Stability, Maturity, and Charity
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Stability, Maturity, and Charity

As he closed his letter to the Corinthians, Paul exhorted them to persevere in godly living. He urged them to be on guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong, and above all, to do everything in love. Delving into Paul’s practical instruction, Alistair Begg teaches that effective Christian living is the result of doing the basics well and consistently. To be stable and mature in our faith, we must hold fast to God’s Word and seek His enabling.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in 1 Corinthians, Volume 8

Final Exhortations and Greetings 1 Corinthians 16:1–24 Series ID: 14608

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to 1 Corinthians 16:13: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.”

Before we look at these verses, we pause in prayer:

Make the Book live to me, O Lord,
Show me thyself within thy Word,
Show me myself and show me my Savior,
And make the Book live to me.[1]

For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

We are now in the final run-in to the conclusion of our studies in 1 Corinthians. And here in the sixteenth chapter, as Paul begins to draw things to a close, he makes a number of personal statements, certain greetings—the reference to various individuals. And in the midst of it all, here in verses 13 and 14, he inserts this interesting and important series of imperative statements. They come in rapid-fire succession—just a short burst as Paul, as it were, squeezes them into other material and other greetings that he is bringing. And they come as a very effective and helpful reminder to us that effective Christian living, when we observe it in the lives of other people, is most often seen amongst those who, by God’s grace, are doing the basics well most of the time.

As with most other areas of life, when you take away the extreme highs and the dreadful lows, our lives are lived within a fairly limited framework, and it is imperative, if we are to be useful either in business or in one area of employment or in sport—athletics, or whatever it might be—that we learn what it is to be able to do the basics well most of the time. And here in this little section of these two verses, Paul gives basic instruction for Christian living.

From time to time, we meet people who are consumed with the question “What am I supposed to do?” They seem always to be asking for guidance and unable, somehow or another, to make very much progress at all. And in relationship to Christian living, there are some people who find it very easy to simplify Christian life and give a person just a phrase. For example, you may have great difficulties in your business, you may be concerned about your marriage, you may have concerns about your children, whatever it might be, and you go to somebody, and they’ll say, “Just pray about it.” You say, “Well, anything else? Or…” “No, just pray about it.” And of course, that is wonderful advice. It’s good advice. Jesus was the one who said “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”[2]

Effective Christian living, when we observe it in the lives of other people, is most often seen amongst those who, by God’s grace, are doing the basics well most of the time.

And yet, to simply say “Just pray about it” is not necessarily the answer to the question that is before us. Indeed, that kind of approach is akin to the individual who, when asking advice concerning how to hit a golf ball effectively, is responded to by somebody who says, “Just grip it and rip it!” So, it’s very simple. In fact, it is oversimplified. Because the individual then grips it with the grip of an orangutan and proceeds to try and rip it in the way previously mentioned, and all they may be doing is actually ripping the tendons in their shoulders, because the ball may go nowhere at all, or if it chooses to go somewhere, no one in the world knows where it’s planning on going. But the advice, of course, was succinct, it was simple: “Rip it and grip it.” “I can simplify it,” says somebody, “to a phrase.” Yes, thank you, but not necessarily particularly helpful.

On the other side, of course, there are the individuals who suffer from the opposite extreme. They couldn’t simplify anything. They have to complicate everything. Everything is phenomenally complicated. And in the world of golf, you’ll find that there are the complicated individuals who like to instruct in that way too.

The most famous event in relation to this in my own life was when, as a younger man, my father arranged for me to meet with an elderly gentleman whom my father said was a “crack golfer.” And he felt that this man would be a great help to me in learning to play the game of golf. And so we met at a prescribed time on the Cathkin Braes, overlooking Glasgow. And the man was an exceptionally nice man, very kindly—and, you know, he started off and said, “You know, your father set me up, and just take a couple of swings.”

