1 Cor 15:58 - Living in Light of the Last Resurrection

Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 17 Jan 2010


51. Look, I am telling a mystery to you:

            We all will not be asleep [in death] but we all will be made different,

                        52. in an instant,

                        in the glance of an eye,

                        in the final bugle-call,

            for it will bugle, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be made different,

            53. for it is necessary

                        for this perishibleness to invest itself in imperishableness,

                        and this mortality to invest itself in immortality,

            54. and

                        whenever this perishableness invests itself in imperishableness
            and this mortality invests itself is immortality,
then the written word will come into being,

                        “Death was drunk down into victory.”

                        55. “Death, where is your victory?
            Death, where is your sting?”


56. Yet the sting of death is sin,

            and the power of sin is the law,

57. but thanks be to God, the Giver of the victory to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.


58. Therefore my dear brothers, continue becoming steadfast, immoveable,

            abounding in the work of the Lord always,

            knowing that your labor is not empty in the Lord.


·         We have spent the last few sermons meditating upon the resurrection of our bodies after they are dead.

·         But what happens to those who are still alive and have not fallen asleep when the point comes in God’s timeline to resurrect the dead and glorify their bodies?

·         Verse 51 says “we will ALL be changed.” Those who haven’t died yet will not miss out on the glorified bodies

·         In the last sermon we looked at three reasons why our natural bodies will be changed to glorified bodies:

1)      Perishable bodies can’t exist in heaven, so God has to change our natural bodies to “fit us for heaven”

2)      There has to be an end, a last note to history, because what is perishable must come to an end.

3)      Prophecies such as those of Isa 25:6 and Hosea 13:14 must be fulfilled, because God’s word is true.

·         We then marveled at the doctrine of justification, how our sin brought corruption and death – not only physical perishableness but also spiritual separation from God (which is also spoken of in the Bible as “perishing”), and God is just with punishing mankind with death in both of its meanings. And yet God sent His son Jesus Christ to die on the cross and take the sting of death, take upon Himself God’s wrath against our sin and make us right before God and give us victory over death.


In light of these marvelous theological truths, Paul calls the Corinthians and us to action in v. 58

·         The command is to “continue becoming steadfast” (or to “stand firm,” as the NIV has it, although the Greek verb is actually derived from the word for chair, so it literally has to do with sitting tight rather than standing, but that’s the idea: be settled, steady, firm).

·         And for good measure, he adds a parallel quality to be becoming, and that is “immoveable.”

o       This does NOT mean we should generally be stubborn.

o       Picture of man in the surf digging into the sand so as not to be dragged away by the tide.

o       The first quality of steadfastness has to do with your worldview, what you believe and what your life is centered around. Don’t be jumping around trying different worldviews after you have found Jesus, stay rock-steady on Him because He is your only hope of salvation from the sting of death.

o       The second quality of immovability has to do with how you respond to outside influences. When people question your position, when they make fun of you, when they tempt you with alluring bait, even if they physically persecute you, don’t budge from the truth of God’s word.

o       “There is no reason to move away from a God who has promised immortality and incorruptability!” Steve Ratliffe

·         The editorial in the Jan 2010 issue of Mission Frontiers relates the story of Josef Tson, a Romanian pastor who was interrogated for six months, up to 10 hours a day, five days a week, simply because of his faithfulness in proclaiming the gospel. The goal of his interrogators was to “break” him, to make him their slave. They wanted him to abandon his faith and become their ally in destroying others who would dare to proclaim the gospel. One interrogator said to him, “You’re going to be shot, but first I want you tortured so you will curse all that you hold sacred and holy.”

That is exactly what Satan would like each of us to do when we encounter suffering. He wants us to give up on serving God and distrust God in the midst of our darkest hours… Satan is defeated when we humbly trust God with our lives and resolutely determine that we will proclaim His glory no matter what suffering or persecution He allows into our lives…

Pastor Tson responded to the promise of safety and freedom: “What you offer me is spiritual suicide. I would much rather accept a physical death. To tell you the truth, I don’t see any reason to save my own life. Go on, shoot me.”

Tson reports, “I cannot fully describe that man’s fury at that moment. He suddenly realized that the whole plan to break me had failed.”

“Why did I say I did not need to save my life? Here is why. During an earlier interrogation at Ploiesti I had told another officer who threatened to kill me, ‘Sir, let me explain how I see this issue. Your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. Here is how it works. You know that my sermons on tape have spread all over the country. If you kill me, those sermons will be sprinkled with my blood. Everyone will know I died for my preaching. And everyone who has a tape will pick it up and say, “I’d better listen again to what this man preached, because he really meant it: he sealed it with his life.” So, sir, my sermons will speak 10 times louder than before. I will actually rejoice in this supreme victory if you kill me.’”

In Josef Tson’s life he had learned to value Christ and his glory above his own life, safety and freedom. For him the advance of the gospel was the highest priority, not saving his own life. He knew that this life is not all there is and that a great reward is awaiting him for his faithfulness. The only way he could lose was by abandoning his trust in Christ.

Death lost its sting for Josef, and he was able to stand steadfast through intense persecution!

