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What The Gospel Is & Why We Should Believe It, Part 2

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1 Cor. 15:1 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.
In this amazing text, Paul starts out by reminding his disciples in Corinth of the basic components of the Christian gospel. Since he's reminding them of what they had already received, a good question to ask would be, "When did Paul first preach this message to them?" This letter was written while Paul was in Ephesus sometime between 53-55 AD. Here he is reminding them of the basic gospel message which he probably first delivered to them around 51 AD.


1 Cor. 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.
I'd like to draw your attention to the particular words "of first importance." The Bible is the word of God, yet this book contains some things that are more important than others. Jesus himself makes this same point to the Pharisees when he tells them that they have neglected the "weightier matters of the law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness." Tithing wasn't unimportant, but it was less important, he argued, than the incredibly significant issues of justice and mercy. Likewise, everything we find in the New Testament is important and inspired. But here Paul is reminding the Corinthians about the issue of first importance. He has already said in verse 1 that he's reminding them of the gospel. So essentially Paul is saying that the gospel is the most important thing, the thing of first importance that we need to focus on and never lose sight of.


1 Cor. 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.
Now pay attention to that last word: received. This gospel message is something that he himself received? But from whom? Paul is arguing here that this is not merely something he came up with when he first delivered this message to them in 51 AD. In his letter to the Galatians (written in 48 AD), Paul provides a brief sketch of his own conversion. Paul's conversion is generally fixed at around 32 AD, two years after the crucifixion. In Galatians 1:18 Paul says that "after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas," which would mean he visited Peter around 35 AD.


This incredibly early timeline that I am presenting here is not disputed by even the most radical liberal scholars. According to John Dominic Crossan, one of the pioneers of the infamous Jesus Seminar: "Paul wrote to the Corinthians from Ephesus in the early 50s. But he says in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that 'I handed on to you as of first importance that which I in turn received.' The most likely source and time for his reception of that tradition would have been Jerusalem in the early 30s when, according to Galatians 1:18, he 'went up to Jerusalem to visit Peter" (from his book Excavating Jesus, 2002, p. 298).


It's interesting to note the actual word Paul uses when he went to visit Peter in Gal 1:18. The word translated in this text as "visit" is actually the word historesai, which is the root of our English word "history." So the sense is not merely that Paul is going to visit a friend, but rather to inquire of Peter and possibly even to write down his story.


We would do well here to recall that Luke is one of Paul's companions, as we discover in his letters to Philemon, Timothy, and the Colossians. We're not sure when Luke began to be associated with Paul, but he certainly outlines this same approach in the beginning of his gospel, saying that he compiled his narrative by interviewing the eyewitnesses.


In the next installment of this blog series, we'll continue our survey of 1 Corinthians 15 as we start to walk through the substance of Paul's gospel message.

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  • "For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ."

    How then do you say he received the revelation from someone at Jerusalem: "The most likely source and time for his reception of that tradition would have been Jerusalem in the early 30s when, according to Galatians 1:18, he ‘went up to Jerusalem to visit Peter'”

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  • Guest - Bill

    TT, I think you bring a valid point. However you have to be extremely careful to draw a conclusion that invalidates what Shane wrote.

    1) First off Peter's sermon after Pentecost shows that he was a preacher of the gospel before Paul was.

    2) Scripture is clear that Paul was taught directly by God, like you quoted him it was a direct revelation of Jesus Christ. But did you, Shane, and I not receive a direct revelation of Jesus Christ as well? As a matter of fact is not every Christian taught of God? Isaiah 54:13 , John 6:45 , Matthew 16:17 , Jeremiah 31:34

    TT I do believe that you brought a valid point. However I don't believe what Shane wrote is unbiblical as you seem to imply. Because it is true of every Christian that we receive a direct revelation of Jesus Christ, and yet this revelation comes to us from the preaching of others or searching the scripture. That Paul as an apostle had a direct encounter with Christ who appeared to him is without dispute though, but to draw a conclusion that Paul didn't receive further instruction other than from his direct encounter with Christ as you seem to imply is speculation that cannot be verified from scripture. I do believe you brought a valid point but I don't think it invalidates what Shane wrote, who by the way admitted he was speculating it was a possibility. Since can not know with certainty.

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  • Guest - Bill

    Now with that said, Paul's conversion did happen in the road to Damascus when Jesus appeared to him. And after his baptism by Ananias and spending some time with the disciples Acts 9:19 , he started preaching Christ Acts 9:20 .

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  • Guest - TT

    But Bill, Paul said he wasn't taught the Gospel by man, period. That he received further instruction about the Gospel is something the texts simply don't support. That he might have had the history of certain events reported to him is another matter altogether and a non sequitur. Shane is quite explicit that the tradition he is speaking of isn't merely historic details: "Paul is reminding the Corinthians about the issue of first importance. He has already said in verse 1 that he’s reminding them of the gospel. So essentially Paul is saying that the gospel is the most important thing, the thing of first importance that we need to focus on and never lose sight of."

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  • Guest - Bill

    TT, as I said I respect what you wrote because I've heard some Lutheran ministers say exactly what you said.

    The point I want to make is that in a sense all Christians get a revelation from Jesus Christ. In addition to the scripture I quoted you can see that Matthew 11:27 and Luke 10:22 as well as numerous passages in the gospel of John make it very clear that Christ reveals himself to whom he chooses. No doubt he revealed himself directly to Paul. But he also revealed himself directly to you and I. I can say with Paul, and so could you, that we did not receive the gospel from any man. Christ revealed himself to me through the holy ghost that pointed me to Christ.

    Now I do agree with you that the same way that Paul delivered the gospel to Timothy or Titus, Paul received it directly from Christ. Galatians 1:15-17 backs up your interpretation in that Paul makes it clear he did not confer with flesh or blood before he preached the gospel. I think after looking into this a bit further I concur with you.

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  • FYI, I address the Gal 1:18 text in the final blog post in this series:

    http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2013/06/14/what-the-gospel-is-why-we-should-believe-it-part-7/

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  • Guest - Bill

    Awesome, thanks Shane for clarifying this point.

    Also I just finished reading all your series. Amazing work that is so much needed. Thank you and the White Horse Inn for the faithful proclamation of the gospel that we don't hear in evangelical circles any longer.

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  • Guest - Christopher

    Great post. I read it when it first was posted and have come back to it again today. The reason I came back is that I'm doing a paper on 1 Corinthians 15 and I wanted to read through the blog's comments on the passage. I do want to point out one thing: Shane's reference to "Excavating Jesus" isn't correct. It comes from page 254, not 298. Perhaps I have a different edition.

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