The Love and Peace of the Triune God

The Love and Peace of the Triune God

Feb 02, 2014

By: Emilio Ramos

Passage: 2 Corinthians 13:11-14

Series: 2 Corinthians

2 Cor. 13.11-14

Text and Exposition

11“Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you. 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

11 Λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί, χαίρετε, καταρτίζεσθε, παρακαλεῖσθε, τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖτε, εἰρηνεύετε, καὶ ὁ θεὸς τῆς ἀγάπης καὶ εἰρήνης ἔσται μεθʼ ὑμῶν. 12 ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν ἁγίῳ φιλήματι. ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἅγιοι πάντες. 13 Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν.

Preliminary Thought

“Because of the divine realities spelled out in this closing section of the letter, Paul can end a rather dismal letter filled with harsh tones and warnings of impending discipline with blessings.  Paul’s five-fold injunction is rooted in the promise of God’s personal and powerful covenant presence among the Corinthians.  Their obedience holds the potential for the occasion of divine blessing.  Paul hopes that this reality, the God of love and peace in their midst, will produce an affection among the Corinthians for all the saints.  The benediction ends with a marvelous Trinitarian construction that reveals not only the embrace of Trinitarian theology in the early church and at the apostolic level, but also, the value of distinguishing between the members of the Godhead and the respective blessings associated with them.” 

THE LOVE AND PEACE OF THE TRIUNE GOD

Paul’s closing salutation is filled with important injunctions and precious promises that will define any church.  The great and glorious reality of God’s presence in the midst of His people is not only Paul’s language of blessing but it is also Scripture’s language of covenant blessings.  In fact, God’s peace, formerly understood politically, nationally, and theocratically was the sure sign that God’s own covenant presence was with the people of Israel.  David said:

1 Chronicles 22:18 18 “Is not the Lord your God with you? And has He not given you rest on every side? For He has given the inhabitants of the land into my hand, and the land is subdued before the Lord and before His people.”  

Whether it was at the temple, tabernacle, or the tent of meeting, God has always promised that His presence would be the reason why the children of Israel would consecrate themselves:

Exodus 29:45–46 45 “I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. 46 “They shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God.”

This was the climax of Old Testament eschatology i.e. God dwelling with His people:

Zechariah 2:10 10 “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the Lord.”

This is our eschatology today, God’s presence in the midst of His people as the goal of all human history— the culmination of redemptive history:

Revelation 21:3 3 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,”  

The presence of God assures that we prize the giver above the gifts.  In one sense, God’s gifts are inseparable from himself, yet Paul is careful to promise the presence of “the God of love and peace” and not the “peace and love of God” so that we would never prize God’s gifts without treasuring Him.  Paul’s closing salutation is thoroughly God-centered.

1.) GOD’S BLESSINGS THROUGH MAN’S OBEDIENCE

v.11,

11“Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

The first thing to note is that God’s presence, in one sense is conditional of man’s obedience.  This is why Paul sets forth five crucial imperatives as the conditions of God’s blessings and His blessed presence.  This is not to say that Paul is teaching, salvation through obedience, but certainly, God’s covenant presence among His people represents the blessings that are available to the church through obedience.  This commands the adoption of a certain mindset believers are to have if God is to truly bless a church.  These are foundational Christian virtues that should characterize every believer’s life individually and the life of the church corporately.  They are joy, maturity, comfort, unity, and peacefulness.

1.1 Joy

The remarkable thing about this virtue is that it is commanded!  Joy is not an option for the believer it is God’s explicit command.  There can be nothing more contradictory than a joyless believer.  Paul is known for calling the church to take joy serious:

Philippians 4:4 4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”

Paul’s call to rejoice in Philippians is similar to the context of this letter.  In the midst of division and difficultly, Paul is not just trying to “get under their skin” he is showing Euodia, Syntyche, and the Corinthians the way out of trouble.  But what is Christian joy?  It is joy in the miracle of salvation, the joy of eternal life, the joy of the Lord i.e. knowing Him, communing with Him, joy of God’s Word, joy which transcends all circumstances, joy in adversity, and even joy in affliction.  The Christian life begins with joy and it should end with joy, the joy of heavenly hope.  Peter captures this bookend reality of Christian joy:

1 Peter 1:3–6 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice,”

1.2, Maturity

Once again, Paul reminds the church of the need for spiritual maturity.  This was the purpose for writing the letter in the first place.  The church had not reached a state of maturity.  They had received the Word, they had heard Paul’s preaching and seen the Spirit’s work but they had failed to be complete (καταρτίζεσθε) (13.9).  Instead the church had remained in spiritual adolescence which expressed itself through all sorts of sinful dysfunctions:

1 Corinthians 1:10 10 “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

1.3, Encouragement

In order for this kind of spiritual maturity to take place, three other essential things had to be found in the church.  We could say that each of the remaining three are crucial for this spiritual maturity beginning with Christian “comfort” (παρακαλεῖσθε).  The Greek verb here (παρακαλέω) refers not so much to comfort in the sense of being comfortable but the word should really be translated “encouraged” or “exhorted” (cf. Harris; p.933).  In other words it is a spiritual comfort, by encouraging one another with spiritual words and spiritual truths. The only exegetical decision that needs to be made is, whether or not the voice of the verb is in the middle voice or the passive voice.  Two realities are possible and both are biblical and important for the growth of the church.  

