“THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH YOU ALL”
(2 CORINTHIANS 13: 14)
At least once in our life something wonderful happens, someone wonderful comes into our life and promises us things beyond compare
When a man marries a woman, and makes his vows before God, he promises her that he will love her, care for her, provide for her, protect her, be by her side always, and forgive her and stand by her side till “death us do pass” even when she does something really bad – and in that promise the woman places her hope and trust.
When a child is born and the parents dedicate that baby to God they promise to love their child and bring up their child in the knowledge and ways of the Lord – and in that promise the child places their hope and security. When that child becomes a rebellious teenager and after being caught with drugs in their pocket and sits in the police station, their mother will come to them and love them, and show them the grace of being on their side even though they have done wrong and will show them that they will be with them through thick and thin – even in the courtroom where they face the consequences of what they have done. That mother says: “I will be with you always!”
Husbands and parents are mere humans – fallible and prone to fail – yet our promises are said with all the sincerity that we can give them.
How much more are the promises made by Almighty and All-Loving God!
At this time of “Advent” we remember the promises of God:
In Isaiah 9: 6 we are told: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Jesus in John 15: 9 tells us: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love”
And we have the promise that: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28: 20)
The pivotal point of all time, all history, all of the universe, was the life of Jesus – from His birth to His resurrection and ascension back to the right hand of God the Father in Heaven.
In that brief period of 33 years everything changed.
And this moment in time began in a stable, in the town of Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, at a time when the Romans held sway, when a little child was born to the virgin, Mary.
It was in this moment in time that the three-fold nature of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit was first manifested to the world – most clearly seen at the time of the baptism of Jesus when we are told:
As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3: 16-17)
It is considered to be about 55 years later that Paul concluded his second letter to the Christians in Corinth with the words of what has become known as “The Grace” – repeated by Christians down through the centuries and joyfully spoken by us at the end of each of our Sunday Celebration Services.
These words sound forth as a summary of all that God did for us by sending His Son to earth for us 2000 years ago.
These words are the promise of the great change that this Advent of Jesus Christ has given to all those who trust in His Name.
At this time of Advent – as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the birth of Jesus – let us see how “The Grace” is such a promise for each one of us here and now.
And “The Grace” is all about relationship – a relationship between God and Man that was established at this incredible time. Let us see that in all true relationships there has to be Love and there has to be Grace and there has to be Fellowship.
“THE LOVE OF GOD”
Forgive me if I just change the order of this promise around just a little bit.
For me, the promise begins – and is underpinned – by the Love of God for me and for you – a love that is never-ending and ever-present.
A relationship between a father and their child has to be based on, and rooted in, love. There is no relationship when a father does not love their child. There can be no relationship without love
We are told that “God is love” (1 John 4: 8). This is not a romantic love (“eros”), and neither is it a brotherly love (“phileo”). This is a divine, sacrificial, perfect love (“agape”). This is a love that never ends. This is a love that is not dependent on us – not dependent on whether we are good or whether we are lovely, whether we are obedient or whether we love Him back. This is the love of a Father that has no conditions, no “strings attached”.
I – and you – are loved by God – always loved by God. He always has our best intentions and good at heart. He will always be with us. We are his favourite. If he carried a wallet in his holy pocket, He would pull it out and show a photo of you and tell whoever was listening that “this is my child and I love them”. Nothing that you or I can do will EVER stop Him loving us!
“THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST”
Because of His immense, immeasurable, unstoppable, love for us, He came down to earth in the form of a man to give physical presence to His love for us.
When we look at Jesus and all that He has done for us, the one word that stands out again and again is His GRACE towards us.
His Grace for us was that while we were still sinners – while we were still His enemies – while we still had no belief in Him – He died for us, took our sins on His body, accepted the punishment for our sins in our place so that we might be forgiven of all our wrong-doing and brought back to God again.
