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  • Writer's pictureKeith Haney

Society Needs The Church to Stand Firm

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

The Background:

It is always tricky to do a devotion on such a shorter piece of Scripture and do it justice. Therefore, what is happening before this is crucial in placing it in context? The background is that the apostle Paul is collecting an offering for the Christians in Jerusalem because many lived in extreme poverty. He wanted to provide them with relief from that suffering. It is possible that Paul saw the collection as an opportunity to deal with the tensions between the Jewish and Gentile Christians, thus creating a greater unity between the two diverse communities of believers. Remember, the Jews and Gentiles were worlds apart. Their division went back hundreds of years. Acting from a heart of generosity flows from a heart overflowing with gratitude for the salvation won through Christ's death and resurrection. Paul hoped Gentile Christians being moved to compassion and concern would give to the Jews who were suffering and that act of mercy would demonstrate the power of God's love.

Right at the end of the chapter, there is a personal note from Paul pointing out that he was writing the final greeting in his hand. Out of the Blue, right in the middle of these last addresses, Paul inserts a short but profound statement of advice to his readers:

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Boy, are these words timely, relevant, and compelling for Christians today? As we seek to walk as children of the Light, the statement is stunning in its simplicity and profound depth.

Many people see the Church in grave peril from various dangers: secularism, politics, heresies, or plain old sin. This can cause us to pull back, hunker down, and wait for the storm winds to pass over. In these few verses, Paul reminds us that we must never forget that the Church is built upon the Rock, Jesus Christ (Mt. 16:16), over which the gates of hell itself shall not prevail.

"Be on guard,"

The literal translation is "to watch, be watchful, or even pay close attention." It is a call for us to be spiritually on guard. Remember that the Church in Corinth struggled with many problems regarding spiritual immaturity. In other places in Paul's letter, he dealt with these issues specifically—Here is a list of some of the problems the Church was struggling to address.

  • The arrogance of those who were in leadership positions (Paul labeled the leaders spiritually immature),

  • There were factions or cliques within the Church (which caused arguments and strife and not only weakened the Church but threatened to destroy it),

  • There was chaos in worship services.

  • Christians are suing other Christians in civil court.

  • Leadership was tolerant of members who were living openly in sexual sin.

  • The Church is dealing with gluttony and drunkenness at communion meals.

  • And you have pride in spiritual gifts and misuse of spiritual gifts, etc.

How would you like to be pastoring this congregation? This list sounds like the issues the Church is facing in the 21st century. However, Paul's call was not to be tolerant, retreat, become meek, or throw up our hands and say, "Oh, well, I guess that is how things are today." Instead, Paul implores the Church to "stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong," This is my favorite part, "act like men." No offense to the women reading this. It was a call to stand on the power and truth of God's Word. That is what "act like men" refers to. When confused and led astray, the world does not need a meek church. It doesn't need a church with squishy theology. The world doesn't need a hip or flashy Church. The answer to the push to conform by the post-Christian society is not a call to become a compromising church. The world needs a strong confessional Church founded on the truth of God's Word. A church ready to stand on the strength of the Rock, Jesus Christ, and point people to the only source of Light in a dark world. Point people to Jesus. How does the Church do it so that it does not come off as intolerant, rigid, and condemning? The key is the last section, where Paul says, "and do everything in love."

Do everything in love.

In this short commendation, Paul brings the Corinthian Christians full circle back to the basis or foundation for how Christians should live and act. "Do everything in love." Another way to explain it is that we should be like Christ. We should reflect His love for us in how we interact.

Paul's encouragement to the Church is to remind us of love's priority. Love is to characterize all that we do. We are not only to do things with love but in love: it is to be the atmosphere we breathe and the context in which we work. We are firm yet loving as we deal with each other and an unbelieving world. It is the balance that we parents live in daily. We know that if we are too heavy-handed, we could lose the heart and respect of our children. On the other end of the spectrum, we could lose their souls without the admonition of our children.

Paul ends his letter with the words, 'My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen' (v. 24). Many Corinthians had shown themselves to be critical of Paul, and much was unattractive about their behavior, as this first letter shows, but Paul loved them and told them so!

Our love, too, must be for all God's people, no matter how awkward or disappointing they may sometimes be. Love is always 'the most excellent way.'

Pastors, we are to love God's people because they are His people. That is not always easy, just so you know, flock, you are difficult to like at times. While our churches are full of beautiful people, like all people, they will sometimes be challenging to love. Church, your Shepherd, will be difficult to enjoy at times as well. You may occasionally have differing views on the music he picks or how he leads. Your pastor may propose changes that will upset you, and you may find it hard to love him sometimes. Remember Paul's words, "and do everything in love." It is not about us but about Jesus and his work of salvation. It is about sharing the hope of salvation with a lost and dying community. May your churches be a beacon of hope for your community. May the lost and erring come here and hear the life-saving message of the Gospel preached in truth and purity. Love the community with your walls and beyond as Christ loves them.

My prayer for the Church is that the Holy Spirit will keep us spiritually aware, standing firm in our faith, grounded on the strength of our confessions, yet wrapping our interactions with God and each other in the Christ-like love of our Savior.

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