GCL A.8 Christ’s Salvation: His Pain, Our Gain

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In Which We Receive the Gospel, And Are Saved By It

Our series so far — indeed, the first half of human history — is but a prelude to the coming of Jesus Christ. In Christ we have the word of God made flesh, the perfect revelation of God’s character, a tangible representative of the Trinity, and a reminder of what we were created to be.

Yet even more glorious than all that: Christ is Our Lord, and has become our much-needed Savior…

Memory Verse: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” — 1 Corinthians 15:22 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading

  1. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings
    • 14. The Person of Christ
    • 15. The Atonement
    • 16. Resurrection and Ascension
    • 19. The Gospel Call
    • 20. Regeneration
  2. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
    • 25. The Deity of Christ
    • 26. The Subordination of Christ
    • 27. The Humanity of Christ
    • 30. Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten
    • 56. Salvation
    • 60. Rebirth
    • 61. Atonement
    • 73. The Last Resurrection
    • 74. Glorification
  3. 14. The Person of Christ
  4. 15. The Atonement

Adoration

Read Psalm 22. What price did Jesus pay for us?

Bible

1 Corinthians 15

Out of the entire New Testament, we have chosen to focus on Christ as revealed in St. Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians, as that provides one of the most succinct summaries of the gospel:

{15:1} Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,

[Discuss: Share when and how you first “received” the gospel.]

The term “gospel” simply means “good news.” Right away, even before we know what the gospel is, we know that:

  • Paul preached it
  • The Corinthians welcomed it
  • Their church was established on it

And furthermore, it is the basis of their salvation:

{2} by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.

So to what must they hold fast?

{3} For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

{4} and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

The gospel they must cling to is the one they received from Paul, who himself received it. That Christ:

  1. Died for our sins,
  2. Was buried, and
  3. Rose again.

That’s it. Just three simple statements — but oh, the implications!

The first thing to note is that Christ died “for our sins.” This is known as the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the fact that in some essential yet mysterious way Christ’s death took care of our sins, similar to sacrifices on the Jewish day of atonement. Whatever else Christ’s life and death accomplished, they first and foremost restored to us the relationship with God that was broken by the fall, by taking away the penalty for our sins.

The fact that Jesus was buried might seem a minor point except for what happened afterwards: He rose again! Christ’s resurrection placed His death (and life) in a whole new light, validating His claim to be divine: the Son of God, worthy of worship and able to forgive sins.

On these twin pillars — Christ’s death and resurrection — hang all of orthodox Christianity. Without them, Christianity is nothing more than sentimental platitudes (and a cruel hoax). With them, we finally have sure knowledge of the Deity who created our universe.

[Discuss: What do you consider the most compelling evidence for Christ’s resurrection?]

The historicity of the resurrection is so crucial that Paul goes out of his way to cite his sources:

{5a} and that He was seen by Cephas

{5b} then by the twelve.

{6a} After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once

Most of whom are available for cross-examination:

{6b} of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.

{7a} After that He was seen by James

{7b} then by all the apostles.

Not least of which is Paul himself:

{8} Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

Secular scholars sometimes like to claim that Christianity was “invented” by the Apostle Paul. Certainly, Paul deserves most of the credit for how non-Jews express Christianity, both culturally and theologically. However, none of that explains why a respected Jewish leader would choose to spend his life suffering in exile on behalf of an obscure sect he once delighted in persecuting:

{9} For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Surely the most plausible answer is the one Paul himself repeatedly and publicly gave: His personal experience of receiving grace through an encounter with the risen Christ (cf. Acts 9):

{10} 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.

The reality of the resurrection is sometimes Paul considers central to their belief:

{11} Therefore, whether [it was] I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

{12} Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

{13} But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.

And in fact, everything Paul is and does:

{14} And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching [is] empty and your faith [is] also empty.

{15} 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.

{16} For if [the] dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.

And everything we hope for:

{17} And if Christ is not risen, your faith [is] futile; you are still in your sins!

{18} Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

{19} If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

[Discuss: In what ways does the fact of Christ’s resurrection give you hope?]

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a metaphor or fable made up to inspire religious obedience and virtuous living.  It is the historical data point upon which hangs all of Christianity:

{20} But now Christ is risen from the dead, [and] has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

The firstfruits were a cause for celebration in every agrarian society. They represent the beginning of the harvest after a long summer of plowing and planting, and an end to the reliance on last year’s leftovers. Among Jews, the firstfruits were also offered to God as an expression of gratitude.

