A Closing Blessing
“Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith…” (Ephesians 6:21)
Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:21, 22
I can vividly remember the first time I heard these final words of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians used to close a worship service. It was back in 1982, in a Presbyterian Church in St Louis, USA. It struck me then, as it still does now, as an unusually rich benediction.
“Peace be to the brothers,” writes Paul, “and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible” (Ephesians 6: 23, 24). Rather than hurry over these words, let’s take a moment to dwell upon them.
A benediction is a blessing. In the Christian worship tradition, it is pronounced in the name of the Father and the Son and is intended as more than simply a prayer wish. It is viewed as a means of grace, and an act which God himself joins to convey the blessing expressed.
Often that blessing centres around the gift of grace, even as it does on this occasion. Perhaps the best-known benediction is found in 2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” More commonly, Paul abbreviates this to “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (see Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 16:23 as examples).
Here, Paul gathers together the blessings of peace, love, faith, and grace. “Peace be to the brothers,” he says, probably referring back to harmonious, peaceful relationships within the church flowing from the Spirit’s indwelling presence (4:3). But he desires also that there would be “love with faith.” These two virtues are basic to the Christian life – faith in Christ Jesus and love for all the saints. Evidence of them in the Ephesian believers prompted Paul to give thanks to God for them (1:15).
Yet, he longs that his readers would possess them in greater measure. We can never exercise confident trust in the Lord Jesus too much, nor can we love others to perfection. All of us need grace daily to be able to do this. These things come from “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
To finish, he adds “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible [with an undying love – NIV]” (v. 24). Here the specifically Christ-centred character of our lives is brought to the fore again. Christians are those who not only believe in the Lord Jesus, but love him, and that with a love “incorruptible” (or undying). Just as Jesus is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), so he conveys these blessings to those who love and trust him.
Let these words remind us that the source of our spiritual life – the true life of God that we possess through Christ – resides in God alone. Daily we need refreshing streams of that life to flood into us, filling us with peace, love, faith and grace – and with them the joy which belongs to God’s own life.
- Do you hunger for more of God’s grace in your own life?
- Are you praying for it daily?
– Andrew Young