The middle voice would mean that Paul is urging them to encourage others as he regularly does in other passages (Tit. 1.9).  The other possibility is that the verb is passive which would mean that Paul is calling the church to receive encouragement. Both of these components are true and necessary.  We are called to encourage, to comfort, and to exhort but we are also to be receptacles of such admonition:

Colossians 4:8 8 “For I have sent him [Tychicus] to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts” (cf. Eph. 6.22; 2 Thess. 2.17)

Colossians 2:2 2 “that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,”  

1.4, Unity

The fourth virtue is crucial to the progress and effectiveness of the church in the furtherance of the gospel.  Paul issues a call to unity here by focusing on the thought-life of the life, “be like-minded” (τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖτε).  The literal phrase simply means, “to think the same thing”, and in Paul’s mind it is the result of believers possessing the mind of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 2.16):

Philippians 2:2 2 “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

Nothing can so quickly destroy a church and its unity than theological division.  This is why it is crucial to be in fellowship with a church that holds as much of the theological perspectives that one holds to.  Without this it will very easy for Satan to divide brethren, to cause gossip, and to create the occasions for disloyalty.  The result is a whirlwind of division where members and leaders will end up biting and devouring each other leading to the complete consumption of the church (Gal. 5.15; cf. 12.20). This is why Scripture exhorts so heavily the issue of unity:

Romans 12:16 16 “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”

1 Corinthians 1:10 10 “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

1.5, Peacefulness

Finally and flowing naturally from the unity of the church is the peace of the church.  Pauls’ call to peace is a call for the whole church to take ownership of the climate of the church.  The church should be a place of spiritual serenity, tranquility and harmony.  The imperative of the verb means that peace is not just simply avoiding conflict but taking personal pains with the cultivation of peacefulness in the church.  The theology of this word presents various facets of our relationship to the concept of peace.  This Greek verb (εἰρηνεύω) teaches us that peace is foundational to identity of what it means to be a follower of Christ and thus to be Christ-like (cf. Mk. 9.50).  Paul uses the word for the members of the Thessalonian church who are to maintain peace with their elders as a sign of respect (1 Thess. 5.13).  The reality is that peace is to be pursued with all men, we are to be peacemakers:

Romans 14:19 19 “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”

Maintaining peace in the church is worth the effort because Paul promises the presence of the God of peace as a result, “the God of love and peace will be with you” (ὁ θεὸς τῆς ἀγάπης καὶ εἰρήνης ἔσται μεθʼ ὑμῶν).  We can say this is God’s special presence, where God is present to bless, to assure and to bring more peace and love through the knowledge of His covenant presence in the midst of His church.

2.) GOD’S LOVE EXPRESSED THROUGH MAN’S AFFECTION

vv.12-13,

12“Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.”

The attributes of God as, love and peace, are communicable attributes— God’s people can and should emulate God’s own beneficent nature.  We are called to “be at peace” because God is a “God of peace” (Rom. 15.33; 16.20; Phil. 4.9; 1 Thess. 5.23; cf. 1 Cor. 14.33; 2 Thess. 3.16).  Likewise, God’s attribute of love is also fundamental to who He is (1 John 4.8, 16) and fundamental to what we are called to be as His children.  The “holy kiss” (ἁγίῳ φιλήματι) was a cultural greeting that is still held in many parts of the world.  Our recent mission trip to Mexico proved that.  The culture in many parts of Mexico still greet each other with this sign of affection.  I have never been kissed by so many strangers!  But Christian affection is spiritual affection.  We love each other primarily because of the work that God has done in each other’s lives and is a fundamental sign of our own salvation:

1 John 5:1 1 “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.”

1 John 3:10 10 “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”

1 John 4:7–8 7 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

We know from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that love was a big problem in the church (1 Cor. 8.1; 13.1-8).  So then it is no surprise to see this call for public signs of affection.  Once the love of God has touched your life, you cannot remain an unloving person. One of the most fundamental virtues that emerges from regeneration is love— the greatest of all Christian virtues is love (1 Cor. 13.13).  The sign of the Spirit of God in the soul of God is evidenced primarily through love (cf. Gal. 5.22).

