THE EASTER GOSPEL
Charles Revis, Executive Minister
As we move through this Holy Week and arrive at the celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday may our awe for Christ (“Lord” and “King” and “Messiah”) swell in our souls.
Consider what He has done! He died on the cross for our sins. Amazing grace, indeed! Yet, we would have little proof of the eternal efficacy of His sacrifice if it were not for the resurrection. Only a perfect God-incarnated-human dying in our place could break the power of sin and death. And, only a miraculous, one of a kind, resurrection could demonstrate that he was the One he claimed to be, our Savior King.
This is why the Apostle Paul, in pointing to the primacy of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 conjoins the cross and the resurrection. Both events are bound together and together they illuminate each one’s significance. Paul wrote:
"Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you…By this gospel you are saved. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also." (vv. 1-8)
This is the Gospel in a nutshell. Knowing that the Corinthian Christians were distracted by numerous sidebar issues Paul underscores the Gospel’s bedrock significance. The Gospel is of "first importance", he says. Then Paul unpacks its meaning with terse verbs: died, buried and raised. Short and sweet is Paul’s explanation of the Gospel. Yet, this is the core of the Christian faith, the Gospel that saves and transforms. Note there is nothing religious about it, that is, nothing that we can do to attain such a great salvation. The focus is all on what Christ did for us.
Paul goes to great lengths to drive this point home to the brothers and sisters in Corinth. This is the Gospel he preaches. This is the Gospel that saves. There is no other method, path or scheme for dealing with human rebellion against God. Only the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus accomplishes what we most need. Through the Holy Spirit’s drawing and convicting we cast our lots with Christ and His work on our behalf. He removes our sins and restores our relationship to God. In turn we trust Jesus with our lives. Then we worship and follow Him as our new King and Savior. This is the main spring that energizes true faith, the Gospel of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.
As I consider Paul’s emphasis on the simple Gospel I project ahead to this Sunday and wonder if in the hullabaloo of Easter activities if the Gospel will be presented so clearly, so simply and so powerfully. I hope so, and I would urge you, if you are preaching this Sunday, to take your cues from Paul.
For many guests this Sunday will be one of only 3 days they’re tempted to darken the doors of your building. (The other two Sundays being Christmas and Mother’s Day.) On this one day these visitors need to hear about Jesus. It’s not a day to diddle about, even if it’s passionate diddling. Don’t do a musical. Don’t deliver an extended children’s story or sermonette. Don’t preach to the choir, or the band. Preach to the guests with as much finesse, clarity and persuasion as you can muster so they will encounter the Christ of the Gospel.
Before Sunday you might be wise to consider who these guests will be. They’re usually family and friends of people who make up your congregation. They will be unchurched for a variety of reasons. Uncover these issues and speak to them. Raise the question of their spiritual standing with God. Gently introduce them to the person of Jesus Christ, the Resurrected One, and explain why His death, burial and resurrection matter so much. Then thank your guests for coming. Pray for them. And, follow up with them this week to discover if there is a flame of faith smoldering in their soul that needs fanning into a full fire.
By all means, be certain that all who gather for worship this Sunday hear anew the truth of the Gospel, in its simplicity along with its power and splendor. May you have a blessed, Christ-filled Easter!