1 Corinthians 15:55-58
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?…
I. OVER SIN.
1. The great fault and peril of sin is not so prominent as it was. Is there not too often the sanguine expectation that the disease will be cured by external remedies? You persuade, for instance, the drunkard to take the pledge, but you have not changed his heart. You destroy the rookery, and build the model lodging-house, but you have not destroyed the fascinations of crime. Unless we deal with sin, all our attempts at reformation will be in vain; the malady lies too deep for our superficial applications.
2. The gospel does not palliate sin; on the contrary, it drags off its disguises, and reveals it in its naked deft fruity. It shows sin to be a perversion of the moral being; it is the alienation of the heart from the love, the alienation of the will from the law of God; it is rebellion; it is that which God hates; it is that which must be put away before man can enter into fellowship with God. The gospel alone dares to reveal sin, because it gives us the power to conquer it.
(1) In presenting to us a perfect life it shows us what human nature is capable of, and its present degradation. It first reveals sin in placing it in the full light of the Divine example, and secondly, in the light of the Cross it condemns sin. It shows it there in all its iniquity which only the blessed blood of the spotless victim can remove.
(2) But if Christ had only been this, He would not have been our Saviour (ver. 17). If He had only died, then death had the mastery over Him; we must be still crushed under the burden of sin, for we have no atonement; there is no righteousness in which we can be clothed; we cannot be partakers of a new life, since there is no source of life for us. "But now is Christ risen from the dead"; and in the power of this resurrection we have the victory over sin. God, in raising Him from the dead, has not only proclaimed that He has accepted the propitiation, but has exalted Him to be a Prince and a Saviour to lift off from us the burden of guilt, and to pour into our diseased spirits the life of His resurrection, the life of His Spirit, that we may gain the victory over sin. In no other way can we gain it; no efforts to lop off here and there the heads of that hydra-headed monster will prevail. The desire we thought we had beaten down, the passions we thought we had conquered, will reassert their mastery. But He, the risen Lord, has given us His life, has made us one with Himself, and in that loving union with Him the victory is ours.
II. OVER DEATH. Death is a very real enemy. The fear of death; is not this the most terrible fear that assaults men? What is the fear of sickness, poverty, sorrow, old age, natural infirmities, compared with the fear of death? It is an awful thing to die; above all, if we do not know where we are going.
1. Death is an agony, for it is the separation of body and soul; it is the dissolution of the man. And yet regarded in this light men do not always recoil from it. There are those who, not only in the excitement of battle, can meet death with steady nerve; there are those who, tired of life's efforts and disappointments, have welcomed death as a friend, and the bed of death has been like a sleep.
2. The agony of death does not trouble all, but the mystery of death, the thought of passage from a world of known existence to an undiscovered country, where men must give an account of deeds done in the body, this has made the bravest heart tremble. Two officers were riding together just before a battle. One of them, an earnest Christian, turned and said to the other, "Are you prepared to die?" "Death; don't talk to me of death," was the reply, "it will unnerve me." The man was not a coward, but death was an awful thing to think of. No wonder that Paul speaks of men being subject to bondage through the fear of death.
3. Then beside, there is the anguish of bereavement. How many hearts has death broken, how many lives has he made desolate? Who has not felt that awful power? Must we shudder, and walk with faltering steps in presence of this dreadful enemy? "No," says the apostle. "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." St. Paul insists upon this fact as involving the resurrection of mankind. For it is not a simple human being that rises out of that grave; it is the everlasting Lord of Life, who, having life in Himself, took our human nature, and in that nature confronted death, and vanquished death, and rose victorious from the tomb. Conclusion: Are we partakers of this victory? We may repeat the Creed, "I believe in the resurrection of the body," and yet, alas! we may have no victory over death. How many baptized Christians have no doubt of another life, and yet live and die as if this world were all? And yet there is such a victory. Christ's risen life may be ours. It is by a close actual union with Christ that we share in His victory. "Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die."
Parallel VersesKJV: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?