Series: 1 Corinthians
Healthy Churches are Full of Love (1 Corinthians Sermon 69)
February 14, 2021 | Andrew Davis
1 Corinthians 16:15-24
Well, turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 16, we're looking at the final verses in this incredible book, and I've had the opportunity over the last number of months to study the Gospel of Mark deeply and richly day after day. And I have just been blown away by the wonder-working power of Jesus Christ, the river of miracles that He did, the healings that He did one after the other. How effortless they are, how there is nothing that He could not do. There was no malady He could not heal. And I have realized that the healing ministry of Jesus, the physical healings He did were not only actual evidences of His power and proof of His deity and displays of His kindness and His character. But they also were metaphors of the saving work that He came to do in us, they are living parables. Because the work that Jesus came to do, this work of redemption is a grand work of therapy, it's a work of healing, because sin has genuinely messed us up. And these marvelous organs, physical organs of the human body that God created were rendered dysfunctional by sin, by disease.
God did not create the eye with all of its marvelous arrangement of cells with the cornea and the pupil and the retina, and all of the optic nerve to be blind. He created it to see. God did not create the ear with all of its marvelous minute aspects and all of the portions of the ear that are unfathomable so it could be deaf. God did not create the legs so that people would be paralyzed. He didn't create the skin to be destroyed by leprosy.
And so Jesus came into the world to take these corrupted organs that had been destroyed by sin and render them healthy. And He did it effortlessly, the greatest organ of the human is our heart. Now, this, I don't mean the physical muscle that pumps blood. But I mean the core of our being, the part of us that thinks, the part of us that reasons, the part of us that plans, the part of us that chooses and yes, the part of us that loves.
Corrupted, messed up, and He came to heal it, we're all messed up by sin. And when we look at the two greatest commands, the vertical command to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. And that horizontal command that is like it, to love our neighbor as ourself, our hearts are corrupted, we are sick and we do not love as we should. But someday we will brothers and sisters. Some day we will love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And someday we will love our brothers and sisters as we love ourselves, we will be healed from our lovelessness. And I'm looking forward to that, I don't know about you, because we're swimming in a loveless world.
Now, you may be thinking, pastor's talking about this 'cause it's Valentine's Day. I'm not. I'm not. I write my sermons a number of weeks in advance, it just happened to line up with Valentine's Day, and I made it worse by what I'm wearing, I know I didn't... I thought about it once I got to church. “What am I doing? This is sending the wrong message.” But this is not why I'm here to give a Valentine's Day message.
I just wanna finish this incredible journey that we've been on in 1 Corinthians, and I feel like an organizing rubric on all of the kind of statements that Paul makes at the end here is love. And I wanna see how much God, the Holy Spirit yearned that the Corinthian church be a healthy church. And that they would live lives of love as a foretaste of the world of love, that we are going to. Heaven is a world of love as Jonathan Edward said. And we saw that in 1 Corinthians 13, but we're gonna see it.
Now, this is the end of a long journey that we've been on as a church, by one count, I think this is my 69th sermon in 1 Corinthians and my last one began the journey about two and a half years ago. And it culminates with these various statements here at the end of 1 Corinthians 16. We've seen how the apostle Paul ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit was writing to a severely dysfunctional church. Very messed up, a loveless church in many ways. They were not loving God with all of their heart, they were not loving one another as they should have, they weren't loving the lost in their community.
And so they were messed up and we have been benefiting from how dysfunctional that church was. Because God in His wisdom allowed the Apostle Paul to write this letter to address their dysfunctionality point by point, chapter after chapter. And then gave it to us in the canon, the new testament assembly of perfect writings of inerrant scripture so that we could benefit. And every generation of Christians since the time that Paul wrote this letter has benefited from what he said to these Corinthians. And I think a way that I wanna sum up these statements here at the end is by love... If you look back at what we talked about last week, 1 Corinthians 16-14. He said, “I gave you five commands, the last one, let all that you do be done in love,” So I wanna organize these final statements here under love.
