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2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Receiving Grace in Vain

03/03_2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Receiving Grace in Vain; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190303_2cor6_1-2.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul communicates the good news of reconciliation and implores us to be reconciled to God.

Paul makes his plea to be reconciled to God urgent in chapter 6, quoting a passage from Isaiah, saying ‘look, now is the favorable time; look, now is the day of salvation.’ and he again appeals to them not to receive the grace of God in vain.

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Working Together With Him

Paul says that he is ‘working together’; ‘with him’ is implied by the context; as he said in 1 Corinthians 3:9;

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul is working together with God. He is God’s apostle (1:1); he proclaimed Jesus among them (1:19); he doesn’t lord it over their faith but works with them for their joy (1:24); he spreads the fragrance of knowledge of Christ everywhere – among both those who are being saved and those who are perishing (2:15-16); he has been commissioned by God (2:17); he has been made competent to be a minister of the new covenant (3:4-6); he has this ministry by the mercy of God (4:1); he proclaims Christ as Lord and himself as their servant for Jesus’ sake (4:5); knowing the fear of the Lord he persuades others (5:11); he has been entrusted with the ministry and message of reconciliation (5:18-19); he is an ambassador for Christ (5:20). These are some of the varied ways Paul is working together with God.

As the apostle, as Christ’s ambassador speaking on behalf of Christ, as a minister entrusted with the message and ministry of reconciliation, he implores them ‘be reconciled to God’; and here he exhorts them ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain.’

The Gospel of Reconciliation

In the heart of this letter, Paul has laid out the gospel, the good news of reconciliation; that Christ expressed his love for sinners by laying down his life as a substitute; he took my name, he died my death, and was raised to new life; and in him I am part of the new creation; made new in Christ. God through Christ reconciled us to himself; in Christ God no longer counts my sin as against me; he counted my sins against Jesus, and he credits me with the perfect righteousness of Christ.

It is in this context he makes his appeal to his readers, or actually God’s appeal through him:

2 Corinthians 5:20 …God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

And he reiterates in this verse:

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

How To Receive the Grace of God in Vain

What does he mean by imploring the church to be reconciled to God? And what is the danger he warns us of, ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain’?

If we look only at the immediate context, Paul is laying out the gospel of God reconciling us to himself through the finished work of Christ. It seems by putting these two appeals together that ‘receiving the grace of God in vain’ would be equivalent to not being reconciled to God, or failing to take advantage of the reconciliation that God has secured for us through Christ. Those who are reconciled are those who died with Christ (5:14), who no longer live for themselves but for him (5:15), those against whom God no longer counts their sin (5:19), those who are made new in Christ (5:20), who have become the righteousness of God in him (5:21). We experience the grace of God when we are reconciled to God through simple dependence on his Son.

If we look just a bit earlier in chapter 5, he mentions the necessity of every man to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give account for what he has done in the body, good or evil, and that this fear of the Lord is a motivator for him to persuade others.

2 Corinthians 5:9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. …

The motivation to persuade people is the reality of Christ’s judgment, before whose eyes everything false will be exposed and only that which is genuine will stand. According to Jesus himself, some who claim to follow Jesus will be shown to be false on that day (Mt.7:23).

If we look at the wider context, in chapters two and four he mentions that his ministry addresses two distinct groups; those who are being saved, and those who are perishing. Implicit in this is a warning; it seems his appeal would be to make sure you are part of the first group and not the second. Make sure that the gospel is to you a fragrance from life to life, not from death to death (2:15-16; 4:3; cf. 1Cor.1:18; 2Thes.2:10).

After warning in chapter 11(:4) of those who proclaim another Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel, he urges in chapter 13

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

He does not assume that because someone is part of a visible church, that they have truly been reconciled to God, that they have received the grace of God in a fruitful, effective way. He challenges believers to examine themselves, to be sure they are not receiving God’s grace in vain.

