This morning we come to a milestone in our history. Two and a half years of studying 1 Corinthians comes to an end. Didn’t realize it was that funny. Has been a long time. Some of you have been at Grace two years. You know nothing but the problems of the church. And starting after Christmas, we’re going to begin a study of the book of Ephesians in the morning and at night the study of the great Gospel of Matthew, so keep that in mind. But for this morning, number 81 in our messages in 1 Corinthians chapter 16, looking at verse 14-24 and finishing up the message we began last week.
When’s the last time you received a love letter? You say just before you got married and none since? I hope not. Love letters are special to everybody. I think we all anticipate them maybe when we go away and we’re apart from our spouse and we drop a little note, or maybe at birthdays or anniversaries or special times and we share our affection, or maybe when we write to a friend or to our children or as children to our parents or whatever. But love letters are special to everybody and I guess I’m blessed beyond most people to receive an awful lot of love letters. I was just looking over the stack of Christmas cards that I’ve received this year of people sharing their love with me, and because so many people are in our church family and are so gracious as to write, I’m the recipient of many, many such love letters. And as I look at all of my letters that I get, they basically fall into three categories. Some are very affirming. Some say, “John, we love you and we appreciate you and we pray for you and thank you,” and so forth. And some are more questioning. There are some who say, “Why do you do this John? And why don’t you do that? And why can’t we have this at Grace,” and so forth. And those are good and then there are those that are critical or rebuking type of love letters and they say, “John stop doing this or stop doing that,” et cetera.
But you know, they’re all love letters, because that’s the way love works. Love affirms, love questions, and love rebukes when rebuke is needed. And none of us is foolish enough to think that we only need one or another of those and not all of them. And so all of us, I think, understand the dimensions of love, particularly as we have studied 1 Corinthians for very long. First Corinthians, at first, comes off as a very cold hard rebuking critical book, but the more you see the heart of Paul, the more you understand that this is all love. It’s with your children that you can see an illustration of this. For example, there are times when you affirm your children; there are times when you question your children; and there are times when you flat out rebuke your children. And all of those things manifest love, because that’s how love is.
Love seeks the best out of its object. And Paul was seeking the very best out of the Corinthians. And it just so happened that they needed a lot of rebuke, a little bit of questioning, and hardly any affirmation, because they were pretty fouled up. So Corinthians is a love letter. Maybe you didn’t see it that way. If you thought about it though, you might, because the apex of the whole book in the thirteenth chapter is the greatest statement on love ever penned. It’s a love letter. The apostle Paul had such a deep love for the Corinthians that like in the same manner he loved Israel, he could almost wish himself in death for their sake. In 2 Corinthians chapter 12 verse 15, he says, “I will gladly spend and be expended for you even though I love you the more and you love me the less.” I’ll not only spend, that is give everything I have, I’ll be expended, that is give myself for you. That’s how much I love you. So it’s a love letter.
And like any love letter, it closes with love. Verse 14 borders on the front of our passage and it says, “Let all your things be done in love.” Verse 24 is the other border on the passage and it says, “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” And in those two verses we find the two ways in which this letter is a love letter. First of all, it is a love letter because it is calling the Corinthians to love. Over and over again, he is calling them to love. Not to be picky and critical and divisive and schismatic and so forth, but to love. And in the thirteenth chapter he defines that for them. But secondly, it is the love letter as verse 24 indicates because it is Paul’s expression of love to them.
So in a twofold way it is a love letter. It is a letter endeavoring to insight love in their hearts, and it is a letter which expresses his love to them. Now it closes then with this final section of greetings and salutations and admonitions, and they are surrounded by two thoughts of love in verse 14 and 24. And it seems to me that the thread that weaves through these verses in between is about love also. And as so often is the case in Paul’s letters, the message that is implied is deeper than the message that is explicitly stated. It all just sounds like here’s a few little greetings from so and so and a few words about this and a few words about that, but down deep behind this thing, Paul is exhorting them in one final move in his own mind to really understand the responsibility, the characteristics, and the activities of love.
And so what I’ve seen here, and what we began to look at last time, are seven manifestations of love. And as I say, it shouldn’t shock you that love rebukes them. Do you remember in Psalm – pardon me – in Proverbs 27:5 it says – this is a good verse to remember – “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” And according to the Hebrews way of writing the Proverb, the idea of love is implied at the beginning. A kind of love that is secret isn’t nearly as good as a kind of love that openly rebukes. So open rebuke, love implied, is better than secret love, rebuke not implied. You’re better off to rebuke. That’s a higher kind of love.
In fact, he goes in the next verse to say, “Faithful are the wounds of” – “of a friend.” So he’s rebuked them, but nonetheless it’s a letter of love. And in a final shot, he exhorts them to love. And there are seven manifestations of love and these are not upfront. In fact, you just really have to see behind the scenes to see what’s implied. A church that is marked by love is what Paul is after. And he kind of gives them a little hint as to the attitudes and the expressions of such a church. Let’s look at number one and we’ll review the first four that we looked at last week.
