There is hardly any room for cavil as to what Paul means by "the work of
the Lord". He sometimes uses that title---Lord---when he refers to the
phase of the ministry of Jesus that we may emulate with profit. He does
not, to any great extent, engage us with His ministry as a Servant of
the Circumcision. But there are certain things that characterize the
earthly ministry of the Christ, that we are expected to practice also.
We are told what this is. In other words, there was a certain trait that
was manifested by the Christ, that differentiated Him from other
"leaders". One stated by Himself, is "I will have mercy and not
sacrifice". Religion usually has sacrifice---I mean that when a group
organizes, they usually organize AGAINST some one, or some group, and,
in order to carry out the purpose of their organization, they feel that
they must sacrifice members of the other group. Mercy pervades such
religions only to a certain extent. Or a church will give much thought
to what they call "church discipline", and in the carrying out of such
control, they feel it is right and praiseworthy to sacrifice a member
and hold him up to shame and embarrassment.
Christ carefully avoided doing such. Instead, He delighted in being
merciful, even to the erring. He was determined to not sacrifice any
one. Paul did not readily fall into this pattern. He said some very
fierce things in the fifth chapter. But he changed in his attitude when
he wrote Second Corinthians. In the first epistle to Corinth he rebuked
the church for showing leniency to an offender, and bade them cut the
man off. In the second letter he said that he would be merciful to whom
they were merciful. Thus he was affected for good by his own writing.
First Corinthians contains no deep things. These came later. There are
many today who do not seem to have gotten beyond Corinthians.
But even so, with their lack of knowledge concerning Justification.
Election, and the special place occupied by the Church---with their lack
of knowledge regarding these, they are not left with nothing to do. They
are to do the work of the Lord.
With full power to do so, Christ nevertheless, refused to call down fire
from heaven to destroy those who did not fall in with His teaching. I
shudder to think what some of our religionists would do with such power.
Christ came to save life---not to destroy it.
When the Pharisees asked him about stoning an offending woman, He
confused them and caused them to "slink" away, when He gave permission
for the stoning, with the provision that the first stone be cast by the
one who with without sin. When He said that, He knew there would be no
stoning that day. And in the episode He showed Himself a Gentleman.
Rather than embarrass these Pharisees unduly, He gave them a chance to
sneak away while He pretended to be writing on the ground and paying no
attention to their retreat.
In regard to correctly cutting the word of truth, the last word has not
yet been spoken by our expositors. Even the Psalms are for us. Paul
quoted one of them and said that what was written beforehand, was
written for this teaching of ours. He told us to speak to ourselves in
Psalms. I think there has been too much limitation placed on God in our
thoughts. WE are the ones who suffer from such limitation.
To super-abound in the work of the Lord is to have a life of merciful
dealings---a life of usefulness to mankind. Not one day did Christ arise
from slumber without having it in mind to be useful during that day. His
thought was on being helpful. His intention was to live that kind of
life that day.
We never arise to very great heights of living so long as our "religion"
is to us, a Sunday matter---something to dress up in on Sunday when we
go to church. We reach great usefulness when there is no Sunday for
us---or, rather, when every day is Sunday. A kind word spoken on Monday,
a useful deed done on Tuesday, a helpful act done on Wednesday, and
carefulness to aid someone on the other days---these constitute the work
of the Lord. Piety on Sunday alone, does not amount to much.
While doctrine is not stressed in First Corinthians, one very important
matter is brought to our attention. This is, that we much have spiritual
touch with God, and be actuated by a consciousness of Him and His
Christ, if we are to live a life that is pleasing to Him and helpful to
When you arose this morning what was in your thought? What was
uppermost? Was it that you now have a day which to make a few more
dollars? Did you go forth to your labor or your business without a
thought of the fact that here is a brand new day in which to say, or do,
something that will make the path of some one easier and more cheerful?
In other words, I ask that your aim every day be to do something that is
Christ-like for those with whom you come in touch.
We are necessarily social creatures. We are acutely aware of the fact
that we associate with other humans. Our consciousness may not embrace
the doctrines of the Bible. These are wonderful if we know how to
translate these teachings into every-day living. Do you believe in
election?---in salvation by grace?---in justification in His grace?---in
the future life? These are ours because of the graciousness of God. Does
your belief cause you to be non-gracious toward others who do not see
these? Are you afflicted with the spirit of the Pharisees so that you
hold yourself aloof from others? Then your belief in the doctrines has
done you harm.
But do these precious truths make you generous, gracious, determined to
be helpful? If so, you are using the doctrine of God in a way to glorify
Him. You do not draw yourself into a shell of exclusiveness, with a
It has never been the privilege of the masses of believers to revel in
these grand truths. Most of them never pass beyond the First Corinthian
stage. But it is the privilege of all to super-abound in the work of the
Lord. They are blessedly conscious of the nearness of God and Christ.
