This Is the Good News
January 15th, 1956 @ 7:30 PM
1 Corinthians 15:1
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 15:1
1-15-56 7:30 p.m.
Tonight we begin in what is possibly the greatest chapter in the New Testament. That is, there are many theologians who so look upon it. The fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter is certainly one of the great, great chapters in all the Word of God.
Not that I follow their theology, though it’s a lot better than some of the theology of these modern generations, but a theologian like Karl Barth [1886-1968] and Emil Brunner [1889-1966] – those eschatological theologians, those apocalyptic theologians, those crisis theologians, those men who are the greatest theologians of our living day – those men say that all revelation and all theology reaches its climax here in the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter.
Well, certainly there’s not a greater chapter in the Bible nor one more positively, gloriously, victoriously triumphant than this one. This is all heaven and all victory and all glory to God. So tonight I’m going to preach on the first verse of this chapter, and then as the Sundays proceed, there may be several sermons. I don’t know. But there’ll be a few sermons at least on the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians. Now this is the way it begins:
Moreover, brethren, I make known unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also you’ve received, wherein you stand,
By which also you’re saved . . .
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received: how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
That He was buried, that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
That He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.
Then of five hundred . . .
Then of James, then of all of the apostles.
And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
[1 Corinthians 15:1-8]
A Jew that saw the Lord Jesus and was miraculously, gloriously saved – the first one, the harbinger, the earnest of the whole nation that one day will be born again [Romans 11:26], like Paul, out of due time – an abortion before the time. Oh, this chapter!
Well we go back: "I make known unto you the gospel" [1 Corinthians 15:1]. And the title of my sermon tonight is This Is the Gospel – the good news, the glad tidings.
And there are, there are three things – I do not follow them tonight, but just to give you a preview of the chapter – there are three things that he says comprise the gospel. First, the atoning death of our Savior: He "died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. Second, the glorious resurrection of our redeeming, living Lord: "And the third day He arose again according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:4]. And then the third thing – His incomparable, blessed return which is over in the rest of the chapter. "I show you a mystery: We’ll not all sleep, but we’ll all be changed –
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpet shall sound" [1 Corinthians 15:51-52], and as Paul says elsewhere, "the Lord shall descend," [1 Thessalonians 4:16], "and we’ll all be changed" [1 Thessalonians 15:52]. My soul, who wouldn’t say that a chapter like that was the glory of God Himself?
Now this thing: "Brethren, I declare, I make known unto you the gospel" [1 Corinthians 15:1] – that’s what you see in the ordinance of baptism, and that’s what the ordinance of baptism signifies. That’s what it means. Any other thing than that is an invention. Somebody thought it up, and you can give it any meaning that somebody might want to give it meaning to. You can change it, but that is the real thing. That’s the ordinance of God, and it has a meaning. Both of these ordinances have a tremendous meaning.
The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper has a meaning, a significance. This is bread broken that represents His body [Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-24]. This is the fruit of the vine, the fruit of the cup, that represents His blood [Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25]. And we’re to do that until He comes [1 Corinthians 11:26].
This also has a tremendous significance for in baptism we are buried with the Lord in the likeness of His death and we are raised from the watery grave in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:3-4], and that is the gospel. Well, that’s what Paul said it is [1 Corinthians 15:1-2]: He was buried for us – He was – He died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. He was buried, and He rose again for our justification [1 Corinthians 15:4], and he says that is the gospel [1 Corinthians 15:1].
When a man stands up in a pulpit and he preaches, and you say, "That man preaches the gospel," what do you mean? Why, we mean that man preaches Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification. That’s what you say in the baptistery. That’s the symbol of baptism.
When you send out a missionary to China and you send him over there to preach the gospel, what does he preach? That’s what he preaches: that Christ died for our sins, and He was raised for our justification. And that is the thing you see in the baptistery. That’s the meaning of baptism. The significance of baptism lies in its mode. You change the mode, it has no meaning. Baptism is a burial with Christ and a resurrection with Christ which Paul says is the gospel. So that initial ordinance is a picture of the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus.
