As I grew up, one of my favorite radio commentators was Paul Harvey. I can remember coming home from school and entering the house, my mom had the radio station on and we would sit down and listen to his news broadcast. My favorite was when he would do “the rest of the story”! Here he would start off by giving the story (typically of a famous person) and would leave out key elements such as names. When the program resumed, he would give the punch line that completed the story and gave his listeners clear understanding. The Apostle Paul does the same in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. If chapters 1 through 14 are the story, Paul now punctuates it with the “rest of the story” or the “complete” story!
As we come to the end of 1 Corinthians, Paul now gives us a clear understanding of the gospel, which he lists as “first importance”. As a Gospel community we should always keep this message of grace as “first importance” or of highest priority. Paul reminds us of the key elements of the Gospel in verses 3 and 4 which are 1) Christ died for our sins, 2) He was buried and 3) was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures! To testify of this truth, the Apostle Paul names the extraordinary list of witnesses in verses 5-8. These witnesses include Peter, then to the twelve (apostles of the Lamb), then to 500 brothers at one time. He appeared to James (the brother of Jesus) and finally to Paul who refers to himself as the “least of the apostles”.
In verse 12, Paul now turns to the resurrection, an event so important he lists six unthinkable things that would be in place if the resurrection hadn’t happened (Apparently some of the Corinthians said there wasn’t a resurrection). They are:
- Our preaching and your faith is in vain (v14)
- We are misrepresenting God (v15)
- If the dead are not raised, Christ is not raised (v16)
- If Christ is not raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (v17)
- Those who have died in Christ have perished (v18)
- If we only have hope in this life only, we of all people are most to be pitied (v19)
As I reread the list, it makes me all the more glad that the resurrection did happen! The fact that Christ has been raised from the dead, has given us this hope that in Christ we are now completely reconciled to the father! Although we inherited death through Adam, we have now been made alive in Christ and placed in the Kingdom of God!
Paul goes on throughout the rest of the chapter and identifies key components of the Kingdom such as “Christ must reign and put all his enemies under his feet” (v25). The last enemy is death (vs. 26, 55) and the dead will be raised (vs. 42, 52) and we shall be changed in a twinkling of a eye at the last trumpet when Christ returns for his church! This is the glorious gospel (good news) which is the power of God (Rom 1:16).
Now that 1 Corinthians 15 gives us the “rest of the story” or the complete story, we can apply this gospel-power to all situations life may send our way. Whether we are dealing with divisions (1 Cor. 1:10-13,3:3-4, 11:18), sexual immorality (1 Cor. 5, 6:12-20), disputes with others (1 Cor. 6), idolatry (1 Cor. 10) and even our gifts Christ has given us to serve his church, the gospel has made us overcomers…more than conquerors! The Apostle Paul even shares in this letter how he applies the gospel in his calling in chapters 4 and 9. No matter how hard the circumstance life sends our way (and I know this is easier said than done), the gospel is sufficient to carry us through! Even when we fail, the gospel is all about second, third…and four hundred and ninety chances! No one probably understood this better than the Apostle Peter who wrote,
“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promise, so that through them you may become partaker of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desires (2 Pet. 1: 3-4).
I appreciate pastor Neil’s instruction on how we should steward the gospel: “Getting the gospel right, letting the gospel in, and getting the gospel out!” The gospel properly applied will cause us to become a missional community of grace.