In our study of 1 Corinthians chapter fifteen, we are reminded of the fact that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for any hope that we have.
"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." NIV translation
Now, Paul begins to address the false teachings that were influencing the church concerning Jesus' resurrection. At this time, there were three main philosophies concerning life after death. Stoicism said that the soul merged into deity at death (we all just become a part of a god). The epicurean philosophy held that there was no existence beyond this world and so one should get and enjoy all that this world has to offer. Platonism taught that the soul was immortal and that it just migrated to another being at death. All three of them denied the resurrection of the body which, as we shall see, is the heart of the gospel.
"By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." NIV translation
He reminds them that there is only one way to be saved and that is through Jesus Christ.
"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." NIV translation
The gospel (Good News) comes down to some pretty simple facts as Paul presents them here. Jesus died as payment for our sins, was buried as proof, and was raised again just as He said it would happen. The Scriptures that Paul refers to were the Old Testament scrolls of which Paul was intimately familiar.
He points out the fact that those Scriptures had told the people what God was going to do through His Son. He also gives a list of witnesses to the fact that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Although the legal standard for something to be considered truth was only two, Paul gives us a list of over five hundred people and includes himself among them.
It is interesting to note that the first person on the list is Cephas (Peter). We are reminded of the fact that Jesus had told him that "on this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). What did Jesus mean? He was talking about the fact that Peter would be the first to see Him resurrected and be able to share his testimony to that fact. In effect, Jesus was saying that His church would be built on the testimonies of those who saw Him after He was physically raised from the dead. We also see that it is this testimony that helps us to overcome the schemes of the devil (see Revelation 12).