For the gospel of God to remain in focus it needs a frame. That is to say, if we are going to proclaim Christ clearly and consistently, we must understand the biblical presuppositions necessary to preserve and protect the gospel. In particular, the gospel needs at least four truths to guard it from distortion. These truths do not add anything to the gospel, but they do ensure that nothing is taken away from the gospel.
What are these ‘framing’ truths?
From 1 Corinthians 15, I believe Paul explains the gospel as needing to be kept (1) central, (2), external, (3) Scriptural, and (4) historical. Without these four frames the gospel will be put in jeopardy. Therefore, to better understand the biblical presuppositions with undergird the gospel, let’s consider each of these truths briefly and then what happens when they are lost. Continue reading
This post wraps up a three-part meditation from our Resurrection Sunday Sunrise Service (part 1 and part 2).
The last thing to see about Christ’s resurrection is how God confers glory upon those who do not deserve it. In fact, this is again the difference between Adam and Christ: The first was created to glorify God, but failed. He led the human race into shame. By contrast, Jesus came into the world in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3). He took the form of a servant (Phil 2:5-8) and died shamefully so that he might arise gloriously and confer glory to all those who rise with him. Continue reading
After testifying to the reality of Christ’s resurrection (v. 20), the second thing Paul address in 1 Corinthians 15 is the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated by his resurrection. Verse 20 says that the Jesus who was raised from the dead is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
The Feast of Firstfruits
The word “firstfruits” is a harvest term. It is the produce that first arises from the ground. In Israel it was to be dedicated to the Lord, as an offering of thanksgiving. For instance, Leviticus 23 commanded Israel to bring an offering of firstfruits in a festival that followed Passover and preceded Pentecost (vv. 9-14).
Historically, the feast which occurred on the “day after the Sabbath” after the Passover (v. 11) corresponded to the day when Israel was brought out of Egypt as God’s firstborn. Notably, this timing indicates part of the significance of this festival and the meaning of “firstfruits.” One old commentator writes,
The offering unto God . . . commemorated Israel’s separation from the nations, as a firstfruits of redemption. [It] symbolically signified the consecration of Israel unto God as the first-born unto Him from the nations, the beginning of the world’s great harvest. (S. H, Kellogg, Studies in Leviticus, 468)
In Israel’s history, this feast was meant to remind Israel of the Exodus and how that event confirmed their status as the firstborn son of Yahweh (Exod 4:22). That Christ would be called the “firstfruits” in 1 Corinthians 15:20 corresponds to this reality. He is the Son of God; not only in his divinity but in his humanity. His resurrection designates him the firstborn among many brethren (Rom 1:3-4; 8:29-30). Continue reading
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
– 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 –
When Paul spoke to the Corinthians about Christ’s resurrection, the first thing he addressed concerning Christ’s resurrection is the plausibility of resurrection itself.
In the Greco-Roman world, the most educated did not believe in life after death. The notion of a physical, embodied existence after death was laughable. And so, Paul had to defend the idea of resurrection in general, so that he could affirm the resurrection of Christ in particular.
The same sort of thinking occurs today. Well-schooled atheists deny Christ’s resurrection because they hold to a materialist view of the world. At the same time, many live for the weekend, the next ball game, or the next item to check off the bucket list. For them, the resurrection is not a matter of metaphysics but utility. They do not see the “cash value” of Christ’s resurrection and thus they remain quagmired in indifference. Continue reading