As we use them, greetings are frequently nothing more than a formality. We greet friends and family, tellers and petrol attendants, and beggars at our gate. We greet without thinking. We do so with little more motivation than politeness.
Christian greetings should be far more significant than that. When a preacher closes a service with a greeting—a benediction or doxology—it is more than a filler to bring the time of worship to an end. The minister, instead, pronounces blessing upon his hearers. There is no magic in his words, but when the pastor, in faith, pronounces a blessing on God’s people, the Spirit makes those words effective in their lives.
The greetings in Scripture embrace this significance. Peter addressed his first letter “to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). His audience were “elect exiles … according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1:1–2). He was greeting God’s people. As you read the letter, it becomes clear that these people of God were experiencing great suffering and opposition for their faith. And to those who were suffering so, Peter offered a special greeting: “May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (v. 2).
Peter believed that suffering Christians, desperately searching for hope, needed to be greeted with “grace and peace.” He knew that these believers, who were already experiencing suffering, would soon face far greater suffering as Nero’s persecution would break forth in earnest. Grace and peace were necessary to face this suffering with hope.
“Grace” reminded his readers of the reality of their standing before God. It reminded them that, despite the suffering they were facing, they were right with God by unmerited favour in Christ. No suffering could alter this standing before God.
“Peace” reminded his readers of the benefit of their standing before God. Because of God’s unmerited favour, they enjoyed peace with the very God whose enemies they once were. This peace with God enabled them to have peace in life’s turmoil.
We live in a world of great turmoil. Our sin, the sin of others, and the general consequences of sin invite all sorts of turmoil into our lives. We suffer for our faith. We experience suffering because others sin. The consequence of sin, generally speaking, is suffering and death. This all fills us with unrest and turmoil. In the face of this turmoil—suffering, unrest, death—we need to be reminded that, if we are recipients of God’s grace in Christ, we have peace with him and can therefore have peace in the face of life’s turmoil.
If you are a Christian in South Africa, you do not know the suffering of the Christians to whom Peter wrote. We do not experience open, government-sanctioned opposition for our faith. But suffering is part and parcel of life in a sin-cursed world. This can be particularly disconcerting for Christians, who know that this is not how God intended things to be, and who know that things will not always remain this way. As we experience the ravaging consequences of sin in a fallen world, we need Peter’s reminder to ring in our ears. We need the gospel getting of grace and peace to abound in our hearts and lives.
Believer, in your suffering today, it is my prayer that you will know of God’s grace and peace in Jesus Christ. Pray that the Holy Spirit will take these words of blessing and make them a reality in your life so that you can face today with hope in Christ because of God’s grace and peace.