This sermon is number 46 in a series of 46
1 Corinthians - Part 46
"Some Last Lessons In Love For The Lord's People"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2004 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I Corinthians 16:15-24
The Salutation (verse 21)
The Condemnation (verse 22)
The Benediction (verses 23-24)
First Corinthians 16, and you can see from your study sheet that the title is 'Some Last Lessons In Love For The Lord's People', and the reading, the portion of consideration, is verse 15 to verse 24 - but we'll take it up from verse 14 because, as we'll see, everything from verse 15 on is really linked to what Paul has just said in verse 14 where we ended last Monday evening.
Verse 14: "Let all your things be done with charity. I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. For they have refreshed my spirit and your's: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such. The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss. The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen".
'Some Last Lessons In Love For The Lord's People', that is how the apostle concludes this first epistle to the Corinthians. What you have, I believe, in verse 15 to the end of the chapter, 24, is an illustration of the verse 14 where we ended last Monday night. Let's just read it together, he said: 'Let all your things', or as we saw that 'your' is added, 'Let all things' - all - 'be done with charity'. Right at the end of this letter Paul is striking the note of love, he's wanting these believers in Corinth to realise the intrinsic fundamental place that love ought to have in the life of individual believers, but collectively in the life of the local assembly. So please don't make the mistake, as many do when they read the last salutations of the apostle Paul at the end of his epistles, of just thinking that they're a bundle of expressions of common courtesy wherewith he is ending his letter. It's far greater than that! There's far deeper truth for us to learn from it. We must always remember that these verses, though they may seem mundane at a very casual glance, they are Scripture - Holy Scripture. Just like the great genealogies of the Old Testament that sometimes we get bleary-eyed reading at times in our devotions, they are Scripture. As I prayed in my prayer, and as 2 Timothy 3:16 says: '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' - all godliness.
These verses, these closing verses of 1 Corinthians, are Scripture - and therefore it's important to see what the Holy Spirit has to say to us from them. You will remember as we've gone through 46 or 45 or thereabouts weeks of this study, that we found out that these Corinthian Christians were clever - they prided themselves in their human wisdom. They were charismatic, many of them came behind in no gift. They were very gifted in not only wisdom, but in spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to the church. But we also saw that they were carnal Christians, they were fleshly Christians, they were looking out for number one rather than each other. But one of the major features that we have seen lacking in these Corinthian, carnal, charismatic, clever Christians is charity with one another.
Let me remind you - as if I needed to remind you - of that wonderful purple passage in 1 Corinthians 13. Turn with me to it just till we remind ourselves of how Paul laid this down forcibly: 'You could be clever, Corinthians, you could be charismatic - but it doesn't matter what you are or what you have, if you lack charity you're nothing'. 'Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away'.
They needed to realise that without love their Christianity meant absolutely nothing! So love, Paul is saying at the end of this epistle, as he has laid down right throughout it all, is a characteristic that should chiefly mark not only the child of God but the church of God. So, under consideration this evening, are some last lessons in love for the Lord's people. Let me remind you of the words of the Lord Jesus to the disciples, turn with me to John 13:34 that will lay a foundation for everything that we're going to say tonight. John 13:34 and 35, the Saviour said: 'A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another'.
Love is to mark us as the people of God! In this portion, in verse 14, he starts with love: 'Let all your things be done with charity', and he ends this portion in verse 24, 'My love be with you all in Christ Jesus'. He commands them to love, and then he ends with the assurance that they're loved by him. So we're going to see tonight that these final remarks of the apostle Paul are not some bunch of loose ends without a coherent theme. What he is telling us, and more importantly what the Holy Spirit of God is inspiring us to know through the Scriptures, is that these sentiments expressed to us should mark all of God's people as symptomatic of their love to one another.
So let's look at them - the first he gives us in verse 15: 'I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves' - what a phrase! - 'to the ministry of the saints,)'. Here's the first mark of love among believers: being addicted to serving the saints. So by inference the exhortation of the apostle by the Spirit to us tonight in the 21st century is: being addicted to the service of the saints. Now if you look at verse 15, he talks about the house of Stephanas as being the firstfruits of Achaia - that means they were the first ones of the Lord Jesus Christ in Achaia. Now if you look back to chapter 1 and verse 16, you remember when the apostle Paul said: 'I came not to baptise, but to preach the gospel' - he said that he had baptised no one except the house of Stephanas. Chapter 1 and verse 16: 'And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other'. The household of Stephanas were the first saved, the first baptised, and now we see at the end of chapter 16 that they're leading lights in this meeting in the church at Corinth.
