“And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.”
Romans 1:6-7 NLT
The structure of Paul’s letters is not something we use today. We are more likely to end our missives with sentiments such as “grace and peace”, rather than start them. But why did Paul think the Roman Christians needed these qualities. Both of these words define necessities for the human soul. Without them conflicts within and without us will lead to destruction. Medically, illnesses and conditions like heart attacks and strokes, can be caused by reacting to the situations around us without grace and internal peace.
Take for example a modern phenomenon called road rage. The occurrences of anger that is invoked when another driver behaves in a way that we think is dangerous, or unfair. Such events happen in road works, when another driver thinks he can jump a queue of traffic, cutting in dangerously and forcing another driver to brake suddenly. Without a supply of grace, the driver who thinks he has been wronged may react with anger, resulting in a rise in blood pressure and risking a stroke or some other heart-related ailment. There were no road rage incidents in Ancient Rome but there would have been other occasions where a similar response would have been common.
So what is “grace and peace”? Taking grace first, the Cambridge On-line Dictionary has several meanings, but the one closest to what we’re interested in is “approval or kindness, especially (in the Christian religion) that is freely given by God to all humans“. That definition is for something that theologians refer to as “common grace”, demonstrated by verses such as Matthew 5:45b, “… For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike“. In those terms, there is no advantage to being a Christian – God’s common grace covers all that mankind needs for life, and it extends to everyone. However, there is a much nobler definition of grace, and that extends to God’s willingness to forgive everyone of their sins if they believe in Jesus’s sacrificial death at Calvary. There He took on Himself the sins of mankind, exchanging them for His righteousness. And now those who repent of their sins before the Cross will experience the grace of God. A common acronym is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. So Paul asked that “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” gives us grace. We need it for our continuing relationship with God and we need it for living redemptively with those around us. And more of it, please God!
Similarly, peace is something much needed in our pilgrimages through life. We’re not talking just about peace as being the opposite of war. Again, our dictionary defines peace as being, “the state of not being interrupted or annoyed by worry, problems, noise or unwanted actions“. But this only partially applies to what Paul was talking about. Philippians 4:7 reads, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus“. Godly peace involves faith in God Himself. A faith that is built on the foundation that God is who He says He is, and that He keeps His promises. A faith that will sustain us through all the trials and tribulations of life. A faith that, through Jesus, we will one day be able to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Now that is real peace. In John 14:27, Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid“. Now that is real peace. More of it, please God!
Paul, in asking that God gives us grace and peace, was calling down a blessing as essential to the lives of believers as the food we eat. Real soul food that we need for our spiritual lives. Food that will sustain us through our earthly lives. And we need a constant supply of it. Day by day. And the amazing thing is that God’s grace and peace is unlimited. We only have to reach out and accept the gifts so tenderly offered to us by our loving Heavenly Father. Gifts far more precious than any shiny earthly bauble.
Dear Father God. We are so grateful that You know exactly what we need for a godly life, and have made provision for us to receive it. We purchase our soul-food direct from Heaven through the blood of Your Son, Jesus. Thank You Lord. Amen.