Grace and Peace - Part 10
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
July 30, 2017
To finish out this series let’s go back to where we started. Let’s remember why we’ve been studying peace and before that grace.
Out of the 27 NT books, two special words are found together in 15 of them (mostly in the letters), all at the same place: the greeting.
These words are included in the greeting of every letter Paul wrote (if you exclude Hebrews), every letter Peter wrote, and one letter John wrote plus Revelation.
Just in case you’ve forgotten or if you weren’t around for that first message and don’t believe me, here’s a few examples…
Romans 1:7 (ESV) — 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:3 (ESV) — 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 1:2 (ESV) — 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Peter 1:2 (ESV) — 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
2 John 3 (ESV) — 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
This last message on such a little phrase makes 11 total and I could keep going. but I won't because my daughter said this is the series that never ends.
I’m going to finish it with a history lesson.
The world in New Testament times could be divided very simply into two groups: Jews and Greeks (also referred to as Gentiles).
When I divide things between Jews and Greeks it may be confusing, though. You’re thinking, I thought the Romans ruled world back then. Where do they fit in? Who are the Greeks? Are they different?
A few hundred years before Jesus was born the Romans were up and coming and defeated the Greeks. They fell in love with their language, art, religion, culture, and government. They syncretized it all into their own.
By the time of Jesus, the Romans had conquered pretty much the world (blending more culture and religion into the pot while at the same time infusing Greek culture back in ). They established a mighty and far reaching empire.
When you talk about the Greeks in NT times, you’re really talking about everybody but the Jews.
The Jews were unusual in that when the Romans conquered them, they let them keep their distinct and separate culture (It was way easier that way). But there was always tension. Look for it in the gospels and Acts, and you’ll see it.
So loosely and for the most part, Greeks = Romans = Gentiles from a Jewish perspective.
Now, the first Christians were all Jewish. It was Jews who took the gospel to Gentiles (who weren’t really looking for it). The apostle Paul was known as the missionary to the Gentiles. We are sitting here today because of him!
This sheds light on what Paul meant when he wrote to the Romans…
Romans 1:16 (ESV) — 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Jesus was a Jew who came to fulfill prophecies made by and for Jews, but thankfully we non-Jews were included in his plans to make peace with us, to show us grace.
Paul refers to it as grafting us into his purposes like a wild olive branch is grafted in to a cultivated olive tree.
Romans 11:11–18 (ESV) — 11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! 13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
The gospel came to the Gentiles (non-Jews) through the Jews, and then the Gentiles took it and ran.
Now, keep that in mind, and remember what I first told you about this phrase grace and peace. It had to do with the way folks said hello.
The Greeks said “hello” in a variety of ways, but probably the most common was what would be in our English “Rejoice.” The Greek word for rejoice sounds very similar to the Greek word for grace. So Paul and the other NT writers used a play on words, tweaking a familiar Greek hello and infusing it with a much deeper meaning.
Most of the New Testament letters were written to non-Jews who spoke Greek, so they would have picked up on and appreciated the nod to their language and culture from the author of these letters who were Jewish.
We spent quite a few weeks unpacking the biblical meaning of grace. Here’s what we came away with…
Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward us.
God’s grace, God’s favor toward us is unmerited because of our depravity.
Jesus is the living embodiment of God’s grace.
Grace is a free gift that can’t be earned, only given, and it’s offered by God exclusively through Jesus.
The key to unlocking the immeasurable riches of God’s grace is faith.
Wishing grace to someone was and is the highest form of goodwill imaginable. It was especially meaningful coming from Jews to Gentiles.
Now the Jewish way of saying hello is and has been since ancient times “šālôm ʿălêkem… ‘peace upon you (pl.)’ [an] expression we could translate as “good day.” But it really is closer to “may you be well.”
The Greek word for peace used in this phrase is the equivalent of the Hebrew word shalom.
It’s no surprise that Jews writing letters to Gentiles would throw in a Jewish greeting, but what makes it neat is a little factoid.
The events of the NT (the coming of Christ, the crucifixion and resurrection, the acts of the apostles) all occurred during something known as the Pax Romana. The Roman Peace.
Rome ruled the world and brought peace (an absence of wars) for hundreds of years. And along with it stable government, massive road systems (all roads lead to Rome), housing and bread for the masses, and universally popular entertainment. The Romans were proud of that. It has been noted that the Pax Romana made it possible for the gospel to spread, so God’s timing was no accident.
God’s chosen people never bought into the Roman hype, the Pax Romana because they knew nothing brings true peace except a right relationship with God…
Isaiah 26:3 (ESV) — 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
This gives us more insight to how Jesus’ words would have been received…
John 14:27 (ESV) — 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Just as with grace, we can’t enjoy peace because our depravity puts us at odds with God. The Romans may have ushered in the Pax Romana, but it offers nothing towards solving the deeper problem: we all are actually God’s enemies because of sin.
But Jesus made peace for us…
Romans 5:1 (ESV) — 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Wishing peace to someone was the highest form of goodwill imaginable as well, and every time a NT writer included in a greeting to Gentiles he was sending a little jab towards Rome. He was saying and the Gentiles were living the truth that…
Ultimately, peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of God.
Conclusion: One commentator said, “These two words together sum up the essence of the gospel … “grace, therefore peace”… Because we are under his grace, we have peace with him and peace within.”
The question is, “Do you know this grace and peace?” They come through being in relationship with the One who embodies them, JESUS.
And so church once again but not for the last time, grace and peace.
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