Now let me just say, by way of passing, that that verse in chapter 1 verse 16 does not prove infant baptism. A lot of paedo-baptists, who baptise children, tell us that because the household of Stephanas was baptised that there were wee babies - I don't know how they know that - but there were wee babies in the household and they were baptised as well. Well, the question I ask them at the end of Corinthians - that they maybe haven't read to the end of - is: how are these people, these little babies, leading lights in the meeting? And how are they addicted to the service of the saints? It's an impossibility! But those who believed and were baptised, eventually became leading labourers in the church at Corinth - important workers in the church. Here's the description that Paul gives to them: they were addicted to the ministry of the saints, to serving the saints - what a strong phrase! Addicted! It says they addicted themselves - it wasn't something they caught, like some kind of disease - they addicted themselves of their own volition, voluntarily in their own mind and heart. They put their hand to the plough, and they turned not back as they sought to love others by serving.
Now the Greek word is 'tasso', and it can be translated - as some translations do - 'devoted'. 'They devoted themselves to the service of the saints', or it could also be translated 'They appointed themselves to the service of the saints'. Now what does that mean, 'They appointed themselves'? Well, I'll tell you what it doesn't mean: it doesn't mean that they pushed their way into leadership. We must not misunderstand this, because there are men, Christian men, who push themselves into positions of leadership, who seek to push themselves into the limelight to be seen as leaders. That is not what Paul is talking about when he says that they appointed themselves in this matter, rather what it means is this: whenever they saw the need, whenever they saw something that needed to be done, they didn't wait to be asked to do it! If they saw the need, and they had the means to meet the need, they got up and met it, because they were addicted to doing such things. Almost, we could say, they just couldn't help themselves helping others!
I think that's beautiful, don't you? In fact they toiled to exhaustion in their labouring on the apostle Paul. This is a whole family now we're talking about - in our age sometimes you get one in a family who's really on fire for God. Maybe the husband, he's always out and the wife's never at the meetings, or vice versa. Maybe it's a young teenager in the family, and the family doesn't set a very good example - they're not at the Breaking of Bread, they're not at the Bible Study or the prayer meeting - but yet their young person in the family, the son or daughter, they're there all the time, and they're soaking up and seeking God's face. But here we have an entire family unit following hard after God, and every one of them has addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints!
Can you imagine if we had families like this? The work of God would take off, wouldn't it? If our families were so faithful to the work of God and the local church - and here's the thing that really impresses me about this addiction to the ministry of the saints: it was voluntarily in nature! They didn't have to go to Bible College for so many years, and then get ordained by some denomination or church body. They didn't have to get hand-picked to do it, they weren't appointed by men, they weren't just given a position or a recognition, but they devoted themselves completely because of the great need there was - and as a family they rose up voluntarily and devoted themselves to the work of God! I'll tell you, this is what we need - I hope there's nobody in our meeting tonight sitting there waiting to be asked! Do you not see the need? The Lord Jesus said the fields are white unto harvest, and the labourers are few - the Lord Jesus is asking you, why do I need to ask you?
My friends, I know that there's times that people want to do something and it's important that leadership within the church need to facilitate folk, but there's an aspect here that we ought to already be motivated to do something for the Lord Jesus. I'll tell you, there's not a lot of people knocking my door down, asking: 'What can I do for you, David?', or 'What can I do for the church?', or 'What can I do for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in this corner of God's kingdom?'. Oh, I could spend one whole night on this phrase because it's so tremendous: addicted to serving the saints - wherever the need was, this family was found, and they wouldn't see a need there and not meet it. Tremendous, isn't it?