What Genuine Faith Looks Like

This fits with what he said about the gospel in his first letter.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

He acknowledges the possibility of believing in such a way that the gospel profits nothing; that it is empty or worthless to you. This passage in 1 Corinthians is helpful, because it spells out what a genuine faith looks like in contrast to believing in vain. Genuine faith, according to 1 Corinthians 15 is that when the good news is preached, it is received. But it doesn’t end there. It is not something that sounds good, and you say ‘I like that, I receive that’ and then you move on. This is a word of caution to those who at one point prayed a prayer or walked the aisle or raised their hand or did whatever they were asked to do in response to the gospel, but there has been no transformation. As he said in 3:18 “ beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed.” In 1 Corinthians 15 he goes on to describe what genuine faith looks like. Not only do you receive the truth of the gospel, you stand in it. You plant your feet on it. You remain in it. You are established in it. It is not some passing thing, some emotional experience that you had that you move on from. He says you are being saved by it. It is at work in you, saving you, transforming you. You are being delivered, being rescued by the gospel, day by day. And you hold fast to the word he preached. You hold on and don’t let go, you seize it, you cling to it, you don’t move on from it to other things. Receiving the word, standing in it, being saved by it, holding fast to it, this is what belief that is not in vain looks like.

This fits with what James says in his letter. He warns of a kind of faith that cannot save (2:14); he warns that there is a kind of belief in God that the demons have (2:19) and it does them no good; it is in vain, it does not save. They believe that God exists, they likely even understand the gospel, but they have not received it, they are not standing in it, they are not being transformed by it, they are not clinging to it.

Those Who Walk Away

No doubt we all can think of people we have known who said they believed, who claimed to trust in Jesus, who even seemed at first to be ‘on fire for Jesus’ who didn’t last, who over time turned away.

Jesus taught us to expect this, not to be surprised by it. He taught in the parable of the soils that

Mark 4:5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.

Jesus said

Mark 4:16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

They initially received the grace of God with joy, but it did not take root, it was in vain. He also spoke of:

Mark 4:7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.

He said

Mark 4:18 …They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Jesus alerts us to the possibility that some hear and immediately respond to the word, even with joy, but they fail to endure; it proves unfruitful because of a lack of root, it withers because of tribulation and persecution, or it is choked by the cares of the world, desires for other things. It proves to be empty, in vain.

This is a warning to be on guard against the things that choke the word; to cling tenaciously to the word; to receive it not superficially, but to ask God to drive it down deep in our souls, to be regularly under the teaching of the word, so that it takes firm root and bears much fruit.

John in 1 John 2 tells us

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Not remaining, not clinging to the simplicity of the gospel, is one evidence of a faith that is in vain, of receiving the grace of God in an empty manner. Paul is concerned with the Corinthians that they are entertaining a different gospel, and he is urging them to ‘be reconciled to God’, and ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain’.

The Day of Grace and Salvation

He urges them that this is not something that can wait.

2 Corinthians 6:2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

He quotes Isaiah 49:8 to press them to respond immediately. Paul has already taken up the themes of the suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 at the end of chapter 5. Now he makes a direct quotation from chapter 49. This section of Isaiah is where YHWH is speaking to his Servant, who in verse 4 says

Isaiah 49:4 But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.”

The Servant of the Lord sees the unbelief of the people he was sent to; he is concerned that his labor is in vain. the The Lord responds:

Isaiah 49:6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

This is looking forward not only to the future hope of the restoration of Israel, but that this Servant of the Lord will bring salvation to the nations, to the end of the earth, to all the world! The work of the Servant of the Lord will by no means be in vain. God is reconciling the world to himself through him!

The Lord continues:

Isaiah 49:7 Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” 8 Thus says the LORD: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, 9 saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; 10 they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.

The Lord says that he will give his Servant as a covenant to the people. This Servant of the Lord is the promised salvation, who makes a new covenant in his blood, who through his rejection brings salvation to the nations. Exactly how the suffering Servant brings salvation is spelled out in Isaiah 53, where he who knew no sin is made sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

This is God’s answer to the need of his people. In a time of favor God answers. In the day of salvation he helps. Jesus, the suffering Servant, has shown the favor of the Lord, the salvation of the Lord.

