Of First Importance: What will be on the test when we die?

by Clint Archer
orginally published by thecripplegate.com

As a first-year high school English teacher, I strove zealously to inspire my grade 10 and 11 classes to love poetry, enjoy literature, and appreciate mankind’s rich literary history.

I modeled my teaching style on Robin William’s character in Dead Poet’s Society. As I taught I would strut along their desks, I often whisked the class outdoors for a change of scenery, I’d compose funny limericks and even rap songs, and I often became dramatic and flamboyant, shouting and gesticulating and putting on various accents. But no matter what I did, or how passionately I communicated, in every class some bored, slouching student would inevitably raise a hand and ask the deflating question:

“Is any of this going to be on the test?”

Aargh! I hated that question! Who cares about the test?! I’d respond by waxing eloquent with an impassioned rendition of Mr. Keating’s diatribe to his learners:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

And then…

“So, it’s not on the test?”

Sigh.

I’m afraid some churchgoers may view sermons (or blogs) that way. You might wonder how much of what you read here, or hear each Sunday, is really necessary to know. I can’t answer that question, but I can answer this one:

“What is the bare minimum I need to know, understand, and believe, to be saved?”

The Apostle Paul supplies the answer in his first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 15.

4 bare minimum ideas you need to understand and believe in order to be saved:

I. The Person of Christ: Jesus Christ alone is fully man, fully God, and sinless

1 Corinthians 15:3Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ …

Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and even many atheists may believe in Jesus of Nazareth: i.e. that he existed, that he was a prophet of God, and that he died on a cross. But they don’t believe that he is the only way, or that he was fully God and fully man, or that he was sinless.

So they have the wrong Christ.

If you have the wrong Christ, you have the wrong religion, even if you call yourself Christian.

You need to believe that Jesus is both fully God and fully man:

Colossians 1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

Hebrews 1:3Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

John 1:1Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 14Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, …

You need to believe Jesus is the only way:

John 14: 6Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

You need to believe that he was sinless:

Hebrews 4:15Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

II. The Work of Christ: that he died for your sins on the cross

1 Corinthians 15:3Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christdied for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures

To be saved you need to believe that you are a sinner who needs to be saved:

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

You need to believe that because of your sin you deserve punishment for disobeying a holy and just God:

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death,…

You need to believe that Jesus died for your sins.

And Jesus died for your sins, on your behalf, or as your substitute.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, …

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

III. The Proof of Resurrection: Jesus rose from the dead physically

1 Corintiahsn15:3-4 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

You need to believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead and is now alive. The resurrection is a pivotal historical fact on which our faith hinges. Jesus made outrageous claims, including that he would rise from the dead after three days … and then he rose from the dead after three days. That fact proves that his claims were true.

The stress in Paul’s message is that the resurrection was real. Jesus was physically buried and physically rose again. It was predicted centuries before it happened in the Scriptures and it was confirmed by eye-witnesses after it happened…

…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.

Jesus rose from the dead, he let Thomas touch his pierced hands, and in the presence of many he munched and swallowed food, just like any living, breathing human being.

Right now Jesus has a heartbeat, brainwaves, a hairstyle, and he eats and drinks and talks and lives.

He is not an apparition or a vision or spirit. He is a human in a glorified body, just like you and I will have if we trust in him to raise us from the dead.

IV. The Response to Christ: faith and repentance

1 Corinthians 15:1-2Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) 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.

It is possible to “believe in vain” – if you give assent but are not be willing to “receive, stand, hold fast,” i.e. if you are not willing to respond.

We respond to these facts through confession of faith, repentance of sins, baptism, joining a church, contributing to the ministry and global missions, growing in knowledge and maturity through his word, evangelizing, and many other evidences of our faith in the facts of the gospel.

If you believe the gospel, and trust in Jesus, it will change your life!

You know in your heart if you only assent intellectually to the facts, or if you are truly entrusting your soul to Jesus alone in a way that stakes your eternity on the gospel being 100% true.

If you are not a believer, you can change your eternal destiny right this minute.

Romans 10:9Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus [whom the Bible describes as fully God, fully man, and sinless] is Lord [has the right to command your repentance of disobedience to him] and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, [genuine trust in his work on the cross as proven acceptable by the resurrection] you will be saved.

I hope you will think seriously about judgment day, because the knowledge of and belief in the gospel, is of first importance. It will be on the test. In fact, the content of the gospel—who Jesus is and what he did for you—is all that is on the test.