They have the spirit that enables them to appreciate the fact that God
is their God. They love Him. They delight to do the work of the Lord.
They belong to different denominations, usually according to their
rearing. No church make a person better. It is God Who does this.
I heard a story like this, when I was a young man: An Irishman was
asked, "What is your business in life?" His reply was, "I make shoes for
a living, but my business in life is doing the work of the Lord". Aptly
said! I would that all of us regarded our life thus!
It is not unreasonable to ask people to start our every morning with the
idea that this is another opportunity to do His work. This will not be
hard to do if God is in our first waking thought.
Why should He not be? Consciousness of the presence of God will
naturally cause us to think first of Him. That most important thing of
the day is not that piece of work you have planned to do, or that social
event you are going to attend, or that fishing trip you have arranged
for. It is a recognition of God. He has been with you every minute of
the night while you slumbered. Without Him you could not have rested.
But for His mercy you might have been up all night caring for one of the
family. Without His protection you might have been attacked by robbers.
Had it not been for His watchfulness, your home might have burned. Had
He not watched over your family you might have found one of them dead
when you opened your eyes.
If he had withdrawn His grace, you would never have learned to love Him.
He is All to you. What a shame that we arise from the bed and go forth
into the day with never a thought of Him!
Christ did not seek spectacular things to do. He rarely ever used a word
that cannot be spelled in English with five letters or less. He was not
what is called a "four-flusher". His life was the very ultimate in
These are some of the things that we are to emulate in super-abounding
in the work of the Lord.
I may well ask the question: Is it in vain? The world may think so. Many
believers think it is. But Paul says that our toil in the Lord is not
for nothing. We may decide what God will do, and what He won't do. But
the final decision is with Him. He has a habit of not agreeing with us,
when we limit Him.
We miss many blessings by deciding that it is not in accord with His
present purpose to do so-and-so. Much of the scripture is timeless. If
we are super-abounding in the work of the Lord, we are not certain to
work for nothing just because we did not live in the first century A. D.
or because we do not live in the future.
Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness. If a
person believes God today will it be reckoned to him for righteousness?
David said, "Happy is the man to whom the Lord by no means should be
reckoning sin". Shall I say, "UNhappy is the man in the twentieth
century, to whom the Lord by no means should be reckoning sin". The
Twenty-third Psalm says, "The Lord is my Pastor". Is He MY Pastor? May I
claim Him? Is He not the ideal Pastor?
Paul says He gives pastors. Does He not give Himself to be to me far
more than any mere human pastor could be?
Yes, it is true that our toil is not for nothing, in the Lord. It is not
hard to prove this. There are happy people in every walk of life. It is
not hard to find many who are doing the work of the Lord.
The work of the Lord consists in part of acts of mercy, efforst to be
helpful in a way that glorifies the Lord. The selfish person is not
qualifies for this. He thinks of himself too much of the time. His own
comfort is too attractive to him.
There is no place where humans may go, where this passage may not be put
into practice. There is no church to which one may belong, that will
render it impossible to do the work of the Lord, if he is willing to
disregard the traditional teachings of his church.
The work of the Lord does not consist of planning to control some one.
Bosses in the church are not apt to do the work of the Lord. Their
control over their fellows is far more important, to their thinking.
The town in which I live has several churches, of different
denominations. But the people are better than their church. Their
sympathies spread out past the membership. Many years of teaching make
it easy for them to be helpful and merciful to people without their
stopping to ask to what church they belong.
Just now I am kept at home a great deal, because my wife is not
manifesting the health that is her right. I have to stay at home much of
the time. I need my friends more than I ever have needed them before. I
find them ready to respond to whatever need they know to exist in my
life. If I want them to do anything for me, I have but to request it.
Without making a difference as to denomination, they respond to my need.
This is true, whether the one responding is white or colored. Some of my
friends are Negroes. Like the whites, they are glad to do the work of
the Lord. They do it without expecting any reward from me.
This passage calls for friendliness, brotherliness, neighborliness,
helpfulness. It discourages anything like sectarianism. Christ worked to
bless people. The carrying out of the injunction given in this scripture
requires no ceremonies, no forms. It requires a heart that is
willing---nay, anxious!---to be of help, to the glory of God. It is
love. It is everything that is Godlike. It is that uplifting service
that makes life worth living. We are to become settled in the work of
the Lord. It must be settled purpose with us. We must be unmovable.
Nothing must be allowed to move us from this purpose. And we must
super-abound. There was be nothing niggardly about it.