This morning (Sunday, April 28, 2019) I was reading in Corinthians, the 16th chapter and in 22nd verse I came across a familiar, yet obscure word in the bible. Actually it was two words, “Anathema Maranatha.” Nowhere else in the bible do these two words appear. That, in itself, provokes me to give extra attention to them, considering what they mean.

The words:
Anathema – {Strong’s} a religious ban; excommunicated (person or thing); accursed. {Webster’s} to separate. Excommunication with curses.  Hence, a curse or denunciation by ecclesiastical authority, accompanying excommunication. This species of excommunication was practiced in the ancient churches, against notorious offenders; all churches were warned not to receive them; all magistrates and private persons were admonished not to harbor or maintain them, and priests were enjoined not to converse with them, or attend their funeral.
Maranatha – {Strong’s} an exclamation of the approaching divine judgment. {Webster’s} The Lord comes or has come; a word used by the apostle Paul in expressing a curse. This word was used in anathematizing persons for great crimes; as much as to say, “may the Lord come quickly to take vengeance on thee for thy crimes.”

It is always important to study the context of what the authors of the bible were trying to communicate, first to their intended audience and then to anyone reading later…for instance, you and I. Consider what Paul was saying by instructing the church to practice the doctrine of “excommunication.” Many today will use such as a joke or worse as a means to run some out of the church or to alienate someone for reasons unbiblical.

Some have used Paul’s words in the 5th chapter of this same letter to exercise excommunication. Recall his instruction of a brother that committed fornication. These are not at all the same type of instance. Notice what Paul says just before he instructs them, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ…” Paul was very specific in what type of person excommunication was to be exercised with. This is a severe accusation to level against an individual and to say someone doesn’t love God simply because they were overtaken in a transgression is not, I repeat, IS NOT grounds for excommunication. Actually, Paul instructs the church on how to deal with such a one in Galatians 6:1.

John Gill does a tremendous job in providing some insight on this:

The apostle here does not so much mean profane and unregenerate sinners, who are destitute of love to Christ, from ignorance of him; nor such who, from the same principle, might persecute him in his members, for such are to be even prayed for, and wished well unto; and oftentimes such are called by grace, and become true and sincere lovers of Christ; and the apostle himself was an instance of it: some think the Jews are intended, who were the mortal enemies of Christ; hated his name and person, his Gospel and interest, and maliciously persecuted the same; they called Jesus accursed, and therefore deserved an anathema to be pronounced on them…others think the Gnostics are intended, one of whose tenets was, that it was lawful not to confess Christ in a time of persecution, in order to save themselves; and such might be truly said not to love our Lord Jesus, and on whom such an anathema as after mentioned might rightly be denounced: though it should seem rather, that some persons in this church, or that infested it, are referred to as the false teachers, and those who sided with them, who made factions and divisions in the church of Christ; allowed themselves in the commission of fornication and incest, and such like impurities; had no regard to the peace of the consciences of weak brethren, but laid stumbling-blocks in their way; behaved in a very irreverent manner at the Lord’s table, and gave in to very pernicious errors and heresies, particularly denying the resurrection of the dead; and by their many bad principles and practices plainly showed that they did not in deed and in truth love our Lord Jesus…”

Therefore, to loosely and irresponsibly assign such a treatment to one of the brethren actually would contradict the teachings of Paul, nay the teachings of Christ on forgiveness. I am inclined to agree with Mr. Gill, in that these that Paul refers to are false teachers. They “purposely” lay stumbling-blocks, engage in sinful behavior and they lead the sheep stray with their false doctrine. Their behavior is wicked and immoral, which they have no intention of repenting of. This behavior must be dealt with, but first must be thoroughly investigated. Again, to assign such to one of the brethren who have been overtaken in a fault is a great misuse of God’s word to accommodate the flesh.

It is very important that you and I rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) before making application of a verse or even in this case a portion of a verse. To accuse someone of being a false teacher carries a great weight upon the individual doing the accusing. We must use the word of God rightly and appropriately, first in our own lives, then maybe in the life of another. This goes right along with how Christ warned if you are angry with a brother without a cause, then you are in danger of the judgment. Not to mention His teaching of forgiveness to Peter regarding when a brother offends you seven times in one day and repents.