February 19th, 1956 @ 7:30 PM
Abraham's Bosom, Aramaic, Devotion, Lord, Maranatha, 1 Corinthians 1955, 1956, 1 Corinthians
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 16:21-24
2-19-56 7:30 p.m.
This is the last message tonight on the first Corinthian letter. You know how long I been preaching on Corinthians? I looked it up. You know how long? Does anybody know? Tonight is the last of a solid year that I have preached on the first Corinthian letter. This is a year. You wouldn’t think it, would you? This is a year that I’ve been preaching in First Corinthians. I close the year tonight, and this is the last message.
All right. I quit off this morning at the fourth verse. We’ll start at the fifth verse and read the rest of the chapter. Do you have it? First Corinthians, the sixteenth chapter, beginning at the fifth verse, and we’ll read to the end of it.
Now, you have some names in there: Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus. When you come to them, if you can’t pronounce them very well, don’t worry about that. Don’t worry about that. All right, all of us: First Corinthians 16, beginning at the fifth verse. Now, we read:
Now I will come unto you when I shall pass through Macedonia (for I do pass through Macedonia).
And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey, whithersoever I go.
For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit.
But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.
For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.
Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear; for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.
Let no man therefore despise him. But conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me; for I look for him with the brethren.
As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren, but his will was not at all to come at this time; but, he will come when he shall have convenient time.
Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
Let all things be done with charity.
I beseech you, brethren – ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints –
That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us and laboureth.
I am glad of the coming of Stephanas, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied.
For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.
The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.
The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand.
If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.
[1 Corinthians 16:5-24]
That’s the conclusion of the letter.
Now, if I had a long time, we would start at that fifth verse and just talk through some of these things in that chapter, wonderful chapter, concluding his personal remarks to the church he loved so much; but I take just the last.
As you look at your Bible, do you see the twenty-first verse there? "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand." You see, all of the rest of the letter, he wrote through an amanuensis. His name was Sosthenes. You find that in the first verse of the first chapter. He dictated the letter. Paul dictated all of his letters, but he had a habit – and he always did it – when he came to the end of his letter, he picked up the pen himself, and he always wrote a concluding salutation.
Now you look at that, if you have time, in the second Thessalonian letter and the last verses. There it is again: "The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle; so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" [2 Thessalonians 3:17-18]. And that’s the way he closes the second Thessalonian letter: "The salutation of Paul with mine own hand" [2 Thessalonians 3:17]. That’s the token in every epistle. That’s the way you could tell it was genuine. When he got through dictating it, he picked up the pen and wrote in his own hand a concluding salutation.
Now, in the last chapter of the Galatian letter, you have it translated like this: "You see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand!" [Galatians 6:11] What Paul actually said there was this – that’s in the eleventh verse of the sixth chapter of Galatians – "You see with what large letters I write unto you with mine own hand." That eleventh verse, he picked up the pen himself, and he wrote like a schoolboy. There must have been something wrong with his eyes – practically everybody thinks there was – and when he wrote, he wrote in great big box letters – big capital letters – like a first grader. So, when he picked up the pen there, writing to the churches of Galatia, he starts off saying, "You see with what large letters I write unto you with mine own hand!" [Galatians 6:11]
Now, that’s the thing you find here in this concluding remark in the first Corinthian letter. He picks up the pen, and he writes: "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. The grace of our Lord be with you. My love be with you all . . . Amen" [1 Corinthians 16:21-24].
Now, those two unusual, untranslated words there, Anathema Maranatha, they belong to the dialect – the Aramaic-Syrian vernacular – of Palestine in the day when Paul lived. You find those untranslated Aramaic words all through the Gospels. Don’t you remember some of them?
Jesus said, ‘"Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘be opened’" [Mark 7:34].
"And the field was called Akel Dama, the Field of Blood" [Acts 1:19].
"Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" [Matthew 27:46]
All through those Gospels you will find those untranslated Aramaic words. That’s the language in which Jesus spake. That’s the language that Paul knew when he studied there in Jerusalem.
Now, he picks up one of those words: Maranatha. That’s an Aramaic word. That anathema, by some peculiar turn on the part of these translators, was left also untranslated. But they have nothing to do with one another as such. That is, Anathema Maranatha [1 Corinthians 16:22] are not a phrase together though the way Paul uses them here they have a tremendous import. And that’s the message tonight.
What does anathema mean? That’s a plain, simple English word now. Actually, the word means "devoted completely" and came to refer to a thing devoted completely by God for destruction. All of Jericho was devoted for destruction – all of it [Joshua 6:1-27]. All of it was accursed, and all of it was to be completely destroyed. The ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were completely devoted for destruction [Genesis 18:20-19:29]. They were accursed, and that word means accursed. It means damned. It means an irrevocable final sending away from God; and connected there with that Maranatha, "the Lord comes," it means a final and irremediable, an irrevocable, an eternal damnation. To Paul it’s an awful thing to say there: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus, he’s accursed" [1 Corinthians 16:22]. He’s damned. He is eternally devoted to destruction and hell and damnation. Ah, such things as you read here in the Bible.
