August 22, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 15)

Submitted by Judy S. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

1 Corinthians 15:1-2

“If you are not persevering in the Christian faith, this is evidence that you did not have saving faith in the first place.” [Kenneth Barker, The New International Version Study Bible Notes CD, Pradis [software], (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995) notes for verse.]

“The faith which collapses is the faith which has not thought things out and thought them through. For so many of us faith is a superficial thing. We tend to accept things because we are told them and to possess them merely at secondhand. If we undergo the agony of thought there may be much that we must discard, but what is left is really ours in such a way that nothing can ever take it from us.” [William Barclay, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series CD, The Bible Library v.3.2 [software], (Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1975) notes for verse.]

  • What is the test of genuine faith based on these verses?

First, I think it is worth noting that there is such a thing as being able to test genuine faith.  There is a common misconception that faith and spiritual matters are something that are fluffy and untestable, that has to do with one’s emotions and temperaments, but here, it is clear that Apostle Paul did not consider faith to be that way.

The test of genuine faith based on 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 is whether the person of genuine faith over time “stands” in the gospel and “holds fast to the word.”  Over the course of time a person’s life’s circumstances may change, but a person with genuine faith will stay true to the faith despite the change in circumstances.  For instance, a person with genuine faith would continue to live as if the gospel is the best news that she has received, would continue to marvel over the wonder of her salvation, and would not “get over” the fact that she is saved from her sins, that the penalty of her sins were completely paid for by Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God.  Such a person would continue to “hold fast to the word” by being spiritually hungry, and would want to understand more and more of the Bible because the Bible conveys God’s heart, God’s character, and such a person would want to become more and more like God.  Over time, a person with genuine faith will be very different from someone without genuine faith because a person without genuine faith will fizzle out in her excitement over the gospel, lose that sense of gratitude over her salvation, wane in her desire to read and know more of God and His Word, and no longer desire in sharing in God’s burdens when circumstances change, when the cost of following Jesus starts to rise, when it becomes impractical or inconvenient to be a disciple.  Such a person may justify herself by saying, “The faith that I had before was good back then, but things are different now.  I can’t serve God like I used to when I was younger, when I didn’t have a full-time job, when I was a college student, single, and didn’t have any kids.”  Such a person would never grow in her faith and never know the pains and joys of sharing in God’s heart, of sharing in God’s burdens and grieving over the sins of others, or even her own sins.  Apostle Paul would describe those who belong in the latter category as having “believed in vain” which is a sad picture of someone who did not have genuine faith to begin with.  Therefore, it is clear that a person with genuine faith is a person who “stands” and “holds fast to the word” over time, no matter how that person’s circumstances change.

  • What does it mean to “stand” and “hold fast” to the gospel?

“In which you stand” and “hold fast” describes two different aspects of faith, both of which are very necessary.  By faith we are saved, and “stand,” which describes the present, ongoing basis on which we are saved by the gospel of God’s grace, not because of anything we did or do, but we simply “stand” because of God’s grace.  Yet faith does not mean that Christians should just “let go and let God.”  Because we are saved, we now have eternal life and that means we have a relationship with God.  We can relate to God in faith, and we do so by holding fast to the gospel.  Though we are saved by grace alone, we must hold fast to this gospel because everything within us and in this world tells us the exact opposite of the truth of the gospel.  The opposite of holding fast to the gospel would be to forget about God and the gospel because our own pride and the lies of Satan tell us that there is nothing more than what we can perceive with our five senses.  Whenever we are tempted to think that we are not really as bad as the Bible says we are, that we are not really wretched sinners but just people who mess up once in a while, that God is not really upset by our sins but more like a benevolent grandfather who will not really judge us and who will accept whatever we give him, whether it’s our half-hearted praise or insincere prayers, then we are not holding fast to the gospel.  Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians that they stand because of the gospel, that they were saved by God’s grace alone, but he also urged the Corinthians to “hold fast” to the word that he preached to them because as sinners, our hearts are deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9), and we so easily forget the truth of the gospel if we don’t make the concerted effort to “hold fast” to it.

1 Corinthians 15:3-8

  • What is the core of the gospel?  Are my Christian commitment and my testimony built upon this foundation?

