Glory, Greetings, and Grace (Mike Riccardi)

Philippians 4:20–23   |   Sunday, June 15, 2014   |   Code: 2014-06-15-MR



Well this morning we come to a very momentous occasion in our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It has been our immense privilege over the past year and nine months to dig deeply into the treasure chest of this marvelous epistle, and to mine out the precious gems of God’s truth which He has revealed for us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and by the grace of God, we have feasted on this Word which is God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16), so that by it we might grow in respect to salvation (1 Pet 2:2), and be equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:17).


We have beheld the great burden of the Apostle Paul that the people of God ought to always conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Phil 1:27)—that we would live Gospel-driven lives. That is to say, that we would consciously consider ourselves to be beneficiaries of the grace of God purchased for us by the work of Christ in the Gospel, and would, moment-by-moment, be bringing the reality of our position in Christ to bear on absolutely every aspect of our lives.


And it is, and has been, my prayer that all of us have been taught, reproved, corrected, trained in righteousness, and more greatly equipped by God Himself to carry out the work of the ministry (Eph 4:12) that has been entrusted to us in this small corner of the kingdom of God.


But this morning, as I said, we come to a momentous occasion in our study of this great letter. And that is because this morning we come to Paul’s final words to his dear friends at Philippi. And we understand that in a letter between friends like this, the closing remarks have a heightened significance, both in the mind of the author and in the affections of the recipients. We’re conscious of that in our own correspondence, aren’t we? Whether we’ve written a long letter or just a brief note, we take care, as we come to the end of our writing, to bring our various streams of thought to a unified conclusion—to sum them up in a few sentences that emphasize the point we really want to get across. And we do that because we know that what we write last is what our friends will read last—that those thoughts and sentiments will be what’s left ringing in their minds.


I think we see a timely illustration of that even in the greeting cards that many of us have either written out or received this week for Father’s Day. This week, as I was looking for the right Father’s Day cards to send to my dad and my grandfather, I had the opportunity to read quite a few of them. And you know how this is. Some of them are funny and zany; others are sweet and heartfelt. Some have a very plain design, and others pop open in 3-D and play music when you open them. Some of them are short and give you a lot of space to write a personal note, and some have the most warm and thoughtful messages already written in them. But no matter what the variations are, they all have one thing in common. They all end by saying, “Happy Father’s Day.” That’s the point, right? Of all the nice things you could say, of all the memories you could recall, what summarizes all of those sentiments and succinctly captures the purpose of the greeting, is your desire for your dad to know he’s loved and to have a happy Father’s Day. You see, what’s written last is of immense importance and significance.


And that was no less true in Paul’s case. In fact, these last words may have been even more significant to him and to the Philippians than they might normally have been. You say, “Why’s that?” Well, remember the context in which Paul is writing. He is on house arrest in Rome, waiting to stand trial before Nero. And though he’s expressed in chapter 1 verse 25 that he expects to be released and to continue on in ministry, he has no definitive word from the Lord about this. There is a very real possibility that Nero—himself a wildly unstable madman—could order Paul’s execution. After all, Paul’s apostolic ministry of preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus is an act of treason and sedition against the Lord Caesar. And so Paul speaks, in chapter 1 verse 20, of whether he lives or whether he dies; in chapter 1 verse 27 of whether he comes to see them or whether he remains absent; in chapter 2 verse 23 about seeing how things go with him. And so these final words in Philippians chapter 4 may not only be the closing remarks of a certain letter to a beloved church. For all Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and the Philippians know, these words may be the very last things that Paul ever says to his dear friends in Philippi.


And so you can be sure that he’s going to encapsulate what he feels is most important in these farewell remarks. James Montgomery Boice put it this way. He wrote, “Few of Paul’s books end abruptly, and none of them ends without thought. In this book, as in others, Paul’s thoughts ran back over the work he had written, and his final remarks were added to impress his most important themes upon his readers” (263).


