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THE MAIN THING: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

THE MAIN THING: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

By Ted Schroder,
Easter Day, April 16, 2017

Stephen Covey will be remembered most as the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), which sold over 25 million copies. He popularized many quotes which have the power to completely change the direction of one’s life. Some of them are:
1. The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.
2. Live out of your imagination, not your history.
3. Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
4. Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.
5. I am not the product of my circumstances. I am the product of my decisions.
6. Decide what your highest priorities are and say ‘no’ to other things. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good.’

But the one that I want to highlight today is: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” In a culture of social media, twitter, and innumerable apps it is easy to be distracted from the main thing and to waste our lives on the peripheral things. In the church it is easy to be distracted from our main message and to spend our times on other good things. Easter reminds us of the main thing. Wherever the apostles travelled they communicated to their hearers the main thing of the Gospel. You can analyze their message and it contains a few central elements. St. Paul summarized it this way:

“Now let me remind, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed – it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message, and it is this Good News that saves you if you still firmly believe it, unless of course you never really believed it in the first place. I passed on to you right from the first what had been told to me, that Christ died for our sins just as the Scriptures said he would, and that he was buried, and that three days afterwards he arose from the grave just as the prophets foretold. He was seen by Peter and later by the rest of the ‘Twelve.’ After that he was seen by more than five hundred Christian brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died by now.”(1 Corinthians 15:1-6)

What is the main thing of Christianity, the main message of the Gospel? What is the precious jewel in the setting of the rest of the Christian faith and its many manifestations, that provides the sparkle and beauty of the Christian life with all its virtues and good works?

The Gospel has not changed since Jesus, just before he ascended back into heaven, commissioned the apostles to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” The main thing of the Christian message has not changed since the Holy Spirit came in power upon the apostles at Pentecost and they proclaimed to all who heard in their own languages the wonders of God. Whatever the Church down the ages has made a priority in their mission in order to communicate the Gospel to every culture and generation and has sometimes majored on minors and become obsessed with secondary issues rather than their primary mission, the main thing is still the same. It is still the foundation of the faith of every Christian believer. Our faith is squarely built on this wonderful message. It is this Good News that saves us.

First of all, it is based upon the prophetic scriptures. Jesus himself reminded the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that they needed to believe all that the prophets had spoken about him. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in the Scriptures concerning himself.” Afterwards they related to the rest of the disciples, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us.” As you read the four Gospels you see how Jesus quoted the prophetic Scriptures to illustrate and confirm what he was doing. The Gospel writers also cited the Scriptures as evidence of the truth of what Jesus was doing and teaching. As the old saying expresses the relationship of the Old to the New Testament: the New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed. There is a seamless revelation of God’s plan of salvation from Genesis to Revelation as God progressively revealed his purposes through the prophets and the apostles.

Second of all, the main thing of Christianity that the Scriptures teach is that Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Promised Servant of God, the Redeemer and Savior, died for our sins. The main thing has to do with the Cross, the sacrificial death of Christ, as a substitutionary atonement for the sins of the world. That is why St. Paul wrote, “For

I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” The Cross revealed how much God loved us and was willing to come and identify with us in our humanity and to take our guilt and failings upon himself so that we might be forgiven and given a new life in Christ.

Third of all, the main thing of Christianity is that Jesus was buried. He experienced the reality of dying and death and descended to the depths of suffering for us. This was no phantom death, no superficial agony, no partial identification with our human condition of pain and suffering. He was buried. His body was entombed. Unlike Islam we believe that God fully and truly entered into human form so that he could endure what we all have to endure in dying. Our God is a suffering God who has compassion on us because he has suffered with us and for us. He is not removed from us, impervious to our sorrows and physical infirmities. Our Apostles’ Creed reminds that “He descended to the dead.”

Fourthly, the main thing of the Gospel that makes all this worthwhile, is that Jesus was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Death could not hold him. He had the power of an indestructible life. He rose from the dead so that he might give us eternal life, a new birth from the dead life of our sinful nature. His resurrection was a bodily resurrection. We believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the material expression of human life and identity. God who created us from the dust of the ground, recreates us in his image in the resurrection. St. Paul spends the rest of 1 Corinthians 15 expounding the implications of this astounding belief. It was unprecedented in the ancient world. The Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul but not the resurrection of the body. This was a novel idea. When St. Paul talked about it in Athens the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers sneered at it. They could not conceive of God giving proof of the Gospel by raising Jesus from the dead. Yet there is all the evidence that St. Paul lists in the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection to over 500 disciples, the apostles, his own skeptical brother James and lastly to Paul himself, an opponent and persecutor of the early Christians. These eye-witnesses of the resurrection were around to verify the Gospel accounts when they were written.

What is the main thing to you? If all this is true how does it affect your life? If this is the main thing then how central is it to your life? This message changed the world. It is still powerful enough to completely change one’s life. The first Christians welcomed it because it delivered them from darkness and despair and gave them new life and hope. It can do the same for you today. Make it your main thing.


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