Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gospel Minimization: Is Paul Saying in 1 Corinthians 15 that the Gospel Is Merely the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ?

Evangelicals gain a larger coalition by first minimizing doctrine, often reducing to the gospel, and once there, second, by minimizing the gospel.  Many argue for unity around the gospel and then negotiate over the essentials of the gospel.  Very often, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 becomes a talking point, because there one can abridge the gospel to the formulaic, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Question, what is the gospel?  Answer, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  That must be right because 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 says it is.

What is Paul saying about the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15?  It is a passage about the resurrection of the body.  The Greeks rejected bodily resurrection and the Corinthians sought some means to consolidate rejection of bodily resurrection with the gospel.  Paul says, "No, can't be done.  If you reject bodily resurrection, then you reject the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is part of the gospel."

The Corinthians then really did find themselves in a situation that evangelicals now find themselves. The world doesn't like aspects of the gospel and evangelicals today seek to adapt the gospel to the world's tastes or philosophies, much like the Corinthians attempted.  You were a Corinthian embarrassment believing in bodily resurrection, so Corinthians tried to reinvent a gospel without the offensive element.

Paul says that when I made known the gospel to you, I didn't leave out bodily resurrection -- I delivered not just death and burial, but also resurrection.  You can't leave out the offensive element and still have the gospel.

There is an irony to how 1 Corinthians 15 is used today related to the gospel.  Paul wrote it to stop minimization, and now his writing is used to promote it.  How many groups can agree on death, burial, and resurrection?  That formula excludes almost no Christian group from preaching a true gospel.  Almost everyone can agree on that.  You don't even have to believe the Trinity for inclusion in the death, burial, and resurrection coalition.

Before twitter ever began, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 already existed as a ready made gospel tweet for gospel minimalists.  Is Paul's point to reduce the gospel to a few words almost everyone could accept?  He was excluding bodily resurrection rejection, which in Corinth was a big group.  He was shrinking the coalition with bodily resurrection truth.

If you read 1 Corinthians in an honest and thinking fashion, you don't stop at verse four.  The punctuation itself says "keep reading."  Paul isn't minimizing.  As you keep reading, because that little two verse presentation isn't stand alone, you get to verse twenty-three and following:

 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

When Paul preached resurrection, he didn't reduce it to a tweetable nominal number of characters. The resurrected Jesus was the coming Jesus, Jesus the Judge, Jesus the King.  In a body, Jesus would deliver up the kingdom to God the Father, put down all rule and authority and power, reign until He puts all enemies under His feet.  All things will be subdued to Jesus.

Did Paul merely make known the few words of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, and that was the gospel?  You can't say that.  You've got to keep reading and see that the Jesus they received was King.  That's why the New Testament authors, the apostles, quoted Psalm 110 more than any other Old Testament text. Their Jesus was the Messiah of the Old Testament, the King, the One Who possessed all authority, and Who would put all under His feet.

The Jesus Paul preached died for sins, but He rose from the dead too.  He raised from the dead to fulfill all the other aspects of salvation that should also be and were preached.  He saved not just from the penalty of sin, but also from the presence of sin.  This same Jesus justified but also would glorify. He would reconcile men through His death, but also through His resurrection, saving them at the moment of their justification, but continue saving them in their sanctification and their glorification.

A reason why so many professing Christians don't live the gospel is because they don't know the gospel.  They have their fire insurance, produced through a minimal presentation of Jesus that emphasizes Him as Savior.  They didn't get the other part, the offensive part, that would have resulted in their own exclusion and rejection.  Now they think they're saved, but they're not.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Amen. That is good preaching.

Anonymous said...

Not trying to be a problem, but what is the gospel? I've read this post and know that it is more than just those few verses, but I'm not sure what the gospel is fully.

Is it that Jesus is Saviour and Lord?

Thank You

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Paul,

You don't seem like you're trying to be a problem. Essentially yes to your question. The gospel, good news, is that we can be saved through Jesus Christ, Jesus will save us, but we must believe in Him. If we believe in Him, we have everlasting life. To believe in Him, it must be biblical faith, which includes repentance, and He must be the Jesus of the Bible, which at its irreducible minimum, as seen in scripture, He is God, Lord, and Savior. You cannot deny one of those, either in thought, will, or emotion, and believe in the Jesus of the Bible.

Unknown said...

First time blogging.. Not sure if Im doing it right. I watched the what is gospel discussion of you on YouTube. You mentioned the gospel of the Kingdom. I would like to get your take on Matthew 24:14. Also since this is in the future I would like to also get your take on Revelation 14 6-7.
Brother stair uses these verses alot in his version of the gospel . he has a dramatic reading of the revelation passage in some of his opening broadcasts. Anyway he claims that the gospel of the kingdom is a gospel of impending judgment of the world, and that Christ will be coming back in his lifetime or in this generation that we live in. He also claims that the gospel of salvation was already published into the regions beyond in the book of acts. So basically he's kind of splitting up the gospel into 2 parts . First the gospel of salvation has already been published into the whole world. Secondly the gospel of the kingdom is being published by him personally throughout the whole world and that he is the last day prophet of God to accomplish that.
Anyway I didn't want to turn this question into a brother stair discussion, but I wanted to ask a few questions about the gospel of the kingdom. First, are we suppose to be preaching this kingdom gospel message in matt24:14 or since this is in the future times people will need to hear this specific kingdom gospel then and not now. Obviously Christ had not died and resurrected yet so im assuming hes not talking about that kind of gospel. Secondly, back to the rev 14 passage since these are angels and not humans preaching this gospel is there any kind signifance in that? In otherwords is the everlasting gospel and the gospel of impending judgment talked about here ok for humans to preach it to.
It may seem a odd question, but I wanted to ask it.Thanks in advance Craig kuha

Kent Brandenburg said...


There are not two gospels. The Revelation 14 passage itself calls it the "everlasting gospel." The only gospel is also the "gospel of the kingdom." When Paul said not to preach another gospel, he is saying there is only one.


Unknown said...

Ok Thanks. I got it straight about one gospel. I believe in the I Corinthians 15 gospel. Now I think im stumbling over the word kingdom. Is it ok to think and talk about the gospel of the kingdom as being synonymous with the gospel of Christ? ?. Also back to Matt 24 14 is that gospel the good news that Christ is coming back or is something else going on here?. Thakyou for you time . I appreciate it. Craig

Kent Brandenburg said...


The gospel of Christ and the gospel of the kingdom are the same thing. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the King. If you are born again, you enter the kingdom of God. If you read Jesus' sermon on the mount, he talks about the means for entering the kingdom. They are the same.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curtis said...

Sanctification and glorification is included in the moment of justifying faith.