The Reading: Philippians 4:21-23
“The grace of the Lord … be with your spirit.” (v.23) RSV
‘Greeting’ and ‘Grace’ are the two parting sentiments that Paul expresses to the church at Philippi. In fact ‘grace’ is the word he uses to end every letter bar two. Greeting and Grace go together to make a fulsome blessing.
Greeting is a human blessing and grace is a divine one. It is so good to be greeted and not ignored or overlooked or cold-shouldered. It makes us feel good to be recognised and treated as important. Some people have a gift of making people feel they are the only person in the world at that moment. Paul was insistent that “every saint” be greeted. With him there were no favourites or one category of people that he preferred. Everyone counted.
Grace similarly is for everyone. Grace is a little word with a big meaning. I remember it being explained as G-R-A-C-E: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. But whatever clever mnemonic we use, it basically boils down to God’s initiative of forgiveness and giving.
Grace comes from God; it is free and undeserved. As rebellious and sinful human beings, both individually and as humanity, we are deserving of death, eternal death. But God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). To that end he has sent prophets and finally his own Son.
Grace perseveres with us, even when we are wayward and obdurate. It costs God greatly to do so. But that is the price love will pay. When Jesus came to earth John described him as being full of “grace and truth” (John 1:14). This balance helps us understand that grace is no pushover. Grace wants repentance, and only truth will cause us to face that need.
When Paul blesses his readers with grace, he is wanting that grace to enable their lives to be strengthened and changed, so that they become more like Jesus. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with each one of us.
Thank you Lord for your underserved love and grace. May it transform me to be more like Jesus. Amen.
1 Which martyr was full of grace and power?
2 Read more of Paul’s use of the word ‘grace’.