In 1 Corinthians 16:13, the apostle Paul wrote: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”
What does the phrase, “quit you like men”, in 1 Corinthians 16:13 mean? It is the translation of a Greek verb (andrizesthei) which has its origin in the root word (aner) that refers to adult males. Hence, the word denotes two ideas: (i) male as opposed to female, and (ii) adult as opposed to child. The twin emphases of the word in the ancient world were masculinity (vs. feminineness), and maturity (vs. childishness).
The phrase, “quit you like men”, was used to call people to manliness, which is characterised by courage, bravery, resoluteness and strength. The apostle Paul used that phrase to demand that Christians put away every smidgen of fear, insecurity, nervousness and reluctance, and then to rise to fulfill their duties with courage and strength.
No man is without feelings of fear, anxiety or frailty, especially Christians who have to face troubling, frightening, even life-threatening situations as they live for and serve Christ. Nonetheless, Christians should not succumb to those powerful, debilitating emotions within them. They must set aside those emotions, and bravely confront the adverse situations that threaten to undermine their pursuit of Christ’s kingdom.
Christians should not only be bold and determined, but also be matured in their responses to the challenges that arise in the midst of their service for the Lord. They should not act like little children, who lack maturity. Paul exhorted the Corinthian Christians, “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men” (In 1 Cor. 14:20). As we grow in the Lord, we should be able to say, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11). When a child becomes a man, he puts aside childishness, with all its limitations and immaturity. His increased knowledge and understanding will equip him to act wisely, and he is ready to be tried and tested. A matured person acts with a sense of control, confidence and courage – having outgrown the immature, childish person that he once was.
Paul’s command to the Corinthian Christians to “quit you like men” was a summon to act differently from their past mannerisms, which were anything but spiritually matured. The Corinthians needed to wisen up. Paul knew that they did not make any progress since their early years when he was pastoring the church in Corinth – “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (1 Cor. 3:1-2). Paul was upset that he could not speak to the Corinthian believers as unto spiritual men. Since they had come to faith in Christ, they had gone no farther. Most of them were acting as if they had just been born again. They were still “babes in Christ”! Their immaturity and childish behaviour was so upsetting to him that he chided them, saying, “What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (1 Cor. 4:21).
The schisms, immorality, abuse of sacraments, etc. found among the people of the Corinthian church were evidence of their immature, childish mindset. They needed to be watchful of their own condition to make a difference as mature Christians. So he wrote, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”
If Christians remain childish, timidity and immaturity will act together to wreck their testimony and service for the Lord. Cowardice and foolhardiness must be quickly expelled from the lives of every Christian. How can we attain such manliness as what the apostle Paul summons us to? How can we grow to the maturity and strength of a strong spiritual man?
Paul expected the Corinthian believers to watch over their thoughts, emotions, words and actions. He wanted them to bring themselves under subjection to the Spirit and the Word, and thus be spiritually strong and valiant. Fortitude of a matured, godly man is what Paul is urging all Christians to exhibit.
We must be nourished up in the grace and wisdom of God through His Word. The apostle Peter exhorts us in 1 Peter 2:2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby”; and in 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” We must think and act according to the counsels of God’s Word. If we ever act without the Word of God, we will be immature and imperfect in our actions. Hence, Paul reminds us in 2 Tim 3:16-17 that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Likewise, we are admonished in Ephesians 4:14-15, “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”.
Refuse all childish cowardice and immaturity! Rouse yourselves to be spiritually strong Christians – biblical, Spirit-led men and women of God!