1 Corinthians 15:57-58 Thankful for Victory WC McCarter
Let me first say “thank you” to the Rural Hall Moravian Church for hosting all of us tonight. A worship gathering like this is a very special occasion. “Thank you,” also, to the other ministers who have participated in the meetings and in this service. We are all thankful to the Lord for your hard work in our community. We may all have our own traditions and histories, but there is only one Lord, one faith, and one church. Look around the room and be reminded that these are your brothers and sisters. Why don’t you look at the person to your right and then your left and say, “Hey, church.”
Every Thanksgiving my mom’s side of the family gets together at my grandparents to eat a meal. I think there are now 41 of us who meet there as well as a few other friends. That is a lot of people in one house. When the meal is finally prepared, we all gather around the kitchen table and hold hands to pray. That is a lot of people in one kitchen. By that time almost all of us are ready to eat because the meal always takes longer to prepare than we were first anticipating, yet my aunts propose that we need to go around the circle and say what we are all thankful for. Does anyone else do this? Every year this little exercise quickly descends into a repetitious and nonsensical time. Everyone says they are thankful for their family, another year of life. . . . Everyone ends up saying the same thing, and so, the conversation turns into jokes. It is almost like asking a group of kids what they are thankful for; puppies, candy, toys . . . if you are lucky, they will say mom or dad. Well, tonight I would like to take you to the Scriptures in order to remind you that you have something significant, meaningful, and real for which to be thankful. Let me remind you of something that never gets boring or silly.
Directing Thanksgiving to God
We know that the Scriptures teach that all good things come from above. As believers, we also know that all the blessings we have in this life and into the next are because of our union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, when we have something for which to be thankful, we should say, “Thanks be to God.” Of course, in v57 the sentence begins with a “But.” This reminds me of Romans 3:20-22 which says, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” To that small phrase, “But now,” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones famously said, “There are no more wonderful words in the whole of Scripture than just these two words ‘But now.’” In the context of 1 Corinthians 15, the word connects us back to v56 which says, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God. . . .” We are no longer under the law because we are under grace; sin is not on our account because Christ has paid the penalty as our substitute; and death no longer has any power over us because Christ is victorious over the grave. Because of this mighty work of salvation, God is working out all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Whatever you find yourself thankful for, your thanksgiving should be directed to God.
Thankful for Victory
What is the primary thing that the Apostle is thankful for in this passage? He is thankful for victory. What kind of victory is this? First, it is God who gives the victory, which is why our thanksgiving is due to Him. Second, our victory is given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ. The blessings that are associated with this victory come somehow by means of Christ. We can discuss this in more detail in a few minutes. Lastly, the Apostle has been discussing the subject of resurrection. In this context, he has answered the mockery of those who object to bodily resurrection by asking, “How are the dead raised, and with what body do they come?” He did so by giving natural examples of how things are transformed like a seed that later blooms into a plant, the different kinds of flesh among the earthly creatures, just as there are different types of heavenly bodies, and the heavenly bodies are in a different category from the earthly. Therefore, we will all be changed. You cannot enter into God’s heavenly kingdom with these earthly bodies.
The natural comes first and then the spiritual. Thus, for the Christian, death leads to victory. Although the law is strong in that it reveals sin, and sin is a master because it always leads to death, we can be thankful to God for victory. To have victory in these things is not only possible, but it is a reality in Christ. Outside of Christ there is no hope for victory. And this victory does not necessarily make one rich in this life or shelter them from pain or sorrow. If you live long enough, you will suffer in this present wicked age. To have victory is to have a confident hope for the future. It is to believe in things unseen, knowing that God speaks the worlds into existence, and if our Lord has gone to prepare a place for us, He will come again that we may be where He is.
Steadfast, Immovable, Abounding
You may think that it is difficult to get a sermon out of two verses, but these two verses in particular are perfect. There is the great theological statement made in v57, and then the very practical application is given in v58. This last verse begins with the important word, “Therefore.” In light of the truth that the Apostle has just established by unique inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we must be steadfast and immovable as well as always giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord because we are confident that our labor is not in vain. He who has promised is able. Do not let anyone sway you from the truth that you have found in the Gospel and the Christian Scriptures.
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) Hang on to what you have believed. It is not going to get easier to continue in the faith in the near future. You are going to be challenged. You cannot be one who shrinks back. Continue to trust in the Lord and the promises He has made. Continue to trust that what Christ has done on the cross is enough to save you.