A Mark of Identity
Dr. Joe Temple

Paul's Salutation

Open your Bibles, please, to Paul's second Thessalonian letter, the portion of the Word of God that we are studying together. We want to notice with you today the closing words of this epistle because we have come to the last message in Paul's second Thessalonian letter. We have been studying II Thessalonians for quite some time and this is the last message that we will be bringing at this particular time on these two books in God's Word. So, if you will use your Bibles, we will be able to notice some things profitably together. In II Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 16, we read:

I Thessalonians 3

16Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

With those words, the body of the epistle comes to a close. Then the apostle adds, in verses 17 and 18:

I Thessalonians 3

17The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.
18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

When we read these words, we are prone to pass over them rather lightly because they are the closing words of the epistle, and they do not have, we think, anything of great value or importance to us. But we would remind you that they are exceedingly important in the light of verse 2 of II Thessalonians, chapter 2. If you will turn back there, you will notice:

I Thessalonians 2

1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

Notice the phrase, “nor by letter as from us.” You will remember that when we were discussing this earlier we reminded you that a great deal of disturbance had arisen because someone had written a letter and forged Paul's name to it. This letter had a great deal of error in it, so the apostle was reminding them here in verses 17 and 18 of chapter 3 that there was a mark of identity in every one of his letters. They should not accept the letters which were received as coming from him unless those letters did bear that mark of identity.

Now, at first glance you would think the mark of identity was the salutation or postscript–the words used interchangeably in this instance–which he wrote with his own hand, because that is what he says in verse 17: “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand.” That phrase becomes more intelligible to you if you will keep in mind that the apostle dictated all his letters to a scribe or a secretary. And just as he was saying “farewell” in every letter, he would take the pen in his own hand and would write, “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.”

If you will turn back with me to the book of Galatians, chapter 6, you will find an even clearer illustration of this very fact. In verse 11 of Galatians, chapter 6:

Galatians 6

11Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.

Literally that is, “You see with what large letters I have written unto you with mine own hand.” Because Paul was afflicted with poor eyesight, it became necessary for him to dictate his letters to a secretary; and then when they were coming to a close, he would write the postscript with his own hand.

Now, of course, you will keep in mind that the Thessalonian letters were the first letters which he wrote. By the time he got to the Galatian letter, his eyesight was such that it was necessary to make his inscription with large letters as a person with poor eyesight might have to do. He did it because he wanted them to accept his letter as authoritative. Particularly was that true with the Galatian letter, since it was written to correct many errors that had arisen in the early church.

Emphasis On Grace

Now, if you are thinking with me, you remember that I said that on the surface it would seem that this is the only mark of identity. But further perusal of these letters will show that there is another mark of identity; and if you will go back to II Thessalonians and notice verse 18, you will see what that mark of identity is. It is by far more important than Paul's inscribing the last words with his own hand. In II Thessalonians, chapter 3, verse 18, we read:

I Thessalonians 3

18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

When the apostle was saying, “This is the token in every epistle; so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”, he was suggesting that the token of authenticity in all his epistles was emphasis upon the grace of God and the closing of his epistles with a benediction of grace. If you will examine every one of the letters of Paul, you will find that every one of them ends with these words, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” There is some variation; sometimes he says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Sometimes he says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

This is one of the reasons I am personally convinced that Paul was the author of the book of Hebrews. As you know, there is some question as to who the author of the book of Hebrews was. That does not mean that there is anything wrong with the book of Hebrews. It means only that within the body of the book of itself, the author is not mentioned. One reason I believe that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews is that it ends exactly this way. He said, “This is the token that I have written these words.”

Understanding the Grace of God

If the apostle emphasized the grace of God so very much–and he did; he mentioned it over 100 times in his letters–it would behoove us, I think, to know a little bit about the grace of God. And if the closing words of this epistle and every other epistle are, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”, we should know what it is that he is praying for in our lives; we should know what it is that he is wishing would be with us consistently and constantly, and what it is we should never be without.

