He is risen!
These familiar words from Easter are used as we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior. Jesus, who died and was buried, is alive. He lives forever and is seated at the right hand of the Father where He makes intercession for us.
This is GOOD NEWS!
Another word for good news is “Gospel,” and I want to look with you today at what exactly is contained in the Gospel.
In the two thousand years since that morning, errors, arguments and confusion have been added to the story of the resurrection. Some still look for His bones, the remains of His body. Some still spread the story that the disciples stole the body. Others suggest that maybe He was not really dead when they put Him in the tomb. The really radical fringe claims He was not a historical person.
These claims and confusion do not bother us. We are the redeemed. We know the Lord and His power in our lives. However, ours is not a mindless, blind faith. Historically, we know Jesus rose from the dead. Historically, we know He lived and taught in Judea some two thousand years ago.
When conflict from within and without threatened to derail the Church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to help, correct and strengthen the Church. That letter is 1 Corinthians. Toward the end of the letter, Paul gives a synopsis of the Gospel. In his brief summary, we have laid out for us what is essential to the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15:1, Paul says:
Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it.[i]
Paul wished to remind his fellow believers of the Good News he preached to them. They still stood firm in it, but the reminder was necessary. It is also good for us to be reminded. Celebrating Easter is a reminder. We remind ourselves every year and will continue to do so until Jesus returns lest we forget the glorious Good News.
This Good News is essential, critical, necessary. Here is what Paul says about it.
It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. (1 Corinthians 15:2)
The Gospel is essential because it is by believing the Gospel that we are saved. This is why Paul goes on to say what exactly is contained in the Gospel. He says:
I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3)
Notice here that he says, “I passed on to you what was most important…” What follows is an outline of the truths that are essential to the Gospel. As an outline, it does not contain all the details. However, it does contain what is necessary.
What is necessary?
First, Christ died for our sins.
Paul says, “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.” (1 Corinthians 15:3)
The details not included here are the content of what “the Scriptures said.” All the many prophecies of a coming Messiah and the promises of God to His people are included in the phrase, “just as the Scriptures said.”
The prophecies about Christ’s coming are a great source of encouragement, and are convincing evidence for the reasonableness of our faith. Many have tried to number the prophecies concerning the Christ, also called the Messiah.
In his Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, J. Barton Payne itemized 127 Messianic predictions involving more than 3,000 Bible verses, with a remarkable 574 verses referring directly to a personal Messiah![ii]
1 Peter 1:10-11 speaks about these prophecies when it says:
10This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.
According to this passage, the prophets told about the sufferings of Christ in advance. Isaiah 53 is a very good example of this, offering a picture of Christ’s sufferings written 700 years in advance.
The sacrifices of the Old Testament Levitical worship are a picture of the necessity of blood to pay for sins. The fact of Christ’s sacrificial death in our place is an essential part of the Gospel. Much truth and Scripture is brought to bear on this single essential point, “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.”
The first truth necessary to the Gospel is that Christ died. The second truth flows naturally from this first truth.
Paul states the second truth:
4He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.
As in the case of His death, Paul states that the resurrection was “just as the Scriptures said.” The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are essential to the Gospel. Just as the Scriptures foretold His suffering, the Scriptures foretold His resurrection and the glories to follow. Once again, Isaiah 53 is a very good example of this. Verse 10 says:
But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
His life will be made an offering for sin, and then He will enjoy a long life. The previous verse of Isaiah 53, verse 9, says that He would be put in a rich man’s grave, but in direct contradiction to that statement is the statement that He will enjoy a long life. These statements assume the resurrection. In addition, Psalm 16:10 said of the Messiah, “For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.”
The fact that the resurrection was “according to the Scriptures” ties the teachings of the Old Testament to the teachings of the New Testament. However, without the resurrection, Christianity would have no meaning. Paul strongly makes this point in 1 Corinthians 15. In verses 14 and 15, he says:
14And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave.
The truth that Jesus rose from the dead is central to our faith. It is our foundation.
Because of the importance of the resurrection to our faith, Paul offers evidence. He says:
5He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. 9For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.
Paul and the Apostles, except for John, all gave their lives in testimony to the fact of the resurrection. They believed it to be true. In addition, Paul was writing when other eyewitnesses were still alive, and he lays out the invitation for the serious sceptic to interview any of the more than 500 eyewitnesses. Historically, more than enough evidence exists for us to know beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus rose from the dead.
The resurrection proved that Jesus was who He claimed to be. John 19:7 says, “The Jewish leaders replied, ‘By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.’” As a good answer to this, Romans 1:4 says, “…and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The resurrection also proved that Jesus accomplished what He promised. Romans 5:9-10 says:
9And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.
To sum up what I have said so far, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ are what make up the Good News, the Gospel. These are the essentials.
“So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (Romans 5:11)
Because of the resurrection, we know we have new life. Because of the resurrection, we can rejoice. We can celebrate.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.