14 Aug 2022

Signing Off [1Corinthians 16]


After more than a year journeying through the book of 1st Corinthians, we come now to the last chapter. Paul will sign off with 1. a note about the collection of funds for the poor saints in Jerusalem, 2. an update about his calendar for future travel plans, and 3. instructions regarding how the church should relate with his co-labourers. Though they may seem only administrative or logistical, they are also laden with spiritual principles and lessons for us. Come and find out more from this sermon here. Thanks for joining us all this while through this book. May the lessons be sealed in our hearts and lives for His glory!



Sermon Transcript

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Well, if this is the first week you have joined us, you have joined us in the tail end, the very end, the last chapter and the last sermon in the book of 1st Corinthians. "What is this book about?" you ask. Well, it's a book about problems in the church really.

[1] Schism
It's a church that is fraught with particular challenges, they were a people that were divided, they were struggling with schisms. Some say, "I belong to Paul," an apostle. Some say, "I belong to Apollos." Some say, "I belong to Cephas." So the church was divided into different factions.

But at the same time we learned ideally, a church should be one that is united, we should not be divided over personalities, we should be united under Christ. Recognizing that we are all His children, we are called to this one body, and we all serve Jesus, not men.

[2] Sexual Sins
The second problem that the church at Corinth had was that our sexual sins. There was incest, there was prostitution, it was sad, but that was the reality then. And if you thought sexual sins were rampant in those days, I don't think it is any better in our day.

And so we learned that as a church, we should be a people who live pure lives — pure in thought, and also in deed. That should be what a Christian is all about. Not that we do these things, to gain favor with God, but if we understand God has given to us His Son, Jesus Christ, then we honor Him with obedience, with purity.

[3] Suits
The third problem, the church at Corinth had was that they were suing one another. They were not willing to suffer wrong, but Paul says, real allegiance to Jesus Christ may mean that you have to be willing to suffer wrong. You have to be willing to be disadvantaged, you ought to be defrauded, rather than allow God's Name to be dragged through the mud, when you sue each other in the public or civil courts.

So, real obedience and real worship to God may require personal sacrifices, even when it is not quite fair, but we do it for the sake of Christ.

[4] Stumbling
Then, we saw that there was a lot of cause for stumbling, some of the people in the church at Corinth had gone to the temples, where there are idols to eat food offered to idols. They thought to themselves, "We know this is nothing, I am not disturbed by it" but they did not consider how their actions will impact others whose convictions are not just ... or are not as strong.

So Paul says, "That's not good, because you don't only do that which is right, we must also do that which is loving. We must be considerate how our actions will impact others, and so maturity looks like one that is considerate of others convictions and feelings."

[5] Submission
Paul then tells us the fifth problem in the church at Corinth was that there was some ladies there who were not willing to demonstrate their submission to their own husbands. Well, the ideal church is one where not only the men serve and sacrifice for their wives, but that the women, the wives would joyfully submit also to their own husbands, as unto the Lord.

[6] Selfishness
The sixth problem, was that of selfishness. Instead of loving one another in the family, they began to draw thick lines, they in fact began to ostracize, perhaps those who are poorer. The rich ate amongst themselves, and when they are full, then the poor would be invited in. And by that time, they would already sense that discrimination and class divide. They were selfish! But Paul says, "A church should be loving, that there will be no divisions as such, no class divide, as such."

[7] Spiritual Gifts
We spent quite a long time looking at spiritual gifts, because Paul talked extensively about it, instead of using your spiritual gifts to abuse it, to show off, Paul says, "Use your spiritual gifts to serve one another. That's what it is given for."

[8] Skepticism
And then we ended with a look at the skepticism with regard to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There were some in the church who says, "There is no such thing as resurrection from the dead." And Paul says, "How can that be? If the dead are not raised, then Jesus is not raised, then you will still be in your sin. But in fact, Christ is risen from the dead, we will follow Him, He will lead us to the great resurrection reality. And so be steadfast, be immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord."

And that was where we last ended. This is a jet tour through these 15 chapters. Today, we come to the very last chapter, and it's about Paul signing off the book of 1st Corinthians. So there are 24 verses, seems long but actually it's quite short, and I think we will be done in good time.

