Saturday, April 09, 2022

Supplemental Hopewell @Home ▫ 2Corinthians 13:11–14

The following was written for the Hopewell @Home devotionals before I realized that the congregation probably didn't know the tune to TPH563. However, it dovetails nicely with what we've been learning about God the Holy Spirit, so I thought putting it here might be of some use.

Read 2Corinthians 13:11–14

Questions from the Scripture text: How does v11 begin? What does the apostle call them? What is the first command (in the English)? What is the second? The third? The fourth? What does he call God? What will this God do? What command does v12 give? Who does what in v13? And what comes from Whom in v14a? And what from Whom in v14b? and what from Whom in v14c? How does this compare to the last part of v11? How many of them have these things from Him? How does the apostle conclude his letter?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and first song all come from 2Corinthians 13:11–14 so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with May the Grace of Christ My Savior.

Rather than jump immediately into the benediction itself in v14, we start back in v11 where the apostle begins by firing off five commands. Our English translation says “farewell” for the first one, which is actually the command, “rejoice!” The closest we have in our (un)common usage would be if someone said goodbye by saying, “cheers!”

The second command is to be complete. Be perfect. Be mended/fixed. All those problems that the apostle has addressed in the two canonical letters (and probably others)? Overcome them. It’s quite a command. Sometimes, we deludedly think that there are commands of God that we can more easily obey. The Spirit teaches us to know better: that no commands can be kept in the flesh, and that all of them shall at last be kept by those who are in Christ by Spirit-given faith. But here is a command that would be right up there as the “hardest” if there was such a thing. Be perfect.

The third command, “be of good comfort,” is that word by which the Lord calls His Spirit “another Helper.” The verb form can be translated comfort, rebuke, exhort, help, etc. In this context, it means something along the lines of, “receive everything that you need along the way.” Another impossible command.

The final two commands are to think the same and to peace (“live in peace” translates one word that more strongly emphasizes the peace that he is commanding them to have). It doesn’t just mean peace with one another but also with God. The two commands taken together mean that they are to have right attitudes and emotions.

What a series of commands! How can they hope to obey? The answer echoes 12:9. The God of peace and love will be with them (v11)!

Therefore, the ultimate greeting of the letter is the greeting of God Himself. He does command them to greet one another as saints (v12). The holiness belongs not to a particular style of kissing, but to the people who are giving one another the kiss of greeting. Their kiss is to come out of genuine recognition of one another as saints, “holy ones,” who are treasured for the sake of God having set them apart to Himself. And the other saints greet them too (v13).

But our fellowship is not just with one another but with God Himself. And that’s the great greeting with which the letter concludes. The grace of God is His blessing in place of our curse, His strength in place of our weakness (cf. 12:9), really it is all that God Himself is to compensate for and overcome all that we would be in ourselves. It is the grace of the Father and the grace of the Spirit too; these things cannot be separated in God. But “all that God is for all that we need Him to be” is especially associated with the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (v14a). What a benediction this would be by itself, “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”!

The love of God is the love not only that is from God, but the love that is in God Himself. As the Person Who eternally begets the Son, and from Whom (with the Son) the Spirit eternally proceeds, we might associate this love especially with the Father. And certainly, the naming of the other two Persons implies this to some extent. But it is probably significant that the apostle says “the love of God” not “the love of the Father.” It is especially in the giving of the Son and of the Spirit that the Father has made known His love to us. Each of the Persons loves us with the love that exists among the triune Godhead! What a benediction this would be by itself, “the love of God”!

Finally, and most rarely experienced and perceived, the Lord commands here the blessing, “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” The Lord Jesus has not left us like orphans (Jn 14:17–18). The Father and the Son have come and made their home with us (Jn 14:23). And it is especially in the companionship of the third Person of the Godhead that they have done so. We have no life in ourselves. We have no love in ourselves. But our receiving the life of Jesus Christ by grace has happened by the companionship of the Holy Spirit. And our knowing God as our Abba and the giving of Himself in His Son has happened by the companionship of the Holy Spirit. The more we grow in this life of God and this knowledge of the love of God, the more we realize and rejoice over the Spirit’s companionship with us. Oh how the Spirit has loved us! And is always with us! And even in us (Jn 14:17)! And communicates God Himself to us! We ought to love Him and rejoice over Him. What a benediction this would be by itself, “the communion of the Holy Spirit”!

But we do not have merely one of these benedictions by themselves, much in the same way that it is impossible to have any one Person of the Trinity by Himself. We receive a Triune blessing, because we live in a Triune blessedness from a Triune God!

How can you obey God’s “impossible” commands? How is this sweeter than if He had just given you power? At the end of worship how does God prompt that sweetness?

Sample prayer:  Our glorious, triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—make us to know You Yourself as all of our life and goodness and blessedness. Make us to know Your love, by the fellowship of Your Spirit, in the grace of Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH563 “May the Grace of Christ Our Savior”

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