When last we looked in on how the BoM used something of Paul’s from First Corinthians, we noted that the reference to sin was missing. In this little post I will point out that sin has been replaced by divine justice as the monstrous enemy that threatens humans.
Paul wraps up the 15th chapter of First Corinthians with moving praise for the victory that God has achieved through Christ in his death and resurrection (1 Cor 15:54-57 NRSV):
When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice that death and sin are both pictured as evil apocalyptic powers. In particular, sin is really Sin, that is, a GIANT HORROR BUG that stings us with fatal results. But when the BoM uses the same victory motif, it suppresses the GIANT HORROR BUG facet. Here’s Abinadi (Mos 16:7-8):
And now if Christ had not come into the world, speaking of things to come as though they had already come, there could have been no redemption. And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection. But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.
However, it is not as if the BoM leaves us without our monster motifs. Mankind is still threatened and needs a savior. Note the identity of the threat (Alma 42:14):
And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.
So you see, Paul’s GIANT HORROR BUG, otherwise known as Sin, has been replaced by Justice. Justice is not a bug, but some kind of GREAT GRABBY ENEMY who can also make demands of God. But the victory motif remains because there is A HERO who intervenes (Mos 15:9):
Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.
Both Sin and divine Justice use the law to hold humans captive. And to overcome both God must himself intervene – the infinite and eternal sacrifice is the sacrifice of God because only God can satisfy the demands of divine Justice. Now I can see how hard it is for modern folks to understand how Paul thought about the relationship between sin and the law. However, it doesn’t seem to me that it’s all that much more satisfying to see divine Justice cast as the bad guy, either. And in fact, in the earlier parts of the BoM it’s not but that’s another topic.