“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…” 1 Corinthians 15:3
This verse and what follows it are a pure and simple summary of the gospel. Paul says that the death of Christ for sins as well as His resurrection–both according to the Scriptures–are the basic content of the gospel message Paul preached. He says that these simple truths are of first importance. We can say much more about the depth of the gospel and what its broad implications are for the world and Christian ministry. But it all starts here and is of first importance: Christ died for our sins.
One of the sweetest words in this part of the verse is the possessive adjective “our.” Christ died for our sins. Yours and mine. Sins we have actually committed, yesterday, earlier this morning, and will commit tomorrow. Jesus died for those sins. You see, Christ’s death was more than just a vivid depiction of the punishment sin deserves, demonstrating God’s displeasure with it. We can certainly draw that conclusion, but there is, wonderfully, more to it. We can’t reduce the crucifixion to an act of moral theater, a symbolic sacrifice meant to inspire. A symbolic death won’t atone for real sins. Jesus died for sins. Our sins.
Why does this matter?
Right out of the gate, the gospel forces us to deal with the reality that we have committed actual sins. Sin is the biblical word used to describe the power that drives us to love what is evil and turn from God; it describes our fallen nature. Sins are the thoughts and deeds we commit that break God’s law. ‘Sin’ describes our rebellious nature; ‘sins’ describes our rebellious acts. It is important to get this right. We commit sins because we are sinners. So it isn’t enough to say that I am, generally speaking, a bad person who needs saving in an undefined sort of way. I must go on to say I have done real evil deeds for which I am accountable. The gospel, if communicated properly, will make our sins more conspicuous to us, not less. Notice how Jesus was not shy to point out the specific sins of those whom he encountered (John 4 and Luke 18:18-30 are good examples).
But it is here where the gospel shines best. When our specific sins are uncovered, it should lead to despair, but the gospel teaches us that Jesus died for those very sins. This means Jesus is a real Savior, not a hypothetical one. Sometimes we are content to admit that we are sinners in general, but don’t want to talk about the specifics. We can live in that delusion for so long. But the gospel rips that false comfort away and numbers our crimes, only to then bring the true comfort that comes from knowing that Christ has atoned for each and every one of them. He has died for our sins. The sins we must own and have actually committed. May this bring you comfort when your sins are real and you need forgiveness. Seek it in Christ, who has died for even those sins. This is of first importance.