3.) GOD’S NATURE REVEALED THROUGH MAN’S REDEMPTION

v.14,

14“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

The closing verse of 2 Corinthians is no shallow benediction.  It is actually one of the most theological Trinitarian passages in Scripture with each member of the Godhead united by a singular preposition, “with you all” (μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν) and distinguished by three different divine virtues, grace, love and fellowship.  Paul connects each person of the Godhead to a fundamental gift of salvation. 

This is why we must always think and live Trinitarian lives.  By keeping each member of the Godhead distinct we will better appreciate both the attributes of each Person and the work which each person had accomplished in the Trinitarian plan of redemption (cf. Eph. 1.3-14).  This is why God designed prayer to be Trinitarian.  We are not allowed to pray sloppy prayers.  We are given specific instructions by Christ to pray in a certain way.  The normative, and most biblical way to pray is to pray with Trinitarian theology.  We ought pray to the Father i.e. addressing Him directly through the name of the Son i.e. on the basis of who He is what He has done (Mt. 6.6; Lk. 11.2, 13; Jn. 14.13, 14; 16.23; cf. Col. 1.3) in the power of the Spirit that fuels our prayers and prompts our petitions in the spirit of love and communion with God (Rom. 8.26; Eph. 6.18; Jude 20).

3.1, The grace of Jesus Christ

Paul begins with “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ), the fountain of all life.  It is through the grace of Christ that all of God’s benefits arrive and are brought to us:

Ephesians 1:3 3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”

2 Corinthians 8:9 9 “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.”

The subjective genitive (τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ) suggests that Paul is distinctly drawing on the grace that flows to us through Jesus Christ; that is, on the basis of His redeeming crosswork. 

It draws our mind into communion directly with Jesus Christ as the great grace gift of God itself (cf. 9.15).  Christ is the source and substance of God’s grace.  Above the forgiveness that comes by His grace (2 Cor. 12.9), His redemption (Eph. 1.7), His righteousness (2 Cor. 5.21; Phil. 3.9); Christ is himself the highest benefit of grace— union with Christ (Rom. 6.5; Col. 3.3-4)! 

3.2, The love of the Father

Next, Paul focuses on “the love of God” (ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ) i.e. the Father as distinct from the Son and Spirit.  The term (θεὸς) is the normative designation for the Father.  This is then the second time Paul focoses on the divine attribute of love.  Scripture is clear, God is love (1 John 4.8, 16), and as a consequence His love is to characterize the believer.  It was the love of God that sent the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3.16; Rom. 5.8), it is the love of God that motivated Him to chose, elect, and predestine us to adoption (Eph. 1.4-5), and it is the love of God that should motivate the church in all that it does.  Despite the issues that existed in the church, Paul’s desire was for the church to experience God’s love, to live in the love of God, and to exntend God’s love to one another.

3.3, The fellowship of the Spirit

Paul’s final wish is for the church to experience the blessings of spiritual fellowship.  This of course begins with “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος).  The Spirit brings the Trinitarian benediction to completion.  Paul joins the three in many other passages, especially Ephesians, as he does in Romans for his call to prayer:

Romans 15:30 30 “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me,”

Paul knows that a close “fellowship” (ἡ κοινωνία) with the Spirit will result in godly living and in godly fellowship with one another (cf. Phil. 2.1).  It is not the fellowship that determines salvation but rather that which follows salvation.  It is the fellowship that will sanctify the church and its members by filling them with the fruit of the Spirit and its many gospel effects.  So then the Spirit does not only represents the presence of Christian virtues but and an abundance and a liberality and freedom of the Spirit’s operations on the lives of the saints:

Galatians 5:22 22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”

Just like the Spirit brings those virtues out in us, “the fellowship of the Spirit” brings God’s virtues of “grace” and “love” to us in a real, greater than abstract, way.  The Spirit is a friend we dare not live without, for without Him we could know love of God but we could not experience it.  The Spirit gives us the seal of God’s love, a seal the world does not have to experience a love the world cannot experience because it is devoid of this divine fellowship.  Gordon Fee put it well:

“Through the gift of his Holy Spirit, the Sprit of the living God, God has now arrived in the new creation as an abiding, empowering presence— so that what most characterizes the Holy Spirit is κοινωνία, which primarily means “participation in,” or “fellowship with.” This is how the living God not only brings us into an intimate and abiding relationship with himself, as the God of all grace, but also causes us to participate in all the benefits of that grace and salvation, indwelling us in the present by his own presence, guaranteeing our final eschatological glory.” (Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence; p.363-364).

Oh what a liberating fellowship this is!  We should end the letter to the Corinthians with Paul’s words from the letter regarding the Spirit’s work in the heart of man:

2 Corinthians 3:17 17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”


Sermon notes are personal pastoral notes and not intended for grammar perfection. If you have questions about certain parts, please contact us.