The Salutation of Salvation
Text: Phil 1:2
There are few friendships that are as strong as those that are made in times of affliction. Why is it that the friendships built between soldiers are so strong? Because of the hardships they go through together, and the willingness to lay down your life for the other. It’s the same reason why good marriages are so strong, because no marriage gets by without difficulty, and if you didn’t realize it before, the afflictions you go through together make you realize you’ve married your best friend. Hardships that don’t break friendships, strengthen them.
And that’s what happened at Philippi. Last week in our final point we turned to Acts 16 to see The Story of the Church Plant at Philippi, and we observed there, very briefly, the remarkable circumstances of hardship which led to the commencement of this church. And as a result, the bond between preacher and people was very strong.
Paul was able to rejoice in what God had accomplished through his preaching there. There were now many saints, and the church had grown to a maturity where there were bishops and deacons. In this one text we get a grasp of the proper constitution of a local church. It is believers (saints), in a place (Philippi), with spiritual oversight (bishops) and practical oversight (deacons).
Then we get the apostolic salutation. These are found in most of the epistles, and there are two ways to look at it: a) we can pass it off as unnecessary study since it’s just a common greeting, or b) we can trust that the Spirit of God had a purpose in its repetition and it contains a message we need to hear regularly.
I don’t know if I’ll give a message to these words in every Pauline epistle we will look at together God willing in the future, but I do wish to unfold the truths contained herein today. One commentator notes, “Grace is Paul’s adaptation of the “greetings” at the beginning of Greek letters of his day. Peace echoes the common Jewish greeting (Shalom).” So Paul altered the common salutation in both of the major cultures he addressed as a missionary; Jews and Greeks. He altered it in light of the gospel, and used it with purpose to give the heart of Christian truth and experience.
But why make give such a greeting? What is its purpose? Is it a prayer? Unlikely, because he gives his prayer for them in following verses. The answer may lie in what the Lord said when he sent out the seventy.
“And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.” Lk 10:5-6
It gives the idea that the pronouncement of peace upon the household would grant a definite experience of peace to those who were believers in that home. If Paul had been there in person, this would have been initial greeting to them.
One man notes, “Often referred to as a common formula or social convention in Paul’s letters, this phrase of greeting is anything but an empty cliché for Paul. In fact, it expresses in condensed form the essence of his theology.”
I. THE FAVOUR IN THIS SALUTATION
Grace – used in many ways. The common definition of it will suffice us this morning. It is the unmerited favour of God to men. It is not drawn out by external force, and it’s not because of any merit in the recipient.
Eph 2:8 – “For by grace are ye saved”
Tit 2:11 – “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men”
2 Tim 1:9 – “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began”
Gal 1:15 – “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace”
1 Cor 1:4-5 – “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge”
1 Pet 1:13 – “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”
Acts 20:24 – “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
Acts 20:32 – “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.”
Eph 1:5-6 – “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace”
Without any contribution from us or any external influence, God confers salvation and all the gifts which it brings, and it’s all summed up in the world grace.
II. THE FRUIT IN THIS SALUTATION
The order of this is critical. Without grace there would never be peace. Without the experience of grace, there will never be the experience of peace.
Peace – when a Hebrew said, ‘shalom’ it meant more than the desire that you might have a quiet life. It showed a desire that you might have every form of blessing and prosperity showered upon you.
i) Relational peace with God – Rom 5:1
The enmity between a justly angry God has been removed by the substitutionary work of Christ. It wasn’t a matter of Jesus persuading the Father to forgive by coercion. God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son, and by that death comes the satisfaction of divine law and therefore peace is the natural outcome. And while Christ makes provision for peace, the Spirit subdues our wicked hearts which by nature were at enmity with God, and brings a peaceful reconciliation between God and the sinner.
ii) Experiential peace in life – Phil 4:7
After this relational peace becomes ours, experiential peace is the promise. At times it is attacked, but it is ever being worked in us by the Spirit as a fruit of His work (Gal 5:22). Peace is so central to Christianity that the heart of its message can be described as “the gospel of peace” (Rom 10:15; Eph 6:15). And when Paul came to Ephesus, he was able to say that Christ came unto them to preach peace unto them (Eph 2). The blood of the Jesus Christ has written an unbreachable treaty of peace between God and every Christian. Without it, any sense of peace is imaginary and temporary. The question is, have you obtained this peace? Are you washed in the blood?
III. THE FOUNT IN THIS SALUTATION
1. God the Father Pronounces It
Paul is telling us here that it is not merely him that desires grace and peace for the church at Philippi. The one who is really pronouncing grace and peace upon them is God the Father.
And beloved, this is what you need to get a hold of this morning. Whatever you’re facing, whatever you’re feeling, God the Father literally speaks grace and peace to you today. There’s nothing He is putting you through without showering grace and peace upon you. There’s nothing He has planned for you that He won’t bathe you in His grace and peace!
2. God the Son Procured It
Here Paul reminds us by using the full title for the Saviour, of the majesty of the one who has procured grace and peace for every child of God. Lord – shows his exalted position over all creation, and particularly in the hearts of His people. Phil 2:11 tells us there is coming a day when every tongue will be forced to confess Him as Lord. I ask you, are you still waiting to confess Him as Lord? Does your life profess to the world that to you Jesus is Lord? Do you live in submission to His every Word? Is your life’s ambition His delight and will? He is the fount of your salvation, how can you be reluctant?
All around them people confessed Caesar as lord, but he could confer no grace and peace upon his subjects, and nothing of earth can, so we must accept Jesus as Lord! Jesus – meaning: Jehovah is Saviour. It reminds us of His humanity. He is one who is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. And in Phil 2 we’re going to see the extent of His humiliation in order to serve us in our great need for salvation.
Christ – meaning: anointed one. He was not a random character in history, but God’s anointed Prophet, Priest, and King, appointed from all eternity for the very purpose to procure our salvation.
Close – with all that said, I ask you who are facing trials this day. Do you think your needs are greater than the sufficiency of God’s grace and peace promised to you? Let me challenge your sinful unbelief and remind you that no accusation can ever be made to God that He was reluctant to give the grace and peace your heart needs.
Does not the Scripture promise it? Does not the entire account of church history profess it? Does not your experience prove it?
Oh beloved, rest in the salutation to your soul this morning. Whatever the trial, be sure it is mixed with grace and peace. Amen.