Well, I just swung, and then he said, “Now, wait a minute. Wait. Stop right there.” And so I stopped right there, and he proceeded to tell me things about the stance—that my stance was, you know, too wide, too narrow, too open, too closed. Who knows what it was! But he started to prescribe on that.

I said, “Fine. Thank you.”

“Now, he said, “I want you to remember that.”

I said, “Got it.”

He said, “Now, take another swing.” I took another swing. He said, “Stop it right there! Now,” he said, “let me see your grip.” And then he started on the grip.

Well, I tried to hit a golf ball, remembering the two things, moved down the fairway a little, and then he started on what he referred to as the “coming from the top,” and he told me I was to ring the bell—which I didn’t understand a thing, but you’re to pull down like this and ring the bell. A couple of holes later, he told me to slam the barn door. So now I’m ringing a bell, slamming a barn door, keeping my stance right, opening my grip, doing everything. I was a complete wreck within five holes. He gave me so much information, if I had put it, you know, on file paper, I needed a small donkey to carry it around with me. And eventually I told him, I said, “You know, you’re a very nice man. Why don’t we go for coffee? Because this is over. This is pathetic.”

Now, in the same way, in Christian living, as I go through my days, I meet both extremes: the “Just pray about it” individual and the people who are going around with books and manuals and tapes and charts and diagrams, and they cannot put one foot in front of the other because of all of this material that they’re moving around you need a donkey to carry.

And, of course, if we would just go to our Bibles and allow the balance of Scripture to be our instructor, then we would be saved from the extreme of oversimplification and overcomplication. We would be allowed to understand what Paul gives to us here in these five succinct, essential, practical principles for effective Christian living. And I want simply to go through them with you this morning. They’re in front of you in your Bible, and we’ll take each one in its course and make our way through verses 13 and 14.

“Be On Your Guard”

Number one: “What am I supposed to do,” says someone, “in living my Christian life?” Well, this is not all that we’re supposed to do, but here are five things to be working on. Number one: “Be on your guard.” “Be on your guard.” Stay awake, stay alert, avoid carelessness, avoid dreaminess, avoid indifference. Keep your eyes open, and learn to see what you’re seeing.

Most of us have seen photographs of the most famous military guards in the world, arguably—those for whom thousands will be standing this week in London to watch the changing of the guards. And if you have seen it in person, you will have pressed your nose up and through those gigantic wrought-iron gates and looked there at the guards, well-trained, who stand guarding Buckingham Palace. They look straight in front of themselves. They are immaculate, they are unflinching, their gaze is straightforward, and they clearly understand what it is they are to be doing: they are guards, and they are guarding. And anybody looking from the vantage point of the street in on that would say, “They’ve got it under control.”

At least they thought they had until a few years ago, the Queen awakened in the night to find a gentleman sitting on the end of her bed—and it wasn’t Prince Philip! And some character had taken himself into the Palace, throughout the Palace, found the queen’s bedroom, and was sitting on the end of her bed, wanting to engage her in conversation in the middle of the night—pointing to the fact that while, from the outside, it appeared as though they had the guarding issue down pat, it was simply a cover for the patent ineffectiveness of their security system.

Now, stay with me here. How about your guard in your life and your family? Some of us have got it looking really good on the outside. The guard is there, standing straight, looking forward. Apparently, by our conversation and by the way we pass ourselves off, we’re on guard. But if people were to see inside of our minds, if people were to drive in our cars, if people were to come on our business trips, if people were to see our children, they could be forgiven for assuming that while we have the externals right, our security system is patently ineffective.

