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God’s Word for You

1 Corinthians 15:58 Overflowing in the work of the Lord

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, August 7, 2023

58 Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast. Be immovable. Always be overflowing in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

At the beginning of this chapter, Paul said, “Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you.” This has been the gospel or good news of the resurrection. He began with the foundation of man’s resurrection, which is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He showed through the Scriptures (Old Testament) and the many times Jesus appeared to people who could still be questioned at this time, including Paul himself, that all of the testimonies of Christ’s rising are in agreement. None of the eyewitnesses would or could contradict any others (15:1-11).

The result of Christ’s resurrection is the resurrection of man, and especially you, dear reader. Paul said: We’ve established beyond the shadow of a doubt that Christ was raised. Go and ask anyone who saw him: Cephas, the Twelve, the five hundred brothers, James, the whole group of apostles, and yes even me—we all saw him. You believe this. But if you don’t believe that you will rise, then not even Christ is risen. But since he is risen, you, too, will rise from the dead (15:12-28).

Paul has also revealed other things about the resurrection. Many of these are things most people would never have considered before. But people will have different degrees of glory in heaven (this is illustrated in nature, 15:35-41). So when we rise, our bodies will be changed for the better (15:42-44). This change will be like the difference between Adam (who brought sin and its consequences) and Christ (who destroyed sin and its consequences) (15:45-49). And trust in this, too: both the dead and those who are still living on the last day will receive glorified bodies instantly when the end comes (15:50-54).

All of these assurances from the precious gospel of the resurrection moves us to serve God. “Be steadfast,” he says, “be immovable.” These words are related and they picture us planting our feet firmly to do whatever work we must do. Dig in and don’t budge!

We don’t know what our labor in the Lord will produce. The doctrine of concurrence (mentioned in the sermon here at St Paul’s yesterday) teaches that nothing happens in all of creation apart from God’s will and influence (Job 10:8; Philippians 2:13), yet God also permits his created things to have a certain power and influence that produce certain effects in the world. “He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment” (Proverbs 12:11). A hard worker will produce many things, but a man can decide not to work at all, and he will produce nothing. And the labor of various people may produce varying results, as Jesus describes the product of the good soil in the Parable of the Sower: “some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:23). As Professor Hoenecke concludes: “Scripture teaches that everything that happens in the world is not to be traced back to God’s exclusive, immediate working.” God works through us, and according to our abilities, we produce thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold. Or if someone resists, he might bury the talent folded away in a cloth and produce no return at all, and then he kindles God’s wrath (Luke 19:20-26).

Beyond producing nothing at all, man has the free will to sin and work contrary to God’s will. This does not strictly come into the realm of the passage before us, but in the betrayal by Judas, the covetousness of Ahab and Jezebel, the murders by Moses, David and others, the adulteries by Judah, David and others, the lies of Ananias and Sapphira, the national idolatry instituted by Jeroboam, and other things. Yet we could briefly say this: When man commits an evil act, God may concur (use for his own purpose) the result of that action without being the influencing factor in any way of the cause or action of that sin, as when a murder takes place, and God allows the person who is attacked to die, just as he did when Christ was crucified. We might say that God has concurred with that action “materially but not formally” (Hollaz), or that God has concurred “with the effect, not the defect, of the action” (Quenstedt). “By virtue of God’s cooperation, the action could have been good, but it is not God’s fault that the divine cooperation was employed for evil.”

Getting back to you and me, “You know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” For surely if God is able to use even a sinful act for some distant or hidden good purpose and result, then he certainly uses our acts of faith for good and beautiful purposes. He says: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon planted in the house of the Lord. They will flourish in the courts of the Lord” (Psalm 92:12-13). The best thing we do is trust in Jesus for our salvation. This is what it means to “do” the gospel, as when we do the will of the Father and believe in Christ (John 6:40; 1 John 3:23). We worship God with our lives and not only our lips, but all our worship and devotion begins in the heart, with the simple trust of faith.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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