Grace is “God’s riches at Christ’s expense”. Grace is unmerited favour – we did not deserve what Jesus did for us on the Cross. All of us were sinners. Justice demands that we are given what we deserve (eternal punishment). Yet God, out of His love has shown us mercy. Mercy is NOT being given what we deserve (we have been forgiven). Yet Grace is being given what we do not deserve. Grace is being restored to sonship of God. Grace is being received into His family. Grace is being welcomed into eternal life in the Paradise of Heaven.
A true relationship needs grace – lots of grace! Grace means that a father is going to stand by his child when she lets him down, when she shouts at him, when she turns against him. Grace means that he gives himself for her even when she does nothing to deserve it.
Thank God for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!
“THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”
Because of His immense, immeasurable, unstoppable love for us; because of the Grace He has lavished on us; He has promised us the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit”.
“Fellowship” speaks of presence with us, being with us, communion with us, companionship with us.
“Fellowship” speaks of togetherness, never being on our own, never having to manage or cope on our own.
“Fellowship” speaks of going through life’s journey together, with the One supporting the other – an idea developed by Tolkein in his “Fellowship of the Ring”.
In a true relationship people spend time together – and enjoy spending quality and quantity time together. There is no relationship when you do not spend time together
Jesus promised all His disciples this:
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you (John 14: 16-17)
the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (John 14: 26)
when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16: 13)
We understand the Holy Spirit to be God IN us – we are truly promised that we will never be alone again. We understand the Holy Spirit to be our counsellor, our comforter, our teacher, our empowerer. Through constant fellowship with Him we will know the Love of the Father and the Grace of the Son.
Here is the amazing truth that God really wants us all to get hold of: we were created to be in fellowship with God! This was how it was in the beginning. Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden of Eden – face-to-face. This is how it was always meant to be. The promise we have is that because of the Love of God, and because of the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we can again walk in constant fellowship with Him through the Holy Spirit within us.
Here is the amazing truth that God really wants us all to get hold of: He wants to be in relationship with you! And He is so wanting this that He has done all the hard work! He has declared His never-ending love for us; He has died for us and given us the Grace to be in relationship with Him; He has given us His Holy Spirit to be in us for all time. And all we have to do in this relationship is to…just accept all that He has done! Yes, we have the responsibility to trust and obey – but this is what we do to accept His free gift of relationship with Hi. Yes, we have to choose to follow Him as His disciples – but again this is simply receiving His offer of walking in relationship with Him.
It’s all there! It’s all free! And it all is seen to come together in the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago. We have the love of God, the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit! Thank You Lord!
APPENDIX: ONE LITTLE WORD
The NIV rendition of 2 Corinthians 13: 14 is as follows:
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”
And it’s that first word that I want to talk about in this appendix.
Just one tiny word. Only 3 letters long.
But its inclusion totally changes the whole meaning of the passage….AND IT ISN’T ACTUALLY THERE!!!
It isn’t in the original Greek – which simply says “Ho charis” – which means “The grace”.
And you won’t find it in many translations of this verse.
It’s just a little word….
But “may” means something hoped for – “I hope that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ…”
And “may” means uncertainty – “He may or He may not…”
And “may” means a plea made from Paul on behalf of the Christians – it makes this verse a request of God.
But “may” is not in the Greek – and taking it out makes ALL the difference.
For now this verse becomes the declaration of a promise – and a promise which God Almighty has decreed.
A husband might say “I love my wife – and I hope to love my wife till death-us-do-part” – but he is a mere man and cannot PROMISE this – it remains a sincere hope, but a hope nevertheless.
But what Paul is saying here is that the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ IS on you.
And that the Love of God is ALWAYS towards you and for you.
And that the Holy Spirit is ever=present with you NOW and ALWAYS.
It is a declaration of FACT.
It is a declaration of much-needed comfort
What joy! What hope! What peace!
And the only way to “miss” the Grace and the Love and the Fellowship is to REJECT it and walk away from it….and which one of us would wish to be so foolish!
So let us embrace the promise of this “Grace”. For there is no “may” in it.