22 March 2010

Watch Out

Series Guide
(This post is part of a series, taken from the transcript of a message on 1 Corinthians 16:13 given at the 2010 Shepherds' Conference.)

Intro: "The church militant?"
1. "Watch Out"
2. "Stand Firm"
3. "Man Up"
4. "Be Strong"
"Be watchful" (1 Corinthians 16:13)

hat's a single word in the Greek text, γρηγορέω. It's is a common New Testament word with doctrinal, practical, and eschatalogical overtones, and Paul clearly has all those things in mind in his message to the Corinthians: Stay on guard. Enemies of the truth are already in your midst. You need to "strengthen what remains and is about to die." And the Lord is coming. (That's the exact meaning of Maranatha in verse 22.)

The mass of modern and postmodern evangelicals simply ignore this command. I'm tempted to say they rebel against it. Many are simply too arrogant to think they need an admonition like this. They carelessly think they are skilled enough and knowledgeable enough to recognize any and every error at its very first appearance, so they have let down their guard.

Mostly, though, evangelicals simply have no stomach for the duty—and they won't tolerate it if anyone else tries to interrupt the evangelical frat party with a shrill alarms—even while the frat house is engulfed in flames.

We don't mind reading about Spurgeon's courage and foresight in the Down-Grade Controversy; we just don't want anyone today to exercise to that kind of discernment. In fact, listen to what Spurgeon said about that very same phenomenon in his era:
It is very pretty, is it not, to read of Luther and his brave deeds? Of course, everybody admires Luther! Yes, yes; but you do not want any one else to do the same to-day. When you go to the [zoo] you all admire the bear; but how would you like a bear at home, or a bear wandering loose about the street? You tell me that it would be unbearable, and no doubt you are right.

    So, we admire a man who was firm in the faith, say four hundred years ago; the past ages are a sort of bear-pit or iron cage for him; but such a man to-day is a nuisance, and must be put down. Call him a narrow-minded bigot, or give him a worse name if you can think of one. Yet imagine [if] in those ages past, Luther, Zwingle, Calvin, and their compeers had said, "The world is out of order; but if we try to set it right we shall only make a great row, and get ourselves into disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night-caps, and sleep over the bad times, and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better." Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps, and the pestiferous bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on.

The need for vigilance today is greater, not less, than it has been in times past. Every biblical description of apostasy and spiritual danger fits our generation perfectly:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

When that is a precise description of the culture in which we live and minister—when before our very eyes we can see "evil people and impostors [going] from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived"—it is more important than ever to stay alert and on guard against false teaching and against personal temptations. And it's more important than ever to make ourselves ready for the return of the Savior.

That's what Paul was telling the Corinthians: "Be watchful"—first of all over yourselves—your hearts, your passions, your words, and your whole way of life. Be watchful over one another, lest you fall into sin and temptation. Be on guard against Satan, "so that we would not be outwitted by [him]; for we are not ignorant of his designs." Likewise, be on guard against false teachers, who lie in wait to deceive and who have already begun to sow their deception in your midst. Be on guard against the world, with all its snares and seductions. Also, watch unto prayer, and prepare yourselves for the Lord's return.

All of that is packed into this one-word admonition: "Watch."

Incidentally, with regard to the eschatalogical significance of this command, he's not saying "make dispensational charts or obsess over trying to match today's news headlines with Bible prophecy"; he's saying (simply) live as if you believe the Lord could return at any moment. And that includes all these other aspects of prayerful and polemical vigilance. Both the Lord and the enemy are at hand. Stay on the alert.

Phil's signature


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Phil. I really needed this reminder right about now.

Mark B. Hanson said...

One thing I have found useful to consider: whether or not the Lord returns to this earth in my lifetime, I may find myself in his presence between one heartbeat and the next. The Lord could come at any time -- for me.

Caleb Kolstad said...

Well put.

100 Mile Pants said...

Well said, Mark.

