Sometimes I’ll read Paul’s letters the same way I’ll drink a jug of milk. I’ll consume the milk glass by glass . . . but then, often, throw away the jug when there’s still a little left in it. Sometimes I’ll do the same with Paul’s letter . . . reading it though section by section . . . but then, when I come to his final greetings . . . when I start to read his last lines . . . then, if I read them at all, I’ll just skim over them. This morning, for some reason (maybe a Holy Spirit reason?), as I read the final portion of Ephesians I read it to the very end . . . took in Paul’s final words to these believers . . . and it was good to the last drop.
Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
(Ephesians 6:24 ESV)
Paul’s last words to his readers at Ephesus. At first glance, it might look like a conditional blessing . . . grace for those who love Jesus with a special kind of love. But that isn’t the nature of grace . . . conditional on our ability to love in a certain way . . . to perform to a certain standard. To be sure, you can frustrate grace (Gal. 2:21) . . . and you can fall from grace (Gal. 5:4) . . . but that happens when you stop relying totally on grace, instead thinking that full justification occurs when we have our spiritual act in order . . . or that sanctification is something that I work for rather than a work God does in me. So grace isn’t dependent upon my ability to love with a love incorruptible . . . but love incorruptible is the manner of love infused within me by the abundant grace of God.
. . . and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. . . . God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:5, 8 ESV)
Poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit . . . poured, spilled out into our very souls and spirits . . . the picture being that of something gushing out into an empty vessel. Empty vessel . . . that would be us without Christ. Spilling abundantly into us . . . that would be the Father spilling into us through the Son. Love incorruptible . . . that would be the heavenly substance running out into us.
The other reason I don’t think Paul’s closing words are a conditional statement is because of the type of love we are talking about. While the NKJV translates it loving in “sincerity,” the idea behind the word is that of something that is imperishable . . . immortal . . . and thus, incorruptible. It is an eternal love . . . a love with unending existence. Don’t know that I can manufacture that type of love . . . but by God’s grace, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, I can be a receptacle of such love . . . and as such reflect something of that pure, everlasting love.
We love because He first loved us. (1John 4:19 ESV)
And I know from “reading ahead” that it is possible to “abandon the love you had at first” . . . as did the Ephesians (Rev. 2:4). Even for those who are keepin’ on, as did the Ephesians, the love can wax cold . . . but I don’t think it’s because of what we don’t do as much as what we stop relying on . . . and Who we stop pursuing on a daily basis.
I’m but an earthen vessel . . . possessing the treasure of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ — having the love of God poured out into me by the Spirit of God . . . evidencing that the surpassing power of imperishable love belongs to God and not to me (2Cor. 4:7).
Love incorruptible . . . poured out into jars of clay . . . good to the last drop. Amen?