December 17, 2008

The Issue of Incongruity – Actual or Artificial? Pt. 3

Warmest greetings again in the name of the Lord of lords and King of kings.

*If you have not read my previous two articles, I would recommend that you do so first in order to sufficiently grasp the issue I am addressing. Please refer to Part 1 & Part 2 of this series. But in a nutshell it is this:

Does the Bible allow for an incongruity or difference between the CONTENT OF THE GOSPEL message which is to be faithfully PREACHED and the content of SAVING FAITH post-Calvary which must be BELIEVED in order to have eternal life today?”
The second nail that hammers shut the coffin of incongruity is…


Nail #2: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
I would like to draw out and develop some more key principles from this passage.


1. The Gospel which Paul received and preached is of PRIMARY IMPORTANCE. (1 Corinthians 15:3a)

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received…
Delivered” indicates that Paul’s teaching was authoritatively presented. He didn’t design it but he did deliver it. He was not the manufacturer of his message; he was the distributer. But how did Paul obtain his message?

Paul “received” the essentials of the Gospel from Jesus Christ personally (Galatians 1:11-12), while some of the evidences of the Gospel (such as some of his post-resurrection appearances mentioned in this passage) he perhaps received from the apostles, etc. (Gal.2 visit).

The phrase “first of all” (en protois) communicates that the Gospel was “of primary importance; first and foremost.” While the doctrine of creation is foundational, the Gospel is of primary importance. And if understanding the biblical doctrine of creationism does not ultimately lead someone to the Gospel of salvation, does it ultimately matter whether one goes to Hell as a creationist or as an evolutionist?

While prophecy is interesting and needful, the Gospel is the first and foremost message that Paul preached to the Corinthians. Is the Gospel the emphasis of our preaching and teaching? Is the Gospel of first and primary importance? It was with Paul!

The message of the Gospel is no secondary issue, but is of primary importance (“first of all”) to God. As this passage indicates, the Gospel that Paul is explaining in these verses was of primary importance in order for these Corinthians to FIRST become justified before God so that he preached it evangelistically to them (15:1), as well as being of primary importance for these believers to THEN become practically sanctified in time (15:2). Thus, should the Gospel of grace not be of primary importance to you?

In writing to someone recently regarding the issue of the “Crossless” gospel (which I believe is an accurate description of this aberrant teaching as I still hold to the normative theological usage of the word “Gospel” being equivalent to the content of saving faith), I stated…

It seems like you were hoping to relegate this discussion to some ‘5 Views’ book for academic discussion hidden away in some seminary library, hoping it would go away. Can you imagine the apostle Paul proposing a 5 view book to the Galatian Christians to resolve the issues they were facing related to the Gospel?”
Dear reader, the Gospel needs to be of primary importance in our thinking, in our teaching, and in our churches. And Paul practiced what he preached! This is why when addressing the problem of legalism that was plaguing the churches of Galatia, what did Paul do? He re-focused them on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ that he initially preached to them on his first missionary journey as the antidote for legalism.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? (Galatians 3:1)
The Gospel is of primary importance, and we should all be willing to proclaim it in clarity, as well as guard its purity.

The downward path of the compromising believer:
recognizes error …
excuses error …
defends error …
condones error …
embraces error.


2. The Gospel centers in the PERSON, WORK, and ACCOMPLISHMENT of JESUS CHRIST.
…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
First of all, the Gospel of salvation centers in a specific PERSON: JESUS CHRIST... “how that CHRIST...” This is significant because of WHO Jesus Christ is.
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” (John 14:6).
In the Gospel of John, the Holy Spirit directed the apostle to devote the prologue (1:1-18) to answering the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” The answer:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (John 1:1)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14).
In accomplishing this objective and developing this necessary frame-of-reference, the numerous salvation verses contained in this primarily evangelistic book (John 20:30-31), [1] would not be read or understood in a historical or doctrinal vacuum but with the recognition that Jesus Christ is the unique God–man, the “Son of God.”