And you can imagine how the Philippians would have paid attention to the conclusion of this letter as it was first read in the church, as the congregation was gathered for Sunday worship. Having already heard of the uncertainty of the outcome of Paul’s trial, they would have been especially attuned to hear these final words from their beloved Apostle. And in fact, since Paul was thought not to be able to see very well, the whole of this letter was likely written by an amanuensis or secretary, as Paul dictated what was to be written. But usually, when Paul got to the greeting portion of his letters, he’d write these closing remarks himself. There are numerous places—1 Corinthians 16:21, Galatians 6:11, Colossians 4:18, and others—where Paul actually says, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand” (cf. 2 Thess 3:17; Phm 1:19). And so I can just imagine, as one of the elders of the church of Philippi is coming to the end of reading the letter, that the congregation would begin to crowd around him and would try to see the greeting that Paul would have penned with his own hand.


But though Paul seemed to have a custom in the way he ended his letters—they all seem to have the same basic components—we should be careful to recognize that this is no mere mechanical formula for Paul. If our last three sermons on verses 10 to 20 have taught us anything, it’s that everything Paul says and does is dominated by the Gospel of Christ—even down to the way he writes a thank-you note! And that’s true for his farewell greetings as well. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it helpfully. He says, “It is very important for us to realize that this is no mere formal ending to a letter; it was not just a casual, expressive phrase used by the Apostle. … Paul never wrote anything in a casual manner, and … nothing must be taken lightly in an epistle by this great Apostle. His apparent asides are often packed with doctrine; his postscripts are full of truth and instruction” (Life of Peace, 261).


So let’s read our final text this morning. Philippians 4, verses 20 to 23. Paul writes, “Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 21Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. 22All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household. 23The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”


And so in our study together this morning, we’re going to unpack the doctrine that’s packed into this postscript. We’re going to mine out some of that truth and instruction that Martyn Lloyd-Jones speaks about. And we’ll do that by making some observations about the three components of Paul’s closing remarks. Paul’s final remarks to the Philippians basically unfold across three units of thought. There’s a doxology, there are greetings, and there’s a benediction.  And these three components center on three themes that will prove instructive for us as we examine them this morning. And those three themes are glory, in verse 20, greetings, in verses 21 and 22, and grace in verse 23. Glory, greetings, and grace.


I. Glory (v. 20)


First, we have glory. Look again with me at verse 20. Paul writes, “Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”


Paul comes to the close of this marvelous letter, and as he does he lets his mind run over the great truths of Christ and the Gospel that the Holy Spirit has revealed to God’s people through Paul’s own pen. And his response is to erupt in worship. He has spoken to them about the glorious mystery of the incarnation of Christ—that the Lord Jesus was God the Son from all eternity, and though He Himself was God, and equal to the Father in His being and essence, He nevertheless sacrificed His rights to be worshiped as God by all the saints and angels of heaven, and took on a human nature. God Himself was born as a man, and submitted Himself to all the weaknesses of life as a human being in a fallen world, and yet He was without sin. And though He had suffered the most shameful and ignominious death that one could suffer, it was precisely because of this obedience that God raised Him from the grave and exalted Him above everything and everyone in the universe.


Paul has also spoken to them about the nature of the true Gospel—that the true child of God is the one who has so apprehended the loveliness and the worthiness of Christ that, when he surveys everything else that the world can offer him, he counts it all as refuse in comparison to the surpassing value of knowing Christ (3:8). The true Christian is the one who can cry from the depths of his soul that, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain because it brings me even more of Christ” (1:21). He is the one who has considered everything in his life that might commend him to God—all of his good works that at one time or another he might have hoped in for his acceptance into heaven—and he counts all of those things as worthless to get himself saved (3:7). He is the one who knows that if he is to be accepted into the presence of the thrice-holy God of heaven that he needs not a righteousness of his own derived from the Law, but the alien righteousness of Christ that is counted to be his through faith alone (3:9). The true child of God is the one who glories in Christ Jesus and puts no confidence in the flesh (3:3).


Paul has also taught them that the grace that brought them to salvation doesn’t leave them there, but works mightily in them for sanctification as well. The grace that saves is the grace that sanctifies—because God Himself is working in them, conforming their thoughts and affections to His own holiness, so that they will both will and work for His good pleasure (2:13). And Paul has taught them that at the finish line of the race of holiness is the prize of Christ Himself (3:14)—that those who by the grace of God have been enrolled on the celestial register as citizens of heaven eagerly await the return of Christ our Savior, who will not only take us to heaven, but will also transform our sin-cursed bodies into conformity with the body of Christ’s own glory (3:20–21). Glorification is the glorious prospect of all those who are in Christ!


And even beyond that, Paul has spoken about the sovereignty of God that (1) advances the Gospel even by means of suffering and affliction (1:12–18); that (2) strengthens servants of Christ like Timothy and Epaphroditus to lay down their lives in the service of the Gospel and in the service of God’s people (2:17–30); and that (3) assures the Philippians, even amidst their generous and sacrificial giving, that God will supply all their needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (4:19).


And in response to all of that magnificent truth, Paul explodes into a doxology of praise and worship: “Now”—in view of everything that has come before—“Now, to our God and Father be glory forever and ever! Amen!” You see, friends, the only proper response to the glories of doctrinal and theological truth is the most exalted and exuberant kind of worship! The entire point of perceiving the truth of the Word of God in your mind is the savoring of that truth such that it shapes and molds your heart—your affections—and that from those truth-shaped affections you would yield delightful, heartfelt worship back to God.


And that is God’s own self-declared purpose in saving people and conforming them to the image of Christ! In this very letter, in Philippians chapter 3 verse 3, Paul defines the true Christian as the one who worships by the Spirit of God, and glories in Christ Jesus! In John chapter 4 verse 23, Jesus tells the woman at the well that the true worshipers of God worship Him in spirit and truth. And then He says, “For such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” The Father seeks true worshipers. And in that great hymn of Ephesians chapter 1, in verses 6, 12, and 14, the Apostle Paul repeats the ultimate purpose for our salvation three times. There we learn that we have been chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sealed by the Holy Spirit “for the praise of the glory of His grace.”


And so Pastor John summarizes it nicely. He says, “The object of redemption was to make people worshipers” (MacArthur, 313). Another commentator wrote, “True theology is doxology, and doxology is always the proper response to God” (Fee, 455). In other words, if your understanding of the truth of God’s Word and the theology derived from an accurate understanding of the Bible—if that does not issue in passionate praise and worship to God, you have aborted the process of biblical instruction! I don’t care how much theology you know, or how many of the Puritans you’ve read! If the knowledge of the content of Scripture and of sound doctrine doesn’t propel you into worshipful communion with the Triune God, you don’t know like you ought to know; you haven’t learned like you ought to have learned.


In one of my favorite paragraphs outside the Bible, Jonathan Edwards captured this reality wonderfully. He wrote, “God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might be received both by the mind and the heart. He that testifies [of] his idea of God’s glory [does not] glorify God so much as [the one who] testifies also [of] his approbation of it and his delight in it” (Miscellanies, No. 448). So God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.


And we understand this, don’t we? Imagine, guys, if you and your wife were getting ready to go out for a special occasion. And she’s been spending the last three hours getting ready. She’s bought a new dress, she’s gotten a new hairdo, she’s been painting her nails and doing her makeup, all so she can look just right for this special occasion. Well, you’re downstairs waiting for her, and she finally comes down the stairs. And as much as you were waiting for her, she is anticipating your reaction to the new dress, the new hair, and so on. So she comes downstairs, does a little twirl, puts her hands on her hips, looks at you with a smile and asks, “So what do you think?” And you say, “Huh! I really enjoy the symmetry in your new hairstyle. And I can really appreciate the way the hue of your eye shadow subtly matches the color of your dress. You’ve definitely put a lot of thought into this.” What’s going to happen? You’re probably going to get a black eye, is what’s going to happen!


