When James, the Lord’s brother was sharing his analysis of false religion with us in chapter 2, he said, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” If we have ability to be a blessing, but we are not, then we are either poor Christians or poor human beings. If we wish someone good, but then we afflict them with evil, we are criminal not Christian.
And that brings us to the very common Apostolic Salutation or Benediction. Over and over again, we have words similar to those of verse 7: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul says something like this in I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, Titus and Philemon. And this is an Apostolic and not just a Pauline benediction. In his first Epistle, Peter wrote to the “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” And then in the second he said, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” And John did the same: “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne.” “Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.”
Our question for this evening is whether or not this salutation or benediction was merely “have a nice day,” or did these words have special meaning to the Apostles and to the people to whom they were writing? Of course, you know the answer to that question. There is not a superfluous or unnecessary word or phrase in the entire word of God. And if this was repeated a dozen times, then its importance should be measured exponentially. Yet most Christians have never spent more than a couple of moments thinking about it. Let’s remedy that tonight by spending about thirty minutes on “grace,” and “peace”.
But let’s begin with God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Whatever grace and peace are, they have their source in Heaven, in the Trinity, in the eternal God. Peace, in the sense of a tranquil mind, is something that can come out of a bottle of pills or alcohol. Peace can be the product of self-control or the work of a mind-bending psychiatrist or mesmerist. Peace can flow down upon us as we sleep, although that is not always the case. But Paul wasn’t talking about any mere earthly variety of peace or grace. The two things to which he refers have their source in the Lord and in the Lord alone. Particularly, God our Father. I cannot tell you how many times I have read that verse, and even read them during the last two weeks, and yet I never really noticed “God OUR FATHER.” We aren’t talking about Elohim, even though we are. We aren’t talking about God Almighty or even Jehovah, even though we are. Paul was talking about gifts from our Heavenly FATHER. Would the Apostle be very angry with me if I altered his statement in James 1? “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from God our Father, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
Did you know that the first person to call God our Father was the Lord Himself? Malachi 1:6 – “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour?” And then the first time in the New Testament that God is referred to as our Heavenly Father, it is the Lord Jesus whom makes that reference. More than a dozen times in the Sermon on the Mount the Lord calls God our, not just His, but our Father. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Fathers have a different relationship to their children than they do to the children of others. Usually fathers have a generous, loving, protecting, caring, disciplining relationship to their children. And Jehovah is our Father through the adoption arranged by His Son, Jesus Christ.
The second thing to notice in this area is the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. Not just here, but every time that Jesus is directly tied to God, we must assume equality. This grace and peace come from both the Father and the Son as a united pair. Even though it is true, this grace isn’t given to us by the Father through the Son. The Son gives it as much as our Father does. The only way that unbelievers can deny the deity of Christ is to demand it apart from the Word of God. The deity of Christ permeates the Bible in the much the same way that blood permeates our bodies. Even when it isn’t a direct theological statement about the deity of Christ, there it is, just as we find it here.
“To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now, let’s turn to the subject of GRACE.
Being sovereign grace Baptists, we know all that there is to know about grace – correct? Actually, I’m not sure that we’ve begun to scratch the surface when it comes to this subject. But we should know some of the basic elements.
For example the word “grace” refers to “the favor of God” – the unmerited, unearned favor of God. And of course grace lies at the heart and root of our salvation. “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith.” No genuine Christian should have any trouble realizing that grace is at the core of his salvation. He should realize that he was spiritually dead because of sin. He should know even if he was spiritually alive in the stench of his sins, the law of God would slay him. The Christian must understand that if it wasn’t for grace and mercy, he would be another log on the flames of the Lake of Fire. But what some Christians tend to forget, is that grace doesn’t stop with salvation from sin. Grace cannot stop with salvation, or we would stop – our hearts would stop.
The Greek word “charis” signifies good favor or benevolence, but the special kind that is active and powerful. What did the angel mean when he told Mary, “Fear not, thou hast found favor (charis) with God?” What did Luke mean when he said that Jesus, “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God (charis) was upon him”? Mary was not being saved from her sin through bringing this baby into the world. And certainly Christ Jesus, despite enjoying the grace of His father, was not being saved.
