But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
In reading Paul’s letters, one thing about the Apostle jumps off the page to me: Paul worked incredibly hard. You can see this in today’s verse as well as 1 Corinthians 4:12, 2 Corinthians 6:5, Colossians 1:28-29, and 2 Thessalonians 3:8.
Why did Paul work so hard? Because as Paul makes clear in today’s passage, hard work is part of a believer’s reasonable response to the gospel. “[God’s] grace to me was not without effect,” Paul said. And so, he “worked harder than” all the other apostles.
Just like Paul, part of our response to the gospel is to work diligently on behalf of our Savior’s agenda. That’s why Paul commands us in Colossians 3:23 to follow his example and “work heartily as for the Lord.”
In Ephesians 2:10, Paul goes even further, suggesting that the very reason why we were saved was to work hard on behalf of our King! Paul writes that “we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand.”
Now, I hear what you’re thinking: Jordan, when Paul says “good works” he was talking about giving money to the poor, not writing an elegant line of code, right? Wrong. Of course “good works” implies charitable and evangelical things, but the meaning of ergon (the Greek word for “good works”) is much broader. One commentary says it means “work, task, [and] employment.”
Paul couldn’t be any clearer: God didn’t save us so that we would sit back and wait around for eternity. God saved your life so you would spend it for his glory and the advancement of the gospel.
Now, we need to make one thing clear. We do not work hard because we need to. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “it is by grace you have been saved…not by works.” No amount of hard work will make us any more or less loved by our Father. But ironically, it is that security that leads us to want to work hard, not to earn our salvation, but in response to it.
Tim Keller offers a beautiful picture of this. He writes: “Imagine a father watching his beloved son play baseball for the team his father coaches. As he sits in the dugout, he loves his son fully and completely. If his son forgets his father’s instructions and strikes out, it will not change his love for him or approval of him one bit. The son is assured of his father’s love regardless of his performance. But the son will long to hit that home run. Not for himself—to gain his father’s love—but for his father, because he is already loved.”
Believer: You can never lose the love of your heavenly Father. May that security motivate you to work hard today for his glory and the good of others!