1 Corinthians 15:56-57
τὸ δὲ κέντρον τοῦ θανάτου ἡ ἁμαρτία, ἡ δὲ δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ νόμος· τῷ δὲ θεῷ χάρις τῷ διδόντι ἡμῖν τὸ νῖκος διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, the one who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this sentence likes the essential gospel, in the simplest form that I’ve seen in Scripture (so far). Paul, who wrote these words, sums up the good news in three pieces here.
(1) Death exists because of sin. “Now the sting of death is sin…”
The only reason why there is any such thing as death is sin. Without sin there would be no death, and when sin is gone, death will no longer have any power to “sting” us. God didn’t design the world for death, but sin twisted God’s design and caused death. But what is sin? In a nutshell, sin is anything that goes against God’s will. It is both doing the wrong thing, and failing to do the right thing. And Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death…” Death only exists because of sin.
(2) We are all guilty of sin. “And the power of sin is the law…”
What is the law? This is referring to God’s law, to the Old Testament “Law of Moses.” This would include the ten commandments, as well as other laws God gave us through his Word. But if the law is from God, why does 1 Corinthians 15 say that the law is the power of sin? Because the reason God gave us the law was to show us that sin has power over all of us. The law diagnoses sin in us. It reveals that none of us can keep it perfectly. Let’s be honest, not one of us can even keep the ten commandments, let alone the other laws in the Bible! The law shows us the power sin has over each one of us. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, who does what is right and never sins.”
So, this is bad news. Death exists because of sin. We’re all guilty of sin. Therefore we are all going to die. But, there is good news on the way (indeed, the word “gospel” literally means “good news”)!
(3) But God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Victory over sin and death can be ours – but only through Jesus. We cannot win the victory for ourselves by trying hard to keep the law or by trying to be better people. Doing a good deed doesn’t erase the fact that we’re guilty of sin. Think of it this way – if a rapist makes a charitable donation to a shelter for battered women, does it erase the fact that he raped someone? Neither do our good deeds erase our sin!
Victory only comes when you surrender your life to Christ. Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead; you will be saved. For it is with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” You need to believe that Jesus is God, but simply believing that isn’t enough. You also need to confess that Jesus is your God. Only when you acknowledge that Jesus is your God, your King, your Lord, your Savior; and only when you give control of your life to him, will you be saved and receive the victory over sin and death.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
O the matchless power of God, and the wonder of the victory Christ won for us on the cross!
There’s the gospel. I said it in three phrases. Paul said it in a single sentence. How do you articulate the good news?