If anyone does not love the Lord, a curse be on him. Our Lord, come! 1 Corinthians 16.22 CSB.
In the last chapter of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul mentions love three times. The sentence above is the second of the three. The curse on the one who does not love the Lord leaves us perplexed. Why end a letter this way?
First, the sentence is a part of the letter’s end written by Paul’s own hand, v. 21. Somebody (Sosthenes?) served him by writing the letter and at the end he signs it, as was his custom. So here, the force of the sentence is even greater.
The language here is that of the covenant. It reminds us of the book of Deuteronomy. The great commandment is to love God. Whoever does not respect the terms of the covenant will face the consequences of the divine curse. What was true of the old covenant is here true of the new: “No one can serve two masters” Matthew 6.24.
Love is the great solution in this letter. It is also the mark of loyalty to the covenant that Christ established with his people. The curse leads Paul to think of the final judgment. So he makes this prayer, in Aramaic words, in hopes of the Lord’s coming, when all accounts will be settled and justice will finally prevail.
The letter ends then with the great vision of Christ’s coming. Paul stimulates the hope of the Corinthians.* It is a great and moving appeal to faithfulness.
“You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, because you are attaining the goal of your faith—the salvation of your souls” 1 Peter 1.8-9.
Father, I love the Lord Jesus. I want to be faithful. May he come soon!
What reaction did you have when you read this verse in the Bible? And noting that it was in the New Testament at that!? What motivation does it provide you?
* Anthony C. Thistelton (2000) The First Epistle to the Corinthians. NIGTC. Eerdmans.