Final Statements Under Love
Love in the terms of healthy individual Christians, and in terms of a healthy local church, love in evangelism. Number two, love in passionate service to the saints, number three, love in submission to leaders, spiritual leaders. Forth, love in refreshing the saints. Fifth, love in recognizing servants, recognizing servants, and then love in greeting the saints. Seventh, love for the Word of God, and then finally, love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
love in evangelism
So we're gonna walk through these eight quickly. First love in evangelism, look at Verse 15, You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia. So healthy churches are filled with love for the lost. They love lost people, and they show that by evangelism, they're active in the harvest. The actual term that Paul uses for the household of Stephanas is first fruits, they were first fruits of a vast spiritual harvest of souls of human beings who were dead in their transgressions and sins, and who God has the power to save through the Gospel.
And Jesus called that harvest to the attention of His disciples. They were blind to it. You remember in John Chapter 4, they were in Samaria, they didn't wanna be there. They were Jews, what are we doing in Samaria? They went in to get some food, Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman, and then she is so excited by that conversation, it changed eternity for her. It changed her soul, and she leaves her water pitcher there and runs into the town, and then this huge group of Samaritans are coming out and the disciples were unaware of the harvest that was right in front of them. They just went and bought some food, got out of there as quickly as they could. Came back, said, Let's eat and get out of here. And Jesus said to them, Do you not say four months more and then the harvest? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields they are ripe for harvest. That's still true today. Here in the Raleigh, Durham Chapel Hill area, we are surrounded by lost people. And just like the disciples didn't know what that harvest was about, because Jesus said, I have food to eat, you know nothing about.
I like to stick that extra word and you apparently know nothing about 'cause you didn't say anything about me to them when you went in to buy some food, but here this woman got the whole village to come out. And that's our problem too. Now, Achaia was a southern region of Greece that included Athens and Corinth. When Paul came there from Thessalonica, his first success was with this man Stephanas and his household, family and servants alike seemed like they all came to faith in Christ. The first fruits of a vast harvest there in that province. Now, Paul's zeal for souls is well known. He said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, he said, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the Gospel of God's grace.” That's what my life is. Now, he's gonna make it super clear to these Corinthians in The Second epistle, 2 Corinthians 5. He's gonna talk about it very, very plainly, chapter 5 verse 14 says, “The love of Christ compels us.” And the context there is toward evangelism, the love of Christ constrains us to make an effort to win the lost, because he says at the end of that chapter, in verse 20, we are God's ambassadors.
Christ's ambassadors as though God Himself were making His appeal through us. We implore you, we beg you. On Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. Now, I think that's our calling. It's fallen to us now. This generation of sinners is given to us, this generation of Christians to reach, and there should be that love for the lost that just spills out into an effort to reach people. We are Christ's ambassadors, Christ by the Spirit is in us, making an appeal. We're imploring you. Begging you, be reconciled to God. Find forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ.
That's our role to play among other healthy churches here in the Triangle region, we are given this role to play, so what's going on in our church? What about FBC? Are we vigorously active in evangelism as we should be? If we're not, we don't love the Lord as we should vertically, and we don't love the lost as we should, we don't weep over spiritual condition of the lost as we should, and I don't think anybody I've ever met would say I weep over the spiritual condition of the lost as I should, we all know we could grow in that.
And so I just think the best thing you can do is just be a spiritual beggar on this and say, Lord, I have a heart that just doesn't care enough about lost people. Would you change me? In 2021, would you make me evangelistic? Would you make me care the people around me are on the road to destruction, that they're under the wrath of God, would you actually make me care about that? Would you make me cry over certain individuals who I know are lost, who I work with or who are neighbors or who are relatives, and they're not saved, would you actually move me so that I would be willing to pay a price? And it doesn't mean they're gonna come to Christ, and if they don't, they're probably gonna give you a hard time. But I'm willing to pay that price. The love of Christ compels me. I'm Christ's ambassador, love for the lost, evangelism.
love in passionate service to the saints
Secondly, love in passionate service to the saints. Healthy churches express love in service to one another, we serve one another. Look at verse 15, it says there, and I love the KJV on this, I'm gonna go KJV, “I beseech you, brethren, you know the house of Stephanas that is, it is the firstfruits of Achaia.” And listen to this, it's KJV, “that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,” Addicted.
