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Question: In 1 Cor. 15:56, what is the "Power / δύναμις of Sin"?

Note: I had expected to find a form of "ἐξουσία" for power, but this wasn't the case. Similarly, there is another question on Stack, "What is the Power of Death", mentioned in Heb. 2:14. Notably, however, "Power" in Hebrews, 2:14, is from a different Greek word, "κράτος"--meaning might/strength.

1 Cor. 15:56, BYZ - Tὸ δὲ κέντρον τοῦ θανάτου ἡ ἁμαρτία· ἡ δὲ δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ νόμος·

1 Cor. 26:56, NKJV - The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.

1 Cor. 15:56. NASB - The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;

Concerns, Implications

In dialogues with Christians who assert that Christians should obey the "law / Talmud / doctrines / traditions", this issue is usually raised, as a component of salvation, (i.e., dying to the Power of Sin).

I am also including an answer, proposing one point of view, in hope of seeing other answers, affirmation, or proven wrong.

Thanks!

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In both chapters 6 to 8 of Romans and in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul personifies "sin", which I like to render as "Mr. Sin" to make that obvious to the English reader. In Romans 6-8 Paul portrays Mr. Sin as a devious and opportunistic man-stealer who finds his energy to enslave and control the unbelieving Jews by means of their Torah:

NIV Romans 6: 13Do not offer any part of yourself to [Mr.] sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14For [Mr.] sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

And:

NIV Romans 7: 8But [Mr.] sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, [Mr.] sin was dead. 9Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, [Mr.] sin sprang to life and I died. 10I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11For [Mr.] sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.

I say that this applies only to the unbelieving Jews because it is only the Jews who are beholden to the Sinai covenant. As Paul says, they are no longer slaves to Mr. Sin once they die to the law with Christ and find righteousness on the basis of faith alone, apart from the activities of the Torah.

His focus in Romans chapters 6 to 8 is the futility of attempting to become free from Mr. Sin or the death that ensues from Adam's disobedience.

So in relation to the unbelieving Jews he says that the power of Mr. Sin and the death that ensues is not found in Torah, which only exacerbates the problem but by the principle of "the breath of life" where the entrance of the holy breath of God animates the forgiven sinner with divine life and power.

In 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 death is seen as an agent of death attempting vanquish all men by a deadly venom in addition to Mr. Sin's enslaving power through the law (for the Jews):

ESV 1 Cor 15: 50I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In this passage he is not just describing resurrection as he in the rest of the chapter. Instead he is describing the overwhelming triumph over death when at the last trumpet there are believers who do not so much as taste of death. Instead, they go directly from living their mortal lives to a transformation to immortality and incorruptibility.

So in this latter passage the term "power of sin" is again describing the way the law exacerbates disobedience by turning sins into transgressions for the Jews.

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  • This is an interesting take! However, I would disagree that he is not describing resurrection, when he says: "the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed". I believe he is saying death itself is swallowed up. Death will not any longer be a thing that is found anywhere, nor plays into reality any more: death won't be compatible with the new 'spiritual body'. Sep 18 '17 at 18:22
  • @SolaGratia Oh, right, he does mention the resurrection but he is drawing a contrast: "We shall not all sleep" but from there "we shall all be changed" by being clothed with immortality.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 18 '17 at 18:38
  • +1 Accepted. The first line answered it. But it would be clearer if it was more directly stated as the power/authority of Mr. Sin the slave Master.... To show the metaphor.... Or some such thing. But I think it is clearly inferred from your answer. Thank you. Sep 18 '17 at 18:50
  • But, the last trumpet is the 7th trumpet, Rev 11, so the context and parallel passages do arguably speak about Resurrection. However... This is a red herring for this question and really isn't adding to the answer. Sep 18 '17 at 18:54
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Proposed Answer: Under the theology of Christus-Victor, the "Power of Sin" is the Laws, and Traditions, that were decreed against people, because of sin.

Note: Please forgive any inaccurate representations which may be present, as I attempted to extract this answer from Greg Boyd's 2015/05/17 Video Explanation :

Summary:

In the theology of Christus-Victor, early Christians believed that Christ overcame Sin, its Power, Death, Rulers and Authorities, essentially by allowing these principals to self-implode, publicly exposing and humiliating themselves.

