Overcoming our Spiritual Enemies - Part II
This week, we continue to examine the book of 1 Corinthians and the condition of the church when Paul wrote them this letter. At the time, the church was struggling with three spiritual enemies of faith - the world, the flesh and the devil. These threatened to destroy them and the faith of the community that was witnessing their struggles.
In this season, Paul wrote to the Corinthians and warned them in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NIV to, "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love." We spent some time last week examining the first of these commands. Today, we want to look closely at some other key principles in this verse to overcome these three enemies. They are:
i) STANDING FIRM IN THE FAITH
God was telling the Corinthians literally to stand fast, persevere and not deviate in their faith and trust. The meaning is deeper than our usual understanding of believing and trusting. In the context of the rest of his letter, Paul is telling the Christians in Corinth to stand firm in the truth that has been revealed to them. He was telling them to stand firm in all that Christ is and all that He represents. In other words, they must be fully committed.
Why is it so important for the Christian to stand firm?
without commitment, the Christian will experience failure. This failure is not merely falling, but is compromising what we know to be right to the extent that we cannot be identified as Christians. God says we don't have to fall into sin, but if we do, we have a way to stand again through the blood of our Saviour - Jesus.
Like the Corinthians, we live in a culture in which truth is regarded as relative. Our society resists the concept of objective, unyielding spiritual truth and is more accepting of spiritual and ethical pluralism.
If we are to be the witnesses God wants us to be, and if we are to have the relationship with God that He wants for us, then we must follow Paul's admonition to stand firm in the faith.
We must not allow ourselves to be moulded by the prevailing culture which promotes false doctrines like - God helps those who help themselves - and encourages a self- determined kind of Christianity.
Matthew Henry comments: "A Christian should be fixed in the faith of the gospel and never desert nor renounce it. It is by this faith alone that he will be able to keep his ground in an hour of temptation; it is by faith that we stand (2 Cor 1:24); it is by this that we must overcome the world (1 John 5:4), both when it fawns and when it frowns, when it tempts and when it terrifies."
Matthew Henry's Commentary
Are we standing firm in faith? To stand firm, we have to guard and surround ourselves with truth and also watch over each other. If we are not standing on truth, what will we be standing firm on? That is why Paul moves on to the point "... be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love."
ii) BE MEN (PEOPLE) OF COURAGE
God wants us, in the midst of our spiritual watchfulness and our commitment, to stand firm in the truth of the faith and to act courageously as Christians.
Why did Paul tell them to be courageous?
The admonition to be courageous as Christians spoke volumes to the Corinthians. Paul was telling them to forget the expectations of the culture around them to conform to be accepted, because being Christian meant being unpopular. It could mean loss of stature in society, perhaps loss of jobs and economic opportunities, and loss of friends among the pagans.
Does this sound familiar? Aren't we faced with the same challenges? In our context, Christianity can mean paying more because you refuse to 'let off', or being denied a promotion because you refuse to compromise on truth. In some cases, it may mean losing friends because you refused to gossip or engage in loose talk.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to achieve the standard that God had set. He was telling them that they knew the truth, and so they should do the truth courageously. Being spiritually mature demands a courageous application of the truth, complete support of what we know is spiritually true, and bold opposition to what we know is false.
Join us again next week as we look at some other principles from this warning to the Corinthian church.