Trinity 11—Mission Fest (1 Cor 15, 1–10)

Photo by Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash

Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

I remind you, brothers, of the Gospel I preached to you, which you also received, in which you also stand, through which you are also being saved (this is why I preached it to you) if you hold firm, unless, of course, you believed in vain.

᛭ INI ᛭

THE GOSPEL ALONE SAVES YOU.

That’s what Paul says in 1 Corinthians today. Just like he says in Romans: “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” The Gospel saves.

But what’s the Gospel? Now, “the term ‘Gospel’ is not used in one and the same sense in the Holy Scriptures.” That means, “if the term ‘Gospel’ is understood to mean Christ’s entire teaching that He {deliver} in His ministry, as His apostles did also (this is how {‘Gospel’} is used in Mark 1:16 {and} Acts 20:21), then it is correctly said and written that the Gospel is a preaching of {both} repentance and the forgiveness of sins.” (Formula of Concord, Epitome V. The Law and the Gospel, § 6)

Now, “the Law and the Gospel are also contrasted with each other.” Just like “Moses as a teacher of the Law and Christ as a preacher of the Gospel are contrasted with each other {in} [John 1:17]. In these cases…the Gospel is not a preaching of repentance or rebuke. But it is … nothing other than a preaching of {comfort}… {This} Gospel comforts consciences against the terrors of the Law, points only to Christ’s merit, and raises them up again by the lovely preaching of God’s grace and favor, grained through Christ’s merit.” (Formula of Concord, Epitome V. The Law and the Gospel, § 7)

Which is Paul using today? Well, he tells us! Paul’s not reminding them of two things, but one thing: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas” (Peter), and all the rest.

All that Jesus has done “for us and our salvation” is the “Gospel” that Paul is talking about. It’s this Gospel Paul delivered. This Gospel the Corinthians received and believed. This Gospel saved them because it delivers the Good News that “Christ has paid for and made satisfaction for all sins. Christ has gained and acquired for {you}—without any of {your} own merit—forgiveness of sins, righteousness that {counts} before God, and eternal life.” (Formula of Concord, Epitome V. The Law and the Gospel, § 5) This is why Paul says

THE GOSPEL ALONE SAVES YOU.

((I.)) THE GOSPEL ALONE SAVES YOU because it’s been delivered.

For it to be delivered there are preachers. Paul says, “I preached it to you.” And that’s the way Jesus set it up. “That we would obtain faith the office of preaching the Gospel was instituted, for through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given, and He works faith, where and when it pleases God, in those who hear the Gospel, that they are received into God’s favor for Christ’s alone.” (Augsburg Confession V)

Jesus made all the Apostles preachers. But the preachers didn’t stop there. The Apostles appointed preachers in every congregation (Tit 1:5; Acts 14:23) so that all that Jesus did would be delivered. Delivered in preaching. “Faith comes by hearing.” (Rom 10) Delivered not just in the heard Gospel, but in the physical Gospel, too—the Sacraments. Baptism. The Supper of Jesus’ body and blood.

There’s always been preachers. Adam to Cain and Abel. Jesus to those around Him. Paul to Corinth. Preachers in every congregation. But “how shall they hear without a preacher? How shall they preach unless they are sent?” And so now, there’s a great need for preachers, pastors! 15% of LCMS congregations don’t have a full-time pastor. The need grows. Only about 85 new men are placed into the Office of the Ministry to replace the 185 who retire. (Not to mention the need for pastor-missionaries abroad!) “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few,” says Jesus.

((II.)) THE GOSPEL ALONE SAVES YOU because it’s been received.

