Paul is giving us a command here, an imperative, but it actually goes further. In I Corinthians 16:13, there are four imperatives in this one verse, which is itself just six words in the original Greek: 1) watch, 2) stand fast in the faith, 3) be men (courageous), and 4) be strong.
The word watch means "to keep awake, be vigilant, be watchful." For us, that means keeping an eye on the world around us, and more importantly, paying attention to our spiritual condition. To stand fast in the faith means "to be stationary (anchored), to persevere, to be convicted of our beliefs." As we saw, to be men is "to be courageous," but not so much in a physical sense as in the convictions of our spiritual life. Finally, to be strong implies "to increase in vigor, to be strengthened, to increase in faith."
These four imperatives can be viewed in military terms, and Paul uses such terms quite often in his epistles. Living in the days of Roman rule, he commonly saw Roman legions in his travels. His audience, also living within the Empire, was quite familiar with soldiers and their duties.
We can imagine a sentry on guard duty, at attention, peering into the night, listening intently for any unusual noise. He has to fight off sleep lest the enemy sneak up on him and kill him, opening the camp to attack. We can realize how this applies to Christian life.
The other imperatives—standing fast in the faith, being strong, and living like men—are also better understood as military imagery. Many are familiar with the story of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, when Sparta's King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, along with 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans, and perhaps a few hundred others, fought to the death against the million-man army of Persian Emperor Xerxes. King Leonidas and his men knew that they would die; they knew the odds were overwhelmingly against them. But they felt compelled to try to stop the enemy and save their country.
Certainly, this encapsulates these four imperatives!
As stunning as that example is, we should bring it down to a more personal level: to an army of one. Outnumbered as they were, the Spartans and their allies still had other warriors fighting with them on either side, at least until the very end. What if we were absolutely by ourselves?
Courage and the Dog Soldier
Paul instructs us: "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity" (I Corinthians 16:13-14; King James Version). Several generations ago, "quit you like men" was a frequently heard phrase in English-speaking countries. To modern ears, quit means "to stop" or "to give up,' but it can also mean "to conduct oneself in a specified way."
The phrase the King James Version translates as "quit you like men," James Moffatt renders as "play the man"; the Revised Standard Version, "be courageous"; and The Amplified Bible, "act like men." Phillips, however, separates verses 13-14 into a paragraph of their own, giving it a sub-heading that says, "A little sermon in a nutshell!" He translates the verse as follows: "Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, live like men, be strong! Let everything that you do be done in love."
The Greek word translated as "quit you like men" is andrizomai, which is used just this one time in the Bible. It is an imperative, a word of command, and it literally means "be men."
Now, the women and teens reading this should not bail out at this point because Paul is giving instructions here to Christians in general, not just men, as we see in I Corinthians 1:1-2:
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother. To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours. [Emphasis ours]
Is he talking to just the men here? I think not.
At the end of I Corinthians 16, Paul is closing out his rather long letter and giving his final exhortation. Right after this "little sermon in a nutshell," he mentions Aquila and Priscilla in verse 19. This husband-and-wife team are mentioned six times in Paul's letters, always fondly and always together. They are as one. Thus, right after Paul tells us to "be men," he writes warmly of his good friend, Priscilla.
Lastly, Paul teaches in Galatians 3:28 that there is neither male nor female, but we are all one in Christ Jesus. So if men must "get in touch with their feminine side," as we are so often told in today's feminized society, then the ladies in the church should pay attention, along with the men, to how being a man is necessary to our Christian life!
As many know, the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, and it was later translated into other languages. The translation into Greek, called the Septuagint, is one of the oldest of these, the earliest parts dating from around 300 BC. The Greek word andrizomai, used only once in the Greek New Testament, appears 25 times in the Septuagint. A few verses from the book of Joshua will show how andrizomai was translated from the Hebrew into Greek and then again into English, giving us a better understanding of what Paul was saying in I Corinthians 16:13:
Be strong and of good courage. . . . Only be strong and very courageous. . . . Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage . . . be strong and of good courage." (Joshua 1:6-7, 9, 18)
Here, andrizomai is translated "be . . . of good courage." A literal interpretation of andrizomai would be, as we saw above, "play the man," "live like men," "act like men," or simply "be men"—and that is what Paul is saying: Be men. He is writing to a church living at the same time as he, speaking the same Greek language, and having the same cultural influences, and he could expect his audience to know what he meant. They certainly did.
