comfortable life tempted everyone- even Christians. For example, some were tempted to compromise the sacrificial life they had vowed themselves to when they first made a confession of faith in Jesus. Once, for them, being poor wasn’t so bad; as long as they had Jesus in their hearts, they felt they had everything. They were happy to be poor because they were doing it for Jesus’ sake. But now they didn’t seem to be happy to be poor anymore. So they felt they could compromise the sacrificial life just a little and enjoy some worldly comfort. Once, they trusted God with their lives and future. But now they were asking questions, “Is it really necessary for me to sacrifice so much- all the time?” “Do I really have a future after I had given up so much?” They felt that something was missing from their lives. But Paul knew that what was missing from their hearts is the gospel itself. The gospel, which once strengthened them to live as Christians, was now forgotten. Paul was sure that even though they had many problems, they really had one problem. They had no gospel. And without the gospel, they were lost.
So Paul wrote these verses to help his Christian coworkers to think about the gospel once again. He wanted them to think about why the gospel is always the solution to every and all problems. But to help them recapture the wonder of the gospel, Paul needed to once again talk about the problem of sin, because it was sin which robbed them of the gospel. What then is sin? And why is sin so powerful that it can even make a Christian forget the gospel? Let’s see what Paul says about this.
Read verse 3. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” According to this verse, sin is the greatest problem of mankind. All human beings are sinful. The Bible tells us that we inherited the sin problem from the first man Adam. We only need to look at our thought world and actions to realize that there is a certain power at work in our hearts that makes us sin. That something is sin. And men could do nothing about it. In other words, all human beings were helpless when it came to the power of sin working in their hearts.
But look at verse 3 again. Paul tells us that God took the initiative to solve our sin problem for us. God saw the condition of men living in sin and planned to save humankind from sin. So what did he do? God offered a solution for the sin problem through the gospel. As we mentioned, the gospel is simply Jesus’ two awesome accomplishments- his death and his resurrection. So when Paul says the solution to the sin problem is in the gospel, he means that God’s solution is clearly based on Jesus’ death and resurrection. Look at verse 3 again. It says, “Christ died for our sins.”
So why did Jesus have to die for our sin? Mostly because sin demands a price, and the price is death. As the Bible says, “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom.6:23) This means that sin is not free. People sin, but at the end they must pay for their sins with their lives. More than that, they must also face God’s judgment. Why? Because sin is offensive to the Holy God, and offensive to man. We know the outward sins such as lying, or cheating, adultery or murder. At the same time, sin is more than outward acts of aggression. These stem from an inward disease. In other words, sin is a disease of the soul. Imagine for example what skin cancer does to the human body. Ulcers and sores show up on the skin. Then it works its way until it gradually destroys the body. The sores are a symptoms of the disease. In the same way, the sins people commit outwardly are symptoms of a spiritual disease, called sin. So we can imagine then what sin does to the heart, the mind and the soul. But since we can’t see with our eyes what sin does to our souls, let’s take a look at what the Bible tells about this.
First, the Bible tells us that sin destroyed the relationship between God and man. When God created the human being, he had every intention to have a father-son or father-daughter relationship with them. At the time there was no sin in the world. But when sin came to the world it affected man’s soul so much, that man lost his holiness and so his relationship with the Holy God was broken. For example, all human beings should feel free to come to Father God. But because of sin human beings are like orphans and strangers to God. They have no relationship with him.
Second, the Bible tell us that sin ruined the image of God in us. (Ro.3:23) At first, when God created man, he created us to be like him. For example, he made us to be pure, loving, kind, generous, forgiving, holy, just like him. But sin damaged our soul so much that we were no longer even close to God’s image but became more like ogres. Sin makes men hate when they should love, hold grudges when they should forgive, etc.,. Sin damaged the image of God in us.
Third, the Bible tells us that sin robbed us of the meaning of life. At first, God made us with a purpose to love and to serve him. Man found meaning is the fact that he was created to love and to serve God. But when sin came to the world, it took the meaning out of our lives and replaced it with the mundane and sub-human struggle to only survive. What meaning is there in simply surviving? None! For this reason, instead of faith, assurance and peace, most human beings are anxious and insecure, doing nothing with their lives other than working hard to make a living. Sin took away the meaning of life.
