Grace and peace

Sunday LeftoversGrace and peace.

Two nouns, both very common.  They are common in the culture of the world and they are even more common in biblical and church culture.  They are one-syllable words with relatively simple and concise meanings.  Grace is undeserved favor and peace is the absence of conflict and the presence of blessing.

And yet Paul uses these elementary words to express his overarching desire for the Romans — of all that he will say to them in his letter about the gospel of God, he wants them to rest in and be refreshed by the grace and peace provided by God.  So in his salutation, he makes this declaration of blessing to them:  “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:7).

He wants them to know of the grace that God has given them.  The word “grace” is God’s undeserved favor. We have no right to demand His lovingkindness to us, but that is exactly what He gives us anyway. Some have said that the entire gospel is summed up in this word “grace.” And he will expand this theme throughout this book —

  • By grace we are justified (3:24)
  • We also continue to live (and stand) by grace (5:2)
  • We receive life by grace and the gift of righteousness (5:17)
  • Grace is more abundant than sin is rampant (5:20-21)
  • Because we live by grace, sin is no longer our master (6:14)
  • We have received spiritual gifts to serve Christ through His grace (12:6)
  • And at the end of the book, Paul blesses His readers, “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you” (16:20). All that we have and all that we are is because of God’s grace and it is by God’s grace that we continue to live. If you have anything spiritually, it is because of God’s grace; and if you are in Christ, you have everything you need because of God’s grace.

And Paul wants them to know of the peace that God has given them.  In Israel, the Hebrew word for “peace,” (shalom) was used as a greeting. In fact, in Israel it is still used that way to this day. And when one greets another by saying, “Shalom,” it is something of a wish — “Peace be upon you.” But as the Israelites have learned all too well over several millennia, just wishing someone to have peace is no guarantee that they will have it. Yet when Paul says to the Romans, “peace,” it is a reminder that we have peace. What is the peace that we have? Fundamentally it is a peace with God.

  • We have peace with God (He’s not our enemy, 5:1)
  • We experience life and peace when we our minds are controlled by the Spirit (8:6)
  • We anticipate an eternal kingdom that will be characterized by peace (14:17)
  • We live with each other peacefully because of the peace we have from God (14:19)

As Paul uses the word, “peace” is not only the absence of conflict, but also the presence of blessing — it is a positive attribute of harmony, contentment, unity. We were opposed to God as His enemies and now we are His beloved friends. That’s His peace with us.

It is tempting to just jump over these words, “grace and peace” — they are trite, Paul uses them all the time, they don’t mean anything. But they do. These words are everything for the believer. Without God’s grace we have nothing. We have no salvation, we have no Spirit of God, we have no reconciliation, we have no forgiveness, we have no fellowship, we have no hope, we have no life. In fact, without His grace, we not only don’t have spiritual life, but we also don’t have physical life; it is His grace that gives us everything we have. With God’s grace we have everything we need. And with God’s grace we also have peace — peace and reconciliation with God and peace with one another. With God’s peace we have been restored to Him and with God’s peace we can live in harmony with one another. With God’s peace the One who was our enemy is now our friend and Father and resides within us changing us to be like Him.

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