Spiritual Alertness

“Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, live like men, be strong! Let everything that you do be done in love.” —I Corinthians 16:13,14, Phillips

JESUS informed his disciples that in the world they would have tribulation. (John 16:33) The Apostle Peter wrote, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Pet. 5:8) Paul wrote, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members [my flesh], warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of the death?”—Rom. 7:22-24

In these statements by Jesus, Peter, and Paul we are reminded of the three formidable enemies which war against us as new creatures in Christ Jesus. These work in collusion, and constantly, in their effort to draw us away from the Lord and from our covenant of sacrifice. They do it by every means possible. One of Satan’s effective weapons is fear. It is this that is suggested in Peter’s statement that the Devil goeth about as “a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” The roar of the lion in stalking its prey is designed to instill fear in the intended victim, and thereby to more or less paralyze it, thus rendering it unable to resist attack.

The world’s chief method of attack is in the form of allurement. We are in the world, but not of it. Our affections are set on things above, but as we move about in the world we are constantly confronted with its supposed attractions, and our fleshly minds are quick to emphasize that it would be much better to enjoy these good things of the world now than to sacrifice everything in the hope of gaining what it considers uncertain “treasures in heaven.” And without doubt Satan is always on hand to support this false reasoning of the flesh, and to convince us that after all it is not wise to sacrifice all present advantages and pleasures; that the Lord would be just as pleased with us if we joined in with some of the world’s activities.

How appropriate, then, is Paul’s admonition, “Be on your guard, stand fast in the faith.” Standing fast in the faith is what keeps us on guard against the wiles of the Devil, the allurements of the world, and the temptations of the flesh. The word “faith” is used in the Bible in two ways. It is used to describe our belief and confidence in the Lord and in his promises, and it is also used to denote the doctrines of the truth which the Bible refers to as our “most holy faith.” We need to stand fast in the faith in both these respects in order at all times to “be on guard” against those forces which would destroy us as new creatures.

The “Most Holy Faith”

Jude wrote, “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.” (Jude 20) What is our most holy faith? It is the system of doctrines which outline the divine plan of the ages; those teachings, every one of which can be established directly by the Word of God. The first of these is the creation of man in the image of God, and the divine purpose in his creation. How clearly the Bible establishes the fact that man was created an earthly being, and designed by God to live on the earth, and to have dominion over it!

For man to have continued living it was essential that he obey divine law. The Scriptures reveal that man disobeyed his Creator’s law, and was sentenced to death in keeping with the warning which had been given to him: “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) Four thousand years later the Apostle Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) This could not be made plainer. However, by distorting the meaning of words many contend that the wages of sin is eternal torture. But in doing this they are not contending for the true faith of the Bible, but for the traditions of men. No truth of the divine plan can be established by traditions.

Paul added to his statement concerning death that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) Thus is expressed the real hope of eternal life that is set forth in the Word of God. It is that hope which is based upon the redemptive work of Christ Jesus. The whole human race has been dying in Adam: “As in Adam all die.” And all are released from the adamic death through Christ and will be given an opportunity to regain eternal life—“Even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Cor. 15:21,22) How clearly is the hope of eternal life thus set forth in the Word of God!

A Heavenly Hope

In the divine plan for restoring fallen man to life on the earth provision was made to call from mankind “a little flock” to be associated with Jesus in the future work of restoration. The work of selecting these began with the first advent of Jesus. In telling his disciples that he would leave them for a time, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go … I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”—John 14:3

This is one of the many statements in the Bible which form the basis for the heavenly hope of the faithful followers of Jesus. By many it is misunderstood and misapplied as meaning that God’s plan is to transfer all mankind to a heavenly abode, at least as many as can be converted to belief in Christ. This erroneous viewpoint has had the effect of blinding its adherents to God’s real plan for man, which is that he is to be restored to perfect human life and live on the earth forever; whereas Jesus’ promise to prepare a place for his devoted followers, and to return and receive them unto himself is limited to these alone, and they are to be associated with him in his promised kingdom of blessing.

First and Second Advents

In the great plan of God, which is our “most holy faith,” are the two advents of Christ—his first and his second. How clear and to the point are the prophecies which foretold his first advent, and the work he was to accomplish in giving his life for the sins of the world. Many are the prophecies which had a definite fulfillment in the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And how clearly the Scriptures established the nature of his coming and presence at that time—that he would be made flesh and dwell among humans, and at the end give his flesh, his humanity, for the life of the world.

And then there are those many texts of Scripture which inform us concerning Jesus’ resurrection, and of the fact that at that time he was highly exalted to the divine nature and given a position at the right hand of the throne of God. How clearly the Scriptures teach that it was this highly exalted Jesus—the Jesus who had given his flesh for the life of the world—that was to return and be present as “a thief in the night.” Yes, it is the Jesus who said following his resurrection that “all power” had been given to him in heaven and in earth, who in the divine plan returns to earth to gather his followers unto himself in the “first resurrection,” establish his long-promised kingdom, and bless “all families of the earth” by restoring them to life and giving them an opportunity to live forever in a perfected earth.

The Scriptures reveal that in the early years of Christ’s second presence there would be “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1) Jesus himself, referring to this prophecy, explained that the trouble, or “tribulation” upon the nations, would be so severe that unless those days were “shortened” no flesh would survive. (Matt. 24:21,22) There is nothing mysterious about this language, and without doubt mankind is now passing through this very tribulation, for as we all know, the very existence of the human race is threatened, as Jesus said it would be. Thus we have this clear and positive evidence that we are even now living in the early period of our Lord’s second presence, and this becomes a very vital part of our “most holy faith.”

