Published April 3, 2014
1 Cor. 15:20-28
Bible Studies for Life, April 20
He had never finished first. Well, the truth is, he had never finished second or third either. Ok, here is the rest of the story.
He had not finished better than fifth in a World Cup event until Feb. 9, 2014. On that day, everything changed in 2 minutes and 06.23 seconds. Austrian Matthias Mayer was faster than all the skiers competing in one of the Winter Olympics’ premier events, the men’s downhill. On that day, Mayer was victorious and won an Olympic gold medal.
There have been many unexpected victories in sports. Georgia fans will not soon forget Nov. 16, 2013, when Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall threw a long pass that was tipped and almost miraculously fell into the hands of his receiver Ricardo Louis. Louis trotted into the end zone and scored with just 25 seconds left in the game. Auburn surprised everyone and beat UGA 43-38. That pass, that tip, that catch changed everything, and Auburn was victorious.
Charlie White and Meryl Davis had skated together for 17 years. In 2010, they were close to Olympic victory in Vancouver, but who remembers second place?
On Feb. 17, 2014, they absolutely charmed the audience and the judges at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The reigning Canadian champions had skated well. In fact, they skated very well. The Russians had virtually owned this Olympic event, winning 18 of the 33 gold medals ever awarded for ice dancing, and they would be strong on that night.
White and Davis, however, were nearly perfect with every jump, spin, and move. Their performance changed everything. America won its first gold medal in Olympic ice dancing. White and Davis finally tasted the Olympic victory that had eluded them.
Genesis to Revelation
Victory cannot be achieved without defeat, and the sports world is not alone in experiencing them. It would right to say the Bible – that is, the entire story from Genesis to Revelation – is about defeat and victory. They are found in Eden, and Ur, and on Noah’s Ark. They surround Joseph’s life, and they reside in Egypt among the generations of Israelites that lived there. They are present with every plague and with every turn of Israel’s exodus from Egypt through 40 years of wandering in the desert.
They are present in the Tabernacle and both Jewish Temples. They are pillars standing watch over every prophecy. They are with Joseph and Mary when Jesus is born, and they are on display when Jesus performs every miracle. They attend the Passover Meal with Jesus and the disciples, and they stand at the tomb when Jesus’ body is placed inside. They flank the angel of the Lord when the two Marys discover on the first day of the week the tomb is empty. And they are found on nearly every page of Acts and Revelation.
In Luke 24:27 we find an insightful text about Jesus: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” If the entire Bible speaks of victory and defeat, then Jesus stands in the center of them, and there is no clearer text than 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 to make this point.
God reveals to us in 1 Corinthians 15 two truths about defeat and victory. The first is that we are defeated. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul as he writes, “For as by a man came death, ... For as in Adam all die.”
Through Adam, death came to all humanity. It is unavoidable and it is incurable by any means that we have. Spiritual death occurred immediately when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden and physical death awaited them later in life as it does us. Apart from Jesus Christ himself, every person in all generations and all nations have been born slaves to sin and spiritually dead (John 8:34, 44-45, Rom. 6:20, and Eph. 2:8-9).
We are defeated in all aspects of life. Our intellect, our emotions, our desires – our entire being physically and spiritually is defeated and enslaved to sin. There are no perfect performances that will overcome our defeat, and there are no last minute attempts to win at life that will ever succeed. We are defeated. We have been conquered.
The second part of God’s revelation in 1 Corinthians 15 about defeat and victory overflows with hope and life. Paul writes,
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”
Just as defeat is a perpetual theme in the Bible, victory is present from the Garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem. True victory is found in the seed of Eve, and we experience it in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.
The shalom of the Old Testament and the peace of God in the New Testament are experienced in Jesus’ victory. His victory over sin and death is our victory if we are in him.
Unlike great sporting victories, we cannot experience victory over sin through our own efforts. We need a substitute, and thus Paul says in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Jesus’ death and resurrection change everything.
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