But if as she comes downstairs and does her little twirl, if your reaction is, “Wow! Honey, you are absolutely gorgeous. I can’t believe I get to be married to such a beautiful woman,” well then things are going to work a little better for you. Why? because your wife is honored not only by your perceiving the facts of her beauty, but by being blown away by it—by enjoying it, and by expressing that enjoyment of it in words of compliments and praise. And without that joyful expression, her beauty is dishonored.


And what Edwards is teaching in that paragraph, and what the Apostle Paul is modeling in verse 20, is that the beauty and glory of God is such that it cannot be truly known without also being enjoyed. To study God and His Word in a dispassionate manner, and to remain entirely unmoved by the stunning beauty that we behold in the face of Christ, would be to grossly dishonor that beauty. No, “God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.”


And as Paul reflects on all the glory that he’s seen—even as the Spirit has worked through him in the writing of this letter—he beholds that beauty and cries out, “Oh, may our God be glorified! Oh, may He be magnified and exalted and praised by His creatures! He is so worthy—for who He is and what He’s done. May it be that He receive praise and worship forever and ever, “unto the ages of the ages,” for not even an eternity of worship will be sufficient to adequately extol the worth of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!


This is the cry of the true Christian’s heart. For the one for whom to live is Christ and to die is gain, for the one who counts all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ, ascribing glory to God’s name is the delightful reflex of the heart that has truly perceived divine truth. David bursts out in Psalm 29, “Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in holy array.” And in Psalm 147 verse 1: “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is becoming!” Oh, GraceLife, is it pleasant and becoming? Is this overflow of praise and worship the delightful reflex of your heart? Commenting on this verse, William Hendriksen wrote, “For Paul, doctrine is never a dry matter. Whenever it occupies his mind it also fills his heart with praise” (210). Oh and may the same be said of us, GraceLife. May God grant that whenever doctrine occupies our mind it also fills our heart with praise.


II. Greetings (vv. 21–22)


Well, Paul then moves from the theme of glory in verse 20 to the theme of greetings in verses 21 and 22. This is the second component of his closing remarks to the Philippians. First glory, and now, secondly, greetings. Look with me at verses 21 and 22: “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”


And whereas the doxology of verse 20 is an overflow of praise and worship to God, the greetings recorded in verses 21 and 22 represent an overflow of the true fondness and affection that exists between those who have real, living fellowship in Christ. Though we can tend to read these kinds of verses quickly, or even skip over them, when we slow down and really take them in we see that this was not just Paul being polite, or mindlessly repeating customary words at the end of a letter. These greetings are pulsing with the lifeblood of Christian warmth and intimacy.


And we see that preeminently in the threefold repetition of the word, “Greet.” First, he charges the overseers and deacons—who would likely be the ones to whom Epaphroditus would deliver this letter—to greet every individual saint in the church of Philippi. Then he speaks on behalf of his coworkers in ministry—whom he calls here, “the brethren”—and notes that they greet the Philippians as well. And finally, in verse 22, he widens the scope to all of the Christians in Rome, and notes that they send their greetings too. So we have this threefold repetition: (a) you greet every saint on my behalf, (b) the brethren here greet you, and in fact (c) all the saints greet you.


Now this word, “to greet,” is aspazomai in the Greek, and it’s the common word used for sending greetings. But the literal, basic concept that the word communicates is the notion of an embrace (O’Brien, 552). And so the concept of greeting itself is fraught with overtones of a loving, warm embrace. It’s as if Paul is reaching out through his words into the Philippian congregation, and is greeting each one of them with a warm embrace appropriate for those who belong to the family of God. One preacher described it greeting as “greeting with fondness and affection” (Martin).


And as I’ve briefly mentioned already, Paul sends these warm greetings to each individual member of the Philippian congregation. Certain translations like the NIV and the NET Bible obscure this by translating the phrase, “Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus.” But the Greek is very precise. Paul doesn’t just greet all the saints, collectively, but he says, “Greet every saint,” individually. He wants to communicate that he remembers each one of them, and regards each one of them as worthy of his care and affection (cf. MacArthur, 315).


