1Co 16:22-24 “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.”
Paul closes this epistle with a strong warning to the church and a strong desire that they be blessed. It almost seems contradictory without some close inspection and diligent consideration of all that Paul has written to the brethren at Corinth (and to us). It begins with a lack of love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Greek word translated here as “love” is the word phileō, which means “to be a friend to or have affection for” (see Strong’s). As we consider the things Paul has addressed in his letter, we can clearly see that there were brethren there who did not have the proper affection for Jesus. They had put their confidence in men like Paul, Apollos, and Peter, thus bringing division among the brethren (1Co 1:12).
Some of them had embraced a great fornication, such as even the Gentiles would not have approved of (1Co 5:1). They felt themselves to be a law unto themselves and that such things were to be ignored if not outright condoned. This attitude was certainly not one of being a friend to Jesus.
Paul pointed out that there was a selfish spirit among the brethren. They gave no thought to how their actions (though lawful) might negatively affect a weaker brother (1Co 8:7-12). The brethren were not careful about eating things offered to idols, and they did not love (have affection for) their brothers. They did not remember that Jesus taught to do a thing unto the least of His was the same as doing it to Him.
Paul proclaimed a strong judgment against any who would not turn from these errors. Failure to repent of these things that he had plainly taught them was an open declaration that they did not love the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul declared them to be accursed (anathema), just as he did in Galatians when he spoke of men bringing in “another gospel” that the apostles had not preached (Gal 1:8-9).
Failure to love the Lord Jesus Christ is not something that we have to await judgment for. Paul tells us “our Lord has come” (see Strong’s). In other words, the very gospel of Jesus Christ sets the boundaries and the penalty for this failure on our part. Our Lord dwells within us (Joh 14:23) and we stand daily before Him.
Having made this pronouncement, Paul expresses his true desire for the brethren, that they might indeed love the Lord Jesus Christ. This is our desire for ourselves and all God’s people that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ would be with us. In that grace we find love, wisdom, repentance, and peace. In His grace we are able to love Him and love one another. In His grace, we are able to express our own love to the saints, even when it has been necessary to rebuke and correct.
May God bless us all to love the Lord Jesus Christ and be a friend to Him even as He is our greatest Friend!