I was struck today with Paul’s final exhortations in the last chapter of his first letter to the brethren at Corinth, especially
“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”
(1 Corinthians 16:13)
Here is the voice of a strong leader instructing and encouraging his soldiers in the battle. He has already told them that though he has been given an expanding ministry in the Lord there are “many adversaries.” (16:9) All of this emphasizes the fact that the Christian life is a spiritual warfare, and great courage and commitment is needed not only to gain the victory, but even to survive. I'm sure the reader knows of many saints who have been lost, not eternally but from blessed fellowship and fruitfulness, because they have been "captured" by the snares and devices of the Enemy.
“Watch ye,” he exhorts. No complacency must be allowed. The Enemy is deceitful, stealthy, constantly “walking about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) The Believer must be always alert, ever watchful, and always sounding out warning when he sees signs of the presence of the great Adversary.
“Stand fast in the faith,” he commands. There is no hope outside of the Lord, and it is the faith defined by His Word, i.e., holy scripture, that both instructs and comforts us. (Romans 15:4) There is no place for human traditions, reasonings or rationalizations among the warrior’s weapons. They will all fail in the heat of the battle. Only the sword of the holy, infallible, inerrant Word is sufficient to defend the saint from the adversaries’ incessant attacks on his conscience and hope, and to slice through the damning web of deceit of carnal human wisdom.
“Quit you like men,” he demands. This warfare is not for the faint of heart. The Believer must be brave, courageous, never flinching in the face of danger. Having put on the whole armour of God, he must be willing to “withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand,” (Ephesians 6:13) even when it seems to him, as it seemed to Elijah, that he may be the last man on earth so doing. (1 Kings 19:10)
“Be strong,” Paul concludes. He might have added, as he did to the Ephesians, “in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” (Ephesians 6:10) for the Believer never stands alone. No matter how great the challenge, no matter how apparently strong the enemy or seemingly hopeless the cause, he must always remember that he stands for and in his Lord whose “hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1) The Christian who so stands will never fail, because His Lord cannot fail.
What a picture of strength is the saint who responds in faith to these instructions. What glory to the Lord. Yet, Paul must go on for he must keep things in holy perspective lest the Christian unknowingly confuse his strength with his Savior’s and unintentionally place his confidence in his himself rather than his Lord, thereby unwittingly becoming a hindrance rather than a help in the work of God.
“Let all your things be done with charity.” (16:14)
Here is the true strength of the Christian, the foundation of victory in the Lord: charity. Paul has earlier instructed them in this, and here he drives home the truth home of his earlier words:
“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (13:13)
The Christian who is truly strong is characterized by his sincere and selfless love: love for God, love for God’s Word, love for God’s Body (i.e., the universal church of believers in Jesus Christ), love for truth, and love for the lost. Is he brave? Yes, but his bravery is often veiled in loving gentleness. Is he stedfast? Yes, but his stedfastness is often seen in his hopeful and loving patience. Is he strong and confident? Yes, but his confidence is not in himself. His confidence is in his Lord’s never failing love for him, and it is manifested in his own sincere and unflinching love for others.
The strength, i.e., the courage and confidence, that is of the Lord is not given for personal exaltation or gain, but for the declaration and defense of God’s truth and, in that, the blessing of others. Holy strength does not make one self-sufficient, self-confident or self-serving in any way. Rather, it is manifested in loving obedience and humble submission. It is, in fact, the strength of Christ, and it produces in us His character and grace.
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 3:16
Finally, with the strongest of appeals, Paul makes the principle practical by pointing to some of the Corinthians’ fellow saints whose lives reflect this holy strength as examples for those who would honor the Lord.
“I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.” (16:15, 16)
May we all heed this holy exhortation and like the house of Stephanas seek to “addict” ourselves to the work of God in ministering faithfully and fruitfully to the saints He has chosen to place us among regardless of personal inconvenience or cost. And further, and perhaps most importantly, may our love for the Lord and the saints be so sincere, and our confidence in the work of His Spirit in His Body be so strong that we humbly submit ourselves to those who do, for only in the Spirit's unity is there true strength, peace, and blessing.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”
Previous Page | Next Page