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Monday, November 10, 2014

Paul's Greeting: "Grace and Peace" (part 4)

(part 3)

Some say he means nothing by it, but what if he really does? The Apostle Paul was inspired by God to start nearly every letter he wrote the exact same way: "grace to you and peace". It’s difficult to imagine how God would inspire someone to write empty words that mean nothing more than, “howdy.” Would he not have used different words other than "grace and peace" if he meant something other than these?

“Grace to you.” John R.W. Stott defines grace as “Love that cares and stoops and rescues.” This describes a goodness of God that man can never earn because man does not deserve it. What is most striking about grace is that grace is not a “thing” but is an attribute of God -- grace is part of who God is. God has two kinds of attributes: those He shares, and those He does not.

Attributes God does not share include Omnipresence (He is present everywhere all at once); Omniscience (He is infinite in knowledge); Omnipotence (He is all powerful and does what He will); Immutable (unchanging). If you think of change, one must agree that anything that does change must do so for the better or for the worse. God cannot change for the better, since He is perfect; and, God cannot change for the worse, because He is perfect.

Attributes God does share include: Holiness (the very essence of God, the hub of all attributes); Righteousness and Justice; Goodness, which is where we also find the love and benevolence of God, dealing kindly with creation because He cannot hate what He has made. “But,” someone asks, “doesn't Psalm 5 say that God hates the sinner?” Yes, it does and we find that God deals kindly with the repentant sinner because His justice was placed elsewhere. Two more attributes God shares are His mercy (God’s goodness to distressed; compassionate) and His Grace, goodness given to those who don’t deserve goodness. Both of which are optional, not obligatory.

Paul also uses “and peace.” Peace has a range of meaning, such as the opposite of war or freedom from anxiety. Peace means the end of hostility and the start of ethical living--we are free to do everything we should. Peace also includes reconciliation between God and man as well as between men. The beauty is there is no guesswork with God when it comes to peace because He has all these in mind because peace describes our final condition when salvation is complete. Lu 2:13-14, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”

What does this mean for a church? It means the flock can settle down and grow in health. When God inspired Paul to begin a letter with “grace and peace,” He sets the tone for the entire book as grace and peace are intended to be shared among believers. After all, peace is the benefit of reconciliation between God and man in Christ Jesus, the builder of the church.

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