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Grace and Peace

By: Scott Morton

1 Thessalonians 1:1

Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In our last look at this epistle (May 2009 article), we looked at the three individuals who had written this epistle. They were very influential individuals in this assembly, as they had ministered to them and brought the message of this dispensation to the church at Thessalonica.

At the end of this verse, there is a greeting to them: Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a greeting that can be seen in Paul's epistles, as he writes something similar in his other epistles:

Romans 1:7

To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:3

Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:2

Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Galatians 1:3

Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,

Ephesians 1:2

Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:2

Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:2

To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:2

Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 1:2

Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

2 Timothy 1:2

To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Titus 1:4

To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Philemon 3

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It appears that these verses are all copies of each other, based on how similar they are in their approach to this greeting. All of Paul's epistles contain this same greeting. This is important to realize, as some teach that he did not greet certain individuals or assemblies in this manner and have reasons to state this. However, all of the epistles have this greeting.

It is also important to realize that this is something more than just Paul saying hello to all of these individuals. He is greeting them here, but it is much more than just a simple greeting. There is a lot of doctrinal information contained in this that related to who we are as members of the Body of Christ.

These words are used in this greeting as a demonstration of what the dispensation of grace brings to us today. When we look at what the Bible says about the condition of the Gentiles, and also Israel today, we see that this was truly needed.

The Gentiles did not have a good standing in the eyes of God prior to the salvation of the Apostle Paul and his ministering to the Gentiles nations. Paul mentions how the Gentiles were viewed in the book of Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:11-12

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; [12] That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

This is a description that nobody wants to hear of themselves. All of these things listed here show how the Gentiles were not a part of the program of God and all of the blessings had been given to the nation of Israel. Each item listed here shows the problem the Gentiles had:

Without Christ: The Gentile nations were without the Lord Jesus Christ. This is because He speaks of what was to happen with the ministry of the 12 Apostles. He tells them to only go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6). In these same verses He tells them to not go to the Gentiles. The Lord Jesus Christ knew the program of God (since He is God) and knew that going to the Gentile nations would be a violation of the program God had set up. This is why there are only a couple of mentions of the Lord Jesus Christ going to Gentiles during the earthly ministry. It is interesting to note that in each of these events, the people are approaching Him through the program to Israel. This is the only way that He would have any dealing with them.

Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel: The word alien here does not refer to visitors from another planet, like it is used in many of the movies that are out there today. The following definition from Webster's 1828 Dictionary will help to show what this word means:

Alien

A'LIEN, a. alyen, [L. alienus, from alius, another. L. alieno, to alienate; alter, another, to altercate.]

1. Foreign; not belonging to the same country, land or government.

2. Belonging to one who is not a citizen.

3. Estranged; foreign; not allied; adverse to; as, principles alien from our religion.

A'LIEN, n. alyen.

1. A foreigner; one born in, or belonging to, another country; one who is not a denizen, or entitled to the privileges of a citizen.

2. In scripture, one who is a stranger to the church of Christ, or to the covenant of grace.

At that time, ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. Eph 2.

In France, a child born of residents who are not citizens, is an alien. In Great Britain, the children of aliens born in that country, are mostly natural born subjects; and the children of British subjects, owing allegiance to the crown of England, though born in other countries, are natural subjects, and entitled to the privileges or resident citizens.

Alien-duty, a tax upon goods imported by aliens, beyond the duty on the like goods imported by citizens; a discriminating duty on the tonnage of ships belonging to aliens, or any extra duties imposed by laws or edicts on aliens.

They had been seen as aliens from Israel because they were not part of the people there. Those who were born in the Gentile nations were separate from God's program, as had been intended. We see that the Lord Jesus Christ instructed the apostles to not go to the Gentiles, but to only go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5-7). This is because of the separation that was present related to this issue. The only way a member of one of the nations could have been part of God's program was to join themselves to the nation. The one example that can be seen with this is the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, who had traveled to Jerusalem for one of the feast days, which was a requirement under the law. He had placed himself in the program of Israel.

