I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains.
Paul reminds us in his letter that he is still a prisoner, shackled to a guard, limited in his ability to write in his own hand but certainly not helpless. Despite such hardship, he remains faithful and encouraging.
He really is asking that we remember our own chains, ones that are invisible but just as restrictive to our freedom. We are bound to sin as if by chains, locked with the key thrown away, pitiful in our imprisonment. The gospel is now the only key that will spring the lock, unclasp the chains, unbind our hands and feet, free our souls.
Remember my chains? We have just been handed the key.
Our pastor has just finished a very illuminating evening study of Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, which ends with a few concise words in 4:18, the final verse.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
The Apostle shares remarkable humanity with his Christian brothers and sisters in these words that deserve deeper exploration over the next several days. What initially caught my attention was the interesting contrast between the last line of the letter compared to the opening line in verse at the very beginning of the letter:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
What is the difference here in the greeting “Grace and peace to you” at the beginning and “Grace be with you” at the end?
The following explanation is proposed by Dr. John Piper (www.desiringgod.org) in his book Future Grace:
“Paul has in mind that the letter itself is a channel of God’s grace to the readers. Grace is about to flow ‘from God’ through Paul’s writing to the Christians. So he says, ‘Grace to you.’ That is, grace is now active and is about to flow from God through my inspired writing to you as you read – ‘grace [be] to you.’ But as the end of the letter approaches, Paul realizes that the reading is almost finished and the question rises, ‘What becomes of the grace that has been flowing to the readers through the reading of the inspired letter?’ He answers with a blessing at the end of every letter: ‘Grace [be] with you.’ With you as you put the letter away and leave the church. With you as you go home to deal with a sick child and an unaffectionate spouse. With you as you go to work and face the temptations of anger and dishonesty and lust. With you as you muster courage to speak up for Christ over lunch. . . . [Thus] we learn that grace is ready to flow to us every time we take up the inspired Scriptures to read them. And we learn that grace will abide with us when we lay the Bible down and go about our daily living” (Future Grace, 66-67).
This is what it is like each Sunday, as I enter Wiser Lake Chapel, and am filled with the Word from Pastor Bert’s inspired teaching. The spirit flows from our Pastor’s study of the Word, to accompany each of us as we go about our week. Grace to, and then with us.
Just as Paul intended for his brothers and sisters. We are deeply blessed.