Paul’s Closing Greeting
“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”- 2 Thessalonians 3:17–18
We conclude today our study of 2 Thessalonians, looking at the final words of the epistle. Paul’s closing comments give us a look into how he wrote his letters and point to the believer’s ongoing need for divine grace.
The Apostle makes a special point in 3:17 to tell us that he is writing the closing greeting of the epistle himself. In the ancient Greco-Roman world, authors of letters commonly employed the services of an amanuensis, who was like a modern secretary. Authors would often dictate a letter to the amanuensis, who would write down the words of the author. Sometimes the amanuensis was allowed a freer hand in writing the letter—the author might give an outline and let the amanuensis compose much of the letter on his own. Then, the author would check it over before sending it. In both cases, however, the author would often take up the pen and write the final greeting himself. According to today’s passage, Paul followed this practice, and we see Paul calling attention to his own act of writing the final greeting in some of his other epistles (e.g., 1 Cor. 16:21; Col. 4:18).
Note that the absence of such a statement in a particular letter does not mean that Paul did not write the greeting himself in that epistle. As 2 Thessalonians 3:17 tells us, Paul always wrote the closing greeting with his own hand, but he did not always make a point of saying so. He did not need to. The difference in handwriting in the original copy between the closing greeting and the body of the letter would reveal two different writers to those who would see the epistle. In any case, Paul sometimes made a note that he was writing the greeting, probably for the benefit of listeners. His epistles were read aloud to Christian congregations, and not all of them could see the difference in handwriting between the body of the letter and Paul’s self-written closing. But all of them could hear him make a note of it.
When the original audience of 2 Thessalonians heard Paul’s closing greeting, they would understand that the letter was to be received as the Word of Jesus Himself, mediated through His appointed Apostle. Believing what Paul says about the surety of divine judgment against the impenitent, the signs that must precede Christ’s return, and the importance of labor in the three chapters of this epistle was therefore not optional for its first recipients. Neither is it optional for us.
Take some time to skim the book of 2 Thessalonians today and note a teaching or two that are particularly applicable to where you currently find yourself. Ask the Lord to help you follow the teaching and to give you the courage to stand on God’s Word. Thank Him for this Apostolic instruction and for the spiritual life that it gives.
Passages for Further Study
1 Thessalonians 2:13
2 Thessalonians 2:1–12