In class today, we discussed what the gospel is in its simplest form. The professor pointed us to Paul’s literature. 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 says:
Now I would remind you, brothers and sister, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you – unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas and then to the twelve.
We began listing things that Paul spells out as ‘first importance’: Christ dying for our sins, he was buried, he was raised from the dead, and then he appeared to Peter and the Twelve. And then there was this pharse, ‘in accordance with scripture’ that popped up not only once, but twice. The class discussed this and came to the conclusion that the gospel must not be separated from the scriptures (which the class referenced as the Bible as we now know it). I was greatly disturbed by this. First off, do we really believe that Paul was referring to the Bible? I would think that to be a blatant misuse of the Scriptures to show the validity of them. I think that’s ignorance. Wouldn’t it make more sense if Paul put this in to show the fulfillment of the Hebrew Bible and the Israelite people in this man-God figure whom we call Jesus Christ our Lord? If so, the gospel is inseparable from the Hebrew Bible and the Hebrew people. We will never understand the full magnitude of Christ dying for our sins if we do not understand sin offerings in the OT. We will never grasp the anxious waiting for a Messiah to come and rescue God’s people. I have an analogy that hopefully will shed some light at what I’m trying to get at. For many, the most memorable moment in basketball superstar Michael Jordan’s career was his game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, when he pushed off Byron Russell, took a step back, and drilled the shot. Now this is a great moment for any player, but for Jordan, it was a defining moment. Why? Because of everything that Jordan had done up to that point. His game-winning shot for UNC in the ’82 national championship game. His scoring titles. His MVP awards. His dunks. His Nikes. His 5 NBA titles prior to that shot. His time away from basketball and his attempt at baseball. Michael Jordan revolutionized the NBA and the game of basketball, and when he hit that shot, it was the epitome of what one would expect his going out party would look like (too bad he decided to give basketball another shot after his second retirement).
If we separate Jordan’s career from that one shot, the shot is good. But it becomes a defining moment because of what has happened up to that point. And it’s the same way with Jesus. If we separate Jesus from the Hebrew Bible, we are cutting off the lifeline that got us to that point. Thus, the gospel cannot be understood outside the context of the OT. N.T. Wright has written extensively on this subject and I think all Christians would be better off if they took notice too.