Watchful perseverance in love

How to stand firm in the face of opposition.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Do everything in love.

A few of the final parting exhortations of Paul to the congregation at Corinth reveal some of the deepest foundations for believers in Messiah.

To be alert is vigilance, watchfulness; the idea of keeping awake when everyone else is sleeping. What is he encouraging them to be on the lookout for? If we review some other uses of this term in other letters of Paul, some of these ideas are found:

Colossians 4:2 – Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.
1 Thessalonians 5:6 – So then, let us not sleep, like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled.

This idea of wakefulness as Paul uses it involves thankful prayer and being self-controlled. When we relax our guard from prayer, thanksgiving, and self-control, we can be led astray. Paul reveals this to be the case by adding to this exhortation of vigilance by saying, “Stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.”

Standing firm in the faith implies persevering. One needs exhortation to persevere only when they are encountering opposition. This is a necessary element of the faith because believers, by default, can appear antagonistic to the world around them due to their opposing world views.

Psalm 37:12 – The wicked person schemes against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him.
Proverbs 29:27 – An unjust person is detestable to the righteous, and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.

Paul knows from personal experience this is the case, and encourages the believers to literally “act like men.” This bravery, strength, and perseverance in the face of opposition is a necessity among believers, or the implanted word will not bear fruit. This can bring about the situation disclosed by Yeshua in his parable of the sower:

Matthew 13:20-21 – And the one sown on rocky ground ​– ​this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. But he has no root and is short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away.

Notice, Yeshua says “when distress or persecution comes because of the word,” not if it comes about. This is the lot of those who choose to seek out and follow the Way of God in this life, and Paul is simply ensuring those believers in Corinth are prepared.

Paul then finishes his thought on vigilance, perseverance, and courage by summing up the ultimate command for all believers: “Do everything in love.” It literally reads, “All things of you, in love, let be done.” This is the difference between the believer and the non-believer when confronting these differing world views. According to Psalm 37, the wicked person “schemes against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him.” Yet, even though to the believer the way of the unrighteous is detestable, they are still commanded to do everything in love.

True vigilance protects oneself through thankful prayer and self-control, all the while extending love to those who disagree with them. This was the path Paul encouraged those believers to navigate in their context of real danger persecution. How much more should we exhibit these characteristics in our comparatively mild day and age?


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