The Work of the Lord
by Tom McLemore
The phrase “the work of the Lord”(1 Corinthians 15:58) indicates two things. First, the work of the Lord is the work that the Lord himself does. Second, when Christians are engaged in the same work that the Lord does, we are doing the work of the Lord. Christians must recognize that evangelism is the Lord working in and through us. We must also recognize that we work in cooperation with the Lord so that our work may be called “the work of the Lord.”
The prominence of “the name of the Lord Jesus” and similar ideas in the book of Acts emphasizes that the story of the early church is one of the Lord’s activity in and through his disciples. Though the Jews had put Jesus of Nazareth to death, God raised him up, he sits on David’s throne at God’s right hand, and he is still at work among Christians through the Spirit. The Jews did not get rid of him at all! Even though he can no longer be seen walking among men, even though his audible voice is no longer heard as it was before, and even though he is not physically present, healing and helping as he had during his ministry, he is still here in his body, the church. His work continues.
Luke emphasized the name of Jesus in connection with what went on in the early days of Christianity. This is particularly evident in the healing of the lame man in Acts 3, with emphasis upon the name of Jesus. Jesus is present with his people. His saving power is still here during the time between his ascension and his second coming. He is with his people unto the end of the age, just as he promised (Matthew 28:20).
Luke said at the beginning of his second book, “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus BEGAN to do and teach” (Acts 1:1, emphasis supplied). This may suggest that what he relates in this second book is what Jesus CONTINUED to do and teach. He lets us hear the name of Jesus and see what goes on in connection with it.
Jesus is still active, still doing, still teaching. His cause continues to move onward and outward. The use of his name brings this fact into sharp focus. The point of the miracle is not the miracle itself, but the name of Jesus who was doing the miracle! So, the speaking of the name of Jesus was, to the early church, a testimony that Jesus was alive, present with them, active, and doing.
When we look at the rest of Luke’s second volume, we can see how important this is. When the sick were healed, the name of Jesus was spoken (Acts 4:7, 10). When signs and miracles occurred, the name of Jesus was heard (Acts 4:30). When people were baptized, Jesus’ name was spoken (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:1-5; 22:16). When the disciples taught and preached, the name of Jesus was spoken (Acts 5:28, 40; 8:12; 9:15, 27, 29). The name of Jesus was praised (Acts 19:17). People called upon the name of Jesus (Acts 9:14; 22:16). When people suffered for being Christians, and they were prepared to die, it is clear that it was for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:41; 9:16; 15:26; 21:13).
When we baptize someone today, that person confesses the name of Jesus. When we pray, we say, “In Jesus’ name.” Not because saying the name of Jesus is a matter of mere ritual, but because it conveys a message! It says, “Jesus is alive to cleanse this person who is being baptized! He is alive to bear our humble prayers to the throne of the Majesty on high! He is alive, he is with us, and he is saving and acting!” The good work and worthy accomplishments among his people are his doing! This applies especially when we are engaged in the work of evangelism, for in a unique way, “this is the work of the Lord.” The Lord is teaching his word through us.
Paul aptly reinforces a similar and related idea in 1 Corinthians 3:6-9: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
How is “the work of the Lord” possible? The resurrected/exalted Lord is the source of strength for doing the work of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:11; 2:16, 17; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:8). Numerous passages stress the Lord’s being at work in us (Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Ephesians 4:12; Philippians 1:6).
Paul depended upon this strength in doing the work of the Lord. God’s grace enabled him (1 Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Everything Paul did in the work of the Lord he did “in the Lord,” i.e., in fellowship with the risen Lord, under his direction, and enabled by him (1 Corinthians 9:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 2:12; Galatians 5:10; Ephesians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:12; Philippians 2:19, 24; 2 Thessalonians 3:4; Philippians 4:10).
“In the Lord,” the church can do everything that the work of the Lord requires. We can abound, labor (work hard), be steadfast and constant in it, and be unmovable in it. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20, 21).
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