Gleanings from Paul
by A. W. Pink
9. Prayer of Benediction
2 Corinthians 13:14
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen." This threefold invocation is familiarly known as the Christian benediction. God authorized this Old Testament formula of blessing to be used in the assemblies of Israel: "Speak unto Aaron and his sons, saying, On this wise shall ye bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The LORD bless thee and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall [thus] put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them" (Num. 6:23-27). But there is nothing to indicate that God required the benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14 to be employed in the Christian churches; yet there is certainly nothing to show that it is incongruous to do so. As a fact, it has been made wide use of because of its deep importance doctrinally and because of its appropriateness, for those words are both a confession of the Christian faith and a declaration of Christian privilege.
The Christian Doctrine of God
The benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14 contains a brief summary of the Christian doctrine of God. We say the Christian doctrine of God in contradistinction not only from the horrible delusions of the idolatrous heathen but also from the inadequate conception of Deity which was present in Judaism. By the Christian doctrine of God we mean the revelation which is given of Him in the New Testament more particularly. And that brings us to ground where we need to tread very carefully lest we disparage or underestimate what was revealed of Him in the Old Testament. If on the one hand we must guard against the fearful error that the God of the Old Testament is a very different character from the God of the New, on the other hand we need to be careful that we do not too fully read the clearer teaching of the New into the Old. At any rate we must not conclude that those under the legal dispensation perceived the same significance in some of those things in their Scriptures which we now interpret in the brighter light of the evangelical economy. Such a statement is "the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth" (1 John 2:8) needs to be remembered in this connection.
It has been erroneously and blasphemously asserted by those who deny the real inspiration of the Scriptures that Jehovah was but a tribal God and that what is said of Him in the New Testament mirrors the views which the Hebrews entertained of Him. But it is greatly to be feared that many who reject such a Satanic crudity as that and who regard the Old Testament as being equally the Word of God with the New nevertheless hold the idea, with varying degrees of consciousness, that the revelation which we have of the divine character in the New Testament is much to be preferred above that in the Old. Such is a serious misconception. The severity of God appears as plainly in the book of Revelation as it does in Joshua. In fact, the vials of His wrath there are more fearful in their nature than the plagues which He inflicted upon Egypt and Canaan. On the other hand, the goodness of God as made known in the epistles in no wise surpasses His benevolence as depicted in the Psalms. The God of Sinai and Calvary is one and the same, as He is also the Author of both the law and the gospel.
As has been said, we need to be careful not to read too fully into the Old Testament Scriptures the clearer teaching of the New. We who now have the completed Word of God in our hands are thereby enabled to recognize more plainly that the substance of the truth of the Triunity of God is found in the earlier books of the Bible. Yet it has to be granted that there is no statement in them which is quite as explicit as the one in Matthew 28:19. Certainly it is much to be doubted if the Jewish nation recognized that there were three distinct Persons in the Godhead. The grand truth made known under the old economy was rather the unity of God: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD" (Deut. 6:4). This truth was in sharp contrast with the polytheism of the idolatries of the heathen. On the other hand, we have no doubt that individual saints in those times had a saving knowledge of the triune God, yet not so fully perhaps as we have. Concerning this Calvin said, "As God afforded a clearer manifestation of Himself at the advent of Christ, the three Persons became better known." We add, especially in Their covenant offices and distinct operations.
Old Testament Revelation
"The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18). These words have a corporate fulfillment as well as a personal; they apply to the Church collectively as well as individually. The light of divine revelation broke forth "here a little and there a little" and did not shine in midday splendor until Emmanuel Himself tabernacled among men. The degree in which the doctrine of the Trinity was made known in the Old Testament Scriptures no doubt bore a proportion to the discovery of other mysteries of the faith. It was definitely revealed from the beginning, yet hardly with the same explicitness and perspicuity as now. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son" (Heb. 1:1-2). This is the first contrast given in Hebrews, the theme of which is the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. Under the former era Godâ€™s revelation of Himself was fragmentary and incomplete, but in this final dispensation His mind and heart have been fully revealed. There it was through such instruments as the prophets; now it is by the person of His own Son.
