Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:2 is one of those verses we might be tempted to race by in order to get to the good stuff in Paul’s letter. Verse 2 can sound like a typical opening to a letter, the sort of thing you write whether you mean it or not. For example, I usually begin my official letters with “Dear So-and-So,” whether or not So-and-So is actually dear to me.
Paul did indeed begin his other letters by mentioning grace and peace. Six times he used exactly the same sentence as he used in Ephesians. Was this simply epistolary boilerplate, a first-century version of “Dear Ephesians”? Or did it mean more?
In the first century A.D., letters written in Greek usually included the greeting chairein, the infinitive of the verb “to rejoice,” which meant “greetings” (for example, Acts 23:26; James 1:1). Paul chose instead to use the word charis, which meant “grace” and sounded a lot like chairein. To this he added the word eirene, which meant “peace” in Greek and echoed the Hebrew greeting shalom. So, “grace and peace” was a unique greeting that combined both Greek and Jewish elements. As far as we know, Paul himself coined this particular greeting, which shows up in other New Testament letters (1 Peter, 2 Peter, 2 John, Revelation 1:4).
I find Paul’s creativity intriguing. He took that which was culturally common and tweaked it to carry a new message. Though we who know the collection of Paul’s letters are not surprised by “grace and peace,” his original readers (indeed, listeners, since his letters were read in churches) might have been surprised by what they heard. It sounded familiar, yet curiously different. They might have wondered why Paul made this unusual rhetorical move. What was so special about grace and peace?
As we’ll soon see, the letter to Ephesians underscores the extraordinary importance of grace and peace. These are both major themes of the letter. They are both absolutely central to the good news Paul will reveal as he writes. And they are both absolutely essential for you and for me. We, who so easily assume that we need to deserve everything we get, need to discover the freedom and joy of God’s grace. And we who live in a time rife with rancor, often with our hearts filled with anxiety, need to experience God’s peace so that we might become peacemakers in our families, communities, churches, and workplaces, not to mention the wider world.
Something to Think About:
In what ways have you experienced God’s grace in your life?
How have you experienced God’s grace in the last week?
What does the peace of Christ mean to you?
Where in life are you called to be a peacemaker?
Something to Do:
Ask the Lord today for the gifts of grace and peace, and then be sure to share these gifts with others.
Gracious God, thank you for the gifts of grace and peace. Thank you for granting us your unmerited favor, for choosing to save us and bless us because of your unsurpassable goodness. Thank you for your peace, for stilling our hearts, for mending broken relationships, for working in this world to establish your justice and harmony.
O Lord, please give me new experiences of your grace and peace today. And then, may I be a channel of these gifts to others. Amen.