“Be on your guard,” he says. Jesus says the same thing in Matthew chapter 26, concerning the issue of temptation. “Watch and pray,” he says to his disciples—Matthew 26:41—“so that you will not fall into temptation.” “Watch and pray.” “Stay awake, stay alert, or you will be caught off guard.” Peter says the same thing. He was there when Jesus said that. In 1 Peter chapter 5, speaking of the activities of the Evil One, he says in verse 8, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Now, it is just naivety to say that we have no reason for guardedness, that we have no reason to stay alert. It is imperative! Your whole future this week, in terms of effective Christian living—and mine—starts and ends with the issue of guardedness. Do you realize that in one unguarded moment, you could be like Peter, the total denier? “I never knew Jesus! No, I don’t go to church. No, I… No!” One unguarded moment. In one unguarded moment, you or I could sell our marriage down the river. In one unguarded moment, we could do something in business that would ruin our reputation for all of the rest of our career. In one unguarded moment, we could watch as our children usher themselves into great chaos. Therefore, it is not superficial, arm’s-length instruction; it is imperative. Guardedness.

And here’s the thing: I am at my most vulnerable when I am unaware of how vulnerable I really am. The people who scare me most are the people who say, “It’ll never happen to me.” That’s what I told my mother about my friend’s motor bike when I borrowed it for a month, when she said, “You’ll fall off that thing,” and I said, “It’ll never happen to me!” And I fell off it in front of all of my friends, and I had a dreadful job explaining to my mother. And, of course, she said, “Why do you think I warned you?”

First Corinthians 10:12 deals with the issue of presumption in relationship to guardedness. “If you think you’re standing,” says Paul, “if you think you’re not in need of this guardedness, you’re actually in more need of it than anybody else.”[3] First Corinthians 10:12: “So, if you think you[’re] standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” “Be on your guard.”

I am at my most vulnerable when I am unaware of how vulnerable I really am.

The elders are to be on their guard as well. In Acts 20:31, as Paul gives instruction to the Ephesian elders, and he tells them, he says, “After I leave, there will be wolves that appear from among your very selves. They will draw men after them. They will distort the truth. Therefore, my advice to the leaders of the church at Ephesus is that you would be on your guard.”[4]

“Stand Firm in the Faith”

Secondly, that we would be standing firm: “Be on your guard; stand firm.” And he qualifies it, he modifies it, with the phrase “in the faith.” “Stand firm in the faith”—the nature and necessity of Christian stability.

Incidentally, that little phrase “in the faith” not only modifies “stand firm,” but I think it is the key to all the other statements. “Be on your guard” in terms of the faith and living out the faith. “Stand firm.” Be courageous re: the faith. “Be strong” re: faith.

You see, the issue was that men and women in the time to which Paul was writing to the Corinthians were facing all kinds of false teachers. They were seeking to distort the truth, they were seeking to dilute the truth, and Paul knew that they must have a solid grasp of the Bible, a solid grasp of the faith, if they’re going to be able to take their stand upon it. “Stand firm in the faith.”

When he writes to the Philippian church, his concern is the same. You can turn to it in Philippians 1:27. The church at Philippi was receiving his letter from the jail in Rome, and he writes to them. He doesn’t know if he’s going to be able to come and see them or if he’s not. And he says to them, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.” Standing firm. Standing firm.

Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego were three young men with the world at their feet.[5] Sure, they were away from home. Sure, they were in a foreign land. Sure, they were in a context that wasn’t ideal. But Daniel, their friend, had put them in a solid position, and life was going along really nice for them—that was, until Nebuchadnezzar came up with the bright idea of building a ninety-foot monument, real high, nine foot wide, overlaying it with gold, and compelling everyone in his kingdom to bow down and worship the idol. Nobody really knew what the idol was. Nobody knew for what it stood. Indeed, in late twentieth-century terms, it was a perfect kind of icon, insofar as it stood for whatever you wanted it to stand for. They weren’t asked to give up their Judaism. They weren’t asked to renege on their faith. They were simply asked to bow down before the big ninety-foot statue.

Now, what could be the problem there? “You can still believe all you want to believe, just bow down at my statue.” And Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, “We won’t bend.” And Nebuchadnezzar said, “But you’ll burn.” And Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego said, “We’ll see about that.” And Nebuchadnezzar got annoyed, and he heated the furnace seven times hotter than it normally was, and they could get it somewhere between seven hundred and a thousand degrees centigrade. They got it cooking—cooking so much that the chaps who opened the door to throw them in, they got totally and instantaneously fried.

And Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego, for the sake of bowing down before a ninety-foot, nameless, unidentifiable object, walked into the furnace. And Nebuchadnezzar had put them in, saying, “And which god will be able to save you then?”[6] And they walked into the furnace because it says in the Bible, “You shall not make for yourselves any graven image of any graven thing, and you shall not bow down and worship them.”[7] And they said, “God said it. That settles it. If we have to burn, we’ll burn.” They were men of absolute firmness.

And when they looked in from outside, said Nebuchadnezzar to his aides, “I see a fourth man walking with them in the furnace who looks to be as like unto a son of man.”[8] I believe that was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. Three men who stood firm and found the presence of Jesus.

Let’s make no mistake: the time is coming and has now come when we are being asked to bow down to all kinds of idols and worship at all kinds of shrines. No one’s actually concerned that we would have convictions about Christ or about the Bible. We’re allowed to hold to that; just bow down. And only those who are firm in the faith will know enough to stand against the foe.

You see, what do you say when somebody says, “The issues of Christian doctrine are divisive. If we would only focus more on Christian love, then we could all unite with one another, and we could put aside all of these extraneous differences, and we would all be fine on the basis of love.” Now, if you find yourself responding to that by saying, “That sounds like a perfectly good idea to me,” and there’s no cautionary flag goes up in your mind, then I want you to know that we’ve still got a lot more work to do with you in teaching you how to stand firm in the faith. Because the answer to that assertion is this: “My dear friend, the basis of our unity is Christian doctrine. We do not set it aside in order to unite. We unite on the basis of the truth it conveys.” And we do so, as we will see, in a spirit of love.

When Paul was concerned for Timothy, his young lieutenant in the faith—concerned that he would be able to grasp and hold to these things—he says to him in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of the faith.” “Fight the good fight of the faith.” Back in 1 Corinthians, in 15:1, he says, “Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you [have] received and on which you have taken your stand.” And Jude in his one chapter, verse 3: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” There is a great need for us not only to be those who are on guard but to be those who are standing firm.

“Be Men of Courage; Be Strong”

Now, thirdly, he says, “You should be men of courage.” This is a call not, now, to stability but to maturity—to Christian maturity. His readers he had previously addressed in chapter 3 as those who were just babies; he says, “I wish that I could address you as spiritual, but I can’t. I can only address you as infants in Christ. I wish I could give you a proper meal. I can’t. I can only give you bottled milk. The reason I have to give you bottled milk is because you’re still immature. You’re worldly.” He said, “I’ll show you how you’re worldly: you’re always arguing with one another about who Apollos is and who Paul is and who Peter is.” He said, “If you were able to grow up, then you’d be able to get good food.”[9]

Every parent wants their children to grow up. It’d be a sad and sorry thing to see a seventeen-year-old boy sitting in here sucking on a bottle of milk out of one of those teats. You’d say, “Goodness, there’s something sadly wrong with that chap,” and there would be concern all around on the basis of it. You don’t expect a boy to be walking around doing that. No, no. Those were for the infant days. We want to see him grow to maturity. We want to see him able to take the good food and to discriminate between that and the bad food, and to get a proper diet, and to grow healthy, and to grow strong, and to grow to be mature, to be a man.

The Word of God, if it is to have impact in our lives, is not simply the Word understood, but it is the Word applied.

