1 Corinthians16:13-18 ~ "On Being Men"
Charles Haddon Spurgeon near the end of his life, saw the churches around him moving away from the sufficiency of scripture and the authority of scripture. He wrote against it and soon found himself in the middle of the downgrade controversy. He spoke of the need for firm, faithful obedience in one of his sermons like this. “We admire a man who was firm in the faith, say, 400 years ago. But such a man today is a nuisance and must be put down. Call him a narrow-minded bigot or give him a worse name if you can think of one. Yet imagine that in those ages past Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and their companions had said, ‘The world is out of order. But if we try to set it right, we shall only make a great controversy and get ourselves into disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night caps and sleep over the bad times and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better.’ “Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps and the pestiferous bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled upon. “It is today as it was in the reformers’ days. Decisions is needed. Here is the day for the man. Where is the man for the day? We who have had the gospel passed to us by martyr hands dare not trifle with it nor sit by and hear it denied by traitors who pretend to love it, but inwardly abhor every line of it. Look, you sirs, there are ages yet to come. If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation and another and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to his truth day.
The passage we are looking at this morning is an appeal and a command to courageous Christian maturity, and self-denying service. I see it as dividing into three main ideas. Be mature in your faith, be courageous, and serve the body.
I’ve broken my sermon up into three sections.
- A call to Christian maturity
- Selfless service
- And Courageous strength
- A call to Christian maturity
We are told in 1st Cor 16:13 “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.”
We are told to be watchful. Be alert. Pay attention to what is going on. Don’t be asleep. Don’t be distracted. The mature Christian knows the danger of thoughtless living. He is cautious, sharp, vigilant. Not afraid, but wise. This is a present, active imperative verb. It is a continuous ongoing action. We aren’t only to be watchful now but ongoing into the future. Our regular state as a Christian should be one of watchfulness. Unending. The Corinthians where not watchful. They were carnal, and of the flesh. Consequently, they were trapped in sexual immorality, selfishness, disobedience, idolatry and falsehood.
We are to be watchful for sin in our lives. We are to examine ourselves. We are to consider our habits, be on lookout for our weaknesses, and account for our time. We must learn to anticipate danger. Like a military sentry we are to be serious and vigilant knowing that our own lives and those of our family depend on this.
But not only are we to be watchful for sin and temptation but also for false teachers and false or fallen brothers. The Corinthians had false teachers among them who were causing divisions and strife. We must see and be able to identify this type of thing early so that we don’t find ourselves in the middle of it. We need to discern the underlying causes so that we can address them or refer them to those who should address them.
The Corinthians had a professing believer living in sexual immorality. It is to the benefit of the fallen or false believer that they be confronted lovingly but firmly about their sin so that they can repent or be disciplined by the body.
And on that same tone we must be vigilant not only for the spiritual wellbeing but the physical wellbeing of our brothers and sisters. We must seek out those who need help. The weak or needy brother is most likely not going to come forward. The Corinthians had people going hungry at the Lords table. We are to be concerned for the earthly needs of our brothers and sisters.
If we are watchful we will be sure of our footing. The second imperative is to stand firm.
- “stand firm in the faith”
All Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world. We believe that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. To believe in Jesus Christ, is to be in agreement with what God says about you. It is to accept what God says about Himself and the world. All those who have repented of their sin and trusted in the Christ as their savior are in the faith. But that is the beginning of faith. Having received Christ, we are to stand in Him and in the teachings, we have from Him. We are to be rooted and built up in Him. Faith is not something that is looked back on. We do not say “oh I did that” faith is ongoing. I believe in Jesus Christ today.
My dad was saved later in life. He was an unbeliever into his thirties. He was a confirmed bachelor and had everything he wanted. The God saved him through the witness of two different coworkers who didn’t know each other. One of them gave him a gospel tract. Unbeknownst to him his roommate and best friend also committed his life to Christ that same week. When they finally told each other the decided they needed to go to church and went to the local Free Methodist church in the area. Long story short, they ended up marring sisters, daughters of the pastor there. My father went from being an unsaved, confirmed bachelor, to a Christian father of 8 children in about the span of 13 or 14 years. And I watched my dad faithfully get up every morning and start the day in prayer and the word. Faithfully make time to read the Bible together as a family. I saw it. I knew he had a real faith in Christ.
