Paul’s Greeting of “Grace and Peace”

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Paul’s Greeting of “Grace and Peace”

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The Bible is filled with many such examples. A particularly notable one is the greeting the apostle Paul uses in each of his letters to church congregations preserved for us in the Bible: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul uses this same greeting in the first few verses of each of his letters to the churches, and he uses the same or a very similar greeting when writing to individuals such as Timothy and Titus.

What did Paul mean by this greeting? Since he uses these same words in each of the letters that bears his name, we should pay close attention to them—and what they meant to Paul as well as to his immediate audience.

While Paul’s words are similar to the common greeting used in letters among Greek speakers and writers of his day, he had actually coined a new phrase that was infused with deep meaning. With a minor tweak to common wording, and some key expansions, he conveyed some great spiritual truths that hold profound significance for Christians 2,000 years ago as well as today. Let’s examine these more closely.

“Grace to you . . .”

Gordon Fee, professor of New Testament studies and author of many scholarly volumes on the Bible, writes regarding Philippians 1:2 Philippians 1:2Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×
in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: The New International Commentary on the New Testament: “The traditional greeting in the Hellenistic world was chairein . . . meaning simply ‘Greetings!’ . . . In Paul’s hands this now becomes charis (‘grace’), to which he adds the traditional Jewish greeting shalom (‘peace,’ in the sense of ‘wholeness’ or ‘well-being’). Thus instead of the familiar ‘greetings,’ Paul salutes his brothers and sisters in Christ with ‘grace to you—and peace.’”

These were not unusual words, but Paul filled them with a new and deeper significance. He greeted his fellow believers with grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ. This transcended the common greeting and was exclusively Christian.

Grace, as Paul stated, came from God the Father and Jesus Christ. Paul understood that it is a divine attribute, a uniquely Christian concept not found in other religions and belief systems. Outside of Christianity and Judaism, no other religion taught of a God who loves, accepts and forgives human beings not based on anything we do, but in spite of what we do. God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son lavish Their love on human beings because that is who and what They are. God is love personified (1 John 4:8 1 John 4:8He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
American King James Version×
; 1 John 4:16 1 John 4:16And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.
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).

In many ways grace summarizes God’s interaction with humankind and the message of the gospel or good news.

Paul begins his letters with the unmistakable message that God is a God of grace. So Paul brings greetings of grace to the churches of God to which he wrote. In context, he is saying to them, “May God’s abundant and loving grace be with you all.”

This apostle well knew that God has reached out to us in grace. As he wrote, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 Romans 5:8But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
American King James Version×
). As the apostle John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth,” and “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”(John 1:14 John 1:14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
American King James Version×
; John 1:17 John 1:17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×
).

John 3:16-17 John 3:16-17 [16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [17] For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
American King James Version×
adds: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Through the sacrificial death of His only begotten Son, God forgives our sin and reconciles us to Himself.

God“did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32 Romans 8:32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
American King James Version×
, NLT). God freely gave His only Son, and Jesus freely gave His own life (John 10:17-18 John 10:17-18 [17] Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. [18] No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
American King James Version×
). This supreme love is called grace. Grace is the giving of every good thing to those who of themselves deserve nothing.

“And peace . . .”

What about the next part of Paul’s greeting of “Grace to you and peace . . .”—what is the significance of his mention of peace?

We’re certainly more familiar with the word peace than grace. Peace is a common word, usually used in the sense of the opposite of war. As wars rage and threaten nations around the world, we regularly hear of the need for peace.

But what did Paul have in mind in using this word? Being Jewish, Paul was very familiar with the Hebrew word shalom, meaning “peace,” used more than 200 times in the Bible. It was a common Hebrew greeting then and still is today. But shalom wasn’t a vague wish of greeting or of simply all going well for a person. In Hebrew with regard to God it meant being reconciled to God and having God’s peace in one’s heart.

This is something every person badly needs. Worries and fears prevent many from having inner peace. And sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2 Isaiah 59:2But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
American King James Version×
), creating conflict between us and Him. It robs us of joy and peace with God (Psalms 51:10-12 Psalms 51:10-12 [10] Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. [11] Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your holy spirit from me. [12] Restore to me the joy of your salvation; and uphold me with your free spirit.
American King James Version×
).

Paul was referring to an inner peace, a sense of well-being and wholeness, as he wrote this greeting. This peace, he wrote, came “from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” He understood that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” and “this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:1-2 Romans 5:1-2 [1] Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: [2] By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
American King James Version×
). So it is actually a peace from God and peace with God.

Paul mentions grace first, and then peace, for good reason—because peace flows from grace. We receive well-being and wholeness after having received grace from God. This peace is a profound gift from God. Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27 John 14:27Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
American King James Version×
). Paul wrote that Christ “is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14 Ephesians 2:14For he is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
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). Through Him and His sacrifice we have peace with God.

That peace should permeate every aspect of the life of a Christian. “Be anxious for nothing,” Paul wrote, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 Philippians 4:7And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×
).

“From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ . . .”

In Paul’s repeated greeting we see that the source of true grace and peace is both God the Father and God the Son, “the Lord Jesus Christ.” Both are the source of divine grace and peace.

Unlike greetings in that day sent in the names of the pagan gods and goddesses, Paul sent Christian believers greetings of “grace to you and peace” from the true God, the one source of true grace and peace. Paul pointed them to the grace and peace available through God the Father and Jesus Christ.

As Professor Fee notes in his commentary on Philippians 1:2 Philippians 1:2Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×
: “In a profound sense this greeting therefore nicely represents Paul’s larger theological perspective. The sum total of God’s activity toward his human creatures is found in the word ‘grace’; God has given himself to his people bountifully and mercifully in Christ.”

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