Christian revelation comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. God is manifested in and by the incarnate Son, for He can be approached only through the Mediator. God can be vitally known only in Him. Only through Him can we have a saving knowledge of God. The grand mission of Christ as the Prophet of His Church was to make known the character and perfections of God. This is signified by His title "the Word." "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (John 1:1, 14). A word is a medium of manifestation. I have a thought in my mind, yet others do not know it. But the moment I clothe that thought in words it becomes cognizable. Words then make unseen thoughts objective. This is precisely what the Lord Jesus has done; He has made manifest the invisible God. A word is also a means of communication. By my words I transmit information to others. By words I express myself, make known my will, and impart knowledge. So Christ, as the Word, is the divine Transmitter, expressing to us Godâ€™s full mind and will, communicating to us His life and love.
Christ Reveals the Attributes and Perfections of God
A word is also a means of revelation. By his words a speaker or writer exhibits both his intellectual caliber and his moral character. Out of the abundance of our hearts our mouths speak, and our very language betrays what we are within. By our words we shall be justified or condemned in the judgment, for they will reveal and attest what we were and are. And Christ as the Word reveals the attributes and perfections of God. How fully Christ has revealed God! Christ displayed Godâ€™s power, illustrated His patience, manifested His wisdom, exhibited His holiness, showed forth His faithfulness, demonstrated His righteousness, made known His grace, and unveiled His heart. In Christ, and nowhere else, is God fully and finally manifested. That is why He is designated the "image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). He has set before our eyes and hearts a visible, tangible, and cognizable representation of Him. Though "no man hath seen God at any time," yet "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (John 1:18). That is, Christ has faithfully and fully proclaimed Him. The same Greek word that is translated "declared" here is translated "told" in Luke 24:35.
Christ the Revealer of the Father
It was infinitely suitable that He who was in the bosom of the Father, even when He walked this earth, should declare Him, for only One who was Godâ€™s coequal could tell Him forth. So perfectly did Christ reveal God the Father that at the close of His ministry He said to Philip, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). And to the Father He affirmed, "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world:... I have declared unto them thy name" (John 17:6, 26). By the name of God is meant all that He is in a demonstrative and communicative way. For what God is essentially in His absoluteness, in His ineffable majesty, in His incomprehensible boundlessness, in His self-existing essence, as three in one and one in three, the infinite Jehovah, He cannot be made fully known to any finite intelligence, however spiritual. No, not until eternity. In His love to His Church, in His covenant relationship to His people in Christ, in His everlasting delight to them in His Beloved, as the Medium and Mediator of all union and communion with them, God has been graciously pleased to reveal and make Himself known.
God is revealed to us in and by and through the Lord Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews declared Him to be "the brightness of his [the Triune Godâ€™s] glory, and the express image of his person" (Heb. 1:3). He was certainly speaking of Christ as the God-man, that is, of the Son as incarnate as the same verse goes on to show: "When he had by himself purged our sins." By that blessed statement we understand that through Christ a clear and full exhibition has been made of the Fatherâ€™s personality. In the Mediator all the glory of the Godhead is realized and manifested in order for it to be reflected on the Church and thereby be made known and enjoyed and in order for God to be glorified. Manifestation consists in revealing, so our Lord revealed and made known the "name" of God. He did so by His incarnation, by His holy life, by His magnifying the law, by His preaching, by His miracles, by His sufferings and death, by His triumphant resurrection, by His ascension. He did so by His Spirit, for it was more than an external manifestation of God which Christ made to His ownâ€”namely, an internalâ€”by supernatural revelation, just as He "opened... their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (Luke 24:45).
We are grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ for the revelation of the Christian doctrine of God which we have dwelt on above. We deemed it best to make clear what we owe to our Redeemer in making known to us the character of God Himself and the relations which He sustains to us instead of entering at once into a detailed exposition of 2 Corinthians 13:14. As Christ averred. "All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no one knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (Matthew 11:27). No one can approach the Father except by Christâ€™s mediation and none can have any vital and spiritual knowledge of the Father except by Christâ€™s supernatural revelation of Him to the soul.