The core of the gospel is Jesus.  He died for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.  And he resurrected, appearing to more than five hundred brothers at one time.  Because Jesus was a real person, and yet He was unlike anyone else because He was the sinless Son of God, the gospel is not just a good moral teaching, but a doctrine based on provable truth.

My Christian commitment and testimony are built upon this foundation because it all started with the resurrection.  I would not be a Christian if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead and the apostles didn’t obey the Great Commission and the other Christians who came afterwards from generation to generation didn’t obey the Great Commission.  If the resurrection never happened, then I would have nothing to rely on when I am feeling depleted of all strength, when I’m faced with a situation where I don’t know what to do, and I’m asked to go beyond my comfort zone, to do something that may be risky or to my personal detriment for the sake of the gospel.  If Jesus and the resurrection weren’t true, then I would have nowhere to go with the guilt and shame of my sins, and I would have no meaning or purpose in my life. It really wouldn’t matter how I live if there is no life after death, no judgment or consequences to my life, and whether I lived as a good person like Mother Teresa, or an evil person like Hitler; death would make us equal in the end.  If the gospel isn’t true, then it makes no sense for me to try to love others and deny myself.

  • How did the gospel come to me?  Think of the process by which the gospel gets received and passed on.  What are some important factors involved in that process?  

The gospel came to me through specific people who obeyed God and put aside their own agendas, their own desire for a comfortable life, and who obeyed Jesus’ Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations.  In my lifetime alone, there were many people who had to obey God in order for me to become Christian.  I first became open to the gospel in college during my freshman year’s New Student Welcome Night, and that meant there were so many people working hard behind the scenes in order for that night to be brought together: people setting up, taking down, cleaning up, practicing for the skit and praise, designing and printing the flyers, passing out thousands of flyers, praying for the entire night, preparing the game time afterwards, and of course the message that pierced through my cynicism and doubt that Christianity had anything personal and relevant for my life.  And if I think about how these people had to set aside their own personal agendas, to make the time so that someone like me would be slightly more interested to come to something called New Student Welcome Night, I see that I am deeply indebted to them, even if I don’t know their specific names.  And that was just for one night, and it took many other nights, many relationships with older Christians, leaders, peers, younger people, the entire church community for me to experience the gospel to be true and God’s love in a tangible way.

Some of the important factors involved in the process of receiving and passing on the gospel include 1) specific person’s obedience 2) specific person’s sacrifice and setting aside of one’s agenda and 3) corporate obedience of the church.  In order to bring about my salvation there was a beautiful unbroken chain of obedient Christians who had to sacrifice their time, set aside their worldly pursuits in order to share the gospel with others, and this chain began all the way from the time of Jesus to me.  And now I am part of this chain of the gospel, on the giving end, where I am in the privileged position of being able to share the gospel with others.  And even though we do New Student Welcome Night every fall, I still get goose bumps at the thought of one seeker who may come and experience something that causes him or her to become open to God, just like the experience that I had my freshman year.  Because of what it took for even one person like me to come to faith, I see how it is only right and proper for me to respond to this same gospel with obedience and zeal.

1 Corinthians 15:9-11

  • What can I learn from Apostle Paul saying that he is the “least of the apostles” and “unworthy to be called an apostle” even though “he worked harder than any of them?” 

Apostle Paul worked harder than any of the other apostles but he never forgot his true identity which was that he was the “least of the apostles” and “unworthy to be called an apostle” because he was a sinner, one who even “persecuted the church of God.”  Apostle Paul didn’t consider his hard work in any way somehow canceling the previous sins he committed, or that he had somehow “earned” his position of being an apostle.  Apostle Paul’s identity as “the least of the apostles” and “unworthy to be called an apostle” wasn’t false humility, but it was a true understanding of himself as a sinner before a Holy and Perfect God.  Apostle Paul saw his hard work not as something that was to his own credit, but as the result of “the grace of God that is with me.”  It was God’s grace showered upon Apostle Paul that allowed him to work harder.  Because Apostle Paul viewed himself as a recipient of so much grace from God, Apostle Paul never thought his hard work had somehow paid for the debt of love and grace.