I'd like to take this chapter, this signing off portion in chunks, because they are actually some isolated or remaining issues that Paul would want to address. It's not as thematic as what we have looked at in previous chapters. So let's take a look at some of the issues, logistical, administrative issues that he highlighted, that we may learn still some spiritual essence there in.

[1] Paul's Collection
First of all, we see Paul's collection, there is a gathering of funds to help the poor in Jerusalem. And we read this in verses 1 to 4, like I said, I'm taking this in chunks, so that you can see the issues clearly.

v1: Now, concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do.

v2: On the first day of every week, each one of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

v3: And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.

v4: If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me."

So, the issue here is that Paul is talking about a financial offering, a collection for the saints who are struggling financially.

You say, "Where are these saints?" Well, these are the saints in Jerusalem. So, Paul is organizing a love offering amongst the churches in Galatia, and also now at Corinth, Achaia. So that, these funds could alleviate the struggles and the poverty that the Jerusalem saints are experiencing.

Now, apparently, there's a famine, something that has been prophesied by the prophet Agabus in Acts 11. And you must understand that the saints in Jerusalem are a persecuted lot. They came out of Judaism and their family members, and the society would frown upon them and persecute them at large. So, it's not a surprise that many Christians in Jerusalem will be struggling.

So, Paul organizes this love offering to help them and it's very appropriate, don't you think? It is through the Jews that the Gospel could be given to the Gentiles, and just as the Jews have been a blessing, the Jerusalem church, Jewish church is a blessing to the Gentile churches, the Gentile churches can now be a blessing also to the Jewish church in Jerusalem.

So Paul says, "We are to give, this allows you to serve them, it's necessary that as Christians, we love one another regardless of race." He says, "Therefore ..." in Romans 15, verse 26, "... this was what has been organized for those in Macedonia and Achaia, also for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem."

So in the light of that, he says, "On the first day of every week, each one of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there'll be no collecting when I come." [1 Cor 16:2]

So he says, on a weekly basis, as you gather as a church, set aside funds amongst you, to help the poor in Jerusalem. Now, this is not forced, it is not a standard tax, because it is "as he may prosper". So this is individual, this is personal, this is to help the poor in Jerusalem.

And he tells us, that this is something you do on a weekly basis, so that it is stored up, it is prepared, it is ready. You do not have to collect only when I come, because by then you will be too late, perhaps "chi chok lok kio", we say in Hokkien. You ... you be all so rushed, and there may not be a good representation of your love for the saints, so, do it on a weekly basis.

Now, it's interesting that he says, "This is on the first day of every week." As you know, Christians today we worship on Sunday, by the way, the first day of every week in those days is Sunday, not Monday. For us, it's Monday, but the first day of every week is Sunday, and that's interesting because the Jews gather on the Sabbath in time past. Sabbath is Saturday.

So it seems that with the New Testament Church, the people of God gathers now not on Saturday, but on Sunday, the first day of the week. It is also said in Acts 20:7, "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread." So the day for public congregational worship and gathering has now shifted it seems, from Saturday to Sunday. And that's why up to today, churches we gather on the Lord's Day or Sunday.

But the point is, they were to gather these funds as they met, as they worship, as they studied God's Word together, to also lay aside, to store up the funds. So that when it is time, it is ready.

So Paul says, "When I arrive, when I close this collection, close this offering, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem." [1 Cor 16:3]

Now, we live in a day where we don't quite value these things, because we don't think it's necessary. We can just internet banking, or telegraphic transfer, write a cheque and the money will be sent. It's easy that way! But in those days, no PayNow, no internet banking, no QR code to scan and so on, so when you want to send money, you send physical money.

And if you want to send physical money, it's a lot of money, you better have people you trust. You cannot have Tom, Dick and Harry carry the funds, because they will just line their own pockets. So Paul says, "When I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit, people amongst you who you recognize as faithful, trustworthy, and I'll write a letter to authenticate these funds, introduce yourself to the church at Jerusalem. And if it is necessary, I will also go with you." [1 Cor 16:4]

So, we see in this collection that it is indeed Christian, and our responsibility to help one another in difficulty. This is what love looks like, this is what family looks like, this is what Christianity should be, regardless of whether you're a Jew, or Gentile or Samaritan. Doesn't matter your race, your background, we are one in Christ, we serve one another. This mutuality is encouraged in the Bible.

