Why do almost every Epistle in the New Testament begin “Grace to you and Peace from God”? Look at all these letters. They all begin this way:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:3)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:2)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:3)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father (Colossians 1:2)
Grace and peace to you (1 Thessalonians 1:1)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:2)
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:2)
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (2 Timothy 1:2)
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (Titus 1:4)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philemon 1:3)
May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1:2)
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2)
Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love. (2 John 1:3)
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne (Revelation 1:4)
All of the New Testament writers understood something very specific about what God has done and about how we are to begin everything in life. I remember listening to a John Piper sermon where he speaks about how specifically Paul begins with “Grace and Peace to you” and ends with “Grace be with you”, showing that Paul believed that the words he was writing was communicating God’s grace to the recipients. Piper then explained that the believers were to carry these words of grace with them as they went about their day.
There is an additional thought that I believe we can carry with us about why the New Testament writers begin this way: We must begin all things with the knowledge and assurance of God’s grace and peace.
The primary inhibiter to all good deeds and to following Christ comes from a lack of trust and assurance concerning God’s grace and peace towards us. But what does this really mean? How does awareness of God’s grace and peace towards us change things?
I believe that the primary way that this changes us is that we wake every morning confronted with the thought of the obstacles that we must surmount and the problems we must confront, fearing that God is against us in all of these things. Our first thought is usually of the problems of life, in ourselves, in others, in the circumstances. We get the overwhelming feeling that God has left us to do life on our own. Even more so, we get the feeling that it is because of what we have done that God has left us to our own resources. We then often respond in one of two ways, 1) succumb to their accusations about our insufficiency, or 2) muster up the will-power to plow through them and just get through it.
But, like the Epistle-writers, we must begin somewhere else. We must begin with Grace and Peace. We are rebels through and through. We defy God in every thought and turn from him at every step. But it is as if God has said, “Little Tyrant, I have made peace with you. Here, take my gracious provision for you. Do you intend to start your day in your own strength? If you don’t realize that I am with you in all you do then your works will be a terror to you. I have made peace with you through the Lord Jesus, so remember him.”
What’s astounding is that even in a letter like Galatians, where Paul skips his usual praise of the church being written to, where the people are blatantly compromising their faith and Paul strictly confronts them, Paul still begins with, “Grace to you and peace.” It is as if Paul is saying, “You must begin here Galatians, with our God who has made peace. Though what you are doing is outrageous, return to this point – that God has made peace with you.”
This is a hopeful point to us who are wandering from God and are living at odds with his will: God still yet holds out his grace and peace to you. Paul doesn’t open his letter saying, “Grace and peace was extended to you… but you screwed up. Oh well, so sorry foolish Galatians!” No, Paul still begins, “Grace and peace to you” even though Paul was outraged at their actions.
This is how we must begin: that through Jesus Christ, God is at peace with us. That must sit heavily upon us – God is at peace with us. The holy, infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing, wrathful and mighty God, who formed the heavens and earth and knows all the thoughts of every man, who could destroy the entire universe in a single breath, yes, this God, has made peace with you, you rebellious tyrant, whom he could wipe out in a mere blink of an eye.
We cannot hang our lives each day on our own efforts. At heart each one of us is a tyrant to God and on our own all of our works will be wrought in rebellion to him. We must begin our days, our conversations, our work, our leisure, our rest, with this thought born in mind, “God has made peace with me and offers me grace to do and endure all things that come my way because of what he has done in Christ. The Lord Jesus is my hope.”
So, in that vein, go today in the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.