But thanks be to God who, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:57
A strange scene erupted at Badger Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. Over 60,000 University of Wisconsin fans watched their beloved football team get beat by Michigan State. The more their team lost, the more the crowd cheered. As it turns out, seventy miles away, the Milwaukee Brewers were beating the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the World Series. The Badger fans celebrated a great victory they did not see despite the terrible loss right in front of them.
Here is an apt picture of Christian truth, faith, life, hope, and joy. Christians are Easter people! We view life through the lens of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, we shout victory, even when the scoreboard of life says we are losing. The victimization of society is rapidly changing the world around us. People now see everything in terms of the oppressors and the oppressed. As a result, many people suffer as a way of life. They are professional victims. Like a snake, the spirit of the age has slithered into the church. Some churches now preach “another gospel” that is no gospel.
- Self has replaced Christ.
- Felt needs have replaced redemption.
- Deliverance has replaced salvation.
- Therapy has placed conversion.
- Pragmatism has replaced faithfulness.
1 Corinthians 15 is about the resurrection of the dead. The first half is about the historical resurrection of Jesus. The second half is about the future resurrection of Christians. Paul proclaimed the risen Savior in Corinth. Sinners repented and believed the gospel. But these young Christians did not know how to respond to those who claimed when you’re dead, you’re done. 1 Corinthians rebukes and refutes this “grave error.” The apostle defends, explains, and applies the Christian doctrine of resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:57 celebrates it: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians confronts and corrects controversies in the church at Corinth. It is more practical than doctrinal. 1 Corinthians 15 is the theological highpoint of the letter. Paul ends this theological treatise with a shout of praise, a call to worship, a hymn of triumph. True worship involves head and heart, intellect and emotion, reason and romance. 1 Corinthians 15:57 exults: “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Alan F. Johnson said this verse “is the whole chapter in the nutshell.” It proclaims the proper response to the message of Easter: Thank God for Jesus!
Why is Easter a reason to rejoice?
1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” God is the subject and object of this declaration of praise. Thanksgiving is to be given to God because of what God has given to us. The verse is a statement about the nature of God: God is generous.James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” If God was stingy, we would praise him for every blessing we extract from his miserly hand. Because God is so generous, we take his grace for granted.
Verse 57 exhorts us to give thanks for divine generosity. We should give thanks for a specific gift: “the victory.” “Victory” means to prevail after a struggle. It is a military term that assumes bitter enemies, a fierce battle, and a favorable outcome. The victory for which we should give thanks is over death. 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 sing: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” Paul mocks death as a defeated foe! How do mortal, perishing men prevail over death? Verse 57 says God gives us the victory.
- It is not a battle we fight.
- It is not an enemy we beat.
- It is not a victory we win.
God gives us the victory. It is a divine act of sovereign grace. The victory is a grace gift from God. “Gives” is in the present tense, which denotes continual action or repeated activity. The victory was won at the cross. It will be consummated in heaven. Yet it is enjoyed and experienced here and now. R.C.H. Lenski said, “The victory is bestowed on us, hour by hour.”
A multitude rose against Jehoshaphat and Judah. The King sought the Lord, proclaiming a time of fasting and prayer. 2 Chronicles 20:15 says, “Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’” Verse 17 adds: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.” Jehoshaphat organized a choir to lead the people into battle. While they were having church, the Lord ambushed the enemy. By the time Judah showed up, the enemy was already dead. What God did for Jehoshaphat is nothing coming to what God has done for us in Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Is this your story? Are you fighting a battle that has already been won? Run to the cross!Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
The Battle of Blue Licks was the last battle of the American Revolutionary War. It was fought after the war was over! News traveled slowly. There was no means of communication over the Appalachian Mountains to Blue Licks, Kentucky. The two sides fought because no one knew the war was over.
- Nothing you can do can save you from death, hell, and the grave.
- No work you perform can save you from death, hell, and the grave.
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Verse 57 says, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The verse begins with a contrasting conjunction: “But.” Verse 57 is the antithesis of verse 56: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” This statement highlights three main reasons for doom, defeat, and despair: death, sin, and the law.
