[The following content was not edited for online publication but is provided by Jimmy Snowden “as-is”.]
1 Corinthians 15:1-2
“And The Lord regretted that He made Saul king over Israel.”
Last week we began our journey through 1 Corinthians 15. You will remember that the Corinthians were embracing a false teaching regarding the resurrection. Some in the Corinthian church were teaching that there is no future bodily resurrection of the people of God at the end of the age. Paul sets forth to straighten out their theology in 1 Corinthians 15. He begins by pointing the Corinthians to the Gospel. The reason he begins with the Gospel is because the Gospel centers on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Paul wants them to see that they cannot at one and the same time believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and yet not believe in the resurrection of the dead. “Now if Christ is Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead. But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised” (1 Corinthians 15:12-13). He wants them to see that their rejection of the resurrection at the end of the day calls into question the very gospel which they cherish and embrace.
1 Corinthians 15:1
So Paul begins with the resurrection Gospel in vss. 1-11. I have broken vss. 1-11 up into two sections: in vss. 1-2 Paul tells us how we relate to the Gospel and in vss. 3-11 he tells us the contents of the Gospel. Last week began to look at vss. 1-2, but only got through vs. 1. Paul tells us four things about how we relate to the Gospel in vss. 1-2.
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,
A. We need to be reminded of the Gospel. You will remember that Paul reminded already preached the Gospel to them. The Corinthians in particular were in need of a reminder because they were beginning to undermine the Gospel by rejecting the resurrection of the dead.
B. We must receive this Gospel. This does not mean that we simply agree with the intellectual fact claims of the Gospel, although that is part of it. It means, even more, that we personally entrust ourselves to Christ alone for salvation.
C. We must take our stand in the Gospel. To take our stand in the Gospel means that we remain unmovable and resolute in our trust in Christ. It means that we be unwavering in our trust in Him. It means that we say, “If there is no salvation in Christ I will certainly be condemned, because He is my only hope.” I said last week that it means that reconsidering is not an option. As I was driving home from church last week Peter came to mind. Do you remember when all the crowds left Jesus in John 6? Jesus said that said some difficult things about eating His flesh and drinking His blood and nearly everyone in this massive crowd left and stopped following Him. In vs. 67 Jesus turns to His disciples and says, “Do you want to go away as well?” I think Jesus was putting His disciples to the test here. Had they truly taken their stand in the Gospel? Now you may say what you want about Peter—there is no doubt that he put his foot in his mouth on a regular basis and that he denied Jesus three times. But I think we are often times too hard on Peter. Peter’s response in this passage is just wonderful. Jesus says, “Do you want to go away as well.” To which Peter replies:
John 6:68-69; 68 Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Peter has taken his stand in the Gospel of Christ. Even when Jesus sounds like a kook and a madman and everyone abandons him, Peter remains unmovable. He has taken His stand in Christ. Where else do we have to go? Jesus, you are our only hope. Peter was all in—he held nothing back. He was not conditionally committed to Christ. He took his stand in the Gospel. I must press you again this morning; have you taken your stand in the Gospel? Are you holding back? Are you all in for Jesus, trusting Him alone, or are you leaving your options open. You know how it works. You want a back up plan. Friends, if you are to be saved you must have no back up plan. You must forsake your sin and throw yourself on Christ as your only hope. You must be able to say with Peter, “To whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life.” I have no back up plan. Are you sitting on the fence today or have you taken your stand in the Gospel? Consider the twin exhortations of Joshua in Joshua 24 and Elijah in 1 Kings 18.
Joshua 24:15; Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
1 Kings 18:21; And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”
Some of you are waffling between two opinions.
Some of you are waffling between following the world and following Christ.
Stop waffling—stop limping! “Choose this day whom you will serve.” There is no fence sitting when it comes to the Gospel. You are either trusting in Christ alone and throwing yourself upon Him as your only hope or you are not a Christian and you are still in your sins. This Gospel demands a response. You either take your stand in this Gospel or you are still in your sins.
Now last week I said that to take your stand in the Gospel means that you are not open for reconsidering. I know that many will hear this and say, “Jimmy, that sounds awful close minded.” To this I respond, “Ya think?!” Of course I am close minded. Our world would be much simpler if everyone admitted that they are close minded. I have never met or heard anyone who is truly open minded to everything. Yet we live in this strange culture where the greatest virtue is being open minded and the greatest vice is being close minded. Yet everyone is close minded to at least one degree. I hope that you are not open minded in regard to racism or the reestablishment of segregation or slavery. I hope that you are not open minded in regard to radical Isalmic Jihad. In fact the one who boasts of being open minded above all things is not open minded to be close minded beliefs.
