I want to turn to our text this evening, 1 Corinthians chapter 16 is the portion from which we will read - one verse which we want to concentrate on this evening. First Corinthians chapter 16, the last chapter of Paul's first epistle to Corinth, and we read verse 22 together: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha".
Let us have a brief word of prayer together: Father, we come before Your holy, infallible truth, and from the reading of only one verse we feel its searing of our soul. We realise that it is two-edged, it is a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces, we know it is infused with reproducing power - but we pray that the Holy Spirit will take the Word of God, and apply it to the hearts of men and women, and boys and girls. Lord, we need You, tonight, to come in mighty power and saving efficacy, to quicken, to wound, and then to heal, restore and save. For the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.
I want to speak to you on this text under the title 'Better To Have Loved Than Lost'. I'm sure you all know well the saying 'It is better to have loved and then lost, than not loved at all' - but seldom do we hear such a saying applied to the spiritual realm, and that's what I want to do this evening. I want to say: 'Better to have loved Christ than to be lost', for effectively that is what the apostle says in his closing remarks in chapter 16 of the first epistle to the church at Corinth: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha".
The word for 'love' here in the verse is a strange word for Paul to use, it's only the second time he ever uses it in the whole of the New Testament, and the only time he uses it in relation to love toward God. It is the word 'filio', he usually uses the word 'agape', 'the love of God' - but 'filio' means 'a tender affection towards someone'. It's a feeling, or an emotion and an experience that we can have towards other human beings, but he uses it concerning the Lord Jesus Christ in this verse. What the apostle is saying from his warm heart of love towards the Lord Jesus Christ is that he couldn't tolerate any indifference toward the Saviour. It's great for someone to have an agape love, the love that really pleases God, towards the Saviour; but the apostle is saying here that he cannot tolerate anyone not even having an affection, a tenderness towards the Lord Jesus Christ.
In other words, what the apostle is saying here is that as far as he is concerned, and he is inspired by the Holy Spirit, there can be no neutrality in our opinion and our disposition towards the Lord Jesus. So much so that he pronounces a curse upon those who do not love Him - 'Let them be Anathema'. That simply means 'to be accursed', or as some put it 'to be departed from the people of God', cut off from the congregation of the righteous, to be divorced from the favour of God, for God not to lavish any of His goodness or grace or mercy upon you; and ultimately to be delivered up to God's vengeance and God's wrath.
'Anathema', and then he says 'Maranatha', which simply means 'Our Lord comes'. Now put all those things together, and you get simply this meaning I think: if any man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed when the Lord comes! You see, the Lord Jesus Christ came to Bethlehem, but He - we know from the Scriptures and from His own testimony - was the pre-existent Christ, He lived before Bethlehem, He is the Son of God. It was only at Bethlehem that He was born into this world, having taken human flesh. But the Bible tells us not only of the first advent of Jesus that we will celebrate at Christmas time, but it tells us of a second advent, and there are probably about eight times more prophecies concerning the second coming of our Lord Jesus than His first advent - and we know that He came the first time, and we can surely therefore be certain He will come again.
The question is to you this evening: how will He find you? What will your disposition be to Him when He comes? Will you be one of these people who loved the Lord Jesus? Will you have an agape love to Him, a fervent love that God has inspired in your heart? Will you even have a tender affection toward Him? Or will you be someone who loathes the name and the person of Christ? There are some like that in our world today, they cannot stand the name of Jesus, they curse it and use it as a curse. Then there are those, and they do not love the Lord Jesus, they do not loathe Him, they are just lethargic concerning Him - take it or leave it: 'I'm not really concerned, I'm not that religious, I'm not into these things. I know He was a good man and all the rest, and I respect Him in a kind of way, but I don't love Him'. I wonder which you are this evening?
I want to give you first of all this evening the reasons why people do not love the Lord. Believe it or not - maybe it seems astounding to you here tonight - that there are some who do not love, or have a tender affection towards the Lord Jesus Christ. The more surprising fact is that it is not the obvious, that it's those who are in pagan lands and the heathen who have never heard the Gospel, and where no missionaries have been or Gospel evangelists have preached, but it's in those who have heard about Him. Maybe from a child in Sunday School, those who have grown up in a Christian environment and even in a Christian home or at least a Christian society, so-called, where there has been an influence of the Gospel - it is they, so often at times, who loathe Christ. They do not love Him, rather they hate Him, they reject Him.