  • What kind of attitude would be in a person who works hard but feels that it’s not him but the grace of God that is within him?  How does this contrast with my attitude when I “work hard” for the Lord?

A person who works hard but feels that it’s not him but the grace of God that is within him is a person who correctly understands his relationship with God as one who is always indebted to God for the very breath that he breathes, the very fact that he is alive and has the physical capacity to serve God.  Such a person does not take credit for his service to God and think that somehow he gave to God what God did not already have.  Such a person who gives all the glory back to God for his hard work is a person who has the proper humility of knowing himself to be someone who is not worthy of praise, but who merely sees himself as a servant who has only done his duty.

My attitude when I “work hard” for the Lord is so different from Apostle Paul’s.  I often want God and other people to acknowledge my sacrifice, to give me credit for the fact that I’m working hard.  In even the smallest service, like the ever-present church plant need for babysitting, I find myself wanting to toot my own horn, to give myself some vainglory and make it known that I’ve babysat so many times on a given week, rather than acknowledging that I was only able to serve God in this capacity because of the grace of God within me, because God has given me the gift of life, my salvation, my physical body, the resources with which I have to take care of children.  I conveniently “forget” to give God the appreciation for the ways in which He has graced me with these gifts, that I didn’t earn my life, but that I’m able to serve Him even in this way is such a privilege.  I still lack the deep appreciation of the truth that I am not someone who willed myself into being, but I am alive and have salvation and the ability to serve and work hard all because of the grace of God.

Submitted by Richard L from Gracepoint San Diego Church

1 Corinthians 15:1-2

“If you are not persevering in the Christian faith, this is evidence that you did not have saving faith in the first place.” [Kenneth Barker, The New International Version Study Bible Notes CD, Pradis [software], (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995) notes for verse.]

“The faith which collapses is the faith which has not thought things out and thought them through. For so many of us faith is a superficial thing. We tend to accept things because we are told them and to possess them merely at secondhand. If we undergo the agony of thought there may be much that we must discard, but what is left is really ours in such a way that nothing can ever take it from us.” [William Barclay, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series CD, The Bible Library v.3.2 [software], (Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1975) notes for verse.]

  • What is the test of genuine faith based on these verses?

The test of genuine faith is a based off of the gospel that the believer decides to stand on and holds fast to it.

  • What does it mean to “stand” and “hold fast” to the gospel?

To take a stand on the gospel is to be someone who understands the gospel and as such lives a life that goes against the rest of the world’s values and customs. For example, the gospel says that a life of sacrificial love is better lived than a life of selfishness. The gospel says that all people are valuable not because of their competence or beauty, but rather because they are made in the image of God. The gospel says that God created man and placed boundaries for proper order and thriving of life. The gospel also says that man is fallen, broken and perverted. The gospel says that the only solution to the shame and guilt of sin is to admit this truth and believe that Jesus’ death is sufficient for God. The gospel lived out is counter cultural. To stand for the gospel is to be someone who goes against the rapid currents of the world. The world that says, “You must save yourself. Guilt is a social construct. God is a social construct. Seize the day! Don’t worry about consequences, live for the here and now. You are valuable because of what you can do.” And at times, hearing these mantras and being inundated with this message from everything that we experience to seeing it lived out on youTube, it can seem like it’s so true. But to stand for the gospel is to live and defend what you believe in. Holding fast to the gospel is to live not with any other intentions of exploring other options with the world because the believer knows to do so would mean great peril to him. As I think about how we are now entering into a unique season in the academic year for all our campus groups, we need to take a stand on the college campus and declare that the gospel has great relevance to each of the students entering their campuses despite whatever messages they had heard growing up or what they were taught in their classes.

1 Corinthians 15:3-8

  • What is the core of the gospel?  Are my Christian commitment and testimony built upon this foundation?

