1 Corinthians 15:56, “56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;”
In verse 56 the Apostle Paul jam packs a lot of truth in a few little words. Therefore, we are going to need to draw out some of the truths of these words. Lets break them into two sections: Sting of death is sin / Power of sin is the law.
First Section: When the Apostle Paul writes, “the sting of death is sin” it means death isn’t really hurtful unless there is sin. The God of Scripture isn’t concerned about death. Jesus says to Lazarus, “Come out!” Jesus said to the little girl who was deceased, “Get up!” Death in and of itself isn’t a big deal unless there is sin, therefore, the Apostle Paul writes, “The sting of death is sin.”
Second Section: The problem isn’t death, but our sin, and the power of sin is the law, and I could lose you here, so stay with me, but the law isn’t just the Scriptures we hold in our hand. The law is the Scriptures we hold in our hands, but also the law is made known in all of creation. Romans 1, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen.”
Therefore, all of creation is singing out of God’s design, order, and beauty, so that all of humanity is going through life knowing inherently and intuitively that there is a creator that is glorious, so that the power of sin is the law, because the law in the Scriptures and creation is testifying to every human being goes throughout their day knowing something is not right, and this is called guilt and shame.
You know that feeling in life where you say to yourself, “Ah, man, why did I do this?” That’s guilt. Every human being has those moments throughout life. Sometimes we run a red light, sometimes words fly out of our mouths that are hurtful toward others, sometimes we click on a website that is embarrassing, and we say, “Ah, man, why did I do this?” That is called guilt.
Now, there are some of us who replay that mistake throughout our day over and over in our head and wonder to ourselves, “Why did I do this? If I got up earlier I wouldn’t have done this. If I took a left I wouldn’t have had this problem. If I would have made that phone call. If I would have stayed in bed.” We replay those moments of error in our lives over and over and that is called shame.
Now our culture is going to say, “The reason humanity has guilt and shame is because of religious tones in our culture, and if we can get away from religious tones we wouldn’t have guilt and shame.”
But, our culture has been removing the supernatural for the last 100 years, and people are just as depressed, anxious and fearful about their guilt and shame as ever. You can go into different cultures around the world, religious and secular, and you are going to see layers of guilt and shame. We all have this little voice in our head that cries out, “You should be a better person. You should try harder. You should be smarter. You should do something with your life.”
Therefore, we need to ask ourselves this morning, “What do we do with that guilt and shame?” Our culture says, “Just don’t think about.” Just rename, just excuse it, just block it out, just accept it, but, guilt and shame isn’t just a psychological problem in our heads.
When we mess up in life there are tangible things in play. There are real offenses taking place. If you murder someone you can’t just say, “No big deal.” There is a real offense. Murder is a little extreme, but when you wreck your car into someone you can’t just say, “I am sorry. Don’t be mad. Walk away.” No, there is real offense. You are in debt to that person. Your guilt isn’t just emotional or hypothetical or psychological. You smashed up that person’s property.
When you say something hurtful to a friend. You can’t just act like it didn’t happen and walk away. You can, but the damage is done. If you hit a dog over and over you can’t just whistle and expect them to come. There is a real fracture in the relationship.
Therefore, what do you do with the guilt and shame? In 1 Corinthians 15:57 the Apostle Paul writes, “57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
But, thanks be to God! Our only hope to remove the power of sin handed down through the law is Jesus. Jesus doesn’t say, “No big deal.” Jesus doesn’t say, “Just keep yourself busy so you don’t have to think about it.” Jesus doesn’t make excuses and say, “Well, your life was hard.” Jesus doesn’t send us into some spiritual nirvana and say, “Just be a better person.”
No, Jesus comes to pay the debt of our offense. Jesus becomes our guilt. Jesus endures the cross and despises the shame. Jesus puts our guilt and shame to death at the cross. This is the good news of Jesus.
Now, when the Apostle Paul writes, “Jesus brings victory” in verse 57 he doesn’t mean you trust in Jesus one time and all your guilt and shame goes away forever. Well, functionally our guilt and shame has gone away, but practically we are all going to experience guilt and shame every day. Creation is still testifying to God’s glory, and as human beings we are still going to see guilt and shame in our lives.
But, and this is a huge but…every time we see those layers of guilt and shame creeping into our lives we can by grace through faith turn to Jesus and be reminded the price has been paid.