And that is the picture here. It is a call to Christian manliness. Indeed, the King James Version reads, “Quit you like men.” The reason it reads that way is because it is one word in Greek: andrízesthe. And there is no feminine equivalent, for those of you who get your feminine antennae going up in these moments. Why would it say, “Quit you like men”? Very simply, because men are supposed to be courageous. Say, “Well, you should meet my husband.” Well, I’d be glad to meet your husband. “The last time the burglar alarm went off, he sent me down the stairs first,” says the wife. Okay, so you’re married to a wimp. That’s fine. That’s a problem. We can address that in another case. Or the last time you couldn’t get the top off the marmalade and he couldn’t he gave it to you, and you popped it right off! So, okay, so he’s weak and a wimp. That’s a problem. We’ll deal with that in another context. But the way that God has designed things is that men are supposed to be strong and women are supposed to be feminine. And that’s why he says, “Be manly!” He’s talking about a style. He’s talking about a maturity. And he wants women, in spiritual terms, and children, in spiritual terms, to bring this dimension to bear upon their Christian experience.

And let’s cut through it: we all understand the distinction, we all believe the distinction, and anyone who plays golf and leaves a putt short whose name begins with A—especially if you have a name like Alistair—you leave a putt short, what does somebody say? “Nice putt, Alice.” All right? That’s what they always say: “Nice putt, Alice.” Now, you ladies may not know this ’cause you haven’t played mixed foursome, but that’s what they always say. And I’ve heard it a lot! And I know what they’re saying: “You’re too weak to get the ball to the hole, ya clown!”

Now, that may be very unkind to ladies, and I think it probably is. But that’s the picture. There is supposed to be a manliness, a bravery, an unflinching courage. Christian manliness is a great virtue. And men as men are supposed to be examples to the church, “men of courage.” “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord,” says the psalmist—Psalm 31:24.

How, then, are we going to grow to this level of maturity and courage in our Christian lives? Again, we come back to the place and priority of the Word of God. “As newborn babes, desire the [pure] milk of the word,” says Peter in 1 Peter 2, “that [you] may grow thereby.”[10] That is why God has given pastors and teachers to the church, says Paul in Ephesians 4: so that they may edify the saints by the teaching of the Bible, so that they may grow to maturity, so that in maturity, they may not be blown around by every wind of doctrine.[11] We don’t want our Christians to be little waifs that can be blown here and there. We want them to grow strong and courageous.

And that is why the Word of God, if it is to have impact in our lives, is not simply the Word understood, but it is the Word applied. First Peter 2: the priority of taking in the Word. Ephesians 4: the priority of proclaiming the Word. James 1:22: the priority of seeing the Word applied. “Do not be merely hearers of the word,” he says, “but be doers of the word.”[12] Don’t simply read the manuals; do the exercises. And some of us are in danger of thinking that another manual will do the job, when in point of fact, the first manual, if we’d done the exercise, would have already dealt with the situation—people running here and there and everywhere for another manual, as if the manual would make the change. It is our response to the instruction of the manual which makes it possible for progress in our lives.

Fourthly, we are to “be strong.” To “be strong.” There’s a kind of military metaphor that runs through all of this I think you can pick up—this idea of strength and conviction and courage and guardedness and firmness. “Be strong.”

“All Things through Christ”

Now, I don’t know about you, but as I read these imperatives, I find myself saying, “How? How? How am I to do this?” “Be on your guard.” Okay. “Stand firm in the faith.” Fine. “Be [a man] of courage.” Fine. “Be strong.” How am I going to be strong? Where does my strength come from? Isn’t that the question of the psalmist in Psalm 121? “I … lift … [my] eyes [to] the hills, from whence cometh my [aid]. My help cometh from the Lord, [who] made heaven and earth.”[13]

You see, it is a chronicle of despair simply to be told to be strong. You can go into a weight room and look at these huge big things, as we’ve mentioned before, and you can say to yourself, “Now, I will be strong.” And you can try and pick the thing up. You can crush your toes with it. You can break the floor, whatever. Because just simply endeavoring to be strong doesn’t make you strong.

Well, what does Paul have in mind? Well, I think the key to it is Philippians 4:13, where Paul says there, to the Philippian believers, “I can do [all things] through [Christ] who gives me strength.” He’s talking there about contentedness in plenty or in want. He says, “It is actually possible to live a contented life.” “Well,” says somebody, “I’m not sure how it’s possible to do that.” “Well,” he says, “I can do all things through Christ who makes me strong.”