Fourth, the Bible tells us that sin finally leads to death. (Ro.6:23a) People sin and at the end, they get tired of fighting against it. Eventually they stop fighting their sinful tendencies and justify it claiming that, “this is how I am, I’d better accept it.” Then they become so numb to sin until they cannot recognize it as sin anymore. Others don’t even care if they are sinning or not. They say, “well as long as no one is hurt.” But the problem is that God is hurt and others are also hurt by their sin. And they themselves are hurt the most because sin, like cancer, does not stop. It ruins their lives and in the end brings death and condemnation. (Heb.9:27; 2Co.5:10; Rev.21:8)
This is the truth about sin and what sin does. But still, the question remains: “Why did Jesus have to die for it?” Think about the condition of the soul under the destructive power of sin. Human beings were helpless. No one could do anything about it. More than that, it brought death and judgment. But when man was helpless, God did something marvelous. God gave us a Savior to save us from our sins. Sin demands punishment, so Jesus was punished in our place. Sin enslaved us by its power, and so Jesus died to set us free from bondage to sin. This is not hard to understand. If we had violated a traffic law and were locked up in jail but we had no money to pay the fine, we must carry out our sentence. But if someone pays our fine, the sentence is revoked and we are set free by the love and action of that friend. So did Jesus. He is our Savior. He is our friend who loves us so much that he paid with his life the penalty for our sins. Of course, the sin problem is much more serious than a traffic violation. Sin is so serious that it demands a ransom paid in blood, a ransom no one could pay for himself or herself. But Jesus was willing to pay with his life to set us free.
Our loving Savior shed his blood- for us; for us and for our terrible sins. Isaiah the prophet said of Jesus: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows… But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed… For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isa.53:3-5,12b) Jesus did this out of his love for us. People say, “God doesn’t love me.” “God doesn’t care.” But there is no love greater than the love God shows us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. God “…so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn.3:16) We need to believe God’s love from the heart and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sin. Then we are forgiven and saved from sin.
But Jesus’ death was not all! Read verse 4. “…that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” There is another part to the gospel. It declares that Jesus rose from the dead. The resurrection is also as beautiful and glorious as the death of Jesus. And there is hope in it for all who believe.
First, Jesus’ resurrection is the power of God that overcomes the power of death. For those who do not know the resurrection, the thought of death being the final destiny, brings sorrow, despair, and fear into their everyday life. It mostly makes men surrender to fate which leads them to sin even more. But the resurrection testifies that death is not the end. In fact, it is the beginning of a new life in God. If we hold faith in the resurrection, we get our focus off of the fear, despair, sorrow and hopelessness of day to day life, and think instead on the final victory- our own resurrection.
Second, Jesus’ resurrection gives us resurrection faith to live by. When conscientious people live without God and sin controls their lives, they feel guilty and useless. They feel as if they can achieve nothing in their lives. They have no power to do anything, because every time they want to do something good, sin traps them and leads them astray. But in the Risen Jesus, there is a power that raises a dead man to life and makes him alive. A man dead in sin is useless. But a man made alive in Christ by the resurrection, is forgiven, renewed, hopeful and useful. When we put our faith in the resurrection, God makes us alive from day to day and helps us do what is right before God. When we falter or fail, he does not condemn us. Instead he raises us up again and again by the power of the resurrection and helps us to stand by faith and finish the race.
Third, the resurrection of Jesus also gives us hope. We call it, “the living hope in the kingdom of God.” (1Pe.1:3,4) “A living hope” is living as opposed to a dead hope. When people live without God, trapped in sin, all they really hope for is less than ordinary things that may come true or not. They are so defeated by sin that even the hope of getting up early sounds like a good hope. They are so defeated by sin that even the hope of a good grade or a pay raise or short vacation sound great. But these are less than worthwhile hopes- in fact they are dead hopes. They are dead because they are short-lived and temporary. But the Bible says that the resurrection gives us a living hope. A living hope is a worthwhile hope. A living hope is an enduring hope. A living hope is a hope that goes beyond what we can see and touch in this world, deposited for us in heaven.
A living hope also believes that God loves me and has given me eternal life through faith in Jesus. A living hope believes that God has great things in store for me here on earth and also later in his kingdom, no matter what my human condition may be. This is a hope worth living for- a hope worth holding to in our hearts. This is a living hope that nothing in this world can take away from me. We suffer as God’s people. We may be poor and destitute. We may be misunderstood or mistreated. But one thing is for sure. Nothing can touch this living hope in our hearts because God gives it to us through the resurrection of Jesus. So we must hold on to the living hope from day to day with resurrection faith until we fulfill our purpose in this life.
Look at verses 5-11. They assure us that the resurrection of Jesus is not a fairy tale. They assure us that the resurrection was real- as real as the sun rises and sets every day. They tell us that the resurrection was witnessed by many people, great and small. But mostly Paul tells us that he himself is the witness and the defender of the gospel, because he has personally been touched and changed by it. So he says in verse 10a: “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” What he meant was that, “I was a sinner trapped in sin- hopeless- empty and miserable. But today I am a child of God. I am a servant of God because he loved me and forgave me and made me what I am today. No one could help nor change a sinner like me. But the risen Jesus came into my life. And by his resurrection power he has made a new man out of me. Now I live by resurrection faith. Now I have a living hope. And I pray to God that you too may receive the gospel of salvation and become what I am- a man forgiven by God and blessed to be part of his salvation work in history. Amen” Read our key verses, 3 and 4 again.