Friday, July 25, 2008

The Grace

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)

We often rattle off this blessing, or a modification of it, at the end of a service, prayer meeting or Bible study. But do we think about what it means or do we simply think of it as a wordy way to say, God bless you? What are we actually saying to one another?

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
"Grace" can seem something of a woolly word, perhaps because we don't have much use for it in modern English. There are a number of popular definitions of the word for example, God's Riches At Christ's Expense. Another contrasts grace with mercy - mercy is when God doesn't give us what we do deserve but grace is when God does give us what we don't deserve. A more theological definition might be, God's unmerited favour.

The Greek word "charis" means "gift" and has the connotation of something which brings joy, so the Christian use of "grace" came to mean any gift from God which brings us joy. Our greatest joy is the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul uses these titles to emphasis all that He is to us. His very name, Jesus, means Saviour; He is our Lord, a word whose value has been diminished with over-use but means He is our Master; and Christ, the Messiah, the one anointed by God to reconcile us to our heavenly Father.

The Love of God
There are no words adequate to tell of the wonder of God's love. I am completely convinced that most Christians have not begun to grasp the enormity of what it means to be loved by God. If they did, they would talk differently they would live differently, they would worship differently. Paul prayed in the Ephesian letter that his readers would "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ & know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God," (Eph 3:18-19).

This is a prayer we should echo with all our hearts. The world is looking for love. Since God is love they are seeking Him though not realising it. We are God's ambassadors in this damaged and hurting world. He wants to lavish His love on them. But who is going to believe that if they look at a Christian and see just another brand of discontent and misery because their life is not full of the experience of being loved by God.

The love of God is not a theological construct, it did not begin and end with Golgotha. It is, as my husband is fond of saying, "not pie in the sky when you die, but steak on the plate while you wait." We are meant to experience the love of God in our daily lives in His tender care of us, the love gifts He sends our way, and our very real fellowship with Him.

The Fellowship Of The Holy Spirit
Another of my husband's clever comments is that fellowship is two or more people in the same boat. One of the wonders of our salvation is that God, in the person of the Holy Spirit comes to live on the inside of us. He is our paraclete, a Greek word that does not have a direct equivalent in English. It has been variously translated as counsellor, comforter and advocate. The Holy Spirit comes to our spirit and enfolds us in a loving embrace more intimate than is explicable. He is the Spirit of our bridegroom Jesus, He is the Spirit of our Abba Father and the fellowship we experience with Him is the most healing experience it is possible to know.

The Trinity
Paul prays in this blessing that we will know the joy, love and fellowship of all three persons of the Godhead. He wants us to experience within our spirit, as well as within our daily life, what it is to be in relationship with God.

Prayer College Assignment
Next time you are asked to say this grace, don't let it just roll from your lips. Think about exactly what it is that you are praying for your brothers and sisters and expect to receive these blessings in answer to their prayer for you.

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