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

Same-Sex Marriages and a Christian’s Response

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I just recently returned from our Pacific Southwest district convention.  This year’s convention theme was “Chosen for this Moment” based on Jesus’ words in John 15:16 …

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last”

We have been chosen by God to be bearers of His grace to our world!  This is such a critical task at a time when our news is filled with stories of wickedness, such as the racially motivated murders of our brothers and sisters in Christ at the AME Church in Charleston.  We mourn and grieve that loss, and we ask our Lord for forgiveness, mercy and healing for those families and our nation in the wake of that tragedy.  May He break and hinder every plan of the devil who desires to steal and kill and destroy.

It is also critical for us to be bearers of grace in the aftermath of the recent decision of our US Supreme Court that legalizes same-sex marriages.  This is an issue that has polarized our nation long before this court case. How we respond, however, says much about what we believe; not so much what we believe about the issue of human sexuality, but what we believe about love, truth, hope and security.

Quite simply, we are not surprised that our culture does not align itself with the teachings and beliefs of Christianity.  Nor do we take our cues from the culture.  We neither look to it for support, nor for Truth.  Also, we are not at “war” with our culture.  Rather, God has placed us IN the culture – to bless it! … “Chosen for this Moment.”    Our marching orders from God do not change – at all – because of this ruling.  We are still called to be salt and light to the world – to bring the message of peace, truth and love that God provides.  His is the only True and lasting peace and love that there is to be found… that which we find in Jesus Christ.

So you and I can take heart and be of good cheer!  In a sense, nothing has changed.  Our Lord is constant and unchanging.  Though this world seems built on a foundation of shifting sand, the Lord remains on His throne far above any earthly courts or kingdoms.  And the world NEEDS HIM as much today as ever!  So thankfully, He has chosen us for this moment – to be bearers of grace, Truth, and light to a lost and hurting world.  May it be so among us.

Joyfully Sharing Jesus,

Pastor Augie

– If you would like to read more on this subject here are some links for your reference:

LCMS President, Rev. Matthew Harrison

LCMS President, Rev. Matthew Harrison

Letter to the Church from Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

Pastor Mark Jeske, Time of Grace Ministries

Pastor Mark Jeske, Time of Grace Ministries

So Gay Marriage Is Here. What Now? – Blog post by Pastor Mark Jeske, Time of Grace Ministries.