Mysteries of the Kingdom

            in awe of scripture, viewing it through the lens of the kingship of Jesus





THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

Did Paul disagree with Jesus? Jesus Himself called the gospel "the kingdom of God" in Mark 1:14-15, Luke 16:16, and Matthew 24:14. Many claim Paul "clarified" the gospel in 1Corinthians 15 as "Christ died for our sins." Having emphatically stated in Galatians 1:6-8 there is only one gospel, we must assume Paul did not in fact disagree with our Lord by preaching a second gospel. Let us then investigate Paul's "clarification" of the gospel.

He opened his fifteenth chapter to the saints in Corinth by saying, "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you..." Some translations have Paul saying, "Now I clarify to you, brothers, the gospel which I preached to you..." In either case, the reader is ready to hear Paul's gospel. In verse three, he increases the intensity: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received..." Not only is Paul going to tell us his gospel, but he will state what is "of first importance" in it!
 
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures"

With such words, verse three has ended. Case shut. Paul's gospel is the death of Christ for our sins! Wait, we have two questions about this "clarification" of the gospel and of that which has "first importance" in the gospel:
#1 - WHO exactly died? Paul used the word "Christ" in such a way that it looks like a name. We must wonder why he did not say "Jesus" died.
#2 - Why should we stop Paul mid-sentence, mid-paragraph, and mid chapter? Perhaps he was just getting started with his clarification of that which has "first importance" in the gospel.

Regarding the first question: "Who died for our sins?" The word Christ is so often treated like a name, but Jesus did not bear a last name or family name as we do today. The word Christ comes from Psalm two which the apostles so often quoted and which tells us the Psalm 2:2 "Anointed" (christos in Greek) is the King (Ps 2:6) whom God has appointed to destroy the rebellious authorities of earth. If we literally translated christos, 1Corinthians 15:3 says, "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that the Anointed died for our sins according to the Scriptures." If we connotatively translated christos, 1Corinthians 15:3 says, "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that the King died for our sins according to the Scriptures." The very first truth in Paul's Gospel denotes the kingship of Jesus. This would in fact agree with the gospel Jesus preached of the "Kingdom of God" for the christos King of Psalm 2 is He who rules the "Kingdom of God."

Returning to our second question: "Why should we stop at verse three?" Paul has not even finished his sentence, much less his chapter and his point regarding that which has "first importance" in the gospel. If the gospel were the death of Jesus, then surely Paul will expound on His atoning death throughout this chapter. Yet he does not mention it one time after verse three. He does not go on to speak of guilt or forgiveness, of imputing or of God's wrath. He does not expound in the chapter regarding hell, heaven, or eternal life. For the next fifty five verses, Paul speaks of only one subject: resurrection.

Since Paul goes on in 1Corinthians 15 to talk only of the resurrection, perhaps the most important thing about the gospel is our Lord's resurrection from the dead. We seem to have returned then to Paul contradicting Jesus. How can the resurrection be the gospel if Jesus said the "Kingdom of God" was the gospel? In fact, Paul did not say the resurrection was the gospel. He said that which was of first importance was... then spoke of the resurrection for 55 verses. Perhaps then we can let Paul agree with Jesus that the Kingdom of God and the King whom God sent us are the gospel. What is most important regarding the gospel is our King's resurrection from the dead.

In Acts 17:31 and Romans 1:4, Paul stated the resurrection of Jesus proves His lordship. Perhaps then 1Corinthians 15 is not a clarification of the gospel or a restating of the gospel. In fact we find the NIV, NLT, and ESV have translated Paul in 1Corinthians 15:1 to say respectively:
"Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you..."
"Let me now remind you..."
"Now I would remind you..."

Paul then is not restating or clarifying the gospel. He simply began the chapter by instructing them to recall what He had already preached. If we would investigate Paul's gospel, we would find only one book of the Bible in which he preaches to those who do not yet believe the gospel - Acts. We find him in preaching in Acs the Psalm 2 authority of Jesus. Immediately upon conversion in Acts 9:20 he argues Jesus is the Ps 2:7 "Son of God." Two verses later, he is arguing Jesus is the Ps 2:2 "Anointed" or christos. Later we find Paul preaching "the Kingdom of God" in Acts 19:8, 20:25, 28:23, and 28:31. We should not accuse Paul of contradicting King Jesus in 1Corinthians 15. He opened the chapter reminding them he had previously preached the gospel. In verse three, he uses the words "first importance," then he gives fifty five straight verses on that which has "first importance": the resurrection of our King which proves (Act 17:31; Rom 1:4) His authority.

For those who want to find a summary of the gospel in 1Corinthians 15, verse 12 begins, "Now if the King is preached," then states that which is of "first importance": "that He has been raised from the dead..." The gospel is the kingship of Jesus. The most important thing about the gospel is proof of it: God raised the King from the dead.



                                                    
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"The Most Important Thing" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net on February 26th, 2014. All rights are reserved.