I. BE SOLDIERS IN THE FAITH…
1 Corinthians 16:13 Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
These are words that you would say to soldiers who are about to enter into a battle. Indeed, Christians are to be soldiers in the faith—the Bible says so all over the place. We are told in Ephesians 6, to “be strong in the Lord” and to “put on the whole armour of God.”
8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. (1 Thessalonians 5:8)
3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. (2 Timothy 2:3–4)
How are soldiers supposed to act? What are they supposed to do? Paul gives us four characteristics that we would normally think of being true of soldiers. Then, he gives us one surprise characteristic that must be true of soldiers of the Christian faith.
1. Be Alert
The phrase, “watch ye,” is referring to being alert. Any good soldier is going to be an alert soldier. If you aren’t, that’s when you get in trouble. The sniper sneaks up on you.
What is the Christian soldier supposed to be watching for—to be alert for? Here are just a few things that the Bible tells us to be alert to:
1) Be alert for the Second Coming of the Lord.
Jesus said, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42).
One way that we that accomplish this is by placing our hope for the future more in the coming of the Lord than in politics or plans or other earthly solutions. Not that those things are wrong, but if you find yourself feeling hopeless about the future, then you aren’t alert to the Second Coming of the Lord.
2) Be alert for false teachers.
In Acts 20, Paul warned the church leaders in Ephesus that “grievous wolves” would enter in among them, “not sparing the flock” and that even people from their congregation would “arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” So Paul told them, “watch” (Acts 20:29–31).
Our culture teaches us not to be judgmental, which makes it much easier for false teachers to invade congregations, because no one is being alert to them for fear of being called judgmental. But we must watch if we are to be a good soldier in the faith.
3) Be alert for temptation.
Jesus told the disciples, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).
Be aware of the situations where the temptation to sin is strong for you. Maybe it’s when you are alone in front of the computer—or the television. Or perhaps it’s a certain coworker that rubs you the wrong way.
Avoid those situations if you can. Prepare mentally and biblically for them if you can’t avoid them. But always, always, always be alert to them.
Second, a Christian soldier needs to…
2. Be Steadfast
Verse 13 says, “stand fast in the faith.” The “faith” here is talking about the Christian faith—the teachings of the Bible. We are to be immovable from the teaching of Christ and the gospel. We are to be steadfast in the faith.
Now, I think a lot of us are steadfast in many things. We might be steadfast in our family relationships, or our political leanings, or the traditions that we hold dear, or our work ethic. All well and good. But the Christian needs to be steadfast in the faith above all those things.
What so often happens is that one or more of the other things becomes the main thing. Our family steps up and takes center stage. Then our politics or traditions move ahead. All that time, faith is still there, but it’s backstage and we’re more and more shaky in it.
It doesn’t happen suddenly, but over the years, we slip in the faith. It starts to take a backseat to the other things in our lives. It may be years before the full impact is known.
That’s why, earlier in this letter, Paul warned, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Sometimes conservative Christians come out of legalism—a legalistic upbringing or church—which is a good thing.
But then they overcorrect and fly off the other side of the road and ignore the teaching of God’s Word. They use the legalistic teaching of their parents or a former church to excuse any sort of immoral and unbiblical behavior. Be careful that you don’t do that. Be steadfast.
Be a good Christian soldier and be steadfast in the faith.
Third, a Christian soldier needs to…
3. Be Courageous
The King James here sounds very odd, “quit you like men.” Huh? He just told us to “stand fast,” now we’re supposed to quit? The word “quit” used to have the meaning of “proving oneself” or to “acquit oneself.”
What does it mean to prove yourself like men? Paul doesn’t mean any offense to women, nor is he excluding women. He just wants us to think of a general quality of men—almost a stereotype—and apply that to our lives as men and women soldiers of the faith.
What quality of men is Paul referring to? Men are known for strength, but he says to be strong next. Men are also known for courage and bravery, and that seems to fit into the context here. A Christian soldier, male or female, needs to be courageous.
Why? Because this world of sinners is against God, and if we want to follow the Lord, we can expect that, the closer we follow, the more the world will be against us. Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
And the apostle Paul warned us, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
If you aren’t being persecuted for being a Christian. If you are teased once in awhile, or even told that it would be inappropriate to express yourself as a Christian in a certain situation, then maybe you aren’t living godly in Christ Jesus.
It’s true that American Christians have enjoyed cultural friendliness for hundreds of years—it’s been pretty safe to be a Christian—but those days are coming to an end. We’ve see all sorts of secular attacks against Christians in the public square, and there are certain to be many more.
We’ll have to decide…are we going to live godly in Christ Jesus? If we are, we’ll need to be courageous.
Fourth, a Christian soldier needs to…
4. Be Strong
The command to “be strong” should remind us of the same commands found in Joshua. As they prepared to enter and conquer the Promised Land, the Lord told Joshua:
9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:9)
That’s not a bad promise for us to cling to in these days as well. Just as God called the Israelites to a physical war with the Canaanites (as a means of judging the Canaanites), God calls us to a spiritual war today (Ephesians 6:10-18).
It’s a war in which we win, not by killing, but by laying down our lives because the victory is already won in Christ. One person said, “Following Christ is not for cowards.” So be strong!
I read a quote from John Piper this week that challenged me to be a better Christian soldier. He said, “I don’t want to be a comfort-seeking, entertainment-addicted, security-craving, approval-desiring Christian.”