This may sound like a joke at first, but it is actually an important point. The majority of beliefs which humans have held throughout history have been close minded beliefs. To be close minded to close minded beliefs is to be close minded to the majority of beliefs which humans have held throughout history—that is a massive point! So I say without hesitation that I am close minded. When the Creator God speaks I do not question. Shall the clay stand over the Potter and critique His work and hold His word in suspicion until he can verify its truthfulness with his pigmy brain? I find this to be madness. Now when I say that I am close minded I am not saying that I am not teachable or that I do not find a thrill in discovery. It also doesn’t mean that I am not open to discussing perplexing questions or opposing viewpoints. What it does mean is that I have taken my stand in the Gospel and I am therefore unwilling to reconsider the Gospel. I say with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
1 Corinthians 15:2
Now we move along to the last statement that Paul makes about how we relate with the Gospel. 4. We are saved this Gospel.
…and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
Now there are a few things that are worthy of note in this verse.
God saves with the Gospel. He says, “by which you are being saved.” The Gospel has the power to save. Isn’t it strange that God decided to save men with a message? I find that to be strange. But that is how God decided to do it. According to God’s sovereign wisdom, your eternity is decided by your response to a preached message. We are being saved by this Gospel message. This is the means that God has ordained to save men from their sin.
Romans 1:16; The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
1 Corinthians 1:18; The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
This is the means that God has ordained. Many, however, don’t believe that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. They pay lip service to this idea but don’t trust the truth of it. But this is a truth to be believed. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation—“you are being saved” by it.
We often times think, though, that the Gospel is in need of our help. We tend to think that the Gospel is outmoded and outdated and irrelevant as it is. We tend to think that the Gospel needs our creativity and fresh perspective to make it effective. But creativity is not the power of God unto salvation, the Gospel is. The Gospel only need be proclaimed. This is why so many pastors and churches have turned their churches into a circus; because they don’t trust the simple Gospel in the hands of the Spirit of God. They believe they have to help it out. They look at the Gospel as if it were something to be sold. So they dress it up and put all sorts of glitter and glamour on it to make it more appealing. This has everything to do with faith. Do you believe that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation or not? If so you will leave it as it is. If you believe that it is the power of God unto salvation you will not feel the need to help it out in order to procure or secure results by dressing it up. Rather, you will preach it as it is in the power that God supplies and trust in the power of the Spirit and not in the effectiveness of your methods or techniques. This Gospel is the power of God, by it we are being saved.
Salvation is a present reality. Notice that you are “being saved” by this Gospel. Paul does not say that you were saved, but that you are being saved. In other words salvation is a present reality. So often when we speak of salvation we only speak of it as if it were something in the past. We speak of “getting saved” as if salvation were like a flu shot, a one time past event. But the Scriptures clearly communicate that there is something of a process to salvation. R.C. Sproul says,
“The verb to save appears in the Bible in various tenses. We have been saved, are being saved, and shall be saved. There is a past, present, and future dimension to salvation. Our salvation began in eternity, is realized in time, and looks forward to heaven.” So there is a past, present, and future dimension to salvation. I have thought of it like this.
Past: Salvation from the Penalty of sin.
Present: Salvation from the Power of sin.
Future: Salvation from the Presence of sin.
Past: Salvation from the penalty (condemnation or guilt) of sin. There is nothing wrong with saying, “God saved me on July 5th 1988.” Paul tells the Ephesians,
Ephesians 2:8; “by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:8).
1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Romans 8:1; “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Salvation is spoken of in Ephesians 2 and 1 Corinthians 6 as a past event. These things happened in the past. If you are in Christ you have already been justified and cleansed and sanctified. This is why all of God’s kids can say a hearty amen to Paul’s words in Romans 8:1. 2. Present: salvation from the power of sin. Although we have been set free from the penalty of sin, we are in need of daily deliverance from the power and dominion of sin in our lives. This is where 1 Corinthians 15:2 comes in. We are “being saved” by the Gospel. Paul uses similar wording in 1 Corinthians 1:18. This is also why Jesus tells us to pray,
1 Corinthians 1:18; For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Matthew 6:13; “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
This is a prayer that we are to pray daily. We all sin on a daily, hourly, minutely basis. Not a single one of us loves God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength perfectly. We all fall short. We all battle against sin, the flesh, Satan, and the world until we die. Not a single one us will become perfectly sinless in this life. Yet God saves us from the power and dominion of sin on a daily basis. 3. Future: Salvation from the presence of sin. Only when Christ comes back in all of His glory will be fully and finally set free from sin. And oh what a glorious day that will be! We won’t have to pray for daily deliverance from sin in heaven. There will be no battle. We will be fully and finally set free from sin forever. This future dimension of salvation is spoken of all throughout Scripture.
