Finally, Brethern, Farewell

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  13 : 11-14
Subject: Prayer; Challenge; Faithfulness

[Editor's Note: Few pastors have any material available for a final message to a congregation. When leaving a church, it is important to share a positive challenge to the people. Dr. Paul Brown offers such a message.]


I’m speaking tonight on the last four verses of 2 Corinthians 13. The apostle Paul wrote those words to his friends in the church at Corinth. He began verse 11 by saying, “Finally, brethren, farewell....” - and that’s my subject tonight: “Finally, brethren, farewell.”

In those verses Paul issued a final challenge to his friends at Corinth, he gave a final salute to them, and he offered a final prayer for them. In that passage Paul said some things that I want to say to you dear friends in this, my last message to you as your interim pastor.


Look with me, please, at verse 11.

A. Be Perfect

To begin with, he challenged them to “BE PERFECT.” The Greek word translated “perfect” does not, in this context, mean “sinless.” Rather, it means “complete” or “mature.”

Throughout the Bible we are reminded that spiritual maturity is God’s goal for every believer. 2 Peter 3:18 says, “But grow [literally the Greek says, “go on growing”] in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.”

Kernie Keegan told about a little boy who got into a tussle one day with a boy much larger, who was a bully. That night when the little boy knelt to pray, his mind was still troubled by remembering that experience, and how he, so very small, had longed for height and strength to stand his ground. As he prayed that night, he said, “Dear God, please make me big!”

As Kernie pointed out, there is a place for that prayer, in a spiritual sense, in the lives of all of us who are Christians. “Lord, please make me big. Make me big enough to live above the blight of prejudice. Make me big enough to forgive and forget when I’ve been offended or hurt. Make me big enough to apologize when I’ve been wrong. Make me big enough to serve you faithfully and consistently, without being concerned about personal recognition. Make me big enough to keep on keeping on even when my heart is breaking and when I can’t make heads or tails of what is happening in my life or in my family. Make me big enough to get back up and try again when I’ve fumbled and failed. Please deliver me from pettiness, from littleness of spirit. Lord, please make me big - bigger in love and concern for others, bigger in Christlike character, bigger in soul and spirit than I was yesterday. Lord, please make me big.”

God has made available ample resources for our spiritual growth - including the Bible, prayer, worship, and service.

The Lord sometimes uses suffering to help us grow. 1 Peter 5:10 says, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

God uses the church as a whole to help mature the individuals who make up its membership. Ephesians 4:12 tells us that the various callings within the church have as their purpose “the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry....”

We must never be satisfied with where we are spiritually. Our heart’s desire should always be that expressed in the familiar hymn:

“I’m pressing on the upward way, New heights I’m gaining every day;

Still praying as I onward bound, ‘Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.’

I want to live above the world, Tho’ Satan’s darts at me are hurled;

For faith has caught the joyful sound, The song of saints on higher ground.”

B. Be Of Good Comfort

The next part of Paul’s final challenge to the Corinthian Christians was, “BE OF GOOD COMFORT.” The Greek, at that point, could be rendered differently, but I believe that the King James translation has it right. Paul challenged his friends to partake of the comfort that God offered to them in the midst of their trials, and also to let God use them as his instruments to help others. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 we read: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”

Psalm 147:3 says, “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.”

The old saying is absolutely true: “Be kind to everyone you meet, because everybody is carrying a heavy load.” People all around you are hurting - sometimes in ways that you know about, but more often in ways that you are totally unaware of. So, we should not be judgmental. For instance, the person who may seem cool or unfriendly may actually be preoccupied with some terrible sorrow that is tearing him apart.

Go to those who are hurting. You don’t have to be highly articulate to be used of God to help others. In fact, sometimes it isn’t necessary to say anything at all. There is such a thing as the witness of presence - the witness of simply having cared enough to be there when someone is in need..

C. Be Of One Mind

The next part of Paul’s challenge to the folks at Corinth is also recorded there in verse 11: “BE OF ONE MIND, LIVE IN PEACE.” The Phillips paraphrase of the New Testament renders it like this: “live in harmony, be at peace with one another.”

