“This letter is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy. It is written to the church in Thessalonica, you who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May his grace and peace be yours” (1 Thessalonians 1:1 NLT).
Ancient letters generally followed a standardized form. Paul and his mission team follow the pattern here.
- Who is writing?
- To whom are they writing?
- For what are the writers thankful?
- For what do the writers wish on behalf of the readers?
So often when reading a New Testament letter like 1 Thessalonians, I read right over those words of greeting in the opening line. I do so at great loss. These words are more than just a greeting. They are packed with meaning.
Paul and the evangelistic team that had worked Thessalonica are writing to the new Christians there, perhaps just months after their conversion. “To the church in Thessalonica” is a declaration that the first readers had a new life in Christ. They were delivered from the grip of idolatry and the world. They were “church.” They now “belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“May his grace and peace be yours.” Again, these words are so much more than just a greeting. They are a reminder of what has happened in the readers’ lives because of the gospel. Grace (here Paul uses a word distinct from the standard greeting to “Christianize” the message) and peace (a word closely identified with the Jewish roots of Christianity) are the team’s desire for the church.
Rather than reading right over these words, I need to pray over them. Experiencing God’s grace in conversion. Living in God’s grace in everyday life. Sharing God’s grace in church community. Knowing God’s peace in relationship with Him. Enjoying God’s peace in life with one another. Resting in God’s peace in spite of life’s challenges.
I need grace and peace. You need grace and peace.
We need to be a church of grace and peace, after all, we do belong to God!
A good starting point may be paying attention to these often overlooked words. They are more than a greeting.