Now, that word "Maranatha" is made up of two of those Aramaic words. Mara means "the Lord," and atha means "He comes" – Maranatha: "the Lord comes." Evidently, in those early primitive days, the Christian people who were Jewish, when they would meet one another, they would greet each other with that word Maranatha
like the Greeks would greet one another with those Greek words achri hou elthē: "’til He come, ’til He come." The Jewish Christians greeted one another with that word there Maranatha.
You see, there are two great pillars upon which the testimony, the gospel of Jesus Christ, rests. One of those pillars, one of those piers, is this: that Christ has come and that He died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. That’s one of them. And the other one is that He was raised [1 Corinthians 15:4], that He lives [Hebrews 7:25], and that He’s coming again in triumph [Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 1:7]. Those are the two great pillars of the Christian faith. In memory, the cradle and the cross in hope that He’s coming again with tremendous power in the clouds of glory [Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7] with the saints and all the holy angels of heaven [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. And between those two great doctrines, like a bridge suspended, the present, fragile present hangs suspended in between.
It’s a tragic thing that we’ve come to the day when men have lost faith in the first – in the atoning cross of the Son of God – and they’ve lost expectancy of the other: that someday He’s gloriously coming again. But however the modern faith is, and however the churches of this modern life may be, the testimony of the Bible and the faith of those first Christians was just that: that the Lord Jesus has come, that He died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], and the other – and the Lord Jesus is coming again in glory and in triumph [1 Corinthians 16:22; 1 Peter 1:13; Revelation 22:20]. Maranatha: "and the Lord comes."
Now, you look at that final salutation how it’s put together. You’ll find there a very plain illustration of the whole fabric of the gospel of Christ. One is terror and the other is tenderness, and they’re right there together. Look at it. "The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. If any man spurns Christ" – the overtures of love and mercy, the grace of Jesus – "if any man spurns Christ, let him be Anathema" [1 Corinthians 16:21-22]. That’s not an implication. It’s not a wish. It’s a prophetic warning! If any man turns from Christ, damnation awaits him! Hell waits him! The torment of fire and destruction awaits him if any man turns aside from Christ [Matthew 22:1-14; Revelation 20:15].
And then right in the next verse, in the next breath, in the next syllable, in the next sentence, there it is: "Maranatha" [1 Corinthians 16:22] – He’s coming. "The grace of our Lord be with you. My love be with you all in Christ. Amen" [1 Corinthians 16:23-24]. Just like that. The terror and the tenderness of the gospel message of Jesus.
It’s that way all the way through. When a man preaches just about heaven and just about the atoning work of Christ and just about all of the sweet things of the Christian gospel and he preaches just that, he is in no wise approaching the whole counsels of God. For when a man preaches that Book and preaches the whole gospel of Christ, there are things in that Book that make your soul tremble. Horrible things, terrible things – things of hell and destruction and damnation – they’re in that Book.
Right in the next verse, in the next syllable, there will be the most pouring out of the compassionate heart of God. Brings you to tears. The sweet pleadings of the Holy Spirit – there they are in the Book right side-by-side. That’s the gospel message. "If any man love not the Lord Jesus, let him be Anathema" [1 Corinthians 16:22]. Let him be accursed. He’ll be damned forever. That’s in the gospel message. Look at it here. Look at it here. In the second Thessalonian letter, listen to Paul as he says:
To you who are troubled, rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels,
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who shall punish with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of the power,
When He shall come to be glorified in His saints and be admired in all them that believe
– among you that are [believers] –
in that final, in that great, and in that awful day.
[2 Thessalonians 1:7-10]
"Ah, Preacher, I don’t believe in any such thing. I don’t believe in hell, and I don’t believe in damnation, and I don’t believe in the fires of punishment. I don’t believe in the judgment wrath of the Almighty God." The only thing about the Bible is this: that the same revelation that spake to us about hell [Revelation 20:11-15] is the same one that speaks to us about heaven [Revelation 21:1-22:5]. The same one that speaks of the love of God [John 3:16] speaks of the wrath and the judgment of Almighty God [John 3:36]. And if one’s not true, then the other’s not true. If there’s not any fire and torment in hell [Revelation 20:10, 14-15], there are no golden streets and no pearly gates and glory [Revelation 21:21]. If there’s not any Satan, there’s not any Jesus Christ [Matthew 4:1-11]. If there’s not any devil, there’s not any God [John 8:42-44]. If there’s not any salvation, if there’s not anything to be saved from, there’s no need for a man to preach [1 Corinthians 15:12-18].
