“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)I suppose most every book written by a human author ends with the phrase, “The End.” This is saying to us that the story is over, there is nothing more to be said. But those are human authors writing about secular subjects (whatever the content). Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes from the perspective of a defeated man; “vanity” is a key watchword throughout this book. The word “vanity” means “something vain, futile, idle or worthless.” Solomon viewed his life as very futile and worthless in spite of being referred to as the wisest man on earth and one of the richest men as well. This view was all because he failed to appropriate all the opportunities God had given him. No doubt, Solomon died as a very unhappy and defeated man. Ironically, the last two verses of this book serve as a challenge for those who would follow after him. He concludes that man’s duty is to fear God and keep His commandments. That is the whole duty of man, i.e. the only thing that really matters. I would say that is good advice to people who want their lives to count for something.
The New Testament uses a different word to describe the approach to the end of a thing, although it is somewhat different. The word “finally” is the word that the apostles Paul and Peter use to encourage believers as they close out a letter to different churches or groups. Notice the practical instructions given. “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you” (II Corinthians 13:11). Paul here is speaking of being steadfast in the faith. Again in Ephesians Paul declares, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). Here, Paul is saying, be strong in the fight. To the church at Philippi, Paul writes, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Paul is advising them to be spiritual in what they follow. In writing to the good church in Thessalonica, Paul reminds them of the importance of God’s Word by saying, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you” (II Thessalonians 3:1). Paul is exhorting these believers to pray that the scriptures be fulfilled in other areas. And then the apostle Peter addresses the believers under his watch care with, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (I Peter 3:8). Peter is simply encouraging them to be sensitive to their spiritual family.
It is obvious that both Paul and Peter had very special and spiritual relationships with their brethren. Although both gave a fair share of warnings and admonitions to their brethren, they both saw the necessity of reinforcing some spiritual teachings so that their followers would not only be reminded, but also embrace those things that would help them all the way to the end of their lives.
Pastor H. Preston Parker