Different Letter, Same Greeting
Grace to you. Every one of Paul's letters to New Testament churches contain this greeting (in some form) in the opening remarks. It's an expression that seems to spill from the heart and pen of Paul all over the pages of Scripture. And if we are not careful, we can fly by this phrase without letting the weight and reality of it sink in.
It's Actually a Big Deal
It's quite brilliant. It's not some standard greeting that we should skip over. It's not meant to be given the amount of attention--which is often none at all--that we give to the Terms and Conditions page that every app, website, and online anything forces us to agree to. Paul is taking the most truthful and life-changing message ever proclaimed and summing it up in three words--grace to you. If we dig a little bit, we can see just how big of a punch this phrase packs. We can see how Paul is reminding us of and beckoning us to abide in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The First Word
Grace. It's what makes Christianity unique and compelling. Our moral performance, however pious, cannot obtain eternal life for us. It's by grace that God takes the impossible--our salvation--and transforms it into the possible. We are the recipients of unearned blessings and unmerited favor. The astounding thing about grace is the fact that it is offered to people like us. People who are rebellious, stubborn, and completely undeserving. Don't try to earn what God freely gives.
The Second Word
To. The grace of God is something that comes to us. We don't make our way towards God and try to prove how good we are. See, we can't obtain grace unless it is given. It's not something we can purchase or barter for. It has to come to us. We can't get to it. It's not something you can find online, order, and then wait for it to arrive. Someone else has to initiate the giving of grace. Someone has to seek you out and offer it. Someone who would sacrifice their very life just so they could give it to you.
The Third Word
You. God desires for grace to come to you. Not someone smarter or more gifted. Not someone who you think is better "qualified" to serve the Lord. But you. God's offer of redemption is deeply personal. You are who God is talking about. Don't get confused and think God only loves some future version of yourself that has a better handle on life. No! He loves the sinful, confused, and broken you. The you that wonders if God still wants anything to do with you. The you that struggles with the same old sins. The you that--on some days-- has to drag yourself through life praying you don't collapse. The you that knows Jesus is your only hope and your only righteousness.
Grace With You
It's common for Paul to alter the phrase a bit when he closes his letters. Rather than grace to you, he writes grace with you. God's grace isn't something we experience once or only in one way. The evidences of God's grace are everywhere.
Grace flows into our lives through many avenues and unexpected ways. And it is always with us. There to sustain, guide, and comfort. To uphold us in our moments of weakness, and keep us humble in our moments of victory. God's grace is with us because Jesus is with us. This truth should shape our lives; it should remove the fear of failure that so many Christians struggle with.
In reality, God's grace has come to us, is with us, and is everywhere we look. It surrounds us. Grace, for the believer, is like oxygen. It is what we breathe to stay alive. Without grace, we choke and crumble. So take a deep breath and rejoice.