I Declare to You the Gospel
1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. 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 (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to the Christians in Corinth, Greece from Ephesus, Asia (present day Turkey) in A.D. 54-56, during his third missionary journey. These teachings while written to the first century church in Corinth are applicable to all Christians.
In this passage, Paul is responding to some false teaching in the church in Corinth. The false teaching was that some teachers were denying the bodily resurrection of Christians. They claimed that our spirits would keep living after death, but in a disembodied state.
So Paul, in this passage, is correcting this false teaching. Chapter fifteen is, perhaps, the most comprehensive study of bodily resurrection in the entire Bible.
Paul begins by writing “I declare to you the gospel” (v. 1a). The word translated “gospel” is the Greek word euaggelion, which means “good message”, or “good news”.
The word “gospel” is often used to denote the entirety of the New Testament. While this is true, the essence of the word is declared in this passage as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This concept is also described as the coming of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15).
This is not the first time that Paul has declared the gospel to the Corinthian Christians. He previously “preached” the gospel to them during his visit on his second missionary journey (v. 1b).
The Corinthians “received” the gospel and believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, becoming Christians (v. 1c). To this day they have continued to “stand”, or believe, this gospel (v. 1d). Now, the false teachers threaten this belief and Paul is writing to counteract this teaching.
Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are “saved” by this gospel (v. 2a). They are saved from the penalty of their sin, which is eternal separation from God, in Hell. They will spend eternity in Heaven.
In his later letter to the Christians in Rome Paul wrote that “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 12:9-10).
The phrase “if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-- requires explanation (v. 2b). This does not mean that one can lose their salvation. The Bible is clear that we cannot lose our salvation, and the Bible does not contradict itself.
The Greek word ei, translated “if”, introduces a first-class conditional clause in the Greek which assumes the reality of the condition. The reality is that believers do “hold fast” to their belief. They cannot lose their salvation.
If there is no bodily resurrection, the believer would have “believed in vain” (v. 2c). Belief in the gospel means belief in bodily resurrection. If there is no bodily resurrection belief in the gospel would be in vain, or useless.
Paul “delivered” to the Corinthian believers “that which I also received” (v. 3a). Paul received this gospel from Christ Himself, not from “flesh and blood” (other apostles), when he took a spiritual retreat to “Arabia”, the lands just east of the Jordan River, for three years prior to beginning his ministry.
In the introduction to Paul’s first writing he states “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ….But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus” (Galatians 1:11-12,15-17).
That which Paul “received” from the Lord included the concept of the gospel, that “Christ died for our sins, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day (vv. 3b-4a). All of this gospel was “according to the Scriptures”, the Old Testament Scriptures (v. 4b).
The Prophet writes in Isaiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9 And they made His grave with the wicked-- But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.”
And the Psalmist David writes in Psalm 16:9 “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. 10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”
Thus the Gospel is “according to the Scriptures” of the Old Testament. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The Good news is that, just as Jesus was resurrected, we Christians will also be resurrected and will spend eternity in Heaven.
Online Bible Commentary