As Paul concluded his Letter to the Corinthians, he mentions several individuals in Ephesus who had ties to those in Corinth. Paul is writing from Ephesus.
These were mostly house churches, as is evident from the preceding verse: “Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house” (16:19). They had been with Paul in Corinth establishing house churches and now are in Ephesus continuing the same work.
The aorist command is to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” This command is repeated verbatim in Romans 16:16, and it is slightly varied in 2 Corinthians 13:12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:26. In 1 Peter 5:14, this greeting is called a “kiss of love.” Believers were expected to show their affection and respect to each other in the form of a holy kiss.
In most of the world, a kiss in the air as the right cheeks touch is a common greeting for family and close friends. Some cultures greet with one, two, or three kisses on opposite cheeks. Handshakes are reserved for formal occasions and new acquaintances. In more reserved cultures, cheek kissing between men is uncomfortable and is seen as inappropriate, even though it was practiced in Acts 20:37 when the elders of Ephesus said good–bye to Paul.
Its basic function is a sign demonstrating oneness, and mutual acceptance for all believers, regardless of class, gender, or race in the body of Christ. It is to show that the family of God is as important as one’s immediate blood family, regardless of any superficial differences.
It is called a “holy” kiss because its purpose is not sensual but spiritual—-that is, to communicate that we are family. Whatever the cultural application of this principle, it is a command. People need to be constantly assured that they are accepted in the family or the body of Christ. This is, in effect, a ministry of encouragement and care of the feelings and needs of each other. How do you communicate your affectionate acceptance of others?
“We can only imagine how You are going to greet us in heaven, but may we practice our eternal family greetings every time we meet on earth to show our bond.”