Be A Faithful Church!
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
By Paul Robison

There was once a football coach who began his season by telling his players: “Gentlemen, this is football, and that is the end zone.  The object of this game is to get this football into the end zone more times than our opponents do.  You must work together as a team to achieve that goal!”  In a movie, there was a basketball team which was going to play for the state championship in a large arena in Indiana.  They were from a small town.  So the coach had some of the players take a tape measure and measure the height of the basketball goals that were there. Of course, the measurements were exactly the same as the goals in their small gym.  The coach then said something like: “Gentlemen, you've seen that these goals are no different in height than the goals which we have in our gym.  We just need to keep doing what we've been doing as a team that got us here.  There's no need to feel intimidated.”  What were both of those coaches doing?  Someone might call it: “Getting back to the basics.”  Someone else might say: “Stressing the fundamentals.”  Yes, they were looking at the essentials of their sport weren't they?  Now, let's make an application.  What is the purpose of the church?  It is to save the lost.  Well, how does that happen?  Let's look at Acts 18:9-11: “Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision: 'Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.' And he continued there [in Corinth] a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” Paul was told not to be silent, but to speak out, so we see him obeying Jesus and teaching God's word to the Corinthians.  Do we know specifically what in God's word he was teaching?  Thanks to Jesus, we do. Jesus told His apostles in Mark 16:15-16: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”  Paul was preaching the Gospel—the greatest news that mankind has ever heard!  Because of Jesus' death as the Lamb of God and because of His resurrection as the Son of God, all people can enjoy God’s blessings and the promises of forgiven and holy lives in the church now and of transformed and eternal lives in the hereafter!  So, if we, as a church, would save the lost, we must speak up and share the gospel with others. Now, we just got back to basics, didn't we?  The apostle Paul does something similar with the brethren in Corinth in chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians.  He stresses the fundamentals of the Gospel with them.  He does this because he wants those believers to be a faithful church.  Let's look at four basic realizations that are stressed at the beginning of this stupendous and immortal chapter.
First of all, realize the importance or characteristics of the Gospel!  Let's read the first two verses of this chapter: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which you are also saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”  There are several truths in these passages about the Gospel or great news about Jesus.  First of all, the Gospel can be declared.  In fact, the verb tense shows that Paul is presently declaring the Gospel to them once again in what he will be writing throughout this chapter.  Declaring the Gospel means that we share this great news about Jesus with others.  It is amazing that we humans can talk about just about everything under the sun—politics, cars, hunting, property, economy, sports, recipes, stain removers—except what Jesus wants us to talk about—share the good news with every person.  One hymn writer has given us a good prayer that we should regularly pray: “Open my mouth and let me bear gladly Your warm truth everywhere” (Scott).  Brethren, it is not complex.  “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people that you may PROCLAIM the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pt. 2:9)!  Next, the gospel can be taught.  Paul said that he had already preached it to the Corinthians in the past.  The Gospel is a transmitted message.  Jesus is its Author, and Jesus claims to have all authority in heaven and on earth in Matthew 28:18.  All Christians have the honor, the privilege, the responsibility, and the duty of transmitting that authoritative message.  Have you been teaching anyone lately?  “Oh, but preacher, ...”  Whoa, stop!  I don't want to heart it!  It's Jesus who tells us to share the good news about Him.  Now, if you're not doing it, then pray and tell your excuses to Him! I hope if you're just scared to death about telling others about Jesus, that you'll at least have the courage to call, to e-mail, or to write a postcard to someone and invite them to our gospel meeting where Bro. Phil Sanders can teach them the Gospel.  And you need to be doing that right now.  Satan has people so busy doing trivial things that you need to be helping people get it on their calendars right now!  Next, the gospel can be rejected or received.  The Corinthians brethren had received it, and people today can receive it as well.  Isn't it wonderful that the last two people that we as a congregation have seen receive it were two boys who are sons of our members?  Cade and Jeremiah are going be wonderful church leaders one day; I just haven't figured out yet which one is going to be a preacher and which one is going to be an elder!  Next, the gospel can provide a foundation for living—in which you now stand.  “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 3:11).  “Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon the house, and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).  Not “if”, but “when” disaster comes, that house will stand because it is on Jesus’ teachings.  His teachings, not our culture, is the solid foundation!  Next, the gospel can save a person—by which you are saved.  Let's look at two passages in Acts very quickly.  The first is 8:12: “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.”  Note the sequence: Philip preaches the Gospel, the Samaritans believe it, and then they are baptized for the remission of their sins.  