"Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all that ye do be done in love" (1 Corinthians 16:13,14 KJV). Corinth was a unique city. It was a "port city" on a narrow neck of land that connected the mainland of Greece with the Pelloponese Peninsula. Composed of Roman, Greek and many other peoples, the morality of the city was one of the worst in the entire Roman empire. But, at the preaching of the gospel by the apostle Paul, some had become Christians and the Lord had added them to His church (Acts 2:47; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:1,2). But many of their old habits continued to surface in their new lives.
This 1st letter to the Corinthians lists a terrible catalog of sinful conditions. They had been guilty of dividing the believers into "denominational" groups (chapters 1-3). Not only was there fornication being practiced by members of the church, but the others simply tolerated it (chapter 5). When brothers in Christ had differences, instead of settling them within the fellowship, they went to law before unbelievers (chapter 6). They had many different problems about marriage relationships (chapter 7). Idolatry and their Christian liberty seemed to conflict (chapter 8). Paul defended his apostleship and right for support of preachers (chapter 9). The Lord's Supper had been corrupted and its real purpose ignored (chapters 10,11). There was jealousy of "gifts of the Holy Spirit" and problems over their proper use (chapters 12-14). The climax was their denial of the resurrection (chapter 15). After Paul had addressed the above problems, he then wrote the words with which this article begins. "Five Great Duties."
I. "WATCH YE".
The Lord constantly warns us to "watch." As we journey through this life toward eternity, we have some company: "Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour, whom withstand steadfastly in your faith" (1 Peter 5:8,9). Just as the devil was deceitful in his tempting of Eve (Genesis 3), so he is with us. We must constantly be on guard, "That no advantage may be gained over us by Satan: for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11). We dare not let down our guard, even for a moment.
To "watch" means to be diligent, as Peter wrote, "Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence... Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble" (2 Peter 1:5,10). Webster defines this word "diligence" as: "Constant, careful effort." In writing of our entering into heaven, a warning is given: "Let us fear therefore, lest haply, a promise being left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it... Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:1,11). Constant, careful effort is necessary. No one goes to heaven by accident.
Jesus warned the disciples: "Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh" (Matthew 24:42). In a similar vein, the apostle Paul wrote, "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night... so then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober" (1 Thessalonians 5:2,6). We must heed the admonition, "Look therefore carefully how ye walk" (Ephesians 5:15).
II. "STAND FAST IN THE FAITH"
Notice that the Bible says, "the faith." To stand fast in the faith, we first must embrace the faith. The apostle Paul declares, "There is one body, one Spirit, even as ye were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" (Ephesians 4:4-6). Please notice that there is "one faith." There is no choice of faiths, any more than there is a choice of gods! Notice again what God says, "Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 1:3). This faith is not "better felt than told," as some say. It is faith delivered from God: "So faith cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ"(Romans 10:17).
But not only must we accept the one faith, we must "stand fast" in that faith. As Paul wrote, in the previous chapter of this letter: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). In our prayers, we are to "ask in faith, nothing doubting" (Jas. 1:6). It is characteristic of children to change their minds, often. But we are told, "That ye may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14). Instead, let us "stand fast in the faith."
III. "QUIT YOU LIKE MEN"
These saints in Corinth had certainly been acting like children in many, many ways. They were "choosing up sides" with regard to which preacher they liked. They were fussing about nearly everything with regard to conducting the worship of God in the right way. So, now, they are told, "Act like grownups." Paul wrote them, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I though as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11). This is what we all should do. The same apostle, writing as God directed, said: "That we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:14,15).
One thing that will guarantee the failure of a congregation to grow and spiritually prosper is for members to remain in spiritual childhood. "For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for full grown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:12-14). As long as the members in a church bicker and quarrel that church cannot grow as God wants it to grow. So, in effect, what God is telling them is: "Quit acting like little children. Grow up!"
IV. "BE STRONG"
Two things are vital for growth in strength: proper food and exercise. But this strength is not the kind that comes from "lifting weights" to build the physical body. The Lord is speaking of spiritual strength. As Paul wrote, "Exercise thyself unto godliness: for bodily exercise is profitable for a little; but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Timothy 4:7,8). Again he wrote, "Thou therefore, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1). To develop that kind of strength, we must have the right food: "Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Peter 2:2).
To "be strong" we must recognize that the source of our strength is not in ourselves. "Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might" (Ephesians 6:10). The apostle Paul, speaking of Satan afflicting him, said: "There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me... I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness... When I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
When we are doing the will of God, His power is at work through us: "It is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). That principle certainly explains how young David could overcome the Philistine giant, Goliath. He explained how, in tending his father's sheep, a lion and a bear had each stolen a sheep, and he had killed them. He then added, "Jehovah that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine" (1 Samuel 17:37). He wasn't depending on his own skill and strength. He depended on God. This is still what faith is all about. That faith enabled Paul to say, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13). When we are attacked by Satan, let us have the faith that asks (and answers), "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?... Nay, in all things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:31,37). If we are serving God, we are on the winning side.
V. "LET ALL YOU DO BE DONE IN LOVE"
All of the bickering and fussing that these Corinthians had been doing would have ended quickly if this admonition had been obeyed. The great and first commandment is "love God" and the second is "love your neighbor" (Mark 12:30). The apostle had already shown in this letter that it doesn't matter what or how much we do, if it is not motivated by love, "it profiteth me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). The greatest motivation for any endeavor on earth is love. Jesus said to the disciples, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Then He demonstrated that love by going to the cross and willingly dying for us.
One of the most compelling verses in the Bible is Hebrews 10:24, "Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works." The only way to "provoke to love" is to act from a motive of love. We can get people to love us, if we love them. And we can get people to love God, if we demonstrate that love in our own lives. The apostle John wrote, "Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and do his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:2,3).
When "all we do is done in love," people will look at us in a different way. Jesus knew this, and told the disciples, "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if he have love one to another" (John 13:34,35). With the childish attitude displayed by those saints at Corinth, they could hardly convince the world of the validity of Christianity!
"Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all that ye do be done in love."
---------Clem Thurman via Gospel Minutes, Vol. 50, No. 26, June 29, 2001.