What A Strange Statement!
Read 1 Corinthians Chapter 16
1Co 16:19 The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. 20 All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. 22 If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him. Come, O Lord ! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Paul’s “final greetings” to the people of Corinth is a strange mixture of thoughts. Some of the verses make perfect sense, stating some obvious remarks that one would expect to find in closing out a letter. We see greetings from the churches in Asia, from Aquila and Priscilla, from the church that meets in their house, and from “all the brothers.” He ends the passage by asking God’s grace to be upon them and sending the Corinthians his personal love. Even the encouragement to greet one another with a holy kiss was a normal thing of that culture. All of those are normal ways of expressing a goodbye. But notice something really strange.
In verse 22, Paul states, “If anyone does not love the Lord – a curse be on him.” During the course of Paul’s missionary journey, he encountered many people who refused his message. He stirred up a lot of hatred toward himself and toward the truth of Jesus and His word. I find it very interesting and unusual that Paul would declare a curse on anyone who doesn’t love the Lord. I also think it odd that he would include that remark in a letter to the Corinthians. Why did he do that? Here are some ideas to ponder.
Perhaps he knew that there were some false believers among the Corinthians. If so, that would be a pointed message to those men and women. It would give some of the congregation pause for thought. More than once in my life I have had to think about that. There are so many scriptures which require the Christian to love the Lord. Every time I run across one of those verses, I have to ask myself, “Do I love the Lord?” There was a time when that question scared me pretty severely. There were times when I could not truly say that I do. It was one of the things which caused me to seek Him more fervently than before. It very well could be that Paul was attempting to cause some of the Corinthians to give serious thought to their lack of love for God and Christ.
Paul may have been stating the obvious. It would seem to be a fact that anyone who passes from this earth without ever possessing some measure of love for God will not enjoy eternity. At some point in time in our lives, we must develop and cultivate a love for Him. It is the natural order of things. How can we ask God to save us and never develop any love for the One who bestowed that marvelous gift upon us?
Without Him, we would spend eternity in torment. As that truth cements itself in our minds, our love for Him cannot be squelched forever. Additionally, as we get to know Him better, there is no way that our love cannot sprout and grow. To know Him is to love Him. Period. If anyone doesn’t love Him, the formula is simple; get to know Him. Learn from His word, Store away His truth in your heart. Begin recognizing how powerfully and lovingly He has worked in your personal life.
To the unbeliever, verse 22 is a chilling statement about his fate. There is indeed a curse upon anyone who refuses to repent and believe in Christ. There is no way around that truth. The world can try to get around it by emphasizing God’s love and ignoring His wrath, but it won’t change anything. The unbeliever, and the one who remains unwilling to abandon willful sin, will not see Heaven.
There is one other idea from verse 22. Paul said, “Come, O Lord!” As he witnessed the wickedness that had surrounded him for all the time of his ministry, he surely must have been weary of it all. He also must have been grief-stricken over the uncountable number of men and women who obviously were going to perish and never come to a saving knowledge of Christ. At times, that kind of grief overwhelms me too. My response sometimes is, “O Lord, please come back soon. I cannot stand any more sadness.” Do you feel that way at times?
Prayer: Father, forgive us when we weary of the burdens of our lives on earth. We know that Your perfect will is being accomplished by Your delay in returning to earth. Give us strength to endure. And Lord, please open the minds and hearts of all our unsaved friends, that they may join us in eternity with You. Remove Your curse from them and fill them with Your truth and Holy Spirit. Finally, show us all how to grow our love for You. We fall way too far short of a perfect love for You.