This Is Why You Shouldn’t Skim Past The Greetings in Paul’s New Testament Letters

To read the rest of the Philippians series click here.

Do you ever feel God doesn’t love you, or at least loves you less, because of what you did (or didn’t do) yesterday, last week, or last year?  Do you feel defeated by sin and powerless against its effects?  An amazing truth hit me as I read verse 2 in Philippians.  It’s this: all Christians once stood in direct opposition to God.  You were His enemy – a traitor – standing condemned in His eyes and following your father (who happened to be the devil).  Then an amazing thing happened…

We’ll get to the amazing thing in a second.  First, Ephesians 2 has some pretty harsh things to say about non-believers.  Remember this was you at one point.  Let’s take a look at them one by one.

  1. (v.1) You were dead in trespasses and sins.  You were dead…as in not alive.  Sure, you were breathing, but your spirit was dead and your soul was hell-bound.  It was not a good situation.  Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death…
  2. (v. 3a) You lived according to the passions of your flesh and carried out the desires of your body and mind – which were diametrically opposed to the things of God.
  3. (v. 3b) You were a son (or daughter) of disobedience and a child of wrath.  Again, these are not flattering descriptions.  Could you imagine anyone talking about you and saying these things?  Not good.

Romans 5 uses words like weak, sinner, and enemy to describe you before your conversion.  I’m sorry to have to be the one who exposes you to these things about yourself, but they’re all true.  Or they were true.

Now for the amazing part.  There aren’t two words, when put together, that produce a more beautiful reality than “but God.”  That’s exactly what Ephesians says.  “But God,” being rich in mercy and love, has made you alive with Christ.  You’ve been saved by grace.

Mercy is undeserved pardon and grace is unmerited favor.  So you’ve been judged “not guilty” for something you are undeniably guilty of.  “But God” didn’t stop there.  He not only shows you mercy, He showers you with grace.  He didn’t just bring your debt account back to zero; He filled it with the righteousness of Christ.

All this brings us back to Philippians 1:2 in which Paul greets his readers with, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Don’t just fly by these words in order to get to the “good part” of Philippians.  These are HUGE things!  We are able through Christ to claim grace from God and peace with God.  We are no longer His enemies; we are His friends (John 15:13-15).  Satan can no longer claim you as his child, for you have been adopted into a new family with a new Father (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5) as Paul states in the second verse of Philippians. And He is a good Father.  He can be trusted, relied upon and believed in.  He will not let you down.

Could Paul have packed any more theological truth into these two short verses acting as merely the greeting to his readers?   Could you imagine hearing this letter being read for the first time in Philippi?  My head would have been spinning.  I would’ve needed to borrow the letter and take it home to really get everything there is to glean from it.  I’m really excited about the rest of this blog series and I hope you are too!

Do you really believe that you have obtained grace from and peace with God?  Does this belief work itself out when you are convicted of sin?  Are you more apt to rely on your performance or fall on God’s grace?  Let me know in the comments…

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” – Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2 and Philemon 1:3 (Apparently Paul really believed this).

– Kevin


2 responses to “This Is Why You Shouldn’t Skim Past The Greetings in Paul’s New Testament Letters

  1. Pingback: Philippians: To Live is Christ (But To Die Would Be Better?) | all things loss

  2. I love the part where you state the fact, “He didn’t just bring your debt account back to zero; He filled it with the righteousness of Christ.” This is so hard to picture but yet overwhelming to think about. To not just be full but overflowing with grace. For people (myself included) that always want more why don’t we want more of this, why do we settle for half truths and full out lies of this world? There is so much more to this life and sin only has the power to hold us back when we let go of the power of God, when we turn inward to self and away from Christ. I wish my grip was tighter, my heart more loving, and my focus more straight.

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