Grace and Peace in Ephesians 1

Paul characteristically began his letters with a wish of grace and peace to the readers. He seems to have adopted this formula from other sources, since Greek letters normally began with “rejoice,” and Jewish letters normally began with “mercy and peace.” Although brief, this formulaic expression of Paul contains deep theological significance for the lives of believers.

The grace of God is clearly evident in the salvation provided to mankind by the work of Christ on the cross. But Paul is giving an expression of grace to believers in Ephesians 1:2, so grace extends beyond the point of salvation and throughout the Christian life. The necessity of grace in the Christian life is seen in passages such as 2 Corinthians 9:8. Not only is salvation based in the grace of God, but the ability to serve God and be transformed into the image of Christ is also sourced in the grace of God.

Doug MacLachlan has proposed a three-fold expression of grace in relation to this greeting. First, grace is seen as an undeserved generosity and a spiritual affluence. God granted believers an unbelievable wealth when he gave them salvation. This inheritance is partially seen during the life of the believer, but will not be fully granted until later (Eph 1:14). But this gift of grace was not deserved; God granted it based on His own love, not on who the believer is or anything that he has done. Second, grace contains the idea of a functional competency and an unlimited power. This power is granted to the believer in able to enable him to serve God, resist temptation, and be transformed into the image of Christ. These things are only possible through the power granted by the grace of God. Finally, grace is a moral elegance and an unparalleled beauty. The believer’s life looks radically different because of what God has done in him. This change was made possible through the grace of God. God’s grace has enabled the believer’s life to be transformed to the point that he now possesses a moral beauty. This moral beauty was possessed by Adam before the fall, but is possible now only through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness on the life of the believer. These three facets of grace are contained in Paul’s greeting and expressed throughout the rest of Ephesians.

The expression of grace denotes what the believer now possesses due to his relationship with God. The verb form of the Greek word for peace carries the idea of joining or weaving something together. If peace is absent, it indicates that things have been shattered apart; they are not the way that they should be. Sin shattered the peace between Adam and God. But this peace has been restored through the blood of Christ on the cross (Eph 2:14-15; Col 1:20). Believers now have peace with God since they have been justified by faith (Rom 5:1). The enmity that existed between the unbeliever and God is replaced with peace at the point of salvation. This peace extends to their relationships with other believers (Eph 2:15; 4:3). The peace that is given to the believer is the result of God’s grace in his life. As Harold Hoehner said, “Grace expresses the cause, God’s gracious work, and peace, the effects of God’s work.” God’s grace at the point of salvation makes peace between God and the believer. God’s continual grace in the life of the believer allows him to live in peace with fellow believers. This peace also extends into the personal life of the believer. He can live with peace in his own life because of the grace of God that has been given to him (Phil 4:7). Paul expounds on the implications of peace throughout the rest of Ephesians.

Paul concludes this portion of his greeting by noting that the grace and peace that is granted to the believer is from God the Father and Christ the Lord. The preposition “from” relates to both the Father and the Son, but their individual persons are mentioned because they each have an individual role in this gift. God the Father is the one who has granted grace and peace. Christ is the means through which it has been offered. Grace and peace are made possible only because of Christ’s work on the cross. By expressing from where the believer receives grace and peace, Paul is loading his greeting with theological significance. This is not the everyday grace or peace that unbelievers may speak of, but a unique gift from God. The empowerment received by the believer through this gift has provided salvation and solved the believer’s eternal problem of separation from God. But it should also affect the daily lifestyle of the believer. Paul elucidates how this gift should change the believer’s lifestyle throughout the rest of the book, particularly in Ephesians 4-6. The believer’s life should become an expression of the grace and peace that has been granted to him.

–Pastor Tim

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