1 Corinthians 16:19-21 – “Greetings in the
Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the
Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 14 Mar 2010
Introduction - Forms of greeting
A. Meanings of our greetings:
- “Hail/hello” – perhaps a wish for good health.
- “How are you doing?”
- Focuses on a loving concern for others.
- But a bit humanistic if that is all you are asking.
- Some of our greetings don’t make sense, though: (Show
“Greetings Earthling” cartoon)
- David Kennedy Bird – It doesn’t matter what you say, you could
say, “A thousand bowling balls rolling out of a semi truck,” and people
will still reply, “Fine.”
- On my morning walks around the neighborhood, I greet
neighbors who are driving by on their way to work by waving and saying,
“Good morning.” I feel a little silly about that because I know they
can’t hear me in their car with the windows rolled up.
- Out in rural areas, when I’m driving, I’ve learned to
keep my right hand on top of the steering wheel, because every single
person who drives by waves, and I have to return their waves, but one day
I got a pretty bewildering wave from a good ol’ boy in a pickup truck
going through Maple Hill, Kansas – he looked me intensely in the eye and
swung his arm around dramatically and pointed at me like he had just
found Osama Bin Laden or something.
- Before I moved to Kansas, I worked at an office in Denver
Colorado. Bluetooth earpiece phones were just starting to come into use,
and one of the office managers got one of these things. More than once,
he walked by my desk and said, “Hello,” and I thought he was talking to
me, but when I stepped out of my cubicle to talk with him, I realized he
was talking to someone on his phone.
- To help with my back problems from sitting in an office
all day, I got an exercise ball and sat on that at my desk, but that
sparked a strange greeting from one of my co-workers. He would just walk
into my cubicle, kick the ball I was sitting on, and then walk away without
saying anything. Once he did it when one of my boys was with me in the
office, and my son gave me a bewildered look and said, “What did that
B. Why greet?
- To build relationships and bonds of unity.
- Conversely to show that someone is not shunned or excluded
- To find out if there are any needs that the community
needs to address.
C. Transition to 1 Cor 16
- In 1 Cor 16:19-21, The word for “greeting” occurs five
- The word for “greet” here is variously translated: Greet,
Send greetings, Salute, Welcome, Take leave of, Cherish, Be fond of, Hug,
Remember someone to someone else, Hail, Acclaim, or Pay respects to.
- Greetings are passed on from four sets of people to
- and the people in Corinth, in turn, are commanded to
greet each other.
- To repeat the word 5 times, and one of those times
being a command must mean it is important.
- So let us look into this further; we’ll start with the
four sets of people passing greetings along to the church in Corinth:
19. The churches of Asia [province] greet y’all.
Aquila and Prisca greet y’all profusely in the Lord,
together with the church corresponding to their
20. All the brothers greet y’all.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
21. This greeting is in my own hand, Paul.
22. If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be cursed.
23. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is with y’all.
24. My love is with all of y’all in Christ Jesus. Amen.
1. The churches of Asia greet y’all (v.19a)
- This first group to send greetings is not from the continent
of Asia, but rather the Roman province of Asia – roughly the east
side of modern-day Turkey. (Show Map)
- We learn a little more about the churches in Asia from the
Apostle John, who wrote the book of Revelation while he was living in
exile just off the coast of Ephesus. He addressed his book (Rev 1:4) “to
the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who
is and who was and who is coming...,” and he goes on to name those
churches of Asia (1:11), “Ephesus… Smyrna… Pergamum… Thyatira… Sardis… Philadelphia,
- (Colossae was also in the region, and Paul wrote
the book of Colossians to them.)
- Ephesus was the capitol of Asia, and Paul was
writing from Ephesus, so it’s natural that there would be Christians from
all over the province of Asia coming to the capitol to conduct business
and legal affairs, and Paul must have met many of them as they came
- Notice that there had to be unity among those
churches for Paul to write that “all” of them in a unified manner sent
their greetings to the Corinthians.
- Notice also that these churches recognized that they were
part of a worldwide brotherhood in Christ, which led them to “greet”
the church in Corinth as included in their circle of friends.
The next group to send
greetings is a husband and wife:
2. Aquila & Prisc[ill]a-greet y’all… together with the church in their
Who were Aquila & Priscilla?
- Aquila was a Jew from Pontus, the northern district of
modern-day Turkey where Istanbul now is. (Acts 18:2)
- Paul probably wrote the name “Prisca” here for Aquila’s
wife, but the diminutive form “Priscilla” is the name by which she became
commonly known, so that’s probably the way it’s spelled in your Bible.
- Her name is sometimes mentioned first before Aquila in
other places in the Bible,
1. perhaps because she was of some higher social status than her husband,
2. or perhaps because she was the more outgoing and engaging of the
- At any rate, Aquila and Priscilla developed a tentmaking
business in Rome, Italy.
- However, in 42AD, the Roman Emperor Claudius got fed up with
moderating squabbles among the Jews over whether or not Jesus was the
Messiah and kicked all the Jews out of Rome. (Great way to solve interpersonal
- So, being Jews, Aquila and Priscilla had to move, so they
settled in Corinth, a Roman colony.