This is the passage Paul quotes to highlight the urgency of the time. Through Isaiah, God was pointing ahead, promising a future deliverance for his people. Now, looking back to the cross, the day of salvation has arrived. The time of God’s favor is now. The promised suffering Servant has suffered for the sins of his people. The day of his promised salvation has arrived. It is here!

Do you feel the urgency of this? For thousands of years, God’s people anticipated the coming of the promised rescuer. He has arrived. Jesus has come. He has opened the way for sinners to be reconciled to God. But this day will not last forever. A day is coming when the time of God’s favor will end.

2 Thessalonians 1:7 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

You have heard the word, the message of reconciliation, the good news that Jesus paid the price for all who would believe in him. And Jesus himself warns those who have seen his grace in greater clarity:

Matthew 11:24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Be careful not to receive the grace of God in vain!

Hebrews 3:12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

Look! Now is the favorable time; Look! Now is the day of salvation. God [is] making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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March 4, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:58; Labor in the Lord is not Vain

06/14 1 Corinthians 15:58 Labor in the Lord is not Vain; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150614_1cor15_58.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

58 Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί, ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε, ἀμετακίνητοι, περισσεύοντες ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ κυρίου πάντοτε, εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ κόπος ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔστιν κενὸς ἐν κυρίῳ.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in 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. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When 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?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Today we finish 1 Corinthians 15 and look at verse 58. This is a very encouraging verse. This verse is a command with a promise. It is a command to be something and to do something. It is a command of character and behavior. And it is character and behavior based on a promise, based on knowing something.

Character Commanded

How many of us want this kind of character to define us? What do people think of you? How do people describe you? When a friend is telling someone about you, what adjectives do they use to describe you? When you meet someone, and they say ‘oh, you’re so-and-so. I met your friend the other day. They said you were…’ What do you want to hear them say? Would they say you are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord? Do you hope that is what they would say?

This is a command of character. This is a command to be a certain kind of person. This should give us hope. Some might say, well, I’m just not that kind of person. That’s just not how I am. But according to this, you can change! You are not stuck! You can be different than you are. Your character is not a fixed entity that you were born with and can do nothing about. You can be better than you are. You can grow and learn and change, and Paul will tell us how.

Imperative follows Indicative

This is a command, a command to be a certain way, and it is a command based on a promise. It is a command based on truth. We find this sort of thing all over the Bible. You can observe this pattern in much of the teaching of the New Testament. When you find a command, look around to see what that command is built on. We can see that in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Before God says ‘thou shalt’ and ‘thou shalt not’, he makes this statement:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (cf. Deuteronomy 5:6)

The commands are based on and rooted in a statement of truth. The imperative (or command) follows the indicative (or statement of fact). Another way to say this is that exhortation follows information. I am going to inform you of truth, which I believe will shape the way you live. We see this all the time in advertising. The little sidebar pops up on you screen that says ‘one rule for a flat tummy’ or ‘three foods that fight cancer; click here to find out more’. There is something you need to know, the information, the secret, that will change your behavior, so that you can attain the goal, the promise.

This verse begins with ‘therefore’. And whenever we see the word ‘therefore’ we should look to see what it’s ‘there for’. This is the last verse of 1 Corinthians 15, and 1 Corinthians 15 is all about the resurrection. Paul is teaching truth to combat error that will shape behavior. Let’s look back over the chapter.

1 Corinthians 15 Outline

In verses 1-7 he reminds us of the gospel message, with an emphasis on the fact that the historical resurrection of Jesus is essential to the gospel message, evidenced by a substantial crowd of eyewitnesses.

In verses 8-11 Paul holds himself up as an eyewitness and an example of the power of resurrecting grace which produces a transformed life.

In 12-19; he points to the negative consequences for those who preach and those who believe if the resurrection were not historical.

In 20-28 he holds up Christ as the new representative of mankind who undoes what Adam did and brings resurrection where Adam brought death.

