1 Corinthians 15:56
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
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(56) The sting of death is sin.—Death is pictured as a monster, and it is armed with a sting. Its sting is sin. If there were no sin, death would not be capable of inflicting pain, and the strength of sin springs from the fact that it is the violation of God’s law. (See this thought fully brought out, Romans 5:12; Romans 7:7.)

1 Corinthians 15:56-58. The sting of death is sin — Which arms it with its greatest terrors, and is attended with a foreboding of future misery, as the effect of the divine displeasure. And the strength of sin — Which constitutes its malignity, and gives it those killing weapons; is the law — As is largely declared Romans 7:7, &c.; or, that it is a transgression of the divine law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us — Who believe on the Lord Jesus with our hearts unto righteousness; the victory — Over sin, death, and hades; through our Lord Jesus Christ — Through his sacrifice and intercession, and the supplies of his grace; through his dying to atone for sin; his rising again to show us that his atonement was accepted, and that he had obtained justification for believers, the Holy Spirit to raise them to newness of life, and a state of immortal glory. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast — In faith, hope, and love, and in an uninterrupted course of well-doing; Colossians 1:23; Romans 2:7; Galatians 6:9; unmoveable — By any temptations from within or without; from persons or things; from visible or invisible enemies; always abounding in the work of the Lord — In every service you are capable of performing for the glory of God, the good of your fellow-creatures, or your own salvation; the work of faith, or the labour of love to God and man. Forasmuch as ye know — On the surest evidence; that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord — But that you shall receive a full reward in that day of final recompense for whatever ye do for his sake. Let us endeavour, therefore, by cultivating holiness in all its branches, to maintain a lively hope of this felicity in all its spirit and energy, longing for that glorious day when, in the utmost extent of the expression, death shall be swallowed up for ever: and millions of voices, after the long silence of the grave, shall burst out at once into that triumphant song, O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory? And when we shall join in everlasting thanksgivings to God for giving us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.

15:51-58 All the saints should not die, but all would be changed. In the gospel, many truths, before hidden in mystery, are made known. Death never shall appear in the regions to which our Lord will bear his risen saints. Therefore let us seek the full assurance of faith and hope, that in the midst of pain, and in the prospect of death, we may think calmly on the horrors of the tomb; assured that our bodies will there sleep, and in the mean time our souls will be present with the Redeemer. Sin gives death all its hurtful power. The sting of death is sin; but Christ, by dying, has taken out this sting; he has made atonement for sin, he has obtained remission of it. The strength of sin is the law. None can answer its demands, endure its curse, or do away his own transgressions. Hence terror and anguish. And hence death is terrible to the unbelieving and the impenitent. Death may seize a believer, but it cannot hold him in its power. How many springs of joy to the saints, and of thanksgiving to God, are opened by the death and resurrection, the sufferings and conquests of the Redeemer! In verse 58, we have an exhortation, that believers should be stedfast, firm in the faith of that gospel which the apostle preached, and they received. Also, to be unmovable in their hope and expectation of this great privilege, of being raised incorruptible and immortal. And to abound in the work of the Lord, always doing the Lord's service, and obeying the Lord's commands. May Christ give us faith, and increase our faith, that we may not only be safe, but joyful and triumphant.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 Romans 5:12.

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.

56. If there were no sin, there would be no death. Man's transgression of the law gives death its lawful power.

strength of sin is the law—Without the law sin is not perceived or imputed (Ro 3:20; 4:15; 5:13). The law makes sin the more grievous by making God's will the clearer (Ro 7:8-10). Christ's people are no longer "under the law" (Ro 6:14).

The sting of death is sin; if it were not for sin, death could have no power over man; sin is that which giveth death a power to hurt the children of men: The wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23.

And the strength of sin is the law; and without the law there could be no transgression. The law is so far from taking away the guilt of sin, that, through the corruption of our natures, strongly inclining us to what is forbidden, it addeth strength to sin; sin (as the apostle saith, Romans 7:8) taking occasion by the commandment, and working in us all manner of concupiscence.