Now Paul says, "I never invented that." He says, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received" [1 Corinthians 15:1]. Paul is not an originator. He’s not an inventor. He’s a deliverer. He’s like John the Baptist. He’s a voice crying the message of God [Mark 1:1-4; John 1:19-23].
That’s what any true preacher is. He’s not up there in the pulpit telling ingenious things that he has devised. A true preacher of Christ is a fellow that holds that Book in his hand, and he tells the people what God has to say in the Book and that’s all. That’s it. And what he has to say doesn’t matter. And what Rabbi Smellfindus has to say, that doesn’t matter. And what old Dryas Dust teachin’ there in the school, now that doesn’t matter either. And what old Dr. Soundingbrass says, that doesn’t matter either. The only thing that matters is, "What does God say?" A man is to be a deliverer of a message and not an originator or an inventor! [Deuteronomy 4:2; 2 Corinthians 5:20; Galatians 1:8; Revelation 22:18-19] Well, that’s what the Book says.
I heard a fellow very dramatically one time give an illustration of that. Oh, there was a king of England over there – King George or King Edward or King James or there was somebody. There’s a king of England over there, and he was broadcasting a message to the entire world: oh, to the colonial empires, and the commonwealths, and the dominions, and I don’t know what all. And it was being delivered over here in America, and the whole world was going to listen to the King of England.
And just as the king stood up to speak, the cable broke. And I don’t know where the cable broke or how that is set up, but anyway, the cable broke somewhere in the control room, and it was an awful thing. And oh, this fellow described it so dramatically. And what that fellow up there who operates the apparatus, what he did was – and this is so dramatically told – he grabbed ahold of one end of that broken cable and he caught the other end of that broken cable, and while those electric currents went through his body just like that, why, why, the king’s message was delivered because it was sent through his quivering flesh. Well, that made an impression on me. At least I remembered the story.
Well, that’s a good illustration of this thing here whether it’s melodramatic or not. That’s what a man of God is, and that’s what Paul said he was. He just delivered the message [1 Corinthians 15:1]. It went through his heart, to his voice, his brain, his soul. He delivered what God had told him, and that’s the gospel.
Now that word "gospel:" "Brethren, I make known unto you the gospel" [1 Corinthians 15:1]. What does that word mean – the "gospel"? Well, look it up in your Webster’s Dictionary, and this is what you’ll find. Webster says the word "gospel" is an old Anglo-Saxon word, and it means "godspell" or "good spell." Now, they, they differ then from there. Some of those learned men who write that dictionary, some of those learned men say that comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word "God," God, God, and "spell," which means story or tale. So the word "gospel" means "the God story, the God tale, the God tidings."
Then there are others who say that word ["gospel"] comes from the old Anglo-Saxon "good" – and I can’t umlaut out those vowels very well, but "good." You know, like "goody, good-spell" – and that the word means "good, our good, good news, good tidings." That’s what they say.
Now the Greek word is that latter one. That Greek word euaggelion, your word "evangelistic" comes from it. Euaggelion, the Greek word here, "gospel," means "the good news, the glad tidings." And that’s what the angel called it and described it when they came down from glory and appeared to the shepherds. And they were afraid and trembled [Luke 2:9], "And the angel spoke and said, ‘Fear not ye, fear not. Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people’" [Luke 2:10]. That’s the gospel: good tidings, glad tidings, hallelujah news.
When you see a fellow and he gets a message, look at his face. Look at his face. Why, you can tell just like that whether it’s good news or not. If he’s sour and morose and funereal, it’s bad news; but if his face lights up and he’s got a smile and he’s glad and oh, that’s good news. You can see it on his face.
Now the Bible says the gospel is the glad tidings. It’s the good news. But believe me, you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t think it to look at a lot of people, would you? My soul, my soul, when they come to church and when you get around them, they give you the creeps. They got religion, they say. Grrrrr! – They’re – they’re long-faced and their funereal expressions and their morose demeanor and their unhappy, despairing, miasmic outlook. Grrrrr! Religion, religion! That’s not religion. Religion is good news. Religion is "Hallelujah!" Religion: "Glory to God!"
