First Corinthians 16.19-24


1.   This evening we take our last look at Paul’s first Corinthian letter, in this series which has run well over a year.  But remember, what has taken us the better part of a year and a half of Sunday evenings to study took the apostle only a couple of hours to dictate to the man who actually put pen to paper...and how much less time to read?  First Corinthians 16.

2.   And after so long a look at a book of the Bible like this we can be tempted to ignore the closing remarks.  After all, they can’t be as important as the body of the letter.

3.   Let us remember, in this regard, something very important.  Something our Lord Jesus said in the midst of intense spiritual conflict.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

4.   What that means is this:  It is true that some parts of God’s Word are more important than other parts.  Only a fool would deny the truth of that.  But just because some portions of Scripture are more important doesn’t mean the less important passages are unimportant.

5.   As a matter of fact, there are many people who would say, “Listen especially to the last words a man speaks...or writes.  Those last words are very significant.”  Those of you who have lived for years and listened would be inclined to agree with that.

6.   So, let’s stand and listen very carefully to the last words that Paul wrote in this great New Testament book.  First Corinthians 16.19-24:

19     The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

20    All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.

21    The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand.

22    If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.

23    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

24    My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.  Amen.


7.   Does something unusual strike you?  Has it ever dawned on you that in our culture the letters we write begin with greetings?  And don’t we usually sign our letters at the end, while Paul signs his at the beginning?

8.   When you get a letter in the mail, aren’t you usually interested in who wrote it first?  Sure you are.  And after you know who wrote the letter, then you are interested in what they had to say.  And finally you are interested in the greeting.  So you see, Paul simply put his letters together in the way people would like for them to be structured.

9.   Notice also the messages that he passes on.  “The Churches of Asia salute you.”  Paul is passing along greetings from various congregations across the Aegean Sea from where Corinth was located, from the Churches located in what is now Turkey .

10. Then he passes along a greeting from a single Church.  It’s a Church meeting in the household of Aquila and his wife Priscilla.  That’s enough Bible right there to convince anyone, hopefully, that a Church is not a building...it’s people.  People who have been born again, people who have followed the Lord in believer’s baptism and banded together to worship, to serve, and to glorify the Lord together.  Obviously, Aquila and Priscilla, who were very prominent members of that Church, and close friends of Paul, send their best wishes also.

11. Then Paul, in verse 20, sends greetings from just about everyone.  And he tells the Corinthians to greet each other, and to do it with a holy kiss.  Not me, sucker.  You try and kiss me and I’ll drop you like a hot rock.

12. Folks, too often Christians think of only one kind of kiss.  The sexual kiss.  The kiss, which if occurring with anyone not married, is almost always a lustful and sinful kiss given for the purpose of manipulating that other person into a sinful situation.

13. But notice that Paul specifically says “holy” kiss.  It is a kiss, then, which does not suggest anything other than pure love.  Folks, if we can’t be tender with each other in that way, we have a real problem.  And I suggest that since some Christians cannot avoid lustful and sinful thoughts when they kiss, they have no business, at this stage of their Christian life, to attempt a “holy” kiss.  And all the fathers in the room said....

14. Now, getting back to what I was speaking about earlier, Paul’s closing remarks, those remarks which come from him and not necessarily those greetings that he is passing on from others, are quite important to us.  Notice the four ways we have of knowing the importance of Paul’s close.



21    The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand.

1B.    Turn to Second Corinthians 12.7-9 and read with me:

7     And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

 8    For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

 9    And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.


1C.   Folks, Paul had a thorn in the flesh.  This is usually interpreted as meaning that he had a physical infirmity that was given to him by God, not because of any sin in his life, but to prevent the onset of sin.

2C.   Some crackpots are so opposed to the idea of Paul having a physical problem that they interpret this as Paul having women problems, meaning that Paul had the problem of giving in to women and having sex with them.  That was his thorn in the flesh, says Frederick K. Price.

3C.   But that’s absolutely nuts, people.  Sexual sins are typical of lost people, according to First Corinthians 6.9-10, not Christians struggling with things sent to them by God to actually eliminate the possibility of becoming proud because of the abundance of revelations he had received from God.

4C.   I am of the opinion that this thorn in the flesh, this messenger of Satan, was a demon who pestered Paul continually.  Why a demon?  Two reasons:  First, because the word “messenger” translates the word “aggelos,” which is angel, and refers to supernatural beings no less than 180 of the 188 times the word is used in the Bible.  As well, the word translated “buffet” refers to something external, something from outside, thus, not a disease.

5C.   So, though I think Paul had pretty serious problems with his eyesight, an eye disease or some other disease was not his messenger from Satan, his thorn in the flesh.

2B.    Now turn to Galatians 4.15:

15    Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.


1C.   Even though Scripture does not conclusively say, and I would not dogmatically assert, that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was bad eyesight or something like glaucoma, this verse opens the door to the possibility of that Paul did have a serious vision problem.

2C.   This, I think, because of the allusion to the Galatians being willing to pluck out their eyes to give to him.

