Time to Take a Stand
March 14, 2014 Speaker: Pastor Cameron Arensen
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:1–15:5
Synopsis: In preparation for the baptism service next Friday this message (entitled Time to Take a Stand) looks at 1 Corinthians 15:1-5. What is the gospel? What Scriptures is Paul talking about? What does it mean to “take a stand” on the gospel? And what does all this have to do with baptism?
Next week, at the conclusion of the first service, we are going to do a baptism. We usually do this two times a year. Often on the Friday of the baptism service I preach a message on the meaning and importance of baptism and incorporate a challenge to those being baptized.
There is one problem with that strategy. In explaining baptism and its importance, it is my hope that some in the congregation who have not been baptized may be inspired or motivated to take this important step. Only, if they do, they will need to wait six months until the next scheduled baptism service comes around. So this time I am going to change the pattern. I am going to preach a message on baptism today, a week ahead of time. This is for the benefit of those who will be baptized next week. But it also represents a final chance for any who are considering this step to make up their minds, get off the fence and sign up to be baptized next week.
The passage I want to use for our text this morning is found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5:
15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 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…
Let’s take this apart carefully. Paul says that he is writing to remind the Corinthians of the gospel which he preached to them. For the last six months here at ECC we have been studying the Gospel of Matthew. We have seen this word gospel used frequently. “Good News”. In the case of Matthew’s account, he labels it specifically as the “gospel of the kingdom”. It is the good news that the kingdom of heaven is at hand because the king himself has arrived. From the opening genealogy, Matthew has been careful to paint the portrait of Jesus as the Messiah, the King of the Jews. We have seen Jesus challenging people to believe in him as the Messiah and embrace the kingdom of heaven by following him.
But in a sense, we have not yet arrived at the full impact of the gospel in our series in Matthew. The disciples themselves still didn’t have the full picture as of the events in Matthew 13 where we left off. But when Paul arrived in Corinth around the middle of the first century, he did have the full picture and the full message. This is what he wanted to remind them of. In fact he details the essential elements of the gospel in verses 3-5:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.
Before we look at that more closely, I want to ask the question: What Scriptures is Paul referring to here? For many years I would have answered that rather simply; the four gospels, of course! Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. After all, those are the portions of the Bible that describe the death and resurrection of Jesus. But a number of years ago, it finally occurred to me. These were not the Scriptures that Paul was referring to at all, for the simple reason that when Paul wrote these words to the Corinthians, none of the four gospels had yet been written down. Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians in approximately 55 AD, earlier than the earliest date proposed for the writing of any of the four gospels.
So what Scriptures was Paul referring to? He can only be referring to the Old Testament Scriptures and the prophecies of the coming Messiah. Here we find Paul very much in sync with Matthew and his Gospel. We have frequently seen Matthew using the prophetic fulfillment formula: “This happened to fulfill the words of the prophet…”
So far in Matthew we have seen prophecies of the Messiah’s coming and his identity and ministry. Paul takes us beyond that to tell us that the prophecies of Messiah’s coming included prophecies of his death and resurrection.
Let’s look at his words again: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Here is the essence of the gospel. It includes the identity of Jesus. He is the Messiah, the Christ. He died for our sins, just as the Old Testament predicted. Now, how and when did the Old Testament predict that the Christ would die for our sins?
We could go to a number of Old Testament passages, but in the interest of time we will only go to one. Isaiah 53:4-6:
53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
There it is. “Christ died for our sins, just like the Old Testament Scriptures predicted.” This is of first importance. This is the message, the gospel, the good news that Paul preached to the Corinthians. And it didn’t end there. He not only died. He rose again from the dead, just like the Old Testament Scriptures predicted. The language is a little more symbolic, but the prediction of resurrection is found in the same 53rd chapter of Isaiah, beginning in verse 10:
53:10 when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
This is the gospel and it was predicted in the Old Testament. The Christ, Messiah, died for our sins. He became the guilt offering that satisfied the righteous anger of God against us. And he rose from the dead to proclaim his victory over sin and death. This is the gospel Paul preached to the Corinthians. It is the gospel that we preach here at ECC. It is the gospel we have been studying together from Matthew’s account this year and which we will complete next year.
