Paul is clearly explaining the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. Yesterday we looked at the value of preserving the clarity of the gospel at all cost. We live in a nation that has not done this. We have blurred the lines of the true gospel. We have not valued the truth of the gospel, nor have we taught our children to love it. This is why we find ourselves as a nation in the spiritual cesspool of God’s judgment (Roman 1:18-32).
Today we look at Paul’s words, “Unless you have believed in vain.” Another way of expressing this is “unless your faith is empty of any real content.” This can be taken different ways. Paul may be saying “unless you have placed your faith in a false gospel” – an empty, twisted gospel that has been adulterated (mixed) with the addition of human works – a gospel that has no power to save – and obviously many have. Or on the other hand, Paul may mean that unless God really did not become a Man nor did He die on a cross for sin, nor did He really rise from the dead, nor is He alive today and coming back to establish His kingdom. The result would be the same. There would be no saving power in the gospel either way. I personally think that by saying “unless you believed in vain” Paul meant the latter.
Let’s continue. Paul said, “I delivered to you that which I received.” This begs a question. How did Paul receive His message of the gospel? This is truly amazing. When Paul was saved on the way to Damascus, he did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, meaning he did not go back to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles (Galatians 1:15-16). He did not get his message from them.
Paul went immediately into the desert of Arabia alone – but He was not alone. He went to meet with someone. Get ready now for some strong meat – an amazing glimpse. He met with Jesus Christ once again – face-to-face. Wow! He said thatthe gospel which he proclaimed did not come from flesh and blood. Now I quote verbatim, “but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). Jesus Christ unveiled himself once again, and He gave the gospel message to Paul, who had been called from his mother’s womb to preach this message to the Gentiles (Galatians 1:15-16).
Later Paul told the Ephesian believers that he had actually become a prisoner of Jesus Christ for them. The only way Ephesian believers could understand what Paul meant would be for them to have heard and understood of the dispensation of the grace of that was given to him – by Jesus Christ when He made known the gospel to him. A dispensation is a stewardship, a window of opportunity. In Arabia Jesus Christ had made known to Paul not only the gospel, but also the result of the gospel.
The gospel is the truth that not only saves but will immediately result in the baptism of the Spirit – real baptism. This baptism joins both Jew and Gentile into one body – the church. This amazing truth had been hidden in God for ages. This mystery was not made known to the Old Testament prophets – anywhere. If it had been, then they would have no doubt proclaimed it again and again. They did not! (Ephesians 3:1-12). Spirit baptism occurs instantly upon hearing and believing the gospel. The believer is instantly baptized into one body – Jew and Gentile – in Christ. Paul was the first to make this mystery known.
Now through the church preaching the gospel and many believing and being saved and also being instantly immersed into Christ, the principalities and powers in heavenly places can finally know this truth. This is why the angels are looking onto it (1 Peter 1:12). Through the gospel God is raising a new generation of people – made up people from every tribe and tongue – Jew and Gentile – made lower than the angels but in Christ, raised far above them. This new generation will ultimately reign with Christ over a renewed earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6) and then reign with Him for eternity in a new heaven and a new earth forever (Revelation 22:3-5). Remember, it was in the angelic realm and in the old heaven where the first rebellion – Satan’s rebellion against God – occurred (Ezekiel 28:11-15; Isaiah 14:12-14). This is amazing is it not? This is God’s eternal purpose revealed. This is the reason for the gospel. Stay safe and stay tuned.
Paul said, “I declare to you the gospel” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). It seems reasonable to assume that what follows from his pen is the gospel – the good news. Yesterday we looked at the little phrase “by which you are saved.” Today we move a little further in the passage. “If you hold fast that word which I preached to you” (1 Corinthians 15:2).
This “if” word brings the possibility that some of the Corinthian believers may not have been holding firm to the true gospel. Galatians believers found themselves in this same category. They became deceived by false teachers who were perverting the true gospel so much, that it became a different gospel – a gospel that could not save (Galatians 1:6).
