Philippians 1:2

When I first learned the original meaning of the word, "good-bye" I was very surprised. Do any of you know what it means? In the 14
th century a common parting farewell was,

"God be with ye."

Unfortunately, over time that evolved into 'good-bye'. In one way I really liked that 'good-bye' came from 'God be with you'. It's good that everyone uses a phrase that comes from such a wonderful farewell. It's part of our Christian heritage. But in another way, I was sad, because it's basically lost it's original meaning. To most people today it's an almost meaningless word. It's a sort of, 'See you later,' thing. Most people, when they say it, don't mean anything more than that.

I hope we Christians don't ever forget the meaning of our text. Paul wrote to the Philippians,

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Yet it's something we can easily pass over without thinking about it. Not long after I started out in the ministry I decided to do a series of sermons on a New Testament epistle, to preach through one of the shorter books. But the problem was that most of them have, somewhere near the beginning, the phrase,

"Grace and peace to you…"

I'm not sure if I did or not but I remember thinking that I should skip over that opening, and get right to the meat of the epistle.

How inexperienced I was—thinking that I should skip a phrase like that. The phrase 'grace and peace to you' opens 12 of the New Testament epistles and also opens the book of Revelation—not at the very beginning, but it's someone in the first few verses of each book.

There are also a few other openings with grace in them. For example, 2 John 3 says,

"Grace, mercy and peace from
God the Father and from Jesus Christ,
the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love."

Paul used almost the same greeting in 1 and 2 Timothy,

"Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord."

What we should understand is that this is not just a standard opening of a letter. The usual way that letters in Paul's times opened was with the name of the sender, the name of the addressee and 'Greeting'. That was it. Sometimes the greeting was made stronger by adding, 'Good health'.

In his New Testament letters Paul follows the pattern but changes the 'Greeting' to 'grace and peace'. This is significant. Moisés Silva says that the mention of grace by Paul, (Philippians, BECNT; p. 38)

"calls attention to the very essence of the Christian message;"

Not only is Paul calling attention to it—he is telling his hearers that above all this is what they need. Peace is important too, and we should not forget that it's 'grace and peace' that Paul opens with. But Paul puts 'grace' before 'peace'. John Calvin says that the order is important, because Paul continually stresses, (Sermon on Galatians 1:3)

"God's grace or free favor before the benefits which he bestowed upon us."

Grace is 'God's unmerited favor to those who deserve punishment'. We must never forget that that's what the Christian life is all about.

By stressing grace Paul is showing us that

God's grace in Christ Jesus is of first importance, it's everything to a Christian. It's what we need more than anything else.

All through his letters Paul is telling Christian people that they need grace. He prays for grace for them. It's interesting that we don't just see this at the beginning of Paul's letters. Near the end of the book of Romans, which Paul began with, 'grace and peace to you', he wrote, (Romans 16:20)

"The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you."

He did the same thing in 1 Corinthians 16:23 using the exact same words. In some of his other epistles Paul varied his wording but still stressed grace. Paul closed 2 Corinthians with the words,

"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God, and the fellowship of
the Holy Spirit be with you all."

In Galatians 6:18 he said,

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
be with your spirit, brothers. Amen."

In Ephesians 6:24 it was,

"Grace to all who love our Lord
Jesus Christ with an undying love."

And in Philippians 4:23 he wrote,

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
be with your spirit. Amen."

In Colossians 4:18 we have,

"I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.
Remember my chains. Grace be with you."

1 Thessalonians 5:28,

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you."

2 Thessalonians 3:18,

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all."

1 Timothy 6:21,

"Grace be with you."

Titus 3:15,

"Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those
who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all."

Philemon 25,

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."

Hebrews 13:25,

"Grace be with you all."

Revelation 22:21,

"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people."

But it's not just at the beginning and end of the New Testament epistles that grace is highlighted as being absolutely essential—it's all through the letters. In 2 Timothy 2:1 Paul said to Timothy, his son in the faith,

"You then, my son, be strong
in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."

When Paul and Silas set off to go to Syria and Cilicia to strengthen the churches, the church in Jerusalem commended them, (Acts 15:40)

"to the grace of the Lord."

When Paul was leaving the Ephesians elders for the last time, knowing that he would never see them again in this life, he said to them, (Acts 20:32)

"Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance
among all those who are sanctified."

In 1 Corinthians 1:4 Paul said to the Corinthians,

"I always thank God for you
because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus."

We get everything from grace. Salvation, in all its aspects, itself is by grace. Ephesians 2:8-9.

"For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—and this not from
yourselves, it is the gift of God— not
by works, so that no one can boast."

We saw a few weeks ago from 2 Timothy 1:9 about the grace that was given us even before we were born.

"who has saved us and called us to a holy
life—not because of anything we have
done but because of his own purpose and
grace. This grace was given us in Christ
Jesus before the beginning of time,"

We were predestined by grace. We were called by grace. Paul tells us in Galatians 1:15,

"But when God, who set me apart from
birth and called me by his grace, "

Many times in the New Testament the word 'grace is not even mentioned, yet it's crystal clear that what is said is all about grace. For example, in John 6:44 Jesus said,

"No one can come to me unless
the Father who sent me draws him,
and I will raise him up at the last day."

We do good works by grace. Ephesians 2:10, which is all about grace, says,

"For we are God's workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus to do good works, which God
prepared in advance for us to do."