At the same time, this passage also teaches us about financial care and accountability. Money is important, and it should never be handled in a slip shod or careless way. And I think as a church, we need to be careful, we need to be beyond reproach and blameless in financial accountings too. And we are thankful for men and women in this church who help look into this aspect. We see that as some of the lessons we learned in this administrative instruction Paul gives.

[2] Paul's Calendar
Second thing I'd like us to look at, as Paul would want us to see is Paul's Calendar, his schedule, his routine, his itinerary. We see that in verses 5 to 9.

v5: I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia,

v6: and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter so that you may help me on my journey wherever I go.

v7: For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you if the Lord permits.

v8: But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, [a religious festival, a kind of a date],

v9: for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

So Paul says, "I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia." [1 Cor 16:5] So this is his plan, he wants to visit them after he goes to Macedonia.

You ask, "Where is Paul now?" The answer is given here, "I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost." [1 Cor 16:8] Remember the sermon snippet you saw, the video. The letter is written AD 57 in Ephesus, that's where we know it, right here at the tail end of this book.

So, the travel schedule or routine looks something like this, he is currently at Ephesus, and he will go to Macedonia which is around this region, before he will head down to Achaia in Corinth. So, this is what he plans to do in the days ahead.

We then see that the reason why he would want to go Macedonia and then Corinth is that he wants to visit them. "I ... I would stay with you or even spend the winter with you, so that you may help me on my journey wherever I go." [1 Cor 16:6] So Paul says, "On my missionary trip, I would stop by Macedonia and then Corinth and hopefully you will help me in providing lodging, food and maybe even finances as I go on."

I find it very interesting, you recall in 1st Corinthians 9, Paul consistently did not receive financial support from the Corinthians as he started the church. He ... he was a tentmaker, remember that? He says, "I rather work with my hands, so that no one can accuse me that I was in this for your money."

So when he was the founding pastor, when he was the resident pastor, he received no support. But now that it is handed over to the elders and to the leaders of the church, as he visits them, he's open to receiving support from them. And I think this is Paul's way of communicating how he is willing to receive their love, their fruit of love toward him. And ... but he made sure, right from the beginning there was no confusion, he was (sic not) in the Gospel ministry for the money.

Then we read that, "He did not just want to see them in passing." He wants to spend some time with them." [1 Cor 16:7] He has a pastoral heart for them, he loves the people, he wants to be with the people. Perhaps he wanted to spend more time to deal with the various problems that he has written about during this period, but he didn't just want to touch and go, he wanted to spend time and help them, I'm sure.

And he said, "But in the meanwhile, I'm not ready to go yet. I want to stay in Ephesus." [1 Cor 16:8] Why? Because, "There's a wide door for effective ministry that has opened unto me." [1 Cor 16:9]

Many of ... Singaporeans always think about retirement, you plan for retirement, you think about how you want to earn your bucket here in Singapore. And maybe retreat and go to a country that is a little bit more laid back, chill out for the rest of your life, and so you talk about migration. Like myself, my wife and I, we talked about it, not seriously, but we did think, "How nice it will be if we would here and here and there and so on!"

But we never, both of us ever said that, "Because it is easier and nicer and more pleasurable, we will go there," because I don't think that's Christian. I don't think we should plan our lives based on what is easier or more comfortable or more pleasurable. I think we must always make the decisions based on where God has work for us to do. And as far as I can see it, here is Singapore, this tiny little land is where I grew up, but at the same time, this is where I think ministry is for us. And so I hope you would think the same.

Don't retire, you can retire from a secular jobs but you should never retire from the work of the Lord. Remember, Paul said earlier in verse 58, of chapter 15, "Be steadfast, be immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord."

