Summary: Five reasons why the church will endure according to the sovereign grace of God.
"Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity."
Why does the church of God endure? You would quickly and rightly say that God does this, but what means does He normally utilize for this work? I was the pastor of a church in Mississippi which celebrated its 150th year during my tenure there. What caused that church to endure? What will keep and persevere this church for another 150 years, should our Lord tarry so long in His return? What makes a church endure as a true church?
The satanically deceived world has many answers to that question. Its adherents have written many books about what it takes to make the church grow and prosper, but these worldly means will make a church prosper by worldly standards only.
The world gives the church all kinds of advice. It says, ... maybe you ought to have Colonel Sanders come in and give away some chicken, that ought to pack them in the pews. Or it says, Hey, you could have bingo games to raise money. Oh, yes, it is gambling, but that is OK if the profits go for a worthy cause. It says, Hey, just go with the flow on social and moral issues, do not get all worked up about abortion or homosexual marriages ... why bother? It just does not sell; it will not be popular.
Satan and the world will whisper, Look here preacher, all that doctrinal stuff is just too difficult. Nobody understands that stuff ... nobody wants to hear all that stuff any more. Just make them feel all warm and fuzzy when they come to church and they will keep coming back. Whatever you do, do not preach about sin and the spiritual death that derives from it. Just say that we all make little mistakes which will be completely overlooked with a gentle wink and a nudge by a tolerant and sentimental god. Why, nobody is going to hell ... what a ridiculous concept.
Many have sold out to these worldly ideas, and whole denominations have become as worldly as the world itself.
In the real church, we must act differently for our duty is different, and the instructions to us are much different from what the world teaches. As Paul instructs Timothy in 2.Tim.4:1ff, so God Himself instructs us.
1I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
Now it does not matter what denominational label you wear today. I do not care if you call yourself Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Independent, or whatever; this applies to you and it applies to your church, and it applies especially to those who lead and teach in your congregation.
Paul does not say that we are to preach tolerance and sentimentality, we are to preach the Word of God, indeed, even the whole counsel of God. He says that this Word is to be preached both in season and out of season, that is, whether it is a popular thing to do and people want to hear it, or not; it does not matter, he says preach the Word regardless.
He tells us that many will not receive the Word but rather they will seek out teachers who will simply tell them what they want to hear, telling them fables instead of truth. Sadly, this is descriptive of so many religious institutions today, but the true church is different.
Paul exhorts the Church at Corinth, and so exhorts us. 13Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. 14Let all your things be done with charity.
Notice that there are five commands given by the Apostle here:
Stand fast in the faith
Quit you like men
Do all in charity (i.e., agape love, Godly love)
Today, I want us to examine together these five commands, and I want us to attempt to understand just exactly what Paul is saying both to the Church at Corinth and to the Church at Harrisonburg or to the church wherever it exists today.
First, we are told to watch, indeed, to watch ourselves. That is what Paul means here when he says watch ye; this is the sense of his teaching here. Christians, he says, watch yourselves! ... why? Watch yourselves to insure that you do not fall into sin which weakens us spiritually, and damages our testimony and our witness for our Lord.