The Gospel: Go and Tell that He is Risen
Today is a day that we call Easter Sunday. It’s a day that we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Now truthfully, Easter is just a date on the calendar. When we look into the New Testament there is good evidence to see that Christians celebrated the resurrection of Jesus not once a year but once a week, which is why they met on the first day of the week and called it the Lord’s Day.
But over the centuries churches developed a yearly calendar and it’s a tradition now that we have a special focus on the resurrection of Jesus on this day. And I think that’s ok— in fact, not just ok, but helpful. It’s helpful to take regular times to focus on specific elements of the life of Christ like this.
So as I’m sure you expect, we are going to talk about the resurrection of Jesus in our time together this morning.
Now this morning is also the concluding week in our 5-week series called “What is the Gospel?” And so this is also the morning where we were going to sum up the series and talk about how it all fit together and focus on our responsibility to share this gospel with others.
And what I hope you’ll discover is that there isn’t any competition between these two themes of the resurrection and sharing the gospel. What we’re going to see today is that the resurrection is the capstone of the gospel message. The resurrection is the exclamation mark that completes the message of the gospel and gives it urgency and power. And the resurrection is central to helping us share the gospel with others.
So those two ideas are really the two main points we’re going to explore together today.
The Resurrection of Jesus Completes the Message of the Gospel
Let’s start by considering that first point— that the resurrection of Jesus completes the message of the gospel. We see that truth in our passage for this morning which I’ve just read for us, from 1 Corinthians chapter 15:
"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor 15:1-2)
In this passage in 1 Corinthians we see Paul doing something we’ve talked about a few times throughout this series— he’s talking to Christians about the gospel. This should be familiar to us by now— the idea that Christians need the message of the gospel in their lives on an ongoing basis. We don’t just believe it once at the beginning, we need it all along the way.
That’s a theme that’s painted all over the first letter to the Corinthians and it comes out so clearly in our passage today, where Pul reminds them of the gospel and how it is not just a message he preached to them and which they believed back at the beginning, but it is a message in which they stand today, and by which they are being saved today, and to which they must continue to hold fast all their days into the future.
And so with that being said, Paul goes on to remind them of this gospel: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).
This is the gospel. Christ died, Christ was buried, Christ rose again.
But just wait a second. I thought that the gospel is a four-part message. That’s been a focus of our series— these four building blocks to the gospel. And it seems like Paul has a different scheme going on here. It seems like he’s just starting with the third building block, jumping right in to the part about Jesus.
Not so fast. All you need to do is stop and think about what he’s actually saying here. “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.”
And so we ask, “What’s sin? Why did Jesus die for ours? And what do the Scriptures have to do with this?” And the answer to those questions is the first two building blocks of the gospel message: God is the great creator who deserves our worship, and sin is our refusal to do that and our choice to worship the things God has made instead of God Himself.
And it’s the Scriptures which tell us these things, and help us understand the backdrop of the sacrificial system and how the Day of Atonement helps us understand who Jesus is and how He turned aside God’s wrath by dying in our place.
So in that one sentence, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” we actually have the first three building blocks of the gospel message. God, us, Jesus. And in fact we actually have all four building blocks of the gospel, because to understand that Jesus died in accordance with the Scriptures is to understand that He paid it all and there’s nothing for us to do except believe, which is the response element we studied last week.
So this statement, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” is actually a very compact summary of the entire gospel. And then he adds, in verse 4, that he was buried. This just reinforces the fact that He really died. He really died and He really was buried.
But the gospel message would not be good news if this was it. If Jesus died and then stayed dead, what reason would we have to believe that Jesus actually accomplished what He said He was going to do on the cross? And didn’t He say he was going to rise again? So if He didn’t rise again, then the Pharisees were right all along. He was a liar.
Like verse 17 of this chapter says, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
But the gospel is good news because Jesus did not stay dead. Like verse 4 says, “He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and … he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
Jesus did not stay dead but was raised back to life again.
And I want us just to stop at this moment and take in the wonder of this reality— to taste again the wonder at knowing a King who walked out of His own grave.
These past few days I’ve been helped in tasting the wonder of the resurrection by a song written by Andrew Peterson that takes us right to the moment, where, lying in the stillness of the grave, life rushed back into Jesus’ body. Listen to these words and taste again the awe of the resurrection:
His heart beats / His blood begins to flow
Waking up what was dead a moment ago
And His heart beats / Now everything is changed
Cause the blood that brought us peace with God is racing through His veins
He breathes in / His living lungs expand
The heavy air surrounding death turns to breath again
He breathes out / He is Word in flesh once more
The Lamb of God slain for us is the Lion ready to roar
He rises / Glorified in flesh
Clothed in immortality, the firstborn from the dead
He rises, and His work's already done
So He's resting as He rises to reclaim the bride He won
And His heart beats1Words by Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive, © 2018 Jakedog Music
It really happened like that. He was really dead, and the His heart started to beat. His lungs started to breathe. And he’s still alive today.
And because He’s alive, the gospel is good news. Jesus did take His life up again, just like He said He would. He did rebuild the destroyed temple of His body in three days, just like He said. He really is the Son of God. He really did pay for sin. God really did accept His sacrifice. Every promise He made really will come true. Jesus really is alive and He can’t be ignored.
Lots of religious leaders throughout history have taught nice-sounding things and made great and sweeping claims. But only one of them has walked out of His own grave. And it goes without saying that He is the one we should be paying attention to. Because not only does it mean that He was right about himself, it means that He is alive. Today. Jesus Christ is alive in a body right now. His heart is beating right now just like yours is. He sees us. He is watching us. He is going to return like He promised.
