Of first importance
All over the world this weekend Christian people are celebrating that which is “of first importance” in the Christian faith: the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every church has chosen some way to declare the death and resurrection of Jesus. It may be through a drama, a choir musical, a Sunday School Bible lesson, a sermon, congregational singing, praying, the Lord’s Supper, etc.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “This is of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James and then to all of the apostles and last of all he appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). All of this is the Christian’s good news. It is the good news from God to us about our forgiven sins, our life’s purpose and our future assurance beyond death. We have received this good news, we have taken our stand upon it and we have been and are being saved by it. This is first in importance.
During the ministry of Jesus he clearly taught that the one thing “of first importance” would be his death and resurrection. All of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) record that once the Twelve had the conviction that Jesus was the Son of God, he began to explain that what would be “of first importance” must happen. In each of these three Gospels Jesus uses the words, “I must.” He said, “I must go unto Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:3; Luke 9:22). The Gospel of John records Jesus at different points in his ministry saying, “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4; 7:6). But then, a few days before the crucifixion he said, “The hour has come”, and then he explained the cost of the cross and the glorious results of the resurrection (John 12:23-25). In prayer he said to the Father, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason that I came to this hour” (John12:27).
After Jesus had risen from the dead, He gathered his disciples together to declare to them that “what was of first importance” had now taken place and was finished. He said, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see.” He continued, “This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you the Holy Spirit whom my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you be clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:39, 44-49).
This is of first importance to the Church. For over two centuries now this has been “the Rock” upon which Christ has been building his church. This is the sure foundation of our faith. This is our courage and purpose for living. This is our message to a world without hope. This is our assurance that death is not the end but only the beginning of a glorious future.
What is of most importance to you? May eyes and hearts be opened so that the death of the Son of God on the cross and his resurrection from the dead may become that which is most important of all to you, personally.