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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 76 - 1 Corinthians 15:1 - The Apostolic Gospel Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


There had been false teachers at Corinth; teachers bold as well as false; for they struck at the great central truth,—the resurrection. The apostolic message was, "Christ is risen"; theirs was, "Christ is not risen." They laid the axe to the root of the tree. If they did not attempt to cut down His cross, they tried to destroy His tomb.

As they boldly denied, so does the apostle fearlessly assert, the resurrection as the substance of the Christian's hope, and the essence of the gospel. But he does not content himself with this. He goes over the whole field. He begins at the foundation, and proceeds to the highest point.

I. Apostolic recollections. The first two verses carry us back to the apostle's first visit to Corinth, when he went as Christ's herald. He delights to recall the time of his "entrance"; and he finds it very necessary to go back to the beginning. He does not obtrude himself, or mention his doings, or parade either his feelings or his success. It is the gospel he brought to them that he recalls, especially when error is stealing in. He makes no appeal to self; he reminds them of his message. He puts the trumpet to his lips, and repeats the old note,—the good news. It was with the gospel that he came; it is to the gospel that he would recall them,—the one same old gospel. But before re-stating it, he reminds them of its effects upon them…I preached, and ye received the good news! I held them out; ye took them! I spoke them; ye let them in! This was the simple process. No waiting, nor working, nor feeling, but simply receiving, as the thirsty man takes in the water, or the eye the beauty of the landscape. Then upon the receiving follows the standing, "in which ye have stood and are standing;" this "grace wherein ye stand;" "stand therefore;" be "steadfast." That on which we "stand" is the gospel; that which keeps us firm, free from stumbling or falling; that which keeps us erect and immoveable, is the gospel. This is our foundation, our anchor, our staff, our rock, our arm, our strong tower. By this, too, we are saved. There is salvation annexed to this gospel,—immediate, sure, everlasting. A Christian is a saved man! And he knows it! It is his belief of the gospel that saves him, that alone! Yes; he is saved at once, and saved for all eternity, and that simply in and by believing. But may not our believing be in vain? The apostle puts such a case, but only to reject it, and to demonstrate (as he does through the rest of the chapter) that this was an impossibility; for the foundation truth (Christ's resurrection) is established by infallible proofs, and therefore our faith is not in vain. This is the real meaning of the word "in vain"; as if he had said, "unless that which ye have believed has turned news out a fable." And this salvation is carried out in the simplest of all ways,—by keeping in memory that which was preached at first. A man is not saved by grasping the rope for a moment, if he let it go it will be of no avail. So here. These, then, are the only two possibilities of failure: (1) that the resurrection turns out a fable; (2) that we do not keep it in memory. How simple, how blessed! Could salvation be brought nearer or made freer?

Such are the apostle's reminiscences of his early ministry in Corinth;—all connected with the gospel, and the reception of it by the Corinthians. Blessed memories indeed! How full was his life of such.

II. The apostolic gospel. He now comes to the re-statement of the gospel; which gospel he briefly sums up in these three points.

(1.) He died for our sins according to the scriptures. It is "the Christ" that he speaks of,—Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God; He "died"; He died "for our sins"; He died "according to the scriptures." Each of these expressions help us to bring out the gospel. He died; and His death was the substitute for that of the sinner; He died, that we might not die; He was delivered for our offences; He suffered for sin, the just for the unjust,—as the whole word from the beginning had foretold.

(2.) He was buried. It was a true death that He died; such a death as needed a tomb. He did not see corruption, but He saw the tomb; He entered it; lay in it for three days. The grave of Jesus contains part of the good news.

(3.) He rose again the third day according to the scriptures. This is the crowning and sealing fact; it is the Father's testimony to the finished work to the acceptance of the sacrifice. This completes the good news. Christ is risen! God raised Him! Man crucified Him, but God raised Him. The wicked slew Him, the righteous buried Him, God raised Him.

These three facts contained the good news. Each is a vessel full of peace to the sinner. To know these facts is to be a saved man. What are these facts to us? Are they what they were to the early Christians? Are they fountains of living water? Fragrant flowers? If not, why is it so? Are they not the same? Out of them the Corinthian sinners extracted peace and light, how is it that we do not do the same?

The preacher is nothing; the facts are everything; "whether it were I or they, so we preached, and so ye believed."