When G. I. retired from Bethel OPC in Carson, North Dakota, he preached two farewell sermons on April 18, 1993, his last Lord’s Day as pastor. Four members of the congregation present that day were also present thirty years later for G. I.’s funeral service on April 18, 2023, in Sanborn, Iowa. The author was one of those four and had the privilege of speaking on behalf of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church during the funeral service about one of those farewell sermons. Interest in those remarks has encouraged him to present that sermon more extensively here.

In the morning service, after reading Psalm 1 and 2, Revelation 22:8–17, and 1 Corinthians 16:13–24, G. I. preached a sermon on 1 Corinthians 16:22–24, “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus,” (NKJV) entitled “Paul’s Solemn Salutation.”

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That is a remarkable statement because it brings together two things that seem so utterly in contrast with one another. On the one hand, you see the apostle Paul calling down the curse of God upon anyone who does not love the Lord Jesus, and on the other hand, immediately afterwards calling down the grace of Christ Jesus on all who love him. The problem is to understand why you have this remarkable conjunction. Why does the apostle say these two things in virtually the same breath?

There are many today, including in the Reformed world, who blame it on the fact that Paul was brought up under the Old Testament and his mentality was affected by that imprecatory element in the Old Testament. Psalm 5, which we sang, is a good example of that. Psalm 109:6–13 is another example:

Set a wicked man over him, and let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is judged, let him be found guilty, and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few, and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. . . . Let his posterity be cut off, and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. (NKJV)

Many people say that is just not according to the mind of Christ. Something about that Old Testament revelation clashes with the words of Christ in the New Testament. Did not Jesus say, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44–45, NKJV)? They say that here Paul lapsed back into the old ways again, forgot for a moment, and then swiftly corrected himself in the last two verses.

That can be made to sound attractive, but it is nothing less than an attack on the authority of the Word of God. The apostle Paul cannot be dismissed that way. If any among you seems to be spiritual, he says, let him acknowledge that I speak for God. The holy apostles and prophets of God did not say or write anything of their own volition. Those holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Anyone who dares to engage in this kind of criticism is simply storing up wrath for the day of judgment. I say to you that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works (see 2 Tim. 3:16–17). It was Christ himself who said, “I did not come to annul or destroy or abrogate the Law. I came to fulfill it” (Matt. 5:17, G. I.’s translation).

The simple truth is that if we are biblical, we have to hold to both of these things at the same time. So I say to you for the last time, if anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned, and I mean it. That is what anathema means—Let him be damned. O Lord, come! I also say to my congregation with all my heart, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and my love be with you all in Christ Jesus.

That is always the way God has spoken to man made in his image. When God first created man and put him in the garden, he commanded him, “You shall not eat of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, for in the day that you eat thereof, dying you shall die” (Gen. 2:17, G. I.’s translation). Right from the beginning of human existence, God set before man two alternatives: fidelity and obedience to the living God and life, and disobedience and turning away from the living God and a death that only gets worse with time. That is what “dying you shall die” means. It does not come all at once, and it keeps getting worse. So there is life or death, blessing or curse. That is the way it has always been.

Moses said the same thing before the children of Israel when he was about ready to lay down his task, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deut. 30:19, NKJV). When his successor, Joshua, was about to die, he said the same thing, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15, NKJV).

The Book of Psalms begins with the same two alternatives, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, not stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in his law he meditates day and night” (1:1–2, NKJV). There are two alternatives. One is to stay close to God and have fellowship with him. The other is to turn away from God and delight in the counsel and fellowship of the ungodly.

No one ever made this more clear than our Lord Jesus Christ himself. He said, “Narrow is the way that leads to life, and few find it, but broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many walk therein” (Matt. 7:14, G. I.’s translation). An older member complained about a sermon on hell. What a sad and tragic thing that is because I am no minister of God if I do not warn God’s people about hell! The country is full of preachers who will not do it anymore, but it has to be done because there are two eternal destinies and one of them is hell. One way you keep people out of hell is to warn them about it. What kind of a pastor would I be to you if I did not warn you? Yet after nine years, an older member complains about hearing the truth about the dark side of God’s revelation. That is inexpressibly sad and tragic. Again, I say to you, if anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned.

That means love for the Lord Jesus Christ is the criterion of genuine membership in the kingdom of God. If you love the Lord Jesus Christ, you are in. If you do not love the Lord Jesus Christ, you are not. You are not saved by love. The Bible never says that. It always says, by grace you are saved through faith, not love. Your love is too puny and flimsy to ever save you or anybody else. So is mine. Paul says that you are only saved by faith in Christ, “and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8–10, NKJV).

If you really have faith in Christ and are saved from eternal damnation by the precious blood of Christ, then you are going to love him. You could not possibly have saving faith and not love Jesus. Therefore, in the Bible, love is the thing that certifies the genuineness of your faith and the reality of your salvation. That is why Christ said, “the first and greatest of all commandments is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Matt. 22:37–38, G. I.’s translation). He said that because it is primary. Love of Jesus Christ and his Father is first priority in the Christian life, but it is only a response to his love.

“We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19 NKJV). The Lord says, I have loved you with an everlasting love. He chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, in love, that we might be holy and without blame before him. That is what Scripture says. In love from all eternity, God chose us to be his. The Bible says, even when we were hell-deserving sinners, he showed his love for us in sending his Son to die for our sins. Jesus showed his love for us in being willing to come and be obedient even to the accursed, terrible death that he died on the cross. He did it even though he knew that we deserve God’s wrath and punishment. You cannot possibly believe that, or even understand that, if there is no love in your heart for Jesus.

There were still some members in Corinth that needed to hear these solemn words. They had the second greatest pastor in history and needed to hear these words, “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ,” let him be damned, and that means damned eternally in hell (1 Cor. 16:22). In Paul’s theology, which is God’s theology, there must be the absolute supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. These words have to be spoken in the church, because for some people Christ is not supreme. Many other things are supreme rather than the Lord Jesus.

One of the most constant is love for relatives. That is why Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and is not willing to hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26, NKJV). The twentieth-century church has said, “We do not accept that.” Too bad for the twentieth-century church, because anyone who rejects that will end up in hell! How sad! When Jesus’s mother, brothers, and sisters came to Jesus, what did he say? He said, “‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And he stretched out his hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Behold my mother and brothers! For whosoever will do the will of my Father in heaven, the same is my brother, sister, mother’” (Matt. 12:48–50, G. I.’s translation).

If you love your children more than you love God, you do not have it. If you are willing to compromise the claims of Christ for your dad, your mother, your sister, your brother, or any other relative, you do not have it, because the day is coming when there is going to be a great separation. You had better get ready because some of your relatives are going to be on the other side from you, and some of mine also. What is important is to be on the side of the Lord and his family, not our family’s side.

Paul did not make this statement because he was an unloving man. Many people say that today. You would be surprised at the hard things I have heard against the Apostle Paul in forty-one years in the ministry from those who claim to be God’s people. Paul was a loving man. Do you know that he once said, “I would even be willing to be damned myself if it could save my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3, G. I.’s translation). The only other man in history that said something like that was Moses, as far as I know. He did have a condition: if it would be possible, I would do it. I have never reached that level of sanctification, but it does show that he was a loving man. He never manifested that love more faithfully than when he said to his people in Corinth, “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned” (1 Cor. 16:22, G. I.’s translation).

There is no conflict here at all. You need to understand why there is no conflict. You say both of these things precisely because you love Jesus and you have compassion on people and you do not want them to perish but to have everlasting life. Many years ago I was very sick. I had terrible pains in my side, and I went to the doctor. He said, “You have echovirus. Do not worry about it. It is not much. You will get over it soon.” I was happy, but I got worse. Finally, a nurse in my congregation said, “I know a doctor. You will not like him, but I want you to see him.” I did, and I did not like him because he said things I did not want to hear. One of the things he said was, “You have a bad case of pneumonia, and you have cracked your own ribs coughing.” I did not like that man, but he is the one that helped me. He is the one who did me good, because he told me the truth.

That is what Paul is doing here, because the judgment day is going to happen. Every one of us here today is going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. He is going to return. When he does, he is going to separate the sheep from the goats, and he is going to drive those on his left hand into outer darkness, and there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth (see Matt. 25). Some of the people that will wail and gnash their teeth sat in church for fifty years. Can you believe it? That is the way it is going to be, and if Paul did not warn these Corinthians, he would be partly responsible if that is where they ended up. That is the only reason in this world why I keep saying these things to you people. I do not want you to end up there.

One of the things I have heard ever since I started to preach is that I am too heavy, too much on the dark side, too much about law, and not enough about grace. That is possible. I am not an inspired apostle. I do not claim to be without error. I do not claim that I have been entirely free from one-sidedness, but I have certainly tried not to be one-sided, but remember this: we are living in a day in which there is a great clamor for an easier gospel. The Bible says that in the last days there will be those who “will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:3). That day has come all over America. That is what is wrong with the country. That is why it is in the shape it is in morally and spiritually. People do not want to hear the true gospel, and they do not hear it either. They have the kind of teachers they want.

So far this has not happened to you. You had better be thankful it has not, and let me say that for the last nine-and-a-half years I have never one time knowingly corrupted or distorted or departed from the sound doctrine of the Bible, and I think you know that too. Some of you who do not like one word I have ever said, know in your heart-of-hearts that that is what I have been doing. I warn you that you are going to answer for it. The Bible says, “But He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God” (1 Cor. 4:4–5, NKJV). I have my eye on that day. I hope you do too.

With all my heart, I would rather say to you, and I do say, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, and my love be with you all in Christ Jesus. That is what I have labored for, and that is what I have prayed for, but if you do not want eternal life enough to love the Lord Jesus with a life-dominating love, then I have to say, “May you be accursed,” for the one thing that matters to me above everything else is my own standing with Jesus Christ.

As I look at you, I am so grateful that I can say for most of you, “The evidence is there.” Why do some of you drive seventy miles to this church and stay all day to attend both services? It is because you love Jesus. Why are you always here when there is a worship service called by duly constituted authority, which is the ordinance of God? It is because you love the Lord Jesus. Why has the giving of this congregation gone up so much? It is because you love the Lord Jesus so much that you not only give ten percent but more than ten percent of what God gives you. I know that. That is a fact. It cannot be denied, and it cannot be faked. People who do not love the Lord Jesus Christ do not do that. They do not even want to do that. You cannot even get them to do that.

In New Zealand, Dick VanderPyle fell in love with a girl named Addy Meyering. He would come home from a hard day’s work, and what do you think he did? He quickly took a shower, dressed up, and walked several miles on foot to see Addy. He would stay there until pretty late and then walk all the way back, go to bed, get up, and work with a song in his heart and mouth. Do you know why? It was love. He will willing to do things that he never would have been willing to do before because he had love.

That is why some of you do these things. It is the only reason, and it is a wonderful thing to see, but it is just as clear to me that there are some of you who do not have that love in anything like that degree, to say the very least. Half the time you are not even here when Christ meets with his people. That is not a human invention. That is a divine ordinance. You are called to be here to meet with Christ in the fellowship of the congregation of the saints, and you do not come. It is because you do not have the kind of love for Jesus that the Bible wants you to have. Why is it that some of you that have plenty of money in your wallets give such a stingy little contribution? I will tell you why. It is because you do not love Jesus the way you should.

It is as simple as that, and if that does not change, I have to say to you what Paul said to the Corinthians. Jesus did not do much, did he? He just came down from heaven to die a terrible death, to be accursed of God for sinners. That is not much, is it? That does not merit much love in your heart, does it? Of course, it does. Of course, it does!

One of you was telling me about his mother. She stayed in the liberal church. One of the things that offended her was the fact that for people like us, religion dominates all of life. Too right, it does! Amen and hallelujah, it does! Too bad that lady died in opposition to that concept of life because the Bible says, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31)! If it does not dominate your life, something else does. You are in a bad way. So I exhort you for the last time, consider what you are doing. Do you really love the Lord Jesus? The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

G. I. Williamson (1925–2023) was a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, serving as pastor of a number of Reformed churches. He was editor of Ordained Servant from its inception in 1992 through 2005, when he retired.

Archibald A. Allison is pastor of Emmaus Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Fort Collins, Colorado, and secretary of the Committee on Christian Education. Ordained Servant Online, December, 2023.

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Contact the Editor: Gregory Edward Reynolds

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Ordained Servant: December 2023

Remembering G. I. Williamson

Also in this issue

Elf on the Shelf or Christ on the Cross?

G. I. Williamson: Encounters with the Life of a Faithful Servant of God

The Case for the Majority Greek New Testament Text

The Case for the Eclectic Greek New Testament Text

Theological Daylighting: Retrieving J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism

The Voice of the Good Shepherd: Trumpeter of God: Fulfill Your Office,[1] Chapter 9

Letters to a Younger Ruling Elder, No. 10: Be a Presbyter

Neo-Calvinism: A Theological Introduction by Cory C. Brock and N. Gray Sutanto

An Ode of the Birth of Our Saviour

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