1 Corinthians 15:55-58
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?…
Whose language is this? whom does it suit? or when may it be used?
1. It suits believers, and it may be used by them in view of their own dissolution, Feeling that they are mortal, having received the sentence of death in themselves, and contemplating the corruption of the grave as their speedy and unavoidable portion; faith in the promised glories which await them, dissipates the gloom that is ready to arise, inspires with joy, and elevates to triumph. Thus a personal comfort is attained, a dying bed loses its horrors, and the stings of heaven employ the soul even among the wrecks of nature. To such an application the apostle has directed us (2 Corinthians 5:1).
2. The language is suitable, when our believing friends and relatives become the prey of death, and we are called to commit their mortal remains to the tomb. These are some of the heaviest trials of the present state. But when nature fails, faith administers relief.
I. CONSIDER THE ENEMIES HERE VIEWED BY THE SOUL, AND WHICH ARE THE OBJECTS OF ITS TRIUMPH.
1. Death and the grave are here conjoined. The former prepares for the latter; and in a sense both are inimical to the believer. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." It is such in itself, though by grace its nature is utterly changed. Death separates the soul from the body. Death dissolves all natural ties. Death removes us from a present world, to which we can never more return. Death fits for the grave. That is the common receptacle for the subjects of death, and as such is noticed in the text. The gravel how gloomy its prospect! how affecting its appearance! how awful its dominion!
2. Death and the grave are distressing and destructive to those who become their prey. What arms death with terrors, and the grave with a curse? It is sin. As sin occasioned the entrance of death, and procured the grave for mortals, so it is the continued cause of all the pains, the sorrows, and miseries these occasion to the human race.
3. The dominion of death, and the power of the grave, form a part of the righteous dispensation of God. They are under His immediate direction and government, and are made subservient to the purposes of His glory. God's faithfulness to His threatenings, His indignation against sin, and His inflexible righteousness in punishing it, are marked in every fear of death by which we are agitated — in every bereaving providence with which we are visited — and in every opening grave that presents to our view.
II. THE TRIUMPH OVER DEATH AND THE GRAVE. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" "Put forth and strike with the one, show and maintain the other, if you can. One that is mighty hath interposed, and we are, and shall be, more than conquerors in and through Him." Concerning this attainment we must observe it is a triumph of faith. The circumstances and the situation of believers in a present world, render this grace needful, give occasion for its exercise, and manifest its strength and excellency. The inquiry here arises, What are those discoveries of faith which have such a transporting influence on the soul? answer to this inquiry, I shall only refer to this chapter, in which those truths are declared, the discovery of which by faith makes the soul thus to boast and triumph.
1. Death and the grave are changed in their nature and their original design. In itself death is a curse: it is an evil brought upon mankind by their fall: it is the executioner of the Divine threatening. As descriptive of the change that hath passed on them, the apostle represents the condition of believers, who have become their prey, by sleep (ver. 18). Such a discovery gives occasion for the exclamation in the text. "What power hast thou, O death, to hurt me? or why should I be affrighted at thee, O noisome grave? Death will only put an end to my sorrows, and the grave prove a place to me, where the wicked shall cease from troubling, and my weary limbs shall experience rest." Another discovery of faith is —
2. The advantage derived by believers from death and the grave. So far are these from being prejudicial, that they prove highly beneficial. Death, though an enemy to nature, is a friend to grace. In the inventory of the believer's privileges, drawn up by infinite wisdom, and written by an inspired pen, we read — "Life or death — all are yours" (1 Corinthians 3:22). The same truth is explained and confirmed in this chapter (vers. 18, 19). "To me to live (said the apostle) is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). "Where now is thy sting, O death? Where is thy boasted victory, O grave? My best interests are beyond your reach, my everlasting benefit and glory shall be promoted by your instrumentality."
3. Faith descries their final destruction, which is another cause of its triumph. This is foretold in the Word of God, and shall be accomplished by His power. The bands of death shall be broken — every grave shall be opened — the dead shall be raised — and not one be left behind. Then "this corruptible shall put on incorruption," etc.
III. THE SOUL'S THANKFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF DIVINE GRACE, AS THE CAUSE OF THIS HIGH ATTAINMENT.
1. This triumph is obtained through the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Our faith, our hope, our comfort — all must perish if we lose sight of Him.
2. An experience of Divine grace is the cause of this triumph. Grace is not only provided; it is also applied and communicated. The victory is sure — the victory is gained — it is our attainment, happiness, and honour.
3. This attainment excites the soul to praise. God is acknowledged to be the author of this happiness, and the soul renders the whole glory of it to Him.Lessons:
1. How astonishing are the exploits of the Saviour's love!
2. How needful is a saving interest in the Lord Jesus Christ for us!
3. What a source of consolation have we when our godly friends and relatives are removed from us!
4. How much does it concern us, living and dying, to exercise faith upon our Lord Jesus Christ!
Parallel VersesKJV: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?