But we are nearly two millennia removed from those days, which is why the Septuagint is helpful. Paul is telling us to have courage. When Paul says, "Quit ye like men," it is the same as telling us to be courageous. Commentator Albert Barnes says in his Notes that Paul means a man is not "a coward, or timid, or alarmed at enemies, but [is] to be bold and brave." This applies to all Christians, no matter the age or gender. The idea is summed up in the word "courage."
Courage and the Dog Soldier
Are we not in a spiritual fight? Do we not face an adversary that wants to destroy us? Have we not committed ourselves to give our lives, if necessary? Matthew Poole, who published his commentary in 1685, makes a good point when speaking of "quit ye like men":
. . . you are as soldiers fighting against the world, the flesh, and the devil; do not behave yourselves like children, whom the least opposition will terrify and throw down; but like men, with a spiritual courage and fortitude, becoming such who have so good a Captain, and so good a cause.
The "captain of their salvation" (Hebrews 2:10) is our commanding officer in battle. Our Captain has given us the equipment we need to carry out our duties: these four imperatives. All of them—watching, standing firm in the faith, acting like men, and being strong—can be considered as masculine traits due to the military analogies; but they are not limited to men, nor should they be.
Satan has perverted the minds of today's world to the point that these traits are regarded negatively. Feminists might concede that men are strong and courageous, in some cases, but foolishly so. We are told that women are loving and nurturing and these qualities are to be preferred. So much so that homosexuality is considered normal and a man that truly acts like a man is abnormal—a Neanderthal. It is a mixed-up world indeed.
However, these traits are not mutually exclusive! Notice what Paul says in verse 14: "Let all that you do be done with love." Verse 13 is not for lumberjacks, and verse 14, for women and sensitive, new-age males! Not at all. As Christians, we are to "be men" and do all with love. Is not love showing concern for others? In the Christian fight, are not watching, standing in the faith, exhibiting courage, and being strong—in order to protect their loved ones and their way of life—showing love? Certainly!
The entire book of I Corinthians is, as Henry Halley says, "Mainly about Certain Church Disorders." Brethren met in their homes and small halls in one of the largest, richest, and most important cities of the Roman Empire. The brethren there were faced with decadence, temptation, and vices of every sort. They experienced corruption on a grand scale. There were factions and competing groups. Sound familiar? Truly, "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Our lives to this point have been difficult, and more tough times lie ahead. We know that God will provide. God is faithful (I Corinthians 1:9), and we do not need to worry about how He will do it. Instead, we need to take care of our end of the deal: to be ever-vigilant, standing firm in the faith, courageous and strong, doing everything in concern for others. All this is summed up by andrizomai: quit ye like men!
Courage and the Dog Soldier
As Paul writes this, these were not to be momentary attitudes but continuous states. This is what is developed and produced in us by God's Spirit because of the relationship with Christ. Thus, when he says "watch," he is not speaking about an occasional absence of sleep but a determined effort at vigilance so that our spiritual liberty will not be endangered by compromise with anything in our environment.
It means not playing with temptations. He is telling us to be stable, not to be flitting from one fad and fashion to another like the people in this book were doing. He tells them, "Be like men," meaning, "Be mature, stable, responsible to duty." He wants us to understand that nothing fine and good can be built if it is treated in a casual, informal, easygoing manner.
Paul wants us to understand that being strong in God is not something inherent within us. It does not come naturally. Human nature is at war against God. It resists seeking Him. Being strong in God is derived from the relationship with Him, and this relationship must be worked on, even as a good relationship with another human being must be worked on.
Finally, he speaks of love, the love of God. This is not a syrupy affection with a lot of hugs, charm, or social graces, though it may include those things. The Bible, in fact, says that "charm is deceitful and beauty is vain." He is not saying that they are evil but that they have the power to deceive people into thinking that, because one is charming or beautiful, he is somehow converted. He is warning us that those things might be nothing more than a carnal façade.
What is love? Love is doing what is right from God's perspective. Remember, this is the same apostle who admonishes Timothy to rebuke people before all—even right before the entire congregation. If that is what it took to turn a person back to God, that was what was to be done, and it was an act of love. Love is being responsible, honest, loyal, trustworthy, faithful. Love is being zealous toward God, and it is many other things as well.
John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 5)
Other commentary entries containing this verse:
1 Corinthians 10:13
1 Corinthians 16:13-14