Now, I don't think any other English translation, other than the King James version, went with addicted there. But wouldn't it be cool to be addicted to ministry, I mean, you just do so much ministry you can't get enough of serving the saints, can't get enough. The Greek implies that they've arranged themselves, appointed themselves, set themselves in careful order to do ministry. They thought about it, they planned it. And at the heart of it is, what can I do in service to the saints today? How can I make their lives better? Make their lives easier.
So this would be using the spiritual gifts that we talked about in those chapters, using the gifts of service, gifts of administration, gifts of hospitality, just even just speaking words of encouragement. I understand in this present stretch that we're in, some of those ministries have been difficult, but they're gonna come back. This is temporary, what we're going through, and hospitality will get going in full force, and we'll be able to serve one another and care for one another. Healthy churches do this, healthy churches wash one another's feet. So just think about that, Jesus washing the disciples' feet in John 13.
And He says, I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I am your Lord, I am your teacher. Now that I have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. That's a great image, isn't it? I love how Paul picks up on that image and applies it to godly widows, in 1 Timothy 5 and verse 10, talking about honorable widows who should be put on a list of care, financial support by the church. There are certain criteria for the widows that the church was going to care for.
And it's interesting what Paul says that such a widow would be well-known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints. Isn't that incredible? So here's this godly woman who is... And it's a metaphor, but she's just serving the saints. Other Christians, how can I wash their feet? How can I meet a need? So FBC, does this characterize us? Do we wash the feet of the saints? Do we serve one another in love as we should? Do we individually have a planned-out strategy for ministry? It's so easy to fly under the radar screen and church this size, and even easier in the COVID era to just fly under the radar screen.
Nobody really knows what's happening, what you're doing with your life. The question is, do you have some regular pattern of ministry to brothers and sisters in Christ, seeking to make their lives better? Could be words of encouragement, you could be calling people or communicating in the cyber ways that we do, of love, praying for you, I care about you, I'm aware of what's going on in your life, and then more and more, even physically with one another, alleviating suffering, does this characterize us?
Now, when the Lord Jesus returns and all the angels are with Him. And He gathers all the nations before Him, and He separates the people out, one from another. As a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, what He's gonna say to the sheep is, I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink, you cared for my needs. And so that's a pattern of service that we should be seeing in our church.
love and submission to leaders
Thirdly, love and submission to leaders, love and submission to leaders. Again, in verse 15 and 16, you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia and they have...Here's one translation, “devoted themselves to the service of the saints. I urge you, brothers, to” Verse 16, “submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it.” So this word submit is a very important word in the church and in the Christian life. Stephanas was a key leader in the Corinthian church, look later at verse 17 and 18, he said, “I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived because they have supplied what was lacking from you, for they refreshed my spirit and yours also such men deserve recognition,”
So they were the official representatives of the Corinthian church who are there to help Paul and supply his needs, but Paul's basic command is to submit to these hard-working men, they were spiritual leaders in the church. So healthy churches, loving churches, submit to their spiritual leaders. Hebrews 13-17 puts it this way, says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority, they keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them, so their work will be a joy, not a burden for that would be of no advantage to you.”
Now, this Corinthian church was fractious and rebellious and hard to lead. I mean, you can tell it just by the way that Paul has to deal with them over these two epistles, they're a handful. And Paul wants them to submit to godly leaders like these men were. Godly hard-working leaders and not make life and ministry miserable for those people, as the author says in Hebrews 13-17, “Obey them so their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” So certainly would be no advantage to them, but the author to Hebrews is talking about the church, you don't want to keep running off godly spiritual leaders and making their lives miserable. That would not help you in your Christian life. And so make their lives a delight. Submit to their leadership.