To “Stand firm in the faith” is not only to continue to believe in Jesus as your savior but strengthen that belief. To seek to understand it better. To build your life around it. To dig down and build the foundation of your existence on the truth of the gospel. We never outgrow the faith. Paul says 2 Tim 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Paul kept the faith to the end.
To stand firm in the faith is to believe the scripture when it tells us that we have sinned and fallen short. That we were slaves of sin. Lost, without hope in the world and that we have been ransomed by the blood of Christ! We are to preach the gospel to ourselves and to the body daily. We are to stand firm, immovable in the once for all delivered faith.
Now Paul turns to the way that we are to obey these commands.
- “Let all that you do be done in love.”
Let everything you do be done in love! This is not a tack on or disclaimer to the commands that are given. This is not an afterthought. Paul is not thinking “Man those Corinthians might get out of hand with all that standing firm be courageous stuff I better balance it out a bit.” NO! Christian courage, Christian faith, Christian discernment and watchfulness is berthed in love. We wouldn’t be Christians without love. We love because before we had love or faith or hope Christ loved us and died for us! We are all called to be watchful, to stand firm, to be strong, to have courage, and to love in all that we do. But if we don’t have love we are not obeying any of the other commands. Love is not an addition. It saturates and permeates everything a Christian does. A Christian is loving by nature, we have a new nature in Christ.
1st Cor 13:1 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
I was in a youth symphony orchestra for a number of years. You have a tune up before the conductor get up to conduct. You have a din of musical sounds and then the conductor taps the stand with his baton and the music begins. You don’t tune up the gong or the cymbal. They are used extremely sparingly.
“2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind;”
Remember we are commanded “Let all that you do be done in love” Love is patient. Do you know what it means to be patient? When you pray for a deeper love do you pray for patience? Patience doesn’t mean that you don’t find things annoying. Patience in the face of pain a grief doesn’t mean that you don’t feel it. It doesn’t mean that you find nothing hard and are carried from victory unto victory in a state of ease. Being patient means that as the hard times, as the painful times, as the frustrating, annoying and unreasonable times, and people, and actions and situations come along that you accept them as a gift from God. Love is patient because patience is a dying to self. Patience is a dying to selfishness, self-devotion and self-worship. It is to bare cheerfully all that God has for us. Patience is just a part of love.
“love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things,”
There is an interesting comment that Paul makes earlier that I think he has in mind here. He’s addressing the issue of lawsuits between Christians and in 1st Cor 6:7 “To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?”
We should be more concerned with God’s reputation and our witness then our own preserved rights. Did a Christian wrong you and it can’t be resolved? We exhaust the steps we are given for resolution. OK, bear it. We can do that. Love can do that. Did someone sin against you? Did someone say something against you? Love bears all things. We must not repay evil for evil. No sin is an excuse for a sinful unloving attitude. Remember the command from Jesus in John 15:12 says “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus is about to lay down his life and he commands us to love and then goes and shows us his love.
“Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends.”
All the law and the prophets depends on two commands "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
God must be the number one love of our life. This command is a direct attack on self. You see when we are born into this world we are only good at loving one person. Ourselves. We love ourselves and live for ourselves and are devoted to ourselves. Self-love must be destroyed! We need a better love then ourselves. God says “here I am, and you know that great love you have for yourself? Love your neighbor that way.” We have been saved by the God-man who made Himself nothing. We must fight against the self-exaltation that comes so naturally to us. Paul is combatting this selfishness in every letter he writes.
Phi 2:2“complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
We are told to have this mind that Christ had and yet we are also told that it is ours in Him. We have a new identity! One of humility, unity, and love. It is a supernatural work to change the self-loving into the self-giving. If anyone had a right to be honored, or served, or worshiped, or to have devotees it was Jesus. He was God and he humbled himself unto death.
