In conservative Christian circles, we often hear the phrase “the fundamentals of the faith,” describing those doctrines (such as the inspiration of the Bible, direct creation, and justification by faith) as non-negotiable articles of faith. They must be embraced by true believers. In addition to essential doctrines, there is another area of non-negotiables, that is, principles believers must adhere to if we are to be the victorious children of God Christ has redeemed us to be. Among those principles is a group of five found in the sixteenth and concluding chapter of Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (vv. 13, 14). We cannot be what God has called us to be without embracing these practical commands.
“Be on the alert.” No believer is given license to relax. We must all be vigilant. We must act as sentries day and night. This is no small task because the enemy is everywhere. Satan is incapable of sympathy—not even for the weak, the young, or the infirm. He will deceive and destroy anyone he can. The world may pose as the friend of believers, but it hated Christ and, ultimately, it will hate every believer. Even when unbelievers are sincerely trying to be kind, they are enticing believers to compromise and sin. And then, there is our own flesh, the mortal enemy of God and all righteousness. It will fight against righteousness to its dying day.
“Stand firm in the faith.” Add to those dangers listed above the doctrinal error that false teachers try to insert into the church, and the necessity to be incessantly alert should be obvious. Where doctrine is concerned, Paul’s command makes it evident that, first of all, we must possess as clear and complete a knowledge of the truth as we are capable of acquiring. And when we know the truth, we are not to allow any enticement to move us from the truth. An easier life, less conflict with family, less scorn from the world, more praise from men—none of these things should entice us to compromise the truth of the Word of God.
“Act like men.” Yes, though it is politically incorrect to affirm it, there is a difference between men and women. Among other differences, men tend to act with less emotionalism, with more boldness, courage, and decisiveness in stressful or dangerous situations than women. There, I’ve said it. Let the chips fall where they may. And perhaps even more to the point, men are expected to exhibit those characteristics. To “act like men” in the spiritual battle requires believers to be in “fighting form,” standing for the truth, standing against error, taking decisive biblical action against sin wherever it attacks, and building defenses against the inroads of compromise. In the spiritual battle, all believers—both men and women—are called upon to act like men.
“Be strong.” Not physical strength, certainly, but spiritual strength. Satan has a heyday with spiritual wimps. In order to be victorious in the battle, believers must rely on the strength which God supplies. No amount of natural intelligence, skill, or experience can defeat our spiritual enemies. We must obey the Word of God, yield ourselves to the direction of the Holy Spirit, and allow the Lord to work in and through us. Strength is found in doing His will for His glory. Every human effort will result in defeat.
“Let all you do be done in love.” Here is an essential qualifier. Given the first four commands, it might be possible to mistakenly cultivate a Rambo attitude toward our spiritual life—harsh, tough, mean. But Paul warns us that we are to fight this battle in a spirit of love. We certainly are not to love Satan, our flesh, or false teachers, but we are to love those human beings who oppose us. And our actions should be motivated by love for the Lord, love for His Word, love for the brethren, and, yes, love even for our enemies.
We are in perilous times. If we, as believers, wish to honor the Lord, remain faithful to Him, protect our loved ones, and draw lost ones to Christ, we must realize that the principles Paul has set forth are non-negotiable. We will act in accord with them, or we will lose the battle. May we all “act like men.”
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