The second is Acts 18:8: “And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.”  Hearing what?  The Gospel.  Believing what?  That Jesus is the Son of God who died for them.  And then they too were immersed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We heard Jesus' words earlier in this sermon from Mark 16:16: “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.”  We see that the Samaritans and the Corinthians were very different ethnic group, but they both followed the same sequence.  The Gospel was preached, they believed in Jesus, and they were baptized into Christ.  The Gospel that saved people in the first century is the same Gospel that will save people in the twenty-first century!  Lastly, the gospel can be abandoned.  Notice how Paul admonished the Corinthians to hold fast the word that he had preached to them.  Paul doesn't want these brethren to go astray.  Remember Hymenaeus and Philetus?  Paul tells this about them in 2 Timothy 2:17-18: “And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.”  The Gospel can be abandoned, and members' salvation can be lost.  Why would Paul need to even make this admonition if the Corinthian brethren were once saved and then they always remain saved?  Paul is not only warning them, but he's going to give these brethren a refresher course on the Gospel in the rest of this chapter.  Realize the importance or characteristics of the Gospel!  Be a faithful church!
Next, realize the essentials of the Gospel!  Let's read verses 3-4: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: 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 the Scriptures ...”  What are the essentials of the Gospel?  First, Jesus came into this world as God incarnate.  Second, He lived a sinless life.  Third, He died for our sins. Fourth, He was buried in Joseph's tomb.  Fifth, He rose again on the third day!  Sixth, through the giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, He established His church!  Let's look at each of these essentials a little more.  Jesus came into this world as God incarnate.  “And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: 'God was manifested in the flesh ...'” (1 Timothy 3:16).  “If Jesus is divine, then 'the enfleshing' of God is [one of] the most important event[s] in history.  It is the hinge of history.  It changes everything. ... [Since] the Word became flesh and revealed grace and truth, then the meaning of freedom becomes conformity to Him” (Kreeft & Tacelli).  Second, He lived a sinless life. “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46).  “He claimed to forgive sins—alls sins, against everyone.  The Jews protested: ‘Who can forgive sin but God alone’ (Mark 2:7)?  The Jews were very clear thinking. ... The only one who has the right to forgive sins is the One who is offended in all sins, namely, God” (Ibid.).  The writer of Hebrews affirms (and this makes us obligated to practice all His teachings): “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  Next, Jesus died for our sins.  Many religious leaders have been slain for their teachings, so what makes Jesus different?  Notice that Paul says that He died for our sins.  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!  The skeptic will ask: “But aren't there some sources outside the Gospels that verify their truthfulness?”  Indeed there are.  Listen to the Roman historian Tacitus: “Christus, the founder of the name [of Christians], was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius [Very accurate, isn't it?]: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again ...” (Annuals 15:44). Now we could add comments from Thallas, Josephus, Lucian, Suetonius, and Pliny, but time will not permit hearing all these witness.  Now think about this: “If Christ is God, then when He died on the cross, heaven's gate, closed by sin, opened up to us for the first time since Eden” (Kreeft and Tacelli).  That was symbolized by the ripping of the curtain from top to bottom in the Temple, and that's good news isn't it?  Realize the essentials of the Gospel!  Next, Jesus was buried in Joseph's tomb.  The word “buried” has the ring finality doesn't it?  Jesus was buried in a tomb lavishly given to Him by a rich man named Joseph.  Someone made this good observation: “[The burial] blasts the swoon theory [or the idea that Jesus just fainted]; He really died; and it leads naturally to the empty tomb, a witness for the resurrection which has never been effectively denied” (Johnson).  What was so unusual about Jesus' burial is that it didn't last very long!  Two of the disciples who did not recognize Jesus, told him: “And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see” (Luke 24:24)!  Next, He rose again on the third day!  Some skeptics that the women got the wrong tomb, but Peter and John also went there and what did they find?  His grave-clothes and the cloth that had been over Jesus head.  By the way, it had also been folded up neatly, so it doesn't sound like robbers took the body (John 20:3-10).  Right grave-clothes, right cloth, right tomb, but an empty tomb!  “The ministry of Jesus would have ended, ... He would have been merely another martyr to religious rivalry, He would have been forgotten long ago—except for his resurrection” (Shelly).  That event “is the cornerstone of Christianity, the Waterloo of infidelity, the Gibraltar of Christian evidences” (Tripp).  “No event in all of history could be more important to every person on earth than this one” (Kreeft and Tacelli)!  Death has been conquered by Christ!  Now that's wonderfully great news!  That’s especially true when you stand at the grave of someone you’ve deeply loved.  Christ establishes His church. Christ then ascended, but forty days later, Acts 2 tells that He gave His disciples the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and Peter preaches the first Gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost.  After repenting and being baptized, 3000 Christians, those called out from the world, made up the church which Jesus had promised that He would establish (Matthew 16:18)!  Realize the essentials of the Gospel!  Be a faithful church!
