Fighting to Say ‘Grace and Peace’ (Galatians 1:1–5)

“Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” —Galatians 1:1-5

In his letter to the Galatians Paul gives his typically untypical greeting untypically. Still with me?

“Grace and peace” are the standard fare of verbal appetizers to Pauline entrées. But Paul’s typical greeting is untypical. The normal Roman way of expressing epistolatory salutations was the word chairō, meaning “rejoice,” often limply “trans-interpretated” into English as “greetings.” It is used in two letters mentioned in Acts (Acts 15:23, 23:26), and James uses it in his (James 1:1). Paul, however, uses the related but distinct word, charis, and always marries it with “peace.” 

This is a distinctly Christian greeting that draws deeply on the Old Testament. John Stott writes, 

“Paul sends the Galatians a message of grace and peace, as in all his Epistles. But these are no formal and meaningless terms. Although ‘grace’ and ‘peace’ are common monosyllables, they are pregnant with theological substance. In fact, they summarize Paul’s gospel of salvation. The nature of salvation is peace, or reconciliation—peace with God, peace with men, peace within. The source of salvation is grace. God’s free favour, irrespective of any human merit or works, His loving-kindness to the undeserving. And this grace and peace flow from the Father and the Son together.”

Paul didn’t say “grace and peace” the way we say “Hello!” For Paul to say these words, Jesus had to give Himself for our sins.

The saints need rich ways to greet, bless, and speak to one another. There is nothing wrong with using the customary greetings of our day, James did, but we have the opportunity to communicate so much more. I’m afraid greetings and ways of addressing and speaking to one another like this have largely disappeared because in our childhood experience they were either a rote formality where the gospel depths underneath them were not celebrated and/or because the church didn’t want to look weird. We were told not to load our seeker services with language foreign to unbelievers. I’m glad Paul didn’t have these concerns.

When we fail to call one another saints, it’s just yet another way we fail to be the saints—those set apart by the gospel. When we fail to greet one another with “grace and peace,” we fail to enjoy God’s grace and peace as deeply and communally as we should.

But how is it that Paul gives this typically untypical greeting untypically? By all of the modifying phrases he attaches to it. Only in Romans do we see Paul elaborate so, but whereas in Romans he appears enraptured, in Galatians he is enraged. Why? Because the gospel that is the source of this grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ is being threatened in a most severe way. 

Paul viciously defends this grace and peace for there is no other. If you don’t have peace with God, you do not have peace. You may have a delusion, but you do not have peace. What peace can one have when they abide under the wrath of God Almighty (John 3:36)? The only place you can find refuge from God is in God. If you would have peace with God, you must find grace from God; and there is grace from God only as it is grace from the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins.

May we not only greet one another with these precious blood bought words, may we fight to do so.

Matthew 12:1-14 & Running by Religion

Most men don’t run from religion, they run by “religion” (please understand the nuanced, pejorative way I am using the word in contrast to true religion). Man’s preferred way to oppose God and His saving grace in Christ is by religion. The more truth mixed with this religion, the more deadly. The Pharisees, unlike the prostitutes, thought they were religious. Religion is the inoculation that causes one to cry out, “Lord, Lord, did we not…!”

What is “religion” in this pejorative sense? Religion is spelled, “d-o”. It’s about what you do. In contrast Christianity is spelled “d-o-n-e”.  It’s about what Jesus has done. Religion is about a law you keep; Christianity is about a grace God gives. Religion builds pride and is for the “wise and understanding”; Christianity humbles and is for “little children”. In religion we ascend to heaven; in Christianity God descends to earth.

Sabbath, that is rest, is not something we work to achieve. Sabbath, for fallen man, has always flowed from redemption (cf. Deuteronomy 5:12-15). This is why the Sabbath is to be a delight (Isaiah 58:13-14); a day of rest and not a burden. We rest because He worked.

Jesus was born of a virgin, He took on human flesh, fully God and fully man He was the God-man; remaining what He was (God), He became what He was not (man). As the God-man He worked; He perfectly kept the law fulfilling all righteousness for us. His obedience climaxed in His willingly going to the cross and drinking the cup of the Father’s wrath against our sins down to the dregs. Now because of His work we have Sabbath.

So in one sense I plead with you to run from religion, that is, run from a reliance on your own good works to achieve any kind of eternal rest. Yes, don’t run by religion, but run from religion. Run from reliance in your good works which are as filthy rags and rely wholly on His good works.