The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
The Lord's ministry on earth ended with benediction. It is fitting that this revelation, which he gave by his servant St. John, should end in like manner.
I. THE MEANING OF THESE WORDS.
1. To the careless they are but as the playground bell to the schoolboy, which tells him that he may cease from his drudgery and go to his games again. So, because these words generally form part of the sacred formula with which our Christian worship is wont to end, they are to the careless who may be present scarce any more than the welcome signal that at last the dreary service is all done. and they may go back to the world again.
2. To the many amongst Christian worshippers. These have no precise, definite meaning attached to the constantly heard words, but they know they mean blessing, and blessing from the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore they delight in them and their heart answers "Amen" to them.
3. Their real meaning. No doubt they have primary reference to that "grace of God which," through the Lord Jesus Christ, "bringeth salvation" to us and to all men. But this is not their exclusive meaning. Yet they tell of blessing in which all can share, which may be asked for and pronounced upon all. Hence, blessings which only some need, such as temporal relief from poverty, perplexity, persecution, and the like; or even spiritual good, such as conversion, or deliverance from some special temptation, or the bestowment of some particular form of Christian excellence and character, - not even these, or any one good of any kind, are what is comprised in this much meaning word "grace." But if we go back to the root meaning of the word, we find it denotes that which causes joy; that is grace. All the uses and forms of the word spring from this root. Therefore "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" is that gift from him, whatever it be, that will minister joy to us. Hence it may be one thing to one person, and another to another, and something still different to yet others. Therefore note -
II. ITS APPLICATION. Consider this:
1. In reference to those to whom St. John wrote, the Churches of Christ in Asia. Amongst them there were those who needed temporal relief because of their poverty; others, to be thoroughly converted to Christ; others, to be endued with a holy courage; all, a higher degree of Christian life. Now, according to the need of each would be the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to them.
2. To ourselves. Varied are our wants, none needing exactly the same gift, none finding the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in what is so to another. Whether it be Christ's ministry to our present temporal need, or to our spiritual condition. One needs one thing, another another. And this benediction is for each according to the want of each. That from Christ which will truly gladden and give joy to each one is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to that one.
III. ITS APPARENT CONTRADICTIONS. For though "grace" means that which brings joy, it does not always appear so. At the time it may seem not at all "joyous, but grievous." It is often disguised so that we do not know it. Christ's grace in the form of earthly good comes to us frequently by strange ways, and in strange and often repelling aspect. And yet more in regard to spiritual good. Newton, in one of his hymns, say -
"I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face.
"I hoped that in some favoured hour,
At once he'd answer my request.
"Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part
'Lord, why is this?' I trembling cried.
"'Tis in this way,' the Lord replied,
'I answer prayer for grace and faith.'" As from the miry, foul soil the fairest flowers spring; as the mother's travail precedes her joy; as our Lord's own bitter sorrows and death went before, and were needful to, "the joy set before him," - so is it that grace must often come out of, pass through, and for a time assume the form of, grief.
IV. ITS BENEDICTION. The blessed Scriptures, and the holy apostle who wrote this closing book, bid us farewell with this blessing pronounced upon us. Are we willing to receive it? Do we not need it: you, yet unsaved; you, weak, feeble, halting in the Christian way; you, tempted and sore beset; you, drawing near to death; you, weighed down with sorrow and care? Yes, you do need it; nothing can compensate for it, though the world and sin and the wicked one are busy with their suggestions that you can do without it. And it waits for you. The apostles who first uttered it invoke it on us now. Let our hearts respond, "Amen." - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.