Editor's note: This is the second part of a submission written by the Rev. Dr. James Barnes. The first half of his message was published in the June 7th edition of The Sentinel.
Share affection, V. 26
A second postscript is to share affection with each other. Romans 16:16, I Cor. 16:20 and I Peter 5:14 say to greet one another with a kiss. No one is to be left out, even the troublesome ones. Touch is very important. It speaks volumes. It carries tenderness and affection. The symbol of shared love is a holy kiss.
Ancient custom had people kissing the foot, hand, knee and sometimes the cheek of a friend. This is not some liturgy or ceremony but spontaneous casual affection. Eventually this custom became abused. By the 13th century, it was abandoned because of its abuses. Men began to kiss women and called it a "holy kiss" when it was anything but that. But we can still show kindness and tenderness by the gracious way we shake hands or hug or kiss someone's cheek.
I think the issue is not what you do as much as the touch of your flesh upon someone else that says I love you in Christ. Paul said to share the love of Christ in a demonstrable way with each other. Break down barriers with a touch.
Submit to the
word, V. 27
There were no copy machines, no printing press and not everyone could read. But everyone needed to hear this letter, so it was essential that it was read to everyone. Why? It was God's message and everyone needed to hear it.
Paul is very serious about this and uses the word "adjure," which means to bind with an oath. Now, if your pastor announced that next Sunday he was going to read to you an inspired letter that God gave him this week ... you would probably be in church, right?
The irony is that your pastor does that every week. When you are not in church, you miss what God has said because you didn't come to hear it. Some of you will live your whole Christian life and miss half of what God had to say. I just want you to understand this. It is God's word which your pastor teaches every Sunday.
What strikes me about these parting postscripts is that all three call for the assembling of believers. The church was to come together in prayer and prepare for the service and pray for its pastor. How else can you greet one another with a kiss of love if you are not assembling yourselves with the saints? How are you going to hear the word of God unless you come to church?
Paul sums it up with a benediction in verse 28, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." Grace, the unmerited favor toward undeserving sinners because of God's great love. Paul began his letter with grace and ends it with grace.
A final word from Gardiner Spring, "And who are ministers themselves? Frail men, fallible, sinning men, exposed to every snare, to temptation in every form. They occupy an easy target for the fiery darts of the foe. They are not trite victims the great adversary is seeking, when he would wound and cripple Christ's ministers. One such victim is worth more to the kingdom of darkness than a number of common men. And for this very reason, their temptations are probably more subtle and severe than those encountered by ordinary Christians. If this subtle deceiver fails to destroy them, he cunningly aims at neutralizing their influence by quenching the fervor of their piety, lulling them into negligence and doing all in his power to render their work burdensome.
How perilous is the condition of that minister whose heart is not encouraged, whose hands are not strengthened and who is not upheld by the prayers of his people.
It is not in his own closet and on his own knees alone that he finds security and comfort and purifying thoughts and joys but it is when they also seek them in his behalf that he becomes better and a happier man and a more useful minister of the gospel. Nothing gives people so much interest in their minister as when they pray for him. They will love him more, respect him more, attend more cheerfully and gain more profit from his ministry the more they commend him to God in their prayers. They will feel a deeper interest in his work the more they pray for him and their children will feel a deeper interest both in him and his preaching when they regularly listen to the supplications that affectionately commend him to the throne of the heavenly grace."
Pray for your minister. Show your love for the brethren by touch. Come and listen to the word. Do so because we have the privilege of gathering together by the grace of God.
The Rev. Dr. James Barnes is a retired behavior specialist, a professor at Penn State and is currently the pastor of White Memorial Church in Milroy.