In reading the opening verses of the book of Revelation this morning I noted the salutation “Grace and peace to you” in Revelation 1:4 and paused to think about it. I then wondered about the greetings in the other New Testament letters and after checking found that all but four (Hebrews, James, I John, and III John) include “grace and peace to you.” I and II Timothy, II John, and Jude include “mercy” as well.
Why is this salutation so frequent and what is the implication? Part of what is going on is the adaptation of standard letter writing practice of the time. It is somewhat similar to our “Dear” at the beginning of many letters and “Sincerely yours” at the end. But for Christian writers and readers it is much more than just convention. New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger observes “None of the ancient pagan letters has anything like the magnificence of ‘Grace to you, and peace’.”
“Grace” is primarily the Christian component and “peace” (shalom) the basic greeting and farewell of the Jewish people—richer and deeper than the Greek word for “peace.” The two together are filled with meaning and significance for Christians.
Every time these two words are used in a New Testament letter greeting the word grace comes before the word peace. Both, of course, come from God and in that order. The same New Testament scholar quoted above, but in a different book, notes “it is because of God’s grace that his people can enjoy peace.”
Grace is God’s unmerited (unearned and undeserved) favor shown to us through the coming and work of Jesus. We are forgiven and saved by grace through our faith in Him–“not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:10). Peace—peace with God because we have been redeemed and the inner peace of God—is the result of God’s grace.
I’m not suggesting we incorporate this New Testament salutation into our letters, notes, cards, and emails today. Readers would probably think we had been in the sun too long! But when we read this greeting in our Bibles we should not simply blow by the writers’ call for these blessings upon us as Christians. We should rejoice in God’s grace and peace and give Him thanks.
Even though we don’t include the greeting in what we write, we can wish and pray for others and ourselves what Peter asked for his readers in I Peter 1:2, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7b).
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