The Gospel 101

The Gospel 101

Though last year I preached on this passage, appropriately enough on Easter Sunday,[1] how wonderful it is to preach on the resurrection of Christ in the all too-often dreary month of February which, though the shortest month of the year, can feel like the longest month coming, as it does, in the midst of Winter when Spring yet seems so far, far away! Yet this time through I was struck by something unusual in the opening section of this letter. Namely, given that Paul’s letter is addressed to the church, i.e., to those who already believe in Jesus Christ, why did he choose to include such a fundamental teaching in his letter to the Corinthian believers in the first place? Isn’t belief in Jesus’ resurrection from death the beginning of our faith as his followers? Why, then, did Paul feel the need to address it at all?

Well part of the reason, as we’ve noted, has to do with the fact that though those to whom Paul was writing were believers, they seem to have lost their footing in the faith. Early in his letter Paul said as much. In the opening of chapter 3 he admonished, “1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?”[2] Ouch! What a powerful reminder this is of our need of being discipled, of being taught in word and deed, what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Professing belief in Christ is but the beginning of our relationship with him. Once we have entered into this relationship, our union with him by means of the Holy Spirit he gives means that we cannot claim to be Christians and yet continue to live according to values within society that run counter to what God teaches in his Old and New Testament Scriptures. There’s no place for jealousy and quarreling in the life of a believer for to believe in Christ, and therefore to be united with him and one another by the Holy Spirit he gives, means that we agree that his way is better than our way; that being holy is better than being worldly.

Therefore Paul begins chapter 15 by admonishing these believers, “1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” Apparently these believers in Corinth had forgotten the basics of the faith they had received from Paul. Therefore Paul is calling them back to the gospel that they received; the gospel upon which they had taken a stand; the gospel that was able to save them if they held firmly to what Paul had preached. Belief in the gospel, belief in the good news that God in Christ came to save those who are lost, requires more than merely acknowledging and assenting to the truth of this claim. It requires holding firmly to these truths. It requires living out the truths that the Gospel teaches. As James also taught, faith without deeds is a faith that is dead, not one that is living and active.[3] But what is more, if we say we believe the Gospel but live according to the world and its values, we’ve believed in vain. Our belief is pointless. For actions can speak louder than mere words. Actions bear witness to what we actually believe. It isn’t enough to believe in Christ with our heads. No, we must commit our lives to him with our entire being; we must agree with him that his ways are better than our ways; that he knows best how he made us to live. Therefore followers of Jesus Christ must be open to correction and to changing our ways when our behavior, in word or deed, isn’t consistent with or is even contrary to what he taught. To seek to follow Jesus in word and deed is to live purposefully rather than vainly; it’s to live steadfastly rather than to no effect.

Next Paul went on to spell out what the basics of the Gospel are. As he reminded them starting in verse 3, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,[4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,…[5]” And I’ll pause here before going on because we’ve heard these truths so often that it’s easy to have their meaning be lost upon us. What is of first importance, what is the primary reason God in Christ came to earth and took on human flesh in the person of Jesus, is that we were sinners in need of the salvation he offered. But too often our problem is that we don’t see ourselves as sinners. And this is a problem because if we don’t see ourselves as sinners, then we won’t see the need we all of have for a Savior; we won’t see the need we all have for the salvation God offers in himself, in Jesus Christ. To use Jesus’ words, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”[6]

So we need to ask: If the first step of our salvation is acknowledging ourselves to be sinners, why is “sinner” a word that we want to distance ourselves from? Why do we shrink from seeing ourselves as sinners? For I suspect that deep down many of us don’t actually believe that we are sinners. Perhaps this is because too often what comes to mind when we think of “sinners” are examples of extreme immoral behaviors that we all might rightly condemn; extreme behaviors we could never imagine ourselves partaking in. Things like murder or rape or incest or slavery or taking advantage of those who are weak. And, make no mistake, these are sinful behaviors and therefore should be condemned. But the next step in our thinking is the problem. Since we believe that we have never murdered or raped or been involved in incest or slavery or taken advantage of others, we thereby wrongly conclude that we aren’t sinners ourselves. In fact compared with this lot, we consider ourselves to be doing pretty well. Yet this wrong way of thinking is why, as we noted last week, Jesus called those whom he was teaching to dig deeper; to look more closely into the state of our hearts; to consider not simply our deeds but also our attitudes and motives. For if we do so then, to use two of Jesus’ own examples, we may acknowledge that though we may not have ever been involved in an adulterous relationship we may have, if we’re honest, lusted after someone, and thereby committed adultery in our hearts.[7] Or again though we may never have physically murdered anyone, I suspect we’ve been angry with a brother or sister and thereby committed murder in our hearts.[8] Jesus was providing practical examples of what the Old Testament Scriptures teach. As Jeremiah taught, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”[9] And so, too, we’re told in Proverbs, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin’”?[10] In other words, once we move from the level of action to the state of our hearts, we’re better able to see how it is that all of us are indeed sinners. And paradoxically this is good news because unless we understand ourselves to be sinners, we will never see our need for the salvation from sin that Jesus our Savior lived, died, and rose again to bring.