First of all, a church that is marked by love, when there is love in the fellowship, there will be evangelism. Verse 15, “I beseech you brethren – you know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia.” Now we discussed last time the fact that the first fruits means the first people won to Christ in a new area. And the household of Stephanas, familia in the Latin, including his slaves, was the first people – the first household really, won to Christ in this particular place, Achaia, which is the southern portion of Greece. But the idea that we wanted to emphasize from that was that the church that is marked by love will be a church that is active in planting the seed and harvesting it. They planted the gospel and they harvested it. The apostle Paul was faithful to go there. The seed was planted and God gave a harvest.
Beloved wherever there is love in the church, there will be a reaching out to people who don’t know Christ. No church can claim to have love, no church can claim to manifest love, no church can claim to know and experience the love of God shed abroad in our hearts unless that love is extended to those that are without Christ. I mean, even God so loved that He gave to a lost world, and that is the basic kind of love the church possesses. And if our love doesn’t love a lost world into the arms of Christ, then our love is not God’s love and thus it is not love biblically. Conversely where there is love in the fellowship, there will be a planting of the seed and a harvest of first fruits, people won to Christ.
Secondly, we saw last time that when love marks a fellowship, there will be service to the saints. Look at the end of verse 15. This is really a potent point here. It says this house of Stephanas, once they were saved, “Devoted themselves to the service of the saints.” The service there is diakonia. And the word devoted – you remember I told you the Greek means addicted – tassō. The literal idea is addicted. They were addicted to serving the saints through the exercise of their spiritual gifts, through their ministries, through giving, through food, through all kinds of ways that diakonia can be rendered. This was what the house of Stephanas was actively involved in. They were addicted to the work of the Lord. You know, when they weren’t busy doing the Lord’s work, they got withdrawal symptoms. They were at it. They were like those Methodists I told you about who were all at it and always at it. And so where there’s love in the church, there is not only a reaching to the lost, but there is a tremendous addiction to serving the saints. So we might say first of all, love shares, and secondly love serves.
Thirdly, where there is love in a fellowship you will find submission. Verse 16, “You submit yourselves unto such.” Those kind of people who addict themselves to the work of the Lord are the kind of people you should submit to. And by the way the word submit is hupotassō. When you find somebody addicted to the work of the Lord, you should become hyper-addicted to them. So that God’s design for the church is that the people who are the godly ones, who are serving the Lord and serving the saints, they are the ones who set the pace and everybody comes and submits themselves to them. We all get hyper-addicted to those who are addicted to doing the work of the ministry. So love shares and love submits as well as serves.
Fourthly – and we’re just briefly reviewing what we went into in detail last time – fourthly, love is characterized by what we called refreshing companionship. You know, when a church really has love – and boy, Paul wanted to see this in the Corinthian church. When they came together they just fought and hassled and wrangled and argued, and it was just bad news. We saw that last time. But Paul wanted love. He wanted them to refresh each other, and that’s kind of implied in what he says in 17. He says, “I’m glad for the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus. For that which was lacking on your part they supplied.” They filled me in on what was going with you and they have refreshed my spirit.
You know, there should be in the church an openness and a warmth and a love that results in a refreshing. Well, you know it shouldn’t be like so many churches where there’s a war going on and a fight and a big hassle and a big wrangling and you don’t even want to go. It ought to be where you can’t wait till Sunday to just run to the place because you’re so refreshed. Your spirit is refreshed in the companionship of those that love Christ. So love serves and it reaches out to save by sharing the gospel. Love submits and I would say love even sooths. It refreshes.
Now that brings us up to number five. Where there is love in the fellowship, there will be evangelism, service to the saints, submission, and a refreshing kind of companionship, and now let’s begin with number five for today – respect. Respect. Notice in verse 18, “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.” Now that’s the last point, but here comes the next one, “Therefore” – and you all know what therefore is there for. It takes you backwards. Now when you find somebody who evangelizes, when you find somebody who serves the saints, when you find somebody who’s addicted to the work of the Lord, when you find somebody who sets the right kind of example for you to submit to, then, “Therefore, acknowledge them that are such.” Now the word acknowledge is a neat word. It means to give recognition to, to highly value, to rightly evaluate. There’s nothing wrong with recognition in the church. There’s not a thing wrong with that. We are to acknowledge or give recognition to such people. And the idea is not that we line them all up in the front and crown them, you know, king for a day or queen for a day or whatever. The idea is that we don’t put gold plates in the pillars around the church in honor of such-and-such and such-and-such. The idea is simply that we treat them with a sense of respect. Not because of their money or because of their prestige or because of their position or because of their family or because of their job or any other human thing, but if they have been hyper-addicted to the work of the Lord, if they have evangelized, if they have set the pace for modeling the Christian testimony, they are worthy of our respect.
Now the Corinthians were not respectful. In chapter 1 Paul says they were divisive, schismatic, argumentative. They polarized themselves in little groups. “I am of Paul. I am of Apollos. I am of Cephus. I am of Christ.” And if you were outside their little group, they had nothing to say to you, let alone any respect for you. They had shown very little respect for the Apostle Paul. In chapter 4 verses 18 and 19, they insomuch as were saying, “We don’t think you’ll even come to tackle us because you know we don’t have any respect for you, and we don’t think you want to put yourself in that position.” They had very little respect for Paul.
Further, we find in the ninth chapter that he has to defend his apostleship. He starts out the ninth chapter by saying to them, “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Christ our Lord? Are you not the fruit of my apostleship? Don’t I have a right to receive money from your hand? Haven’t I worked and endeavored to slave to bring you the gospel? Isn’t the servant worthy of his hire?” They had never given him anything. They had never taken, as far as we know, any offering for him and given it to him. He didn’t ask for it. He said, “I’m not going to ask for it. I’ve never sought this things.” But on the other side of it, they’d never even offered them as far as we know. They hadn’t shown any great respect for this man of God. They couldn’t show respect for people in their own congregation. At least four times in the book he says to them, “You are puffed up.” And people who are puffed up tend only to worry about themselves are not busy showing respect to somebody else. So they were a non-respectful lot. And Paul says if there’s love in the fellowship, you’ll acknowledge people like this man Stephanas and his family. You’ll look up to him.
Now you see, beloved, God has a pattern for the church and this is so basic, and I don’t think we all understand this. God has a pattern for the church and here is the pattern. The godly people rise to the top by virtue of their godliness and, everybody else rushes to get in underneath them to learn how to live their own Christian life. That’s why Paul said to Timothy, “Be an example to the believer.” Why? That’s the way the church is structured. And when the church sets out to put in leadership people who are the people with the money or the people with the power or the prestige or the position in the world or the talkers or what else, void of the spiritual qualification, it sets up wrong models and it undermines the process of maturity throughout the rest of the church sowing the seeds of its own dissolution. But when the church allows respect for those who have earned it by the godliness of their life, then the right people are the patterns and everybody else hurries to get in line to give respect and submission to those and learn the proper patterns of godliness, and therefore, things go the way the Lord Jesus Christ designed His church to go.
Now let me show you how this works by showing you some Scripture to open up your thinking on it – Philippians 2:29. Here’s a dear man by the name of Epaphroditus who had labored along with the Apostle Paul and was just a precious guy. He was a diligent, faithful worker as well as greatly a concerned man. Later on the book it talks about his concern that the believer be fulfilling all the will of God in his life. So he was a great man and Paul writes to the Philippians in verse 29 regarding Epaphroditus, and he says this, “Receive him – receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness and hold such in reputation.” Now when this guy gets there you receive him and you hold him high in your regard. Why? “Because for the work of Christ he was near unto death, not regarding his life to supply your lack of service toward me.” This guy was so aggressively involved in the work of the Lord in serving me that he risked his life. The Greek word is parabolē, it means to roll the dice. He rolled the dice with his life. Now you hold him in reputation. Don’t hold him in reputation because he comes from a rich family, because he’s famous, because he’s important in the world, because he’s a famous leader or athlete or businessman or politician or something. You hold him in reputation because he, for the work of Christ, gambled with his life.
You know there were so many in the early church that did this that little societies grew up. Little societies of people who were known as the front troops. Little societies of people who were out there on the front confronting a pagan world nose to nose and risking their life and these little societies of people that grew up were called the Parabalanis, the riskers, the gamblers. The people who rolled the dice with their life for the cause of Christ. These are the people to hold in reputation. When you find somebody who gives his life to the work of Jesus Christ, when you find somebody who lives a godly pattern and lets you see how Christ should be lived in your life, when you find somebody who’s faithful to the Word of God, when you find somebody who does it the way it ought to be done, line up underneath to honor that person and submit your own life to that pattern.
Beloved when the church begins to do that, the church is going to begin to fulfill its obligation to become in the world the body of Christ and not until. As long as we’re an organization run by the wealthiest and the smartest, we’re in trouble. But when we are a body that is led by those who are the heart and soul by virtue of living the patterns and the example that God has designed, then we’re going to function like an organism. And Christ will be made manifest in the world. Here was a dear man of whom we know nothing in terms of heritage or economics or prestige or position or anything. All we know about him is that he was a model to be held in high reputation, to be patterned after because for the cause of Christ he became a Parabalani. He, through his life – put it on the line.
We want to follow the right people. I’ve seen too many churches do it the other way throughout history. Let me show you another verse, 1 Timothy 5:17. Just to let you see how broad this principle is in the New Testament. First Timothy 5:17 says “Let the elders” – and this refers to the elders, the pastors, those who rule and lead in the church – “The elders that rule well, let them be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the Word and doctrine.” In other words, when you find someone who works at it, who labors at this thing, who gives himself to the Word and to doctrine and he rules well, you have every reason to double honor that individual. You see, God is not against lifting up people. Sometimes you say, well we’re all to be abased and we’re all to be humble. That’s one side of it. That’s right. That’s the personal side. That’s my attitude toward God. I am humble before God. I am humble before God. But in the church we have every reason and every right to set up patterns of those who are godly. In fact, the humble should be the pattern, and they are worthy of double honor who labor and rule well, because they are the ones we should follow.
Notice 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 and verse 12. “And we beseech you, brethren” – now watch how he approaches this – “to know them who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.” First of all, you ought to know who the spiritual leaders are. You know it’s very easy to come to Grace Church. Here this morning are probably, I don’t know, 2,700 or so people here in this service and then in the earlier service. You could come and mingle around and mill around with 5,000 people and you could wind up knowing very few people, let alone those who labor and lead over this congregation. But you know something, it’s your responsibility to find out who they are so that you can see their lives and see the pattern of their lives and pattern yours after them.
So he starts out by saying you ought to know them. You ought to know them. Those who labor among you, they are the toilers. Those who are over you in the Lord, they are the leaders. And who admonish you, they are the ones who command you to obey God. And when you find who they are, verse 13, “Esteem them very highly in love.” Not for their rank, not for their economics, not for their education, but for their what? “For their work’s sake.” Why? What work are they doing? The work of Christ. Well, you can see it’s the same thing. But you know what often happens in the church? Somebody has a position of leadership and the response is not respect, it’s often jealousy, jealousy. You get a power struggle, little hassles, and then little criticisms and slanders. Listen, beloved, no place for that. The church is simply designed. The godly at the top. They rule, they teach, they admonish, everybody else gets underneath, submits, respects. It goes two ways. Those at the top must be worthy of such respect and such submission. And they must answer to God. We’ll see that in a minute.
Look at Hebrews 13 verse 7. Similar word, “Remember them who have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the Word of God.” Those who are your leaders, your admonishers, the toilers, remember them. And then it says in verse 7, “Whose faith follow.” Mimic, mimeisthe in the Greek. Mimic it. Imitate it. That’s where that word comes from. And then in verse 17 “Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves. For the watch for your souls as they that must give account.” There is accountability at that level believe me. So as long as you’ll obey them and submit to them they will do it with joy and not with grief, because if they are grieved, that’s unprofitable for you. Who wants to have leaders that are grieving? Such a beautiful and simple thing. The congregation submits itself to those godly ones who lead and admonish and toil, and those who lead and admonish and toil receive the respect and the submission of the congregation, and they in turn have a greater accountability to God.
You know what it says in James 3:1? It says, “Stop being so many teachers for theirs is the greater condemnation.” Don’t rush into that position. “To whom much is given” – what? – “much is required.” There should be – in what we saw earlier in 1 Thessalonians 5, there should be a – “Esteem,” it says, “them very highly.” And the Greek word is interesting. It’s a Greek word with two prefixes. And whenever the Greek stuck a prefix on a word that’s to compound it’s intensity. When they stick two on it’s like a super duper. And so when it says esteem them very highly, what it means is super, abundantly, gushing, overflowingly esteem them. Lay it on them folks, respect them, esteem them. The idea there is like an ocean of respect that just keeps overflowing it’s shores, gushing. Don’t be picky and critical, be respectful.
There’s a good contrast that’ll help you to see this by illustration. If you’ll look with me at 3 John, that little epistle at the end of the New Testament. And John gives his readers a comparison in us as well, that’ll help us to understand the kind of people we are to follow. Two D’s here, Diotrephes and Demetrius. Verse 9 “I wrote to the church. But Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.” Now just think about it. This is John, this is John folks. This is John who leaned on Jesus’ breast. This is John who was always there in the presence of Jesus because of His great love. This is John who never was rebuked for failing to follow like Peter. This is John, tender and gentle and loving and sensitive. This is John who loved Christ and loved his church. This is John who writes to this little congregation and Diotrephes won’t receive him. Why? Because John is a threat to Diotrephes. Because Diotrephes wants the preeminence.
That’s what happens in the church. Sometimes you get people who want to push themselves up and they don’t respect anybody even the Apostle John. He says, “Wherefore,” in verse 10, “if I come I’ll remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words. Not content with that, neither does he himself receive the brethren.” Even when we send a messenger, he won’t receive them. And he forbids the church to receive them and if somebody does, he throws them out of the church. What a guy. Nice going Diotrephes. He didn’t think he’d get into the Bible so everybody through the rest of history would know what you were did you? But you did.
That’s just the kind of guy – he says in verse 11, “Beloved, follow not that which is evil.” Don’t follow that guy. The guy who loves the preeminence, the guy who has no respect for the other man of God. The man who wants everything for himself, who maliciously undermines, who forbids the man of God to come, who is threatened. No, no, no. Don’t you follow that man. “But follow that which is good.” And who’s that? Well, he gives an illustration, verse 12. “Demetrius has a good report from all men and of the truth itself. Yes, and we also bear witness, and you know our witness is true.” He’s saying to them look, I realize God’s standard for the church is that the congregation submits to its leadership. But I’m telling you, you’ve got a guy there named Diotrephes, don’t you dare submit to him. You’ve got another guy named Demetrius. Would you please submit to him?
Listen, this is just a reinforcement of the same principle I’m telling you. God wants the people in His church to be respectful and submissive to those over – who lead over them, who have the right to rule because they’ve earned it by their spiritual character. That’s what he’s saying. That’s the way the church is to be run, beloved. The godly leaders who admonish and teach set the pace for the rest. Respect, honor, and esteem. Don’t be critical. Don’t be picky – jealous. You don’t want the responsibility if you’re not ready for it anyway, believe me – believe me. I can promise you from my own personal testimony that the joys of the leadership of the church are greater and the sorrows are infinitely more agonizing. If God has that in mind for you, you wait until the time comes. And until that time, set yourself to follow the pattern of somebody who is that godly person that you might grow to maturity. Paul said to the Corinthians, “Be ye followers of me as I am” – what? – “of Christ.”
Sixth, in our look at this last portion – love in the fellowship will result in evangelism, service to the saints, submission, refreshing companionship, respect, and sixth, hospitality – hospitality. And this implied in verses 19 and 20. Look at it. “The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you much in the Lord with the church that is in their house. All the brethren greet you.” Now as I read that, I just was kind of overwhelmed with the fact that the people who were greeting the people in Corinth really didn’t know them. Right? Everybody says hi. Everybody greets everybody. There was just this openness. This kind of – hospitality, by the way, means love of strangers. If you were in the body of Christ, you were never really considered a stranger. You were just accepted and loved.
Now we know a little about that, because when we travel around and go in different places and meet different Christians, we make friends just like that. There’s just a bond there. And you can see it here. The churches of Asia greet you. Those were assemblies of people. Aquila and Priscilla, those are individuals. All the brethren greet you, that’s the total group. Everybody says hi to everybody in the family of God. But I see some interesting things here. “The churches of Asia greet you.” Let’s start there. The province of Asia Minor, all those churches sent their love to Corinth over in Achaia, another province in the Roman Empire. And it tells me something, something that I know from the book of Acts and that is that there was a wonderful love – now watch this – from one church to another church. Have you ever noticed that? A wonderful supportiveness.
Boy you know, I hate to think that we’ve lost that. I hate to think we’ve lost the warm bond from one church to another church. I think the only way it can exist is when both churches are committed to pure doctrine – I really feel that way – and right living. But where you have a church teaching the word of God, living the right way, and another church teaching the word of God and living the right way, there ought to be such a bond of love, such a bond of sharing. We ought to be able to just travel from one to the other and be totally accepted. But you know, it’s so sad, we get all split up into denominations, and we get fractured up into our little theological idiosyncrasies. And we get up on our little ivory towers, you know, screaming to the whole world our little simple doctrine, you know, that nobody else has got – us four, no more, shut the door – and that’s it. It really shouldn’t be that way. We should be as open as the early church and where there is true doctrine and right living, there ought to be a beautiful communion between the assemblies themselves.
But sometimes, you know, we even get a little haughty, especially here at Grace Church, and we even intimidate other people. You know, I had a person say to me one time, “You know, I don’t think I like to come to your church.” I said, “Well, why not?” “Well, because the people I meet there – I met two people from there, and they were telling me that your church was the only church. You know, and we go to a little church over” – Well, you shouldn’t do that. This is not the only church. This church has all the problems all churches have, we just got far more of them, because we’ve got more people. This church is what it is because God designed to build. But I have a personal feeling that God likes little churches better because He made so many of them. He only makes a few big ones. That’s all He can take. You know, if anything, if Grace Church is be known as anything, let it be known as a supportive, affirming, and loving community of people who are just as accepting of a little church as any other church. We ought to be able to transport ourselves from one assembly to another of people who are fully commented to the Word and to right living and accept them as much as they would accept us. Love between the churches. That’s part of hospitality. Even though we don’t know them. When they’re strangers, they’re not in the body of Christ.
Then he says Aquila and Priscilla greet you. These are super people. Aquila was a man from the south coast of the Black Sea, Pontus, who eventually came to Rome and married Priscilla and they lived in Rome until Claudius the Emperor band all Jews from the city of Rome and they scooted off to Corinth. And they were working in Corinth in their trade, and they were going to the synagogue there. One day a man named Paul arrived there and he sat with them, and the reason he sat with them is because they did the same thing he did. They were leather workers. The Greek word means more than tentmaker, it means leather workers. Paul worked with leather and so did Aquila and Priscilla, and they used to sit in the synagogue according to their trade. Men on one side, women on the other side, but the people were all seated according to trade. Here were all the leather workers, then the carpenters, then the masons, then everybody else. So you knew right where everybody was. There was a comradeship there and so he sat down with Aquila and Priscilla, they became good friends. He stayed with them. He may have stayed with them 18 months while he was there.
