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.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

Summary: Verses One And Two

Living Spiritual Teacher and leading guru of the Emerging Church, author, speaker, activist[1] Brian McLaren tells us in his recent book A New Kind of Christianity that “about fifteen years ago” he was having lunch with “a well-known Evangelical theologian.”

Somewhere during the lunch with his friend Rod Washington—whom I’ve never heard of—Washington apparently said to McLaren, “Most Evangelicals haven’t got the foggiest notion of what the gospel really is,” and asked McLaren to define it.

O please. No, of course not, nobody knew the Gospel for 2,000 years, blah, blah, blah…so that’s why we needed the neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church to come along.[1] Right. McLaren continues:

I answered as any good Romans Protestant would, quoting Romans. He followed up with this simple but annoying rhetorical question: “You’re quoting Paul. Shouldn’t you let Jesus define the gospel?” When I gave him a quizzical look, he asked, “What was the gospel according to Jesus?”

A little humiliated, I mumbled something akin to “You tell me,” and he replied, “For Jesus, the gospel was very clear. The Kingdom of God is at hand. That’s the gospel according to Jesus, right?”[2]

“What was the gospel according to Jesus?” Translation: What is gospel according to what I dreams said it was?” Next McLaren tells us that, “The kingdom of God is at hand [means] God’s new benevolent society is already among us.” No, the Gospel has always been repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Name.

Jesus even tells us this Himself during His Bible study with two of His disciples He’d met up with on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection from the dead:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:44-48)

However, apostates like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, once an icon of the Emerging Church, don’t like that because it contradicts their teaching that all men are already saved[3] You see, for many in the Emerging Church, and more and more of mainstream squishy attractional evanjellyfish, “the gospel” has been redefined into a new postmodern form of the spiritually bankrupt social gospel; the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.

But, even the first two verses of our opening text above Paul tells the church in Corinth that he will remind them of the gospel I preached to you. The Greek here gives the picture — “I would have you know.” As in “this is a very important matter this” gospel I preached to you. In other words, it’s not just a little friendly reminder; but rather, a short exposition of the Gospel preached by the Apostles of Jesus Christ.

Under the inspiratio of God the holy Spirit, Paul was telling them that this Gospel was absolutely not to be taken lightly, for it is the very heart of the Christian faith. The Apostle wanted to make sure they understood that it’s only by which [i.e. this gospel] you are being saved; as it is possible—no matter how strongly or sincerely—for one to believe in vain. Paul clearly elaborated further on this in Galatians 1:6-9.

Summary: Verses Three And Four

In the next two verses Paul will pass on what I also received. The words he uses here in the Greek are technical terms; ones which are also used in rabbinical writings. This is why there are many apologists and commentators who will correctly use this passage to link the Apostle Paul with very early Christian tradition concerning the fact of Christ’s literal bodily resurrection from the dead.

However, Paul is actually doing more than merely passing on an early creed of the ancient Church. Look now at Galatians 1:11-12For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (emphasis added).

A careful examination of these verses shows that Paul is actually telling us that no man made up the gospel that was preached by me, and while he was most likely aware of these early creeds that were circulating among the early believers, the Apostle is also informing us that he received the Gospel personally through a revelation of Jesus Christ Himself.

That’s a pretty solid Source, and it also answers the postmodern deconstructing question mused to McLaren by “evangelical” theologian Rod Washington earlier. For you see, it’s because of his seeing the risen Christ in person that Paul can even be a genuine Apostle (see—1 Corinthians 9:1). So what he’s doing here, in actuality, is verifying the truth of this early Christian creed.

In verse 3 the Apostle begins to tell us what the Apostolic Gospel was/is — that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. And that’s why it is so important to know Who Jesus Christ of Nazareth is. Not just that He died for our sins, but also that Christ is God Himself in the person of the unique (Greek: monogenes) God-Man Jesus of Nazareth (see—Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1, 14, 18).

Then in verse 4 Paul tells us Christ was buried and that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. And therein, we have the Gospel. If there was more to it e.g. some “principles” (as in Mormonism); or, some “sacraments” (as in apostae Roman Catholicism), or, “works” of any kind—here is where Paul would have included them.

You will notice however, that he did not. That’s because there are none attached to what God “finished/paid in full” (see—John 19:30). And Paul specifically tells the church at Ephesus that there are no works involved in salvation — For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

So this is the extra Good News for the regenerated Christian, it is by grace you have been saved — it’s past tense; an event which has already happened. And now we can look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 with a fuller understanding of what the Holy Spirit through Paul is actually telling us — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Can you see there; this common phrase that we often use — “born again” — is not merely some kind of a figurative statement at all. O no, it is a quite literal and glorious fact. Soli Deo gloria!

End Notes:

[1] This is how he’s billed at his personal webiste: http://www.brianmclaren.net/, accessed 12/26/11.

[2] The sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church aka the Emerging Church has now been upgraded to the Emerging Church 2.0—with its newer, more clearly delineated, postmodern Progressive Christian theology, which these rebels against the final authority of the Word of God will often refer to under their circus “big tent” as Emergence Christianity, and is about to launch an offensive against marriage and proper Christian sexuality.

[3] See Rob Bell Defending Love Wins Mythology.

[4] Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity [ New York: HarperOne, 2010], 138, 139.

See also: