1 Cor. 16:22-24 “Curses, Grace, & Love - Paul’s Greeting”

Translation and Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 21 Mar 2010

Introduction - Forms of greeting

A. Ways I’ve seen people greet each other


B. Greetings in the Old Testament:


C. Review

1.      The churches of the province of Asia greet y’all (v.19a),

2.      Aquila & Prisc[ill]a-greet y’all… together with the church in their house (19b),

3.      All the brothers greet y’all (v.20a) – perhaps Paul’s immediate ministry partners, and

4.      Paul himself in vs. 21-24.

o       It starts with a curse (v.22),

o       Then it reminds them of the presence of the grace of the Lord Jesus with them (v.23),

o       And it reminds them of Paul’s Christian love for each and every one of them (v.24).
Let’s look at these three parts to Paul’s greeting in a little more depth:


1. The curse v.22: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be cursed.”

o       It’s really the other half of a blessing which he wrote in Eph 6:24, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ...” This is the double-whammy: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be cursed.”

o       This is known as an enthymeme, an incomplete expression of a formal covenant which was traditional enough and familiar enough to the readers that they would automatically fill in the blanks mentally. (Thistleton)

o       It was used in Num 21, Judges 1, and Joshua 6 to describe the wicked Canaanite towns that God had commanded to be utterly destroyed by Israel.

o       It was used in Deut 7:26 to describe idols that were outlawed by God and to be destroyed.

o       The word was apparently in fairly common use during the NT; Paul refers to:

§         people who said Jesus was “anathema” in 1 Cor. 12:3,

§         He also refers to Jews who called down “anathemas” on themselves in hopes of achieving a difficult goal in Acts 23:14 and Rom 9:3.

§         And he opens his letter to the Galatians with two anathemas (1:8-9), “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should happen to preach to you any gospel other than that which we preached to you, let him be cursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if anybody preaches to you any gospel other than that which y’all received, let him be cursed” (cf 2Jn 1:10).

o       This is covenant language which recognizes a covenant relationship with God shared with the people of God:

§         In the Garden of Eden, (Gen 1:22) God “blessed” Adam and Eve, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Then he laid out a curse for stepping out of a relationship of obedience in chapter 2, “Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day you eat from it you must surely die.” Blessings and curses were part of a relationship with God from the beginning.

§         In Genesis 9, God blessed Noah, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply,” and then immediately gave a curse for committing murder.

§         When God made His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12, He said, “I will bless you… and the one who curses you I will curse.”

§         We also see blessings and curses big-time in the covenantal law of Moses:
Deut 11:13 “…if y’all seriously heed my commandments… to love Jehovah your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14) then I will give the rain of your land in its season… so you may gather in your grain, and your new wine, and your oil… 16) Take heed to yourselves lest your heart be deceived and you turn aside & serve other gods and worship them, 17) and the anger of Jehovah be kindled against you and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land shall not yield its fruit, and you perish quickly… 18) Therefore treasure these words in your heart and in your soul… 19) and teach them to your children… 26) See, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: 27) the blessing, if y’all will heed the commandments of Jehovah your God… 28) and the curse, if y’all do not heed the commandments”

§         The prophets also warned Israel of the blessings of walking with God - and the curses of rebelling against God. The first word of the Psalms is “Blessed,” and the last word of the O.T. in Malachi is the word “curse.”

§         When we come to the New Testament, it is no different:

·         Jesus spoke of blessings in the Beatitudes
(Mt. 5 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…”)

·         Luke 24:50 says that Jesus blessed His disciples, but John informs us that He blessed us also, for he quoted Jesus as saying,
“…blessed are those who have not seen me yet believed” (John 20:29)

·         But Jesus also announced curses on those who would not bear fruit in keeping with repentance and faith, through his symbolic action of cursing the fig tree (Mk 11:21) -

·         and through reminding the people of the final judgment when He will return and say, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire...” (Mat. 25:41)

§         Galatians further explains the new covenant blessings and curses: 3:8 “Now, the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9) So then they that are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham. 10) For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, ‘Cursed is every one who does not continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ 11) Now that no man is justified by the law before God, is evident… 13) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,’ 14) so that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” There is the Gospel in terms of covenant blessings and curses!

§         Anybody who does not fulfill the law and “love… God with all [their] heart, mind, soul, and strength” already stands under God’s curse. Anyone who does not place their faith in Jesus Christ as the One who can take the curse from us, stands outside of God’s blessing and remains under God’s curse. Paul is saying here in v.22 that we must recognize this.

