Present and Future Grace
1 Corinthians 15:10: But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me (grace)—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.
Acts 6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.
Have you ever done a word study in the bible? How about a theme study, like comparing the church and Israel? Sometimes doing your bible reading with another focus is a good way to see the heart of God for his people. I was recently doing a review of the letters of Paul to the church, and what intrigued me was how he began each letter by declaring his identity in Christ. About half the letters he wrote begin with Paul declaring his place of authority in Christ Jesus as an apostle by the will of God. The other half of his letters stress that he is a servant of God, set apart for the sake of the gospel. Paul was not shy in declaring his standing in Christ to the church, whether that was a position of authority or a position of servitude.
As I was reading, something else caught my attention. It was how the Apostle Paul opens and closes each of his letters. In his salutations to the church, he declares “grace to you” and for his valedictory statements he declares, “grace be with you.” Grace to you… and grace be with you! He opens with grace and he ends with grace.
While Paul sometimes uses words like mercy, peace and love to express his heart for the church, every one of his letters to the church begins and ends with grace. In some way, I think that you can say that the Apostle Paul was declaring that the Christian life begins with grace and it will end with grace, and if we are going to live in Christ, grace must be central to our everyday life.
By Paul opening and closing his letters with grace doesn’t mean that he didn’t have some hard things to say to the church. He was at times very stern, especially to the believers in Corinth. Yet even to the wayward Corinthians, he declared “grace to you and grace be with you.”
You have probably heard grace defined as God’s unmerited favor. That statement is absolutely true. But we can’t stop there. I believe that grace is the power and favor that God willingly gives us to aid us in doing what we could never do on our own. God’s grace empowers us for all aspects of our life. By Paul saying “Grace to you” and “Grace be with you”, he was reminding us of God’s ever abiding favor available to us at all times. God’s favor and grace is for both our todays and our tomorrows. The grace of God should be “our heart filter,” the way we approach every day. It is a “present day grace” and it is a “future grace” that Paul declares in his letters to the church. He reminded the church of God’s grace as he started his conversation with them, and he reminded them of God’s future grace when he closed the conversation.
Gods grace in our lives is completely unmerited, but let’s make sure it is identified today and looked for tomorrow. The grace of God is available for us when we get up in the morning and it is there when we go to sleep. So like Paul, I would say “Grace to you”, today…and “Grace be with you” as you step into tomorrow.
God’s Grace be with you!
The closing verses of each of the 13 letters of the Apostle Paul if you want further review.
Rom 16:20, The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
1 Cor. 16:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.
2Cor. 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings.14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Gal 6:18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
Eph. 6:23 Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.
Phil. 4: 22 All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Col. 4: 17 Tell Archippus:”See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” 18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
1 Thess. 5:25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 26 Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
2 Thess. 3:17 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
1 Tim. 6:20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith. Grace be with you all.
2 Tim. 4:21 Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters. 22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.
Titus 3:14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.15 Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.
Phil. 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers. 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.