Do you have a standard salutation you share with people just before you depart to go your separate ways? What do you say before you click “End call” on your phone or when you’ve finished preparing your email? If you are like me, you may have a regular form of “good-bye” when you are leaving a friend, but then there may be a different one after a conversation with a stranger. For some time now, I have been trying to be more spiritual in my salutations. You’ve heard me at the end of some services partially quote Numbers 6 – “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” Often after talking with a causal acquaintance in person or on the phone, I’ll say, “God bless you.” Those three words can touch the heart of someone who is in need. Those three words should be genuine and at the very least stand on the edge of prayer. And I’ll let Brother Wayne tell you his story, but the blessings of such a salutation can be as much on you as it is on the person to whom you are speaking.

Of course, there are certain occasions when to say “God bless you” is inappropriate, if not actual sin. For example when the Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon is driven off your porch, you shouldn’t bless him. The Apostle John tells us, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds – II John 1.

Our scripture this morning is the last verse of Paul’s second epistle to his friends in Corinth. He is concluding his thoughts, and perhaps in the back of his mind he may never see, speak to, or write to these people again. So he doesn’t just say, “I’ll see you later,” or “Bye for now.” And he doesn’t close with the priestly words of Numbers 6. But this is one of the most beautiful and at the same time doctrinally profound conclusions ever written. These words are, indeed, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

This verse provides us with material for the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. This church believes in the tri-personal existence of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But why? It is not the Roman Catholics created this doctrine, as many people try to say. And it is not just because we find them together here in these two dozen words. As we read through the Bible, and particularly the New Testament, we see the deity of both Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as well as someone often simply designated as “God.” It is not my intention to look at those verses or to try to prove again that the Holy Spirit is God. I am going to assume that you agree with me, so that we can move on.

Please notice that the context of the Trinity here in II Corinthians is practical – not academic. The doctrine of the Trinity should not be confined to the seminary. Doctrine, especially doctrine like the Trinity, by itself is just a well-framed house. It is built on an excellent foundation: the written Word of God. It has good solid 2×6 walls, and huge trusses for the roof are in place. But there is no warmth of insulation, smoothed sheet-rock, textured ceiling or protective roof. Doctrine by itself, including the doctrine of the Trinity, is still in its construction stage. There can be great joy in anticipating the completion of the house. But there is no joy in actually living in and using that house.

Verse14 puts insulation, wall-board, tape, primer and paint on walls of the doctrine of the Trinity. It turns on the air-conditioning, puts carpet on the floors and furnishes the house. The things for which Paul prays for here are among his highest desire for his friends. And in the process he recognizes all three persons of the Trinity – The grace of Christ, the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Spirit.

Consider our need of the GRACE of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The word “charis” has been translated ten different ways in our King James Bibles. But the simple meaning of the word is short and very sweet – “gift” or “gifts.” Theologically, grace is “God’s unmerited gift or favor” – His undeserved blessing. Depending on the context, “charis” quite often has reference to the gift of God’s salvation. And sometimes it stands in contrast to the Old Testament Law which we will see in our morning message: “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” But at this point Paul is not talking about salvation or making a contrast with the law.

Since each person of the Trinity is inseparable from the others and united in all things, we might justly refer to “grace of God the Father” or the “grace of the Spirit.” Isn’t it true that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights, in whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning?” And yet, generally speaking, we picture the Lord Jesus as the communicator of divine grace. But no single person of the Trinity ever acts outside complete union with the other two persons.

And we need to realize that God’s grace is not confined to the saving variety. We need the continued outflow of His gracious past actions. “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor that ye though His poverty might be made rich.” For the child of God, Calvary is not merely an important event in of our past. Our coming to Calvary is the time and place of our birth, and since we are still spiritually alive, we are still connected to that saving grace.

But the fact is we need all the fresh grace that this moment and this hour require. Hebrews 4:16 isn’t talking about salvation when it says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Neither does Hebrews 12:28 – “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” Hebrews 13:9 says that our hearts need to be established with grace. II Timothy 2:1 tells us that we find our strength in the grace of the Lord Jesus. II Corinthians 12:9 teaches us that sufficiency in the midst of our suffering is found in grace. And Peter tells us that saints must grow in Jesus’ grace. These verses, and others like them, show us the power of God in the operation in our souls. And the distribution manager of this grace is the Lord Jesus.

