1 Corinthians 16:22
If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
Note the position which this verse occupies.
1. This Epistle was dictated to an amanuensis, and now Paul adds "The salutation of me Paul with my own hand": a form immediately followed, in most of his Epistles, by the apostolic benediction: but here he interposes the text. I think this shows us the state of his heart, which was full of Christ: he could not suppress the strong affection he entertained for the Saviour, and here he overflows.
2. Interposed as it is between the signature and the benediction, he intends it to have all the weight which apostolical authority can give it. Note —
I. THE DUTY ENJOINED.
1. Its object.
(1) The old law was comprehended in two commandments, of which the first was greatest, "Thou shalt love Jehovah thy God," etc. The New Testament puts forward a similar claim on behalf of Christ; and it were easy to argue from this, that Christ is the one Jehovah for whom the old law challenges our supreme and undivided love. Indeed, this very name is here applied to Him. He is set before us, while claiming our affections, as "the Lord."(2) He who claims our love bears not only the incommunicable name, but a name common to many of His fellow-men: Jesus.
(3) Bears another name, or rather title — Christ, or Anointed; because He sustains those offices into which men were commonly inducted by anointing, and which, as God-man, He sustains on behalf of mankind — Prophet, Priest, and King. God, Man, Mediator between God and men — whoever does not present Him in these three aspects robs Him of a part of that which essentially belongs to Him: whoever does not exhibit Him under this threefold character does not show you the Christ of the Scriptures, but some idol of his own invention.
2. The love which is claimed in His behalf must be —
(1) Sincere. You find a distinction made in the Scriptures between loving our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and pretending to love Him.
(2) Supreme. "If any man will come after Me" — "if any man will be My disciple," he must be prepared to "hate father, mother," etc. At the time when this was spoken, there went great multitudes after Him: but this was the doctrine by which He proved them. There are multitudes who will come after Him still, if He will be content to follow in the train of some beloved pursuit, or lust. Religion would be the most popular thing in the world, and would carry the whole world before it, if it were at liberty to waive this point. But Christ will have the first place in our affections: whatever stands opposed to Him we must hate; whatever is in harmony with Him, and dependent upon Him, must be loved in subordination to Him.
(3) Ardent. The Scriptures are wont to illustrate this subject by a comparison taken from fire. There may be a spark, and if that spark is blown, it may rise to a vehement flame which many waters cannot quench. You have only to neglect it, and it will expire. But you are told that you must stir up the gift of God.
(4) Constant; and that because He is always the same; that is due to Him at one time is due to Him at all times.
(5) Practical. "This is the love of God. that we keep His commandments."
3. The evidences of this love. I cannot help thinking, that in the case of every human object of affection, the love which there was need to try by many signs, would hardly be counted worth having; that where there is so much uncertainty whether we love Christ or no, one thing is certain — that we do not love Him very much: but still, for the sake of those who love, and who search after the signs and marks, let me give you one or two.
(1) The love of the brethren, i.e., the brethren of Christ, as well as ours: and it is in that light that they are principally to be regarded. If a man feels his heart expanded towards all Christians — if he is willing to bear with their weaknesses, and relieve their necessities, for Christ's sake — he loves Christ. But on the other hand, if he will stand aloof from them, does he love Christ? If he says he does, Christ Himself says he is a liar. He tells you they are His representatives, and whoever does not to them as he would to Christ, if Christ stood in person before him, does not love Christ as he ought. "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye love one another."(2) Whoever loves Christ, rejoices in the return of the Lord's Day. You have days of meeting among friends; and the offering of every expression of joy is appropriate to such meetings. This is the day which Christ sets apart to meet His friends. Do you love His Sabbath, and do you rejoice in its return? Do you honour the Lord and keep His ordinances? If so, there is ground to hope you love Christ. But if the Sabbath is a weariness, your love to Christ is yet but a name — there is no substance in it.
(3) The Bible is Christ's love-letter to His people. Who loves to read and honour it? Who comes to it with a relish, as a friend reads a letter from a loved friend? He loves Christ: this is a sign which cannot be mistaken.
II. THE PENALTY DENOUNCED. Whoever will not stand this test, what is to become of him? "Let him be accursed: our Lord is coming." This form of expression is said to be taken from the practice in the synagogues in excommunicating offenders. They had three forms of excommunication, in the last or highest of which they used this expression, and this was always understood to imply the sentence of final and irrevocable ruin. Now, says the apostle, this is the doom of all who do not love Christ.
2. The curse does not fall now: the lovers of Christ and those who do not love Him go on, perhaps, very much with equal steps through life. But "the Lord is coming"; and at His coming He is to separate between those who love Him and those who do not love Him. The tares and the wheat grow together till the harvest; we cannot separate the hypocrite from the sincere until some overt action incontestably proves that the profession is false. The day of separation is at the end of the world; and to this St. Paul alludes, "The Lord is coming," to discern between the true professor and the false.
3. The Lord delayeth His coming: but why? Not out of weakness, not out of forgetfulness, but that in the interval the curse may be averted.
4. I know that you cannot command your affections, but I tell you what you can do — you can go to the throne of grace and pray that the Holy Ghost may shed it abroad in your hearts.
(G. Osborn, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.