“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” (1 Corinthians 16:23–24, KJV)
How do you signoff with a letter? How do you signoff with any communication? When I was in the United States Army, the standard way to end a radio communication was to end with the word, “out.” During the conversation you would complete your transmission with the word, “over.” Then when the communication was done, you would end with one simple word, “out.” That does sound a bit utilitarian and it is meant to be. After all, the military is about mission and communications on the radio is just about mission, nothing else. In business, we would often conclude a letter with “Best Regards,” or perhaps “Sincerely,” which was still quite a utilitarian way to conclude the communication.
When we speak to someone on the phone, we usually will say “bye” or “goodbye.” However, with someone really dear to us, we will say, “I love you.” When we conclude a letter to our children or our spouse, we will write, “Love,” or something else of a personal expression of love and devotion.
Here, Paul concluded his letter to the church at Corinth with an invocation of blessing and an expression of his heart towards them. He first stated, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” This is more than a mere utilitarian way to signoff on the letter. Yes, the church is about the mission. Moreover, the church will never be able to fulfill the mission apart from grace. Paul understood this. Look at his words recorded earlier in the letter.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10, KJV)
He speaks of the grace that enabled him to labor doing the kingdom work to which the Lord called him. He knew that apart from God’s grace, he would never be able to do the work of ministry. Yet, here he also used the word grace to explain what made him what he was in the kingdom. The grace of God transformed this man from a persecutor of the church into the bold preacher of the gospel.
Paul invoked a blessing upon the church in Corinth at the end of this letter. It was that the grace of the Lord would be manifested in the church. This was so they would live in biblical community in such a way as to bring glory to God in their fellowship, their worship, and their fulfillment of the great mission to which the Lord called them. They needed what only the Lord could supply.
Then Paul signed off this letter with the expression of his heart. “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” In the letter, Paul spoke some very strong words to the believers in the church. They often appeared harsh as he pointed out to them things that needed correction. Yet, Paul did not write those difficult things because he hated them. He wrote some difficult words to them because he loved them. Thus, he signs off with the words, “My love be with you all.” Paul had a heart for the people of God.
In our church, do we pray an invocation of the blessing of the Lord’s grace upon the congregation? Upon the believers? Do they understand our love for them. Jesus stated, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34, KJV). If we love one another, we will pray for God’s blessings to fall upon our brothers and sisters in Christ. Moreover, our actions and words will reflect our love for them.