Now, of course, we use the word “grace” quite frequently, and I think we use it liberally. I am not at all sure that we always have in mind exactly what the Spirit of God would have us think a bit about today. Perhaps some new thoughts will come to us, and perhaps some old thoughts will be a blessing as we reconsider the meaning of the word “grace.”

Let me say, first of all, as we seek its meaning that it would behoove us to know the meaning of the word itself. You will remember that it comes from a Greek word which is translated a number of different ways in the Word.

Peter spoke about the “multi-colored grace of God,” the “manifold grace of God,” the “many-sided grace of God.” The reason he did was that he knew that you could not explain it in a straight line. You could not talk about it with one word. It is so full and so rich that it takes many words to convey the idea.

Related to Liberality

So, I would like to suggest that we notice a few passages of Scripture in which this word is used and translated in different ways. Turn in your Bibles with me, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 16. We might remind you that Paul was tremendously burdened for hungry folk in Jerusalem; there had been a famine there. Everywhere he went he told them about the need, and he told folk that they could share in meeting that need if they liked, so they would give Paul money to help alleviate the suffering in Judea. It became necessary, of course, for Paul to deliver this offering by-and-by, and he wanted to talk about it a little bit in that respect. He said, in verse 1:

I Corinthians 16

1Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
2Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
3And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.

We are interested for our present discussion in only verse 3 and the word “liberality.” The word “liberality” is the translation of this word we are thinking about. What is grace? It is related to liberality. When you talk about the grace of God, what are you talking about? You are talking about the liberality of God. There is nothing stingy about Him. Whenever He does anything, He does it in a big way, and He does it in a liberal way. That is the reason we are going to see before very long that when we are saved by grace, we are not barely saved; we are saved liberally and abundantly–not saved just by the skin of our teeth, but fully and freely. That is why it has to be by grace.

Related to Benefits

Turn to II Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 15. Paul said, speaking of his proposal to visit them:

I Corinthians 1

15And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit;

Notice the word “benefit.” This is the only time the second blessing is mentioned in the Bible, and here it is: “I want to come to you that you might have another blessing. The first time I came I was a blessing; well, I want to come again that you might have another blessing.” And here is the word “benefit,” and that is the very same word that is translated “grace”–the word we are thinking about.

What is grace? It is a benefit. And certainly all of us have benefited from the grace of God. Now, we may not have directly, because it could be that the Lord Jesus Christ has not yet taken up residence in some of our hearts, but there is not a person who has not benefited from the grace of God. The reason that we have the liberty to meet as we are meeting here today is one of the benefits of the grace of God. And so it is a beneficial thing.

Made Acceptable By Grace

Turn with me, please, to I Peter, chapter 2, and notice verse 20:

I Peter 2

20For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

Notice the word “acceptable.” It is our word again–the word that is translated “grace.” What is grace? It is that agency of God whereby we are made acceptable in His sight. There is no acceptance without the grace of God. There are multitudes of people who are going about today trying to make themselves acceptable in His sight. Well, it won't work! There is no way that we can be made acceptable in His sight save by means of His grace.

Right along that line, you might like to turn back to the Gospel according to Luke, the very first chapter, and notice the words which were given to Mary when her heart was disturbed when the message came that she was to be the mother of our Lord. You will notice in verse 30:

Luke 1

30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

Notice the word “favour.” That is our very same word. It is the word translated “grace.” What is grace? It is favor with God. How are you going to stand acceptable in His sight? How are you going to gain favor with God? You, who are guilty of sin and wrongdoing of every description; you, who if you are honest, can't say one good word for yourself, how are you going to gain favor with God? Only one way! That is by the grace of God.

Turn with me, please, to chapter 24 of the book of Acts and listen to a very human use of this word–not related to anything spiritual, but providing a very real illustration of what the grace of God actually is and what is actually means. In verse 27, we read:

Acts 24

27But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.

Paul was in prison unjustly, and Felix kept him there because he wanted to show the Jews a “pleasure.” Look at the word “pleasure.” It is the translation of the word that we are thinking about today, the translation of the word “grace.” What does grace mean? It means that which is pleasing. How can you and I be made well-pleasing in God's sight? How can you and I, poor mortal creatures that we are, give pleasure to God? Solely by His grace!