How were these deceivers twisting the gospel? They were adding human works to the finished work of Christ, teaching that unless the Galatians were circumcised and keeping the law, they could not be saved (Galatians 5:2). They were saying that God who took on flesh – “God” who took on flesh – and died on the cross, did not do enough to save all who trust in Him by faith alone. That Jesus Christ really did not finish the work that His Father sent Him to do. . . but the Bible says He did (John 19:30). That His cross work really did not satisfy forever the Father’s demand of death for sin. . .but the Bible says it did (Romans 3:24-26).
At the moment that we add any human work – however small – to the finished work of Christ, we no longer have grace. Paul says that if being saved is truly by grace, then it is no longer of works, otherwise, grace is no more grace (Romans 11:6). That is crystal clear. Salvation must be all of grace or it is not grace at all.
So many times the gospel is presented, and then human works of every kind are tagged on at the end in order to receive its benefits. Additions like turning from sin, getting baptized, joining the church, giving money, walking an aisle, the list goes on and on – all good things to do, but after one is saved – not before. Before salvation comes, one does not have the power to do anything for God – I mean anything. These additions are the subtle work of Satan destroying the saving power of the gospel. He does so by fueling the pride of those who make these changes, adding the works of man to the finished work of God.
Through the gospel dead people are made alive (Ephesians 2:1-6). How can a dead person be asked to change before life comes? Satan blinds people to the truth of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). How can a blind person be asked to see before the scales of blindness are removed? Jesus Christ did enough on the cross to save us and to keep us saved. “I once was lost but now I’m found, ‘twas blind but now I see.” I truly love these words, don’t you? Stay safe and stay tuned.
Well, it’s Monday! I woke up early this morning thinking and thanking. Thinking about the storm that passed and thanking God for sparing our lives once more. But there were some who were not spared. Some lost homes, and others their lives. We should remember them this morning and pray for them.
But quickly my thoughts once again focused in on the horrible virus still raging around us. Though the winds have stopped blowing, death is still in the air. How do we respond to this fear? We preach the good news of the gospel with the realization that it will trump any bad news that this life can throw at us – including the sting of death and the fear of hell. The apostle Paul makes the gospel crystal clear. Writing to the church at Corinth, he began chapter 15 with the words “Moreover brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).
I do not claim to be a Bible scholar, but I understand Paul’s words clearly. He says that what he is going to make known to the Corinthians, and to us, is the gospel. That is what the word “declare” means. He remined the Corinthian believers that he had preached the gospel to them and that they had received the gospel and now held firmly to it. His next few words shout to me. “By which also you are saved.”
The word “saved” does not mean a thing to us – nor will the gospel – unless we come to grips with the truth that we are lost. Lost! What does that mean? The Bible says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Roman 3:23). “Sin” means to miss the mark. God sets the mark that measures the standard of His character, His glory.
God’s standard is absolute perfection. This absolute perfection is called “righteousness.” Translation? We have all missed this mark. We have all sinned and come short of the righteousness that God requires for life before Him (Romans 6:23). The only way to have forever life is to be as good as God is. And obviously we cannot! We have already missed it. The only payment required by God for falling short of His mark is death – not physical death – but it will take another kind of death.
Death is never far from our thinking. It is appointed (an appointment that we are all going to keep) to man once to die and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible calls death an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). It is an enemy that all fear. The writer of Hebrews calls this fear of death “a bondage” (Hebrews 2:15). If we say we do not fear death, we lie! And if we say we do not sin, we lie (1 John 1:8). We all live under the looming bondage of sin and death.
And then there is a judgment? I hear it! “I don’t believe in God, therefore I do not fear death or any impending judgment.” I get that, but Jesus said do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. He is saying that we do fear those who can kill our body. He continues, “But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28). The “Him” here is speaking of God. Jesus, the One Who spoke truth, said that we are to fear God because death and hell are real.
You may respond, “I don’t believe that.” If you are right, then you should not fear death, but the Bible says you do, and you should not fear the possibility of hell, but the Bible says you do. I choose to believe words coming from the Lord Jesus Christ because He conquered both death and hell, and He does not lie. In fact, Jesus spoke more of hell than any writer in the Bible. That’s hard to toss out.