Paul, the apostle, lays the same frame-of-reference groundwork in the tremendous doctrinal treatise of the book of Romans.

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead,” (Romans 1:1-4)
According to these verses, an integral part of the Gospel Paul preached was the recognition of the person of Jesus Christ—God in human flesh.

Why is this the case? For being the unique God-man, Jesus Christ alone qualified to be our Redeemer as He was born and lived outside the slavemarket of sin. Furthermore, being deity assures us that His work on the cross is a perfect work. In addition, being born as a man, Jesus Christ then could not only reveal God to man (John 1:18), but could “die” in full payment for the sins of the entire world. (Heb.2:9, 14-15)

We must remember when preaching the Gospel, that we are not preaching a church (as no church can save); nor are we declaring a ritual to be performed (as no works are needed). Furthermore, we are not proclaiming an experience (as the Gospel involves historical facts). WE are heralding first all, a PERSON- the unique and eternal Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Savior of the World.

Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins,” (John 8:24).
Secondly, the Gospel of salvation centers in a specific WORK: “how that Christ DIED… and that He ROSE AGAIN...

The word “died” underscores that Christ’s death is a completed past event (aorist tense) that He voluntarily chose (active voice). It is a fact of history, not some religious myth (indicative mood).

Jesus had to die to provide salvation for mankind, as the penalty for our sin is “death” (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12; 6:23). Furthermore, “without shedding of blood is no remission of sin.” (Heb. 9:22)

Thus, Christ’s sinless life, amazing miracles, flawless example, deep compassion, divine teaching, and royal birth line clearly indicated that He was nothing less than God manifested in the flesh and the rightful heir to the throne of David. Yet, it was only His death that could pay for our sins.
And what is the proof of His death? “…and that he was buried.”

So when Paul came to Corinth to evangelize these lost pagans, he not only heralded the person of Christ but also His finished work as part of the Gospel.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” (1 Cor. 1:17-18).

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
The second aspect of Christ’s work is that He “rose again.” This underscores for us the importance of Christ's bodily resurrection. The phrase “He rose again” (egegertai) is a perfect tense verb indicating past completed action with abiding present results. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the third day and He remains alive to this very day. He is a living Savior who got out of death and the grave alive!

The passive voice of “rose again” indicates that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead. This is the canceled check that Christ’s death satisfied every holy demand of God relative to our sins so that He raised Jesus Christ from the dead (Rom. 4:25; 1 John 2:2, 4:10). The indicative mood again portrays Christ’s resurrection as a historical fact, not a religious fable. And what is the proof that Christ was raised from the dead? “…and He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve…” (1 Corinthians 15:5). [2] Thus, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ was an integral part of Paul’s evangelistic Gospel–preaching. This amazing biblical truth caused him to conclude in light of certain deniers at Corinth…

And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise,” (1 Cor. 15:14-15). [3]


Thirdly, the Gospel centers in a specific ACCOMPLISHMENT...Christ died FOR OUR SINS....” Why is this significant? First of all, because it indicates a SUBSTITUTIONARY SACRIFICE. The Greek word “for” (huper) is one of three Greek prepositions that underscore the concept of substitution (huper; anti; peri?). “Huper” communicates how Christ died ON BEHALF OF our sins.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just FOR the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)

The second reason “for our sins” is significant is because it reveals Christ's death as a COMPLETED SACRIFICE. Note how “for our sins” is only attached to Christ’s death. Why? Because when He cried, “IT IS FINISHED” (John 19:30), the sins of all mankind for all time were PAID IN FULL on the cross. Jesus Christ was not “buried” for our sins or “raised” for our sins as His death fully accomplished the paying of our sin debt to God.

By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:10-14)

What does all of this mean? It means that no mass, no fires of purgatory, no sacraments, no amount of good works, no personal suffering, no indulgences, etc. can atone for our sins. “IT IS FINISHED!”

