While meditating on how little I do for the Lord, I thought of 1 Corinthians 15:58, which says, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." Since I did not seem to be abounding in the work of the Lord, I decided I would start by seeing what specific things God has revealed in which I should abound.
I found that there are four words translated "abound" in the Authorized Version, two of which are used as we are admonished to abound in various things. It is interesting to note that we are told to abound in love more times than any other thing. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 is a fair sample of that admonition. Verse 13 gives one of the primary reasons for it. "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you; to the end he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints." Note that when we abound in love the end result is that our hearts are established unblamable in holiness.
This indicates why love is the most important thing in which we are to abound. It includes or touches all aspects of our lives, and when we abound in love, it is almost certain we will abound in all the other things God wants of us. This is also suggested by Jesus' statement about the greatest and second greatest commandments. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:37-39).
It is easy to see why he said the whole law and the prophets hang on these. If a person loves the Lord with all his heart, he will try to do whatever the Lord wants done. If he loves his neighbor as himself, he will try to be sure he never does anything to harm his neighbor, but is constantly concerned about the best for him. This is why, when we have the kind of love in which we are to abound, we will abound in all the other things that make up a Christian's life.
Although the English word, abound, is not found in Matthew 5:20, when Jesus said, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven," He used the word that is elsewhere translated "abound". Our righteousness is to abound. This does not mean that we are simply to pray longer prayers than they did, read scriptures more often than they, give more liberally than they, but the quality of our righteous acts must be different and better. It must come from a different source and have a different motivation. Paul touches this idea in Romans 10:3 when he says, "For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God."
When 1 Corinthians 15:38 says, "always abounding in the work of the Lord," this includes any work which the Lord authorizes or approves. Its comprehensive nature is also suggested in 2 Corinthians 8:7, "But as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all earnestness, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also." A detailed study would include specific information about how to abound in all these virtues. How does one abound in faith? If faith comes by hearing the word of God, does an abounding faith consist in merely hearing more? We suggest that an abounding faith consists in allowing that faith to operate properly, producing the kind of actions God wants. James says it clearly in James 2:14, "What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him?" He continues and says that faith without works is dead. So we may say, "Faith comes by hearing the word of the Lord; abounding faith comes by doing it."
When we are told to abound in utterance, our minds immediately go back to Acts 8:4, "They therefore that were scattered abroad went about preaching the word." They did not have to call for an expert to give them a course in personal evangelism. They abounded in utterance. When Paul mentioned faith, utterance, knowledge and earnestness (diligence), he added, "this grace also." He was talking about giving. We can probably count on the thumbs of one hand the number of those who abound in giving. Most of us probably would think that if a person had $10,000,000 and gave $1,000,000 that he was abounding in giving. I have only known of three persons in my life whose regular giving was more than 60% of their income. Of course, there are millions who give about whom I do not know, but I have not found any evidence that leads me to conclude that very many persons abound in giving.
Probably the most comprehensive list in one place of things in which we are to abound is that given in 2 Peter 1:5-8, "Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge; and in your knowledge self-control; and in your self-control patience; and in your patience godliness; and in your godliness brotherly kindness; and in your brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
I do not know how much this study will help me to abound in the various areas God has mentioned, but I am reasonably sure that it will not help either you or me unless we examine our own lives and make a deliberate effort to correct ourselves in those areas where we find ourselves lacking. If we look at our giving, for example, and say, "I know I am not giving as I have been prospered, but--" then the chances are that we will fail to abound in many of the other areas. If we find what we know to be a lack in any one area, we should make a specific plan to do whatever needs to be done to correct that deficiency today.
T. Pierce Brown
Published in The Old Paths Archive