Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,
To Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
– Philemon 1:1-3 NASB (emphasis added)
Philemon is the shortest of Paul’s letters. As you can see, it’s named after the primary person to whom it is addressed. I want to focus on the portion that is emphasized in the passage above.
Such a salutation – “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” – appears frequently in the letters (epistles) of the New Testament, though not always in identical form. Here, for example, are some of the variations:
…Grace to you and peace.
– 1 Thessalonians 1:1 NASB
…Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
– 1 Timothy 1:2 NASB
…May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
– 1 Peter 1:2 NASB
Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
– 2 John 1:3 NASB
May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.
– Jude 1:2 NASB
…Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth…
– Revelation 1:4-5 NASB
You will also find that most of the New Testament letters close with the same sort of sign-off we see in Philemon, which is:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
– Philemon 1:25 NASB
The common theme of all these letter openings and closings is that God is not mad at people. He has every right to be mad at people, but He’s not. There have to be negative consequences to sin and that’s what God’s judgment (wrath) is about – but God is not looking for ways to punish people. Rather, He’s looking for ways to forgive them and show them better ways to live. Why do so many people run away from help?
The letters of the apostles emphasize grace, not judgment – from beginning to end.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, show me how to live this day as a token of my gratitude and respect for the way You reach out to us…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.