Grace And Peace To You
"Grace and peace to you ..." Eighteen times we hear this exact greeting or a variation of it in the pages of the New Testament
It is used as the opening sentence from our Prayer Book in both forms of Morning Prayer: These words should be familiar from the Prayer Book:
" Grace be with you and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ"
So, we often read and hear this greeting:" Grace and Peace" Yet what does it really mean?
Why is this the favored greeting .... of the apostles?
Let us take a look at the apostle John's form of this greeting as it was given today from the Book of Revelation:
BIBLE "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. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, " END (Rev 1:4-5)
John is writing to Christians who are facing severe persecution for their faith in Christ Jesus.
John is writing to Christians facing imprisonment,.... Death...., temptation..., and trials.
He is writing to Christians who are being pressured .... to compromise their faith.
How can these Christians overcome?
How can these Christians persevere?
(Slow) How can these Christians finish the race laid before them, ....through the "Grace and Peace", that is showered upon every believer.
The Apostle John later in this book shares what these Christians Churches were Facing.
The Christians in Smyrna are facing imprisonment (2:10), the Christians in Pergamum are facing death (2:13), the Christians in Thy-tira are being tempted with evil (2:20), the Christians in Laodicea have allowed their faith to turn lukewarm. (3:15)
They can persevere ... They can overcome ... they can remain faithful ..... through the spiritual infilling of ...."grace and peace."
And This grace and peace .... which all believers need .... comes from the triune God. (Pause)
Let's take a closer look at the connection between each person of the trinity ..... and this grace and peace.
1) John begins by telling us that grace and peace (1 Finger) comes from the Father: Hear John's words to us this day:
"Grace and peace to you from him who is, .... and who was, .... and who is to come ..." (Rev 1:4)
To understanding the book of Revelation, .... we need to interpret it in the light of ... the Old Testament.
In his greeting .... John is calling us to hear echoes of God's greeting to Moses out of the burning bush.
God said to Moses, "So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt" (Ex 3:10).
Moses protested. "Who am I?" ....... "Who shall I say sent me?" ...... God said, "I AM WHO I AM" (Ex 3:14).
Now, listen again to John's greeting this day: "Grace and peace to you from him who is, .... and who was, and ..... who is to come".
Grace and peace comes from God Who is, ...... the "I AM," .... Who is the source of all being ... Who is the source of all life.
Grace and peace comes from God who is always present, ..... Who is eternally present.
We need to stand on this promise when we are under attack, .....
We need to stand on this promise when we face opposition, ....
We need to stand on this promise
when we are the target of hostility; When we are pressured to compromise the faith.
The "I AM" Who brought Israel out of Egypt is with us; ..... And He is showering us with his grace and peace. (Pause)
Did you notice the two unique features that John shares about God the Father?
First of all, what John says seems to be out of order.
John states "him who "is"- the Present, and who was -- the Past , and who is to come. The Future" Present, Past, Future!
We would expect him to say, "him who "was" (Past) and who is (Present) , and who is to come. (Future) " Why this inversion?
I am convinced that John's focus is not on God and His attributes ........ that God is eternal.
Rather, John's focus is pastoral .... that the eternal God is present, .... at this very moment, with His people. He is the God who is!
Right now, at this very moment .... God is giving grace and peace to His people.
We can take heart in God's promise ...... to never leave us or forsake us (Heb 13:5). (Long Pause)
There is another unique feature in this passage.
We would expect John to say, "Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who "Shall Be."
Instead of who "Shall Be" John states who is to come." Why does John say, ...... "who is to come"?
Let us go back again to the burning bush. God...The "I AM" basically says to Moses, "I have come."
He has come to deliver His people and to destroy His enemies.
As we read through the Old Testament, the law & history, ...... the writings, ...... the prophets, ...... we see God described again and again as the God .....Who is coming.
He is coming! .............. He is coming to save His people.
He is coming to defeat and judge His enemies.
As we "today" await the second coming ..... He gives us what we need to persevere, ..... to overcome,..... to endure. He gives us grace and peace.
2) Grace Comes From the Father and (2 Fingers) .... Grace comes from The Holy Spirit
John now directs our attention to the Spirit.
