All of that is sort of background for what I'm writing today. Cole's verses this week are 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, which say (in the ESV): "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." When I first read this, I noticed that depending on which Bible version you're using, the verse can be different. Some say be on guard instead of be watchful, some say be courageous instead of act like men, etc. At first, I was wondering why the ESV version said "act like men" when so many others didn't. Also, we don't typically think of "acting like men" and "being strong" as being immediately followed with "Let all that you do be done in love". So, I wanted to know, what did this mean? How could I break this down for Cole so that he would understand all the richness of this verse? Me being me, I started pulling out all the resources/study Bibles that I had to break it down, and here's what I found:
- First, I reminded Cole of why Paul was writing the letter to the Corinthians. This is a church in a sinful city, a city that is a crossroads for trade and has new products and ideas being introduced into it almost daily. There is much opportunity for hearts to be drawn into sin and led to worship false gods and idols. Additionally, the Corinthians had stopped truly loving their brothers and sisters within the church. They had allowed sin to creep in among them, and were involved in many different kinds of sin and were divided within the church. So Paul is writing this letter to remind them of their first love (or what should be), Christ, and how they should be behaving as His church (united together, fighting sin, sharing the Word, being light in the darkness of Corinth).
- Be watchful: I felt like, based on the reasons why Paul was writing this letter, there were possibly two meanings behind this, one a bit of a better fit than the other, but still...
- Remember your first love and Master, Christ. He is returning and you should live life in a way that honors Him and His death on the cross to pay for the sins that you are committing. Be watching for His return and live in light of it.
- But, sort of along the same lines, but possibly a bit of a better interpretation, so to speak - be on the lookout for sin in yourself first, and then within the body of the church. Be on guard against sin in yourself; allow no opportunity for temptation to sin, and no foothold for sin to enter in. Deal with your sin first, but then also, in love, guard your brothers and sisters in Christ as well. Come alongside them and help them fight in the same way they should be doing for you.
- Stand firm in the faith: Don't allow yourself to be drawn away from the truth of the gospel. You cannot alter the truth in any way, or it is no longer truth. Don't "tweak" it to make it fit what you want it to be at any given moment. Look to the day when Christ returns for His people and live in light of that fact. Go about His business, serving and loving as He did. Don't allow yourself to get drawn into the popular false religions around you, no matter how enticing. Don't give an inch on the truth.
- Act like men: As I looked this up, I really loved the note in my ESV study Bible for explaining this, so I'm going to share it here. "Andrizomai (Greek for act like men) is a frequent command in the Septuagint and is used in contexts encouraging people (especially soldiers) to act with courage and strength in obedience to the Lord and with confidence in His power" (emphasis mine). Isn't that beautiful (especially for those with feminist tendencies, LOL)? It's the idea of being on guard for sin, while standing on and relying on the truth of the gospel, and knowing that when you find it, through the power of Christ's death and resurrection, you have the power to fight and defeat it. It's an exhortation to pour all you have into fighting the enemy with the full expectation of victory - and because we "stand firm in the faith", we have the confidence to know that we will win!
- Be strong: I think this sort of goes back to all of the above. If you are on guard against sin and you're fighting it in the power of the gospel (because you're standing firm on its truth), then you will automatically be strong - in your beliefs and in your faith. You will have the courage to share the gospel, you will be able to withstand the devil's snares, and he will flee from you.
- Let all that you do be done in love: I thought this was kind of a neat, somewhat unexpected follow-up to all that came before. You basically have this verse before that tells you that you are in a war, and that you must be fighting, but then the very next one says to love. Well, how do these go together? First, remember why Paul was writing to the Corinthian church. They had stopped loving one another, and quite possibly, the world around them. Also, he was reminding them of the truth of the gospel. Christ provided the ultimate example of sacrificial love when He gave His life on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. I believe that Paul was reminding them that they were to be Christlike in their behavior, particularly among the body. Christ never hesitated to eradicate sin or call it what it was, no matter what situation He was in or where He was, nor did He twist it to make it seem a lesser evil than it was, nor did He refrain from fighting it. But, He did it with love for the sinner and hatred for the sin. He didn't abuse the sinners, but He didn't allow them so stay in their sin. He confronted it, and the sinner than had to decide whether to accept Christ or reject Him - and I believe that Paul was calling the Corinthian church to do the same, first in themselves, and then within the body that was being so badly damaged by sin, both individual sins and corporate sins. He was calling them to fight sin in their own lives, and to fight for the gospel in their church; to lovingly rebuke their brothers and sisters who were still engaged in various kinds of soul-destroying sin; to show each other love, both by confronting the sin and by doing it in a way that reminded the sinner of who Christ is and His power over sin without passing judgment, so to speak, on the sinner, but only on the sin (if that makes sense).