This Week's Focus Passage

‘According to the Scriptures…….according to the Scriptures.’

Focus Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

‘According to the Scriptures…….according to the Scriptures.’

Here are the two, and only two, places where Paul uses this phrase, according to the Scriptures, and he uses it twice, in one verse after another. These are not just the only two places where they are used by Paul, but they are the only two places in the entire New Testament. It would seem on the surface that this may constitute a deliberate intention of God the Holy Spirit of ‘underlining,’ as it were, the thoughts present in the context of these two occasions of such a use. And what then is that context? It could be responded that the context is providing an answer to the oftentimes, or at least sometimes, propounded question, ‘What is the gospel?’ Surely, if it is, in any way or manner, an answer to such a question; that answer is extremely relevant.

We know, that in our day, and many days previous to our own, it has been and is very popular to assert that John 3:16 is the gospel. Yet upon examination, it should be conceded that such an assertion is rather puerile and simplistic. When John the apostle, or Christ (whoever was the actual speaker in that renowned verse), has spoken those wonderful words,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

We find in this not so much the gospel itself, but rather, the reason for the gospel. Jesus had just said to His hearers in the preceding verse;

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him may in him have eternal life.

What is he saying? What does it mean? We don’t understand his speech. These are the sorts of things likely to have been bounding around in the mind of one such as Nicodemus. Yet what Christ has told him, and what we should continually remind ourselves of is that when Jesus said to this Pharisee, Art thou the teacher of Israel, and understandest not these things? He was rebuking him for not knowing the Word of God; not understanding the Scriptures. This was the one great thing that Pharisees made great account of; that they were the teachers of Israel; that they understood the words of Moses recorded in the Book. When Paul was delineating, in Philippians 3, his life’s history, as it were; not boasting of it, but only speaking the truth of that from which he had been delivered by the grace of God. He was saying, in effect, ‘no brag; just fact.’ But one of these facts was that, if he were inclined to brag, he could do so upon the ground of his upbringing and training. If I were prone to boast, he could say, a part of my background upon which I would have such a right to boast, would be that as touching the law—the teachings of Moses—I was a Pharisee. And even as he had claimed to be a ‘Hebrew of Hebrews,’ he may well have laid claim to being a ‘Pharisee of Pharisees,’ for he was zealous beyond many others. An anachronism that could probably be used of such a man as Saul the Pharisee, would be that he held to the regulative principle. His desire and goal, as a Pharisee, was to be able to say of his teaching, thus saith the Scriptures. These men, were after all, considered to be the interpreters of the Law.

But now, in our focus passage, we find Paul the apostle, from yet another perspective; this new perspective, we might say, after his eyes were opened on the road to Damascus. But with his newly received understanding of the Word of God, through Him who is the Word of God incarnate, spoken of by the prophets throughout the Older Testament, as the risen Christ demonstrated to those two on the road to Emmaus, Paul continues to plead according to the Scriptures. The road to Emmaus via the road to Damascus has led our apostle to Christ according to the Scriptures. And here in our focus passage, Paul is speaking of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have contended that this passage, rather than John 3:16, is the gospel, but our God has left to us a wonderfully huge deposit of Truth. The sixty-six books of the Bible actually breathe the gospel from cover to cover. Have we not learned the multi-faceted beauty of the gospel, so that we are ever learning; growing in grace as we grow in the great knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? There is not one passage, much less one verse, than can bespeak every magnificent wonder that belongs unto the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is truly a mystery. Paul speaks of this in his epistle to those in Ephesus, when he exhorts them to pray for him, in 6:19, that utterance may be given to me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.

Why should it seem strange when it is affirmed that there is much mystery in the gospel of Jesus Christ? There is much mystery is Jesus Christ Himself. In his first epistle to his younger associate, Timothy, Paul referring to the Christ utters this grand and glorious statement about Christ, when he has said;

And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; he who was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, received up in glory.

Paul turns our eyes here upon at least six facets of the glorious gem of the gospel, while in our focus passage, he has limited himself to two. Yet of every one of these six wonderful facets of the gospel may it be said, even as it was spoken of those two facets in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, that this was according to the scriptures. Yes, it is absolutely true, and an absolutely necessary part of the gospel, that Christ died for our sins, and was buried. Yes, it’s also essential to the gospel that He hath been raised on the third day. And these were all accomplished according to the scriptures. What wonders await the individual picking up and reading the Word of God for, perhaps, the very first time. How gracious of our God to leave this deposit of Truth for any and all to pick up and read, like the Ethiopian eunuch, reading from Isaiah; Acts 9, and having Christ discovered unto him according to the Scriptures. Tolle Lege! “Take up and read!”

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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