So, in John, we have seen the Lord Jesus set forth as the Christ, the Son of God.  As we bring our study of this book to a close, I would like to take the time to compare this great theme of the book of John with Paul’s statement of the gospel he preached in I Corinthians 15:1-5.

1.  Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2. by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.
3. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4. and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,  5. and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.

This statement is as concise a statement as we have in the writings of Paul of the gospel that he preached to bring people to faith in Christ.  Paul says that he is declaring the gospel.  Yet I think that often we get the wrong idea altogether about what a “gospel” is.  The word “gospel” is often thought to mean “good news.”  Yet the news is actually “good” in the sense that it is right.  To yell to someone, “Your house is on fire,” might not be good news for him, but it would certainly be the right news to fit the situation.  Moreover, a gospel is not so much news as it is a message.  The gospel remains the gospel, even if it is not news to the one hearing it.  The word “gospel” always carries with it the idea that it is given in response to some definite need.  And finally, anything that is a “gospel” carries with it an element of promise.  In the case of a burning house, the need is to get out of the house, and the promise is life if you do.

Now, there are several different gospels in the Word of God.  Only one of them is the “right message” that involves our need for deliverance from sin and death.  Yet the one Paul is talking about here is definitely that gospel.  He is setting forth the right message that he had proclaimed to them, which they had received, in which they stood, and by which they were saved.  I pray that all my readers have likewise received the gospel, and continue to hold it fast.

Paul declares that this right message is the one “by which also you are saved.”  Again, “saved” is a word that needs to be examined.  We all know what the word “saved” means.  And yet, for some reason, we seem to forget what that definition is, and think that it means, “to be delivered from sin and death and given eternal life,” whenever we see the word occurring in the Bible.  When I say, “ I saved my money in the bank,” I do not mean that I delivered my money from sin.  When I save someone a seat, it has nothing to do with giving the seat eternal life.  Yet we act like this is all the word can possibly mean in the Bible.  We should not treat Biblical words this way.  The word “saved” can mean “delivered,” and it can mean “preserved.”  Saved money is preserved.  A saved life is delivered.  When it comes to our salvation from sin and death, both deliverance and preservation is involved.  Yet relatively few passages in the Bible that talk about “salvation” and being “saved” are actually talking about sin and death.  Much greater care needs to be taken by the true student of the Word when dealing with these words in Scripture than is taken by the average Christian.  Yet, in this case, this passage is dealing with deliverance from sin and death and preservation unto eternal life.  It is this gospel, this right message, that procured these things for Paul’s readers in Corinth.  And it is this gospel that can procure these things for the believer today.  So, let us closely examine Paul’s outline of the gospel he preached, and see how it matches up with what we have learned in John.
 
“That Christ”

Many ask others to believe that Jesus Christ died for them, yet they often seem to overlook the fact that the person whom they urge to believe this may not know who Jesus Christ is.  I could believe that Frank Smith died for my sins all I wanted to, but it would not do anything in relationship to my sins.  What I need to know before I can believe this truth is the answer to the question, “And Who is Christ?”  The book of John has answered this magnificently.  Jesus Christ is God Himself, the Savior of the world (John 20:31.)

“Died”

We have seen set forth for us in John the details of the death of Jesus Christ.  If any doubt the fact that God could die, all they need do is read the account given here, and they can be assured that this is, in fact, the case.  God not only can die, but He did die.  And yet we read that this was not an accident, or something that others did to Him.  Rather, He laid down His own life.  (John 10:17-18, 19:30.)

“For our sins”

The fact that Christ died “for our sins” is probably the part of the gospel that is least clear in John.  Paul sets this forth very plainly in his teaching, however.  We need God’s whole revelation to completely understand the truth.  Yet the idea that His death was for sins is there in John, most clearly in the words of John the Baptizer, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  The way a lamb takes away sin is by dying a sacrificial death, and that is how the Lord Jesus Christ took away our sins.

“According to the Scriptures”

I do not know of any passage in the Old Testament that clearly and unequivocally tells how Christ would die for our sins.  It is certainly hinted at in Isaiah 53:5, among other passages, and Psalm 22 describes something very like crucifixion.  Yet I think we would understand this passage best if we would look at “according to” as meaning, “in harmony with.”  The way Christ died was not necessarily set forth in the Old Testament as THE way He would have to die.  Yet Christ’s death was in harmony with many things in the Old Testament.  For example, He died in harmony with the Passover sacrifice, since He died on the proper day.  He was without spot or blemish, as a sacrificial lamb had to be according to the Scriptures.  He died the substitutionary death that was set forth in the Old Testament.  In all ways, Christ’s death harmonized with what the Scriptures taught.  This does not necessarily mean that everything that happened was set forth in the Old Testament.  Nor is Paul referring to some of the gospels being already written, as some suggest.  No, Christ’s death was in harmony with the laws of the Old Testament Scriptures, and in John we have seen many ways that this was so.

“And that He was buried”

We saw the details of His burial in John 19:38-42.  His burial emphasizes that He was really dead, and so teaches us that His was a resurrection, not a resuscitation, as some would have us believe.

“And that He rose again”

John 20 sets forth the events of His resurrection, and John 21 further sets forth proof that He was indeed alive and did rise from the dead.  It is essential for us to believe and understand this truth about Jesus Christ.  If He did not conquer the cross and death, but rather they conquered Him, then our faith is empty, and our sins are not taken away, for God did not accept Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.  John has clearly shown us, through his own eyewitness testimony, that He did rise, and that our faith is sure.

“The third day”

We will understand this phrase better if we know the Hebrew superstition regarding what happens to the spirit at death.  They believed that for two full days or forty-eight hours after death, the spirit of a man hovers around his body seeking entrance back into it.  During this time period, therefore, they believed that if someone could heal his body of whatever had caused it to die, the spirit would just naturally enter back into the man again, and he would live.  This is how they explained the resurrections that we see Elijah and Elisha perform in the Old Testament.  Yet they believed that after forty-eight hours, the spirit of man returns to God Who gave it, as Ecclesiastes 12:7 says.  Thus, they believed that after this amount of time, only God could bring someone back from the dead.  Now there is no Biblical statement about such a thing, and there is really no proof for what they believed.  Yet this was their belief, and so “the third day” became the phrase they used to indicate that someone was dead with no hope of being revived.  This is the significance of this statement here.  He did not just rise more than forty-eight hours after He died.  Christ rose from the dead after all man’s wisdom said it was too late.  He rose as only God could cause one to rise.  John has shown us that this happened indeed.

“According to the Scriptures”

Again, Christ’s resurrection was in harmony with what the Old Testament Scriptures had to say.  He rose, and presented His blood to God as a priest presenting the blood of the sacrifice.  (John 20:17)  Everything about His resurrection was in harmony with what the Scriptures said before.

“And that He was seen”

The I Corinthians 15 passage was not written to be a simple statement of the gospel.  Rather, it was stated there for a purpose.  Paul was leading into proofs of His resurrection, which is the topic of the fifteenth chapter.  Thus, Who Christ was was skimmed over at the beginning, whereas the truth of the resurrection is emphasized and expanded on here at the end, with special emphasis placed on the proofs of that resurrection.  Yet in John we have noted several times and persons or groups of people who saw Jesus Christ after His resurrection.  Not the least of these, of course, is John, the author of the book, and thus the primary eyewitness that what he is saying to us in this book about the Lord’s resurrection is true.

“By Cephas”

There is no record in any of the gospels about how exactly this meeting with Peter occurred or what exactly happened during it.  It is referred to again in Luke 24:34.  Yet John has nothing to say regarding it.  At any rate, this is just one proof of His resurrection, and nothing crucial to the gospel.

“Then by the twelve.”

This ends the great testimony of John, with the first three appearances of the Lord Jesus to the twelve disciples after His death.  We saw these three in John 20:19-23, John 20:26-29, and John 21:4-22.  These were all events that John witnessed personally, and so he gives us his own, personal testimony that every element of this gospel is true.  Jesus Christ really is the Son, the Representative, of God Himself.  He did die for our sins according to the Scriptures.  He was buried.  And He did rise again the third day according to the Scriptures.  John saw all these things, and testifies to them, so we can know they are true.  (John 21:24)

So, in closing the book of John at last, we finally come to the most important question: what about you?  Do you believe the truths set forth in John?  Do you believe that Jesus was Who and What John claims He was?  Was He really the Christ, the Son of God?  Did He really die for our sins?  Was He really buried?  And did He truly rise from the dead?  These are the facts that both Paul in I Corinthians 15 and John in his entire book, along with the Holy Spirit, are calling upon you to believe.  Will you believe these truths?  For if you do, then, as God promised through John, you will have life through His name.  (John 20:31.)  I pray that all my readers believe these great truths, and thus have received the Life that only He can give.

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