Another preacher came behind Paul, a wonderful man by the name of Apollos and Apollos stayed with them, and they even taught him more to understand the truth of the gospel. They were great people and now we find that their hospitality is mushroomed and they have a church in their house. You know, in those days the church met in the house. They sat around in fellowship, friend to friend. There was real hospitality. And when Christians traveled from one place to another there was openness. “All the brethren greet you,” verse 20 says. There was a sense in which everybody’s house was open to every other believer. In fact, the New Testament makes a major emphasis on hospitality. You know, back in Leviticus chapter 19 verse 33, it says that we’re to receive a stranger. Israel was. And then in verse 34 it says, when you receive him, love him like your own family. Did you get that?
Your home as a Christian ought to be wide open. Now some Christians don’t want to let any strangers in their house because they’ll find out the truth about their Christianity. Yeah? Boy, we don’t want to get anybody in here, they might know we scream at the kids and a little nip on the side, it’s bad news. Keep them out. See? But our homes ought to be open, transparent, loving, havens of rest and friendship for those who need to be there. I thank God that we have that at Grace Church. I thank God that we have over 150 home Bible studies. Boy, that’s terrific. You know, that we don’t all just walk in this big huge building and stare at the back of each other’s heads. There are times when we turn around and face each other in nice little warm fellowships and we share. That’s so good.
That’s the way it was early in the church and hospitality was a part of it. In fact, you couldn’t – you know, in 1 Timothy chapter 5, Paul’s telling them what to do with widows. There were a lot of widows. And they said, you know, when a widow gets to be 60 years of age, you put her on a list – it’s the unavailable list frankly is what it amounted to. Don’t let them get married anymore, they’re old enough now they don’t need to get married anymore. The children are all raised. You put them on a list to serve the church, put them to work. But here’s some conditions, the only widows who can go on that list are widows who have been totally devoted to their husband, widows who have washed the feet of the saints, and widows who loved strangers. Isn’t that good? Those are the kind of people that were the quality people. People who knew how to love strangers. That’s the way our lives should be, open, loving, accepting.
You say, yeah, but I let a guy in one time and he ripped off my best lamp. Look, it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. You may have the junior high kids in and they’ll wreck your piano, who knows. It’s going to happen. But it’s a cup of cold water isn’t it, in the name of Jesus. And you know, in the early years of the church, they needed homes to stay in, because you wouldn’t want to stay in an inn. Dionysius asked Heracles once in the writings of Aristophanes, he said, “We need to find lodging, do you know of an inn with only a few fleas?” Not exactly an inviting place. Theophrastus wrote a character sketch in ancient Greece, he wrote a character sketch of what he called the reckless wild man. He said, “This man was bad enough to run an inn.” Imagine such a man or a brothel, because the two were synonymous. So if you wanted prostitution and fleas you stayed in the inn. If you wanted to avoid that, you had to stay in somebody’s home. And characteristic of Christians was that their homes were open, and as Christians traversed – why even early in the gospels in Matthew when Jesus sent them out, He said, “You go into a village and they should accept you into the home.” Right? “Stay with them. And if they don’t accept you” – what? – “shake the dust off your feet and leave,” Matthew 10.
You see, it was always to be a hospitality, always an openness. Christianity is not institutional, you see. It’s life, it’s living, it’s in the home. Your home ought to be open to the neighbors and to friends and to family and anybody who needs it. You say, well where does that end? I mean, I’m going to have a hotel. Where does it end? Well, there are some limits. What are the limits? Second John 7, this is who you can’t let in. Verse 9, the middle of the verse, “He that abides in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” Did you get that? “He that abides in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine of Christ, receive him not into your house. Don’t even bid him good day. For if you bid him good day, you are a partaker of his evil deeds.” You know what it’s talking about? False prophets. When they come with the false doctrine of Christ, that’s who you turn away. Anything short of that – hospitality.
You see people, we’ve got to get our Christianity transparent. We’ve got to open it up. Do you know something? Do you know that it says in 1 Timothy 3:2 that a man can’t be a pastor or an elder, a leader in the church, unless he be blameless. The husband of one wife, given to hospitality. Love of strangers. The early church met in homes. People that traveled, they stayed in homes. There was an interchange. In the New Testament, for example, in the book of Acts we see them in homes for prayer, Acts 12; for fellowship, Acts 21; for communion, Acts 2; for worship, Acts 20; for teaching, Acts 20; for evangelism, Acts 10; for follow up, Acts 18; for preaching, Acts 5; and for discussion, Acts 28. They just were in the homes all the time. Acts 2, they went from house to house, from house to house. And I thank God we’re seeing some of this in our fellowship. I see a love. I see an openness. I see a wonderful hospitality. I thank God for that.
