Last week I asked “Have Christians Forgotten the Gospel?”
The reason I asked that is because in the next section in our study through 1st Corinthians, 15:1-11, Paul tells the Christians in Corinth that he needs to remind them of the Gospel. Did they forget it? Seems that way, at least to some extent. Since we started this study at the beginning of the year, we’ve gotten to know the Christians in the church of Corinth. A person can see why Paul would think they needed a reminder. They were out of control in many ways. Disunified, undisciplined, selfish, etc. And now we come to find out, as we’ll see in the next section, someone there was teaching that there was no such thing as resurrection. Maybe these Christians were no longer Christian? Maybe they would be reading through Paul’s letter wondering the same thing about themselves: “Are we too far gone? Have we messed this thing up?”
Paul begins by reassuring them, like he did in chapter 1, that they are Christians, which he affirms by reviewing that they not only received (verse 2) the Gospel message, they also believed it (verse 11).
That whole receive and believe thing has been a big part of our evangelical Christianity for decades. We have pounded home that there is a certain content to the Good News message that must be received (as a free gift) and believed. Paul will talk about that content in the second part of this passage. He is very concerned about the Corinthians losing that content, especially the part about resurrection. He reviews it for them: Jesus died for our sins according the Scriptures, and he was buried and rose again, according to the Scriptures. He talks about the amazing grace that God gave him, of all people, a Christian killer. He talks about how wonderful the grace of God is. Thinking about the content of the Gospel, it is washed in God’s grace. We Christians, and especially our evangelical tribe, has majored on the content, which has essentially said that becoming a Christian means you need to receive and believe the content of the Gospel.
That would be well and good if that was where Paul stopped. But he didn’t. In addition to the content, he has quite a lot to say about the commitment. Basically he says that believing the Gospel is not enough. He says that on the Gospel “…in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” Look at how much further he goes beyond just intellectual belief! Three ways:
- in which you stand
- by which you are being saved
- if you hold fast to the word I preached to you
Each of these phrases are so fascinating. Each of them relates to the idea that being a Christian, being saved as we call it, cannot be satisfied by mere belief. Christians, therefore, must believe not only the content of the Gospel, but also respond with commitment.