1 Thessalonians 1 v 1 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I wonder if you have received any kind of greeting this morning? Did someone say to you “Good morning” on your way in? Have you used the word “Hi!” or “Hullo” as you met with others today? Greetings are wonderful things and are a part of our culture and life as we communicate with one another. Then there are farewell greetings – goodbye, goodnight and God Bless you at the end of a conversation on the phone or when we part to go home. “How are you?” is a well-worn and well-used greeting – an enquiry as to your well-being. I am told that in a certain country in the Far East people do not say, “How are you,” but “DO YOU EAT WELL”. It seems that if your appetite is good and you eat well in that particular country then you are said to be in a good state.
The Apostle Paul and His 2 friends Silas and Timothy have a different greeting to bring at the beginning of their letter to the Christians at Thessalonica. We began to look at this letter last Lord’s Day and found that the gathered Church at Thessalonica in Greece, a large city of thousands of people, needed encouragement. It was a difficult place to live and persecution of true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ was a grievous problem. So the three missionaries start with a greeting. It was not Happy Easter, or even “He is risen,” which someone may have used to greet you today.
No it was the second part of verse 1 of First Thessalonians –
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is a wonderful greeting for any believer to wish another, or group of Christians to communicate to another group.
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
And it is a particularly appropriate greeting to think about on an Easter day – another Lord’s Day has come round in which we can celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ – indeed every Lord’s Day is such an opportunity – the Christians long ago changed their weekly worship day to the first Day of the week, a Sunday, from the Jewish Saturday for the very reason that they were recognising that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week. He broke through the cold stone of the solid rock of the tomb not needing to remove the stone guarding the tomb’s door. So the early Christians saw that they had 52 opportunities every year to come together to rejoice in their risen saviour. We do not need to confine our excitement about the rising of our Dear saviour from the dead to just one Sunday in the year. Other folk may see it like that – and still others restrict their church attendance to this Day, Easter day, as their annual visit to a place of worship. Oh what they are missing on the other 51 Sundays in the year when they do this! We serve and worship a risen saviour who rose again in victory on the first day of the week – so we can rejoice on this day every week in him our Lord and Sovereign Master. And we could be saying Happy Easter every Sunday! That would be interesting, to see how many people would be comfortable with that!
Now this greeting in 1 Thessalonians 1 v 1
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus
Christ can be thought about in three areas this morning.
The greeting is Grace to you and peace to you
1. From God our Father
2. And the Lord Jesus Christ
3. To the Church
Grace to you from God Our Father – because He, the Father, is the author of Grace and peace.
Grace to you from the Lord Jesus Christ - because He is the bringer of grace and peace;
And Grace to you and peace to the church – because the church is the recipient and beneficiary of grace and peace.
This greeting Grace and Peace is at the beginning of ALL of the letters in the NT authored or co-authored by the Apostle Paul. When you have a moment go through each of the letters of Paul and notice grace and peace to those who would receive his letters in the first few verses.
The same greeting grace and peace also appears in 3 of the letters written by others – both of Peter’s letters have it; one of John’s and John’s Revelation has it too.
In those days in the first century there already existed a traditional greeting amongst the Jewish people – Chairein Shalom. Chairein means rejoice, Hail or simply Greetings – perhaps our equivalent of Hullo! We find it in such places as Matthew 5:12
Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:
But also when the traitor Judas came to Jesus in the garden he used the greeting –
Matthew 26:49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.
Shalom as most people know means Peace.
Paul christianises this greeting.
He translates the Hebrew Shalom into EIRENE the Greek rendering of Peace, which the Lord Jesus Christ used in Luke 24:36
And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
Then he also changes the word Hail, rejoice – CHAIREIN – into CHARIS – a word from the same root – and we probably all know that Charis means Grace.
The new greeting then becomes a Christian Greeting with deep meaning for all the believers – for they had much to rejoice about – God’s marvellous grace and the peace that flowed from it.
So let us think of this greeting from the three angles mentioned earlier.
Grace to you and peace
1. From God our Father.
God the Father is the author of Grace.
He is the author of grace because it is in His nature to be gracious. Grace is sovereign, unmerited, unconditional and undeserved favour from a thrice-holy God on sinners who have rebelled against Him. Not only is God the Father Holy but also He hates sin. It cannot be further from His nature. Sin divides God and men there is a huge wall between them – for God is of purer eyes to behold iniquity.
Habakkuk 1:13 Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:
How do we know that God is gracious? The Old Testament tells us in the history books of the Jewish people –
2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 30 v 9 For if ye turn again unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.
Also the Prophets proclaimed that God is gracious – hear what Jeremiah says –
Jeremiah 29:13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. 14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD:
The psalmist said the same –
Psalms 86:15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
Psalms 111:4 He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.
And in the New Testament we find in Romans 3 that even though
23 all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
yet we see that we are
24 justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
How gracious God is who has saved us by His grace through faith – not of ourselves – nothing we could do – But God brought us to life by Grace! Praise His name. Has He brought you to life yet my friend?
