Audio Worship 2/11/2024, "Our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ" 1 Corinthians 15.1-11

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1624

February 11, 2024

1 Corinthians 15.1-11      Click here for audio worship.

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“Our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ”


Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.


  • The Gospel


We are exploring the essentials of faith according to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, our denomination. We have looked at the basis for these essentials, the authority of God’s Word and we have seen in last Sunday’s worship the first essential of God the Father who is sovereign over all things. Today we look at essential number two which is about the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. I meant to have this printed in the bulletin, but I forgot!

Essential #2 Jesus Christ, the living Word, became flesh through His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and His virgin birth. He who is true God became true man united in one Person forever. He died on the cross a sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. On the third day He arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He now is our High Priest and Mediator.

You may recognize many Bible texts in that brief essential, living Word – John 1, miraculous conception – Luke 1, died on the cross / risen – all the gospels. This essential seeks to confess much but not all that we believe about Jesus. It certainly contains the basic message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

One of the questions we ask candidates for ministry might seem odd because we are asking of people who are ready to be ordained into the ministry. But one of our stock questions is: What is the gospel? We might think it unnecessary to ask a person who has been through seminary and been examined on multiple levels prior to appearing before the Presbytery, but it might also be surprising to hear that articulating the gospel is not always apparent in those we would expect. It is a simple enough question, what is the gospel? How might we answer that question if someone asked? We read in 1 Peter 3.15, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”. Basically that means being able to explain the gospel, to articulate the gospel, because the gospel message is our hope, to use Peter’s language! The gospel is at root what Paul gives us this letter to the Corinthians, “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” Three basic truths stand out: Christ died, Christ rose, there were eye witnesses. But there is much more here too: He died for our sins and we know He was dead because He was buried. Ever wonder why the apostles’ creed says Christ was dead in three or four different ways, depending on how we interpret “crucified”? Jesus “was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead.” Dead, dead, dead, dead. His death was for our sins, so that we might be forgiven. And all of this occurred according to the Scriptures, which for Paul meant the Old Testament. I’ll say more about that later.

Jesus was then raised from the dead. The tomb became empty. Death was conquered. Sin was defeated. These are the deeper meanings behind the simple message of the gospel. The more we grow into the gospel message, the more meaning we find in it. Jesus appeared to well over five hundred people. In the Jewish tradition or law it took two witnesses to verify a truth. We have over five hundred! Paul lists Cephas, the twelve disciples, James, Paul himself, and he does not even mention the women at the tomb. Today’s statement of faith that we just affirmed a few moments ago collects from various parts of Scripture including 1 Corinthians 15.

The very basic gospel is here in 1 Corinthians: Christ died, Christ rose, there were eye witnesses. But people will no doubt ask us why? Why did Christ die? Why risen? That is where we need to have more understanding in order to say “for our sins and for our life, to conquer death and sin”. Another summary of the gospel is John 3.16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” This adds more fuel to the fire of the gospel: God’s love is the motivation, God’s gift is Jesus, faith comes into the mix with whoever believes in Him, and finally the promise of eternal life.

But that is not all, Paul gives another version of the gospel in Philippians 2.6-11,

6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Defending our hope just got more revelation in that Jesus emptied His place in heaven, came as a man to the earth, born a child of course. He was humble and obedient and has now been exalted over all things. The gospel in full is all through the various stories and teachings and actions in all four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.



  • Holding Fast


Sometimes we are surprised by how long it took the disciples to catch on to Jesus’ message. We read the gospels and we think, “If I had that kind of one on one time with Jesus, I would have no doubts!” I would hope we could have such confidence, but it appears that people have needed something all through the history of the church, and that is a reminder of what we believe. So Paul writes at the end of this letter, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” Paul reminds those who have received the gospel, who stand in the gospel, who are saved by the gospel, that they need to hold fast to the gospel! Part of holding fast to the gospel is to not forget it! Part of holding fast to the gospel is to stand firm in the truth of the gospel. Part of holding fast to the gospel is to recognize again and again that we are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ in the good news of His death and resurrection. Part of holding fast to the gospel is having the capability to articulate the gospel, but perhaps most importantly to live in and out of the gospel. The good news we have for ourselves and for the world is that Jesus is Lord and Savior. However we might tell that story or model that truth, we need to hold fast to it. There is nothing more deceitful than someone who may know the words but does not live by them, does not hold them fast. There is nothing more dangerous than to have known the truth or about the truth and then forget it, reject it, or dismiss it for some reason.

