1 Corinthians 15:3-4 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…
Paul later condenses the essence of the Gospel even further. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my Gospel.” (2 Timothy 2:8) However, the same elements are there, and are certainly worth noting. Those two elements are the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and the fact that this was God’s plan from the beginning. In this passage he repeatedly says, “according to the Scriptures,” but to Timothy he simply makes reference to Jesus’ genetic lineage. Both of those show that the cross was not at all some random act but was the center-point of history, that God had planned for from Creation. That is obviously a very important point, but we ignore it much of the time, and that really weakens our evangelism. It makes a difference that God planned for our salvation from long before we existed. That is integral to the reality that God is love, as John so memorably wrote. (1 John 4:8) That plan of salvation was for the Son of God to die for our sins and rise again. Any presentation that leaves out the death and resurrection of Jesus isn’t the Gospel, because there is no liberation from the fear of death without it. Sadly, there are many supposed Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Shusaku Endo, the Japanese author of Silence, a book about persecution that was made into a movie not long ago, was one of those. That made his concept of “salvation” be limited to this life, which ultimately was without much hope or power. If Jesus didn’t really die (which is one of the lies told) or if He didn’t physically rise, to walk and talk and eat with His disciples, (even though His heart had been run through with a spear) then the Gospel is just a nice, touching story. However, as Paul insists, He did indeed do those things, which is why faith in Him brings salvation, and that is Good News indeed.
This is extremely important for me to remember, since I am a minister of the Gospel. I need to let people know that God planned for their salvation from the foundation of the world, (Revelation 13:8) and that Jesus’ resurrection is proof that it is real. That’s why Easter is such a big deal. That’s why a genuinely Christian funeral is a powerful tool of evangelism. After all, as Paul said, we don’t grieve like those who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) When we understand what God has done for us in Christ, we can actively look forward to our “graduation!” I know many who are in that position, and I can’t say I’m not there myself. My task in evangelism is to communicate that hope, just as Peter said. (1 Peter 3:15) That is the Gospel of which I am a servant.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for arranging that it came in Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and Easter. I didn’t plan that myself when I was making up the Scripture lists, but You did. Help me indeed be a carrier of hope to all, so that many may receive the Gospel, repent, and believe for their salvation, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!