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This passage outlines succinctly the gospel which Paul preached to the Corinthians, and to us. It is the foundation on which Paul will build his argument about the truth of resurrection in the rest of the chapter. It also provides us a firm ground on which to stand secure in our salvation when we are feeling ourselves wavering in our faith. This teaching was passed onto Paul and he passed it onto others; eventually it was passed onto us.
Firstly: Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised on the third day. All this was in accordance with the Jewish Scriptures.
Take note: He appeared alive after his death, first to Peter, then to the original twelve disciples, then to five hundred people at the same time (most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote this letter, and could personally testify to what they had seen), then to his own brother James, then to all the apostles who were preaching the gospel, and finally to Paul himself. On the basis of this evidence, there could be no denying that Jesus was genuinely resurrected from the dead.
This is the gospel that was preached and that we believe. From other parts of the New Testament Scripture, we interpret ‘Christ died for our sins’ to mean that he paid the penalty of death that our sins deserve.
Verses 9-10 are a small diversion that could be written in parentheses, an autobiographical note about Paul’s life from his time as persecutor of the church to his salvation and ministry as an apostle. He describes himself as a miscarried baby, or an aborted fetus, to demonstrate his inferiority to the other apostles. And yet, because of such humble origins, he worked harder than all the others. But for Paul, all was grace, from beginning to end.
I keep coming back to these simple and basic truths. When I get caught up in all the confusion about whether women should keep silent in church, what Paul’s words mean for my homosexual friends, whether re-marriage is outlawed within Christian communities, whether Adam and Eve were real people and how their descendants could populate the earth without incest … When it all becomes too difficult, I remember these simple facts: Jesus died for my sins, and he was raised from the dead. Faith, hope, and love remain, and the greatest of these is love.
Prayer: Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong, we are weak but he is strong.