The most significant benediction
It may surprise some that half of the New Testament was written by the apostle Paul in the form of epistles to the churches founded on his missionary journeys.
The opening greetings and closing words of his letters are short prayers of blessings to the addressees of the epistle and include two or three distinguishing words that define the basic message of the gospel.
Words such as “grace,” “mercy,” “peace,” “love” etc..
For example, Paul’s closing words in the Epistle of 2 Cor 13:14 have so blessed and encouraged Christians they have been quoted for centuries as the benediction in Christian meetings.
He writes, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.”
In this prayer the apostle specifically refers to the important Christian tenant of the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost).
But, he also uses the three words that are most common in Christian vernacular.
In the first phrase, “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”, notice that beautiful word, “grace.”
In the Bible, grace usually means the extraordinary kindness of God in showing incredible favor and blessings to men even though they have persistently shown hostility and rebellion toward Him.
A couple of verses come to mind when we think of the Gospel of Grace.
The first one is in Eph.2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith.”
The second verse is in Titus 3:5. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us”.
The second phrase in this great benediction is, “the love of God”.
The love of God is the supreme emphasis in the Gospel and reminds us of that well known verse in John 3:16.
But, another verse in Rom 5:8 is equally impressive.
“But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The third phrase Paul uses in this benediction is the phrase, “The communion of the Holy Spirit”.
The word communion is often translated, “fellowship.”
It has a special spiritual meaning in the New Testament.
A verse that illustrates this meaning is 1 John 1:6-7 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
In the Gospel, the ultimate example of grace, love, and fellowship is the cross of Christ which is why, for centuries, the cross has been the major symbol of Christian faith. Furthermore, the simple message of the Gospel is, that there are infinite depths of God’s love, grace, and fellowship, personally available to everyone and anyone who will repent of their sins and confess their faith in the Savior. (Rom.10:9)
Pastor Gene Holman of Living Word Fellowship in Gardnerville is a member of Carson Valley Ministers’ Association.