There are many religions, many philosophies, many ideologies in the world, all competing for our allegiance. The Gospel is the greatest message of them all. While other messages are a mixture of truth and error, the Gospel message is completely true. Knowing the Good News and then being faithful to live according to the Good News meets our greatest needs.
We are easily distracted, and we can be distracted from the Gospel. Every so often we need to be reminded of the Gospel, and the implications of the Gospel. Paul does that here. Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
The Gospel is a message. It is not another message. It is the most important message. Ultimately, it is the only message.
It is a message that is based on cold hard facts, on truths, on realities.
It is a message that must be received. It is received by believing the facts, the truths and the realities that are part of the Gospel.
It is a message on which we must take our stand. After the message has been received, we must hold firm to the message. We must not deviate from the message. We must not abandon the message. We must live according to the message. We must live in a way that is consistent with the message. We must preach the message.
The person who does this will be saved – from the things we need saving from the most – saved from our alienation from God; saved from our dominion by Satan and the demons; saved from sin and the sin nature; saved from death and Hell.
The person who does not take his stand and hold firm to the Gospel has believed in vain. Whatever faith he had, whatever belief he had was vain. It was ineffective. It was useless. He will not be saved.
The person who does not take his stand and hold firm to the Gospel could not have been truly saved to begin with. If he was saved, how could he not hold firmly to the message? How could he abandon the true message and go to another message? To find other interests, other messages more interesting than the Gospel?
The Rabbi is teaching us that there is faith that is genuine, faith that is effective, faith that results in salvation – and faith that is vain, a phoney useless faith that results in damnation. Which faith do you have?
Paul was not the founder of Christianity – as some claim. He did not originate the Gospel. He did not invent the Gospel. He received the message and then faithfully transmitted it to others. Paul reminds the Corinthians of some of the essential truths of the Gospel. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Yeshua is the Messiah.
And Yeshua the Messiah died; and He died a very special death. He died for our sins. His death for our sins enables God to be able to forgive our sins. Messiah’s death for our sins is the one and only way that makes the forgiveness of our sins possible. Without Messiah’s death for our sins, the infinitely holy God could not forgive our sins and we would be forever alienated from Him. There would be no salvation, no eternal life.
And Yeshua the Messiah not only died for our sins. He was buried.
And Yeshua the Messiah was died and buried, and was raised from the dead. He came back to life on the third day. Messiah is alive now – the resurrected and victorious and risen Lord and Savior.
These Gospel truths are “according to the Scriptures.” They are so important for us to know that God made sure they were communicated to the prophets and written and preserved for us in the divinely inspired writings.
They are found in direct prophecies, like Isaiah 53, and in indirect prophecies, in types and shadows like the snake lifted up in the wilderness, or Jonah and the fish.
Why should we believe that Yeshua died, was buried and was resurrected? Because, hundreds of years before they took place, these truths were written in the Scriptures. No other book that forms the basis of the world’s religions has prophecies like this. That makes the Bible special and these truths special – and very believable.
Messiah’s resurrection is one of the truths of the Gospel. It must be believed. And to help us believe, it was written for us ahead of time in the Holy Scriptures. Another reason we can believe in Yeshua’s resurrection – reliable men and women told us about it. If we accept something as true based on two or three witnesses, we have hundreds of reliable witnesses who testified that Yeshua was resurrected. He appeared to them. They saw Him. And He appeared to people in an order that was known. And that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
Messiah appeared to Peter, who was part of Yeshua’s inner circle. Peter became one of the great leaders of the apostles.
Then Messiah appeared to the Lord’s other representatives – not one by one, but when they were together.
Then He appeared to five hundred people at one time. Most of them were still alive when Paul wrote this. If any of the Corinthians had any doubts about Yeshua’s resurrection, they could travel to Israel and find hundreds of reliable witnesses who would say: “I saw Yeshua after He died. He truly came back to life.”
Then Yeshua appeared to James, His brother. Like Yeshua, James was a descendant of king David. James was Jewish royalty. After the resurrection, James became a great man of God. He became the leader of Messiah’s Community in Jerusalem, which was the first Messianic Community, and maybe the greatest Messianic Community on Earth.