Listen to Paul explain this to the people in Athens, in that same part of Scripture that we looked at the first week in this series. Listen to how his message to them concludes:
"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31)
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is God’s way of assuring us that judgement day is coming and that Jesus can’t be ignored and what we must repent of their sins and believe in Jesus.
So in all of this we see that the resurrection is the capstone on the work of Jesus. It completed and authenticated everything that He did and everything that He said. The resurrection completes the message of the gospel and makes it the good news that it is.
The Resurrection Compels Us to Share the Gospel
And I don’t think it’s too big of a jump to move from there to talking about out second point this morning, which is that the resurrection compels us to share the gospel.
If Jesus rose from the dead, and is not just a historical figure but a real person who is alive today, than the message of the gospel cannot be ignored, especially by those of us who believe it. Because if He’s really alive today than how can we not give our lives to making this known?
There is something about the resurrection— something about the fact that Jesus walked out of His own grave and is alive today— that should compel us to share this good news with others.
Isn’t this what we see in the resurrection accounts in the gospels? When people found out for the first time that Jesus was raised they didn’t say, “Oh.” They ran and told others. Because a person who walks out of their own grave isn’t something you keep to yourself.
And there is something about the sheer fact that Jesus is really alive today that compels us to share this good news with others. Because the gospel isn’t just a message about something that a historical person did. It’s a message about a living person.
And I suspect that the more we reckon with the fact that Jesus Christ is a real person, really alive today, we’ll have more confidence and readiness to share the gospel with others.
That seems to be what 1 Peter 3:14-15 is hinting at when it says, "Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord [the living Jesus!] as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”
Our readiness to share the gospel is connected with our attitude towards Jesus Christ. The more we honour Him as the living Lord, the more we’ll feel the call to be always ready.
This is a good spot to remind us that one of the main points of this series has been to help us do this— to be always ready to share the gospel with clarity and confidence. We’ve talked about the fact that the better we know the good news, the better it makes sense to us, the better we understand how it’s all laid out, then the better and more confident we’ll be in sharing that with others.
And what this 1 Peter passage tells us is that this isn’t just a nice idea that’s kind of optional for us. We’re all commanded to be ready at any point to talk about the hope that is in us.
All of us should be ready at any point to answer someone who says, “What is it about you Christians? What’s the reason that you’re different?” We should be able to say, “I’m different, I have hope, because I believe in the God who made you and me and everything we see. This God deserves our honour and thanks and worship, but we've all chosen to rebel against Him and worship the things He’s made instead of He Himself. And because of that we deserve His judgement, and we can see His judgement on display in the pain and misery of our world today.
But in His great mercy this same God sent His son Jesus who came and lived a perfect life and then died on the cross for my sins. He took my place and paid the penalty for my sins instead of me. And after three days He rose again as King of the universe. And God has forgiven my sin and made me a part of His family and kingdom all because of what Jesus has done. And that can be true for you, too. If you believe in the Lord Jesus you will be saved.”
I would argue that obeying 1 Peter 3:15, and always being ready to give a defence or an answer, means that we should be able to do that— share the gospel clearly with someone in a minute or two, just like I just did with us now.
So I encourage you to make sure that you’re always ready. Go back and listen through these messages again if you need to. Why not actually practice— on your own, or with each other? Practice sharing the gospel. Practice being able to spit it out on the spot. Because there’s going to be situations in your life where being “always ready” means that you’ll need to do that.
Now also true that many times it may be a better approach to help someone understand the gospel a bit slower, one piece at a time, in the context of a relationship. And that’s again a spot where really understanding the four building blocks helps us proceed. We know where to begin, at the beginning with God, and how to help someone really understand the gospel as we move through the building blocks over the course of maybe several conversations.
And I’d suggest that being “always ready” like 1 Peter says mean that we should be able to do both— share the gospel all at once in a condensed way, or walk someone through the gospel over the course of a longer conversation or several conversations.
But let’s remember and go back to the fact that our motivation to do this stems from honouring the living Jesus Christ as holy.
Because of the resurrection, the gospel is the message about the living Jesus. And so we see in several different ways this second point today, that the resurrection of Jesus Christ compels us to share the gospel.
Now as we get to the end of this message this morning and this series on the gospel, I think that the main application point is pretty obvious. We should be sharing the gospel with others.
But I know that as I say that there’s still likely competing thoughts in many of our heads today, thoughts that are saying “that’s great for other people, but not me.” Right now, maybe you are going over the reasons in your head for why this doesn’t apply to you and why you’re exempt from ever having to talk to someone else about the gospel.
So I want to end by sharing an encouragement with you for why you can and should be the person who does share the gospel with other people.
And the encouragement is simply to remember that the gospel itself is powerful. We see this in 1 Corinthians 1:18 which says that “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
This message of the gospel that we've been learning isn't just a message. It is the very power of God. It will be foolishness to some. But to those whom God has called, to those whose eyes God opens to its truth, it is unbelievably powerful.
Just a few verses later in that chapter it says this: “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)
The gospel will be foolishness to many. But to those whom God is calling it is irresistibly powerful.
Think about that. There maybe people you know whom God has called. And you just don’t know it yet. But when you share the gospel with someone whom God has called you are be instrument of God's supernatural power to save them.
And if the gospel message is powerful, the it means is that this isn’t about you or how well you can share the gospel. Other people might be able to share the gospel better than you can, but nobody can share a better gospel than you. And it’s the gospel itself, not how well you share it, that has the power.
Just listen to these words from 1 Corinthians chapter 2— just a few verses later from what we just read:
"And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
You don’t have to be good with words to share the gospel. In fact, God might use you even more if you’re not good with words, and if you are weak and fearful when you share the gospel, like Paul was with the Corinthians. Because that will make is crystal clear that it’s God doing the saving, not us.