The Gospel is a word that means "good news," but what are the essential elements of this good news? In addressing this question, the apostle Paul called this matter of "first importance" in 1 Corinthians 15, offering an outline that remains vital today. Verses 3-8 read:
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 [Peter], 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. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
The first essential is that Christ died for our sins. If He did not die, He could not have provided the necessary blood sacrifice for our sins and He could not resurrect. Yet His death was confirmed in many ways and by multiple eyewitnesses. Jesus was beaten, whipped, and nailed to a cross for public execution. When soldiers came to break his legs so Jesus would hang limp and stop breathing, they realized He had already died. This death was confirmed by piercing His heart with a spear, resulting in a flow of blood and water.
The second essential is that Jesus was buried. After His death, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body. It was wrapped in approximately 75 pounds of spices and wrapped in a burial cloth. His body was placed in a known tomb of a Jewish religious leader. The tomb was sealed by a rock too large for one person to move and was guarded by numerous Roman soldiers.
The third essential is that Jesus was raised on the third day. Paul noted this fact as being of utmost importance, writing, "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. … And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17).
The fourth essential is that Jesus appeared to many eyewitnesses. Listed in this account were the appearances to Peter (Cephas); the disciples; 500 eyewitnesses at one time, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote this letter; James; all the apostles; and to Paul. At least 513 different people saw Jesus alive again and the number was likely much higher. This is ample eyewitness evidence to confirm that Jesus was alive again.
Paul called these essentials "the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand" (1 Corinthians 15:1). Those who believe in Jesus as the resurrected Son of God have eternal life. John 3:16 perhaps best summarizes the truth of the essential Gospel message in which Jesus taught, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
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