God the Father is the author of Grace and peace.
Peace is something that we are thinking a good deal about at the moment – we are currently longing for a real peace not only in Iraq but also in other places where there is war and strife.
Man is the author of war – but God is the author of peace! Rebellion means war. War brings poverty, strife, uncertainty and heartbreak. Peace is the state of freedom from war – it is a state of concord, safety and prosperity.
God extends His peace to His creatures who by nature oppose Him to His face with their sins and failures to serve and worship him. He has invented peace. He had a council of Peace with His son the Lord Jesus Christ when together they formulated the marvellous covenant of Grace and peace before the world began. Our God anticipated the war between Himself and man.
He is called the God of Peace several times in the New Testament.
Romans 16 v 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. Philippians 4 v 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
We can see this peace in the way that the Father is
1. Concerned with peace and reconciliation. Following the end of Apartheid in South Africa church leaders and politicians set up PEACE AND RECONCILIATION tribunals. You may remember how those who had committed terrible crimes against humanity, their fellow Africans, were encouraged to come and own up, confess what they had done without fear of prosecution from the state. The initiative came from those offended and sinned against. There were poignant and emotional scenes as oppressors and the oppressed faced each other – the accusers gave evidence – the accused confessed – and in many cases true reconciliation based on forgiveness came about.
In a far greater way the heavenly Father is interested in reconciliation – we are the accused – he is the offended party. He has initiated reconciliation between Himself and we who have by our sinful rebellion, been at war with Him.
2. The Father is the giver of PEACE of conscience. What a terrible thing it is to have a guilty conscience. It affects our sleep – it can affect our appetite – it impedes our prayers and sometimes it can lead to a breakdown in relationships.
On the other hand what a blessing it is to have a clear conscience – one that knows that God has nothing against us – that we are forgiven and that there is no barrier between us and God or others.
Do we have sensitive consciences my friends, that sound alarm bells when sin is near, when sin has been committed or when duties have been neglected? The Hymn writer prays,
“Throw light into the darkened cells where passion reigns within,
Quicken my conscience till it feels the loathsomeness of sin.”
God first quickens our consciences, wakes them up – then when we repent, He pacifies them with His love and forgiveness, so that we have peace with God.
3. The Lord God wants His creatures to approach Him as a Father. His character is peace and He encourages us to come to Him, not in a cowering spirit of fear, but to a loving and forgiving Father. How can He do this? Because Christ His son has died, and risen again, – so the Father is not angry with us any more.
4. The 4th thing to say about this peace is that this is unintelligible to an unbeliever. The scripture tells us that the Father’s peace is a peace that passes all understanding. The natural unregenerate man or woman just cannot understand why God should desire peace with His creatures. People get used to wars of all kinds – international; national, feuds at work and in the home; enmity between individuals – they are happy to accept what they see as inevitable – war and strife. Some even feel most comfortable when there is something to be argued about or fought over. So to suggest peace – it passes their understanding.
But believers – are grateful for the peace for they have seen the alternative – eternal enmity with the creator – and those who stay enemies of God pay for it – in hell!
Grace and peace from God our Father is a glorious thing to have – do you have them today my friend? He is the author of grace and peace – and there is a sense that you are an incomplete person without them!
Grace to you and peace
2. And from the Lord Jesus Christ
The Lord Jesus Christ is the BRINGER of grace and peace to us. We have said that as sinners we are hostile enemies to God waving our fists in His face. How the Lord Jesus had to endure that in Jerusalem. Bearing shame and scoffing rude He gave His back to the smiters. He was cruelly scourged with the 3 thonged Roman whip so that – His flesh was torn so cruelly.
My friends the Lord Jesus brought grace to us by substituting for us. By rights we deserve that whipping. By rights we should be ridiculed and mocked and humiliated for the sinners that we are. But graciously the God man Jesus Christ took it for us – he graciously endured the beating up by the soldiers who dressed Him in a purple robe, rammed down a crown of thorns upon his head and punched and kicked Him, beating him with a cane. They even grabbed the hair of his beard and pulled it out – Isaiah the prophet predicted that this would happen –
50 v 6 I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
Then His hands and His feet were nailed to a cross and he hung there for 6 hours with no water to drink. His side had been pierced by a Roman soldier’s spear and he was pronounced dead by His executioners – but not before, with almost His last breath, He cried out IT IS FINISHED! The work of redeeming grace had been completed. He brought grace to us through this act of atonement. This was our deliverance from guilt and punishment – what favour this is from the very one whom we have offended. True grace comes to us from the man of Calvary.
But if that was not enough 3 days later He rose again and was seen by many. He broke the power of cancelled sin and now appears for our justification. We who believe in His resurrection are declared righteous by the God whom we have treated so badly. And He has transformed us by His Holy Spirit whom He has sent – and on top of all this, again by His grace, He has brought to us the promise of glory – of heaven – of eternal life with Him.