Paul taps into that potent imagery, as well as the parallels with Adam:

{21} For since by man [came] death, by Man also [came] the resurrection of the dead.

{22} For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

Here we can see the promise of eternal life for those who are in Christ, reversing the death that Adam brought on humanity.

Christ is the first to be raised from the dead — but far from the last:

{23} But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those [who are] Christ’s at His coming.

Here we see a connection between Christ’s past resurrection and His future second coming:

{24} Then [comes] the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.

As Western evangelicals, we have a tendency to focus on Christ as our “personal savior.”

[Discuss: Do you think of Jesus as your “personal savior?” Why or why not?]

While that is an important truth, it is far from the whole truth. Here, Paul makes it clear that our individual salvation is actually part of a much larger story: Christ (re)establishing the Father’s Kingdom on earth, over and above all earthly powers and authorities:

{25} For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.

Christ is on a mission to establish dominion over everyone — and everything — that has rebelled against God’s created order. That is the fulness of the gospel. Our individual deliverance from death is just a part of that — though a noteworthy part:

{26} The last enemy [that] will be destroyed [is] death.

Lest we get the wrong idea, Paul clarifies that Jesus is not part of that created order being submitted:

{27} For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under [Him],” [it is] evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.

This alludes to the fact that Jesus is fully God, and thus doesn’t need to be redeemed along with the rest of humanity. Yet even though He has divine authority, Jesus still chooses to submit to the Father:

{28} Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

This is one of the many paradoxes of Jesus: that in His divine nature He is a full member of the Godhead, yet in His role as Son and representative member of humanity He is submitted to the Father.

[Discuss: Do you tend to focus more on the humanity or divinity of Jesus? Why?]

We can try our best to explain Him, but ultimately all human understanding falls short of the transcendent Reality which is Jesus Himself.

A reality for which Paul is willing to sacrifice everything:

{29} Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?

{30} And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour?

{31} I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

{32} If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage [is it] to me? If [the] dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”

And for which we should too:

{33} Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

{34} Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak [this] to your shame.

Even if we don’t understand it all:

{35} But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?”

Though Paul explains it as best he can:

{36} Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.

{37} And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain–perhaps wheat or some other [grain].

{38} But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.

{39} All flesh [is] not the same flesh, but [there is] one [kind] [of] flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, [and] another of birds.

{40} [There are] also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial [is] one, and the [glory] of the terrestrial [is] another.

{41} [There is] one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for [one] star differs from [another] star in glory.

By contrasting the natural with the spiritual:

{42} So also [is] the resurrection of the dead. [The body] is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.

{43} It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.

{44} It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

And pointing us towards the example of Adam:

{45} And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam [became] a life-giving spirit.

The allusion is to Genesis 2:7, where God breathed life into the dust of the earth. The life conveyed by the “last Adam” (Jesus) is similar, but far superior:

{46} However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.

That is, Jesus is the source of our spiritual life much as Adam was the source of our natural life. How?

{47} The first man [was] of the earth, [made] of dust; the second Man [is] the Lord from heaven.

{48} As [was] the [man] of dust, so also [are] those [who are] [made] of dust; and as [is] the heavenly [Man], so also [are] those [who are] heavenly.

Put another way, Adam — our ancestors, or any human — could only give us earthly life, since they themselves are part of the earth.

[Discuss: What life did you inherit from your parents? What life are you inheriting from our Father?]

But Christ not only came from heaven, He is the Lord of heaven, and thus has the ability and authority to remake us in His image:

{49} And as we have borne the image of the [man] of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly [Man].

This, then, is the ultimate reason Jesus came: to glorify God the Father through His life, death, and resurrection, that we — and all creation — might someday bear the image of Christ.

Though we cannot receive it as we currently are:

{50} Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.

Fortunately, we will be transformed:

{51} Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed–

{52} in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

{53} For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality.

{54} So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Hallelujah!

{55} “O Death, where [is] your sting? O Hades, where [is] your victory?”

{56} The sting of death [is] sin, and the strength of sin [is] the law.

{57} But thanks [be] to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

May God grant us grace to live out the present in light of that certain future:

{58} Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Amen.

Decision

  • Repentance: Where does Christ need to further establish His reign in your life?
  • Action: How can you better manifest Christ’s image in the earth?
  • Worship: What does Christ’s death and resurrection reveal about the depths of God’s character: e.g., His wisdom, justice, and love?

For Next Week

For next week, read John 16. Why does Jesus promise to send the Holy Spirit?

Memory Verse: “And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment “ — John 16:1 (NKJV)

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