“Always Abounding in the Work of the Lord”

Glendol McClure

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Gospel preachers often use this passage to encourage brethren to abound in faithful work and service of the cause of Christ. A Christian’s life must be a life of abounding work. He must be a faithful follower of the Master, a “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding” servant who is firmly grounded in the Bible’s revealed truths. Yet, some brethren are not “steadfast and unmoveable.” Rather, they are like “children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness” (Eph. 4:14). They lack the qualities associated with “always abounding in the work of the Lord.”

W. E. Vine defined the Greek word rendered “abounding” (perisseuo, Gk.) in this passage as: “to be abundantly furnished, to abound in a thing...the work of the Lord.”

Strong defined this word as: From G4053; “to super-abound (in quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous; also (trans.) to cause to super-abound or excel: (make, more) abound, (have, have more) abundance, (be more) abundant, be the better, enough and to spare, exceed, excel, increase, be left, redound, remain (over and above)” (Strong, # 04502).

Hence, one who abounds has an overflowing abundance. Consider the account of Jesus’ instructions to Simon Peter recorded in Luke 4:5-10. The Lord said, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” When Peter obeyed and let down the nets as Christ directed, they caught such a vast number of fishes that their nets broke, and the ship began to sink. Now, that’s ABUNDANCE!

The phrase “in the work of the Lord” applies to all things God had commanded man to do. Of this phrase, commentator Albert E. Barnes said, “Always engaged in doing the will of God; in promoting His glory, and advancing His kingdom. This phrase means not only to be engaged in this, but to be engaged diligently, laboriously; excelling in this. The ‘work of the Lord’ here means that which the Lord requires; all the appropriate duties of Christians. Paul exhorts them to practice every Christian virtue, and to do all they could do to further the gospel among men.” (Barnes Notes, Vol. 8, p. 324)

Having read these definitions and comments, let us consider the Bible passages that teach us how we are to abound “in the work of the Lord.” To abound in the Lord’s work we must:

Abound in faithful service, coupled with thanksgiving. Paul wrote, “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joy and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Col. 2:5-7).

Abound in suffering for the cause of Christ. Paul wrote, “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation” (2 Cor. 1:5-7).

Notice that Paul mentioned steadfastness. As workers for the Lord, we must be steadfast, even though severe persecutions may arise. Christ warned His disciples that they would have to endure persecutions, and that they would come to those who do the Lord’s work (Matt. 10:16-28). Paul, himself, suffered persecutions and warned in his writings of persecutions that would come to the faithful (2 Cor. 11:24-28; 12:10; 2 Tim. 3:11, 12). Thus, we must be willing to suffer and should not think it strange when we are called upon to suffer persecutions for righteousness sake (Matt. 5:10-12; 1 Pet. 4:12-16; Rev. 2:10).

Abound in hope. Paul wrote to the Roman brethren, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Rom. 15:13, 14). Basically, hope is desire with expectation. The Christian should hope to receive an “inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 1:4; 5:4). We must base our hope for heaven on the truths revealed in the Scriptures, not on some false hope created by false teachers. Sadly, some have laid down the sword of truth and have not finished the race, resulting in a “faith” that is made shipwreck (1 Tim. 1:19).

In his letter to young Timothy, Paul expressed confidence that he, based on his own steadfastness in the faith, would receive the eternal crown: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

Abound in knowledge and judgment. Paul wrote, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:9, 10). Christians are to abound and grow in the knowledge of God’s word. The Bible commands and exhorts us to study God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 5:12-14; Eph. 3:3, 4; 5:17; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:17, 18). If we are to remain steadfast in our faith in Christ, we must possess knowledge about His word, will, and way.

We must base our judgments on the revealed word. We are to, “Judge righteous judgment.” Jesus commanded, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (Jn. 7:24). Our judgments must not be based on our own personal standards, but on Bible principles of truth (Matt. 7:1-5). Righteous judgment requires correct application of Bible truths. James taught that we are to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (Jas. 2:22-25). His message rings loud and clear regarding this point.

