Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as 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. (Corinthians 15:1-4)
Summary: Verses One And Two
In the first two verses Paul tells the church in Corinth that he will remind them of the gospel I preached to you. The Greek here gives the picture — “I would have you know.” As in “this is a very important matter this” gospel I preached to you. In other words, this was not just a friendly reminder, but a short exposition of the Gospel preached by the Apostles of Jesus.
He was telling them that this gospel was absolutely not to be taken lightly, for it is the very heart of Christianity. The Apostle wanted to make sure they understood that only by this gospel you are saved; as it is possible—no matter how strongly or sincerely—for one to believe in vain. Paul clearly elaborated further on this in Galatians 1:6-9.
Summary: Verses Three And Four
In the next two verses Paul will pass on what I received. The words he uses here in the Greek are technical terms, which are used in rabbinical writings. This is why there are many apologists and commentators will use this passage to link the Apostle Paul with early Christian “tradition” concerning the fact of Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead.
However, Paul is actually doing more than merely passing on an early creed of the ancient Church. Galatians 1:11-12 — I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ (emphasis added).
A careful examination of these verses shows that Paul tells us that no man made up the gospel I preached, and while he most likely was aware of any of these early creeds, the Apostle is also informing us that he received the Gospel personally by revelation from Jesus Christ Himself.
And it is because of his seeing the risen Christ in person that he can even be an Apostle (see—1 Corinthians 9:1). So what Paul is doing here, in actuality, is verifying the truth of this early Christian creed.
In verse 3 the Apostle begins to tell us what the Apostolic Gospel was/is — Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. And that’s why it is so important to know Who Jesus Christ of Nazareth is. Not just that He died for our sins, but also that Christ is God Himself in the person of the Man Jesus of Nazareth (see—Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1,14,18).
Then in verse 4 Paul tells us Christ was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. And therein is the Gospel. If there was more to it e.g. “principles” (as in Mormonism); or, “sacraments” (as in Roman Catholicism), or, “works” of any kind—here is where Paul would have included them.
You will notice however, that he did not. That’s because there are none attached to what God “finished/paid in full” (see—John 19:30). And Paul specifically tells the church at Ephesus that there are no works involved in salvation — For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
And this is the extra Good News for the regenerated Christian, it is by grace you have been saved — it is past tense; an event which has already happened. So now we look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 with a fuller understanding of what the Holy Spirit through Paul is actually telling us — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Can you see there; the common phrase we use — “born again” — is not just a figurative statement; O no, it is a quite literal and glorious fact. Soli Deo gloria!