Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Corinthians 16:19-24

Greetings

19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come![a] 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Last week’s post was about Paul’s commendation of Apollos, Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus in their work for the church.

Paul concludes 1 Corinthians with greetings from the churches of Asia Minor, including those from Aquila and his wife Prisca (Priscilla) from Ephesus, where the church was in their house (verse 19). Paul was in Ephesus when he wrote 1 Corinthians.

John MacArthur tells us how Paul met the couple in the Corinthian synagogue, where people were seated by occupation. They then moved to Ephesus (emphases mine):

Aquila was a man from the south coast of the Black Sea, Pontus, who eventually came to Rome and married Priscilla and they lived in Rome until Claudius the Emperor band all Jews from the city of Rome and they scooted off to Corinth. And they were working in Corinth in their trade, and they were going to the synagogue there. One day a man named Paul arrived there and he sat with them, and the reason he sat with them is because they did the same thing he did. They were leather workers. The Greek word means more than tentmaker, it means leather workers. Paul worked with leather and so did Aquila and Priscilla, and they used to sit in the synagogue according to their trade. Men on one side, women on the other side, but the people were all seated according to trade. Here were all the leather workers, then the carpenters, then the masons, then everybody else. So you knew right [away] where everybody was. There was a comradeship there and so he sat down with Aquila and Priscilla, they became good friends. He stayed with them. He may have stayed with them 18 months while he was there.

Paul adds that all the brothers send their greetings and encourages the Corinthians to greet each other with a holy kiss (verse 20).

Henry explains that those two statements are linked. If strangers who are brothers in Christ send the Corinthians their best wishes, then the Corinthians, amongst themselves, should greet each other even more warmly:

When the churches of Asia, and the Christian brethren so remote, did so heartily salute them in the Lord, and own and love them as brethren, and expressed so much good-will to them, it would be a shame for them not to own and love one another as brethren. Note, The love of the brethren should be a powerful incentive to mutual love. When the other churches of Christ love us all, we are very culpable if we do not love one another.

MacArthur tells us what a holy kiss involves:

early in the Christian church, the kiss on the cheek or even just placing cheek to cheek was basic to a sign of affection.

Paul says that he wrote the greeting with his own hand (verse 22). Paul is said to have had eye problems, therefore, he would have dictated the letter for someone else to write down. However, he wanted it to be known that he wrote the greeting himself.

Henry says Paul wrote that to prove its authenticity:

… at the close it was fit that himself should sign it, that they might know it to be genuine; and therefore it is added (2 Thessalonians 3:17), Which is my token in every epistle, the mark of its being genuine; so he wrote in every epistle which he did not wholly pen, as he did that to the Galatians, Galatians 6:11. Note, Those churches to whom apostolical letters were sent were duly certified of their being authentic and divine. Nor would Paul be behind the rest of the brethren in respect to the Corinthians; and therefore, after he has given their salutations, he adds his own.

Paul’s next statement is a warning to the Corinthians (verse 23). So perverse they were in their practice that Paul says anyone who has no love should be accursed, or anathema. He adds ‘Maranatha’ as a call for the Lord’s judgement upon such people.

MacArthur points out that, in Greek, Paul used ‘philo’ instead of ‘agape’. The distinction is important:

He uses for the word love, not the word agapaō, which is the strong word of love, the divine love. He uses for the only time in the entire New Testament the word phileō to speak of love for Christ. It’s the only time Paul’s ever used it. Phileō, which simply means a strong affection for. It’s second class love

And Paul is saying here, listen, “Not only not agapaō, but if you don’t even have a strong affection for Jesus, you’re cursed.” You can’t even get into the love fellowship. He’ll accept you even at that level of love, even second class. But if you don’t even have that, you’re anathema. The word means devoted to destruction, damned, doomed, cursed. And then he says, “Marantha.” I believe that’s an imperative. It’s three words in the Aramaic, marana tha. “Our Lord come.” And what he’s saying is come in judgment. He’s saying, “Look, there are tears in the church. That’s part of the problem.” And he’s saying, “Look, I want the church to be full of love, but if you don’t even have a strong affection for Jesus Christ, you are cursed. God come and remove them.” That’s what he’s saying. Get them out.

Henry has more on Paul’s warning:

It stands here as a warning to the Corinthians and a rebuke of their criminal behaviour. It is an admonition to them not to be led away from the simplicity of the gospel, or those principles of it which were the great motives to purity of life, by pretenders to science, by the wisdom of the world, which would call their religion folly, and its most important doctrines absurd and ridiculous. Those men had a spite at Christ; and, if the Corinthians give ear to their seducing speeches, they were in danger of apostatizing from him. Against this he gives them here a very solemn caution. “Do not give into such conduct, if you would escape the severest vengeance.” Note, Professed Christians will, by contempt of Christ, and revolt from him, bring upon themselves the most dreadful destruction.

Paul prays that the grace of the Lord Jesus be with the Corinthians (verse 23). He has just issued a rebuke but, in Christian love, sends them the best spiritual wishes.

Henry explains:

As much as if he had said, “Though I warn you against falling under his displeasure, I heartily wish you an interest in his dearest love and his eternal favour.” The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ comprehends in it all that is good, for time or eternity. To wish our friends may have this grace with them is wishing them the utmost good. And this we should wish all our friends and brethren in Christ. We can wish them nothing more, and we should wish them nothing less. We should heartily pray that they may value, and seek, and obtain, and secure, the grace and good-will of their Lord and Judge.

In closing, Paul expresses his heartfelt desire that their love be in Christ Jesus as much as his is (verse 24).

Henry interprets Paul’s sentiment:

His heart would be with them, and he would bear them dear affection as long as their hearts were with Christ, and they bore true affection to his cause and interest. Note, We should be cordial lovers of all who are in Christ, and who love him in sincerity. Not but we should love all men, and wish them well, and do them what good is in our power; but those must have our dearest affection who are dear to Christ, and lovers of him.

Next week’s post begins an exploration of 2 Corinthians.

Next time — 2 Corinthians 1:1-7