Feb. 7, 2010
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
1 Cor. 15:1-11
A coach called his team into the locker room after yet another loss. The team seemed to have forgotten the basics, much less the advanced techniques of the game. The coach looked over his team, then reached over and picked up the ball. Pointing at it he said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

Sometimes we have to get back to the basics, whether in sports, in life in general, or in faith. Today’s passage of Scripture takes us back to the basics. Paul, the
spiritual coach, calls for the team’s attention and says in effect, “This is the church.”

What are the basics we need to hold in mind?

I. The Right Content (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)
One of the foundational basics of the church is the story—the story. This is the content of the teaching that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. He did not make it up, but he was the agent of transmission: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

The story he received was the narrative of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. This story is the gospel in miniature and includes these facts of his life:
• 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;
• that He appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve;
• He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time;
• He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;
• He appeared to Paul, also.

This, in essence, is a summary of the gospel story. Paul helps us see that one of the basic needs of the church is to know our story.

II. The Right Attitude (1 Corinthians 15:9)
Being part of this story requires a special attitude to both hear it and live it. That attitude is humility. When Paul looked back at his life, he could scarcely believe he was even considered an apostle. He called himself the least of the group. Why? Because he had persecuted the church.

Humility helps us realize we don’t know everything and are therefore open to learning and to change. That is why it is the right attitude for the church.

Many of us might agree, secretly if not openly, with the attitude of writer Sheldon Vanauken. He went to Oxford University for graduate study. At that time, he was not a Christian but began investigating its claims. He also began writing to C.S. Lewis about the claims of faith. In one of his letters to Lewis, Vanauken confessed that of all the elements of faith, humility seemed on the surface the most repugnant. He wrote, “Indeed, there is nothing in Christianity which is so repugnant to me as humility—the bent knee. If I knew beyond hope or despair that Christianity were true, my fight forever would have to be against the pride of ‘the spine may break but it never bends.'”4

Paul knew his actions did not make him a very good candidate for church leader, but the very knowledge of his shortcomings was the thing that made him successful. Humility can do the same for us.

III. The Right Motivation (1 Corinthians 15:10-12)
Grace is God’s offer of pardon and fellowship. Accepting that offer has the power to reorient our lives and transform us. For Paul, grace had a powerful effect. It changed him from a persecutor to a proclaimer. It became the motivation for everything he did after his encounter with Christ. The basics of life in the church include having the right content of belief, the right attitude of humility and the right motivation of grace.

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