I hope when I am older, I'm not sure what age I will be, but even if I'm no more pastoring the church, I will still be always abounding in the work of the Lord, I hope you will too. Alright, yes, you can take care of plants, take care of grandchildren in the meanwhile, not a problem, but be always abounding in the work of the Lord. Okay?

So Paul says, "This is the way I decide." He's a spiritual opportunist. Huh, yes, he is obedient to God, no doubt he hears from God, he discerns God's will, but he factors in opportunities in his decisions. He is a spiritual opportunist, but at the same time, he is not naive. He is well and aware that they are oppositions there.

So I think this is like what we say in Chinese, 危机 [wēi jī] — in crisis there are opportunities, and in opportunities there are also crisis. So he understands that, and he factors it all and says, “For now, I'll stay at Ephesus, a lot of things to do, maybe I'll join you after Pentecost.” [1 Cor 16:9]

So we see Paul's collection, for the needs in Jerusalem. We see his calendar, his schedule, anticipating when he is going to visit the Corinthians. And actually we are going to 2nd Corinthians after Malachi, you will realize that this became a problem for Paul and the church at Corinth. Why? We'll find out when we hit 2nd Corinthians.

[3] Paul's Co-laborers
Then we come to Paul's co-laborers.

He has a few words for the people he labors with. And there are four groups in particular. First, Timothy. Second, Apollos. Third, the household of Stephanas. And fourth, Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus. So let's look at what he says about all of them.

First of all, Timothy. He says,

v10: When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am.

v11: So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers."

No Tim ... now Paul could not go to the Corinthians as yet, so he sent Timothy, that's said in chapter 4:17, "That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ."

So anticipating that Timothy has not yet arrived, he wrote this to tell the Corinthians to take good care of Timothy, who is there on Paul's behalf to teach them God's Word, and to ensure that they're walking in obedience. So I find it really interesting that he says to them, "When Timothy comes, please take care of him ..." "Please sayang him, please love him." "... please put him at ease, because he's doing God's work, and see that no one despise him, but help him on his way." [1 Cor 16:10-11]

I just find it interesting that Paul feels that, perhaps the Corinthians would be harsh toward him. Maybe he could tell from the questions that they raised to Paul and that was why it triggered him to write this letter. He could sense their posture was not particularly warm, so he wants to prepare the ground for young Timothy.

And it's interesting also, isn't it, you remember elsewhere, Paul writes to Timothy, "Let no man despise you for your youth." Here he says, "Make sure you guys don't despise him." I'm not sure why Timothy is particularly prone maybe to people's despise. Maybe he's young!

Some people say, "Timothy was about ..." Er, now, by the way, when, when Paul says, "Do not let them despise your youth," we assume that Timothy is 16 years old, 18 years old. No, most people think he's about 40 plus. I'm a youth by the way, according to the Bible.

So he says, "Let no man despise your youth." It's interesting! But the point of the church at Corinth is, "Please help him because he's there to help you, treat him well, honor him," in that sense. "And make sure that he comes back to me in one piece," alright, huh. "Help him on his way in peace that he may return to me for I am expecting him with the brothers."

"So how he treats ... how you treat him will be known to me when he comes back to me." [1 Cor 16:11] I think subtly, Paul is saying, "Take good care."

Let's move to Apollos.

v12: Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

So, you remember Paul mentioned Apollos in chapters 1-3, because the church at Corinth is saying, "I belong to Paul," the Paul gang, some others say, "I belong to Apollos," the Apollo's gang, and then there are others who say, "I belong to Cephas," the Cephas camp, gang or camp.

It seems as if that Paul and Apollos and Cephas, they are kind of having a power struggle. It seems like they are trying to make themselves look good. But when you look at this verse, you know that it's not a problem amongst the leaders. It cannot be! Because if Paul was truly power hungry amongst the Corinthians, he wouldn't say, "Apollos, go to the Corinthians." He would try to separate them from Paul, from Apollos. But no Paul says, "I want Apollos to come to you."

And if Apollos was truly power hungry, he would have fled ... he would have rushed to the Corinthians. But Apollos says, "I don't want to go to the Corinthians as now, maybe later." So I can conclude, we can conclude that the division amongst the church was not because of the leaders, but it was really amongst themselves.

