Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.
And so it ends as it began, with salutations of grace and peace. What do these words even mean anymore? If I’m honest, I have too often seen them as the religious equivalent of, “So good to see you,” or, “Thanks so much for coming.” You know, “grace and peace.” I am aware of their enormous depth of meaning yet they hit people today as a blurry abstraction’somewhere between “hugs and kisses” and “God bless you.”
For Paul and the early Christians I think these words served as code words, representing not sentimental filler words but rather an entire world of meaning. Today “grace” can mean anything from a blessing said prior to a meal to a mulligan on the golf course. For Paul and the people of the way, “grace” had a profoundly narrow and specific meaning yet with the broadest reach and application imaginable. “Grace” meant: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Eph. 1:7 niv).
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4–5 NIV).
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8 NIV).
How about peace? There’s another word that has come to mean everything and nothing. It mostly gets passed off as live and let live, right? Make love, not war. The biblical concept of peace (or shalom) has to do with the restoration of all that is broken. Peace means all the dislocated pieces of the shattered and scattered puzzle coming back together again into an integrated wholeness.
What did Paul have to say about peace in this letter? “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility . . . He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near” (Eph. 2:14, 17 NIV).
Most of what we hear when it comes to these salutations is the way grace would have spoken to Gentiles and peace to Jews. Might there be more to it? Could it be that grace makes the way for peace?
Could it be that the grace of God in Jesus Christ puts our shattered lives back together, and the peace of God in Jesus Christ puts our scattered relationships back together? “Grace” means restored relationship with God. “Peace” means restored relationship with neighbor. This convergence lands us in the heart of the heart of it all, according to Jesus: the love of God and neighbor. Now note the little phrase Paul tucked into his closing words: And love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
There’s a chant rising to prominence in our conflicted society these days. “No justice! No peace!” The louder it gets the further we seem to get from either. Might the truth be, “No grace. No peace”? Grace brought the greatest justice through the gravest injustice: the death of Jesus. Peace brought the greatest victory from the gravest loss: the resurrection of Jesus.
Remember how we started putting this puzzle together? We didn’t begin with the edges because there were none. We started with the center. We began with Jesus. The first piece of the puzzle is always the cross. It turns out to be the final peace.
This holy union of the grace of God and the peace of God, forever wedded at the cross, perfectly reveals the love of God not as an abstract ideal but as a real live person—Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man. “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph. 1:22–23 NIV).
As it ends, so must it begin again. It’s time to get back to the puzzle of our lives and churches. And how awesome is that?
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is your grace and your peace come together as the glorious fire of your love. Thank you for making us alive together in him. Thank you for putting our lives and relationships back together. Thank you for your church. Awaken us to the glory of it all, for the sake of the world you love. In Jesus’ name, amen.
What is on your highlight reel for Ephesians? What are some big takeaways?
Grace and peace. Where do you need grace in your life? Where do you need peace in your relationships?
How has Ephesians expanded and enriched your vision of the potential and possibilities of the big-C Church? How about your little-c local church?
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