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Strong Faith in a Broken World - 1 Corinthians 16:13-24

Feb 26, 2023    Andrey Bulanov


1. Be strong in the faith.

- Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be loving.

2. Respect and follow the right people.

- Recognize and submit

3. Walk in the love of christian community

Scripture References:

• 1 Corinthians 16: 13-24

• Hebrews 13:7

• Hebrews 13:17

Application questions:

• What are the holes in your spiritual strength? Alert? Rooted in the faith? Courageous? Loving?

• Are you intentional about who you respect and submit to? What is your active relationship to the leaders in your life?

• Do you come to church and group to enjoy the love of your church family? Are you here to share that love with others?

Discussion questions:

• What is your impression of a person who is spiritually strong? What does it take to be that person? How does your idea compare to what Paul is saying here?

• How do we think about the idea of submitting to leaders? What are the barriers to practicing this well?

• How do we submit to leaders? What does this mean?

• What are the barriers that often prevent our experience of love and community in the church?


Our journey through 1 Corinthians has been a very amazing one.

Paul addresses a variety of topics, he speaks harshly - and yet it is a letter that is so deeply personal.

His firmness is balanced with care and vulnerability as a leader.

There is so much we can learn from the overall approach.

In this final section we see his final greetings,

we see his marching orders for strong faith in a complex world.

One of the core challenges for the Corinthians is the question of how do we as christians live in the midst of the world that is broken and wrong on so many levels - and yet maintain our clear identity as christians?

How do we live in such a way that our christian faith is not constantly manipulated and influenced by the sinful values of the world around us?

So much of what the Corinthians got wrong had to do with a lack of clear difference between them and the world.

They were worshipful of certain leaders in the church in the same way as the greek world praised its wise teachers.

They were prideful and selfish about their spiritual gifts in the same way the world around them exalted in human wisdom.

They were loose with sexual sin in the same way that the world around them was.

As Paul concludes the letter he exhorts them one last time to be firm and strong as christians in the world.

this is something we all need. And this spiritual strength we all know we need we often admit that we lack it, but we make the process of growth too complex.

Paul gives us some very clear and firm commands that help dictate our steps in a broken world.

1. Be strong in the faith.

13 Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. 14 Do everything in love.

People will say, "I feel weak and unmotivated. I am not like those spiritual people."

But being strong in the faith is not a feeling or emotion. it is a lifestyle.

Paul gives us 5 key actions for it.

In many ways all these words describe a person who is in a state of war. This is a common finishing theme for Paul in his letters.

this is because this IS our reality. The world you and I live in is a world of fierce and relentless war.

There is a war for your soul going on. There is a fierce enemy. There is a hell. there is eternity. And many poeple are lost. And if you follow Jesus, it is the enemies job to get to knocked out of the mentality that life is a war.

His goal is to get you do get embroiled in drama. To have conflicts in your life. To be distracted. to be obsessed with entertainment. To allow sin to take down your life - so that while you are down, all the people around you who need your help would be exposed and weakened spiritually.

• be alert

"be watchful" "be on your gaurd"

We must live with an awareness that every day we face challenges that target our souls.

With an awareness that the world is a dangerous place. That sin is not just a little thing.

Whenever i am dealing with daily battles - a disagreement with my wife, challenges in the church, struggling with parenting my kids, choosing my entertainment, - these are the moments when i am struggling in dangerous territory.

These are times when there is a true threat to me and the people i love.

• Stand firm in the faith

Our alertness must be rooted in our commitment to the truth of Scripture.

"stand firm in the faith" refers not just to the ACT of faith - of beleiving. Its referring to "the faith" as in "the truth of the gospel".

"Stand firm in the true christian faith" because all around you is error.

The reason why christians today are so easily manipulated by the world is because christians today don't know what they believe. They don't have a deep foundation in biblical truth.

If we do not take time to study, to think, to learn what Scripture teaches - if your christianity is more about inspiration and emotion - you will be naive and easily manipulated by sin.

NOTE - lots of people listen to podcasts and sermons today. But you know, this can also just be a form of emotional encouragement rather than intentional pursuit of growth in the faith.

The question is, do you know WHAT is the truth that you are fighting for in your life? Do you know the King that you follow? Do you know his kingdom and his values well? Growing in biblical knowledge and understanding is not just about being smarter - its about knowing our own battlefield and our story well.

