“Stedfast and Abounding”

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the LORD, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the LORD.” —I Corinthians 15:58

THE CHURCH OF Christ at Corinth was not without its problems. Judging from the warnings, exhortations, and instructions contained in Paul’s letters to this group of Christians, there was a measure of carnality among them. Some did not grasp the real spirit of the Memorial Supper, and some did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Faithfully, Paul endeavored to correct these faulty situations, and to show the early disciples the way of the Lord more perfectly.

The climax of this presentation of truth comes in the 15th chapter, in which Paul presents the glorious hope of the resurrection, and associates the fruition of this hope with the kingdom reign of Christ—a reign which is to continue until all enemies are put under his feet, and the great enemy, Death, is destroyed. This outline of the divine plan contains the basic fundamentals of the message which has been given to us to proclaim; and Paul’s admonition to the brethren of Corinth, and to us, to abound in the work of the Lord, is related to our commission to proclaim this Gospel.

But to do this effectively it is essential that we be “stedfast and unmoveable” in the truth and in our stand for the truth. The brethren at Corinth could not abound in the work of the Lord while carnally disputing among themselves as to whom they would choose as their favorite leader. Those among them who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead certainly could not abound in the work of proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, a Gospel which is void of vital meaning if there is no resurrection of the dead.

It is essential that those who work for the Lord know the plans and ways of the Lord, and that they labor in the spirit of the Lord, recognizing the headship of Christ, enthusiastically believing and witnessing for the Gospel of Christ. One cannot meet these qualifications if tossed about “by every wind of doctrine.” (Eph. 4:14) We must be ‘stedfast and unmoveable’. This does not imply bigotry, or the unreasonable adherence to unproved theories and traditions. The truth of the divine plan is not such as this. It is the glorious Gospel of the kingdom, which, in all its aspects, is supported by the inspired Word of God.

Not only are we to be ‘stedfast and unmoveable’ in the truth, but we are also to contend earnestly for it, for the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3) We are to stand together for the faith of the Gospel. And we are to stand together in keeping with the arrangements the Lord has outlined in his Word. Paul explains this arrangement in the 12th chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians. We cannot abound in the work of the Lord and ignore this arrangement.


In I Corinthians, chapter 12, and in Ephesians, chapter 4, Paul outlines the working arrangements of “the New Creation.” Christ Jesus is the Head over his church. As brethren, and members of Christ’s body, we all take our direction from the Head. The more devoted each of us is to our Head, the more fervent will be the spirit of unity among us. Any partisan spirit, whether motivated by friendship, personal preferences, or ambition, tends to disrupt true fellowship among the brethren, and to weaken “the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.” These undesirable results are due to a failure to look to the Head for leadership and guidance.

We may properly think of Christ and his church from two standpoints. There is the all-inclusive viewpoint in which we see the entire church from Pentecost right down to the full end of the Gospel Age. And then there is the more local viewpoint in which each congregation of the Lord’s consecrated people, large or small, is spoken of in the Scriptures as ‘the church’. There was the church at Rome, the church at Antioch, and so forth.

For the church as a whole, special servants were appointed by the Lord. In addition to Jesus, the Head, there are the twelve apostles. These rendered personal service to the brethren of the Early Church, and, through their writings and examples, have continued to serve the Lord’s people throughout the age. Then there are what we might speak of as dispensational servants. In this category are the “angels,” or messengers to the seven churches mentioned in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3. The brethren in this end of the age have been, and continue to be, blessed by the messenger to the Laodicean church. Unlike the twelve apostles, these dispensational messengers have not been inspired.

The various servants in the local groups are elected by the vote of the brethren. Paul wrote that the Lord sets every member in the body as it pleases him. Certainly this is true of the apostles and of the “seven messengers.” And we believe that the Lord, in his own way, overrules with respect to the election of servants in the local congregations.


A study of The Book of Acts, and of the various epistles of the New Testament, reveals clearly that there was no central authority in the days of the Early Church which governed all the various local congregations. It is evident that each group was autonomous, and had complete freedom to conduct its own affairs. There is no evidence that even the inspired apostles in any way interfered with this complete liberty of action, except to admonish and exhort.

This liberty doubtless resulted in diversified arrangements on the part of the various congregations. No instructions were given by Jesus or by the apostles as to how each local congregation should conduct its business affairs. Scripturally, there is no right or wrong method. What might work well in a small group, perhaps would not be so satisfactory for a larger congregation. The important consideration is that each group should seek out and apply the methods best suited to its needs, in harmony with the fundamental principles outlined in the divine Word.

When the brethren are emptied of the spirit of self, and filled with the Spirit of the Lord, they find it a great joy to labor together in the service of the Lord, the truth, and of one another. And it was true in the Early Church, even as it is true today, that there was more or less of intermingling on the part of the brethren of the various congregations. And those in the various groups helped their brethren of other groups when there was a need for it. Thus, Paul collected funds from various congregations to help their needy brethren in Judea.