And this just makes so much sense from Paul to the Philippians. Numerous times in our studies throughout this epistle, we’ve commented on how uniquely personal this letter is. Paul speaks in the first-person singular over 120 times in this letter. He calls the Philippians his brethren, his beloved, and his joy and crown of rejoicing on the day of Christ Jesus. He mentions how they were the only church to support him financially at a difficult time in his ministry. And that kind of unique bond that is forged in partnership in Gospel ministry issues in the tender and affectionate language of chapter 1 verse 7, where he says, “It is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart.” And then again in verse 8: “For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” And so this threefold repetition of affectionate greetings serves to conjure up all that Paul has said so far regarding the friendship he shared with the Philippians. And by bringing all of that to their minds once again before he closes, Paul is reinforcing his teaching on the intimate fellowship that all Christians share in Christ.


And then when you consider that one of Paul’s major concerns in this letter is that the Philippians would walk together in Gospel-driven unity (cf. 2:2), you see how it’s a stroke of pastoral genius for him to greet the congregation in this individual and particularistic way. In fact, in many of his other letters, his closing greetings contain names of particular people that he singles out among the rest for recognition. But in order not to give anyone occasion to boast that they had been named in Paul’s letter while someone else wasn’t, he mentions no names, but lets everyone know that each one of them occupies a special place in his heart. And by calling each one of them “saints,” he puts them all on a level playing field, reminding them that each one has been called out and set apart for the consecrated service of God Himself. And by calling them “saints in Christ Jesus,” he reminds them that they are all united to Christ. And, of course, if they’re all united to Christ, they are all united to one another. And the proper understanding of that objective unity should immediately end all rivalry and disunity that may have been taking place in their relationships with one another.


But the overwhelming emphasis in these verses is that there existed in the Apostolic Church an atmosphere of intimacy and love, in which greetings from all the saints in one part of the world would be interchanged with greetings from all the saints in another part of the world (Lloyd-Jones, Life of Peace, 251). Whether in Philippi or in Rome, there was a real sense that the believers belonged to one another—and the bond that they had in Christ was such that they desired to communicate their fondness and affection for one another when they had the opportunity.


And friends I tell you that it has been my consistent prayer throughout these past two years that the people of GraceLife would experience and would grow in this depth of fellowship with one another. Perhaps more than anything else, it’s been my pastoral ambition that the grace of God working through the Word of God—and especially through the preaching of the Book of Philippians—would lead you all into greater and more intimate enjoyment of Christ in one another—that this would be a fellowship group that is known not only for its sound teaching, but also for the saints’ love for one another—that you would invest yourselves in each other’s lives, that you would feel a familial ownership of one another’s practical needs and a real responsibility for each other’s growth in grace, and that there would be a Gospel-driven intimacy and an affection that knits hearts together. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “It does seem to me that this is a thorough test of our whole position as Christian people. Do we feel this special interest in other Christian people?” (Life of Peace, 251). 


Do you, GraceLife? Do you feel that special interest in one another? For those who we call our brothers and sisters in Christ, do we care for one another’s physical and spiritual needs as if we were truly family? I think there are many of you who do, and it is a joy for me to watch that kind of true fellowship take root and blossom into loving service. But I also know that there are many of you who don’t, and it is heartbreaking for me to see you sacrifice glorious opportunities for this blessed gift of fellowship on the altar of personal convenience. Friends, let both the example and the commandment of the Book of Philippians take root in your heart so that you might excel still more in your love for one another.


There’s another way that Paul emphasizes the unity among the brethren and true fellowship in these greetings. And I want to touch on that briefly. In verse 22, as Paul is conveying the greetings from all the saints in Rome, he singles out a particular group. Look at verse 22. He says, “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.” Now, in referring to the members of Caesar’s household, Paul isn’t necessarily referring to Nero’s family. Rather, the term refers to all of those engaged in imperial service. This would have included both slaves and free men, and it definitely included the Praetorian Guard mentioned in chapter 1 verse 13. You remember that—where Paul is reassuring the Philippians that his imprisonment did not mean an end to his ministry, because the six Roman soldiers per day who had to be chained to his wrist for four hours at a time were all being evangelized! And here in chapter 4 verse 22, he goes out of his way to highlight that there were saints in Caesar’s household who were sending their greetings!