That’s exactly right—that’s what a Christian soldier avoids as he or she aims to be alert, to be steadfast, to be courageous, and to be strong.
The last characteristic of a Christian soldier that we find here is surprising because you don’t think of it as being a characteristic of a solder. But for a Christian soldier it is vital.
Be soldiers in the faith…
II. …WHO ARE LOVING IN ALL THINGS
1. Be Saturated With Love
1 Corinthians 16:14 Let all your things be done with charity.
“Charity” (ἀγάπη, αγαπαω, NDSF) is just another word for love, and the Greek word for love here means unconditional love. Here’s how I define this sort of love, it’s: Love that you give even when the other person doesn’t deserve it. It’s the love that God has for us.
Whatever we do, Paul is saying, should be done in love.
- When we meet to worship, it must be done in love.
- When we help a neighbor, we must do it in love.
- When we confront a wayward brother or sister, we do it in love.
- When we witness to a atheist or a Muslim, we should do it in love.
- When we come together to discuss church business, it needs to be done in love.
The Christian is supposed to be saturated in love.
Here’s an interesting comparison that I did. The Old Testament has 929 chapters and the New Testament has 260 chapters—the Old Testament is 3.5 times longer.
There are about 200 references to love in the Old Testament (about 1 every 5 chapters). In the New Testament there are roughly 250 references to love, about one every chapter.
Let that sink in—the New Testament is absolutely saturated in love. The Christian soldier is to be a different sort of soldier than Joshua or David. We are soldiers of love.
Does that mean that we are supposed to be more lenient when it comes to accepting others who are wrong? Are we supposed to overlook immorality and false teaching? Of course not, in Ephesians we read…
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (Ephesians 4:14–15)
Love does not demand that we compromise truth. It demands that we live truth out in a loving way. It demands that we speak the truth to people with a real love for them, and not a selfish desire to be right.
If you are angry that your way isn’t being followed (In church, in your job, in your family), you probably won’t speak the truth in love and you should keep your mouth shut until you can.
If your heart is breaking over someone who is off on the wrong path—you care more about the person than having your way—then you will be able to speak the truth in love.
In the verses just before these, Paul gave two examples of how the Corinthians could be loving and not self-centered or selfish.
2. Examples Of Love
1) Be Kind To Timothy
1 Corinthians 16:10 Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.
1 Corinthians 16:11 Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren.
Timothy was a student and a companion of the apostle Paul. He was young, perhaps in his thirties, and seemed to have had a mild, quiet disposition.
Such a pastor would have difficulty dealing with the headstrong congregation at Corinth, so Paul asks that they cool it so that Timothy “may be with you without fear.”
He tells them not to “despise” Timothy. They were to look to him as a pastor and leader, and listen to him—the sheep are supposed to follow the shepherd, not drive him insane. This is how they were to show love to Timothy.
Congregations still need to do this today. I was reading about one young pastor who had a critical member in his congregation. He said:
There was a critical man in our congregation who never seemed to be satisfied with my sermons, no matter how I approached them. One evening he came up to me and said, “Paul, your preaching is killing us.”…
…He handed me a set of tapes and said, “I suggest listening to these. Just mimic the preacher on the tapes and that will be better that what we’ve been getting.”
I was crushed. I thought my ministry was over. (http://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/the-trap-of-pleasing-people)
That is exactly it means to “despise” a pastor and to cause him to minister in “fear” of the people in the congregation.
Love will cause a congregation to bear with their pastor and one another. Love will not cause others to fear you coming.
If you approach someone and say, “I’ve got to talk to you,” and their face drops and they say, “Uh oh,” with their words or facial expressions, then your relationship with them is one of fear, not of love.
Oh, the Sunday morning smiles and handshake may still be there, but there’s always a fear that the next words you say to them will be a criticism. Remember, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).
A second way that Paul wanted the Corinthians to show love was to…
2) Be Patient With Apollos
1 Corinthians 16:12 As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.
Apollos was another companion of Paul. He was discipled or at least corrected by Aquila and Priscilla. He was well-known for his ability to speak well (Acts 18:24-28). Some at the Corinthian church were quite fond of Apollos and bragged about being followers of Apollos (1 Corinthians 1:12).
When Paul writes, “as touching [concerning] our brother Apollos,” he is evidently responding to a question about Apollos that the Corinthians had asked him in a letter (In 1 Corinthians, Paul had answered several questions that the Corinthians had brought to him).
The question they asked here was about when Apollos could come to be with them. Paul is careful to say, “I greatly desired him to come unto you.” Otherwise, they would have started blaming him for keeping Apollos away from them (aren’t Christians just great sometimes?).
Paul says that it simply wasn’t Apollos’s will to come at that time. But Paul says that Apollos, “…will come when he shall have convenient time.” They would just have to be patient with him.
So love will be patient and understanding with people who don’t do what you want them to. Congregations will be patient with pastors who don’t preach the way they think they should. And pastors will be patient with their congregations.
Don’t like the worship service? Love will say, “Maybe I don’t like this song that we sing on Sunday morning, but I know that others do like it—so I will be patient and understanding with them. I will not demand my own way.”
Why? Because the New Testament is saturated with love because Christians are supposed to be saturated with love.
A Christian soldier will be alert, steadfast, courageous, and strong. But above all, a Christian soldier will be loving.
Why should a Christian soldier be loving? Because our Commander is loving. Listen to two astonishing verses that Christians become dull to over the years—
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Think carefully about these verses. Do you show others love the way God has shown love to you?