When our Lord declared, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father", He uttered words with a far deeper significance than appears on the surface. Locally they were spoken more by way of reproof, for Philip had said to Him, "Shew us the Father and it sufficeth us" (John 14:8). To this the Savior replied, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" His life, His teaching, His works revealed plainly enough who He was. And then Jesus added, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou, Shew us the Father?" But remember that the Spirit was not then given as He is now and that the hearts of these apostles were troubled at the prospect of Christâ€™s death and His subsequent departure from them (John 14:1). But in its deeper meaning "he that hath seen me" refers not to any physical sight of Him but to a spiritual view of Him which one can see with the eyes of a divinely-enlightened understanding. Such an one is enabled to recognize His oneness with the Father and to exclaim, "My Lord and my God!"
God Clearly Revealed in Christ
The two things we have mentioned above are brought together in that familiar statement, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). First, the clearest revelation that God is and what He is, is made in the person of Christ, so that those who refuse to see God in the Redeemer lose all true knowledge of Him. Second, as the glory of God is spiritual, it can only be spiritually discerned. Only in Godâ€™s light can we see Him who is light, and therefore God must shine in our hearts to give us a real and experimental knowledge of Himself. Such knowledge of Him is not by mental apprehension nor that which one man can communicate to another. Our reception of that light is not the result of our will or any effort put forth by us but is the immediate effect of a divine fiat, as when at the beginning of this world God said, "Let there be light: and there was light" (Gen. 1:3). God created light, and He awakens the dead souls of His elect, thereby calling them out of darkness into His own marvelous light, whereby they behold Himself shining in the perfection of grace and truth in the face or person of Jesus Christ. Nothing but the exercise of omnipotence can produce a miracle so wondrous and so blessed. God shines in our hearts by the power and operation of the Holy Spirit.
Here then is found the answer to that all-important question, "How may I obtain a better, deeper, fuller, and more influential knowledge of God?" By the heartâ€™s occupation with the Lord Jesus. By studying and meditating upon all that is revealed in the Bible concerning His wondrous person and work. By realizing my complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit and begging Him to take of the things of Christ and show them to me (John 16:14) and thereby abstaining from everything which grieves the Spirit and would (morally) hinder Him from performing this work of His. Nothing can make up for or take the place of personal intercourse with the Redeemer. It is only as we behold, with the eyes of faith and love, the glory of the Lord in the mirror of the Word that we are "changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). Let us then emulate the apostle and make it our chief ambition and endeavor that we may know Him, for in knowing Him we arrive at the knowledge of the triune God.
Christ Anointed for His Priestly Work
The Christian benediction stands closely linked with both the baptism of Christ and the baptismal formula which He gave to His disciples. The former presents to us a most remarkable scene, for at the baptism of Christ the three Persons of the Godhead were openly manifested together in connection with that which gave a symbolical showing forth of the work of redemption. John the Baptist had come preaching repentance toward God and faith in His Lamb who should take away the sin of the world. But he also made definite mention of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). When the Savior presented Himself for baptism in the Jordan at the hands of His forerunner, He came as our Surety acknowledging that death was His due. It was there He entered upon that path which was to terminate at the cross. As Christ rose from that symbolical grave the heavens were opened and the Spirit of God in form as a dove descended and alighted on Him, thereby anointing Him for His priestly work (Acts 10:38). At the same time the Fatherâ€™s voice was audibly heard saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again" (John 10:17). At Christâ€™s baptism while He emblematically pledged Himself to death on the cross, the Father attested His pleasure in the Son and the acceptance of His offering.
Christâ€™s reception of the Spirit at the Jordan was the equipment for His Messianic ministry. As He was sent and anointed by the Spirit, so He commissions and endows His ambassadors: "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:21-22). Later Christ gave the great commission to His disciples: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them [after they have been taught and have become disciples or Christians] in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:18-20). Baptism into "the name" means baptism unto God, and the names of God in the New Covenant are "the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." The triune God is now fully revealed. That was the consummation and culmination of Christâ€™s teaching concerning God. He ordained baptism for all time to be the initiating avowal of faith for all who enter His kingdom. And the names of God, in which believers are to be baptized, set forth the Trinity of God, a fundamental doctrine of the Christian Church.