Through His cross and His resurrection our saviour Jesus Christ brought grace – in these supreme acts of self-giving – for us! Are we not overwhelmed as we think of these things? Grace is not something that we acquire or buy – grace is the gift of Christ to us the undeserving. He did all this for those whom he loved, and those for whom He died will love Him as their eyes are opened to the marvellous grace that is theirs forever. Is this grace yours my friend? Has Jesus died for you too? When He brought this grace when he died on the cross, did He have you in mind?
The Lord Jesus Christ also is the bringer of peace. The Father is the author as we have seen – Jesus brought peace to hostile enemies. He was appointed as the peacemaker by God the Father. Isaiah tells us that in Isaiah 53 v 5
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
It pleased the Lord God for His Son Jesus to make peace. We are told that in Colossians 1 v 19
For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself;
The Lord Jesus brought this peace by being that mediator on the cross; by making an atonement between us and God and by rising again to ensure our eternal future of peace in heaven. Peace through the blood of His cross! What an expression this is! We are reconciled with God through Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
What do you know of this peace my friend? Is your heart and mind at peace? Do you have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ?
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blessed, Finding as He promised perfect peace and rest.
Why do I ask if you have peace? You may be someone this morning that believes that you do have peace – and that although you are not a Christian, you are not disturbed or particularly in turmoil in your soul. You could say that you know peace of mind and peace of heart.
Thomas Watson was a well known minister in London in the 17th Century – he said this –
“The seeming peace a sinner has is not from the knowledge of his happiness, but the ignorance of his danger!”
There is such a thing as a false peace – but as Watson said it is ignorance of the danger. Most people have no idea that there is a war between God and sin. They don’t know because they don’t know God. They have no idea of His awesome holiness nor His mighty power to punish sin. They know nothing of the danger of dying without forgiveness and the peace that comes with the reconciling between God and men. You need to know this peace this morning, my dear friend. Do not let this resurrection morning pass you by without making peace with God and coming to know Christ the bringer of peace.
You may argue that you have many disappointments in your life and that peace is the last thing that you need – you desire to get even with those who have harmed you. Let me ask you – has God done this? Does He plan to reward His people with retaliation? No – He is the author of grace and peace, and His Son, the Son whom He loved; he gave to bring us that grace and peace. He did not hold back in making peace with His people. He came himself, in the person of His Son, to die at the hands of men, and then rise again in mighty power, to make their salvation absolutely certain! Oh that we all may know the power of His forgiving love this morning.
Finally in this greeting we can see how grace and peace is
3. To the Church
Paul, Silas and Timothy were in the first instance sending this desire, this wish for grace and peace to the believers at Thessalonica. But we can be so bold as to receive this greeting ourselves – we too are a Church of Believing people – and God the Holy Spirit means for us to be greeted in the same way. Grace and peace to you. John MacArthur the American Pastor and broadcaster has a ministry of the Gospel that includes literature and tapes of messages sent free of charge to anyone who wishes to receive them. He calls this ministry “Grace to You” and the name has its origin in Paul’s greeting. The recipients and beneficiaries of Grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, are believers. The church has its origin and life in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The church belongs to God and is in living union with Him. The church was founded because the Father and the Son showed grace and brought peace to the hearts of individuals and joined then together in common purpose – to worship and glorify Him together.
Our identity as the Church of Christ is rooted not in who we are but in who God is and who His son is. The church belongs to Jesus Christ. She is governed by Jesus Christ, and she has all her resources from the Lord Jesus Christ. Since we are living union with God then we do not need to follow the trends of secular organisations and seek to add to our numbers with all kinds of recruitment methods. The Lord Jesus adds to His church such as should be saved. We do not need gimmicks or schemes to attract members – we simply preach the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, make every effort to publish His name and then rejoice when His sheep hear His voice and come to Him!
So grace flows from God to us, and from God to His elect but yet unconverted children.
And then peace comes from God to us as we worship and work together, and then from God to those who will come and make peace with God.
There is an inner tranquillity and peace that every believer knows when in harmony with the God who sends grace and peace. We who have been loved by the Lord Jesus and have been saved by so great a salvation, as witnessed by the death and resurrection of Christ – are entitled to these constant blessings of grace and peace.
It is on going grace – grace for every day – grace in every circumstance – grace to overcome difficulties, temptations and trials, grace to cover our falls into sin, and grace to endure persecution and ridicule for Christ’s sake.
And it is on going peace –
Oh the peace our saviour gives, peace we never knew before; For our way has brighter grown, since we learned to trust Him more.
This peace endures – it is not temporary. Because its author is God the Father and it is brought to us by Jesus the Son.
A final thought as we close.
Peace is the atmosphere of grace – and grace confers peace to our souls.
May we all know grace and peace from God our Father and the risen and glorified Lord Jesus Christ.