14 March 2015

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

“Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.” (v. 58)

Psalm: Psalm 122


Our week looking at Paul's writing on resurrection ends with his triumphant conclusion that "Death has been swallowed up in victory" (v. 54). Well it nearly ends, because it seems Paul does not want to leave the Corinthians basking in victory: they are not simply to sit back and wait for the trumpet when they will be changed. Instead, now they have to go out and get on with "the work of the Lord" because it won't be wasted.

This week we have seen Paul dealing thoroughly with all kinds of death and resurrection issues, he seems happy to conclude it in triumph, certainty and this amazing celebration:

"Death has been swallowed up in victory."
"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"

Perhaps Paul seems confident that he had done enough to teach the Corinthians to believe in physical resurrection, to not fear danger and to continue to live out their faith. As he does not deal with these issues much at all in his second letter to Corinth, presumably he felt the issue was settled.

But what about our society today? We live at a time with longer life expectancy than ever before (hence our various pension funding crises and increased retirement age). We live at a time with more comfort, security and health care than ever before. Does this mean that as a society we are less afraid of death? Does it mean that we are more prepared for bereavement? Does it seem that death has no victory or sting?

Seemingly not. Possibly because we can see people living longer we find death even more difficult. We see new forms of public mourning (such as shrines of flowers at scenes of road deaths) and the media dwell on the tragic deaths of celebrities. We see a growth in bereavement counselling and new professional services around death, funerals and mourning.

So would Paul have as much confidence that he had done enough to teach us to have no fear of death?

To Ponder

  • Does Paul's teaching make you feel less afraid of death? Why?
  • The hospice movement has made a huge contribution in helping people facing death do so with dignity and help them make the best of their last days. What connections can you see between them and Paul's teaching?
  • What do you think would help take victory and sting away from death?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in the Leicester North Circuit based in Syston, Leicester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.