Then then there are other people, when they think of religion, they think it in terms of some dull, dry, stupid sermon. That’s not religion either. Real religion: got the light of God in it. It’s got glory in it. It’s got happiness in it. It’s got gladness in it. It’s the good news, and it makes you – makes you live. It quickens you. It makes you alive, makes you glad, makes you happy, makes you want to shout, "You got religion, Brother! Good news, good news!"
I one time heard of a fellow whose heart overflowed in church, and while the preacher’s preaching, he said, "Amen!" And in a little while, why, the preacher said something else good, and he got religion and he said, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" And oh, and the preacher got in a weaving away, and that guy felt happier than ever and he said, "Glory to God!" And an usher went over there and tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Listen here, Brother, shut up. Shut up. Can’t you see, can’t you see you’re bothering the preacher?"
And the fellow replied, "But I can’t shut up. I got religion."
And the usher said, "Shut up anyway. You didn’t get it here."
It’s good news. It’s a happy day. It’s a glorious day! It’s a marvelous day. It’s the gospel day. It’s the day of grace! It’s the day of victory. It’s the day of triumph. It’s the day of resurrection! It’s the day of everything good! That’s the gospel.
And there’s nobody in the earth sing like Christian people sing, nobody in the earth. Nobody in the earth got a choir like this choir – unless the church next door has. There’s nobody like us. Nobody. That’s God in us; that’s the Lord’s power upon us. And I say, it’s the good news.
Let me tell you. I can remember, can you? I can remember the battle over there in the Philippine Islands and the men of Bataan and Corregidor and when that fortress fell and those remaining survivors were taken by the Japanese. Do you remember that? And do you remember the death march of those survivors from Bataan? Do you remember that? And do you remember MacArthur [General Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964] saying, "I shall return"? Do you remember that? And do you remember the days when our men went from victory to victory and island to island? Do you remember that?
And do you remember the day when they did that bold and unbelievable thing? When the islands were still in the hands of the Japanese, our American soldiers found out where those men in Bataan were being starved as prisoners, and they found it, and they organized an expedition, and they went up to it though it was far in enemy territory.
And those Yanks came with snippers, wire cutters, in their hands, and they surrounded that barbed wire and they began to cut it open. And those poor American boys on the inside who’d been in that death march and who’d been starved to death, and who would undergo to every kind of privation, and sorrow, and persecution, and hurt, and beating – those men, when they heard the commotion, they were afraid. They trembled. That meant death they thought. And one of the men spoke and said, "Steady there, boy, steady there. The Yanks are here! The Yanks are here! This is liberty; this is freedom."
And they gathered those men that had been on that death march from Bataan. They gathered together, and they rescued them and brought them back. And do you remember the story – read it in the newspaper – do you remember it? Those men – the American Army – when those boys were brought back on the death march, when they were brought back, those men lined up the roads for miles on either side and stood at attention as those boys marched by. That’s good news, isn’t it? Good news: "Steady there, buddy, the Yanks are here." This is liberty! This is freedom! This is glory! Good news. Good news.
That’s the gospel. That’s the gospel. "Fear not. I bring you this day good tidings of great joy" [Luke 2:10]. Well, why? Why good news? All right, this is the why, and that’s what the chapter’s about. This is why this is the good news. The gospel is the good news.
First, it’s the good news because the grave and death are no more – not to us, not to us. That’s good news. All of this chapter here [1 Corinthians 15], the rest of it, that’s what it’s about. That’s what it’s about. Death can’t approach even a Christian any longer [1 Corinthians 15:21-22]. No more this old Adam may die. It may go back to the dust [Genesis 3:19], but we are going to exchange this old body that ages and decays and decomposes and goes back to the ground [1 Corinthians 15:42-]. We’re going to have a better body, a resurrected body, a glorious body, and that’s the good news [1 Corinthians 15:50-53]. That’s the good news. Paul says, "For me to live is Christ, but to die is a gain" [Philippians 1:21]. That’s good news. That’s good news. No more death nor fear of it, no more grave and its victory [1 Corinthians 15:54-55]. This is the good news. Christ has been victorious for us over death and the grave [1 Corinthians 15:56-57]. That’s the gospel. That’s the good news.
