Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Grace and peace (Philippians 1:2)

Paul views the church as a household or family in which there is a heavenly Father and a single Master, the Lord Jesus. In using this illustration, Paul is reminding his readers of a common experience of which they would be aware: it was the duty of the father of a family and of the master of a household to provide for the needs of the household.

In his greeting, Paul combines the common Gentile and Jewish greetings. Gentile writers used a similar word for grace when they were sending greetings to another person or group; Jewish writers used the word peace (shalom) when sending greetings. It is not difficult to imagine that this combination of terms would remind the readers in Philippi of the need for unity among themselves.

The reality of unity is also expressed in the greeting in several ways: first, there is the harmony of Paul and Timothy as they work for the Master; second, there is the fact that all believers are equally saints; third, there is Paul’s emphasis that the office bearers should work together with the rest of God’s people; and fourth, there is the wonder that the blessings of believers come from both the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the same time, this greeting reveals the diversity that should be known within each gathering of the people of God. For example, there are different roles mentioned (servants, elders, deacons) and distinct blessings promised (grace and peace). The fact that every believer is a saint does not mean that each Christian should express his or her Christian life in exactly the same manner. Nevertheless, the need of each of them to experience divine grace and peace is obvious.

The grace that God will give will always be sufficient for every situation that believers will face. This was the assurance that the Lord gave to Paul when he had to cope with the thorn in the flesh that had been allowed to afflict him. Obviously, this reality should be a means of great comfort to every believer. To know that God will never leave us short of necessary grace is very consoling and calming.

In a sense, peace is only one aspect of grace. Yet it is an aspect that is often highlighted, which means that it is a blessing that the Lord loves to bestow on his people. Just as grace will always be sufficient for every situation that a believer will face, so there will be peace that is suitable for every situation. A believer can know peace in the most difficult of circumstances when everything seems to be working against him.

This means that the saints of God are well-supplied as they travel through life. They are a privileged people, well-catered for on every stage of the journey, whatever their need is. How thankful they should be to the gracious Father and benevolent Master that they have.

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