God Gives Us the Victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Dear heavenly Father, I know that I do not have to fear death, for You have forgiven my sin for Jesus’ sake. Yet at times I must confess that death appears so very frightening to me. Help me to remember that You sent Jesus in love for my soul, so that He might redeem me from sin, death, hell, and Satan. Move me ever to keep in mind Your precious promises, so that I may walk forward in life with boldness, knowing that death has become a doorway to Your gift of eternal life. Be with me and my fellow believers as we worship Your saving name this day. Amen.
Isaiah here announces to God’s Old Testament people that they will be redeemed by the LORD Himself “without money” and delivered from the enemies who oppressed them. Jesus indeed did come and redeem us with His holy and precious blood, delivering us from our enemies—sin, death, and Satan!
Jesus here tells the parable of the Minas. In the parable a nobleman distributes ten minas (pieces of money) to ten of his servants. They are to use them wisely until he returns. Upon returning he takes account of his servants, finding some to be faithful and others not. Jesus has given each of us His precious gospel word and commanded us to share it with others before His return at the end of time. Are we using that gospel word faithfully, or not?
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:54-58
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
In Christ Jesus, through whom God has given us victory even over death, dear fellow redeemed:
Marilyn Hagen, Adolf Ehlbeck, Paul Holbrook, Robert Becker, Kim Born, Margaret Ritt, Elsie Kleist, Lucille Meissner, Patricia Moses, Nellie Menton, Louise Gilbertson, Elsa Kettler, Florence Born, and most recently Lorraine Becker—these are the saints of our congregation who have died and were buried this year. I am sure that many of you can add to that list the names of various Christian friends and family members, who were not members of Immanuel. We have laid each of them to rest with sorrow, but in the confident hope of the resurrection. That hope is based upon the promises of our God revealed in His word, the Bible—promises such as the one found in John 14:1-3, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
The unbelieving world scoffs at our confident hope and at the promises upon which those hopes are based. They believe what they consider to be the obvious evidence—cemeteries filled with tombstones resting over bodies that have turned to dust—and conclude we Christians believe a lie! They conclude there will be no resurrection, there is no heaven or hell, and this life is all that there is! How sad! How blind! How utterly hopeless is such unbelief!
Next Sunday will end this present church year. It is customary on these final Sundays to look ahead to the end of time, to the final Day of Judgment, and to the future God has promised each of His believing children. We do so again today, fully aware of the skepticism of unbelievers, but also fully confident of God’s ability to keep every one of His promises. Let us consider Paul’s contention that GOD GIVES US THE VICTORY THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST! The apostle points out that it is a victory, which, first of all, will become fully apparent at the end of time; and it is a victory, which, secondly, should move us to carry out the work of the Lord!
Ours is not the first generation to confront the world’s unbelief. In Paul’s day, too, there were many who rejected the concepts of a resurrection from the dead and life after death. In this fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul defends the Christian faith and its teaching of the resurrection from the dead. He begins by listing all of the eye-witnesses and evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, assuring us that this historic event did in fact occur and pointing out that Jesus’ resurrection is indeed the foundation of the entire Christian faith. Paul goes on to point out that Jesus’ resurrection assures us of our resurrection and the resurrection of our loved ones. He explains that when we are resurrected at the end of time, our bodies will be glorified and like Jesus’ spiritual body. What joy that will be, for in heaven we will not have to deal with diabetes, or cancer, or heart attacks, or disabilities of any kind. Rather, as Paul says, “We shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man” (15:49), that is, Jesus Christ!
Our text, then, becomes Paul climactic and concluding statement, “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Christ’s victory over Satan on Good Friday’s blood-stained cross and through Easter’s empty tomb is ours to share. When Paul describes the believer’s status before God in Romans 8:30, he says, “(Those) whom He predestined, these He also called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified!” Notice that when Paul says that we have been glorified, he is speaking in the past tense. In God’s eyes, even though we still live on this earth—even though we continue to face our enemies—sin, Satan, and death, we share in God’s final victory in view of Jesus’ redemptive work on our behalf and the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work within our hearts!
