20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. [NASB ‘77]
Paul ends his letter with greetings and blessings. He blesses God, he blesses the Philippians, and he sends greetings in a way that shows all are welcome in the family of God. Most notably, he ends the letter the same way he began it – praying for God’s grace on his readers. In doing so, he effectively summarizes the teachings of the book and shows what enables obedience to it.
Verse 20 serves as a concluding thought to the section on contentment and giving, and especially springs out of Paul’s statement in verse 19 that God will supply all the giver’s needs according to His riches in glory. The glorious God who supplies our needs is worthy of all glory, not only in this age but in all ages to come.
This is similar to what Paul said at the end of his hymn to Christ in 2:5-11 – …and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (vs 11). Everything comes back to God’s glory. Jesus’ exultation, our redemption, God’s provision – they all come from God’s pursuit of His own glory. And God’s pursuit of His glory benefits those who believe in Him and cause them to glorify Him. God’s glory causes man to glorify Him. God is worthy of all glory; thus we glorify Him now and will glorify Him for all eternity – forever and ever.
Paul now sends greetings to those in Philippi from himself and those who are with him where he’s imprisoned. He tells his readers to greet every saint in Christ Jesus. It’s interesting that he already addressed the letter to all the saints…who are in Philippi (1:1), so it seems a little odd that he tells his readers to greet the saints as if there are some who won’t hear the letter. Perhaps he simply means believers in the area who can’t get to a reading. Regardless of why he says this, it shows the inclusiveness of the gospel. There is no one outside of its scope, and believers are to accept and greet everyone.
This goes along with Paul’s writings on the gospel’s effect on racial and social divisions. In his letter to the Galatians he tells them that there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). All the things that divide us in this world go away in the gospel. It’s not that we stop being aware of our differences; it’s just that they’re dwarfed and swallowed up by our common need for redemption. We all stand before God only by His grace. Thus any differences become moot as we understand our shared and absolute dependence on Him. If none of us brings anything to the cross, then none of us has anything to hold over any other. We are one in Christ. We greet EVERY saint in Christ Jesus.
Interestingly, Paul sends greetings to the Philippians especially from those of Caesar’s household. It’s hard to know exactly why he does this, but remember that Philippi is settled with a large number of Roman military veterans and that the citizens of Philippi are Roman citizens too. So it could be that they have connections in Rome and would be very interested to hear there are believers in Caesar’s household. The household could include high ranking members, members of the military (Paul already mentioned believers in the Praetorian Guard – 1:13), support staff, slaves, and perhaps even members of the royal family. [Depending on who all is included, this could mean Paul’s in Rome versus other possibilities that we discussed in the introduction to the book.]
Martin Lloyd-Jones – in his study of this verse – makes the point that the reference to Caesar’s household shows that no one is beyond hope when it comes to salvation. Just as no type of person is beyond the scope of the gospel, so no unsaved person is beyond the power of the gospel. These are people closest to the throne, closest to the claims of divinity, the most steeped in Roman pantheism, and yet some have believed. There is hope in this greeting for anyone who prays for the salvation of another. If members of Caesar’s household believe, perhaps anyone can believe.
When you are in the realm of the gospel no one is hopeless. It is not impossible. Saul of Tarsus – the last man you would have thought of – was converted. There are ‘saints in Caesar’s household.’ Christian people, never allow yourselves to regard anyone as hopeless. The gospel is the power of God. If you have a problem like that, pray for the conversion of this other person. It happens. Slaves, free men, anybody, anywhere, can, by the grace of God, become Christians. Let us, then, as we remember this phrase about the saints in Caesar’s household, always bear that in mind lest we be discouraged or even fall guilty of denying the gospel itself. (D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Life of Joy and Peace; 491.)
Paul ends his letter the way he began it. His greeting at the start of the letter included a blessing of grace – Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:2). That goes right along with what he says here – The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
It’s interesting that he mentions their spirit instead of saying, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” By referring to their spirit he refers to that part of them that’s eternal. It’s more than just their physical selves. Our spirit is what makes us who we are – it’s our real self. And it’s what’s going to exist for all eternity. So he’s blessing them with a prayer that Christ’s grace ministers to them and changes them and strengthens them in their inner, eternal being. It goes beyond just wishing them good fortune. He’s asking God to go with them and remake them fundamentally at the most basic and important level. He wants God to make them His for all time.
When we studied the opening of the letter, we said this about grace: Because Christ took the punishment for our sin, we live with and for God in a state of grace and peace. We are not at war with Him as are those who don’t believe. We are not awaiting His judgment. We live in peace with Him. And His grace – His unmerited favor – covers our lives. His grace enabled us to believe. His grace enables us to live for Him. His grace ministers to all of our lives now.
It enabled us to believe and enables us to live for Him. In that way, it encompasses everything Paul’s said in this letter. Think about all he’s admonished us to do and be:
- Rejoice in the Lord.
- Stand firm in the Lord.
- Press on.
- Regard others as more important than you.
- Live in unity with other believers.
- Live in a manner worthy of the gospel.
- Wait expectantly for Christ’s return.
- Think on what’s excellent and worthy of praise.
- Practice righteousness.
- Be anxious for nothing.
- Be content.
- Give generously.
Want to summarize all these directives in one phrase? “Live through and in and under the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s the reason for this closing prayer. It summarizes what we need to do and enables us to do it.
How to define Christ’s grace? We know the simplest definition of grace is ‘unmerited favor.’ But two scripture references shed further light on what it means. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich (II Cor 8:9). Christ became what we were so we could become what He is – accepted before God. Our gaining glory through His humiliation is a picture of grace. One more passage – And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me (II Cor 12:9). Strengthening us where we’re weak – enabling us to be strongest where we’re weakest – is another side of grace. Increasingly understanding our dependence on Him and then glorying in that dependence is a mark of grace. So grace is both a picture of Christ’s work of redemption and of Christ’s work in our lives as believers. It’s His sacrifice, and His strength and ministry in the lives of His children who believe.
So what Paul does in this short sentence is both summarize the teachings of the book and bless us with the strength and guidance and wisdom that will enable us to follow those teachings. He calls on God’s grace to enable us to enjoy God’s grace. If we ask, God will graciously give us His power to serve Him. And He will do this under any circumstance, any trial, any crisis, at any time in our lives. His grace is available to us and is inexhaustible and limitless and accompanied by His perfect and faithful love.
This takes us back, then, to one of the main premises of the book – For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (1:6). That’s a picture of God’s grace. God will not leave us alone and will continue to perfect us until Christ returns. The blessing is the same as the promise – God’s grace will be with our spirit so we can be ready to face our Savior.
That’s why it’s the perfect way to end the letter. There’s so much in this book, and it’s deep and challenging and sobering and perhaps overwhelming. But God never expects us to follow it or understand it alone. God’s grace goes with us to the end of the age.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.