Elsewhere in his Corinthian letters, he says, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”[14] “I delight in my weaknesses,” he says, “so that God’s power and glory may rest upon me.”[15] The same picture that you have in Isaiah chapter 40: “They that wait upon the Lord [will] renew their strength; they [will] mount up with wings as eagles; they [will] run, and not be weary; and they [will] walk, and [they will] not faint.”[16]

Some of us have come to a morning like this the very opposite of guardedness, firmness, courage, and strength. We’ve come to an end of ourselves in relationship to these things. We’re buffeted to and fro by the winds that are blowing around us. We’re dreadfully susceptible to temptation. We find that we’re easily moved off our course. As soon as the turbulence gets bad around us, we find it very, very difficult to hold our wings on an even scope. And here is the great promise of God’s Word: that they that wait upon him will renew their strength.

That’s why Paul, when he prays for the Colossians in chapter 1, he says, “[I pray that you will be] strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”[17] The influx of the power of God may not reveal itself in dramatic displays of effectiveness, but it would be enough for some of us to discover endurance and patience in a new way.

George Matheson captures this very, very well in his great hymn “Make Me a Captive, Lord.” And in the third verse, he puts it like this:

My power is faint and low
Till I have learned to serve;
It [wants] the needed fire to glow,
It [wants] the breeze to nerve.
It cannot drive the world
Until itself be driven;
Its flag can only be unfurled
When thou shalt breathe from heaven.[18]

You can stand underneath your flagpole, and look up at it as it hangs limp down the side of the pole and exhort it: “Flap!” you can say to it. Hopefully there’s no one around watching you or hearing you, because they’ll know that you’re decidedly weird. Because by simply exhorting the flag, it will not flap in the breeze. Only when the wind blows.

Don’t you sense a need in your life for God to come and blow the wind of his Spirit in you and through you—to create that kind of courage, to put you on your guard, to stand firm, to make you strong?

“Do Everything in Love”

And then, finally, in verse 14, he says, “Now, I want you to make sure that you do everything in love.” I don’t think this is so much a fifth imperative—although it is—as it is the very seasoning in which all of the other ingredients are cooked, if you like (to use a metaphor from the kitchen, which is dangerous).

You see, I think Paul understands that it is possible for us to be guarded, firm, courageous, strong, and for all of this to produce itself in a kind of cold and metallic and refrigerated and unapproachable way—very military-like, you know, very strong, very guarded: “We are the contenders of the faith. We know it. We’ve got it. We’re right. Everyone else is wrong. Stand up here and listen.” Paul, recognizing that, says, “By the way, just in case any of you were tempted to go down that road, here’s the little important part: do everything in love.” In love. In love!

One of the phrases I’ve learned in twelve years, now, living in this country is “May I have it on the side, please?” I remember the first time I heard that, I didn’t know what in the world the person was talking about. Said with the salad dressing, you know… There’s only one kind of salad dressing in Britain anyway, so that’s the first thing: you get, “Well, what kind do you have?” “Well, we have the thing and the thing and thing,” and then ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. Takes about twenty minutes, and then the person says after all that, “Oh, could I have it on the side?” And the person says, “Yes, certainly. On the side. Fine.”

Here’s the deal: you can’t have love on the side. It’s supposed to permeate everything. So when I’m courageous: in love. When I’m firm: in love. When I’m strong: in love. When I’m on guard: in love. It’s got to be through the whole mixture. And sometimes, when we ask the question, “Is it possible to have that on the side?” the answer is, “No, it is prepared in that.” That’s the problem with that garlic bread stuff. I mean, if you could pick it off or something, that’d be one thing, but it’s pervasive! The thing is everywhere! You can’t even touch the stuff. It gets you.

