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“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

GRATITUDE IS ONE OF THE MAJOR MOTIFS THAT WE HEAR IN THE GREAT SYMPHONY OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. The apostle Paul, for example, uses the expression “thanks be to God” six times in his letters. And he uses it in 1 Corinthians 15:57 as he reaches the climax of his magnificent discussion of the resurrection of Christ.

“Victory” is a powerful word, but it is exactly the right word to describe what the gospel is about. Succumbing to sin, we were defeated by Satan, and eternal death was the result. But God entered the world in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, died a vicarious death, and was then raised on the third day, defeating death, the worst weapon of the enemy. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14,15).

In 1 Corinthians 15:57, Paul is very clear: it is “through our Lord Jesus Christ” that the victory has been given. This echoes the statement of Peter in Acts 4:12, where, speaking of Christ, he said, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

But going back to Paul’s emphasis on gratitude, he said that it is God “who gives us the victory.” Salvation from sin is not a gift granted universally and unconditionally to all of mankind, without regard to how people respond or don’t respond to the gospel. It was God’s decision to limit the gift to those who would respond according to certain conditions that He set (Acts 2:37,38). Nevertheless, the gift is still a gift, and it is one given by God. When we were hopelessly defeated, God stepped in and won the victory for us.

We should never become so familiar with the gospel that we underestimate what God has done in Christ. Our salvation from sin is a gift much greater than mere survival, and to enjoy eternity with God is to do more than just get by. It will be the enjoyment of nothing less than the glorious triumph of God Himself.

“God wants us to be victors, not victims; to grow, not grovel; to soar, not sink; to overcome, not to be overwhelmed” (William Arthur Ward).

Gary Henry — +

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