Now a lot of translations don't translate it 'addicted to the saints', but I like that translation. John MacArthur, the commentator and preacher says: 'If we use it like it's used today in our own society, even for drug addiction, we can see many parallels'. I quote him directly, so that I don't make any mistakes, he says: 'Drug addiction has three primary characteristics. First it involves a strong habit, overpowering desire, and a compulsion to take the drug. The second feature of drug addiction is that it involves a growing tolerance of the drug, your body gets used to it, so that in order to maintain the desired effect - the buzz - you need to take larger and larger doses. The third characteristic is dependence upon the drug, you must have the drug in order to function'. Now addiction is a negative illustration in a sense, and many would think it wasn't appropriate to talk about the service of the Lord's people as an addiction, but the fact of the matter is that the thought that Paul is bringing to us is: just as any addiction is a habit, the house of Stephanas had a good habit of ministry to the saints of God. In fact, it was like a drug - it was out of a powerful, all-consuming, driven compulsion to minister - they felt compelled to meet the needs of others!
Their tolerance, as they kept addicting themselves to the ministry of the saints, their tolerance - just like a drug - got greater, so that they never became satisfied with what they could do for the Lord, but the more they did for the Lord the more they wanted to do, and they were never ever content with their service for the Lord. Enough was never enough. Then we see that they were dependent - that third feature of even drug addiction - they couldn't do without it. MacArthur said he tries to imagine the apostle Paul taking a day off somewhere along the way - not that it's wrong to take a day off, I remember reading Nicholson and someone said to him after he said he was going on his holidays: 'You know the devil doesn't take a holiday!', and he said 'Well, I'd be like the devil if I didn't take a holiday'. You need your rest! The Lord Jesus took His disciples apart to rest a while, but the apostle was so addicted to the work of the Lord that when he stopped I can imagine him having withdrawal symptoms! Can't you? Addicted to the work of the service of the saints - now he was a workaholic, he wasn't compelled to work for work's sake, but he was addicted to the ministry of the saints for love's sake! That's the difference.
The apostle John, who we probably could call the apostle of love, because love is right throughout his gospel and his three epistles, he says: 'Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren'. How many of us lay down our lives for each other? I mean, really put ourselves out? Oh, we may have done it once or twice, but how many of us are addicted - addicted, that this is a habit of life? What an exhortation! Be addicted to serving the saints, and then that will be a characteristic that will mark you as the people of God on earth.
Let's see the second characteristic in verse 16, he says: 'That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth'. Now who is he talking about? Well, obviously it's the house of Stephanas in verse 15: you must submit yourselves unto such - not them specifically, but anybody that's involved in the type of work that they are involved in that's helping us with the gospel and labours with us - be submitted to those servants of God. Now as we have gone through this book we've seen the importance of being submitted, as the people of God and as members of the local assembly, to the leaders in the assembly, the oversight, the elders, the bishops, the presbyters as the Bible calls them. But what Paul is talking about here is not just those people who have a sort of position of authority in the assembly, he's talking here now about everybody who faithfully does a work for the Lord - all godly people ought to be respected for what they do for Christ! But more than that: not only ought they not to be taken for granted and respected, they must be submitted to in the work that they do for the Lord.
Now one primary and fundamental application that we should take from this exhortation 'be submitted to the servants of the Lord', is what comes from a pulpit - whatever pulpit you listen to - if the word of God is preached from it, you ought to submit to that authority. When the servant of God preaches the word of God, you ought to bow to the Spirit of God. I'll tell you, sometimes I preach the Scriptures, and there's a murmur - and just to warn you: most things that are said normally come back to me! So don't say anything, because somebody always runs and comes and tells you - I don't always tell you, but I usually hear about it! The fact of the matter is: if I'm preaching, and I'm preaching from the word of God, as soon as I divert from it you come and tell me! But if I'm preaching, and the two-edged double sword of the Spirit starts to pierce into the depths of your being, and you go 'Ouch!' - you feel the pain of it - don't shoot the messenger! I'm just delivering God's word, but if God's word speaks to your conscience and your heart, you must bow to it! Do you? Do you bow to God's word?
