March 10, 2021 – Wednesday
1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NIV
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.
2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
As Paul approaches the end of his first letter to the Church in Corinth, he seeks to remind them of what he preached and they believed. But most importantly he wants them to know By this gospel you are saved. This gospel has nothing to do with any philosophy, but is based in its entirety on Christ’s death and resurrection for that is the foundation, the bedrock, of Christianity.
Why is Paul doing making this argument? Let us look at the two verses together, 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. First after writing of what he preached and they believed, he writes they have taken a stand on the gospel. Then comes something a bit odd, By this gospel you are saved, if … . Why is the if there? After all, we are saved by the gospel in which we believe.
Still, with the if he writes, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Then if that is not clear enough, he further states, Otherwise, you have believed in vain. I don’t know about you, but in my head I hear a voice shouting, “Wait a minute, what about once saved, always saved?” That’s because the way this reads in English is that one can lose their salvation. So what is all this about?
Guzik writes about this, If the Corinthian Christians did not continue to hold fast, one day they might let go of the gospel. And if one lets go of the gospel, all their previous belief won’t do them any good. It was as if they had believed in vain. But this does not seem to get at the root of the question, “Are we when saved, saved for eternity?” Is it possible the statement, Otherwise, you have believed in vain could have another meaning? Benson Commentary thinks so and writes, unless ye have believed in vain — Or rather, rashly, as εικη [the Greek translated as vain] seems evidently here to signify, denoting the disposition of those who do a thing by chance and lightly, without knowing for what reason or end they do it. This makes sense as Zodhiates in the NASB includes in his definition idly, i.e. without reason (or effect).
This definition reminds me of Pastor Dave Elkins describing someone as who wants to try out the gospel being similar to someone taking a car out for a test drive – especially if it is a car they know they will not buy. It also brings to mind a friend of mine in the Air Force who once told me how his brother had found Christ in Kentucky as he hitchhiked across the United States. Later, when explaining why he was not living a Christian life, he told his brother, “I lost Him in California.” In both cases, the tryout of the car and believing in Jesus, they were without real reason. Both were without effect, done idly and certainly in vain by our modern definition.
Bottom line from my perspective: One should never idly say he or she believes in the good news of Jesus just because it feels good and then think you are saved. It does not work that way and Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that – and for us to understand it as well. To believe, really believe, in His death and resurrection entails a commitment to that belief and where it will take one.
Prayer: Father God – Help me to always stand firm in the knowledge, faith, and belief that Jesus died on the cross for my (and everyone’s) sins and was resurrected on the third day. – In Jesus name. Amen.