Amazing Grace by John Montgomery Boice 1993
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. REVELATION 22:21
We have come to the end of a study of one of the most wonderful ideas in the Bible, the doctrine of God’s amazing grace. And we have also come to the very last verse of the Bible, which not surprisingly is about grace also. In the first chapter of these studies we began with Genesis. Now we end with the very last verse of Revelation.
The verse is the benediction. Benediction literally means “to speak a good word concerning somebody” or “to wish another well.” In biblical language specifically it is a wish that God might be gracious to or bless another person. In the last chapter we were looking at a verse that sounds like a benediction but is actually a promise: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). That verse tells us what God will do. The last verse in the Bible, the verse we are going to consider now, is a true
benediction. It is the wish or fervent desire that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [might] be with God’s people.”
Many “Grace” Benedictions
I have not taken the time to count the Bible’s benedictions, but it is no exaggeration to say that there must be hundreds of them. There are even scores that contain the word grace, the subject of these studies.
I noticed that fact early in my preparation for this series. So when I began the series of sermons, which have become the chapters of this book, I decided to end each of the worship services with a different benediction that included the word grace. I did that in nearly every case for a period of four or five months. Here are some of these splendid benedictions.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (Romans 16:20)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:3)
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. (1 Cor. 16:23)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 1:2)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2)
Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (Ephesians 6:24)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:2)
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. (Philippians 4:23)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father. (Colossians 1:2)
Grace be with you (Colossians 4:18)
Grace and peace to you. (1 Thess. 1:1)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you (1 Thess. 5:28)
Grace and peace to you. (2 Thess. 1:2)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. (2 Thess. 3:18)
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:2)
Grace be with you. (1 Tim. 6:21)
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (2 Timothy 1:2)
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. (2 Timothy 4:22)
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (Titus 1:4)
Grace be with you all. (Titus 3:15)
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit (Philemon 25)
Grace be with you all. (Hebrews 13:25)
Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (1 Peter 1:2)
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2)
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come. (Rev. 1:4)
And the last one, our text:
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. (Rev. 22:21)
These benedictions are most frequent in Paul’s letters, but they are scattered throughout the New Testament and are abundant, several of them even appearing in a single book or letter. Frequently grace is linked with two other blessings that we have also received from God: mercy and peace. These are said to have come to us from God the Father and from or through the Lord Jesus Christ. Although the words appear in different combinations, the most complete form of these benedictions is the one found in 2 Corinthians 13:14: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
Revelation 22:21 does not contain all the elements of the more complete benedictions, but it is in line with them when it links the blessing of grace explicitly to Jesus Christ. In the early chapters of this series we saw that although grace is known in the Old Testament, there is a sense in which it only became fully
known with the coming of Jesus. Paul told Timothy, “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10).
John 1:17 expressed this same truth simply, saying, “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
As mentioned earlier, in the New International Version there are only eight uses of the word grace in the Old Testament, but there are 128 uses of grace in the New Testament. In some cases the word occurs several times in a single passage or chapter, as in the important chapter Romans 5. Grace occurs seven times in the last half of Romans 5 alone. The word also occurs extensively in Ephesians 1 and 2 and other passages.
There are other Old Testament words for grace, of course.
Gracious is found 39 times in the Old Testament (NIV), seven times as an exact or near repetition of Exodus 34:6, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (cf. Neh. 9:17; Pss. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2). That text is important because it tells us that it is God’s very nature to be gracious. In the same way, favor is used 98 times in the Old Testament, though many of these are of human favor only.
So there really is a difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament at this point, and John the beloved disciple, who ends his final book and thus also the entire Bible with the words “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”
The New Testament associates grace with the Lord Jesus Christ especially, because it is through his death and by his
resurrection that sinful men and women have been made righteous before God.
Doctrines of Grace
Another way of showing how closely grace is associate with the person and work of Jesus Christ is by reviewing what in theology are often called “the doctrines of grace,” that is, those core doctrines that emphasize the totality of God’s sovereign grace in salvation matters. These doctrines are usually presented under the acrostic of TULIP, where T stands for “total depravity,” U for “unconditional election,” L for “limited atonement,” I for “irresistible grace,” and P for the “perseverance of the saints.” Those are not the best of all phrases for describing what is meant by the doctrines of grace, but the truths themselves are at the heart of what is involved in salvation and stress how it is entirely of God.
