For the Love of God, Volume 2/February 28
From Gospel Translations
Exodus 11:1—12:20; Luke 14; Job 29; 1 Corinthians 15
THE SUMMARY OF THE APOSTOLIC GOSPEL at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15 is set out in a few points: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. The last point is then expanded upon: after his resurrection, Jesus Christ appeared to Peter, to the Twelve, to more than five hundred at the same time (some of whom have subsequently died, though at the time of writing most are still alive and thus able to bear witness), to James, to all the apostles, and finally to Paul. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but broadly comprehensive, with special focus on the official bearers of the Christian tradition and on Paul himself as one of them. Something of the significance of the resurrection is then unpacked in the following verses.
Some preliminary observations:
First, “the Gospel” is not in the first instance about something God has done for me, but about something God has objectively done in history. It is about Jesus, especially about his death and resurrection. We have not preached the Gospel when we have told our testimony and no more, or when we have conveyed an array of nice stories about Jesus, but not reached the telos (the goal or end) of the story told in the four Gospels.
Second, the primary events of this Gospel unfolded “according to the Scriptures.” The precise way in which the Scriptures predicted these events— often by typology—is not our immediate concern; rather, it is the simple fact of the connection with Scripture that is so stunning. No one in the early church saw the significance of Jesus as something brand new, or standing in isolation from all that had come before. Rather, they saw him as the capstone, the culmination, the glorious goal, the climax of all of God’s antecedent revelation in holy Scripture.
Third, this Gospel saves us (15:2). A great deal of theology is already presupposed by these few words: in particular, what we are saved from. Embedded here are Paul’s understanding of human beings made in the image of God, the awfulness of sin and the curse of God that has separated us from our Maker, our inability to make ourselves over. The Gospel saves us—and always we must bear in mind exactly what it is that we are saved from.
Fourth, Paul makes clear not only the object of this saving faith (namely, the Gospel), but also the nature of this faith: it is faith that perseveres, that holds firmly to the word preached by the apostles. “Otherwise, you have believed in vain” (15:2)—a point often made in the New Testament (e.g., John 8:31; Col. 1:23; Heb. 3:14; 2 Pet. 1:10).