By Barbara Latta, Crosswalk.com
Before the Day of Pentecost, the disciples cast lots to replace Judas and selected Matthias. We never hear of Matthias again, which doesn’t mean he didn’t go forth and preach with the others, but he probably wasn’t the Lord’s choice for the replacement of Judas. Paul is sometimes referred to as the thirteenth apostle, but it could be that God had Paul in mind as the successor instead of Matthias.
The disciples read the prophecy regarding another taking the place of the betrayer and took it upon themselves to make it come to pass (Acts 1:21-22). This election was conducted before this group of men were endowed with power by the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit had other plans. He saved Paul on the road to Damascus and anointed him to preach to the Gentiles.
Paul makes it clear through several of his greetings that he was called by God to be an apostle from birth (Galatians 1:15-16).
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart to the gospel of God—the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures. (Romans 1:1-2 NIV)
The words this apostle chose to begin his salutations to the churches he founded were not idle phrases used to fill up the page. They had a deeper meaning, and the recipients of his letters would have understood what he said. But we can sometimes skim over these regards and not absorb the importance of these words.
Paul starts most of his correspondences with the blessings of grace, mercy, and peace to be upon the readers of his epistles. Grace, according to Strong’s #G5463 means favor, thanks, pleasure, rejoice, be glad, and thrive. Peace was used to bless them with security, safety, and prosperity (Strong’s #G1515). The meaning of mercy is discussed further with item number four.
The Word of God is living and never fades away (Hebrews 4:12). The anointing that was upon Paul’s pen is still as powerful today as when he scratched the message across parchment thousands of years ago. His greetings of grace, mercy, and peace also carried additional wise utterances for the hearers.
These 7 lessons from Paul’s hand still apply to us today.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Anastasiia Stiahailo
1. Grace and Peace Rescue Us From this Present Evil Age
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers and sisters with me, to the church in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:1-4 NIV)
Grace and peace show us we are sanctified and holy. We can rejoice and be glad that we are rescued from this present evil age by the power of Christ.
John tells us in 1 John 4:4 that the greater One lives in us. Grace, which came to us through the power of the cross, is why we can be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We can offer thanks that we can live in the safety of righteousness.
Jesus died and rose again to rescue us from our sins. It is God’s will for us to be delivered from evil and live the abundant life through His grace (John 10:10).
2. Grace and Peace Give Us Every Spiritual Blessing
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-3)
We are granted every divine blessing in Christ. Supernatural benevolence brings us natural endowments because everything created came into existence through spiritual power (Colossians 1:16).
We need material items to live on this earth. But they will all one day pass away. The heavenly energy that gives us our earthly possessions will exist forever. We should offer praise to Him because nothing can be greater than His security, safety, and power.
Faith in His grace gives us the ability to depend upon Him to have all our needs met.
3. Grace, Mercy, and Peace Give Us Strength in Difficult Times
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (2 Timothy 1:1-2)
Paul includes the word mercy in his greetings to Timothy and Titus. These epistles were written to individuals and not an entire church. Judging from the meaning of mercy, which is kindness or goodwill toward the miserable, joined with a desire to help them (Strong’s G1656), we could conclude that Paul was bestowing upon these two men help in the spirit because of their current situations.
Timothy was given the task of leadership and the defining roles of appointing pastors in the new churches Paul founded. Modern churches all have their problems, but the early church congregations consisted of members who had previously lived a lifestyle of idol worship. Timothy surely had a variety of problems to deal with.
Kindness and goodwill toward the miserable with a desire to help them would certainly be a gift both men coveted. They needed supernatural strength to carry out their assignments.
At times, we can encounter difficult people and situations and we also covet mercy to have the strength and wisdom to minister through God’s will.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Digitalskillet
4. Grace and Peace Bring us Aid in Times of Need
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. (Colossians 1:1-2)
Paul greets the church members as faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. We are connected as part of a spiritual body. To be faithful to our saintly family displays the favor of the Father and offers thanks to Him and to our fellow believers. We know we can turn to each other in times of need.
The admonition to comfort each other in the same way we have been comforted by God is given to the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). As we receive spiritual revelation, material possessions, and wisdom from God, we are to share with our spiritual family the endowments we have received. When one hurts, we all hurt; when one rejoices, we all rejoice (1 Corinthians 12:26).
5. Grace and Peace Bring us Connections
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (2 Timothy 1:1-2)
Timothy was tutored under Paul, and Paul laid hands on this young man (1 Timothy 1:6). Timothy and Titus are referred to by Paul as sons in the faith. We don’t need physical blood connections to be members of the family of God. The blood of Christ connects us, and His security binds us together.
Spiritual relationships can be stronger than familial DNA. David and Jonathan in the Old Testament had a righteous bond that protected David from the hatred of King Saul. Although Jonathan was the king’s son, he placed more importance on standing with David than he did in being faithful to his father’s ungodly edict (1 Samuel 20:16-17).
6. Grace and Peace Offer Us Knowledge of Truth
Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began…Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 1:1-2, 4b NKJV)
Jesus Christ gives us the promise of life, and the knowledge of truth leads us to godliness. We are privileged to be in the new covenant and to see the light of the gospel.
The Old Testament saints didn’t have this revelation. They could only look forward in the faith of the Lord’s promises. The appointed season of revelation came through the grace of Christ who names us as God’s elect (1 Corinthians 2:7).
7. Grace and Peace Call Us to Support Our Leaders
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker—also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—to the church that meets in your home: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philemon 1:1-3)
Paul points out that his ministry continues because of others helping him. He had fellow workers. Churches met at these faithful people’s homes. We are called to support those who lead us in the Word with prayer and offerings (1 Timothy 5:17).
Our church leaders are anointed by the Spirit to teach and preach, but they are not expected to minister alone. Jesus called all believers to be disciples and to spread the gospel around the world (Matthew 28:18-20). Grace gives us favor and equips us to use the Father’s gifts to help those in leadership thrive.
Grace, Mercy, and Peace Continue
When we examine the deeper Greek meaning of the words grace, mercy, and peace, we can see how these definitions apply to every greeting in Paul’s letters. God’s will is for us to live with pleasure in His prosperity, rejoice in His goodness, and dwell in His security and safety.
May grace, mercy, and peace be with you forever.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Chinnapong