Next, realize the prophecies of the Gospel!  We notice in verse 3-4 how Paul mentions that the essentials were done “according to the Scriptures.”  Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection were no accidents nor a malfunction in Jesus' life as the Messiah.  All that happened to Jesus in Jerusalem was exactly in keeping with what the prophets had predicted hundreds of years earlier.  Listen to Zechariah 12:10: “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced.”  Listen to Isaiah 53:9: “And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.”  Listen to Hosea 6:2: “After two days, He will revive us; on the third day, He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.”  Listen to Jesus Himself in Matthew 12:39-40: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and nights in the heart of the earth!”  A man named Stoner calculated that the odds of eight prophecies coming true all in the same individual was 1 in 10 to the 17th power, that 1 in 1 with 17 zeros after it. Then Stoner made this remark: “Now these prophecies were either given by inspiration of God or the prophets just wrote them as they thought they should be. In such a case, the prophets had just one chance in 10(17) of having them come true in any man, but they all came true in Christ” (McDowell).  Only God can predict the future, and He predicted the Gospel of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection right on the money! Realize the prophecies of the Gospel!  Be a faithful church!
Next, realize the witnesses of the Gospel!  Let's read verse 5-11: “... and that He was seen Cephas, then by the twelve.  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.  After that, He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.  Then last of all, He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.  For I am least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.  Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”  Cephas is Peter, and the Lord made a special appearance to him since he had denied Him.  Jesus must have comforted him.  Of course when Paul wrote, the twelve weren't really the twelve anymore, but all the readers knew that Paul was referring to the original apostles of Jesus.  In fact, not only had Judas died, but James had been killed as well.  Then Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time.  Only Paul reveals this truth to us, and we don't have anymore details about it.  This truth puts the nail in the coffin to those who propose that Jesus' appearances were just the apostles' hallucinations!  Then Jesus appears to James, his brother, an elder at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 21:18).  Then He appears to other apostles; these were people different from the disciples.  And then Paul says that he was blest to see Jesus; God had been so gracious to him, and he worked his heart out as a result.  “Paul’s labors were the most extensive of any of the apostles, and the most fruitful” (Coffman).  In addition to these appearances, the Gospels tell of other appearances, especially to many women who were disciples.  Notice, there are over 500 witnesses to the Risen Lord!  “A [Christian] today can have the complete confidence, as did those first Christians, that his or her faith is based not on myth or legend but on the solid historical fact of the empty tomb and risen [Messiah]” (McDowell)!  Realize the witnesses of the Gospel!  Be a faithful church!
“The gospel (good news) is not a set of behavioral responses imposed on us by a superior power.  It is a message of love, grace, and peace.  By means of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, God is wooing and winning hearts by the lengths to which He has gone for our sakes” (Shelly).  What wonderful fundamentals!  Let's hold fast to the importance, essentials, prophecies, and witnesses of the Gospel!
Let's pray: “Father, thank You for Your Word, Your revelations, and this great chapter.  Help us to value the Gospel.  Help us to open our mouths and speak up for You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
“But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:8-9)!  The Gospel still saves!  Receive it today!  Like the Samaritans and Corinthians, believe in Jesus and be baptized into His name, and you can leave this assembly a person saved from God's wrath! Jesus gave His all for you.  Won't you give your all for Him?