“Now remain faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love” Faith will become sight, hope will become reality, but love is forever. We will worship the triune God together in Christs presence forever! Let us love one another now.
I haven’t gone into detail on how practically we are to love. How we are to stand firm in the faith because I think Paul points next to the most important activity for a Christian to be engaged in. Service to Christ and his body.
1st 16:15 “Now I urge you, brothers —you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.”
Having commanded the Corinthians to be mature, Paul points them to a good example to follow. Look at this family. See how they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. Before we were saved we were devoted to ourselves. Now we are to be devoted to Christ and to each other. Paul points to a holy devotion. A devotion to Christ, a devotion to believers, a devotion to the people of God and the work of God.
He says to submit ourselves to them. Look to those who are serving. Your fellow workers. It is assumed that all Christians are fellow workers and laborers. Submit to them. Get alongside them. Work with them. Devote yourself in the same way that they are devoted. This is how the great commission is to be accomplished. This is the environment in which we learn to love. This is where we are to be watchful and stand firm. Heb 10:23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We are called to Christian maturity, love and service in the body. There is a palpable immaturity about Christians who will not obey and submit to one another.
Submissive loving service will not always be easy, but it will not be in vain.
We see Paul’s love for the brothers in his statement in vs 18. Paul is refreshed by them. Vs 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.”
Does the fellowship of believers refresh you? Does it bring you joy? Lift the weight of a hard week? Or are we more refreshed from earthly pleasures and relaxation? We are to love and serve our brothers. I have heard it said by professing Christians “I love the universal church. I don’t love the local church but I have so much love for the church out there.” Or “I love Jesus, not Christians” 1st John 4:20 “…he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Our rest is in Christ and we should have a taste of that when we are with believers. We not only labor but rest and are refreshed by are brothers and sisters.
When I look at all of these commands. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.” I feel like it’s pie in the sky. I’m never getting there! I’m in the middle of writing the section on love and Gideon is poking his little brother in the eye and they are supposed to be in separate beds sleeping and I was supposed to have finished this already and on and on. I’m never getting there! I can’t even get through an hour without thinking selfishly. This is impossible!
Of course, it’s impossible! We are told to love each other as Christ love the Church! Nobodies coming close! But that is our common goal. That is our common desire and we are to strive together for it!
Phi 3:7 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Straining Toward the Goal
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
This is the mature Christian desire. Are you struggling? God knows the weakness of the flesh. God knows how easily we are distracted and entangled in sin and the world. That is why we have not been called to this by ourselves but as a body of believers. If you are struggling, go to a mature brother in Christ and tell him about it. Let’s work through it together. We are to serve as a body. Don’t think that you are serving God if you are off by yourself and have no connection to the bride of Christ. We are not called to be Lone Ranger Christians we are called to service in the body and to be submitted to each other. We are fellow workers and laborers, all of us. Or are we?
To the Corinthian church wallowing in fleshly concerns, wounded by sexual immorality, starved for courageous leadership these summarizing commands are meant to create resolve, to bring about conviction! They are meant to have a purifying effect on their day to day lives. Are we better off today?
I skipped over one command earlier. Look at it now with me. This is Father’s Day. And with fathers in mind I want to look at the command at the end of vs 13.
- “act like men, be strong”
This is not directed only to the men of Corinth but to the whole body. However, Paul was addressing the men of Corinth in a special way. They were not being the spiritual leaders that they were called to be.
This is the only place this verb is found in the NT, however it is used in numerous places in the OT. Turn with me to Joshua chapter 1
We know the story. The Israelites were ready to go into the promise land and they send 12 spies in. The spies they go in, they see the land, they see the beauty of the land and the wealth of food and fertile ground, but they also see the difficulty. They see the enemies they will have to overcome. They call them giants! The have been commanded to go into the promise land. They have the promise of God. But they see the difficulty and all accept two are afraid. They come back and they say “we can’t take this land” Forget what God has said, this ant happening. 40 years the Israelites wander the wilderness and now they stand on the brink of finally entering in and God says to Joshua Jos 1:6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
This is the promise land. This is the fulness that God has for the people of Israel. All His blessings and promises led here. They have been brought out of Egypt, and the land awaits them. Notice why they can be courageous and should not be afraid. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Their strength was in the knowledge that God was with them. Our strength is not in ourselves, our strength is in God. If there are obstacles God will remove them, if there are enemies God will defeat them. As a Christian, we have been brought out of a life of sin, promised eternal life with the Father and forgiveness through His Son. Our strength is found in Christ. We have been called out and commissioned to preach the gospel, commissioned to be salt and light. We have been commanded to be watchful. To stand firm. To act like men.
