[!] ... by which you are being saved [2a]

    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)
So after almost 3 weeks of staring at this passage, we find ourselves at the place where the Gospel says Christ died -- and last time's installment outlined that Christ died for a reason which He chose, and which God Himself chose for a specific purpose, and that this death happened not symbolically or as a story from once upon a time but as witnessed by many men. Well, so what?

The primary "what" is that part of the purpose includes "us" -- the noun of which "our" is the possessive. The reason Christ died, the reason (in part) which God chose Christ's death, was for "us".

Now that brings up the question "who is 'us'?" Well, some of "us" is Paul
himself, right? The speaker, the writer of this passage must be included in the "us". But at the very end of the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul says this:
    The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. All the brothers send you greetings. (ESV, 1Cor 16:19-20a)
So more of "us" is the people with whom Paul is living while he writes -- Aquila, Pricilla, the churches in Asia, and "all the brethren". That's a mighty big "us" -- but there's more still.

Part of the "us" is those to whom Paul is writing -- those whom he calls "the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1Cor 1:2, NASB). The scope of the word "us" in 1Cor 15 seems to include a lot of people -- so when Paul writes "Christ die for (us)", it seems like a pretty good deal -- that there are all kinds of people for whom Christ died and it's a pretty wide circle.

But in this very same letter, we find Paul writing this:
    For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

    "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."

    Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (ESV,1Cor 1:17-24)
So it is in fact all kinds of people who are "us" -- but they are a specific people called out from among both the Jews and the Greeks. They are a people who "belong to Christ" (1Cor 3:23), who are "bought with a price" (1Cor 6:20), who are "known by Him" (1Cor 8:3). And in each of these instances, Paul compares these who are "us" to another kind of person who cannot, by implication, be "us". Those who "belong to Christ" are contrasted to those whom "God will destroy" (1Cor 3:17); those bought for a price are contrasted to those who are immoral, defiling their own bodies (1Cor 6:18); those who are known by Him are contrasted with those who defile their own consciences (1Cor 8:7). Paul draws a clear line in this letter between who "us" is and who is not "us".

But why? Why divide people up? Why come to the place where, if we take Paul at his meaning, we should see the body of human kind as two camps -- pretty literally "us" and "them"? It is because of the intention that the Gospel -- this Gospel which Paul says is the first thing you should know -- actually does something. There is a result of this matter that Christ died for us – an outcome which is the intentional result of God’s plan in Christ’s death.

Let me be clear about what I am saying. If I put the keys under the doormat of my house, it is possible for anyone to come into my house when I am not there. If I leave the front door open, it is possible that anyone might, in fact, come in and look around. And even if I stand on my porch and call out to passers by, "Hey! Free Lemonade and really great finger food right now! C'mon in!" it is possible (and perhaps more likely) that someone will come in. And if my intent is only that some might come in, (that is, to offer an invitation only and not to actively bring people into my house) that's fine.

But what if I stand on the porch and watch the people who come by and walk up to some with a glass in one hand and a plate in the other? What if I intend that some definite work happens to these people -- what if I have, as we have discussed already, a definite purpose in doing what I am doing and not merely a general hope or a friendly optimism?

It seems to me that Paul, in saying "Christ died for (us)", is talking about Christ doing definite work for a specific people that He intends to see come to completion.

But is that all we can know? Hey -- Christ died for us. In a very real way, the men and women we honored at Memorial Day "died for us", so why should we think any more of Christ than we think of them?

The answer is in the next word in Paul's statement, which we will get to in the near future.

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