But you know there's more than that, and I think - we talked about surrender not so long ago in one of our studies - but I think surrender and submission, specifically here, is a vital aspect to the Spirit-filled life. If you want to be filled with the Holy Ghost of God, you've got to learn to submit to the word of God - not argue with it, submit! There are other things in the Scriptures that we're told to submit to. In Ephesians 5, if you turn with me to it for a moment, Galatians, Ephesians 5 verse 21. Not only are the servants of the Lord to be submitted to, but Paul says: 'Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God'. We, as Christians, are to submit ourselves to each other - that means when somebody gets one over you, and you don't like it, you don't always fight your corner. You give in and concede at times for the good of the other brother, and the good of the peace of the meeting. That's something that we don't see too much today, but I'll tell you it's a mark of the Spirit-filled man where he does not defend himself. It's one thing defending a biblical principle, but when we start to defend ourselves that's a different matter.
We read on and we find in verse 22: 'Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord'. The Bible tells us that wives are to submit to their husband in the Lord, not when he's asking you to do something that is not scriptural or holy, but 'in the Lord'. Verse 1 of chapter 6: 'Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right'. That's not just wee children running round your feet, I think that's children right up to adulthood, they should obey their parents and respect their parents in the sense that the commandment tells us to 'Honour thy father and thy mother'. Are we honouring our parents? Then in verse 5: 'Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters' - employees are to submit to their employers, and employers are not to provoke their employees to wrath, or parents their children - but nevertheless there's a submission here. There is an order of God, and if we were to go to Romans 13 we would find that the Christian citizen is to submit to the law of the land and the government, and the ordinances thereof.
We find in 1 Peter 5 that the younger men are to submit themselves to the older men. I remember first going into the work of the Lord, and Vinnie Commons (sp?) who preached here not so long ago, who is a man of God I believe - Vinnie said to me: 'David, as you go into Bible College remember this: always climb down the ladder, not up it'. There's something in that, isn't there? The Lord Jesus said: 'And whosoever will be chief among you', to His disciples, 'let him be your servant, even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many'. The apostle said in chapter 11 verse 1, look at it: 'Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ'.
Be submitted to the servants of God - now here's one way you can be submitted to a man of God: put yourself under his example, or her example. Follow their example as far as they follow Christ! We're not talking about clones walking about, talking the same way, dressing the same way, carrying the same size of Bible and all the rest - as many people do - we're talking about in the life of godliness. Get a figure that you can look up to, and I'll tell you, as a young man, as a Christian, there are very few people to look up to today! But if you get one, you put your eye on them, you follow them as far as they follow Christ's example.
Thirdly, the mark of love and the lesson of love that they needed to learn as the Lord's people was to be supportive to saints in need. Verse 17: 'I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. For they have refreshed my spirit and your's: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such'. Be supportive to the saints in need - do you see that word 'coming'? I'm just looking for it...'I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus' - that word 'coming' is the word in Greek 'yarousia'. Now that may mean nothing to you, but it just means 'the arrival' - 'I am glad at the arrival', but it's a stronger meaning, it means 'the arrival, and the subsequent presence of you after you have arrived'. So it's not just the coming, when you ring the doorbell and walk through the threshold, it's the fact that you're staying for a week or a month, or whatever it may be. They're glad that you've come and that you're there, that's the sense: that you're there with them, that your presence is enjoyed.
Now that word 'yarousia' is similar to the word that is used of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is 'parousia', which simply means 'the presence of the Lord Jesus'. So you could render this statement like this: 'I'm glad of the coming of Stephanas, I am rejoicing in the presence of Stephanas'. Isn't that a wonderful thing to say about a Christian brother? 'I'm rejoicing in his presence', he's so glad that he's here. He tells us the reason why, look at verse 17: 'that which was lacking on your part they have supplied'. Now some think that may mean 'what you lack as Corinthian carnal believers, they're the epitome of everything that you need to know and be' - but that's not what I think it means. What he's saying is: 'I love you Corinthians, and I'm lacking your presence here where I am, but they have come and visited me; and what I'm lacking in enjoying your presence, I'm enjoying in their presence - they're being such a blessing to me. I miss your faces, but I'm glad to have them with me, and what I miss in you I have in them'. Isn't that beautiful?
Now here's the question: do people rejoice in your presence? Or when you ring the doorbell, do they dive behind the settee, and say 'Sshh, turn the lights off quick! Look who's coming!'? Or do they rejoice in your presence, that you're there? Trevor Knight, who preaches with us, I remember him saying to me on one occasion of the old Welsh evangelist who has also preached here and has now gone to be in glory, David Sheperd - some of you may remember him preaching at Easter Conventions in the past. Whenever David Sheperd came into a room there was a presence - I'm not saying he was some kind of saint, but there was a presence with him, it was as if he carried the presence of God wherever he went. He was a joy to be with, and when you were with him you wanted to stay with him! Do you know anybody like that? I know one, maybe two - people who are a joy to be with.
