Watch Ye Stand Fast

FFF 14:2 (Feb 1968)

Watch Ye Stand Fast

Richard Burson

“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13).

John Chrysostom who was a pupil of Diodorus of Tarsus preached a remarkable sermon on this text, which I would like to quote in epitome: “He said, ‘Watch’ as though they slept; ‘Stand’ as though they were rocking to and fro; ‘Quit you like men’ as though they were playing the coward; ‘Let all your things be done in love’ as though they were in dissensions. And the first caution refers to the deceivers viz., ‘Watch, Stand;’ the next, to those who plot against us, ‘Quit you like men;’ the third, to those who make parties and endeavor to distract, “Let all your things be done in love,” which is the bond of perfectness and the root and fountain of all blessings.” Chrysostom died in 407. If I did nothing more than report to you the above sermon, you would have food for thought.

In the day when the Apostle Paul wrote, battle was done hand-to-hand. Soldier directly faced soldier. It was a struggle to the very death. The personal valor of a leader could turn the whole tide. A General coming bravely among the men who loved and respected him and who shouted out commands and encouragements, could bring victory out of what appeared to be overwhelming defeat. Paul calls to the Corinthians and to you and me today as a brave General marshalling his forces against a mighty foe: “Watch you! Stand fast!”

Christians are exhorted repeatedly in the New Testament to watch. The warfare is incessant and the watching must be constant. What is this watchfulness? How are we to define it? John Calvin put it this way: “Now watchfulness of spirit is this, when free and disentangled from earthly cares, we meditate on the things of God. For as the body is weighed down by surfeiting and drunkeness (Luke 21:34) so as to be fit for nothing; similarly the cares and lusts of the world, idleness or carelessness, are like a spiritual surfeiting that overpowers the mind.”

Paul said in another place: “Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” Peter advised: “Be sober, be vigilent; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.” John taught: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die…” All three of these men of God saw that watchfulness was imperative to Christian testimony. Matthew Henry observed “A Christian is always in danger, hence must always be on his guard.”

But it is not enough to be alert. Paul admonished the Corinthians to “Stand fast in the faith.” He had like words for the Philippian Christians: “…That ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; and in nothing terrified by your adversaries…”

The Corinthian Christians were surrounded by a moral situation very similar to the student on the modern campus. There were pagans all around. There were gnostics and agnostics. There were amazing and amusing philosophies. There was all the international traffic of a world seaport. Corinth was a crossroad of the nations and exists to this day as an important trade centre. There was a constant flow and exchange of ideas and ideals. In the midst of these circumstances the believers were told to watch.

You are a child of your age. You look out upon all that challenges as fresh and new. My beloved, it is not fresh and new. Someone has aptly said that the New Morality is only the old immorality with a new name and new generation. You face situations that may be startlingly new to you but they are the same issues that have always faced believers in Christ.

A letter from a soldier in the Army said in part: “I don’t believe you can imagine the amount of cussing, swearing and sex jokes I’ve heard. It’s a shame. And, not only do these boys know nothing of God, they don’t want to know anything about Him. Still, God is with me and has given me the strength I need.” This young man is a Christian who stands fast. I assure you the armed forces is no Sunday School convention, yet this young man stands fast in the faith.

The Corinthian people knew what it was to be attacked by enemies. They knew what it was to defend themselves from terrible onslaughts. Neighboring cities had attacked them. They had withstood. Their very survival contributed to their stability. Continuance is commended because it is a desirable attitude of the Christian experience. The early church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine. Please recall this was in the time of the house of Julian — Nero, to be exact — and being a Christian was considered a state offence. It has never been simple and easy to be a Christian. If you have been led to believe that the Christian life is one of slumber and peace, you have been misinformed. The same vile forces you face have been faced by men and women in all areas of the Church. Loving and serving the Lord Jesus Christ brings one into conflict with the existing forces of evil.

Watch! Stand fast! Be Strong!