Monday, April 25, 2011

1 Corinthians 15: Grace Empowers Work

  • 1 Cor 15: 10-11 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. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
    There are many paradoxes in the spiritual realm, and this is one: that grace does not imply that we do not have to work at all, but rather that we need to work even harder than before! Some may think (erroneously) that grace means we can simply "let go and let God". There is some truth in this but it's not the whole truth. As Paul mentioned "grace" three times in one verse alone (v.11), yet he added: "On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them..." but he added, "though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me."

    In case we think this is just a fluke verse, I would like to suggest we look at Colossians 1:28-29 too: "So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That's why I WORK and STRUGGLE so hard, depending on Christ's mighty power that works within me" (NLT). Again, we see the paradox of grace ("Christ's mighty power that works within me") and work ("I work and struggle so hard"). Paul is insisting that it's God's power (grace) that works within him, but nevertheless he has to work and struggle hard to experience God's grace.

    In the same vein, Paul also writes in Ephesians 2:8-10, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Here Paul is affirming his doctrine of grace: "for it is by grace you have been saved through faith....not by works." But then he went on to say that "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works." In other words, while we are not saved BY works, we are saved FOR works. And the works that God calls us requires effort and in many instances with much struggles. But the strange paradox experienced in real ministry is this: it's only as we strive and struggle that we experience the grace and power of Christ's indwelling. Hallelujah! We can have the cake and eat it too!

    So reliance on God's grace to save us and to keep us going does not exempt us from working hard at our ministry, to perfect it for the sake of those whom we are ministering. This principle applies to any ministry--whether of Word, Prayer, Worship or whatever else God has appointed for us to do to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. What a privilege to work hard for the Lord and experience His grace and power as a result! For those who are not prepared to work hard for God, they will never experience God's grace in ministry. 

    Grace is not just about SITTING on God's promises nor STANDING on God's promises but it's also requires us to WALK and RUN and FLY with them. So Isaiah 40:31 says, "but they who wait for the Lord shall RENEW their strength; they shall MOUNT UP with wings like eagles; they shall RUN and not be weary; they shall WALK and not faint."

    Father, thank You for Your grace that saves us and keeps us going in when the going gets tough because we will always experience Your grace and power in the midst of our struggle & hard work. Amen

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