Understanding the Law, Sin and Death

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Question: Please help me understand this verse from 1st Corinthians …

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” – ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:56‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Answer: This verse has challenged a number of people, and you can find a variety of explanations for it. I think the most important thing to note is that the verse preceding it reads, “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55).  So the passage in reference is in the context of Christ’s Resurrection victory over death… perfect for this Easter season! So whatever we say about death we need to understand that it is a defeated enemy.

So in that light, I believe that the point being made is that death would not necessarily be a fearful thing for people if it weren’t for sin. In fact death, we know from Jesus, is a doorway to New Life for the believer (John 11:11-13, 1 Thessalonians 4:13). But if a person dies in sin, rejecting the salvation of Jesus Christ, then death will have quite a “sting” – not just a sleep, but eternal death … what is sometimes called the “second death” (Revelation 2, 20, 21).  However, we know that the sting of sin itself, along with death – the ultimate sting of sin – has been defeated in Christ’s crucifixion.

Now when Paul refers to the “power of sin” in this verse, it is in the context of the law – God’s Law.  We must keep in mind that the Law’s primary power is not to make us holy (it’s cannot) … but to drive us to the Lord. In fact, when we sin, if it were not for the law, we would be ignorant of that sin. However, the Law shows us our sin and therefore has the “power” to move us toward God for salvation. The law is a terrible taskmaster by itself; it will never be satisfied. One good thing about the the Law however, it is that when we sin, it will send us crying for mercy to the Lord. … that is one “power” that we could ascribe to sin – when we break God’s Law, it shows us our need for a Savior.

I like what one commentator has said “without the law sin is not perceived; under the law sin has dominion.” … You and I would be bound to sin, and therefore the law of death, if it were not for Christ who has made us victorious over both the Law and death! Sin is merely the “grease” of both: the law and death. It’s almost like a math equation (engineer-types might appreciate this approach!) the law leads to sin, then sin leads to death. If a implies b, and b implies c, then a implies c… therefore the law leads to death. But take heart, we know even more so, the gospel of Jesus Christ leads to life!

Oh thank the Lord that we are free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2)!

In Christ our Risen and Victorious Lord!

Pastor Augie

Start New to Reach New

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“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22, NIV)

Have you heard the definition of insanity? … It’s keeping doing the same things you’ve always done, and expecting different results than you’ve always gotten. That’s insane! And yet, so often churches keep trying to use the same programs and structures and then wonder why they can’t reach people of a different demographic than they’re accustomed to reaching.   Even Jesus addressed this with His disciples when He said not to pour new wine into old wineskins – it’s destructive to both the wineskins and the wine! No, if you want to gather new wine, you need new wineskins.

It’s wonderful that we in the church have a heart for those who are on the “outside.” We long to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus, and bring them into the fold. We know that there is so much love, goodness, hope and peace for them in the Body of Christ – if they could only experience it! And yet, often when first contact is made, the church comes across as cold, uncaring, and disinterested in the lost person themselves. We seem to the unchurched only to be concerned with filling our seats, paying our bills, and keeping our buildings and programs going. It’s all about us. Sometimes that’s an unfair assessment, but sometimes it is true – if we’re honest with ourselves. New wine comes into contact with old wineskins, and the new wine is lost.

What’s the solution? One thing is for sure – however we reach new people, we must not ever sacrifice the life-saving Gospel of Jesus Christ! Because if we do, then there’s no point in reaching them at all. No, the only thing that we truly have to offer the lost, hurting and marginalized is Jesus Christ. That presents a problem and a challenge for us:

The problem: The Name of Jesus is a stumbling block. Jesus warned us that the world will reject Him. And it is sad, but true, that many people will reject Jesus. However we cannot allow that to discourage us. We must recognize that as we carry out our God-given mission of being a “lighthouse to the community and the world” that some people will prefer the dark. Jesus said that this will happen. And that leads us to …

The challenge: We are each very comfortable with our own favorite Gospel “images.” Maybe for you, the idea of being forgiven the debt of your sin is very consoling. Or perhaps being freed from the penalty of hell causes you to cling to Jesus. And yet, there are many who aren’t looking for someone to pay their debt or suffer their penalty because they haven’t yet come to grips with the severity and consequence of their sin. It wasn’t that long ago that our culture almost universally accepted the idea of sin and hell. Today, however, fewer and fewer do. It is no longer a cultural norm. So our challenge is to keep the same gospel of Jesus, but to express it in a way that the lost and hurting receive His grace and goodness. How do we do that?

I believe we do this by sharing the age-old Gospel in new ways … new wineskins to gather new wine! But this means that we are going to have to do some things differently – if we don’t, we’d be insane to expect to reach new people, right? So what will we do differently? That’s where you come in – in fact we all do. We must continually ask ourselves if what we are doing will communicate the Gospel with a new generation? If it won’t then we have to get uncomfortable. The “problem” expressed above, means that we’ll have to be uncomfortable sometimes if people reject us because they reject Jesus. That’s ok, Jesus was uncomfortable on the cross – we will need to get uncomfortable at times to share in His work. The “challenge” above means that we will need to get uncomfortable at times when we do things in new ways in the hopes of reaching new people. But, with these possibilities for rejection and discomfort, what, then will cause us to get out of our comfort zones for the sake of others? Only one thing will – love. “For Christ’s love compels us!” (2 Cor. 5:14). Because we are convinced that the world needs Jesus, and that we no longer live our lives for our own comfort, but for the sake of those for whom Jesus died (2 Cor. 5:15), we are moved.

In what new ways is Christ’s love compelling you to move? What new things might you do to reach new people? What might we do at Redeemer? Start the conversation… and then start something new to reach someone new!

Proclaiming Christ with you,

Pastor Augie