"Grace and peace to you ... from the seven spirits before his throne."
This expression, "The seven spirits before his throne," is found only in the book of Revelation.
What does it mean? Why seven spirits?
Latter in Revelation John tells us that The seven spirits are seven lamps.
John is telling us ..... the Spirit gives God's people the light they need as they fight the darkness.
God gives us the light to fight the darkness ..... The darkness of despair, persecution, trial, death, compromise, and temptation.
God's Spirit ...... gives God's people "grace and peace."
But why seven spirits? John explains this a little further in the book of Revelation.
The Spirit and the provisions of the Spirit are given to each of the seven churches, he is writing too.
Each church receives from the Spirit the grace and peace she needs to finish the race, ..... to endure,..... to overcome.
John is telling us that the Church perseveres .... overcomes .... endures, by and through the provision of the Spirit.
Not by the might of man. Nor by military might. Nor by political intrigue. But by the Spirit who gives us the grace and peace we need. (Pause)
3) Grace and Peace Comes From the Father and (2 Fingers) .... Grace and Peace comes from The Holy Spirit and (3 Fingers) Grace
and Peace comes from our Lord Jesus Christ.
John directs our attention to the Lord Jesus Christ. He says,
Grace and peace to you ... from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness,..... the firstborn from the dead, ........ and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
We have seen that grace and peace comes from the eternal, ever-present, Father.
It also comes from the all sufficient Spirit.
And.... Grace and Peace also comes from Jesus Christ.
John identifies Jesus with three names.... three titles : the faithful witness, .... the firstborn from the dead,.... and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
All three names are taken from Psalm 89.
Psalm 89, in turn, is a piece of poetry based upon 2 Samuel 7.
In 2nd Samuel God makes a covenant with King David:
God promises David that his throne will endure forever.
God promises David that one of his descendants will rule over the whole earth.
By ascribing these three names from Psalm 89 to Jesus, ...... John is proclaiming that Jesus "is" the promised King .... of David.
The King who will rule over the whole earth. That through Jesus ..... David's throne will endure forever.
Jesus is the "Faithful Witness." Jesus is the faithful witness to the Father.
Every moment of His life, Jesus was a faithful witness to the Father.
Beloved....... We are all to be faithful witnesses ........ in the face of hostility .... of persecution .............of temptation & trials.
We are to be Faithful witnesses.
John also proclaims that Jesus is the "firstborn from the dead." This speaks of Christ's Easter resurrection.
Because of His witness to the Father, Christ was crucified.
God raised Him from the dead, never to die again.
He is the firstborn of the dead.... to never to die again.
In the Ancient World, the firstborn was the one who was given the right to rule, The right to reign, ..... to have sovereignty.
Jesus as the first born .... has this right.
Paul states this very clearly in his letter to the believers gathered in Colossae: Hear God's Word:
BIBLE "And he (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." END (Col 1:18)
Jesus as the firstborn from the dead has "Supremacy". Jesus is "the ruler of the kings of the earth."
Or, as Psalm 89 puts it, "the most exalted of the kings of the earth."
He is the King of kings .... He is the Lord of lords.
There is no question that Jesus has power .... and might ..... and authority.
There is no question that Jesus rules all the Earth.
Christ is the Ruler whose rule is acknowledged by the Church ..... and opposed by the Devil and the forces of this world.
But one day .... One day... Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Jesus is "the faithful witness, ..... Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, ..... Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth" (Rev 1:5).
Beloved .... this is also the path of a mature Christian life.
We are called to bear witness to Christ in this hostile world.
Knowing the promise of the resurrection ...we can be faithful in this, ....even in persecution .... even in temptation....even unto death.
We are called to follow the path Jesus has already trod.
Jesus has walked this earth and knows what we need.
And He showers us with "grace and peace."
In this life we as believers will face persecution for our faith.....
In this life .... We as believers will be tempted to compromise our faith.
(Slow) We need grace and peace. (Pause and Read slowly)
Beloved may John's blessing be upon each of you: ....Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come. Grace and peace to you from the seven spirits before his throne.
Grace and peace to you from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
Amen and Amen!
-by J Jeffrey Smead
Epiphany Anglican Fellowship - Anglican, Priest