Christian Community: God’s grace between two worlds from Paul’s closings of his epistles

Tonight, I was reminded with a tangible experience of why it is important not to merely skim by the conclusions, the closings of Paul’s letters to the churches. I recalled after having dinner with a dear brother and sister in Christ, that one of the things apart from being adopted into God’s family we enjoy in common is that we have all been ostracized, simply discarded, by our relationships from our former lives. We realized our list of friends who show interest, concern and care for each other has grown shorter than before, and for other Christians we know, we have shared the same sentiment. If as a Christian, you live with conviction in light of your beliefs, then it is not only likely that persecution, desertion, and distance from others will occur, but actually promised. This truth is one reason that Christians need each other, openly, honestly, lovingly to look out for each other both physically and spiritually. We are not citizens of this world any longer, we have allegiance to our Lord and Savior who reigns over the kingdom of Heaven.

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
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 13:11-14 ESV)

It is no coincidence that at the end of each epistle there is a closing that contains an exhortation to love one another, to guard one another from falsehoods, to fellowship, to comfort, to enjoy God’s grace together. I wondered once why this similar theme? I would argue that Paul left his brothers and sisters with one of what he would contend is the most premier charges for Christian living, to live together in community extending grace, care and love for each other as family. To be united as one before the world under the central commonality, The Cross.

[Final Instructions and Benediction]
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Brothers, pray for us.
Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.
I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

(1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 ESV)

As we continue to look at the epistles to Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi, Colossae, and essentially the whole sixth chapter of Galatians, Paul has common thread that is not subtle, but certainly secondary to his proclamation of the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul, under the guidance of The Holy Spirit, has made it his business to ensure every church or brother, in the case of the pastoral epistles and Philemon, has been instructed to live according to John 13:35, “…By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Now this love is no ordinary love in modern worldly terms but consists of compassion, unity, love and bearing burdens, exhortation, rebuke and correction, protection from falsehoods and discipline and instruction as well. This unique love was not only the mark of believers in a dark world, but necessary as God’s providing grace to sanctify and progress his people in the midst of persecution and hardship. This was necessary to grow in Christlikeness, and advance the Gospel and thus God’s glory to the ends of the earth. God is glorified and his kingdom is identified by their love for one another.

This unique Koinonia, fellowship, is the mark of God’s true people who were already established and redeemed, but not yet fully united with Christ in all of his glory.

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 ESV)

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One thought on “Christian Community: God’s grace between two worlds from Paul’s closings of his epistles

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Bound Together by @chrisbrauns | As You Go

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