The Benediction

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all" (2 Corinthians 13-14).

Once I was at a meeting at which an old Christian, thinking that it had lasted long enough, said the Benediction, supposing that that would close it, but it did not. Up to that point it had been slow and normal, but the Benediction put new life into it, the praying did not really begin until then; that was the true beginning and not the end of the meeting. The threefold blessing was Paul's last word to the Church at Corinth, it was valedictory as well as benedictory; but I am persuaded that it was not the end of what he had said to them. If its full meaning came home to them they would turn back and read again his earnest words to discover what was involved in this threefold birthright of every soul that is born of God. That is the way with the God-inspired Word. As we read we are continually turned back to consider afresh what we have read, for every fresh unfolding of the truth throws new light upon what precedes it.

Could anything be more comprehensive, more encouraging, more calculated to put fresh energy into the soul, and renew our confidence in God, than this benediction? Let us start the New Year with it, let it revive our spirits and put new energy into us, for it is the beginning and not the end of things, and let us rejoice that whatever the vicissitudes of the unknown future, these vital things of our faith abide — grace, love, and communion — the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost. Each Person in the ever-blessed Trinity is engaged to sustain our souls by that which is absolutely necessary to the life of them. As we consider this we are filled with confidence and expectancy and thanksgiving.

We begin with the Lord Jesus Christ. This must be so, for in Him is the full revelation of God to us. He came forth from the Godhead, sent by the Father, in the full power of the Holy Ghost, to seek and to save us, and the grace that brought Him forth is to abide with us. We have said that the Scriptures turn us back continually to read again what has gone before; it is so here. As we read "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ" we remember that these words, so full of music to our souls, have occurred before in the Epistle, and we turn back its pages to chapter 8:9, and read, "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich." It was thus that His grace was revealed and we have believed and known it. This is not part of a lifeless creed with us, it is Himself, revealed in grace that baffles description, and is as real and vital to our spiritual life as is the air we breathe to our physical life.

But having revealed His grace to us at such a cost to Himself, He has not retired into His former glory and left us to manage our own affairs, and fight life's battles as best we may. No, His interest in us abides, and He assures us that as He began with us so will He continue, that His resources are enough to meet every demand that can be made upon us, He is behind the scenes to support us in our need and make our weakness the occasion for the display of His power. His words to Paul were, "My grace is sufficient for thee" (chap. 12). They are wonderful words, none that ever came from His mouth have yielded greater comfort to His tried and suffering saints. I quote from a letter recently received from one of these. "My fear and anxiety fled in the face of those underlined words, 'MY grace … for THEE,' and He, through you, gave me a glad day." That is it. There is the ocean of grace at one end of the sentence, and the thimble of our need at the other, and the ocean is enough for the thimble; and that not for special days of stress only, but always and for all. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all."

But where does this grace lead us? Having sought and found us in the lowest depths and at such a cost, it must have some great purpose in view. The end in view is to bring us to God. "Christ suffered, the Just One for us the unjust to bring us to God." Nothing would satisfy the great love wherewith God loved us but full reconciliation to Himself, all distance must be removed, and for this "He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (chap. 5:21). In our Epistle the knowledge of God has a great place. From the face of Jesus Christ it has shone into our hearts, and the Apostle declares it to be a treasure. It most surely is a treasure, the greatest treasure that we shall ever possess in time. God Himself can give us no greater.

The exact words shall be quoted "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (chap. 4). The light is what God is, and God is love. The whole purpose of the coming into this world of Jesus Christ was to make this known, for this He dwelt among us full of grace and truth, for this He died for us upon the Cross and for this He rose again from the dead. The love of God lies behind the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ; it is the source of all good. To the love of God we are brought; it is to be our home for ever, but it is to be with us, until we reach our home, and no power above, around or beneath can separate us from it either now or for ever.

His love was not exhausted when He gave His own Son for us, it abides in undiminished strength even to this day. His love which makes Him say, "I will receive you, and will be a Father to you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (chap. 6:8). And the love of God is to be with you all.

It is by the Holy Ghost that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ reaches us, and by Him also the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). He makes all Divine things real to us, for the natural man cannot understand them, but God has revealed them to us by His Spirit (1 Cor. 2). He binds the hearts of the people of God together in pursuit of these spiritual riches that are freely given us of God, so that we have fellowship together about them.

The communion of the Holy Ghost is something to be greatly prized and cherished; it is outside all the parties and divisions in Christendom, for they are carnal works, and can only grieve Him. It would deliver us from all our opinions and prejudices and narrowness of heart, for these have no part in this communion, and it would lead us into the joy of that threefold oneness of which Ephesians 4 speaks: "One Spirit, one body, and one hope of your calling." It means that we have communion one with another as He takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us, and guides us into all truth (John 16), but it means also that we have communion with God Himself, for truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. It is outside all the fellowships of the world, and unlike them, it stretches out into eternity, indeed it concerns eternal things brought to us now in this temporal and changing world. What serenity and stability it imparts to the soul, even when all around is strife, confusion and decay.

How wonderful is the Christian life. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is more than equal to His needs; the love of God is able to fill his heart with satisfaction and joy, and the communion of the Holy Ghost secures a holy, happy, companionship and partnership in the things that are the Father's and Christ's, and witnesses to us and gives us also the assurance of that near and blessed relationship in which we stand with God. For, we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God.

These are the streams that flow from heaven to renew our spiritual life continually and we must watch lest the enemy of our souls by some means diverts us from them. The blue Nile that waters Egypt and makes it a fruitful land rises in Lake Tsana, amid the mountains of Abyssinia, over five thousand feet above the sea level. The fear is expressed that the Italians might divert the waters from their present course in order to enrich their own territory. They can scarcely have such an impossible purpose in view, but certain we may be that if the devil can make us careless as to these waters from the upper springs of communion with God, he will prevent them from reaching us, and just as Egypt would be a treeless desert without the Nile, a land in which life would be impossible, so our lives will be barren and fruitless, if the devil succeeds in his efforts. We need the warning, the church at Corinth needed it, and we may fear for one another as Paul feared for them. He wrote, "I fear lest by any means, as the Serpent deceived Eve by his craft so your thoughts should be corrupted from simplicity as to Christ." Because of the danger, the Benediction becomes a prayer. "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with you all, Amen."