The Divine Trinity
The Christian benediction, then, enunciates one of the foundational doctrines of Christianity, for no one is entitled to be regarded as a Christian who does not believe and acknowledge the triune God. That is why Scripture bids all who avow themselves Christians to be baptized in "the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." The divine Trinity lies at the basis of all New Testament teaching. The Redeemer claimed to be equal with God, one with the Father, and ever spoke of the Spirit as being both personal and divine. The apostles everywhere proclaimed His doctrine and recognized the threefold distinction in the Persons of the Godhead. The equal deity (and honor) of the Son and the Spirit with the Father is the mystery and glory of the gospel they preached. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). The "only true God" is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and is known in and through Jesus Christ, the one Mediator.
That the revelation of the triune God constitutes the doctrinal foundation of Christianity is easily capable of demonstration. First, as pointed out above, the true God subsists in three co-essential and co-eternal Persons, and therefore he who worships any but the triune God is merely rendering homage to a figment of his own imagination. He who denies the personality and absolute deity of either the Father, the Son, or the Spirit cannot be a true Christian. Second, no salvation is possible for any sinner save that of which the triune God is the Author. To regard the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior to the exclusion of the saving operations of both the Father and the Spirit is a serious mistake. The Father eternally purposed the salvation of His elect in Christ (Eph. 1:3-6). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit entered into an everlasting covenant with each other for the Son to become incarnate in order to redeem sinners.
The salvation of the Church is ascribed to the Father: "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, . . . according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Tim. 1:9). The Father, then, was our Savior long before Christ died to become such, and thanksgiving is due Him for the same. Equally necessary are the operations of the Spirit to actually apply to the hearts of Godâ€™s elect the good of what Christ did for them. It is the Spirit who convicts men of sin and who imparts saving faith to them. Therefore is our salvation also ascribed to Him: "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13). A careful reading of Titus 3:4-6 shows the three Persons together in this connection, for "God our Savior" is plainly the Father; "he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior" (Titus 3:6).
Third, the doctrine of the Trinity is a foundational doctrine because it is by the distinctive operations of the Holy Three that our varied needs are supplied. Do we not need "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ"? Is not our most urgent experimental requirement to come to Him constantly and draw from the fullness of grace which is treasured up for us in Him? (John 1:16). If we would obtain "grace to help in time of need" then we must go to that throne on which the Mediator sits. And do we not also need "the love of God", that is, fresh manifestations of it, new apprehensions thereof? Are we not bidden to keep ourselves "in the love of God"? (Jude 21); And do we not equally need "the communion of the Holy Spirit"? What would become of us if He did not renew day by day in the inner man? (See 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 3:16.) What would be our prayer-life if He no longer helped "our infirmities" and made "intercession for the saints according to the will of God"? (Rom. 8:26-27).
The Holy Trinity
Like the virgin birth of Christ and the resurrection of our bodies, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is one of the mysteries of the faith. The first truth presented to faith is the Being of the true and living God, and this we know not from any discovery of reason but because He has revealed it in His Word. The next grand truth is that the one living and true God has made Himself known to us under the threefold relation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and this we know on the same authority as the first. They are equally above reason, and real Christians do not attempt to fathom them; yet their incomprehensibility so far from being an objection is a necessary condition of confidence in revelation and faith in Him who is revealed. If the Bible presented no heights beyond the powers of reason to scale, if it contained no depths unfathomable to the keenest mental acumen, this writer for one would have discarded it as being nothing more than a human production and imposture. For our part we would no more worship a "god" that we could measure by our intellect than we would honor an image that our hands fashioned.
Whenever we attempt to discuss the revelation God has made of His three Persons we should do so with bowed heads and reverent hearts, for the ground we tread is ineffably holy. The subject is one of transcendent sacredness for it concerns the infinitely majestic and glorious One. For the whole of our knowledge on this subject we are entirely shut up to what it has pleased God to reveal of Himself in His Oracles. Science, philosophy, experience, observation, or speculation cannot in this exalted sphere increase our knowledge one iota.
Trinity in Unity
The divine Trinity is a Trinity in Unity: that is to say, there are not three Gods but three Persons as coexisting by essential union in the divine essence as being the one true God. Those three Persons are coequal and co-glorious so that one is not before or after the other, neither greater nor less than the other. It is in and by Their covenant offices They are manifested to us, and it is our privilege and duty to believe and know how these three Persons stand committed to us and are interested in us by the everlasting covenant; but we cannot understand the mystery of Their subsistence. Any teaching which does not equally honor all the Persons of the Godhead, distinctively and unitedly, is of no value to the soul. As one has said, "There is not a vestige of Christianity where the truth of the Trinity is not known and acknowledged. Not a vestige of godliness in the heart where the Father, Son, and Spirit do not officially dwell. There is not a clear view of any doctrine of Godâ€™s grace to be obtained unless (so to speak) the telescope of the truth of the Trinity be applied to the eye of faith and that doctrine be viewed through it."
