We’re going through 1 Corinthians in my Bible study, and a couple of weeks ago we studied the beginning of chapter 15. Paul has spent the previous several chapters talking about spiritual gifts and conduct in the church, lots of nitty gritty details about Christian life. And then all of a sudden, he switches gears.
The chapter starts out, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (v. 1-2).
I was struck by this sudden change of tune, this flip from the nitty gritty of church life to the straight up gospel. And it made me think that I don’t do that nearly enough in my own life.
It’s so easy for me to get caught up in the nitty gritty of life, even “Christian” life, and forget about the most important thing, which is, of course, the gospel. I underestimate how often I need to be reminded of it. I’m tempted to think “oh I’ve got that part down, let’s move on to bigger and better things!” when in fact there is nothing bigger or better than the simple truth of what Jesus has done for me.
Paul pretty clearly lines it out for the Corinthians, and as he says in the first sentence here, this is the most important thing:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But 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. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (v 3-11).
That’s it, right there. Christ died for our sins, and was raised from the dead, so that by his grace we can be made new in Him. Not by anything we have done or will do, not by the way we act or what we do for Him, but by his grace and what He has done for us.
It can be hard to rest in that truth. Not that we shouldn’t always strive to be more like Him, to get to know Him better, to get closer to Him and be sanctified by his grace. As Paul says, he worked harder than anyone once he was saved. But my tendency is to leave the most important truth behind as I strive to make my own way to “being a better person,” whatever I decide that looks like. No, Paul says, it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
I think most of the time, if God could tell us what He really wants us to hear, when we are searching and trying and working and running around like chickens with our heads cut off, He would sit us down and remind us of the gospel. He would tell us “Hey, chill out Wesley, I know you think you can save the world if you just try hard enough, but guess what? I already did. You just follow Me. Stay with Me, stay by my side, and I’ll take you where you need to go.”
Can we just promise to remind each other of that? No matter what we do, no matter where we go, we will always need to be reminded of the gospel. It is the truth above all truths, the one thing that will stand when everything else is but a memory, a vapor.