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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 15:1 The Gospel and Justification

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, July 5, 2023

15 Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you. You received it, and on it you now take your stand.

Just three questions from the Corinthians remain for Paul to answer. The last two he will handle quickly in chapter 16, about the collection for the Jerusalem churches (16:1-11) and about when they might expect the return of Apollos (16:12-16). First, though, he needs to answer a bigger question.

The Corinthians’ question here is about the resurrection. Paul understands, perhaps on account of the way that they asked, that misunderstanding the resurrection is often the result of misunderstanding the gospel itself, or of the significance and truth of God’s words. When God says a thing, he means it. And to show this, Paul will walk them through the doctrine emphasizing the truth and meaning of the words.

In Greek, Paul calls it “the evangel (εὐαγγέλιον) that I evangelized (εὐηγγελισάμην) you with.” The word gospel means “good news.” It would not be good news at all if there were no forgiveness or resurrection attached to it. This is what Paul had preached to them five years before when he was there in person.

And what did they do with this message? “You received it,” he says. This means that they grasped it; they learned the message as he taught it to them. He spoke and they listened. He explained and they learned. He illustrated with Old Testament stories they knew, and they began to understand. This was the same way Jesus taught and preached to his disciples. In many ways, it is the same way we learn by preaching to this day.

There is no rule for the way preaching must be done. Every preacher will develop his own style over time, usually the better things he has seen and heard from other preachers. We cannot all be Moses or Samuel. But when our people begin to remember and take to heart the things we have preached, we know we are on the right track. Perhaps a good preacher will be willing to make changes along the way. But in the end, it is the message that is delivered that is important, and not the man at all.

The message, after all, carries the word of God and the forgiveness of sins. Let’s step back a little and examine the doctrine of justification. To “justify” in the Bible and in our theology taken from the Bible is “to declare righteous, to acquit.” It has been used in this letter in 4:4 and 6:11.

What is justification?

Justification is a judicial act of God. Out of his grace, he declares that I and all other sinful human beings, having fallen under the sentence of eternal punishment in hell, are righteous and not guilty of our sins for Christ’s sake, even though I have no merits of my own.

How is this done?

Justification is carried out through the imputation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. I have been given his righteousness for my very own.

Where does this happen?

Justification is offered by God through his word and sacraments (the Means of Grace). It is received by me, the sinner, through faith.

What is the result of justification?

Justification means first, that I am forgiven for Christ’s sake. Second, it means that I can be certain of my salvation and therefore of the resurrection and eternal life in heaven, as we confess with the happy words of the Creed: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting, Amen.”

So when Paul says, “and on it you now take your stand,” he is reminding them that all of their confidence in the promises of God come from the preaching of the Gospel. It is not their opinion that saves them, or their own decisions, or their own worthiness as good people. It is entirely upon the grace of God and the merits of Jesus Christ that we depend, and on this we take our stand for all eternity.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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