What is the meaning of Acts 4:33 where we are told that great grace was upon the church? II Corinthians 9:8 is almost confusing, when it speaks of grace. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” This verse almost suggests that we can have some input into whether God grants us favor or not. When we are gracious, then the Lord has more incentive to be gracious toward us. The explanation is that there is unmerited favor which is at the core of our salvation, and there is subsequent divine favor which is over an above salvation.
It was to this that Paul refers in all those salutations and benedictions of his. It was the grace of God which allowed me to sell our somewhat imperfect car at a reasonable price. It was listed on the internet for three days, and the second person to look at it paid cash for it. An unbeliever might argue the point, but that was the grace of God. Thursday morning, Jackie went out of our house to go to work in Sandpoint, and her car wouldn’t start. Despite jumping it, the car wouldn’t start. But, it was an easy matter for her to borrow her mother’s car and keep her appointment. Then Friday, her car started on its own and was driven to a mechanic, who said that her starter was shot. It was the grace of God which permitted that car to start on Friday, when it wouldn’t on Thursday, in order to be told that it wasn’t ever going to start again without a new starter.
It is by the good favor of God that we are all well enough to be in the house of God this evening. And I see that Bro. Kjeldgaard came back safely from Montana. The grace of the Lord is so all-encompassing that it reaches from the greatest things to the least of things. And the reason is that God Himself is not so immense that He ignores the details. Our Heavenly Father is not unconcerned with the little birdie or the hairs on our chinny-chin-chins. God’s providential care stretches from our souls, to our physical lives, to the sliver in our finger. But it needs to be pointed out that despite its blessing to us, it is primarily for His own glory. “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”
The grace of God is something that we will need every day of our lives, and throughout eternity. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The second major aspect of the Apostolic Benediction is PEACE.
“To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” As I’ve told you before, the word “grace” is “charis” in Greek, and “peace” is “eirene” (i-ray’-nay) – Irene. What a benediction it would be on our families to have two daughters named Charis and Irene.
Obviously, peace is just as much a part of our soul’s salvation as is grace. One definition of “peace” might be “the absence of war.” And there is a warfare going on between the sinner and the Lord, and all the aggression comes from the rebel sinner. But then there is reconciliation through Jesus Christ our Saviour. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
We could multiply verses like these which point out that the enmity between God and the sinner is taken away by the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” There is a peace with God which comes as a result of reconciliation. But the problems between us; the problems of sin, are removed through Christ. There is a very special relationship – a kind of friendship – which is established.
We could multiply verses like these which teach about the peace that comes through salvation. But like grace, peace which has its source in God is an ongoing necessity. Perhaps that can be explained through the on-working of sin in us. Our salvation doesn’t eradicate sin, it provides forgiveness and a means of dealing with it.
Isaiah 57 is a description of the wicked. It begins by saying, “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.” And then it begins to expose some of the heart of those wicked. It calls them the “sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore.” Then after more than a dozen verses it says, “For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” There is no peace in the heart of the wicked, because of the nature of his wickedness – his sin. And the Christian must never forget that a residue of that sin still lurks in his soul too.
So it shouldn’t surprise us that even the saints of God often lack the peace which is available to them. Discord, danger and calamity frighten even the saints, because their faith and trust in the Lord isn’t all that it should be. And then when problems do actually befall them, they suffer from some of the same effects that arise in an actual war. It doesn’t surprise us that the word “peace” can signify regularity and good order. God is not the God of confusion, but of peace. And of course “peace” can refer to mental and physical calm. But it needs to be understood that these things are not simply matters of the mind; they are matters of the heart. They are not the products of human technique, whether sinless or sinful. There is a peace of God which passeth understanding, which can keep our hearts and minds. And it comes from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
So it was Paul’s prayer, James prayer, Peter’s prayer and John’s prayer that we have and enjoy God’s grace and peace. It was their custom to either open their conversations or close those conversations with this prayer, rather than with usually ignored and often useless question: “How ya do’in?” They actually prayed that their friends would be greatly blessed by God. We need, you need, and I need that constant flow of grace and peace. Perhaps this benediction is something that we need to consciously practice in our lives, in order to remind ourselves of our great dependence upon the Lord.