Victory over Death
1 Corinthians 15:55. “O death.” This triumphant exclamation is the commencement of the fourth division of the chapter, the practical consequences of the doctrine. It is such an exclamation as every man with right feelings will be disposed to make, who contemplates the ravages of death; who looks upon a world where in all forms he has reigned, and who then contemplates the glorious truth, that a complete and final triumph has been obtained over this great enemy of the happiness of man, and that man
would die no more. It is a triumphant view which bursts upon the soul as it contemplates the fact that the work of the second Adam has repaired the ruins of the first, and that man is redeemed; his body will be raised; not another human being should die,and the work of death should be ended. Nay, it is more. Death is not only at an end; it shall not only cease, but its evils shall be repaired; and a glory and honor shall encompass the body of man, such as would have been unknown had there been no death. No commentary can add to the beauty and force of the language in this verse; and the best way to see its beauty, and to enjoy it, is to sit down and think. of DEATH; of what death has been, and has done; of the millions and millions that have died; of the earth strewn with the dead, and “arched with graves;” of our own death; the certainty that we must die, and our parents, and brothers, and sisters, and children, and friends; that all, all must die;
and then to suffer the truth, in its full-orbed splendor, to rise upon us, that the time will come when DEATH SHALL BE AT AN END. Who, in such contemplation, can refrain from the language of triumph, and from hymns of praise?
Where is thy sting? The word which is here rendered sting denotes properly a prick, a point, hence, a goad or stimulus; that is, a rod or staff with an iron point, for goading oxen; (see the note on Acts 9:5); and then a sting properly, as of scorpions, bees, etc. It denotes here a venomous thing, or weapon, applied to death personified, as if death
employed it to destroy life, as the sting of a bee or a scorpion is used. The idea is derived from the venomous sting of serpents, or other reptiles, as being destructive and painful. The language here is the language of exultation, as if that was taken away or destroyed.
. Hades, the place of the dead. It is not improperly rendered, however, grave. The word properly denotes a place of darkness; then the world, or abodes of the dead. According to the Hebrews, Hades, or Sheol, was a vast subterranean receptacle, or abode, where the souls of the dead existed. It was dark, deep, still, awful. The descent to it was through the grave; and the spirits of all the dead were supposed to be assembled there; the righteous occupying the upper regions, and the wicked the lower; see the note on
Isaiah 14:9; compare Lowth, Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, vii; Campbell, Prel. Diss. vi. part 2, 2. It refers here to the dead; and means that the grave, or Hades, should no longer
have a victory.
Thy victory Since the dead are to rise; since all the graves are to give up all that dwell in them; since no man will die after that, where is its victory? It is taken away. It is despoiled. The power of death and the grave is vanquished, and Christ is triumphant over all. It has been well remarked here, that the words in this verse rise above the plain and simple language of prose, and resemble a hymn, into which the apostle breaks out in view of the glorious truth which is here presented to the mind. The whole verse is
indeed a somewhat loose quotation from Hosea 13:14, which we translate,.
“O death, I will be thy plagues;
O grave, I will be thy destruction.”
But which the Septuagint renders:
“O death, where is thy punishment?
O grave, where is thy sting?”
Probably Paul did not intend this as a direct quotation; but he spoke as a man naturally does who is familiar with the language of the Scriptures, and used it to express the sense which he intended, without meaning to make a direct and literal quotation. The form which Paul uses is so poetic in its structure that Pope has adopted it, with only a change in the location of the members, in the “Dying Christian:”
“O grave, where is thy victory?
O death, where is thy sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:56. The sting of death The sting which death bears; that with which he effects his purpose; that which is made use of to inflict death; or that which is the cause of death. There would be no death without sin. The apostle here personifies death, as if it were a living being, and as making use of sin to inflict death, or as being the sting, or envenomed instrument, with which he inflicts the mortal agony. The idea is, that sin is the cause of death. It introduced it; it makes it certain; it is the cause of the pain, distress, agony, and horror which attends it. If there had been no sin, people would not have died. If there were no sin, death would not be attended with horror or alarm. For why should innocence be afraid to die? What has innocence to fear anywhere in the universe of a just God? The fact, therefore, that people die, is proof that they are sinners; the fact that they feel horror and alarm, is proof that they feel themselves to be guilty, and that they are afraid to go into the presence of a holy God. If this be taken away, if sin be removed, of course the horror, and remorse, and alarm which it is suited to produce will be removed also.
is sin Sin is the cause of it; see the note at
The strength of sin Its power over the mind; its terrific and dreadful energy; and especially its power to produce alarm in the hour of death.
is the law The pure and holy law of God. This idea Paul has illustrated at
length in Romans 7:9-13; see the notes on that passage. He probably made the statement here in order to meet the Jews, and to show that the. law of God had no power to take away the fear of death; and that, therefore, there was need of the gospel, and that this alone could do it. The Jews maintained that a man might be justified and saved by obedience to the law. Paul here shows that it is the law which gives its chief vigor to sin,
and that it does not tend to subdue or destroy it; and that power is seen most strikingly in the pangs and horrors of a guilty conscience on the bed of death. There was need, therefore, of the gospel, which alone could remove the cause of these horrors, by taking away sin, and thus leaving the pardoned man to die in peace; compare the note on Romans 4:15.
1 Corinthians 15:57. But thanks be to God; See the notes at
Which giveth us the victory Us who are Christians; all Christians. The victory over sin, death, and the grave. God alone is the author of this victory. He formed the plan; he executed it in the gift of his Son; and he gives it to us personally when we come to die.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ By his death, thus destroying the power of death; by his resurrection and triumph over the grave; and by his grace imparted to us to enable us to sustain the pains of death, and giving to us the hope of a glorious resurrection; compare the note at Romans 7:25; 8:37.