The leaders were in unity, they understand they all have different roles to play in the Church of Jesus Christ. And it is comforting to know that they will not carnal in that sense, and so the rebuke was really for the people in Corinth.

Now, Timothy has not yet arrived, Apollos still don't want to go, but in the meanwhile, Paul gives some exhortations. He says to them,

v13: Be watchful, be ... be standing firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

v14: Let all that you do be done in love."

So in the meanwhile, before my protege, Timothy would arrive, before pastor Apollos would come, make sure you guys stick to these things.

"Be watchful, perhaps to watch over false teaching or sin, or to be anticipating, be alert to the fact that Jesus will return. Stand firm in the faith, stand firm in the Gospel, hold on to the word of truth, do not depart from it. These are crucial things that you need to be mindful of even before Timothy and Apollos comes."

And act like men, be strong, do not be cowardly, be willing to stand up to falsehood, to threats, to sin. And let all that you do be done in love. Probably very pertinent when you think about the issues about stumbling, and about the Lord's Supper abuse and about spiritual gifts. Let everything be done in love!

So these are the core things he wants them to be mindful of before Tim and Apollos would come. And then he says, "But nevertheless, there are people amongst you that you can learn from, you can respect and subject yourself to." So, he highlights the household of Stephanas.

v15: Now I urge you, brothers — you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints-

v16: be subject to such as these and to every fellow worker and laborer."

Now, the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, they would have ... they were the first people God gave to Paul in the ministry, first converts. And they devoted themselves to the service of the saints.

I have been serving Gospel Light for quite a few years now, one of the highlights in my ministry journey was time years ago, quite long before COVID. And it was when our church was at that time, kind of for convenience, divided into demographic groups. We have youth, young adults, young families and better-halfers.

And for a period of time, there was no effective ministry amongst the better-halfers. Better-halfers are those who are more mature, so I think in those days was 50 and above. They ... a lot of them were the originals in Gospel Light, the original members, but strangely, there was no effective ministry amongst them.

They ... they I think over time, as more young people join us, the older ones felt a little bit neglected or disconnected, and we couldn't find a good solution. So at the end of the day, I thought maybe I should serve the better-halfers, but immediately that ... that ... that was challenged in my mind. Because I looked at the better-halfers, a lot of them are old enough to be my daddy and mommy.

And I thought to myself, "How in the world am I going to help them in any way or lead them in any way?" I ... I felt out of depth, in a sense. Now it's one thing to preach at a distance, but another to serve in close quarters, I understand that.

But I was reading my Bible, and I came to 1st Corinthians 16:15.
And what struck me was the words not in the ESV, but in the KJV. In the King James Version, it was said that, "The household of Stephanas have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." I thought it was a very interesting word, "addicted". Now, most of the time, addiction is no good, but in this case, I thought, what ... what a great kind of addiction! They can't help themselves, but they're addicted to the ministry of the saints.

Now subsequently, I checked out on the Greek and the Greek word actually is to be set, to be appointed, to be devoted, to be dedicated. So maybe not the connotation addiction brings, but nevertheless, it struck home for me that these people were committed and devoted to the service of the saints.

And what struck me was the word, "service" also. And I thought to myself, if I were to lead a better-halfer, I think I can't. But if I were to serve them, I can always do that, isn't it? Anyone can serve anyone, that's the great part about Christian ministry. You don't have to think about how great they are, how great you are, we can all serve one another. And that was what allowed me to have freedom and joy in serving the better-halfers. I was there simply to serve them, that was all I wanted to do, and I thought it was helpful for me.

So the household of Stephanas, great people, why? They devoted themselves to serving others. It is likely that Stephanas was a rich man, he has a household. Probably signifying he has slaves, servants in his family, but what is notable about Stephanas is not his wealth, or his influence or the number of people who serve him, what's notable is his service.

And I hope this speaks to many Gospel Lighters, you may be well off, well-known, influential, but I hope you realize to God what matters is service unto the saints, ministry to one another.

