He told the Galatians to “stand fast” in their spiritual freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1, NKJV). He urged the Philippians to “stand fast in one spirit” as they live a life worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27, NKJV). And to the believers in Corinth, Paul exhorted, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13, NKJV).
Christians in the early church confronted numerous trials and challenges that tested their commitment to Christ. “Stand fast in the faith” seems to be Paul’s mantra, compelling believers to dig in their heels and remain consistent as they face hardship, danger, persecution, and conflict. Paul calls fellow believers to “stay true to the Lord” (Philippians 4:1).
Other translations render the command as “stand firm in the faith” (NIV, ESV, NLT, CSB, NASB). Stand fast or stand firm appears eight times in the New Testament. In the original Greek, the term means “to hold one’s ground, maintain a position, be steadfast, remain upright, persist, persevere, and don’t give up.” In other words, Paul wants us to stay on our toes, spiritually speaking.
In a similar warning to remain steadfast in the face of adversity, the apostle Peter writes, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8–9). Christians have a real and active enemy who is constantly trying to take them down. We stand fast in the faith through prayer and spiritual warfare—by staying alert and on guard with our eyes wide open so that the devil doesn’t hit us with a surprise attack. For this reason, Paul instructs us to “put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11, NLT).
We stand fast in the faith by studying God’s Word and not wavering in the truth of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1). Paul tells the Thessalonians, “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Like Timothy, we must work hard and do our best to present ourselves to God “as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Like Paul, we make it our goal to know and understand what we believe and, most importantly, know the One in whom we have believed: “That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return. Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:12–14, NLT).
We stand fast in the faith by staying in fellowship with other believers. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23–25, NLT). As members of Christ’s body, we are like living stones being built into a spiritual temple (1 Peter 2:4–5). With Jesus as our foundational Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6) and God living in us by His Spirit, we are becoming a solid, immovable house for His glory (Ephesians 2:19–22).
We stand fast in the faith by depending on God, who establishes, enables, and anoints us to “stand firm in Christ” and “hold firmly to the faith we profess” (2 Corinthians 1:21; Hebrews 4:14). God’s divine power gives us “everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3, NLT). Instead of shrinking back or turning away from Christ in challenging times, we “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). In our own strength, we are powerless. In Christ, we can do all things (Philippians 4:13). We are like fragile clay jars holding a priceless treasure. We do not faint, and we do not lose heart. We never give up because “our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God” (2 Corinthians 4:1–18, NLT).
The Christian life requires spiritual endurance and stamina. We cling to Jesus Christ and never let Him go. We stand fast in the faith as we mature toward a spiritually stable stance that is rooted, grounded, established, and anchored in Christ and that can never be moved (see Colossians 2:5–7; 4:12; Hebrews 6:19).
Perhaps one of the best-known statements from the writer of Hebrews is that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,” and that the Word of God divides even soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12, ESV). Many understand that “the Word” refers to the written Word of God—the Bible. This conclusion relies on correlations from two distant-context passages.
Ephesians 6:17 refers to the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and Peter explains that we have been born again through the living and enduring Word of God (1 Peter 1:23). Peter quotes from Isaiah 40:6–8, which affirms that the Word of God endures forever, and adds that it is that Word (Greek rhema) that was proclaimed to his audience. In these contexts, “the Word” refers to the Bible. If we apply the same understanding to Hebrews 4:12, we see that what God has revealed is so precise and so accurate as to make the minutest of judgments and to be able to discern where the soul and spirit begin and end. While these correlations are popular, it seems that the Word of God dividing soul and spirit in Hebrews 4:12 is not actually referring to the written Word.
The Word of God is described as living, active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing or dividing soul and spirit, dividing joints and marrow, and able to judge thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). While it is certainly plausible that this is referring to the written Word of God, the pronouns in the next verse seem to indicate the written Word is not what the writer is talking about. In the next verse we are told that “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13, NKJV). Twice in 4:13, the noun of 4:12 (word or logos) is renamed using the masculine and not neuter pronoun. The “Word” in this case is a He.
Peter referred to the Greek rhema as enduring forever. Paul referred to the rhema as the sword of the Spirit. But the writer of Hebrews uses an entirely different word: the logos. This is the same word John uses to communicate that Jesus is the Word (John 1:1). It appears, then, that Ephesians 6:17 and 1 Peter 1:23 are talking about the written Word (rhema), while John 1:1 and Hebrews 4:12 are referring to Jesus as the Word of God. If this is an accurate understanding, then Jesus is the One the writer of Hebrews is describing as able to judge thoughts and intentions and can divide soul and spirit. Jesus is the One who created both soul and spirit.
The division between soul and spirit is mentioned in several other contexts (e.g., 1 Samuel 1:15; Job 7:11; Isaiah 26:9; 42:1; Matthew 12:18; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). However, the division is never defined or explained. Neither does the writer of Hebrews expound; he only asserts that the Word of God can be dividing soul and spirit. We can’t discern that division, but Jesus can. Because we have such an incredible High Priest who knows everything about us and still declares us righteous through His own blood, we ought to pay attention to Him. We ought to draw near to Him, recognizing that grace is found in Him (Hebrews 4:14–16).