The message they were to take was the simple gospel. Gospel means “good news” and refers to sharing the fact that—because of His sacrifice on Calvary—all men can be saved and go to heaven.
The “go” command is for every generation. The early Christians took the gospel to their world (Romans 10:18; Colossians 1:23); we must take it to ours. This task now falls to me, among others. Through this commission, Jesus told us to tell you His message.
Will you give me that opportunity?
THE GOSPEL HAS THREE FACTS TO BELIEVE (1 CORINTHIANS 15:1–4)
FACT 1: CHRIST DIED FOR MAN’S SIN.
Jesus’ death unfolded in a series of events:
- Betrayal and arrest (Matthew 26:47–56).
- Jewish trials (26:57–75). During these proceedings, Jesus was taunted, spit on, slapped, and struck (26:67–68; John 18:22). Eventually, though innocent, He was convicted of blasphemy, which was punishable by death under Jewish law.
- Roman trials before Pilate and Herod. Again, He was condemned, this time for rebellion (Matthew 27:1–25; Luke 23:7–11).
- Scourging (Matthew 27:26; John 19:1). This was a merciless beating with a whip.
- Abuse by Roman soldiers (Matthew 27:27–31). They stripped Him, clothed Him in a purple robe, put a crown of thorns on His head, hit Him on the head with a reed, spit on Him, and smote Him with their hands.
- Parade to the execution site carrying the cross (John 19:17).
- Crucifixion (Matthew 27:35–56). His hands and feet were nailed to a cross, and He was suspended on it for six hours—from 9:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Mark 15:25–37).
FACT 2: CHRIST’S BURIAL.
Isaiah foretold that the Lord would be associated with the rich in death and His grave would be with the wicked (Isaiah 53:9).
Jesus was crucified between two thieves; then “a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph” asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus’ body (Matthew 27:57–58). With the help of Nicodemus, Joseph “wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre” (Matthew 27:57–60, John 19:39).
FACT 3: CHRIST’S RESURRECTION.
The underlying proposition to the whole Bible is Acts 13:30: “God raised him from the dead.” If this is not true, then there is no gospel. We can throw the Bible away, for it contains no hope for humanity. But thanks be to God, it is true!
What evidence is there? Jesus promised it, and He never lied (Matthew 20:19; 27:63; 1 Peter 2:21–22). He kept the scars from His crucifixion to verify it, which no one else could imitate (Luke 24:39; John 20:27). The Bible, the world’s most trustworthy source, records it (Matthew 28:1–6, 2 Timothy 3:16–17). Angels attested to it, and they are greater than any man who says otherwise (Luke 24:1–6).
There is much more evidence, but let’s focus on one sufficient, indisputable fact: “He shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days” (Acts 1:3). At least 515 eyewitnesses saw Him on twelve different occasions over a period of forty days:
- Apostles (Acts 1).
- Mary Magdalene (John 20:16–18).
- A group of women (Luke 24:22–24).
- Two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35).
- Disciples, without Thomas (John 20:19–20, 24).
- Disciples, with Thomas (John 20:26–28).
- Seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1–23).
- Eleven apostles (Matthew 28:16–17).
- More than five hundred persons at once (1 Corinthians 15:6).
- Simon Peter (Luke 24:34).
- James (1 Corinthians 15:7).
- Paul (Acts 9:3–6; 1 Corinthians 15:8).
- John on Patmos (Revelation 1:1–20).
The resurrection of Christ is a fact proved, like other facts, by credible witnesses. Tim LaHaye points out that if you hit a hole-in-one playing golf Saturday, how would you prove it to incredulous friends on Sunday? You would call over your golfing partner to confirm that he saw it (Jesus: Who Is He?). Paul appeals to witnesses to the resurrection, and then he shows that it was not possible that so many people were deceived (1 Corinthians 15:5–7). If five hundred reliable witnesses are insufficient to prove a fact, then no number would be enough. A thousand or ten thousand would not be any more convincing.