The hiss lingers like a ringing in my ear, as Eden’s same infamous disruptor rattles off, “you will be like God (Genesis 3:5).” But, as the hiss dissolves into an allotted meditation, I come to a clearer impression of the world’s upside-down standards. Lost to the barrage of organized chaos our lives appear at times to reflect an ideal hope dashed against the backdrop of reality.
We experience a world where this deceiver’s quip is believed. In this topsy-turvy world we are left to fantasize of another, unlike the one we know. Yet, two key words also linger to yield a sweeter reflection. When joined together, as a greeting and salutation, we discover what Eden’s exile seemed to lose forever, but is still predestined to be found.
“Grace and peace…”
Absolutely foreign. Otherworldly. At first it may appear to be biased optimism, at best, or terse mockery given our state of affairs.
Can the soul truly be hedged by such confidence these words are meant to create?
We prefer to greet one another with the colloquial “How are you?” or “What’s up?”. Of course, the expected retort, “Good, and you?” or “Okay, How about you?” Only to part ways with a well-intentioned “Take care.” We like vacuumed conversation starters, and upbeat conclusions. Who doesn’t? However, the apostle Paul was not the type for friendly evasions in what living out life looked like, nor should we be.
No doubt, Paul was a formidable character of Biblical proportions. For Paul, and the recipients of his letters, this fashioned phrase “Grace to you and peace…” was meant to carry the full sense of its meaning. While frequently repeated, this phrase is not used with wild abandon. There is a persistent objective toward what ought to be the common expectation for every follower of Jesus Christ. Rather, grace and peace are to be employed in the ordinary, day to day, framing of life.
“Grace to you and peace…” is to be understood as a practical reality, not as a realm of illusive possibilities.
The world’s peace is a pitiful promise, not proctored by grace. An honest evaluation would conclude that “Grace and peace…” escape the human-made ability to implement, let alone sustain. Our minds too analytical, too creative in designing ambiguities. Our hearts too eager for wants satisfied, too reposed toward the self. Our wills too ambitious for the upper hand, too weak against riches. History proves the world’s standard attempts to possess “peace,” in its various dealings, find it impossible. At best, peace is articulated into lofty treaties that still furbish wars and threats of wars.
So how can “grace and peace” infiltrate the pressures we see, feel, and endure?
But, “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”” (Mark 10:27 ESV).
- Grace: tallies up to an “absolute freeness.” By definition grace is motivated by the bounty of this idea of absolute freeness. Grace is a virtuous privilege, purely void of expectation to be earned or gained by merited favor. Free. Grace would not be necessary if sin did not exist. Grace is offered as a gift because sin does exist.
Remember that hymn of old “Grace that is Greater than Our Sin” and the verse which says
“Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
“Grace to you and …”
- Peace: manifested by “absolute security.” By definition peace is an active freedom from disturbances. Peace yields rest because it begins at the ending of strife. Relish in the confidence this singular word invokes. Peace. Let the whisper of peace linger. Peace can only be given. God gifts it, though He does not do so upon a supernatural whim.
Peace with God must be satisfied first by grace. The atonement of Christ seals a new relationship to restore (sanctifies) us from the Eden exile of severed peace with God.
The world’s standard of peace is deficient because it negates the grace of God.
Romans 5:1-2, 8, 10-11, CSB
Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God… 8But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… 10For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.
Without the banner of a purely righteous and holy standard the phrase “Grace to you and peace” would be merely a religious blunder. But God. Instead, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father” is a divine promise, a priestly Messianic blessing purposed for the deliverance of the soul from the burdens of the “here and now’s” of life.
Numbers 6:24-27, CSB
“May the Lord bless you and protect you; may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord look with favor on you and give you peace.”’ In this way they will pronounce my name over (put my name on) the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Hebrews 4:14-16, CSB
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.
What practical reach that phrase “Grace to you and peace” offers in allowing us boldness to say “God, hear my cry; pay attention to my prayer. I call to you from the ends of the earth when my heart is without strength…” (Psalms 61) and binds the truth of lyrics from another hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,”
“Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear…
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.”
When hope seems to hibernate in the surrounding dreariness of life, or we are tempted to believe that in our humanity we make better gods, remember to let the all too often lost words be found ringing in your ears,
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus… May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Philippians 1:2; 4:7,23).
written by Michelle Kelso Kafer