1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. 14 And do everything with love.”
Paul has called us to stay alert, to be watchful over our relationship with God, with others and ourselves. We must be honest and truthful with God, with others and with ourselves as we watch against the appearance of sin, the occasion to sin and the temptation to sin. We are to watch and pray as Jesus taught us, “Lead us not into temptation.” Paul also called us to be steadfast in the faith dealing with where we are standing, how we are standing and why we are standing. To stand fast involves keeping the ranks, not to be disorderly but determined to keep the ranks unbroken as we stand together. We are standing on the word of God because we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. We are called to stand up for God, on the word of God, and with the saints of God, “Together we stand and divided we fall.” Now Paul calls us to:
- Show up
The cultural allusion here is of an experienced soldier in the first century, and a picture of courage gained from being proven on the battlefield. This phrase literally translates Act like men, my modern-day translation would go like this “suck it up, stop whining and start winning”. Today we waste our time whining about the good old days, we lament the past while losing the present. To act like a man means to accept responsibility, step up to the plate and stay there. Men, I don’t care what the culture says, we are needed and it’s time to rise up and fight for our families. When we abandon our post the family fails, you are a soldier of Christ, so stand up, show up and suck it up. Holding the line, stand firm in the faith takes courage which is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it, Martin Luther King, Jr said “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.” Christian courage is the willingness to say and do the right thing for an eternal cause regardless of the earthly cost. We are in a war and we will be attacked so don’t get offended, it’s not about your rights it’s about the Redeemer. Unfortunately today we seem to care more about our rights than doing what is right. We must develop a warfare mentality, in this fight we need fortitude so we can be focused, firm and fixed. When you are attacked, don’t flinch or fall back, maintain your ground, resist what is wrong with right and hold the line of holiness. Be brave, don’t break, stare fear in the face let your battle cry be “bring it” because this fight has already been won. The enemy may wound you but he won’t win, death has been defeated and you have been delivered. Focus on the finished work of Christ, stand on the foundation of faith where fear fails. We have courage because even though they crucified Christ on the cross He rose to roll away the barrier. Today instead of courage we have cowards because we have traded our courage for comfort; we crave the convenient care free life. We live in fantasy world where we fool ourselves into thinking we can have an enemy and an easy life. Courage comes because of conflict not comfort, convenience and a care free life. Having trained the church and our children to pursue the American dream we are now living in its nightmare. Christ calls us to raise warriors that resist the world not revel in it. We need both physical and emotional courage to face the pain, hardship, and threat of death, as we respond rightly in the face of popular opposition, shaming and scorn.
This admonition to be courageous speaks soundly to the Corinthian cultural pluralism and ours, Paul is telling us to resist the rip tide of cultural currents. The call to be men of courage spiritually would have been unpopular even unacceptable behavior in first century Corinth. It could have meant a loss of stature in society, a loss of jobs and economic opportunity, the loss of friends and yet Paul wants them to stand on the standard that God has set. He is telling them they know the truth, and now they must live the truth and that takes courage in our culture. Spiritual steadfastness demands courageous application of the truth, unfettered support for the standard of what is spiritually true. If we truly believe the bible then we are called to bold opposition to what we know is false instead of bowing. Today the question facing the church is this, will we be courageous enough to confront the controversy of our culture?
- Be strong
This literally is translated be strengthened, if we are to be strong for God we must be strong in God. It is in the passive voice, as opposed to the first three admonitions of the passage. When Paul tells his readers to be on guard, to stand firm, and to be people of courage, he is telling them things they are to do. When he tells them to be strong, however, he is referring to a willingness to allow God to strengthen them, something God does to them in them and for them, not something they can do for themselves. The instruction is to submit to the strengthening power and work of our Savior, being strong for His cause and one another starts with submission to the supremacy of the Savior. In Ephesians 6:10 we are called to “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” The strength He gives us enables us to stand firm in His spiritual truth and to courageously confront our culture with care. For us in a 21st century culture, faced with spiritual pluralism, we must stand firm in spiritual truths as we apply them with courage. Our part is to be on guard, to recognize and know what is spiritually right and wrong, and to act with courage. God’s part is to strengthen us.
Paul’s call to battle now takes a strange turn, “And do everything with love.” We are to war in such a way that God is glorified, believers are inspired, Satan is terrified and people are loved. We are to be steadfast and immovable because we are working for God, on behalf of His kingdom for the benefit of others. What moves and motivates us is not a desire to win the war, Christ has already done that, but to witness to the world. We should let our love for God and others be the motive that moves us to sacrifice in this war. Love may seem like an impotent way but it’s what Paul calls the more excellent way in I Corinthians 12:31, because love wins the lost. Paul reminds us that the sum of all the commandments towards God and towards our neighbor is love. Any service rendered as a soldier of Christ void of love is a violation. Christ came not to conquer mankind but to call them to Himself and He did that through love, serving, sacrificial love. As a soldier you are called to stand up, show up, suck it up and sacrificially serve. So no matter where in this world you sit right now as you read this my challenge to you is today will you stand with me strong in the Savior?