This means that regardless of the nature or amount of sins that we have committed, God, by His grace, is willing and wanting to save us. And without compromising his holy character, God will save every sinner who places his/her faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work alone, since Christ died for all of their sins and rose again.


Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood…,” (Romans 3:24-25a)

Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,” (Romans 4:4-5).

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast,” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
No wonder the Gospel is called GOOD NEWS!

But you might be wondering, “But is the Gospel of Jesus Christ credible and verifiable?” Paul gave us three evidences from 1 Corinthians 15 to affirm its fruitfulness.

a. Proof #1: The Gospel is “ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES.”

According to the Scriptures” is underscored for us twice, once in verse 3 connected with Christ’s death, and once in verse 4 attached to His resurrection. The person, work and accomplishment of the Lord Jesus Christ was predicted in the Old Testament Scriptures hundreds of years before these events actually happened. Over 100 specific prophecies were fulfilled in Christ’s first coming, including the prediction of His death on the cross and His bodily resurrection. (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Zechariah 12:10)

b. Proof #2: The Gospel is HISTORICALLY CREDIBLE and VERIFIABLE.

And that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time,” (1 Cor. 15:5-8)
Jesus Christ, after His bodily resurrection, made various appearances to actual people. One could call to the witness stand numerous individuals to testify that they saw the risen Christ. Those specifically mentioned here are…

• Peter (vs. 5), who was the chief apostle and previous thrice-denier of Jesus Christ.

• The Twelve (vs. 5), who were the chief authorities of the early church and who previously deserted Jesus Christ.

• 500 believers (vs. 6), who saw the risen Christ at one time. Now that is a lot of witnesses! Ask any trial lawyer.

• James (vs. 7), the half-brother of Jesus, who had been an unbeliever prior to Christ’s resurrection. (John 7:5)

• All the apostles (vs. 7), which included Thomas, the chief doubter. (John 20:26-31)

• Paul (vs. 8), who previously had been the chief persecutor of Christians. (Acts 8:3)
This is quite a large and valid group of eyewitnesses, wouldn’t you say?

c. Proof #3: The Gospel is PERSONALLY TRANSFORMING.

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed,” (1 Corinthians 15:9-11).
How does one explain the conversion of Saul of Tarsus into the apostle Paul apart from the destiny-changing, life-transforming message of the Gospel?

“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen
,” (1 Timothy 1:12-17).
Notice carefully that the Gospel of salvation is not the virgin birth of Christ, nor is it His present intercessory work in Heaven, nor is it the blessed hope of His coming again. If we are going to preach the Gospel of salvation accurately in our day, [4] we (like Paul) must be certain to teach the PERSON, WORK, and ACCOMPLISHMENT of JESUS CHRIST. And depending on the prior knowledge and beliefs of the person we are evangelizing, these Gospel truths need to be covered to a greater or lesser extent. As we do this, we can be assured that our message is ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, HISTORICALLY CREDIBLE and VERIFIABLE, and has the power to be PERSONALLY TRANSFORMING in the lives of those who keep responding to it. And through preaching the Gospel, lost sinners will come to personally understand the amazing grace of God in truth. For though we deserve the judgment of God in Hell, God will forgive all of our sins and give us eternal life as a gift because of who God is and because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. Now that’s grace!

3. The Gospel demands a specific response: to BELIEVE it alone for one’s eternal destiny. (1 Corinthians 15:11)

Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
What does God require and how had the Corinthians responded to the Gospel that was preached to them? They simply BELIEVED it! Our word translated “believed ” (pisteuo) means “to rely on, to trust in, to depend on, to believe.” Being in the aorist tense (in verses 2 and 11) does not indicate a required on-going action (present tense), but a definite decision at a point in time. The active voice indicates that they chose of their own volition to believe the Gospel. The indicative mood reveals the reality of their decision to trust in Christ alone.

