Ephesians 1:1 – 2 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Have you ever received a letter without a return address? Unless the handwriting is familiar, you have to tear open the envelope and page through the letter, to the very end, just to find out who it is from. Then, you go back and read the letter. But the early Hebrew culture had, in my opinion, a smarter way of doing things. The writer spelled out his name at the very beginning, so the reader wouldn’t have to wonder.
When writing this letter, Paul was under house arrest. He was being held as punishment for preaching about Jesus! But he could still have visitors, and he could still write letters. In the earliest manuscripts, the words in Ephesus were left out. This was probably a circular letter, going first to the church in Ephesus, and then being passed on to any and every church who wished to hear from Paul.
I love the way he opens this letter: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Just pretty words? Hardly. In order to truly appreciate this greeting, we have to understand a little about the words grace and peace.
The Greek word for grace is charis. (Yes, that is our daughter’s name.) Grace means something wonderful that is given as a gift . . . something totally undeserved . . . something that brings great joy. The Greek word for joy is chara, and so you can see how closely the two are related.
The meaning which is used here for peace was inherited from the Hebrew word shalom. Now, in our western culture, and during this time of political turmoil, we tend to think of peace as meaning the absence of war. Certainly, absence of war is included in the meaning of shalom, but to use that as a definition would be missing the main idea of shalom. In this context, peace didn’t refer to the absence of something as much as it referred to the presence of Someone – the glorious, bountiful, blessed presence of God Himself. For of course, where there is God, there is peace. A lack of peace often comes from the absence of God in our lives.
So, dear friends, I join Paul in wishing each and every one of you charis and shalom. I pray that, as we begin together this journey through Paul’s letter to the early church, you will each experience God’s amazing, wonderful presence, and the beautiful, bountiful, joy-producing gifts that come only from Him.
Dear Father, Thank You for the grace and peace that come from having a right relationship with You.