Listen to what he goes on to say, here's a further reason why they're a joy, verse 18: 'they have refreshed my spirit and yours'. 'When I'm with them I feel when I walk away that I've had a spiritual bath, I feel refreshed, I feel cleansed, I feel that I've been blessed as they have sharpened my blade with their blade'. Do you refresh people? Remember David was running away from the hand of Saul who wanted to kill him, and he went into the woods - and it says that Jonathan, the prince, the son of the King, left the palace and went into the wood, and we read in the word of God that Jonathan strengthened the hand of David. Isn't that lovely? The apostle Paul on one occasion was downcast, by inference of a text in Acts 28, and it says: 'And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage'. He met a group of saints who, when he saw them, it encouraged him, it refreshed his soul.
Are you refreshing to be around? You know, there are some people, and I can't say it any other way, and all they do is girn - that's all they do! Whenever they open their mouth it's always complaint, it's always negative, it's always destruction, dereliction - let us be a group of Barnabas' who in a day of small things encourage the people of God! Let us be refreshing to be around - if anybody should be refreshing, it should be the man or the woman from whose spirit flows rivers of living water! Should it not be us? Sometimes we can be the most miserable people to be around. The Lord Jesus said, and incidentally He uses the same word as Paul uses here for 'refresh', in Matthew 11 verse 28: 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest' - it's the same word as 'refresh', 'rest'.
Now what does that mean? Well, He goes on to talk about the yoke, and how He would bear the yoke with you, and His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and He would help you, He would lighten the burdens just by being with you. Isn't that right? He said He was going away, and He would send another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to come and strengthen you - the 'paraclete' in Greek, 'come alongside and bear the burden with you'. What the apostle Paul is saying is that there are some believers that are just like Christ in this way - they're Christlike, they come alongside and they bear your burden, and they refresh you: they lighten your load, and they're a pleasure to be with.
Be supportive of the saints, and he goes on even to say that everyone is blessed by this type of ministry. He says 'not just my spirit, but yours' - you were blessed too! At the end of Paul's life, we read in 2 Timothy chapter 4, if you want to turn to it - he's now in prison, facing death, 2 Timothy 4 and in verse 9 we read that he says to Timothy: 'Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me', I need your encouragement Timothy, I need your presence, 'For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry' - I want Mark to be with me! Isn't that lovely? 'He refreshes my spirit'.
Let's move on: be addicted to serving the saints, be submitted to servants of God, be supportive to saints in need; and fourthly, be hospitable to the rest of the body. Verse 19: 'The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house' - be hospitable to the rest of the body. Aquila and Priscilla, husband and wife, were dedicated to the service of the Lord - they were a husband and wife team. Now you don't often get this, but we read in the Scriptures that Paul met them when he was in Corinth, and like Paul they were tentmakers - you can read that in Acts 18. Six times we read of them in the New Testament, and when Paul moved from Corinth to Ephesus they packed up their bags, they moved their business, and they went with him - and we read in Acts 18 that they assisted him in the founding of the church there at Ephesus.
Paul felt that Aquila and Priscilla were so capable and so spiritual, that when he left them in Ephesus to return to Antioch, he left them to oversee the work of God! What a couple! Then in Ephesus, you'll remember, in the synagogue when Apollos got up to preach he was instructed in the way of the Lord, but he didn't know the full counsel of God as the Holy Spirit had revealed it to some of the church - it was Priscilla and Aquila that took him aside, and we read that they expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. What a couple, eh? In Romans 16, we don't have time to read it, and verse 4 we read that Paul says that 'They stuck out their neck for me, and risked their lives for me!'. What a husband and wife team, and Paul probably lived in their house for over a year and a half - what a couple they are!
