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Stand Fast (Hope for the Church, Part 3)

Watch, and stand fast in the faith... 1 Corinthians 16.13

Interesting, but Christian?

You could hardly say the Corinthians were standing fast in the faith.

Oh, undoubtedly they all professed faith in Jesus. They surely sang whatever Christian songs were current at the time when they gathered for worship, and they no doubt looked, for all appearances, like most churches of their day.

But they were not practicing the faith as they should have. They promoted divisions in the church, tolerated scandalous sin, fought with one another over material possessions, tried to lord it over the consciences of weaker brethren, and turned the worship of God into a platform for spiritual showing-off.

As J. Gresham Machen wrote of the liberal churches of his day, what the Corinthians were practicing may have been unique, interesting, well-planned, and appealing to many; it just wasn’t the Christian faith as they had learned it from Paul and the Word of God.

Basic commitments

Sadly, the same can be said of much of Christianity in America today. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to stand fast in the faith is a timely one for churches today, and that it two ways.

First, in the practice of our Christian faith: Christian faith, as we read of it in the New Testament, demands certain basic commitments of its followers. Living a Christian life takes discipline. Christians must root and ground themselves in God’s Word and prayer (Col. 3.16; Lk. 18.1). From that starting-point they are to take up the pursuit of holiness in the fear of God and devote themselves to good works of various sorts (2 Cor. 7.1; Tit. 3.1, 8).

Further, each believer has been given spiritual gifts which he or she is expected to put to fruitful use in the ministry of building the church (1 Pet. 4.10, 11).

But is this, in fact, what we see? Hardly. Spiritual disciplines are not taken very seriously by American Christians. A life of holiness is difficult to wedge into our getting-and-spending-fun-for-all lifestyles. And ministries in the churches follow a kind of 80/20 rule – 20 percent of the people do all the work and give most of the money while 80 percent wait to be served.

We are not practicing the faith of Christ as it is clearly taught throughout the Word of God. Instead, we have substituted a kind of “suit-yourself” Christianity for the “take-up-your-cross” calling the Scriptures plainly demand.


Moreover, we are not proclaiming the faith the way believers did in Paul’s day.

The American Church today has become increasingly non-evangelistic, preferring to use its Sunday morning worship as a honey jar to attract the seeker bees in the community. Most churches do very little in the way of outreach to their communities, and the vast majority of Christians have never shared their testimony or the Gospel with another person.

What’s more, the gospel we do proclaim, when we proclaim it, is not the Gospel of the Kingdom, such as Jesus and Paul announced, but a kind of message of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and going to heaven when we die. These are surely part of the Gospel, but they are not the Gospel of the Kingdom, to which we have been called and with which we are charged. Rather, they are a form of “near Christianity” which, in the end is another gospel, and therefore not the Gospel at all.

It’s difficult to see how we could describe ourselves as standing fast in the faith when our practice of it is inconsistent, at best, and our proclamation of it hardly exists.

The American Church will continue to struggle against a growing secular consensus unless and until we begin to take seriously Paul’s charge and restore sound practice and faithful proclamation to the churches of the land. We are not free to define the faith of Christ on our own terms.

The Corinthians thought they could do so, and they struggled to hold their churches together. Paul’s charge to them to stand fast – rather than flimsy – in their commitment to Christ and His Word is a message we need to hear today.

Next steps

What does it mean to be a “disciple” of Jesus Christ? What does it mean to be His “witness”? Talk with some fellow church members about these questions. Are you the disciple and witness Christ wants you to be?

Additional Resources

Download this week’s study, Hope for the Church.

Sign up for ViewPoint Leaders Training and start your own ViewPoint discussion group.

Need vision for a revived church? Order a copy of T. M.’s book, Preparing Your Church for Revival, from our online store.

And men, download our free brief paper, “Men of the Church: A Solemn Warning,” by clicking here.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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