The Harvest

The Scriptures also reveal that those who were “alive and remain” when the Lord returned would, through the proclamation of “the Gospel of the kingdom” participate in a foretold work of harvest which, when completed, would find the “wheat” separated from the “tares,” the tares destroyed, and the wheat exalted to “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matt. 13:24-30,36-43) This harvest work has been clearly discernible for many years, and is another evidence that Jesus, as the Chief Reaper, is present, preparing for the establishment of his kingdom.

And how wonderful is the promise that ultimately the wheat, “the children of the kingdom,” will “shine forth as the sun” in the millennial kingdom of the Master. Malachi 4:2 speaks of the exalted Jesus as the “Sun of Righteousness” who will then, through the healing rays of his “wings,” heal and thus bless all nations; and how wonderful it is to know that if faithful we will have the opportunity of sharing with him in this work of restoring mankind to health and life. How precious indeed is this aspect of the most holy faith!

Another facet of the divine plan is the scriptural fact that all those who do not obey the laws of the messianic kingdom will not be permitted to continue living. The Bible is definite that those who do not obey “will be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:23) It is this that is referred to in Revelation 20:14,15 as “the second death.” Without this aspect of the divine plan, the earth would continue to be plagued by those in rebellion against God. We rejoice that the Creator, in his wisdom and justice, has guarded against this possibility.

“Live Like Men”

In being alert to the spiritual dangers with which we are surrounded, and in standing fast in the faith once delivered to the saints, Paul says that we should “live like men.” We might properly think of the emphasis here as the contrast between men, the mature, and children, the immature. Paul furnishes us with a good lesson on this point in Ephesians 4:11-16. He reminds us of God’s provision for building us up in the faith; that it is through the prophets and apostles, and their various helpers—evangelists, pastors and teachers—and explains that these are “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

To this Paul adds, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

It is as we mature in the faith that we grow out of the “children” stage, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. It is the immature who seem unable to stand fast in the faith, and are tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness on the part of Satan, who lies in wait to deceive. How important, indeed, that we live like men, realizing the responsibility we have of taking earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.—Heb. 2:1

One of the evidences of maturity, of being “men” in the truth, is the interest we take in those of like precious faith. When difficulties arise among the brethren—and they do now, even as was true in the days of the apostles—the immature often advocate separating from those with whom they do not agree. In most cases this is a childish viewpoint. Paul, speaking of the maturing “body” of Christ, of which he is the Head, emphasizes that this body is “joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, making increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

The body, Paul reminds us, is held together by that which every joint supplieth. This is a somewhat different illustration from the one given by Paul in I Corinthians 12, where he likens the various members of the natural body to the diversified membership in the body of Christ. Here Paul is illustrating the various and different functioning of those in the body of Christ by the varying functions of the different members of the natural body. But in Ephesians 4:16, where Paul speaks of the “joints” of the body he is illustrating a different point; namely, the manner by which the body is held together. Actually, in keeping with this illustration, we should all function as joints, for it is the joints in the body which hold it together. It is when we live like men that we will function in this wonderful and loving manner. If, like the joints in the natural body, we are using our influence and strength to hold together our fellow members in the body of Christ, we are indeed living like mature men in Christ, and not like children, or “babes.”

Strong in the Lord

In our text Paul admonishes us to be strong. This means to be strong in the Lord, for we must all realize how weak we are in ourselves, and how much we lack the necessary strength and courage to be on guard against the wiles of the Devil, and to stand fast in the faith once delivered unto the saints. And God has made very necessary provision to give us strength. He has not given us the spirit of fear, but the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.—II Tim. 1:7

God has provided us with the armor of truth to protect us against “the wiles of the Devil.” (Eph. 6:11) Paul continues, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”—Eph. 6:13-18

In Love

In the final admonition of our text, Paul says, “Let everything be done in love”; that is, with a spirit of kindness and unselfishness. This is in keeping with Paul’s explanation in I Corinthians 13, where he emphasizes that without the motive of love all our efforts as followers of the Master would be in vain. In this admonition Paul says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.”—I Cor. 13:1,2

We could as truthfully say that without love our efforts to be on guard against our enemies, the world, the flesh, and the Devil, would be in vain. Likewise, we must be motivated by love in order to stand firm in the faith, and to live like men. Indeed, as our text declares, everything we do as followers of the Master must be done in love, otherwise our entire Christian effort would be in vain.

We have called attention to some of the fundamentals of our most holy faith—those fundamentals upon which the Lord’s people generally agree. But there are minor points of interpretation and application, especially with respect to the times in which we are living, where freedom of expression should be granted. Those who live like men have no difficulty in granting this freedom, and these mature ones are able to do this, because they are endeavoring to do everything in the spirit of love and understanding, and with the desire to be joints in the body of Christ which hold the various members together like a sweet tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.

The King James Version of our text used the word “watch” instead of “alert” as in the translation we have used. This is a good word also. We are indeed to be watchful Christians, always on the alert to detect any efforts of our enemies—the world, the flesh, and the Devil—to destroy us as new creatures. This watchfulness should include being on the alert to do what we can to help our brethren.

With all doing this, we stand together to support one another as we give battle against those forces which would separate us from the love of God. We are to remember, as Paul explains, that “love seeketh not her own,” and therefore if we are doing everything in love it means that many times we will have opportunities to forego our own preferences in given situations so that the general interests of all the brethren might be the better served. This is the true Christian way. This is the way of love; this is how we live like men, and together stand for the faith of the Gospel.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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