Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.It might be well here to draw a distinction between "the gospel" -- the good news -- and what we know as the Gospels, meaning the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If the little bit of Biblical scholarship that I've read is accurate, this letter to the church at Corinth either predates all the four Gospels or is at least roughly contemporary with them. We are apt to imagine, based on the order in which the writings appear in the New Testament, those early believers starting out with the "data" in the four Gospels, the initial history of the church in Acts, and then the epistles of Paul and the others as footnotes, or commentary, processing that data. What I'm getting at here is that the early Christian believers at Corinth -- and elsewhere -- became believers based on their acceptance of a central fact (the resurrection of Jesus) and a simple, concise theological interpretation of that fact: atonement and salvation. Perhaps they were, and I am, wrong to accept that fact and to believe that theology; I don't think so, but I can't deny the possibility. Still, it's surprising and wonderful to me that the central, irreducible kernel of the whole thing can be said in so few words and in so little time. "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes." (Psalm 118:22, 23)
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For "He has put all things in subjection under His feet." But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
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