After addressing various issues in his church in Corinth, Paul now writes in 1 Corinthians 15 about the most important matter of all: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:1-2 (NIV)
1 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.
On verses 1 through 4: Every person in this world will need to make a choice: what message will I stand on? Will I stand on and build my life upon the message that people are good and that since we are good we are going to heaven? Or will I stand on and build my life on the message that no one is good but that Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins to bring us to God? The consequences are huge, a matter of life and death, a choice between humbly trusting God and pridefully trusting myself, a choice between heaven and hell. Just as Paul reminds his church of the gospel on which they stand (v1), let's remind ourselves often of this same gospel on which we stand and which saves us: that Christ died for us, was buried, and rose from the dead (v3-4). There is nothing more important than this. It is "of first importance" (v3). Let's hold firmly to this gospel and never be shaken from it (v2).
1 Corinthians 15:5-8 (NIV)
5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,
8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
On verses 5-8: The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a theory or a legend, but a fact supported by incredibly strong evidence. Paul mentions some of this evidence in verses 5 to 8: how Jesus physically appeared multiple times -- alive, healthy, eating, walking, embracing people, teaching God's Word, even cooking! -- to over 500 people over a period of 40 days. Jesus didn't just appear to his followers. He appeared to skeptics like his brother James who didn't believe Jesus was God but believed after Jesus appeared to him (v7). Some argue that it must have been a hallucination, but how plausible is it that over 500 witnesses -- including some of Jesus' biggest critics and skeptics -- would have the same hallucination at different times and in different places? For more on evidence for Jesus' resurrection, check out my sermon from November 2015 called Did Jesus Really Resurrect from the Dead. This is one of those questions that almost every unchurched person will ask at some point, so make sure you're well prepared to answer it.
1 Corinthians 15:9-11 (NIV)
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
On verses 9-11: I love Paul's humility. Paul never forgot where he came from. Despite all that he had accomplished in God's kingdom, Paul didn't see his role as an apostle (church planter) as his entitlement or his right. He says in verse 9 "I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." He attributes who he is today to the grace of God, and that's what we need to do as well. May we never get a big head thinking that we're so good and that we deserve the good things that we have. May we always remember that it is only because of God's grace and mercy that we can be called children of God and ministers in His kingdom. And may that grace cause us to work even harder (v10) to bring God's glory to every person we meet and every situation we face.