Dwight Fletcher | Overcoming our Spiritual Enemies - Part III
This week, we take a final look at Paul's warnings to the Christians at Corinth 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.' Over the last two weeks, we looked at how these warnings to the Church then are still applicable today in the modern church. Like the Christians in Corinth, we must be on our guard against the world, the flesh and the devil.
In addition, Paul's encouragement to resist being moulded by the prevailing culture, striving to achieve God's standards by courageously applying the truth of God and be being bold in opposing what is false continues to be relevant to the Church today.
Let's look at the last two principles in this passage:
iii) Be strong
This is literally translated be strengthened. When he told them to be on guard, to stand firm, and to be people of courage, he was telling them things they were able to do for themselves. But, in this instance, to be strong meant a willingness to allow God to strengthen them. They could not do this by themselves, they had to submit to the strengthening power and work of God.
God wants to give us power for the battle. In 2 Corinthians 10:4 NIV it says, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds..." Christians fighting a spiritual battle need spiritual power which only God can provide.
But, what is the strength He (God) gives us? Recognise that 'God's Commandment is His Empowerment'- when God gives a command He gives us His grace and His power to achieve it. This involves a process of prayerful dependence on Him, and of reading His Word. When His empowerment is given, we must appropriate it.
Then we are called to:
iv) Do everything in love
Now, Paul brings it full-circle - love should be the basis of our motives and actions, and this is fundamental for every Christian. Listen to the warning of 1 Cor 13:3 NIV, "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." Everything must be undergirded by love. God wants us to display Christ's love (agape) in all we do. This Christ-like love is the foundation for every decision we make, every action we take, every interaction we have with each other, as well as our interactions and relationships with non-Christians.
In the context of this letter to the Corinthian Christians, Christ-likeness was the solution to their problems as individuals and as a church. This phrase, do everything in love, incorporates the Christian's life of unreserved service to God and considering others above ourselves. For the Corinthians, it meant love being applied to areas of potential feuds; that pride and arrogance would have no place in the church's leadership, and that there would be no more gluttony and drunkenness during the fellowship meal. In short, applying this principle of love for Christ and love for each other meant a radically different church, sold out to Christ and untainted by the world.
Paul helps to define the nature of agape in Romans 56-8 NIV, 'You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own (agape) love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.'
When Christ died for us, three words described us, 'powerless', 'ungodly', 'sinners'. Agape is self-giving and does not lay down any prior conditions. It is not a love that says you must be good or earn it. It is freely given, even to the most undeserving and the helpless.
God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Derek Prince states: 'After the new birth, in that new nature that is produced by the new birth, the Holy Spirit pour out the totality of God's love into our hearts ... the expression of that love is worked out in our daily living through discipline and character training. This is when love that comes from God becomes available to our fellow human beings through us. God provides all I need to live the life He wants me to live. But I need to work it out in myself daily. It is as I exercise this love that it more naturally becomes a part of me.'
As Christians, we are at war with the world, the flesh and the devil, and how we respond determines how other people will see the Church. Paul admonishes us to:
- Be on our guard
- Stand firm in the faith
- Be men (people) of courage
- Be strong; and
- Do everything in love
How will you respond?