• be strong and courageous

literally "be a man" or "act like men"

walking faithfully in the truth takes courage. it takes courage out in the world obviously.

But it also takes courage in the church. It takes courage to call people out, to call sin sin. To tell people when they are off track.

It takes courage to stand firm in the faith in your own home. Husbands especially need to admit this.

it takes courage to speak truth, to share your needs to let others in to your life, to stand close with others.

If your faith doesn't require any courage on a weekly basis something is off!

• Do all things in love

This last command echoes back to the beautiful chapter 13, where Paul reminds us of the centrality of love.

Love is the balancing force to true strength and courage.

without love, our "spiritual strength" becomes prideful and insensitive. But without strength and courage, our love becomes spineless and worthless.

Its really interesting to reflect back over this epistle and see how Paul himself reflects all these characteristics.

He is not naive - he is very much alert to the danger that is taking over the church as he sees the errors.

His whole heart is rooted firmly in the truth, the faith that he has recieved - and this is the basis for everything he does. He is able to warn about the dangers. He is able to speak and correct and guide.

He demonstrates powerful courage as he lays his whole ministry on the line. He is not doing the popular thing. He is not telling them what they want to hear. He speaks firm and convicting words to them.

22 If anyone does not love the Lord, a curse be on him.

Yet at the same time he does it in such love and care. He is vunerable. He shares his heart with them. Because this letter is so specific with all the things he has to challenge them in, its also very very personal.

24 My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.

As he models this, he also calls them to a life of spiritual strength.

2. Respect and follow the right people.

15 Brothers and sisters, you know the household of Stephanas: They are the firstfruits of Achaia and have devoted themselves to serving the saints. I urge you 16 also to submit to such people, and to everyone who works and labors with them. 17 I am delighted to have Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus present, because these men have made up for your absence. 18 For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore recognize such people.

Its hard for us to be exactly sure, but most likely, these three guys are the ones who are carrying the letter back to the church.

It's also likely that they are the ones who came to Paul to tell him about how the church is doing and tell him about all the problems.

they are involved in ministry leadership in the church - that is also clear.

They are also some of the founding members of the church - Paul describes them as some of the first believers in Achaia - the general region where Corinth is found.

If you remember, one of the problems the Corinthians had was being too worshipful and attached to certain people. Paul tackles this issue in chapters 1 and 2.

Paul says all the leaders in the church are just servants of Christ, and we should not elevate them to a higher status that is healthy. Our allegiance to different leaders should not cause division or separation in the church.

At the same time, this does NOT mean that we should not put any thought into respecting and following leaders.

Here, as Paul concludes the letter, he is actually emphasizing that the people you respect and follow is CRITICALLY important to your spiritual health.

We are driven by example and visible leaders. This is how we are created as human beings and that is not a flaw.

Who you follow and who you respect will determine the kind of person you become.

Heb 13:7

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

Paul sets Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus as worthy examples and leaders for the church.

And he says two things - recognize such people and submit to such people.

• Recognize

What kind of people do you respect? What kind of people earn your admiration?

We live in a world where digital technology can allow us to become almost worshipful of certain people without realizing it, without reflecting - wait, why DO i love this person so much??

What kind of people grab your attention? What are the qualities of these people?

This is something I had to reflect on this week in my Instagram use. I follow some athletes and enjoying seeing their goals and achievements. At the same time I had to stop and ask, "Why and how much do I admire this guy? Yes he's really good in certain areas, but in other areas he is vile and terrible."

No matter how rebellious and independent you are - we all have our stars.

There were a lot of flashy people and impressive people grabbing for attention in the Corinthian church.

Paul says, you know what kind of people you need to respect? These kind of people. People who may not be so flashy or impressive - but they are truly devoted to serve God and the church. They are the kind of people that it is refreshing to be around. They are the kind of people that others are blessed and encouraged by.

Not only do they work hard to humbly serve the church, they also have a track record of fruit - the people around them are refreshed and encouraged. These people YOU KNOW. They are not somewhere out there. They have been laboring in your church from the start.

In our digital age its tempting to get attached to people we admire online more than people in our lives, and we think that those leaders online are so great and so perfect - we are shielded from their true selves.

Sometimes we are drawn to people - but we don't think about what kind of effect those people have on us. Are we becoming more cheerful, more joyful, more serving? or does this person make me more cynical, critical and angry?