1. Total depravity.
The first of these doctrines is not an expression of grace itself so much as an explanation of why the grace of God is so necessary. Total depravity means that we are unable to do anything to help ourselves, unable even to respond to the preaching of the gospel when we hear it unless God first works in us to make our response possible. The doctrine is better expressed as “radical depravity,” meaning that evil lies at the center of our fallen natures and that it affects every part of our being.
The importance of the first doctrine of grace is that it is our depravity that makes “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” necessary.
2. Unconditional election.
These words mean that the determining factor in our salvation is not our choice of God but rather his choice of us and that
he chose us long before we even knew of him, in fact, before we were even created or anything was created. The Bible teaches that in that time before time, when only God existed, God determined to create a race of human beings who would fall into sin and come under his wrath through the disobedience of their first parents, and that God determined to save a specific number of them by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, who would die for them.
And here is the interesting thing. The Bible says that God “chose us in him [that is, in Jesus Christ] before the creation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). In other words, God’s electing grace was not exercised apart from Jesus. If the doctrine of total depravity means that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” is necessary if we are to be saved, then the doctrine of unconditional election means that it is only in Jesus that we have this election.
3. Limited atonement.
This is a terrible phrase for describing what is meant by this point of the TULIP, for the intent is not to limit the value of the atoning work of Jesus but rather to show that it is efficacious in the sense that it actually saves those for whom Jesus specifically came to die. It would be much better to call this “definite atonement” or “particular redemption,” as reformed people today generally do. It means that Jesus’ death did not merely make salvation possible. He redeemed those whom the Father had given him from before the creation of the world. He did not merely make reconciliation between God and sinners possible; he actually reconciled the elect to God, “making peace through his blood” (Col. 1:20). To use still another term, the death of Jesus Christ secured their justification (Romans 5:9).
Since Jesus’ atonement stands at the center of the work of
God in saving us from sin, we can say that it alone procures “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” for us or makes grace possible.
4. Irresistible grace.
This phrase refers to the way God calls us to faith in Jesus Christ. Or rather, it is the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Jesus who calls. Left to ourselves, we might hear the call in a superficial manner. That is, we might understand the gospel intellectually. But we would certainly reject it. However, when the Spirit of Jesus calls, we are awakened to spiritual life from spiritual death and are thus irresistibly drawn to believe on and follow after Jesus. A good way of expressing this is to say that the Holy Spirit regenerates us, giving us a new nature, as a result of which we do what the new nature naturally does, which is to believe the gospel and trust Christ.
Irresistible grace means that Jesus calls us effectively. Without this “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” we would reject him.
5. Perseverance of the saints.
The final grace doctrine is the one we explored in the last chapter: perseverance. It has two aspects. On the one hand, it means that the redeemed will persevere in faith until the very end, when Jesus returns for them or they die. On the other hand, it means that the only reason they are able to do this is because God, for his part, also perseveres with them. First Peter 5:10 expressed this by promising that “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Even this is a “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” As we saw in the case of Peter’s failure in denying that he knew Jesus, it was only because Jesus prayed for Peter that Peter’s denial did not cause him to fall away completely, but instead became an experience
that strengthened his faith and enabled him later to strengthen others.
So there is every reason why the Bible ends by emphasizing “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” specifically. It is because we have been chosen in him before the creation of the world, saved by his death for us in time, called to faith by the Holy Spirit of Christ, and are being preserved in this life by his prayers for us and by his favor.
Growth in Grace
But the verse that ends the Bible is also a wish, as I wrote earlier. It is a wish that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [might] be with God’s people.” How are we to understand this? Thus far nearly everything I have said about grace has been in the past tense, meaning that God has revealed his grace to us or has been gracious to us in Christ Jesus. Or else it has been a promise that God will continue to be gracious. How is it, then, that we can wish the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be with anybody?
Revelation 22:21 does not tell us itself, but by thinking of other Bible verses about grace, we can notice that there are at least four ways this can and should be done.
