“If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” 1 Corinthians 16:22
Reading this, at the close of Apostle Paul’s letter, one might think “what does Anathema Maranatha mean?” Well, I sure thought that. Because Paul preceded it with “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be,” naturally, my train of thought was that it must be bad, and that was a correct assessment, but only for the first word.
The actual word Anathema only appears once throughout the entirety of the Bible, right here in this verse. A translation of it appears in five other verses in the New Testament, all of which are found in letters written by Paul, save one, penned by another who was very close to Paul, Dr. Luke. That translation is “accursed” by Paul, and “a curse” by Luke. Where it was used by Luke, it referred to being bound by a vow that must then be fulfilled, and in that case, it was a vow taken by more than forty men, fasting from food and water, until they killed the Apostle Paul. Of course, they were unsuccessful, so either they broke their vow or they suffered greatly as they starved to death chasing him to Rome.
Where Paul used the word, it was universally meant as a bad thing, an actual cursing toward whom he was writing about. There was a would be self for the sake of his Jewish brethren if he could; the calling Jesus as such from those who did not have the Spirit; and, anyone who preached another gospel beside the one Paul preached. All curses, all serious. Yet, in this verse, the qualification for such a serious cursing is this: not loving Jesus Christ. This is important to note, because it was the original reason for anything being cursed.
When Adam ate from the apple, God found him and asked him why he had done this thing. Adam pointed to the woman who handed him the apple. Adam told God the truth in that statement. Adam said it was the woman, but why? Adam had free will, and she did not force him to take it from her, nor did she force him to eat from it. He did those things himself. So, in reality, his words had more meaning. Though she was the reason he did what he did, it was not because she handed him the apple. You see, Adam’s love for God changed because he now looked at himself, in his desire for the woman, and he chose himself and what he desired over what God desired. God told him no, but Adam did it anyway. Adam stopped loving God with purity of heart, and Sin entered the world, because he took the apple from the woman.
Sin cursed everything such as the snake above all other beasts, but the beasts, too. It cursed the ground, providing thorns and briars but only after being worked by a toiling Adam. Women, too, having desire toward the men and to serve them, and to bare children in sorrow and pain. But most of all, man was cursed to work the ground, to toil all his days and gain little from it, to struggle for those things God freely gave to him in the beginning. So, the man, not just any man, Adam, the first man, did not love God, at least not more than he loved himself, and he was cursed, and we were all cursed with him. Which leads us to another consideration. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ…
Jesus said, “If a man love Me, he will keep My Words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him,” (John 14:23) which shows us the way in which our love is demonstrated to God. He knows our hearts, and so, if our hearts (where His commandments are written) are for God, He will know that while we attempt to follow His commands, we are living to please Him, which is loving toward Him. Christ was very thorough, avoiding confusion, for He immediately followed, “he that loveth Me not keepeth not My sayings.” (14:24) So, if not keeping His sayings is not loving Him, then what did He say?
Well, He said many things. Among the most important things He said were these:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:19-20
“If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15
So, here is the question, then: do we really love the Lord Jesus Christ, or are we to be cursed, brought apart from Him? Yes, we are saved. We come to Him at the moment of Salvation, and we are forgiven, brought into the family, names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, but then what? Many of us do not live in victory because we are trying to work our sanctification ourselves. We trust the Lord for our salvation through the Cross, but we look to any other means for sanctification when the way we got in is the way we stay in. Jesus Christ and Him crucified was our Way in, if we but believe it, and Jesus Christ and Him crucified is our way of growth through faith and grace. If, therefore, we are not continuing to look to the Cross, then we are not growing in our walk, for we are not trusting in what Jesus already accomplished there in His finished work, and we are living our lives trusting in none other than ourselves. Isn’t that exactly what Adam did? So, then are we really loving God?
Furthermore, without that victorious life, and God’s effectual work within us, we become vulnerable to the very curse of sin which He shed his blood to remove. We begin to actually move away from the Lord and we find ourselves sinning again. Our tempers flare, because our pride swells, and our lives are affected. We hold grudges against those who wrong us. We drink, or smoke, or gamble, or we participate in whatever our particular vice happens to be. We focus again on ourselves more than any other, and in doing so, forsake those around us including God Himself.
How then are we loving others? How are we loving God? How can we teach anyone to obey Jesus if we aren’t in obedience ourselves? If we are not obeying His commands, then, according to His own Word, we do not love Him. We may think that we do, but we love ourselves more. Woe to us if we find ourselves not obeying Jesus and not surrendering to Him!
There is yet more, because Maranatha, used only here also, means “our Lord comes” or “will come.” Paul warned all that the time is short, and no matter how much time is left, Jesus will come back. Jesus told us that when He does return, it will be without warning, and we will not know the time. So, Paul’s warning is all we get. We need to live circumspectly, in God’s grace, in love, right now. We cannot assume we can get right with The Lord and follow His commands tomorrow. We do not know if tomorrow will come before The Lord.
If we are questioning within ourselves whether or not we are in this situation, then we most likely are. We need to ask God to show us our error, if we indeed do not know it. We need to lay everything before His feet, both what we know and what He reveals to us. We must have total surrender, and give our lives completely over to Him, trusting in Him, doing those things He said we must do. Love God by following His commands. Love others by sharing with them the Truth of Who Jesus is and what Jesus has done, with joy and peace, mercy and grace.
“If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15
The Lord will return and we do not know when. It could be this very day. Follow His commands and show God some love, because we love Him, because He loves us! Love on Him with all of your heart, mind, and soul. Be not found Anathema.