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Posts Tagged ‘1 corinthians’

This past week I read 1 Corinthians over the course of about 3 days and God showed me one discussion I’d never seen there before: hard work versus grace. It was encouraging and helpful for me as I’ve been wrestling with my own personal habits and disciplines that I need to be renewed in and step up in. I found 5 lessons in how grace and hard work go together.

#1: Hard work is not a means of status or standing (Ch. 1-4, 12-14).

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31 ESV)

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV)

On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:22-25 ESV)

#2: We work hard but, by His grace, God gives the fruit (Ch. 3)

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9 ESV)

#3: Hard work is not the primary source of fighting sin and resisting temptation, grace is (Ch. 10)

We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:9-13 ESV)

#4: Love is what we should strive to work hardest at (Ch. 13)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV)

#5: We work hard in light of eternity (our future grace!) (Ch. 15)

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.”
    “O death, where is your victory?
        O death, where 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.
    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. (1 Corinthians 15:54-58 ESV)

#6: Christ’s work, not ours, is of first importance (Ch. 15)

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ESV)

1 Corinthians is a very helpful book of the Bible that I think I’ve neglected in the past. The Corinthians were struggling with status symbols, striving for a standing with each other, worried about who was following who, boasting in themselves and their leaders, working hard at their reputation and establishing their own justification. Paul very gently reproves this heart and encourages them in striving to be Christ-centered, not man-centered. He never tells them to stop striving or to stop working – but to work hard in the right motivation (in light of His grace) and right direction (loving and building up others).

Personally, I need to step it up in certain disciplines (like exercise and prayer) not so I will look good and feel more justified but to know God better and increase in my capacity to love and bless others. I want to be freed from my own selfishness and I need to work hard. But God will bring the growth as I persevere and trust Him. He has good plans and it may be that I need to wrestle with my sin for awhile in order to draw closer to Him and grow in humility. What I fear is either justifying myself through discipline or not persevering. God in 1 Corinthians reveals the antidote to both: the grace of God.

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