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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Responding to God's Benediction
Text:2 Corinthians 13:14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Holy, Holy, Holy

The Tender Love a Father Has

Come, Thou Almighty King 

God, Our Father, We Adore Thee

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
Responding to God’s Benediction”
2 Corinthians 13:14
How would you pray for a church that was wracked with division and rivalry, a church with deep factions and many false teachers? Would you pray a few times for such a church, and then just walk away? Would you give up on them and find a different church?  
The church at Corinth fit the description of a contentious, divided church. But Paul did not walk away from the problems there. Instead, throughout this letter he warned against false teaching and pointed the congregation to Christ and the purity of the gospel, time and again. And in the process, he upheld them in prayer.
His prayers for them could be summarized by the benediction which concludes this second letter. Although a benediction differs from prayer, the content of each may be the same. Prayer may request petitions from God asking for His grace, love and fellowship to be realized and strengthened in the lives of His people. But a benediction is a pronouncement from God Himself. In a benediction God blesses His people by declaring what He will do for them. As such, a benediction instills in the heart of every true believer gratitude and praise.
The benediction that closes Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians instills gratitude and praise because, first of all, it points us to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is seen in every aspect of His redemptive work. It is an action of His grace – His unmerited favor to us – that He left the glory of heaven and came to this earth to suffer and die for sinners.
But we see the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, not only at the cross, but in all His gracious actions during the time of His life on earth. His life leading up to the cross was a life of mercy and grace. John 1:16-17 reminds us: For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
And throughout His life that grace was evident. You remember when John (the Baptist) heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, (how) he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” (Matthew 11:2-5)
Every leper cleansed, every person who received back their sight, each one who was healed from an otherwise incurable disease, and those who were raised back again to life, are all witnesses to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But it is still at the cross where His grace is most evident. It was there that He who had no sin became sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). It was there at the cross that we see most clearly, the truth of 2 Corinthians 8:9, You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.
No matter what sin is in your life or my life, if we confess it in humble repentance and saving faith, we have assurance that it is forgiven because of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ who offered Himself on the cross of Calvary for sinners.
However, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is not just seen in retrospect as we look back at Calvary. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is experienced each and every day of our lives in more ways than we can imagine. Take, for example, your prayer life. Who sanctifies your prayers and presents them perfectly to the Father? It is Jesus the Son, who ever lives to intercede on our behalf, and even now is at the right hand of God the Father sanctifying our prayers – as does the Holy Spirit who intercedes with groans too deep for words.
Through His work of intercession, we experience the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ as He sympathizes with us, sanctifies our prayers and strengthens us. We sing about that in many of our hymns. One of the familiar old hymns reminds us:
What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!
 O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!
As Hebrews 4:15 and 16 point out: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Not only do we experience grace after grace through the work of Christ in the past, and not only do we experience grace after grace through His present work of intercession at the right hand of His heavenly Father, but we will also experience the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout all eternity. Throughout all eternity we will reign with Christ over the new heavens and the new earth. There will never be a time when we will not experience – and rejoice greatly – in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We already experience that in principle, but we will experience it in its fullness throughout all eternity. Ephesians 2 describes how ...because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is realized perpetually. His redeeming work in the past is experienced each day as He intercedes for us, and rules and reigns from the right hand of His heavenly Father. And throughout all eternity we will experience the greatness of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!
The second part of the benediction focuses on the love of God the Father. Theologians point out that the love of the Father led to the giving of the Son. It is because God the Father so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
The 103rd Psalm beautifully describes the love of the Father as being gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love. And that Psalm goes on to point out the love and compassion of our heavenly Father. David writes in verse 13 and 14: As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.
We are taught to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and who is it who supplies our day-to-day needs? It is our Father in heaven. As Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:11, 26). He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). He watches over us, provides for us and protects us. He holds us in the palm of His hand as we are given double protection, held in the hand of both the Father and the Son (John 10:28-30).
And yet God the Father is a just God. He is not a Father who can look the other way when His children live in sin. There must be a just punishment for sin, for otherwise God would not be the just and holy God revealed in Scripture. Consequently, God the Father, in love beyond our comprehension, gave His Son to be the sacrifice to bring salvation to you and to me. In the words of Romans 3:25 and 26, God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement – propitiation – through the shedding of His blood—to be received by faith... He did it to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Just as the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ transcends time, so also does the love of God the Father, for He loved us before the world began. In the words of Ephesians 1:4-6, He chose us in Him (Christ) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.
