In one hand he held an apple and in the other, a knife….It was a warm Wednesday evening in central Illinois as a Kentucky born preacher moseyed in the church’s auditorium isle. He began his illustration. Fifty to sixty had nestled into their pews with eager ears. This was the area’s Summer Sermon Series. Preachers took their turn from June to late August harmonizing on issues dealing with the church.
This night this preacher came with props. Curiosity began swelling as he sliced one, then two pieces of the apple. He handed pieces to many until nothing was left but the core. As slices were given away the preacher named each slice. “This slice is prayer.” His southern twang became more pronounced with each declaration. “This slice is the Lord’s Supper…This one is singing….This one is benevolence.” He paused for effect and then explained, “None of these slices exist without the core.”
The emphasis that evening was that these apple slices only reflect the salvation that we have in Christ. None of the slices have the ability to cover sin or sustain eternal life. Only the core has that ability.
The Bible’s core, its heart, is the grand story of God coming to earth in the person of Christ to redeem a lost humanity. The grace of Christ’s cross and resurrected life contains the power of salvation. Paul revisits that redemptive theme when he wrote to believers in Corinth who esteemed their intellectual prowess more virtuous than Christ-like love. Many pursued elitism through ministers instead of recognizing that leaders served from the grace of the Gospel. Paul attempted to redirect their appetite for glory through the grace of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NASB) “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
The blessings we have from God come from the “core” of the Bible, Christ, and the meaning of His Gospel. Many things are written in the Bible providing necessary instruction but the core of the Bible remains the same. Again, Paul reminds the Corinthian brethren “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” 15:1-4, NASB. Why was the most important teaching Paul delivered Corinthians the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? Their relationship with God depended on it continually.
We have power from God to overcome sinful behaviors and attitudes because we’ve been given forgiveness of sins and eternal life. These gifts are from God through Christ, not of ourselves. Our devotion to God through prayer, acts of collective worship, and individual service…is priceless! But without the core that produced each, they’re worthless.
We should continually thank God for His core, Jesus Christ, through whom he has richly blessed us with forgiveness of sins and eternal life. We should discipline ourselves when studying the Bible and recognize that below the surface lies the core.