The sting of death is sin,.... Death has a sting, and which was originally in it, and that is sin; sin is the cause of death, it is what has given rise and being to it; it entered into the world by it, and is supported in its empire through it; it gives it its resistless power, which reaches to all sorts of persons, young and old, rich and poor, high and low, bond and free; it gives it all its bitterness, agonies, and miseries; and it is by that it does all the hurt and mischief it does; and it may fitly be compared to a sting, for its poisonous and venomous nature:

and the strength of sin is the law; not that the law of God is sinful, or encourages sin: it forbids it under the severest penalty; but was there no law there would be no sin, nor imputation of it; sin is a transgression of the law: moreover, the strength of sin, its evil nature, and all the dreadful aggravations of it, and sad consequences upon it, are discovered and made known by the law; and also the strength of it is drawn out by it, through the corruption of human nature; which is irritated and provoked the more to sin, through the law's prohibition of it; and this is not the fault of the law, but is owing to the vitiosity of nature; which the more it is forbidden anything, the more desirous it is of it; to which may be added, that sin is the more exceeding sinful, being committed against a known law, and that of the great lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy; whose legislative power and authority are slighted and trampled upon by it, which makes the transgression the more heinous; it is the law which binds sin upon a man's conscience, accuses him of it, pronounces him guilty, curses, condemns, and adjudges him to death for it.

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
1 Corinthians 15:56 f., still retaining the conception of the κέντρον and the νῖκος, points, by way of happy conclusion (not as introduction to the admonition which follows, as Hofmann would have it), to the firm dogmatic ground upon which this certainty of future victory rests in a connected view of the gospel. “Seeing that death slays through sin (Romans 5:12), and sin, again, is powerful through the law (Romans 7:7 ff.), it is thus certain that God gives us the victory over death through Jesus Christ.” Christ, that is to say, has indeed blotted out sin through His ἱλαστήριον, has risen for our righteousness’ sake; and has thus withdrawn us from the curse of the law, and withdrawn us by His Spirit from its power to stir up and promote sin (Romans 8:1 ff.). In this proof set forth by the apostle, the summary of his whole gospel is contained. The form, however, is not argumentative, but, in correspondence with the elevated and emotional tone of the passage, such that shadow and light are placed beside each other, but with the light breaking forth after the darkness, as in Romans 7:25, in the shape of a cry of thanksgiving.

τῷ διδόντι] present; for this future victory of life over death is for us sure and certain.

1 Corinthians 15:56 is set aside by Sm[2585], and Clemen (Die Einheitlichkeit d. paul. Br., ad loc[2586]), after Straatmann and Völter, as a “marginal note” of some early Paulinist, on the ground that it is out of keeping with the lyrical strain of the passage, and with the absence of the anti-legal polemic from this Ep. But the ideas of this ver. fill the contemporary Rom. and Gal. Epp., and are uppermost there in Paul’s highest moods (see Romans 8:31 ff., 2 Corinthians 5:13-21); they are expressed with an originality and pregnant force unmistakably Pauline, and in a rhythmical, imaginative turn of expression harmonising with the context. In this Ep., which “knows nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” the Ap. was bound to link his theology of the Resurrection to the doctrine of salvation by the Cross: see 1 Corinthians 15:17 f., in proof that the λόγος τῆς ἀναστάσεως is one, in Paul’s mind, with the λόγος τοῦ σταυροῦ.

[2585] P. Schmiedel, in Handcommentar zum N.T. (1893).

[2586] ad locum, on this passage.

56. the strength of sin is the law] That the sting of death should be sin is very easy to understand. It is not so easy at first sight to account for the introduction here of St Paul’s favourite doctrine (see Romans 7) that ‘the strength of sin is the law.’ Yet the sequence of thought may be discovered. What gives sin its power at that supreme moment is the fact that it is the transgression of the righteous Law of an all-wise and all-holy being. (Romans 7:12; Romans 7:14; 1 Timothy 1:8.)

1 Corinthians 15:56. Ἡ ἁμαρτία, sin) If there were no sin, there could be no death; comp. Hosea 13:12. Against this prick no one could have kicked by his own strength; no one could have sung that song of triumph, where, etc. The particle but indicates this fact.—ὁ νόμος, the law) threatening death for sin; without the law sin is not perceived; under the law sin has dominion; Romans 6:14.

Verse 56. - The sting of death is sin. Because death is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). Death is represented as a venomous serpent. The strength of sin is the Law. The best comment on this expression is to be found in the Epistle to the Romans; see especially Romans 4:15; Romans 7:10-12. It must be admitted that this passing allusion to a distinct doctrine does not seem, at first sight, to harmonize with the glorious unity of the subject. No one can read it without a slight sense of jar, because it seems to introduce the element of dogmatic controversy. But this sense of incongruity is removed when we remember how intensely St. Paul felt that man is confronted with the horror of a broken Law, which at once reminds him of a Being infinitely holy, and of his own self condemnation (Romans 7; 2 Corinthians 3.). It is the sense that the Law in its deathful aspect is annulled, and the sinful soul delivered, which prompts the outburst of the next verse. 1 Corinthians 15:56
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