Of First Importance- Returning Our Attention to the Fundamental Issue

April 2, 2009

A few days ago I was sitting in a Bible study when one of the other guys in it began talking about a video meant to instruct Christians about the truth on creation vs. evolution.  He talked for several minutes about this and how important it is and beneficial it would be for our church to go through it on Sunday nights.  However, as he was talking, I began to think about how poorly some of the people in our church know the Scriptures, especially in light of recent experiences with evangelism and Christian mythology, and yet even though they can’t distinguish between the truth of the Bible over, say, the heresy of The Shack, a presentation attacking evolution would likely draw a much larger crowd than one dealing with the nature of the atonement or man’s utter depravity.  With our priorities so jacked up, focusing on complex non-essentials over the basic truths of Scripture, its no wonder so many “Christians” don’t seem to have the first idea about what Christianity teaches.

Looking at 1 Corinthians 15.1-11 it appears Paul had something to say on this as well:

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.

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.

Did you see that in verse 3?  ”For I delivered to you as of first importance . . . ”  That means that whatever he says next is what he viewed as of first, and hence most importance for the people of Corinth to hear.  So what was it?  Was it the argument for creation?  Was it the horrors of same-sex marriage?  Was it the revelation of the end times?  No.  It was this: “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.”  Of all the things Paul could have told them, this was the most important.  And not only that, but having delivered it first, he does not just rest on the hope that they have trusted in what he’s said, but he goes back and reminds them of it once again (actually more than once, but here once, comprehensively, for good measure) so that in case they have forgotten why it is that they call themselves Christians they will be reminded and gather back around that.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  There is certainly a place for a right understanding of God’s construction of the world, or why marriage should only be recognized as between one man and one woman, but these things have become more than just tertiary doctrine that people are informed about.  In today’s modern evangelical culture, these topics are rallying points for all kinds of people who want to consider themselves “Christian” or maybe even just “religious.”  It is a way that Satan has used good things to blind our eyes from better things.  We have become so focused on fighting culture wars and science wars, and yet we neglect to fight the war for people’s hearts by presenting them with the gospel and honestly making sure it has landed with them.

Jesus warned us, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16.26).  Typically we want to apply this to money and self-reliance, but it just as easily applies to the realm of useless tertiary biblical knowledge.  It is of no matter if we can out match a scientist who tries to argue that creation is not real and God does not exist if we cannot at the same time clearly articulate to him the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ– so, of first importance, we should make sure we can!