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Vain Faith? Friday Q&A

Ok – I have a question.

I am studying 1 Corinthians 15 in preparation for some preaching I will be doing at the end of the month, and I wanted to put this concept out there for some group think.

Twice in the top of this chapter Paul uses a term that would fit nicely in my formerly hard and legalistic theological structure.

In verses 1 & 2 he says this:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Then again in verse

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:10

What’s bugging me is this idea that somehow because he worked (labored) it proved that he was indeed an apostle.

Does this mean that in the first section, our salvation somehow does not count if we don’t get to work?

Clearly Paul militates against this idea in the book of Galatians where he reprimands them for going back to a trust in works after being saved by faith.

Ephesians 2:8-10 also clearly demonstrates that works are a result not a cause:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10

It is interesting that the Greek word is not the same in both cases

In verse 2 the word is “eikē”  -

1) inconsiderably, without purpose, without just cause
2) in vain
a) without success or effort

In verse 10 the word is “kenos”

1) empty, vain, devoid of truth
a) of places, vessels, etc. which contain nothing
b) of men
1) empty handed
2) without a gift
c) metaph. destitute of spiritual wealth, of one who boasts of his faith as a transcendent possession, yet is without the fruits of faith
d) metaph. of endeavours, labours, acts, which result in nothing, vain, fruitless, without effect
1) vain of no purpose

So here is what I think at this point in my process. It sound to me like in the second case, Paul was given a gift  - that of apostleship. Had he denied it, suppressed it, ignored it dispensationalized it (saying for example he could not be an apostle because he did not walk with Jesus) or what ever – the gift would be like that juicer you received as a wedding gift that still has the ribbon on it. All it is good for is using up space on the shelf, though it is capable of so much more.

I think many of us Christians (myself included) leave the fabulous gifts the Lord has chosen for us, prepared us for, and equipped us with unused, perhaps because we don’t even realize we have them.

But what’s up with this first one – the word believe is the standard word for faith, so I have a hard time reconciling this, without some sugar coated cop out answer.

What do you think?

Do you have questions – or some topic you would like to discus in the this forum? Click the link in the side bar and ask away. I don’t promise right answers, but you can at least watch me think – LOL

Ben NelsonSee you again soon




Thanks to for the definitions!


0 thoughts on “Vain Faith? Friday Q&A

  1. livinginobscurity

    Could it also be referring to the "work" we all must do to walk out of the old nature and into the new, as opposed to the "works" he has set aside for us to do. We know we all have a purposeful assignment to carry out but that has nothing to do with our salvation.

    Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

    Then again in verse

    But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:10

    Even though Paul had a radical encounter with Christ that led to his conversion, He had a lot to overcome in the things he had done prior. It seems to me he would have had to work at renewing his mind which takes alot of work at times., but he made work of it and did it thus qualifying him for the work of apostleship God had planned for him from the very beginning.

    Just my thoughts for whatever they're worth! Not even sure if this fits in the dialogue you were looking for.

    1. Ben Nelson

      That's a pretty cool perspective. Repentance is clearly work - inspired and given to us by the Lord, but we do have to walk. Great comments Gayle

  2. Felecia

    Ooooh ... Q&A for the masses! Thanks!

    Firstly, thank you for expounding on the Greek meanings for "vain" in both those verses. I'm just getting started on developing my "study" tools into that (and Hebrew) realm. Also of interest, as I checked my trusty NIV and HCSB versions of the same verses, is that in the verses 1 and 2 they both use a period (rather than a comma) after "taken your stand." I find this important because it slightly changes the flavor of the verses.

    Paul is saying in v.1 - I preached, you listened and understood, and now claim it as your own (period). Then in v.2 he equates being saved with holding firmly to the word. If you don't know this to be true, continue to read, study and believe you have life eternal because of Christ Jesus, then you will have wasted all these days. Paul is saying we must be obedient, after all Jesus' commission is to get the good news out to everyone. We can't just sit on our laurels and do nothing. Am I reading too much into these verses? I don't know. I'm sure part comes from other teachers more learned than myself.

