Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (verse 3)
I love this greeting in Paul’s letters. Indeed, as you read any of Paul’s letters, take note – there is not a single one which does not have this same greeting comprised of these two impactful words: grace and peace.
Paul wrote in Greek. The standard greeting in letter-writing was the Greek word charein, which means rejoice! What a great word to start any letter. Why would you need any revision? But Paul exchanged it for another. He chose the similar-sounding word charis, which means grace. The substitution is so deliberate, and the meaning of the word so central to Paul’s own experience and writings, that we have to allow the word to have its full weightiness each time he uses it. This is no casual greeting. Rather, Paul is bestowing a blessing as he speaks it, full of divine richness and eternal consequence. What we could never earn for ourselves, has been given. We have been justified through faith – declared in right-standing with the Father. We have peace with him, fully and surely, not by anything we have managed to finagle, but solely through Jesus. We have gained access, by faith, into this grace, in which we now stand.
That’s what Paul is saying. It seems worthwhile, doesn’t it, to say it again and again, with each and every letter? Paul thinks so.
To this transformed greeting, he adds the Greek version of the traditional Hebrew greeting, “Shalom.” Heard on the street in ancient Jerusalem, this was simply the standard greeting, meaning something like, “Howdy!” But Paul is too much a student of the Old Testament scriptures to let this rich word slip off his tongue without full weight of meaning. At its core, shalom simply means “peace.” Yet this is not a simplistic concept. In Hebrew understanding, the word implies much more than a mere absence of conflict. It’s bigger and fuller. It describes completeness and health and wholeness. It speaks of life in all its fullness. I think this is the rich concept in Jesus’ own mind when, describing himself as the Good Shepherd, he said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Peace. It means to be reconciled with God, to have all awkwardness removed, all head-hanging shame dissolved, all condemnation set aside forever. And yet there’s more. Shalom brings the positive overflow of rejoicing with God himself, the intimacy of Father-child relationship, the warmth of welcome into his household, the rich vitality of his very life filling all our being.
Paul means it. That’s why he speaks it. Every single time he writes, he does so.
Grace and Peace. From God the Father. And the Lord Jesus Christ.
What joy. May they be richly ours, in the ever-strengthening power of the Holy Spirit.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, may it be so.
Pray: Turn this into a prayer of blessing on everyone you think of today. Grace and peace to __________ from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Pray if for yourself. Pray it for your family and friends and co-workers and those who don’t yet know Jesus. Pray it often. Like Paul.