God's Love:

God, in love, determined to set people free from their own slavery to sin, death, and its decrees by sending his son so that death could no longer have mastery over them, (John 3:16).

The Power of Sin:

The Power of Sin are decrees against people, because of sin, (1 Cor. 15:56). Decrees are laws, and traditions, Col. 2:8 & 20-23).

God's Intent, to Disarm:

God's intent was to render the Devil powerless, who held the "Strength of Death", (Heb. 2:14).

How these Authorities and Rulers Humiliated Themselves:

God exposed how utterly "Sinful", "Sin" actually is, (Rom. 7:13), by allowing the "Rulers" and "Authorities" to nail the "Power of Sin" to a tree, (Col. 2:14), (that is the debt of decrees, laws and traditions against people), exposing and humiliating this debt, and these authorities, (Col. 2:15), as cursed, (Gal. 3:13), as they unjustly imputed death to a man who was good, by manipulating the good law of God, (Rom. 7:13).

And, had the "rulers of this age .. understood; .. they would not have crucified the Lord of glory", (1 Cor. 2:7-9);

Greek Note: The "Public Display" of the "Rulers" and "Authorities", (Col. 2:15), is the same Greek Construction, (ἐδειγμάτισεν ἐν παρρησίᾳ), bears the same connotation used to state that Joseph did not want to "Publicly Disgrace" Mary for being pregnant outside of marriage, (αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι, Matt. 1:19).

Sin disgraced itself by crucifying an innocent man, Jesus, who was perfectly obedient, even to death, even death on a cross, (Phil. 2:8). If the law brought death to an innocent man, then how incapable is the law of bringing life to the guilty, (Gal. 3:21)? Moreover, those decrees have no value against fleshly indulgence, (Col. 2:23).

The evidence of the "worthlessness" of this "indebtedness machinery" was publicly exposed, nailed to a cross, proving, once and for all, that there was no life in them, (Gal. 3:21).

Forgiveness, and the Removal of Debt:

By publicly disgracing the debt of decrees against people, (laws, and traditions), God cancelled debt to them, (Col. 2:14)--because there simply was no value in them.

Trusting in This Work of God to Life, Dying to this "Power of Sin":

By setting aside elementary principles, (Col. 2:8, decrees, laws and tradition), as Jesus did, (Mark 7:8-9, Matt. 15:7-9), Christians enjoin themselves with Christ, (Rom. 7:4), and die with him, (Col. 2:20), dead to the Power of Sin, (its laws, decrees, traditions), no longer have authority over Christians, (Rom. 6:11).

By raising Christ from the dead, it was proven that death no longer had mastery over Christ, (Rom. 6:9).

By trusting as Jesus did, in the work of God demonstrated at the Cross, in the love of God, his favor, forgiveness, and power, Christians are made alive, again, together with Christ, (Col. 2:13).

By being brought back to life, through Christ, death no longer has mastery over Christians, but life is given, even to mortal bodies, though his spirit who dwells within, (Rom 8:11).

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  • Hi @elikakohen and thank you for your thorough answer. You wrote of "the debt of decrees, laws and traditions against people), exposing and humiliating this debt". Is the "debt" the Torah itself? Along with the oral law?
    – Ruminator
    Sep 18 '17 at 16:14
  • +1 The point about rigid adherence to laws -- God's principles of life PLUS additions to fix the loop-holes (straining at gnats) in those principles -- and using them to put a good man to death, thus humiliating and bringing the religious leaders undone, is well-made.
    – enegue
    Sep 19 '17 at 3:29
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Okay, first of all, it's important to know what the "law" is. The law is the immutable, un-voidable order of things made. It is distinguishable from the "traditions" which are man-made, notably the Mishnah and the Talmud. Yahshua spent a lot of time railing against these traditions and those who kept them rather than Torah.

Second, if I go the speed limit, there is not "sting" in the law. I'm not "under" it. It just is. If I, however, break the speed law, then I get a ticket. THAT is the sting of the law. I have to now pay a fine.

Similarly, when we break the commandments of YHVH, which are still in force by the way, we incur a penalty. Without the Torah, we would not be able to see ourselves for the less-than-god lawbreakers that we are. Our penalty has been paid, however, when we reconnect with keeping the instructions of our Creator and that through Yahshua Messiah.

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