In verse 29 he argues for the incoherence of the practice of baptism if there is no resurrection.

In 30-32; he argues for the incoherence of Christian sacrifice and suffering if there is no resurrection.

Verses 33-34 we find another imperative demonstrating the negative consequences of unbelief in resurrection on a person’s morality. He warns them not to be deceived, and says that because the resurrection is true, you need to ‘wake up from your drunken stupor and stop sinning’

In verses 35-41 he answers objections to the natural implausibility of a resurrection with evidence of the power and creativity of God as seen in creation.

In 42-49 he comes back to the contrast between our representatives Adam and Christ; where we have borne the fallen image of Adam, we are destined to bear the image of our new representative, Christ.

In 50-53 he argues for the necessity of resurrection transformation to enable us to participate in the kingdom of God.

In 54-57 he demonstrates the prophetic necessity of the resurrection.

And finally in verse 58 he gives concluding imperatives; because the resurrection of Jesus is an historical fact and our resurrection is a certain future event that God will bring about, we should live a certain way.

It matters what you believe. What you believe will impact the way you live. If you claim to believe something but there is no evidence of that belief working itself out in your character in everyday life, it is legitimate to question whether you truly believe what you claim.

Brothers, Beloved

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul addresses his readers as brothers. Earlier he addressed them as fools. Actually, in verse 35 he quotes the questions of ‘someone’ and he responds to that hypothetical ‘someone’ who asks those questions with ‘Fool!’ because those questions were motivated not by a desire to learn but by an effort to make belief in the resurrection look silly. They were the questions of the fool in Proverbs who says in his heart ‘there is no God’. But here he refers to his readers as brothers, siblings, not subordinates or underlings, but equals. And he calls them ‘my beloved’. We are dearly loved. This is a command, but it is a command clothed in gentleness and compassion. He genuinely cares about us and he communicates that to us. The command is rooted in love, a desire to bless, to do good to us, to help us to find joy and fulfillment.

Be Steadfast, Immovable

This word gives the idea of firmness, steadiness, being settled. Paul used this word in chapter 7 talking about the resolve of a single man who chooses not to marry.

1 Corinthians 7:37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well.

This same word also shows up in Colossians 1 in a similar context to this one.

Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

We are to continue in the faith, stable and steadfast. Interestingly the word for ‘shifting’ is the positive verb form of the negative adjective translated here ‘immovable’. It means to be unmovable, not moved from its place, firmly persistent. We are not to be moved from the hope of the gospel. We are to be firmly persistent in the good news.

This is the same idea that he expressed with different words at the beginning of this discussion on the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

He began the discussion with an ‘if’. There is a danger of not remaining in the gospel, not holding fast the word. Now he concludes the section with a loving exhortation to be settled and unmovable.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

It seems the Corinthians were in danger of allowing the culture and the beliefs they were surrounded by to sweep them off their sure footing in gospel truth. They were wavering on the foundation truth of the bodily physical resurrection. Paul exhorts them to remain anchored and to stand fast on the truth that they had believed.

Abounding Always

This character, being steadfast, immovable results in action. A person of character acts in ways consistent with that character. A person whose foundation is firmly rooted in gospel truth will abound in the work of the Lord. They will super-abound. They will overflow. Not occasionally, not sometimes, but always. Beyond measure, abundantly. What do they super-abound in? What do they do? What is the work of the Lord?

The Work of the Lord

Most simply, the work of the Lord is the Lord’s work. It is what the Lord does. What is it that we see the Lord doing? What is it that he tells his followers to join him in doing? In Mark 1, Jesus said

Mark 1:38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

Jesus came from the the Father in order to preach the gospel of God, telling people to repent and believe the good news.

Jesus says in Mark 10:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (cf. Matthew 20:28)

Jesus came to serve. Jesus came to give his life a ransom. In Luke 19 Jesus tells us:

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

The work Jesus came to do was to find and rescue lost people, to serve, to give his life, to proclaim the good news.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said “I will build my church”. Jesus is all about building his church, one sinner at a time.