What is the good news? This is the good news. Our sins are all taken away. "I delivered unto you that which I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. That’s the good news. "God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" [Romans 5:8]. That’s the good news. Psalm 103 says He’s taken our sins and He’s separated them from us as far as the east is from the west [Psalm 103:12]. How far is that? Five hundred million, trillion miles that direction and 500 trillion, million miles that direction. I don’t know how far the east is from the west, but however far that is, that’s how far God has separated our sins from us. We don’t suffer them. We don’t die for them. We aren’t judged for them anymore. Christ has borne them away. That’s the good news. That’s the good news. That’s the gospel: "He’s died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3].
What is the good news? The good news is that our judgment is past. Romans 8:1: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus." John 5:24: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My words and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life." That’s the good news. That’s the gospel. That’s the glory of the Son of God. There’s no judgment day for us – just a day of rewards for what we’ve done that’s good and blessed [2 Corinthians 5:10]. But the judgment day for us is past. Our judgment was the day of the cross when the Lord died for our sins [Colossians 2:13-14]. That’s the good news. That’s the glad tidings.
I grew up way out there in the Panhandle, in the northwestern part, and I have seen those prairie fires cover the horizon. At night you could see that dull red glow on the horizon. People frightened for sometimes if a wind catches it, a prairie fire will go faster than a horse can run. It’s a devastating and terrible thing. I’ve seen lots of times when the men in our little town would be called out, and every boy and every man that could walk and do would go out there to fight an enormous prairie fire.
If you were ever caught in the front of a prairie fire, what would you do to save your life? What would you do for a prairie fire will destroy you? It destroys everything in its path. And I’ll say, it can run faster than a horse can race. What would you do? This is what you do. Get you a match and light a fire around you, and let the wind catch it and burn out a great area of the prairie around you. Then stand in the middle of that burnt area, and when the great prairie fire comes, it doesn’t burn there. It’s already burned; and the fire goes around you, and you live.
That’s what it is to be safe in Jesus. The judgment for us is already past. It’s already over. It fell on Jesus at the cross [1 Peter 2:24]. He died in our stead [2 Corinthians 5:21]. That’s the good news. That’s the gospel. We are saved from Him. We’ll never be judged. That’s the good news.
What’s the good news? We’re reconciled to God in the Lord Jesus Christ: "And when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . . . If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, how much more, being reconciled, we’ll be saved by His life" [Romans 5:8,10]. We are reconciled to God by the death of His Son; that’s the good news. That’s the good news. Everything’s all right in our Father’s house, reconciled by the death of His Son.
Some of these things that I remember are oh – so many of them are melodramatic. I don’t do much of it. As I got older, I got away from it; but when I was a boy, when I was a boy listening to those preachers – mostly unlettered and untaught and unlearned in a little bitty church – as I listened to them, they’d talk about things like this a great, great deal. And I remember them. It made an impression upon me. And this is one of them. This is one of them: reconciled to God by the death of His Son.
One of those men told a story that he got from somebody else I’m sure. But the story was this. There was an Englishman and his wife and well-to-do with only one son. And that boy grew up the only child in the home, and they spoiled him. And they ruined the lad, and he grew up a brat. He grew up incorrigible; and he grew up, and he broke the heart of his father and his mother. And the father and the son often quarreled. And upon a day in one of those bitter quarrels, the father said to the son, "Son, you’ve broken your mother’s heart, and you’ve broken my heart. Now you get out and don’t you ever come back again! Don’t you ever. You get out."
And the boy said, "And I will get out, and I’ll never come back until you ask me to come back!"
And the father said, "I’ll never ask you to come back."
And the boy in his wrath said, "And I’ll never return!" And the boy left.
Now that’s father and son. And a father can get rid of his boy, and, to some extent, forget him. But you can’t do that in a mother’s language and in a mother’s soul. She grieved for that boy, and she grieved for that son. And she wrote to the boy pleading with the boy to come back, and he said, "I’ll not until my father asks me." And she pled with her husband, "Please, ask for the boy to come." And the father said, "I’ll never ask him to come back."
