The apostle Paul ended his letter to the Philippian church by saying, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
Have you ever thought about what that means? What does it mean that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is with our spirits? Certainly, God’s grace has been given to every Christian. To be given “grace” means to be given some concept of mercy, forgiveness, love, etc. Grace is a good thing. No one wants grace withheld from him or her.
And when Jesus Christ stretched out his arms on the cross, he extended grace to every man or woman on earth. It didn’t matter whether that person was black or white, European or Asian, short or tall, skinny or fat – or whether that person was a heinous sinner or a saintly do-gooder.
Grace was given to all. But we must receive it. It is possible for us to reject this grace. The disciple John wrote, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12). That is, to believe in Jesus Christ is now to have the right to take our place in God’s family as his children. We have a spot at the table. And this happens not because of anything done by any human on this earth – not because we were born into it or because we earned it by our good works, by our merit – but only because of God. It is only because of God and his grace that we can become his children. John also wrote, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
And Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” And so, again, we see grace being something that we receive from God.
And this grace is something that is “with” us. Grace is something that actively works among us as we live our lives and, specifically, Paul would say, as we live our lives in the church. Grace is operative in the things that we do as Christians. Grace is to pervade every bit of our activity as members of the body of Christ, as members of the family of God.
Paul demonstrates this again and again in Philippians 4.
He urged Euodia and Syntyche to “agree in the Lord.” We wish we knew what they were arguing about and what kind of women these were. They weren’t tame women, certainly. No, they “labored (or contended) side by side” with Paul in the gospel. Perhaps they were missionaries who traveled with Paul. Or maybe the church met in their homes. Or maybe Euodia and Syntyche had helped bail Paul out of some trouble. The Philippian city leaders weren’t exactly easy to deal with.
We don’t know what the issue was, but these women had a falling out, and they were struggling against one another. I’m sure this must have been a very public disagreement because here we have Paul, in a letter that would have been read aloud to the entire church, urging them – with grace – to agree with one another, to reconcile. These were women “whose names are in the book of life.”
And Paul urged some unnamed “true companion” to help them to reconcile. Paul wanted to set up a way to help these ladies. This is grace in action, and Paul desired grace to cover over this wound, with the help of the church and for the sake of the church.
And Paul thanked the church for its gift to him. And then he described the grace of God working in him. “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” High or low, in plenty or in want, he could be content. This is grace in action, too. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Grace enables us to be content in weakness.
At the same time, Paul recognized the gift given to him by the church. This, too, is grace. The Philippian church gave early and often to the work of the gospel, to Paul. “I have received full payment, and more.” This was a gift that spread the grace, that was looking for the fruit of new lives being given over to the gospel. It is grace in action.
Paul’s love for the church and the mutual grace shared back and forth is evident in here. And Paul closed the letter by writing, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” May that grace continue to fill and overflow the church.
It takes grace to reconcile with another person. It takes the extension of something that I have – of forgiveness, forbearance, mercy, contrition, repentance, change. This is how reconciliation takes place. This is an act of grace. To give that out – from me to you.
It takes grace to enable us to remain content in a time of struggle, when there’s not enough food, enough money, enough health. It takes grace to know that Christ is the one who gives strength, and he will give it as I need it. Christ enables the contentment.
It takes grace to give to the work of the gospel, to give up our own material possessions to help those who are taking the gospel ever outward. This is grace, too, when we don’t know what the future holds but we still know there are others who need to hear about Jesus. And we give.
Are we living with grace? Does the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ move with our spirits? We’ve been given grace not just to receive it but also to live it out. We are now the children of God, and we live like him.