Romans 13:11; Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
Hebrews 9:28; Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
1 Peter 1:5; who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
This future dimension is the goal and climax of salvation. Piper says, “It is a great mistake to think of salvation as stage one in the Christian life and sanctification (or holiness, or obedience) as stage two. Salvation is the big biblical term that describes all God’s saving work for us and in us, past, present, and future.” And God gives us a birds eye view of this salvation in Romans 8:29-30.
29 Those whom he foreknew he also predestined… 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Theologians refer to this passage as the Golden Chain of salvation. Paul starts in eternity past when God foreknew you and predestines you, moves along to that time when God called you and justified you, and then moves all the way to glorification, which will not happen until Christ returns in all of His glory. What we are looking at here is the grand sweep of salvation. Salvation began in eternity past and will not be brought to its completion until Christ returns. You are meant to draw a big circle around all the links in this chain and write “Salvation” over the whole of it. This is what salvation is. We must understand this. This is why Paul speaks of salvation as a present process in 1 Corinthians 15. What is my point in going into all of this talk about salvation? The point is that Paul speaks of salvation as a present process in 1 Corinthians 15:2. We are “being saved” by this Gospel. This tells us something very important about the Christian life.
The Gospel is for Christians.
This tells us that we never outgrow our need for the Gospel. Paul Washer once said that, contrary to popular thought, the Gospel is not a flu shot that you get once and then never revisit it. You know how a flu shot works. You get it before winter arrives and once you get it you are all set as far as the flu is concerned. You don’t have to keep getting flu shots every week or day or hour. No… once you get the flu shot you are inoculated. But this isn’t how Christianity works. You don’t get your one dose of Gospel to get you in the kingdom and then go about your merry way. Sure, there is an initial reception of the Gospel, but the Christian must keep drinking from the fountain of God’s grace in the Gospel. This is how many treat the sinners prayer. They pray the prayer and then say, “Well… now I’m covered. I got my fire insurance and I am good to go.” That isn’t how Christianity works. Once you embrace Christ with saving faith, you have just entered the Christian life. It is the Gospel that gets you into the kingdom and it is the same Gospel which keeps you in the kingdom. So the Gospel is not just the introductory message of Christianity that you leave behind once you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. No… you need this Gospel just as much today as you needed it when you first believed. You will never graduate from the Gospel. But we often times think that the Gospel is only for unbelievers. It’s not.
The true evidence that you have embraced this Gospel with saving faith is your perseverance in this Gospel.
This is where that big word “if” comes in. This statement shocks many. Paul says that we are saved by this Gospel “if we hold fast.” This passage is troubling to many because it seems that Paul is either saying that the Christian who does not hold fast to the Gospel loses his salvation or that Paul is saying that we earn our salvation by holding fast to the Gospel. But Paul is teaching neither of these things. You will notice that he does not say, “by which you are being saved, by holding fast the gospel I preached to you.” In other words, Paul is not telling us how we are being saved. What then is Paul talking about? The key is found in the next phrase, “unless you believed in vain.” He is contrasting saving faith with vain faith. What he is saying is that true saving faith always perseveres in the true Gospel.
If you claim to have faith in Christ but you do not “hold fast to the word” of the Gospel it is evidence that your faith is not a saving faith, it is a vain faith. Paul is not saying that the Christian who does not hold fast to this Gospel loses his salvation. Rather, he is saying that the Christian who doesn’t hold fast to this Gospel was never truly saved in the first place, but placed a vain faith in Christ. Perseverance in the faith is one of the true markers of a Christian. And the Corinthians were in need of this warning from Paul, they were, after all, embracing a false teaching which undermined the one true Gospel which alone has the power to save. Make no mistake about it, Paul was drawing a line in the sand here in vs. 2. He wanted the Corinthians to know that this false teaching in regard to the resurrection was something of a testing ground for them. If they continued in this teaching, it was evidence they were never truly born again to start with. What Paul says here to the Corinthians is so very similar to what he says to the Galatian Christians who also being taught a false Gospel. In Galatians 5:2-4.
2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
This morning I will leave you with this one final thought; hold fast to the Gospel. Doctrine matters. We need to protect and guard the pure truth of the Gospel (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14; Jude 1:3). There are eternal consequences for embracing a false Gospel.
Next week the sermon will be titled “If.” I am going to be doing more of a biblical survey of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. I will seek to demonstrate from the Scriptures how often warnings like this one here are repeated in the Scriptures, and I will seek to demonstrate just how vital it is that we persevere in this faith.
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previoulsy he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.
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