Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Phil 1:2 NIV)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7b)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Cor. 1:2)
(are you sensing a pattern here?)
Today we pay a return visit to Alex Koo who writes on Christian living, theology, culture, and books; and also speaks, teaches, and performs at various events. Click the title below to read this at source.
In almost all of the Apostle Paul’s letters, he begins with the greeting: Grace to you and peace from God. It is dangerously easy to quickly skim over these two words without stopping to be arrested by the weight of this new Gospel reality. Grace and peace.
The reformer Martin Luther described this phrase as the heart of all Christianity; all of Christianity is a life of peace overflowing out of a genuine experience of the grace of God. Do you know this peace?
How would you define peace? I posed this question to our young adult ministry. Some answered rightly that peace was a ceasefire, an absence of conflict. Others added that peace was being able to truly rest. But it’s infinitely more than that.
Yes, “grace and peace” was a typical traditional greeting offered in antiquity, but I’m convinced when Paul pens this, he’s also describing the new reality of the Christian. See, when he says peace, he means shalom. When he carefully writes the blessing of peace, he is also directing our hearts to the explosive reality that in Christ, there is shalom. And every single person reading this is longing for shalom. Pay attention to how Christian philosopher Cornelius Plantinga explains this concept of shalom:
The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight … a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights in. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.
Let me put it this way: we were made for shalom. Shalom is the reality of how God intended all things to be. Shalom is the experience when every arena of life functions in the way God designed it to be. Shalom is wholeness. It is fulfillment. Satisfaction. Shalom is when you take all the individual pieces of a watch, fashion them carefully together, and it starts to tick.
Pause for a moment and ask yourself, what was Adam’s God-given purpose? When we ask a typical evangelical today, our instinctive, church-like response is: “Share the Gospel” or “Make disciples.” Or perhaps some of us give the more sophisticated answer of “Glorify God” or “Love God”, but when asked how that looks like, the answer usually still boils down to “Share the Gospel” or “Make disciples”.
That wasn’t Adam’s purpose.
Why would it be? Adam’s purpose was indeed to glorify God, but there was no need yet to share the Gospel. Why? Because everything was as God intended it to be. There was shalom. I usually explain this concept of shalom in the form of four dimensions. For Adam, he experienced shalom:
- Upward. Adam and Eve enjoyed an upward shalom with their unhindered, pleasurable, freeing relationship with God Himself as He walked and dwelled among them.
- Outward. Adam and Eve enjoyed the trusting, loving companionship and friendship with each other.
- Inward. They lived with a sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, purpose, and meaning.
- Downward. Finally (and the most unfamiliar to most Christians), they also experienced a downward shalom and rightness with their relationship with creation. This means that they fulfilled their role as cultivators and stewards of the earth over their possessions, over the animals, over technology, over their work.
But ever since the fall of our spiritual parents Adam and Eve, shalom has been shattered. Everything changed when sin entered the picture. Pastor Timothy Keller says:
Human beings are so integral to the fabric of things that when human beings turned from God, the entire warp and woof of the world unraveled …We have lost God’s shalom — physically, spiritually, socially, psychologically, culturally. Things now fall apart.
In each of the four dimensions, shalom has vanished, leaving only a broken shadow of what used to be and what God had intended.
- Upward. Now, humanity’s relationship with God has been severed. We belittle and mock God by worshiping other things. We don’t love God as we ought and we run from Him because of our sin and shame.
- Outward. Horizontal relationships are now characterized by jealousy, hostility, fear, gossip, lack of trust, betrayal, manipulation, oppression.
- Inward. We all live with a broken sense of purpose. We are paralyzed by guilt and shame, if we’re honest — or we buy into an illusion of self-sufficiency and pride, and attempt to recreate purpose for ourselves apart from God.
- Downward. Our responsibility to manage God’s creation is out of alignment. We now look to our vocations for identity. We look to hobbies, technology, the arts, the sciences, to give us hope and significance. We look to created things to give us what only the Creator can.
All of this brokenness, in each dimension, all play out in our daily lives. It plays itself out when we gossip about others (outward brokenness) to feel significant and validated (inward brokenness). We refuse to worship God (upward brokenness) and instead look to creation — video games, hobbies, careers, academics — for purpose (downward brokenness). All these dimensions are connected. Shalom has vanished. Yet, in every one of our hungry souls, we all long for shalom. That’s why Saint Augustine writes, “our heart is restless until it rests in You.”
The Gospel is God’s plan of restoring all things to shalom. Including you and me.
This is the Gospel: God looked down in love, and for His glory and the joy of His people, embarked on a mission to reconcile all things back to shalom. Every dimension. And in the fullness of time, God sent His son Jesus Christ, to live a life of perfect shalom and died for our sin, as our substitute. Now, if we confess our sin, our idolatry, our rebellion … if we put our faith in the work of Christ, we will be saved. We will be reconciled back to the Father. But not only that, as we begin to believe the Gospel truly, we begin to be reconciled to shalom in all areas — upward with our Father, outward with others, inward with our souls, and downward with creation. When we believe and receive the grace of God for our sin, then we begin to experience peace or shalom, in the here and now, until He comes again to restore all things.
And because of this, we say with the apostle:
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Have you been reconciled to the shalom God is extending to you in the Gospel? Have you been reconciled to God Himself? Believe in Christ and be saved!
Grace and peace.