#682. THE GOSPEL IS OF FIRST IMPORTANCE (2/11/22)
This week, in our series on 1 Corinthians we begin looking at Paul's teaching on the gospel from chapter 15.
Summary: The gospel message is God’s greatest wisdom. Reminding ourselves of the gospel and studying it is to be a priority for us every day and the priority of every church meeting.
In 2018 Kay Longstaff fell from the cruise ship Norwegian Star into the Adriatic Sea. She spent 10 hours floating in the sea before she was finally rescued. I imagine that what was of ‘first importance’ changed for her the moment she found herself falling off of the luxury liner! What would you say was of first importance to you? There are a lot of good and excellent things that are worthy of our time and attention. However, the gospel is to be of first importance to us. Paul writes:
‘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)
Why is this so? Why is the gospel to be of ‘first importance to us? Simply because it’s God’s answer to our biggest problem - being reconciled to God. The problems of the environment, racism, ageism, what career to have, whom and if to marry… are not our greatest problems. How fallen man can know God is our biggest need. This need was so important and so difficult that it took the incarnation and the death of the Son of God! The gospel is important for many reasons, here are three:
i. THE GOSPEL HAS POWER TO SAVE
Firstly, of first importance, the gospel is the only wisdom and power that can reconcile us to God.
‘For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.’ (1 Corinthians 2:2-4)
Here Paul is telling us that the Holy Spirit works through this message in order to impart faith. We are weak, but this message has power.
‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”’ (Romans 1:16-17)
The gospel has power to save, it’s ‘the power of God that brings salvation’. And how do we receive its power? Through faith alone!
ii. THE GOSPEL HAS POWER TO UNITE
Secondly, the gospel is of first importance because it’s the thing that unites us in the church. We are not to be united around ethnicity, culture, politics, music style, status… We are united in Christ. The Corinthians were dividing and so Paul reminds them as he begins this letter:
‘To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1 Corinthians 1:2-3)
To be a Christian is to be a part of God’s people. We share the same family. We share the same Spirit. We share the same eternal destiny. Any form of worldly status is not fundamental to our unity.
iii. THE GOSPEL HAS POWER TO PROTECT
Thirdly, the gospel protects us. Its message of God’s grace gives us peace in God’s love. It soothes us when we feel depressed. The peace that we have with God is our armour in the storms of life. It protects us from the temptations that assault us regularly. For example, Paul wrote about how the application of the gospel protects one from sexual sin that the Corinthians were struggling with:
‘Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.’ (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
Do you see that reckoning yourself to be a temple of the Spirit because we have been ‘bought with a price’ leads to honouring God sexually? Paul writes about the protection that the gospel gives when we are vulnerable to rejection:
‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ (Romans 8:1)
How can we ensure that we keep the gospel of first importance in our lives? Many things can be said. Worship and singing is one God-given strategy to refocus the heart and mind on the gospel. here is a great song that you might like to sing and keep singing today:
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
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
TAKE YOUR STAND, HOLD FIRMLY TO THE GOSPEL
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.
WE MUST NOT BECOME COMPLACENT
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.
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
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.
CHRIST IS OUR SUBSTITUTE
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.
BRIDGE TO LIFE
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.