The most critical factor is death. Death is a fact of life. Psalm 90:10 says, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” Life is brief, frail, and doomed. Every one of us has a date with death that cannot be canceled.Eating healthy, working out, and living right may prolong life. It will not prevent death.
Benjamin Franklinsaid, “Our new constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” That final clause of Franklin’s quote has become axiomatic. But many have successfully practiced tax evasion. The death rate is still one hundred percent. You will die just as sure as you live. Each of us will become bones in a box or ashes in an urn.
- Verse 57 declares the victory we enjoy.
- Verse 56 declares the enemy we engage.
Death is the enemy we cannot defeat. 1 Corinthians 15:26 says, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Why is death undefeatable? Verse 56 says, “The sting of death is sin.” The language pictures death as a malevolent insect with a poisonous sting. Death’s sting is our sin. “Sin” is an archer’s term. A target has been set up. We must hit the bullseye to win. Our best shots miss the mark. Romans 3:23 says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
- Little sins and big sins sting us.
- Sinful words and deeds sting us.
- Sinful attitudes and conduct sting us.
- Public sins and private sins sting us.
- Sins of commission and omission sting us.
Verse 56 says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” The “law” refers to more than a moral or ethical code of conduct. It refers to God’s word, will, and ways. The law consists of commands to obey and consequences of disobedience.
Barry and I went to our favorite burger joint after church one Sunday. The young man asked if we were Muslims. Barry told him we were Christians. He wondered what that meant. Barry told him it meant we were saved. “Saved from what?” The young man asked. “I need saving from a whole lot of stuff.”
Saved from what? We need to be saved from something more than guilt, shame, fear, death, or hell. We need to be saved from God. Our sin violates God’s law. God’s holy character, just justice, and righteous wrath demand payment. Romans 6:32 says, “For the wages the sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Sin has a paycheck and a payday. “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Verse 56 looks down: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” Verse 57 looks up: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- The proper response to salvation: “But thanks be to God.”
- The divine source of salvation: “God, who gives us the victory.”
- The exclusive means of salvation: “Through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
George Wilson was convicted of killing a guard while robbing a federal payroll from a train. Public sentiment against capital punishment led to a pardon by President Andrew Jackson. Wilson refused the pardon. In the Supreme Court decision, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote: “A pardon is a parchment whose only value must be determined by the receiver of the pardon. It has no value apart from that which the receiver gives it. George Wilson has refused to accept the pardon. We cannot conceive why he would do so, but he has. Therefore, George Wilson must die.” Wilson was hanged.
Verse 57 says, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” God gives us the victory. It is universally available. It must be personally received. How do we claim the victory? “Through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul uses the Savior’s full title:
- Lord is his deity.
- Jesus is his humanity.
- Christ is his authority.
The pronoun is more important than the title: “Our Lord Jesus Christ.” Knowing about Jesus will not save you. Knowing people who know Jesus will not save you. You must know Jesus for yourself as Savior and Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:57 connects the Godhead: “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” To thank God is to trust Jesus.
In short, Paul says, “Thank God for Jesus!” Thank God for his virgin birth, righteous life, atoning death, triumphant resurrection, and exalted name! There is novictory without Christ. Turn from your sin and trust in Christ alone for salvation. Romans 10:9-10 says: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
Adam and Eve ate us out of house and home. Immediately, they died spiritually. Progressively, they died morally. Ultimately, they died physically. Christ changes everything! Immediately, you are born againspiritually. Progressive, you grow in Christlikeness morally. Ultimately, you will have a life forever physically. Christ changes death from your end to your beginning. Christ changes your grave from a tomb to a cocoon. Christ changes a cemetery from “Goodbye” to “See you later.”
D.L. Moody said, “Someday you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t believe a word of it! At that moment, I shall be more alive than I am now!” That’s every believer’s testimony. Your funeral is not your finale.What do you do in the meantime? 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Why should you hang in there?
- Jesus lived.
- Jesus died.
- Jesus rose.
The Most Important Commandment
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this:‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. – Mark 12:28-34 Armies win…