He has been there and done that! The Bible calls physical death a shadow (Matthew 4:16; Luke 1:79). Words from my favorite song writer, the shepherd boy named David, come to mind. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). A shadow is just a reflection of the real. I would not fear getting hit by a shadow, would you?
But here is a truth that sets the stage for what is coming. We are taught not to look on things which are seen but the things that are not seen. The reason? The things that are seen are not the real. The real are the things which cannot be seen by our human eyes (2 Corinthians 4:18). Physical death is but a reflection of real death. Physical death is the separation of the soul and spirit from the body. That death does not hurt. Spiritual death – real death – is the separation of the soul, and the spirit from God – in hell. This is the death to fear because it has eternal consequences – very painful eternal consequences. The gospel is our only relief from the bondage of the fear of death and the fear of the impending judgment of hell. Stay safe and stay tuned.
Cain and Abel launched the human race into a fallen world created by the sin of Adam. Their characters were symbolized by their offerings. They were the product of the same home, brothers made in God’s image. They both sensed the value of bringing a sacrifice to God. They were, no doubt, taught to do this by their parents, and they had certainly heard the story many times of how their fallen parents covered themselves with fig leaves, but God had clothed them with animal skins. His requirement is a blood sacrifice. They understood the meaning and clearly knew what God required. But the two men were very different.
When the time came, Cain rebelled! It’s that simple. He brought the works of his own hands as an offering to God. He brought “fig leaves.” It was as though he was saying in a quiet way, “I remember that you, God, covered my parents with animal skins. You demanded a blood sacrifice, but I’ll come to you my way. I’ll bring my own offering.” Satan’s venom was pulsating through his veins. His offering was a product of his pride. It’s as though he was saying, “Look what I have grown myself.”
Abel, on the other hand, was different. By faith, he brought a blood sacrifice to God. He knew that God required death, which was symbolized by the shedding of blood. He had a spiritual nature, a spiritually fertile mind, that Cain did not have. God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s (Hebrews 11:4). No surprise!
Cain became furious. God gave him every opportunity to make things right, to bring the right sacrifice. At this point Cain knew precisely what God required. God told Cain that sin was waiting at the door to devour him, but it was not too late to offer the right sacrifice. Cain had no excuse at all. However, he wanted to do things his way. His rebellion ultimately led to murder. Rebellion and murder were already in his heart.
John pulled off Cain’s mask and revealed his true identity. Cain rebelled against God and killed his brother because he was of the evil one (1 John 3:12, NASB). John’s words are clear, powerful, and cannot be misunderstood. John clearly spelled out the major difference between true brothers. In fact, Jesus called Abel “a prophet.”
Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. (Matthew 23:34-35)
A prophet is one who speaks for God. What did Abel say? Nowhere in Scripture do we find any words ever spoken by Abel. He spoke with his actions. He brought the right sacrifice. Cain was from the source of Satan, the seed of Satan, and Abel was of God. Jesus confirmed the truth that Satan’s seed is alive and well on this planet. He spoke these powerful words to the Pharisees.
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. (John 8:44)
As amazing as this must sound, every human being comes into this world under the power of darkness.
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:79)
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46)
I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me. (Acts 26:16-18)
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)
You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5:5)
God must remove Satan’s blindness and allow the gospel to penetrate the mind. Satan’s world is in rebellion against God (Romans 3:10-18). The entire human race is spiritually dead and yet blind to this fact. God is in the process of calling some, like Adam and Eve and Abel, to Himself. If He did not, none would come (1 Corinthians 2:14; John 6:44, 65). Salvation is of God!
Cain’s rebellion led to the murder of his brother and the retributive judgment of God. Cain went out from God’s presence (Genesis 4:16). This is an ill-omened statement. It becomes the seed truth for life without God, the root of secular humanism. Secular means “not religious,” and humanism is the belief that man has the answers to his own destiny.
This entire scene points clearly to the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only means of forgiveness. Just as Cain clearly knew, so do we. No one can ever receive forgiveness before God except through the offering made by Jesus Christ (John 14:6).