1. We need to be settled in the great grace doctrines.
Therefore, we can pray that those who know Jesus Christ as Savior might be so settled. There seem to be several ways we can fail to be settled in grace. For one thing, we fail to be settled whenever we allow something other than Jesus Christ to be at the center of our lives. The prophet Jonah learned this through trying to put his own plans ahead of what God had called him to do. His conclusion: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit
the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8). Another way we can fail to be settled in the grace of God is when we forget how gracious God has been to us and therefore become harsh with others. The author of Hebrews seems to have this in mind when he writes, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:15). Hebrews also refers to a third way this can happen. It is by substituting the mere form of Christianity for the gospel. Therefore, he says, “It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods” (Hebrews 13:9).
The cure for these multifaceted ills is to be so aware of the nature of the grace of God in saving us that we become enamored of Jesus Christ and never forget that it is by grace alone that we have been brought out of death and darkness into God’s marvelous life and light.
2. We need to grow in the knowledge of God’s grace.
Knowledge of the grace of God is not a static thing. Nothing in human life is. Therefore, we need to ask God that those we are concerned for might continually grow in that knowledge. Peter wrote, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We have an example of this in the case of Jesus, for it is written of him: “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). If you know Jesus as your Savior, you should never stop learning about him and what he has done for you.
3. We need to exercise the gift of serving others that God has given each of us.
We do not often think of the grace of God and the gifts of God as belonging together necessarily, but it is significant that a number of Bible passages combine the two ideas. For example, Peter wrote that each Christian “should use whatever gift he has
received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). In the same way, Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, saying, “To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (Eph 4:7). Therefore, when we pray that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with God’s people,” one thing we are praying for is that each might use the gift he has been given.
4. We need a continuing supply of grace in order to grow in grace and thus complete the work God assigns us.
Paul mentioned often how conscious he was of having received much grace to carry out his calling as an apostle. To the Romans: “Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5); “By the grace given me I say to everyone of you … (Romans 12:3); and “… because of the grace God gave me” (Romans 15:15). To the Corinthians: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder” (1 Cor. 3:10); and “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). To the Ephesians: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me though the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:7-8).
Paul was also aware that God gave others grace to do the work to which he had appointed them. He told the Corinthians, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8). We should also have this truth in mind when we wish an abundance of “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” upon others.
Amen and Amen
The very last word of the very last verse of the very last book of the Bible is amen. It means “firm,” “faithful” or “true.” When uttered as a response to some declaration it means “so let it be.” In the New Testament amen is found in 127 verses, but in many of these it occurs twice because Jesus frequently prefaced his teaching with the repeated words, “Amen, amen, I say to you.” The King James Version translates this as “Verily, verily.” Other versions say, “Truly, truly” (New American Standard Bible), or “I tell you the truth” (NIV). In any case, it is a declaration by Jesus that what he is about to utter is the very truth of God.
But here is the interesting thing. In 76 verses the word amen occurs at the beginning of a sentence. In 48 verses it is found at the end. It is always God who uses the word at the beginning, and it is always man who uses it at the end. In other words, God says, “I solemnly affirm that what I am about to say is truthful. You may stake your life upon it.” We who hear him speak respond by adding our amen to his saying. It means, “We believe what you are saying and are prepared to act on it.”
So do we? Do you? Can you say your amen to the doctrines of grace we have been studying?
We have learned in these chapters that although “the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Can you say amen to that? Have you found Jesus to be the very embodiment as well as the only true source of grace and truth? Like Peter, can you say to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69)?
We have learned in these studies that salvation is by grace alone. “For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Have you said your amen to that?
Have you acknowledged that you have nothing to offer God in your natural, sinful state and that you can never be saved by your own good works or good intentions, that salvation is by grace alone? That is the very minimum of belief to be a Christian. It is the place to start if you have never done so earlier.
We have seen that justification also comes by the grace of God alone because “there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24).
We have seen that grace has brought us into a new standing before God (Romans 5:2), that grace is triumphant and abounding (Romans 5:20-21), that we can be strong in grace (2 Timothy 2:1), that the grace of God will be sufficient for us regardless of any specific burdens or hardships we may be given to bear by God (2 Cor. 12:9), that we may approach the throne of God’s grace confidently in prayer (Hebrews 4:16), and that “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). These are all great truths, the very greatest of truths. Can you say your amen to them?
God has already spoken his amen. He tells you that you can count on his amazing grace now and always. Let your heart echo, “Amen and amen.”