Now, some commentators think this command extends to all hard-working Christians, anyone who works hard and serving the Lord, submit to such as those. In one sense, I definitely understand that view. Let's take, for example, a woman that's in charge of a wedding reception. Okay, I've done a lot of weddings, and there have been a lot of skillful women that are good at organizing weddings. And so when it comes to the reception down there, the hall, friend, she's in charge, and where she wants the decorations and the flowers and the table arrangements and all that. That's where they're gonna go. You understand what I mean, okay? And what do I know about these things? What do most guys know about those things, honestly.
But there's an event and there's details, and if you wanna help, you're gonna fit into that vision and that plan, so anyone who's doing a planned patterned ministry that requires organization, others that wanna come along and help are gonna fit into what they're doing. So I think that's helpful, but the word submit is a very strong word, and I generally tend to point it over toward elders and towards spiritual leaders that God sets up.
Now, what about our church, FBC? Well, when I first came here in 1998, there was a nucleus of very godly wonderful people, many of whom are still alive and are here. Who were praying for the health of the church, loved the Lord, loved ministry, but then there were a handful of others that just weren't that way They weren't submissive at all, and of those, some were particularly ardent about their role in the church, and they really did feel in a very unhealthy way that the church was their church. They gave more money. They'd been there longer than anyone else. Their names were on plaques on the sides of the building or different things like that. They felt it was like kind of their church and they were jealous of their position of power, and they were especially careful in a negative sort of way about pastors.
When I first came here, the polity or the government of this church was what we call a single elder model, most Baptist churches are that way. So the senior pastor runs the staff, and then the deacons, there were 24 deacons back then were kind of pseudo elders back then, we defined it differently then than we do now. But they... some of those deacon leaders saw themselves as a check and balance to the power of the pastor. And a few key kind of ring leader types felt it was their job to make certain no pastor stayed at this church very long at all. So every two to three years, they would increasingly make life difficult for the pastor, godly men, until they finally just saw the wisdom of leaving. Well, that's not helpful for the life of the church and the health of the church. Our church is radically different now, and I thank God for it. There is no church I'd rather serve than this one, and there's... I think it's a model of a healthy esteem for the elders. We moved over to plurality of elders, and so we have a group of godly men, and there is sufficient check and balance with them, 'cause they all have equal authority and we're in each other's lives, we're aware of what's going on, in each other's lives. They themselves are duly elected by the church and accountable to the church, it's a beautiful system.
I've said before this is a little kludgy, but I think it's true, this system of congregational polity, like Baptists have that vote in their leaders, a plurality of elders who all have equal authority to one another. And who then the church follows as long as they're leading plausibly biblically. That system is the best system of church government I've ever seen, where Roman seven sinners lead other Roman seven sinners. We're all sinful and we're all corrupt, so leaders can become corrupt, that's true. And followers can become corrupt as well, this system is the one the Lord has set up that helps minimize that sin. And when everyone's following the Lord in the power of the Spirit, it's a very healthy and beautiful system, and I love it.
love in refreshing the saints
Alright, number four. Love in refreshing the saints. Verses 17-18, “I was glad when Stephanas, and Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived because they have supplied what was lacking for you,” verse 18, “For they refreshed my spirit and yours also.” Isn't that a beautiful image? They refreshed my spirit.
Paul, I believe, had the hardest ministry in the history of the Christian church, I don't think anybody ever went through more suffering than the Apostle Paul did. Read about it in 2 Corinthians 11, the level of sorrow and suffering and persecution that man went through is staggering.
But here come these godly saints, and when they came into Paul's life when they brought their gifts from the church when they brought encouragement from the church, Paul felt refreshed. Paul felt refreshed, and especially he was refreshed by news from this Corinthian church. Paul says, “Of all the pressures on my soul, all the sufferings and pressures, the greatest pressure I feel, 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 “The greatest pressure I feel, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” And he says, “Who is weak and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn.” I'm worried about the churches, I'm worried about the church at Thessalonica, I'm worried about the church in Ephesus, I'm worried about these churches, are they doing okay? They're under pressure by the world, the flesh, or the devil. How are they doing?