Are you conscious about the kind of people you respect?

• Submit

I urge you 16 also to submit to such people, and to everyone who works and labors with them.

biblical discipleship is all about learning to follow Jesus together. That means that we are all learners at the end of the day.

We are all submitted to someones preaching and teaching.

It is a lot easier to be submitted to some preacher on youtube or some podcaster than it is to be submitted to the leaders in your church.

Its interesting that you can't MAKE poeple submit to the leaders of the church. You submit willingly to the people that you respect.

If you don't submit to the leaders that God has placed in your life, its because you don't value and respect these people to the point that you trust them with your soul.

Theres only two reasons for that - either something is very wrong with them and you shouldn't submit to them, and in that case find a different church. Or something is very wrong with you - and you live your life rebelling against good people and following bad ones.

Submitting to your leaders is an active posture on your part - and it includes following their leadership, seeking them out, valuing their input and agreeing with the direction they set for the church.

Hebrews 13:17

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

It's impossible to be a strong christian without submitting to healthy leadership in your life.

People who think they are independent are naive because they are likely submitting themselves to teachers and role models that are destroying their life.

3. Walk in the love of christian community

19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla send you greetings warmly in the Lord, along with the church that meets in their home. 20 All the brothers and sisters send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 This greeting is in my own hand—Paul.

22 If anyone does not love the Lord, a curse be on him. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.

One of the common accusations that non christians had about the early church is that they were perverted weirdos that called each other brothers and sisters and said they all loved each other.

They made up all sorts of false stories about christians.

It was super weird for the world to see how christians greeted and loved one another.

In a world of pride and sin, true loving community is extremely unusual. And yet at the same time its our deeper human desire to belong and to be known and loved.

Paul finishes the letter on a note of greets. Greetings from him. Greetings from others. And a command for the Corinthians to live in a life where they have a true and honest love and openness to each other.

The call to great one another with a holy kiss is a command that appears here and a few other places in the NT. It is carried over both from Judaism and the greco-roman world where a kiss was a very common sign of kinship, respect and reconciliation.

This is still true in many cultures in the world. The point is that we greet one another in whatever form is most expressive of this idea - of kinship, openness and belonging. In American culture kissing each other is not how we express kinship - its rather a hug, or a handshake or a combination of the two.

The point is that as a christian - you should live and experience a deep sense of bond, belonging and love for the community of christians you live with.

and you should live with that sense of bond with the wider community of the church in the world around you.

Its a dark and lonely world out there. But what we have in Christ is the deepest and most amazing experience of belonging. Jesus doesnt just call us to be individual followers or slaves - he calls us to be his family.

and he wants us to share in all the benefits of being encouraged and strengthened as we live in his family.

So often we come to church so preoocupied with our own emotions and thoughts and problems, and we fail to just simply enjoy the family of God.

Sure we aren't perfect, but theres a lot of people here who care for you who are happy to see you. Do you allow yourself to recieve the encouragement of showing up and being around God's poeple?

Also, are you a person who intentionally comes to church and to group to make others feel loved and welcomed?

"No one notices or cares about me"

As you pour into others you will also see that there are a lot more poeple around you who care about you than you may realize!

This is essential to our spirutal strength out in the world. We need to learn to live in a sense that we are connected to a family - that we aren't at it alone!

I love the concluding phrase here, "Come Lord Jesus!"

Paul finishes in this exhortation to point to the end. Christianity is not about just being good poeple or living a good life. Its about our spiritual strength that is rooted in the message that Jesus has come - that being God he entered our world and became one of us, that he came to live the perfect life we could never live, and to pay the price we could never pay - to give his life for our sin and guilt.

This message of Jesus as the conquering King who through his love has victory in this world - thats the banner than hangs over our lives.

Its pointing to the fact that he came and that we look forward to his coming.

Our whole struggle for wisdom and spiritual strength is fueled by him, but who he is and what he did.

He is the reason we can pursue spiritual strength. He is the reason we bond with our spiritual leaders. HE is the reason we live in a community of real love and belonging.

Application questions:

• What are the holes in your spiritual strength? Alert? Rooted in the faith? Courageous? Loving?

• Are you intentional about who you respect and submit to? What is your active relationship to the leaders in your life?

• Do you come to church and group to enjoy the love of your church family? Are you here to share that love with others?