In view of what has just been pointed out, it constitutes one of the gravest signs of the times that in professedly "Christian" countries the Triune God is no longer officially acknowledged. While some of our national leaders still give thanks to "God" and own our dependence upon "the Almighty," that is no more than any Orthodox Jew or Muhammadan would do. There is a studied avoidance of any reference to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the Holy Spirit. Though that is sad, it is not to be wondered at; it is simply the shadowing forth in the civil realm of what has long obtained in the religious. For several generations past the absolute deity of Christ and of the Spirit has been openly denied in most of the theological seminaries, and thereby the triunity of God was repudiated. Even in most of the "orthodox churches" the eternal Three have not been accorded Their rightful place either in the doctrinal teaching of the pulpit or the devotional life of the pew.
In this benediction the apostle invokes the Trinity as the Source of grace, love, and communion. Its unique features must not be overlooked: the order is unusual, and the Names used informally. The Son is placed before the Father. The divine Persons are not here spoken of as the Son, the Father, and the Spirit, but as the Lord Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. The reason for this is because what we have in our text is not primarily a confession of faith (as is Matthew 28:19), nor a doxology (as is Jude 24-25), but a benediction. A doxology is an ascription of praise, a benediction is a word of blessing; the one ascends from the heart of the saint to God, the other descends from God to the saint. Samuel Chadwick wrote, "Consequently the benediction does not approach the subject from the standpoint of theology but of experience. It is not concerned with definition, nor does it contemplate the glory of God in the absoluteness of His deity; but it sets Him forth as He is realized in the soul."
The Doctrine of the Trinity of Great Importance
The Christian benediction therefore intimates that the doctrine of the Trinity is one of great importance to the existence and progress of vital godliness: that it is not a subject of mere speculation but one on which depends all the communications of grace and peace to the saints. It is a striking and solemn fact that those who reject the truth of the Trinity are seldom known to even profess having spiritual communion with God but instead treat the same as a species of enthusiasm and fanaticism, as a perusal of the writings of Unitarians will show. The benediction, then, sums up the blessings of Christian privilege in the three great words of the gospel: grace, love, communion. Those three divine gifts are attributed to different Persons in the Godhead. Each takes precedence in His own peculiar work, though we cannot trace the limits of such, and must be careful lest we conceive of God as three Gods rather than one. Each belongs to all. Grace is of God and of the Spirit as well as of the Son. Love is of the Son and Spirit as well as the Father. And our communion is with the Father and the Son as well as with the Spirit.
Grace a Great Word of the Gospel
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ." Why distinctively ascribe grace to Him if it is of God and the Spirit as well? Because in the economy of redemption all grace comes to us through Him. The word grace is the special token of Paul in every epistle: eight close with "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you," sometimes varying the formula to "with your spirit." Grace is one of the outstanding words of the gospel. Again quoting Chadwick: "It is more than mercy and greater than love. Justice demands integrity, and mercy is the ministry of pity; love seeks correspondence, appreciation, and response; but grace demands no merit. Grace flows unrestrained and unreserved upon those who have no goodness to plead and no claim to advance. Grace seeks the unfit and the unworthy. It is love, mercy, and compassion combined, stretching out toward the guilty, ungracious, and rebellious. It is the only hope for sinful men. If salvation comes not by grace, it can never be ours. Without grace there can be no reconciliation, no pardon, no peace."
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ." That is His designation as the God-man Mediator. It includes and indicates His divine nature: He is "the Lord," yes, "the Lord of lords." His human nature: He is "Jesus"; His office: He is "Christ," the anointed One, the long-promised Messiah, the Mediator. It is the favor of His divine person clothed with our nature and made the Head of His people which the apostle invokes for all his believing brethren. "His grace be with you all." That comes first in the benediction because it is our initial need. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). There it is His infinite condescension in submitting to such a mean condition for our sakes.