The core of the gospel message declares that Jesus of Nazareth died for my own sins, but rose from the dead on the third day – confirming his identity that he had declared again and again which is that he was God incarnate. My Christian commitments and testimony are built upon this reality. I don’t have to go far to realize this truth that I’m a sinner. That my sins are not abstract and that each of them have very particular aspects that hurt and damage real people. And it was through these self-realizations that I’m hopeless beyond a savior. But this realization about myself is not unique to my life but I recognize that everyone needs to hear the gospel. They need to see that it can be lived out. They need to recognize that this is the single most important news to hear. But this can only come with my commitment to live out the gospel, within the community, and to take the gospel seriously.

  • How did the gospel come to me?  Think of the process by which the gospel gets received and passed on.  What are some important factors involved in that process? 

The gospel came to me through seemingly inconsequential invitations and conversations that I had with people on campus. I received an invitation to come out to New Student Welcome Night. I was invited to have some bbq and through these what I thought were random events, I met people who took an interest in my life. They asked me simple questions like, “What is your major? Where is your hometown?” And as these conversations continued throughout a semester by invitations to their homes to have dinner, study halls, I was able to see that their lives were much richer than mine and I wanted to know their secret to happiness. And after several years, I recognize that my own understanding of the gospel was shallow and incomplete through the messages I heard from Bible study and Sunday Worship Service and through the lives that got close to at our church. So I had to wrestle with my understanding of the gospel. There are so many factors that were involved in my receiving of the gospel. There were my Sunday School teachers when I was child, to receiving flyers during Welcome Week, to random conversations that led to spiritual conversations, to invitations to leaders’ homes, to relationship building with peers, to seeing the gospel lived out authentically.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

  • If the resurrection were not true, why are Christians to be pitied above all men?  What does this say about Christian life simply as a lifestyle choice?

If the resurrection were not true, then Christians ought to be pitied above all men because of the personal cost due to selfless acts of love that Christians are expected to do. The resurrection represents a full restoration of that broken relationship with God. It was how life was supposed to be, but if that isn’t real, then living a godly, counter cultural, life of love will simply be terribly foolish. So to simply reduce Christian life as a lifestyle choice of good morals and practicing generosity because it’s a social good, would only make sense if an everlasting relationship with God was either impossible or unimportant. I think people try to make the gospel palatable for the world by taking out God, and personal consequences from sins. But this version of Christianity may have good sound bites but people trying this truly miss the mark of having their greatest need and desire satisfied with a restored guiltless relationship with God.


Submitted by Tracy L. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

1 Corinthians 15:1-2

“If you are not persevering in the Christian faith, this is evidence that you did not have saving faith in the first place.” [Kenneth Barker, The New International Version Study Bible Notes CD, Pradis [software], (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995) notes for verse.]

“The faith which collapses is the faith which has not thought things out and thought them through. For so many of us faith is a superficial thing. We tend to accept things because we are told them and to possess them merely at secondhand. If we undergo the agony of thought there may be much that we must discard, but what is left is really ours in such a way that nothing can ever take it from us.” [William Barclay, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible Series CD, The Bible Library v.3.2 [software], (Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1975) notes for verse.]

  • What is the test of genuine faith based on these verses?

The test of genuine faith is whether you had “held fast” to the message that has been preached to you, the Gospel that we received and by which we stand.

  • What does it mean to “stand” and “hold fast” to the gospel?

To stand in the Gospel means to be confident in the new life given me through Christ. To stand means to be unashamed and able to face life with a sense of confidence that my identity, self-worth, and future are defined by Christ who died and gave himself for me. This is in contrast to a life apart from the Gospel where one has no reason for such confidence and security but is always seeking for the next pleasurable thing for satisfaction, or the next source of comfort and stability.

To stand in the Gospel is not a posture that is easily maintained, nor is it something that just naturally happens. Paul reminds the Corinthians that they needed to hold fast to the Gospel or else what they thought they believe would be in vain. This goes against the popular belief that faith is static; it’s just another fact you hold to be true in your mind. But in reality, Christian life is not easy; it’s a battle. It’s because we are still sinners struggling with our own ideas of how life should go, and struggling to obey when it means going against comfort, our expectations, and denial of our fleshly desires. Paul tells the Corinthians they need to fight to hold on to the truth that has been preached to them.

