Last words as saving words

Have you ever noticed how so many of the letters in the New Testament end in similar ways? The writers sign off with concern for the spiritual welfare and salvation of others. And more — they urge their readers to act and speak so that others be saved.

James ends his practical letter with a practical, soul-winning exhortation, James 5.19-20.

My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, he should know that the one who turns a sinner back from his wandering path will save that person’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

So does Jude, in some verses hard to sort through, but the general idea is clear, vv. 22-23.

And have mercy on those who waver; save others by snatching them out of the fire; have mercy on others, coupled with a fear of God, hating even the clothes stained by the flesh.

The apostle John does this as well, in his first letter, 1 John 5.16-17.

If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that. All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not resulting in death.

(His third letter is all about supporting the preaching of the Good News.)

Near the end of 1 Thessalonians, Paul does the same, 5.14-15.

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all. See that no one pays back evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.

Before his final greetings, Paul also does it in Colossians 4.5-6.

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone.

Peter ends his first epistle describing his letter as “the true grace of God” — suffering for fulfilling the mission of Christ, 1 Peter 2.8-9; 3.15; 5.12.

Revelation ends with the Spirit and the bride’s invitation to come to Christ, Revelation 22.17.

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say: “Come!” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge.

What’s happening here? Maybe the New Testament writers are following Jesus’ example, whose last words, before ascending into heaven, gave us the Great Commission, Matthew 28.18-20.

Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Last words are important words. How better to use them than to remind everyone of Christ’s mission, of God’s desire to save all people?

Christ’s last words are where Christians start and end. He gave them to his apostles and told them to pass them on to others. These in turn would teach others.

This was the apostle Paul’s instruction to Timothy. He must have learned it from the Great Commission:

And what you heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well. 2 Timothy 2.2.

So two questions remain for us.

First, have you heard this word of Christ, to practice it?

Second, are you passing on this word of Christ to others, so that they might practice it?

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