3B.    Now, taking this into account, plus the fact that most of Paul’s letters were dictated letters that were put down on paper by an amanuensis, which is a transcriber much like a secretary who takes dictation, you have good reason to suppose that Paul had real problems with his eyes...even if his vision problems were not the thorn in the flesh referred to.

4B.    In any event, for Paul to take the time and the effort to close this letter with his own hand is, I think, significant.  Why would he do it?  Because he loved them, of course.  He said that.  But also, I think, because these last words were extremely important to Paul.  Therefore, we would do well to pay close attention to the things this Spirit-inspired man had to write to those people.



22    If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.

1B.    Notice, If You Would, The First Phrase

         “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ”

1C.   Now, what do you suppose Paul meant by that remark?  For a clearer understanding of what it means to love the Lord Jesus Christ, turn in your Bible to Second John 6:  “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments.”  In addition to this, Jesus Himself said, “If you love me keep my commandments.”

2C.   Now turn to First John 2.3-5 and read:

3     And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

4     He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

5     But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.


Three things here:

1D.   One.  According to verse 3, the assurance of our salvation at least partly comes from your obedience.  Do you obey Him?

2D.   Two.  According to verse 4, a person who says he is a believer, who says he knows Christ, but who habitually refuses to obey Him, is not, in fact, saved.  Do you obey Him?

3D.   Three.  Verse 5 teaches us that obedience will perfect, or mature, your love for Christ and will give you assurance of your salvation.  Do you obey Him?

3C.   Back to First Corinthians 16.22.  Paul is essentially saying that if you aren’t saved, then you will be anathema.  But if you are saved, you think, but your love for Christ is unsteady and somewhat disobedient, then you need to obey Him and obey Him now.  For if you will not obey Christ, that proves that you do not love Him.  And if you don’t love Him, you are not truly born again.

2B.    Now, Notice This Word “Anathema”

1C.   Paul is telling us that an unsaved man is “anathema.”  But what exactly does “anathema” mean?

2C.   In Galatians 1.8-9 we see the word “anathema” translated by a different English word.  Let’s read those two verses:  “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

3C.   Notice the word “accursed.”  In First Corinthians 16.22 the word isn’t translated at all.  The Greek word is just written out in English letters.  But here “anathema” is translated into the English word “accursed.”

4C.   The literal meaning of the word “anathema” is “to set aside or to set apart.”  But what other word in the Bible, a word that we are very familiar with, means the same thing?  Right.  The word “holy.”

5C.   But there’s a difference between these two words.  The difference is this:  Whereas “holy” refers to setting something apart for a good purpose, “anathema” refers to setting something aside for a bad purpose or setting something aside in a bad sense.

6C.   If I may use some very blunt language that should never be used without great caution and thought, Paul is consigning those who do not love his Lord Jesus Christ to Hell.  In modern day language, without any intention of being irreverent or profane, Paul is saying, “Curse to Hell those who do not love my Lord.”

7C.   He doesn’t suggest that that’s where he wants them to go.  Heavens no.  Paul was a compassionate evangelist.  He is simply reminding his beloved Corinthians that those they do not reach are deservedly going to Hell.  And those in the Church who aren’t really saved, as evidenced by their disobedience to Christ, are on their way to Hell...if they do not get saved.

8C.   We need to be reminded periodically, don’t we?

3B.    Now, Notice The Last Word Of Verse 22.  Maranatha

1C.   It’s really difficult to tell just what Paul meant by this word.  He could have meant, “The Lord’s coming,” or he could have meant to say, “Lord, come.”

2C.   I like to think Paul was intentionally ambiguous because he meant to charge the atmosphere with the subject “The Lord is coming!” 

3C.   Beloved, we need to reach folks with the Gospel because the Lord Jesus is coming.  And at the same time the soldier of the cross yearns to cry out, “Lord, won’t you please come back now?”

3C.   You see, both of these desires are in the heart of the believer who truly loves his Lord.  At any rate, Paul has warned us in verse 22 that we need to get busy and serve God.



23    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


         1B.    Does it seem strange that the apostle Paul would close his letter in this way?  But, if you were here when we began our study of this letter, it wouldn’t seem strange at all.

2B.    Turn to First Corinthians 1.4-9:

4     I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

5     That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

6     Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:

7     So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

8     Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9     God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.


1C.   What does Paul tell the Corinthians that he thanks God for?  For the grace of God that is given to them, according to verse 4.  But what is grace?  It is divine favor.  It is divine enablement.  It is the stuff you need to live like God tells you in the Bible to live.  Paul thanks God that they are given this stuff called grace.

2C.   In verse 5 he points out that they “are enriched by Him.”  This means that the grace of God is presently available to every believer.

3C.   In verse 6 he points out that the “testimony was confirmed in you.”  That means grace was available to them in past times, as well.

4C.   And in verse 8 he writes that our Lord Jesus Christ “shall also confirm you unto the end.”  This points to the future.  Grace is available.  Grace has always been available.  Grace is promised to always be available . . . to the child of God.

5C.   So, at the very beginning of this letter, before he begins to address any of their spiritual problems, he points out that the capacity to be right and do right has always been theirs for the taking . . . if they truly are saved.