What it means for me to hold fast to what is preached to me needs to start with a desire to honestly examine myself. I can’t fall into the mentality that the Gospel is something I already accepted and believe in. I need to examine my heart for I can easily deceive myself into thinking that I agree with everything. The consequence of an unreflective life is that I become a stranger to myself and therefore what I thought I was thoroughly convinced would be shaken by changing realities and increasing demands of different seasons of life. My faith can collapse when it’s like a shallowly rooted plant that can’t hold fast in the storms of life.

To hold fast to the Gospel I also need to be thoroughly convinced again and again of how I am still someone in need of rescue, that without the Gospel, I can’t stand. As I grow older I am tempted to turn my Christian life into a self help project such as becoming a more loving person who notices needs, a more selfless person who puts others before myself, and a more generous person with my money and resources. Though all those are good things to desire, the mentality that now I need to use my own strength to stand is offensive to God who made it possible for me to stand in the Gospel. It’s also short-changing myself in thinking that I need to do things on my own when the truth of the matter is that God doesn’t expect this nor does he approve of this. To hold fast to the Gospel is not something I will myself to do, but to turn back to the basic truths that brought me to this humble posture before God. It was not my doing, nor will it ever be. But when I acknowledge God to be the one who made it possible for me to stand, I can also depend on Him to be the one who helps me to hold fast to the Gospel.

1 Corinthians 15:3-8

  • What is the core of the gospel?  Are my Christian commitment and testimony built upon this foundation?

The core of the Gospel is that Christ died for our sins and he was raised to life bringing us hope that we too will receive new life. This is the Gospel that pointed me to the truth about myself. I am a sinner whose sins were paid for by Christ’s death on the cross. This is the foundational fact of my relationship with God. I am needy, I needed to be rescued, and this ought to be the truth that I confess daily. Christ isn’t just an add-on to an already “ok” life. Rather, it is the ultimate source of redemption of a life condemned to death. What would cause my commitment to Christ to wane would be deviation from this foundational truth that I am the dying one in need of rescue. This fact doesn’t change no matter how long I have been a Christian.  It’s seeing my life in light of this truth that the Gospel becomes of first importance in my life. It’s not just another description of who I am, but the central identifier of who I am; a sinner redeemed by Christ.

  • How did the gospel come to me?  Think of the process by which the gospel gets received and passed on.  What are some important factors involved in that process? 

The Gospel came to me is multiple ways. It was the messages, the Bible studies, but also the culture and atmosphere of our church that gave me a concrete picture of what it means to be a genuine Christian. The way church members interacted with one another, the way my leaders opened up their homes, the way people took the Gospel seriously and made concrete decisions and application of Scripture are just some of the things I noticed that led me to take the Gospel seriously.

All of this came through the hard work of others who were willing to let their lives be disturbed, just like how the people Paul mentioned who witnessed the risen Christ, all were impacted by what they witnessed. People who are willing to let their lives be disturbed for the sake of the Gospel is what makes it possible for the Gospel to be received and passed on. People notice, admire and even are taken aback by people who live for their faith at the expense of their peaceful lives. We are also direct recipients of the labor of those who let their lives be disturbed. God chooses to work through people and therefore the process of the Gospel being passed on very much involves the people who have received the Gospel.

As our church enters a time of a high level outreach, I’m reminded of how much I need to be ,of Jesus’ life for me, an undeserving sinner. Reflecting over how the Gospel became real in my life, I’m reminded that it’s not just about the messages, but the message that I was truly convicted by is the zeal for the Gospel and the love for one another that I experienced from our church. I was aware that what I witnessed is something very different from what I experienced in the world. And even now I am reminded of how I’m entrusted with the preciousness of the Gospel and the Christian legacy to live it out in zeal.  I need to be faithful with the tasks I’m entrusted with whether it is doing food prep for an event, ministering to students, and praying for the UCSD campus. The Gospel can’t be passed on when God’s people are unwilling to let their lives be disturbed. When I’m passive, comfort-seeking and fear driven, I am preventing the Gospel from being received and passed on. Where would I be if people in my life had the same attitude? I wouldn’t have noticed Christian life to be any different from the world and therefore the Good News of the Gospel would’ve never impacted my life.

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