Five Commands from 1 Corinthians

As Paul closes the book of 1 Corinthians, he summarizes everything he’s taught with five commands—be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong, and do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:13–14). While he wrote them for the church at Corinth, I’m impressed with how relevant these five commands are for the church today. 

1. Be Alert

First, Paul says to be alert. We have an enemy who is at work around us, trying to deceive us, working in the sin we tolerate in our midst.

Be alert, brother! He’s waiting for you at that computer. He’s got the tools in his arsenal to destroy your marriage. He’s lurking for you, looking for a place to sabotage your life.

Be alert, sister! He’s waiting for you in that flirtatious glance from that guy at the gym.

Be alert, church! He often masquerades as a teacher of the church, teaching clever things in podcasts and blogs and books while subtly undermining confidence in God’s Word. You know that not everyone who publishes books or does podcasts and says they speak for Christ actually does.

Be alert, church! Just because a political leader says he or she is your friend, that doesn’t mean they are. Our enemy loves to seduce Christians away from dependence on the Holy Spirit and the power of the gospel with offers of alternative, counterfeit forms of power.

Be alert, parents! There is an enemy after the souls of your children, and you need to pay attention to what your kids are being taught by the world around us. There are lots of forces out there trying to disciple your kids; it’s our job to guide that process and protect them.

2. Stand Firm in the Faith

Second, stand firm in the faith. If we’re going to hold on to the faith, it’s going to be a fight because everything in the world is going the opposite direction. The world trends toward self-exaltation, unbelief, the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life. If we’re not actively fighting to stand firm against that in our families, we’re falling. We can’t coast uphill. Jesus said we have to fight our way into the kingdom.

3. Be Courageous

Third, be courageous. Take bold risks for the kingdom. God didn’t call us just to huddle up, sing “Kumbaya,” and hang on until he raptures us. He called us to take Jesus to the nations, to see miracles and answers to prayer. Jesus said that through us he would build his church and not even the gates of hell would prevail against us. Gates are not an offensive weapon. Jesus wasn’t promising that he would protect us against Satan’s attacks but that he’d make Satan powerless against ours.

4. Be Strong

Fourth, be strong. This is Paul’s summary of all that he’s said up to this point. Christianity is not for the faint of heart. It’s a struggle—a fight—against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Thankfully, our strength comes from the Holy Spirit. But it’s still a fight. The mercies of God will be new tomorrow morning, so you can get up and keep going. Future generations depend on you getting up and fighting again.

5. Do Everything in Love

Finally, do everything in love. The Greeks and Romans would have heartily affirmed the first four commands, but this last one was a distinctly Christian virtue. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Seneca, in all their voluminous writings on ethics never list love as a virtue—that’s all Jesus. And Paul says love is the most important value of all of them (cf. 1 Corinthians 13).

You might have the zeal to fight for truth, the guts to oppose society, the insight to unmask all kinds of lies … but is your life characterized by love for others? Without love, you’re like a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1).

If we, God’s church, truly lived out these five commands—even for a month—the world would never be the same.