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1 Corinthians 15:1-2 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 5 mins 16 secs

What is and is not part of the Gospel; 1 Cor. 15:1, 2

1 Corinthians 15:1 NASB " Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, [2] by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain." That last part of the second verse sounds like you can believe and not be saved, that you can believe but it is in vain; but that is not what the Greek says.

In Acts 8 these Samaritans were prepared believer. They were familiar with the Old Testament, though they were ostracized by the Jews. So when Philip goes to Samaria they are not hearing anything new. He comes to them and he is preaching who Jesus is, that He is the Messiah, and the response is faith. The second example in that chapter starts in verse 26 NASB "But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, 'Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.' (This is a desert {road.}) [27] So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, [28] and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah." He is also a prepared unbeliever. [29] "Then the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go up and join this chariot'. [30] Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' [31] And he said, 'Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?' And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him." So he has some knowledge of Old Testament prophecy. That means he knows who the Messiah is. When we are presenting the gospel today we have to understand if the person has any concept of who God is and who Jesus is. Otherwise if you jump right in with you have to trust in Jesus to be saved they don't know who Jesus is, they don't know what they are being saved from, they don't even have the right idea of God yet. It must be recognized that each that in each witnessing situation the circumstances are different, you can't have a canned approach.

Acst 8:32 NASB "Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: "HE WAS LED AS A SHEEP TO SLAUGHTER; AND AS A LAMB BEFORE ITS SHEARER IS SILENT, SO HE DOES NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH. [33] IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY; WHO WILL RELATE HIS GENERATION? FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH." This is a passage taken from Isaiah 53:7, 8. Isaiah 53 is one of the most precise passages in the Old Testament related to the suffering of the Messiah. Philip is using this passage to show that Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah 53. At the conclusion the Ethiopian eunuch believes the gospel.

Acts 8:40 NASB "But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea." So he is going through the area explaining the gospel. This was how the early church grew, through people explaining the gospel and who witnessed. 

Kerusso [khrussw] which is a synonym of euangelizo [e)uaggelizw] is used of Paul in Acts 9:20 NASB "and immediately he {began} to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, 'He is the Son of God'." This right after Paul's salvation and after he had recovered his eyesight. So there he is preaching that Jesus is the Son of God, but the focus there is not simply on the gospel but on His Messiahship. These were Jewish unbelievers but they were prepared because they have an Old Testament context.

The next use is in Acts 10, the episode where Peter takes the gospel to Cornelius. Cornelius is a prepared Gentile, a proselyte to Judaism. He has an Old Testament background, he understands who God is, he understands the Old Testament teaching on sin and the promise of a Messiah and a saviour and he is looking for that saviour, he has positive volition. Peter is brought to Cornelius by God the Holy Spirit and begins to witness to him.

Acts 10:34 NASB "Opening his mouth, Peter said:  'I most certainly understand {now} that God is not one to show partiality, [35] but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. [36] The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching [e)uaggelizw, present middle participle] peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)—[37] you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed [khrussw]. [38] {You know of} Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and {how} He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him…."

Acts 10:42 NASB "And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. [43] Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins." So verse 43 gives us the content of the gospel. It is to believe in Him and you will be given forgiveness of sin. So evangelism is announcing the good news that through Jesus Christ you have forgiveness of sins. [45] "All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also."

Acts 11:19, another indication of evangelism, but here it is not the word euangelizo, it is another synonym. NASB "So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking [lalew: speak or communicate] the word to no one except to Jews alone. [20] But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and {began} speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. [21] And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord." So what is the response to the gospel message? It is believing. What it means to turn to the Lord isn't the idea of repentance in the sense of shame or in the sense of trying to impress God by your sorrow and remorse, it is the idea of at one point you have not accepted Christ as saviour and so you turn to Him and trust in Him as your saviour. That had to do primarily with prepared Jews at this time.

There is another example of prepared Jewish believers in Acts 13. In v. 32 we have the verb euangelizo: "And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers." To understand what the content of the good tidings was we have to go back to verse 16 where Paul begins to give the gospel to those in Antioch in Pisidia, a region up in central Turkey. Acts 13:29 "When they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. [30] But God raised Him from the dead." So here he introduces resurrection as part of his gospel presentation. The question is: Is it part of the gospel or is it just part of his gospel presentation? [31] "and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. [32] And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, [33] that God has fulfilled this {promise} to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.' [34] {As for the fact} that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: 'I WILL GIVE YOU THE HOLY {and} SURE {blessings} OF DAVID.' [35] Therefore He also says in another {Psalm,} 'YOU WILL NOT ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.' … [38] Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed [katangalizo] to you, [39] and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses."