What did Jesus tell his disciples to do? In John 6, Jesus encouraged people to seek not the temporary but the eternal. Some listening asked him a question:

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

The work of God is to believe in Jesus. First things first. We must understand the simplicity of the good news. We must come to Jesus ourselves, with childlike faith. Trust in Jesus. Rely on Jesus. Depend on Jesus for eternal life. Without this kind of relationship with Jesus, nothing else is possible. You cannot call yourself a follower of Jesus if you have not come in simple dependence on him.

For a person who comes to Jesus in childlike faith, what is the work he invites us to join him in? In John 20:21, Jesus says to his disciples “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” In Matthew 28:19 Jesus says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, … 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” In Luke 24 and Acts 1 he calls them to be his witnesses, to testify of him and “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Lk.24:47).

It seems clear that those who have been rescued by Jesus are to join him in his work of seeking and saving the lost by proclaiming his good news to everyone. Paul said in chapter 1 that “Christ… sent me… to preach the gospel” (1:17) and “we preach Christ crucified” (1:23). In chapter 2 he said that we are “servants through whom you believed… I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. …We are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (2:5-6, 9). In chapter 9 he says “you are my workmanship in the Lord (9:1). He says “we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (9:12). He says “I have made myself a servant of all that I might win more of them… I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel” (9:19, 22-23). In chapter 10 he says “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved.” (10:33). In 14:12 he uses this word ‘super-abound’; “strive to excel (or super-abound) in building up the church”. He envisions an unbeliever entering the orderly worship service of the church and “the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” (14:25). In chapter 16 he says:

1 Corinthians 16:10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am.

What is that work of the Lord other than joining him in seeking and saving the lost, proclaiming the good news, making disciples of all nations, building up his church?

Labor Not In Vain

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul changes the word in the last phrase. He said ‘the work of the Lord’ – whatever it is that you undertake to do, what you are occupied with, what you are busy about. Here he says ‘your labor’ – toil, trouble, pain, sorrow, weariness; it carries the idea of beating one’s breast with grief. This is intense labor united with trouble and sorrow. Paul described his ministry in chapter 4:

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, … We are weak, … we [are held] in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Sometimes following Jesus is just plain hard. Doing what Jesus calls us to do, being people of character as Jesus calls us to be, is hard. It is labor, it brings trouble, it is wearisome, it is toil. Sometimes you just want to give up. Sometimes you wonder ‘is it worth it?’ This is where strong encouragement is necessary.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

In the Lord your labor is not empty, worthless, vain. In what way could our labor be in vain, and how is it not in vain in the Lord? Paul started this chapter on the resurrection warning that the gospel should not be believed in vain. Paul says that the gospel saves unless we believe in vain. To believe the gospel in vain would be to believe it in such a way that it is worthless and does not accomplish its intended effect; it does not save. This, in the context, would mean shifting away from the hope of the gospel, not holding fast to the gospel message. In verse 2 Paul uses a synonym to the word translated ‘vain’ in verse 58. he uses the same word four times in this chapter and nowhere else in the book. In verse 10 he says:

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

God extended his grace to Saul, and it was not in vain. God’s grace always accomplishes what he sends it to do. God’s grace transformed an enemy of Jesus into the man who risked everything and went to the ends of the earth to make Christ known.

Paul uses this word twice in verse 14

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

If the resurrection didn’t happen, then Christ’s death accomplished nothing and preaching the gospel is worthless and believing the gospel is worthless. It is an empty and impotent message if it is not true. But because it is true, proclaiming the message of the cross is never a waste. Because God is in the business of seeking and saving the lost, of bring life to the dead, transforming sinners into saints, and because God chooses to do his work through the unlikely means of our weakness and foolishness so that he gets all the glory, we can be confident. Because these bodies will be raised and transformed, what we do in these bodies matters. As he said in

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

And

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

All glory to God. All honor and praise and thanks be to God.

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

June 14, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment