There’s nothing more important than getting the gospel right. And the Bible is clear that this gospel isn’t something we should learn once and then forget about. Christians need to be reminded of the gospel. As Paul wrote, “Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received” (1 Corinthians 15:1). So let’s all take a minute and let the word of God refocus our thinking to be clear on the most important truth God has revealed to us: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The first truth we need to be reminded of is the work of the gospel: “by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (15:2) This verse is a crucial double-warning. First, we must remember that we don’t save ourselves; God saves us. There is no work, birthright, group identity, or any other thing by which we merit God’s salvation. Second, if we don’t hold to the gospel firmly, we are not being saved; our faith is good for nothing. Saving faith, unlike vain faith, persists amid all kinds of doubt, sin, temptation, or any other impediment to its existence.
The second truth of the gospel is the gospel itself: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.” (15:3-8)
Let’s explain the key terms in that paragraph.
Primarily, the gospel is a message that Jesus is Christ, which means God’s anointed spiritual and political ruler over the earth. God instructed Israel to anoint priests, prophets, and kings with oil to show God’s choice for them to rule in their special capacity. In the same way, God wants all people to know he has chosen Jesus to be the prophet who makes God known, the priest who makes intercession for us, and the king who reigns over all.
The gospel asserts that Jesus, the Messiah, died. That is, he became a real human and literally died. He wasn’t a phantom of a man, as some have claimed. Nor was his death a near-lethal “swoon” as others have speculated.
His death, Paul writes, was for our sins. He didn't die for his own. But since he is the perfect God in human flesh, he was able to suffer for our sin against God so that we who trust in him would be relieved of the guilt and shame we deserve for our sins.
Jesus died for us according to the Scriptures. That means his death was the predestined, prophesied death described in the Hebrew scriptures, perhaps most clearly in Isaiah 53, but explained, referenced, and foreshadowed throughout all of Scripture.
Then, Jesus was buried, raised, and appeared to many. Jesus was put in a tomb, but God raised him to life to show his power over sin and death to his disciples. The resurrection is Christ's warranty that we who trust in him will also be raised to life with him when we die or when he returns, whichever comes first.
The final truth of the gospel is that Jesus is coming to reign. “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he abolishes all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he puts all his enemies under his feet.” (15:24). The gospel of Jesus doesn’t end with the cross or the resurrection, but with God coming again in Christ and dwelling with us like he did before Adam and Eve sinned.
We are saved by holding firmly to the truth that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, raised, appeared to many, and is coming to reign.