C. T. Studd was a great missionary - you'll remember, if you know his story, that he left a potentially successful career in cricket, and also he left a legacy of wealth from his ancestors, and he went out into the mission-field. Then he got married, and when he got married there might have been a concern in his mind and the minds of his peers and those who had brought him up in the ways of the Lord, that perhaps his service would be hindered in this marriage bond. But we read in his biography that on the day he was married both of them wore a sash - now it wasn't an orange one! - but there was written on it 'United in Christ'. How many services for the Lord are divided 50 percent when they get married? Do you drag your partner down? Or do you drag them up? Do you encourage them in the things of the Lord or do you keep them back?
Isn't this a marvellous refreshment even in itself, to see a couple that were so hospitable that we read that they didn't even stay in Ephesus, but they moved when Paul moved to Rome - and then when Paul was in prison they went back to Ephesus and they helped Timothy as they had helped Paul! They weren't following a personality, they were following the Lord! They served the Lord from the depths of their hearts. They moved house - would you move house for the Lord? They moved their business - would you move your business for the Lord? They followed God's servant, and we read here that they even had the church, the assembly in Ephesus - which incidentally, probably was one of several assemblies in Ephesus - they had it in their home. It couldn't have been a building, by the way, the church is not a building - you do know that? It would be hard to get a building into their house, wouldn't it? It was the people, the church of the living God, the lively stones.
Here's a question that we must ask: do you view your house as an instrument for God's work and for God's service? Or is it maybe even an idol in itself? What a lesson: to be hospitable to the rest of the body - and if any of you want me round for dinner, well I'll be glad to accept the invitation!
Fifthly: be affectionate in dealing with each other. Verse 20, here's a mark of New Testament Christians that we need to pay attention to tonight: 'All the brethren greet you' - and there you have it again, there's a group of brethren in Ephesus meeting in Priscilla and Aquila's house, but here he says in verse 20: 'All the brethren greet you'. There wasn't a 'Church of Ephesus' the way there's a 'Church of Ireland', there were various assemblies like this in Ephesus - but he's saying collectively: 'All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss'. Be affectionate in dealing with each other.
Now you may not know this, but if you read Christian history you will know that the early Christians - here even in the Corinthian days - were ill-spoken of, people said they were evildoers. When they broke bread, they said they were having orgies; when they were breaking bread and drinking the wine that symbolised the blood of Christ, they said that they were in some way cannibals eating flesh and drinking blood. There were all these false rumours going around about the church of Jesus Christ in the early days, and what Paul is saying here is: make sure you don't put any weight to those accusations, and when believers are dealing with one another in public and private make sure you do it with affection one toward another.
So he says: 'Greet one another, when you greet one another, greet one another with a holy kiss'. Now I don't want you smothering me when we go out after the meeting when I'm at the door, because what Paul is saying here - the sentiment is the custom of his day, like a handshake or an embrace even with us today, was to show that you were on good terms with the person, there was affection between one another. It was in order that we would never be misunderstood as being fallen out, or being enemies, or having some issue between one another with our fellowship broken. Now the danger today is that the opposite would be conceived - if all you women threw your arms around me on the way out of the meeting tonight, people would start to ask questions, because our custom has changed - they'd be asking the very questions that they were doing this not to attract in Paul's day. The reason why he was giving this exhortation, was that you might be upright in the eyes of the world. So I think what we do today, like shaking hands and all the rest, is the way to concede - but also the rest of our dealings that we have with one another. Sometimes I feel, as believers, we think that because we're brethren and sisters in Christ that we can assume upon some privileges that we would never assume upon with people in the world, or even with our friends or family. Do you not think that's the case?
Sometimes good manners go out the window, and we say things to one another that we wouldn't dream of saying to anybody else. In our dealings, Paul says, this is a witness, this is how people will know that you're the people of God - be affectionate to each other in your dealings. The point is: we ought to be known, if anybody ought to be known, as an affectionate people. Should we not be? I'm not talking about all lovey-dovey romantic nonsense, I'm talking about real love that lays the life down for each other.
Now let's conclude with these three headings from verse 21 to 24 - for Paul now, in verse 21 we read, takes up his pen - you say: 'Well, he's a bit late taking it up, it's the last chapter'. Well, you do know that Paul dictated his letters? Now he's taking the pen off the man he has dictated it to up to now, and he's putting his own handwriting to it to say: 'This is the personal touch with my own hand, these are now my characteristic salutations to you, the salutation of me Paul with mine own hand' - a salutation. Isn't it lovely? He comes to this soft part of the epistle where he's expressing his characteristic of love toward them, and the love that they ought to have toward one another, and almost as a personification and illustration of that he takes his own pen to exhort them in it. Isn't that nice?
