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  • Writer's pictureMatt Beaney


This week, in our series on 1 Corinthians we begin looking at Paul's teaching on the gospel from chapter 15.

Summary: The gospel is the message of what Jesus has done to save us.

It's vital that we have a clear definition of what the gospel is. It's easy to lose our way and start to add to the gospel. For example, the gospel does not include social action. The good works that derive from and are the fruit of the gospel are not the gospel. If they are, we turn the gospel into a good works approach to salvation. Paul wrote very sternly about those who distort the gospel message:

‘But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!’ (Galatians 1:8-9)

You can see how important this subject is! Let’s consider a simple definition of the gospel which would be good to commit to memory:

‘In the Bible, the term gospel is the declaration of what Jesus Christ has done to save us.’ (Tim Keller)

Paul, in the text we are considering this week, writes of what Jesus has done to save us:

‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)


The gospel has two main elements: firstly, ‘Christ died for sins’ - the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Jesus died as our substitute. He died in our place on the cross. His death was Him taking the punishment and death for our sin. Peter writes:

‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.’ (1 Peter 3:18)

Tim Keller describes Jesus’ substitutionary death:

'The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us. We… put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God…puts himself where only we deserve to be.' (Tim Keller, The Reason for God)


The second element of the gospel is Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus, against all biological possibility and the expectations of His disciples rose from the grave. He rose from the dead as He had predicted. The resurrection declares Jesus’ death for sin to be a victory rather than the defeat of a deluded man. John Stott writes:

‘The resurrection was the conquest confirmed and announced. We are not to regard the cross as defeat and the resurrection as victory. Rather, the cross was the victory won, and the resurrection the victory endorsed, proclaimed and demonstrated.’ (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, P.218)


Another very simple and helpful way of explaining the gospel is by using the Bridge to Life illustration. This expiation of the gospel has three steps:

1. The problem (Mankind in sin)

2. The Solution (Jesus’ substitutionary death)

3. The response (Repentance, faith expressed in baptism)

This can be drawn or simply explained as a concept.


May we all be ready and willing to explain the gospel simply to someone else. Perhaps you’d like to practice saying the gospel in under 1 minute using the Bridge to Life model. Try to include elements of your own story of coming to faith in your explanation.



1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.


2. Icebreaker

What has God been speaking to you about from His word recently? How would you like prayer?


3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group


Please read 1 Corinthians 15:1-9

On Sunday we began looking at chapter 15. This section is about the gospel with a focus on the reality of Jesus' resurrection.

In 15:1-9, Paul gives an outline of the gospel message that some of them, it seems, were in danger of rejecting. Paul is urging them to continue to take a stand and hold firmly to the gospel that they had received.


This chapter, and many similar sections in the Bible, make it clear that we all need to be reminded to take care to hold onto our faith. Although we believe that a true Christian will never be lost, the Bible never uses this doctrine (the doctrine of The Perseverance of the Saints) as a basis not to fight the fight of faith and take care to hold on to what we believe.


If we are to take our stand and hold tight to the gospel, we need to know what it is. Here Paul summarises it:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”(1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

Summary: The gospel is what God has done, through Christ, to save us.


A very important term to be aware of is 'substitutionary atonement'. This is at the heart of the gospel. As Paul says:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins…”

Jesus was our substitute. He was sinless and yet He died for our sin. We deserved judgment but He took this in our place.


A really helpful illustration to familiarise ourselves with is The Bridge to life.


i) Did you feel that God spoke to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?

ii) How would you summarise the gospel message?

iii) Perhaps you might like to try explaining the gospel using the 'Bridge to life' illustration above?

iii) What are the alternative 'gospels' that the world offers?

iii. What are the various things that can help us to take a stand and hold firmly to the gospel?

SIV - Do you have any encouraging stories of sharing your faith with your friends?

SIV - How do you plan to 'serve, invest and invite' into your friendships?

SIV - Let's pray for the Spirit to lead us in reaching our community.

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