Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Gospel

The New Testament epistles talk a lot about the importance of "the Gospel". It used to frustrate me as a young teen that there's not a lot in Scripture that really defines what "the Gospel" actually is. Imagine my delight to find 1 Corinthians 15:1–8, where "the Gospel" is actually defined.

According to 1 Corinthians 15:3–8, there are four essential propositions in the Gospel:

  1. Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures (v. 3)
  2. he was buried (v. 4)
  3. he was raised the third day, according to the scriptures (v. 4)
  4. he appeared to several witnesses:
    1. Cephas (v. 5)
    2. the twelve (v. 5)
    3. above five hundred brethren at once (v. 6)
    4. James (v. 7)
    5. all the apostles (v. 7)
    6. Paul (v. 8)
What I've listed as #4 in the list is actually six propositions, but they seem to collect nicely into just one.

As surprising as it might seem, each of these points is necessary for "the Gospel". Equally surprising, people who claim to be "Christian" are quite willing to deny each one of them.

1 Corinthians 15:1 & 2 say some interesting things about the Gospel defined in vv. 3–8:

  1. it was what Paul preached (v. 1)
  2. the Corinthians received this gospel (v. 1)
  3. the Corinthians stood in this gospel (v. 1)
  4. the Corinthians were saved by this gospel (v. 2)
These are all very important points; but if we can consider #3 in particular, Scripture says each of the four points of the Gospel is non-negotiable. These four points are a hill we need to be willing to die on.

I have sat in "Gospel meetings" that omitted three of the four points Scripture says form the Gospel. (Let's be honest, I've preached "Gospel messages" that omitted three of the four points of the Gospel.) I can't recall any of those meetings ending after only a quarter of the scheduled meeting time...

Perhaps the most surprising fundamental truth of the Gospel is that Christ was buried. I've heard one or two talks about the burial of Christ, and I've given one myself; but it doesn't seem to be in the top ten. I suspect there have been many, many more talks given on the cleansing of the leper than on the burial of Christ; but the burial of Christ is listed as a fundamental, non-negotiable tenet of the Christian faith in 1 Corinthians 15:4.

As an aside, C. A. Coates wrote a short paper called "The Son of Man lifted up and buried". Well worth a read if you can find it. I think it was published in The Food of Life.

The fourth of the fundamental points of the Gospel is that Christ was seen by several witnesses after the Resurrection. There are several implications to this, I'll only mention one in any detail. After the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead, several people spoke to Him. They talked with Him, ate with Him, and touched Him. What Paul is pointing out here, is that the Resurrection wasn't some sort of spiritual or transcendent reality. The Resurrection was physical: it happened in the real world. A Man was dead, then He got up and walked. We don't believe in some sort of mystical resurrection; we believe that it was a real event in the real world. As Francis Schaeffer might say, it was an historical event in space and time.

So that's it: that's what defines a Christian according to 1 Corinthians. A Christian is one who has received and stands in those four points. If you don't believe that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He rose again according to the Scriptures, and that it was a real event in the physical world with verifiable witnesses... then 1 Corinthians 15 says you're no Christian.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The only acknowledgement

Before Christianity, which is the full revelation of God, there were indeed, as need not be said, souls born anew; but their rule, when a rule was definitely given, was man's responsibility (whatever piety and grace might inspire), and the law, which was the perfect measure of that which man, as a being responsible to God, ought to be. Saints then did not distinguish between a new and an old man, although of necessity they had the conscience of the old man and the tastes of the new in measure in many respects. The sense, for instance, of the evil of falsehood had not at all the same place as with the Christian. Now the new man is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created him. God Himself in His nature is the standard of good and evil, because the new man has the knowledge of what that nature is: he is made a partaker of it, and he has the light of God. It is an intelligent participation by grace in the nature of God, which is the marvelous and precious privilege of the Christian. God works in this nature; but by communicating it He has placed man in this position. Christ is the perfect model of this image, the type of the new man. 
Other differences have disappeared: there remains but the old man, which we only acknowledge as dead, and the new man.  [emphasis added] 
(J. N. Darby, Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, Volume 5, last checked 2015-09-11)

Friday, September 4, 2015


As far as I can tell from scripture, the Christian life starts with the assumption that fallen man is irreparably corrupt. Christianity means viewing Adam's race as incapable of producing anything for God.

When we look at the Cross, we see the end of Adam's race (Romans 6:11),  the world it created (Galatians 6:14), and our connections with that whole order of things (Colossians 3:1).  When we contemplate the resurrection, we see there is a new creation,  and it's there - and only there - God is pleased (Galatians 6:15).

We recognize that God accepts us solely "in Christ" (Ephesians 1:6). Because God sees us in Christ, He sees neither our sins nor our righteousnesses (Philippians 3:9).

We are here waiting for God's Son from heaven: we expect Him to come and change our vile bodies - bodies tied to Adam's race and world - to be like His: bodies fit and designed for the new creation (Philippians 3:20).

Meanwhile,  we live here in this fallen world. We count ourselves to have died with Christ, because that's what God says happened (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3).  We see in ourselves remnants of the life that ended at the cross,  but we count that life as over (Romans 6:11; Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:5). We put to death the remnants of the lives that ended at the cross while we wait for Christ (Colossians 3:5; Romans 8:13).

We walk in this wicked world as men and women who have died (Romans 6:13). Our hearts and eyes are to be on our Life, Christ in heaven (Colossians 3:1-2).  As we look at Him by faith,  we find to our surprise that we become like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).

And some day we'll get a really good look at His face and we'll be transformed in an instant to be like Him forever (1 John 3:2).