But after the salutation there's a condemnation. In verse 22 we read: 'If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha'. If any man love not the Lord Jesus - the Greek word for 'love' there is 'philio', it is not the highest form of love 'agape', the love that we have from God and the love that we ought to have for each other and for God, but it's a tender affection. It's almost corresponding to the affection that we ought to have for one another, and Paul is saying that if you don't have an affection towards the Lord Jesus Christ you ought to be anathema! And the word 'anathema' means 'to be accursed'! This is very serious stuff, because what the apostle is saying here is that one of the marks of being a child of God is an affection for the Lord Jesus Christ. It doesn't mean you're out and out for God, you ought to be out and out for God, but if you don't even have an affection for the Lord Jesus, if His name doesn't charm your fear; if the thoughts of Christ and all that He has done for you, all that He means for you, all that He will do in a day that's yet to come - if it doesn't stir up the embers of your soul, you mightn't be saved at all!
That's the question - it's not about profession now. It doesn't say 'If you've prayed the sinner's prayer, or stuck your hand up in some mass meeting during the playing of 'Just As I Am, Without One Plea'' - that's not in Paul's thought here at all. The question he's asking is: do you have a love for the Saviour? Do you have an affection for the Lord Jesus Christ? He then follows this word 'anathema' with the word 'Maranatha', which is an Aramaic word which means 'our Lord comes'. It's almost as if he's putting these two words together, he's saying 'If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed when the Lord comes!'. That's what's going to happen, isn't it? Let me tell you what Paul said to Timothy: if you want the crown of righteousness you will love the appearing of the Lord, and if you love the Lord it follows that you're going to love His appearing and you're going to look for His appearing.
Can I fill you in on a couple of other things that you will do if you love the Lord and have an affection for Him? Here's one: you will keep His commandments. The Lord Jesus says: 'If ye love me, keep my commandments' - 1 John 3, not only will you keep His commandments, you will love the brethren: 'We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren'. Do we love the brethren? Do we keep His commandments? Are we looking for His coming? 'If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, let him be accursed' - I don't care what you've done, or what you've said, or where you've been; on that day when the Lord comes, you'll knock on the door and say 'Lord, Lord, have I not prophesied in Thy name, have I not cast out many demons in Thy name, have I not done many mighty works in Thy name?'. He will say 'Depart from me, ye cursed!'.
Are you saved tonight? Do you love the Lord Jesus? I'm not asking you have you professed faith: do you have a love for Christ in your heart that is the mark of one who saved?
Then he ends with the benediction, grace and love: 'The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen'. Do you know what he's saying at the end of this epistle to a problematic carnal group of Christians? He's saying: 'You know, grace and love can overcome and conquer anything'. Isn't that wonderful? He started in grace - you remember he saw them in Christ, as sanctified saints of God; and he's ending with the same grace, and the same love that can conquer conflict. But isn't it wonderful that he ends with this note that we're going to begin two Monday nights from here with, that even if things don't get better, and things increasingly seem futile in our lives and in our world, remember the watchword: Maranatha! Our Lord is coming! And when He comes He will put to right every wrong, He will heal every wound, He will wipe away every tear; and He will make all things new. Can you say Maranatha? Maranatha! Are you all asleep? Maranatha! Our Lord comes!
Our Father, we thank Thee that we have a prospect - in a church even like Corinth with all their problems and all their carnality, the apostle could still direct then to a hope that was theirs, even in all their problems. Lord, we thank Thee that though we're not what we ought to be, one day we will be like Jesus - we will see Him as He is, and we will be like Him. Lord, it's just amazing, and we want to thank Thee for that amazing grace, that marvellous boundless love that You showed to us in the person of Thy Son. We pray that we, as we leave these salutations of Paul tonight, these last lessons in love to the Lord's people, that we will be a people marked by grace and love also - and that people will look at us and say: 'Behold, how they love one another'. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the forty-sixth and final tape in his 1 Corinthians series, titled "Some Last Lessons In Love For The Lord's People" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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