Healthy churches don’t just use the gospel as a tool they have been given. They don’t think or talk about the gospel like it is merely an addition to their lives. But rather, they cling to it, with every ounce of their collective being, because they know that without it, they are both hopeless and helpless. But with it, they know that they have the very power of God, himself, working in them and through them, for their good and his glory.
In Paul’s first recorded epistle to the church of Corinth, the Apostle was writing to a church plagued by disorder, divisions, and a host of difficulties. To put it mildly, the Corinthian church had major issues. However, as complicated as some of those issues were, their root cause was all the same: they had taken their eyes off the gospel. So, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to put the church in order. He was writing to refocus their attention and to unify them around the gospel. But, of course, to be unified in the gospel, you must begin by getting the gospel right.
This is the fundamental premise of 1 Corinthians 15:1–2. Paul writes,
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.
The gospel is not just another message. It is not a fable or some mythological tale, but rather it is the power of God unto salvation (1 Cor 1:18). The gospel is the good news of who God is and what he has done for us through his Son Jesus Christ. And therefore, it is this good news that all healthy churches are anchored to and empowered by.
Healthy Churches Know the Gospel
Paul begins by calling the church to remember the gospel. “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel…” (v. 1a). So, what is the gospel? Paul proceeds to tell them in verses 3–4:
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.
Therefore, at its most fundamental level, this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the saving message of Jesus’s substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection from the dead. And what does Paul say testifies to this reality? It is the sound doctrine which has been revealed to us by God in the Scriptures.
Too often, churches become distracted by secondary matters. Even with good intentions, their ecclesiastical eyes become preoccupied by peripheral issues. However, Paul makes it clear that the primary focus of every healthy church must be the gospel.
Healthy Churches Proclaim the Gospel
The pattern Paul puts forth, then, is one that both the Corinthian church and every other church should follow. Just as Paul proclaimed this gospel to them, they should be a people who proclaim this message to others. There are two specific verbs that are important to note from the text. Looking first at the beginning of verse three, Paul says, “For I delivered to you…”
So, notice that this is not a message Paul invented. This is a message that was authored by God. Paul is simply being faithful to convey it accurately. Therefore, delivering is a matter of stewardship. This, too, is the job of the church. The church has not been called to be innovative. We have simply been called to be faithful. So how do we do that?
Well, that leads us back to Paul’s reminder in verse 1: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you.” This is a word that means “to herald” specifically good news. It is also the origin of our English word, “evangelize.”
Thus, the role of preaching is like that of the medieval town crier. Before the days of newspapers or modern media, it was the job of the town crier to stand up among the citizens of the town square and proclaim the news given to him by the king. It was the town crier’s job to deliver the news of victorious military battles, royal decrees, and the like.