Summary: The Faith which Paul taught is the Faith that is needed for Christianity to thrive in our day. That Faith is nothing less than muscular Christianity.
Christianity has been feminised in our day. I don’t mean that men are unwelcome among the churches or that there is overt feminist anger toward men. What I do mean is that acting manly—accepting responsibility to provide guidance and to build up the penitent, maintaining vigilance while standing firm against wickedness (incipient and blatant), performing difficult tasks without grumbling, protecting the vulnerable and the marginalised—is penalised. Personal comfort is of greater importance to contemporary saints than is personal integrity. Ease of life is to be sought rather than fidelity to the Word among modern Christians.
The pulpit is seemingly unwilling to address the emasculated, enfeebled and enervated condition of contemporary Christianity. Contemporary preaching is anaemic, flaccid, insipid. Someone has said, quite accurately, I fear, that modern churches demand that their preachers prepare sermonettes for Christianettes—a recitation of pious platitudes that offends no one and threatens only vague phantoms incapable of materialising. Tragically, the modern sermon may best be described as a bland individual reciting bland statements blandly urging bland parishioners to be more bland.
During the past five decades we witnessed churches making a concerted effort to make the Faith friendly to women; however, those efforts have had the effect of marginalising men by penalising them for being manly. Consequently, the Christian Faith is suffering a deficit of godly manliness. When we take seriously the New Testament, we are confronted with a virile Faith that is rejected by most churchgoers today. The demands of the New Testament are too great to be welcomed by the banal and bored occupants of the modern pew.
What is lacking, and what is desperately required if the churches of this day will again reflect the dynamic faith found among apostolic saints, is a return to manly Christianity. Such faith is revealed through the encouragement provided in the writings of the New Testament writers. One such place is found in the concluding remarks the Apostle to the Gentiles penned to the troubled and troublesome congregation of the Corinthians. There, Paul commanded the believers, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
THE URGENCY OF THE COMMANDS — We are prone to forget that this is a letter to problematic Christians. Only centuries after he had written the letter was it divided into chapters and verses. I bring up that issue because Paul is speaking about the resurrection. Then, without pausing he speaks of the giving anticipated as a mark of the worship of believers. Just as precipitously, he speaks of his immediate plans for service and provides some general instructions concerning his co-workers. Then, without hesitation, he issues the commands that are our focus in this message.
What should be apparent when reading the final chapters of this book is the urgency characterising the Apostle’s words—an urgency that is absent from much of the preaching in this day. Whereas much of the preaching in this day sounds almost academic, Paul’s words are energised with earnestness that reveals a singular desire that Christians should excel in godliness. This intensity is seen throughout all of his letters to the saints. Consider but a few examples.
In a later missive to this same congregation, the Apostle speaks of his intense desire for the believers to excel in godliness and righteousness. “I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ” [2 CORINTHIANS 11:2]. Such language reveals the passion of the Apostle’s heart, and humbles contemporary preachers as we are compelled to confess the deficit of passion for God’s glory in our own service.
The Apostle was not, as so often is the case in this day, a preacher content to say, “Repent, after a fashion, and believe, such as it were, or be damned in a measure.” To the Ephesian elders he could state without fear of contradiction, “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house-to-house, testifying both to Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Shortly after making this declaration, he boldly stated, “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” [ACTS 20:20, 21, 26, 27]. This is bold preaching, unlike some who imply to church bosses, “Tell me what you want to hear and I’ll say it!” Frankly, the Apostle would not be welcome in many of our churches because his message would appear so demanding. There would be no comfortable pew so long as Paul was preaching.
Listen to other places where the Apostle speaks passionately of his concern for the people of God. “The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away” [1 CORINTHIANS 7:29-31].