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.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54–57)
We are at war. Each of us is fighting all the time for our lives. In a world filled with and shaped by sin, nothing is safe. For most of us, underneath the veils of middle-class comfort and suburban security and perpetual entertainment there’s an epic spiritual battle happening. Right now, evil forces are wrestling for your attention, your affection, and your eternity. They crave to see you destroyed, and they do everything they can to draw you away from the life, peace, and joy that can be found in Jesus. It’s an invisible war, but it’s a real one, and your life is in the balance.
If our lives depend on our own ability — our knowledge, our strength, our strategies — we will lose. Sin has not only corrupted us. It’s weakened and defeated us. We’ve proven again and again that our power, our resolve, and our desires are nothing against Satan’s conspiracies to kill us. We succumb to temptation, stumble over every idol in front us, and with every weakened pace, threaten to fall flat on our face. Blinded by sin, we sprint — spiritually speaking — into death. We’re utterly unable to resist, to overcome, and to win, at least not on our own.
Ability and Victory
The good news is that this war is not won by you or me. Our inability isn’t the end of the story. When sin and death were advancing on every side, arrogantly waving their flags in our faces, someone stepped in on our behalf. At Calvary, the cavalry came to stem the slaughter and stop the enemy. Christ died so that Death itself would one day die. “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). He went to the cross to keep Death from claiming any of his brothers and sisters. Not one of his would lose this war. He would have very single one of them — every single one of us who believe in, follow, and treasure him.
Are you feeling weak? Are you being mistreated by family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers who don’t believe the gospel? Have you given into temptation again after thinking you had put that sin behind you? Are you experiencing the same old doubts or depression or fears? Does it feel like you’re losing ground in the war for your soul? Trust in Jesus, and know that he is able everywhere you are not. He is strong whenever you are weak. He is righteous in your place wherever you are sinful and undeserving. You will never find real victory, lasting victory over sin and death inside of you. But there is One waiting in you and with you who is able, if you’ll believe in him.
The Victory Cry
With this God, as Tim Keller writes, “Death will put you in God’s arms and make you all you hoped to be” (King’s Cross, 103). Being found in the able One, we sing freely and joyfully over our enemies, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Death, we do not fear you anymore. You have no claim on us, and you can take nothing from us. You’ve been defeated and done away with. Instead of enslaving us, now you can only serve us (Romans 8:37).
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56–57). Death’s sting has been removed because sin has been conquered at the cross. The One who is infinitely, lovingly able won the war and gifted us the victory. And now, with the battle decided and his arms wide open to us, he walks with us every step until we claim our prize at his side.