That which we now see only with our eyes of faith, however, will become evident to our eyes of flesh on the last day! Job confessed with a fervent faith this truth thousands of years ago, when he said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (19:25-27). On that day our loved ones, who have died in Christ, will be raised from the dead together with all flesh. Our bodies, should we still be alive, will be changed—any corruption will be changed into incorruption. We, whose present bodies are indeed mortal and subject to death, will put on immortality. We will stand before the Lord. We will be with Him in the air. We will hear those wonderful words, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34), and just as surely those who reject Jesus will hear Him say, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
At that point, when all the dead have risen and are standing with all the living before our Lord Jesus Christ, we will know, for we shall see it with our eyes that death has indeed been swallowed up in victory. Death right now stings. It hurts to see those we love dying. When we lose a son or a daughter, a father or a mother, a grandfather or a grandmother, we often shed many tears, for it is difficult when someone important in our lives is taken out of our lives. But let us rest assured that the grave will not prove victorious. The cemeteries will not hold their dead on that last great day, for Jesus Christ has overcome death! The writer to the Hebrews assures us that Jesus, through His own death and resurrection, has destroyed the power behind death—Satan (cf. 2:14). Paul elsewhere proclaims, “Our Savior Jesus Christ…has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). Yes, let us offer up our thanksgivings for GOD GIVE US THE VICTORY THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST—a victory, which will become fully apparent at the end of time, and…
…a victory, which should move us to carry out the work of the Lord! Having removed any doubt of the truth of the coming resurrection of the dead and the certainty of our eternal victory in Christ, Paul returns to the present so that he might encourage us in our day to day lives. He concludes our text by saying, “Therefore, my beloved brethren be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord!” Paul speaks both of what we are to be doing, as well as how we are to be doing it.
No matter who we are…no matter how old we are…we are to be doing “the work of the Lord.” Think about that for a moment. How many of us consider the things that we do each day in terms of the Lord’s work? Yet it is important for us to do so, if we are to be faithful children of God. So often we think in terms of our desires, our plans, our jobs, our work—that which we want to do…and the Lord’s work? Well, if we have time we may show up to help with the Lord’s work on a church work day like the one planned for next Saturday, or we may contribute some money for the Lord’s work, as the ushers pass the collection plate on Sunday. My dear friends, let us take off our blinders. The work of the Lord is not confined to the offerings we make and the sweat of our Saturday brows. Such a definition is much too narrow! Oh, yes, our offerings are important. They enable us to carry on the ministry of our congregation and as has become all too common, we are presently in a financial deficit as a congregation and that deficit must be addressed. And, yes, the work that we do together on the physical structure we call our church building and school is important and necessary. But, the work of the Lord truly is as broad as everything God has called all of us to do—our careers, our relationships, all of our responsibilities. We are, after all, “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). We are to make a difference wherever we find ourselves, for we represent our heavenly Father and our dear Lord and Savior!
Let us remember as well, that we are not here in this world simply to fulfill our plans, but rather to fulfill God’s plans for us. At the beginning of this service, I listed fourteen names. Most of those people were older when they died, but some were quite young. Some of those people knew they were going to die well in advance of the time of their death, while for a few that day was a complete surprise. What should that tell us? It should remind us that our lives lie in the hands of our living and loving God. Our lives, if they are to be well-lived, are to conform to the will and plan of God. That means that while we certainly will plan for the future, depending upon the Lord’s blessing, we will concentrate on the present—those things God has given us to do today and those people with whom God has associated us today. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:10, “We are His (God’s) workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God has a plan already conceived for each of us every day. Let us seek out that plan and fulfill God’s will. Men of Immanuel—if you are husbands, love your wives, and if you are father, bring your children closer and closer to the Lord (cf. Ephesians 5:25; 6:4). Women of Immanuel—if you are wives, respect your husbands, and if you are mothers, nurture those children God has given you (cf. Ephesians 5:33; 1 Timothy 2:15). Children of Immanuel—obey your parents and show them proper respect (cf. Ephesians 6:1). Beyond that be good friends to the other children God has placed around you. If you are an older brother or sister, set a good example of love and kindness, of honesty and hard work for your little brothers and sisters. Workers of Immanuel—God has placed you in hundreds of positions of responsibility throughout our community. People see you each day and depend upon you each day. Work as if you were serving the Lord Himself directly and treat those over whom God has placed you with proper concern for their well-being (cf. Ephesians 6:5,9). Do this with steadfastness and enthusiasm. Strive to be a rock of stability, truly focused and productive—for this is God’s will, and thereby you are seasoning your environment and providing light by which other may begin to see Jesus through your actions.
If this is how we function each day, then we may rest assured that our labor will not be in vain. Should we follow the example of the world and seek our own way and serve only our own wants, we will be sadly disappointed when we stand before the Lord. Yet, our Lord assures us that every work of love we do for others is indeed a work of love done for Himself (cf. Matthew 25:40); every work of love we do for our Lord will not go without its reward (cf. Mark 9:41); and every work of love we do by which we help others serves to help the body of Christ grow stronger and become more effective, so that in the end more and more souls might be saved and come to rejoice in the victory God gives us through our Lord Jesus Christ! To that, we can only say, “Amen!”
Soli Dei Gloria!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting