************ Sermon on 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on June 7, 2015

1 Corinthians 16:5-24
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
"Stand Firm in the Faith, Do Everything in Love"
25th Anniversary of Trinity United Reformed Church

Today, in our morning and evening worship services, we think about the past, rejoice in the present, and look forward to the future.

To celebrate 25 years of existence, in your mail-slots you will find our new picture directory and a bookmark for everyone in your home (HOLD THEM UP).

Not every church gets to celebrate a milestone like this. Last year, according to the Barna Research Group, at least 4,000 churches in the United Stated closed their doors. Included in that number is the Crystal Cathedral, the Orange County megachurch founded by Robert Schuller.

We can go further back in church history. Do you remember the seven churches of Asia Minor? The Apostle John wrote seven letters to the seven churches. Go to Asia Minor today. You won't find any of the churches still in existence.

Our theme this morning as we celebrate 25 years of existence is the words of Paul to the church at Corinth: "Stand firm in the faith ... do everything in love." You might have seen this theme on the back wall of our entrance way and it is on the cover of our bulletin this morning. This theme describes our past and our present and is also our challenge for the future.

I Stand Firm in the Faith
A "Stand firm in the faith," writes Paul to the church at Corinth.

What does it mean to stand firm? The same word is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament when Israel was stuck between the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them. The Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord. Moses told the people,
(Ex 14:13-14) "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. (14) The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."
"Stand firm." Don't be scared. Be still. Keep your place. Don't flee and run away.

The same word is used to describe a blind Samson as he stood between the two stone pillars of Dagon's temple. Remember what he did? He stood firm and pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived (Judges 16:29-30).

Earlier in his letter Paul said the Corinthians were mere infants in Christ (1 Cor 3:1). Paul did not mean this as a compliment. Because, as he told the Ephesians, those who are infants are
(Eph 4:14) ... tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Do you see the connection? Those who act like infants do not stand firm in the faith.

Stand firm. Be mature and stable. Don't waver. Don't waffle. Don't wander. Don't be tossed or blown back and forth. Be steadfast.

What Moses said to the Israelites, Paul says to the Corinthians. What was true for Samson is to be true for all Christians. We are all called to stand firm, to persevere, to be mature and stable.

B "Stand firm in the faith." Why does Paul say this? Because Satan constantly attacked the church and the ministry of Paul, Timothy, Peter, and Apollos. Paul's words apply to us as well because we also are constantly under attack. Because there are always false teachers trying to lead us astray, we must remain committed to the true faith. The enemy is always at hand, and we are never safe from attack. So, "stand firm in the faith."

Look at what we know about the Corinthian church. It was a church filled with division: some followed Paul, some Apollos, some Peter, some Christ (1 Cor 1 & 3). Some in the church preferred the wisdom of the world to the foolishness of the cross (1 Cor 1 & 2). The church tolerated sexual immorality (1 Cor 5 & 6). There were lawsuits among believers (1 Cor 6). They argued about the meaning of marriage (1 Cor 7). They caused weaker and newer Christians to stumble in the faith when they ate food sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 8). They sat in judgment on Paul and his ministry (1 Cor 9). They ate the bread and drank the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner (1 Cor 11). They esteemed the spectacular gifts of the Spirit and looked down upon those engaged in service (1 Cor 12 & 14). Their worship was disorderly and chaotic with all sorts of people speaking at the same time (1 Cor 14). They doubted the bodily resurrection of Christ and the believer (1 Cor 15).

The Corinthian Christians brought the world into the church. They accepted pagan ideas and practices. No wonder Paul told them to stand firm in the faith.

C "Stand firm in the faith." Let me emphasize that last phrase: "in the faith." I say that because people can stand firm about different things. Young couples can stand firm about the bedtime of their children; but, then, some older couples are equally firm about their bedtime. Children and adults can be firm about the things they won't eat.
A mother repeatedly told her little boy to sit down. The boy continued to stand, disobeying his mother. Finally, the mother went to him, and plopped him down in a chair. Fuming, the boy said, "I may be sitting down on the OUTSIDE, but I am standing on the INSIDE!"
None of this is what Paul has in mind.

"Stand firm in the faith." Paul describes this faith a little bit earlier in his letter:
(1 Cor 15:3-5) For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (5) and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
What is of first importance is faith in Jesus. It is faith centered on the cross and the grave. It is faith that focuses on the vicarious atonement of Christ: He is given our sin and our guilt and we are given His righteousness and His life.

This faith is further summarized for us in the APOSTLES' CREED. Let's stand and together recite its words. "I believe in God the Father almighty ..."
This, congregation, is the faith in which we have stood firm for the last 25 years. And, we hope and pray for the future that our children and grandchildren will continue to stand firm in this faith.

D "Stand firm in the faith." How do we do this? It is nothing magical or mysterious or secret. In fact, the first page of our new picture directory gives us the key (OPEN DIRECTORY). I open the cover and I see a picture through the back doors of our church in worship. I flip the page and I see more pictures of our church in worship. Worship is the key to standing firm in the faith. Because it is in worship that we hear the Word and participate in the sacraments.

I flip through a couple more pages and I see pictures of learning: Sunday School, Cadets, GEMS. All of these programs engage in the study of the Bible and its doctrines.

I have a couple of things with me: Cheetos, Zebra cake, KitKat candy bar, can of Mountain Dew. Who would like to have this for lunch? Is this good for you? Would your mother approve? Of course not! Because it is JUNK FOOD. Because it doesn't nourish your body and your brain. Throughout the 25 years of existence of our church we have avoided junk food. Some pastors preach on the latest religious or spiritual book instead of the Bible. Some churches study books other than the Bible. Our focus has always been the Bible. Because that is the only way to stand firm in the faith. Like the Bereans of Acts 17:11, we search the Scriptures and do not allow false doctrine to cause us to forsake the truth that has been revealed to us in the Bible. From the pulpit, in Sunday School class, in youth programs, and in Bible Study we focus on the pure Word of God so we can stand firm in the faith.

"Stand firm in the faith." Let me remind you that because of this command we joined the United Reformed Church in 2008.

"Stand firm in the faith." On account of this command we strongly encourage every home and every family to have daily devotions.

II Do Everything in Love
A The first part of our anniversary theme is "Stand firm in the faith." The second part of our anniversary theme is "do everything in love." Some of you probably recognize that this theme reflects the motto on the front of our weekly bulletins: "Where God's love shows and our faith grows."

"Do everything in love." Again, I turn to our picture directory. There is a whole page on fellowship events in the past and another on fellowship events in the present. I see pictures of a senior outing, a church picnic, a camp-out, a Western hoedown. I see pictures of members talking to one another. It is obvious that we enjoy each other's company and have fun together. Visitors and new members keep telling me and our elders that they find Trinity to be very friendly and welcoming and enfolding. This certainly is part of our love.

During our 25 years of existence members have helped each other, looked after each other, cried together, laughed together, and encouraged each other. When there is a death or an emergency meals have been provided and members have prayed for each other. This, too, is part of our love.

I looked through some of the old pictures that Amy was sorting for the picture directory and tonight's slide show. I saw pictures of SERVE and TASC. I saw pictures of a work project in New Mexico. I saw pictures of the work we have done in Mexico and at Big Springs. This, too, is part of our love.

B "Do everything in love." Love always includes two dimensions: the vertical and the horizontal. Love starts with the vertical -- the love for God that summarizes the first table of the Law. We are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. But, as you know, love also includes the horizontal -- the love of neighbor that summarizes the second table of the Law. We are called to love our neighbor as ourself.

C "Do everything in love." As you know, Paul devotes a whole chapter to love in 1 Corinthians 13. Listen to the first eight verses:
(1 Cor 13:1-8) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (4) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (5) It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (8) Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

"Do everything in love." In other words, our speaking, our prophecy, our knowledge, our faith, our giving -- it must all be covered with love. It must all be covered with love for God and love for one another.

Love is the beautiful, softening principle. It keeps our firmness from becoming hardness and our strength from becoming domineering. It keeps our maturity gentle and considerate. It keeps our right doctrine from becoming obstinate dogmatism and our right living from becoming smug self-righteousness. No wonder Paul says love is "the most excellent way" (1 Cor 12:31).

D Paul had a choice of different Greek words for love. He could have used "eros." This forms the root of our English word "erotic." Eros is a "getting" love. Eros is usually associated with sexual love.

Paul could also have used "stergo." This is a "caring" love. This is the love that even unbelievers show to a neighbor in need or that they have for the poor and hungry they try to assist.

"Philos" is a third Greek word for love. This is a "sharing" love. This word expresses the affection we feel for friends and family.

Another Greek word for love is "agape." This is a "giving" love. It is a love which compels one to sacrifice for the benefit of the other person. This love seeks to give rather than to get. Agape love keeps on loving even when the other person doesn't respond; agape love keeps on loving without asking for anything in return. Paul chose to use agape love when he writes, "Do everything in love."

Agape love lies at the heart of Gospel. It is love, agape love, which sent Jesus to the cross and the grave (Jn 3:16). So, Paul is telling us to be like Christ. Paul is telling us to reflect Christ in our love for God and our love for each other.

"Do everything in love." Be like Christ. Christ-likeness is to be the foundation for every decision we make, every action we take, and every interaction we have.

In the case of the Corinthian church, Christlikeness is the solution to their problems as a church. It meant no more feuds, no more spiritual show-offs, no more lawsuits between Christians, the elimination of pride and arrogance in the church’s leadership, no more gluttony and drunkenness during the fellowship meal -- in short, applying this principle of love for Christ and love for each other meant a radically different church, sold out to Christ and untainted by the world.

Hear, again, the Word of God for our 25th anniversary celebration: "Stand firm in the faith ... do everything in love."

Let me end by telling you this is not something we first of all do. It needs to come from God. The Spirit of Christ needs to be at work in us. And, when He is, we can do everything through Him who gives us strength (Phil 4:13).

So, with thanksgiving for what the Lord has done in the past, with joy for what He is doing in the present, and with hope for what He will do in the future we stand firm in the faith and do everything in love.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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