The Apostle Paul in his first God-breathed letter to the church at Corinth, ch. 15, verses 3 to 8:
“. . . I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”
Paul’s personal physician, Luke, on how Paul delivered this message to them, Acts 18:1-11:
“After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”
Paul on how he received this message in his letter to the churches in Galatia, ch. 1, verses 11-12:
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
What Paul meant by “Christ,” according to the Apostle John, in his Gospel, ch. 20, verse 31:
“ . . . these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
But what did John mean by “the Son of God?” Here’s what he says about Him in ch. 5, verse 18 of his Gospel:
“. . . the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”
What did Paul mean that Christ died for our sins? First, here’s how the Apostle John defines sin in his first God-breathed letter to Christians, ch. 3, verse 4:
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”
What law is he speaking of? In his letter to the Romans, ch. 2, verses 14-15, Paul explains:
“. . . when the Gentiles, which have not the [Old Testament] law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another . . .”
Sin includes acting contrary to what you know to be right. Paul also describes it another way in Romans 3:23: “. . . all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God . . .”
Why does someone have to die for our sins? Paul explains in Romans 1:18-32:
“. . . the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
He puts it simply in Romans 6: “. . . the wages of sin is death . . .”
But what exactly does it mean that Christ died for our sins? According to Scripture in the Book of Isaiah, ch. 53, verses 5-10:
“. . . he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin . . .”
Paul put it this way in Romans 3:21-26:
“. . . now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
The righteousness of God which is by faith in Jesus Christ is given to all, and placed upon all who believe in Jesus Christ. Why must it be God’s righteousness? Because all have sinned, and fallen short of God’s glory. Therefore, those who gain God’s righteousness by believing in Jesus Christ are justified (treated as just or righteous according to God’s law) freely by God’s grace (undeserved blessing) through the redemption (ransom payment to release someone from prison or slavery) that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation (perfectly satisfactory sacrifice to appease God’s wrath and satisfy His justice) through faith in His blood (His death), to declare His righteousness for forgiving sins that were committed before Christ’s death, through His tolerance, that is, to declare in these days His righteousness, so He can just, while at the same time the justifier (declarer of righteousness) of the one who believes in Jesus.
Paul put it another way in his second God-breathed letter to the Corinthians, ch. 5, verses 20-21:
“. . . we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Here’s what he’s saying in the last sentence: God made Christ to be sin for us – He who did not know sin personally, having never committed sin – so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (Christ). In other words, God treated Christ as if He was sin on the cross so He could treat us as if we are the righteousness of God in Christ. But remember the last passage from Romans: God only treats those who believe in Jesus Christ, and have faith in His death, as righteous.
What does Paul mean in the very first passage that Christ rose again on the third day? Here’s what John says in his Gospel, ch. 19, verses 41-42, to ch. 20, verses 1-28:
“Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand. The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her. Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.”
Here’s Luke’s account of Paul talking about when he saw Jesus in Acts 26:9-15:
“I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”
This is what Paul told people when he was preaching the gospel to them near Athens, in Acts 17:30:
“. . . the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent . . .”
What does it mean to repent? The English word, “repent,” has 2 parts: “re” and “pent.” “Re” means “again in a different way.” “Pent” means “think.” So, repent means “think again in a different way.” It is translated from the Greek word, metanoia, with “meta” basically meaning “a change,” and “noia” meaning mind. So it means “a change of mind.” God commands you to change your mind, not about a single issue, but most importantly about Christ, His death, your sins, and His bodily resurrection from the dead.
Let’s study some of what Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-13:
“. . . if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Compare this to Acts 16:29-31:
“. . . he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved . . .”
No spoken confession of “the Lord Jesus” is required to be saved, but let’s back up – what do we need to be saved from?
Remember, the wages of sin is death, and we have all sinned, and the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (you’ve done that), so we need to be saved from death of a kind that damns us forever, as well as God’s wrath that is against our ungodliness and unrighteousness. Furthermore, since we are naturally slaves of sin, we need to be saved from that slavery.
How can we be saved? By confessing, or acknowledging, the Lord Jesus, and believing that God raised Him from the dead. What does it mean that Jesus is “the Lord?” Well, since Paul’s most important message is that Christ died for our sins, then it must mean that Jesus is the Christ. After all, John said that if we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, then we will gain life. And he also said that Jesus called Himself God’s Son, making Himself equal with God. What does that mean? That Jesus is God. Therefore, to acknowledge the Lord Jesus partly means to believe that He is the God-man who died for our sins. However, what does the word, “Lord,” mean? Doesn’t that mean more than simply that He is God? Yes. It is translated from the Greek word, kurios, which means “Supreme in Authority.” Therefore, acknowledging the Lord Jesus is acknowledging His authority over us, that He is our Lord. Why is He our Lord? Because He created us, and causes us to exist.
Lastly, what does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord? His name is His reputation, or who He is, and what He has done, so to call upon His name is to depend upon who He is and what He has done to save us from His wrath and the punishment we deserve for our sins.
“. . . God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved . . . He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” – John 3:16-20, 36