Salvation By Grace

I would like for you to notice with me some of the things which this grace will do, this grace which is described in the word “liberality,” the word “benefit,” the word “acceptability,” the word “favor,” in the word “pleasure.” What will this grace do for the individual? When the apostle said, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all,” what did he expect to happen in the lives of those to whom he gave this benediction?

Turn with me, please, to Ephesians, chapter 2, and notice the familiar verses found there which many of you have committed to memory, as I suggest to you the basic thing which the grace of God will accomplish in the individual life:

Ephesians 2

8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

This is what the grace of God will do for you. It will save you.

Will you put in, just by way of illustration, some of these other words that we have been looking at and see how they describe this marvelous thing that happens when a person is born again? “For by [the liberality of God] are ye saved through faith;…” If God had not been liberal with His love and with His power, we could not be saved.

“By [being made acceptable] ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves;…”

“By [gaining favor with God] ye are saved; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”

Now there are some people who love to work for their salvation. I have never been able to understand that. I would get so weary and so tired of striving to gain my salvation that I would be ready to quit. I am glad that we don't have to work for it. I am glad that we don't have to strive to get it. I am glad today that all in the world we need to do is to open up our hands and receive it.

For by grace are you saved–by the liberality of God; and God (and I say this reverently today) will not short change you. We do get short changed so often, but He won't, because He is liberal.

Will you turn with me, please, to the book of Romans, and notice in verse 23 another thing that happens to us because we come in contact with the grace of God:

Romans 3

23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Let those words sink in and then never lift your tongue in boasting again. Never brag about a thing again as long as you live. Never talk about how good you are ever again. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

Don't ever ask again if people need to be saved. Don't ever talk about innocent little babies, bless their pure little hearts. All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. That is what God's Word says, but notice this next verse:

Romans 3

24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

It is one thing to be saved; it is another thing to be justified. There are people today who are familiar with their salvation but who are not enjoying it because the truth of justification has never been made clear to them. There are many folk who are reproaching themselves for sins of the past and who are making themselves miserable worrying about the things that were done before they knew the Lord.

Well, thank God today, He not only saves by grace, He justifies by grace. The simplest definition of the word “justified” becomes apparent if you will hyphenate the word “justified” and make it read, “just-as-if-I'd” never sinned at all. That is what justification is. It isn't a matter of our being forgiven only; it is a matter of our being made as though we never had sinned. You talk about purity; you talk about innocence; you talk about being clear of all faults–that is what the grace of God will do for you.

But you can't do that yourself, and you can't do it through your own efforts.

Material Blessing Through Grace

Turn with me, please, to II Corinthians, chapter 9, as I suggest to you some of the things that the grace of God continuously does for the believer. Many times, I think, we are not conscious of these particular things. Many times, I think, we are doing without them because we haven't learned that they are made available to us through the grace of God.

I Corinthians 9

7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
8And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

I would suggest to you that the grace of God can make it possible in the believer's life that he will have the wherewithal to abound unto every good work. Sometimes we say, “Oh, I wish I had something to give to a certain worthy cause, but I just don't.” And you are perfectly honest; you don't. There is no point in whistling in the dark and there is no point in dreaming. You either do or you don't. If you have it, you have it; and if you don't, you don't.

But Beloved, you don't have to stay in that “don't” state. The grace of God can so work in your life that He will make it possible for you to have the wherewithal to abound unto every good work. If you are a true believer today and you say, “I just don't have it,” you are admitting that you are not drawing upon the grace of God.

Now it may be that you never knew that you could draw upon the grace of God. But you know it now, and you have every right to ask God to cause the grace of God to work in your life and in your experience so that in the words of the text, “you might have all sufficiency in all things to abound to every good work.”