And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty,” (1 Corinthians 15:14)

For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins,” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17)!
Now all of this exegesis and exposition prepares us to raise the all important question:

WAS THERE ANY INCONGRUITY OR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE GOSPEL WHICH WAS PREACHED EVANGELISTICALLY AND WHAT THESE CORINTHIANS HAD BELIEVED FOR THEIR ETERNAL SALVATION?

The answer: NO! NEVER!

Listen to it again: Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach (What? “the Gospel”- vs.1), and so you believed (what? “the Gospel” - vs.1). NO INCONGRUITY!

I have heard in response to this the explanation that this passage (1 Corinthians 15) does not spell out justification by faith, and that even a Roman Catholic can believe 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and not be saved. As an ex-Roman Catholic who was saved at the age of 18, I can assure you that while a Roman Catholic may say they believe that Christ died for our sins and rose again, he/she normally does not understand the significance of the finished work of Christ. Thus his/her faith normally is still in Christ PLUS and not in Christ PERIOD. Thus, he/she does not yet truly grasp the CONTENT of the Gospel which must be BELIEVED to be saved!

Ironically, the Crossless gospel advocates, with their mantra of John 6:47, oftentimes gut the Gospel of the very essentials (the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ and victorious resurrection) that are the crucial and critical truths that can open a sinner’s eyes to the reason why salvation is by grace alone in Christ alone and His work alone. For it’s one thing to know that Christ’s death was NECESSARY to pay for our sins to save us; it’s another to believe that it is ENOUGH!


Can you hear the hammer hitting the nail of 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 as it sounds out loud and clear … NO INCONGRUITY!


Dennis Rokser




Please continue to Part 4 of this compelling series.

[1] The exception to this evangelistic thrust in the book of John is the Upper Room Discourse of John 13-17, which is devoted toward those who were already believers.

[2] Though the burial of Christ’s body, as well as His being seen by others after His resurrection, are not integral components of the Gospel (as “according the Scriptures” are not attached to these statements), they do act as historical proofs of the reality of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.

[3] The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was a major theme in the preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles in the book of Acts.

[4] While God’s first promise of a Redeemer from sin and Satan was announced in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), and though certain pieces of God’s redemptive plan unfold in the Old Testament, it is not until the New Testament that the details of the Gospel are expanded and clarified due to progressive revelation. Thus, the Holy Spirit directs Paul in defining the content of the Gospel as the person, finished work, and accomplishment of Jesus Christ which demands a response of simple faith alone apart from one’s works in order to be eternally saved.

*This article was first published May 19, 2008.

6 comments:

  1. It is precisely 1 Cor 15 that leaves me unable to even sympathize with the user of a hermeneutic that removes the Cross and the Resurrection from the Gospel.

    I can understand being confused, because I surely have great experience in such! :) But with the theological loops one must go through it's hard to imagine one who preaches a gospel apart from the Cross just missed 1 Cor 15.

    Kev

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  2. Hi Kev:

    It is not just having to go through "theological loops."

    They have to trample and run roughshod over numerous clear, unambiguous Scriptures to arrive at and defend their view of what the lost can be unaware of, misunderstand and/or reject and still be saved.


    Lou

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  3. Hi Lou,

    After having just read a few inane statements from someone named Jim Johnson, I thought I would drop by here and say to keep up the good work.

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  4. Gojira:

    Been along time, good to hear from you.

    "Inane statement" is IMO generous. Convoluted, disjointed, arrogant, elitist and plagiarism is more accurate. Read Redux: Jim Johnson's Massive Plagiarism for details.

    He discredited himself and is no longer relevant in any theological discussion.

    This seres is literally nailing shut the coffin of the Crossless/Deityless gospel of Hodges, Wilkin & GES.

    Take care,


    Lou

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  5. Thank you Lou for your continuing work in hosting these matters. And thank you Dennis for the good things you are saying about justification and the gospel.

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  6. Hi Art:

    Good to hear you appreciate what Ps. Rokser is doing here. This is going to pay dividends as the errors of the Crossless gospel are being revealed and biblically refuted.


    Lou

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