Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet each other with Christian love. All of God’s people here send you their greetings. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.2 Corinthians 13:11-14
Paul finally comes to the end of his 2nd letter to the Corinthians. After having challenged the Corinthians to sort themselves out, Paul then closes the letter positively. His last advice to them is for them to take the positive approach rather than the negative one they have been trapped in. Be joyful, encourage each other, grow in maturity and live in harmony and peace. Do that and the God of love and peace will be with you. Do these things and your squabbles and differences will end. It is interesting how quickly Paul leaves behind the tensions and issues the Corinthians face, something that he has been focused on for a few chapters, and finishes on a positive note. Paul realised unless they did they will continue to struggle. They must leave their problems in God’s hands. So he committed them to God’s grace.
It is also notable that the close of his first letter to the Corinthians is very different to the second. In the first we have a long list of greetings for and from people. When it comes to the second letter Paul closes in a very fast and abrupt way. No list of people sending their greetings. We have to assume there was no one around him who were asking to be included. Also too he has been absorbed in challenging the sins of the Corinthians in his closing chapter and so he is less likely to add the personal touch he did in the first letter. The issue of their rejection of him and his apostleship as well as their continuing in their sin obscured the niceties. But he does end on a positive note and not go out with the negative in mind. Basically now “the ball is in their court”. And so Paul closes with what has become the standard Christian blessing. “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
I have suggested you compare the openings and the closing of Paul’s letters in other places (Gems 134–137, 300, 308 and 309). In this case we have a rather abrupt ending and certainly no embellishments. Short, sharp and finished. Paul doesn’t use the standard grace and peace. He leaves out “peace”. Although it is fair to say he has used peace twice in the verses before the actual close. They could sure use both grace and peace.
- 1 Cor – Grace of the Lord Jesus, My love . . .
- Gal – Grace of the Lord Jesus be with your spirit.
- Eph – [Peace . . . Love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ . . . ] Grace to all who love Jesus.
- Phil – The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
- Col – Grace be with you.
- 1 Thess – [May God, the God of peace sanctify you through and through . . . May your whole spirit soul and body be kept blameless . . . Greet the brothers with a holy kiss . . . ]The grace of Lord Jesus be with you.
- 2 Thess – [May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you.] The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
- 1 Tim – Grace be with you.
- 2 Tim – [The Lord be with your spirit. ] Grace be with you.
- Titus – Grace be with you all.
- Philemon – The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
The Second Corinthian “Grace” is the longest of all the letters
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.2 Corinthians 13:14
It is the longest and most formal of all Paul’s graces. We could pick it apart in far more detail. Paul’s use of the closing grace could become the subject of your doctoral thesis. [Look at all the commentaries to see there is lots of comment about this by most of them. It is significant but the commentators all go off in various directions.] In this case I will merely point out that in this Paul adds “love” and “fellowship” to the standard “grace”. Well that is interesting. They could sure do with the love, and the fellowship. In fact they have been topics of discussion through the Corinthian letters.
Not only that but Paul includes a kind of trinitarian close. Something he only does with this letter. He doesn’t use this long grace anywhere else. It has now become the formal apostolic close to a service. Grace, love and fellowship in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is like Paul is placing a seal on them using all three persons of the Trinity on related to the very things they need to demonstrate – grace, love and fellowship. Add to the peace he included in verse 11 and you have a pretty tight, full package of exactly what the Corinthians needed to get over their squabbles and recognise true apostolic authority.
Wow finally 289 Gems later we arrive at the end of the Corinthian letters. Well there were two of them, so that’s 144 each. (Yes ok plus one).
I told you I would list the themes of Corinthians for you at the end of the letter. I have changed my mind. I will do it before the beginning of our next Gem series. The next book to Gem will be Ephesians. [I was thinking Ephesians anyway but a number of you have asked for that one. It’s a short book and then we will go on to something not Paul. Time for something other than Paul after that. But let’s face it, Paul makes up a good chunk of the New Testament.] it is best for you to spend time looking back over 1 and 2 Corinthians to get the most out of it. Those of you familiar with Gems know Ian’s standard close. 1. Read the book again in the light of what we have done. 2. Read the up-coming book so you are prepared. In this case add step 3. Take note of the themes of Corinthians along the way.
Because Ephesians is short book you will be able to read it through a number of times. That is always the best way to get a good feel for the book. Read it in a number of different translations. Now all that will take you some time. Reading 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians and then reading Ephesians a few times. You will need to move out of Gaius’s villa by tomorrow morning. We have been staying with him now for a long time and need to move on.
Grace and peace and love and fellowship and anything else good and worthy of thinking about be yours now and forever. Amen. (note there is no Amen at the end of Corinthians). It’s missing. Now there is another mystery.
Many people are good in starting a friendship, very few are great in maintaining it.Alvi Radjagukguk
If you want to build people, give them an example to follow.Rick Warren
If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.Anon