Text: 1 Cor 15:58-16:11
Introduction: We look once again to the letter of 1st Corinthians. He loved them dearly and wanted to address the struggles and issues they faced as a body of believers. And man, did they have a lot of problems! The beginning of this letter appears to address issues Paul wanted to confront. Beginning in chapter 7, it appears that Paul is answering questions they had sent them. These questions could have come up from everyday problems in the church and I’m sure some come from trying to understand his previous letter. Historically, we know there were at least 4 letters written by Paul to the Corinthian believers. And from all of this information, we know they had a lot of problems.
In chapter 15, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to be the church – to remain steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Let the phrase resonate in your mind… the work of the Lord. 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.
Hence, the title of my message this week: The Work of the Church.
It is a great ending to all areas of focus (foci, say foes-eye):
Our focus in the 1st part of 1 Corinthians has been to observe the blessings of the church in Christ: Blessings, Unity, Leadership, and Relationships. And really, if you go back through, you could make an argument that it really has all been about relationships. Whereas the previous sections in this letter have dealt with Freedom in Christ and a believer’s responsibility to exercise his or her freedom with others in mind, Paul now reigns them in and reminds them of the traditions they’ve learned. And he commends them for keeping some of those traditions and later says I can’t commend you for these others that you haven’t kept.
In the 2nd part – A Focus on Order, specifically, Order in Worship. rd v2.
So, what were these traditions? Let me outline the broader picture of order within worship by quickly looking over the next few chapters. Let me show you what I mean. Head Coverings in Worship (11.2-16), The Lord’s Supper (11.17-34), Exercise of Spiritual Gifts (12-14), and remaining steadfast, and immovable in the face of persecution because of the hope we have in our future resurrection (15).
Really, it’s been about Relationships. Even as we remain faithful and steadfast, people see us and get saved – relationships. That’s how Paul concludes 15 with One command: be. He’s telling them to be the church! We see something similar in 16.13; Act like who you are!
The Command (15:58)
So, you have this set of instructions for life as believers. So now – act like it. Then in chapter 16, Paul gives some practical steps in accomplishing this feat – of acting of being the church. He calls it in 15.58 – ‘the work of the Lord’ and ‘your labor’.
app.: So, what does Paul do after this charge? He gives some insight into what the work of the Lord is all about! Paul presents Six Principles for Christian Work:
t.s.: What must one do to accomplish the work of the church? 1st,
I. Don’t Be Self-Centered (16:1-4)
exp.: Now concerning; cf.: 7.1, 25; 8.1; 12.1; 16.1; the collection; specifically, for the saints. Paul is very specific with them about how to do this… Note the purpose: periodically and in proportion to your situation, plan to present a gift. And when I come to you, perform your service.
app.: Something that will really help advance the work of the church is to not be self-centered. But rather, be outward-focused!
t.s.: 2nd, when it comes to your work – you need a vision: rd 5
II. Begin with a Vision (5)
exp.: rd v 5; I will visit you… that’s the vision; there is more here, but that in a nutshell is the vision – he wants to go to Corinth (continue reading), and his plan is to go through Macedonia to get there.
ill.: I think about this as Pastor and my responsibility to cast vision and purpose. But what about you? How does your work in the church – that is, your smaller ministry in the overall, all-encompassing vision of Tarpley – how does your work fit? What is your vision? Can it be greater? Lisa, have you thought about streaming your Bible Studies on Facebook? YouTube? Penny, Tammy, Karen: As you consider OCC, how could we expand that ministry? Could we engage some of our businesses to get involved? Would those company owners, managers, and CEOs allow us to invite their employees to fill a shoe box of OCC? The Country Store, Covenant Services, Tauren, Bandera Electric Coop, TVFD? How can you expand your ministry?
app.: Let the work you do in the church have a vision. Our question should be: what would God have to be doing right now!
t.s.: Don’t be Self-Centered, but have a Vision; 3rd, Be Flexible
III. Be Flexible (6)
exp.: rd v 6; perhaps I might stay or maybe I might; sometimes the season might cause us to change our plans; wherever I go; Lanny Bridges (GABC): 9th Beatitude: Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not get bent out of shape.
ill.: Consider Paul’s experiences: Paul experienced plenty of difficulties:
- Acts 16:7f – 6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
- Romans 1:13 – 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.
- 1 Thessalonians 2.17f – 17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.
app.: Here is the point, Satan will not make this an easy road to journey down! Satan puts up roadblocks and hinders us from moving forward, But he can only be as successful as God allows; And when we get knocked down. Get back up! we must be steadfast – be immovable; abounding in His work; knowing it isn’t in vain;
t.s.: Don’t be Self Centered; Have a Vision; Be Flexible; #4 – Be Committed!
