We arrive today at one of the most widely-cited texts on the meaning of the word “gospel” — to 1 Corinthians 15:1-8:
1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After
that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same
time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
It would be unwise to read 1 Cor 15:1-8 without reference to what Paul has taught already in 1 Corinthians and the big picture includes his focus on the cross of Christ and on its capacity to invade the depths of human selfishness.
Paul says this gospel (and his gospeling of it) is capable of saving if the Corinthians hold fast — and here one could stop and have a conversation about the Calvinist-Arminian debate but we need not. Paul teaches that saving faith is persevering faith.
Then Paul basically outlines the structure of the gospel message he gospels:
1. Christ died for our sins according to Scripture; he doesn’t tell us how this works nor does he tell us which Scriptures he is talking about. He assumes his readers know.
2. Christ was buried — and the burial of Christ does not feature in the gospel preaching elsewhere in the NT but it could be assumed to be something like the descent into hades or the harrowing of hell or the proclamation of victory to the spirits in prison.
3. Christ was raised and appeared — and this is the emphasis of this chapter.
By resurrection Paul means more than the survival of the soul after death (that’s “freakin’ Platonism”!) and it means the reconstitution of the body after death. That means bodily resurrection — touching and eating. Yes, 1 Cor 15 shows this is a new body made for the new heavens and the new earth but it is a body, a gloried and spiritual body, but still a body. I heartily recommend Tom Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
Faithful gospeling preaches (1) the cross, (2) the entrance into the world of death by Christ and the coming out of that world into (3) the resurrection.
What this means is that the gospel deals with death and the gospel’s blessing is life.