Strength Through Grace

Turn, please, to II Corinthians, chapter 12. There are so many good things about the grace of God that we would love to say to you. Notice verse 9: Here are the familiar words of assurance which were given to the Apostle Paul when he felt as if he had about all he could take. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt that you have stood about all that you can? Have you ever felt that if anything more happens, I'm through? Well, listen to these words in verse 9:

I Corinthians 12

9…my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore [said the Apostle Paul in response to the words of God] will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Have you ever heard the Lord say to you, “My grace is sufficient for you?” And have you ever experienced that grace? What can the grace of God do for you? The grace of God can give you strength to endure any trial that you may be called upon to go through. Someone may say, “Well, I just buckled under. I stood as much as I could,” and I believe that, but you haven't stood as much as the grace of God can stand. If you would but turn to Him and say, “God, I have stood all I can stand, and I need Your grace,” I believe with all my heart that God would permit a new surge of energy and a new surge of strength, and you would find yourself enduring anything because His grace is sufficient.

Let's face it; if that isn't true, what have we got to talk about? If we have got to buckle under as people of the world do, if we have to give up, if we have to quit as they do, what have we got to talk about? We don't have to, thank God. His grace is sufficient.

Singing as a Ministry of Grace

Will you turn with me, please, to the Colossian letter, chapter 3, and notice verse 15:

Colossians 3

15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Notice that last statement: “Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Now, here is a ministry of the grace of God that I verily believe is little emphasized. This is not talking about the tone with which you may sing. You may be as bad as I, if that is possible, and couldn't carry a tune in a bathtub; but Beloved, you can sing with grace in your hearts. You can sing with grace in your hearts because the song isn't one that just comes from the lips. It is the song that comes from the heart.

Suffice this brief illustration. You have read it, I'm sure. Jenny Lind, a brilliant singer of a by-gone day, was supposed to have had all the ability to sing that a person could have. She was mechanically perfect in every way. But she wasn't a success. Her voice teacher said to her one day, “You probably won't understand this now, but you will never be able to sing until your heart has been broken.” Now, she had all the ability and all the training, yet she was a mediocre singer until the man she married dragged her down into the dirt and broke her heart. Then she became world famous. She was singing with grace.

You see, there is a difference. I think you recognize that in public performances; but more than that, I would like to emphasize that this is the sort of thing the psalmist was talking about when he spoke about the Lord's giving you a song in the night. The psalmist was talking about the night of disappointment and despair and discouragement, and he said, “The Lord giveth songs in the night.” This is singing with grace in your heart. I believe that the grace of God can cause you to sing when your heart is broken in pieces. I believe the grace of God can cause you to sing when you are burdened beyond all human understanding. Now, the world doesn't understand that. Sometimes people look at you and they say, “Well, I wonder if he has no heart.” But they don't know what the grace of God can do. Singing with grace in your heart!

Service to God Through Grace

Turn with me, please, to the book of Hebrews, chapter 12, and notice verse 28 for the last suggestion I want to leave with you concerning what the grace of God is able to do in your life. I am very thankful from a personal standpoint for this particular verse of Scripture because it encourages my heart to go on with the Lord:

Hebrews 12

28Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

You want your service to be acceptable to God. Oh, how much effort we sometimes put out that our service might be acceptable to men, but it can be acceptable to God. And how? Because of the grace of God which He bestows. He can bestow that grace which will make our service acceptable.

There is much more that I want to say. I would suggest only that you turn with me to Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 14, and notice how this grace may be yours, because the Bible tells us that our attitude toward the grace of God can make or break us. The Bible says, for example, that we can frustrate the grace of God. The Bible says that we can fall from the grace of God. The Bible says that we can fail of the grace of God. The Bible says we can receive the grace of God in vain. When I look at some of our lives, I think that we must spend our time doing just that. But here is something that every one of us can do:

Hebrews 4

14Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession [confession].
15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities *f1[thank God for that]; *f2but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without [apart from] sin.
16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Is this your time of need? Is it? What does this verse of Scripture say? If this is your time of need, you can come to the Lord and you can say, “Oh God, even though I may not understand it, even though I may not be able to define it, even though I may not be able to describe it, I need grace.” And He will give it to you for whatever your need is!


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