1 Corinthians 15:1-12
Moreover, brothers, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand;…
PAUL'S GOSPEL IN ITS SUBSTANCE. "How that Christ died," etc. "Good news" must; be the record of a fact. And this is the great peculiarity and the great blessedness and sign of the universal adaptation of Christianity, that it is first and foremost, the story of things that happened on this green solid earth of ours. It is not airy speculations coming from the clouds, it is not a mere morality or republication of man's duty, with new emphasis, and with sweeter or more terrible sanctions. There is a theology underlying it, deducible from it, and which must be deduced from it. There is a system of morality in it, but the beginning of everything is the story of a life, the history of plain facts. And how else can God be revealed? You cannot reveal a person by anything but deeds. And further, for ever and ever it remains a fact that the highest form in which you and I can conceive of, or be taught of God, is the form of man. The beginning of the gospel is the story of the Christ. Christ is Chistianity; and its first form is neither morality, nor theology, nor philosophy, but simple history, Still further, there is another thought here, and that is that Paul's gospel, fastened, as its central fact, on the death and accompanying burial, and the consequent resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is the vital centre of the gospel. There! if you tear that out; of it, you have no life left in it; and its morality will never get itself executed, and the fair pattern will never be reproduced, and we shall have but one more of the tragical multitude of systems that have promised to us glorious crowns and left us in the dust. And there is one more point to be noticed, and that is Paul's gospel carried, as an integral part of itself, the explanation of the meaning of death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. "How that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures." What is it that changes the historical fact into an historical proclamation of the good news of God? Is it the bare statement "Jesus Christ died"? Is that a gospel? Is it any more a gospel than the statement that Socrates died, or that anybody else died? The only statement about Christ's death that makes it a gospel is that He died for our sins.
II. PAUL'S GOSPEL IN ITS POWER. He specifies two of its mighty influences upon men: "Wherein ye stand... by which also ye are saved." First, the reception of that gospel into our hearts enables us to "stand." In that gospel, received into our believing hearts, we get firm footing for our lives; a certitude. Men all around us are saying, "Who will show us any truth? What are we to believe about God, about men, about the relations of the two? What are we to think of the destiny of humanity? What are we to think of the future?" The answer lies here. "Christ died for our sins"; Christ is risen again for our salvation. In that truth, grasped, fed upon, unfolded as the germs unfold themselves in the sweet May-days, will be found the answer to all perplexities, the certainties amidst all shifting opinion, the basis upon which a whole life's thinking may be reared, the ground of all true morality, the sum and substance of all real theology, the germ of prophetic anticipations of the fortunes of men and of individuals. Again, the word is employed in another aspect. That gospel of Christ, received into a man's heart, enables him to resist. "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth." Then there is another aspect here of the power of Paul's gospel in that familiar word — "By which ye are saved." "By which also ye are being saved" would be a truer translation. It is a process lifelong, and that process, including deliverance from all forms of evil, whether sin or sorrow, and investiture with all possibilities of good, whether righteousness or happiness, begins with the reception of Christ into the heart, and steadily runs parallel, with the increased reception of His grace, until the grey dawn passes through all the shades of saffron yellow, and rosy pink, and pearly white, and comes at last to the colourless completeness and unsetting radiance of the midday sun.
III. PAUL'S GOSPEL, IN ITS CONDITIONS. "If ye keep in memory," or more correctly, "If ye hold fast what I preached unto you." "Unless ye have believed in vain." First, there must be a solid faith, not a faith which is lightly and without due cause taken up. There is such a thing, you know, as the seed being sown upon stony places, with an inch of earth above a great lateral shelf of rock. And just because the rock, into which the seed can never penetrate, retains much of the heat of the midday sun, and warms the film of earth above it, it grows quickly. So in a man's heart, the Word may be sown, it may strike down its little rootlets, and very soon come to an impenetrable layer of rock. And just because it cannot get any deeper it begins to germinate at once, "and anon with joy they receive it." "Such endure but for a while." They believe rashly, without due consideration. Their faith is not the deliberate act of the whole man. It is a momentary emotion that produced it. There is no adequate perception of the facts which it grasps, or of the necessities from which it seeks to be delivered. "Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord." But then do not forget that faith may be genuine though it be feeble; and that all which I have been saying about a shallow confidence has no bearing upon people simply because they find that their faith is not what it ought to be; or subject to many a sad break and gap. Again, remember the other condition here, viz., the continuous grasp of the truth which makes the essence of the gospel. "Ye are being saved, if ye keep hold of what I preached to you." The gospel works upon us as long as we think about it, and keep it in our hearts, and not one instant longer. The polestar will guide you as long as you look at it; but if your eyes are wandering away to the will-o'-the-wisps upon the marsh, or to the comets that flash across your sky, you will lose your guide, and wander into the darkness. It is whilst you believe that the gospel is saving you. And, remember, that continuous grasp of God's truth cannot keep up without a continuous effort. I have seen conjurers that have said to a man, "Take that coin in your hand. Close your hand upon it. Are you sure you have got it? Yes!" "Certain it is there?" "Certainly." "Open your hand!" Gone! Ay! And the world, the magician world, conjures his faith out of many a professing Christian man's clenched hand. And when he opens it — and perhaps he does not open it till he gets before the throne — an empty palm. Where is his faith? Tighten your grasp, "lest at any time you should let them slip."
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;