And the mother grieved like a mother would, and she grieved her health away and her life away. And the physician came in to see her, and he said, "There’s nothing I can do. I have no medicines for this. This woman is broken-hearted, and she is grieving herself to death." And when she became so low, her husband there by her said, "Something I could do?"
And she looked at him, and he knew exactly what that look meant. And she said, "Will you send for our boy?"
And the father said, "Why, I will. I’ll tell him you want to him to come back home."
She said, "He won’t come. You have to do it yourself. Please, please, for my sake, before I die, could I see my boy just once again?"
And the father acquiesced. He went to the dispatcher’s office, and he sent for the boy, and the boy came. And when the boy came and came into the room, why, the father, there by his wife, the father got up and turned his back and looked out the window – wouldn’t even look at the boy. The boy came over to his mother, and she hugged him and kissed him and so good and glad to have him. Then she said to the son, "Son, speak to your father. Speak to your father."
And the boy said, "I won’t. Not until he speaks to me first." And she said, "Husband, this is our boy. Speak to your boy."
"I will not."
In despair, that poor mother seized the face, seized the hand of her boy, and reaching out seized the hand of her husband. And pulling their hands together, she joined them and looked longingly into the face of her husband and in despair and grief into the face of the boy. And she died there holding their hands clasped together. And the boy looked down into the face of his mother and up to his father, and the father looked down into the face of his wife and across to the face of his son, and together they opened their arms. They fell into one another’s arms. They kissed one another and wept away the days of their sorrow.
Those old-time preachers that I used to listen to would tell things like that, and I never forget ’em. Then that old preacher would make his point: As that obstreperous and hardened father and that wayward and prodigal boy were reconciled over the death – by the death of that dear mother – we are reconciled to God by the death of His Son.
The illustration, like all illustrations, it isn’t quite true. It doesn’t quite fit, but the sentiment is true. We were enemies to God [Romans 5:8] the Book says. We were wayward and prodigal the Book says [1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 2:1-3]. And God’s face was turned away from us [Isaiah 59:2] the Book says, and we were in the way of the wrath and the judgment of a righteous and holy and indignant God [Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 3:5-7]. And the Lord Jesus Christ in His death dragged the winepress of the fierceness of Almighty God [Isaiah 53:10; Galatians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:10]. And as the Revelation says: "Which red blood flowed out" [Revelation 14:10]. In the death of His Son, in the death of the cross, we have our reconciliation with God [2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Hebrews 2:17]. Sins paid for, atonements made, you’re welcome back [Romans 5:1-2]. Whoever you are – vile sinner that all of us are [Romans 3:23] – we’re welcome back, welcome back, arms outstretched like the father in the parable looking down the road waiting for the prodigal son [Luke 15:20].
And as Paul says in the fifth of Second Corinthians: "As ambassadors for God, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. We plead with you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God" [From 2 Corinthians 5:19-20]. Come back home. Come back to God. Come back to the Lord. The good news is the door’s open and welcome. That’s the gospel. That’s the glad tidings. It’s heaven now. It’s forgiveness now. It’s glory yet to come. "I declare unto you the gospel: He died for our sins; raised for our justification; someday coming again for us in glory" [1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. That’s what it is to be a Christian: to accept the marvelous overtures of grace and love and mercy from Christ Jesus our Lord. That’s it. That’s it.
While we sing our song tonight, somebody you, somebody you, accept Jesus. Accept the goodness and the grace and the mercies of God. Take Him as your Savior; trust Him. Would you come and stand by me? "Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in heaven" [Matthew 10:32]. We’re to do it openly and publicly. "I accept the free pardon of God for my sins. I’ll take Him as my Savior: the atonement mine. I’ll believe. I’ll trust. I’ll pray for my unbelief and my distrust that God will give me greater faith." Some of you to come into the church, "Put my life here in the church." While we sing, while we make appeal, somebody you, would you come? Would you come while we stand and while we sing?