This morning I listened to a message on grace and peace. I needed the reminder that Paul didn’t just give this greeting as a hello, he restated the Lord’s good news in a greeting. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph 1:2) I read the post below and cannot add to it, so I’m posting this from the blog Looking at Christ and I’ve added the hyperlink to the title just below. The world needs to see light in this dark world more now than ever — allow His light to shine through you instead of fear and anger.
The apostle Paul begins each of his letters with some variation of the greeting “grace and peace.” Many of us have read this many times that we haven’t considered why he might be doing this. Even theologians and biblical commentators often brush it off as not too important, saying it is his “greeting” which was similar to a common greeting of the day, then moving on.
But Paul was a brilliant man, as his letters show. So I personally can’t think these are throw away terms, nor that they’re just two semi-random Christian words he chose to always begin letters with. I think there’s much more.
In fact, I think “grace and peace” are two brilliant terms to summarize Christianity as a whole. And I lean towards believing the apostle Paul knew this.
All About Grace
First, grace. We know Paul was all about grace. Grace is the word which best summarizes the Christian gospel as a whole. We are saved by grace, meaning, we don’t deserve it, nor earn it. We rather deserve the opposite. But the gospel is that God in mercy sent Christ so that sinners can be justified, so that those who deserve to be separated from God can be brought near to him, so that those who are enemies may become God’s friends, so that those are should face eternal punishment receive eternal life. All of that is ours not because of anything we’ve done, but all by God’s grace.
Even more, Paul in Ephesians 1:6 tells us that the whole forming of the world and work of salvation is ultimately to “the praise of the glory of his grace.” This means that all of history and salvation exists so that we may praise God, so that we may glorify God, but even more specifically so that we may glorify God for his grace. That is the ultimate goal of the universe. And it makes sense to us, doesn’t it? What’s the most beautiful, appealing reality in the world? Not just a powerful, praise-deserving God. Not even just a “loving” God. Rather, the most beautiful, appealing reality in the universe is a powerful, praise-worthy loving God who treats rebels better than they could’ve ever imagined. Grace is what God designed us to love as human beings. Why? Because all of creation exists so that he could wonderfully display his grace.
Paul begins his letters with grace, then, because it is the essence of Christianity: “Grace to you God the Father [who planned salvation for us] and from the Lord Jesus Christ [who accomplished salvation for us].”
What About “Peace”?
But what about peace? Of the two terms, this is the one I think we Gentile Christians often move past too quickly. We assume that he’s mainly talking about the peace we have with God through salvation and the peace we have with one another through the gospel. Both of these are biblical ideas and correct, but we miss something substantial if we stop here.
Remember, Paul was a Jew. The word “peace” meant more to Jews like Paul than just “on God’s side” or “not fighting with one another.” The word “peace” in Paul’s greetings is the Greek version of the Hebrew word shalom. And shalom is a massive concept with much hope attached to it.
God’s shalom is one of the main themes of the Old Testament. The Israelites were redeemed as God’s people through God’s covenant, receiving God’s hesed (covenantal love), so that they could be a holy nation and worship God, all so that there might experience and share God’s shalom—an everything-as-it-should-be peace. What was lost at the fall was shalom, and the final restoration of all things was not just to be a return to God, but a return to shalom.
When Paul, therefore, wrote “peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” we can’t think he was merely referencing being okay with God and not fighting. Paul the Jew was saying that here in Christ is finally shalom. When Paul writes that “Jesus himself is our peace” in Ephesians 2:14 (cited from Micah 5:5), he is saying Jesus this Messiah is the Israelite’s, and now the Gentile’s, hoped-for shalom.
But even that’s not all on why Paul might have used “peace.” Not only did the Jews of the day respond to the buzzword “peace,” the Gentiles back then did as well. They were living in a Roman Empire which was all about the Pax Romana (Latin for “Roman Peace”). Rome promised that Roman dominance was the greatest, most peace-giving rule. Paul then not only was insinuating that “peace from the Lord Jesus Christ” was true shalom, but the true Lord Jesus’s peace was a greater and truer “peace” than any Caesar’s Pax Romana.
Peace Through Grace Through the Lord Jesus Christ
Paul’s “grace and peace” greeting, therefore, is full of theological brilliance, but even more so, it’s a perfect opening summary and reminder of the Christian faith.
- Christianity is all about grace. We are saved by grace alone. And all of history and redemption is to the praise of the glory of God’s grace.
- Christianity also is the fulfillment of the shalom Old Testament peace. The longed-for shalom peace comes to fruition and is experienced, now and forevermore, in Christ in the gospel. And this peace is greater than any pax the Roman Empire (or our America) can offer.
- And where does this grace and peace come from? “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Only from God the Father and through the accomplishments of the Son do we have such grace and peace.
We can sum up Christianity accurately and succinctly by saying it is shalom through grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. This, I believe, Paul knew, and so out of all the Christian terms he could’ve used (love, mercy, glory, faith, hope, etc.) he chose his two terms “grace” and “peace” carefully.
May we be praise God for His grace and shalom peace we have because of the Lord Jesus Christ.