3B.    Now, in the closing remarks, Paul once again commends the grace of God to them. 

Why do you suppose he does this?

1C.   First, to remind us that God’s enablement is available to live for Him.  And we cannot live for Him without His enablement.  Amen?

2C.   Second, to remind us that our sins are our fault.  We can’t blame anyone or anything, whether it be persons or circumstances, for the lives we have lived since we've trusted Christ.  Why?  Because the grace of God to live right has always been there.  If we didn’t use it, it’s our own fault.  Amen?

3C.   No excuse to not live right Christian.  Unless you are not a Christian after all, #1, or unless you, as a Christian, simply choose to do wrong instead of choosing to do right, #2.

4C.   I think this reminder of God’s grace was important enough for him to write by his own hand, don’t you?



24    My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.  Amen.


         1B.    Notice The What

1C.   It’s love.  When Paul told someone he loved them, it was with a full understanding of what real love is.  It’s giving to another.  It’s meeting the needs of another.  It’s sacrifice for another.  And it’s unrelated to that other’s response.

2C.   That is to say, Paul’s love was unconditional.  In that way, his love for the Corinthians was like the love of God.  And, as a matter of fact, that's where Paul’s love for those people came from. God.  It was the love of God through him.

2B.    Notice The Where

1C.   “. . . be with you all in Christ Jesus.”  The Lord Jesus Christ enveloped Paul’s entire world.  His whole existence.  He was absorbed by and with the Savior.  Nothing else mattered to him except how things related to his Lord.

2C.   In Christ, that is, within His sphere of influence, in that area where He is recognized for what He is, which is Lord, is my love for you, Paul is saying.

3C.   Had not Paul been in Christ he could not have loved those Gentile Christians.  As an unsaved Jew he had despised them.  But we oftentimes say that grace erases race.  Amen?  Grace erases everything that stands between men.  That’s how Paul came to love them.  Because he realized that the Lord of his life loved them.

4C.   Let’s see how that applies in our Church.  Look around you.  Look at the skin tones and hues here, the races and cultures represented here.  Does grace erase race?  Not really.  Does grace erase culture and background?  Not really.  But our experience has shown that grace eliminates the significance of these things as factors in our fellowship in Christ.  Amen?  And even a casual look at Acts 13.1 reveals the same to have been true in the Church at Antioch .

5C.   As well, let me comment on how that ought to apply in our Church.  A guy comes to Church and he is lost, or she is lost.  Decisionists think to themselves, “This guy needs to get saved.  If he gets saved I might consider being his friend.  I sincerely hope he gets saved, because I want to be his friend.  But right now Church is over and I have to go home.”  Real evangelism sees a sinner in need and thinks, “That guy needs a friend, a friend who doesn’t cut for the car and run home right after every service, a friend who will drink a cup of coffee with him, a guy who will let him know that it’s not just the preacher who wants him to come to Church here and invest his life in this Church.”  A decisionist thinks, “Lead him in a quick prayer and be done with him.”  A Bible Christian thinks, “I need to show this guy the love of God in Christ.  My contribution to bringing this guy to Christ is to be a friend to him.”  That’s how this ought to apply in our Church.

3B.    Notice The Why

1C.   Christ Jesus.  I’ve really already told you why Paul loved those people.  It was because of Christ Jesus.

2C.   Notice why it’s Christ Jesus instead of Jesus Christ?  ‘Cause Christ means Messiah.  Paul is saying, “My love is with you all in Messiah Jesus.  Amen.”

3C.   And our love should be for all our members in the Messiah Jesus, the Anointed One, Jesus.  Amen?  And beyond our own membership, our own Church family, to those we want brought into our Church family, as well.



1.   The last things that a man says, or writes, are usually important to him.  Paul’s last words of this great Corinthian letter were very important to him . . . and to us.

2.   Important because, despite his probable difficulty with his eyesight, he wrote the concluding remarks with his own hand.

3.   Important for other reasons, too.  His warning.  My friend, one who does not love Jesus is cursed.  Know that.  Act on that.  Be sure you love Him by obeying Him.  Tell others about Him.  Why?  Because He’s coming soon.

4.   Important because of his blessing.  I have great news.  We have God’s grace!  Do you believe that?  Then let’s act on God’s Word and walk on the high road instead of the low road.  Amen?  No reason for a Christian to ever walk on the low road . . . unless he foolishly chooses to do so, or unless he really isn’t a Christian.

5.   Finally, there is love.  Paul loved those people though they gave no indication that they loved him.  He preached to them, ministered to them, went out on a limb for them, lost a considerable amount of sleep over them, but we have no indication in this book that they reciprocated.

6.   They wanted love to be a one way street.  They wanted everything to go their way.  But, you know, his investment of love in them was eventually returned by them.  They began to respond when they received this letter from him.  The Spirit melted their proud hearts and they got right with God.

7.   I trust the Holy Spirit will impress each of our hearts with Paul’s final words.  I trust that you will look around for someone to love for Jesus’ sake and that you will intelligently, appropriately, tenderly, kindly, love that person all the way to Christ. 

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