Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you — unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 NLT).
Sometimes we make things too confusing. When the apostle Paul wrote a struggling community of new believers in Corinth, they faced many challenges in their life of faith. Most of their problems were caused by people forgetting the simple, clear, core message they had originally accepted. So as Paul gets near the conclusion of his letter to them, he reminds them of this core message. Notice that he describes this message as the Good News ...
- that he preached to them
- that they had welcomed
- upon which they had built their lives
- that had saved them
- that is the most important message
- that Paul passed on to them
- that had been passed on to Paul
In other words, this Good News message is the real deal, God's truth, and what is absolutely essential to salvation.
And what is this Good News? Ah, that answer is simple and clear:
- Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said
- Christ was buried
- Christ was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.
The heart of our new life in Christ is our trust in what Jesus did to save us — his death, burial, and resurrection. As Paul says elsewhere, Jesus "was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God" (Romans 4:25). Jesus is the gift of God's grace for us, and our appropriate response is our trust in what Jesus did to save us!
So do we really trust that God loves us so much that he would give Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins? (John 3:16)
Do we trust that Jesus makes us right, holy, and without fault in the eyes of God because of his sacrifice for our sins and his victory over death through the resurrection? (Colossians 1:21-22)
It's so easy for us to trade away this gift of grace for a system that makes us try to earn our salvation through some set of acts, works, or knowledge. It's so easy for us to give back the gift we've received, and start relying on ourselves rather than the work of God through Christ!
So God built into our lives some powerful moments to experience the Good News of Jesus. Paul describes the importance of baptism in remarkable symmetry to the core message of the Good News (Romans 6:3-5; cf. Colossians 2:11-12). In baptism, we experience the sacrifice of Christ as we place our trust in what he has done for us:
Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was.
Notice how their baptism (Romans 6:3-5) directly parallels what Paul calls "most important," the Good News they had received (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). Paul says that they "joined with Christ Jesus in baptism" ...
- They joined with Christ in his death — Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said
- They were buried with Christ — Christ was buried
- They were raised from the dead by God's power — Christ was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.
When we look at the Lord's Supper, we hear similar language used to invite us to remember and re-experience the central saving reality of Christ's death on the Cross for us. We take the bread as a reminder of Jesus' body given for us and we take the cup as a reminder of the New Covenant Jesus has made with us at the cost of his own blood (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). Yet the early churches seem to have celebrated the Lord's Supper on Sunday (Acts 20:7), the day of Jesus' resurrection, to not only remind them of his death, but also to remind them of his resurrection in anticipation of his coming again (1 Corinthians 11:26). So more than just remembering what Jesus did, they were trusting in what he did to save them by participating in those events spiritually (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 — literally sharing in the body and blood of Jesus).
Why emphasize this? We so easily forget, and we quit trusting in God's grace given us in Jesus to be sufficient to save us!
In baptism and the Lord's Supper, God blesses us with tangible, touchable, and tasteable experiences of the Good News that are unlocked to us by faith. We experience our trust in Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection to save us in baptism by spiritually sharing in these saving events. We remember and relive the Cross in the Lord's Supper as we share together in this community meal. And when we do, if we allow our hearts to trust and our bodies to experience these tangible moments of grace, we center our lives around the work of Jesus, the one who died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to live for God.
Our short series on Catch and Release has been about God catching us up in his grace, removing us from the toxic world of sin and death, and releasing us into the life he made us to live. Unfortunately, religion has often encrusted this life with the trappings of legalism and "to do-isms" that distract our hearts from the core message of grace: Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to give us new life. We can share in this gift of grace by experiencing and participating in Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection as we place our trust in what Jesus has done to save us.
What is the big difference between believing THAT Jesus died for us and trusting IN Jesus' sacrifice for our sins? (John 3:16 — notice the emphasis on believing in rather than believing that!)
Why do you think Paul summarized the core Good News message so simply — that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures?
Why do you think we make things more complicated than they need to be?
Religious groups use terms like symbol, act of obedience, or work to refer to baptism to make it seem as if this is something that we do rather than something we experience as we place our trust in Jesus' death, burial and resurrection.
What's the difference between viewing baptism as an opportunity to place our trust in Jesus by experiencing his death, burial, and resurrection versus seeing baptism merely as an outward symbol or a work of obedience (Romans 6:3-5)?
How is sharing in the Lord's Supper a participation in the body and blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)?
Remembering is a crucial part of the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-25), but how does seeing the Supper as a time to share in or participate in Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection deepen your insight into the purpose of the Supper?
How can you keep your trust in what Jesus did to save you, rather than trying to earn your way to God's grace and favor?