September 17, 2014
I Corinthians 15:1-4
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
According to Webster, an enigma is “a perplexing or baffling matter….” So what is so perplexing or baffling about the gospel? It is – at the same time – both very simple and yet very complex!
I cannot think of a more simple statement of the gospel than what Paul and Silas told the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….” A child could understand that! And many children have come to Jesus Christ in simple faith and so have received salvation. After all, the Lord Himself said in Mark 10:14, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”
As a Baptist minister, I hold to what is called, Believer’s baptism – that one should first put their faith and trust in Jesus before they are baptized – and baptized by immersion! But I once baptized Sarah, who – at seven years old – was but a child. However, Sarah was a spiritually precocious child, and understood more about her faith than many adults do!
So, yes, the Gospel is simple! “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….” But it is also very complex! And I think the scripture that brings this out the best is another from Paul – I Corinthians 15:1 through 4:
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you,
which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are
saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you
believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also re-
ceived: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and
that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to
There are three things in verse 1 that the Corinthian believers already had done:
• Verse 1 – “…you received…the gospel….” They had received what had been preached to them. And it is more than just receiving the words of the gospel. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name….” So it is receiving and believing the testimony of Jesus Christ – the Gospel – and also receiving Him into your heart and life!
• Verse 1 – “…the gospel…in which you stand….” Paul wrote in II Thessalonians 2:13 through 15:
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of
the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through
sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by
our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. There-
fore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught,
whether by word or our epistle.
The Corinthian Christians were already standing fast ! True, they had a lot to learn, and problems to straighten out in their church, but they were zealous to keep strong – to stand – in the gospel.
• Verse 2 – “…the gospel…by which you are saved….” Paul is referring to the present standing of the Corinthian believers. They are saved ! But it might be a good time to remind ourselves of the three tenses of salvation:
1. Past tense – We have been saved from the penalty of sin, which is separation from God, and resulting in death – both physical and spiritual. There was no sickness and/or death until sin entered into human experience through our first parent (see Romans 5:12). And if that sin issue is not properly addressed in this phase of life through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, it will result in permanent separation from God – spiritual death – called hell!
2. Present tense – We are being saved from the power of sin, which Jesus addressed in John 8:34: “…whoever commits sin is the slave of sin.” Since we are all sinners (see Romans 3:10 and 23), we are then all enslaved to sin! But, “…if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:35) – free to not sin, and to serve the Lord God Almighty.
3. Future tense – Someday we will be saved from the presence of sin! “…we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3;2) – sinless and perfect! And it says in Revelation 21:27 and 22:15 that there will be no sin in heaven!
We will continue this discussion of Gospel Enigma on Friday.