Paul’s Opening Words
Open Your Bible
Philippians 1:1-2, Acts 16:6-15, 1 Peter 5:1-5
Not everyone makes dinners from scratch. Nor do they set the table while singing folk songs in four-part harmony, no less. No, not everyone does these things. But the Trudeau family does. And years ago, when disease broke into their family, my friends still continued to welcome people into their home, investing great care and attention into making their space a refuge since so much of their time would be spent there due to illness.
Receiving an invitation to dinner at the Trudeaus’ home is special because there are just so many things for them to juggle on an average night, let alone one with company—a warm hearth for cold bodies, hand-crafted dairy-free dressings, detoxifying herbal tea, gentle noise levels. But their home has always been a warm place because this family is the essence of hospitality. When you leave, it feels like you’ve actually been touched by grace and peace. Not merely abstract concepts on a page, grace and peace are felt in the Trudeaus’ home—as real as the gift of hospitality, evidenced by their thoughtfulness and intention, not to mention the gloriously sautéed pork chops or a round of acapella sing-a-longs.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he begins by giving them something: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:2). It may seem like a simple greeting, similar to “Hello!” or “Nice to see you!” But the phrase carries more spiritual depth along with it. In Paul’s day, letters were the primary way to convey personal information from afar. It wasn’t like today, where you can text your relatives across the world or confess your love on Facebook Messenger and, best-case scenario, hear back within the hour. Because writing and sending letters required valuable commodities, there was often more intentionality behind it.
Paul’s message to the believers in Philippi was even more important because his words were the closest he could get to being there with them in person. Being imprisoned, he wanted to thank this church for their financial support and faithful friendship, for being his partners in the gospel (Philippians 1:5). And after personally experiencing the grace of God and His peace that surpassed all understanding (Philippians 4:7), Paul desired for his brothers and sisters in Christ to experience these things too.
When Paul wrote to the saints in Philippi, he extended a spiritual blessing. Both “grace” and “peace” were common salutations in Paul’s day, but he reimagined the phrase and used it to remind his readers of the gifts already imparted to them by God’s Spirit. By greeting fellow believers in this way, Paul encouraged them to remember what was theirs in Christ Jesus.
May we seize these blessings from Paul’s church greeting, remembering that grace and peace are real and active gifts that the Father gives to us through the Holy Spirit and makes accessible through His Son. They are ours today, if only we would receive them.