1 Corinthians 15:55-58
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?…
I. EXPLAIN THE EXHORTATION IN THE TEXT.
1. The first particular in the text is steadfastness, which refers both to doctrine and practice.
(1) First, then, to doctrine. Men often embrace opinions without examining sufficiently into the foundations of them. When the assent is thus hastily given, it is easily shaken, and every succeeding teacher is thus able to subvert the tenets of his immediate predecessor. Before a man forms an opinion, he ought to judge maturely; and, after it is formed, he ought to be open to conviction. There is an obstinacy in persisting in a wrong opinion which is as culpable as unsteady adherence to a right one. Having embraced the truth, we ought to continue in it, that we may grow up in all things to Him, who is the head.
(2) Again, we must be steadfast in practice. The steadfastness which the apostle enjoins takes the law of God for the rule of conduct, and by this law it abides. It makes religion the unremitting business of life. It is a regular, uniform, and persevering principle; it neither rises nor falls; it neither ebbs nor flows; it neither blazes forth with extravagant fervour, nor is chilled with frigid indifference. The path of the steadfast is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
2. The duty of being "immovable" has probably a reference to those temptations to which, in the early ages of Christianity, all were exposed who embraced the gospel; and which, considering the weakness of human nature, had a strong tendency to remove them from the good way which they had so lately chosen. But though we have nothing to fear from religious persecution, and though our faith be not tried by sufferings such as theirs, there are still many temptations that may render us movable. Riches still catch the eye, and kindle the desire of the covetous. Licentious pleasures still allure the voluptuous. There are still honours to tempt the ambitious. And these render men as movable as persecution itself. To be immovable implies that we live under habitual impressions of religion; and though from infirmity, from the strength of passion, or the power of temptation, we may be led astray, yet it is our earnest desire to walk in the ways of holiness, and to have respect to all God's commandments. This is to be the prevailing desire of the heart. This is to be the predominating principle of the conduct. Nothing is better calculated to render us immovable in our Christian progress than a firm and lively faith. Would all the pleasures or riches of the world tempt a man under a thorough conviction that by gaining them he should lose his own soul?
3. By "the work of the Lord" we are to understand a life and conversation regulated by the precepts of the gospel. "Abounding" in this work implies that we embrace every opportunity of doing our duty; that in situations in which we are called forth to exhibit our duty to God, we perform it in conformity to His Holy Word; that a similar performance is given to what refers to our fellow-creatures; that in all things respecting God, our neighbour, or ourselves, our conduct is directed by His law, and agreeable to it. But it is not enough that we acquire all the virtues of the Christian character; these we must possess in the highest degree; we must make continual progress in holiness; we must be advancing from one degree of grace and perfection to another; we must study to arrive at the fulness of the stature of the perfect man, which is in God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT WHICH WE HAVE TO COMPLY WITH THE EXHORTATION IN THE TEXT. "Our labour in the Lord is not in vain."
1. It is not "in vain" even in this world. Though piety and virtue be not attended with a complete reward in this life, and though, in some cases, they may expose to temporal loss, yet the advantages resulting from them are more than sufficient to counterbalance any sufferings to which their practice may expose us. Peace of mind and inward satisfaction are their peculiar reward. A good man is at all times satisfied from himself; a good conscience is a perpetual feast. Happiness, indeed for a time, may be changed into misery; health, in the course of human life, may be turned into sickness, but the peace of conscience continues for ever. "Great peace have they," says the psalmist, "which love Thy law." But the reward of the virtuous consists not merely of inward peace. In the ordinary transactions of life the effects of piety and virtue are seen and felt. It will be found that, even with regard to temporal affairs, "he that walketh uprightly, walketh surely." A fair character and unsullied reputation carry a man forward in the world, and contribute more effectually to promote his prosperity than all the unworthy arts of falsehood and dishonesty.
2. It is in the future life that the rewards of the righteous will be full and adequate. There the seeds that are now sown shall arrive at maturity, and flourish for ever; there the righteous shall receive that crown of glory which fadeth not away; there they shall be priests and kings unto God, and live with Him for ever.
Parallel VersesKJV: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?