So here we get a little more clarification. In the proclamation of the gospel the point is forgiveness of sins and this deals with the subject of justification. Justification recognises that the issue in salvation has to do with the justice of God. God is absolute justice and perfect righteousness. These two different concepts in English, justice and righteousness, both derive from the basic Greek word and Hebrew word. The Greek word has to do with righteousness: dikaiosune [dikaiosnunh], from the root dikh. It's application is justice. Righteousness has to do with the standard and justice has to do with the application of the standard. The same is true for the Hebrew word tzaddak. In English we use two different words to describe this one concept but in both Hebrew thought and in Greek thought they were seen as inseparable. When you have a value system you apply that value system. But the righteousness of God is His standard, and no human being meets the standard of God because we are all sinners. We still have a problem because somehow in order to have a relationship with God His justice which is the application of the standard needs to be satisfied. So at salvation all of our sins were poured out on the cross, so that on the cross Jesus Christ paid for all of our sins and we are told that He who knew no sin was made sin for us. So even though He is perfect righteousness all of our sins are imputed to Him judicially. He doesn't become a sinner but He bares in His body on the cross our sins. Therefore at salvation His perfect righteousness is imputed or credited or reckoned to our account so that we receive His perfect righteousness. It is not that our R is turned into +R, it is that our R is covered with His +R. So that the perfect righteousness of God now looks down on us and sees perfect divine righteousness which is our possession. Because the standard is met the justice of God is now free to approve us or to bless us. This is what is called the doctrine of justification by faith alone. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ at that instant His perfect righteousness is credited to our account, God's righteousness sees our possession of divine righteousness, grants it approval, the justice of God then blesses us and we are justified by faith alone. All of our sins have been paid for by Christ on the cross.

Acts 13 describes how the gospel is presented to prepared Jews who are familiar with the Old Testament. In Acts 14 we see how the gospel is presented to unprepared Gentiles in Yystra. This is what we will run into a lot in our day. Acts 14:8 NASB "At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother's womb, who had never walked. [9] This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, [10] said with a loud voice, 'Stand upright on your feet.' And he leaped up and {began} to walk. [11] When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, 'The gods have become like men and have come down to us'." They are attributing deity to Paul and Barnabas, so immediately there is a communication problem. [12] "And they {began} calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. [13] The priest of Zeus, whose {temple} was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. [14] But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out [15] and saying, 'Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM'." What is going on here? Where is the cross? Think about it. Where is Jesus being raised from the dead here? He didn't even get to the cross, he never even mentions Jesus at this point. He will, we can infer that from the text, but before he gets to Jesus he has to make sure they understand who the God is that they are talking about. The starting point is getting their theology proper straight. Once he has them understanding who God is as the creator of the universe, then he can communicate why the creature needs to be saved. He doesn't just jump into the cross, he starts with God as creator. The response to the gospel message was belief. The point is that when you witness to certain unprepared Gentiles you don't start with some common knowledge of who Jesus is and then men are sinners, you have to go back and start with who God is.

Acts 16:10, Paul's overall mission is stated. NASB "When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach [e)uaggelizw] the gospel to them." Then we have an example of how he does that. He is thrown into prison in Philippi, and in 16:30 after the gates had been opened the guard is about to commit suicide. He thinks he is going to die all of a sudden. His preparation didn't have to do with getting facts straight about the Old Testament, his preparation is that he knows that he is going to die and he wants to go to heaven. So the response from Paul and Silas is given in v. 31: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, and your household." "Your household" is applying the principle of believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to him as an individual and the household, it is not talking about household faith, that he should believe and all his family would be saved. But the point to be emphasized once again is that preaching the gospel is explained briefly and succinctly in v. 31. What is the condition for salvation? It is faith alone in Christ alone. There is a situation where Paul doesn't go through a lot of discourse in establishing a frame of reference.

But we do have another example of where he does that in chapter seventeen when he goes to Athens. He comes to Mars Hill in Athens and enters into a dialogue with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. This is a different kind of a person. The Philippians jailor was probably an unlearned man who doesn't have a lot of intellectual baggage to bring as objections to whatever it is he is going to hear. At the other end of the socio-economic spectrum are the philosopher leaders in Athens.

Acts 17:18 NASB "And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, 'What would this idle babbler wish to say?' Others, 'He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,' — because he was preaching [e)uaggelizw] Jesus and the resurrection." So here he is clearly explaining the resurrection along with the gospel related to what Christ did. When we see his detailed encounter with them in the next few verses he begins not at the cross but with who God is.

Acts 17:22 NASB "So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, 'Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. [23] For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. [24] The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands [25] nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all {people} life and breath and all things; [26] and He made from one {man} every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined {their} appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation." The point is, he gets to the gospel but he has to spend time setting the stage so that they understand who God is.


When we ask the question, What is the gospel? And we go back and look at the various accounts in Acts—none of which are trying to define for us everything there is to say about the gospel, they are simply historical accounts of what happened—we can derive from them certain basic conclusions. One is that the good news that there was forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. Secondly, that the response was to simply believe in Jesus Christ, and that alone. We also see that the process of evangelism or witnessing is not a type of cookie cutter event, it involves something different for each person and you have to decide through interaction and communication with people how much they understand and what their frame of reference is. Do they know who God is? Is this God some sort of personal force or is it the personal, holy, righteous God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If they don't understand who God is then when you communicate the gospel message that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins that is going to lose a lot of its force and context because they don't understand the background. So you have to take some time to go back and teach them who God is before you can ever get to the point of fully explaining the gospel. Some of that has to do with just where the individual lives. The Philippians jailer on one hand is just a simple thinker and it doesn't take a whole lot to convince him. On the other hand you have some folk who because of their educational background and training have just built up a whole wall of intellectual defence against gospel and you have to approach them in a different manner. So what that calls upon us to do as believers is to work on our preparation. The most important factor is doing it. We are all going to make mistakes but we learn by them. Our job is to make the gospel as clear as we can and God the Holy Spirit is the one who drives it home and enables the unbeliever to understand what the real issues are.