Let me provide a real-life example of another way of coming to see ourselves as sinners. Recently at a lunch we had after a voice ensemble rehearsal at our home, Donna asked a simple but profound question—and to be clear, she wasn’t asking it of any of us, but was posing it in a more general sense. Her question was this: “Why can’t we be kind to one another?” Isn’t that a great question?? Why, indeed?! We seem to be living in especially unkind times, don’t we?

Our politicians are often vicious towards one another;

Political commentators can be more interested in being cutting than kind;

Reporters too often define “news” as those activities that disclose the most base instincts in human behavior;

Entertainers—whether actors or comedians or athletes—are more often known for their sarcasm than their kindness;

And even we, followers of Christ, too often are better known for hating those who disagree with us than for treating others kindly.

Donna’s question—Why can’t we be kind to one another?—is a powerful and poignant reminder of how we so often fail as humans in even the most basic virtue of acting kindly towards each another.

So by this simple question I think we gain insight into what it means to be sinners. For Scripture’s answer to why we can’t be kind to one another brings us back to our first parents, Adam and Eve. Though made in the image of God;[11] though made holy and good like God; when they turned from God’s ways and succumbed to the unholy and evil ways of the Tempter,[12] they caused human nature to change to the extent that:

disbelief in God’s Word rather than belief in God and his Word became more natural to us;

as did disbelief in God’s goodness rather than belief in his lovingkindness;

so, too, hiding from God rather than running to him;[13]

and placing blame on others rather than taking responsibility for our own wrong decisions;[14]

and hiding from each other rather than trusting each other;

and fearing God rather than trusting him.

You get the picture. The Fall of humanity and the resultant change that occurred in our nature, in our whole orientation toward God and each other, is the reason why we can’t be kind to one another; is the reason why being kind to one another is so much more difficult for us than being uncaring or unkind or even cruel. The apostle Paul himself, in a profound manner, recognized his need for God. After noting in verse 8 of our passage how the risen Christ appeared to him “last of all…as to one abnormally born,”[15] in verse 9 Paul refers to himself as “the least of the apostles.” As he goes on to state, “[I] do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”[16] Even good intentions can be misdirected. Even good intentions can be unkind. Even good intentions can result in our persecuting those who follow God in Christ.

What I’m suggesting is that our inability and lack of desire to be kind can be viewed as a kind of shorthand signifying what it means to sinners. To be sinners means not that we are the worst people possible, interested only in hurting others or stealing from them or wreaking havoc on the world. To understand ourselves to be sinners doesn’t require that we focus on the most extreme examples of fallen behavior. No, the only thing we need in order to see our sinfulness is to ask ourselves: Do I always act on what I know to be right? Do I look to the interests of others at least as much as I look to my own interests? Do I treat others the way I would want to be treated? Do I love others the way I would want to be loved? If we’re honest, the answer to all of these questions is “no.” And so if we’re honest, we would admit that we are all in need of the salvation God in Christ offers.

The problem of sin, the dilemma of sin—of knowing the right we ought to do but doing what we ought not do[17]—is the reason Christ came. Our inability and lack of desire not only to be kind to one another but also our ability to ignore or belittle or otherwise be cruel and harmful to one another is part of what the Bible means when it talks about humans as sinners. Our fallen nature, our sinful nature that keeps us from knowing the good or, perhaps, keeps us from doing the good we know we ought, is the reason eternal God took on mortal flesh: that we might know and see what God is like and that we might thereby desire to live with and for him and so be conformed back into the good, divine image from which we’ve fallen.

