1 Corinthians 15:1-11
For I Delivered unto You
We live in a day when the word, “faith,” is thrown around quite haphazardly. For instance, we are often told to “have faith,” though the object of that faith is left to anyone’s imagination. Or one might say, “Believe in yourself,” a nice word of encouragement, as that may concern self-confidence or esteem (though I do loathe that word). Of course, Christians speak of faith as well, and as a verb, it generally means, “to believe,” as in, “Believe on Jesus Christ and be saved (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9). When it is used as a noun, it still sometimes maintains the same meaning as a verb, for example, “For by grace you have been saved by faith,” where faith, though a noun, still means that capacity whereby we believed in the saving work of Christ.
But Christians also know of “faith” as a noun in which the emphasis is not on the act of believing but on the content of what is believed. We express this in terms such as “the Christian Faith” or “The Baptist Faith and Message.” In these terms, we are speaking of content, or more specifically, doctrine—those teachings which make up the Christian faith and without which there would be no Christian faith. This is the kind of stuff that people often don’t like, after all, they say, love unites, doctrine divides. But if there is no content, that is, no faith understood as a noun, then there is nothing to believe, that is, something wherein I may exercise my faith as a verb. Indeed, there must first be something to believe (a faith) before one may exercise one’s believing (faith).
Well, here in this passage, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that the Christian faith is not some nebulous, undefined, fill-it-in-with-your-own-meaning, sort of thing; on the contrary, we are told exactly what we must believe. And this doesn’t even include everything necessary to believe (which I have addressed in other places), but it certainly contains some essentials. Paul claims, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,” a clear admission that: 1) The Christian faith includes these propositions of Christ that are considered a matter of historical record whether unbelievers receive them as such or not; and, 2) That Paul, himself, received this information from others, presumably the twelve, indicating that our faith is something to be passed down from generation to generation—that is, the Holy Spirit doesn’t zap this information into you; you receive it through the loving care of the Church teaching the Scriptures down through the ages. So rejoice, O Christian, for you don’t believe in “whatever,” but in a God who has spoken and said to us, “Believe this!”