These two words, hold fast, are really cool when we look through Scripture. Hebrews 10.23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Very similar exhortation to that in 1 Corinthians 15, we must hold fast to our confession of hope, that is, the gospel. Holding fast is used to describe marriage in Genesis 2.24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” We are commanded to hold fast to God in Deuteronomy 13.4, “You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.” Paul tells us to hold fast to goodness, Romans 12.9, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Holding fast. Hanging in there. Clinging to the truth. Sticking with faith to the One who is faithful. This is also good news in a world where it seems that everything is seeking to force us to let go of faith. It is both a command and an encouraging word to hold fast.



  • In Accordance With the Scriptures


Always pay attention to repetition! Two times Paul uses the phrase “in accordance with the Scriptures” in his articulation of the gospel. This is crucial to understand, I believe, because what it indicates is that the entire Bible is pointing us toward Jesus Christ. Jesus gave His life in accordance with the Word of God. He rose from the dead in accordance with the Word of God. In other words, He was obedient to God’s plan for salvation. Jesus kept commandment. That sounds somewhat obvious to say, of course, Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Godhead would keep commandment, but consider His obedience as a model for us to keep commandment. He held fast so that we could know that we, with His help, could also hold fast. What is critical for us is to know that the deeper we grow in relationship with God through Jesus, the easier it is to hold fast and the easier it is to keep our lives in accordance with the Scriptures. It is not always easy, but becomes easier!




  • Our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ


Two essential points to note that are not specific to the passage for today or to the second essential, but, they are certainly seen all through the gospels and the New Testament (and the Old Testament), and implied in 1 Corinthians and the essential. First, that Jesus is our Savior. He died on the cross to save us from sin and death. That is the first part of the simple gospel. That is the part in which we rejoice because it is our way free of sin and death and our way to heaven. Second, Jesus is Lord, exalted above every name and Lord of our lives. Salvation is great, but that is not our only goal. We are called to discipleship, to follow Jesus in all things, which means, we seek to follow our Lord and Master. Many people want a Savior but not a Lord. Many people want a ticket to heaven but not a way of discipleship. Heaven is great, discipleship can be tough. As I said earlier, it gets easier with time and as we grow closer to God. But life isn’t easy, nor is discipleship. The world will hate us because they hate Jesus. The way of Christ begins with death on the cross and our participation in that death. But it also leads to life. As Paul writes in Galatians 2.20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is the crux of the matter. This is why we have Jesus Christ as an essential belief in our faith. It is Christ in us, Christ who died for us, Christ who rose for us. Christ who lives forevermore. He is our life.

Colossians 3.1-4, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

This Colossians passage is not only a summation of the gospel but of the effect the gospel has upon those who believe. We have been raised with Christ, resurrected, a new creation. Therefore, seek the things above. Seek God’s kingdom, set our minds on things above. Our life is now hidden in Christ. Verse 4 is one of my favorite phrases in the whole Bible, when Christ – who is your life – appears. Great! Christ will come again, but it is that phrase that looks to be tossed in as an afterthought, Christ who is your life. Christ will appear and, by the way, He is your life! How do we describe our life? People will ask, what do we do for a living? What hobbies do we have? Do we play any sports? What are you doing in retirement? But the Bible sets all those questions aside so that we might first say that Christ is everything. Christ is my life. Like Paul who considers all his accomplishments as nothing compared to Christ, we too set aside all things that might define who we are in order to proclaim with boldness that Christ is our life.

These truths are essential to our faith, to our salvation, and sanctification. The truth that is the gospel defines us as a people. Jesus Christ, the living Word, became flesh, died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. We are first Christian, children of God. Our identity is found in Jesus. All else is on the periphery. We do not identity by our sexuality, or economic status, not by our politics, or our job, or anything else. We are the children of God in Christ, one in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. That is who we are. Thanks be to God.