And so when these three godly individuals came, Paul just said, I was refreshed, relieved, I was energized. So isn't that incredible? What does refresh mean? Wouldn't you like to be that for other people? Wouldn't you just love to be a refreshing person? I mean, you're the kind of person... Where it says in Psalm 23, The Lord leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. There is that sense of, and you are the way by which God refreshed some brother's or sister's soul. I think about an oasis in a desert, and you think about burning sand like the Sahara desert, and some oasis out there, which suddenly out of all these rolling hot sand dunes suddenly, there's a bunch of date palm trees, and there's a bunch of fruit trees, and there's some drinkable water in the middle and it's life to you. I think about Psalm 63, it says, “Oh God, you are my God, earnestly, I seek you. My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you. As in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
Because your love is better than life. David says I will praise you. Alright, but God uses us to minister Himself to other people. Wouldn't you love to be an oasis to somebody else who's going through a trial? Struggling with certain things, and then they had a conversation with you, and you shared Scripture with them, you shared the love of Christ with them, you prayed with them, and when they went off they were refreshed.
What about the opposite? How would you like to be the church's Eeyore? How would you like to be the church's Debbie Downer? Like, I was fine until I went and spent time with him or her. And it just sapped me, I don't wanna be an anti-refreshment, I wanna be a refreshment, and so you do that through the ministry of the Word, through genuine love, through physical things like hospitality, service, meals, things like that. But I just I think healthy churches do that and they care.
Now, a picture of this comes from the Pastor John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, and he was... John Piper calls him the healthiest pastor he's ever studied. Here was a man, remember, he was a slave trader who was converted marvelously and had a genuine sense of the grace of God in his life, and was a real genuine, broken-hearted, saved sinner who was humble, but he was also happy. He was just a happy man, and it's the kind of person that you just wanna be around, the kind of pastor you just wanna spend time with. And he continually ministered to his friend William Cooper, who was chronically depressed and even occasionally suicidal, and he took him on and poured goodness and ministry to him. He refreshed him.
And this is a sample of how John Newton approach life, listen to this, something Newton wrote, Imagine two heaps, one of human happiness and the other of human misery. Now, if I can take but the smallest bit from the one heap and add to the other, I carry a point, I've won a point, if, for example, as I go home, a child has dropped a halfpenny, and if by giving it another, I can wipe away its tears, I feel I have done something good. I should be glad to do greater things, but I will not neglect the halfpenny. And when I hear a knock on my study door, I hear a message from God, it may be a lesson of instruction, perhaps a lesson of penitence, but since it is His message, it must be interesting.
What a great way to go through life. If I could just reduce by my interactions with people, that pile of human misery and increase by the ministry of the Word or by simple acts of service, that pile of happiness, I wanna live my life like that. Refreshing the saints.
love and recognizing servants
Fifth, love and recognizing servants. He says in verse 18, “Such people deserve recognition. It is right for us to recognize such servants.” Now, this is very interesting. I meditate on this for a long time, healthy Christians, really healthy Christians never seek their own recognition, but give tons of recognition to others. And there is an essential humility in both for yourself, you don't need any human being to notice the good things you do, vertically, God is your audience, and He doesn't miss anything. And you can be confident that He is able to guard the good works you have entrusted to Him for that day, that growing pile of good works, He won't miss any of them, and you'll get your rewards. You don't have to have anyone notice you.
This is Christian contentment. I don't need anything in this world to come in to me, Christ is enough, so that's a healthy way for you to serve, to say, I don't need to be noticed. But then you can't turn it around, I will, however, notice others, I'm not gonna give out, you don't need to be noticed, so I'm not noticing you, oh, you don't need to be noticed either, I'm not gonna notice you, and actually none of you need to be noticed, we're just not gonna be a church that notices anybody. That's unhealthy. And it's frankly arrogant. So here, he says, Such men deserve recognition.
So you gotta kind of balance this thing, don't seek it, but do give it. Now, I mentioned plaques earlier, friends, I'm not talking about plaques, we've taken as far... Taken them all down, that's not something we really need is have a plaque. But just words of encouragement, I see what you do to help the church, I see the way you serve, I see your patterns of service, and I'm blessed by it. Thank you. It's just humble. You see it at youth events, people show up there to cook burgers and hot dogs and serve for hours, and they're faithful, it's good for those people to be recognized, but they themselves shouldn't seek it.