IV. Be Committed!
exp.: rd v 7; you cannot disciple someone in passing! It takes time; I think we confuse programs with discipleship. We miss that or confuse those two. If you run a program, then it is done. But discipleship is about investing in people. That is why Paul said – rd 1 Thess 2:8 – 8 We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives because you had become dear to us. CSB – our own lives.
ill.: Bryan Duncan had an album release back in the late ’80s, early 90’s entitled: Have yourself committed!
Lisa and I watched a TV series from 30 years ago this past week. Pride and Prejudice. The basic idea behind the main character was that she formed judgments based on false information. When she took the time to get to know the male lead character, she found her first impression wrong and falsely formed the lies of someone else – whom she didn’t really know either.
I was reminded this week of a woman who came to Choir practice. We met in the hall outside the worship center as we waited for our Pastor to finish up his WEBS with members. I had come from the Youth Bible Study, and she was just getting there from … well, I don’t know. I greeted her as usual – she and her husband were becoming good friends to me and Lisa.
She seemed cold and indifferent toward me. And, as I had a tendency to do, I thought she might be cold and quiet toward me because I had done something wrong. What had I said or done to cause her silence toward me? Well, our pastor didn’t end his study on time… he just kept going! Don’t you just hate that when the pastor drones on and on and won’t land the plane? You’re like, oh, he’s coming in to land the plane! And Nope, he just hits the engines and starts circling the runway again!
Anyway, the silence was too much. I’m sure she noticed that her coldness to me was impacting this waiting. And then she said that she and her husband had just been fighting.
What a teaching moment for me, a moment I’ve never forgotten. All of the sudden, I didn’t want the Pastor’s Bible Study to end. I wanted to encourage her. I also realized that not everything is about me! She was going through something, and she needed encouragement, a kind word, and as it would end up – some godly counsel.
Although we were very young, Lisa and I had more experience walking with Christ than our friends. As a matter of fact, we became such great friends because we shared life together. It might sound like I’m bragging. But that isn’t my intention. There were multiple times in those early years when Lisa and I, both together with them, and apart (Lisa with her and I with him), where discipleship and growth occurred.
app.: The Work of the church – making disciples, calls for commitment, calls for investment.
t.s.: But can I say, it won’t always be easy? Don’t Be Self-Centered, Have a Vision, Be Flexible, Be Committed, and # 5, Always Anticipate Opposition; rd v 8-9
V. Anticipate Opposition (8-9)
exp.: Listen, there are many adversaries; those you see and who are outspoken, and those you don’t who speak behind your back; there are those in the church and those outside the church. The opposition appears to be physical, but it is grounded in spiritual warfare.
ill.: Listen, if you’re looking for a church that doesn’t have opposition – what you’ll find isn’t really a church; J. MacArthur said, If you find a place that doesn’t have any problems, you’re not needed there! G. Campbell Morgan said: If you have no opposition in the place you’re serving, then you’re serving in the wrong place.
app.: You are a problem solver: Christ blesses a body with you because you have something to offer. You have something to offer that blesses this body! Satan wants to destroy this body of believers! But he can’t, so he’ll discourage and disrupt all he can.
t.s.: Finally, what do we see here concerning Paul and his work for the Lord? #6…
VI. It takes teamwork (10-11)
exp.: rd v 10-11; multiple players, each having a key role; sometimes, we think someone is too immature or has failed us before, but the truth is that people change; forgiveness is a key component in this Christian Faith!
ill.: The most famous story is of John Mark, who abandoned Paul and Barnabas when he was younger, Acts 13:13; But we see that he was of value to Paul in later years, 2 Tim. 4:11; 1 Pet 5:13; the Gospel of Mark
app.: As God’s Chosen People we must Not Be Self Centered. But rather, Have a Vision and Direction. Be Flexible and Committed. We must Always Anticipate Opposition and work together as a team – as one man contending for the faith of the Gospel.
t.s.: That demonstrates our unity…
Conclusion: So, what are our Take-a-ways:
Really, just one: Come back to the Vision. Compare your ministry with the Vision. Make sure you’re not leading folks away from the direction the church is going. Remember the purpose/vision statement?
The purposes of this body are declared to be:
1) To glorify God through maintaining services both devotional and for public worship. We do what we do for God’s glory first and foremost.
2) To proclaim earnestly the gospel message and to urge its personal acceptance.
3) To cooperate by prayer, gift, and service in an effort to promote the grace of Christ
throughout the world.
- We do this through discipleship – evangelizing the lost and teaching the Word.
- We do this through ministry and mission.
3 G’s: Glory, Gospel, Grace
Glorifying God; Proclaiming The Gospel; Extending His Grace to others
Blessing & Benediction: 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Heb 13.20f