- It was there that they met Paul, who had trade skills they
could use, because he was also a tentmaker by trade, so they probably
hosted him in a shop in the business district of Corinth.
- A&P would have had an apartment upstairs to sleep in,
and perhaps Paul slept downstairs in the shop and was centrally located in
the city to meet with men and women and teach the Bible as he worked on
tents and leatherwork. (Show picture of market road in Corinth)
- A&P then travelled to
Ephesus with Paul, and stayed there while Paul went back to Israel.
- It was at this point that
Apollos arrived in Ephesus, and A&P convinced him that Jesus is the Messiah
- They also hosted a church in their home in Ephesus – our
text in 1 Cor 16:19 mentions a church that was “in their house.”
- Calvin believed this was merely a euphemism for their family,
saying that every household is a “little church” – and this is true to some
- Most, however, believe that this would have been one of
the “churches of Asia,” located in Ephesus, meeting in A&P’s home.
- Churches met in homes and didn’t use institutional
buildings until the next century or so.
- A&P may have also opened their home for Paul to stay
in while he was in Ephesus. A lot of the old Italian copies of the Bible mention
that this was so.
- In Rom 16:4, Paul
mentions that they had even “risked their necks” for him – probably happened
in Ephesus when the idol-makers started riots over Paul’s preaching, endangering
- Since A&P had ties to the church in Corinth, naturally
they sent their greetings along to their old friends there.
- v.19 says that their greetings were “many/hearty/warm/profuse” –
they were falling all over themselves to make sure Paul included greetings
from them to Corinth because they loved them so much.
- A&P returned to Rome a year or so later when Claudius
relaxed his decree (Rom. 16:3-5), and later made their way back to Ephesus,
so they are mentioned in the letter Paul later sent to Rome and later on
in the letter he sent to Timothy, who was pastoring in Ephesus (2 Tim.
- Now, to travel as much as they did and to host as many
people as they did, A&P must have developed quite a successful
business. Here is a great example of business people integrating successful
work with their Christian faith.
- Here also are people with an
exemplary gift of hospitality, exercising it well to host God’s people.
Moving on from Aquila and Priscilla, there is a third
group which wants to greet the Corinthians:
3. All the brothers greet y’all (v.20a)
- This phrase “all the brothers” occurs in 7 places in the
N.T., usually indicating all the Christians in a given church, so
this could indicate that not only the believers meeting at
Aquila and Priscilla’s house, but all the other believers meeting
throughout Ephesus in various homes send greetings as well.
- There are two places in Paul’s writings, however, where
“all the brethren” seems to indicate more particularly Paul’s ministry
- Paul opens the book of Galatians by saluting the
church from “Paul and all the brothers together with me.” That
would seem to indicate ministry partners with him at the time.
- And at the end of 2 Tim.,
Paul starts listing co-workers and says “all the brothers greet you,” as
though to round out the list of co-workers.
- So it’s possible that the group Paul designated by “all
the brothers” included Timothy, Sosthenes, and others who were Paul’s
- The word “all” as in “all the brothers” is significant,
because it indicates that this group of believers was unified
and without division. Unity is a major point throughout the book of 1 Cor,
and we will see Paul continue to hit on this point.
Skipping the command at the end of verse 20 for now, we
move on to a fourth party giving greetings to the Corinthians, and that is Paul
4. Paul’s handwritten greeting (vs. 21-24)
- It appears that Paul took the quill pen from Sosthenes at
this point and wrote the rest of the verses to the end of 1 Corinthians.
- He apparently did the same with his letters to the Colossians
(4:18), 2 Thessalonians (3:17), and Philemon (19).
- He says it’s in his own handwriting, which he mentions at
the end of Galatians is in “large letters” – some scholars have guessed
that maybe the “thorn in the flesh” Paul mentions in 2 Cor 12 was farsightedness,
and that he couldn’t see to read well and therefore had to write in big
letters to see them. Just a hypothesis.
- Paul wanted to show intimacy rather than the distance of
using a professional scribe to write his letter.
- This is an aspect of a true greeting: it is personal,
- I hope none of you bought a professional card at the
store for Valentines Day and gave it to your sweetheart without some kind
of personal note on it!
- This is one reason why I question whether the
professional business handshake is an adequate means to express
Christian greetings. Christian greetings should be personal, not merely
- In vs. 22-24 we see the actual wording of Paul’s
greeting. It has three parts:
It starts with a curse (v.22)
Then it reminds them of the presence of the grace
of the Lord Jesus with them (v.23)
And it reminds them of Paul’s Christian love
for each and every one of them (v.24).
Next week, I want to look at these three parts to Paul’s
greeting in depth:
But for now, let’s go back to the command in v. 20b and
consider how we can obey it:
* Greet one another with a holy kiss (v.20b)
- Eeeew! What?
- New Testament practice of a kiss of greeting was to give honor
and respect (Thistleton)
When the elders of the church in Ephesus received a
return visit from Paul, they kissed him (Acts 20:37).
In Luke 7:45, Jesus makes it clear that it was
appropriate for a host to kiss his dinner guests.