Then Messiah appeared again to all of His specially chosen representatives.
Finally, last of all, Yeshua appeared to Paul. Peter was first in the order, which is a special honor, and Paul was last in the order. By giving us this order, Paul is letting us know that he felt unworthy of special honor among the apostles.
Paul compares his spiritual birth to an abnormal physical birth. Last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. Think miscarriage. Just as a child who is miscarried receives less honor than a child who comes to full term and is born in good health, and then goes on to live a successful life, Paul felt he deserved less honor than the other apostles. He explains why. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
He was an apostle, but the least of the apostles, not deserving to have the honor due a representative of the Son of God. Why? Unlike the other apostles, he did not follow the Lord while Yeshua was in this world. And, after the Lord left this world, instead of believing the truth about Messiah’s resurrection, and ending his opposition, like many others did, Paul intensified his opposition and caused great harm to God’s Community. This was a great sin, and even though Paul knew he had been forgiven, he felt remorse throughout his life.
The Rabbi knew he didn’t deserve to be forgiven. He knew he didn’t deserve to be saved. He knew he didn’t deserve to be an apostle. He knew that he was forgiven and saved and given his apostleship because of the grace of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am.
And of course, the same is true of us. We don’t deserve to be forgiven, saved or allowed to have meaningful things to do to serve God. But, He has forgiven us, saved us and given us meaningful things to do to serve Him. Thanks be to God for His amazing grace!
Paul knew that God’s grace had enabled him, who had done much evil, to become a hard-working and effective servant of God. And his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Messiah said: the one who has been forgiven much, loves much. That was Paul. He knew he had been forgiven much, and out of love for the God whose grace had done so much for him, Paul worked harder than them all.
And he knew that all of his hard work was made possible by the grace of God. God deserved the credit for everything Paul was able to accomplish – and he accomplished a lot.
How about you? Has God forgiven you much? If so, are you doing anything to work hard for the Lord? Are you working to build His community from within? Are you working to proclaim the Good News to those without?
Paul preached the same truths to the Corinthians that the other apostles preached, and that is what the Corinthians believed. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
The message that all of the Lord’s representatives preached and the Corinthians believed included the truth that Messiah had been raised from the dead. But somehow some of the Corinthians had come to the conclusion that there was no resurrection of the dead. Of course, that was wrong. And it wasn’t logical since one of the truths of the Gospel is that Yeshua was resurrected. But if it is preached that Messiah has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Messiah has been raised.
And, there are other logical conclusions that come from denying the resurrection. And if Messiah has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. If there is no resurrection, the message that the Lord’s representatives preached is useless. And those that believed their message had a belief system that was useless. There would be no forgiveness of sins; no salvation; no reconciliation to God; no eternal life. Is that what the place where who were denying the resurrection wanted to arrive?
And, if there is no resurrection, logic demands that those who testified that Yeshua was resurrected were false witnesses. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Messiah from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Messiah has not been raised either. Here’s the logic: if resurrection wasn’t true, then Yeshua couldn’t have been resurrected, and those who testified that He was resurrected are false witnesses. It’s a bad thing to be a false witness about a human being. It’s even worse to be a false witness about God. So, instead of being great heros, the apostles would be great villains. Is that the conclusion that those in Corinth who were denying the resurrection wanted to arrive at?
Again, logic demands that if Messiah was not resurrected, then faith in Messiah is useless. It will not accomplish what it promises – atonement for sin and salvation and eternal life. And if Messiah has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Messiah are lost. Is that the conclusion that those in Corinth who were denying the resurrection wanted to arrive at?
And logic demands that if there is no resurrection, Christians and Messianic Jews are the most pitiable people. We are wasting our lives on a false belief system that won’t accomplish what it promises. If only for this life we have hope in Messiah, we are of all people most to be pitied. Is that the conclusion that those in Corinth who were denying the resurrection wanted to arrive at? That they were deluded fools? Pathetic losers?
