1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
These two little verses were written almost two thousand years ago, but as I read today’s headlines and see the conflict between good and evil that is raging in our world, they are more relevant than ever. God’s Word is truly timeless.
How should Christians respond to the cultural, political, social, and moral issues of today? Paul makes it simple as he signs off on this first letter to the church in Corinth. They, too, were living in a depraved world, surrounded, tempted, and distracted by sin, idolatry, and selfishness. Five little phrases are a good foundation to start our day as we walk out into a world gone mad!
Be on the alert.
Also translated as “watch,” the Greek verb grēgoreō means to give strict attention, to keep awake, be cautious, active; to take heed lest through remission and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtakes one (Strong’s). Vines describes it as vigilance and expectancy as contrasted with laxity and indifference.
Jesus used this same word many times as He taught us how we are to live in anticipation of His sudden return. We are to “watch and pray” so that we do not fall into temptation, because our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). This alertness is necessary because of the spiritual warfare that surrounds us; our adversary is like a roaring lion on the hunt for someone sleepy, distracted Christians to devour (1 Peter 5:8). In other words, we need to wake up and pay attention to what’s going on around us. When Christ returns, He wants His people ready, expectant, and looking up in anticipation, fully aware that the culture that is disintegrating around us into evil means He is at the door.
Stand firm in the faith.
Stand firm, also translated as stand fast. The Greek word is stēkō. I don’t know how to pronounce it, but the spelling of this word makes me think of stake … as in “put a stake in the ground.” The meaning is to persist, to persevere, to keep standing. The opposite of standing firm would be to run away, to fall away, or to sit down, as in backing down on what you know to be true.
We are to stand firm in the faith. Paul doesn’t say “our” faith as if we are to cling to our opinions or somehow summon up the strength to maintain our belief. The faith is the gospel – the power of salvation. The faith is the inerrant Word of God, the highest authority over every aspect of our lives. We are to plant our feet firmly in what God says, and not yield or backpedal on truth in the face of cultural pressures. If God says it, that settles it. No debate, no hesitation, no doubt, no compromise in the name of tolerance or desire not to offend. Stand firm in the faith.
Act like men.
I love this one. The Greek word is andrizomai, with the literal meaning “to make a man of.” The implication is to show oneself to be a man, a sign of mature courage. We are continually urged in scripture to mature in our faith, to grow up spiritually into Christlikeness. We are not to be tossed around by “every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14), but to allow the Holy Spirit to develop a holy boldness that give us the courage, maturity, and wisdom to live according to scripture in the face of a hostile culture.
Earlier Paul chided the Corinthian believers for their spiritual immaturity and inability to handle the deeper truths (1 Corinthians 3:2). Maturity comes from reading, meditating, studying, and applying God’s Word. We can’t have the courage to stand against error and the lies of the enemy if we are immature and weak in our knowledge of the truth. We are to leave behind the elementary things and move on to spiritual maturity.
The first two commands (be on the alert, stand firm in the faith) are the active voice in Greek, meaning the subject accomplishes the action. It’s something we are to do. The third command (act like men) is shown as “passive or middle deponent.” The Holy Spirit matures us, but we have to cooperate. This fourth command (be strong) is a passive verb. The word is krataioō, or strengthened, to increase in strength or to be made strong.
In and of ourselves, we have no strength. All strength comes from God. We are to be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10); to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1). Paul was intimately acquainted with this kind of strength, having sought God’s help to remove his thorn in the flesh three times. God allowed whatever this trial or pain or nuisance was in Paul’s life to continue, and instead promised him, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Paul learned to boast in his weaknesses so that the power of Christ would dwell in him (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Reading today’s headlines will make you weak in the knees, and on your knees is the perfect place to find strength.
Without love, we can become self-righteous and hard-hearted as we strive to stand firm in our faith and live with courage, maturity, and spiritual awareness in an unfriendly world. Paul wisely takes us back to 1 Corinthians 13 where he describes in detail the kind of love we are to pursue in our relationships, both with other believers and those who do not know Christ.
Love is kind and gracious, forgiving, merciful, and above all humble because we have been loved by God. Love perseveres when relationships are difficult. Love doesn’t pursue its own interests and isn’t easily provoked. We can be bold in our faith and stand firm on what is right, but we do it with an attitude of love. We want to see others through God’s eyes, knowing that once, we too were blind and lost, controlled by our flesh, and held captive in our sin.
Be on the alert.
Stand firm in the faith.
Act like men.
And do it all in love.