It was a small world in which the Early Church existed. To begin with it was only Israel. Then the work was expanded to Asia Minor, and later to southern Europe. Communication and travel were slow. Individual brethren did not possess Bibles. Indeed, to start with, the Old Testament Scriptures were the only Bibles available, and copies were scarce. Probably most Jewish synagogues had a copy of the Old Testament manuscripts, and probably some of these found their way into the congregations of the brethren. And doubtless additional copies were made as time and circumstances permitted.

Certainly there were no printed Bibles, and no books explaining the Bible. To the extent that the brethren were able to bear witness to the truth it had to be by word of mouth. In such circumstances there was not much that one congregation could do to help another in its missionary work. The church at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas, and later Paul and Silas, into the missionary field. Doubtless the brethren at Antioch contributed the necessary funds to make these missionary journeys possible.

How different the situation is today! Essentially every brother and sister in the truth today, the world over, owns a printed copy of the Bible. English, Hebrew, and Greek concordances of the Bible are available; also Bible dictionaries. In the Lord’s providence, we also have “keys” to an understanding of the Bible—“Studies in the Scriptures.” The printing press has made available for witness work a generous variety of tracts and booklets.

The personal testimony is still effective, and, without doubt, results in the richest of blessings to those who use all such opportunities that come to them. But now, this method of proclaiming the truth to which the brethren in the Early Church were limited, can be and is augmented by the printed message. There are many today throughout the world who are rejoicing in present truth who have never met another truth brother or sister. These have learned the truth simply by reading.

Today, also, we enjoy the benefits of those two most modern mediums of communication—radio and television. The use of these mediums furnishes additional opportunities for the brethren to ‘abound’ in the work of the Lord. There is the advertising of the programs, and the follow-up of the interested by means of public meetings, personal calls, and through the mail. A few brethren still today are finding an opportunity of service in contacting radio and television station managers with the view of interesting them in putting on the programs.

Obviously, these present-day methods of disseminating the truth offer opportunities for the brethren to work together in a general witness work. But this is being done without in any way abridging the independent status of local ecclesias. Indeed, it is this that forms such a solid basis upon which a general ministry of the truth is made possible.

The cooperative ministry of the truth offers privileges of service also to the Lord’s people who are isolated. There are thousands of these dear ones, and the fact that they have the opportunity of working together with their brethren in a general ministry of the truth, through their prayers, distribution of literature, and assisting financially, gives them a deep sense of being a part of the ‘body’, although they seldom, perhaps never, see anyone of “like precious faith.”


Thus it is that the Lord’s people throughout the earth today are continuing to be, as Jesus illustrated it, like “a city that is set on an hill which cannot be hid.” (Matt. 5:14) They are “the light of the world”—the only true light of the Gospel that is in the world. The fact that Jesus mentioned light in association with the city illustration implies a nighttime setting. There would be some light emanating from a city by night, even in Jesus’ day—lights that could be seen at some distance. But certainly the whole countryside would not be made light in this way.

So it has been throughout the ages, and it is so today. The church has not enlightened the world, but from the Lord’s true people has shined the only light that has been in the world, and this light has attracted those whom the Lord has designed to ‘call’. And what a joy it is to be a part of the symbolic ‘city’ on the hill! But to continue to be lightbearers we need to be ‘stedfast’ and ‘unmoveable’. Otherwise we will not be displaying a constant light, but one which, at best, will be wavering and intermittent.

To be ‘stedfast and unmoveable’ in the truth, and in harmony with the Lord’s arrangements for his people, is one of the primary requisites for ‘always abounding in the work of the Lord’. If we turn aside from the truth to human theories, our abounding will cease. If we are ‘hurt’ because the ecclesia does not give us the recognition we think we deserve, we will not be so likely to ‘abound’ in the work of the Lord.

When the Israelites left Egypt to go to the Promised Land, they encountered many difficulties in the wilderness. These experiences were not pleasant, but a strong faith in the Lord, and complete resignation to his will, could have changed their outlook, and they would have had rest. Paul uses this situation to illustrate our wilderness journey, and admonishes us to seek that rest of faith which can be ours amidst all the unpleasant experiences of life. (Heb. 4:1-3) If we do enjoy this rest, then we can give our minds and hearts to ‘abounding in the work of the Lord’.


We are reminded of one of the severe tests of Christian faithfulness by Paul’s use of the word “always.” This suggests a zeal for the Lord and his work which is constant and unremitting. It is of little account that we were zealous yesterday, if we are listless and half-hearted in our service today. It is an encouragement to note how wonderfully the ‘always’ principle is manifested among the Lord’s people as a whole, even though the fruition of our hopes may have been delayed much longer than many of us expected.


“Forasmuch,” Paul wrote, “as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” The preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom has never been in vain. This was true with respect to Peter’s Pentecostal sermon, and it has been true of every witness for the truth which has been given since, whether to a multitude, or to an individual. Yes, this has been true even though the witness has been given with a lisping, “stammering tongue.”—Isa. 28:11; 33:19

Dawn Bible Students Association
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