Bookends of Grace
I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
– Philippians 4:18-23
“Leaders speak first,” he said. “Leaders frame the question. Leaders lead.” Lyle Schaller summarized the role of a leader with those words. It made a great impression on me. Obviously there is more to leadership than these three things. But I’ve sought to make a point of having the first word as a leader, rather than the last word. If I have only the last word, I’m put in the role of a mere veto-maker or a cheerleader.
Sometimes, however, it is necessary to veto an idea. Sometimes it is important to cheer others on. Sometimes it is important to speak a final word of blessing, affirmation, or direction. There is a time for our last will and testament to be known.
This is what Paul is doing here as he closes his letter to the Philippian church. His last word is very much in harmony with his first words to these people. He begins, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:2). He ends with the same sentiment and blessing: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit: Bookends.
The first and last word of God is a word of blessing and grace. That is God’s will for his people from beginning to end. His grace moves him toward us in the first place. It is his initial move and action that makes it even possible for us to be saved. We’re incapable of moving toward him by our strength, so he comes to us. He loves us so much!
And his word to us – throughout our lives – is a word of grace. One after another. Grace upon grace. When we face the judgement seat, if we are in Christ, we will be called into his eternal kingdom of glory by his grace. And we will praise him for his glorious grace for all eternity.
I’m wondering how my words can be more seasoned with grace: my first and my last words. I believe God changes hearts by his grace through gracious words spoken from beginning to end.
Precious, precious grace!