In His Letters to the Corinthians
We now pass to the Letters to the Corinthians, and, again following our method, we seek to find that which will sum up all that these letters contain. After all the details, all that goes to make up these letters - and it is quite a lot - we ask: "What does it amount to? What is the result with which we are left? And once more we shall find that it is only the gospel again - forgive me putting it like that - it is just a matter of the gospel again from another angle, another standpoint.
We may be surprised to learn that the word "gospel", or, as it would be in the original, the term "good tidings", occurs in these two letters no fewer than twenty-two times: so that we are not just taking, a little fragment and hanging an undue weight upon it. We need some fairly solid foundation upon which to base our conclusions, and I think that twenty-two occurrences of one special word in such a space forms a fairly sound basis. Whatever else these letters are about, they must be about that. Much of what you read in these letters might lead you to think it was not like that at all - it looks very bad; but what we are after is the resultant issue.
The Summing Up of the Letters
There is one very familiar sentence which sums up the whole of the two letters. It occurs, naturally, at the end of the Second Letter.
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all" (2 Corinthians 13:14).
This is sometimes called "the benediction" or "the blessing". That is, of course, man's title for it. But it is not just an appendix to a discourse - a conventional way of terminating things, a nice thought. Nor was it used by Paul as a kind of concluding good wish or commendation with which to terminate a meeting, as it is commonly used now. I suppose there is a blessing in it, but you have to look much more deeply than just at these phrases. Really IT WAS A PRAYER, and a prayer in which was summed up the whole of the two letters which the Apostle had written. In Paul's wonderful way of comprehending much in few words, everything that he had penned through these two letters is in this way gathered up.
The Order of the Summing Up
It is perhaps important to note the order of these three clauses. The grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and communion or fellowship of the Holy Spirit. That is not the order of Divine Persons. If it were the order of Divine Persons, it would have to be changed: "The love of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit". But we have no need to attempt to put God right - to try to improve upon the order of Divine Persons. It is the order of the Divine process! This is the way along which God moves to reach His end, and that is exactly the summing up of these two letters. All the way through God is moving to an end, and this prayer of Paul's is according to the principle, the order, of Divine movement.
Let us now come to the words themselves, and see if we can find a little of the gospel - the "good tidings" of these two letters - gathered into these three phrases.
"The Grace of the Lord Jesus"
What was the grace of the Lord Jesus? Well, if you look back in this second letter, to chapter eight, verse nine, you have it.
"Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might become rich."
There are three quite simple elements in that statement. The Lord Jesus did something - He became poor; and what He did was voluntary - for grace ever and always carries that feature at its very beginning. It is that which is perfectly voluntary; not compelled, not demanded, under no obligation, but completely free. The grace of our Lord Jesus meant firstly a voluntary act. That is grace very simply, but it goes to the heart of things. So that is what He did - He became poor. And then the motive, as to why He did it: "that we, through His poverty, might be made rich".
I think that is a simple, and a very beautiful, analysis and synthesis of grace. He became poor - He did it without compulsion - and in so doing His motive was that we might become rich.
(continued with # 9)