Now think of that! Remember, Philippi was a Roman colony, and the Philippians were proud of their Roman citizenship. They would have absolutely loved to hear that the Gospel of the Lord Jesus had penetrated the very center and citadel of the Roman Empire—Caesar’s own household! I love the way Calvin puts this. He says this is “a thing well deserving to be noticed; for it is no common evidence of divine mercy, that the gospel had made its way into that sink of all crimes and iniquities” (129). The Philippians would have rejoiced at the news of the triumph of the Gospel even over imperial power! Sure, Nero demanded to be worshiped as a god on pain of torture and death, but when he brought the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ too close to home in the person of the Apostle Paul, that mighty Gospel turned members of his own household into more devoted followers of Jesus than they ever were of Nero!


And the Philippians surely would have been strengthened by the fact that if members of Caesar’s own household could live a consistently Christian life, notwithstanding the enormous pressures of the very epicenter of paganism, then they could hold their ground against the pressures of the pagan environment of Philippi.


And I want to add just a brief word of application to us as well, by means of that great 19th-century Scottish expositor, Alexander MacLaren. MacLaren writes, “And what lessons the saints in Caesar’s household may teach us! Think of the abyss of lust and murder there, of the Emperor by turns a buffoon, a sensualist, and a murderer. A strange place to find saints in that sty of filth! Let no man say that it is impossible for a pure life to be lived in any circumstances, or try to bribe his conscience by insisting on the difficulties of his environment. It may be our duty to stand at our post however foul may be our surroundings and however uncongenial our company, and if we are sure that He has set us there, we may be sure that He is with us there, and that there we can live the life and witness to His name.”


What a wealth of instruction comes to us by way of what many would suppose are the most mundane of farewell greetings! Truly all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for our training in righteousness, is it not?


III. Grace (v. 23)


Well we have mined out our treasures from Paul’s mention of glory in verse 20; and we have harvested our pearls from his greetings to the Philippians in verses 21 and 22. Finally we come to the third theme of Paul’s closing remarks in his letter to the Philippians. And that theme is grace. Look at verse 23: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”


Would the Apostle Paul have ended this magnificent letter in any other way? James Montgomery Boice wrote, “There is nothing more significant that Paul could have [said] to end his epistle” (265). Alexander MacLaren commented, “Such a wish as this benediction is the truest expression of human friendship; it is the highest desire any of us can form for ourselves or for those dearest to us.” And Lloyd-Jones said that this was “the most the most comprehensive prayer that any person can ever offer on behalf of another. … Nothing greater can be desired or requested for any of us than that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ should be present with us and controlling our spirits” (Life of Peace, 261, 262).


And the reason that is all so is because grace is the sum and substance—the beginning, middle, and end—of the Christian life. It is the foundation of all Christian experience. From start to finish, every aspect of our salvation—our justification, our sanctification, and our glorification—is a dependent upon God’s unmerited favor granted to us in Jesus Christ. We earn nothing. There is absolutely nothing good in our lives that we can take credit for. We are so destitute of goodness and moral sufficiency that, in every way we relate to God, we can accomplish nothing of ourselves. Everything must be provided as an undeserved gift.


That was certainly true of our salvation. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 8. The letter of 2 Corinthians has some helpful teaching for us regarding God’s grace. And in 2 Corinthians chapter 8 verse 9, Paul ascribes the work of our salvation to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” And so our finding the riches of the Gospel—the union with Christ, the forgiveness of sins, the imputation of righteousness—all of salvation’s riches come, Paul says, as a gift of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we know that this is the case also with our glorification. Paul expresses this in Philippians chapter 1 verse 6: that the God who began the good work of salvation in you, will also, by that same free and sovereign grace, bring that work of grace to completion in the day of Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 puts it plainly. There Paul says, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” God’s grace is the beginning, God’s grace is the end…


