To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Thessalonians 1:1b-3 ESV
The Apostle Paul was possibly the greatest Christian to walk this planet, with the exception of Jesus Himself. Paul wrote either 13 or 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament- there is debate about who actually wrote the book of Hebrews. Paul wrote about half of the New Testament books, which became our Bible and penned about 2\3 of the WORD, in the NEW AGREEMENT. There is disagreement about which books were written first. Some Believe the books to the Thessalonians were written before the book of Galatians, others believe Galatians was the first. There are many things we can’t know for sure, but what we do know is that GRACE AND PEACE were common greetings from Paul. John Piper says, “It is astonishing that Paul begins every letter with some form of “grace be to you,” and ends every letter with some form of “grace be with you.” To you at the beginning. With you at the end. This pattern is unvarying. Why? My suggestion is that at the beginning the letter is about to be read. And in being read, grace and peace will come to us. The letter itself — the word of God — will be the means of multiplying grace and peace to us. Then, at the end of the letter, Paul sees us leaving our encounter with the word and going out into the world, and he prays that grace go with us.”
Leader, Peter confirms this understanding. In 2 Peter 1:2, he says explicitly that grace and peace are going to come “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ.” “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord”. In other words, not only am I praying for grace and peace to increase, I am writing a letter to give knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ as kindling for the fire of this increase.” The word Peace was the typical Hebrew greeting, Shalom, and Grace was a Greek greeting, which actually meant beauty, charm, and form. Paul merged the Hebrew, and the Greek greetings, GRACE AND MERCY were his typical greetings. In the New Testament we find this specific greeting used sixteen times: “Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:3) Holman Bible Dictionary defines grace as: an undeserved acceptance and love received from another, especially the characteristic attitude of God in providing salvation for sinners. It defines peace as: well-being, restoration, reconciliation with God, and salvation in the fullest sense. It is interesting in the combining of the two words, the two blessings it is always GRACE FIRST! We can never really know the PEACE OF GOD, until we KNOW THE GRACE OF GOD! Grace FROM God, comes before PEACE OF GOD, PEACE WITH GOD!
Conduit, until we know the GRACE of God we are always under pressure to perform, to be GOOD ENOUGH for GOD! Since we can NEVER be GOODNUFF for God, we will never have the PEACE OF GOD, peace from God, or the PEACE WITH GOD- until we accept the GRACE OF GOD—unmerited favor! As long as we are looking toward our PERFORMANCE for our ACCEPTANCE, we will NEVER have the PEACE that God says will surpass all understanding. (Philippians 4:7) Martin Luther challenged the Catholic church’s actions that we can DO things to be accepted by God, and Luther struggled when He realized He is a sinner and can’t be HOLY on his own. It was through this realization and struggle that Luther realized, through the study of scripture that it is: GRACE alone, through FAITH alone, in CHRIST alone, to the GLORY OF GOD alone, and the BIBLE alone! These are called the 5 SOLAS of the reformation. God says our WORKS are like filthy rags to God. (Isaiah 64:6) When Jesus walked this planet He railed against the religious leaders. Why, did Jesus reserve His harshest words to the religious leaders? Because they were leading people astray, from the Gift of God- Jesus substitutionary death on the cross. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane He cried out, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Religion is man’s attempt to be good enough for God. No matter what name, you put on the works-based religion it is wrong. Jesus’ plea for the cup to pass was met with silence form God the Father- meaning there was NO OTHER WAY! No other way to do what? No other way to RECONCILE a sinful man to a HOLY GOD! There is only one way to get into the KINGDOM OF GOD: Accept the paid price of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is your only ticket to heaven! Once we have been saved- BORN AGAIN- we then do GOOD WORKS, not as a means of entry into the KINGDOM, but as a means of LOVE, of thankfulness for a WRETCH LIKE ME, to be granted the RIGHTEOUSNESS of CHRIST. JESUS PAID IT ALL; Grace and Peace to you!