So what does this all have to do with baptism? I am glad you asked. Where I want to focus now is on verses 1-2 of 1 Corinthians 15 and especially on the verbs in those verses that deal with our response and reaction to the gospel. You see, there are large numbers of people who are familiar with the gospel. They know the facts. Maybe you are one of those people. Nothing in those verses surprises you. You are very familiar with them. You have heard them before. Maybe you’ve been hearing them all your life. But my challenge is this: What have you done with this message?
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received.
The first verb is in verse 1: RECEIVED. The first thing the Corinthians did was to receive the Gospel. You might ask, “What does it mean to receive the Gospel?” First of all, it obviously involves hearing the message. Paul preached it. The Corinthians heard it. I would go beyond that to say that it also includes understanding the message. But this word goes beyond simply hearing and understanding. It also contains in it the element of welcoming the message. Just like you receive guests into your home, you take this message into your heart and mind, welcoming it and accepting its truth.
We can also expand this by looking down at 1 Corinthians 15:11, the second part which reads: so we preach and so you believed. So receiving the gospel means believing it.
I also want to point out the tense of this verb. It is what is called an aorist tense, which speaks of action which takes place at a certain point in time. At some point in time, these Corinthians, having heard the message of the Gospel, received it and welcomed it. My question to you is: Have you received the Gospel? Have you heard it, believed it, accepted it, welcomed it, made it your own?
There is a second verb in this verse. And this is the one that I think has special relevance to the subject of baptism. It is found in the last phrase of the verse: in which you stand.
It is the verb “stand.” But here we must again pay close attention to the tense of the verb. Paul uses what is called the perfect tense. This is a tense which expresses past action with present result. I did it in the past and it’s still true. I took my stand and I’m still standing. I actually prefer the New International Version translation on this verse: Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.
This takes us a step further, does it not? The Corinthians not only heard and accepted and believed the message mentally and internally. They also based their confidence, their eternal future on this message. An assent of the mind and the understanding now became an act of the will. It is a deliberate act by which we place our faith and trust in Jesus and his death on the cross as our source of salvation and forgiveness of sins.
How does this relate to baptism? I believe that we should be willing to make our stand public. I believe that is why baptism is an important act for a Christian. Baptism is a way of making our stand public. It’s a way of going public with our faith. It is a way of taking the internal act of believing and receiving the Gospel, and making it visible before witnesses. It is a powerful way to make our commitment known.
My question, then to you is: Have you taken your stand on the Gospel? Has your intellectual understanding and assent become an act of the will to trust Christ as Savior? And have you made your stand, your commitment public?
Let me be very personal and specific here. I want to particularly address one category of person. You have been attending worship services here at ECC this year. You have listened to the messages from the Gospel of Matthew about Jesus as Messiah and the kingdom of heaven. You have heard the challenges to believe in Jesus and follow him. You may even have responded during one of the response times by praying and expressing your faith privately to God. That is wonderful and I affirm you in that vital stop. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8: For by grace you have been saved through faith…
But now I want to challenge you to take the next step. I want to challenge you to make your faith public. It’s time to take a stand and to do so publicly by being baptized.
There is a great story in the Book of Acts that illustrates this. It is found in Acts chapter 8 and it is the story of the Ethiopian official. He was a Jewish proselyte who had been to Jerusalem to worship. He was returning home and as he was riding in his chariot, he was reading from a scroll from the Book of Isaiah.
By God’s sovereignty, he was reading from Isaiah 53:7-8 about the coming Messiah.
Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearers is silent
so he opens not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth?
God brought a man named Philip, known as the evangelist, to run beside his chariot. Philip asked him: “Do you understand what you are reading?”
The man replied: “How can I, unless someone guides me?” He invited Philip to join him in the chariot. Then he asked him: “Who is the prophet talking about in these verses? Himself or someone else?”
I love the next line: Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. It fits perfectly with 1 Corinthians 15, doesn’t it? “Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures…”
I also love what comes next. As they drove along, they passed some water. The Ethiopian man said: “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
Philip preached Jesus. He preached the gospel. The Ethiopian heard the message. He believed it. He received it. And he wanted to do something tangible, to take his stand on the gospel. “Here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
Next Friday there will be water here, in this tank. And so I ask you. What is preventing you from being baptized?
- Read the passage together.
- What do you think it means to “receive” the gospel?
- What do you think it means to “take your stand” on the gospel? In the message, Pastor Cam presented baptism as one way to “take a stand”. Do you agree with this application? What other ways can we take a stand?
- Take some time within your group to share your experience with the gospel. Have you received it? Describe how and when this happened. In what ways have you taken a stand on the gospel?