That doesn’t mean, of course, that we always have to see everything alike. But it does mean that we should always remember that the church is a spiritual family, and that family members stick together and love one another, no matter what. In spite of any differences that might arise, we should always treat one another with respect and kindness. Never should we express ourselves with sarcasm, anger, or in any way that “puts down” the other person - and any time we slip and are guilty of any of those things, we need to have the humility and grace, and concern for the well being of God’s church family, to face up to it, apologize and ask for forgiveness.

The arctic wolf is a cruel, vicious predator, and it often targets young musk-ox calves. But the musk-oxen know how to outmaneuver the wolves. The adult musk-oxen bunch together in a tight circle, with the little calves in the middle. The adults stand facing inward, so their sharp, deadly hooves are aimed outward - and the wolves dare not try to get through that dangerous, impenetrable circle. Thus, so long as the adult musk-oxen stand together, the calves are safe. In like manner, as long as God’s people stand together in love and unity, the devil will be kept at bay.

Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” James Merritt said, “God is glorified, magnified, and satisfied when his children are unified.”

In the last part of verse 11, Paul wrote: “and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” Apparently that means that if we do the things just advocated, we’ll have a refreshing AWARENESS of God’s presence in our lives, and in our church.

D. Be Warm And Friendly

In verse 12 we see the fourth part of Paul’s challenge to his friends at Corinth: “GREET ONE ANOTHER WITH AN HOLY KISS.” Greeting with a kiss on the cheek to express respect and affection was a common practice in many places in the first century, and still is in the Near East. However, the modern-day equivalent for you and me, in our culture, would be a hearty handshake, an affectionate hug, or an arm around the shoulder. Instead of “Greet one another with an holy kiss,” the Contemporary English Version of the Bible renders it like this: “Give each other a warm greeting.”

Paul was encouraging his friends at Corinth to be mindful of, and attentive to, one another, whenever they came into the house of God - as well as whenever they might meet elsewhere.

In like manner, we need to constantly work at the job of seeing that every member of the household of faith - as well as every visitor - is warmly received, and made aware that he or she is a valued member of the congregation. May the Lord help us not to be careless at that point. No one should be overlooked, or disregarded. Every person is precious in the sight of God. Give attention not only to those who are outgoing and personable, and respond in kind, but also to those who are withdrawn, shy, or troubled. In fact, they probably need our attention more than anyone.

I’m thankful that ours is a friendly church. Some churches aren’t. I believe it was the late W. A. Criswell who told of going to a certain town to preach a revival in the local Baptist church, and finding that it was the coldest church he had ever seen. The atmosphere was absolutely icy. By contrast, he said, the little restaurant nearby where he had his meals that week was warm and cheery. They met him at the door with a smile, and seemed genuinely glad to see him. They gave him good service, and checked often to be sure that he had what he needed. Criswell said, “If I had lived in that town, I would have joined the restaurant rather than the church!”

While we thank the Lord that ours is a warm and friendly church, we can never let up in that regard. Just as a delicate plant won’t grow and prosper unless it is properly cared for, even so we have to constantly work at the job of making sure that we continue to generate warmth and good will. Don’t wait for somebody else to take the initiative - take it upon yourself to reach out to them. God will bless you as you do, and he will use you to bless others.

But not only did Paul issue a final challenge in his farewell address to the church at Corinth, he also gave...


In verse 13 he wrote, “All the saints salute you.” The Contemporary English Version says, “All of God’s people send their greetings.”

Paul was reminding the folks at Corinth that they were not alone, but were a part of a larger fellowship made up of believers all over the world.

Several years ago I, along with a number of others, made a week-long visit to Taiwan. While in one particular city, I looked up a missionary couple that I had heard of, but had never met. We got together at a fast-food restaurant, and after we had gotten our food the husband began his prayer like this: he said, “Lord, thank you for instant fellowship.” What a neat way to put it. We had never seen each other before, but we had immediate rapport because all three of us had committed our lives to Christ, we all believed the Bible, and all of us were on the same mission - that of pointing people to Christ. What a blessing it is to know that you and I, as Christians, are bound together with other believers all over the globe, regardless of race, language, or culture. We are part of a great, world-wide army, and we need to pray for one another, as we all seek to advance the kingdom of God in our various localities.

