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How do you say 'good bye'?

Greetings are important.

Have you ever thought about it? We really communicate a lot by how we greet one another. 'I'm really glad to see you. I've missed you!' Or the super casual, 'Hey, what's up?' Emotion and effort, facial expressions convey quite a bit.

How we say 'good bye' might be even more important as it is the last thing a person remembers of our contact. Hmmm...

We learn a lot about the apostle Paul in his letter-writing style. In his 13 letters, we get a sense of the man , and his sincere affection for those to whom he wrote. At the start of each, Paul sends grace, and at the end, he pronounces a blessing of grace on those for whom he cared so deeply.

As we wrap up our study of Philippians, notice how Paul says good bye:  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Now look at his greeting, how he says hello: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  In the twenty-six hellos and good byes, [thirteen letters times two, right?] we note one word common to all:  GRACE.   In each case, Paul is pronouncing a blessing upon the reader or hearer of the Word1.  

Why did Paul begin and end with grace?  He never got over the grace of the Lord Jesus because he knew what his life was like without it, (before he had the divine encounter on the road to Damascus in Acts 9), and there was no way he was going back.  'It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,'2 he wrote to the Galatians, as Paul contrasted life under the law to the life of grace in Jesus Christ. 

One time was I was in Jerusalem, I shared a meaningful Shabbat dinner in a family home, but did not miss the presence of the Law. There was a timing mechanism that turned lights on and off so the observant Jews would not break the Sabbath.  There were the hotel elevators programmed to stop at every floor, ensuring that no 'work' laws were broken by a rider pressing a button. Paul knew the grace of the Lord Jesus set him free from upholding one law after another to attain his righteousness. 

I love how Paul closed his letter to the Philippians, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."3 What a perfect prayer to pray for anyone!

F. B. Meyer, turn of the century English minister, commented far better than I ever could about this prayer of Paul's for his loved ones to experience the great grace of God. "It is impossible to define all that is meant by this comprehensive prayer --  illumination for the soul, love for the heart, strength for the mind,

purity for the character, help in every time of need,

direction in all perplexity and difficulty-

all these are included in the word grace ."  

These are the things that Paul breathed out in prayer for his beloved Philippians, as we finish this letter...knowing he was not with them.  Those who received Paul's letters no doubt endured persecution for their beliefs, they experienced great hardships, trials . . . things unspeakable which would require the grace of the Lord Jesus be with them.  

We all have loved ones who are far from God - may we devote ourselves to praying that they will come to accept the great grace of God in their lives: illumination for the soul, love for the heart, strength for the mind, purity for the character, help in every time of need, direction in all perplexity and difficulty.

For that is what we wish for those we love, for those we want to see cross the finish line of faith.  Is it not? 

And for you, my dear friends . . . For you, my beloved readers around the world . . .I wish nothing less- illumination for your soul, love for your heart and in your heart, strength for your mind, purity in your character, help in your time of need, direction in all perplexity and in any difficulty you might face . . . grace and forgiveness to cover any frailty in your being.   Amen.  So be it.  In the name of Jesus.

Johnny Cash: Amazing Grace ~


Philippians, #25



1 - upon receiving Paul's letters, the parchment would be read aloud to the gatherings; no one had their own copy to read and reread, no printing presses then!

2 - Galatians 5.1

3 - Philippians 4.23


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