1 Corinthians 15:55-58
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?…
I. "THE STING OF DEATH IS SIN." The meaning is, that, to a man conscious of unpardoned sin, death is armed with a peculiar pungency. Consider —
1. The loss of the world. Has be been a man of pleasure? His pleasures vanish. Is he a man eager in his pursuit of wealth? His plans are broken, and his wealth goes to others. Has he ranked among the proud and mighty? The grave which opens for him knows no distinction (Isaiah 14:10). When these thoughts pass through the mind, how they sting!
2. On the approach of death sin is presented in its true aspect. Its nature is to deceive. It assumes the forms of pleasure, interest, nay, sometimes of virtue. But when death approaches and lets in the searching light of eternity, all these false appearances are dissipated. Memory opens her secret stores; aggravations, before thought little, now appear great; sins against light, mercy, warning, conviction, resolutions, appear in all their enormity. The man is unfit for a holy heaven, and must, if no mercy intervene, be thrust out.
3. It renders terrible that presence of God, into which, after death, the soul must immediately enter. Is he in the presence of the Father? He has refused His calls, and slighted His love. Is he in the presence of the Son? Will he not then remember the "agony and bloody sweat," and not be filled with horror at his ingratitude? Is he in the presence of the Holy Spirit, "grieved" often, and now for ever "quenched"?
4. The banishment of the soul from God. Whither shall he go? (Jude 1:6).
II. THE STRENGTH OF SIN IS THE LAW. Because —
1. It is that which connects the penalty of death with sin. "Where no law is, there is no transgression."
2. In proportion as the law is manifested, sin is aggravated; and therefore its condemning power is increased. "The law entered, that the offence might abound; not that men might sin, but see the abounding of their sins. What strength, then, has sin to condemn in our day! The law was manifested to the patriarchs, more clearly to the Jews, most clearly to us; and hence our guilt is aggravated beyond all previous example.
3. Its rigour is never abated. It cannot relax, because it is "holy, just, and good." If "holy," it can never sanction unholiness; if "just," it must demand the penalty; if "good," or benevolent, it must be enforced; for it is mercy to the whole creation to punish offenders.
4. It is eternal. The subjects of its government are immortal. They will always be under this law, which has no remedy for their sin, and yet eternally enforces its own penalty.
III. THANKS BE TO GOD, WHICH GIVETH US THE VICTORY.
1. The means by which the victory is made possible; "through our Lord Jesus Christ." This work of Christ had several parts.
(1) His incarnation. What He was to do was for us, hence He had to assume our nature.
(2) His sacrificial death. He came to take the penalty of our sin; to magnify the law, and redeem us from its curse. Hence He died as our substitute.
(3) His resurrection. He rose to plead His death in our behalf.
(4) The effusion of the Spirit. He gives the Spirit to awaken us to a sense of our condition; to lead us to Himself and cure the plague of sin, the sting of death, in our consciences.
(5) His judgeship, that, at the resurrection, He might claim His own people, and glorify them. for ever with Himself. Yet even this gives us not the victory. If Christ be neglected and slighted, this but heightens the guilt and envenoms the sting. There is, then —
2. A victory for us. How do we obtain it? Faith in the atonement secures deliverance from the curse of the law. The sense of pardon takes away the sense of guilt. The spirit of bondage gives place to the Spirit of adoption, Behold, then, victory —
(1) Over death. He, too, must die. Yet it has no sting; for he is saved from sin. He is at peace with God, and in another world he shall be at peace with Him.
(2) Over the grave. It has had its victory, which has been nearly universal over the strength, the art, the conditions, the pleasures, the cares, and tenderest relations of men. Yet upon the brink of the all-devouring grave itself may the Christian stand, and shout, "O grave, where is thy victory?" It has been once conquered — on the illustrious morning of our Lord's resurrection. Its key was taken into His hand. It holds the dust of His saints but as a deposit; and it shall yield them up at His call.
Parallel VersesKJV: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?