I began what I had hoped to a series of responses to a Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ) Ephesians study we had begun through our TRIHOP friends. (You can find the original 2 in the series here, about how we look at Scripture and here, about who we are in Christ.)
I fell off from it for quite some time, but as I have been continuing with the study and have been so encouraged by chewing so thoroughly the MEAT of Ephesians 1, I want to pick back up again. I am learning that it’s not always about never lapsing with something, but that it’s so critical to pick back up and keep going. “Failures” happen, but the key is to not let our failures, real or imagined, stop us from pressing onward.
So, back to Ephesians.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul begins every one of his letters with these words or a blessing very similar to this one you can read here in Ephesians chapter 1 verse 2. Every letter. I looked.
These are like Paul’s characteristic opening remarks. Like Johnny Cash starting his concerts in his booming bass voice, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” Paul always starts with, “Hey this is who I am (Paul, an apostle, etc), and this is who you are (Saints, faithful in Christ), and GRACE and PEACE to you guys.”
Unlike Johnny’s characteristic opener that caused people to erupt in cheers, we face the constant temptation to just quickly pass over these words as customary greetings that are just polite things to say.
But, just stop. Check this out from the Doctor (MLJ) himself: ““The Apostle does not use words such as this lightly and loosely and thoughtlessly; it is not a mere formula which he uses automatically at the beginning of a letter; the words are charged with profound meaning.”
In every chapter, Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes some kind of statement like this reminding me not to take any word of this Bible we hold lightly but to gaze long and lovingly at each phrase and press the oil out of it that it would enliven my heart.
I mean, why would Paul repeat these words in every letter if they weren’t full of meaning to him? And, thinking beyond Paul, if truly the Holy Spirit inspired all of the Scripture, then that means the Holy Spirit wants to breathe on these words as much as any others in the Bible. He didn’t fail to inspire Paul’s greetings, giving Paul free rein to make whatever opening or closing remarks he wanted.
No, these words are meant to be meaningful and a powerful blessing. These aren’t words that Paul coined as simply his catchy greeting for his letter-writing ministry. These words express a heart-felt prayer and a burning desire in Paul. He loved the people he was writing to and he wanted them to know, to experience the grace and peace that come only from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, let’s zoom in on these words and chew on them a little more carefully.
Grace. We throw this word around a lot, but what does it really mean? Grace is nothing less than miraculous favor from God. Favor that we do not deserve and could never earn. “Grace is the origin and the source and the fount of everything in the Chrisitan life,” writes Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It is God’s love stooping down to us; His kindness that we could never, ever procure on our own.
And, Peace? Peace is often primarily defined by an absence of something. The absence of fighting, war, strife. Or, it’s known as rest or quiet. But, truly the Biblical idea of peace is UNION. Union after separation.
If grace is the beginning of our faith then peace is the end of our faith. PEACE…this is the purpose of our Christian life. This is what a Christian life should produce!
Okay. Good. I like things defined, so we’ve defined things. But, why do we need these things so badly that Paul would pray it for and speak it over every person in every letter he wrote?
We don’t really understand grace and peace until we understand the Fall. Not the season that is usually marked by falling leaves. The Fall of man as recorded in Genesis chapter 3. Because of Adam and Eve’s choice, we are all infected with sin. Which means, we are at war with God. This also leads to people being at war with one another, and even at war within ourselves.
Because of the huge disobedience of people to God, because we reject Him and do not listen to Him, we deserve the punishment the righteous God would dish out. YET, in spite of all of this, God is FULL of GRACE and He STILL looks on us with favor through the work of Jesus Christ.
Because of His amazing grace, God has made peace. Not just the absence of fighting with Him, not just the absence of war with our fellow humans, not just absence of turmoil within ourselves. PEACE. The opportunity for RELATIONSHIP with God through Jesus; unity with other people like we can’t produce through men’s peace treaties; peace within ourselves.
And, we’ve really already seen this, but it’s worth it to ask the question: How do we have access to this amazing gift of grace and peace?
Through the source of everything in life: God. Which God? What kind of God? OUR Father. To all Believers, God is not just the Father of Jesus, but He is OUR Father. For those who have known the goodness of a loving earthly Father, He is Heavenly Father. For those who never knew an earthly father’s name, much less his love, He is Father. For those who wished they hadn’t known their father’s name because there never was any love from him, He is Father. He is our Father. Father who gives grace and peace.
And, this grace and peace flow to us from the Lord Jesus Christ as well. Jesus is so central in every step of redemption. In every blessing God pours out. It is all because of Jesus. Because of the work He accomplished on the cross, dying and shedding His blood so that our sins could be covered and we could become righteous in God’s eyes. The only way we could come back into relationship with God, the Righteous One.
Look at how Paul refers to Him: the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord: Jesus is the Master, the Boss, the Leader.
Jesus: His very name means salvation! Salvation has a name, it is Jesus!
Christ: This means “the anointed one.” The rightful king, the descendent of David who reigns on David’s throne forever.
The Lord Jesus Christ. Through this one we have access to GRACE and PEACE.
Thank you, God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ for this amazing gift.
Now, will we live like we truly have been blessed with an amazing favor and an indescribable peace?
Matthew or Julie Wine