Grace and peace. They're common church words. They sound out in liturgy and in worship in churches all round the world. They're preached, taught, and sung about by Christians everywhere. But why? Why are grace and peace so important for us? St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Grace and peace are justification language, because they're the language God uses to express His will for us in Christ Jesus. He puts the declaration of grace and peace in our ears again and again because we're fragile, flawed, hurting people who give up hope as easy as we exhale breath. If God didn't constantly pour His words of grace and peace into our ears we'd never be able to believe all that the Bible teaches about Jesus as Savior.
With the proclamation that grace and peace come through the bloody suffering and death of Jesus, we're awoken to the fact that God's grace covers all our sin and His peace calms our busy heart and mind. You see, our heart never stops wanting what it wants, and our minds never stop justifying to us what our heart wants. That means, without God's kind of grace and peace—the kind of peace which surpasses all understanding—we'd be crushed by the power of sin.
Sin can't be removed by behavior modification. No amount of good living, healthy habits, or positive thinking will rescue us from the power and authority of sin. Only grace and peace can dispel sin and overcome death. Only Lord Jesus can dethrone sin now and always.
That's why God is always sounding off on grace and peace to us. The grace and peace given to us through Christ are Christianity. God's grace forgives sin. God's peace calms our troubled hearts and minds.
Address sin and death through how we live our lives, how obedient we are to God's commands, and sin still hunts us, chases us down, and devours us. God's commands reveal that we're sinful. They fill us with horror about what we've done, what we've left undone, and what's been done to us. God's commands can't take away sin any more than a leopard can change his spots. In fact, the more a person tries to escape sin by his own efforts at living according to God's Law, the deeper into slavery he goes. But nobody wants to believe this because it's what we all want instead on account of sin: the freedom and choice to be our own Savior, to be God in God's place. We want to earn grace and peace for ourselves, not receive it as free gift won for us by Jesus at Golgotha.
But it's impossible to gain grace and peace for ourselves by any other way than God's speaking it into us, creating faith to believe it and embrace it, and repeating it to us over and over so that we remain in Christ Jesus. This is the only way we can rest from all our trying and doing. The only way grace and peace keep us safely penned up in our Shepherd's sheepfold.
Our grace and peace as Christians is a gift won for us by Jesus' bloody suffering and death, and given to us freely by our heavenly Father. He wants nothing else for us other than heavenly peace. That's the kind of peace Jesus talked about when He said: "Peace I leave to you, my peace I give to you."
In our quiet moments and in our times of stress, when all is calm and bright, and when we feel the cross heavy upon us, and even when death comes to take us, God's grace and peace will guard and protect us, even from death. They will deliver us safely to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb without end. God's grace and peace that are declared to us makes us strong, encourage us, help us overcome every hardship, and turn death into a victory march. God's grace and peace will herd us through death and out the other side of the grave into the Resurrection.
When we hear "grace and peace be to you...," we're hearing God's announcement that we are justified, we are forgiven, we are in Christ Jesus today and always.