So a fellowship marked by love will manifest itself in evangelism, service, submission, companionship, respect, hospitality. Number seven, the last one – now watch this – affection. And some of you may have a hard time with this, so hang in there. Verse 20, “Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.” Now you say, oh, that’s a cultural thing. Well, let’s think about it for a minute. This is a lovely custom. By the way, it isn’t the only statement in the New Testament that says this. There are at least four others that tell us to do the same thing: Romans 16:16, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14. In those Scripture basically is the same idea. Greet one another with a holy kiss. You say now, what are we talking about here? Well, let me give you a little kissiology and try to help you to understand this whole area. This is kind of interesting, I think, as we look at it scripturally.
Now originally a kiss was predominately a sign of affection between men and men and women and women. In fact, the word philēma only appears seven times, I think it is, in the New Testament. But the only time in the Bible the kiss is used to speak of a man and woman, the only time it is used in a romantic sense is twice in the Old Testament. Once in Proverbs chapter 7 verse 13, it is referring to a harlot’s kiss. And then there is also a statement in Song of Solomon. Chapter 1 verse 2 talks about the kisses of the beloved. Chapter 4:11 talks about the kiss and the sweetness. It talks about the sweetness under the tongue, which is kind of interesting. When I was a kid, they called that a French kiss. But the proper term is a Solomonic kiss. It’s definitely a Solomonic kiss. Now some of you have been freely liberated. You’ve found it in the Bible, it’s right there. In case you want the reference it’s Song of Solomon 4:11 – Solomonic kiss. But apart from a Solomonic kiss and a harlot’s kiss, the rest of the references basically to kissing in the Bible are references to men to men, women to women, expressing affection in a physical manner. And this is something that I think is important. You know, psychology tells us that. You see the little bumper sticker, “Have You Hugged Your Kid Today.” There is something affirming, there is something positive, there’s something good about a touching kind of affection.
Now, I’m not getting into – some of you are saying, oh you’re into sensitivity – I’m not into that stuff at all. I’m just telling you what the Bible says. But there is the need for us to be able to demonstrate our affection. It goes a long way to break down barriers. You really know that don’t you. Indeed it does. And in the biblical times, since the men and the women were separated, there was always those kinds of greetings and that was just done. Kissing was an affection salutation. You find it back in Genesis 29, Genesis 33, et cetera, et cetera. It was a farewell, Genesis 31, Genesis 50. When they would say goodbye they would do it. Sometimes when they were going to bless, when a father was going to bless his son, he’d kiss him first. In the east, they often kissed the beard, the cheek, or the forehead. That was the way it was done. And early in the Christian church, the kiss on the cheek or even just placing cheek to cheek was basic to a sign of affection. They would embrace and do that. It is a very beautiful thing. In fact, it’s something that I think the church has lost to its – it’s really a sad loss, because we have a difficult time being affectionate. You know, we have all isolated ourselves and insulated ourselves so much.
And the Roman Catholic Church didn’t help things, because later on they took the holy kiss and they said that what it meant was Paul was instituting a ceremony, a rite of the church. And so they instituted “the holy kiss” which occurred as a symbol between the prayer and the celebration of the mass. They had the holy kiss. And they started kissing everything. They started kissing so many things that in 578 at the Council of Auxerre, the Roman Catholic Church voted down the kissing of the dead bodies. They were kissing everything. This was the holy ceremonial kiss. In fact, in the middle ages, they stopped kissing each other and they started kissing the saints instead. And during the middle ages, Catholic people stopped this sign of affection, replaced by kissing the altar. If you would go, for example, now to St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome go over to the Black Peter, you’d see them lined up in a long line to kiss his toe. They’ve kissed it away it’s gone. Kissing the saints and the relics and the altar and kissing the priest’s hand and all this. In the early church Paul wasn’t instituting a ceremony to be put between this and this. The Roman church started it out by – when the president of the assembly gave the motion, everybody kissed the guy on his right, you know. And all the ladies, the person on the right and it went off like dominoes. See down the field. We’re not going to say now we will all have the holy kiss. That isn’t the point.
I remember one time going to a creative worship service. I don’t know even how I got there. But it was one of the experiences of my life I’ll never forget. And it started out with people batting balloons around the room and then throwing daisies and people in leotards doing strange things. Supposed to be creative worship. And then I was – I remember I was sitting between Ray Steadman and Jim Slevcove and it came to the time for the holy kiss. So I looked at either side to see which one I would prefer. So we got into this thing, and you know, they made us keep doing it. About every five minutes, we’d have to do it again. It was about seven times, I figured I was going to change my seat if I had to do it again to get some variety into the thing. But you know, I thought to myself afterward, this is not what the Bible means. This can’t be it. This is getting ridiculous. But you know, we’re always prone to make some kind of an institution or some kind of a function out of what was a free expression spontaneously of love.
