Sermon April 12, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1440            Click here for audio worship.

April 12, 2020 1 Corinthians 15.1-11

Dr. Ed Pettus

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

 

“The Gospel – Hold Fast”

1Now 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

 

Easter Sunday. This is our most sacred holy day. It defines us as a people. It is the reason we worship on Sunday. This year we are unable to gather as we normally would. But, there is good news because we will gather again soon and we will celebrate Easter again this year! Our plan is to celebrate Easter again on the third Sunday back from COVID19, so we will have two Easters!!

Today I read from Matthew’s gospel for our prayer time and from Paul’s first letter to Corinth for our sermon text. Paul sends the church a reminder. We need reminders once in a while. This reminder is of the gospel Paul had preached to them. The gospel they received, in which they have stood, and by which they are saved. If, Paul says, if you hold fast. I want to speak on those two things today: the Gospel and holding fast. The Gospel Paul preached has four elements in this writing:

 

    • Christ Died – Christ went to the cross for us. He bled and died to offer the sacrifice needed to bring forgiveness to all who believe. This aspect of the gospel is rich and deep in meaning and has threads running all through the Bible.

       

    • Christ Was Buried – Secondly, Paul says Christ was buried. We might wonder why Paul would add this fact because it seems obvious that when dead one gets buried. It may be the same reason the Apostle’s Creed emphasizes Christ’s death four times: ...was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead… Why bring such emphasis? The reason the Creed does it is to show He really did died. There is no conspiracy about faking death or some other theory that seeks to debunk the truth of Christ’s death. I don’t know for sure if that is what Paul had in mind, but it was for the Creed. Paul certainly notes the Christ really died by adding His burial.

 

    • Christ Was Raised – The third point in this is the resurrection. Easter. Christ was raised up from the dead. He died, He was buried, He lives! He lives, He lives, He lives! This is what we celebrate today.

 

    • Christ Appeared – I normally stop with those three affirmations of the Gospel because those three are quite sufficient for presenting the entire Gospel message of Jesus Christ. But Paul adds one more component that you don’t always get in a gospel summation: Christ appeared. This is the courtroom testimony to the truth of the claim. Christ died, was buried, was raised...and we all saw Him. We are all witnesses to this truth.

 

  • Hold Fast

 

Paul tells us to hold fast to the Gospel. But I want us to notice he may also be telling us to hold fast to faith and to salvation.

 

    • To the Gospel – First, hold fast to the Gospel. Cling to that message of love from God. This is what we do all of our lives, but we really think about that a little more deeply in times like we have today. When there is a crisis or threat or invisible force at work against us, we really bear down on the Gospel for hope and strength. It is after all our saving grace to know Jesus Christ our savior and to know that in life or death we belong to God. So we hold fast to the Gospel.

 

    • To Faith – To hold fast to the Gospel means to have faith in it, to believe. But it is not just believing in a story or a set of rules or a particular idea. It is faith in Jesus Himself and what He has done for us. It is belief in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and living faithfully in obedience to all that the Scriptures teach us.

 

    • To Salvation – Thirdly, we hold fast to salvation by believing in the Gospel message and in the Christ who is that message. Nothing will snatch us out of God’s hand. Nothing will separate us from God’s love. This is the assurance that we are saved from sin and death, and I would add now, saved from fear and anxiety about the current context we face in this world.

 

  • Witnesses

    • Cephas; 500 Brothers; James; All the Apostles; Paul – The fourth component Paul mentions in the Gospel presentation are the witnesses. Peter, many brothers in faith, James, the Apostles, and finally Paul himself. These were the eye witnesses. We are now the faith witnesses. We share the same Gospel message and hold fast to the same Lord as all of those eye witnesses. We carry on the testimony of grace and salvation for the world to know and for all to hear and see in and through us.

 

  • By the Grace of God

    • We Preach – The Gospel

 

By the grace of God we also preach the gospel, as Paul did. We might do that with words or with actions. This Gospel, Christ died, was buried, was raised, and appeared, this is what Paul stresses as of first importance. The is our back to basics. This is our core. This is our definitive essence. This is that which we cannot forget or abandon. This is what compels everything about us as a church and as individual believers. Paul’s reminder is of that message but also of its great importance, because if we stray from the Gospel, we lose. If we ever forget our roots in this radical message, we fall short.

 

    • You Believe – Hold Fast

This is the encouragement to hold fast. By the grace of God we are to keep on believing what we have received. One of the ways we continue to believe is to look at everything through the lens of the Gospel. Believing is much easier, I think, when we always have the Gospel before us. So we look at the world through the Gospel message of Jesus. We look at COVID19 through the Gospel. We look at one another through the Gospel. We look at everything through the understanding of what Christ has done. It is not about what would Jesus do in this situation we find ourselves, but it is about what we do by seeing through the Gospel, that is, the Gospel is our frame of reference for life and death and threats and joys and Sunday and Monday and all days and all things.

 

 

We make a big big deal out of the gospel every Sunday because it is life. It is of first importance above all else. It puts everything else into proper perspective. It makes us a people who need not be anxious about the things of the world, because Jesus lives. In pastoral care, which is a fancy term for caring for people who are in crisis, but in caring for others, the pastoral word that is very important is to be a non-anxious presence. When all about us is complete chaos, we can be a non-anxious presence for everyone who is being chaotic with the chaos. Jesus was a non-anxious presence. He did not let the things of the world bother him because he knew a different perspective. He knew his Father was sovereign and loving and provided for every need. He did not need to panic or suffer from anxiety or worry. He lived in faithfulness and love. He saw the world through a God shaped lens. This is how we are to conduct our lives because we have what was and is of first importance, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 
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