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 “Greet One Another with a Holy Kiss”

Introduction.  (2 Cor. 13:11-14).  Many of the elements of this text are common to the ending of all of Paul’s epistles. We note in particular the command to “greet” the brethren with a “holy kiss.”  What exactly is Paul commanding here?  Is this command binding on us today?  If not, how does this differ from other commands we are given? Tonight let’s talk about the “Holy Kiss.”

I.   The Texts.  Five texts offer such a command.

A.   “Holy Kiss” (2 Cor. 13:12; Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 1 Thess. 5:26).

B.    “Kiss of Love” (1 Pet. 5:14).

II.   The Command.  There are three parts of each of these instructions we should note:

A.   “Greet”—This is the action commanded.  This is the function of the command.  Members of the church are to “greet” one another.

B.    “With a Kiss”—This modifies the command.  It is the manner of the greeting.  It is how the greeting is to be done.

1.     “Kiss” Gr. Philema.  Derived from Gr. verb phileo the type of love one has for a friend.  Gr. philos means “friend” (cf. John 3:29).

2.     This is always used in reference to touching the mouth to the cheek, mouth, hand, or even feet of another person—but its meaning is derived from friendship—not from verb that refers to the mouth.

3.     It is an action of friendship and affection.

C.    “Holy” or “Of Love.”  This modifies the nature of the type of kiss.  It is not an action of lust, or deceit.  It is an act of love , consideration, and acceptance of another.

III.  Kissing and Biblical Culture.  It is clear that in ancient times a kiss of greeting and affection was a common thing.

A.   Family affection (Gen. 27:26-27).  Love and greeting.

B.    Friendship (1 Samuel 20:41-42).  Gesture of farewell.

C.    Royalty (Psalm 2:12) Honor to a king—Mercy from a king (2 Sam. 14:33).

D.   A common greeting (Luke 7:45) Note: Simon did not give a kiss of honor or greeting—the woman kissed His feet in honor.  Judas’ kiss was of false greeting (Luke 22:47-48). This is the very opposite of a “holy kiss” or “kiss of love.”

IV.  Kissing in Our Culture.  There are still some cultures where kissing is practiced as it was in the Bible. (Example: Affection between Turkish men even today is not homosexual but open). For better or worse, it is not that way in 21st century America.

A.   Some families kiss as a gesture of affection—not all do this.

B.    Some friends do—but only close female friends (never male friends).  It would communicate flirtatious or a homosexual overture.

C.    Officials and citizens do not.  It would not communicate honor or merciful governance.

D.   Never as a gesture of greeting between those who are only familiar with each other.

1.  To kiss a person who is not family or a close friend would be seen as a romantic advance—thus neither “holy” nor “with love.”

V.  Is This Command Binding?  Not all commands contained in Scripture  are binding.  Some are to specific people (e.g. 1 Tim. 5:23 drinking wine; 2 Tim. 4:13 cloaks and parchments to preachers). They become binding when applied to believers in general.

A.   These commands are general—so whatever the “holy kiss” commands teach, they are binding.

B.    Sometimes even general commands address principles beyond the specifics to which they are applied.

1.    Jesus commanded “you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15) after washing the disciples feet.

2.    Jesus doesn’t seem to be commanding a ritual.  “Washing feet” elsewhere stands for service in general (1 Tim. 5:10).

C.    A “Holy Kiss” could be any gesture of friendship, love, and acceptance: a hug, a handshake, pat on the back.  It does not have to involve touch the lips to another person.

VI.   Is This a “Substitution” of a Thing Commanded?  We stress the danger and apostasy of making substitutions in things commanded.  For example: sprinkling for immersion; playing for singing; etc.  We want to make certain to be consistent and avoid substitutions.

A.   The example of the word for worship. Gr. proskuneo. From kuneo “to kiss” and pros “towards” = lit. “To kiss towards.”

1.     Although kuneo is not used in NT, it is clear that the literal meaning was retained: (Matt. 28:9).  One ms. Of LXX uses kuneo=proskuneo. Etymology of kuneo is disputed. Either from word meaning “to taste” or related to “dog” licking.

2.     To worship (i.e. “kiss towards”) didn’t demand a gesture of the mouth.  Jacob leaning on staff (Heb. 11:25); soldiers mockingly bowing the knee (Mark 15:19); visitor falling on face in worship (1 Cor. 14:25).

B.    If it is not substitution to apply a word which refers to a gesture of the mouth, to general acts of worship—it is not an act of substitution to carry out a “holy kiss” (philema – a word which does not literally refer to a gesture of the mouth) through general gestures of friendship and acceptance.

Conclusion.  We must obey the command to “greet one another with a holy kiss” but we do so with an attitude of love and acceptance with various gestures of affection and friendship.

Kyle Pope 2009

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