It’s because of the awful judgment of God, because of the wrath of God, it’s because of that everlasting torment, it’s because of the reality of an anathema that Jesus came into the world [Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15]. There’s a reason for His being here. There’s a reason for His suffering and death. It’s because we’re lost; it’s because we’re damned; it’s because we’re not saved; it’s because we face the wrath and judgment of God.
If a man’s not in Christ, he’s anathema [1 Corinthians 16:22]. He’s cursed. And that thing is always side-by-side. "The grace of our Lord be with you. My love be with you" [1 Corinthians 16:23-24]: right side-by-side. And wherever you have the true gospel preached, they’ll be right together: hell and heaven right side-by-side. This is hell. This is it. This is the fire and the torment. This is heaven. This is it. This is the way to God and to glory.
The same Lord Jesus that took little babes in His arms and blessed them [Mark 10:13-16], that same Lord Jesus took a whip in His hand and drove out the money changers and denounced hypocrisy of the Pharisees [Matthew 21:12-13, 23:13-26; John 2:14-16]. Same Lord. Same Lord. That same story that tells us about Lazarus over there in the bosom of Abraham. He’s in heaven. That same story tells us about dives [the rich man] who’s tormented in hell. It’s in the same book. It’s in the same story. It comes from the Lord Jesus [Luke 16:19-31].
In that second Corinthian letter that we’re coming to next Sunday, it says there is a savour of life unto life to those who believe, and there’s the savour of death unto death to those who don’t believe [2 Corinthians 2:16]. When a man hears the gospel of the Son of God, if he repents and if he turns and if he trusts and if he believes, he’ll be saved. But if that man hears the gospel of Christ, he’s doubly lost and doubly damned and doubly doomed. This message is a two-fold message always and always.
"Well, Preacher, isn’t that a harsh thing for God to do, to tell us about those things and write ’em in the Book? And isn’t that an awful thing for a man to preach?"
Yes, it is. It’s a terrible thing.
"Well, then why does God do it?"
Simply because the gospel is the gospel. It’s true. It faces reality. It’s a merciful revelation of God that there’s a reality in hell, and a man must escape with his life or he’s lost and damned forever. The Bible is the most realistic book in this earth, and it points out those terrible dangers and those horrible days that lie ahead for the soul without God and without Christ.
I say it’s a merciful revelation. It’s something God has done because He loves us. Whenever you see a railroad track, there’s an electric sign, and that thing’ll come on and it says, "Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop!" It isn’t because the railroad company hates the people that cross over their property. It’s because they know the danger when those great high-speed freights come roaring by. The man on the track is inviting death if he doesn’t stop, and the railroad company puts it there: "Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop!"
That’s the way with God. God says, "This road leads to hell" [Matthew 7:13]. And the Lord Jesus Christ interposes blood: "This road leads to hell, and I’m dying to save you [Matthew 7:13-14; John 14:6; Romans 5:8]. Don’t go that way. Don’t go that way." And the prayers of God’s people: "This road leads to hell! Turn and be saved! Turn and be saved." And the compassionate hearts of all who love you and care for you: "That road leads to hell. Don’t go that way."
Don’t go out that door without God. Don’t go outside without Christ. Don’t spurn these overtures, these pleadings of compassion and mercy and love. Hell’s that way. Death is that way. Damnation is that way. It’s that two-fold plea always. If a man is preaching the true gospel, then love is that way.
Rebuke. Rebuke is the voice of love [Proverbs 27:6]. Pleading against wrong and unrighteousness is the voice of somebody who cares. Are any of you men here fathers? When your son does wrong, what do you do with the boy? Don’t you call in the boy and sit him down by your side and say, "Son, that road leads to damnation. Don’t go that way, son. Don’t go that way" [Proverbs 1:8-10, 13:24; Hebrews 12:7]. Are any of you mothers here? Do you have a daughter? Don’t you call in your daughter and sit down by her side and say, "Honey, that way is an awful way, and it leads down and down and down. O precious child, don’t go that way. Don’t go that way." Isn’t that because you love them? Isn’t it? Isn’t that what prompts it? Isn’t that what you’re doing? You love that boy; you love that girl; and you don’t want to see them fall into the abyss. You don’t want to see them fall into hell. You don’t want to see them go down that road. And love pleads and begs and importunes and cries and prays and intercedes, all day and all night and all in between time, and it never gets away from you – never gets off of your heart.
When your children are out there somewhere, if you’re a good mother, the chances are you don’t sleep until they get back in. "Well, that’s a silly thing to do," you say. But that’s mother for you. That’s love for you. That’s the way God is. "This road leads to hell! This is the way of damnation! That’s Anathema!" [1 Corinthians 16:22] And in the next verse, "Oh the grace of the Lord and my love be with you" [1 Corinthians 16:23-24]. That’s what it is. That’s what it is. Don’t go that way. Don’t be that way. Don’t choose that way. Don’t. That’s the tenderness of God. That’s the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have to quit. May I just point out this one thing? What kind of folks were these that Paul is talking about? Well, just by resumÃ©, do you remember? They were as partisan as they could be. One would stand up and say, "I’m of Paul," another, "I’m of Apollos," another, "I’m of Cephas. Plague on all the rest of you" [1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:4].
