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Not in Vain

The fifteenth chapter of 1Corinthians is Paul’s discourse on the subject of the resurrection.  Paul was prompted to write these words because there were some among the church at Corinth who were saying that there is no resurrection (v. 12).  To correct their error, Paul showed how the resurrection is essential to the gospel’s saving power.  He said that if there is no resurrection, then Christ was not raised, and if Christ was not raised, then we remain hopelessly lost in our sins.  Thankfully, Christ was raised, giving us hope and proving to us that there will be a resurrection of the dead.  The latter part of the chapter gives some further insight into what will occur at the resurrection and a final admonition.

There is a theme throughout this chapter that is worth our notice, and that theme is “not in vain.”  This theme is integral with the main subject of the chapter, which is the resurrection.  The theme indicates that certain things that would otherwise be worthless are now exceedingly valuable because of the resurrection of Christ and the hope of our own resurrection.  It also shows that our own efforts are required to make these of value and not in vain with regards to ourselves.

We notice this theme right away in the first two verses: “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”  Here Paul foreshadowed what he was about to write in regards to the Corinthians’ error on the resurrection.  The gospel which Paul had preached to them included the essential elements of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, but the Corinthians were not holding fast to that message.  They were rejecting the resurrection, and without the resurrection their belief would be rendered vain and their hope of salvation would be lost.  By this same reasoning, let us recognize that because we do believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, we know our belief is not in vain and our salvation is secure.  Because Christ was raised from the dead, our belief is not useless, but rather it is exceedingly valuable for eternal salvation.

We also see this theme in verses 14 and 17: “…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”  Again, this is stating the consequences of disbelieving the resurrection, which are that the preaching of the gospel and faith in Christ would be made worthless.  This is because the gospel of Christ and faith in Christ would be powerless to take away sins if Christ had remained in the grave.  As it is, Christ was raised from the dead, and therefore the gospel of Christ and faith in Christ are not in vain, for they allow us to escape from the bondage of sin.

Regarding himself, Paul said in verse 10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”  In this case, Paul was not writing with regards to the resurrection, but he referred the effect of his own labor in connection with God’s grace.  The grace of God has powerful potential for every individual (because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ), but it is worthless for one who will not follow the instructions of grace (see Tit. 2:11-14) and zealously work in the Lord.  For those who will labor as Paul did, God’s grace toward them will not prove vain, for it will accomplish all that God intended, which is salvation from sins.

Finally, after giving a thorough exposition of the resurrection, Paul concluded, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”  This admonition is the practical application of our belief in the resurrection from the dead.  Because we believe in the resurrection and all that it means, we must work diligently with a view to the reward that will be realized at the resurrection.  We know that our toil is not in vain because we know that we will be raised from the dead, transformed from mortal to immortal, and united with the Lord forever.  This knowledge makes all of our labors worth the effort and never, ever in vain.

Therefore, the truth of the resurrection means that those who believe in it do not believe in vain.  For them, the gospel of Christ is not vain, and their faith in Him is not vain.  Because they labor in Christ, God’s grace toward them is not vain, and their labors are not vain because there is a rich reward awaiting them at the resurrection.  Now for you, dear reader, ask yourself if any of these are in vain on your behalf.  If so, then it is time for you to renew and strengthen your faith and put your efforts into the work of the Lord so that your life will not be lived in vain.

Stacey E. Durham




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