Strangers from the covenants: God had made several covenants with the nation of Israel (Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New) that did not include the Gentiles as the primary focus. This was how God was dealing with man at this time. He made these covenants with Israel to explain to them how he was dealing with them. Since we were never placed under these covenants, it is important to realize that we are not to be functioning under them. This is the program for Israel and has nothing to do with the dispensation of the grace of God.

Without hope: This is the reality of being in the position that has been described thus far. If the Gentiles had no dealing with God, there was no hope for them, unless they did join themselves to the nation of Israel. This would have created a sense of misery in the Gentiles once they knew this and feelings of jealousy and hatred towards Israel because of their exalted position in the eyes of God.

Without God in the world: The conclusion of all of the things that have been mentioned thus far. Since all of these things are true, the Gentile nations were without God. They did not have any advantage and could only look to Israel as help for them in their condition.

Since the Gentile nations were to rely on Israel for help in this area, it would have been important for them to be functioning in the manner that God intended for them. They should have been following all of the covenants as they have been made in order for God to be dealing with them properly.

It does not take very long to see the struggles that the nation had in following the covenants, especially the Mosaic Covenant. They could not keep the law, even though they had stated that they would do whatever God was asking of them (Exodus 19:3-8). They had made this statement even though they had not heard what the covenant was going to be. The struggles in following this started immediately, as they were breaking the first commandment that had been given before Moses had even come down from the mount with the 10 commandments written on the stone tablets. They had made false idols out of their gold and were starting to worship these idols (Exodus 32).

The result of breaking the law is not forgiveness in the eyes of God. He does not turn a blind eye to these things. There is a clear punishment that is handed down when an individual breaks the law. This punishment would vary depending on which part of the law was broken, but could go all the way up to death. In the example used in Exodus 32, we see the punishment handed out:

Exodus 32:26-33

Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. [27] And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. [28] And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. [29] For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day. [30] And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin. [31] And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. [32] Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. [33] And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.

Moses carried out a judgment upon the people for their transgression against God. He pronounced a sentence of death upon the nation for what they have done and 3000 individuals are killed for their worship of the golden calves. God does not tell Moses that he had done the wrong thing with this. He gives Moses a statement to show that these individuals were guilty in His eyes, as they had transgressed the law that was being given to them.

God states He will blot the individual who has sinned out of the book. The book that is being made reference to is the book of life. This is the book that they will be judged out of when the kingdom is being established:

Revelation 20:12-15

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. [13] And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. [14] And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. [15] And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

The final judgment comes when they are judged according to their works. Their names are looked for in the book of life. If their name is not found there, because it has been blotted out because of their sins, they face the judgment that is prescribed here. This is the wrath of God being poured out upon them and being case into the Lake of Fire. This is not something that could be avoided at this point, as there was nothing else that they would be able to do in order to prove they were following what God had asked them to do.

Because of the rejection of man, the only thing that was able to be poured out was wrath. Man had rejected the ministry of God the Father (through the prophets), the ministry of God the Son (the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ), and the ministry of God the Spirit (the ministry of Stephen in early Acts). The next thing in the prophetic program was the wrath of God being poured out.

God changed the program of how He is dealing with man. He has gone from the law program to an extension of grace. He could not continue to deal with man through the law and prophecy, as there was nothing left in this but wrath. We now have this extension of grace where God is offering to us salvation. He wants us to receive the salvation being offered by the gospel:

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; [2] By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. [3] For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; [4] And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

This here is the gospel that provides salvation to us today. There is nothing else that can be done that would actually be for salvation. Paul shows that this is not a work (Romans 4:5) and discusses how during this dispensation the law is not being used as a way for us to receive salvation. We have an extension of grace that has been given to us where we are in a position to have a relationship with God. The previous verses have shown that this was not possible. This is the grace that we have.

