Grace and Peace
Written by Melissa Spoelstra (First 5 Ministries)
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Greetings often become perfunctory for me. I can offer them on autopilot. However, in Paul’s letters written to churches, his greetings were anything but a hurried hello.
Paul had a special relationship with the church at Philippi, which began on his second missionary journey. Philippi was an ancient town in Macedonia that had been renamed by Philip of Macedon in 360 B. C. Paul began preaching the gospel as soon as he arrived, which resulted in these experiences:
- Paul stayed at the home of Lydia, who was a seller of purple cloth. She heard Paul preach at a riverside prayer meeting and believed in Christ and was baptized. (Acts 16:14-15)
- Paul cast a demon out of a slave girl in Philippi, and it angered her owners, who made money off her fortune-telling. They started a riot that landed Paul in prison. (Acts 16:16-24)
- While in jail in Philippi, a great earthquake shook the prison doors open, giving Paul a chance to share the gospel with the jailer. This man believed in Jesus along with his entire household. (Acts 16:25-34)
When Paul greeted the church at Philippi, we should know he had made some memories with them. He felt a true connection with this church.
Timothy was a young convert at the beginning of Paul’s second journey who likely accompanied him through all of these Philippian adventures. When Paul penned this letter (possibly from a prison in Rome many years after his initial visit to Philippi in Acts 16), Timothy was with him. Paul’s tone conveyed warmth and friendliness, calling the hearers”saints” but referring to Timothy and himself as “servants” (Philippians 1:1). He also mentioned the overseers and deacons as an endorsement of their authority and leadership in the church.
Next, Paul blessed the hearers of his letter with “grace” and “peace” (Philippians 1:2). This was a familiar blessing that combined Greek and Hebrew expressions and therefore became a particularly Christian way of greeting. Paul also used a greeting that included “grace” and “peace” in these other letters: Romans; 1 and 2 Corinthians; Galatians and 2 Timothy; Titus; Philemon. Let’s explore these words of blessing that Paul bestowed on the churches he loved.
- Grace is God’s favor and kindness given without regard to merit.
- Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the inner assurance of spiritual confidence and contentment even in the midst of difficulties.
Paul intentionally blessed the church at Philippi with grace and peace before saying anything else. He also pointed the hearers of his letter to the source of these blessings, writing that they originate “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:2).
In the first two verses of Philippians, we learn to take a posture of bestowing blessings. While we may not write many letters by hand these days, we can consider how we greet one another in person, on social media, via text and even over video conferencing. Like Paul, we can go beyond a basic “hello” to spiritual affirmation in our greetings.