    I love love love verse 10. Paul did have to work hard as an apostle. First he had to prove his salvation (change of heart?) to the other apostles and then he (as far as we know) went farther, spoke longer and to more people. Somewhere in 2 Corinthians (maybe chapter 11?) Paul talks about all his troubles - how hard he worked, etc. But when we truly die to Christ don't we take on the "burden" of working for the Kingdom? In quotes because it's a joy - not a burden at all - although un (or non or little) believers see it as such. Thinking of my parents here - "why do you do so much for that church?"

    Anywho ... I think I've gotten off course here. The main point of v.10 (I believe) is that yes, we get a free gift of salvation from God when we bow to His Son. But we also get developing grace as we grow more like Jesus and serve our church body (be the hands and feet of Jesus - I'm cringing that I just used that line in a sentence!) for the good of Christ's sheep and the Kingdom. As to having gifts we don't know about or don't know how to use - I agree. It's when we realize God has something magnificent to do in front of us and we take his hand even though we know for a fact we can't do it - or shouldn't be able to do it - and through faith DO IT. There's a special kind of humble pride you get when you take that step of faith and succeed because you have the grace of God. No other and certainly not yourself.

    Love'd this post, Ben, and I also like the new pic ... from hoodie to suit ... you're coming up in the world! 🙂
    Be Blessed,

    1. Ben Nelson

      This is really awesome Felicia - thanks for processing this with me. I think you nailed it there, if i understand you correctly - like - if you stop pressing in, when you have come close to conversion (for lack of a better word) and you don't keep pressing through - you waist the distance you have come, not having finished. (sounded better the way you said it, but i am a verbal processor - LOL)

      Yea - the suit - hmmm - i don't really do suits, but this was at my daughter's wedding, and i was getting ready to pray, but if you put a microphone in my hand you probably should go ahead and get comfy.

      Thanks much Felicia.


  3. bennetta faire

    Well first, I love watching you think, Prof! And I love the new pic a LOT!! We'll never be saved by our works alone--that's the tragic mistake some people make, possibly out of ignorance, I don't know. I'm BIG on revelation--I usually don't "get" or know a thing, until God gives me that way cool flash of revelation about it--like being handed a big sparkly-wrapped present from Him. So my understanding is this: He probably put all kinds of gifts in me from before time began, but I may not recognize I have them yet. Then one day--through great teaching, or encouragement by a believing sibling/blog teacher, etc--I'm pawing around in my pantry and see that prettily wrapped juicer. I didn't know what it was for, previously--but this day, "FLASH", God says, "you're going to enjoy this!" There's my buck-fifty for a Friday. God bless you and the fam (BIG)--love, Cj

  4. noordinaryjoy61

    The things we do outwardly are a sign of our inward condition and our allegiance. That being said, we can sometimes fool others by doing things for the sake of doing them or for our own glory but we can't fool God. So, I think the challenge is to be certain we are doing what God would have us to to do, and for the right reasons. The title in the next chapter of the book I'm reading is "What is God Asking You to do?" That's a good question for us to ask ourselves every day. The answer is different for everyone and depends on the measure which He has given us - of time, talents, and money. But, whatever the answer is, we just do need to do it - out of obedience, of course but, most importantly, out of our love for Him.

    1. Ben Nelson

      That's really good Joy. I do find in the end the love motivation works best for the long haul, but there admittedly times you just have to do it out of sheer discipline or obedience. - at least that is my experience.

      1. noordinaryjoy61

        I would totally agree with that, Ben. We can know we love God but the feelings aren't always there. Obedience is an act of love but not necessarily borne out of feelings of love. If that makes any sense...

  5. Pingback: Vain Faith – Friday Q&A | Another Red Letter Day

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