December 9, 2018 Marching Orders in One Verse


13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. [1]


[I. Introduction] Here, in one short verse, are marching orders from our Lord to all his followers. The first thing that we must see is that every follower of the Lord Jesus is in a war against the forces of evil. We are familiar with the Great Commission, which is given to every believer:


18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [2]


As you go and make disciples (each one of us should be praying and seeking to do this) it is not the ones we reach out to that are our enemy. They have been captured by the enemy (2 Timothy 2:24-26). The devil and his forces exercise influence over the minds and hearts of the lost. Hence, as we seek to carry out the commission that the Lord has given to us we must be cognizant of the fact that we are in a war. It is a war for the souls of men, women, and children.


There will be times when we share the gospel with someone and the Holy Spirit has been working upon their hearts in a profound way already. We will not have to say much because their hearts have been softened and they are ready to exercise simple faith and repentance. There will be other times when a person is accustomed to doing evil and are in the tight snare of sin. Their minds are set against God. These we must correct with gentleness, recognizing that a battle is raging.


Did you know that the best defense is a good offense? Some Christians think that they have removed themselves from the war. They do nothing for the Lord except go to church and maybe go to a home meeting as well. It is good to go to the meetings of the church for that is how we are equipped to do the Lord’s work. But if that is all you do then you are not engaged in the battle! A Christian can avoid the battle, but they cannot avoid the war because the war is going on all the time. It is like a soldier who sits in his foxhole while the battle is raging. He is not engaged. But a mortar or a grenade can still land in his foxhole and kill him. Or, it can land near his hole and injure him.


In the same way, a Christian can avoid the Lord’s commission just spending time at their home or other pursuits. All they are doing is avoiding the battle. The war is still happening. If you avoid the battle you have actually been neutralized by the devil. Maybe you are avoiding the big sins (I hope you are!) but the enemies of God are happy that you are doing nothing.


The Lord expects us to labor for him. Not to sit around. So, the apostle Paul gives orders to the Corinthian church on how to deal with the battle against evil. They are marching orders, if you will, on how to win.


[II.] The first order is to be watchful. Some versions have, “Be on your guard.” Of what are we to be watchful? Of what are we to be on guard? There are at least three things for which we must be watchful.


[A.] We must be on guard against false ideas. The main weapons of the spiritual forces of wickedness are not swords, knives, or guns. They are not physical weapons. The main weapons are ideas. They are opinions. They are thoughts.


4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,[3]


In order to fight against these ideas and thoughts we must be aware of them. That in itself is not always easy. We have been exposed to them our whole life. The world is controlled by the devil and the philosophies and values of the world are more in line with evil than they are with good. Since we have been hearing these ideas and philosophies our whole lives they can even seem to be right. But, we must be watchful that we are not taken in by them.


See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. [4]


Human traditions can capture us! I was listening to a Christian radio station just a couple of days ago. The show was Washington Watch with Tony Perkins. It’s a good show. A Christian woman called in and expressed confusion on why a public schoolteacher refused to address a transgender student by a pronoun opposite of their true sex (their biological sex). She thought he should have used whatever names or pronouns the student wanted “because that would have been the loving thing to do.” This woman’s shallow understanding of love, actually – wrong understanding, is an example of a false and destructive idea that has captured her mind.


There was a pastor that was a guest on the show when this woman called and he attempted to explain to her why the teacher’s stand was the right one. He explained, using the creation account in Genesis, that God has created people male and female and it is not our choice, but God’s choice. This woman responded, “But that is the Old Testament, did Jesus say anything about this? Jesus taught us to love others.” Again, implying that it was “loving” to support them in their transgenderism. (The idea that God’s words in the OT do not apply to us is itself a false idea that this woman embraced.) Then the pastor took her to Mark 10:6 where Jesus Himself says that God created people male and female. She still wasn’t convinced. Why? Because she had been captivated by a false philosophy of love that says peoples feelings are more important than what is true.


We must be on guard against false ideas.


[B.] We must be watchful for sin in our own lives. Sin sometimes looks us in the face and beckons us. We know something is against the Lord’s will but we do it regardless. The account of David and Bathsheba illustrates this. But, far more often, sin creeps up on us. We go places that are best avoided or we spend time in matters that are not conducive to our own spiritual growth and little sins begin to sneak into our lives. Don’t be deceived! Little sins spoil our lives![5]  We must be watchful for sin and not simply plod through life as worldly people are prone to do.


[C.] We must be watchful for sin in the lives of our brothers and sisters. When Cain murdered his brother Able, God came to him and asked him where Able was. Cain responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9) He didn’t think he was. But love does look out for one’s brother. He was his brother’s keeper!


You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him.[6]


To reprove means to correct. It is a mild form of rebuke. God is saying that if you do not reprove your friend or neighbor then you hate him. You do not love him. Love does not let a person remain in their sin. The verse goes on to say that if we do not reprove a sinner then we have sinned.


