1 Corinth. 16: “En Garde”

At the end of Pauls first letter to the church in Corinth is a power packed verse for living: 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NLT) 13 Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. 14 And do everything with love.

If we were to break this down, it would look like this:

  • Be on guard
  • Stand firm in the faith
  • Be courageous
  • Be strong
  • Do everything with love

Be On Guard

Growing up I always loved the story of the Three Musketeers. I think the coolest thing about the Musketeers is that they were incredible swordsmen. Now, if you grew up a boy, or grew up with a boy, or watched a boy growing up, you know that a boy can turn any item into a sword. In fact, no only can they turn any item into a sword, but they learn very quickly the famous start to any duel, “en garde” (on [your] guard in French).

En garde is a term that basically means, get ready cause I don’t want kill you unless you’re ready… or at least that’s what I thought. Truth be told it’s an ancient french term that is, “Used to warn a fencer to assume the defensive position of readiness for an attack.”

As Paul used it, “be on guard” literally translates “watch” or “be watchful.” What Paul was saying to the Corinthians and what he’s saying to you and me today is to be spiritually on guard against any and all spiritual attacks.

Stand Firm in the Faith

The other thing Paul communicates, is for the Corinthian Christians to hold tight and stand firm in their faith! Remember, Paul is writing to a church that was struggling with a ton of spiritual immaturity. There isn’t another church in the entire New Testament that gets more attention for being so messed up than the church in Corinth.

Like the church in Corinth, we too are bombarded by a society that if allowed will ethically and morally corrupt our character. The difference is, the Corinthian church was confused between the difference between what was happening in the church and what was happening in society. Paul was trying to motivate the church to remember the gospel he preached to them, and to not waiver in their commitment to living out that gospel, no matter what society threw at them.

Be Courageous and Strong

Although I put “be courageous” and “be strong” together, Paul breaks it down into two separate statements. “Be courageous” is literally translated in the Greek, “act like men.” God wants us, in the midst of being on guard and our commitment to stand firm in the the faith, to be strong, and act courageously as Christians.

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT) 6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

The principles up to this point to be on guard, to stand firm, and to be courageous, are all things Paul wants them to do, but to be strong is about what God does to them. The instruction from Paul here is to submit to God and be filled with His strengthening power. Only when we allow God to give us strength do we then have the ability to be on guard, stand firm, and be courageous.

Do Everything With Love

It’s no wonder Paul ends his power packed principles with, do everything with love, especially knowing Paul puts such a high price on love. This praise, “doing everything in love,” is the equivalent of saying we should be like Christ and reflect His love to the world around us. Christlikeness should be the foundations of everything we say and do. For the church in Corinth, doing everything in love meant no more feuds, no more showing-off spiritually, no more lawsuits between Christians, the elimination of pride and arrogance in the church’s leadership, no more gluttony and drunkenness during the fellowship meal–in short, applying this principle of love for Christ and love for each other meant helping to create a radically different church, sold out to Christ and untainted by the world.