§         Paul has spent the book of Corinthians re-preaching the Gospel and highlighting a set of commands to obey for God’s glory, and now he says, in effect, “All right now, these are the covenantal boundaries; are you in or out?” (Thistleton)

§         Those who stand outside of that covenant relationship of faith in Christ will seek to draw God’s people away from Christ and therefore should not be considered part of the brotherhood of believers.

o       This curse is not focused on cursing the world in general, but particularly on hypocrites who are still hanging around the church. It condemns a “spurious love” of God (Arnold).

o       Such people should not be gotten so close to as to kiss them in greeting; they need to be treated as those who have been devoted to destruction. If they are dangerous deceivers, they should be shunned.

o       If they are not actively trying to harm the church, you can still associate with them, but your focus will be to plead with them to follow Christ, while not allowing them to become so familiar so as to influence you and your family away from God.

o       “Maranatha” is translated, “The Lord comes,” or “Come, Lord.”

o       The word “Lord” occurs in Greek in the first half of the verse, “does not love the Lord,” then in Aramaic in the second half: “Maran.” It is the same Lord Jesus.

o       Commentators take the meaning of this phrase one of two ways:

1.      As a way to speak of the surety of God’s judgment against sinners:

a.        This was the position of Chrysostom, who wrote that “Maranatha” reminds us of the incarnation of Christ and stands as a rebuke to sinners who do not respond to Christ’s great love. He added that the use of the Hebrew language indicates Paul speaking with a humble attitude, not being ashamed to use a simpler language than Greek.

b.       Calvin wrote that this is a Traditional Jewish phrase signifying excommunication. He said that the foreign Aramaic language adds intensity and formality to excommunicating this unbeliever who is hanging around the church.

c.        Gordon Clark noted that the phrase can be translated, “the Lord has come” or “the Lord will come,” and that the past coming of the Lord guarantees the judgment to come when the Lord comes back.

d.       The concept of God coming in judgment upon those who are cursed can be found in Isaiah 34:5, although the word Maranatha doesn’t actually occur there, “…My sword … shall come down upon Edom, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.”

2.      However, most commentators I read stated that the phrase “Maranatha” is more a transition statement focusing a longing for the return of Christ:

a.        It is used in the Didache, which was written 100 years after Paul, but perhaps contained traditions dating back to the Apostle’s time. The word “Maranatha” occurs in the Didache in the liturgy after the taking of the Eucharist, as thoughts turn to the return of Christ.

b.       Thistleton noted that this phrase has been found on a sarcophagus inscription, indicating the hope of the resurrection of the dead body it contained.

c.        It also corresponds to the phrase which the Apostle John wrote out in Greek in Rev. 22:20, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes: I’m coming quickly.’ Amen: Come, Lord Jesus.” Granted, this is also in the context of God’s punishment against those who add or take away from the words of scripture.

d.       In 1 Thess 4:14, Paul tells us to remind each other that Jesus is coming back, so this would certainly be practicing what he preaches (cf. James 5:7, Phil 4:5, Rev. 1:7, Rev. 3:11). (JFB)

3.      Either way, the word “Maranatha” is a reminder of the Lord’s coming, whether it be to judge those who don’t love Him or to save and bring into His presence those whom He loves and who love Him. He will do both when he comes. “Maranatha – the Lord is coming!”


2. The reminder of God’s grace (v.23): “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is with y’all.”

o       If, out of love for someone we express a desire that God would be gracious to them and save them and bless them, this is appropriate. This makes a good greeting, “Grace be with you!”

o       However, our wishes do not ultimately affect God’s sovereign choice of who He loves and saves, yet, if someone has been chosen by God to be holy and dearly loved by Him, then a reminder that God’s grace is with them can also be an encouraging greeting. It says, in effect, “I believe that you are a Christian, and I want to remind you that however you feel at this moment, whatever is happening to you at this moment, God is with you, and He is giving you His grace to secure your salvation and help you remain faithful.” “The grace of the Lord Jesus is with you.”


3. The reminder of Paul’s love (v.24): “My love is with all of y’all in Christ Jesus.”

o       The word “all” is easily missed by us English speakers because we often use it to form a plural to the word “you” as in “you all,”

o       but in the Greek text here, we have the plural of the word “you,” together with the adjective “all” – “all of y’all.”

o       This indicates that Paul wants to make sure everybody in the church in Corinth knows that he loves them. He is modeling the unity of the church by making sure no one is excluded.

§         He loves his followers, he loves the followers of Apollos, and he loves the followers of Cephas (who love the Lord).

§         He loves those who received the gift of tongues from the Holy Spirit, and he loves those who aren’t tongues-speakers (but have some other gifts from the Spirit).

§         He loves the weak, immature, easily-offended brothers, and he loves the prideful, reckless, strong brothers.

§         Paul modeled all-encompassing love in the church.

o       This is not the sentimental, mushy love that comes and goes with shifting emotions.

o       This is love as Christ defined it by giving His life for those He loves.

o       This is the love that binds us together in unity (Colossians 3:14).

o       This is a love that depends upon Christ Jesus to fill us with His love first so that we can then love others.

o       This is the love that was so important that the Apostle John chose it as his dying wish, the last words he spoke, “Love one another.” Love one another!


What a marvelous example of a greeting from the Apostle Paul himself which

a.        reminds us that we stand in a covenantal relationship with God that entails blessings and curses,

b.       reminds of God’s grace toward us,

c.        and reminds us of Paul’s own love for everyone.

This is a great example to imitate.