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A Shocking Greeting

1 Corinthians 16:19-24
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. All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen. (NIVUK)

At the end of Paul's letters he usually sent warm greetings to the church, and often to individuals he respected as gospel workers. On this occasion he wanted the church in Corinth in Greece to know that the churches in Turkey honoured them as brothers and sisters. Although miles away they affirmed their family relationship in Christ.
Aquila and Priscilla were Jews who had probably been converted in Rome but fled to Corinth because of persecution, earning their living as tentmakers. When Paul arrived in the city they worked with him to establish the church (Acts 18:1-4). They were such helpful ministry colleagues that Paul took them to Ephesus to prepare the people for his mission there (Acts 18:18-21). They still loved the church in Corinth and wanted them to know it.
Paul was handwriting this end to the letter (a mark of authenticity - all the rest had been dictated). And then he thought of one or more people in the Corinthian church whose behaviour showed that they did not love the Lord. So Paul delivers them to God's wrath. It seems shocking that Paul interrupted such a delightful personal note with this curse. But niceness does not deal with persistent sin. He had previously been strong about this (1 Corinthians 5:4-5, 13), intending that firm discipline by the church would bring one man to repentance. After that he could be restored to fellowship (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). Paul's desire was "Come Lord Jesus"! He wanted everybody to be ready for Christ's return (Philippians 1:6).

It is right to be polite, kind and gracious. But it is wrong to be sentimental about sin. Indeed it is very unkind to allow a person we love to continue in sin. What matters most is that all those who do not love the Lord, whatever they say, should come to repentance and find forgiveness in Christ before He returns. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matthew 7:21-23). That is why it is foolish to encourage sin or unrepentance. The return of Jesus will be the end of opportunity. We all need to be ready, and help our friends prepare for that day too (Galatians 6:1).

Holy God. Thank You for the privilege of fellowship in Christ with believers all over the world. Thank You too for the desire to be kind and loving as Jesus was, and also for the loving responsibility to encourage my brothers and sisters to see sin as You see it and to repent. Forgive me for being sentimental about sin. Please help me to pray for those who claim to love You but do not demonstrate it, and then gently to lead them to repentance. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams