1 Corinthians 16
by Pastor Lawrence Bowlin
True Christianity is a fight and every true Christian is called to be a soldier who upon their conversion immediately enter into an ongoing spiritual war with the world, the flesh and the devil. For ever since the devil lost his privilege position in heaven he has waged an unrelenting war against the son of God and his people. Thus, anyone who identifies himself with Christ immediately comes under spiritual attack. This is a reality that many choose to forget at their own peril, but every good Christian leader must remind the troops that we are not in a time of peace but in a time of war.
And in verse 13 of this chapter, Paul does just that acting like a general in the Lord’s army giving the troops their marching orders before sending them on their way into battle. Up until now, Paul has addressed at length a number of problems facing the church in Corinth. But now, in his closing remarks, he provides five brief commands and exhortations to the believers in rapid succession.
More than likely, he has touched on these same topics before, which is why he doesn’t elaborate upon them now. And since these exhortations apply generally to all of life, he doesn’t need to provide a number of specific examples, for these things are applicable at all times and in all places.
The first exhortation Paul gives is “Be watchful.” The word Paul uses here implies a strong sense of danger as well as a constant need to be alert to one’s surroundings. The word was often used during a state of war in which a general warned his troops to stay alert for any sudden movement of the enemy. And here, the apostle Paul is warning the believers to stay awake in their new spiritual condition, to not be lulled to sleep by the enemy, to not lay down their spiritual armor and to assume that they are in safe territory. Spiritually speaking, as long as we live in this fallen world indwelling these bodies of flesh, and are surrounded by the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realms, we are always standing in a sense in no man’s land. For the devil is deceptive and unrelenting in his attacks. He will not normally come at us directly with a full frontal attack, for then we would see him coming and be ready to defend ourselves, instead he will attack us when our defenses are down, when we think everything is fine and that all is quiet on the western front.
There’s a good reason that Jesus includes in the Lord’s Prayer the petition “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” For by praying like this each day, we are preparing ourselves for spiritual attacks and acknowledging our need for the Lord’s protection and intervention if we’re going to survive the onslaught.
Then, secondly, Paul says, “stand Firm in the Faith.” Again, these are as the orders of a general to his troops to stand their ground in the face of the enemy. The enemy is continually looking for ways to gain the higher ground and to knock us off our perch. The higher ground upon which we stand is not something that we have gained for ourselves, but it is ground that God has given to us in Christ Jesus. And that higher ground is the grace of our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
If you remember in Ephesians 6, Paul speaks of our continual need to take up the shield of faith in order to extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one. Without our faith in Christ, we are defenseless against the accusations of Satan. Every single day of our lives, we fall short of the glory of God. And there is an accuser standing at our left hand ready at every moment to condemn us for our sins, to point out our hypocrisies, to discourage us from walking with Christ and to keep us from the fellowship of the saints.
We cannot rely upon our good works in order to stand firm; we cannot rely upon our own spiritual fruit to keep us steady, for we will not be able to persevere in these things; we will not prove ourselves faithful apart from our relationship with Christ. We must continue to turn to God by a faith in Jesus Christ. We must believe that Christ has already accomplished our salvation. We must believe that God’s wrath against us has been appeased by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We must believe that we have God’s favor and blessing because of the perfect, righteous life that Christ has lived and has credited to us who are now one with him. And we must continue to cling tightly to Christ by faith for without him, there is no hope, there is no encouragement, there is no comfort, or joy or peace. There is only a continual and glaring awareness that there is something wrong with us, that we are utter fools; that we are like dogs that return to their vomit; like pigs that return to their mud; and like horses who have no understanding and must be controlled by bit and bridle. Apart from our faith in Christ we so easily lose our way. Thus, we must stand firm in the faith.
Thirdly (and fourthly), Paul says, “Act like Men and be strong.” It might seem strange the Paul is addressing the entire church, including the women, and telling them to act like men. Of course, he is not suggesting some sort of gender confusion, but, rather, he is telling them to be courageous in obeying the voice of the Lord, especially when facing the enemy. Four times in the first chapter of Joshua, the Lord tells him and his people to be courageous and to not be afraid when seeing the enemy.
Of course, we haven’t been called to fight any giants like Goliath today, so what do we have to be afraid of. We’ll, if you really understand the difference between the life of a Christian and a non-Christian, then you know that we are called to live a different life than they do, a holy life, a pure and sanctified life in Christ Jesus. But why would that be such a scary thing? Well, in many cases, you may well be the only person in your work place who is living for the Lord. You may be one of only a handful of Christians in your school. You may be the only one who is trying to live a holy life and thus you’ll stand out like a sore thumb in a culture that is becoming more and more anti-Christian.
As each day passes the culture in America is becoming less and less friendly to Christianity. Already, our views are being labeled as extreme. Already we are accused of hate-speech because we do not tow the party line. Already we are seen as bigots, and unsophisticated fools. And there may come a day very soon in which we will be considered enemies of the state. What will you do when others mock you because of your faith in Christ? How will you handle the adversity and animosity of those who hate Christ Jesus? Will you continue to stand firm in your faith in Christ, or will you play the coward, and deny that you even know him. Paul commends us to act like men and be strong, for the Lord is with us and he who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.