God's Grace Is Sufficient For Us

God is Good, All The Time, and All the Time God is Good!

Twenty-nine months is a long time!  We could have waited on three babies to be born during this length of time.  Our children have celebrated multiple birthdays and Christmas has come and gone twice since we began this journey together.  It was twenty-nine months ago, in January 2022, that I published our first article on 1 Corinthians.  When we began that first week of January, I had no idea it would take so long or that we could cover so many different topics which have been relevant to our lives as God’s children today.  Today is the final installment, we have reached the end.  Paul concludes his epistle with the following words.

The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla send you greetings warmly in the Lord, along with the church that meets in their home. All the brothers and sisters send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.  This greeting is in my own hand—Paul.  If anyone does not love the Lord, a curse be on him. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.  My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.
 1 Corinthians 16:19-21

Paul begins with an understanding of his location, which is Asia or Asia Minor.  This would be modern day Turkey.  Then he immediately speaks names both we and his readers would readily recognize, Aquila and Priscilla.  These two faithful servants were some of the first converts in Corinth.  After spending over a year ministering in Corinth and using their home as the meeting location for the church, Paul traveled to Ephesus. When Paul departed from Corinth Priscilla and Aquila went with him. They left their home, but it continued to be the meeting place for the church at Corinth.  These faithful servants of God eventually remained in Ephesus assisting Timothy in his ministry there when Paul was executed in Rome.

Paul was quick to send greetings from other Christians, assuring his readers that as brothers and sisters in Christ we stand together, truly loving one another.  He mentions we should greet one another with a holy kiss. It sounds rather strange to us, but the European greeting of a cheek to cheek kiss was common in Paul's day. But this type of greeting would only be shared with someone that you were in solidarity with. You would not greet a stranger like this, and certainly not an enemy. And no Jew would ever give a kiss of greeting to a Gentile. But Christians? Regardless of where we are from, how well we know each other, or even our ethnicity, we stand united together as brothers and sisters in Christ. We greet one another with open arms and welcome each other with true Christian hospitality.

We are sadly given an indication of some of the challenges Paul faced personally in his next statement. This greeting is in my own hand—Paul.  This is not the only epistle in which Paul signs the conclusion himself. It was very common for Paul to use a secretary because he had challenges writing his letters for himself.  The reason for this is commonly understood to be the fact that Paul was physically going blind. When he did write he had to write with very large letters in order to see and read them. So others typically took dictation from him. But he generally made the point of signing his epistles personally so that his readers would know that in fact they were from him.

Paul then makes two very different statements to bring this epistle to a close. He speaks both curse and blessing. In our world of proper decorum, which always holds forth the desire to never do anything to offend anyone, Paul holds nothing back.
If anyone does not love the Lord, a curse be on him. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.  My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.

Why does Paul use such strong language? Why would Paul speak a curse as he brings this letter to a close? The reason is that this letter will be read publicly in the worship service by those couriers who are returning from Paul. He has addressed the false teachings which have been propagated in the church.  The false teachers who have taken a stand against the Gospel have been identified throughout this epistle as those who have forsaken the Gospel. To forsake the Gospel is to have no love for Jesus. For anyone to proclaim that what Jesus did through his death and resurrection is in fact a lie is to make oneself an enemy of God. To make oneself an enemy of God is to place oneself under the curse or judgement of God.

Imagine if you will, the people of God in Corinth gathering on that first Sunday morning that these messengers returned with this letter from Paul. They have probably prayed and sung and shared fellowship and the time has come for this letter to be read in the assembly. One of the men who have traveled from Paul rises and reads what Paul has written. There in the crowd are those who have denied the Gospel and taken their stand against both Paul and Christ. This letter would be a blatant slap in the face and a call to repentance for the false teachers. Paul is making it extremely clear, as he does elsewhere, that to take a stand against Christ is to place yourself as one who is damned to hell. Everyone in that assembly would be continually turning and staring at the false teachers as their heresy was addressed publicly by Paul.  

Having spoken such a hard word, Paul immediately speaks of God's grace. The grace of God covers a multitude of sins. There is nothing which has been done in Corinth which cannot be undone by the grace of God. Those who have sinned and those who have been deceived can all be forgiven and restored by the same grace of God. Having spoken words of law and judgment, Paul speaks words of grace and forgiveness.

Paul concludes by expressing his love for the people in Corinth. He had spent almost two years there building relationships as he built the church. He will soon be sent to Rome where he will ultimately die for his faith. The vast majority of the people in Corinth will never see him again, but his love for them will live on as the truth of the Gospel he proclaimed continually enabled them to know forgiveness and to celebrate eternal life.

There is not one of us who is guaranteed tomorrow, but we have today. Let us make the most of it so that the legacy we leave behind is one that points people not only to our love, but to the love of God and His grace in Christ Jesus.

In Christ,
Pastor Russ

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