“Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.”
There are some things that belong only to the children of God, just as there are things that belong only to the world. When Paul exhorted the saints in Thessalonica to greet the other believers there with a holy kiss, he was not telling them to kiss everybody. If they went around kissing everybody, there would surely have been sinners who would misunderstand what those people were doing. Some effeminate men of the world might assume that the brethren who kissed them were looking for a date!
As I said, there are some things that belong only to the family of God.
Thinking on this brought up a question within me today. If the proof of someone being born again is not the baptism of the holy ghost, with the evidence of the Spirit speaking in tongues through the person it baptizes, how then would God’s children know whom to kiss? How would they be able to judge who is a brother and who is not? Are we left to make up our own minds as to who is a believer and who is not? Or are we to kiss everyone who claims to belong to Christ? If so, what about those whom Paul said “made themselves out to be apostles of Christ”, or those Paul called “false brethren”, or the ones Jesus warned us of, the “false prophets”? If we are to judge things ourselves, or trust the testimony of men and embrace as brothers and sisters all who claim to be brothers and sisters, how could there be any such thing as a “false brother”? Jesus certainly did not believe people when they testified to his face that they believed in him (Jn. 2:23-25). Are we to think differently from the way our Master thinks?
It is such a blessing for us all that our heavenly Father has kept it in His own power to declare who is His and who is not. He alone knows the hearts of men, and He alone, then, knows when a person has truly repented. This is what Peter stressed to the elders in Jerusalem when some of them did not want to accept the fact that Jesus had baptized Gentiles into the kingdom of God. He stood up and told them, “God, who knows the heart, bore them witness, giving them the holy ghost, as He did unto us” (Acts 15:8).
God alone knows when the inner man has been forgiven and washed from sin. Man’s testimony carries no weight in heaven, and it carries no weight in the hearts of those who are in tune with heaven. God alone gives the witness of it. Paul said that God does this by sending His holy Spirit into our hearts, “crying, ‘abba’ Father!” John said that God bears witness by sending the Spirit into our fleshly temples, the Spirit “confessing that Christ has come into the flesh.” Jesus told Nicodemus that we would hear the sound (or “voice”) of the Spirit every time someone is born of the Spirit.
The principal reason that those holy men of God made it so clear how to know who really has the Spirit and belongs to the family of God (for without the Spirit, we are “none of his” - Rom. 8:9b) is so that we would not go around giving the holy kiss of fellowship to everybody who claims to be of God.
Please allow me to ask you, how do you know whom to greet as a brother, by a kiss or any other acceptable greeting, if you do not wait for the Spirit’s testimony to confirm that someone’s sins have been washed away? Paul wrote, “No man can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, but by the holy ghost” (1Cor. 12:3). It seems to me that we would do well to remember that, the next time someone testifies that his sins have been washed away, but he just hasn’t yet received the holy ghost.