Abound in love. Paul wrote, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (1 Thess. 3:12, 13).

The love Paul mentioned in these verses is the agape type of love. Occasionally, some liberal-minded brethren accuse preachers who boldly teach the truth of not “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), or of being unloving, caustic, abrasive, or abusive. Some brethren accuse other preachers who boldly “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” of knowing only how to preach on divisive issues, of “blasting the denominations,” or of nailing or clobbering church members for their shortcomings. Brethren who make such charges really don’t know the true Bible meaning of love. Remember, Paul said, “speaking the TRUTH in LOVE” (Eph. 4:15, emphases mine, tgm).

Agape love is the type of love that “does not always run with natural inclinations, nor does is spend itself upon those for whom a natural affinity is discovered – love seeks the welfare of all” (Vine). We can see the nature of agape love by considering the words of Jesus when he commanded, “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:44-48). Someone said, “Faults are thick where love is thin” (Read 1 Cor. 13 and Jn .13:34-35). How true that statement is. Godly love (agape love) involves abounding in love for:

1.         God. Obedience to His word, sacrifice, the right attitude toward His word, and service to Him.

2.         Christ. Submission to and appreciation for, the sacrifice He made for us. Diligent service and respect for His authority, His name, His church, and His doctrine.

3.         The Holy Spirit. Respect for the revealed word, as well as diligently studying it, teaching it, earnestly contending for it, and defending it when it is under attack.

4.         Alien sinners. Being “an example of the believers” (1 Tim. 4:12), working to teach and save those who are willing to hear the gospel of Christ.

5.         Faithful brethren. Encouraging, commending, edifying, and helping them do the Lord’s work.

6.         Unfaithful brethren. Warning, rebuking, exhorting, restoring, and withdrawing fellowship from the impenitent.

7.         Enemies. Praying for, blessing, doing good to, feeding the hungry, and giving drink to the thirsty.

Abound in partaking of the “divine nature.” Peter wrote, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (1 Pet. 2:3, 4) To partake of the divine nature, we must add to an obedient faith (which is the foundation of what we believe, teach, and practice) the character traits Peter listed in verses 5 through 7.

We must add to our faith:

$          Virtue (manliness, strength, courage, moral excellence;

$          Knowledge (knowledge of God’s word);

$          Temperance (self-control);

$          Patience (endurance, persistence, perseverance, long-suffering);

$          Godliness (an attitude and actions that result in an acceptable relationship with God);

$          Brotherly kindness (love, [phileo-Gk.] of the brethren);

$          And, charity (love, [agape-Gk.]

The result of these additions to our faith: “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Pet. 1:8-10).

Abound in giving as we have been prospered. Paul commanded, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Cor.16:1, 2).

The Macedonians mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 are examples of abundant givers. Paul said they “first gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us by the will of God” (vs. 5). Those who find it difficult to give on the “first day of the week” (which means every week) have not first given themselves to the Lord. They are not willing givers. Paul exhorted the Corinthians to be of such a mind as the Macedonians, to abound in giving, to sow bountifully. He wrote: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Cor. 9:6-8). Note the repeated use of the word abound in these verses.

Abound in every good work. As we have noted, the phrase, “the work of the Lord,” includes all works God has commanded men to do. Jesus, during His personal ministry, did his Father’s work. He said, ‘I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (Jn. 9:4).

Likewise, as Christ was obedient to His Father, we must be obedient to all things (godly works) commanded by Christ. When Paul wrote to the Colossian brethren, he said: “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9,10; cf. Mk. 14:6-9; 2 Cor. 9:8; Phil. 1:6; 1 Tim. 3:1; 5:10; 2 Tim. 2:21; Heb. 13:21). We must follow the example of Christ by doing the will of the Father in heaven–not our own will (Matt. 7:21-22).

Conclusion: We could consider other points, but time and space do not permit. Let us strive to walk as Paul exhorted the Corinthians to walk– in a steadfast manner, abundantly serving the Lord without wavering. We seldom find it difficult to abound in our own interests, but may we remember also to abound in God’s work, “that your (our) labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).