2001-01-11 - Which Comes First?
2 Cor 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (NAS)
Remember the old question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" The discussion could potentially go on for quite a while with no hope of a really definitive answer. It might be a nice academic distraction, but not terribly valuable. In literary circles a fist is something that identifies an individual usually either in style or the use of a particular phrase. The phrase "grace and peace" would be a fist that could identify Paul as the author. Paul uses this phrase or a very similar structure, such as "grace to you and peace...", over a dozen times in the New Testament. I never find the phrase rendered "peace and grace." Why does he always have grace come first before peace? I believe Paul did this deliberately to emphasise something to his readers.
The reason is that the grace of God through Jesus Christ must come first before we can truly know genuine peace in our hearts. Yes, we can know times of calm and contentment without knowing the assurance of Heaven and eternity. But these moments are temporary, even fleeting at times. They are subject to the events around us. In accepting the free gift of Christ's salvation, we have a depth of peace, with an eternal dimension, that cannot be known any other way. But that peace would not be available to us without the grace of God. This peace is planted deep in our hearts. Even in times of deep personal trial, this peace is unaffected and immovable. In those times it is a comfort and an anchor that keeps us from rolling out of control on the waves.
What is grace? The full answer will take eternity to understand. The short answer is "unmerited favor". That is, acceptance without a requirement or even the ability to earn that acceptance. One expression of grace is to absolve someone of a debt owed to you personally, or to pay a debt someone owes for them with no expectation of repayment. These are examples of genuinely gracious behavior. When Jesus Christ gave up His life on the cross that afternoon of Golgotha, He shouted the Greek word "tetelestai", which is often translated "It is finished." This is victorious enough. But the term also has financial implications and could be literally rendered "Paid in full."
Rom 3:21-24 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (NAS)
The unpayable debt of sin, the literal fall of humanity, was cancelled from the account of the race of man. The penalty for sin, spiritual death, was cancelled in the resurrection "for all those who will believe." If the original debt was unpayable, then there is no way we will ever repay the One Who paid the debt on our behalf. There is nothing to do to earn His favor. It was done thousands of years ago, and completed in the mind of God before time began.
Rev 13:7-8 And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (NAS)
Do you want to know the peace that comes as a result of knowing the grace of God? You must accept the fact that you are not perfect - you are a sinner like me. Once you understand that, and understand that you can't erase that debt on your own, we can get to the solution. The solution is that Jesus willingly paid your debt and mine on the cross, before you or I were born, before we could do anything about it. It was done because He loves you. He created you. If you are willing to believe in His answer and give your old tattered life to Him, He will give you in exchange His eternal life. The cost of the exchange is indeed your life. But you will lose your life in the end. Why keep what you must lose when you can exchange it for something that can never be taken away from you?
John 10:26-30 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 "I and the Father are one." (NAS)
Lord Jesus - thank You for the assurance we are given in this - that if we accept Your grace, then we have peace that is beyond the understanding of the world that does not know You as Savior. And the Father is so much greater than any threat to that salvation - even ourselves - that we can know that He will carry us home. Amen.
Grace & Peace,
NT:5055 teleo (tel-eh'-o); from NT:5056; to end, ie. complete, execute, conclude, discharge (a debt):
KJV-accomplish, make an end, expire, fill up, finish, go over, pay, perform.
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)