Be Strong in the Lord

I don’t often write on the theme of this blog, standing for the truth, even though it is often implied. My main goal in writing is to lift up the name of Jesus and point readers to His saving power. It is my conviction that the more compelled and astonished we are by the beauty, glory, and power of Christ, the more compelled we will be to stand for the truth of Christ.

After recently reading through Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and the Philippians, I couldn’t help but notice how often he encourages them to “stand” for truth. Those two young churches faced a constant onslaught of persecution and pressure, just like all of the early churches, and Paul knew they needed to be encouraged in this way. He knew they needed to stand their ground, lest the enemy gain a foothold.

In his well-known passage on the armor of God, Paul writes:

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

In case you didn’t notice, after being instructed to “be strong in the Lord”, Paul told the Ephesians Christians to “stand” (verse 11), “withstand” (verse 13), “stand firm” (also verse 13), and “stand therefore” (verse 14). He then proceeds to list the pieces of armor that are needed to “stand against the schemes of the devil.” Noticeably, the list only includes one weapon, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Thus, it is clear that the battle is more about defense then it is about offence. It can even be argued that there is a defensive component to the sword of the Spirit. When Jesus was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11), he always quoted Scripture in response to the devil.

After finishing up Ephesians, the next day I found myself reading in Philippians, the book that chronologically follows Ephesians (I am working through a one-year bible reading plan). Here is what Paul said towards the end of chapter 1:

27Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28and not frightened in anything by your opponents.”

Paul’s desire for these believers is that they might be found “standing firm in one spirit.” He wanted them to be united around the truth of the gospel and then to stand firm on that foundation. There is no need to go on the offensive for Christ because the simple preaching of the gospel is offensive enough to those who are enemies of the cross. The early church was constantly under attack because they preached the gospel – they spoke of the person and work of Jesus Christ and His power to save. So Paul told them in verse 28 not to be frightened by their opponents. Rather, like we already read in Ephesians, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

There is no question that we live in a different context than the early church. Two thousand years have brought a lot of changes our way, but the gospel will never cease to be offensive to the unregenerate. Today, we see the Word of God under attack like never before, and that is not going to change anytime soon. What must we do? I love 1 Corinthians 16:13 where Paul says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” We can either “stand firm” or get run over.

The solution is not to dumb-down the message and try to appease those who are enemies of the gospel. The solution is to trust in the power of Christ, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, to save sinful men and women. We will always face the temptation to give up ground to those who fight against the gospel, but the bible is clear – stand firm. One day, Christ will reign over all the earth, but until that day, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

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