Not only that, there were some in that church – one fellow, especially, he describes beside a multitude of others – that one fellow living with his father’s wife! [1 Corinthians 5:1] Paul said that was a heinous, foul iniquity not even named among the Gentiles. Even those wicked, iniquitous Gentiles didn’t even have a name for a fellow that did that, living with his father’s wife – with his stepmother. That was over there in that church.
And then, not only that, but in that church, there were those that when they came to the Lord’s Supper, some of them gormandized [1 Corinthians 11:26-34]. They just made gluttons of themselves at the Lord’s Table, and some of them got drunk at the Lord’s Table, and Paul was aghast.
And there were men in that church that stood up and said, "There’s no such a thing as a resurrection. There’s no such a thing as the doctrine of the resurrection. There’s no such a thing as the resurrection of Jesus Christ" [1 Corinthians 15:12-19]. There was everything in that church.
All right. What does he say about them? "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen" [1 Corinthians 16:23-24]. That’s the gospel. A fellow can be just as vile and iniquitous as he can be, but God puts His arms around him, and the Apostle puts his arms around him, and loves him just the same. Foul and dirty and iniquitous – doesn’t matter. Love ’em all.
And here’s a man who’s heretical, and here’s a man who’s partisan, and here’s a man that breaks your heart, and there’s one that disappoints your soul. "Well, we call down the wrath of God on ’em!" [Luke 9:53-54] No, we don’t. They just face the great and inevitable judgment of God upon the choices that they make, but we cry over them and love them and plead with them just the same – just like God does [Luke 9:55-56, 15:20; Romans 9:1-3, 10:1].
"All." Do you look at that word there? "My love be with you all" [1 Corinthians 16:24]. "My love be with you all." He put his arms around the whole church. Some of them disappoint him. Some of them deny the very gospel that he’s preaching. Some of them, everything else but what they ought to be. But he picks up his pen, "My love be with you all" [1 Corinthians 16:24]. That’s the gospel. That’s the gospel.
I don’t guess there’s any finer picture of the gospel than a man with his arm around a fellow that needs Jesus, loving him into the kingdom, praying over him for Jesus’ sake. That’s the gospel. I don’t care what the man is or what he’s done! The gospel is the Christian’s down on his knees with his arms around a fallen and needy brother asking God to save him. That’s the gospel. If a man’s outside of Jesus, it’s anathema [1 John 5:11-12]. It’s anathema. It’s anathema.
"The grace of the Lord be upon us. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen" [From 1 Corinthians 16:23-24]. Just ’cause He loves us: telling us, pleading with us, begging us, warning us. The most importunate of all the pleas in this world is the plea of God. Maranatha: the Lord comes. Are you ready? Are you ready? Maranatha: the Lord comes. Can you pray the prayer of the apostle? "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" [Revelation 22:20]. "I’m ready. Come now, and it’s ready: my soul, my life, my house – all is in order, ready. Or in the morning, or at noontime, or at midnight – anytime, Lord, just knock at my door; just knock at my door." Maranatha: "and He comes." Amen. Let Him come. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" [Revelation 22:20].
Ah, bless the people that listen to this message that all of us could answer, "Lord, and I’m ready. And I’m ready. And I’m ready – ready for the judgment day; ready for death; ready for life; ready whatever God shall choose. Here I am, Lord. My faith is in Thee. My trust is in Thee. So help me, God, I’m ready. I’m ready."
And that’s why we’re preaching. Somebody you, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord: "Preacher, I’ve said ‘no’ to Jesus for my last time. From now on, it’s ‘Yes. Yes, Lord, yes. I’ll take you as my Savior. I’ll follow you as my Master. I’ll give you my life. Yes, Lord, yes.’"
Does He say you ought to be baptized? Then you come down that aisle. "Preacher, God’s Book says I ought to be baptized [Acts 2:38], and I want to be baptized. God’s Book says I ought to publicly confess my faith in Him [Romans 10:9-10]. Publicly, I want to confess my faith in Jesus. God says we ought to be in His church [Hebrews 10:25], baptized into His body. I want to be in the church. Whatever God shall say, here I am, Lord, and here I come; and I’ll make it now."
While we sing this song, anywhere, you, in the balcony around, in this great press of people on this lower floor: "Pastor, I’m coming tonight. I’m coming tonight," some by confession of faith, some by baptism, some by letter, some by reconsecration of life. However God shall say the word, come, come. Come, while we stand and while we sing.