Now, brothers and sisters, 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, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
(1 Corinthians 15:1–8)
When it comes to beliefs, even among Christians, the differences often seem to be greater than the similarities. In this passage, Paul helped the Corinthian church to distinguish between the essential beliefs, and convictions about how to live in light of those beliefs and individual preferences as to how to prioritize those beliefs. The essentials are the matters of first importance. Paul said there are three essential beliefs of a follower of Jesus: Jesus lived on this earth, died for our sins, and rose from the dead. These beliefs are the foundation upon which everything else—our convictions and our preferences—are built. Understanding these essentials is key in relating to other Christians and people outside the church.
Before reading this passage, how would you have described the essentials of the Christian faith? How does your description compare with Paul’s?
Spend some time reflecting on the foundation of your faith. What beliefs ground your actual day-to-day faith?
Sit quietly for two or three minutes, remembering you are in God’s loving presence, and ask God to show you where you’ve mistaken your convictions or preferences for the essentials. What did God reveal?
God, thank you for reminder to put first things first. I pray that I can stay focused on the essentials as I relate to others and seek to point them to Jesus. Allow me to remain firm in my convictions and yet able to explain the essential message of the gospel clearly. Let nothing in the way I live out my faith be a deterrent to others or inhibit the people I encounter from seeing Jesus in and through me. Amen.