“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep [i.e. died]. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me.” -1 Corinthians 15:1-8
The gospel – in essence, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins – is the nucleus, the epicenter, the sine qua non of Christianity. Without the gospel there can be no salvation. Where there is no gospel there can be no church. Praise be to God that the gospel, the central message of the Christian faith, is a historical gospel. It is not fiction or myth. It is not something that was dreamed up by a small group of rag-tag fishermen and outcastes of society. No, it is the fulfillment of Old Testament figures, types, and prophecies. The virgin birth, sinless life, authoritative teaching, wondrous signs, substitutionary sacrifice, victorious resurrection, and glorious ascension of Jesus was the realization of the things spoken of in time past (in the Scriptures). These wondrous events, which were for the salvation of God’s elect from all nations and for the glory of God (Eph. 1:3-14; Rev. 5:9), were not done in darkness, but in the presence of many witnesses. Again, I say, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a historical gospel.
This is why we gather together throughout the week, to be reminded of and nourished by this great and glorious good news, and to worship the great and glorious triune God who planned and accomplished it. This is why we give special emphasis to these two central events – the crucifixion and resurrection – around this time of year, known as Good Friday and Easter. Let us remember the “first importance” significance of the gospel, and so be all the more fervent in our study, contemplation, defense, and proclamation of it. It is this historical gospel that we have received, upon which we stand, and by which we are being saved.