Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58, NKJV)
The Corinthian church had problems. Every church does. That’s because every church is composed of sinners, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We struggle with temptations and sins, with our faith and our failings. Christians in every congregation must address weakness and weariness, responsibilities and relationships, and much more (Rom. 12:3-21). Paul exhorted the Corinthian brethren to remain true to the Lord as they faced spiritual challenges from within themselves and from the world without. Like them, we must be “steadfast” (settled, firmly situated) in our faith. The roots of our faith must run deep within us, anchored by the word of God, in order for spiritual growth to flourish. By building our personal faith we become stabilized, standing firmly in the faith, and able to resist the enticements of sin (Col. 2:7; Jas. 1:14). By such steadfastness we become “immovable” (unmoved) against the external forces of error and evil (Col. 2:8; Eph. 4:14-16; 1 Pet. 4:1-3). (Remember, the devil is always probing for our vulnerabilities, 1 Pet. 5:8.) Spiritual stability enlivens our duty (“work”) in the Lord with purpose, devotion, endurance, and fullness. Our incentive to fulfill our duty to the Lord is clear – our labor is not useless in the Lord. A full, everlasting harvest awaits the faithful (Gal. 6:7-8).
9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ (Luke 17:9–10, NKJV)
Followers of Jesus want to grow in their faith to reach spiritual maturity. This growth of faith comes as we feed on the word of God and live by its truth (Heb. 5:12-14). By using the word of God we grow and are strong in Christ. Even so, in today’s passage, the Lord explains our faith will increase when we obey the duty of faith. Just as a servant obeys his master out of duty and without merit, our obedience to Christ expresses full submission to Him. We merit nothing by our obedience (we cannot earn our way to heaven) – we are “unprofitable servants” doing our duty (v. 10). Our faith in Christ compels our obedience to Him. It is our duty to obey His word, and we freely and willingly do so. Such submissive obedience shows we trust the Lord instead of ourselves. We do His will in His way precisely because we trust His way is right and good. That kind of faith grows as we fulfill our duty before the Lord. You see, saying and not doing is not faith (Lk. 6:46; Jas. 2:17). Doing our duty as servants increases our faith in the Lord.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:15–16, NKJV)
Christians dare not take a light, careless view of sin. Being under grace does not mean we can “continue to sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 6:1). Unfortunately, not a few Christians appear to believe grace allows them to sin with escape from consequences and exemption from eternal punishment. It remains true that “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). Since Christians have chosen to obey Christ, we present ourselves to Him and serve His will instead of serving sin. Since we are under grace, the result of obeying Christ is that one’s faith is accounted for righteousness (Rom. 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-10). This passage condemns the Calvinistic doctrine that equates obedience with “works salvation”. Yes, salvation is by grace. But that is not a license to sin. It is our signal to obey Jesus! It is our duty is to trust and obey our Master (Luke 17:10). Do your duty.