And that's just healthy in that regard, so that we would recognize that Paul talks about this in Philippians 2. A godly man named Epaphroditus, a messenger from the Philippian church, Paul says, This man risked his life for the Gospel and became very ill. But God spared his life, and then he says in Philippians 2:29-30, “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy and honor men like him.” Honor men like him, “because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.”
So healthy churches, healthy churches recognize the service of its members, but then the individuals never seek it. One of the strongest parables on not seeking it, is Luke 17:7-10, and Jesus is pretty vigorous with us here on this, cuts us off at the knees if we're seeking recognition. He says, Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or attending the sheep. At the end of the day, when he comes in, what do you say to the servant? You've worked very hard. Why don't you sit down? I'm gonna get you some dinner. No, you wouldn't do that. And said, wouldn't you rather say you sit down and serve me my dinner and when you're done, then you can eat. Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, after you've done everything you were commanded to do should say, we are unworthy servants, we have only done our duty. And like, Pastor, is that actually in the Bible? It is, look it up.
It's very humbling. At the end of the day, you should say, I am just an unworthy servant, I have only... You could actually insert a humble word, FINALLY done my duty. I finally have put in a day in which I serve the Lord, but He's not gonna thank you, He's gonna say that's what you should have done, so that's very humbling, but then we don't turn that around, we find ways to encourage and thank people.
love greeting the saints
So number six, loving greeting the saints, verse 19 and 20, “The churches in the Province of Asia, send you greetings, Aquila and Priscilla, greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. All the brothers here send you greetings, greet one another with a holy kiss.” This is a very common feature at the end of Paul's epistles, for example, in the Book of Romans, he greets over 35 individuals or households. 35.
And so here he's talking about the churches in Province of Asia, modern-day Turkey, these are churches that were planted by people that Paul trained and sent out. Aquila and Priscilla were Paul's fellow tent-makers, they were very skillful in evangelism. And so what happens is Paul is giving this local church a sense they're not alone, there are a lot of other local churches. We're part of a vast worldwide movement. So sometimes we'll see brothers from Africa come and say, I bring you greetings from my church in blah, blah, blah, and it's really encouraging. It's like there's a whole local church that's behind this individual who's come to this conference to preach And we have a sense we're part of this worldwide movement of the church of Jesus Christ, and so we give greetings from one another.
Now he says here, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” It's an interesting statement, isn't it? And like Pastor, how does that work in the COVID era? Interesting question. Is there such a thing as a virtual holy kiss? Well, actually all humor aside, this is why I'm saying the virtual isn't robust, healthy, real church, it is better than not having it. For people that are not able to get out, I see that. But isn't there something valuable about being physically in each other's presence? And even though right now things are strange, it's not gonna be like this forever. And our version of the holy kiss is a handshake, pat on the back, where appropriate, a hug, done in a godly sort of way. Those kinds of things, those physical artifacts of affection and love are huge in a healthy church. So he says, “Greet one another.”
So first of all, just realize we're part of a vast movement of churches, and we can give and receive greetings to those other local churches, and then within this local church, let's greet one another. When you see a brother or sister act like you're glad to see them, it is just so good to see you, light up when they come into your view, make them feel loved.
love for the word of god
Seventh, love for the Word of God. Verse 21, I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, he wanted the churches he wrote to know his letter was genuine. He does this a number of times at the end of his letters, he would make his own mark, a number of the epistles are clearly written by secretaries.
He would dictate them. For example, a Bible trivia question is, Who wrote the Book of Romans? Paul, nope, Tertius. Like, who in the world is Tertius? He's the one that wrote Romans. Well, he was his amanuensis, he was his secretary. He dictated those things.
