1 Corinthians 15:3-5:
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
This is an important passage. It’s important because it lays out clearly what our main concern in life should be. That is, of course, what Paul means when he says “of first importance.” This message that he preached was, in his mind, the most important thing he could communicate to the Corinthians. And it is the most important thing we need to know.
Really though, Paul is not saying anything that he hasn’t already said in 1 Corinthians. Remember that he began this letter by saying:
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Paul wants the gospel to be central in the hearts of his hearers. But here, in this passage, He expands the scope of the Gospel to include not only Christ’s death, but his burial, resurrection, and his appearance to the Apostles.
Well, he wants to make a few things clear.
The Scriptures said Jesus would die – The plan from before the foundations of the world was that Jesus would die for the sins of mankind. This is clearly laid out it the Old Testament, the Scriptures of which Paul speaks.
He really did die – Why else would Paul say that Jesus was buried than to indicate that Jesus really did die. Everyone knew where Jesus had been buried. Joseph of Arimathea had given hi own family tomb for the burial. Jesus actually died.
The Scriptures said that Jesus would rise – It was also clear from the Old Testament that Jesus would not stay dead, but that He would defeat death by becoming free from it.
He really did rise – There were plenty of people still alive who had seen the risen Christ. He really did rise. the tomb was empty after three days. Jesus died, but He again rose.
Now why is all this “of first importance?” because without it, our faith is in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:14:
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
It is eternally important that Christ did what the Bible says He did. Without His death and resurrection, we have no faith, and all our suffering and striving for the sake of the Gospel is useless. It’s not as though a good moral life is still virtuous without Jesus. Paul is quick to point out that if Jesus didn’t rise, and no one else will either, then we might as well “eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”
In other words, do what you want. If you’re going to die anyway, at least have fun while you’re here, because here is all you get.
But, Paul assures us, Jesus has been raised, and therefore, our faith is alive!
Of first importance is that Jesus did what the Bible said He did. Our sins are paid for, our lives are ransomed, our future is secure, and our hope to come is greater than the pain and pleasure of this world. So we wait for our risen King to return, for we will be raised with Christ and we will live forever with Him.