It would seem that, in my teaching and preaching and writing (and casual conversation, for that matter) that I am a bit of a broken record. Somehow every message, every devotional, every discussion always seems to come back to grace.
As the Apostle Paul begins his letter to the very dear believers in Thessalonica, grace, as is often the case, is his starting place. He identifies his partners in sending the letter and his direct audience as was customary.
He identifies his partners in ministry, Silas and Timothy. The text uses a slightly different form of Silas, the Latin version, Silvanus. Both of these men were as familiar to the church there as Paul was. Silas was with Paul when they first came to preach the good news to them. Timothy was the one sent back to check up on them as Paul was prevented from returning in person.
But, beyond the “from” and “to” formalities, there is always some kind of salutation in Paul’s letters. Here the Apostle puts together two significant concepts, grace and peace. This is what he prays for them, “Grace to you and peace.”
They go together quite nicely, really. Grace is the giving love of God for us that comes not because of who we are or what we have done, but entirely because of who He is. Peace is the stillness of heart stirred by confidence in the sufficiency of Jesus for every moment, every, circumstance, every need.
So once again Paul begins this letter to these, his children in the faith, by expressing his desire that they will experience all of God’s grace and the depth of His peace. That’s a great place to start a letter that is designed to acknowledge their challenges, recognize their faith, stir their growth, and revive their hope.
But then, at the other end of the letter, as he waves goodbye, he urges again, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (5.28) This is, in a sense, an odd thing to say. After all, these people are followers of Jesus. They have most assuredly tasted His great grace. How could that grace ever not be with them?
I think Paul is trying to encourage them to lean into the grace of God in every day and every aspect of their lives. They need Him to uphold them and sustain them and empower them and encourage them and everything else that God by His grace continues to do in the lives of His people.
So Paul’s letter of encouragement, challenge, and hope begins and ends with grace. After all, everything we have, everything we are, everything we know is a manifestation of His great grace. Our walk of faith began in grace. It is carried on by grace. And it will one day be completed as an act of His grace.
It begins and ends with grace.
Doesn’t it always?
Father, may Your great grace and Your incomprehensible peace permeate our lives and spill out to all with whom we have contact today.
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