For the Love of God, Volume 1/September 24
From Gospel Translations
2 Samuel 20; 2 Corinthians 13; Ezekiel 27; Psalms 75—76
IN MANY CHURCHES AROUND THE WORLD, though comparatively less frequently in North America, the minister at the end of the service will quietly utter the two words, “The grace.” Those gathered know that this is a signal for the entire congregation to pray together, reciting the verse from which these two words are drawn: “May 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). The text is short and simple, and we are in danger of flying by without reflecting on it.
(1) The triune God is the source of these blessings. That in itself is noteworthy: there was no long delay before Christians like Paul saw the implications of who Jesus is, and the implications of the gift of the Spirit, for their understanding of God himself. The entire Godhead is engaged in this vastly generous salvage operation that takes God’s fallen image-bearers and restores them to fellowship with their Maker.
(2) In the first two parts, the “grace” is undoubtedly the grace that the Lord Jesus Christ gives or provides, and the “love” is the love that God himself pours out. That makes it overwhelmingly likely that the third clause, “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” does not refer to our fellowship with the Spirit, but to the fellowship that the Holy Spirit bestows, enables, or gives. The Holy Spirit is finally the author of Christian fellowship. We enjoy Christian fellowship with one another because of the Spirit’s work in each of us individually and in all of us corporately, turning our hearts and minds from self-focus and sin to adoration of God and a love of holiness and a delight in Jesus and his Gospel and teachings. Without such transformation, our “fellowship,” our partnership in the Gospel, would be impossible.
(3) Not for a moment should we imagine that grace comes exclusively from Jesus, love exclusively from God the Father, and fellowship exclusively from the Spirit—as if Jesus could not love or generate fellowship, the Father could not display grace, and so forth. There is a sense in which grace, love, and fellowship come from the triune God. Yet one may usefully connect grace with the Lord Jesus, because his sacrificial, substitutionary death on the cross was offered up out of sheer grace; we may usefully connect love with God, because the entire plan of redemption springs from the wise and loving heart of God, of whom it is said, “God is love” (see 1 John 4:8 and the October 11 meditation); we may usefully connect fellowship with the Holy Spirit, since his is the work of transformation that unites us together in the partnership of the Gospel.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.