Now, we need to point out their sin with love and, hopefully, with tact. Yet, we need to do it. We must be watchful for sin in the lives of our brothers and sisters.


We must be on guard, then, for false ideas, for sin in our lives, and for sin in the lives of our brothers and sisters.



[III.] The second order is to stand firm in the faith. The word “faith” is a noun.  Maybe you remember your high school English instruction that identified the parts of speech. To refresh your memory, an article is a part of speech that comes before a noun. In English we only have two articles: “a” and “the.” In the Bible, when the word “faith” is used without an article it usually means our act of believing. In other words, our personal faith. When it is used with the article it usually means what we believe – the content of our faith. When Paul writes, “stand firm in the faith,” he means not to be swayed from the truths that God has delivered to us.


We will occasionally read or hear something in the Scriptures that doesn’t sit well with us. It might go against our sense of fairness or it might seem harsh. In those instances we will be tempted to jettison a biblical truth for some principle that seems right to us. Now, it could be that we have simply misunderstood what we were reading or hearing. I have had that experience. This is why Bible study is important. Bible reading is important because when we read it we are receiving truths from God. But Bible study is important because we can miss what is really happening in a passage if we only have a surface understanding.


Yet, even if we do understand a passage rightly we can still not like a fact of faith. I have news for you. This is normal! It is normal only because we are still a fallen people and we will not always like what God says.


Paul commands us to stand firm in the faith. Don’t be turned away from the truths of God because of feelings or because of worldly philosophies. God is the source of all genuine knowledge. We submit to him, not to our own notions.


[IV.] The third order is “act like men.” The King James Version has “quit you like men.” We don’t talk like that any longer but I like the sound of that. In fact, there was a journal with that title. It was a journal of manliness. I had a copy once. It was good. I like the way some modern translations have the phrase. The NIV has “be courageous.” I believe this gets to the heart of what Paul is writing. Men, of course, ought to be courageous. If they are not, something is not quite right. Yet, when it comes to spiritual fights we all must be courageous, men and women alike.


Courage does not mean “not being afraid.” If you have no fear of something then it does not take courage to deal with it. Courage means acting in the face of your own fear. You have to have some fear in order to have courage.


We are all called to be courageous. We must be willing to enter the battle, the battle of ideas. The apostle Jude writes:


Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. [7]


This verse tells us how important the battle is and how important it is that you, who hear my voice right now, to fight for the faith! Jude calls his readers “beloved,” and if you belong to Christ and you have read these words then you are beloved of the Lord! Jude wanted to write to them about their salvation. But he didn’t. He wrote about something more important in his mind – that they contend for the faith! To contend means to fight! It will take courage sometimes, but we must contend for the faith!


[V.] The fourth order is, “Be strong.” Of course, Paul is not referring to physical strength. He is referring to strength in our spirit and in our will. The secret to being strong is not relying on ourselves, but on the Lord. So, elsewhere Paul writes,


Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.[8]


It is the Lord who is strong within us. We are not strong in ourselves. The way we experience his strength is by realizing how great is his grace towards us in Christ Jesus.


You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,[9]


His grace covers our confessed sins. Therefore, the accuser of the brethren cannot accuse you before God nor before your own conscience – because God’s grace in Christ is abundant towards you! You are strong in his grace! Hallelujah!


When I first became a Christian, the church that I used to attend sang a hymn entitled Grace That Is Greater Than Our Sin. The lyrics were these:


Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

  • Refrain:
    Grace, grace, God’s grace,
    Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
    Grace, grace, God’s grace,
    Grace that is greater than all our sin!


The song is for both the lost and those in the household of faith, but especially us. The last stanza:


Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?


This is how we are strong in the Lord, by knowing his grace is infinite and matchless towards us. It exceeds our sin and our guilt! This is where we are strong in the Lord, in our human spirit! The Lord is mighty within you!


[VI. Conclusion and Application] Four marching orders are found in one short verse. The verse is blessed and the orders are each one blessed.


  • We must be watchful.
  • Stand firm!
  • Be courageous.
  • Be strong!


In order to do all these things we must do two things. We must know the faith. The only way to know the faith well is to be immersed in his word. You must spend time in his word.


The second object of our attention should be some familiarity with the false ideas that surround us in our culture.  Coming to all the meetings of the church, including home meetings, will help in this regard. Also, reading quality Christian literature that addresses these issues is preparatory.


Let us take the apostle’s commands to heart. We are marching to a different drummer than those of the world. Let us make sure that our ears are attuned to our Master and not the entrancing, enticing, and deceitful “music” of the world. When we align our minds and our hearts with God’s thoughts, not only will we be prepared for battle, but we will experience our own personal freedom and a peace that passes understanding.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 16:13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 28:18–20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 10:4–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 2:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Song of Solomon 2:15

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Le 19:17). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jud 3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 6:10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Ti 2:1). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.