When He became incarnate the only begotten of the Father was beheld by His own as "full of grace and truth," and as the apostle added, "And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace" (John 1:14, 16). Here the meaning of grace passes from an attribute of the divine character to an active energy in the souls of the redeemed. At the throne of grace we "find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16). The heart is "established with grace" (Heb. 13:9) and by that grace we are enabled to "serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Heb. 12:28). It is in "the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 2:1) that we find our strength, and He assures us of its competency to support us under all afflictions and persecutions by the promise "My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Cor. 12:9). Therefore we are exhorted to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18). Those passages all speak of the divine power in the soul as the operation of grace in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ as its Fountain.
The Love of God
"And the love of God." There are two reasons why this comes second: because this is the order both in the economy of redemption and in Christian experience. First, it was the mediatorial grace or work of Christ which procured the love of God for His people, which turned away His wrath from them and reconciled Him to them. Hence it is referred to not as "the love of the Father," which never changed or diminished to His people, but as the love or goodwill of God considered as their Governor and Judge. Second, it is by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in saving us that we are brought to the knowledge and enjoyment of the love of God. The love of the Father is indeed the source and originating cause of redemption, but that is not the particular love of God which is here in view. The death of Christ as a satisfaction for our sins was necessary in order to bring us to God and into participation of His love. The manifestation of the love of God toward us in the pardon of our sins and the justification of our persons was conditioned on the atoning blood.
The Communion of the Holy Spirit
"And the communion of the Holy Spirit." As the grand design of Christâ€™s work Godward was to appease His judicial wrath and procure for us His love and favor, so the grand effect saintward was the procuring of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word may be rendered either "communion" or "communication." By the communication of the Holy Spirit we are regenerated, faith is given, holiness is wrought in us. Life, light, love, and liberty are the special benefits He bestows on us. Without the Spirit being communicated to us we could never enter, personally and experimentally, into the benefits of Christâ€™s mediation. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us . . . that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:13-14). Thus, the communicating of the Spirit to His people was one of the chief objects of Christâ€™s death.
But the Greek also signifies the communion of the Holy Spirit, a word which means "partnership, companionship." He shares with us the things of God. Grace tends to love, and love to communion. Hence we see again that the order here is that of Christian experience. Only as grace is consciously received and the love of God is realized in the soul can there be any intelligent and real communion. Through Christ to God, the Father, and through Both to the abiding presence of the Comforter. This expression "the communion of the Holy Spirit" shows He is a person, for it is meaningless to talk of communion with an impersonal principle or influence. United as He is in this verse with "the Lord Jesus Christ and God" it evidences Him to be a divine Person. Further, it denotes He is an Object of intercourse and converse, and hence we must be on our guard against grieving Him (Eph. 4:30). The separate mention of each of the eternal Three teaches us that They are to be accorded equal honor, glory, and praise from us.
What is signified by "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all"? It cannot mean less than a consciousness of Godâ€™s presence. The apostle was not praying for the gifts of grace, love, and communion apart from the Persons in whom alone they are to be found. He requested that the presence of the triune God might be realized in the souls of His people. The New Testament teaches that the divine Three are equally present in the heart of the believer. Speaking of the Spirit Christ said, "He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you," and of Himself and the Father, "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:17, 23). The Christian is indwelt by the triune God: the Lord Jesus dwells in him as the source of all grace, God the Father abides in him as the spring of all love, and the Holy Spirit communes with him and energizes him for all spiritual service.
What is the purpose of that indwelling? God the Father abides in the believer to conform him to His image, that he may become one with Him: one with Him in mind and heart, in character and purpose. The Christian reflects his God. The grace by which the Lord Jesus tasted death for His people is designed to produce a like spirit of sacrifice in them: "Because he laid down his life for us... we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16). They that know the love of God must live the life of love. If we say the love of God is "with us" and we walk contrary to love, we are liars. The God of love dwells in His people that they may live the life of Godlike love. So it is with the communion of the Holy Spirit: He does not share with us His riches that we may spend them upon ourselves. Chadwick averred: "The threefold benediction is to abide with us that its threefold grace may be manifested by us, and the presence of the three-one God demonstrated through us."