Thursday, 28 January 2016
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14
This is the last of the 257 verses of the book of 2 Corinthians. Paul ends this marvelous epistle with words reflecting the nature of God revealed in the pages of Scripture; that of the Trinity. Charles Ellicott notes that, “It is not without a special significance that the Epistle which has been, almost to the very close, the most agitated and stormy of all that came from St. Paul’s pen, should end with a benediction which, as being fuller than any other found in the New Testament.”
The words are rich and alive. They reflect both a prayer of blessing and a hope for the ending of the strife and division which so permeated the church at Corinth. And so he begins with, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Normally, words describing the Trinity do not begin with Jesus, but with God (implying God the Father). However, the thoughts are inverted here.
The order he has chosen is important to Christian theology because it shows that there is really One God revealed in three Persons without any inequality between the three. If there were, Paul’s words would be most inappropriate. However, this shows that they are truly co-equal within the Godhead. His words, rather than noting any distinction, are given based on priority of thought. He wants, first and foremost, to highlight the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” one last time to them.
Grace is one of the great themes of the Bible. Man is fallen and man needs grace for his salvation and for his continued walk with the Lord. Paul asks for this marvelous blessing to be bestowed upon his audience. In this petition, it is understood that they are undeserving of it. One cannot merit grace. Therefore, the petition is one of hope that this unmerited favor “of the Lord Jesus Christ” will continue to be lavished upon them – sinners already saved by that same grace.
He next focuses on the “love of God.” The term “God” here is certainly speaking of “God the Father.” This is evident by the naming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in the same verse. Albert Barnes describes the words of this clause – “The love of God brings salvation; imparts comfort; pardons sin; sanctifies the soul; fills the heart with joy and peace; and Paul here prays that all the blessings which are the fruit of that love may be with them.
This logically follows “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” in order because one cannot truly experience the continuous and eternal stream of the love of God without first being reconciled to Him. It is through the grace of Christ that this occurs. Though it is also an act of the love of God, without receiving the grace by faith, one cannot continue in the love of God. However, once the gift is received, the love of God will be realized and reveled in.
Paul’s final words of the epistle close with, “…and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” The communion, or fellowship, of the Holy Spirit is something that not all believers fully experience. One is sealed with the Holy Spirit upon belief (Ephesians 1:13, 14). At that moment, they receive their guarantee of eternal life and they receive the fullness of the Holy Sprit. They will never receive “more” of the Spirit.
However, this doesn’t mean that they will experience the fullness of what they have received. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul tells us to “be filled with the Spirit.” In the Greek, it is an imperative, but it is also in the passive. This means that we are not actively, but passively filled with the Spirit. This then means that He will fill us as we yield to Him. This is done through prayer, praise, worship, fellowship, and study of His word. It is through these things that we are “filled” with the Spirit. We have all of the Spirit we will ever receive, but He can get more of us as we yield to Him.
In yielding, we enter into fellowship with Him. It is this blessed state which Paul prays will come upon his audience at Corinth (and thus us!) as he writes to them. It is something they were surely lacking, but something that his letter of love to them hopes for. May it be with us as he has prayed for them!
The final word “Amen” is apparently missing from most early manuscripts and therefore many scholars suggest that it is a later addition by a scribe. Whether this is so or not cannot be precisely determined. No matter what, it is something that Paul would have surely said in his heart, even if it was unstated with his pen. It means “So be it,” and this would have been Paul’s fervent desire for them.
Life application: You have now made it through 257 verses of the book of 2 Corinthians. You are next admonished to carefully evaluate the coming book of Galatians; a book which contains 149 wonderful verses of doctrine for our understanding. Stay tuned as we prepare ourselves for that journey by relying on the very benediction which has been bestowed upon us by Paul at the end of this marvelous letter, 2 Corinthians.
Lord God, is it too much for us to get up each day and spend a good amount of time in Your word before we start our other activities? Is it right that we spend so much time playing on social media, watching TV, going to sports games, and otherwise frittering away the time while neglecting Your perfect gift of love and learning for us? Help us to get our priorities right, even now O Lord. Help us to faithfully reach out and pursue Your superior word. Be pleased to bless us as we pursue You. And should You fail to bless us for neglecting Your word, then isn’t that a just note of censure? If so, then give us wisdom to learn from it and take it to heart. Amen.