1 Corinthians 15:55-58
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?…
This is a subject which can never be unnecessary to a Christian auditory, when death's shafts have been flying thick around us. On this side and on that we see our friends or relatives dropping like leaves in autumn. Death spares neither the poor from pity, nor the rich from terror.
I. THE IMPORTANT TRUTHS STATED IN THE TEXT.
1. "The sting of death is sin." Death, properly speaking, is not a debt due to nature, but to the justice of God. Man did not die from the same physical necessity as plants or animals. God could have also communicated to them everlasting duration; but He did not see meet to do so. Man alone was created immortal, and he forfeited his immortality by sinning against God.
2. "The strength of sin is the law." "Where there is no law there is no transgression"; and did not man transgress and violate God's holy and righteous law, death should never have had dominion over us.
3. God in His rich and sovereign grace has given us the victory over sin and death, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, what an unspeakable source of consolation is here opened to our view! That death, our worst enemy, is converted into our best friend; and now he is constrained, like Haman, to confer splendour and fell dry on "the man whom the King" of heaven "delighteth to honour." Christ by His death destroyed death. He wrested the sword from his hand, and so destroyed this mighty foe with his own weapon. In consequence of the Divine dignity of His person, He not only fulfilled the law to the uttermost, both in its precept and its penalty, but has in fact magnified the law and made it honourable, so that it is more dignified and exalted by the Redeemer's righteousness than it was dishonoured and degraded by man's transgression. The law, then, which is the strength of sin, instead of being hostile to our salvation, demands from Divine justice, as the price of Christ's atonement, that the bodies of all who sleep in Jesus shall be raised up from the dead incorruptible and glorious.
II. THE FERVOUR OF MIND EXPRESSED IN OUR TEXT.
1. The words of the apostle express victorious faith. Whence is it, then, that our faith is so inferior to his in ecstasy and felicity? Whence is it that our hearts are so intimidated and alarmed when looking forward to our conflict with the king of terrors? Is it because the promises of God are less precious and unchanging now than they were then? Is it because the sacrifice of Christ has lost the chief of its virtue and efficacy in the service of the whole Church hitherto? Is it because the arm of the risen Redeemer has become shortened that it cannot save? or is His ear become heavy that He cannot hear? Ah, no! But it is because of our unbelief.
2. The words are expressive of lively gratitude. Paul is very joyful to award the praise and the glory to Him to whom alone it is due, "who loved ,us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood." He does not ascribe the victory to the work of his own hands. He had long before that period learned to renounce his own righteousness, which was of the law; and to rely entirely and implicitly on the righteousness which is of God by faith. Nor does he ascribe the victory to his tears of penitential sorrow — tears which he never spoke lightly of — which God beholds with pity, and which cause joy among the angels of heaven. But he rejoices in Christ Jesus alone, having no confidence in the flesh.
III. THE TRIUMPH ANTICIPATED. "O death, where is thy sting?" "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Death still reigns, and is conducting millions of millions to corruption in the grave, from which no power in earth or heaven can restore them, till that appointed morning when "pains and groans, and griefs and fears, and death itself, shall die." It is this glorious and joyful event to which the apostle looks forward in the preceding verses. In the text he anticipates the glorious and final triumph which all the ransomed of the Lord shall then obtain over sin and death and hell, as conquerors, yea, and more than conquerors, "through Him that loved them." He speaks as if the believer had already entered into the heavenly temple, in both body and soul perfectly conformed to the image of the Saviour, to dwell for ever with the Lord. Neither is this presumptuous confidence, or hope that will make ashamed. The great God our Saviour has "said it, and He will do it; He has spoken, and He will make it good."
1. Whence is it that the Christian, though justified by the blood of Christ, and saved from wrath through Him, is yet subjected to death? I answer, that Christ has relieved us so far as it is a curse inflicted by the broken law. There is nothing penal in the believer's death. It is not now God's vengeance, but is conducted in love as a rich new covenant blessing, purchased with the Saviour's blood.
2. Nothing but a life of faith in the Son of God can render the prospect of death pleasing or desirable. It is told of the mother of a celebrated deist, who had been once accustomed to read the Scriptures with pleasure, but had been brought at length to adopt the infidel opinions of her son, that she made this bitter reflection on her death-bed — "My son has deprived me of the comfort and serenity I once possessed in my Bible; and, with all his philosophy, he has not been able to substitute anything in its place."
(Jas Hay, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?