In eternity past, long before you and I were born, we experienced the love of the Father as He predestined us to live to the praise of His glorious grace. He also set the exact moment in history for our lives to begin (Psalm 71:6), and to come to a close here on earth, for, all the days ordained for (us) were written in (His) book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).
In the past we were already recipients of God the Father’s eternal love. In the present we are blessed by His lovingkindness in more ways than we can count. And throughout eternity we will be surrounded by His everlasting arms. Just as the prodigal son was welcomed home and given a joyous feast, so we will bask in the love of the Father at the wedding feast of the Lamb, throughout all eternity.
A third great blessing in this benediction focuses on the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Did you know that this is the only benediction written by Paul which mentions the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Most of the benedictions in the Bible, and most of the salutations – those greetings which begin many of the New Testament letters – mention only the Father and the Son.
That is not due to any shortsightedness on the part of the apostle Paul and the other writers of the New Testament. They were themselves inspired by the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit’s desire is not to call attention to Himself, but to focus our thoughts and our faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, and the reconciliation with God the Father that we have through faith in Christ alone. It is by the Holy Spirit’s desire that He is not put in the forefront, but rather all the glory is given to Christ, and then in the words of 1 Corinthians 15:28, the Son will give all the glory to His heavenly Father so that God may be all in all.
But just because the Holy Spirit does not seek the glory, but rather serves as the spotlight to glorify the Son and the Father, it doesn’t mean that His work is any less necessary. The Holy Spirit is true God, one with the Father and the Son. He was active in creation, already mentioned in Genesis 1:2 as hovering over the waters. It is by His inspiration that the Scriptures were written (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). We would never know the way of salvation, we would never know what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ and to be saved from our sins, if it were not for the Holy Spirit.
In addition to inspiring the Bible to be written, the Holy Spirit is also the One who gives us the gift of faith, as we are born again – literally born from above – by the Holy Spirit’s regenerating power. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, but He also gives us new life from above so that we see and respond to God’s grace revealed in Christ Jesus. And through faith in Him, given by the Holy Spirit, we have eternal life.
Each member of the Trinity works in harmony with the other members. And each one contributes to our salvation in unique ways. In this benediction, for instance, we are assured that we have the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. As Christians we have the only lasting bond and true fellowship that can be found. Because of the Holy Spirit, we have fellowship with our triune God and also fellowship one with another.  And that fellowship is eternal; nothing can sever that bond of fellowship. Throughout eternity we will rejoice in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit as we gather with God’s people from all the ages to fellowship with God and each other, as we live and reign with Christ!
Joyful Unity and Spiritual Growth
This benediction – this blessing from God – is one of the best known benedictions in Scripture. But what purpose does it serve? Is it just a pleasant way to end the service? Is it just the long anticipated pronouncement that the worship service is over?
If we are truly grateful for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, then our response will be to have that joyful unity and spiritual growth which verse 11 to 13 describe. Those verses focus on the unity that believers have with their triune God and with one another. It is a universal unity that transcends the miles. The apostle Paul wrote this from Macedonia, in the northern part of Greece, and Corinth was in the southern part of Greece, which was a sizable distance in those days. And yet they were called to have unity with one another as true believers even greeting each other with a holy kiss. That holy kiss, incidentally, is similar to a handshake or a hug today.
As the apostle closes the letter, he writes, finally, brothers, good-by. That is the way the pew Bible in our church in Oak Lawn translated the beginning of verse 11. However, that translation in the NIV is one example of why many churches have switched to the ESV, which is a more accurate yet readable translation of the Bible. The ESV, and most other translations of the Bible, translate the word “goodbye” with “rejoice” (as does the newest edition of the NIV).  
The Greek word that Paul uses in his farewell is not simply, “goodbye” but “rejoice”! If you truly know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, then you and I have great reason to rejoice!
Paul also challenged the Corinthians to grow spiritually and to live in unity and peace. In the ESV verse 11 is translated as, 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.
The Corinthian church had been splintered by division. There was a great need for restoration, for comfort within the congregation and peace after the division caused by many false teachers. There was a great need for unity and spiritual growth within the congregation. And one of the best ways to experience spiritual growth, and to live in peace with God and with one another, is to reflect on what it means to know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
It is indeed wonderful and essential to reflect on the work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in redeeming us from our sin! For when we reflect on these truths, then we will rejoice as we earnestly strive to live in peace with one another, growing together in our knowledge of our gracious, triune God. Amen!
                                             - bulletin outline -
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 Corinthians 13:14
                            “Responding to God’s Benediction”
                                         2 Corinthians 13:14
I. The last verse of 2 Corinthians is one of the best known benedictions as it stresses:
     1) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
      2) The love of God the Father
     3) The fellowship of the Holy Spirit
II. Our response: Joyful unity and spiritual growth (11-13), which only comes
    by knowing the blessing of the benediction (14)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Ted Gray

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