So what is it that you especially need today? Is it patience, or love; power or wisdom to handle the challenges which are before you? The Lord Jesus is graciously interceding on our behalf. He is the source of the grace that you need for any and all the trials, and blessings, in your life. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

And at the same time, may the LOVE of the Father be with you.

God’s love is the beginning principle of all that He does for us. It is NOT the foundation of all that He is – for that we have to consider His holiness. But it is God’s love which is at the heart of all God’s blessings toward us. He acts in grace because He is a God of love.

Well then, why is grace listed in this verse before the love of the Father? I suppose that it is because grace is the door into enjoying the love of God. Love may precede grace, but usually we perceive grace before we do that love.

A professing Christian, who had become seriously worldly and backslidden, became quite sick. Through the providence of the Lord, he became troubled over his shallow love for God. And he actually became obsessed with his inadequate love for his Saviour – haunted. Then his pastor came for a visit and tried to turn his attention away from himself back toward the Lord. He said, “When I go home from here, I expect to pick up my six month old baby and hold her in my arms. I will look into her eyes, listen to her baby noises and feel her skin. Even though I am tired, her presence will give me rest, and I love that child with all my heart.” “But that baby loves me very little. If my heart were breaking she wouldn’t care. If I was sick unto death she would still fall asleep in my arms. And if I died she would forget me in just a few days.” “That baby has never given me a gift, but she has cost me dearly. I am not rich, but there is not money enough in the world to buy her from me.” “Do I love her, because she loves me? Should I withhold my love until she loves me? Am I waiting for her to do something worthy of my love before I love her?” The sick man’s face began light up. “Oh, I see. It’s not my love to God, but God’s love for me. It is His love that I should be thinking about, not my own shallow love for Him.” Exactly.

Why is God gracious? Because He is loving. Love is the beginning principle in the Lord. And love is the concluding principle as well.

But how do you speak of God when you are talking to someone else about Him? What name or title do you use? Is it “the Lord Almighty?” Do you speak of Jehovah simply as “God?” There is certainly nothing wrong with these. But when you look in worship into the eyes of the Omnipotent One, you should come away seeing His love. Isn’t “Father” a more appropriate term for us to use? Or perhaps “Abba, Father.” God’s love should make our relationship as intimate as it can be under the circumstances we call “life.”

And what can break the flow of God’s love toward us? Nothing has that power. “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s love is like the sunshine; it is new every day. It was Paul’s prayer that the love of God fill our hearts and minds.

And with it was his desire that we know the COMMUNION of the Holy Spirit.

“Communion” is the Greek “koi-non-ia,” and it speaks of fellowship, companionship even PARTNERSHIP. And what does this say about the nature of the Holy Spirit? Among other things, it reminds us that He is a person. It is pointless to talk about fellowship or communion with an impersonal force or influence.

And what does the Spirit do in His part of this communion? He shares with us the many of the great blessings of the God-head, partnering with us. The Spirit is the means of communicating God’s love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness and goodness. Not only that, He is the power behind the great miracles which the Lord works in us. He is the inspiration of the Word of God, and He is its teacher. Jesus said, “when He is come He will guide you into all truth, for he shall not speak of himself but whatsoever things he shall hear that shall he speak.” And He HAS come; he is the means by which we grasp the things of eternity. Without Him we’d all be spiritual morons and paraplegics.

Solomon once said, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise.” When we rub shoulders with great men, we often become greater ourselves. And we all have the opportunity to commune – to fellowship – with the glorious person of the Holy Spirit. For example, there is prayer. Isn’t scriptural prayer a partnership with the Spirit, who “maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” When we witness of our faith in Christ how does it accomplish anything? “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses unto me.” As we search to know the Lord, and to study His word, it is the Spirit who is our great teacher.

Paul recognized that we are spiritually impotent without the “communion” of the Holy Spirit. And we need the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and an awareness of the love of God. We – you and I – need all of these things as much as did the church in Corinth.