keep the faith; fight the good fight

keep the faith

keep believing in a cause, especially when there is resistance

fight the good fight

be devoted to a good cause even when others oppose you
—We’ve got to keep the faith and not lose hope. The only way to stop the spread of drugs in our city is for everyone to keep fighting the good fight.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes that many people turn away from God because of their desire for wealth. He tells Timothy, though, that his path should be different:

But you, as a person dedicated to God, keep away from all that. Instead pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith [Fight the good fight of faith] and lay hold of that eternal life you were called for and made your good confession for in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11,12)

And in his second letter to Timothy, Paul, knowing that his life is nearing its end, writes,

For I am already being poured out as an offering, and the time for me to depart is at hand. I have competed well [fought a good fight]; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! (2 Timothy 4:6,7)

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like a thief in the night

unexpectedly
—We are very safe and healthy now, but we know that accidents and sickness can come like a thief in the night.

The Bible teaches that Jesus will come back someday to judge all of mankind, but Paul writes that most people will be unprepared for his return:

Now on the topic of times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come in the same way as a thief in the night. Now when they are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the darkness for the day to overtake you like a thief would. For you all are sons of the light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of the darkness.  (1 Thessalonians 5:1-5)

labor of love

work that is done for enjoyment, rather than to make money
—Mrs. White could charge people to visit her flower garden, but she lets them come for free. To her, raising flowers is a labor of love.

Paul opens his letter to the church in Thessalonica with a statement of gratitude:

We thank God always for all of you as we mention you constantly in our prayers, because we recall in the presence of our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love [labour of love] and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2,3)

While Paul uses labor of love to mean “work done because of love for God and for others,” in its modern usage it is often used for a person’s love for the work itself.

evangelist; apostle

evangelist

someone who has great enthusiasm about an idea or product

apostle

a leader of or passionate advocate for a movement or idea

—One of my brothers is an evangelist for import cars. He’s always arguing with my sister, because she’s an apostle for buying only products made in America .

Evangelist originally referred to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, authors of the first four books of the New Testament. It comes from a Greek word meaning “someone who brings good news.” Now, in the church, it can be used fora person who is devoted to spreading the gospel, especially someone who makes it a vocation. Paul writes that Christ gives Christians the ability to serve in a variety of ways, including the following:

It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ. . . .  (Ephesians 4:11,12)

A person with the enthusiasm of an evangelist can be called “evangelical.” Both of these words are related to the Greek word angelos—meaning “messenger”—which is also the origin of angel.

Apostle originally meant “a messenger” or “one who is sent out” and was first used in the church for Jesus’ 12 disciples.

one reaps what one sows; as one sows, so shall one reap

a person’s actions determine what will later happen to her, especially when the actions and results are bad
—Tony always gossips about his friends, so it was no surprise when they started telling stories about him. You reap what you sow.

In his letters, Paul uses the example of planting and harvesting to teach about godly living and about giving to others. He writes,

Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows [whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap], because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith. (Galatians 6:7-10)

Paul’s message is this: The seeds that are planted determine what will be harvested. If people do things because of sinful desires, the result will be death. If they do things to please God, the result will be life.

A few verses later, at the end of the letter, Paul returns to the subject of circumcision, saying that those who are trying to convince the Gentile Christians to be circumcised take pride only in outward obedience. He writes,

For those who are circumcised do not obey the law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised so that they can boast about your flesh. But may I never boast [God forbid that I should glory] except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:13,14)

Here God forbid means “may God not let it happen.” Today, some still use the phrase with the same meaning, but usually it simply means “I hope it never happens,” with no actual thought of God. Therefore, it has much the same meaning as far be it from (me). And just as with that phrase, God forbid is often used sarcastically.

fall from grace

to lose favor or respect
—After winning an Academy Award, the actress fell from grace when she was arrested for shoplifting and drug use.

Paul writes that a person cannot please God by trying to obey all the Old Testament laws. Instead, he says that people must accept God’s grace, which provides a forgiveness that cannot be earned:

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery. Listen! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all! And I testify again to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be declared righteous by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace [ye are fallen from grace]! For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight—the only thing that matters is faith working through love. (Galatians 5:1-6).

God had told Abraham that he and all his male descendants should be circumcised as a sign of their covenant with him. Thus circumcision came to represent the Jews’ obedience to the laws of the Old Testament. In his letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul tells the non-Jewish Christians that they do not need to be circumcised and that if they turn back to the Old Testament Law system, they will lose the grace of God revealed in the New Testament. Of course, this definition of grace is different from the one in the modern fall from grace, which refers not to God’s forgiveness but to the good opinions of others.

long-suffering

patiently enduring troubles or difficulties
—The long-suffering workers finally got a raise after six years.

Paul describes two ways to live: One is following one’s sinful desires. The other is following God’s Spirit. He writes that God will produce good things in those who live by the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience [longsuffering], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22,23)

thorn in the flesh; thorn in one’s side

something that persistently bothers, irritates, or causes pain
—I like all of the committee members except Jason. He disagrees with everything I say and has really become a thorn in my side.

Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthian church that he has seen a vision from God but adds that it would be wrong for him to boast or become proud:

Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

Though there have been many ideas about what Paul’s “thorn” was, Paul does not say.

suffer fools gladly

to tolerate those whom one thinks are stupid
—Don’t expect her to be kind to those who disagree with her viewpoint. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

The suffer in this phrase has the same meaning as it has in suffer the little children: “to allow or tolerate.” In Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, he writes that he feels foolish having to defend his status as an apostle and teacher. But he knows that “false apostles” are lying about themselves and the Corinthians are eager to listen to their foolish talk:

I say again, let no one think that I am a fool. But if you do, then at least accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence I do not say the way the Lord would. Instead it is, as it were, foolishness. Since many are boasting according to human standards, I too will boast. For since you are so wise, you put up with fools gladly [suffer fools gladly]. For you put up with it if someone makes slaves of you, if someone exploits you, if someone takes advantage of you, if someone behaves arrogantly toward you, if someone strikes you in the face. (2 Corinthians 11:16-20)

Today, the phrase is most often used in the negative, to say that someone doesn’t suffer fools.

all things to all men; all things to all people

trying to please everyone
—In order to be elected, he said whatever the voters wanted to hear and tried to become all things to all people.

While often used today as a criticism, all things to all people is used in the Bible in a positive way. Paul writes,

For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people [all things to all men], so that by all means I may save some. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22)

A few verses later, Paul compares himself to a serious athlete in training—not like a runner who has no direction or a boxer who only swings his fists at nothing: 

So I do not run uncertainly or box like one who hits only air [beateth the air]. (1 Corinthians 9:26)

Someone who “works hard without a purpose or without accomplishing anything” is therefore said to “beat the air.”

  • All scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://bible.org. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

    Scripture in brackets is from the King James Bible.

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