But Scripture teaches that it wasn’t enough that God came in the flesh that we might see and experience his love. No, as Paul goes on to state in verse 3, the Fall required that God die for our sins. Our sinful lot was so serious that simply teaching us how we ought to live wouldn’t be enough. For sin isn’t merely a problem of the mind, of our knowing the good we ought to know, but more seriously it’s a problem of the heart, of our not willing the good we know, and of our body, of our not acting on the good we know we ought to do. Therefore to change our nature required first that God in Christ die for our sins which means that all of our sins were placed upon him and thereby removed from us; and further, by this act of dying in our place, his righteousness was placed upon us that we might stand holy rather than condemned before the Holy God who made us. To quote Paul, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”[18]  But second and as already noted, changing our nature required that once Jesus Christ died and rose and ascended to heaven, that he send us his Holy Spirit that he might thereby dwell within and among us and so conform us into the image of God from which we’ve fallen. God unites himself to us that his holiness might transform our unholiness. Though upon believing that Jesus is the Christ, God’s promised Messiah, God’s Son who is the only way to the Father, we are immediately declared righteous, by means of his Holy Spirit he enables us to be sanctified, to become holy as he is holy, to become kind as he is kind, throughout our earthly walk. And all of this occurred “according to the Scriptures.”[19] All of this happened in accordance with what God spoke and promised through his prophets prior to Christ’s coming to earth. This is the Gospel 101. And this is the Gospel the Corinthian believers had forgotten.

For the Corinthian believers weren’t being kind to each other. As we noted last week, they were acting in sexually immoral ways, behaving in their formerly pagan ways, and they were boasting about it.[20] As we’ve also seen, they were elevating certain spiritual gifts and those who possessed them above other gifts and believers. And so Paul had to remind them how even the spiritual gifts of prophecy and tongues and knowledge will all pass away one day but the one thing that will never pass away is love. The one thing that will never fail is love.[21] And so Paul called these believers back to their first love, to God who is love and who calls and expects those who follow him to love him and each other as he loves.

Now Jesus knew how difficult it would be for us to believe that he had died and risen from the dead. And so after he rose from the dead, he returned to those who had known and loved him. As Paul catalogues for us starting in verse 5, after Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” (verse 4), “he appeared to Cephas,”[22] that is Peter. But had he appeared only to Peter, there might be cause for questioning. Perhaps Peter, from his remorse over having denied Jesus,[23] imagined all of it. But Jesus also appeared “to the Twelve,”[24] to those who knew him best, whom he had taught and trained and with whom he had lived most intimately during his earthly ministry. But, again, might these twelve not have longed for their dear Lord so much that they, too, simply imagined it?

Yet Paul doesn’t end there but goes on in verse 6 to note how the risen Christ “appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time.”[25] Well, that’s something that should give even the most doubting cynic pause for, Paul goes on to add, “most of whom are still living.” In other words, the Corinthians needn’t have taken Paul’s word for it; they could have gone to ask these brothers and sisters themselves. But dear Jesus didn’t stop there. For he also, verse 7, “appeared to James,[26]”—this would have been Jesus’ half-brother—and “then to all the apostles.” And last, but certainly not least, the risen Christ appeared to Paul.

As we’ve already seen, Paul owned his own sinfulness, his own unkindness. He viewed himself, verse 9, as “the least of the apostles” who didn’t “even deserve to be called an apostle” because he “persecuted the church of God;” because he persecuted the sheep for whom Christ had died. Paul put these brothers and sisters in jail and had them put to death. And yet Christ appeared to him; and yet Christ called him to follow him; and yet Christ loved him. This is why Paul says in verse 10 that is “by the grace of God I am what I am.” Isn’t this the first definition of grace we learned? That grace is the love God in Christ offers as a gift to those who don’t deserve it? His grace cannot be earned for no matter how hard we try to be good; no matter how hard we try to be kind, we will fail. Only God can remove the barriers that resulted from our fallen nature and so renew us into the image from which we’ve fallen.

Paul’s response to being the recipient of such love, to being the recipient of God’s grace “was not without effect.” No, he says, “I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ is what led him to the Corinthians in the first place. It is what he preached, verse 11, and it’s what they believed. And so he’s calling these believers back to basics of the Gospel; he’s teaching them yet again the Gospel 101 that they might return to the way of Christ from the deviant ways that had become all too commonplace even in their worship services.

Dear brothers and sisters, though we may marvel at our inability to be kind to one another, our passage this morning reminds us that God took our sins upon himself that we might be kind as he is kind. The apostle Paul taught this message not only to the Corinthians but also to the Ephesians concerning whom he similarly said, “1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” And after noting how prior to knowing Christ this is true for all us who “were by nature deserving of wrath,” Paul reminds these believers as well, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” In doing so, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” And he closes, in effect, by saying “Go and do likewise.” For Paul reminds all who love and follow Jesus about the reason for which we’ve been created noting how “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”[27]

This is the message Paul proclaimed not only to the Corinthians, not only the Ephesians, but also to Titus, his “true son” by virtue of the “common faith” they shared.[28] Again Paul begins with reminding Titus about the importance of recognizing our fallen, sinful natures, as he tells him, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” And then he again provides this marvelous contrast, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” And, yet again, Paul ends with an admonition and call, “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”[29] Scripture ever reminds us of the kindness of the God who made us for himself and each other.[30]

God is so kind that even when we rejected him, he didn’t give up on us;

God is so kind that he took on human form that he might take our sins upon himself and die in our place;

God is so kind that in exchange for taking our sins, he gave us his righteousness;

God is so kind that he knew even this wouldn’t be enough for us to live the good lives he desired for us. So he sent us his Holy Spirit that we might be enabled to have our fallen nature renewed and our fallen hearts changed;

God is so kind that he left us his Word that we might read and study and reflect upon it when we forget who he is and how he would like us to live;

God is so kind that he gave us a family—he allows us to call him Father, and Jesus, brother, and each other brothers and sisters now and for all eternity.