And so Paul says, "Before Tim and Apollos would come, I exhort you in above exhortations and at the same time, you have good people you can learn from, you can subject yourself to, and I think this is happy union." It's a great thing in the church when there are people who are dedicated to ministry, fellow workers of the leaders of the church, and how the church members will also be gladly subjecting themselves to such men.

We then move on to the trio of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus. Stephanas, together with Fortunatus and Achaicus visited Paul at Ephesus, because,

v17: They have made up for your absence, they have refreshed my spirit as well as yours.

v18: Give recognition to such people."

So they were busy about connecting people, connecting and encouraging the people, whether it's Paul or the church at Corinth. Now we live in a day, we don't appreciate this so much because we have WhatsApp, Zoom. You know, all you need to do is copy, link, send and you can meet up already. It's so easy, but in those days, not so easy.

In fact, if you are about my age, if you want to talk to someone overseas, it's extremely difficult, very costly. My girlfriend then, my wife now, studied in overseas and every time we have to talk, wah, super expensive. Sim thia [in Hokkien], you know to call and we do what, ICQ or don't know what lah, those days the computer is all black and green words one. And we got to arrange at a particular time log on, then we can chat. How troublesome! But it is a lot better than Paul's days.

So, the ministry of these three were significant in that sense. So Paul says, "Give recognition to such people." Now, the names are interesting. I wouldn't say much about Stephanas. But Fortunatus and Achaicus are names that are taken from according to the commentators, fortune and Achaia.

They were common names, very common names like maybe in Singapore, 小明 [xiǎo míng] and 小华 [xiǎo huá]. When you write your Chinese essay, you always use 小明 [xiǎo míng] and 小华 [xiǎo huá]. So, this is the 小明 [xiǎo míng] and 小华 [xiǎo huá] equivalent, it ... it means Mr. Lucky and Mr. Achaia.

Now, the reason why it's highlighted as such is they were probably very ordinary people, even likely to be slaves. So, they were just given the name, Fortunatus and because you are raised in Achaia, just call you Achaicus. Now, if that theory be true, that supposition be true, then is interesting that Stephanas, who is a leader of a household would be co-laborers with two slaves, or at least former slaves in ministry.

And I love that about the church, there's no class divide, no rich or poor, nor slaves or free, nor Jews or Gentiles, male or female, but we are all one in Christ serving God together. So this is a little nice glimpse of what it could be.

So, that concludes the three things I think Paul wanted to say. And he finishes off with some greetings here,

v19: The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila, and Prisca, [probably Aquila and Priscilla the same people, in those days, you may have two names like Saul and Paul, so Aquila and Priscilla or Aquila and Prisca] together with the church in their house.

So, in those days church was not at 39 Punggol Field Walk, in a big building, but it was in houses, little families. And Aquila and Priscilla were wonderful church planters, they preached God's Word, started churches. There was a church that gathered in their house, they were hospitable towards them.

v19: ... they together with me send you hearty greetings in the Lord.

v20: All the brothers send you greetings ...

Just warmth and helping them connect to the church at large, to the universal church, that they are not alone at Corinth.

v20: ... Greet one another with a holy kiss.

Ah, this is a scary thing for some of you, but like we have explained, I think especially in Romans 15, there are at least five or five mentions of "greeting one another with a holy kiss". I think that intent is warmth and affection and mutuality and fellowship, but the form can be different.

I think especially in COVID, you better don't kiss one another with a holy kiss. We greet one another and I think it just is appropriate for Christians to convey this warmth and fellowship one to another. I hope that in church as we gather, you wouldn't just ignore everyone you walk by. You know how people are like, some people are like horses with blinders.

They ... they only see that thing and don't care anywhere else, they just head for that one direction, maybe for the char siew rice, I'm not sure. But I hope you won't, you would be greeting one another, maybe not holy kiss, handshake, a smile. Well, that's what Paul wanted to do. Then he says,

v21: I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.

Well, this tells you that a large part of the letter was not written by his own hand. He wrote this greeting, it was common in those days that there will be scribes, who will write for you as you narrate, as you talk.

