St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Our Triune God Gives Us Unity

Sermon on 2 Corinthians 13:11-14

Text: Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings.
14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Just about every Sunday our worship services close with a quote from the book of Numbers (Numbers 6:24-26): “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Those words were given by God to Aaron as the way he was to bless the Israelites. A portion of our text is also used as words of blessing in our services. In verse 14, we read, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” What wonderful words of blessing, as each Person of the Trinity is mentioned as giving us special gifts. That thought is especially appropriate today as we celebrate Trinity Sunday. On this day, we look at the blessings from our Triune God — Three Persons, yet One God. This morning, we especially want to focus in on the fact that OUR TRIUNE GOD GIVES US UNITY 1. Through Peace With God and 2. Through Peace With One Another.

These verses are the closing words of Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthian congregation. In Paul’s First Letter, he had come down upon them pretty hard for all of the unchristian things that were going on in that congregation. There were abuses of the Lord’s Supper, an immoral man in the congregation and some were saying that there was no such thing as a resurrection from the dead. Apparently, the Corinthians had heeded Paul’s words, for the most part. This is evidenced by the change in tone from the first to the second letters. However, as you read this letter, you can see that the Corinthians still had a long way to go. In Paul’s closing words, he encourages them in their Christian life. He writes in verse 11, “The God of love and peace will be with you.”

In verse 14, he goes on to describe this God of love and peace. Paul reminds them of the unity that they enjoyed with God as his children. Let us look at verse 14 more closely. Paul writes, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Grace,” as we have learned, means “undeserved love.” Our Lord Jesus Christ showed his love in a very graphic way. He willingly laid down his life for us. All of our sins were paid for when Jesus suffered and died on the cross. Note that Jesus did this purely out of grace. There was no one who deserved Jesus’ love. We are all sinners, who deserve God’s anger against our sins. However, by the grace of Jesus, the wall of sin that separated us from God has been removed. Our sins had separated us from God, but, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have been reunited with God. We are at peace with God.

Paul goes on to speak of “the love of God.” This love of the Father is shown to us in many different ways. One of them is the fact that, before the world was created, before you and I did anything, God chose us to be his children. He wanted us to be with him forever in heaven. As proof of that love, we see his love after sin entered the world. Sin made it impossible for us to enter heaven. So, God did something about it. We were helpless to do anything, so God did everything in sending his Son into the world to be our Savior. How many of us parents love other people so much that we would be willing to sacrifice our children for them? While there is the slim possibility that we might do it for someone who is nice to us, there is almost no chance that we would do it for someone who hated us. However, that is exactly what God did for us. He loved us so much that he sacrificed his own Son that we might have life. We, the straying children, have been reunited with our heavenly Father.

The Father further shows his love by taking care of our needs. We have been promised that our heavenly Father not only knows our needs, but is willing and able to provide for them. We can come to him with all of our requests, as dear children ask their dear Father, and know that they will be heard, because we have become his children through faith in Jesus.

As we were reminded last week, it is the Holy Spirit that creates faith in our hearts. The Third Person of the Trinity is spoken of in verse 14, “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The word “fellowship” speaks of a close relationship that now exists between God and us. Even though Jesus did it all when he suffered and died for us, it would be of no benefit to us, unless it was made ours. We could not reach out for it and take it for ourselves. The Holy Spirit entered our lives through the washing of Baptism and God’s Word. With that faith, we can accept the gifts that Jesus offers, including the forgiveness of sins. Because our sins have been forgiven, we are now at peace with God. Since the wall of sin has been removed, we can be sure and are united with God. There is an intimate relationship with God. We have been united with God.

Note who did all of the work. It was Jesus who suffered and died. It was the Father who sent his Son and chose us. It was the Holy Spirit who created the faith that makes us acceptable in God’s sight. The person who is conspicuous by their absence is you and I. We did nothing to save ourselves. It was done for us. All that we are and have and will inherit is because of the working of our Triune God. We have been united with him. We have a fellowship with him.

Our Christian fellowship extends to more than a vertical relationship with God. The Christian fellowship is also a horizontal one with other Christians. This unity is spoken of in verses 12&13, “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings.” These two verses speak of an internal and external relationship. The internal relationship exists within the congregation. Paul tells them to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” This reminder was important for the Corinthian congregation. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul reprimanded them for not dealing with a man in their congregation. Apparently, after they had received the letter, they did take action, and expelled this man from their congregation. When this happened, the man realized that he had sinned and asked for forgiveness. However, the congregation refused to do so. One of the issues that Paul deals with in this Second Letter is the forgiveness and reception of this man back into the congregation. They were to forgive him and one another. They showed their Christian fellowship with a holy kiss. In order to kiss someone, you cannot have hard feelings. By telling them to greet one another with a holy kiss, Paul was reminding them of the closeness that was theirs and how they could show it.

We, too, are to forgive one another. Because we are sinners, we will sin against one another. However, we are not to hold grudges against one another. We forgive each other when we sin against each other. Satan likes few things more than for Christians to hold grudges against each other, because they affect the unity and the work that needs to be done. However, we have been brought into a unity, a bond that is closer than any other relationship here on this earth, for this relationship with Christian brothers and sisters will go on for all eternity. We all know it is not easy to forgive and forget. Yet, isn’t that exactly what we are praying in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”? We ask God to forgive us and give us the strength and the ability to forgive others. We are unified with other Christians within our congregation.

Paul also brings to mind the further fellowship we enjoy. In verse 13, he says, “All God’s people here send their greetings.” Our Christian fellowship goes beyond the walls of this building. There are fellow Christians throughout the world with whom we are in a close fellowship. This fellowship shows itself in many ways. We work together with other churches to provide education for future pastors and teachers. We walk together to send them out into world with the good news of Jesus Christ. We pray for those who are having a difficult time. We are not alone in this world. There are other Christians who are concerned for us and want to help us. We, also, as Christians, are concerned about others and, when the need arises, we do what we can to help. The Christians in Corinth were told about a need in the church in Jerusalem and they responded by gathering an offering for them. There are many ways we can express our fellowship with others.

Fellowship with Christians is unique. Paul makes mention of it in verse 11, when he tells them to “Be of one mind.” Being one in mind means that they agree on things. They believe the same things. This is important for us to remember, because we live in a world that doesn’t understand the Biblical teaching of Christian fellowship. People think that we should pray together, no matter what we believe. People think we should work together, in spite of our differences of faith. People do not understand and will call us “old-fashioned” or “narrow-minded” when we don’t go along with their ideas. However, this is not our invention. It is what God tells us to do. How can we pretend that there is unity, when there is none. If we do not believe the same things, there is no unity. So, how can we act as though there is? Rather, let us foster the unity that is there, with our fellow believers, both inside and outside our congregation. This unity is a gift from our Triune God.

God has been generous to us. Father, Son and Holy Spirit have given us everything that we need for this life, but especially for the one to come. May God keep us closely united to himself during our lives, until that day when we are united to him for all eternity. May the Lord preserve our unity with our fellow believers, so that we might all join together in singing his praises for all eternity. Amen.