·         The last verses in chapter 15 recap the introduction to the chapter, which stated the good news that Christ died for our sins and was raised according to the scriptures and said in v.1 that this was what they were standing in and in v.2 what they should hold fast to it, otherwise it is in vain.

o       1 Cor. 7:37 mentioned this same steadfastness in family and sexual matters.

o       We’ll see in 1 Cor 16:13 that we should also “stand firm in the faith.”

o       Col. 1:23 expands on this: “…continue in the faith, grounded, and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which y’all heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven; of which I, Paul, was made a minister.”

·         You may not have a perfect record on this kind of steadfastness. I find comfort in the Greek grammer of this command which literally says, “continue to become steadfast” in other words, keep making progress toward more consistent steadfastness, even if you realize you fail at times, you can keep growing in steadfastness.

So how do we grow in steadfastness? There are two words in v.58 that describe how to do this: 1) abounding and 2) knowing. In the Greek text, they are both participles describing how to become steadfast and immoveable:

1) abound, surpass, have and abundance of leftovers, generate a surplus, do more than enough in the work of the Lord – picture of a fountain overflowing

o       Acts 16:5 So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were INCREASING in number daily .

o       Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will ABOUND in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

o       1 Cor. 8:8 But food does not give us standing by God: if we don’t happen to eat, it doesn’t make us come up short; if we do happen to eat, we would not ABOUND.

o       1 Cor. 14:12 Now since you are zealots of spiritual things, let it be toward the buildup of the church that y’all keep seeking in order to ABOUND.

o       2 Corinthians 4:15 For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to ABOUND to the glory of God.

o       2 Cor. 8:2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty OVERFLOWED in the wealth of their liberality… 7 But just as you ABOUND in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you ABOUND in this gracious work also.

o       2 Cor. 9:8 And God is able to make all grace ABOUND to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an ABUNDANCE for every good deed… 12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also OVERFLOWING through many thanksgivings to God.

o       Philippians 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may ABOUND still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,

o       Colossians 2:7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and OVERFLOWING with gratitude.

o       1 Thess. 3:12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and ABOUND in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;

o       1 Thess. 4:1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you EXCEL still more… 10 for indeed you do practice it [love] toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to EXCEL still more…


2) Abounding in the work of the Lord is one way that we stand fast and immoveable. The other way is “Knowing.” “Knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

o       Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God…”

o       “Fixedness is a condition of abounding in work. All activity has its center in rest.” M. Vincent

o       Jesus died for our sin and was raised, therefore His labor was not in vain and you who love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength will be raised to everlasting life with Him.

o       There will be a resurrection and a judgment in which your labor will be formally recognized and rewarded. Death doesn’t make your labor disappear and be in vain. It lives on in God’s knowledge. The book of Revelation talks about this:

§         To the church in Ephesus, God said in Rev 2:2, “I know your works, and your toil, and patience, and that you cannot bear evil men, and have tested [for genuineness] those men who call themselves apostles yet are not, and you found them false”

§         Rev 14:13 “And I heard the voice from heaven saying, ‘Write, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth.” Yes’, said the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them.’”

o       Isaiah also prophesied of the blessings of God’s people in the future when he wrote in 65:23 “23. They will not grow tired for nothing, and they will not bear children for dismay, for they will be the seed of the ones Jehovah has blessed, and their offspring will be with them!


So as you abound in the work of the Lord

and rest in the knowledge that your labor is not in vain

because of the resurrection and coming judgment of Christ,

continue becoming more steadfast in your faith.

This applies to many areas, including:

§         Don’t forget Mother Monica of old who prayed for decades for the salvation of her son Augustine. Her prayers were answered and her son became one of the most famous pastors of all time – St. Augustine.

§         I know many of us prayed for Caitlin over the past week as she was in a truly life-threatening situation with a placental abruption that was not showing up on ultrasound. God heard our prayers and delivered her and baby Claira safe and sound! Praise the Lord!

§         So keep on praying!

o       This passage also applies to any ministry with people:

§         The doctrine of the resurrection means that we must, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, HarperOne, pp. 14-15.)

§         Parents, don’t give up on raising your kids for Christ. I was just talking with a Mom who shall go unnamed, but who has been reconciling petty fights between little children for 16 years. She said, “It just makes me tired.” Be steadfast, abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your nurture and admonition of your children is not in vain!

§         Those of you working with students and internationals, don’t give up! A few years ago, a man from India visited my home. He was a Hindu and I didn’t think much of him. In my experience, all Hindus from India were annoyingly pluralistic and impossible to evangelize. I was wrong. God brought this man across my path a couple of weeks ago, and he excitedly told me that he had just been baptized as a Christian. Friends of mine who had more faith than me had patiently worked with that man and God blessed their labor. Be steadfast!

o       I’ll apply this to one more setting, and that is church planting.

§         We are still struggling to start a full-fledged church here in Manhattan, KS.

§         It would be all-too-easy to say, “We’ve been trying for four years and we still don’t have enough money or enough leaders; let’s quit!”

§         Two out of every three church plants have to fold within the first few years I’m told.

§         Even Paul worried about the churches he planted. He wrote his first letter to the Thessalonians because, in his words, “I wanted to know your faith, lest by any means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor should be in vain.” (1 Thess. 3:5)

§         It would be all to easy for the Tempter, Satan to sift us like wheat and get us all mad at each other and divide us up and put out the fire of this church, just like a fire is put out by scattering the burning logs.

§         But brothers, let us continue steadfast, immoveable, abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labour in the Lord is NOT IN VAIN!