Pastors don’t preach the Gospel for themselves or to empty rooms. The Gospel is received by those “called and gathered” by the Spirit to hear. The benefits that the Gospel gives are received by faith. Gospel into ears, faith created by the Spirit in hearts, by the very Gospel that was preached. As you all sang last week during communion: “It is the pow’r of God to save From sin and Satan and the grave; It works the faith which firmly clings To all the treasures which it brings.” (LSB 580:4)

THE GOSPEL ALONE SAVES YOU because in the Gospel you receive all that Jesus did for you. In the Gospel Paul’s talking about, you don’t receive more works, better works. Even though there are lots of “your works” preachers out there. That’s the message of the Pharisees, the message that Cain believed. He went to the same church as Abel. Your works are “accepted” because they’ve been washed in Jesus’ blood. Your works are good and pleasing in God’s sight only because you’re His baptized child. A gift received by faith—“By faith [alone] Abel offered a better sacrifice.”

The Corinthians heard and believed. How could they not? “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.” (Rom 1) For “it pleased God to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching.” (1 Cor 1) That’s the Corinthians. Same with the tax collector in the parable, if he were a real person. That’s what Jesus means! So it’s for you, too! You are saved when you receive and believe the Good News, the Gospel, that the LORD alone does everything for your forgiveness and salvation. It’s out of His grace alone, received by faith alone, this is the message of Scripture alone. This is all the Gospel. The Gospel alone.

THE GOSPEL ALONE SAVES YOU.

But the Lord’s not done. Because

((III.)) THE GOSPEL that ALONE SAVES YOU keeps on going by and through you!

This is all vocation stuff. A teaching championed by Luther, that we Lutherans have actually forgotten. Sure, there’s the vocation of Pastor. The divine call, there is only one, from Jesus through His Church to put a man into the Office of the Ministry, so that His Sheep would hear His voice, the voice of the Gospel, through His sent called man.

But vocation doesn’t stop there. You are baptized. You have a baptismal calling, as a hearer, to hear Jesus, to hear the Gospel, to hear sermons, to receive the absolution, to make sure your kids receive Baptism, to teach them the Christian faith, to receive the Supper of Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.

But there’s more. The Catechism lays out “What hearers owe their pastors,” beyond, well, hearing them, of course. “The Lord has commanded that those who preach the Gospel should receive their living from the Gospel.” (1 Cor 9) “The worker deserves his wages.” (1 Tim 5:18; Luke 10:7–8) The New Testament is full of men and women who made sure by their giving that there would be churches: Lydia (Acts 16), Philemon, the beloved lady (2 John), Gaius (3 John). There were also congregations that supported the preaching of the Gospel locally and abroad: the Corinthians (2 Cor 8) and Thessalonians are examples.

But wait, there’s more! The Gospel, the Good News of what Jesus has done FOR YOU, is the possession of each and every Christian! It’s yours! This isn’t opposed to the Office of the Ministry, but another good gift! Not one more or better than another, but both side by side, hand in hand. Another vocation.

Inspired by the Sprit, St. Peter says, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” The woman at the tomb told the disciples (Mt 28). Priscilla and Aquila told Pastor Apollos (Acts 18). The Israelite slave girl told Naaman about the Prophet Elisha (2 Ki 5). The Philippian Jailer called together his whole household—family, slaves, everyone (Acts 16)!

Even you, each of you, today. The Gospel is yours—to hear, to support, to speak.

((Conclusion.))

THE GOSPEL ALONE SAVES YOU.

That’s what Paul says in 1 Corinthians today. The Gospel, as Paul lays it out today, is all that Jesus has done for you. “Crucified, died, buried, raised on the third day”—all “according to the Scriptures.” This Gospel saves because “it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.”

A Gospel given is a Gospel received. A Gospel preached is a Gospel heard. A Gospel heard will be a Gospel that saves, because a Gospel heard will be a Gospel believed. How could it not?

The Gospel is audible in Sermons or Absolution. The Gospel is tangible in Baptism or the Supper of Jesus’ body and blood. The Gospel is spoken by a pastor—great need today! The Gospel is spoken by all Christians—great need today! All of these are good gifts. All of these deliver the Gospel. Through these the Gospel is received. Through these the Gospel is believed, faith in Jesus given by the Spirit. The Corinthians. Abel. You.

THE GOSPEL ALONE SAVES YOU.

᛭ INI ᛭

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