There is also a peace that we have as members of the Body of Christ. There is no longer wrath being looked at for us, which was the only thing that could have been poured out. God is demonstrating peace towards us today. This is why Paul says later in this epistle:

1 Thessalonians 1:10

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

We have been delivered from the wrath to come. This wrath is what is known as the Day of the Lord. This is what can be seen when God is going to be pouring out His wrath upon man. We see this being poured out during the book of Revelation:

Revelation 6:12-17

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; [13] And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. [14] And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. [15] And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; [16] And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: [17] For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

John identifies that the things going on here are the wrath of God. This is what we have been delivered from. We will not be facing the events that are known as the great day of His wrath and will experience the event that is theologically referred to as the Rapture prior to this. This is the demonstration of grace and peace, as we are able to see that we will not see the wrath of God. It is truly a glorious thing to think about the fact that we will not be experiencing this wrath.

The peace of God also helps us to be able to deal with the things that are going on in this world. We can see from some of the passages that Paul writes what the peace of God can accomplish:

Romans 5:1-5

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: [2] By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [3] And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; [4] And patience, experience; and experience, hope: [5] And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

The Apostle Paul speaks about the peace that we have as members of the Body of Christ. We have a peace that allows us to be able to deal with the situations we face in our daily lives. This can be a struggle for many of us, as there are things that we face that can be problematic. If we are dwelling on these things for too long, they will start to have an impact on our lives. This will prevent us from being able to function in a manner that God would have us to function.

This is why the Apostle Paul mentions that we have this peace. We have been given the tools to be able to deal with these situations and this is what Paul is instructing the believer to make sure they are doing. If we follow the situation that Paul brings up in Romans 5, we see that the tribulations we face bring about patience (the ability to be able to face these problems without worries), patience brings about experience (the thought that we have been able to get through problems before, which means we will be able to do this again), and experience brings about hope (the feeling that we will be able to get through this and will be able to bring about glory to God). This is what helps us to see that the peace of God can accomplish some great things for us.

Ephesians 2:13-15

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. [14] For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; [15] Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

The Lord Jesus Christ is our peace. This is because of one very important thing that has been accomplished on our behalf. He has broken down the middle wall of partition that had separated the Jews and the Gentiles. This means God is now dealing with all of mankind, which is an important fact. There is no exclusions being made at this time and we all have access to the salvation message being preached in this dispensation (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Paul is showing the unique position here of the Body of Christ. We are the instrument used by God to show peace unto the world, when the prophetic program states there should have been wrath. Each day that this dispensation continues shows how this wrath is being held back and the peace that can come to each individual if they will accept the gospel.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [23] Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

This peace comes to us through the Spirit. The things mentioned in the previous verse are all part of the fruit we should be accessing. This is not a bunch of fruit, where we can have some of these things and not others. There is one fruit that is made up of several different aspects. We have access to this fruit as we study the Word of God rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15). As we study the Word, we conform ourselves to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ and start to renew our mind (Romans 12:1-2).

This peace involves two different things. We have peace with God because of all of the things that have been done for us. We should also have peace with man, because this is what God would have us to do. We are not to be fighting with each other, but should be demonstrating the love for each other, which will bring about the peace that is being stated here. In order to do this, we need to be able to follow what the next verse states:

Romans 8:6

For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

The Apostle Paul is showing here how we are able to have this peace. We need to be spiritually minded in order to have peace. This involves renewing our mind (Romans 12:1-2) in order to show the mind of Christ which we have as a present possession (1 Corinthians 2:16).

This is something that is hard for people to grasp, as it means that we should be focusing on the things in heavenly places, and not worrying about the things of this world. This is because the things of this world are only temporary and the heavenly things are eternal. Which of these two groups of things are going to last longer? Obviously the answer is the eternal things, as these are the things that are going to last for all eternity. We should focus on the things of heaven and this will bring about the peace that we need in this life.

Paul shows us in his epistles why it is that we are receiving grace and peace. This is not an empty greeting, but is a demonstration to us of what has been accomplished for us.



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