We had a great illustration of it ten days ago, when my wife and I and our children were invited to the home of an African friend who made us an Indian curry. It was a very interesting event—a guy speaking with a Zimbabwean accent making an Indian curry. And he made a great curry! I wasn’t far into it when I realized that whatever this powder is, this is powerful stuff. And this wasn’t on the side. This was everywhere! It didn’t just flavor the ingredients; it permeated the room. And within a very short period of time, it was coming out of me. Literally coming out of me! I used to laugh at my father for this, with his little baldie head, and he used to wipe it with a hanky like this. I used to say to myself, “Why does he do that?” It’s because it was coming out of him! Well, it started to come out of me. “I could see my father in me. I guess that’s how it’s meant to be.”[19] Okay? And so I’m rubbing my head, and it’s coming out my wrists and everywhere! And later in the day, I was waiting on people coming up to me and going, “Have you been over at Andrew’s house?” Said, “Yeah. How do you know?” Said, “The curry! The curry!”

This is it. Love is the curry powder of Christian experience. You’re not supposed to have to go looking for it amongst the people of God with a thundering great magnifying glass: “Excuse me, looking for love in the Christian family. Oh, there’s some!” No! It’s supposed be you come in the door, and the whole place is just pervaded with it.

You can’t have love on the side. It’s supposed to permeate everything.

It’s a challenge, isn’t it? “Do everything in love.” And that is so important when you think about the idea of standing for the faith, being courageous, being strong—in love.

You see, if it is truth which prevents our love from degenerating into some kind of soppy sentimentalism, it is love which prevents our truth from sliding into a rigid dogmatism. And again, the Scriptures are perfectly clear and perfectly balanced.

First Corinthians 16:13–14, Paul calls the church in Corinth and calls the church here in Cleveland to stability, to maturity, and to charity. And I say in conclusion, along with the apostle Peter: I intend always to remind you of these things so that after my departure you will be able to bring them to mind.[20]

Let us pray:

Our gracious God and loving Father, we thank you that we have the Bible to turn to in a day of confusion, in a day of instability, in a day of great change. We ask that you will write your Word in the life of our church and in our individual lives and homes today; that you will replace our sleepiness and dreaminess with being guarded; that, Lord, you will take our weakness and replace it with your strength, our fear and replace it with your courage, our immaturity and replace it with your maturity. And when we’re tempted, Lord, to exalt ourselves, to become proud, self-seeking, the very opposite of what it means to love, we pray that you would bring us down to where we need to be and then fill us afresh with the love of the Lord Jesus so that we may be able to say to one another,

I love you with the love of the Lord,
Yes, I love you with the love of the Lord,
For I can see in you Jesus,
And I love you with the love of the Lord.[21]

Grant that our church may increasingly become that biblically balanced place between holding fast to the truth and doing everything in love to the glory of your name.

And now may the Lord bless us and keep us. May the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us. May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us his peace, today and forevermore. Amen.

[1] R. Hudson Pope, “Make the Book Live to Me” (1943).

[2] Luke 18:1 (KJV).

[3] 1 Corinthians 10:12 (paraphrased).

[4] Acts 20:29–31 (paraphrased).

[5] See Daniel 3:1–25.

[6] Daniel 3:15 (paraphrased).

[7] Exodus 20:4–5 (paraphrased).

[8] Daniel 3:25 (paraphrased).

[9] 1 Corinthians 3:1–4 (paraphrased).

[10] 1 Peter 2:2 (KJV).

[11] See Ephesians 4:11–14.

[12] James 1:22 (paraphrased).

[13] Psalm 121:1–2 (KJV).

[14] 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV 1984).

[15] 2 Corinthians 12:9 (paraphrased).

[16] Isaiah 40:31 (KJV).

[17] Colossians 1:11 (NIV 1984).

[18] George Matheson, “Make Me a Captive, Lord” (1890).

[19] Paul Overstreet, “Seein’ My Father in Me” (1989). Lyrics lightly altered.

[20] See 2 Peter 1:15.

[21] Jim Gilbert, “I Love You with the Love of the Lord” (1977). Lyrics lightly altered.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.