Imagine Romans coming through Paul's mind and Tertius writing it down. Tertius was the first to read the Book of Romans, how awesome is that? But Paul, at the end of some of the epistles, he said, “I want you to know what my signature looks like.” So 2 Thessalonians 3:17, he says, “I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.” So this is my signature. Why did it matter? Because there were lots of false reports out there, even with Thessalonians, saying some reports have come out from us... Supposedly from us that the day of the Lord has already happened. You missed the bus. How depressing is that? You missed it. It was like a spaceship going to another cosmos and you missed it. So we were done now. Now that didn't... We never sent that. We didn't give that teaching. This is the mark on all my genuine letters.
Well, we don't have the autographs, we don't have the actual first copies, so the mark has come more traditionally through the New Testament canon and through the tradition of churches recognizing, so that really no one questions these 27 books of the New Testament as genuine. But we also read it, and the Spirit testifies with our spirit, this is the Word of God. And there's a cherishing that comes, and then he says like he always does in verse 23, “The grace of the Lord Jesus, be with you.” So there's grace to you at the beginning of all Paul's epistles and, “grace, be with you at the end.” I look on this thing as like this beautiful corridor of grace, Paul's epistles, and you come into the world of grace as you read the epistle and you're walking in grace, and he's rebuking, he's teaching, instructing, encouraging, he's doing all this stuff. And then at the end, he says, Now grace, be with you as you walk out, I look on it like a spiritual car wash. What a terrible image, but I'm gonna go with it.
Alright, you know those things where you go in, you go in and it starts doing things to your car, and it's awesome, it's a lot of fun, make sure the windows are up, but it's a lot of water, a lot of power and all this, and then these big things come in and these sounds, whatever, and then comes out, and if you get the full like Cadillac thing, 30 bucks and it's got all of the wax and you drive out. Shiny and beautiful. So that's an epistle. You heard, I think, heard that here first, I don't know, have you ever seen an epistle likened to a car wash, but it's the wash of grace, grace to you at the beginning, and then all this lavish grace that the Holy Spirit does in your soul, and then grace be with you as you go out into the world to serve.
love for the lord jesus christ
Finally, eighth, love for the Lord Jesus Christ. If anyone does not love the Lord, a curse be on him come, Oh Lord. Love for the Lord Jesus. There were perhaps some in the Corinthian church itself that didn't really love Christ, but this really seems to address the outside world to any who will not love Christ, if there are any among you who don't love Christ may you be accursed.
It's a very strong statement, may there be a curse on you, and the ultimate curse is hell, it's condemnation, it's hearing these words from the judge of all the earth, “Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” That is the curse. And if you will not love Jesus, a curse be on you, Paul says that and pronounces it. If you won't love the one that God sent into the world, for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. This display of love, if you won't love Him... May, if anyone won't love Him, may he accursed.
God is patiently withholding his wrath. People right now in their lost state they're walking under the wrath of God, They're abiding under the wrath of God, John 3:36, “the wrath of God remains on them,” and that's a terrifying place to be, if in the end they will not love Christ, if in the end, they did not embrace Christ, may they be accursed. And then he says, “Come, Lord Jesus, Maranatha,” O Lord, I can't wait to see You.
May the Lord come at the end of the Book of Revelation, three times, Jesus says to His people, three times in that final chapter, I am coming soon. I'm coming soon. Now, you know, His definition of soon is different than ours, it's been 2000 years, but when we're in heaven, we're gonna see how that's like two blinks of an eye. Very, very soon, we're going to be in the presence of the Lord, and we're going to see His face. And that vision of Christ as He really is in His glory is going to finish our salvation, we are going to be instantly conformed to Him and made like Him, because we will see Him as He is, and you should yearn for that, you should long for the appearing of the Lord. And so healthy churches love the Lord Jesus and yearn for Him to come. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for these eight practical, very practical points, we thank you for the Gospel, we thank you for the truth of the Gospel. And we pray, O Lord, that you would help us be a healthy church whose hearts are healed from lovelessness, from hatred, and from an insufficient love for God and insufficient love for one another. Help us to be what you want us to be, God grant us hearts of love, by the power of the Holy Spirit, enable us, O Lord, to be a world of love here on Earth as much as we can and look forward to a perfect world of love in the future, in Jesus name, Amen.