Peace characterizes our new standing and relationship with God in Christ. The Lord Jesus has reconciled us to God by his blood. He has removed every obstacle and broken down every hostility by bearing our curse and satisfying God’s wrath in our place.
The familiar apostolic greeting, “Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (or some close variation), marks all of Paul’s epistles (Rom.1:7; 1Cor.1:3; 2Cor.1:2, 13:14; Gal.1:3; Eph.1:2; Phil.1:2; Col.1:2; 1Thes.1:1; 2Thes.1:2; 1Tim.1:2; 2Tim.1:2; Titus 1:4; Phm.3; cf. 1Pet.1:2; 2Pet.1:2; 2Jn.3; Rev.1:4), and it brims with theological implications.
Commentators routinely observe that this is a “Christianization” of the ancient greeting commonly found in Greco-Roman letters (χάρις “grace,” instead of χαίρειν “greetings”), and they regularly expound the significance (OT & NT) of the terminology “grace” and “peace.” And in a brilliant 1917 essay by B.B. Warfield that every Christian interpreter ought to read, the famous Princetonian patiently discloses the trinitarian implications of the phrase “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” – observations you will probably not find elsewhere.
But just what is the significance of “to you”? When Paul prays for “Grace to you and peace” from God, what does he mean? Both “grace” and “peace” carry soteriological implications, but writing as he is to believers the apostle is obviously not praying that they would come to be saved; he is praying that they in some way would experience grace and peace anew.
This notion of “experienced” grace and peace is perhaps more prominent in Paul’s famous “benediction” in 2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” But the thought is the same here – when Paul prays “grace to you and peace” he expresses hope that God’s grace and peace will be with his readers in some recognizable way. So, assuming that God grants the request, just what does it look like in the experience of Paul’s recipients?
To answer this question we need only think through the biblical concepts of grace and peace and their implications.
Grace to You
Grace is unmerited favor, favor from God that comes to us apart from and in fact contrary to considerations of what we deserve. He gave us in Christ all that he required of us, and instead of condemnation he gave us acceptance and life. He did not require so much performance on our part in order to earn his favor – he favored us freely, for Christ’s sake. All the cost he paid; all the benefit is ours. His salvation is free. We are “justified by grace” (Rom.3:24; Titus 3:7).