Now why is that? Well, the first reason I want to give you why people do not love the Lord is that they love their sin too much. They love their sin too much. Actually, in this first epistle to Corinth, although it was written to Christians, there was a great problem in the wicked city of Corinth of immorality. So much so that it actually infiltrated the church and, although it's written to the church, we even get in the church characteristics of what was going on in the world and society in Corinth outside. It's no different than what's going on today in our world. Incest had infiltrated this assembly. We are told that a man married his father's wife, his stepmother, and committed incest and also committed, therefore, adultery and fornication. We read, as we go through this book, that some of these people were in danger of dabbling in prostitution because there was a great temple in the city of Corinth and they worshipped false gods, but they worshipped them in a sexual immoral worship through prostitutes - 'sacred vestal virgins' they were called. Then there were others who were getting rid of their husbands and their wives for sometimes 'religious reasons', they were getting divorced, separating from them. Then there were others in this city who were committing sodomy, or as we call it today 'homosexuality'. There were even male prostitutes in the worship of the gods in Greek society. Then Paul wrote warning of idolatry, those who were bowing down to idols and worshipping these false gods and even going to the temple - he was warning Christians against going to the temple and eating of meat that is offered to idols. There was theft, there was greed and slander, there were swindlers in this particular age - so much so that he even had to speak to the church and tell them not to go to court with one another for greedy gain. Then there was drunkenness, drunkenness - but believe it or not, this drunkenness was found not in the gutter or in the public house, but around the Lord's Table!
'What an awful thing!', you might say. It is an awful thing, all of these things are awful things, and they are in our world today. I might be speaking to someone who has been tainted and affected by those things, and maybe it's an habitual desire for those things that causes you to love your sin more than Christ. This is the reason for you stopping loving Him. In 1 Corinthians 6 and verse 9, Paul actually recites most of the sins that I mentioned there - but he says these words: 'Know ye not that the unrighteous', that is the people that commit these things habitually in their lifestyle, they are unrighteous, 'they shall not inherit the kingdom of God?'. In other words, Paul is saying that sinners do not get into heaven. If you've got sin, you can't get in - but the miracle of God's grace that is preached in this epistle is that Paul could say to them: 'But such were some of you: but you're washed, but you're sanctified, but you're purified and justified in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord, and by the Spirit of our God'.
God had cleansed them, so they had to depart from this whole way of life that was unrighteous. This is the message of God's gospel: that though men are sinners and can't get into heaven of themselves because of their sin, they can be saved by the grace and the gift of the Lord Jesus. Oh, my friend, do you realise this this evening? Maybe you're too attached to those specific sins to let them go, to take hold upon Christ in love of Him? Do you love your sin too much? Is that what is keeping you back from loving Christ, and owning Christ, and confessing Christ?
A second reason was that they loved themselves too much - you can do that as well you know, and that is equally a sin, but it seems to be, at times, a more acceptable one. In fact, at the beginning of this particular epistle, Paul castigates them for relying more on their own human wisdom than on the grace of God and the crucified Christ. In fact, Paul says: 'We preach Christ, and Him crucified. The preaching of the cross to them that perish is foolishness, but unto us which are the saved it is the power of God. It might be a stumbling block to Jews, it might be foolishness to the Greeks, but the Gospel is your only hope. It doesn't matter how clever you are, it doesn't matter what ability you might have - self cannot save you!'. Could it be that you're here tonight, and you think that because you're a fine upstanding member of the community, or even an officer in the church or a communicant, that you will be OK? Do you know what you're doing? If that is the foundation of your dependence, that means you love yourself more than Christ! We sang:
'Other refuge have I none' - not my immorality, or my church-ianity
'Hangs my helpless soul on Thee'.
They loved their sin too much, they loved themselves too much, but they did not love the truth enough. What am I talking about? Well, at the beginning of this book there were divisions, and the devil loves to bring division into families, division into society, he loves to bring division into churches. There are division makers, and they run to and fro from church to church, and they're not of God - they go out from us because they are not of us, and they're the devil's meddlers, and they love not the truth. Then there were the false prophets, they were running in and out as well, prophesying all sorts of ecstatic and charismatic utterances - and they were false, they had not the truth. Then there were false teachers, in chapter 15 he writes to them about the resurrection of Christ, warning them that there are those who say that Christ hasn't already risen - and Paul says that if that is true, we are of all men most miserable, and we are still in our sins if Christ is still in the grave.
