June 12, 2017: Verse of the day

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Benediction

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. (13:14)

To pronounce a benediction is to solemnly invoke a blessing, and Paul frequently did so in his epistles (e.g., Rom. 1:7; 16:20; 1 Cor. 1:3; 16:23; Gal. 1:3–4; 6:18; Eph. 1:2; 6:23–24; Phil. 1:2; 4:23; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 5:28; 2 Thess. 1:2; 3:18; Philem. 3). No New Testament benediction, however, is as theologically rich and profound as this one. It is the only one that mentions all three persons of the Trinity. Two important features of this magnificent benediction call for closer examination.

First, as noted above, it is a Trinitarian benediction, reflecting a truth that is central to the Christian faith. Paul does not give here a formal, systematic exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity; this Trinitarian statement just flowed in natural and uninhibited fashion from him, as every blessing in the Christian life flows from the triune God.

Obviously, the doctrine of the Trinity is essential to the Christian faith. Those who deny it commit idolatry by worshiping a nonexistent false god, and thereby forfeit the possibility of salvation. While it does not contain a formal, precise theological declaration of the doctrine of the Trinity in one statement, Scripture nonetheless clearly and unmistakably teaches that the one true God has eternally existed in three co-equal and co-eternal persons. The biblical proof for the doctrine of the Trinity can be summarized in a simple syllogism: The Bible teaches there is only one God. Yet it calls three persons God. Therefore, the three persons are the one God.

That there is only one God is the undeniable teaching of Scripture. God Himself declared in Deuteronomy 32:39, “See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me.” “You alone are God,” exclaimed David (Ps. 86:10). Through the prophet Isaiah, God made it clear that there is not now, never was, and never will be any other god: “ ‘You are My witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and My servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me’ ” (Isa. 43:10). To the Corinthians, surrounded by pagan idolatry, Paul wrote, “Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4). (See also Deut. 4:35, 39; 6:4; 1 Sam. 2:2; 2 Sam. 7:22; 22:32; 1 Kings 8:23, 60; 2 Kings 19:15, 19; 2 Chron. 6:14; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 18:31; Isa. 37:16, 20; 44:6, 8; 45:5–6, 21; 46:9; Joel 2:27).

The Bible calls God the Father in such passages as 1 Corinthians 15:24; Galatians 1:1, 3; Ephesians 6:23; Philippians 1:2; and Jude 1, as few would dispute.

But despite the teachings of various demonic cults to the contrary, the Son is also called God. John opened his gospel with a powerful affirmation of Christ’s deity: “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ; v. 14], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The former skeptic Thomas (John 20:25) cried out when he saw the resurrected Christ, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28). Romans 9:5 describes Jesus as “God blessed forever,” while Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 refer to Him as “our God and Savior.” God the Father calls the Son God in Hebrews 1:8, saying to Him, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.”

The Holy Spirit is also called God. In Acts 5:3 Peter asked Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” But in the next verse he told him, “You have not lied to men but to God.” Second Corinthians 3:18 refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Lord, the Spirit.”

Thus, Scripture plainly teaches the profound, incomprehensible reality of the triune God (cf. Isa. 48:16; Matt. 28:19; Luke 3:21–22; 1 Cor. 12:4–6).

But this benediction is not only Trinitarian but also redemptive. It is in salvation that the Trinity is most clearly seen. The love of God the Father caused Him to plan redemption and choose those who would be saved (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8–10). It was through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in dying as a sacrifice for sins that salvation was effected for the redeemed (Rom. 5:6; 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 2:2). As a result of salvation, believers are ushered into the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, as He indwells them (Rom. 8:9, 11; 1 Cor. 6:19; Gal. 4:6) and places them into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).

Paul’s benediction forms a fitting conclusion to this epistle, which despite all its stern rebuke of the Corinthians’ folly and sin ends on a note of blessing. It was the apostle’s desire that the Corinthians put themselves in a position to experience all the blessings that salvation brings. It was with that goal in mind that he defended his commission and his message, and that he rebuked, encouraged, and prayed for them. There can be no higher goal for any faithful pastor than that his people would know the full riches God grants them through redemption.[1]


14 Paul’s concluding benediction (“may … be the constant portion of you all,” my translation) sums up all the divine resources (cf. v. 11b) that would equip the Corinthians to fulfill his concluding exhortations (v. 11a). His wish is that they would always be fortified by the grace Christ imparts, by the love God the Father supplies, and by their common participation in the life, power, and gifts of the Holy Spirit (see Notes). Such grace, love, and participation in the Spirit would enable them to rejoice in the Lord, work at their restoration, respond to exhortation, be united in attitude, and maintain harmony.

This embryonic Trinitarian formulation is noteworthy for the unusual “economic” order of Son—Father—Spirit. It is through the grace shown by Christ (8:9) in living and dying for the benefit of humans that God demonstrates his love (Ro 5:8) and believers come to share in the Spirit’s life and so form the community of the new age (1 Co 12:7, 13–14; Php 2:1). This order also reflects Christian experience: we come to Christ and so encounter God and then receive his Spirit.[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2003). 2 Corinthians (pp. 487–489). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] Harris, M. J. (2008). 2 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 544). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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One thought on “June 12, 2017: Verse of the day

  1. Pingback: June 12, 2017: Verse of the day — Truth2Freedom’s Blog @Truth2Freedom | Talmidimblogging

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