My fellow fathers, the command that Paul gives in 1 Cor 16 is the same as the command God gave Joshua looking at the promise land. “Be strong and courageous” “Act like men” “Have courage”
We have been freed from bondage, and brought out of slavery. We will not attain perfection but we are to strive every day like soldiers not becoming entangled by civilian pursuits as we seek to please the one who enlisted us. For we have been bought with a price. We are not our own but are men under Christ’s authority. Can we ignore the command?
It is not given for fun or dramatic effect. The men of Israel must be courageous or they would never occupy the land. And the men of Corinth must be courageous or they would not survive let alone win Corinth for Christ. And we here at First Baptist Church must be strong and courageous in our obedience to Christ or we can never hope to reach this city for Him!
We cannot sound retreat. We cannot quit. We cannot be distracted from our goal. We must not be lazy, we must not be sleeping. We must not have our minds occupied by the things of this earth or the things of the flesh. We must discipline our bodies and keep them under control lest after leading our families and serving in the church we be disqualified. We are to be courageous in our walk and strong in our faith and reliance on Christ. The command has been given. Will we obey and enter into the promise land or will be weak and cowardly and return to the wilderness. Will you devote yourself to the service of the saints as we strive side by side for the faith of the Gospel?
The impact that a father’s spiritual walk as on his family and especially on his children is HUGE! “According to data collected by Promise Keepers and Baptist Press, if a father does not go to church, even if his wife does, only 1 child in 50 will become a regular worshiper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of what the mother does, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will attend church as adults. If a father attends church irregularly, between half and two-thirds of their kids will attend church with some regularity as adults.”
“Another survey found that if a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5% probability everyone else in the household will follow. If the mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17% probability everyone else in the household will follow. However, when the father is first, there is a 93% probability everyone else in the household will follow.” Copied from nickcady.org
My fellow fathers, your children are watching you. On what do we spend our days?
The passage we are looking at this morning is an appeal and a command to courageous Christian maturity, and self-denying service.
Paul is addressing numerous problems in the Corinthian church. Corinth as a city was wealthy, influential, strategically located, very religious, heavily entertained, and extremely immoral. He speaks with urgency and conviction! He has the concern of a father who has children in a spiritually dangerous place. He knows that any deviation from the narrow way, any lapse in judgement, any moral failure, or unrighteous fleshly attachment could bring great harm and possibly eternal ruin to those to whom he is writing. As he brings this letter to a close Paul doesn’t ease off or slow down he commands the Corinthians to step up, Act like men, stand firm, and do everything in love. He commands these things because they are imperatives of the Christian life. For the Christian to believe is definitional, to watch is essential, to love is foundational and to serve is indispensable.
You see Christian strength is found in desperate unreserved reliance upon our savior. Faith is made firm by perseverance through trails and tribulation. Watchfulness requires that one single minded. So, there is no environment more perilous for faith than one that is safe, rich, comfortable, and full of worldly distractions.
And what was true for the Corinthians, applies directly to us today. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.” If we do not have faith we are lost, if we are not watchful we will fall, if we do not love we are not Christians. We must not think, as Spurgeon put it, that we can “put on our night caps and sleep over the bad times and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better.” ““It is today as it was in the reformers’ days. Decisions is needed. Here is the day for the man. Where is the man for the day?” If we are weak and cowardly we will not meet the challenges of the land that God has placed us in.
Fathers, Paul commands and urges us on to courageous Christian maturity, and self-denying service.