The Grace-Benediction (4:23)

In all of the extant letters that bear Paul's name, he signs off with this, or a similar, grace-benediction. Like his salutations, Paul's closing greetings are Christianized. Instead of the standard goodbye in Greek letters (erroso [literally "be strong"]; cf. the letter of James in Acts 15:29), it is grace that he wishes for the Philippians. Although grace is primarily from God in Paul's letters, in the grace-benedictions it is invariably the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that he prays will be with them. Thus the final grace serves to "bookend" his letters, which begin with "grace and peace" as part of the greeting (see on 1:2).

On this note the letter comes to an end. One hesitates to draw out too much theology from these rather conventional closing formulas. But as noted at the beginning and elsewhere (e.g., 4:8, 11-13, 15-16) in Paul's hand conventions are never merely conventional. Eventually everything, including these conventions, is brought under the influence of Christ and the gospel. Thus the final greetings of Philippians, which by their threefold elaboration presuppose the church as the body of Christ, are to be given and received as in Christ Jesus. And the final grace is also from the Lord Jesus Christ, so that the whole letter, from beginning to end and everywhere in between, focuses on Christ, who as Paul's life (1:21) is magnified both in his language and in the two narratives that point specifically to him (Christ's in 2:5-11 and Paul's in 3:4-14). To miss this central focus on Christ would be to miss the letter altogether, and to miss the heart of Pauline theology. May we who read this letter as the Word of God follow in Paul's train.

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