Is 1 Corinthians 15:1–4 The Entire Gospel Message?

Written by Josiah Nichols

December 8, 2021

RA Fuentes

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 2, ESV).

Andrew Rappaport’s debate with RA Fuentes, of RA Fuentes Apologetics, on “Calvinism is Useless and Dangerous” was an eye-opener showing Calvinism is not only useful, but one needs to believe its propositions to be saved.[1] Andrew demonstrated Total Depravity means sin affects the mind, heart, and will (something Mr. RA Fuentes agreed with). Andrew showed Unconditional Election meant God shows no discrimination in salvation. Andrew got Mr. RA Fuentes to admit there are people in Hell and the atonement is not applied to everyone, admitting limited atonement. Mr. RA Fuentes admitted himself nothing can separate the love of God from the believer in salvation, without Andrew’s help, proving he believed in Irresistible Grace and Preservation of the Saints. This showed Mr. RA Fuentes demonstrated he did not understand biblical Calvinism taught by Paul and Jesus.[2]

Further, Mr. RA Fuentes during his part of the cross-examination asked Andrew if 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 4 was the gospel message. Andrew appropriately said it was the gospel message, but it was not the whole gospel message, and he would need to explain the reason why Jesus died and rose from the dead. Yet, Mr. RA Fuentes said this passage was “the only clear gospel message.”[3]

The question is did Paul originally intend for this to be a complete gospel message? Was there some other intention Paul had for this passage? These questions can be resolved by looking at the context of the passage.

Book Context

Paul makes it clear in the opening of his letter to the Corinthians he is writing to the church to deal with the divisions which were rising up in it (1 Corinthians 1: 10 – 17). He gives clues as to the controversies causing the divisions by saying, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (v. 1: 18, ESV).

In the book, he addresses different controversial topics such as living as unbelievers (3: 1 – 4), sexual immorality (5: 1 – 13 6: 12 – 20), lawsuits against believers (vv. 6: 1 – 11), marriage (Ch. 7), eating food sacrificed to idols (Ch. 7), personal rights (Ch. 8), idolatry and the Lord’s Supper (Ch. 9 – 10, 11: 17 – 34), female and male modesty  (11: 2- 16), spiritual gifts and love (Ch. 12 – 14), the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead (Ch. 15), and the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem (vs. 16: 1 – 4). Scholars have looked at the passages in 1: 11, 5: 1, 11: 18, and 7: 1 to understand the unifying theme for this diverse range of topics and decided the first part of the letter addresses what Paul has heard from his messengers about the church and some questions regarding a letter he had received from them.[4] It is clear from the book context Paul was not dealing with the whole gospel message here.

Surrounding Context

The verses after the passage indicate the author does not have the whole gospel in mind when he gives the first four verses:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Corinthians 15: 3 – 12, ESV).

In examining this, the verses following verse four show Paul was focusing on the resurrection of Jesus Christ (vs. 5 – 11). Specifically, 5 – 11 demonstrate the validity of the resurrection by over five hundred eyewitnesses, including Paul who was hostile to God before witnessing the risen Lord.

Further, verse thirteen shows the reason why Paul reminded the Corinthians as to the facts of the crucifixion and resurrection. He said these were “of first importance” because there were people saying there is no resurrection of the dead (vv. 3, 13). He was not giving a full gospel message to unbelievers. He was making the point Jesus rose from the dead, giving believers certainty of their own salvation and resurrection (vv. 16 – 17). However, Paul gives a complete gospel message in the whole book of Romans and a great summary in 2 Corinthians 5: 21.

Conclusion

I could go on to textual clues in that “of first importance” does not mean “whole gospel”, but the information above is sufficient evidence Paul did not intend 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 4 to be a complete gospel message to unbelievers (v. 3). He intended it to prove believers will in fact raise from the dead because Jesus has risen from the dead.

Mr. RA Fuentes of RA Apologetics has shown throughout the debate he has had either little to no training on hermeneutics, the science and art of interpreting literature, or he has ignored it grossly to his own hurt and the hurt of his followers. If he was open to it, I would be pleased to send him my book When My Ox Gores My Neighbor: Using Hermeneutics to Travel from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion to help him begin his journey of biblical interpretation, available in the store.[5] He needs prayer that he repents of his pride. I will be praying for him.

For more resources that will strengthen you in the faith and your love for the Lord Jesus Christ, please check out the store section of the website. There are tons of resources that will help you in biblical interpretation. Lord bless you.

 

Also, see other articles from the debate:

Why In The World Are You Debating RA Fuentes?

Does God Grant Belief (RA Fuentes)?

John 3:16: Saving or General Love (RA Fuentes)?

[1]  Andrew Rappaport, RA Fuentes, “Debate: Calvinism is Useless and Dangerous”, December 2, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWruITRZXpw, Accessed December 7, 2021.

[2] For more on the debate and why it was done check out Justin Pierce’s article “Why In The World Are You Debating RA Fuentes?” https://strivingforeternity.org/why-in-the-world-are-you-debating-ra-fuentes/

[3] Ibid.

[4] Mark Taylor, 1 Corinthians: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Volume 28 of The New American Commentary, (Nashville, Tennessee, B&H Publishing Group, 2014). 21.

[5] https://strivingforeternity.org/store/books/when-my-ox-gores-my-neighbor/

You May Also Like…

Cessationist

Cessationist

A critically important new faith documentary is currently in the final week of its crowdfunding campaign.  The film...

0 Comments