Living as the Church: Grace and Peace
1 Thessalonians 1:1
Pastor Trent Broussard
The Church at Thessalonica was established by Paul on his second missionary journey, which is chronicled in Acts 16-18:22. Paul’s pattern was to go into a new area and preach Christ in the synagogue to the local Jews. In this city, there were converts of both Jews and Greeks, and Luke particularly mentions a number of influential women. As is also the pattern, the Jews, especially the synagogue leaders, were jealous of Paul’s success and sought to have him stopped. Paul was sent out of town branded a trouble-maker, but the seed of the church had been planted.
The recipient is the church of the Thessalonians. In other letters, the church isn’t always addressed directly.
Paul’s address here is to the church in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Unlike his letters to the Corinthians, Paul refers to the church at Thessalonica as being in God and not of God. He not only calls them the church in God, but in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is uncommon for Paul as he uses the phrases “in God” or “in Christ” very specifically i.e. rejoicing in God (Rom. 5:11) or hidden in God (Eph 3:9). “In Christ,” when used by Paul, generally has an incorporative force, pointing to believers’ participation in Christ’s life or their membership in His body. This is a weighty reference that some scholars believe is intended to communicate that the church is brought into being by God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. It bears witness to the exalted place of Christ and communicates that the Father and the Son are active in the work of salvation and sanctification.
Peace was the normal Jewish greeting, while rejoice was the normal Greek greeting. Paul uses grace and peace as a standard greeting and these words point to both the power and activity of the gospel. Grace and peace only come through Christ. It is the power of the gospel that reconciles wicked man to God. Earlier we sang:
Grace and peace, oh how can this be
For lawbreakers and thieves, for the worthless, the least
You have said that our judgment is death
For all eternity, without hope, without rest
Oh, what an amazing mystery, what an amazing mystery
That your grace has come to me.
What’s so amazing about grace is that we do not deserve it. We deserve death, hell, and eternal separation from Christ. Instead we have been given life, peace, and eternity with Christ. How did we get grace and peace? Christ suffered and died in our place. He was condemned for us. He took our sins and our sorrows, as the hymn-writer tells us, and made them his very own. He bore the burden to Calvary and suffered and died alone.
Christ suffered the penalty for our sin so we don’t have to pay it. It doesn’t matter how vile a sinner you are, it doesn’t matter how wicked you have been, it doesn’t matter how long you have walked in your sin, Jesus’ death on the cross in your place is sufficient to pay for your sin. This is grace; this is the gospel. And what is peace? Peace is a return to the relationship between God and man in the Garden before the fall. The Garden was a kind of temple where God walked with man in beautiful fellowship. True peace is having beautiful fellowship with God.
Over the next few months, we are going to study this letter to the Thessalonians and observe what real Christianity looks like in a church. The Thessalonians were a model church. They got it right. Paul’s letter is full of commendation and not condemnation. We will see what they got right and how Paul encourages them to deepen their walk with Christ and grow in their fellowship. As we walk through a season of transition and search for a new pastor, it is my prayer that we will grow deeply in our walk with Christ and our love for both Christ and one another.
During this season of transition, we need to be praying for our church, for our new lead pastor, and for our team who has been tasked with discerning the Lord’s will for Calvary. I want to invite you to join me and any of our staff who are available, to gather every Thursday from 12:15-12:45 p.m. to pray. It will not be a long prayer meeting, but I believe the Lord would have us sacrifice time to pray and seek His will. If you cannot join us here, pray where you are.
Have you experienced the grace and peace of God? Have you heard His calling on your life? If the Lord is drawing you to Him, do not wait to respond. Come to Him in your brokenness, with your flaws and every imperfection, and allow Him to transform your life. If He is calling you, put your trust in Him today.