“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14)
This is Paul’s way of ending his second letter to the Corinthians. The words are familiar because many of us would have recited them at school or as part of our church liturgy. They are often used by the minister or priest at the end of the service as a benediction (blessing).
I have been thinking about the three elements of this blessing and how vital they are to us in our everyday lives.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of those phrases that encompasses so much. It is like a Tardis which you enter and find is so much bigger on the inside than on the outside. It is by grace that we are saved (Eph. 2:5). The word grace is used to explain all that Jesus has done for us at great cost to Him and none to us. We become Christians through grace but more than that we carry on living in that grace.
Grace means that I don’t have to strive to earn God’s favour because Jesus has already done that for me. This is why I need this blessing, not just in the past as a once and for all entry into God’s kingdom, but daily so that I don’t slip into working to earn my salvation. I can so easily fall into following rules – I have to do x, y or z to be acceptable or to be a good Christian (whatever that means). A daily reminder of the Grace of the Lord Jesus is a daily preventative against legalism and following a different gospel.
It’s so hard to communicate in words just how wonderful grace is – I don’t and never could deserve it but IT’S MINE! Nothing can take it away from me. Jesus has died for me and because of that I am now clean and righteous in God’s eyes. WOW! Just meditating on grace fills me with wonder and thankfulness. I could NEVER achieve this for myself yet it has been given to me as a free gift. Even as I am writing this I feel joy rising in my heart. (You see meditation is not dull!)
There is not only grace for today but for tomorrow too. I am confident that all that God has already done for me will continue because it’s not about me but about Him. That is such a good thing! We get so easily ensnared by the thought that we can do something to earn our salvation. That is the gospel of me. Trust me, no one would want to rely on me for their salvation. The good news is that we don’t have to because it is truly all about Jesus, our Wonderful Saviour. That is why I can trust that grace will still be there for me tomorrow because Jesus is the same, yesterday and tomorrow. He will not change, He will not leave me, He will always be faithful to me. Are you getting excited? This is such wonderful news and it is truly freeing. I love these lines from the song
In Him we have redemption
Through His blood through His blood
In Him we are forgiven
According to the riches of His grace
Which He freely lavish’d on us
Freely lavish’d on us
And bestow’d on us in the beloved*
Those are juicy, fat words – riches, freely, lavished – and all for us to enjoy deeply and fully everyday. You have riches not given begrudgingly but freely and not just a small amount, they are lavished on you!
If that is not enough, there is also The Love of God. I am loved by God. Little old me, warts and all. Despite my failings, my sin and all my shortcomings, God loves me! True God loves the whole world but he also loves the individual. Parables show us that God is interested in the individual, he had 99 sheep but one was missing. What did He do? Did He say 99 will do? No he went after the one lost sheep. We are individually important to Him. He is a Father who welcomes home the lost and the Prodigal because He loves us.
Paul prays for us that we may be “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph 3:17b) . Plants draw sustenance from their roots. Their roots anchor them. This is what God’s love is like for us, it sustains us every day, whether things are going well or not God always loves us. His love gives us security. Psalm 3 says that God is the lifter of our heads. We can lift our heads every day because we are loved by God with an everlasting love.
Finally there is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. I can personally enjoy the presence of and communion with the Holy Spirit. The same Greek word koinonia is used to describe the fellowship of the believers and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The root of the Greek word is to something shared in common; the disciples shared life together, they shared what they had with one another. So too we can share our lives with the Holy Spirit. This is what fellowship is about – sharing ourselves, our days, our hopes, our dreams, our disappointments and His thoughts, direction, vision, comfort etc.
The Holy Spirit was sent to be a helper to us. One who would be with us after Jesus had ascended to the Father. The Holy Spirit now shares His power with me as He fills me with His Spirit, He gives me boldness to speak, he gives me gifts of the Holy Spirit such as healing, and prophecy and he reveals the Father to me. What a gift He is to us! I can fellowship with Him whenever I want.
This benediction is wonderful, I want to live in the good of it everyday and I pray that “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
*Song: In Him We Have Redemption by David Fellingham, Copyright© 1984 Thankyou Music
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