Some people say, "Paul had a severe eye problem." We do not know for sure, but he certainly did not write the whole letter by his own hand, even though the letter was written by him, in a sense that he dictated what needed to be said. So this was a letter by Paul, written by the hand of someone else, inspired by the Holy Spirit, preserve for us as God's Word to learn from today.

v22: If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed."

This is a very strong statement! If you do not know or if you do not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let judgment and curse fall upon you.

Well, please don't think that it's because we do not know love Jesus, that's why we will be cursed, but please understand that in the first place, we are already sinners. And if you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to seek and save that which is lost, if you do not know the only Savior, then obviously we will be cursed.

And how do you know if you really believe in Jesus? Well, it will be seen in the way you love Jesus. There is no such thing as faith in Jesus Christ that does not result in a love for Jesus Christ. No such thing! No such thing as saying, "I believe," but your life remains unchanged. That just shows that you never really believed, because real faith will evidence itself with fruit and works!

So, please don't understand this to be Paul saying, "Oh, you need to love Jesus so that you earn your way to God." No, no, no, no, no, huh, Paul is saying, "Loving Jesus is the evidence that you believe in God, you believe in Jesus. And because you believe in Jesus, there is forgiveness for your sins. And if you do not love Jesus, it just shows that you never believed, you're still in your sin and no wonder, let him be accursed."

So, I think there are some of you who do not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, it is not something that you can sit on the fence about. You cannot say, "Well, I don't really believe in Jesus, I'm not against Jesus, I sit on the fence, maybe God will accept me someday." No, according to the Bible, if you do not know Jesus, if you do not know ... love Jesus, you will be accursed.

So this is something that you need to decide for, and hopefully as you hear God's Word, over the weeks and months, God will lead you to understand and to believe in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Then Paul says,

v23: O Lord, come!

This is his prayer, his desire is for Jesus to come, his desire is for Jesus to usher in the Kingdom of God. That's his longing, that's his prayer.

And that he ends off with these, if I may say, nice, but helpful thoughts,

v24: The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. And my love be with you all in Christ Jesus."

Now, he rebuked them quite severely, in different segments of 1st Corinthians, but he didn't want them to think that he rebuked them because he hated them. He rebuked them because he loved them. And he says, "My love be with you all in Christ Jesus." He's ... he's expressing his pastoral heart, heart of a shepherd for God's people. And that's how we end the book of 1st Corinthians.

Thank you for journeying with me through this book over one year plus, I hope it's been helpful. It has been helpful to me, especially as we crystallize many of the issues and help us understand what Christianity should be about. We look forward, I look forward to Malachi next week, as our younger preachers will take the pulpit. Please pray for them, and I trust that you will benefit greatly in that new series, as well.

Let's close for a word of prayer together.

Father, we thank You this morning for the love of God in Jesus Christ, Your Son. Thank You for how He is sent, while we were yet sinners, to die, to pay for our sins.

Thank You He did not remain dead and defeated but He rose the third day, He was victorious over sin and death and hell. So Lord, we pray that men and women today, who hear about Your Son and how salvation is given only through Your Son will personally repent and believe upon Him, that they might be saved.

God help us to be a church, then, that is truly united in Jesus, Your Son. Spare us from divisions and schisms, help this church to be a people living in purity, in holiness, not one that is ravaged by sexual sin. Help us to be a church willing to suffer wrongs, that the Name and the testimony of God will not be shamed. Help us to be a people who are sensitive and considerate to the consciences and faiths of brethren all around us. Help us to choose not only to do what is right, but also to do what is loving.

O God, I pray that we will be a church who will have harmonious homes, where husbands would sacrifice to lead their wives and where wives would joyfully submit to their own husbands. Give us a church, help us all to labor, to love one another, not to have sectarianism, class divide, elitism.

We pray that we will be a people who would use our spiritual gifts and not abuse our spiritual gifts, not to puff up but to build up others. And Lord help us to be steadfast and immovable in the doctrine of the Gospel, and in particular the resurrection of Jesus Christ. May we be steadfast, immovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord.

Thank You for this journey, seal these lessons in our hearts, draw our church for Your glory and honor. Thank You in Jesus' Name, Amen.

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