1 Corinthians 15:55-58
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?…
The apostle has demonstrated the resurrection by an elaborate argument, and states his conclusion as the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 25:5). He remembers the promise of God by Hosea (Hosea 13:14), and in a burst of eloquent exultation he defies his former enemies.
I. THE CHALLENGE (ver. 55).
1. Where is the sting of death? Alas! and is it nothing to die? Is it nothing to leave this fair earth, our pleasant homes, our loving friends, etc., and to be buried and become as dust beneath the sod? Has death no sting when we hold the beloved, who made life precious and the world beautiful, by so frail, brief, melancholy a tenure? Has it no sting in that "life-long pang a widowed spirit bears"? Is there one among us such a miracle of uninterrupted happiness, so insensible to others' grief, as not to have felt its keen and lingering sharpness?
2. Where is the victory of the grave? Where is it not? Power cannot resist it. Riches can purchase no allies skillful to avert it. There is no discharge in this war for wisdom, or youth, or virtue, or strength.
3. Yet, were there nothing beside this, the calamity would be light. A gloomy anticipation, a few tears, a sharp pang, and all would be over. We should sleep, and dream not. But there is more than this. Whence came death? God is angry with us. and death is the executioner of a Divine sentence, the avenger of a broken law. Death had no sting for man, and the grave no victory, till sin entered into the world; but now "death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." The law of God, which condemns the sinner, gives death power to seize and hold him fast. Wherever there is sin, its wages are death. Wherever death is, there must be sin. Yes! even in the death of the sinless Lamb of God, for He bore our sins. Here is the sharpness of death's sling. It is the evidence and punishment of sin. What a strange lethargy must that sinner be in who feels it not, but sleeps stupidly on, dreaming of lust, and gain, and pride, till death wakens him with eternal agony!
4. Here we see the strength and valour of Christian faith; for, knowing that he must die, and the grave cover him, Paul stands up bravely, and flings defiance in their faces. To learn the secret of his courage, we must consider —
II. THE THANKSGIVING (ver. 57). This, with the preceding verse, answers three questions:
1. Whence is the victory? God gives death its sting and the grave its victory. So long as God arms them, it is impossible to resist them. God, therefore, alone can give us the victory, by becoming our Friend. When He is our Friend, His ministers, which were our enemies, must be our servants.
2. How is the victory given? Death is the penalty of sin, and, while the law condemns the sinner, he must remain captive to death and the grave. But Christ, by satisfying the law, plucked out the sting of death, and ravished the victory from the grave (Hebrews 2:14, 15). More than this, He demonstrated His victory over the grave; bursting the bars asunder, He dragged forth captivity captive, making an ostentation of His spoils, openly triumphing. But the full manifestation of His triumph and ours is kept for the day of the resurrection.
3. Wherein does our victory consist? The believer triumphs —
(1) In Christ's perfect atonement.
(2) In Christ's resurrection.
(3) In the final resurrection.
(G. W. Bethune.)
Parallel VersesKJV: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?