“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). This familiar verse is often used as a benediction in church services, but it is more than a benediction. It is Paul’s summary of everything he has been teaching the Corinthians about God’s love.
The grace of Jesus Christ
Paul says grace will “[teach] us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). In order to live holy and pure lives, we need the Holy Spirit to shine on our souls the foundational truth of this doctrine. Thank the Lord, he doesn't judge us according to our condition. Instead, he judges us by our position. You see, even though we're weak and sinful, we've given our hearts to Jesus, and by faith the Father has seated us with Christ in the heavenlies.
The love of God
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Although these verses are commonly interpreted as being about believers, it’s God’s love that never fails! His is a love that is unconditional and never gives up. The love of the almighty God is indescribable.
The communion of the Holy Spirit
The Greek phrase Paul uses translates as “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” At first, the Corinthians knew nothing of such fellowship, as the church was rampant with individualism. Paul even said of them, “Each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ’” (1 Corinthians 1:12). They were using their spiritual gifts to serve only themselves. The deepest work of the Holy Spirit deals with more than spiritual gifts, however. He seeks to establish fellowship among God’s people by his unifying power.
The measurement of Christ’s grace and God’s love in your life is determined by your willingness to be in full unity and oneness with the whole body of Christ. What does it mean to have unity and oneness? It means removing all jealousy and competition, and no longer comparing yourself to another. Instead, everyone rejoices when a brother or sister is blessed. And all are eager to give rather than take. Only this kind of fellowship truly reveals Christ's grace and God's love.
For centuries, the most powerful witness of God’s people to the world has been the shining forth of Christ through deep suffering in their lives. Christ’s manifest character has touched those around them and ministered to atheists, Muslims, and unbelievers of all kinds.
The apostle Paul said, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
Paul knew firsthand the meaning of despair; after all, he wasn’t superhuman. He faced troubled times that he never thought he would survive. He testified: “We do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10).
Do you understand what Paul is saying? He’s telling us, “We were pressed down beyond all human strength and we were utterly at a loss to understand it. We came to the point of thinking it was all over.”
At that very moment, at Paul’s most trying time, he remembered his ministry and calling. Staring death in the face, he reminded himself, “The whole world is watching me. I’ve preached many sermons on God’s power to keep his servants and now everyone is looking to see if I believe it.”
Afterward, Paul tells the Corinthian church, “It was your prayers that helped us. You enabled us to come through it all with a song of victory.” He writes, “You also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf” (2 Corinthians 1:11).
Never take lightly the matter of praying for your brothers and sisters in need. Paul says the prayers of the Corinthians were a gift to him and, likewise, our prayers can bless others.
The word unrelenting means “undiminished, not letting up or weakening in vigor or pace; incapable to being changed, sticking to a determined course.”
This is a marvelous description of the love of God. Nothing can hinder or diminish his loving pursuit of both sinners and saints. The psalmist David expressed it this way: “You have hedged me behind and before … Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there” (Psalm 139:5, 7-8).
David is speaking of the great highs and lows we face in life. He's saying, “There are times I feel so blessed that I’m lifted with joy. At other times, I feel like I’m in a living hell, condemned and unworthy. But no matter where I am, no matter how blessed I am or how low I feel, Lord, you are there. I can’t get away from your unrelenting love! Even when I’m disobedient — sinning against your truth, taking your grace for granted — you never stop loving me. Your love for me is relentless!”
Consider also the testimony of the apostle Paul. Here was a man bent on destroying God’s church like a madman because of his hatred for Christians. He breathed out threats of slaughter against everyone who followed Jesus and sought authorization to hunt down believers so he could charge into their homes and drag them off to prison.
After his conversion, Paul testified that even during those hate-filled years, God loved him. He wrote, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And through the years, Paul became increasingly convinced that God would love him fervently to the end, through all his highs and lows.
“I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). He was declaring, “Nothing can separate me from God’s love — no devil, no demon, no principality, no man, no angel — nothing can stop God from loving me.”
This is the hope of every believer!
When the lost souls of this world face serious life crises and have no source of hope, Christ’s church is meant to embody the difference they are looking for. Our lives are to be distinguished by hope, joy, peace, love and giving. But a lot of followers today have erased those distinctions by creeping toward a line of compromise and even crossing it. As a result, the lost and hurting see Christians’ lives as no different from their own.
Jesus addressed this when he said to his disciples, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. … Peace I leave with you; my peace, I give to you” (John 14:23, 27). Jesus essentially stated, “You’ve seen that the peace I offer isn’t received by the world. I’ve demonstrated to you the values of my kingdom — how to live, believe, walk and serve the Father. Those values are in stark contrast to the world’s and you are to live out my kingdom values.”
When God speaks of separating from the world, he doesn’t mean removing ourselves from it. The separation he desires takes place in the heart. It happens through revelation of God — and his glory remains with us even in our hard times.
When the prophet Isaiah entered the temple, he saw the glory of God: “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1). That holy sight sent Isaiah face down on the floor in humble awe and he said, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (6:5).
At that moment Isaiah recognized God’s separateness and the Lord told him, “I have separated you for my holy purposes. I am sending you to preach my word to a corrupt people who will resist you, but you’ll be able to endure it because you have seen my glory. You have seen the nature of the God who has called you.”
The beauty of our God is paradoxical: holy and pure yet intimate and caring. He is above us and with us — and he gives us peace we could never find on our own. He is a God worthy of our confidence in and through all things!
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
Psalm 1 is a wisdom psalm and contains two contrasting ways of life in the pursuit of happiness. Most theologians believe the psalm was written by David; it is literally the gateway to fulfillment and abundant life. So, the blessed man delights in the law of the Lord — in his promises, his word, his kingdom, his heart for his people, his commands. And this man shall be “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (1:3).
In contrast, “The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives way. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (1:4-6). The psalmist says, “You must choose what your pursuit will be.” He differentiated between the two lifestyles, one like a tree planted by the rivers of water and the other like chaff in the wind.
The way of life that leads to blessedness, vitality, productivity, security, joy, fulfillment, accomplishment and satisfaction goes even beyond peace of mind and quietness of heart. You will find deep and authentic happiness if you have a basic biblical understanding of where it is found. Proverbs 4:20-26 says, “My son, give attention to my word; incline your ear to my sayings … Keep your heart with all diligence … Let your eyes look straight ahead … Ponder the path of your feet.” The Word of God is full of instruction and guidance — far more than enough to keep you on the path of righteousness.
Social media with its hollow, meaningless pastimes can eat up your time. Mindless entertainment can cheapen and weaken your soul. It is each person’s responsibility to choose which pursuit he will follow. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). The Word of God is clear; the choice is yours!
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.