I Corinthians 15:51-57 — The final victory

I really love these verses.  Somehow, I’ve never gotten around to committing them to memory, but I think I may just do that over the next several days.

It is Paul’s victory cry.  He says,

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  (54)

It’s possible he was quoting from Isaiah 25:8, where Isaiah said,

He will swallow up death forever.

Paul then cries out,

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (55)

It’s very interesting the passage he quotes here.  It comes from Hosea 13:14.  The NIV seems to put Paul’s interpretation on it, translating it to say that God will deliver his people from death.  But actually, it seems in Hosea that God is really calling down curses upon his people.  Essentially, he’s saying, “Shall I rescue you from the grave?  Shall I rescue you from death?  Death!  Rain down plagues upon my people.  O grave!  Where is your sting that you might prick my people?”  (see ESV or NASB).

Why?  Because of their sins.  Because of their unfaithfulness to God.

But here Paul says, “Whereas God once used these words to call judgment on his people for their sins, now he is proclaiming victory over the very sin and death that had once reigned over them.”

He says,

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (56)

The word “sting,” can of course mean “sting” as in a scorpion’s sting or a bee’s sting.  And taken that way, sin’s sting was like poison to us leading to death.  The word “sting” can also mean “a goad,” however, and in that sense, it gives the idea that our sin pokes and prods us toward destruction.

And Paul tells us that sin’s power was in the law, namely in our inability to keep it.  We saw the law, but because of our sinful nature, we broke it leading us to sin and causing us to fall under God’s condemnation.  (Romans 7)

But when Jesus came, he fulfilled the law for us, living a perfect life, and then paying the price for our sins.  As a result, we are no longer under the jurisdiction of law, but of grace.  The law now has no power over us, and because of that, sin no longer has power over us either.

In short, death has been defanged.  (Or “de-stinged”)

And so Paul proclaims joyfully,

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (57)

What does this mean for us?  It means we no longer have to fear death because we no longer have to fear God’s condemnation.  He’s not waiting to call down plagues and destruction upon us.  Rather, the time will come when he will grant us new bodies and new lives in which we can glorify him forever.  And for all eternity, we will bask in this grace he has given us.

How about you?  Do you fear death?  Or can you along with Paul cry out,

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (55)


About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: crossroad-web.com 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください: crossroad-web.com
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