The four points of the gospel given in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5 are:
- Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
- he was buried
- he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
- he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve
These four propositions group themselves into two pairs: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" and "he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" seem to fit naturally together, while "he was buried" and "he appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve" seem to fit together. Interestingly, these two pairs are pairs of opposites: dying and being raised are opposites, just as being buried and appearing are opposites.
We've also noted that these four points are an outline of the Christian life. Christ has died, and we have died with Him (Colossians 3:3). Christ was buried, and we have been buried with Him (Colossians 2:12). Christ has been raised from the dead, and we have been raised with Him (Colossians 3:1). Christ was seen, and we shall be seen with Him (Colossians 3:4).
We can see how this gospel is not only the gospel we have received, it is also the gospel by which we are saved, and the gospel in which we stand (1 Corinthians 15:1–2).
When we consider the gospel as an outline of the Christian life, we realize there is something entirely other about that life. It's entirely outside our experience to see a man who has died and was buried come out of the grave. If we saw that happen, we would be astonished. In fact, we might not believe it really happened, even if we had seen it ourselves.
Similarly, our lives are to be characterized by resurrection (Philippians 3:10). We're not called to live a good life, we're called to live an impossible life. We're called not to be good men and women, but to have the life of Jesus manifested in our mortal bodies (2 Corinthians 4:10–12). People aren't supposed to see our life at all, they're supposed to see the life of Jesus when they look at us.
Our lives should look as strange to our friends and neighbors as the Lord's life looked to the people around Him. Our lives should be as impossible for the people around us to understand and explain as it is for us to explain resurrection.
But that comes with a tremendous cost: 2 Corinthians 4:10 tells us the cost is death works in us. It's not here reckoning ourselves to have died (that's Romans 6). It's something we experience. And experiencing death is unpleasant.
In fact, it's such an odd concept to us that we manage to convince ourselves that Scripture doesn't really mean what it says: we convince ourselves that really it means we should try to live like Christ did, rather than what it plainly says: He lives in and through us.
And once we've convinced ourselves that what we're really called to do is to imitate Him, then we set about to make reasonable facsimiles of His life. Or at least reasonable facsimiles of some of the qualities we perceive in His life.
And we end up with counterfeit spirituality.
Because God doesn't call us to check items off a list to make our lives look similar Christ's. God calls us to a life the begins with dying with Christ, a life that's lived under the control of God, and in the power of His Spirit. He calls us to have the life of Jesus manifested in our mortal flesh.
God doesn't want my life. He doesn't want the best I can do, He doesn't even want the best I theoretically could do. He doesn't want even the very best version of me that could ever exist. He wants to see the life of Jesus manifested in my mortal flesh. And notice the contrast here: it's specifically in my mortal body that God wants to display the life of Jesus. Some day Christ will change my body to be like His – immortal and incorruptible (Philippians 3:20–21) – and then it'll be too late. God's not looking to display the life of Jesus in immortal bodies, but in mortal. He's looking for this amazing contrast: for the life of Jesus in unredeemed bodies.
So let's be careful not to become those who have a form of godliness without its power (2 Timothy 3:5).