Summary: The rich gifts brought by Christ the Lord to His redeemed people.
GRACE AND PEACE FROM OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Imagine a world without Christmas. The holiday regimen would be radically different from what we know today. In our contemporary secular world, we would still have holidays; however, they would be celebrations of work (Labour Day), government (Canada Day) and perhaps holidays simply to have holidays (Family Day). However, we would probably have no celebrations of the more noble qualities of mankind. There would be no celebration of God’s compassion for man, such as we witness with Christmas, or rejoicing in the hope offered for all mankind, such as Easter.
At the heart of the Christmas celebration is the knowledge of God’s compassion. Mankind is fallen. The evidence for this is that death reigns over the race. As I have often stated, the statistics on death are pretty startling: one out of one die. The reason for this is that our first parents sinned and plunged the creation into ruin. From the standpoint of biochemistry, there is no reason for the body to wear out. The repair mechanisms at the cellular level are such that death should not occur. And yet, death comes to each individual.
The Bible states the case succinctly, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” [ROMANS 5:12-14].
However, that is only the dark backdrop that permits God’s grace to shine forth. The Apostle to the Gentiles continues by exulting, “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” [ROMANS 5:15-17].
Throughout the pages of the New Testament is found abundant evidence of God’s grace toward fallen mankind. We were not left in our dying state without hope, but God provided His own Son as a Saviour for mankind. It is this provision of Jesus, the Son of God, that we celebrate at Christmas. As he opens the Letter to the churches of Galatia, Paul points his readers to God’s grace and goodness revealed in His Son. In a similar fashion, I point my listeners this day to the grace of God demonstrated in the coming of Jesus the Son of God as we explore those opening words of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.
GOD, THE GIVER OF GRACE AND PEACE — Grace and peace are offered to all mankind. I suggest that all mankind consciously or unconsciously longs to have grace and peace. However, the prayer of the Apostle is that the readers of this beautiful letter written to wayward Christians so many years ago will enjoy grace and peace.
Before actually exploring who is offering the grace and peace for which Paul prays and to whom this great gift is offered, let’s review what it means to possess grace and peace. The terms are used so frequently and so casually in contemporary Christianity that Christians tend to pay scant attention to what is offered, or worse still, hear the words and fail to understand the significance of what is offered. The definition of grace that is often tossed out in sermons is “unmerited favour.” Though we hear the words, they do not resonate with our soul—the words are sterile and cold.
Grace refers to God’s kindness toward His fallen creature. Moreover, it is kindness that is utterly undeserved. By birth, we are rebels to grace. The Bible states categorically that each of us are by birth enemies of God [see ROMANS 5:10]. To the Colossian Christians, Paul wrote that mankind is “alienated, hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” [COLOSSIANS 1:21]. By birth and by nature we are sinners. As sinners, we are at enmity with God, and Holy God cannot allow sinful man into His presence or He could not be holy. Therefore, whatever kindness we experience from God is undeserved.