Thus, while giving careful attention to the needs of our fellow members and our local community, at the same time we need to always keep in mind that we are part of God’s work beyond our immediate area, and we need to actively participate in the work of our local association, our state convention, and our Southern Baptist Convention, with its North American and International Mission Boards.

Then, after having issued his final challenge and having given them a final salute, the apostle Paul also offered, on behalf of his friends at Corinth...


In verse 14 he expressed that prayer: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” Notice that Paul’s prayer was three-fold.

A. For God’s Grace

He prayed that they might have GRACE. Just as it takes the grace of God to save a person, once we have been converted we also need the daily grace of God in order to live triumphantly - and how wonderful that that grace is available to us in abundant supply. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul said that in the midst of his affliction God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Here’s the way Philippians 4:19 expresses it: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

But we have to ask for it. In Hebrews 4:15-16 we read, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

B. For the Love Of God

In the second place, Paul prayed that his Corinthian friends might experience the LOVE OF GOD.

Some time ago I heard a devoted Christian man make a statement that blessed my heart. He said, “The thing that has sustained me through the years, in spite of some very trying times, is not so much my love for God, because that sometimes fails - but the thing that has kept me on the trail is my growing awareness of his love for me.”

As we Christians spend time in his Word, as we pray, as we worship, as we fellowship and serve with other believers, and as we witness, we not only come to love God more, but we also become increasingly mindful of his great love for us - and that awareness inspires us and energizes us to resist the devil and stand our ground for God.

2 Corinthians 5:14 begins with this statement, “For the love of Christ CONSTRAINETH us....” That Greek word for “constraineth” means, literally, “to hold together” - so that that verse could be translated, “For the love of Christ holds us together.” At times the pressures and struggles of life become so intense that we feel as if we’re about to “come apart at the seams” - but if we’ll call on the Lord and meet his conditions, he won’t let that happen. He won’t allow us to experience “overload.” He loves us so much that will pour into our lives the strength and grace to weather whatever storms are lashing us. He will enable us to “keep on keeping on,” that we might shine like lights in this dark and perverse world. So, let’s not fail to call on him. We must not disappoint the one who loves us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to die for our sins.

C. For the Communion of the Holy Spirit

Thirdly, Paul prayed that his Corinthian friends might experience THE COMMUNION OF THE HOLY GHOST.

In other words, he was praying - and we need to pray the same thing, for ourselves and others - that they would allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to control them and produce in their lives that fruit which God desires to see in the life of every believer. Paul also made a similar appeal in Galatians 5:22-26, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Bailey Smith tells that in olden days when castles were built, aqueducts were built to carry water from the outside into the castle. Enemies discovered that if they stopped the water from flowing into the castle, those inside would eventually surrender or die of thirst. But then, as time went on, someone decided to build his castle over a spring - and other castle builders followed suit. When a person’s castle had its own water supply, the enemy was thus deprived of what had once been his most destructive strategy.

That’s what the Christian life is, a life over the spring. In John 4:14 Jesus said, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” But we have to drink regularly from the spring in order to be refreshed and strengthened. The Holy Spirit desires to fortify and empower us, but we have to yield anew each day to his control.


What is your need tonight? If you’ve never been saved, your need is to repent of your sins and commit your life in faith to Jesus Christ. Jesus said, in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

If you’re already saved, then take to heart Paul’s prayer - his prayer that his friends in Corinth, and Christians of all generations, take advantage of the power that is available to us from the indwelling Holy Spirit. May our heart-cry be that of the song-writer:

Holy Spirit, breathe on me, Until my heart is clean;

Let sunshine fill its inmost part, With not a cloud between.

Holy Spirit, breathe on me, My stubborn will subdue;

Teach me in words of living flame, What Christ would have me do.

Holy Spirit, breathe on me, Fill me with power divine;

Kindle a flame of love and zeal Within this heart of mine.

Holy Spirit, breathe on me, Till I am all Thine own,

Until my will is lost in Thine, To live for Thee alone.