Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
(Philippians 4:21-23 ESV)
We conclude our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians with his final words.
Its easy to dismiss the initial and final greetings of Paul’s letters, thinking they don’t have much meaning. But that would be a mistake. Every word in the Bible is useful for study [2 Timothy 3:16] and this last verse is no exception.
Just like great literature, Paul’s letters (and other books of the Bible) are intentionally structured to be symbolic of their content. Paul opened this letter with greetings of grace from Jesus Christ [Philippians 1:2]. Now he closes with a benediction for Jesus’ grace to be upon the Philippians’ spirit. Everything he has said is bookended within God’s grace.
Paul has given the Philippians some very specific instructions for living including being united and being humble. None of these things can happen outside of God’s grace. Just look at the unbelieving world around us. They know nothing about God or His grace. Hence we see complete disunity, confusion, and selfishness.
That is why as the United States, and the world, moves further away from God, things will only get worse. Our country believes that the Bible and God are the cause of many of our problems and that removing them from our culture will make things better. This will not happen. Without God our true human nature will take over and the world will be filled with selfishness and hate and anger. Its safe to say we already see that happening.
The definition of hell is the complete absence of God. It is not that God will be torturing people in hell. That is a false teaching. God won’t be in hell at all. Human beings who rejected God on this earth will be completely on their own to run their own lives – which is what they decided they wanted during their earthly lifetime. That is why hell will be so terrible: human nature will run rampant.
The only way to escape such an eternity is by God’s grace. God’s grace saves us from the penalty of hell we rightly deserve. But God’s grace also sustains us as we complete our sojourn on this planet.
We need God’s grace to live the life He calls us to live. Our inherent human nature can never be humble. It can never be joyful. It can never be selfless. The only way we can live the life Paul describes in this letter is through the grace of God.
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