1 Corinthians 15:58. Therefore, my beloved brethren In view of the great and glorious truths which have been revealed to us respecting the resurrection, Paul closes the whole of this important discussion with an exhortation to that firmness in the faith which ought to result from truths so glorious, and from hopes so elevated as these truths are suited to impart. The exhortation is so plain, that it needs little explanation; it so
obviously follows from the argument which Paul had pursued, that there is little need to attempt to enforce it.
Be ye steadfast
, from . Seated, sedentary (Robinson); perhaps with an allusion to a statue (Bloomfield); or perhaps to wrestling, and to standing one’s ground (Wolf). Whatever may be the
allusion, the sense is clear. Be firm, strong, confident in the faith, in view of the truth that you will be raised up. Be not shaken or agitated with the strifes, the temptations, and the cares of life. Be fixed in the faith, and let not the power of sin, or the sophistry of pretended philosophy, or the arts of the enemy of the soul seduce you from the faith of the gospel.533
Unmovable Firm, fixed, stable, unmoved. This is probably a stronger expression than the former, though meaning substantially the same thing — that we are to be firm and unshaken in our Christian hopes, and in our faith in the gospel.
Always abounding in the work of the Lord Always engaged in doing the will of God; in promoting his glory, and advancing his kingdom. The phrase means not only to be engaged in this, but to be engaged diligently, laboriously; excelling in this. The “work of the Lord” here means that which the Lord requires; all the appropriate duties of Christians. Paul exhorts them to practice every Christian virtue, and to do all that they
could do to further the gospel among people.
Forasmuch as ye know Greek “Knowing.” You know it by the arguments which have been urged for the truth of the gospel; by your deep conviction that that gospel is true.
Your labour is not in vain It will be rewarded. It is not as if you were to die and never live again. There will be a resurrection, and you will be suitably recompensed then What you do for the honor of God will not only be attended with an approving conscience, and with happiness here, but will be met with the glorious and eternal rewards of heaven.
In the Lord This probably means, “Your labor or work in the Lord, that is, in the cause of the Lord, will not be in vain.” And the sentiment of the whole verse is, that the hope of the resurrection and of future glory should stimulate us to great and self-denying efforts in honor of Him who has revealed that doctrine, and who purposes graciously to reward us there. Other people are influenced and excited to great efforts by the hope of
honor, pleasure, or wealth. Christians should be excited to toil and selfdenial by the prospect of immortal glory; and by the assurance that their hopes are not in vain, and will not deceive them. Thus, closes this chapter of inimitable beauty, and of unequalled power of argumentation. Such is the prospect which is before the Christian. He shall
indeed die like other people. But his death is a sleep — a calm, gentle, undisturbed sleep, in the expectation of being again awaked to a brighter Day,
1 Corinthians 15:6. He has the assurance that his Saviour rose, and that his people shall therefore also rise, 1 Corinthians 15:12-20. He encounters peril, and privation, and persecution he may be ridiculed and despised; he may be subjected to danger, or doomed to fight with wild beasts, or to contend with people who resemble wild beasts; he may be
doomed to the pains and terrors of a martyrdom at the stake, but he has the assurance that all these are of short continuance, and that before him there is a world of eternal glory; 1 Corinthians 15:29-32. He may be poor, unhonored, and apparently without an earthly friend or protector; but his Saviour and Redeemer reigns; 1 Corinthians 15:25. He may be opposed by wicked people, and his name slandered, and body tortured, and his peace marred, but his enemies shall all be subdued; 1 Corinthians 15:26,27. He will himself die, and sleep in his grave, but he shall live again; 1 Corinthians 15:22,23. He has painful proof that his body is corruptible, but it will be incorruptible; that it is now vile, but it will be glorious; that it is weak, frail, feeble, but it will yet be strong, and no more
subject to disease or decay; 1 Corinthians 15:42,43. And he will be brought under the power of death. but death shall be robbed of its honors, and despoiled of its triumph. Its sting from the saint is taken away. and it is changed to a blessing. It is now not the dreaded monster, the king of terrors it is a friend that comes to remove him from a world of toil to a world of rest; from a life of sin to a life of glory. The grave is not to him
the gloomy abode, the permanent restingplace of his body; it is a place of rest for a little time; grateful like the bed of down to a wearied frame, where he may lie down and repose after the fatigues of the day, and gently wait for the morning. He has nothing to fear in death; nothing to fear in the dying pang, the gloom, the chill, the sweat, the paleness, the fixedness of death; nothing to fear in the chilliness, the darkness, the silence, the
corruption of the grave. All this is in the way to immortality, and is closely
and indissolubly connected with immortality; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.
And in view of all this, we should be patient, faithful, laborious, self-denying; we should engage with zeal in the work of the Lord; we should calmly wait till our change come; 1 Corinthians 15:58. No other system of religion has any such hopes as this; no other system does anything to dispel the gloom, or drive away the horrors of the grave. How foolish is the man who rejects the gospel — the only system which brings life and
immortality to light! How foolish to reject the doctrine of the resurrection, and to lie down in the grave without peace, without hope, without any belief that there will be a world of glory; living without God, and dying like the brute. And yet infidelity seeks and claims its chief triumphs in the attempt to convince poor dying man that he has no solid ground of hope; that the universe is “without a Father and without a God;” that the grave
terminates the career of man forever; and that in the grave he sinks away to. eternal annihilation. Strange that man should seek such degradation! Strange that all people, conscious that they must die, do not at once greet Christianity as their best friend, and hail the doctrine of the future state, and of the resurrection, as that which is adapted to meet the deeply-felt evils of this world; to fill the desponding mind with peace; and to sustain the soul in the temptations and trials of life, and in the gloom and agony of