Then there is the kiss of Judas, which must have
been what he customarily did – kissed his teacher on the cheek (Luke 22:47).
- This command to greet one another with a kiss is not
an isolated command – it occurs throughout the N.T.:
- 2 Cor. 13:12, Rom. 16:16, 1 Thess. 5:26, 1 Pet. 5:14 “Greet
one another with a kiss of love. Peace to you all who are in
- If God delivered this command to us five times in the NT,
shouldn’t we consider it important to obey it?
- How did the early church obey this command? Church
100’s AD – Justin Martyr described a Christian
worship service and wrote, “after prayers we embrace each other with a kiss.”
Around 200 AD – Tertullian wrote in his Apostolical
Constitutions, “Let the men apart and the women apart greet each other with
a kiss in the Lord.”
One Roman emperor apparently made a law against the
kiss of greeting, indicating that it must have been practiced in the Roman
church. Perhaps that’s why they started the tradition instead of kissing the
bread plate in the Lord’s Supper.
Even in our own day, I’ve seen kisses used commonly
in greetings when visited churches in Europe and Asia.
I’ve also seen it practiced in Brethren churches in
Nevertheless, modern translations like the Living
Bible and The Message render the word “kiss” as a “handshake” –
“Greet one another with a hearty handshake.”
- This command, by the
way, is in the Greek Aorist tense, which would indicate that the
Corinthians were not currently practicing this tradition and
that Paul was calling them to begin using the holy kiss as a means
- You would think in a town like Corinth
where sexual immorality was rampant, Paul would not have
encouraged such a physically intimate greeting, but there it is: “Start
greeting one another with a holy kiss!”
- What makes a kiss “holy”?
not deceitful like Judas’ kiss,
It should be done in such a way that you remain
- Consider what the kiss means:
- In the 300’s, Ambrosiaster wrote in his commentary
on 1 Corinthians that this kiss is a “sign of peace to do away
- Chrysostom likewise wrote
around 400 AD in his homilies that “the kiss is a means of union
to produce one body.” He compared it to communion as an outward
action that signifies the unity of the church.
- A kiss indicates intimacy.
It necessitates allowing another person to get close to you, into
your personal space.
- The holy kiss is an outward
symbol of the unity that Paul has been talking about all along
in the book of 1 Corinthians.
- But what if you are afraid of rejection? Drawing
closer means that people might see what you are really like; they might
see your warts or smell your bad breath!
- Is that a reason to disobey God’s command?
- Of course we should do our best not to offend.
Brush your teeth, be considerate of other people, or in 1 Corinthians
language, don’t eat meat offered to idols so you aren’t being offensive.
- What if you are approached by someone whom you
don’t really want to get any closer to?
- Consider how God treated you - you in your filthy
rags of sin that you thought were such good deeds, and how, like the
father in Jesus’ parable, God embraced you and took you in to
fellowship with Himself.
- If God has welcomed you and brought you close, you can do
the same for others.
- Unquestionably, Paul is telling the members of a local
church to be sure to greet each other.
The question is, should we greet each other literally with a kiss? Here
are some considerations:
There is nothing wrong with kissing in greeting if
it is done to indicate brotherly Christian love and unity.
b. I recognize there are cultural issues surrounding greetings, and
that we might not be ready to implement this point of Biblical culture here
but I believe we should move in the direction of
this Biblical command by initiating forms of greeting that are more intimate than
businesslike handshakes, such as giving a hug (again, a friendly one
that is above reproach, not a sensual hug).
d. For crying out loud, these are your brothers and sisters that you are
going to spend eternity with! Go ahead and let ‘em know you love them or learn
to love them!
Application of these 4 greetings together with this command:
1. Greet people in our church!
a. Be inclusive. Greetings indicate that someone is included
in your circle of friends.
b. As our church gets larger, you may not be able to get around to
greeting everybody every Sunday, but by all means, make a point to spend some
time after the service greeting some people.
c. This will increase the unity in our church, as people are no
longer left wondering, “Do they want me to be a friend or not?”
2. If it was proper for the churches of Asia in Paul’s day to greet the
church in Corinth, it is proper for us today to also recognize the worldwide
brotherhood of believers in Christ Jesus and share greetings with other
a. If you ever visit another church, I want you to bring greetings to them
from Christ the Redeemer Church in Manhattan KS.
b. Recognize that you are part of a growing worldwide movement of faith in
Christ Jesus, so find connecting points with other Christian groups in town and
pray with those other believers, or go out on mission trips and pray for
other Christians around the world.
3. Think about what you are saying when you greet someone:
- When you ask, “How are you doing?” Do it with a sincere
interest in how they are doing.
- Make your greetings meaningful and creative. You may want
to sincerely say something like, “God bless you,” or “the grace of the
Lord Jesus be with you,” rather than just, “Take care,” or “See ‘ya.”
4. Increase the level of intimacy in your greetings with
brothers and/or sisters in Christ.
- If you’ve been mostly standoffish, start giving
- If you’ve been giving handshakes, start giving hugs.
- If you’ve been giving hugs, see if a holy kiss might be