Grace and Peace
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:2).
Almost all epistles in the New Testament written by the apostle Paul begin with this greeting. If Paul felt it important to begin his letters with this greeting, it’s worth a deeper dive to determine why he did.
As I studied different commentators on why Paul utilized this greeting repeatedly, two major ideas emerged which both seem relevant to the recipients of the letters, and for us today.
The first idea comes from the type of greeting. The traditional Greek greeting in New Testament times was the word for grace. God’s call for Paul directed his mission to the Greeks, or non-Jews, of the time. Therefore, Paul utilized the greeting the Greeks knew and understood. Paul follows grace with the word for peace. Jews greeted everyone with this word--shalom. Therefore, by using both grace and peace in his greeting, Paul welcomes both the Greeks and the Jews.
This inclusiveness provides a great reminder for us today. In New Testament times, the Jews believed the Greeks to be unclean and beneath them. Yet Paul encompassed both groups in his letters to demonstrate the importance of embracing everyone as made in the image of Christ. We too, have an obligation to include those who are different than us as we demonstrate the love of Jesus throughout our world of influence.
The second idea emphasizing both the grace and peace flows from their order. Paul always mentions grace before peace. Several expositors emphasized the importance of the order since we cannot experience the peace of God without first receiving His grace.
Philippians 4:7 gives us a glimpse into the need for grace to experience peace. “And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Notice where the peace comes from…through Christ Jesus. We receive grace through the work of Jesus when He died on the cross. He took the punishment we deserved and gave us eternal life instead. What an exchange! That is grace.
Once we accept God’s grace through salvation, we then experience His peace. As noted in the verse from Philippians, it is a peace that defies man’s understanding. The world offers nothing like it. Those who experience His peace struggle to find the words to accurately express it.
One such time in my life where I experienced this deep-abiding peace was right after my father’s death. My mom, sisters, and I gathered to pray right before the memorial service. With just the four of us in the room, as we asked God for His strength, a tangible, unexplainable peace settled on each one of us. It’s been over twenty years, but I remember it like it happened yesterday. That peace is unexplainable in the natural realm, but so powerful.
Have you experienced that peace? It’s available to all who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. All you need to do is ask, and He provides in ways you can never expect. May you walk in His grace and peace today and every day.