And I would really love to see men and men and women and women showing signs of affection. Maybe you can at least start with a good warm handshake or a hand around the shoulder. I mean, that’s the place to start where we can at least begin to break down some barriers by showing a little affection to one another. That’s what the Bible is saying. And man let me tell you, a little bit of that stuff would have helped the Corinthian church. Don’t you think? Break down little barriers if they could express their affection. That’s what the Bible is saying. You know, when the little house churches gave way to the big cathedrals and everybody marched in and stared at the back of the head in front of them, something was gone. Something was lost. And the church became a collection of strangers. And you come to church and you say, “Well, Ethel, let’s try to get in and get out without getting caught in a conversation.” See? Well, where there’s love in the church there will be affection. I remember at the last baptism, I almost drowned. The guy hugged me and I thought that’s the way it ought to be. I got awful wet, but other than that. It’s the way it ought to be. We ought to be able to demonstrate our love. Shouldn’t we?
Well, Paul’s almost finished and so am I – verse 21. Marking the fellowship, evangelism, service, submission, companionship, respect, hospitality, and affection. And now his final words, “The salutation of me Paul with my own hand.” What he means there is I always sign my own letters just so nobody will quibble over authenticity. This is me, I’m taking the pen from my amanuensis, my secretary. I’m signing this part myself, and I’m writing my own P.S. He always did that so nobody would argue about the authenticity. And so he says, “The salutation of me, Paul, with my own hand.” I’m taking the pen now to write. He had dictated the rest of it, and then he comes through like a thunderbolt. He sounds like Elijah or somebody. He sounds like a prophet of old. “If any man love not the Lord” – and the words Jesus Christ are not in the better manuscripts. “If any man love not the Lord let him be Anathema Marantha.”
And you kind of – Paul, how did you ever get this? Listen – I’m talking about love, he says, and I’m talking about love in the fellowship and I’m talking about the need for the inner change of love. But I’ll tell you one thing, if anybody doesn’t start with the love for the Lord Jesus Christ, he’s cursed. That’s the beginning of it all. See? Got to start there. I mean, none of the other stuff’s even going to work. And it’s the most interesting thing. He uses for the word love, not the word agapaō, which is the strong word of love, the divine love. He uses for the only time in the entire New Testament the word phileō to speak of love for Christ. It’s the only time Paul’s ever used it. phileō, which simply means a strong affection for. It’s second class love. But you know God is gracious enough to even accept that and the parallel is in John 21 when Jesus used that word to speak to Peter. And He said Peter, “Do you” – finally the third time – “Do you phileō Me.” And he said, “You know I do.” And He said, “Then go ahead and feed my sheep.” I accept that. God says, “Obviously, I’d like it if you could agapaō Me, but if you can only phileō Me, I’ll take you like that.”
And Paul is saying here, listen, “Not only not agapaō, but if you don’t even have a strong affection for Jesus, you’re cursed.” You can’t even get into the love fellowship. He’ll accept you even at that level of love, even second class. But if you don’t even have that, you’re anathema. The word means devoted to destruction, damned, doomed, cursed. And then he says, “Marantha.” I believe that’s an imperative. It’s three words in the Aramaic, marana tha. “Our Lord come.” And what he’s saying is come in judgment. He’s saying, “Look, there are tears in the church. That’s part of the problem.” And he’s saying, “Look, I want the church to be full of love, but if you don’t even have a strong affection for Jesus Christ, you are cursed. God come and remove them.” That’s what he’s saying. Get them out.
Peter put it this way, judgment must begin – where? – at the house of God. Come, Lord, and clean Your church. You see it is both an invitation to the tares to receive Christ, an invitation to the lost to receive Christ, and by the way the only invitation in the whole letter, and it is also an invitation to God to come and purify His church. On the one hand he says, “Anathema,” and on the other hand, “Maranatha.” And so you’ll never get into this fellowship of love and you’ll never share the marks of love until you love the Lord Jesus Christ to begin with, and as long as there are people in the church who are false, they’re going to cripple it’s love, and so Paul says, “Come, Lord, and judge those people.”
You say, that’s strong. Yes, it is strong. But it’s only strong against those who rebel against Christ and endeavor to bring impurity into the pure church. And for the rest who love Christ, he closes, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” The word amen doesn’t appear there in the texts. He ends with Jesus. What a way to end. And some scribe said what I feel like saying – Amen. Let’s pray.
Father, we agree with whoever added that little amen. We say, “Amen.” What a book. Two and a half years, pluming it’s depths, and now to have the responsibility of knowing it and living it by Your Spirit. Help us, Father, to fulfill that. Make us a fellowship marked by love. May there be no one here who doesn’t at least have a strong affection for Jesus Christ, strong enough so that he commits his life to Christ and may it mature to be agapaō, the fullest, richest love. May we be a congregation manifesting love in every way, to the lost by evangelizing them, to the saints by serving their needs. May we be submissive, respectful, hospitable, affectionate. May we refresh each other so that we will be the gracious church that You want us to be. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
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