Those who were denying the resurrection were wrong. Yeshua has been resurrected. But Messiah has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. And, since Yeshua has been resurrected, those who are united to Him by faith, by believing in Him and being loyal to Him, will also be resurrected. That’s what being the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep means. The firstfruits was the beginning and the best of the harvest. If God accepted the offering of the fruitfruits, He would bring in the rest of the harvest. Yeshua’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection.
Messiah is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Those who have died faithful to Yeshua may die physically, but they will come back to life. Death will be like waking from a night’s sleep and then living in eternal day.
Is it logical that one man can do all this? That one man can affect so many others? Benefit so many others to such a great degree? Yes. It is logical. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. That’s logical. One man brought death to humanity. One man reversed things and made resurrection from death possible.
For as in Adam all die, so in Messiah all will be made alive. That’s also logical. Adam joined the rebellion of the fallen angels. He disobeyed God. His sin affected everyone who is descended from him. Everyone who comes from Adam will die. They will die physically and they will die eternally. They will die the first death and the second death. And Messiah did something similar, but on the positive side. He made it possible for everyone who is united to Him by faith to be restored to life. They may die physically. They may experience the first death, but they will be resurrected and not die the second death.
The resurrection of the righteous is not a one-time event. It will happen in stages. But each in turn: Messiah, the firstfruits. That’s stage one, and that of course already happened. Then, when he comes, those who belong to him. That’s stage two. When Messiah returns, those who belong to Him will be resurrected. Next is stage three. After Messiah returns, He will rule on Earth for one thousand years. During that time, many people will be born, live and die. Those who die and were loyal to the Lord during that time will be resurrected at the end of that age.
What will King Yeshua be doing during that time? Destroying everything that opposes the kingdom of God. Then the end will come, when he (King Messiah Yeshua) hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” When King Yeshua returns and reigns on Earth, he will continue reigning until all of His enemies are defeated – all forces, all powers, all wicked people, all evil angels. The last enemy that will be defeated is death. Death, which has dominated and destroyed humanity since the time of Adam – that great enemy will be conquered. No more death! Only life – full life, blessed life, everlasting life! If death, our great enemy, is destroyed, then only life remains – for those who are joined to the Messiah. And if life remains for those who are joined to the Messiah, and if they have died, they must be resurrected.
The Rabbi reinforces his teaching with a quote from the Word of God, in this case, a combined quote from Psalm 8 and Psalm 110. Psalm 8: What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet (NASB). And Psalm 110: The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
Paul clarifies that God the Father is not included in the statement that everything will be put under the authority of the Messiah. Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself (meaning God the Father), who put everything under Messiah. God the Father will not be put under the authority of the Messiah. God the Father is the one who allows all things to be put under the feet of His Son – all things excluding Himself.
God the Father is supreme in authority, even over His Son – as Paul makes clear with his next statement. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. The Father and the Son are two separate and distinct persons. The Son is equal to the Father in nature – fully God, fully divine, fully deity – but the Father is superior to the Son in authority.
After God the Father has enable everything to come under the authority of the Messiah, so that the Messiah has eliminated everything that opposes God, the Lord Messiah, who always subjects Himself to the authority of His Father, will again willingly subject Himself and all that He has (which is everything) to the superior authority of His Father.
Then God will be all in all. Everyone and everything will be in its rightful place, acknowledging the complete and absolute supremacy of God. God will be supreme everywhere, everywhen, over everything and everyone. Believe me, you want to live in a universe where God is all in all.
Father, thank You for the Gospel. Help us know the Gospel. Believe the Gospel. Take our stand on the Gospel. Hold fast to the Gospel. Live according to the Gospel. Proclaim the Gospel.
Father, thank You for the truth of Yeshua’s resurrection, and therefore our resurrection.
So work in us that our minds are focused on the resurrection, so that we are better able to walk in newness of life; and so that we are full of new, resurrection life, so that we are able to overcome life’s challenges. Help us experience the power of resurrection, now, daily, in our lives.