Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
– Philippians 1:2 (ESV)
“Grace to you and peace”; this was the common epistolary greeting of Paul. I’ve blown through it many times, without realizing its importance.
Greetings in letters in those days held more importants than the greetings of our day – the greeting in most of my emails is “hey!”, for instance. It was quite common for Greek letters of Paul’s day to begin with the word charein, which means “rejoice”, or “greetings”. An example of this can be found in the beginning of the book of James.
Paul diverged from this custom by starting many of his letters with the word charis, or “grace”. It is derived from the same root as charein but carries with it that central theme of the Gospel, the theme of unmerited favor. Grace! The favor of God, undeserved yet purchased for us by the willing shedding of the blood of Jesus.
The common greeting in a Hebrew letter of Paul’s day was shalom, or “peace”. Paul knew the source of peace, the “peace that passes all understanding”. It is grace, from whose fountain peace flows into our lives. So Paul combined these two customs in one: charis umin kai eirene, “Grace to you and peace”.
May you experience both today!