In July, I’ll be talking about the Gospel and Paul’s reminder to Christians at Corinth to stand in/on the Gospel message or “word” he had preached or “proclaimed” to them, years earlier:
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. (1 Corinthians 15:1–2 ESV)
Here’s how the New International Version words it:
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. (1 Corinthians 15:1–2 NIV)
This is one of a series of messages I’m composing under the rubric of Gospel Fluency or the discipline of daily receiving the Good News I’ve been believing, moment by moment, decision after decision, in the face of challenge after challenge. Why do I return to the Gospel daily? Because the Gospel that saves is the Gospel that sanctifies or transforms the individual Christian. In Paul’s words to the Romans, a community of believers who had already entered the household of God through the door of the Gospel:
So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:15–16 ESV)
It’s powerful because, according to that good news or the Gospel, Jesus:
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. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (1 Corinthians 15:3–7 ESV)
I have believed this good news broadcast — I take it on faith that Jesus died for my sins and was raised, so that I could stand innocent before God:
It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 4:24–5:1 ESV)
And, I receive the message as priceless and treasure it in my heart — I hold fast or hold firmly to that truth and it takes a hold of me, resulting in a transformed life:
Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth (Colossians 1:5–6 ESV)
Paul reminds us that we stand in/on this Gospel or good news. So, what Christ did for us in His death and resurrection is not like a crutch or walker or parallel bars in a physical therapy gym. Those devices may help us to stand, when we are weak. No, the Gospel is the spine or backbone that makes us stand in the first place. Without it, no amount of help could keep us vertical.
With the sermon title Stand Firm, I think many Christians would expect a guilt-tripping message about sucking it up for Jesus, through a rigorous or ascetic lifestyle that stands defiantly in judgment against the world. In other words, they may be expecting a sort of call to arms in the war against the world, the flesh and the Devil. Others might hope to find a generous dose of so-called Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism, in three points, providing helpful tips on how to live the Gospel and love God by serving my spouse, helping my neighbor mow the lawn, working at the local interfaith food bank or a host of other good deeds.
You know, there’s nothing wrong with learning how to live out the implications of the Gospel as a follower of Jesus in this present evil age and doing it in a way that is caring, compassionate, and engaging. But, those kinds of standing for Christ flow out of our position in Christ, spelled out in the Gospel. We stand in/on the Gospel itself — period.