1 Corinthians 15:2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
It’s very theologically fashionable these days to bash Paul and his writings. I come across many people who want to discard any of Paul’s statements and just concentrate on the Gospel. After all, these people insist, “why should I listen to Paul when Jesus can tell me everything I need to know?”
What they really mean is that they want to practice their faith on very loose terms. Their whole theology tends to be summed up in two neat phrases: ‘Jesus loves me this I know’ and ‘I’m OK ,You’re OK.’ It’s a very infantile form of faith and one that has no merit in God’s Kingdom.
You see if our faith was very simple and agreeable to everyone, Christ would never have been crucified and people like Paul would not have been martyred. We need to take seriously what Christ and Paul both have to say, because they’re working off the same page. Christ dies to save the world and then chooses Paul to spread the Gospel. What Paul writes doesn’t come from him alone – it all originates in Christ.
That’s why when we read a statement like ‘by the gospel you are saved’ with the condition ‘if you hold firmly to the word I preached’, we have to take them both together. The Gospel is not just a collected bundle of holy stories about Christ, the Gospel is an invasive forceful word of God that challenges our lifestyles and changes our souls for all of eternity.
Paul also gets it right when he states “otherwise you have believed in vain.” People are constantly diluting the Gospel to suit themselves and end up with no salvation. They believe what they want to accept, and end up with a cozy version of an uncomfortable faith.
So the challenge for us today is this: what Gospel do we believe in? Our own or Paul’s?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are so fiercely independent these days that we become indignant when Your teaching or Paul’s writings interfere and meddle with our lives. We sometimes resent the constraints that the Gospel places upon us, but instead of accepting Your words, we make up our own ideas and opinions. Forgive us, Lord, for disrespecting and disassociating ourselves with You and Your Chosen Apostle. Help us to honestly reevaluate our commitment to You, Your Church, and Kingdom. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.