But we also need to recognize that God’s grace is the cause of everything on the in-between as well. And sometimes we have a problem assimilating that reality. We can be tempted to think that grace is what gets us started in the Christian life and now the rest is up to us. But I love what Pastor John says about this in his sermon on this text. He says, “You want to hear something? You didn’t deserve to be saved and you don’t deserve to be kept saved. … You are no more worthy of your salvation now than you were then. And so you are sustained by grace just as you were saved by grace. It is grace by which our whole life exists. That’s why Paul says in Romans 5:2, ‘This grace in which we stand.’ We live in it.” Our lives are “governed by grace, guided by grace, kept by grace, strengthened by grace, sanctified by grace, and enabled by grace. [We] are constantly dependent on the forgiveness, comfort, peace, joy, boldness, and instruction that come through God’s grace” (MacArthur, 318)


Every good fruit that we bear in the Christian life is sown in the soil of our hearts by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why we call the virtues of the Christian life graces. Look again with me at 2 Corinthians chapter 8, this time in verse 7. Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to be stirred up in their giving to the saints. He says, “But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound—” and the NAS has the words “in this gracious work,” but the Greek simply says, “see that you about in this grace also.” The good fruit of sacrificial is a grace—it comes by the grace of Christ. And the same is true with all the fruit of the Spirit.


And so it is only natural for Paul—now that he has been given a new nature in Christ—it is only natural for him whose greatest desire for the Philippians is that they conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel to pray on their behalf that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with their spirit! Because the only way they will conduct themselves as citizens in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ is if Christ lovingly supplies them with the grace that is necessary to live such a life.


This is especially so given the many trials that the people of God will face. We’ve learned in chapter 1 verse 29 that just as faith is granted to every believer, so also is it granted to every believer to suffer for the sake of Christ. And when Paul himself was stricken with the thorn in his flesh, and earnestly implored the Lord three times that it be taken from him, what was the reply that the Lord gave him? 2 Corinthians chapter 12 verse 9: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’” And so you see it is by the grace of Christ that we experience the supernatural working of His resurrection power to endure all manner of suffering in the path of obedience in a way that is worthy of the Gospel of Christ.


And so in this letter—and in every other one of his letters—the Apostle Paul begins by saying, “Grace to you,” and he ends by saying, “Grace be with you.”


Oh dear friends, the grace of Christ is sufficient for you! Grace is sufficient to sustain and energize you for the performance of every Christian duty and responsibility that God calls you to in the Christian life. And so Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks, “Can we end our consideration of this mighty epistle on a grander note than this? Whatever may happen in life or in death; whatever may take place in any conceivable situation or circumstances, whatever may be your lot, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ will be sufficient” (Life of Peace, 271).




And so we have come to the end of this marvelous letter—this magnum opus of God’s grace, as all of God’s Word is. And it is my desire to close the exposition of this great letter in the same way that Paul has closed the letter itself. Just as Paul desired to set before the Philippians the magnificent themes of glory, greetings, and grace in order to sum up all that he has been saying, so do I desire to set those themes before you for your lasting consideration.


I would entreat you, in response to all of this magnificent truth that we have beheld together in the text of God’s Word, to join with me in doxology—to let your hearts be stirred to ascribe all glory and praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—knowing that the glad worship of a heart satisfied by the glory and grace of Christ is God’s own stated purpose for all of His dealings with you. “Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever.”


And I would greet you, and remind you of the warm and affectionate fellowship that we share together in Christ, and even of the heightened sweetness of fellowship that we share in a well-ordered, like-minded church like ours. “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.” Those who are true saints indeed greet you. Lay hold of this loving and intimate fellowship with one another that is your precious inheritance as a member of Christ’s body.


And I would bless you, praying that from start to finish in the Christian life, you would be consciously aware of the saving, sanctifying, energizing, and keeping power of Christ’s grace at work in your soul. My charge to you is the same as Paul’s to the Philippians: Whatever else it is that you do, GraceLife, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” For that you will depend on the infinite sufficiency of God’s grace. And so I pray, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.”