Then there were the Judaisers, who were they? Well, they were the legalists, they were the people of 600 and more rules and regulations over and above the Bible, which you had to keep in order to be saved. 'Yes', they said, 'it's OK for Jesus to have died for our sins and rose again, and you must have faith in Him, but you know you've got to do a bit more: you've got to keep the laws of Moses and the rituals. You've got to get circumcised, the ceremony must be kept and practised'. My friend, this was all a lack of love for the truth which betrayed a lack of love for the Lord Jesus. The fact is these heresies and falsehoods and divisions were actually causing them not to love Christ as they ought. Potentially you could be unsaved in this place this evening, and these are the very things that are hindering you: a division, someone is a Christian, or so-called, and they've done something against you - and that is the very thing that's keeping you from Christ. Maybe you're listening to false prophets and false teachers, or maybe you're wrapped up in some kind of legalistic religion or a cult - I don't know what it is, it doesn't really matter, but if you think you can get to heaven and God with more than the cross of Christ, you're deluded! It's the cross, nothing more and nothing less.
In fact, Paul said, when he pronounced another 'Anathema' in Galatians chapter 1 verse 8: 'Though we', the apostles, 'or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed', anathema. 'As we said before', he says it again, 'so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed'. Do you know why it's such a tragic thing to have a gospel that's different from this book? Because it keeps men from loving Jesus Christ. The truth brings people to the Lord Jesus. Is there someone here now, and you don't love Him, and the reason why you don't love Him is you love your sin too much, or you love yourself too much, or you don't love the truth of God enough?
Let me give you, this evening, what's more important - the reasons why you should love Him. It's strange to me, indeed it's even saddening, in fact I'd go as far as to say that it shows the stupidity of sin, why men do not love the Lord Jesus. In fact, it is absolutely unreasonable not to love Him, because there is everything in Him to love! He is the Altogether Lovely One, He is the Fairest of ten thousand, He is the Altogether Lovely One and Lovable One. So why is it then that men do not respond to Him in love? Well, if you respond to love shown toward you, usually the response comes in a twofold manner. The first, I think, is gratitude - if someone shows love toward you, practical charity, you usually will express gratitude. That gratitude shows that you appreciate what they have done for you, you're thankful, you really do thank them for what they have done. When we look at the Lord Jesus Christ, the portrait and picture gallery that we find from Matthew through to the book of John, we find that He never ever did anything to discourage a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, from loving Him. In fact, He never ever did an evil deed, He never ever slighted a man with evil intent in His words or in His actions. In fact, to the contrary, we read that He humbled Himself, He came as a Servant to God, He took upon Himself our nature, our humanity - apart from sin, of course - and the Bible says He lived for men, He lived for you and me! He died for men on the cross, bearing their sin! He rose again for men, and He is willing now, as He is risen, ascended at the right hand of God, He is willing to do every good for mankind - and the greatest good that He has done is opening heaven for us.
Now, ought you not to show gratitude towards the Lord Jesus for those things? Should you not love Him because of what He has done for you? But then the second response we often have when we become recipients of another's love is esteem. Not only do we have gratitude, but we esteem the one who has shown love to us - and, oh, I couldn't even spend time here tonight speaking of the esteem that we ought to have of the Lord Jesus, for He is not only the humble Servant of God coming to earth to die on the cross and bear our shame and our iniquity and the contradiction of sinful men, but He is the very Son of God who came. He is God's only begotten, He is the darling of God's bosom who was sent - ought we not to esteem Him, and worship at His feet, and say: 'My Lord and my God!'. He should be esteemed as Saviour, for that is who He is. He came to save men, not to condemn them. He went to the cross and shed His blood to save them, and rose again to save them, and ascended to heaven so that at the right hand of God He could save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him, because He lives.
Now, why, why do you not love Him? You should love Him because He loves you! Isn't that what 1 John 4 says? 'We love Him because He first loved us' - verse 10 of that same chapter says: 'Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins'. That big word simply means 'a sacrifice that satisfied God, and exhausted God's anger to such an extent that there's none left for us, because it was all poured out on Him'! Should you not love God and Christ because of that? Paul could say in Galatians: 'The Son of God who loved me, and give Himself for me'. 'Yes', Paul says, 'if you love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let any man like that be Anathema' - but my friend, do you realise tonight that the Son of God was cursed for you on Calvary's tree? That's why you should love Him. Paul said in Galatians: 'Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; because it is written', in Deuteronomy, 'Cursed is everyone that hangs upon a tree'. There He was, cursed of God and of men - why? Because He loved you, and He was taking your curse that you might never be Anathema, if you would only embrace Him and love Him.
