Paul’s Footsteps #228

Footsteps #228

I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” NLT (Rom.1:7)

Rom.1:7 Paul introduces 3 special words that will be central to the letter that follows. First is the word “grace”, which Paul uses more than 20 times in Romans. In its Christian sense it is God’s gift of salvation to us. Romans 6:23 makes it clear that salvation is a gift: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  God in His love doesn’t give us what we deserve (death) but what we don’t deserve (eternal life). That’s grace.

Second is the word “peace”. In Paul’s thinking peace has a close connection with grace. Thus he writes in Rom.5:1 that being justified by faith, we have peace with God…”

Peace is a beautiful NT word. For the pagan world of the first century peace meant the absence of war. But in the NT the word has a positive connotation related to the Hebrew concept of shalom. The Hebrew and the NT writers consider peace not so much the absence of strife as the presence of positive blessing, health and wellbeing. In Paul’s greetings, “peace” (when used) always follows “grace”. Only God’s grace can bring about genuine peace in the human heart.

The third great word is “Father”. All the way through the NT the term expresses God’s love and tender care for each of His children. God doesn’t ignore our plight. As our Father He is actively on our side and cares for us with the strength of a true father’s love. The thought of the Fatherhood of God climaxes in Rom.8, when Paul talks about Christians becoming part of the family of God. When that happens, he asserts, nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom.8:39.).

Paul’s use of “grace” and “peace” in his greetings was not new with him. We find it in the OT blessing that Aaron used to bless the Israelites. “The Lord bless you, and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.” Num.6:24-26.

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