[!] ... by which you are being saved [1a]

    1Cor 15: 1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ[1] died for our[2a] sins[2b] in accordance with the Scriptures[3], 4that he was buried[4], that he was raised on the third day[5] in accordance with the Scriptures[6](ESV, emph. Added)
Turns out, as I have been trying to get back to this passage and complete my train of thought here, that there is actually a [1a] component to the thesis I am advancing, and that is that Christ – we discussed Him briefly last time under this heading – died.

Jesus Himself says this about His death:
    No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. (John 10:18, ESV)
That is to say, Jesus died because he chose to die. The death He experienced – which Paul attests to – was a death which Jesus chose. And consider it: Jesus says this in the context of calling Himself the Good Shepherd, the one who is not a “hired hand” but the one who does what He does for a purpose greater than merely having a job to do.

Now what has Paul compacted into this simple statement – that Christ “died” - his fellow apostle Peter expressed this way:
    Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.(Acts 2:22-23, ESV)
So in what way did Jesus “die”? Peter here says that Christ died “according to the definite plan of God”. So Christ didn’t fall off a cliff (as most people know, I am sure), or catch a bad case of leprosy, or eat a bad piece of fish. Christ died because God intended for Him to die.

If you think about that for about 4 seconds you realize that this defines the purpose of Jesus’ death in a way which places it above all other deaths in human history. It defines Jesus’ death in terms of something God Himself was working out, and something in which Jesus was a willing player.

What is even more interesting in Peter’s testimony, I think, is the fact of the matter – the reality of this act. Christ didn’t just die as they heard reported on the Caesarian News Network, or read about in the Judea Tribune: Jesus died at the hands of the men to whom he was speaking, and because of their intentional action. Peter makes it clear that Jesus experienced a shameful death, an unjust death, and that the men who listened to him preach where responsible for His death – but also witnesses to His death. They knew Jesus died – there was no question that they had first-hand knowledge of the fact.

Christ died. As Paul defines the most important thing about the Gospel, he begins with the fact that Christ died – a fact which the other NT writers expand to note that He died willingly, and in gruesome reality, and for a plan which God has definitely set out.

But so what? And why did it take me 7 days to write this blog entry? Come back and visit, and at least one of these questions will be answered.

Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |


Pedantic Protestant said...

How dare you prooftext, Frank! Don't you know that prooftexting is so passe? You should inform your readings with Derrida and Lyotard!

[Whether I'm serious or not should be obvious.]