1Co 16:19-21 “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.”
As Paul begins to close out his first letter to the church at Corinth, he makes it plain that the churches were aware of each other, even without the modern technology that allows us such ease of communication today. The apostle makes reference to the churches of Asia, and our minds turn immediately to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. However, the church is more, and goes deeper, than the place where people congregate to worship.
After mentioning the churches of Asia, Paul then sends them a salutation from his friends and fellow-laborers, Aquila and Priscilla. This was not just a personal greeting however: it was from them and the church that was in their house. Paul’s statement should call our attention to something that is often neglected; we are the church.
Many people today are bemoaning the decline of attendance in our churches. We grieve over the many places where there were once thriving congregations and now there are only empty buildings. Men have devised all sorts of business models and strategies to get more people to congregate. Yet we often neglect a most important aspect of church; the one that is in our house.
We desire thriving congregations filled with young people to complement our growing number of elderly members. Yet, we fail to set aside time to study God’s word, to pray, and to live an example daily of a life devoted to Jesus. We neglect the assembly of the saints to go to ball games, attend concerts, go fishing, etc. Our congregations will not thrive until we are serious about the church that is in our house.
As the church, we should greet one another. The Greek word translated as “greet” literally means “to enfold in the arms.” Remember that the church at Corinth was currently besieged with division, fornication, and idolatry. However, the other churches did not withdraw fellowship until the church at Corinth straightened up. They sent greetings to let them know they were there for them, praying for them, desiring to encourage them to a better walk.
In addition to the greeting from the churches (both congregationally, and in the house), all the brethren that were with Paul greeted them. The message to Corinth in all of this was one of love and a desire to help rather than one of shock and isolation. Then Paul instructed the brethren at Corinth to greet one another, to hold on to each other and work to heal the divisions and the ungodliness, rather than finger-pointing and laying blame.
Finally, Paul calls their attention to the fact that his salutation was given by his own hand. It is thought by some scholars that Paul had a condition of his eyes that made it difficult for him to see to write lengthy epistles. They often appear to be dictated by Paul and written down by Timothy of other of Paul’s companions. Whatever the reason, Paul calls attention to his salutation being in his own hand either as a token of the depth of his love for the church at Corinth or else as proof that these were his words.
May the Holy Spirit move in the church that is in our house to make us whole and fulfill our desire to see our congregations strong!