This is the Gospel 101.

So let us thank God for his goodness and kindness to us.

And let us heed Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians and never forget this gospel by which we’ve been saved but let us stand firmly on and live out this word lest we believe in vain.

Let us pray.

[1] For another sermon on this same passage see Birth in Christ! April 1, 2018, Easter Sunday.

[2] 1 Corinthians 3:1–3. Emphasis added.

[3] James 2:14–17: 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

[4] Isaiah 53: 1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. 11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.; in Matthew 12:38–42, Jesus refers to Jonah: 38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here. Jonah 1:17: 17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

[5] See footnote 3 above. Isaiah 53 and Jonah 1:17 also point to Jesus Christ’s resurrection from death.

[6] Luke 5:31–32. The entire passage begins in verse 29: 29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” See parallels that follow: Mark 2:15–17: 15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:10–13: 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

[7] Matthew 5:27–28: 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

[8] Matthew 5:21–22: 21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

[9] Jeremiah 17:9.

[10] Proverb 20:9.

[11] Genesis 1:26–27: 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

[12] Genesis 3:6: When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

[13] Genesis 3:8: Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

[14] Genesis 3:11–13: 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

[15] Acts 9:3–18:As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. 11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” 17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

[16] See Acts 7:58b–8:3: Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. 1 On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.; Acts 9:1–2: 1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.; Acts 22:4–5: I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.; Galatians 1:13: For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.; Philippian 3:4b–6: If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.; 1 Timothy 1:13: Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.

[17] For Paul’s own articulation of this, see Romans 7:14–25: 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

[18] 2 Corinthians 5:21.

[19] See footnote #3 above.

[20] 1 Corinthians 5:1–2: 1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?

[21] 1 Corinthians 13:8: Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

[22] Cephas is Peter’s name in Aramaic. Per a chart in the Zondervan NIV Study Bible (p. 1620), New Testament references to Christ Jesus’ appearing to people after he had risen from death include: Mary Magdalene in the garden (Mark 16:9–11; John 20:11–18); other women (Matthew 28:9–10); disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12–13; Luke 24:13–32); Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5); the 10 disciples in the upper room (Luke 24:36–43; John 20:19–25); the 11 disciples in the upper room (Mark 16:14, John 20:26–31; 1 Corinthians 15:5); 7 disciples fishing (John 21:1–23); the 11 disciples on a mountain (Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:15–18); more than 500 (1 Corinthians 15:6); James, Jesus’ half-brother (1 Corithians 15:7); the disciples at the ascension (Luke 24:44–49; Acts 1:3–8); Paul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1–19, 22:3–16, 26:9–18; 1 Corinthians 9:1).

[23] Recorded in all four Gospels: Matthew 26:69–75; Mark 14:27–31; Luke 22:54–62; John 13:31–38.

[24] As recorded in Acts 1:26 Mattathias was the twelfth disciple who replaced Judas Iscariot.

[25] Though certainly not conclusive, the Crossway ESV Study Bible suggests, “This appearance may be the one in Galilee recorded in Mt 28:10, 16–20, where the Eleven and possibly more met the risen Lord.” Verse 10 notes that this is a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” (v. 1) Matthew 28:10, 16–20 states: 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me….” 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

[26] As noted by the Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on 1 Corinthians 15:7: “This is James, the half brother of Jesus (Mt 13:55), who did not believe in Christ before the resurrection (Jn 7:5) but afterward joined the apostolic band (Ac 1:14) and later became prominent in the Jerusalem church (Ac 15:13). It is not clear in Scripture when and where this appearance to James occurred.” Matthew 13:55–56: 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”; John 7:1–5: 1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.; Acts 1:14: They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.; Acts 15:13a: When they finished, James spoke up….

[27] Excerpts taken from Ephesians 2:1–10: 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

[28] Titus 1:4a: To Titus, my true son in our common faith:

[29] Taken from Titus 3:3–8: 3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

[30] See, for example, Nehemiah 9:17: They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,…; Isaiah 54:8: In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer. Isaiah 63:7: I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses.; Psalm 117:1–2: 1 Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. 2 For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.