“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” - 1 Corinthians 15:58
It is not always easy for me to follow the logic of the Apostle Paul’s argumentation in his epistles. He was a very logical man, and wrote in a very logical and persuasive way in his letters, one assertion or argument building to the next until a great edifice of doctrine stood before our spiritual eyes. He was always reasoning with his readers, persuading them, reaching out to their minds. The proof of this is his penchant for using the word “therefore.” This word is a logical word, enabling someone to see the connection between a series of truths that Paul has just given us, and the way we should think or believe or feel or live as a result. So, I am always hunting for logic with Paul’s epistles, and especially so when there is a “therefore” at the beginning of a verse. But I cannot always fully grasp what connection Paul is asserting.
That is certainly the case when it comes to 1 Corinthians 15:58. There Paul connects a clear exhortation to the Corinthian church to be very energetic and perseverant in serving Christ to the doctrine of the resurrection of the body! The logic seems to be this: because the dead will certainly rise in glorious bodies, you should always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord. Huh?! How do those two things relate?
The verse comes at the very end of one of the most indispensible chapters in the New Testament, a chapter which clearly describes aspects of the mysterious resurrection body. Paul asserts at the beginning of the chapter that the bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead is central to the gospel, predicted by Old Testament scripture, and testified to by multiple eyewitnesses, including Paul himself (15:1-11). Having asserted this, he then asks in effect, “since all this is so, how can some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead at all?” Paul argues persuasively, if there is no resurrection of the body, if it actually can’t happen at all, then how is it that Christ Himself WAS raised from the dead in a resurrection body? So, Paul argues that the resurrection of Christ Himself proves that the body WILL rise, and says without Christ’s resurrection, there is no gospel at all, no atonement… we are all still in our sins and going to hell. But Paul says triumphantly, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20)! And if there is a firstfruits, then there will be a full harvest. But later, for God has willed that death will be the final enemy for Christ to defeat… so we must be patient as we wait for the resurrection of the body.
Paul then turns to the details and particulars of the resurrection body itself, and this is part of what makes this chapter so indispensible… without these words we would be left in the dark about these things. But God wanted us to know some things about the resurrection body (though not everything about it). So, through the Spirit He moved Paul to write 1 Corinthians 15:35-53. In these verses, Paul tells us that the flesh and blood body cannot possibly inherit the eternal Kingdom of God, subject as this mortal body is to decay and corruption in Adam. Rather, the body must be changed, transformed into something fit for eternity. In a majestic series of contrasts with the present mortal body, Paul describes the resurrection body: “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42-44). This is the best description in the Bible of the resurrection body: it is an imperishable, powerful, spiritual body! And it is absolutely guaranteed to us in Christ. Every single person who trusts in Christ for salvation will receive this infinitely powerful transformation by God Himself! This resurrection of the body is the finish line of God’s eternal plan of salvation. It is the death of death itself, so that the final verses leading up to verse 58 are triumphant in praise, as though Paul were dancing on every grave that has ever held one of God’s chosen children! “Where O death is your victory! Where O death is your sting!”
"The connection is this: because the finish line of salvation is the resurrection of the body, and since that is absolutely guaranteed by the sovereign power of Almighty God, anything we do in service to God that tends toward that ultimate purpose cannot possibly be in vain!"
Having given us all this spiritual information, and led us in praise and worship to God for the certainty of it all, Paul concludes with these words: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). The connection is this: because the finish line of salvation is the resurrection of the body, and since that is absolutely guaranteed by the sovereign power of Almighty God, anything we do in service to God that tends toward that ultimate purpose cannot possibly be in vain! God will use every act of kindness, every spiritual gift, every prayer, every word spoken to a brother or sister to help them in Christ, every dollar given to advance the Kingdom—He will take absolutely everything we do for the Kingdom of Christ and use it for this final success. And that success is absolutely guaranteed. So, since this is true, we should give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord. We should never be discouraged, but keep doing what God has guaranteed will be successful!