‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’
|Ancient Christian Symbol in Ephesus|
We often regard the introductions to Paul’s letters as mere formal preliminaries to which we do not pay much attention. This is a mistake, and is one which we must avoid. Lloyd-Jones pointed out that Paul’s greetings here are ‘an extraordinary description and definition of what it means to be a Christian’.
So Paul’s greetings are not merely expressions of good will. Instead they are statements containing important aspects of what he considers are the main needs of believers. In the greeting he identifies two such needs. The first is grace. Grace is God’s undeserved favour and all Christians need grace for their spiritual lives to develop. Elsewhere in the New Testament James tells us that God continues to give more grace (Jas. 4:6). Peter wishes for his readers that grace and peace be theirs in abundance (1 Pet. 1:2). He also tells his readers to ‘set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed’ (1 Pet. 1:13). So it is grace at the beginning of the Christian life, grace throughout the Christian life, and grace at the end of the Christian life.
Secondly, Paul tells his readers that they need peace. Often when we think of peace we mean the absence of hostilities such as may exist between two parties that previously were against one another. Obviously there is a cessation of hostilities between God and his people, for when they believe in Jesus they cease to be the objects of God’s wrath. But the concept of peace includes more than reconciliation; it also involves the experience of divine peace in their hearts, which will result to living in peace with one another. Although we have peace with God at justification, we can have also the peace of God as the protector of our hearts during our Christian lives. Peace was last legacy of Jesus to his disciples before he died (John 16:33) and that peace is conveyed to us by the Holy Spirit. The peace of Christ is to rule in our hearts today (Col. 3:15).