1 Corinthians 15:1-5, 11 esv:
“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 to Cephas, then to the twelve.
11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
You may hear this weekend some preachers say something like, “But the really important thing is that Jesus was raised from the dead.” Or, “The most important part of the gospel is that Jesus was raised.”
Where stands it written that the most important part is His resurrection? Or His death?
In this passage in 1 Corinthians, the gospel Paul reminds them of is His death for our sins, His burial, AND His resurrection. It is a whole finished work. And Paul says here also that is by this gospel we are being saved. We aren’t saved by part of the gospel.
And if we do not hold fast this gospel, we are believing something else in vain.
In 1 Corinthians 2:2 esv, Paul says this: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” But would Paul say the resurrection is not important or less important? In Romans 10:9-10 esv he says this: “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” So here he summarizes the gospel around the resurrection. So which is it?
IT IS BOTH. Both His death for our sins and His resurrection (for our justification: Romans 4:22-24 esv “That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”) are part of the gospel. Neither should be left out and neither should be over emphasized. His burial is important also as a proof of his death, and the proof in retrospect of his resurrection. It supports that both his death and his resurrection are actual facts. He did die. He was raised.
Saying one part of the gospel is more important than another is kind of like saying, “Which is more important, your lungs or the oxygen you breath?” Without either you die. A term coined in recent years about this idea where you cannot leave off any part without wrecking the whole is “irreducible complexity.” The gospel consists of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. And it is irreducibly complex. Leave off one part and you disempower the gospel.
Without His death for our sins, we have no payment of the penalty and removal of our sins.
His burial supports the reality that he really did die. When raised, we know it is a real resurrection because he had actually been buried.
Without His resurrection, we have no acceptance by the Father of the Son as our righteous substitute. We would not be justified. And we would also not receive the Spirit to complete the life giving power of the gospel to make us God’s children.
So if you are speaking this weekend of the gospel, or anytime, don’t emphasize one part of the gospel over another. The Scriptures don’t. We shouldn’t. But like Paul, let’s tell people that Jesus was crucified for their sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the 3rd day according to those same scriptures. And this gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.