A nice reminder, Phil. I just downloaded and watched the video of you preaching this passage at the Shpeherd's conference - you did well. Will be watching it again with my son in the near future.

Oh, to be the kind of man God uses!

Nash Equilibrium said...

Hey Mark, maybe you should write a book with that title, "One Heartbeat Away"

Just a thought.

DJP said...

Good word.

Do you ever wonder who history will distinguish as the great men of God of our day, or of the last fifty years?

It seems almost (but not quite) a rule that men who loom largest in history were despised and undervalued in their time. Jonathan Edwards comes to mind, actually kicked out of his church.

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

Your Scripture reference is incorrect.

Rob Bailey said...

Also packed into γρηγορέω is a necessary activeness. Here is a good illustration. We live in a rural setting with 40 acres. When we got our Australian shepherd, I would walk her around the land so she would know her territory. There are constant "visiting" animals of different kinds. Her job is to keep them off our land. She constantly is on alert, but she is not just "watching." When she sees an unwelcome visitor, she goes after it. She does not just sit and watch until it gets into our yard, she confronts it as soon as she is aware it has crossed into her territory. We have to be doctrinally territorial, and that requires activity, not just alertness.

olan strickland said...

It is as they say, "Hindsight is 20/20." Even the Pharisees could see who the true prophets were that had already been long dead and vindicated by God's Word and history. But those of their own day were considered "devils" in need of extermination.

donsands said...

The genuine shepherds of the Great Shepherd will have a burning in their belly to speak the truth, even when they may not want to. And they won't be able to help themselves but to speak the Word with boldness and meekness. Jeremiah 20:9

And there are times to name names. Romans 16:17. Actually the ESV says "watch", instead of "mark", or "note those".

Mark B. Hanson said...

strategem said: Hey Mark, maybe you should write a book with that title, "One Heartbeat Away"

Well, there's already a Christian book by that title, although not quite the same topic. I am not even sure the idea is original with me, although I don't remember who I may have heard it from.

I'll file it with all my other unused ideas for bumper stickers or t-shirts ("Sin makes you stupid", "Abortion kills baby Democrats") and book titles ("Betrayed with a Kiss: How the World Religions Claim Jesus, But Reject What He Says")

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Watch Out"

An appropriate blog title after the passage by the House of the nationalized HealthCare Bill.

Nash Equilibrium said...


The Blainemonster said...

Good stuff.

greglong said...

Thanks for the good reminder, Phil.

gregoreo--my favorite NT verb.

Gregory Long

Mike Riccardi said...

LoL... love the lead graphic.

And the post wasn't bad either. ;o)

Strong Tower said...

Figur skeeters, creshing backyards threw d' naybers fenz.

If someone would only be so bold I'd buy season tickets.

I'm not sure you would call it admonition, though.

Bobby Grow said...

Great reminder, thanks, Phil! I don't think Christians, in general, really do believe the Lord could come back at any moment; surely if we did the world would be turned upside down for Christ right now!

donsands said...

"surely if we did the world would be turned upside down for Christ right now!"

Wasn't it Luther who was asked: "What would you do today if you knew the Lord was coming back tomorrow."

He said, "I'd be planting this tree in my garden, for this is what i was planning on doing as a servant of the Lord."

Or something in those regards.

Stefan Ewing said...

"You tell me that it would be unbearable,..."

Was that an intentional pun on Spurgeon's part?

donsands said...

"Was that an intentional pun on Spurgeon's part?"

It's "bear"-ly possible.

trogdor said...

I'm surprised the tone police haven't shown up yet to complain about your anti-figure skater agenda.

CR said...

PJ: Incidentally, with regard to the eschatalogical significance of this command, he's not saying "make dispensational charts or obsess over trying to match today's news headlines with Bible prophecy";

So...what...are you saying I can't watch Jack Van Impe?


Ken Pulliam said...


I find it interesting that you use the label masculinity . I guess you are advocating a masculine Christianity ? I think macho Christianity might be a better description. You are right though, Calvinism is very macho.