The reason, secondly, why you should love Him is that there is a curse on those who don't. Paul leaves no way of escape: if you don't love the Lord Jesus, you can't be saved, you are Anathema. There's no loopholes, there's no excuses, there's no fine print, there's no legal challenge - it's plain, black and white: Love Him, and if you don't you'll be lost. That word 'anathema' literally means, as I've said, 'let him be devoted to the wrath of God'. To not love Christ is to deliver yourself into the hands of the Almighty, who cannot only destroy the body but can destroy both body and soul in hell. I can't describe hell for you, part of me doesn't even want to try, but it's an awful place. It is an indescribable place where the soul is cut off from Christ, the very centre and root and foundation of man is severed from his Creator, and is tortured perpetually throughout eternity. 'He that believeth the Son', Jesus said, 'has everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him'.
My friend, you should love Him because He first loved you; but also because there's a curse on those who don't love Him. Is there someone here this evening asking the question: 'David, how do I know, how do I know if I love Him? How do I know if I'm saved? How do I know that I'm not cursed and won't go to that place called hell?'. Well, it's very easy to know, it's easy to know when someone loves another, isn't it? They are the chief object of their affection, and their primary in their life. Let me give you a number of ways how you can know if you love the Lord Jesus. You will be engrossed with Him as the subject of your thoughts, He will be in your mind, He will be in your heart, He will be the darling of your life, your Beloved. Your heart will beat for Him, your soul will move for Him, deep will call unto deep at the noise of His voice. Do you know that?
He will be the attractive theme of your conversation. If you love someone, you don't just think about them, you talk about them. Have you confessed the Lord Jesus? Have you told others? Could it be that because you haven't, you don't know Him as your Lord and Saviour, you don't really love Him in this sense? If you love Him, pleasing Him will be your greatest delight! That's what you do for those whom you love, you please them. Do you live for Him? Fourthly: He will be the greatest influence on your character. You've heard about the one going down the isle, the bride saying: 'I'll alter him, I'll alter him' - and that's what happens, isn't it? But we do alter one another when we come close to each other in friendship or marriage or whatever, we influence one another, we become like one another. If you love Christ, my friend, you will be influenced by Him, and if you love Him more than any you will be influenced by Him more than any.
Fifthly, He will be the one who is most identified with your conscious life here on earth. What does that mean? Because you love the Lord Jesus Christ, when men see you, when your life's story is told at the end of your days, what men will see and hear and remember is Jesus Christ, and the love that you had for Him, and the love of Christ that you spoke about Him. Another three things are that you will look forward to His return - Paul said to Timothy: 'Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing'. Paul says: 'Let anyone that doesn't love the Lord Jesus Christ be anathema, Maranatha' - Jesus is coming, He's coming to judge those who don't love Him! How will He find you, my friend? Will He find you loving, and looking, and waiting, and anticipating for Him coming? If you're not saved tonight, you can't do that. Maybe you're sitting here, and you're saying: 'I don't know if I'm saved' - how could you look forward to His coming if you didn't know, if you weren't sure? Make sure!
Do you obey His commandments? Jesus said in John 14: 'If you love me, keep my commandments'. Don't, my friend, call yourself a Christian if you're living a life that is filled with worldliness, the flesh, and maybe the devil himself! If you really love Christ and if you are His, you will obey Him. Here's another one: you'll love Christians, you'll love Christians! Maybe it took you all in your power to get into this place tonight, or listen to the message, however you're listening to it - and I know some Christians are hard to love, me included - but the Bible says we know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brothers: 'He that loves not his brother abides in death'. My friend, do you love Christ? If you love Christ, you'll love Christians - warts and all - you'll love their singing, you'll love their meetings, you'll love being in their company, you'll love hearing them speak of Christ.
I'm not asking you do you admire Him, I'm asking you do you love Him? There are atheists and agnostics in our world who admire Christ. Gandhi admired Christ, who was a Hindu - but we're asking: do you love Christ? That's what Paul says is the distinctive of the child of God. I'm not even asking do you abstain from hostility towards Him - that's good that you don't take His name in vain, that's good that you think He was an upstanding man and all the rest, but the question is: do you love Him? Do you have a tender affection towards Him as you recognise who He is with gratitude and with esteem? I'm not even asking do you take His name on your lips. You could say: 'I believe Christ', you could call yourself Christian and go to a Christian denomination, you could keep His day, you could meet with His people, you could drink of the emblem of His blood and feed upon the emblem of His flesh, and not love Him. It's happening today all over our province, all over the world. I'm not even asking do you work for Him, I'm asking you: has He touched your heart? Do you love Him?