We have faith because of grace. It's the gift of god. We are justified by grace. Romans 3:24 says that we,

"and are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

It's through grace that we receive all our blessings. John 1:16 refers to Jesus and says,

"From the fullness of his grace we have all received
one blessing after another."

We are to help others because of grace. In 2 Corinthians 9:8 the apostle Paul is urging the Corinthians to give generously said,

"And God is able to make
all grace abound to you, so that having
all sufficiency in all things at all times,
you may abound in every good work."

1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

"And God is faithful;
he will not let you be tempted beyond
what you can bear. But when you are
tempted, he will also provide a way out
so that you can stand up under it."

We persevere only because of grace. In John 10 Jesus said that He was the Good Shepherd. He said, (John 10:28-30)

"I give them eternal life, and they shall
never perish; no one can snatch them out
of my hand. My Father, who has given
them to me, is greater than all; no one
can snatch them out of my Father's hand."

Jude 24-25 says

"To him who is able to keep you from falling and to
present you before his glorious presence without fault
and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our
Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen."

What does that teach? It teaches that our perseverance is by grace. It's God who keeps us.

Our glorification is by grace. Ephesians 2:6-7 says,

"And God raised us up with Christ and
seated us with him in the heavenly
realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in
the coming ages he might show the
incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."

Your presence in heaven will be for the praise of His grace.

Now I ask you, what's the cumulative effect of all this? It's incredibly powerful—from beginning to end, our salvation and everything pertaining to it is by grace. It's clear that the New Testament biblical writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wanted Christians to know that grace was everything for them.

I'm going to draw three lessons from this

As a Christian, you need to realize that more than anything else you need grace.

You're nothing without grace. You can do nothing without the grace of our God in Jesus.

Your prayers should be full of petitions for grace. That's what we need.

Our salvation is all of grace. Yes, we exercise faith, but faith is the result of the grace of God. It's a gift from God. We work, yes, we are supposed to work hard at serving Jesus.

But we must realize that our works are the result of grace. Paul worked harder than them all, but it was the grace of God working in him. You don't stand on your own.

So often we Christians get it all wrong. One of the criticisms that I've read of some Christian pastors is that their sermons are all about getting Christians to,

"try harder",

at Christian living. That criticism is valid. The Christian life is not about trying harder. It's not ultimately about putting more effort in but relying on God's power. And that comes through grace.

It's all about God, about Jesus, about His work, about His glory, about His power in us. I like how Horatius Bonar summed up his hope,

"Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die; another's life, another's death, I stake my whole eternity."

Pray for grace for yourself. In your petitions before God, don't base them ultimately on your worth—but on God's grace, on His glory. Grace is what you need and you can't deserve it. Asaph said in Psalm 79:9,

"Help us, O God our Savior,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us and forgive our sins for your name's sake."

As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:4,

"I always thank God for you because of
his grace given you in Christ Jesus."

Secondly, for Christians,

one of your greatest desires for others is that God's grace would be with them.

What do other Christians need? They need grace.

Those Christians who are struggling with sin—what do they need? It's grace.

Peter, when he denied the Lord. He needed grace.

Christians that are struggling, facing hardship what do they need?

They need grace. In Hebrews 4:16 we read,

"Let us then approach the throne of grace
with confidence, so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help us in our time of need."

In our time of need, we need grace. When Paul had his thorn in the flesh, what did he need? Grace. God said to him, (2 Corinthians 12:9)

"My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Those Christians that are doing well.

They need grace. Acts 4:33 says,

"With great power the apostles
continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and much grace was upon them all."

What they needed was grace. Paul contributions to the kingdom of Jesus were all of grace. In 1 Corinthians 3:10 he said,

"According to the grace of God given
to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation…"

Stephen, before the Jewish Sanhedrin, was (Acts 6:8) '

"full of grace and power".

Christians doing well also need grace in another way. A Christian who has done well. Needs grace so that he doesn't become proud. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says,

"So, if you think you are standing firm,
be careful that you don't fall!"

Spiritual gifts are all of grace. Romans 12:6.

"Having gifts that differ
according to the grace given to us, let us use them:"

What other Christians need most of all is grace. Be lifting them up before the throne of grace and be asking that God would give them grace.


what unbelievers need is grace.

More than anything else—it's grace. You can say all the best words to them, you can be a great example to them—but without God's grace in Jesus Christ, they're not going to believe..

This past week I read an article on the web by Abby Johnson. The title of the article was "For 8 Years I helped kill unborn babies. How did I not see the truth?" She wrote,

"There are a few pretty common questions that you get when you leave the abortion industry. How did you not see that it was a baby? How did you not realize that you were killing babies?… How did you have a baby and not see the problem in what you were doing?My answer…I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Guys, I don't know. It doesn't make sense. I don't understand it. I know I'm a smart person, and yet I was duped by the abortion industry for eight years. Why did it take so long for me to see the truth? I don't know.The fact that I don't have answers to these questions only affirms that we are fighting a spiritual battle. We are fighting evil…and evil that will literally blind you to the truth. Sin blinds you…When evil comes into your life in such a real and tangible way, it changes you. And you know what? You don't even see it. You truly don't realize what you are doing.And then one day you do. The blindness is removed. Not by human hands, but by the hand of the Holy Spirit."

Unbelievers need God's grace. We need to be praying that God would remove the blindness of sin and open their eyes to the glory of God. They need, more than anything else, grace.