When we say that death brings life, it can be understood as a reference to self-denial that leads to the blessings of obedience. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). He continues, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (25). Death is a kind of self-denial, related to the cross, that leads to personal “profit” (verse 26) in life.
This is true, but there is more. When we say death brings life, we often mean life for others. The cross reminds us that sin in us needs to be killed, and the cross reminds us that sacrifice for others does them good.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16).
Of course we do not atone for our brothers’ sins. Our sacrifices are not for them like Jesus’ sacrifice is “in their place,” ours are for them as “for their benefit.” John illustrates a way for the life-laying-down, when we see and help a brother in need of “the world’s goods” (verse 17). So again, it’s not necessarily taking a bullet for someone, but giving as we’re able.
Death is at work in us, and glory is on display in us when it is.
“Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth” (verse 18). This is the ministry of the gospel to one another, and the Lord’s Table reminds us of our Lord’s laying down His life for us.