One day a man betrayed the Lord Jesus by the name of Peter. He was the one who said: 'Lord, I'll never ever disown You. In fact, I'll die for You, I'll follow You to death'. Peter was renowned for shooting his mouth off, but I believe that deep down in his heart he really did believe it. But the Lord told him that the cock would crow, and he would deny the Lord Jesus three times - and he did it with oaths and with curses over the fire because a little girl asked him was he one of Christ's ones. Out of the corner of his eye he sees the Lord Jesus being taken away, and Christ looks at him - and he despairs and goes into the night, and breaks his heart, and weeps his eyes out. Surely that's his Christian career over? Surely that's all hope of apostleship, and position at the right hand of God that he so yearned for, gone? But one morning after the Lord Jesus' resurrection, on a seaside around a breakfast fire, the eyes of the holy Christ of God looked into Peter's eyes through the smoke and the embers, and pierced into the depths of his heart and said: 'Simon Peter, do you love Me?' - and he did, and the Lord knew he did. All that he had done, but he loved Christ, and that's what the love of Christ can do.
My friend, Christ is here tonight, and He's at your heart's door. Imagine someone in the dead of winter coming to your door - or, better, imagine you in the dead of winter breaking down in your motor car or something like that. You're out in the middle of nowhere, but you know one house of one friend, and you know how to find it. You get your way up there by foot, and maybe it's four below zero. You come to their door, and you rap it, and you rap it, and you rap it, and you see the light on, you maybe even can hear noise in the house - but they don't come out! They know that you're there, they know that you're freezing, hypothermia could set in - but they don't care! What would you think of a friend like that? You might be driven to curse them! Christ is at your heart's door this evening. He stands knocking with a very sore hand. He stands in the cold, in the blasting winds of human suffering and the punishment for sin that He bore on the cross, and He says to you outside your heart's door: 'I have come a long way for you, I came from the splendour of glory in heaven, I went to Bethlehem as a baby, I then went to the despised Nazareth, and then I went to Gabbatha and then to Golgotha to hang on the cross - and I did it for you, and now I'm here, having risen from the dead, and I've come to your heart, let me in!'. Would He say: 'My feet are bare, but for a covering all they have is blood. My head is uncovered, but for a crown of thorns. All these wounds, hand and foot, feet and heart, beg you to let me in. I've been here a great while, the night is getting darker' - would He say, 'I'm dying to get in!'?
My friend, would you not lift the latch, and shove back the bolt, and push open the door, and let Him in? He says: 'If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha', but He also said in John 10: 'I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved'. The 'if any' of salvation, anyone here tonight - young child, older adult - if any! 'Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man' - that is the 'if any' of communion, He will come into your life, He will change it, He will feed you. In John 7 He says: 'If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink' - that is the 'if any' of satisfaction. You will be satisfied, the satisfaction that you have longed for in your life of sin and self and in this world and in falsehood, you will find in Him. But there is an 'if any' of condemnation, and it's our text: 'If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema'.
I heard a story just yesterday about the puritan John Flavel. He was preaching in a congregation like this on the same text, and there was a 15-year-old young man in the gathering. At the end of his message he went to pray, and then he said that he could not pronounce the benediction because he felt that there may be someone there who did not love the Lord Jesus Christ, and who would be damned. Preacher and congregation went out with great solemnity. That young 15-year-old boy emigrated to the United States, he lived to a hundred years of age. One day, standing in his field, he remembered that night when Flavel could not bring himself to bring the benediction, and he knew that evening that he was the one who did not love Christ. At a hundred years of age in the field he started to love Him!
No matter how old you are, no matter how young you are, where you've been, what you've done - He is a Saviour to love, and He loves you, my friend. Will you not embrace Him tonight as He is freely offered in the Gospel?
Our Father, we thank You for Your love which was demonstrated for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ bled and died for us. Lord, help people in this meeting tonight to see that love: the love that Jesus had for me to suffer on the cruel tree, that I a ransomed soul might be, is more than tongue can tell. May they love Him tonight, by the Spirit of God enduing their heart with the new birth, that they may see in Him the wonder that they have never seen before. Lord, do it we pray, for the glory of Thy Son, Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording, titled "Better To Have Loved Than Lost" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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