Grace Empowers the Best Work

1 Corinthians 15:9–10, Part 2

Principle for Bible Reading

For many, the message of grace means the end of all effort. But the Bible will not let us settle for that kind of Christian life. In this lab, John Piper connects key texts to inspire real, consistent, passionate effort to live like Jesus today. The grace that saves us also empowers change in us.

View the outline.


Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:45)

Grace Does Not Fail (01:45–04:09)

  1. “I am what I am” looks at grace’s impact on Paul’s life looking back into the past. (1 Corinthians 15:9)
  2. Why was God’s grace toward Paul not in vain? Because he became a worker for the sake of the gospel. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
  3. Grace does not replace work in the Christian life, but empowers it.

Grace Does Not Replace Effort (04:09–06:12)

  1. None of our works contribute with Christ’s work to the forgiveness of our sins or the providing of our righteousness.
  2. Once we have been justified, grace not only takes the place of works (for our justification), but also produces work (for our sanctification). (1 Corinthians 15:10)
  3. Grace does not replace our effort, but empowers our effort.
  4. If you are dominated by grace, you will overflow with real efforts to live for God.

Grace Works Within Me (06:12–11:12)

  1. We might construe Paul’s words here to mean that grace starts the work and we finish it. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
  2. Paul resolves that issue by clarifying that even his effort is not his own, but the grace of God in and through him. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
  3. In Galatians 3:2–5, Paul corrects the same wrong way of thinking. We don’t pick up in sanctification where God left off in justification. It is all by grace.
  4. The grace of God is so decisive and powerful in the good work I am doing that it is fitting to say I am not doing it.
  5. The same dynamic between God’s grace and our effort is shown again in Philippians 2:12–13.
  6. Therefore, all the glory from justification and sanctification belongs to the God of grace.

Study Questions

  1. Why was God’s grace toward Paul not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:10)? What would it mean for his grace to be in vain toward someone?
  2. If Paul was relying on God’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:10), why did he work harder than anyone? Based on 1 Corinthians 15:9–10, how does God’s grace relate to our effort in the Christian life?
  3. Read Galatians 3:2–5 and Philippians 2:12–13. How do these other texts from Paul help us understand 1 Corinthians 15:9–10?
Piper: “Grace does not replace effort in the Christian life, but empowers it.”